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Jesus Christ is here spoken of, we may presume, as a distinct person, because it is not till the truth of salvation is entirely developed, that the Son is exhibited as giving up the kingdom unto the Father, and God himself is manifested to be all in all, (1. Cor. xv. 28,) as in fact He must necessarily have been from all eternity.
* To show unto his servants.'-The work of Christ, although completed or wrought out at the time of his resurrection, may still be considered a thing covered, or veiled ;—its hidden meaning, or that which is to be taught by it, being but imperfectly understood. This meaning we suppose it to be the design of the Apocalypse to uncover, or make known; the Holy Spirit, or Comforter, teaching and bringing the things of Christ to remembrance in two ways : first, after the didactic manner of the Apostles in their epistles ; and secondly, by the pictorial illustrations of this book of revelation.
· His servants.'—The word translated servants, may signify any description of bondmen or slaves, and is thus applicable to all the followers of Jesus, purchased by his blood. Freed from sin, and redeemed from the consequences of sin, but bound to Christ. "To show to his servants,' is to show to the whole household of faith, but especially to those whose duty it is to instruct others, stewards as well as domestics. The steward of those times being generally a confidential slave or servant, a fellow servant of those to whom he was to give their ineat in due season.
$ 4. Things which must shortly come to pass'—or to be of a sudden, or suddenly brought forth—the adverb razú, sometimes šv zázel, including the idea of suddenness, (Rob. Lex. 745)—things to be developed at an unexpected moment, in such a manner as to flash conviction on the mind. So we find the Greek term rapuidvatos rendered subito moriens, dying suddenly ; (Lex. Suiceri ed. Tiguri 1683 ;) corresponding with what is elsewhere said of the sudden coming of the day of the Lord, as in the twinkling of
. And he sent and signified by his angel to his servant John.'—The Greek term, translated angel, is literally a messenger, and any means, by which the Divine will is communicated, may be said to be a messenger of God. The elements, diseases, and even death, are such messengers. The angel of death is sometimes so spoken of—we should speak more correctly in saying, the angel Death, for death is virtually the messenger to call us fr m this state of existence. According to Hebrews ii. 2, the prophets were angels, or messengers ; as it is said, If the word spoken by angels was steadfast, how much more must be so the word of Him who speaketh from heaven. Sometimes we may consider the communication itself as the angel; they are all ministering spirits, and a spirit revealing the things of Christ must be a ministering spirit. We must form our judgment of the kind of angel alluded to in Scripture, by the circumstances of the case in which
the term is employed. Here it appears probable that the angel sent by Jesus in this instance is the spirit of revelation, which shows the things spoken of to the apostle. As it is said of the Holy Spirit, (John xvi. 7,)“ If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you : but if I depart I will send him unto you.” So we may say when the Deity opens the mind in a vision of the night, that this vision is a messenger, or an angel of God.
· Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw'alluding to the record before given by this apostle in his gospel and in his epistles ; as if the question had been asked, What servant John is this? The answer is, It is John the Evangelist. He who bore witness concerning the word, or Logos, (John i. 1-4,) and who recorded both in his gospel and in his epistles, that which he himself witnessed of the works, and doctrines, and sufferings of his Divine Master, (John xxi. 24, and 1 John i. 1.) The declaration thus identifies the writer of these different productions, and indicates in some degree a correspondence, or relation between these Scriptures ; all being written, as we say, by the same hand. *
V. 3. Blessed is he that readeth, and Μακάριος ο αναγινώσκων, και οι ακούοντες they that hear the words of this prophecy, τους λόγους της προφητείας, και τηρούντες and keep those things which are written τα εν αυτή γεγραμμένα ο γαρ καιρός εγγύς. therein: for the time is at hand.
§ 5. The word rendered read is compounded of a word signifying to know, or to be acquainted with. It may apply to the recognition of the sense of a passage, as well as to the reading of it. So the hearing must be a hearing of the heart, or mind, applicable to a comprehension and willing reception of the truth ; the hearing alluded to, (Hebrews v. 11,) where dulness of hearing is put for want of understanding. So the keeping may be a holding in custody—something more than mere remembrance—a keeping of some
ing valuable. “If any one keep my saying," or word," he shall never see death,” (John viii. 51.) Reading and hearing, here, are not equivalents, as in common parlance we consider reading a discourse equal to hearing it. This reading seems to be rather a recognition of the authority of the revelation; the hearing, a comprehension of the hidden meaning. He that receives the revelation of Jesus in his propitiatory character as the purpose of God; who comprehends how it is, that he, who was himself without
* It may have been in allusion to the peculiar distinction with which the apostle was to be favoured as the recipient of this revelation, or as the eye-witness of this exhibition, of Christ, that the answer was given to Peter, (John xxi. 22,) “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee ?" John, however, we find so far from assuming upon this distinction, the title of saint, or divine, styles himself the servant, the slave or bondman of Christ—one bound by indissoluble obligations of gratitude to his master ; as a captive, (serratus,) saved from death by his captor, was held bound to devote his life to the service of his preserver.
sin, is made sin for us, that we may be made the righteousness of God in him ; and who cherishes, and rests upon, the gospel assurance of this gracious provision ;—such a one is happy or blessed ;-happy in faith even in this life; as it is said, (Ps. cxlvi. 5,) “ Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help,” (as the Lord his righteousness,) “whose hope” (for salvation) “is in the Lord his God,” (in the merits of his Redeemer.)
$ 6. “For the time is at hand, or is near.'—The reason given for this happiness in reading, hearing and keeping, is that the time is at hand. We find at the end of the book, (Rev. xxii. 10,) the same reason given for not sealing the sayings of the prophecy, viz. that the time of developing the truth is at hand. The happiness contemplated arises from the full development of the glad tidings of salvation, now about being made. The mysteries which prophets and kings desired to see and hear, and which angels desired to look into, are now to be exposed to view ; at hand, because contained in this book. If the contemplation of them is not actually enjoyed, it is not because they are not at hand, but because those who have possession of the volume do not yet see, and hear, and keep its precious contents in the sense alluded to. The time indeed is at hand in a more literal sense, as the moment of death approaches; the moment of transition to that state of being where we shall see as we are seen, and know as we are known. But in the meantime, happy is he that recognizes in this revelation of Jesus Christ, his Saviour God, his strength and righteousness. Happy is he who understands the mysteries of redemption here set forth ; or rather he who is prepared to understand them. Happy he who leans upon the words of this prophecy, and conforms his faith to the views of the plan of redemption here displayed. Such we may suppose are not far from the kingdom of 'heaven, if they may not even be said absolutely to see it.
Vs. 4-6. John to the seven churches, Ιωάννης ταϊς επτά εκκλησίαις ταϊς εν τη which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, 'Ασία χάρις υμϊν και ειρήνη από ο ών και was, and which is to come; and from the ó ñv xai ó égzóueros, xai úró tūv értide seven spirits which are before his throne; πνευμάτων, ά εστιν ενώπιον του θρόνου and from Jesus Christ, the faithful wit- αυτού, και από 'Ιησού Χριστού, ο μάρness, the first begotten of the dead, and τους και πιστός, και πρωτότοκος των νεκρών και the prince of the kings of the earth.
ο άρχων των βασιλέων της γής: τω αγαπώντι Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sine in his own blood, and nata ημάς και λούσαντι ημάς από των αμαρτιών made us kings and priests unto God, and ημών εν τώ αίματι αυτού, και εποίησεν ημάς his Father; to him be glory and dominion βασιλείαν, ιερείς τω θεώ και πατρί αυτού, for ever and ever. Amen.
αυτώ ή δόξα και το κράτος εις τους αιώνας
των αιώνων: αμήν. . 57. This greeting is of two parts. The division between the two being in the midst of the fifth verse, where the verses should have been separated. The first part is an ejaculatory prayer, that those to whom the epistle is addressed may enjoy the benefit spoken of; and the last part is a summons to those receiving the epistle, to unite with the Apostle in an ascription of praise to Him, who is the instrument in procuring the grace and peace alluded to.
John to the seven churches which are in Asia.'—The Apostle sets forth what he is about to write, as an epistle addressed to certain churches. Not, as the whole tenor of the book afterwards shows, that this epistle is intended merely for the edification of those bodies, or assemblages, but as a person writing a book for the instruction of young persons may put forth his publication in the form of letters to his own children. The design declared in the first verse, (to show unto his servants, &c.,) and the universality of the blessedness spoken of in the third verse, confirm this supposition. At the same time we must attend to the peculiar characteristics of these churches, in order to have a better understanding of the matter laid before them.
These seven churches of Asia have long since passed away; and if we except that of Ephesus, scarcely any mention is made of them in other portions of Scripture. Paul, also, addressed epistles to seven churches : the Roman, Corinthian, Galatian, Ephesian, Philippian, Colossian, and Thessalonian, besides his epistle to the Hebrews; but of these only one, the Ephesian, corresponds in name with a church of the Apocalypse. If we view these assemblies as types, it is unimportant what seven churches are selected. We have only to bear in mind the peculiar features of each ; if not types, it is difficult to imagine why Paul should have selected seven churches principally in Europe, and John seven churches in Asia. As to the number seven, it seems to express a certain totality, ad infinitum. Every circle being equal to seven circles, and each of these seven circles divisible into seven other circles, and so on. Thus the seven churches of John, and the seven churches of Paul, may represent alike, the whole Christian church.
$ 8. “Grace unto you, and peace.”—Grace, zápis, gratia. Free, unmerited favour, something the opposite of wages, or of debt, (Rom. iv. 4.) The law came by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. Something freely granted through Jesus Christ, and only through or by him. The grace of God which bringeth salvation, (Titus ii. 11,) being also styled the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, (Acts xv. 11, and elsewhere.)
Peace ; reconciliation with God, obtained through the blood of the Lamb, (his Son,) as God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, (2 Cor. v. 19.) Hence a peace passing understanding, (Phil. iv. 7,) a peace with God, but obtainable through Jesus Christ, and through him only, (Rom. v. 1.)
It is important to bear the peculiar characteristics of these terms in our minds, that we may compare the consistency of this apostolic benediction with the general tenor of the revelation subsequently made.
· From him which is, and which was, and which is to come ;' or, from the being, the was, and the coming. That is, from God himself; the giver of every good and of every perfect gift; and, indeed, the only being who can, strictly speaking, be said to give at all : all other beings only act as his instruments. He has not only a right to do as he pleases with his own, but all things being his, he has a right, and he alone has the right to do with all things according to his will and pleasure. Hence, the grace or favour coming from him is termed sovereign grace, consisting in the exercise of a power of perfect sovereignty.
$ 9. “And from the seven spirits that are before his throne.'-After what has been just said, it seems inconsistent indeed, to enumerate seven other sources of grace and peace. The subsequent revelations of this book, however, will probably reconcile this seeming inconsistency. Meantime we may advert to what we have remarked (97) of the number seven—that it represents a totality. The seven spirits before the throne of God, are all the spirits—before his throne. To be before the throne of God is to be in a position of peculiar favour. These seven spirits are, then, all the spirits thus favoured; and the whole seven constitute in fact but one spirit-one spirit thus favoured, or in favour; and this we may presume to be the Holy Spirit, which is not otherwise here mentioned; but which, according to Paul, is a joint source of the same blessing of grace and peace, or is something equivalent to it: as he says, 2 Cor. xiii. 14, The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost (Holy Spirit) be with you all. These seven spirits must be, therefore, seven elements, or operations of the Holy Spirit employed in the work of conferring grace and peace.
§ 10. · And from Jesus Christ.'--Another inconsistency—unless Jesus Christ himself be identic with God the Father; for there cannot be two sovereigns of the universe, or two sources of sovereign grace. The common form of this benediction in Paul's writings is, Grace to you and peace from God, (our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,) as we think the words should be read; the two persons last mentioned being spoken of in parenthesis, qualifying or explaining the appellation given to the Deity.
The translators of our common version, however, have uniformly supplied the word from, immediately before the person last named, so as to make it appear that the grace and peace are from two sources, when the apostle apparently intends to set forth, expressly, but one source. Jesus Christ, indeed, is said to be especially our peace, (Eph. ii. 14-16,) but this might be interpreted only as being so instrumentally ; whereas, in this passage of Revelation, the three, the Father, the Seven Spirits, and the Lord Jesus, are set forth as coequal sources of the same grace and peace ; corresponding with the declaration, 1 John v. 7, “ There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Glost; and these three are one.”