"The Day of the Lord"
We now have to deal with each of these eighteen large members [as previously outlined]. We must expand the structure of each; and then give a translation, with such explanatory remarks as may be necessary to help us in understanding the inspired words. We are aware that some persons consider these structures as more or less fanciful.
But we may ask, why are we to make a distinction between God's words and God's works? "All his works are perfect." Students of science never weary in examining them; and the more closely they examine them the more of this perfection do they discover in their structure, order, arrangement, beauty, etc., etc.
But God's words are part of His Works. Why should not students of God's Word deal with it in the same way, and expect to find the same perfection of structure, order and beauty? Why are His words to be treated as though they were imperfect, and His works perfect? It is written, "The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein." (Ps. 111:2).
We believe that His words also are great and perfect; and as we have, and trust our readers also have, intense "pleasure therein," we propose to seek them out and to "search" the Scriptures, so that we may all be able to say, "I rejoice at Thy word, as one that findeth great spoil" (Ps. 119:162).
Our readers are exhorted to study them carefully, for they are the key to the whole Book. They show us what is the Scope of the whole; and also of its various parts. They tell us what is emphatic; and what are the special points on which we are to fix our attention. Thus we shall have a constant and never-failing guide ever at hand to direct our studies and control our thoughts.
In the consideration of these Structures we shall get such an impression of the Divine source of the Book and of its perfections (even though we may not fully grasp them), that we shall be impelled to receive its revelation as "the Word of God," and "not as the Word of men" (1 Thess. 2:13).
The INTRODUCTION (chap. 1) is constructed on exactly the same plan as the CONCLUSION (22:6-21).
Each consists of four pairs of four members each. It is not always, or even often, that the Introduction and Conclusion of a book thus correspond with each other. But this book of the Revelation is peculiar. Four is the number symbolising that which has to do with the earth; and sixteen is the square of four. It is significant that this book should be rounded off so perfectly as to declare, thus, outwardly and symbolically, that it relates to this earth; and to the putting square of all that concerns it.
Everything is out of course now: but all is to be put square ere long; and
in this book we are told how it is going to be done. The following is the structure
of chapter 1., which forms the "Introduction" to the whole book. To
appreciate it more, we ought carefully to compare it with the structure of the
"Conclusion," which will be given in its place.
A | E1 |
a1 | 1:1. The angel testifying.
In each of the latter of the two pairs (F1, F2, F3, and F4) the Advent is alternated with four other subjects:--
But these are introverted. For, whereas, in the first two pairs the Advent follows the Benediction and the Ascription respectively, it precedes the Salutation and the Interpretation in the last two pairs.
Moreover, the Advent is testified in two ways. In the first two pairs (d1 and d2) it is testified in words; but in the last two pairs (d3 and d4) it is testified in vision. Our attention is called to this difference by the Introversions in F3 and F4.
And now, to show how perfectly, not only the introduction, as a whole, is constructed, but also, how perfect are each of its parts (or members), we must expand the first member, E1, as an example, in full.
This makes it perfectly clear that in these first two verses we have the essence
of the whole book. This first member, consisting of these two verses, is divided
into two parts, which have a perfect correspondence with each other. This correspondence
is hidden by the faulty human verse-division. In each division we have the same
four subjects, viz., giving of the Book; Its medium, purpose,
and subject; first, in Intention; and then, in Execution.
1:1, 2. The Angel Testifying
We need not proceed further with the expansions of all these members.
Our readers will have noticed that, in E1, we have combined the full text with the outline or skeleton of the structure. But this text is from the Authorized Version. In our Exposition we propose to give our own Translation, with such explanatory notes as may serve to make it clear.
THE TRANSLATION OF E1,
chap. 1:1, 2.
1:1. THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST] This is the Divine title of the book. All other titles, whether ancient or modern, are human, and are therefore not worth discussing, or even enumerating. The book is often called the Apocalypse, which is the transliteration of the Greek word rendered "Revelation." (...) means literally an unveiling, from (...) apo away from, and (...) kalupto, to veil: and may be understood either of the taking a veil from a person, and so causing him to become visible (as when a statue is said to be unveiled); or of taking a veil from the future, and disclosing the course of events which shall take place.* Probably both senses are true here. And, if the latter, then it shows us that what follows in this book is to be taken literally; for, when the Lord would not reveal, but would hide the meaning of His words, He spoke in parables and used emblems (Matt. 13:10-16. Mark 4:11, 12).
which God gave to Him] Here it is not the Father who instructs His children; but , it is "God," as Sovereign, who informs His "servants" through Christ, who is (in His mediatorial character) emphatically the Servant (see Is. 42:1, 7, &c.), where, as a "bruised reed" and "smoking flax," He is not broken or quenched "till He have set judgment in the earth." The time has now come for Him to execute this judgment: and therefore God, from His throne of government, gives to His Servant, Jehovah-Jesus, to show. (Compare John 5:19, 20; 7:16; 8:28; 12:49; 14:10; 17:7, 8. Matt. 11:27. Mark 13:32. Acts. 1:7).
to show] Here we have the same word as that which is used in the opening of the "Conclusion" of this book (22:6). It means to to present to view, and has a close connection with the visions and signs (compare Matt. 4:8; 8:4). But it must not be restricted to this, as is clear from Matt. 16:21.*
to His servants] Not "all Christians" (as such), as Alford says, but to Israel, to whom the word "servant" peculiarly belongs. We have already said something on this subject, so that we need only add that it is not used of Christians in the Pauline Epistles, but it is in 1 Cor. 7:22, and in four cases where he refers to himself and others as singled out for special service. Indeed, in one place an important argument is built on the emphatic distinction between servants and sons (Gal. 4:7): "Wherefore thou are no more a servant, but a son." (See 2 Cor. 6:17, 18, and compare John 15:15).
On the other hand, it is used fourteen times of those who are the subject of the Apocalypse. In the Old Testament it is the common word for Israel under the covenant of works. (See Lev. 25:42, 55. Isa. 49:3; 65:15, &c., &c.).
what things must needs come to pass] by the necessity of Divine ruling and over-ruling. That is to say, they are not left to chance, for they must needs come to pass. We have the exact words here from the Septuagint of Dan. 2:29. In other words, God will fulfil that which He reveals.
with speed] (...) en tache occurs eight times,* from which our readers may themselves see that it is used in two senses: quickly, as to speed; and soon, as to time. Both may be true here: and, if the latter (according to Luke. 18:8) be relied on, then we must note that delay is implied, "though He bear long with them" (verse 7). Such delay is implied in Rev. 10:6: "for there shall be no more delay." In God's speedy time (with whom a thousand years are as one day, 2 Pet. 3:8), He will bring them to pass; and when that time comes He will do it with speed, and "make a short work of it" (Rom. 9:28).
and He signified it] i.e., God, see 22:6. The word means (etymologically) to show by signs: but it must not be restricted to this meaning, as the other occurrences of the word clearly show. See John 12:33; 18:32; 21:19. Acts 11:28; 25:27. Rev. 1:1. The restriction referred to has caused the Apocalypse to be looked upon as a book of signs and symbols which no one can understand. The fact is that about half the symbols (14) are definitely explained (though these explanations are often again taken by expositors as being symbolical!) Being Divinely explained, they serves as a key to those which are unexplained.*
sending by His angel to His servant John] John, like Paul and others, was singled out for this special service to his own fellow-servants. Compare Isa. 49:5. Amos 3:7.
2. who testified] The past tense shows that the Introduction, though coming first, was necessarily written last. The word connects the Introduction with the Conclusion. Compare 1:1 with 22:16, 20. The only three occurrences in this book. It means here not only testified, but published and made known.
of (or, as to) the Word of God] We have seen above that this is the common idiomatic phrase for a direct prophetic communication. This, therefore, stands first, and is used of the whole book.
and the testimony of Jesus Christ] i.e., which He testified when on earth. This book or prophetic word does not go outside the scope of what Jesus bare testimony to, in His own prophetic teaching. That is the essence of the prophecy of this book, and the "spirit" of it. See 22:6.
what things soever he saw] Not only what he heard as a direct prophetic message, but what he saw represented in vision. God gave the Revelation to Christ, Christ signified by His angel to John; and John hereby makes it known. He says, in 22:8 (where we have another connecting link between the Conclusion and the Introduction), "I John saw these things, and heard them." We have also another proof, in this past tense (1:2), that the Introduction was written last; or, at any rate, after the seeing and the hearing referred to.
The second member, F2, consists of only one verse (1:3); the subject of which is two-fold:-- viz., Benediction, and The Advent.
It may be expanded as follows:--
EXPANSION OF F2, chap. 1:3.
F2 | i | 3- Benediction
3. Blessed (or, happy) be he that readeth, and they who hear ] This points to one reader and many listeners (Luke 4:16). From the neglect of this book, one would suppose it said, "Blessed are those who do not read." So openly is this blessing rejected; yea, sometimes boastfully! If there be a reference here to public reading, then the neglect of this book indeed stands exposed, and the attitude so generally assumed with regard to it is tacitly condemned.
the words of this prophecy ] There is a reference here to the spoken words, especially to the seventeen heavenly utterances, as distinct from the things written. The words spoken are the key to the things written, for it is added:
and keep in mind the things which stand written therein ] "Keep" is a Hebrew idiom. The word (...) shamar means to remember, to ponder upon. See the LXX. translation of it in Gen. 17:9, 37:11. Num. 28:2, etc. Compare also Luke 1:66, "and all they that heard them (the sayings) laid them up in their hearts"; Luke 2:19, "But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart." So also verse 51. The word is used also of remembering so as to obey; but this can hardly be appropriate here, for "prophecy" is not precept.
for the season is near ] The word (...) kairos refers to the ordained and appointed time, viz., the time occupied by what is written, i.e., the Advent of the Day of the Lord. The prophecy of this book is not to be put aside as though it referred to things so remote that they have no concern for us. But they are always to be regarded as near, and kept in our minds, so that our life may be influenced by them, and that we may walk in view of the nearness of the Day when the Lord will judge, and thus be without care as to this present time in which man is judging, which is called "man's day" (1 Cor. 4:3). Paul shows us how this prophecy may be "kept" in a practical manner in 1 Cor. 4:1-5.
We need not further minutely expand the various members of this Introduction; but proceed with the translation, referring our readers to the Structure of E2 and F2.
4-. John to the seven assemblies which are in Asia ] We have already shown that the word (...) ecclesia is used in many senses. We take it here in the neutral sense of Assembly, which leaves the interpretation open. Certain assemblies are specially addressed. They are recognised as being on the earth at the time when the things written in this prophecy shall be fulfilled. The continued reference in these seven Epistles to the body or subject-matter of the Apocalypse shows that chaps. 2 and 3 are not to be separated from the rest of the book. We shall see this more clearly when we come to the Epistles themselves. All are agreed that there will be, and must be, a people on the earth during "the Day of the Lord," such as are alluded to in 12:17; 13:10; 14:12, etc.; and all must agree also that they will need some special instruction.
Where is such instruction, if it be not that which is given to them in these seven Epistles? The interpretation of them belongs to that day. But that does not shut out such application as may have been made by those who read them in John's day; or as may be made by us who read them in our own day. Each read, and each get the promised blessing, in turn. But, when the Church is caught up to meet the Lord in the air, we shall not take away this book and these Epistles with us; but those who are left behind will then learn what the true interpretation is, as we had never done. They will see the fulfilment of what is here prophesied. They, too, will get their blessing; and we see in the Jewish Remnant, and the various companies of people in this book, what the reality of that blessing will be.
-4, 5-. Grace to you, and peace, from Him that is, and that was, and that is coming ] Here we have an undoubted reference to, and paraphrase of, the name of Jehovah, as revealed in Ex. 3:14.
It is not from the Father to His children, as in the Church Epistles; but it is from Jehovah as He was revealed and made known to Israel. This is in perfect keeping with what we hold to be the scope of the book. Three times we have this periphrasis of Jehovah, and yet it is varied according to the emphasis we are to place upon it.
It is for us to learn what this emphasis teaches and we can do so as we come to the respective passages.
and from the seven spirits which are before His throne ] This fact that they are "before," or in the presence of, God's Throne, shows that they occupy the position of servants (see 1 Kings 10:8), and of created beings (4:5, 10; 7:9, 15; 8:2; 11:4, 16; 12:10; 14:3, 5, 10; 20:12).
This one fact ought to have precluded the idea that these seven could be one, and that one Divine! There is nothing in the whole Bible which represents the Holy Spirit in such a subordinate position. He is equal with the Father and with the Son. On the other hand, angels are constantly represented as occupying this position. And angels are again referred to in 4:5, under the symbol of seven lamps (to which other spiritual creatures are likened in Ezek. 1:13).
There are other references to these seven angels in the book: e.g., 8:2. "The seven": i.e., the well-known, or before mentioned seven. Angels are specially called "spirits." See Heb. 1:7, 14. Psa. 104:4. "He maketh His angels spirits." The word is used of any spiritual being, higher than men, and lower than Deity; without corporeal garb of "flesh and blood." Where there is any doubt as to the nature of these beings, they are always defined: e.g., a "dumb spirit," Mark 9:17. Compare verse 20. Luke 9:39; 10:20; 13:11. Matt. 8:16. Acts 16:16.*
In Acts 8:26, "the angel of the Lord" was sent on a special mission to Philip. Immediately afterwards he is called (verse 29) "the spirit" who spake to Philip; and then, in verse 39, the same angelic messenger is called "the spirit"* of the Lord," who ended his mission by catching Philip away to Azotus. In Rev. 3:1, we have the seven spirits of God joined with the seven stars. In Rev. v. 6, we see these "seven spirits of God sent forth into all the earth." If it be objected that this interpretation opens the door to angel-worship, the answer is that the door is effectually closed in this very book, in 19:10; 22:9: "See thou do it not."
If it be objected that "angels" would not be mentioned in connection with God and the Lord Jesus, the answer is that they are so mentioned in 1 Tim. 5:21, "God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels." Are these the Holy Spirit? The answer is No! The thought embodied in this combination here, in Rev. 1:4, is not so much the Triune Deity, as such; but that of the supreme High Court of heaven having jurisdiction on earth; angels being the assessors. Compare Mark 8:38. Luke 9:26; 12:8, where we have a similar thought.
Nowhere do we find the Holy Spirit associated with the Father and the Son in any salutation. Not even in the Pauline Church Epistles. In those Epistles, He is viewed as being here on earth with the Church, and grace and peace come from Heaven; from the Father and the Son.
In this dispensation angels are our servants, see Heb. 1:14; 2:1, 2, 5. In the coming Dispensation, after the Church is removed, Angels are no longer servants, they are associated with Heaven's high court, and are connected with the throne. The Son Himself will act as "before the angels of God." (Luke 12:8, 9).
All these grounds are from Scripture; but the objections to them are only what interpreters find it "difficult to believe." It is a question of what God has said; and not what man may think difficult or easy to believe.
5. and from Jesus Christ ] The once humbled One who is now exalted and glorified.
the Faithful witness ] Compare Isa. 55:4.
the First-born of the dead ] See Col. 1:18.
and the Ruler of the kings of the earth ] It is remarkable that all these three titles are combined in Psa. 89:27, 37. "I will make him my first-born, higher than the kings of the earth... his throne shall be as a faithful witness in heaven?" See also Isa. 52:15. Rev. 6:15; 17:4; 19:16. the comparison with the kings of the earth is parallel with Psa. 2:2.
The sudden change from the genitive case (of Jesus Christ) to the Nominatives which follow it, is very remarkable; and implies the immutability of the Divine Nature, as in "that is, and that was, and that is coming" above; we might also compare Heb. 13:8, or supply, as in the A.V. "who is."
These titles have no relation to the Church of God, but to Dominion in the earth. It is the fulfilment of Luke 1:32, which is about to take place: hence this appropriate titles are here assumed. In Dan. 8:25, Christ is spoken of as the "Prince of princes," but only in connection with Israel. That we have here an earthly rule: and that the Dominion in the Earth is about to be taken and used by the Son of Man, is clear from many Scriptures. (See Rev. 11:17, 18; 17:14; 19:16. Psa. 2., 45., 110; Isa. 9:6, 7).
To Him that loveth us ] All the critical Greek Texts and R.V. read the present and not the past participle here. We have given our reasons above in our ninth point, for our belief that this expression is one of those which belongs peculiarly to Israel. And the present participle here tells us that Jehovah's love to Israel is everlasting (Jer. 31:3. Isa. 54:10); that He who chose their fathers, and loved them, is now about to show that that love is still a present love, and what it is about to do for them.
and washed (or loosed*) us from our sins ] The reading here is somewhat doubtful. We have given both, for both contain parts of the whole truth. "Washed," is more vivid here, and more in accordance with Hebrew idiom. For "washed," see Psa. 51:2, 7. Isa. 1:16, 18. Ezek. 36:25. Heb. 10:22: and for "loosed," compare Matt. 20:28. Heb. 9:12. Rev. 5:9; 14:3, 4. In either case this is the fulfilment of Psa. 130:8, "He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities," and of Isa. 40:1, 2, where Jehovah says, "Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her that her warfare (or appointed time) is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned." And this is the object of the coming of Jehovah Jesus, as announced in Matt. 1:21, "He shall save his people from their sins."
by His blood] Certainly not "in" His blood. Such a thing was never heard of in the Old Testament. It was not "in" blood that sins were purged away, but "by" blood, for blood itself was a cause of defilement. It was by the precious atoning merits of Him of whose death the blood speaks.*
6. and He made us to be a kingdom and priests] This is Hebrew in idiom and in meaning. The explanation will be found in Ex. 19:6, where God says, respecting Israel (not the Church!), " ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests"; which the Septuagint renders "a royal priesthood." These also are the words written to "elect strangers," the Dispersion in 1 Peter 2:5, 9. It is the figure Hendiadys, by which the noun "kingdom" become a superlative adjective. Thus, "and He made us priestsyes, and royal priests, too"; or, 'He made us a kingly orderthe members of which are holy and set apart for the service of God.' We are aware that these words are unlawfully claimed and appropriated by the Church, and used as a poor and weak argument against the pretensions of Rome and Romanisers. Where do we read one word about the Christians being priests, in any one of the Epistles addressed to believers by the Holy Spirit through Paul? The very thought is foreign to Scripture, and contrary to fact. But such promises were directly and distinctly made to Israel. See, as to priests, Is. 61:6. 1 Pet. 2:5 (and compare Rev. 5:10 and 20:6). As to kings, see Ps. 49:14. Dan. 7:22, 27. Matt. 19:28. Luke 22:29, 30 (and compare Rev. 2:26, 27, and 3:21). There can clearly be no priests of any kind in this Dispensation. The Epistle to the Hebrews teaches that the Aaronic order has no longer any place; and that the Melchizedec order is absorbed in Jesus Christ (Heb. 6:-8.). If Christians, to-day, are kings, who are their subjects? and if they are priests, where and for whom do they perform priestly duties? For priestly service was on behalf of others, "first for his own sins; and then for the people's" (Heb. 5:1; 7:27).
to His God and Father] (see John 20:17). Not "our" Father, as in the Pauline Epistles (1 Thess. 1:3; 3:11, etc.). In due season this ascription shall be realised, as we see from chap. 20:4. With regard to the word "Father" introduced here, we have to remember that the Priest's office was hereditary. Only Aaron's sons were priests.
to Him be the glory and the dominion for ever and ever (Lit., unto the ages of the ages.) Amen] To Him (of course) who " loved the people" (Deut. 33:3) is this ascription given. The Greek here for "unto the ages of the ages" is merely a literal rendering of the Hebrew idiom. Such an expression for eternity was unknown to the Classical Greek writers.
7. Behold,] Our attention is thus called to what is the sequel to all that has been said. We are to gaze by faith on this wondrous and solemn fact.
He cometh with (or, amid the) clouds] This is an Old Testament reference. Lit., with the clouds, i.e., with the clouds so often mentioned in connection with His coming in glory. Believers are to be "caught up in clouds to meet the Lord in the air." They will accompany the Lord when "He comes with clouds" to the earth. Two very different scenes are described, here and in I Thess. 4:17. This is the same aspect of His coming as that mentioned in Matt. 24:30. "THEN (i.e., "immediately" after the great tribulation) shall appear the sign of the Son of Man (Rev. 1:13) in heaven: and THEN shall all the tribes of the earth (or the Land) mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in (or with) the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (i.e., with great and glorious power)." The clouds are mentioned as His chariot in Psalm 18:11; 104:3. Compare also Ex. 19:16; 40:34. Is. 6:4; 19:1. Ezek. 1:4. The passages specially connected with Rev. 1:7 are Dan. 7:13, 14. Matt. 24:30; 26:64, and Mark 14:62.
and every eye shall see Him] "Eye" is put by Synecdoche for person, i.e., everyone on the earth will see Him. So Matt. 24:30. But not the Church of God, for it will be then already in heaven, and not on the earth.
even those very ones who pierced Him] These are specially singled out"all those who," for His brethren, like Joseph's brethren, will then mourn for Him. Compare John 19:34, which quotes Zech. 12:10.*
and all the tribes of the Land] Not "kindreds," for the word is the same as in Matt. 24:30. And it is the tribes "of the Land," not of the whole earth. The tribes of Israel are the subject here, as in 5:5; 7:4-8; and 21:12.
will wail because of Him] i.e., at (the) sight of Him; or, over Him. This very wailing is described in Zech. 12:10-12, and is there declared to take place "in that day," the day of the Lord. This fixes for us the sense in which "the Lord's day" is to be taken in Rev. 1:10.
How can the Church of God be brought in here? Did the Church of God pierce Him? Are the members of the Body of Christ members also of the "Tribes of the Land"? And what have they to wail and beat themselves for, when they are distinctly told that "the day of the Lord" shall not come upon them as a thief (1 Thess. 5:4), but that it will come upon others "as travail upon a woman with child; and THEY shall not escape" (1 Thess 5:3). Those who can bring the Church in here cannot possibly have any true conception of what the Church is. Even this mourning of Israel will be very different from the fear and trembling and destruction which will come upon the Gentiles. See Isa. 2:19. Rev. 6:16. Israel's mourning will be with that repentance which is so often spoken of as the one necessary condition of national blessing.
Yea: Amen] A double confirmation of the truth of this solemn statement. Compare the conclusion, 22:20. The figure is Synonymia, i.e., the use of synonymous words in order to strengthen the certainty of this prophecy.
8. I am Alpha and Omega*] What this means is explained in verse 17, and again in 22:13. This is a Hebraism, in common use among the Ancient Jewish Commentators to designate the whole of anything from the beginning to the end; e.g., "Adam transgressed the whole law from (...) (Aleph) to (...) (Tau)";** "Abraham kept the whole law from (...) to (...)."*** The article is used in the Greek, but it is not required either by the Hebrew or English idioms. Here it means "the first and the last," as explained in verse 17 and 22:12, 13. This title is not a church title, but is specially used in connection with Israel. See Ex. 3:14. Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 44:6, 8; 48:12; and Rev. 21:6.
saith the LORD God*] Another Old Testament title, used first in Gen. 2. See also remarks on this. The title "Jehovah" (or LORD) expresses His covenant relation with Israel; "God" expresses His relationship as Creator with mankind as a whole.
that is, and that was, and that is coming] See our notes on this above, on verse 4. The emphasis is on the word "is," as shown, by being put first.
the Almighty] We have considered this title above and its bearing on our conviction that it points to relationship with Israel. (...) (ho pantokrator) is rendered in the Septuagint as the equivalent for "the Lord of hosts." In Amos 4:13 as "God of hosts"; in Job it is used for "Shaddai." The word is used only once in the New Testament outside the Apocalypse, and that in a quotation from Jer. 31:1, 9, concerning Israel's future (2 Cor. 6:18). What the combination of these titles says to us here is this: "I, the Almighty Lord of hosts, the unchangeable God, will accomplish all My will, fulfil all My word, and execute all My judgments."
We now come to the third set of four members: in which we find the same subjects repeated; but not precisely in the same order. In the former two the Advent follows the Benediction and the Ascription; while in the latter two it precedes the Salutation and the Interpretation.
9 I John] as in 1:4, and in the Conclusion, 22:8. Compare also Dan. 7:28; 9:2; 10:2. The word "also" must be omitted.
even (or, both) your brother] according to the flesh, as well as in a higher relation. (Compare Acts 9:30; 11:29. Rev. 12:10, &c.)
and partaker with you in the tribulation and kingdom and patience] The construction and order of the Greek here is pronounced by commentators as "peculiar." Alford calls it "startling." This is because the Figure of speech is not discerned. It is Hendiatris, i.e., three words are used, but only one thing is meant. The one thing is "the tribulation," and the two other words characterise it as being, not the tribulation which the world experiences, but that (for the article is emphatic here) which is specially connected with the "Kingdom" (Acts 14:22; 2 Tim. 2:12; and Rev. 20:6), and that which needs "patient waiting" (Rev. 2:2, 3, 19; 3:10; 13:10; 14:12).
which are in* Jesus] Not "of Jesus," as A.V. But in Him, in His Kingdom and in His patient waiting (2 Thess. 3:5 marg., and R.V. Comp. Heb. 10:13). John stood in the same relation to these things as those to whom he wrote. Their brotherhood was "in Jesus." But the fellowship of the Church of God is always said to be "in Christ" (never "in Jesus"). The members of His body died in Him, and are risen in Him. Henceforth they know Him no more after the flesh** (2 Cor. 5:15, 17), but stand on new or resurrection ground; and know Him as the great and glorious Head in Heaven of that Body of which they are the members here on earth.
(I) came to be in the isle that is called Patmos] The verb is (...) (egenomon), not the verb to be. It means to come to be; and, when used of an event, we can say, it came to pass. But how are we to render it when it is used of a person? "Came to be" is not happy English. "Found myself " is perhaps better. The word describes a fact, though it does not explain it. That explanation, therefore, follows:
because of the Word of God, and* the testimony of Jesus**] The preposition (...) (dia), with the accusative case following, denotes the occasion or object, rather than the cause (which would be expressed by the Genitive case. But chap. 1:2 settles the point for us: for there "the word of God and the testimony of Jesus" are other names for this Book (6:9 and 20:4), and consist of "the things which John saw in Patmos." How could he be banished there because of the things which he saw there? No! it was because he was to receive and see these things that John came to be or found himself in Patmos. He was there by Divine Spirit and power in order to receive this Apocalypse or Revelation, just as Paul went into Arabia to receive his revelation (Gal. 1:15-17) (Compare Gal.2:1, 2). That John was banished to Patmos on account of his witness for Christ is tradition. That, probably, is the reason why it is so universally accepted as a fact; though not a hint is given of it here where we should naturally expect to find it. We prefer to accept the unanswerable evidence of verse 2, which, to our mind, settles the matter as to the object of John's coming to be in Patmos. Moreover, he seems to have nothing to hinder his seeing and hearing and writing. He had leisure to obey the seven-fold command to write. And why does everyone take Patmos literally here, when nearly every other place mentioned in this book is taken as meaning some different place? Even the places of the seven churches are taken by some to be no places at all, but merely periods of time! The fact that Patmos is taken literally shows that other places mentioned in the Revelation are to be taken literally also; especially as we are plainly told when we are not to do so.
But why Patmos at all? The answer is surely to be found in the fact that it was in "the great Sea," which is the central point of the Revelation. Rome lay to the West. The Land, the Euphrates, and Babylon lay on the East. In the Isle of Patmos then he came to be, and in like manner, he tells us:
10. I came to be (or, found myself), by the Spirit in the day of the Lord] i.e., by the power, or agency, of the Spirit, just as in 4:2, 17:3, and 21.10.
In order to see "visions of God" the prophet Ezekiel (1:1) was under the direct influence and power of the Spirit. John was transported by spiritual instrumentality into the scenes which shall take place in the Day of the Lord, and records what he then saw in vision: namely: the things which shall take place literally and actually in that Day. How this may have been accomplished we may learn from Ezek. 8:3: "And he put forth the form of an hand, and took me by a lock of mine head; and the spirit lifted me up between the earth and the heaven, and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem." In chapter 40:2, 3, he says, "In the visions of God brought he me into the land of Israel, . . . And he brought me thither." Ezekiel goes on to record what he saw of events and realities in the far distant future, and describes the Temple which is then to be built. In Ezek. 11:24, 25, we read, "Afterwards the spirit took me up, and brought me in a vision by the Spirit of God into Chaldea, to them of the captivity. So the vision that I had seen went up from me. Then I spake unto them of the captivity all the things that the LORD had shewed me." Those things concerned the future restoration of Israel (see verses 16-20). In the face of this, why should we go out of our way to put an unmeaning sense on the phrase "in the Spirit " in Rev. 1:10? There is no article in the Greek. It is simply "in spirit." There is no reason why the word (...) (en) here should not have the sense of "by," denoting in or by the power of. It is rendered "by" 141 times in the New Testament. (See, for example, Matt. 23:20, 21, 22; 2 Cor. 6:6, &c., &c.) In this case it would mean here exactly what it means in Ezekiel, by, or by the power of the Spiritby which power John was transported, and thus "came to be" in future scenes and times, and saw "visions of God," i.e., visions given by God, which he here records for our learning. Compare similar statements, chap. 4:2; 17:3; 21:10.
On the phrase "the Lord's day" see our preliminary propositions.
and I heard behind me a great (i.e., loud) voice, of a trumpet] This means a voice as loud as a trumpet; the strength, not the quality, being the point to be noted. This trumpet is specially associated in the Old Testament with war and with "the Day of the LORD." See Zeph. 1:14-16. "The great day of the LORD is near, and hasteth greatly, it is near, even the voice of the day of the LORD: . . . A day of the trumpet." &c. Compare Joel 2:1. 15: and 3:16, where we have the same connection.
11. saying:* What thou seest, write in a book] not in seven separate Epistles, but in this Book; so as to be of special service for those who will be on the earth in the future Day of the Lord. Not "what thou at the present moment seest"; the context and the sequel clearly show that the present tense is here used in order to include all that he should see, and had actually begun to see. "What thou art seeing" carries on the action right through, so as to include all that we now have in this Book. Hence it is that the present tense is so often used; e.g., "are proceeding" (4:5); "is descending" (16:21), &c.
and send it to (or, for, i.e., for their use) the seven* assemblies** unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea] We cannot believe that these places are used symbolically of seven successive stages of ecclesiastical history. If they are, what is "Patmos" the symbol of? And how can a Place be a symbol of Time? When one thing is used as a symbol of another, there is always something common to both, by which the Symbol is connected with the thing symbolised. Besides, at the best, it is only a theory which had its origin in the mind of some good man. We prefer to believe
Thus understanding these Assemblies, we rob no one, and deprive no one, of the blessing of verse 3. We have already made some remarks on this point, and shall have more to say when we come to the Epistles themselves.
The Vision of the Coming One.
12. And I turned to see the Voice which was speaking with me] Here we have two Figures (1) Metonomy of the effect, by which the "voice" is put for the person speaking; and (2) this, when used with the verb "to see," produces the figure Catachresis (or Incongruity), as a voice cannot be seen. These Figures properly rendered mean, "and I turned to see Him who spake with me."
and, on turning, I saw seven lamp-stands of gold] They were realities that John saw, but realities used as symbols; and what they are symbolical of we are told in verse 20. That they were real in Heaven is clear from Heb. 8:2, 5; 9:23. But they are significant of things below. These seven lamp stands point us to the seven-fold golden lamp-stand of the Tabernacle. Ex. 25:31, 32, 37; 37:23. Heb. 9:2. Then, there was but one lamp-stand: here, there are seven. There, Israel was one, and was gathered as one nation: here, that nation is scattered and in its Dispersion. The same fact explains the absence of the table of Shew-bread.
13. and in the midst of the seven* lamp-stands One like a son of man] i.e., by a Hebraism, a human being, viz., the Son of Man Himself. The title emphasizes the human nature of Him who thus appears to John. For its significance in relation to this book and its interpretation see above, and compare Dan. 7:31. Ezek. 1:26; 8:2.
We now come to the Vision proper, and present the Expansion of the member
F3 d3 | m | 12, 13. Accessories: Seven lamp-stands,
The Vision itself, as we have seen above, is parallel with the vision Daniel saw (Dan. 10); and its object is the same (as there stated). "I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days." Then, it was added," for yet the vision is for many days." Now, the many days have passed, and "the time is at hand " (1:3). The Day of the Lord is to be revealed to John. We need not enlarge or dwell upon the various aspects of the vision.
clothed with a robe reaching to the feet, and girt about the breasts with a girdle or gold: 14. His head and hair white, as white woolas snow (Dan. 7:9.) and His eyes as a flame of fire; 15. and His feet like unto polished brass (Ezek. 1:7) glowing as in a furnace; and His voice as the voice of many waters.] This is a common Old Testament simile, see Ezek. 1:24; 43:2. So Rev. 14:2; 19:6. The comparison is, of course, the noise made by the waves of the sea upon the shore.
16. And having seven stars in His right hand; and out of His mouth a sharp two-edged sword going forth] A like Figure is used of men (Ps. 4:21; 7:4; 59:7). What is signified by it is clear from Isa. 11:4; 49:2, and 2 Thess. 2:8. The Divine comment on it is in Rom. 13:4. Compare Matt. 24:50, 51. Luke 12:46. The sword is referred to again in chap. 2:12, 16; and its final purpose is shown in 19:15, 21. Luke 19:27.
and His countenance was as when the sun shineth in his strength.]
17. And, when I had seen Him, I fell at His feet as dead: and He laid His right hand upon me, saying,* Fear not.]
E4 a4 | q | -17, 18-. Life. "I am the First and the Last, and the Living
-17. I am the First and the Last] Compare Is. 41:4; 43:10; 44:6; 48:11, 12. The pronoun is emphatic, marking the commencement of a new member.
18. and the Living One] See above for the significance of this title. (...), Josh. 3:10, the living God.
I was dead, indeed, yet behold! I am living for ever and ever*] We must keep our translation English, otherwise the Greek is, literally, 'I came to be (as in verses 9 and 10) dead, and behold I am living,' &c. The words "I live" are very emphatic, marking the speaker as being the fountain and giver of life.
and I have the keys of Death and the Grave*] Greeks, (...) (Hades). There is no occasion to introduce any idea of "souls" or of an "intermediate state," so-called, here. "Death and the Grave" is a comprehensive expression which explains itself. We translate it "grave," as the A.V. is compelled to render it in 20:13 (marg.) and 1 Cor. 15:55. The R.V. transliterates in 1:19 and 20:13 "Hades"; and in 1 Cor. 15:55 reads "death" instead.
19. Write therefore* what things thou sawest and what they are] So Alford and Rotherham and others: i.e., "what they signify " (Stuart). This is the sense of (...) (eisin), are. It is so rendered twice in the very next verse; and elsewhere very frequently (e.g., Matt. 13:37 and 39. Rev. 17:9, 15, 18, etc.).
even what things are about to happen hereafter] This is not the same expression as in verse 1. There, it was necessity, "must come to pass"; here, it is sequence, "about to come to pass."
The command to write refers to all that John saw, and not merely what he had seen in verses 12-16. We must remember that the Introduction was written last, as we have shown above.
The translation "What they are (or signify)" is so undoubtedly good that it seems rather insecure to base a whole system of interpretation affecting the whole book, on the common rendering"the things which are." Our readers may be aware that many books on the Apocalypse base their whole system of interpretation on this rendering. But surely such a far-reaching system ought to have a firmer foundation on which to rest.
This, in itself, is slight enough: but, when chaps. 2 and 3 are nowhere spoken of as being "the things which are," we have not sufficient warrant to adopt an interpretation of the book which rests on such hypothetical grounds.
That these Epistles are addressed to those who shall be on the earth during
the Day of the Lord, may be seen by comparing many expressions contained
in them with the actual scenes and circumstances described in various parts
of the Book
Other parallels will be seen and noticed when we come to the translation of
the Epistles themselves.
The vision referred to in verses 12-16.
20-. The mystery (i.e.,
the secret symbol) of the seven stars which thou
sawest in my right hand; and the seven golden lamp-stands]
-20. The seven stars are] i.e., signify or represent (as in the previous verse). This is always the meaning of the Figure called Metaphor which we have here.
the angels of the seven Assemblies; and the seven lamp-stands* are (i.e., signify) the seven Assemblies] Who shall authorize us to understand the word "angels" as having any connection with the Church of God? No one ever heard (until quite recent times) of such a title being given to any church-officer either in Scripture, in history, or in tradition. To take the word "angel" as meaning "bishop," in the absence of any evidence of any kind, is one of the vagaries of interpretation from which the Apocalypse has so long suffered. But this brings us to the consideration of the seven Epistles themselves.