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quickly. In i. 3, the author solemnly declares, that what is written in this book is of speedy accomplishment; the time is near, i. e. the time when what is revealed will be accomplished. Thus much in the prologue to the book. The epilogue repeats three several times the equivalent declaration, Behold, I come quickly; xxii. 7, 12, 20. The coming of Christ is the main subject of the book, so that the declaration here is, that what the book contains will speedily be accomplished. That such must be the meaning, is evident by appeal to similar declarations in Rev. ii. 16, iii. 11, and xi. 14. No one can doubt, that what is said is what is meant, in these last cases. As little reasonable doubt can there be, if philology is to be trusted, in the cases just cited in the prologue and epilogue of the book. What tolerable meaning now can be given, and defended on exegetical grounds, to the declarations in question, if we suppose that the main portion of the book relates to events some thousand and more of years then future ? And if every writer is to be permitted the liberty of explaining his own purpose, why should we refuse to John the liberty that we eoncede to all others?”— (Hints on Prophecy, 2d ed., pp. 111, 112.) *| By his angel. — As angels are spoken of so frequently in this book, each one always performing a different office, it is worthy of remark, that the angel here spoken of is the one who made known the whole revelation, and hence may be called the apocalyptical angel. We shall meet with many angels in the course of the book; but we shall not meet with this one again until we come near the close, xxii. 6, 8. T His servant John. — That John, the apostle, is here meant, is shown in the introduction to this work.
Wer. 2. Who bear record. – John bear record of the three things here named. 1st. The word of God; 2d. The testimony of Jesus Christ; and, 3d. “All things that he (John) saw.” 1st. Whether the word of God here is to bear the same sense as in John i. 1, or whether it signifies the gospel of God, is somewhat doubtful. It is precisely the same phrase which is used personally for Christ in xix. 13. 2d. It was a favorite practice of John, in his gospel and epistles, to speak of the gospel of Jesus as a testimony, and the preaching or publishing of it as testifying, or bearing witness, &c. 3d. By all things that he saw, John, doubtless, meant those which the angel showed unto him.
Wer. 3. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear. —When the Apocalypse was written, books were few, and few persons, therefore, could read. Many were obliged to hear, because they could not obtain the manuscripts to read them. Hence the readers and the hearers are both mentioned. . The language is probably designed to have special application to the churches whom John addressed. But it is not he who readeth only, but readeth and keepeth. So in Luke xi. 28, “Blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it.” T For the time is at hand. —What time ! The time when these great events were to be fulfilled. The time mentioned ver. 1, and that was shortly to come. Thus far the preface of the book. The first three verses are the preface; and the preface contains three points: 1st. By whom the revelation was made ; 2d. The subjectmatter of the revelation; and, 3d. The blessedness of reading and keeping it. It was addressed particularly to that generation, to people then on the earth. They were called on to read and keep the word, for the time which are in Asia: Grace be
unto you, and peace, from him
was at hand. Is not the time here intended the time of Christ's coming to take vengeance on the Jews? See the remarks on i. 1. In the 22d chapter of this book, the revelator says, “Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book, [why ) for the
time is at hand;” ver. 10. Again,
ver. 12, “Behold I come QUICKLY.” And again, ver. 20, “Surely, I come quickly.” In 1 Peter iv. 7, “The end of all things is at hand.” So in 2 Thess. ii. 2, “The day of Christ is at hand.” In Phil. iv. 5, “The Lord [or the day, coming of the Lord, is at hand;” and in Rom. xiii. 12, “The night is far spent, the day is at hand.” Such is the uniform language of the epistles. The coming of Christ, the great day of the Lord, Was AT HAND. Wer. 4. Having thus concluded the brief preface, or introduction, we come now to the book itself. It is in the form of an epistle. John to the seven churches. Here the revelator once more gives his name. If he had been any other than the apostle John, there would have been some need of his explaining himself further, and showing who he was. He says, John, by way of preeminence, meaning the John of the church. And what seven churches are here referred to ? The names of the churches are given in ver. 11 of this chapter, viz., the churches in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. But what need was there that these seven churches should be counselled and warned, and none others ? It seems very probable that John uses these churches as representative of the Christian churches in general. He selects seven as Samples of the rest, and gives to them the advice which all needed. The careful reader of the Apocalypse needs not to be told, that the number seven is very frequently employed therein. It is a series that is continually occurring. .” Here we meet for the first time
(says Woodhouse) with the mention of the number seven, which is afterwards so frequently and symbolically used, in this sacred book; wherein we read of seven spirits of God, seven angels, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven vials, seven heads of the dragon and of the beast. In which passages, for the most part, as in others of holy Scripture, this number appears to represent a large, complete, yet undefined quantity. Hannah, in her song, (1 Sam. ii. 5,) says, “ The barren hath borne seven (that is, a large, but indefinite, number of) children.’ So God threatens that he will punish the Israelites seven times; that is, very completely and severely. In the Hebrew etymology of this word seven, it signifies fulness and perfection.—(Daubuz.) Philo styles it the completing number; and it is mentioned as such by Cyprian. With the Israelites, this number became thus important, because God having completed his work of creation in six days, and added thereto the seventh, a day of rest, commanded them, in memorial thereof, to reckon time by sevens. Through the nations of the East, this manner of computation passed on to the Greeks and Romans, as hath been shown in a variety of instances. By the seven churches of Asia are implied all the churches of Asia, and, it may be, all the Christian churches, in whatever situation or period of the world. Such was the opinion of the most ancient commentators on the Apocalypse, who lived near to the time of its publication.” — (Annotations on the Apocalypse, 8vo., London, 1828, p. 58.) I Grace be unto you. — This is the apostolical benediction. “Grace to you, and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Rom. i. 7; and the same may be found in substance in various other places. 1 Cor. i. 3; 2 Cor. i. 2; Gal. i. 3; Eph. i. 2; Phil. i. 2; Col. i. 2; 1 Thess. i. 1; 2 Thess. i. 2; Phil. 3. In all these 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
cases, and many others which might be named, mention is made first of God the Father, and second, of his Son Jesus Christ. The revelator gives it more the Hebrew form. Instead of speaking of God as the Father, he calls him the present, the past, and the to come, which seems to have been designed to express his endless existence. It is a circumlocution for the name Jehovah, which, after the captivity in Babylon, the Jews, from superstitious veneration for the word, refused to pronounce. Jehovah signifies the self-existent, in which the idea of the endlessly-existent is involved : he who gives being and existence to others. — (Calmet.), The Jewish writers often use the phrase, of which the apostle's Greek terms are a literal translation.—(A.Clarke.) TI And from the seven spirits. – This is the first mention of the seven spirits, and it deserves serious consideration. There are two views taken of the subject by different commentators. 1st. It is supposed that the Holy Spirit is intended. Bede remarks, “The one spirit is said to be septiform to describe its perfection and plenitude;” in the same sense in which seven thunders are used to describe loud thunder. The other interpretation is, that the figure of the seven spirits is taken from the attendants upon earthly monarchs, the seven most faithful and confidential being kept near to the royal person, and being his medium of communication with his subjects. The latter interpretation seems to us the most probable, although there is nothing strained or unnatural in either; and, in fact, they may both be combined without violence. That ancient monarchs were attended in the manner described, see Ezra vii. 14; Esther i. 10, 14; Jer. iii. 25; 1 Esdras viii. 11;
Tobit xii. 15. Such being the custom of ancient monarchs, and John drawing the court of heaven in his imagination after the form of an ancient earthly court, he supposed seven spirits to dwell near the presence of God. This, however, is merely scenical; as the robe, the ring, and the shoes that were put upon the prodigal on his return to his father's house. They were merely the imagery used by our Lord to describe the joy of the parent at the event. The view which we have adopted is further confirmed by the position of the seven spirits; they were before the throne, not on the throne, with the Eternal; but waiting at the foot thereof, to execute his commands. These seven spirits of God belong both to the Father and the Son, as we shall see when we come to other parts of the Apocalypse. See iii. 1; v. 6. The reason of this is obvious. Jesus is the vicegerent of the Father; not ruling under him, but, in the spiritual kingdom, ruling in his room and stead. The seven spirits, therefore, which attended at God's throne, may with great propriety be said to execute the will of both the Father and the Son. See especially v. 6. Wer. 5. And from Jesus Christ.— The benediction is from the Son as well as from the Father, and such, we have shown, was the apostolical form. T Faithful nitness. – Jesus was a faithful witness, faithful and true; iii. 14. The word translated witness, signifies not merely what we call a witness, but a martyr also, one who is ready to seal his testimony with his blood. This was true of our Lord; he died, in attestation of the truth he had taught. That the idea of martyrdom entered into the conception of the revelator, seems evident from the next words. TI The 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
first-begotten of the dead. — That is, the first-born from the dead, or the first raised. Paul called Christ the “first fruits of them that slept;” 1 Cor. xv. 20, 23. The word translated first-begotten in the passage before us, is elsewhere in the New Testament translated first-born. It occurs but once in the Apocalypse. T Prince of the kings of the earth. — The word translated “prince,” here signifies leader, or first in order. Jesus is called “the Prince of life;” Acts iii. 15; and it is also said, “God hath exalted him to be a prince and a saviour;” Acts v. 31. He is said to be prince of the kings of the earth, because he is the greatest of all of them, “the King of kings and Lord of lords;” xix. 16. T Unto him that loved us and nashed us, &c. — Here commences an ascription of praise and glory to Christ, which continues to the end of the following verse. And in what sense did Jesus wash men from their sins in his own blood? The figure of blood, as it is here used, is derived from the ceremonies of the Mosaic ritual. God said to the children of Israel, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar, to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul;” Lev. xvii. 11. Now, if we turn to the Epistle to the Hebrews, we shall find that Paul draws his figure of the sanctifying and atoning power of the mere blood of Christ, from this portion of the Jewish service. “Almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission;” Heb. ix. 22. Again, Paul says, “But Christ being come a high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves,
but by his own blood, he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purisying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God;” 11–14. Such is the manner in which the mere blood of Christ came to be spoken of as possessing a purifying power. It is only in a metaphorical sense that it can have such a power. In this sense the blood of Christ is frequently spoken of by the New Testament writers. 1 Peter i. 2, 19; 1 John i. 7; Rev. v. 9; vii. 14; xii. 11. It is well known to every student of the New Testament, that the truth is the purifying agent under the gospel. What else can purify the soul? Jesus prayed the Father to “sanctify men through the truth;” and then he added, “Thy word is truth;” John xvii. 17. “By mercy and truth iniquity is purged ; and by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil;” Prov. xvi. 6. As the truth, then, is the purifier of the soul, in what sense is it said that the blood of Christ cleanseth men from sin Evidently when it stands as a metaphor of the truth. . Now, that John knew that the Lord Jesus spoke of his blood metaphorically for the truth, will be evident, if we look at his gospel. “Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh dominion for ever and ever. ; Amen.
my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him ;” John vi. 53–56. Who can suppose that blood and flesh are to be understood here in the literal sense ? Our Lord himself applied the metaphor before he closed the discourse in which we find it. He showed his disciples he did not mean that blood, in the literal sense, would give them life; for he added, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life;” ver. 63. This shows us unequivocally that blood stands frequently in the New Testament for the truth which Jesus preached. It is by this that men are sanctified. Paul states, that “Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish;" Eph. v. 25–27. When it is said, therefore, by the revelator, that Christ loved the church, and washed it from its sins in his own blood, he expresses precisely the truth stated by the apostle Paul, as just quoted. Wer. 6. Made us kings and priests. —How were the apostles and Christians made “kings and priests” unto God? These were the highest terms of distinction, and entitled the possessor to high honors. The believers are said to reign with Christ on the earth. See v. 10, “And hast made us unto our God kings and priests; and we shall reign on the earth.” Jesus said his disciples should reign with him; the twelve apostles were promised to sit on twelve thrones, judging [or reigning over] the twelve tribes of [spiritual] Israel; Matt. xix. 28. True believers were said to “inherit the kingdom;” Matt. xxv. 34. “Fear not, little flock; for it is your
Father's good pleasure to give you
7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see
the kingdom;” Luke xii. 32. “If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him;” 2 Tim. ii. 12. See also 1 Cor. iv. 8, and vi. 2, 3. So God promised the Jews of old, “Now, therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people : for all the earth is mine : and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation;” Exod. xix. 5, 6. See, also, 1 Peter ii. 5–9, where Peter says to the believers, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” T To him be glory—i.e., to Christ, the Son of God, be glory and dominion. Jesus receives praise and homage as the mediator between God and men. * For ever and ever. — The duration expressed by these terms must be determined by the nature of the subject to which they are applied. The literal translation is, “to the ages of the ages.” The expression is indefinite. It is sometimes applied to temporal things, which long since came to an end. When applied to the existence of God and Christ, and the praise and honor which are due them, we know, from the nature of the subject, that endless duration is intended. T Amen. — This word signifies truth, firmness, stability. It is used for affirmation, and for consent or desire. In the former sense Jesus employs it, in the well-known prefix to some of his solemn declarations, as “Verily, verily, I say unto you ;” but it bears the latter sense in the verse before us. After having given the ascription of praise and glory to Christ, throughout all ages, the revelator adds, Amen, or so let it be. Wer. 7. Behold he cometh. – Who is here intended ? Evidently, Jesus Christ, who had been spoken of in