The book of the Revelation opens with the announcement of its title, and with a benediction on those who shall give diligent heed to its solemn prophetic utterances, as follows:-- p. 323, Para. 2.
"VERSE 1. The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: 2. Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. 3. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand." p. 323, Para. 3.
The Title. -- The translators of our common version of the Bible have given this book the title of "The Revelation of St. John the Divine." In this they contradict the very first words of the book itself, which declare it to be "The Revelation of Jesus Christ." Jesus Christ is the Revelator, not John. John is but the penman employed by Christ to write out this Revelation for the benefit of his church. There is no doubt that the John here mentioned is the person of that name who was the beloved and highly favored one among the twelve apostles. He was evangelist and apostle, and the writer of the Gospel and epistles which bear his name. [See Clarke, Barnes, Kitto, Pond, and others.] To his previous titles he now adds that of prophet: for the Revelation is a prophecy. But the matter of this book is traced back to a still higher source. It is not only the Revelation of Jesus Christ, but it is the Revelation which God gave unto him. It comes, then, first, from the great Fountain of all wisdom and truth, God the Father; by him it was communicated to Jesus Christ, the Son: and Christ sent and signified it by his angel to his servant John. p. 323, Para. 4.
The Character of the Book. -- This is expressed in one word, "Revelation." A revelation is something revealed, something clearly made known, not something hidden and concealed. Moses, in Deut. 29:29, tells us that "the secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever." The very title of the book, then, is a sufficient refutation of the popular opinion of to- day, that this book is among the hidden mysteries of God, and cannot be understood. Were this the case, it should bear some such title as "The Mystery" or "The Hidden Book;" certainly not that of "The Revelation." p. 324, Para. 1.
Its Object. -- "To show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass." His servants -- who are they? Is there any limit? For whose benefit was the Revelation given? Was it given for any specified persons? for any particular churches? for any special period of time? -- No; it is for all the church in all time, so long as any of the events therein predicted remain to be accomplished. It is for all those who can claim the appellation of "his servants," wherever they may live. p. 324, Para. 2.
But this language brings up again the common view that the Revelation is not to be understood. God says that it was given to show something to his servants; and yet many of the expounders of his word tell us that it does not show anything, because no man can understand it! as though God would undertake to make known to mankind some important truths, and yet fall into the worse than earthly folly of clothing them in language or in figures which human minds could not comprehend! as though he would command a person to behold some distant object, and then erect an impenetrable barrier between him and the object specified! or as though he would give his servants a light to guide them through the gloom of night, and yet throw over that light a pall so thick and heavy that not a ray of its brightness could penetrate the obscuring folds! How do they dishonor God who thus trifle with his word! No; the Revelation will accomplish the object for which it was given, and "his servants" will learn therefrom "the things which must shortly come to pass," and which concern their eternal salvation. p. 324, Para. 3.
His Angel. -- Christ sent and made known the Revelation to John by "his angel." A particular angel seems here to be brought to view. What angel could appropriately be called Christ's angel? May we not find an answer to this question in a significant passage in the prophecy of Daniel? In Dan. 10:21, an angel, which was doubtless Gabriel [see Daniel, chapters 9, 10, and 11:1], in making known some important truths to Daniel, said, "There is none that holdeth with me in these things, but Michael your prince." Who Michael is we easily learn. Jude [verse 9] calls him the "archangel." And Paul tells us that when the Lord descends from heaven, and the dead in Christ are raised, the voice of the archangel shall be heard. 1 Thess. 4:16. And whose voice will be heard at that amazing hour when the dead are called to life? The Lord himself replies, "Marvel not at this; for the hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice" [John 5:28]; and the previous verse shows that the one here referred to, whose voice will then be heard, is the Son of man, or Christ. It is the voice of Christ, then, that calls the dead from their graves. That voice, Paul declares, is the voice of the archangel; and Jude says that the archangel is called Michael, the very personage mentioned in Daniel, and all referring to Christ. The statement in Daniel, then, is, that the truths to be revealed to Daniel were committed to Christ, and confined exclusively to him, and to an angel whose name was Gabriel. Similar to the work of communicating important truth to the "beloved prophet" is the work of Christ in the Revelation of communicating important truth to the "beloved disciple;" and who, in this work, can be his angel but he who was engaged with him in the former work, that is, the angel Gabriel? This fact will throw light on some points in this book, while it would also seem most appropriate that the same being who was employed to carry messages to the "beloved" prophet of the former dispensation, should perform the same office for him who corresponds to that prophet in the gospel age. [See on chapter 19:10.] p. 325, Para. 1.
The Benediction. -- "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy." Is there so direct and formal a blessing pronounced upon the reading and observance of any other portion of the word of God? What encouragement, then, have we for its study! And shall we say that it cannot be understood? Is a blessing offered for the study of a book which it can do us no good to study? Men may assert, with more pertness than piety, that "every age of declension is marked by an increase of commentaries on the Apocalypse," or that the study of the Revelation either finds or leaves a man mad;" but God has pronounced his blessing upon it, he has set the seal of his approbation to an earnest study of its marvelous pages: and with such encouragement from such a source, the child of God will be unmoved by a thousand feeble counterblasts from men. p. 326, Para. 1.
Every fulfilment of prophecy brings its duties; hence there are things in the Revelation to be kept, or performed; practical duties to be entered upon as the result of the accomplishment of the prophecy. A notable instance of this kind may be seen in chapter 14:12, where it is said, "Here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." p. 326, Para. 2.
But says John, "The time is at hand," -- another motive offered for the study of this book. It becomes more and more important, as we draw near the great consummation. On this point we offer the impressive thoughts of another: "The importance of studying the Apocalypse increases with the lapse of time. Here are 'things which must shortly come to pass.' Even when John bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw, the long period within which those successive scenes were to be realized was at hand. If proximity then constituted a motive for heeding those contents, how much more does it now! Every revolving century, every closing year, adds to the urgency with which attention is challenged to the concluding portion of Holy Writ. And does not that intensity of devotion to the present, which characterizes our times and our country, enhance the reasonableness of this claim? Never, surely, was there a period when some mighty counteracting power was more needed. The Revelation of Jesus Christ, duly studied, supplies an appropriate corrective influence. Would that all Christians might, in fullest measure, receive the blessing of 'them that hear the words of this prophecy, and that keep the things which are written therein; for the time is at hand.'" -- Thompson's Patmos, pp. 28, 29. p. 326, Para. 3.
The Dedication. -- Following the benediction, we have the dedication, in these words:-- p. 327, Para. 1.
"VERSE 4. John to the seven churches which are in Asia; Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven spirits which are before his throne; 5. And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, 6. And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." p. 327, Para. 2.
The Churches in Asia. -- There were more churches in Asia than seven. We may confine ourselves to that western fraction of Asia known as Asia Minor, or we may include still less territory than that; for in even that small portion of Asia Minor where were situated the seven churches which are mentioned, and right in their very midst, there were other important churches. Colosse, to the Christians of which place Paul addressed his epistle to the Colossians, was but a slight distance from Laodicea. Miletus was nearer than any of the seven to Patmos, where John had his vision; and it was an important station for the church, as we may judge from the fact that Paul, during one of his stays there, sent for the elders of the church of Ephesus to meet him at that place. Acts 20:17-38. At the same place he also left, in good Christian hands no doubt, Trophimus, his disciple, sick. 2 Tim. .4:20. And Troas, where Paul spent a season with the disciples, and whence, having waited till the Sabbath was past, he started off upon his journey, was not far removed from Pergamos, named among the seven. It becomes, therefore, an interesting question to determine why seven of the churches of Asia Minor were selected as the ones to which the Revelation should be dedicated. Does what is said of the seven churches in chapter 1, and to them in chapters 2 and 3, have reference solely to the seven literal churches named, describing things only as they then and there existed, and portraying what was before them alone? We cannot so conclude, for the following reasons:-- p. 327, Para. 3.
1. The entire book of Revelation [see chapter 1:3, 11, 19; 22:18, 19] was dedicated to the seven churches. Verse 11. But the book was no more applicable to them than to other Christians in Asia Minor, -- those, for instance, who dwelt in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, and Bithynia, addressed in 1 Peter 1:1; or the Christians of Colosse, Troas, and Miletus, in the very midst of the churches named. p. 328, Para. 1.
2. Only a small portion of the book could have personally concerned the seven churches, or any of the Christians of John's day; for the events it brings to view were mostly so far in the future as to lie beyond the lifetime of the generation then living, or even the time during which those churches would continue; and consequently they could have no personal connection with them. p. 328, Para. 2.
3. The seven stars which the Son of man held in his right hand [verse 20], are declared to be the angels of the seven churches. The angels of the churches, doubtless all will agree are the ministers of the churches. Their being held in the right hand of the Son of man denotes the upholding power, guidance, and protection vouchsafed to them. But there were only seven of them in his right hand. And are there only seven thus cared for by the great Master of assemblies? May not, rather, all the true ministers of the whole gospel age derive from this representation the consolation of knowing that they are upheld and guided by the right hand of the great Head of the church: Such would seem to be the only consistent conclusion. p. 328, Para. 3.
4. Again, John, looking into the Christian dispensation saw only seven candlesticks, representing seven churches, in the midst of which stood the Son of man. The position of the Son of man in their midst must denote his presence with them, his watchcare over them, and his searching scrutiny of all their works. But does he thus take cognizance of only seven individual churches in this dispensation? May we not rather conclude that this scene represents his position in reference to all his churches during the gospel age? Then why were only seven mentioned? Seven, as used in the Scriptures, is a number denoting fulness and completeness, being, doubtless a kind of memorial of the great facts of the first seven days of time, which gave the world the still used weekly cycle. Like the seven stars, the seven candlesticks must denote the whole of the things which they represent. The whole gospel church in seven divisions, or periods, must be symbolized by them; and hence the seven churches must be applied in the same manner. p. 329, Para. 1.
5. Why, then, were the seven particular churches chosen that are mentioned? For the reason, doubtless, that in the names of these churches, according to the definitions of the words, are brought out the religious features of those periods of the gospel age which they respectively were to represent. p. 329, Para. 2.
For these reasons, "the seven churches" are doubtless to be understood to mean not merely the seven literal churches of Asia which went by the names mentioned, but seven periods of the Christian church, from the days of the apostles to the close of probation. [See on chapter 2, verse 1.] p. 329, Para. 3.
The Source of Blessing. -- "From him which is, and which was, and which is to come," or is to be, -- an expression which signifies complete eternity, past and future, and can be applicable to God the Father only. This language, we believe, is never applied to Christ. He is spoken of as another person, in distinction from the being thus described. p. 329, Para. 4.
The Seven Spirits. -- This expression probably has no reference to angels, but to the Spirit of God. It is one of the sources from which grace and peace are invoked for the church. On the interesting subject of the seven spirits, Thompson remarks: "That is, from the Holy Spirit, denominated 'the seven spirits,' because seven is a sacred and perfect number; not thus named as denoting interior plurality, but the fulness and perfection of his gifts and operations." Barnes says, "The number seven, therefore, may have been given by the Holy Spirit with reference to the diversity or the fulness of his operations on the souls of men, and to his manifold agency in the affairs of the world, as further developed in this book." Bloomfield gives this as the general interpretation. p. 330, Para. 1.
His Throne. -- The throne of God the Father; for Christ has not yet taken his own throne. The seven spirits being before the throne "may be intended to designate the fact that the Divine Spirit is ever ready to be sent forth in accordance with a common representation in the Scriptures, to accomplish important purposes in human affairs." p. 330, Para. 2.
And from Jesus Christ. -- Then Christ is not the person who, in the verse before us, is designated as "him which is, and which was, and which is to come." Some of the chief characteristics which pertain to Christ are here mentioned. He is, -- p. 330, Para. 3.
The Faithful Witness. -- Whatever he bears witness to is true. Whatever he promises, he will surely fulfil. p. 330, Para. 4.
The First Begotten of the Dead. -- This expression is parallel to 1 Cor. 15:20, 23; Heb. 1:6; Rom. 8:29; and Col. 1:15, 18, where we find such expressions applied to Christ as "the first-fruits of them that slept," "the first-born among many brethren," "the first-born of every creature," and "the first-born from the dead." But these expressions do not necessarily denote that he was the first in point of time to be raised from the dead; for others were raised before him. That would be a very unimportant point: but he was the chief and central figure of all who have come up from the grave: for it was by virtue of Christ's coming, work, and resurrection, that any were raised before his time. In the purpose of God, he was the first in point of time as well as in importance; for it was not till after the purpose of Christ's triumph over the grave was formed in the mind of God, who calleth those things that be not as though they were [Rom. 4:17], that any were released from the power of death, by virtue of that great fact which was in due time to be accomplished. Christ is therefore called the "first-begotten of the dead" [chapter 1:5], the "first-fruits of them that slept" [1 Cor. 15:20], the "first-born among many brethren" [Rom. 8:29], and "the first-born from the dead." Col. 1:18. In Acts 26:23 he is spoken of as "the first that should rise from the dead, and should show light unto the people," or the first who by rising from the dead should show light unto the people. [See the Greek of this passage, and Bloomfield's note thereon; also "Here and Hereafter," chapter 17.] p. 330, Para. 5.
The Prince of the Kings of the Earth. -- Christ is Prince of earthly kings in a certain sense now. Paul informs us, in Eph. 1:20, 21, that he has been set at the right hand of God in the heavenly places, "far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come." The highest names named in this world are the princes, kings, emperors, and potentates of earth. But Christ is placed far above them. He is seated with his Father upon the throne of universal dominion [chapter 3:21], and ranks equally with him in the overruling and controlling of the affairs of all the nations of the earth. p. 331, Para. 1.
In a more particular sense, Christ is to be Prince of the kings of the earth when he takes his own throne, and the kingdoms of this world become the "kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ," when they are given by the Father into his hands, and he comes forth bearing upon his vesture the title of "King of kings and Lord of lords," to dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. Chapter 19:16, 2:27; Ps. 2:8, 9. p. 331, Para. 2.
Unto Him that Loved Us. -- We have thought that earthly friends loved us, -- a father, a mother, brothers and sisters, or bosom friends, -- but we see that no love is worthy of the name compared with the love of Christ for us. And the following sentence adds intensity of meaning to the previous words: "And washed us from our sins in his own blood." What love is this! "Greater love," says the apostle, "hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." But Christ has commended his love for us, in that he died for us "while we were yet sinners." But more than this -- "Hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father." From being leprous with sin, we are made clean in his sight; from being enemies, we are not only made friends, but raised to positions of honor and dignity. This cleansing, and this kingly and priestly exaltation -- to what state do they pertain? to the present or the future? -- Chiefly to the future; for it is then only that we shall enjoy these blessings in the highest degree. Then, after the atonement has been accomplished, we are absolutely free from our sins; before that time they are pardoned only on condition, and blotted out only by anticipation. But when the saints are permitted to sit with Christ on his throne, according to the promise to the victorious Laodiceans, when they take the kingdom under the whole heaven and reign forever and ever, they will be kings in a sense that they never can be in this present state. Yet enough is true of our present condition to make this cheering language appropriate in the Christian's present song of joy; for here we are permitted to say that we have redemption through his blood, though that redemption is not yet given, and that we have eternal life, though that life is still in the hands of the Son, to be brought unto us at his appearing; and it is still true, as it was in the days of John and Peter, that God designs his people in this world to be unto him a chosen generation, a royal [kingly] priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people. 1 Peter 2:9; Rev. 3:21; Dan. 7:18, 27. No wonder the loving and beloved disciple ascribed to this Being who has done so much for us, glory and dominion, forever and ever. And let all the church join in this most fitting ascription to their greatest benefactor and dearest friend. p. 331, Para. 3.
He Cometh with Clouds. -- Here John carries us forward to the second advent of Christ in glory, the climax and crowning event of his intervention in behalf of this fallen world. Once he came in weakness, now he comes in power; once in humility, now in glory. He comes in clouds, in like manner as he ascended. Acts 1:9, 11. p. 333, Para. 2.
His Coming Visible. -- "Every eye shall see him;" that is, all who are alive at the time of his coming. We know of no personal coming of Christ that shall be as the stillness of midnight, or take place only in the desert or the secret chamber. He comes not as a thief in the sense of stealing in stealthily and quietly upon the world, and purloining goods to which he has no right. But he comes to take to himself his dearest treasure, his sleeping and living saints, whom he has purchased with his own precious blood; whom he has wrested from the power of death in fair and open conflict; and for whom his coming will be no less open and triumphant, too. It will be with the brilliancy and splendor of the lightning as it shines from the east to the west. Matt. 24:27. It will be with a sound of a trumpet that shall pierce to earth's lowest depths, and with a mighty voice that shall wake the sainted sleepers from their dusty beds. Matt. 24:31, margin: 1 Thess. 4:16. He will come upon the wicked as a thief, only because they persistently shut their eyes to the tokens of his approach, and will not believe the declarations of his word that he is at the door. To represent two comings, a private and a public one, in connection with the second advent, as some do, is wholly unwarranted in the Scriptures. p. 333, Para. 3.
And They Also which Pierced Him. -- They also [in addition to the "every eye," before mentioned] who were chiefly concerned in the tragedy of his death; they shall behold him returning to earth in triumph and glory. But how is this? They are not now living, and how, then, shall they behold him when he comes? Answer: By a resurrection from the dead; for this is the only possible avenue to life to those who have once been laid in the grave. But how is it that these wicked persons come up at this time: for the general resurrection of the wicked does not take place till a thousand years after the second advent. Chapter 20:1-6. On this point Daniel informs us. He says [chapter 12:1, 2]:-- p. 333, Para. 4.
"And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." p. 334, Para. 1.
Here a partial resurrection is brought to view, or a resurrection of a certain class of each, righteous and wicked, before the general resurrection of either class. Many, not all, that sleep shall awake. Some of the righteous, not all of them, to everlasting life, and some of the wicked, not all of them, to shame and everlasting contempt. And this resurrection transpires in connection with the great time of trouble such as never was, which just precedes the coming of the Lord. May not "they also which pierced him" be among those who then come up to shame and everlasting contempt? What could be more appropriate, so far as human minds can judge, than that those who took part in the scene of our Lord's greatest humiliation, and other special leaders in crime against him, should be raised to behold his terrible majesty, as he comes triumphantly, in flaming fire, to take vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not his gospel? [See Dan. 12:2.] p. 334, Para. 2.
The Church's Response. -- "Even so, Amen." Though this coming of Christ is to the wicked a scene of terror and destruction, it is to the righteous a scene of joy and triumph. "When the world's distress comes, then the saints' rest comes." That coming which is with flaming fire, and for the purpose of taking vengeance on the wicked, is to recompense rest to all them that believe. 2 Thess. 1:6-10. Every friend and lover of Christ will hail every declaration and every token of his return as glad tidings of great joy. p. 334, Para. 3.
"VERSE 8. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty." p. 335, Para. 1.
Here another speaker is introduced. Previous to this, John has been the speaker. But this verse has no connection with what precedes nor with what follows. Who it is who here speaks must be determined, therefore, by the terms used. Here we again have the expression, "Which is, and which was, and which is to come," which has already been noticed as referring exclusively to God. But it may be asked, Does not the word Lord denote that it was Christ? On this point Barnes has the following note: "Many MSS. instead of 'Lord,' read 'God,'" and this reading is adopted by Griesback, Tittman, and Hahn, and is now regarded as the correct reading." Bloomfield supplies the word God, and marks the words "the beginning and the ending" as an interpolation. Thus appropriately closes the first principal division of this chapter, with a revelation of himself by the great God as being of an eternity of existence, past and future, and of almighty power, and hence able to perform all his threatenings and his promises, which he has given us in this book. p. 335, Para. 2.
"VERSE 9. I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ." p. 335, Para. 3.
The subject here changes, John introducing the place and the circumstances under which the Revelation was given. He first sets himself forth as a brother of the universal church, and their companion in the tribulations incident to the Christian profession in this life. p. 335, Para. 4.
And in the Kingdom. -- These words have been the occasion of no little controversy. Does John really mean to say that Christians in the present state are in the kingdom of Christ, or in other words, that in his day Christ's kingdom had already been set up? If this language has any reference to the present state, it must be in a very limited and accommodated sense. Those who take the ground that it has its application here, usually refer to 1 Pet. 2:9 to prove the existence of a kingdom in the present state, and to show its nature. But, as was remarked on verse 6, the literal reign of the saints is yet future. It is through much tribulation that we are to enter into the kingdom of God. Acts 14:22. But when the kingdom is entered, the tribulation is done. The tribulation and the kingdom do not exist contemporaneously. Murdock's translation of the Syriac of this verse omits the word kingdom, and reads as follows: "I John, your brother, and partaker with you in the affliction and suffering that are in Jesus the Messiah." Wakefield translates: "I John, your brother, and sharer with you in enduring the affliction of the kingdom of Jesus Christ." Bloomfield says that by the words tribulation and patience "are denoted afflictions and troubles to be endured for the sake, and in the cause of Christ: and [kingdom] intimates that he is to be partaker with them in the kingdom prepared for them." He says that "the best comment on this passage is 2 Tim. .2:12," which reads: "If we suffer, we shall also reign with him." From all which we may safely conclude that though there is a kingdom of grace in the present state, the kingdom to which John alluded is the future kingdom of glory, and the suffering and patience are preparatory to its enjoyment. p. 335, Para. 5.
The Place. -- The isle that is called Patmos, -- a small, barren island off the west coast of Asia Minor, between the island of Icaria and the promontory of Miletus, where in John's day was located the nearest Christian church. It is about eight miles in length, one in breadth, and eighteen in circumference. Its present name is Patino or Patmosa. The coast is high, and consists of a succession of capes, which form many ports. The only one now in use is a deep bay sheltered by high mountains on every side but one, where it is protected by a projecting cape. The town attached to this port is situated upon a high, rocky mountain rising immediately from the sea, and is the only inhabited site of the island. About half way up the mountain on which this town is built, there is shown a natural grotto in the rock, where tradition will have it that John had his vision and wrote the Revelation. On account of the stern and desolate character of this island, it was used, under the Roman empire, as a place of banishment, which accounts for the exile of John thither. The banishment of the apostle took place about the year A.D. 94, as is generally supposed, under the emperor Domitian; and from this fact the date assigned to the writing of the Revelation is A.D. 95 or 96. p. 336, Para. 1.
The Cause of Banishment. -- "For the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ." This was John's high crime and misdemeanor. The tyrant Domitian, who was then invested with the imperial purple of Rome, more eminent for his vices than even for his civil position, quailed before this aged but dauntless apostle. He dared not permit the promulgation of his pure gospel within the bounds of his kingdom. He exiled him to lonely Patmos, where, if anywhere this side of death, he might be said to be out of the world. Having confined him to that barren spot, and to the cruel labor of the mines, the emperor doubtless thought that this preacher of righteousness was finally disposed of, and that the world would hear no more of him. So, doubtless, thought the persecutors of John Bunyan when they had shut him up in Bedford jail. But when man thinks he has buried the truth in eternal oblivion, the Lord gives it a resurrection in tenfold glory and power. From Bunyan's dark and narrow cell there blazed forth a spiritual light, which, next to the Bible itself, has built up the interests of the gospel; and from the barren Isle of Patmos, where Domitian thought he had forever extinguished at least one torch of truth, there arose the most magnificent revelation of all the sacred canon, to shed its divine luster over the whole Christian world till the end of time. And how many will revere the name of the beloved disciple, and hang with delight upon his enraptured visions of heavenly glory, who will never learn the name of the monster who caused his banishment. Verily, those words of the Scriptures are sometimes applicable, even to the present life, which declare that "the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance," but "the name of the wicked shall rot." p. 337, Para. 1.
"VERSE 10. I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet." p. 338, Para. 1.
In the Spirit. -- Exiled though John was from all of like faith, and almost from the world, he was not exiled from God, nor from Christ, nor from the Holy Spirit, nor from angels. He still had communion with his divine Lord. And the expression "in the Spirit" seems to denote the highest state of spiritual elevation into which a person can be brought by the Spirit of God. It marked the commencement of his vision. p. 338, Para. 2.
On the Lord's Day. -- What day is intended by this designation? On this question four different positions are taken by different classes. 1. One class hold that the expression "the Lord's day" covers the whole gospel dispensation, and does not mean any particular twenty-four-hour day. 2. Another class hold that the Lord's day is the day of judgment, the future "day of the Lord," so often brought to view in the Scriptures. 3. The third view, and the one perhaps the most prevalent, is that the expression refers to the first day of the week. 4. Still another class hold that it means the seventh day, the Sabbath of the Lord. p. 338, Para. 3.
1. To the first of these positions it is sufficient to reply that the book of Revelation is dated by the writer, John, in the Isle of Patmos, and upon the Lord's day. The writer, the place where it was written, and the day upon which it was dated, have each a real existence, and not merely a symbolical or mystical one. But if we say that the day means the gospel dispensation, we give it a symbolical or mystical meaning, which is not admissible. Besides, this position involves the absurdity of making John say, sixty-five years after the death of Christ, that the vision which he records was seen by him in the gospel dispensation, as if any Christian could possibly be ignorant of that fact! p. 338, Para. 4.
2. The second position, that it is the day of judgment, cannot be correct; for while John might have had a vision concerning the day of judgment, he could not have had one on that day when it is yet future. The word translated on is (en), and is defined by Robinson when relating to time, as follows: "Time when; a definite point or period, in, during, on, at, which anything takes place." It never means about or concerning. Hence they who refer it to the judgment day either contradict the language used, making it mean concerning instead of on, or they make John state a strange falsehood, by saying that he had a vision upon the Isle of Patmos, nearly eighteen hundred years ago, on the day of judgment which is yet future! p. 339, Para. 1.
3. The third view is that by "Lord's day" is meant the first day of the week, a view by far the most generally entertained. On this we inquire for the proof. What evidence have we for this assertion? The text itself does not define the term Lord's day; hence if it means the first day of the week, we must look elsewhere in the Bible for the proof that that day of the week is ever so designated. The only other inspired writers who speak of the first day at all, are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul; and they speak of it simply as "the first day of the week." They never speak of it in a manner to distinguish it above any other of the six working days. And this is the more remarkable, viewed from the popular standpoint, as three of them speak of it at the very time when it is said to have become the Lord's day by the resurrection of the Lord upon it, and two of them mention it some thirty years after that event. p. 339, Para. 2.
If it is said that the term "Lord's day" was the usual term for the first day of the week in John's day, we ask, Where is the proof of this? It cannot be found. But we have proof of just the contrary. [See "History of the Sabbath," by J. N. Andrews, for sale by the Review and Herald Pub. Assoc., Takoma Park, Washington, D.C.] If this was the universal designation of the first day of the week at the time the Revelation was written, the same writer would most assuredly call it so in all his subsequent writings. But John wrote the Gospel after he wrote the Revelation, and yet in that Gospel he calls the first day of the week, not Lord's day, but simply "the first day of the week." For proof that the Gospel was written at a period subsequent to the Revelation, the reader is referred to such standard authorities as the Religious Encyclopedia, Barnes's Notes [Gospels], Bible Dictionaries, Cottage Bible, Domestic Bible, Mine Explored, Union Bible Dictionary, Comprehensive Bible, Paragraph Bible, Bloomfield, Dr. Hales, Horne, Nevins, and Olshausen. p. 339, Para. 3.
And what still further disproves the claim here set up in behalf of the first day, is the fact that neither the Father nor the Son has ever claimed the first day as his own in any higher sense than he has each or any of the other laboring days. Neither of them has ever placed any blessing upon it, or attached any sanctity to it. If it was to be called the Lord's day from the fact of Christ's resurrection upon it, Inspiration would doubtless have somewhere so informed us. But there are other events equally essential to the plan of salvation, as, for instance, the crucifixion and the ascension; and in the absence of all instruction upon the point, why not call the day upon which either of these occurred, the Lord's day, as well as the day upon which he rose from the dead? p. 340, Para. 1.
4. The three positions already examined having been disproved, the fourth -- that by Lord's day is meant the Sabbath of the Lord -- now demands attention. And this of itself is susceptible of the clearest proof. 1. When God gave to man in the beginning six days of the week for labor, he expressly reserved the seventh day to himself, placed his blessing upon it, and claimed it as his holy day. 2. Moses told Israel in the wilderness of Sin on the sixth day of the week, "To-morrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord." We come to Sinai, where the great Lawgiver proclaimed his moral precepts in awful grandeur; and in that supreme code he thus lays claim to his hallowed day: "The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God:. . . for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it". By the prophet Isaiah, about eight hundred years later, God spoke as follows: "If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on MY HOLY DAY, . . . then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord," etc. Isa. 58:13. We come down to New-Testament times, and He who is one with the Father declares expressly, "The Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath." Can any man deny that that day is the Lord's day, of which he has emphatically declared that he is the Lord? Thus we see that whether it be the Father or the Son whose title is involved, no other day can be called the Lord's day but the Sabbath of the great Creator. p. 341, Para. 2.
One more thought and we leave this point. There is in this dispensation one day distinguished above the other days of the week as the Lord's day. How completely does this great fact disprove the claim put forth by some that there is no Sabbath in this dispensation, but that all days are alike. And by calling it the Lord's day, the apostle has given us, near the close of the first century, apostolic sanction for the observance of the only day which can be called the Lord's day, which is the seventh day of the week. [See notes at close of chapter.] p. 341, Para. 1.
"VERSE 11. Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea." p. 341, Para. 2.
On this verse Dr. A. Clarke remarks, "I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, and -- this clause is wanting in ABC; thirty-one others; some editions; the Syriac, Coptic, AETHIOPIC, Armenian, Slavonic, Vulgate, Arethas, Andreas, and Primasius. Griesbach has left it out of the text." He also states that the phrase "in Asia" is wanting in the principal MSS. and versions, and that Griesbach omits this too from the text. Bloomfield also marks the clause, "I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, and" -- as without doubt an interpolation, and also the words "in Asia." It would then read, "saying, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches; unto Ephesus," etc. [See translations of Whiting, Wesley, American Bible Union, and others. Compare remarks on verse 4.] p. 341, Para. 3.
"VERSE 12. And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; 13. And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. 14. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; 15. And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. 16. And he had in his right hand seven stars; and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. 17. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not: I am the first and the last: 18. I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death." p. 342, Para. 1.
I turned to see the voice; that is, the person from whom the voice came. p. 342, Para. 2.
Seven Golden Candlesticks. -- These cannot be the antitype of the golden candlestick of the ancient typical temple service; for that was but one candlestick with seven branches. That is ever spoken of in the singular number. But here are seven; and these are more properly "lamp-stands" than simple candlesticks, stands upon which lamps are set to give light in the room. And they bear no resemblance to the ancient candlestick; on the contrary, the stands are so distinct, and so far separated one from another, that the Son of man is seen walking about in the midst of them. p. 342, Para. 3.
The Son of Man. -- The central and all-attractive figure of the scene now opened before John's vision is the majestic form of one like the Son of man, representing Christ. The description here given of him, with his flowing robe, his hair white, not with age, but with the brightness of heavenly glory, his flaming eyes, his feet glowing like molten brass, and his voice as the sound of many waters, cannot be excelled for grandeur and sublimity. Overcome by the presence of this august Being, and perhaps under a keen sense of all human unworthiness, John fell at his feet as dead; but a comforting hand is laid upon him, and a voice of sweet assurance tells him to fear not. It is equally the privilege of Christians today to feel the same hand laid upon them to strengthen and comfort them in hours of trial and affliction, and to hear the same voice saying unto them, "Fear not." p. 342, Para. 4.
But the most cheering assurance in all these words of consolation is the declaration of this exalted one who is alive forevermore, that he is the arbiter of death and the grave. "I have," he says, "the keys of hell [the grave] and of death." Death is a conquered tyrant. He may ply his gloomy labors age after age, gathering to the grave the precious of the earth, and gloat for a season over his apparent triumph; but he is performing a fruitless task; for the key to his dark prison-house has been wrenched from his grasp, and is now held in the hands of a mightier than he. He is compelled to deposit his trophies in a region over which another has absolute control; and this one is the unchanging Friend and the pledged Redeemer of his people. Then grieve not for the righteous dead; they are in safe keeping. An enemy for a while takes them away; but a friend holds the key to the place of their temporary confinement. p. 343, Para. 1.
"VERSE 19. Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter." p. 343, Para. 1.
A more definite command is given in this verse to John to write the entire Revelation, which would relate chiefly to things which were then in the future. In some few instances, events then in the past or then transpiring were referred to: but these references were simply for the purpose of introducing events to be fulfilled after that time, and so that no link in the chain might be lacking. p. 343, Para. 2.
"VERSE 20. The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars were the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches." p. 343, Para. 3.
To represent the Son of man as holding in his hand only the ministers of seven literal churches in Asia Minor, and walking in the midst of only those seven churches, would be to reduce the sublime representations and declarations of this and following chapters to comparative insignificance. The providential care and presence of the Lord are with, not a specified number of churches only, but all his people; not in the days of John merely, but through all time. "Lo! I am with you alway," said he to his disciples, "even unto the end of the world." [See remarks on verse 4.] p. 343, Para. 4.
[[NOTE.] -- An additional thought may be added to what is said about the claim that the first day of the week is meant by the term "Lord's day" in verse 10. If, when Christ said, "The Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath day" [Matt. 12:8], he had said instead, "The Son of man is Lord of the first day of the week." would not that now be set forth as conclusive proof that Sunday is the Lord's day? -- Certainly, and with good reason. Then it ought to be allowed to have the same weight for the seventh day, in reference to which it was spoken.] p. 344, Para. 1.
© S. D. Goeldner, February, 2011. Last updated October, 2019.
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