Commentary by A. R. FAUSSETT
[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12]
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AUTHENTICITY.--The author calls himself John (Re 1:1, 4, 9; 2:8). JUSTIN MARTYR [Dialogue with Trypho, p. 308] (A.D. 139-161) quotes from the Apocalypse, as John the apostle's work, the prophecy of the millennium of the saints, to be followed by the general resurrection and judgment. This testimony of JUSTIN is referred to also by EUSEBIUS [Ecclesiastical History, 4.18]. JUSTIN MARTYR, in the early part of the second century, held his controversy with TRYPHO, a learned Jew, at Ephesus, where John had been living thirty or thirty-five years before: he says that "the Revelation had been given to John, one of the twelve apostles of Christ." MELITO, bishop of Sardis (about A.D. 171), one of the seven churches addressed, a successor, therefore, of one of the seven angels, is said by EUSEBIUS [Ecclesiastical History, 4.26] to have written treatises on the Apocalypse of John. The testimony of the bishop of Sardis is the more impartial, as Sardis is one of the churches severely reproved (Re 3:1). So also THEOPHILUS OF ANTIOCH (about A.D. 180), according to EUSEBIUS [Ecclesiastical History, 4.26], quoted testimonies from the Apocalypse of John. EUSEBIUS says the same of Apollonius, who lived in Asia Minor in the end of the second century. IRENÆUS (about A.D. 180), a hearer of POLYCARP, the disciple of John, and supposed by ARCHBISHOP USHER to be the angel of the Church of Smyrna, is most decided again and again in quoting the Apocalypse as the work of the apostle John [Against Heresies, 4.20.11; 4.21.3; 4.30.4; 5.36.1; 5.30.3; 5.35.2]. In [5.30.1], alluding to the mystical number of the beast, six hundred sixty-six (Re 13:18), found in all old copies, he says, "We do not hazard a confident theory as to the name of Antichrist; for if it had been necessary that his name should be proclaimed openly at the present time, it would have been declared by him who saw the apocalyptic vision; for it was seen at no long time back, but almost in our generation, towards the end of Domitian's reign." In his work Against Heresies, published ten years after Polycarp's martyrdom, he quotes the Apocalypse twenty times, and makes long extracts from it, as inspired Scripture. These testimonies of persons contemporary with John's immediate successors, and more or less connected with the region of the seven churches to which Revelation is addressed, are most convincing. TERTULLIAN, of North Africa (about A.D. 220), [Against Marcion, 3.14], quotes the apostle John's descriptions in the Apocalypse of the sword proceeding out of the Lord's mouth (Re 19:15), and of the heavenly city (Re 21:1-27). Compare On the Resurrection of the Flesh [27]; A Treatise on the Soul, [8, 9, &c.]; The Prescription Against Heretics, [33]. The MURATORI fragment of the canon (about A.D. 200) refers to John the apostle writing to the seven churches. HIPPOLYTUS, bishop of Ostia, near Rome (about A.D. 240) [On Antichrist, p. 67], quotes Re 17:1-18, as the writing of John the apostle. Among HIPPOLYTUS' works, there is specified in the catalogue on his statue, a treatise "on the Apocalypse and Gospel according to John." CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA (about A.D. 200) [Miscellanies, 6.13], alludes to the twenty-four seats on which the elders sit as mentioned by John in the Apocalypse (Re 4:5); also, [Who Is the Rich Man Who Shall Be Saved? 42], he mentions John's return from Patmos to Ephesus on the death of the Roman tyrant. ORIGEN (about A.D. 233), [Commentary on Matthew, in EUSEBIUS Ecclesiastical History, 6.25], mentions John as the author of the Apocalypse, without expressing any doubts as to its authenticity; also, in Commentary on Matthew, [16.6], he quotes Re 1:9, and says, "John seems to have beheld the Apocalypse in the island of Patmos." VICTORINUS, bishop of Pettau in Pannonia, who suffered martyrdom under Diocletian in A.D. 303, wrote the earliest extant commentary on the Apocalypse. Though the Old Syriac Peschito version does not contain the Apocalypse, yet EPHREM THE SYRIAN (about A.D. 378) frequently quotes the Apocalypse as canonical, and ascribes it to John.
Its canonicity and inspiration (according to a scholium of ANDREAS OF CAPPADOCIA) are attested by PAPIAS, a hearer of John, and associate of POLYCARP. PAPIAS was bishop of Hierapolis, near Laodicea, one of the seven churches. WORDSWORTH conjectures that a feeling of shame, on account of the rebukes of Laodicea in Revelation, may have operated on the Council of Laodicea, so as to omit Revelation from its list of books to be read publicly (?). The Epistle of the churches of Lyons and Vienne to the churches of Asia and Phrygia (in EUSEBIUS, [Ecclesiastical History, 5.1-3]), in the persecution under Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 77) quotes Re 1:5; 3:14; 14:4; 22:11, as Scripture. CYPRIAN (about A.D. 250) also, in Epistle 13, quotes Re 2:5 as Scripture; and in Epistle 25 he quotes Re 3:21, as of the same authority as the Gospel. (For other instances, see ALFORD'S Prolegomena, from whom mainly this summary of evidence has been derived). ATHANASIUS, in his Festival Epistle, enumerates the Apocalypse among the canonical Scriptures, to which none must add, and from which none must take away. JEROME [Epistle to Paulinus] includes in the canon the Apocalypse, adding, "It has as many mysteries as words. All praise falls short of its merits. In each of its words lie hid manifold senses." Thus an unbroken chain of testimony down from the apostolic period confirms its canonicity and authenticity.
The ALOGI [EPIPHANIUS, Heresies, 51] and CAIUS the Roman presbyter [EUSEBIUS, Ecclesiastical History, 3.28], towards the end of the second and beginning of the third century, rejected John's Apocalypse on mere captious grounds. CAIUS, according to JEROME [On Illustrious Men], about A.D. 210, attributed it to Cerinthus, on the ground of its supporting the millennial reign on earth. DIONYSIUS OF ALEXANDRIA mentions many before his time who rejected it because of its obscurity and because it seemed to support Cerinthus' dogma of an earthly and carnal kingdom; whence they attributed it to Cerinthus. This DIONYSIUS, scholar of ORIGEN, and bishop of Alexandria (A.D. 247), admits its inspiration (in EUSEBIUS [Ecclesiastical History, 7.10]), but attributes it to some John distinct from John the apostle, on the ground of its difference of style and character, as compared with John's Gospel and Epistle, as also because the name John is several times mentioned in the Apocalypse, which is always kept back in both the Gospel and Epistle; moreover, neither does the Epistle make any allusion to the Apocalypse, nor the Apocalypse to the Epistle; and the style is not pure Greek, but abounds in barbarisms and solecisms. EUSEBIUS wavers in opinion [Ecclesiastical History, 24.39] as to whether it is, or is not, to be ranked among the undoubtedly canonical Scriptures. His antipathy to the millennial doctrine would give an unconscious bias to his judgment on the Apocalypse. CYRIL OF JERUSALEM (A.D. 386), [Catechetical Lectures, 4.35,36], omits the Apocalypse in enumerating the New Testament Scriptures to be read privately as well as publicly. "Whatever is not read in the churches, that do not even read by thyself; the apostles and ancient bishops of the Church who transmitted them to us were far wiser than thou art." Hence, we see that, in his day, the Apocalypse was not read in the churches. Yet in Catechetical Lectures, 1.4 he quotes Re 2:7, 17; and in Catechetical Lectures, 1; 15.13 he draws the prophetical statement from Re 17:11, that the king who is to humble the three kings (Da 7:8, 20) is the eighth king. In Catechetical Lectures, 15 and 27, he similarly quotes from Re 12:3, 4. ALFORD conjectures that CYRIL had at some time changed his opinion, and that these references to the Apocalypse were slips of memory whereby he retained phraseology which belonged to his former, not his subsequent views. The sixtieth canon (if genuine) of the Laodicean Council in the middle of the fourth century omits the Apocalypse from the canonical books. The Eastern Church in part doubted, the Western Church, after the fifth century, universally recognized, the Apocalypse. CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA [On Worship, 146], though implying the fact of some doubting its genuineness, himself undoubtedly accepts it as the work of St. John. ANDREAS OF CÆSAREA, in Cappadocia, recognized as genuine and canonical, and wrote the first entire and connected commentary on, the Apocalypse. The sources of doubt seem to have been, (1) the antagonism of many to the millennium, which is set forth in it; (2) its obscurity and symbolism having caused it not to be read in the churches, or to be taught to the young. But the most primitive tradition is unequivocal in its favor. In a word, the objective evidence is decidedly for it; the only arguments against it seem to have been subjective.
The personal notices of John in the Apocalypse occur Re 1:1, 4, 9; Re 22:8. Moreover, the writer's addresses to the churches of Proconsular Asia (Re 2:1) accord with the concurrent tradition, that after John's return from his exile in Patmos, at the death of Domitian, under Nerva, he resided for long, and died at last in Ephesus, in the time of Trajan [EUSEBIUS, Ecclesiastical History, 3.20,23]. If the Apocalypse were not the inspired work of John, purporting as it does to be an address from their superior to the seven churches of Proconsular Asia, it would have assuredly been rejected in that region; whereas the earliest testimonies in those churches are all in its favor. One person alone was entitled to use language of authority such as is addressed to the seven angels of the churches--namely, John, as the last surviving apostle and superintendent of all the churches. Also, it accords with John's manner to assert the accuracy of his testimony both at the beginning and end of his book (compare Re 1:2, 3, and 22:8, with Joh 1:14; 21:24; 1Jo 1:1, 2). Again, it accords with the view of the writer being an inspired apostle that he addresses the angels or presidents of the several churches in the tone of a superior addressing inferiors. Also, he commends the Church of Ephesus for trying and convicting "them which say they are apostles, and are not," by which he implies his own undoubted claim to apostolic inspiration (Re 2:2), as declaring in the seven epistles Christ's will revealed through him.
As to the difference of style, as compared with the Gospel and Epistle, the difference of subject in part accounts for it, the visions of the seer, transported as he was above the region of sense, appropriately taking a form of expression abrupt, and unbound by the grammatical laws which governed his writings of a calmer and more deliberate character. Moreover, as being a Galilean Hebrew, John, in writing a Revelation akin to the Old Testament prophecies, naturally reverted to their Hebraistic style. ALFORD notices, among the features of resemblance between the styles of the Apocalypse and John's Gospel and Epistle: (1) the characteristic appellation of our Lord, peculiar to John exclusively, "the Word of God" (Re 19:13; compare Joh 1:1; 1Jo 1:1). (2) the phrase, "he that overcometh" (Re 2:7, 11, 17; 3:5, 12, 21; 12:11; 15:2; 17:14; 21:7; compare Joh 16:33 1Jo 2:13, 14; 4:4; 5:4, 5). (3) The Greek term (alethinos) for "true," as opposed to that which is shadowy and unreal (Re 3:7, 14; 6:10; 15:3; 16:7; 19:2, 9, 11; 21:5; 22:6). This term, found only once in Luke (Lu 16:11), four times in Paul (1Th 1:9; Heb 8:2; 9:24; 10:22), is found nine times in John's Gospel (Joh 1:9; 4:23, 37; 6:32; 7:28; 8:16; 15:1 Joh 17:3; 19:3, 5), twice in John's First Epistle (1Jo 2:8; 5:20), and ten times in Revelation (Re 3:7, 14; 6:10; 15:3; 16:7; 19:2, 9, 11; 21:5 Re 22:6). (4) The Greek diminutive for "Lamb" (arnion, literally, "lambkin") occurs twenty-nine times in the Apocalypse, and the only other place where it occurs is Joh 21:15. In John's writings alone is Christ called directly "the Lamb" (Joh 1:29, 36). In 1Pe 1:19, He is called "as a lamb without blemish," in allusion to Isa 53:7. So the use of "witness," or "testimony" (Re 1:2, 9; 6:9; 11:7, &c.; compare Joh 1:7, 8, 15, 19, 32; 1Jo 1:2; 4:14; 5:6-11). "Keep the word," or "commandments" (Re 3:8, 10; 12:17; compare Joh 8:51, 55; 14:15). The assertion of the same thing positively and negatively (Re 2:2, 6, 8, 13; 3:8, 17, 18; compare Joh 1:3, 6, 7, 20; 1Jo 2:27, 28). Compare also 1Jo 2:20, 27 with Re 3:18, as to the spiritual anointing. The seeming solecisms of style are attributable to that,inspired elevation which is above mere grammatical rules, and are designed to arrest the reader's attention by the peculiarity of the phrase, so as to pause and search into some deep truth lying beneath. The vivid earnestness of the inspired writer, handling a subject so transcending all others, raises him above all servile adherence to ordinary rules, so that at times he abruptly passes from one grammatical construction to another, as he graphically sets the thing described before the eye of the reader. This is not due to ignorance of grammar, for he "has displayed a knowledge of grammatical rules in other much more difficult constructions" [WINER]. The connection of thought is more attended to than mere grammatical connection. Another consideration to be taken into account is that two-fifths of the whole being the recorded language of others, he moulds his style accordingly. Compare TREGELLES' Introduction to Revelation from Heathen Authorities.
TREGELLES well says [New Testament Historic Evidence], "There is no book of the New Testament for which we have such clear, ample, and numerous testimonies in the second century as we have in favor of the Apocalypse. The more closely the witnesses were connected with the apostle John (as was the case with IRENÆUS), the more explicit is their testimony. That doubts should prevail in after ages must have originated either in ignorance of the earlier testimony, or else from some supposed intuition of what an apostle ought to have written. The objections on the ground of internal style can weigh nothing against the actual evidence. It is in vain to argue, a priori, that John could not have written this book when we have the evidence of several competent witnesses that he did write it."
RELATION OF THE APOCALYPSE TO THE REST OF THE CANON.--GREGORY OF NYSSA [tom. 3, p. 601], calls Revelation "the last book of grace." It completes the volume of inspiration, so that we are to look for no further revelation till Christ Himself shall come. Appropriately the last book completing the canon was written by John, the last survivor of the apostles. The New Testament is composed of the historical books, the Gospels and Acts, the doctrinal Epistles, and the one prophetical book, Revelation. The same apostle wrote the last of the Gospels, and probably the last of the Epistles, and the only prophetical book of the New Testament. All the books of the New Testament had been written, and were read in the Church assemblies, some years before John's death. His life was providentially prolonged that he might give the final attestation to Scripture. About the year A.D. 100, the bishops of Asia (the angels of the seven churches) came to John at EPHESUS, bringing him copies of the three Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and desired of him a statement of his apostolical judgment concerning them; whereupon he pronounced them authentic, genuine, and inspired, and at their request added his own Gospel to complete the fourfold aspect of the Gospel of Christ (compare MURATORI [Fragment on the Canon of Scripture]; EUSEBIUS [Ecclesiastical History, 3.24]; JEROME [Commentary on Matthew]; VICTORINUS on the Apocalypse; THEODORET [Ecclesiastical History, 39]). A Greek divine, quoted in ALLATIUS, calls Revelation "the seal of the whole Bible." The canon would be incomplete without Revelation. Scripture is a complete whole, its component books, written in a period ranging over one thousand five hundred years, being mutually connected. Unity of aim and spirit pervades the entire, so that the end is the necessary sequence of the middle, and the middle of the beginning. Genesis presents before us man and his bride in innocence and blessedness, followed by man's fall through Satan's subtlety, and man's consequent misery, his exclusion from Paradise and its tree of life and delightful rivers. Revelation presents, in reverse order, man first liable to sin and death, but afterwards made conqueror through the blood of the Lamb; the first Adam and Eve, represented by the second Adam, Christ, and the Church. His spotless bride, in Paradise, with free access to the tree of life and the crystal water of life that flows from the throne of God. As Genesis foretold the bruising of the serpent's head by the woman's seed (Ge 3:15), so Revelation declares the final accomplishment of that prediction (Re 19:1-20:15).
PLACE AND TIME OF WRITING.--The best authorities among the Fathers state that John was exiled under Domitian (IRENÆUS [Against Heresies, 5; 30]; CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA; EUSEBIUS [Ecclesiastical History, 3.20]). VICTORINUS says that he had to labor in the mines of Patmos. At Domitian's death, A.D. 95, he returned to Ephesus under the Emperor Nerva. Probably it was immediately after his return that he wrote, under divine inspiration, the account of the visions vouchsafed to him in Patmos (Re 1:2, 9). However, Re 10:4 seems to imply that he wrote the visions immediately after seeing them. Patmos is one of the Sporades. Its circumference is about thirty miles. "It was fitting that when forbidden to go beyond certain bounds of the earth's lands, he was permitted to penetrate the secrets of heaven" [BEDE, Explanation of the Apocalypse on chap. 1]. The following arguments favor an earlier date, namely, under Nero: (1) EUSEBIUS [Demonstration of the Gospel] unites in the same sentence John's banishment with the stoning of James and the beheading of Paul, which were under Nero. (2) CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA'S'S story of the robber reclaimed by John, after he had pursued, and with difficulty overtaken him, accords better with John then being a younger man than under Domitian, when he was one hundred years old. Arethas, in the sixth century, applies the sixth seal to the destruction of Jerusalem (A.D. 70), adding that the Apocalypse was written before that event. So the Syriac version states he was banished by Nero the Cæsar. Laodicea was overthrown by an earthquake (A.D. 60) but was immediately rebuilt, so that its being called "rich and increased with goods" is not incompatible with this book having been written under the Neronian persecution (A.D. 64). But the possible allusions to it in Heb 10:37; compare Re 1:4, 8; 4:8; 22:12; Heb 11:10; compare Re 21:14; Heb 12:22, 23; compare Re 14:1; Heb 8:1, 2; compare Re 11:19; 15:5; 21:3; Heb 4:12; compare Re 1:16; 2:12, 16; 19:13, 15; Heb 4:9; compare Re 20:1-15; also 1Pe 1:7, 13; 4:13, with Re 1:1; 1Pe 2:9 with Re 5:10; 2Ti 4:8, with Re 2:26, 27; 3:21; 11:18; Eph 6:12, with Re 12:7-12; Php 4:3, with Re 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; Col 1:18, with Re 1:5; 1Co 15:52, with Re 10:7; 11:15-18, make a date before the destruction of Laodicea possible. Cerinthus is stated to have died before John; as then he borrowed much in his Pseudo-Apocalypse from John's, it is likely the latter was at an earlier date than Domitian's reign. See TILLOCH'S Introduction to Apocalypse. But the Pauline benediction (Re 1:4) implies it was written after Paul's death under Nero.
TO WHAT READERS ADDRESSED.--The inscription states that it is addressed to the seven churches of Asia, that is, Proconsular Asia. John's reason for fixing on the number seven (for there were more than seven churches in the region meant by "Asia," for instance, Magnesia and Tralles) was doubtless because seven is the sacred number implying totality and universality: so it is implied that John, through the medium of the seven churches, addresses in the Spirit the Church of all places and ages. The Church in its various states of spiritual life or deadness, in all ages and places, is represented by the seven churches, and is addressed with words of consolation or warning accordingly. Smyrna and Philadelphia alone of the seven are honored with unmixed praise, as faithful in tribulation and rich in good works. Heresies of a decided kind had by this time arisen in the churches of Asia, and the love of many had waxed cold, while others had advanced to greater zeal, and one had sealed his testimony with his blood.
OBJECT.--It begins with admonitory addresses to the seven churches from the divine Son of man, whom John saw in vision, after a brief introduction which sets forth the main subject of the book, namely, to "show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass" (the first through third chapters). From the fourth chapter to the end is mainly prophecy, with practical exhortations and consolations, however, interspersed, similar to those addressed to the seven churches (the representatives of the universal Church of every age), and so connecting the body of the book with its beginning, which therefore forms its appropriate introduction. Three schools of interpreters exist: (1) The Preterists, who hold that almost the whole has been fulfilled. (2) The Historical Interpreters, who hold that it comprises the history of the Church from John's time to the end of the world, the seals being chronologically succeeded, by the trumpets and the trumpets by the vials. (3) The Futurists, who consider almost the whole as yet future, and to be fulfilled immediately before Christ's second coming. The first theory was not held by any of the earliest Fathers, and is only held now by Rationalists, who limit John's vision to things within his own horizon, pagan Rome's persecutions of Christians, and its consequently anticipated destruction. The Futurist school is open to this great objection: it would leave the Church of Christ unprovided with prophetical guidance or support under her fiery trials for 1700 or 1800 years. Now God has said, "Surely He will do nothing, but He revealeth His secrets unto His servants the prophets" (Am 3:7). The Jews had a succession of prophets who guided them with the light of prophecy: what their prophets were to them, that the apocalyptic Scriptures have been, and are, to us.
ALFORD, following ISAAC WILLIAMS, draws attention to the parallel connection between the Apocalypse and Christ's discourse on the Mount of Olives, recorded in Mt 24:4-28. The seals plainly bring us down to the second coming of Christ, just as the trumpets also do (compare Re 6:12-17; 8:1, &c.; Re 11:15), and as the vials also do (Re 16:17): all three run parallel, and end in the same point. Certain "catchwords" (as WORDSWORTH calls them) connect the three series of symbols together. They do not succeed one to the other in historical and chronological sequence, but move side by side, the subsequent series filling up in detail the same picture which the preceding series had drawn in outline. So VICTORINUS (on Re 7:2), the earliest commentator on the Apocalypse, says, "The order of the things said is not to be regarded, since often the Holy Spirit, when He has run to the end of the last time, again returns to the same times, and supplies what He has less fully expressed." And PRIMASIUS [Commentary on the Apocalypse], "In the trumpets he gives a description by a pleasing repetition, as is his custom."
At the very beginning, John hastens, by anticipation (as was the tendency of all the prophets), to the grand consummation. Re 1:7, "Behold, He cometh with clouds," &c. Re 1:8, 17, "I am the beginning and the ending . . . the first and the last." So the seven epistles exhibit the same anticipation of the end. Re 3:12, "Him that overcometh, I will write upon Him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven"; compare at the close, Re 21:2. So also Re 2:28, "I will give him the morning star"; compare at the close, Re 22:16, "I am the bright and morning star."
Again, the earthquake that ensues on the opening of the sixth seal is one of the catchwords, that is, a link connecting chronologically this sixth seal with the sixth trumpet (Re 9:13; 11:13): compare also the seventh vial, Re 16:17, 18. The concomitants of the opening of the sixth seal, it is plain, in no full and exhaustive sense apply to any event, save the terrors which shall overwhelm the ungodly just before the coming of the Judge.
Again, the beast out of the bottomless pit (Re 11:7), between the sixth and seventh trumpets, connects this series with the section, twelfth through fourteenth chapters, concerning the Church and her adversaries.
Again, the sealing of the 144,000 under the sixth seal connects this seal with the section, the twelfth through fourteenth chapters.
Again, the loosing of the four winds by the four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, under the sixth seal, answers to the loosing of the four angels at the Euphrates, under the sixth trumpet.
Moreover, links occur in the Apocalypse connecting it with the Old Testament. For instance, the "mouth speaking great things" (Da 7:8 Re 13:5), connects the beast that blasphemes against God, and makes war against the saints, with the little horn (Da 7:21; Re 13:6, 7), or at last king, who, arising after the ten kings, shall speak against the Most High, and wear out the saints (Da 7:25); also, compare the "forty-two months" (Re 13:5), or "a thousand two hundred and threescore days" (Re 12:6), with the "time, times, and the dividing of time," of Da 7:25. Moreover, the "forty-two months," Re 11:2, answering to Re 12:6; 13:5, link together the period under the sixth trumpet to the section, Re 12:1-14:20.
AUBERLEN observes, "The history of salvation is mysteriously governed by holy numbers. They are the scaffolding of the organic edifice. They are not merely outward indications of time, but indications of nature and essence. Not only nature, but history, is based in numbers. Scripture and antiquity put numbers as the fundamental forms of things, where we put ideas." As number is the regulator of the relations and proportions of the natural world, so does it enter most frequently into the revelations of the Apocalypse, which sets forth the harmonies of the supernatural, the immediately Divine. Thus the most supernatural revelation leads us the farthest into the natural, as was to be expected, seeing the God of nature and of revelation is one. Seven is the number for perfection (compare Re 1:4; 4:5, the seven Spirits before the throne; also, Re 5:6, the Lamb's seven horns and seven eyes). Thus the seven churches represent the Church catholic in its totality. The seven seals (Re 5:1), the seven trumpets (Re 8:2), and the seven vials (Re 17:1), are severally a complete series each in itself, fulfilling perfectly the divine course of judgments. Three and a half implies a number opposed to the divine (seven), but broken in itself, and which, in the moment of its highest triumph, is overwhelmed by judgment and utter ruin. Four is the number of the world's extension; seven is the number of God's revelation in the world. In the four beasts of Daniel (Da 7:3) there is a recognition of some power above them, at the same time that there is a mimicry of the four cherubs of Ezekiel (Eze 10:9), the heavenly symbols of all creation in its due subjection to God (Re 4:6-8). So the four corners of the earth, the four winds, the four angels loosed from the Euphrates, and Jerusalem lying "foursquare" (Re 21:16), represent world-wide extension. The sevenfoldness of the Spirits on the part of God corresponds with the fourfold cherubim on the part of the created. John, seeing more deeply into the essentially God-opposed character of the world, presents to us, not the four beasts of Daniel, but the seven heads of the beast, whereby it arrogates to itself the sevenfold perfection of the Spirits of God; at the same time that, with characteristic self-contradiction, it has ten horns, the number peculiar to the world power. Its unjust usurpation of the sacred number seven is marked by the addition of an eighth to the seven heads, and also by the beast's own number, six hundred sixty-six, which in units, tens, and hundreds, verges upon, but falls short of, seven. The judgments on the world are complete in six: after the sixth seal and the sixth trumpet, there is a pause. When seven comes, there comes "the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ." Six is the number of the world given to judgment. Moreover, six is half of twelve, as three and a half is the half of seven. Twelve is the number of the Church: compare the twelve tribes of Israel, the twelve stars on the woman's head (Re 12:1), the twelve gates of new Jerusalem (Re 21:12, 21). Six thus symbolizes the world broken, and without solid foundation. Twice twelve is the number of the heavenly elders; twelve times twelve thousand the number of the sealed elect (Re 7:4): the tree of life yields twelve manner of fruits. Doubtless, besides this symbolic force, there is a special chronological meaning in the numbers; but as yet, though a commanded subject of investigation, they have received no solution which we can be sure is the true one. They are intended to stimulate reverent inquiry, not to gratify idle speculative curiosity; and when the event shall have been fulfilled, they will show the divine wisdom of God, who ordered all things in minutely harmonious relations, and left neither the times nor the ways haphazard.
The arguments for the year-day theory are as follows: Da 9:24, "Seventy weeks are determined upon," where the Hebrew may be seventy sevens; but MEDE observes, the Hebrew word means always seven of days, and never seven of years (Le 12:5; De 16:9, 10, 16). Again, the number of years' wandering of the Israelites was made to correspond to the number of days in which the spies searched the land, namely, forty: compare "each day for a year," Nu 14:33, 34. So in Eze 4:5, 6, "I have laid up on thee the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days . . . forty days: I have appointed thee each day for a year." John, in Revelation itself, uses days in a sense which can hardly be literal. Re 2:10, "Ye shall have tribulation ten days": the persecution of ten years recorded by EUSEBIUS seems to correspond to it. In the year-day theory there is still quite enough of obscurity to exercise the patience and probation of faith, for we cannot say precisely when the 1260 years begin: so that this theory is quite compatible with Christ's words, "Of that day and hour knoweth no man" [Mt 24:36; Mr 13:32]. However, it is a difficulty in this theory that "a thousand years," in Re 20:6, 7, can hardly mean one thousand by three hundred sixty days, that is, three hundred sixty thousand years. The first resurrection there must be literal, even as Re 20:5 must be taken literally, "the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished" (Re 20:5). To interpret the former spiritually would entail the need of interpreting the latter so, which would be most improbable; for it would imply that "the rest of the (spiritually) dead lived not (spiritually)" until the end of the thousand years, and then that they did come spiritually to life. 1Co 15:23, "they that are Christ's at His coming," confirms the literal view.

1. Revelation--an apocalypse or unveiling of those things which had been veiled. A manifesto of the kingdom of Christ. The travelling manual of the Church for the Gentile Christian times. Not a detailed history of the future, but a representation of the great epochs and chief powers in developing the kingdom of God in relation to the world. The "Church-historical" view goes counter to the great principle that Scripture interprets itself. Revelation is to teach us to understand the times, not the times to interpret to us the Apocalypse, although it is in the nature of the case that a reflex influence is exerted here and is understood by the prudent [AUBERLEN]. The book is in a series of parallel groups, not in chronological succession. Still there is an organic historical development of the kingdom of God. In this book all the other books of the Bible end and meet: in it is the consummation of all previous prophecy. Daniel foretells as to Christ and the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, and the last Antichrist. But John's Revelation fills up the intermediate period, and describes the millennium and final state beyond Antichrist. Daniel, as a godly statesman, views the history of God's people in relation to the four world kingdoms. John, as an apostle, views history from the Christian Church aspect. The term Apocalypse is applied to no Old Testament book. Daniel is the nearest approach to it; but what Daniel was told to seal and shut up till the time of the end, John, now that the time is at hand (Re 1:3), is directed to reveal.
of Jesus Christ--coming from Him. Jesus Christ, not John the writer, is the Author of the Apocalypse. Christ taught many things before His departure; but those which were unsuitable for announcement at that time He brought together into the Apocalypse [BENGEL]. Compare His promise, Joh 15:15, "All things that I have heard of My Father, I have made known unto you"; also, Joh 16:13, "The Spirit of truth will show you things to come." The Gospels and Acts are the books, respectively, of His first advent, in the flesh, and in the Spirit; the Epistles are the inspired comment on them. The Apocalypse is the book of His second advent and the events preliminary to it.
which God gave unto him--The Father reveals Himself and His will in, and by, His Son.
to show--The word recurs in Re 22:6: so entirely have the parts of Revelation reference to one another. It is its peculiar excellence that it comprises in a perfect compendium future things, and these widely differing: things close at hand, far off, and between the two; great and little; destroying and saving; repeated from old prophecies and new; long and short, and these interwoven with one another, opposed and mutually agreeing; mutually involving and evolving one another; so that in no book more than in this would the addition, or taking away, of a single word or clause (Re 22:18, 19), have the effect of marring the sense of the context and the comparison of passages together [BENGEL].
his servants--not merely to "His servant John," but to all His servants (compare Re 22:3).
shortly--Greek, "speedily"; literally, "in," or "with speed." Compare "the time is at hand," Re 1:3; 22:6, "shortly"; Re 22:7, "Behold, I come quickly." Not that the things prophesied were according to man's computation near; but this word "shortly" implies a corrective of our estimate of worldly events and periods. Though a "thousand years" (Re 20:1-15) at least are included, the time is declared to be at hand. Lu 18:8, "speedily." The Israelite Church hastened eagerly to the predicted end, which premature eagerness prophecy restrains (compare Da 9:1-27). The Gentile Church needs to be reminded of the transitoriness of the world (which it is apt to make its home) and the nearness of Christ's advent. On the one hand Revelation says, "the time is at hand"; on the other, the succession of seals, &c., show that many intermediate events must first elapse.
he sent--Jesus Christ sent.
by his angel--joined with "sent." The angel does not come forward to "signify" things to John until Re 17:1; 19:9, 10. Previous to that John receives information from others. Jesus Christ opens the Revelation, Re 1:10, 11; 4:1; in Re 6:1 one of the four living creatures acts as his informant; in Re 7:13, one of the elders; in Re 10:8, 9, the Lord and His angel who stood on the sea and earth. Only at the end (Re 17:1) does the one angel stand by Him (compare Da 8:16; 9:21; Zec 1:19).
2. bare record of--"testified the word of God" in this book. Where we would say "testifies," the ancients in epistolary communications use the past tense. The word of God constitutes his testimony; Re 1:3, "the words of this prophecy."
the testimony of Jesus--"the Spirit of prophecy" (Re 19:10).
and of all things that, &c.--The oldest manuscripts omit "and." Translate, "whatsoever things he saw," in apposition with "the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ."
3. he that readeth, and they that hear--namely, the public reader in Church assemblies, and his hearers. In the first instance, he by whom John sent the book from Patmos to the seven churches, read it publicly: a usage most scriptural and profitable. A special blessing attends him who reads or hears the apocalyptic "prophecy" with a view to keeping the things therein (as there is but one article to "they that hear and keep those things," not two classes, but only one is meant: "they who not only hear, but also keep those things," Ro 2:13); even though he find not the key to its interpretation, he finds a stimulus to faith, hope, and patient waiting for Christ. Note: the term "prophecy" has relation to the human medium or prophet inspired, here John: "Revelation" to the Divine Being who reveals His will, here Jesus Christ. God gave the revelation to Jesus: He by His angel revealed it to John, who was to make it known to the Church.
4. John--the apostle. For none but he (supposing the writer an honest man) would thus sign himself nakedly without addition. As sole survivor and representative of the apostles and eye-witnesses of the Lord, he needed no designation save his name, to be recognized by his readers.
seven churches--not that there were not more churches in that region, but the number seven is fixed on as representing totality. These seven represent the universal Church of all times and places. See TRENCH'S [Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia] interesting note, Re 1:20, on the number seven. It is the covenant number, the sign of God's covenant relation to mankind, and especially to the Church. Thus, the seventh day, sabbath (Ge 2:3; Eze 20:12). Circumcision, the sign of the covenant, after seven days (Ge 17:12). Sacrifices (Nu 23:1; 14:29; 2Ch 29:21). Compare also God's acts typical of His covenant (Jos 6:4, 15, 16; 2Ki 5:10). The feasts ordered by sevens of time (De 15:1; 16:9, 13, 15). It is a combination of three, the divine number (thus the Trinity: the thrice Holy, Isa 6:3; the blessing, Nu 6:24-26), and four the number of the organized world in its extension (thus the four elements, the four seasons, the four winds, the four corners or quarters of the earth, the four living creatures, emblems of redeemed creaturely life, Re 4:6; Eze 1:5, 6, with four faces and four wings each; the four beasts and four metals, representing the four world empires, Da 2:32, 33; 7:3; the four-sided Gospel designed for all quarters of the world; the sheet tied at four corners, Ac 10:11; the four horns, the sum of the world's forces against the Church, Zec 1:18). In the Apocalypse, where God's covenant with His Church comes to its consummation, appropriately the number seven recurs still more frequently than elsewhere in Scripture.
Asia--Proconsular, governed by a Roman proconsul: consisting of Phrygia, Mysia, Caria, and Lydia: the kingdom which Attalus III had bequeathed to Rome.
Grace . . . peace--Paul's apostolical greeting. In his Pastoral Epistles he inserts "mercy" in addition: so 2Jo 3.
him which is . . . was . . . is to come--a periphrasis for the incommunicable name JEHOVAH, the self-existing One, unchangeable. In Greek the indeclinability of the designation here implies His unchangeableness. Perhaps the reason why "He which is to come" is used, instead of "He that shall be," is because the grand theme of Revelation is the Lord's coming (Re 1:7). Still it is THE FATHER as distinguished from "Jesus Christ" (Re 1:5) who is here meant. But so one are the Father and Son that the designation, "which is to come," more immediately applicable to Christ, is used here of the Father.
the seven Spirits which are before his throne--The oldest manuscripts omit "are."
before--literally, "in the presence of." The Holy Spirit in His sevenfold (that is, perfect, complete, and universal) energy. Corresponding to "the seven churches." One in His own essence, manifold in His gracious influences. The seven eyes resting on the stone laid by Jehovah (Re 5:6). Four is the number of the creature world (compare the fourfold cherubim); seven the number of God's revelation in the world.
5. the faithful witness--of the truth concerning Himself and His mission as Prophet, Priest, and King Saviour. "He was the faithful witness, because all things that He heard of the Father He faithfully made known to His disciples. Also, because He taught the way of God in truth, and cared not for man, nor regarded the persons of men. Also, because the truth which He taught in words He confirmed by miracles. Also, because the testimony to Himself on the part of the Father He denied not even in death. Lastly, because He will give true testimony of the works of good and bad at the day of judgment" [RICHARD OF ST. VICTOR in TRENCH]. The nominative in Greek standing in apposition to the genitive, "Jesus Christ," gives majestic prominence to "the faithful witness."
the first-begotten of the dead-- (Col 1:18). Lazarus rose, to die again. Christ rose to die no more. The image is not as if the grave was the womb of His resurrection-birth [ALFORD]; but as Ac 13:33; Ro 1:4, treat Christ's resurrection as the epoch and event which fulfilled the Scripture, Ps 2:7, "This day (at the resurrection) have I begotten Thee." It was then that His divine Sonship as the God-man was manifested and openly attested by the Father. So our resurrection and our manifested sonship, or generation, are connected. Hence "regeneration" is used of the resurrection-state at the restitution of all things (Mt 19:28).
the prince--or Ruler. The kingship of the world which the tempter offered to Jesus on condition of doing homage to him, and so shunning the cross, He has obtained by the cross. "The kings of the earth" conspired against the Lord's Anointed (Ps 2:2): these He shall break in pieces (Ps 2:9). Those who are wise in time and kiss the Son shall bring their glory unto Him at His manifestation as King of kings, after He has destroyed His foes.
Unto him that loved us--The oldest manuscripts read the present, ". . . loveth us." It is His ever-continuing character, He loveth us, and ever shall love us. His love rests evermore on His people.
washed us--The two oldest manuscripts read, "freed (loosed as from a bond) us": so ANDREAS and PRIMASIUS. One very old manuscript, Vulgate, and Coptic read as English Version, perhaps drawn from Re 7:4. "Loosed us in (virtue of) His blood," being the harder reading to understand, is less likely to have come from the transcribers. The reference is thus to Greek, "lutron," the ransom paid for our release (Mt 20:28). In favor of English Version reading is the usage whereby the priests, before putting on the holy garments and ministering, washed themselves: so spiritually believers, as priests unto God, must first be washed in Christ's blood from every stain before they can serve God aright now, or hereafter minister as dispensers of blessing to the subject nations in the millennial kingdom, or minister before God in heaven.
6. And hath--rather as Greek, "And (He) hath."
made us kings--The oldest manuscripts read, "a kingdom." One oldest manuscript reads the dative, "for us." Another reads "us," accusative: so Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and ANDREAS. This seems preferable, "He made us (to be) a kingdom." So Ex 19:6, "a kingdom of priests"; 1Pe 2:9, "a royal priesthood." The saints shall constitute peculiarly a kingdom of God, and shall themselves be kings (Re 5:10). They shall share His King-Priest throne in the millennial kingdom. The emphasis thus falls more on the kingdom than on priests: whereas in English Version reading it is equally distributed between both. This book lays prominent stress on the saints' kingdom. They are kings because they are priests: the priesthood is the continuous ground and legitimization of their kingship; they are kings in relation to man, priests in relation to God, serving Him day and night in His temple (Re 7:15; 5:10). The priest-kings shall rule, not in an external mechanical manner, but simply in virtue of what they are, by the power of attraction and conviction overcoming the heart [AUBERLEN].
priests--who have pre-eminently the privilege of near access to the king. David's sons were priests (Hebrew), 2Sa 8:18. The distinction of priests and people, nearer and more remote from God, shall cease; all shall have nearest access to Him. All persons and things shall be holy to the Lord.
God and his Father--There is but one article to both in the Greek, therefore it means, "Unto Him who is at once God and His Father."
glory and dominion--Greek, "the glory and the might." The fuller threefold doxology occurs, Re 4:9, 11; fourfold, Re 5:13; Jude 25; sevenfold, Re 7:12; 1Ch 29:11. Doxology occupies the prominent place above, which prayer does below. If we thought of God's glory first (as in the Lord's Prayer), and gave the secondary place to our needs, we should please God and gain our petitions better than we do.
for ever and ever--Greek, "unto the ages."
7. with clouds--Greek, "the clouds," namely, of heaven. "A cloud received Him out of their sight" at His ascension (Ac 1:9). His ascension corresponds to the manner of His coming again (Ac 1:11). Clouds are the symbols of wrath to sinners.
every eye--His coming shall therefore be a personal, visible appearing.
shall see--It is because they do not now see Him, they will not believe. Contrast Joh 20:29.
they also--they in particular; "whosoever." Primarily, at His pre-millennial advent the Jews, who shall "look upon Him whom they have pierced," and mourn in repentance, and say, "Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord." Secondarily, and here chiefly, at the general judgment all the ungodly, not only those who actually pierced Him, but those who did so by their sins, shall look with trembling upon Him. John is the only one of the Evangelists who records the piercing of Christ's side. This allusion identifies him as the author of the Apocalypse. The reality of Christ's humanity and His death is proved by His having been pierced; and the water and blood from His side were the antitype to the Levitical waters of cleansing and blood offerings.
all kindreds . . . shall wail--all the unconverted at the general judgment; and especially at His pre-millennial advent, the Antichristian confederacy (Zec 12:3-6, 9; 14:1-4; Mt 24:30). Greek, "all the tribes of the land," or "the earth." See the limitation to "all," Re 13:8. Even the godly while rejoicing in His love shall feel penitential sorrow at their sins, which shall all be manifested at the general judgment.
because of--Greek, "at," or "in regard to Him."
Even so, Amen--Gods seal of His own word; to which corresponds the believer's prayer, Re 22:20. The "even so" is Greek; "Amen" is Hebrew. To both Gentiles and Jews His promises and threats are unchangeable.
8. Greek, "I am the Alpha and the Omega." The first and last letters of the alphabet. God in Christ comprises all that goes between, as well as the first and last.
the beginning and the ending--omitted in the oldest manuscripts, though found in Vulgate and Coptic. Transcribers probably inserted the clause from Re 21:6. In Christ, Genesis, the Alpha of the Old Testament, and Revelation, the Omega of the New Testament, meet together: the last book presenting to us man and God reconciled in Paradise, as the first book presented man at the beginning innocent and in God's favor in Paradise. Accomplishing finally what I begin. Always the same; before the dragon, the beast, false prophet, and all foes. An anticipatory consolation to the saints under the coming trials of the Church.
the Lord--The oldest manuscripts read "the Lord God."
Almighty--Hebrew, "Shaddai," and "Jehovah Sabaoth," that is, "of hosts"; commanding all the hosts or powers in heaven and earth, so able to overcome all His Church's foes. It occurs often in Revelation, but nowhere else in the New Testament save 2Co 6:18, a quotation from Isaiah.
9. I John--So "I Daniel" (Da 7:28; 9:2; 10:2). One of the many features of resemblance between the Old Testament and the New Testament apocalyptic seers. No other Scripture writer uses the phrase.
also--as well as being an apostle. The oldest manuscripts omit "also." In his Gospel and Epistles he makes no mention of his name, though describing himself as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." Here, with similar humility, though naming himself, he does not mention his apostleship.
companion--Greek, "fellow partaker in the tribulation." Tribulation is the necessary precursor of the kingdom," therefore "the" is prefixed. This must be borne with "patient endurance." The oldest manuscripts omit "in the" before "kingdom." All three are inseparable: the tribulation, kingdom and endurance.
patience--Translate, "endurance." "Persevering, enduring continuance" (Ac 14:22); "the queen of the graces (virtues)" [CHRYSOSTOM].
of, &c.--The oldest manuscripts read "IN Jesus," or "Jesus Christ." It is IN Him that believers have the right to the kingdom, and the spiritual strength to enable them to endure patiently for it.
was--Greek, "came to be."
in . . . Patmos--now Patmo or Palmosa. See Introduction on this island, and John's exile to it under Domitian, from which he was released under Nerva. Restricted to a small spot on earth, he is permitted to penetrate the wide realms of heaven and its secrets. Thus John drank of Christ's cup, and was baptized with His baptism (Mt 20:22).
for--Greek, "for the sake of," "on account of"; so, "because of the word of God and . . . testimony." Two oldest manuscripts omit the second "for"; thus "the Word of God" and "testimony of Jesus" are the more closely joined. Two oldest manuscripts omit "Christ." The Apocalypse has been always appreciated most by the Church in adversity. Thus the Asiatic Church from the flourishing times of Constantine less estimated it. The African Church being more exposed to the cross always made much of it [BENGEL].
10. I was--Greek, "I came to be"; "I became."
in the Spirit--in a state of ecstasy; the outer world being shut out, and the inner and higher life or spirit being taken full possession of by God's Spirit, so that an immediate connection with the invisible world is established. While the prophet "speaks" in the Spirit, the apocalyptic seer is in the Spirit in his whole person. The spirit only (that which connects us with God and the invisible world) is active, or rather recipient, in the apocalyptic state. With Christ this being "in the Spirit" was not the exception, but His continual state.
on the Lord's day--Though forcibly detained from Church communion with the brethren in the sanctuary on the Lord's day, the weekly commemoration of the resurrection, John was holding spiritual communion with them. This is the earliest mention of the term, "the Lord's day." But the consecration of the day to worship, almsgiving, and the Lord's Supper, is implied in Ac 20:7; 1Co 16:2; compare Joh 20:19-26. The name corresponds to "the Lord's Supper," 1Co 11:20. IGNATIUS seems to allude to "the Lord's day" [Epistle to the Magnesians, 9], and IRENÆUS [Quæst ad Orthod., 115] (in JUSTIN MARTYR). JUSTIN MARTYR [Apology, 2.98], &c., "On Sunday we all hold our joint meeting; for the first day is that on which God, having removed darkness and chaos, made the world, and Jesus Christ our Saviour rose from the dead. On the day before Saturday they crucified Him; and on the day after Saturday, which is Sunday, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught these things." To the Lord's day PLINY doubtless refers [Epistles, Book X., p. 97], "The Christians on a fixed day before dawn meet and sing a hymn to Christ as God," &c. TERTULLIAN [The Chaplet, 3], "On the Lord's day we deem it wrong to fast." MELITO, bishop of Sardis (second century), wrote a book on the Lord's day [EUSEBIUS 4.26]. Also, DIONYSIUS OF CORINTH, in EUSEBIUS [Ecclesiastical History, 4.23,8]. CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA [Miscellanies, 5. and 7.12]; ORIGEN [Against Celsus, 8. 22]. The theory that the day of Christ's second coming is meant, is untenable. "The day of the Lord" is different in the Greek from "the Lord's (an adjective) day," which latter in the ancient Church always designates our Sunday, though it is not impossible that the two shall coincide (at least in some parts of the earth), whence a tradition is mentioned in JEROME [Commentary on Matthew, 25], that the Lord's coming was expected especially on the Paschal Lord's day. The visions of the Apocalypse, the seals, trumpets, and vials, &c., are grouped in sevens, and naturally begin on the first day of the seven, the birthday of the Church, whose future they set forth [WORDSWORTH].
great voice--summoning solemn attention; Greek order, "I heard a voice behind me great (loud) as (that) of a trumpet." The trumpet summoned to religious feasts, and accompanies God's revelations of Himself.
11. I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last; and--The oldest manuscripts, omit all this clause.
write in a book--To this book, having such an origin, and to the other books of Holy Scripture, who is there that gives the weight which their importance demands, preferring them to the many books of the world? [BENGEL].
seven churches--As there were many other churches in Proconsular Asia (for example, Miletus, Magnesia, Tralles), besides the seven specified, doubtless the number seven is fixed upon because of its mystical signification, expressing totality and universality. The words, "which are in Asia" are rejected by the oldest manuscripts, A, B, C, CYPRIAN, Vulgate, and Syriac; Coptic alone supports them of old authorities. These seven are representative churches; and, as a complex whole, ideally complete, embody the chief spiritual characteristics of the Church, whether as faithful or unfaithful, in all ages. The churches selected are not taken at random, but have a many-sided completeness. Thus, on one side we have Smyrna, a Church exposed to persecutions unto death; on the other Sardis, having a high name for spiritual life and yet dead. Again, Laodicea, in its own estimate rich and having need of nothing, with ample talents, yet lukewarm in Christ's cause; on the other hand, Philadelphia, with but a little strength, yet keeping Christ's word and having an open door of usefulness set before it by Christ Himself. Again, Ephesus, intolerant of evil and of false apostles, yet having left its first love; on the other hand, Thyatira, abounding in works, love, service, and faith, yet suffering the false prophetess to seduce many. In another aspect, Ephesus in conflict with false freedom, that is fleshly licentiousness (the Nicolaitanes); so also Pergamos in conflict with Balaam-like tempters to fornication and idol-meats; and on the other side, Philadelphia in conflict with the Jewish synagogue, that is, legal bondage. Finally, Sardis and Laodicea without any active opposition to call forth their spiritual energies; a dangerous position, considering man's natural indolence. In the historic scheme of interpretation, which seems fanciful, Ephesus (meaning "the beloved" or "desired" [STIER]) represents the waning period of the apostolic age. Smyrna ("myrrh"), bitter suffering, yet sweet and costly perfume, the martyr period of the Decian and Diocletian age. Pergamos (a "castle" or "tower"), the Church possessing earthly power and decreasing spirituality from Constantine's time until the seventh century. Thyatira ("unwearied about sacrifices"), the Papal Church in the first half of the Middle Ages; like "Jezebel," keen about its so-called sacrifice of the mass, and slaying the prophets and witnesses of God. Sardis, from the close of the twelfth century to the Reformation. Philadelphia ("brotherly love"), the first century of the Reformation. Laodicea, the Reformed Church after its first zeal had become lukewarm.
12. see the voice--that is, ascertain whence the voice came; to see who was it from whom the voice proceeded.
that--Greek, "of what kind it was which." The voice is that of God the Father, as at Christ's baptism and transfiguration, so here in presenting Christ as our High Priest.
spake--The oldest manuscripts, versions, and Fathers read, "was speaking."
being--"having turned."
seven . . . candlesticks--"lamp-stands" [KELLY]. The stand holding the lamp. In Ex 25:31, 32, the seven are united in ONE candlestick or lamp-stand, that is, six arms and a central shaft; so Zec 4:2, 11. Here the seven are separate candlesticks, typifying, as that one, the entire Church, but now no longer as the Jewish Church (represented by the one sevenfold candlestick) restricted to one outward unity and one place; the several churches are mutually independent as to external ceremonies and government (provided all things are done to edification, and schisms or needless separations are avoided), yet one in the unity of the Spirit and the Headship of Christ. The candlestick is not light, but the bearer of light, holding it forth to give light around. The light is the Lord's, not the Church's; from Him she receives it. She is to be a light-bearer to His glory. The candlestick stood in the holy place, the type of the Church on earth, as the holiest place was type of the Church in heaven. The holy place's only light was derived from the candlestick, daylight being excluded; so the Lord God is the Church's only light; hers is the light of grace, not nature. "Golden" symbolizes at once the greatest preciousness and sacredness; so that in the Zend Avesta, "golden" is synonymous with heavenly or divine [TRENCH].
13. His glorified form as man could be recognized by John, who had seen it at the Transfiguration.
in the midst--implying Christ's continual presence and ceaseless activity in the midst of His people on earth. In Re 4:1-3, when He appears in heaven, His insignia undergo a corresponding change yet even there the rainbow reminds us of His everlasting covenant with them.
seven--omitted in two of the oldest manuscripts, but supported by one.
Son of man--The form which John had seen enduring the agony of Gethsemane, and the shame and anguish of Calvary, he now sees glorified. His glory (as Son of man, not merely Son of God) is the result of His humiliation as Son of man.
down to the foot--a mark of high rank. The garment and girdle seem to be emblems of His priesthood. Compare Ex 28:2, 4, 31; Septuagint. Aaron's robe and girdle were "for glory and beauty," and combined the insignia of royalty and priesthood, the characteristics of Christ's antitypical priesthood "after the order of Melchisedec." His being in the midst of the candlesticks (only seen in the temple), shows that it is as a king-priest He is so attired. This priesthood He has exercised ever since His ascension; and, therefore He here wears its emblems. As Aaron wore these insignia when He came forth from the sanctuary to bless the people (Le 16:4, 23, 24, the chetoneth, or holy linen coat), so when Christ shall come again, He shall appear in the similar attire of "beauty and glory" (Isa 4:2, Margin). The angels are attired somewhat like their Lord (Re 15:6). The ordinary girding for one actively engaged, was at the loins; but JOSEPHUS [Antiquities,3.7.2], expressly tells us that the Levitical priests were girt higher up, about the breasts or paps, appropriate to calm, majestic movement. The girdle bracing the frame together, symbolizes collected powers. Righteousness and faithfulness are Christ's girdle. The high priest's girdle was only interwoven with gold, but Christ's is all of gold; the antitype exceeds the type.
14.--Greek, "But," or "And."
like wool--Greek, "like white wool." The color is the point of comparison; signifying purity and glory. (So in Isa 1:18). Not age, for hoary hairs are the sign of decay.
eyes . . . as . . . flame--all-searching and penetrating like fire: at the same time, also, implying consuming indignation against sin, especially at His coming "in flaming fire, taking vengeance" on all the ungodly, which is confirmed as the meaning here, by Re 19:11, 12.
15. fine brass--Greek, "chalcolibanus," derived by some from two Greek words, "brass" and "frankincense"; derived by BOCHART from Greek, "chalcos," "brass," and Hebrew, "libbeen," "to whiten"; hence, "brass," which in the furnace has reached a white heat. Thus it answers to "burnished (flashing, or glowing) brass," Eze 1:7; Re 10:1, "His feet as pillars of fire." Translate, "Glowing brass, as if they had been made fiery (red-hot) in a furnace." The feet of the priests were bare in ministering in the sanctuary. So our great High Priest here.
voice as . . . many waters-- (Eze 43:2); in Da 10:6, it is "like the voice of a multitude." As the Bridegroom's voice, so the bride's, Re 14:2; 19:6; Eze 1:24, the cherubim, or redeemed creation. His voice, however, is here regarded in its terribleness to His foes. Contrast So 2:8; 5:2, with which compare Re 3:20.
16. he had--Greek, "having." John takes up the description from time to time, irrespective of the construction, with separate strokes of the pencil [ALFORD].
in . . . right hand seven stars-- (Re 1:20; Re 2:1; 3:1). He holds them as a star-studded "crown of glory," or "royal diadem," in His hand: so Isa 62:3. He is their Possessor and Upholder.
out of . . . mouth went--Greek, "going forth"; not wielded in the hand. His WORD is omnipotent in executing His will in punishing sinners. It is the sword of His Spirit. Reproof and punishment, rather than its converting winning power, is the prominent point. Still, as He encourages the churches, as well as threatens, the former quality of the Word is not excluded. Its two edges (back and front) may allude to its double efficacy, condemning some, converting others. TERTULLIAN [Epistle against Judaizers], takes them of the Old and the New Testaments. RICHARD OF ST. VICTOR, "the Old Testament cutting externally our carnal, the New Testament internally, our spiritual sins."
sword--Greek, "romphaia," the Thracian long and heavy broad sword: six times in Revelation, once only elsewhere in New Testament, namely, Lu 2:35.
sun . . . in his strength--in unclouded power. So shall the righteous shine, reflecting the image of the Sun of righteousness. TRENCH notices that this description, sublime as a purely mental conception, would be intolerable if we were to give it an outward form. With the Greeks, æsthecial taste was the first consideration, to which all others must give way. With the Hebrews, truth and the full representation ideally of the religious reality were the paramount consideration, that representation being designed not to be outwardly embodied, but to remain a purely mental conception. This exalting of the essence above the form marks their deeper religious earnestness.
17. So fallen is man that God's manifestation of His glorious presence overwhelms him.
laid his right hand upon me--So the same Lord Jesus did at the Transfiguration to the three prostrate disciples, of whom John was one, saying, Be not afraid. The "touch" of His hand, as of old, imparted strength.
unto me--omitted in the oldest manuscripts.
the first . . . the last-- (Isa 41:4; 44:6; 48:12). From eternity, and enduring to eternity: "the First by creation, the Last by retribution: the First, because before Me there was no God formed; the Last, because after Me there shall be no other: the First, because from Me are all things; the Last, because to Me all things return" [RICHARD OF ST. VICTOR].
18. Translate as Greek, "And THE LIVING ONE": connected with last sentence, Re 1:17.
and was--Greek, "and (yet) I became."
alive for evermore--Greek, "living unto the ages of ages": not merely "I live," but I have life, and am the source of it to My people. "To Him belongs absolute being, as contrasted with the relative being of the creature; others may share, He only hath immortality: being in essence, not by mere participation, immortal" [THEODORET in TRENCH]. One oldest manuscript, with English Version, reads Amen." Two others, and most of the oldest versions and Fathers, omit it. His having passed through death as one of us, and now living in the infinite plenitude of life, reassures His people, since through Him death is the gate of resurrection to eternal life.
have . . . keys of hell--Greek, "Hades"; Hebrew, "Sheol." "Hell" in the sense, the place of torment, answers to a different Greek word, namely, Gehenna. I can release from the unseen world of spirits and from DEATH whom I will. The oldest manuscripts read by transposition, "Death and Hades," or Hell." It is death (which came in by sin, robbing man of his immortal birthright, Ro 5:12) that peoples Hades, and therefore should stand first in order. Keys are emblems of authority, opening and shutting at will "the gates of Hades" (Ps 9:13, 14; Isa 38:10; Mt 16:18).
19. The oldest manuscripts read, "Write therefore" (inasmuch as I, "the First and Last," have the keys of death, and vouchsafe to thee this vision for the comfort and warning of the Church).
things which are--"the things which thou hast seen" are those narrated in this chapter (compare Re 1:11). "The things which are" imply the present state of things in the churches when John was writing, as represented in the second and third chapters. "The things which shall be hereafter," the things symbolically represented concerning the future history of the fourth through twenty-second chapters. ALFORD translates, "What things they signify"; but the antithesis of the next clause forbids this, "the things which shall be hereafter," Greek, "which are about to come to pass." The plural (Greek) "are," instead of the usual Greek construction singular, is owing to churches and persons being meant by things" in the clause, "the things which are."
20. in--Greek, "upon My right hand."
the mystery . . . candlesticks--in apposition to, and explaining, "the things which thou hast seen," governed by "Write." Mystery signifies the hidden truth, veiled under this symbol, and now revealed; its correlative is revelation. Stars symbolize lordship (Nu 24:17; compare Da 12:3, of faithful teachers; Re 8:10; 12:4; Jude 13).
angels--not as ALFORD, from ORIGEN [Homily 13 on Luke, and Homily 20 on Numbers], the guardian angels of the churches, just as individuals have their guardian angels. For how could heavenly angels be charged with the delinquencies laid here to the charge of these angels? Then, if a human angel be meant (as the Old Testament analogy favors, Hag 1:13, "the Lord's Messenger in the Lord's message"; Mal 2:7; 3:1), the bishop, or superintendent pastor, must be the angel. For whereas there were many presbyters in each of the larger churches (as for example, Ephesus, Smyrna, &c.), there was but one angel, whom, moreover, the Chief Shepherd and Bishop of souls holds responsible for the spiritual state of the Church under him. The term angel, designating an office, is, in accordance with the enigmatic symbolism of this book, transferred from the heavenly to the earthly superior ministers of Jehovah; reminding them that, like the heavenly angels above, they below should fulfil God's mission zealously, promptly and efficiently. "Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven!"

Each of the seven epistles in this and the third chapter, commences with, "I know thy works." Each contains a promise from Christ, "To him that overcometh." Each ends with, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." The title of our Lord in each case accords with the nature of the address, and is mainly taken from the imagery of the vision, Re 1:12-16. Each address has a threat or a promise, and most of the addresses have both. Their order seems to be ecclesiastical, civil, and geographical: Ephesus first, as being the Asiatic metropolis (termed "the light of Asia," and "first city of Asia"), the nearest to Patmos, where John received the epistle to the seven churches, and also as being that Church with which John was especially connected; then the churches on the west coast of Asia; then those in the interior. Smyrna and Philadelphia alone receive unmixed praise. Sardis and Laodicea receive almost solely censure. In Ephesus, Pergamos, and Thyatira, there are some things to praise, others to condemn, the latter element preponderating in one case (Ephesus), the former in the two others (Pergamos and Thyatira). Thus the main characteristics of the different states of different churches, in all times and places, are portrayed, and they are suitably encouraged or warned.
1. Ephesus--famed for the temple of Diana, one of the seven wonders of the world. For three years Paul labored there. He subsequently ordained Timothy superintending overseer or bishop there: probably his charge was but of a temporary nature. John, towards the close of his life, took it as the center from which he superintended the province.
holdeth--Greek, "holdeth fast," as in Re 2:25; Re 3:11; compare Joh 10:28, 29. The title of Christ here as "holding fast the seven stars (from Re 1:16: only that, for having is substituted holding fast in His grasp), and walking in the midst of the seven candlesticks," accords with the beginning of His address to the seven churches representing the universal Church. Walking expresses His unwearied activity in the Church, guarding her from internal and external evils, as the high priest moved to and fro in the sanctuary.
2. I know thy works--expressing His omniscience. Not merely "thy professions, desires, good resolutions" (Re 14:13, end).
thy labour--Two oldest manuscripts omit "thy"; one supports it. The Greek means "labor unto weariness."
patience--persevering endurance.
bear--evil men are a burden which the Ephesian Church regarded as intolerable. We are to "bear (the same Greek, Ga 6:2) one another's burdens" in the case of weak brethren; but not to bear false brethren.
tried--by experiment; not the Greek for "test," as 1Jo 4:1. The apostolical churches had the miraculous gift of discerning spirits. Compare Ac 20:28-30, wherein Paul presciently warned the Ephesian elders of the coming false teachers, as also in writing to Timothy at Ephesus. TERTULLIAN [On Baptism, 17], and JEROME [On Illustrious Men, in Lucca 7], record of John, that when a writing, professing to be a canonical history of the acts of Paul, had been composed by a presbyter of Ephesus, John convicted the author and condemned the work. So on one occasion he would not remain under the same roof with Cerinthus the heretic.
say they are apostles--probably Judaizers. IGNATIUS [Epistle to the Ephesians, 6], says subsequently, "Onesimus praises exceedingly your good discipline that no heresy dwells among you"; and [Epistle to the Ephesians, 9], "Ye did not permit those having evil doctrine to sow their seed among you, but closed your ears."
3. borne . . . patience--The oldest manuscripts transpose these words. Then translate as Greek, "persevering endurance . . . borne." "Thou hast borne" My reproach, but "thou canst not bear the evil" (Re 2:2). A beautiful antithesis.
and . . . hast laboured, and hast not fainted--The two oldest manuscripts and oldest versions read, "and . . . hast not labored," omitting "and hast fainted." The difficulty which transcribers by English Version reading tried to obviate, was the seeming contradiction, "I know thy labor . . . and thou hast not labored." But what is meant is, "Thou hast not been wearied out with labor."
4. somewhat . . . because--Translate, "I have against thee (this) that," &c. It is not a mere somewhat"; it is everything. How characteristic of our gracious Lord, that He puts foremost all He can find to approve, and only after this notes the shortcomings!
left thy first love--to Christ. Compare 1Ti 5:12, "cast off their first faith." See the Ephesians' first love, Eph 1:15. This epistle was written under Domitian, when thirty years had elapsed since Paul had written his Epistle to them. Their warmth of love had given place to a lifeless orthodoxy. Compare Paul's view of faith so called without love, 1Co 13:2.
5. whence--from what a height.
do the first works--the works which flowed from thy first love. Not merely "feel thy first feelings," but do works flowing from the same principle as formerly, "faith which worketh by love."
I will come--Greek, "I am coming" in special judgment on thee.
quickly--omitted in two oldest manuscripts, Vulgate and Coptic versions: supported by one oldest manuscript.
remove thy candlestick out of his place--I will take away the Church from Ephesus and remove it elsewhere. "It is removal of the candlestick, not extinction of the candle, which is threatened here; judgment for some, but that very judgment the occasion of mercy for others. So it has been. The seat of the Church has been changed, but the Church itself survives. What the East has lost, the West has gained. One who lately visited Ephesus found only three Christians there, and these so ignorant as scarcely to have heard the names of St. Paul or St. John" [TRENCH].
6. But--How graciously, after necessary censure, He returns to praise for our consolation, and as an example to us, that we would show, when we reprove, we have more pleasure in praising than in fault-finding.
hatest the deeds--We should hate men's evil deeds, not hate the men themselves.
Nicolaitanes--IRENÆUS [Against Heresies, 1.26.3] and TERTULLIAN [Prescription against Heretics, 46] make these followers of Nicolas, one of the seven (honorably mentioned, Ac 6:3, 5). They (CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA [Miscellanies, 2.20 3.4] and EPIPHANIUS [Heresies, 25]) evidently confound the latter Gnostic Nicolaitanes, or followers of one Nicolaos, with those of Revelation. MICHAELIS' view is probable: Nicolaos (conqueror of the people) is the Greek version of Balaam, from Hebrew "Belang Am," "Destroyer of the people." Revelation abounds in such duplicate Hebrew and Greek names: as Apollyon, Abaddon: Devil, Satan: Yea (Greek, "Nai"), Amen. The name, like other names, Egypt, Babylon, Sodom, is symbolic. Compare Re 2:14, 15, which shows the true sense of Nicolaitanes; they are not a sect, but professing Christians who, like Balaam of old. tried to introduce into the Church a false freedom, that is, licentiousness; this was a reaction in the opposite direction from Judaism, the first danger to the Church combated in the council of Jerusalem, and by Paul in the Epistle to Galatians. These symbolical Nicolaitanes, or followers of Balaam, abused Paul's doctrine of the grace of God into a plea for lasciviousness (2Pe 2:15, 16, 19; Jude 4, 11 who both describe the same sort of seducers as followers of Balaam). The difficulty that they should appropriate a name branded with infamy in Scripture is met by TRENCH: The Antinomian Gnostics were so opposed to John as a Judaizing apostle that they would assume as a name of chiefest honor one which John branded with dishonor.
7. He that hath an ear--This clause precedes the promise in the first three addresses, succeeds it in the last four. Thus the promises are enclosed on both sides with the precept urging the deepest attention as to the most momentous truths. Every man "hath an ear" naturally, but he alone will be able to hear spiritually to whom God has given "the hearing ear"; whose "ear God hath wakened" and "opened." Compare "Faith, the ears of the soul" [CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA].
the Spirit saith--What Christ saith, the Spirit saith; so one are the Second and Third Persons.
unto the churches--not merely to the particular, but to the universal Church.
overcometh--In John's Gospel (Joh 16:33) and First Epistle (1Jo 2:13, 14; 5:4, 5) an object follows, namely, "the world," "the wicked one." Here, where the final issue is spoken of, the conqueror is named absolutely. Paul uses a similar image (1Co 9:24, 25; 2Ti 2:5; but not the same as John's phrase, except Ro 12:21).
will I give--as the Judge. The tree of life in Paradise, lost by the fall, is restored by the Redeemer. Allusions to it occur in Pr 3:18; 11:30; 13:12; 15:4, and prophetically, Re 22:2, 14; Eze 47:12; compare Joh 6:51. It is interesting to note how closely these introductory addresses are linked to the body of Revelation. Thus, the tree of life here, with Re 22:1; deliverance from the second death (Re 2:11), with Re 20:14; 21:8; the new name (Re 2:17), with Re 14:1; power over the nations, with Re 20:4; the morning star (Re 2:28), with Re 22:16; the white raiment (Re 3:5), with Re 4:4; 16:15; the name in the book of life (Re 3:5), with Re 13:8; 20:15; the new Jerusalem and its citizenship (Re 3:12), with Re 21:10.
give . . . tree of life--The thing promised corresponds to the kind of faithfulness manifested. They who refrain from Nicolaitane indulgences (Re 2:6) and idol-meats (Re 2:14, 15), shall eat of meat infinitely superior, namely, the fruit of the tree of life, and the hidden manna (Re 2:17).
in the midst of the paradise--The oldest manuscripts omit "the midst of." In Ge 2:9 these words are appropriate, for there were other trees in the garden, but not in the midst of it. Here the tree of life is simply in the paradise, for no other tree is mentioned in it; in Re 22:2 the tree of life is "in the midst of the street of Jerusalem"; from this the clause was inserted here. Paradise (a Persian, or else Semitic word), originally used of any garden of delight; then specially of Eden; then the temporary abode of separate souls in bliss; then "the Paradise of God," the third heaven, the immediate presence of God.
of God-- (Eze 28:13). One oldest manuscript, with Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic, and CYPRIAN, read, "MY God," as in Re 3:12. So Christ calls God, "My God and your God" (Joh 20:17; compare Eph 1:17). God is our God, in virtue of being peculiarly Christ's God. The main bliss of Paradise is that it is the Paradise of God; God Himself dwelling there (Re 21:3).
8. Smyrna--in Ionia, a little to the north of Ephesus. POLYCARP, martyred in A.D. 168, eighty-six years after his conversion, was bishop, and probably "the angel of the Church in Smyrna" meant here. The allusions to persecutions and faithfulness unto death accord with this view. IGNATIUS [The Martyrdom of Ignatius 3], on his way to martyrdom in Rome, wrote to POLYCARP, then (A.D. 108) bishop of Smyrna; if his bishopric commenced ten or twelve years earlier, the dates will harmonize. TERTULLIAN [The Prescription against Heretics, 32], and IRENÆUS, who had talked with POLYCARP in youth, tell us POLYCARP was consecrated bishop of Smyrna by St. John.
the first . . . the last . . . was dead . . . is alive--The attributes of Christ most calculated to comfort the Church of Smyrna under its persecutions; resumed from Re 1:17, 18. As death was to Him but the gate to life eternal, so it is to be to them (Re 2:10, 11).
9. thy works, and--omitted in two oldest manuscripts, Vulgate, and Coptic. Supported by one oldest manuscript.
tribulation--owing to persecution.
poverty--owing to "the spoiling of their goods."
but thou art rich--in grace. Contrast Laodicea, rich in the world's eyes and her own, poor before God. "There are both poor rich-men, and rich poor-men in God's sight" [TRENCH].
blasphemy of them--blasphemous calumny of thee on the part of (or arising from) them.
say they are Jews, and are not--Jews by national descent, but not spiritually of "the true circumcision." The Jews blaspheme Christ as "the hanged one." As elsewhere, so at Smyrna they bitterly opposed Christianity; and at POLYCARP'S martyrdom they joined the heathens in clamoring for his being cast to the lions; and when there was an obstacle to this, for his being burnt alive; and with their own hands they carried logs for the pile.
synagogue of Satan--Only once is the term "synagogue" in the New Testament used of the Christian assembly, and that by the apostle who longest maintained the union of the Church and Jewish Synagogue. As the Jews more and more opposed Christianity, and it more and more rooted itself in the Gentile world, the