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REVELATION OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE - Chapter 1 - Verse 1

REVELATION OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE

Note: Due to the length of Introductory Material, please find it starting in See Barnes "Mal 2:1"

 

Also, See an Outline of the Entire Book See Barnes "Mal 2:6"

 

THE REVELATION OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE

CHAPTER I

 

ANALYSIS OF CHAPTER I

THIS chapter contains a general introduction to the whole book, and comprises the following parts:—

I. The announcement that the object of the book is to record a revelation which the Lord Jesus Christ had made of important events which were shortly to occur, and which were signified by an angel to the author, John, Re 1:1-3. A blessing is pronounced on him who should read and understand the book, and special attention is directed to it because the time was st hand when the predicted events would occur.

II. Salutation to the seven churches of Asia, Re 1:4-8. To those churches, it. would seem from this, the book was originally dedicated or addressed, and two of the chapters (2 and 3) refer exclusively to them. Among them evidently the author had resided, (Re 1:9,) and the whole book was doubtless sent to them, and committed to their keeping. In this salutation, the author wishes for them grace, mercy, and peace from "him which is, and which was, and which is to come"—the original fountain of all light and truth—referring to more sublime.

Verse 1. The Revelation of Jesus Christ. This is evidently a title or caption of the whole book, and is designed to comprise the substance of the whole; for all that the book contains would be embraced in the general declaration that it is a Revelation of Jesus Christ. The word rendered Revelationapokaluptw, whence we have derived our word Apocalypse —means properly an uncovering; that is, nakedness —from apokaluptw—to uncover. It would apply to anything which had been covered up so as to be hidden from the view—as by a veil; by darkness; in an ark or chest—and then made manifest by removing the covering. It comes then to be used in the sense of disclosing or revealing by removing the veil of darkness or ignorance. "There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed." It may be applied to the disclosing or manifesting of anything which was before obscure or unknown. This may be done:

(a) by instruction in regard to that which was before obscure—that is, by statements of what was unknown before the statements were made; as in Lu 2:32, where it is said that Christ would be "a light to lighten the Gentiles"—fwv eiv apokaluqin eynwn—or when it is applied to the Divine mysteries, purposes, or doctrines, before obscure or unknown, but made clear by light revealed in the gospel, Ro 16:25; 1 Co 2:10; 14:6; Eph 3:5

 

(b) By the event itself; as the manifestation of the wrath of God at the day of judgment will disclose the true nature of his wrath. "After thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God," Ro 2:5 "For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation (Gr., revelation) of the sons of God," Ro 8:19; that is, till it shall be manifest by the event what they who are the children of God are to be. In this sense the word is frequently applied to the second advent or appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ, as disclosing him in his glory, or showing what he truly is: 2 Th 1:7, "When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed"— en th apokaluqeiin the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Co 1:7, "Waiting for the coming" (the revelation—thn apokaluqin) of our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Pe 1:7, "At the appearing" (Gr., revelation) "of Jesus Christ." See also 1 Pe 4:13, "When his glory shall be revealed."

(c) It is used in the sense of making known what is to come—whether by words, signs, or symbols—as if a veil were lifted from that which is hidden from human vision, or which is covered by the darkness of the unknown future. This is called a revelation, because the knowledge of the event is in fact made known to the world by Him who alone can see it, and in such a manner as he pleases to employ, though many of the terms or the symbols may be, from the necessity of the case, obscure; and though their full meaning may be disclosed only by the event. It is in this sense, evidently, that the word is used here; and in this sense that it is more commonly employed when we speak of a revelation. Thus the word ,(

HEBREW) (gala) is used in Am 3:7: "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants." So Job 33:16, "Then he openeth (marg., revealeth or uncovereth,

HEBREW

the ears of men;" that is, in a dream, he discloses to their ears his truth before concealed or unknown.) Compare Da 2:22,28-29; 10:1

De 29:29; These ideas enter into the word as used in the passage before us. The idea is that of a disclosure of an extraordinary character, beyond the mere ability of man, by a special communication from heaven. This is manifest, not only from the usual meaning of this word, but by the word prophecy, in Re 1:3, and by all the arrangements by which these things, were made known. The ideas which would be naturally conveyed by the use of this word in this connexion are two:

(1) that there was something which was before hidden, obscure, or unknown, and

(2) that this was so disclosed by these communications as to be seen or known.

The things hidden or unknown were those which pertained to the future; the method of disclosing them was mainly by symbols. In the Greek, in this passage, the article is wanting—apokaluqiva Revelation, not h, the Revelation. This is omitted because it is the title of a book, and because the use of the article might imply that this was the only revelation, excluding other books claiming to be a revelation; or it might imply some previous mention of the book, or knowledge of it in the reader. The simple meaning is, that this was "a Revelation;" it was only a part of the Revelation which God has given to mankind. The phrase, "the Revelation of Jesus Christ," might, so far as the construction of the language is concerned, refer either to Christ as the subject or object . It might either mean that Christ is the object revealed in this book, and that its great purpose is to make him known—and so the phrase is understood in the commentary called Hyponoia, (New York, 1844;) or it may mean that this is a revelation which Christ makes to mankind—that is, it is his in the sense that he communicates it to the world. That this latter is the meaning here is clear,

(1) because it is expressly said in this verse that it was a revelation which God gave to him;

(2) because it is said that it pertains to things which must shortly come to pass; and

(3) because, in fact, the revelation is a disclosure of events which were to happen, and not of the person or work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Which God gave unto him. Which God imparted or communicated to Jesus Christ. This is in accordance with the representations everywhere made in the Scriptures, that God is the original fountain of truth and knowledge, and that, whatever was the original dignity of the Son of God, there was a mediatorial dependence on the Father. See Joh 5:19-20: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for whatsoever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and showeth him (deiknusin autw) all things that himself doeth." Joh 7:16 "My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me." Joh 8:28: "As my Father hath taught me, (edidaxe me) I speak these things." Joh 12:49: "For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak." See also Joh 14:10; 17:7-8; Mt 11:27; Mr 13:32.

The same mediatorial dependence the apostle teaches us still subsists in heaven in his glorified state, and will continue until he has subdued all things, (1 Co 15:24-28;) and hence, even in that state, he is represented as receiving the Revelation from the Father to communicate it to men.

To show unto his servants. That is, to his people; to Christians, often represented as the servants of God or of Christ, 1 Pe 2:16; Re 2:20; 7:3; 19:2; 22:3.

It is true that the word is sometimes applied by way of eminence to the prophets, (1 Ch 6:49; Da 6:20) and to the apostles, Ro 1:1; Ga 1:10; Php 1:1

Tit 1:1; Jas 1:1 but it is also applied to the mass of Christians, and there is no reason why it should not be so understood here. The book was sent to the churches of Asia, and was clearly designed for general use; and the contents of the book were evidently intended for the churches of the Redeemer in all ages and lands. Compare Re 1:3. The word rendered to showdeixai—commonly denotes to point out; to cause to see; to present to the sight; and is a word eminently appropriate here, as what was to be revealed was, in general, to be presented to the sight by sensible tokens or symbols.

Things which must shortly come to pass. Not all the things that will occur, but such as it was deemed of importance for his people to be made acquainted with. Nor is it certainly implied that all the things that are communicated would shortly come to pass, or would soon occur. Some of them might perhaps lie in the distant future, and still it might be true that there were those which were revealed in connexion with them, which soon would occur. The word rendered "things "—a—is a pronoun, and might be rendered what: "he showed to his servants what things were about to occur;" not implying that he showed all the things that would happen, but such as he judged to be needful that his people should know. The word would naturally embrace those things which, in the circumstances, were most desirable to be known. The phrase rendered "must come to pass"—dei genesyai—would imply more than mere futurity. The word used (dei) means it needs, there is need of, and implies that there is some kind of necessity that the event should occur. That necessity may either arise from the felt want of anything, as where it is absent or wanting, Xen. Cyr. 4, 10, ib. 7, 5, 9; or from the nature of the case, or from a sense of duty—as Mt 16:21, "Jesus began to show to his disciples that he must go (dei apelyein) to Jerusalem," Compare Mt 26:35; Mr 14:31 Lu 2:49 or the necessity may exist, because a thing is right and just, meaning that it ought to be done—as Lu 13:14, "There are six days in which men ought to work"—dei ergazesyai; Lu 13:16, "And ought not this woman (ouk edei) whom Satan hath bound, etc., be loosed from this bond;" compare Mr 13:14 Joh 4:20; Ac 5:11,29; 2 Ti 2:6; Mt 18:33; 25:27

or the necessity may be that it is conformable to the Divine arrangement, or is made necessary by Divine appointment— as in Joh 3:14, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must (dei) the Son of man be lifted up;" Joh 20:9, "For as yet they knew not the Scriptures, that he must (dei) rise again from the dead." Compare Ac 4:12; 14:22 et al . In the passage before us, it is implied that there was some necessity that the things referred to should occur. They were not the result of chance; they were not fortuitous. It is not, however, stated what was the ground of the necessity—whether because there was a want of something to complete a great arrangement; or because it was right and proper in existing circumstances; or because such was the Divine appointment.

They were events which, on some account, must certainly occur, and which therefore it was important should be made known. The real ground of the necessity probably was founded in the design of God in redemption. He intended to carry out his great plans in reference to his church, and the things revealed here must necessarily occur in the completion of that design. The phrase rendered shortlyen tacei —is one whose meaning has been much controverted, and on which much has been made to depend in the interpretation of the whole book. The question has been whether the phrase necessarily implies that the events referred to were soon to occur, or whether it may have such an extent of meaning as to admit the supposition that the events referred to, though beginning soon, would embrace in their development far distant years, and would reach the end of all things. Those who maintain (as Professor Stuart) that the book was written before the destruction of Jerusalem, and that the portion in chapters 4-11, has special reference to Jerusalem and Judaea, and the portion in chapters 12-19, to persecuting and heathen Rome, maintain the former opinion; those who suppose that chapters 4-11, refers to the irruption of Northern barbarians in the Roman empire, and chapter 12 seq. to the rise and the persecutions of the Papal power, embrace the latter opinion. All that is proper in this place is, without reference to any theory of interpretation, to inquire into the proper meaning of the language; or to ascertain what idea it would naturally convey.

(a) The phrase properly and literally means, with quickness, swiftness, speed; that is, speedily, quickly, shortly .—Rob. Lex.; Stuart in loc. It is the same in meaning as tacewv. Compare 1 Co 4:19, "But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will." Lu 14:21, "Go out quickly into the streets." Lu 16:6, "Sit down quickly, and write fifty." Joh 11:31, "She rose up hastily (tacewv) and went out." Ga 1:6, "That ye are so soon removed (tacewv) from him that called you." 1 Ti 5:22, "Lay hands suddenly on no man." See also Php 2:19,24; 2 Th 2:2; 2 Ti 4:9.

The phrase used here —en tacei— occurs in Lu 18:8, "he will avenge them speedily," (literally with speed;) Ac 12:7, "arise up quickly;" Ac 22:18, "get thee quickly out of Jerusalem;" Ac 25:4, "would depart shortly;" Ro 16:20, "bruise Satan under your feet shortly;" and Re 1:1; 22:6. The essential idea is, that the thing which is spoken of was soon to occur, or it was not a remote and distant event. There is the notion of rapidity, of haste, of suddenness. It is such a phrase as is used when the thing is on the point of happening, and could not be applied to an event which was in the remote future, considered as an independent event standing by itself. The same idea is expressed, in regard to the same thing, in Re 1:3: "the time is at hand" —o gar kairov egguv; that is, it is near; it is soon to occur. Yet

(b) it is not necessary to suppose that the meaning is that all that there is in the book was soon to happen. It may mean that the series of events which were to follow on in their proper order was soon to commence, though it might be that the sequel would be remote. The first in the series of events was soon to begin, and the others would follow on in their train, though a portion of them, in the regular order, might be in a remote futurity. If we suppose that there was such an order; that a series of transactions was about to commence involving a long train of momentous developments, and that the beginning of this was to occur soon, the language used by John would be that which would be naturally employed to express it. Thus, in case of a revolution in a government, when a reigning prince should be driven from his kingdom, to be succeeded by a new dynasty which would long occupy the throne, and involving as the consequence of the revolution important events extending far into the future, we would naturally say that these things were shortly to occur, or that the time was near. It is customary to speak of a succession of events or periods as near, however vast or interminable the series may be, when the commencement is at hand. Thus we say, that the great events of the eternal world are near; that is, the beginning of them is soon to occur. So Christians now speak often of the millennium as near, or as about to occur, though it is the belief of many that it will be protracted for many ages.

(c) That this is the true idea here is clear, whatever general view of interpretation in regard to the book is adopted. Even Professor Stuart, who contends that the greater portion of the book refers to the destruction of Jerusalem, and the persecutions of heathen Rome, admits that "the closing part of the Revelation relates beyond all doubt to a distant period, and some of it to a future eternity," (II.p.5;) and if this be so then there is no impropriety in supposing that a part of the series of predictions preceding this may lie also in a somewhat remote futurity. The true idea seems to be that the writer contemplated a series of events that were to occur; and that this series was about to commence. How far into the future it was to extend is to be learned by the proper interpretation of all the parts of the series.

And he sent. Gr., "Sending by his angel, signified it to his servant John." The idea is not precisely that he sent his angel to communicate the message, but that he sent by him, or employed him as an agent in doing it. The thing sent was rather the message than the angel.

And signified it. eshmanen. He indicated it by signs and symbols. The word occurs in the New Testament only in Joh 12:33 Joh 18:32; 21:19; Ac 11:28; 25:27

and in the passage before us, in all which places it rendered signify, signifying or signified. It properly refers to some sign, signal, or token by which anything is made known, (compare Mt 26:28; Ro 4:11; Ge 9:12-13; 17:11

Lu 2:12; 2 Co 12:12; 1 Co 14:22) and is a word most happily chosen to denote the manner in which the events referred to were to by communicated to John—for nearly the whole book is made up of signs and symbols. If it be asked what was signified to John, it may be replied that either the word "it" may be understood, as in our translation, to refer to the Apocalypse or Revelation, or what he saw—osa eide— as Professor Stuart supposes; or it may be absolute, without any object following, as Professor Robinson (Lex.) supposes. The general sense is that, sending by his angel, he made to John a communication by expressive signs or symbols.

By his angel. That is, an angel was employed to cause these scenic representations to pass before the mind of the apostle. The communication was not made directly to him but was through the medium of a heavenly messenger employed for this purpose. Thus in Re 22:6, it is said, "And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to show unto his servants the things which must shortly be done." Compare Re 22:8-9.

There is frequent allusion in the Scriptures to the fact that angels have been employed as agents in making known the Divine will, or in the revelations which have been made to men. Thus in Ac 7:53, it is said, "Who have received the law by the disposition of angels." Heb 2:2, "For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast," etc. Ga 3:19, "And it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator."

Compare See Barnes "Ac 7:38, See Barnes "Ac 7:53".

 

There is almost no further reference to the agency of the angel employed for this service, in the book, and there is no distinct specifications of what he did, or of his great agency in the case. John is everywhere represented as seeing the symbols himself, and it would seem that the agency of the angel was, either to cause those symbols to pass before the apostle, or to convey their meaning to his mind. How far John himself understood the meaning of these symbols we have not the means of knowing with certainty. The most probable supposition is, that the angel was employed to cause these vision or symbols to pass before his mind, rather than to interpret them. If an interpretation had been given, it is inconceivable that it should not have been recorded, and there is no more probability that their meaning should have been disclosed to John himself for his private use, than that it should have been disclosed and recorded for the use of others. It would seem probable, therefore, that John had only that view of the meaning of what he saw which any one else might obtain from the record of the visions. Compare See Barnes "1 Pe 1:10-12".

 

Unto his servant John. Nothing could be learned from this expression as to what John was the author of the book, whether the apostle of that name or some other. It cannot be inferred from the use of the word servant, rather than apostle, that the apostle John was not the author, for it was not uncommon for the apostles to designate themselves merely by the words servants, or servants of God. Compare See Barnes "Ro 1:1".

 

{a} "blessed" Lu 11:28" {b} "time" Jas 5:8,9; 1 Pe 4:7

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