Time or Eternity? ™

Introduction to Revelation Chapter 1

In Revelation on March 3, 2011 at 8:00 am

There are obviously three parts in the Introduction,—the Source, the Contents, and the Importance of the revelation: and each of these is again divided into three. Three persons are mentioned when the Source is spoken of,—God, Jesus Christ, and the servants of Jesus; three when the Contents are referred to,—the Word of God, the Testimony of Jesus, and All things that he saw; and three when the Importance of the book is described,—He that readeth, They that hear, and They that keep the things written therein. “John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you, and peace, from Him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before His throne; and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. Unto Him that loveth us, and loosed us from our sins in His blood; and He made us to be a kingdom, to be priests unto His God and Father; to Him be the glory and the dominion for ever and ever. Amen. Behold, He cometh with the clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they which pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth shall wail over Him. Even so, Amen. I am the Alpha and the Omega, saith the Lord, God, which is and which was and which is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1: 4-8).  From the Introduction we pass to the Salutation, extending from ver. 4 to ver. 8. Adopting a method different from that of the fourth Gospel, which is also the production of his pen, the writer of Revelation names himself. The difference is easily explained. The fourth Gospel is original not only in its contents but its form. The Apocalypse is molded after the fashion of the ancient prophets, and of the numerous apocalyptic authors of the time; and it was the practice of both these classes of writers to place their names at the head of what they wrote. The fourth Gospel was also intended to set forth in a purely objective manner the glory of the Eternal Word made flesh, and that too in such a way that the glory exhibited in Him should authenticate itself, independently of human testimony. The Apocalypse needed a voucher from one known and trusted. It came through the mind of a man, and we naturally ask, Who is the man through whom it came? The inquiry is satisfied, and we are told that it comes from John. In telling us this St. John speaks with the authority which belongs to him. By-and-by we shall see him in another light, occupying a position similar to ours, and standing on the same level with us in the covenant of grace. But at this moment he is the Apostle, the Evangelist, the Minister of God, a consecrated priest in the Christian community who is about to pronounce a priestly blessing on the Church. Let the Church bow her head and reverently receive it.  The Salutation is addressed to the seven churches which are in Asia. On this point it is enough to say that by the Asia spoken of we are to understand neither the continent of that name, nor its great western division Asia Minor, but only a single district of the latter, of which Ephesus, where St. John spent the later years of his life and ministry, was the capital. There the aged Apostle tended all those portions of the flock of Christ that he could reach, and all the churches of the neighbourhood were his peculiar care. We know that these were in number more than seven. We know that to no church could the Apostle be indifferent. The conclusion is irresistible, that here, as so often in this book as well as in other parts of Scripture, the number seven is not to be literally understood. Seven churches are selected, the condition of which appeared most suitable to the purpose which the Apostle has in view; and these seven represent the Church of Christ in every country of the world, down to the very end of time. The universal Church spreads itself out beneath his gaze; and before he instructs he blesses it. The blessing is, Grace to you, and peace; grace first, the Divine grace, in its enlightening, quickening, and beautifying power; and then peace, peace with God and man, peace that in the deep recesses of the heart remains undisturbed by outward trouble, the peace of which it is said by Him who is the Prince of peace, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful.” The source of the blessing is next indicated,—the Triune God, the three Persons of the glorious Trinity, the Father, the Holy Spirit, and the Son. Probably we should have thought of a different order; but the truth is that it is the Son, as the manifestation of the Godhead, who is mainly in the Apostle’s mind. Hence the peculiarity of the first designation, Him which is, and which was, and which is to come, a designation specially applicable to our Lord. Hence also the peculiarity of the second designation, The seven Spirits which are before His throne; not so much the Spirit viewed in His individual personality, in the eternal relations of the Divine existence, as that Spirit in the manifoldness of His operation in the Church, the Spirit of the glorified Redeemer,—not one therefore, but seven. Hence, again, the peculiar designation of Christ, Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth; not so much the Son in His metaphysical relation to the Godhead, as in attributes connected with His redemptive work. And finally, the fact that when these three Persons have been named, the Seer fills up the remaining verses of his Salutation with thoughts, not of the Trinity, but of Him who has already redeemed us, and who will in due time come to perfect our salvation.

Now, therefore, the Church, reflecting upon all that has been done, is done, and shall be done for her, is able to raise the song of triumphant thanksgiving, Unto Him that loveth us, and loosed us from our sins in His blood, and He made us to be a kingdom, to be priests unto His God and Father; to Him be the glory and the dominion for ever and ever. Amen. In these words the possession of complete redemption is implied. The true reading of the original is not that of our Authorized Version, “Unto Him that washed,” but “Unto Him that loosed” us from our sins. We have received not merely the pardon of sin, but deliverance from its power. “Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowler; the snare is broken, and we are escaped.” The chains in which Satan held us captive have been snapped asunder and we are free. Again, this loosing has taken place “in” rather than “by” the blood of Christ, for the blood of Christ is living blood, and in that life of His we are enfolded and enwrapped, so that it is not we that live, but Christ that liveth in us. Once more they who are thus spoken of are “a kingdom, priests unto His God and Father,” the former being the lower stage, the latter the higher. The word “kingdom” has reference, less to the splendour of royalty than to victory over foes. Christians reign in conquering their spiritual enemies; and then, in possession of the victory that overcometh the world, they enter into the innermost sanctuary of the Most High and dwell in the secret of His Tabernacle. There their great High Priest is one with “His God and Father,” and there they also dwell with His Father and their Father, with His God and their God.  The statement of these verses, however, reveals not only what the Christian Church is to which the Apocalypse is addressed; it reveals also what the Lord is from whom the revelation comes. He is indeed the Saviour who died for us, the witness faithful unto death: but He is also the Saviour who rose again, who is the firstborn of the dead, and who has ascended to the right hand of God, where He lives and reigns in glory everlasting. It is the glorified Redeemer from whom the book of His revelation comes; and He has all power committed to Him both in heaven and on earth. More particularly, He is “the ruler of the kings of the earth.” This is not a description of such honour as might be given by a crowd of loyal nobles to a beloved prince. It rather gives expression to a power by which “the kings of the earth,” the potentates of a sinful world, are subdued and crushed.  Lastly, the Salutation includes the thought that He who is now hidden in heaven from our view, will yet appear in the glory that belongs to Him. He is the Lord who “is to come “; or, as it is expanded in the words immediately following the doxology, Behold, He cometh with the clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they which pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth shall wail over Him. Even so, Amen. It is of importance to ask what the glory is in which the glorified Lord is thus spoken of as coming. Is it that of one who shall be the object of admiration to every eye, and who, by the revelation of Himself, shall win all who behold Him to godly penitence and faith? The context forbids such an interpretation. The tribes “of the earth “ are like its kings in ver. 5, the tribes of an ungodly world, and the “wailing “ is that of chap. xviii. 9, where the same word is used, and where the kings of the earth weep and wail over the fall of guilty Babylon, which they behold burning before their eyes. The tones of that judgment which is to re-echo throughout the book are already heard: “Give the king Thy judgments, O God, and Thy righteousness unto the king’s Son. He shall judge the people with righteousness, and Thy poor with judgment”; “Verily there is a reward for the righteous: verily, He is a God that judgeth in the earth.” And now the glorified Redeemer Himself declares what He is: I am the Alpha and the Omega, saith the Lord, God, which is and which was and which is to come, the Almighty. By the Son the Father acts. In the Son the Father speaks. The Son is the manifestation of the Father. The same Divine attributes, therefore, which are to be seen in the Father, are to be seen in the Son. Let us hear Him as He seals His intimations of coming judgment with the assurance that He is God, who has come who is and who is to come, the Almighty.

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