Introduction To The Book Of Revelation

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The Revelation, usually termed "The Apocalypse," from its Greek name, {GREEK CHARACTERS IN PRINTED TEXT}, Apokalypsis, meaning "a disclosure, a revelation," has been described to be "a panorama of the glory of Christ." In the Evangelists we have the record of His humiliation, His condescension, His toil and sufferings, His patience, His mockings by those who should have done Him reverence, and finally His death upon the shameful cross a death esteemed in that age to be the most ignominious that men could inflict. In the Revelation we have the gospel of His enthronement in glory, His association with the Father upon the throne of universal dominion, His overruling providence among the nations of the earth, and His coming again, not a homeless stranger, but in power and great glory, to punish His enemies and reward His followers.

Scenes of glory surpassing fable are unveiled before us in this book. Appeals of unwonted power bear down upon the impenitent from its sacred pages in threatenings of judgment that have no parallel in any other portion of the book of God. Consolation which no language can describe is here given to the humble followers of Christ in this world. No other book takes us at once, and so irresistibly, into another sphere. Long vistas are here opened before us, which are bounded by no terrestrial objects, but carry us forward into other worlds. And if ever themes of thrilling and impressive interest, and grand and lofty imagery, and sublime and magnificent description, can invite the attention of mankind, then the Revelation invites us to a careful study of its pages, which urge upon our notice the realities of a momentous future and an unseen world.

1. The Divine Method of Prophetic Revelation

The book of the Revelation opens with the announcement of its title, and with a benediction on those who give diligent heed to its solemn prophetic utterances:

Verse 1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass; and He sent and signified it by His angel unto His servant John: 2 who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. 3 Blessed is he that reads, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.

The Title. The translators of the King James Version of the Bible have given this book the title, "The Revelation of St. John the Divine." In this they contradict the very first words of the book itself, which declare it to be "The Revelation of Jesus Christ." Jesus Christ is the Revelator, not John. John is but the penman employed by Christ to write out this Revelation for the benefit of His church. John is the disciple of Jesus who was beloved and highly favored among the twelve. He was evangelist and apostle, and the writer of the Gospel and the epistles which bear his name. To his previous titles must now be added that of prophet; for the Revelation is a prophecy, and John so denominates it. It is not only the Revelation of Jesus Christ, but it is the Revelation which God gave unto Him. It comes first from the great Fountain of all wisdom and truth, God the Father, by Him it was communicated to Jesus Christ, the Son; and Christ sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John.

The Character of the Book. This is expressed in one word, "Revelation." A Revelation is something revealed or made known, not something hidden and concealed. Moses tells that "the secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever." Deuteronomy 29: 29. The very title of the book, then, is a sufficient refutation of the opinion sometimes expressed that this book is among the mysteries of God, and cannot be understood. Were this the case, it should bear some such title as "The Mystery" or "The Hidden Book," certainly not "The Revelation."

Its Object. "To show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass." His servants who are they? For whose benefit was the Revelation given? Was it to be for any specified persons, for any particular churches, for any special period of time? No, it is for all the church in all time, as long as any of the events predicted within the book remain to be accomplished. It is for all those who can claim the appellation, "His servants," wherever or whenever they may live.

God says that this prophecy was given to reveal coming events to His servants, yet many of the expositors of His word tell us that no man can understand it! This is as if God would undertake to make known to mankind important truths, yet fall into the worse than earthly folly of clothing them in language or in figures which human minds could not comprehend! It is as if He would command a person to behold some distant object, and then erect an impenetrable barrier between him and the object! Or as if He would give His servants a light to guide them through the gloom of night, yet throw over that light a pall so thick and heavy that not a ray of its brightness could penetrate the obscuring folds! How men dishonor God who thus trifle with His word! No; the Revelation will accomplish the object for which it was given, and "His servants" will learn from it the "things which must shortly come to pass," and which concern their eternal salvation.

His Angel. Christ sent and made known the Revelation to John by "His angel." A particular angel seems to be brought to view here. What angel could appropriately be called Christ's angel? We found an answer to this question in our study, as will be seen in the comments on Daniel 10: 21. From that study we concluded that the truths to be revealed to Daniel were committed exclusively to Christ, and to an angel whose name was Gabriel. Similar to the work of communicating important truth to the "beloved prophet" is the work of Christ in the book of the Revelation transmitting important truth to the "beloved disciple." Who in this work can be His angel but the one who was engaged with Daniel in the former work of prophecy, that is, the angel Gabriel? It would also seem most appropriate that the same angel who was employed to carry messages to the "beloved" prophet of ancient times, should perform the same office for the prophet John in the gospel age. (See comments on Revelation 19: 10.)

Blessing on the Reader. "Blessed is he that reads, and they that hear the words of this prophecy. Is there so direct and formal a blessing pronounced upon the reading and observance of any other part of the word of God? What encouragement we have for its study? Shall we say that it cannot be understood? Is a blessing offered for the study of a book which it can do us no good to study?

God has pronounced His blessing upon the reader of this prophecy, and has set the seal of His approbation to an earnest study of its marvelous pages. With such encouragement from a divine source, the child of God will be unmoved by a thousand feeble counterblasts from men.

Every fulfillment of prophecy brings its duties. There are things in the Revelation to be observed, or performed. Practical duties are to fulfilled as the result of an understanding and accomplishment of the prophecy. A notable instance of this kind may be seen in Revelation 14: 12, where it is said, "Here are they that keep the commands of God, and the faith of Jesus."

"The time is at hand," writes John, and in so doing he gives another motive for the study of this book. It becomes more and more important, as we draw near the great consummation. On this point we offer the impressive thoughts of another: "The importance of studying the Apocalypse increases with the lapse of time. Here are 'things which must shortly come to pass.' . . . Even when John bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw, the long period within which those successive scenes were to be realized was at hand. The first in the connected series was on the eve of accomplishment. If proximity then constituted a motive for heeding these contents, how much more does it now! Every revolving century, every closing year, adds to the urgency with which attention is challenged to the concluding portion of the Holy Writ. And does not that intensity of devotion to the present, which characterizes our times and our country, enhance the reasonableness of this claim? Never, surely, was there a period when some mighty counteracting power was more needed. The Revelation of Jesus Christ duly studied supplies an appropriate corrective influence. Would that all Christians might in fullest measure receive the blessing of 'them that hear the words of this prophecy and that keep the things which are written therein; for the time is at hand.' " [1]

The Dedication. Following the blessing, we have the dedication in these words:

Verse 4 John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto 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; 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, 6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

The Churches in Asia. There were more churches in Asia than seven. We may confine ourselves to that western fraction of Asia known as Asia Minor, or we may include still less territory than that. Even in that small part of Asia Minor where the seven churches were located, and right in their very midst, there were other important churches. Colosse, to the Christians of which place Paul addressed his epistle to the Colossians, was but a short distance from Laodicea. Miletus was nearer than any of the seven to Patmos, where John had his vision. Furthermore, it was an important center of Christianity, as we may judge from the fact that during one of his stays there Paul sent for the elders of the church of Ephesus to meet him at that place (Acts 20: 17-38.) At the same place he also left in good Christian hands, his disciple Trophimus, sick. (2 Timothy 4: 20.) Troas, where Paul spent a season with the disciples, and whence after waiting until the Sabbath was past he started upon his journey, was not far removed from Pergamos, named among the seven.

It becomes therefore an interesting question to determine why seven of the churches of Asia Minor were selected as the ones to which the Revelation should be dedicated. Does the salutation to the seven churches in Revelation 1, and the admonitions to them in Revelation 2 and 3, have reference solely to the seven literal churches names? Are things described only as they then existed, and portrayed as they were to come to them alone? We cannot so conclude, for good and substantial reasons:

The entire book of Revelation was dedicated to the seven churches. (See Revelation 1: 3, 11, 19; 22: 18, 19.) The book was no more applicable to them than to other Christians in Asia Minor those, for instance, who dwelt in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, and Bithynia, who were addressed in Peter's epistle (1

Peter 1: 1); or the Christians of Colosse, Troas, and Miletus, in the very midst of the churches named.

Only a small part of the book could have individually concerned the seven churches, or any of the Christians of John's day, for most of the events it brings to view were so far in the future as to lie far beyond the lifetime of the generation then living, or even the time during which those churches would continue. Consequently those churches could have not direct connect with them.

The seven stars which the Son of man held in His right hand are declared to be the angels of the seven churches. (Verse 20.) The angels of the churches, doubtless all will agree, are the ministers of the churches. Their being held in the right hand of the son of man denotes the sustaining power, guidance, and protection vouchsafed to them. But there were only seven of them in His right hand. Are there only seven thus cared for by the great Master of assemblies? May not all true ministers of the entire gospel age derive from this representation the consolation of knowing that they are upheld and guided by the right hand of the great Head of the church? Such would seem to be the only consistent conclusion to be reached.

Again, John, looking into the Christian Era, saw only seven candlesticks, representing seven churches, in the midst of which stood the Son of man. The position of the Son of man among them must denote His presence with them, His watchcare over them, and His searching scrutiny of all their works. But does He thus take cognizance of only seven individual churches? May we not rather conclude that this scene represents His position in reference to all His churches during the gospel age? Then why were only seven mentioned? Seven, as used in the Scriptures, is a number denoting fullness and completeness. Therefore the seven candlesticks denote the entire gospel church in seven periods, and the seven churches may be applied in the same manner.

Why, then, were the seven particular churches chosen that are mentioned? For the reason, doubtless, that in the names of these churches, according to the definitions of the words, are brought out the religious features of those periods of the gospel age which they respectively were to represent.

"The seven churches," therefore, are easily understood to mean not merely the seven literal churches of Asia which went by the names mentioned, but seven periods of the Christian church, from the days of the apostles to the close of probation. (See comments on Revelation 2: 1.)

The Source of Blessing. "From Him which is, and which was, and which is to come," or is to be an expression which in this connection refers to God the Father, since the Holy Spirit and Christ are mentioned separately in the immediate context.

The Seven Spirits. This expression probably has no reference to angels, but to the Spirit of God. It is one of the sources from which grace and peace are invoked for the church. On the interesting subject of the seven spirits, Thompson remarks: "That is, from the Holy Spirit, denominated 'the seven spirits,' because seven is a scared and perfect number; not thus named . . . as denoting interior plurality, but the fullness and perfect of His gifts and operations." [2] Albert Barnes says, "The number seven, therefore, may have been given to the Holy Spirit with reference to the diversity or the fullness of His operations on the souls of men, and to His manifold agency on the affairs of the world, as further developed in this book." [3]

His Throne. This refers to the throne of God the Father, for Christ has not yet taken His own throne. The seven spirits being before the throne "may be intended to designate the face that the Divine Spirit was, as it were, prepared to go forth, or to be sent forth, in accordance with a common representation in the Scriptures, to accomplish important purposes in human affairs." [4]

"And From Jesus Christ." Some of the chief characteristics which pertain to Christ are here mentioned. He is "the faithful Witness." Whatever He bears witness to is true. Whatever He promises, He will surely fulfill.

"The first begotten of the dead" is an expression parallel to 1 Corinthians 15: 20, 23; Hebrews 1: 6, Romans 8: 29; and Colossians 1: 15, 18, where we find such expressions applied to Christ as "the first fruits of them that slept," "the firstborn among many brethren," "the firstborn of every creature," and "the firstborn from the dead." But these expressions do not denote that He was the first in point of time to raised from the dead; for others were raised before Him. Moreover, that is a very unimportant point. But He was the chief and central figure of all who have come up from the grave, for it was by virtue of Christ's coming, work, and resurrection, that any were raised before His time. In the purpose of God, He was the first in point of time as well as in importance, for it was not until after the purpose of Christ's triumph over the grave was formed in the mind of God, who "calls those things which be not as though they were" (Romans 4: 17), that any were released from the power of death by virtue of that great purpose which was in due time to be accomplished.

Christ is "the Prince of the kings of the earth." In a certain sense He is that now. Paul informs us, in Ephesians 1: 20, 21, that He has been set at the right hand of God in the heavenly places, "far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come." The highest names in this world are those of princes, kings, emperors, and potentates of earth. But Christ is placed far above them. He is seated with His Father upon the throne of universal dominion, and ranks equally with Him in the overruling and the controlling of affairs of all nations of earth. (Revelation 3: 21.)

In a more particular sense, Christ is to be Prince of the kings of the earth when He takes His own throne, and the kingdoms of this world become the "kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ," when they are given by the Father into His hands, and He comes forth bearing upon His vesture the title of "Kings of kings and Lord of lords," to dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. (Revelation 19: 16; 2: 27; Psalm 2: 8, 9.)

Christ is spoken of further as "Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood." We have thought that earthly friends loved us a father, a mother, brothers and sisters, or bosom friends but se see that no love is worthy of the name compared with the love of Christ for us. the following sentence adds intensity of meaning to the previous words: "And washed us from our sins in His own blood." What love is this! "Greater love," says the apostle, "hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." John 15: 13. But Christ has commended His love for us in that He died for us "while we were yet sinners." But more than this, He "hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father." From being leprous with sin, we are made clean in His sight; from being enemies, we are not only made friends, but raised to positions of honor and dignity. What matchless love! What matchless provision God has made that we might be cleansed from sin! Consider for a moment the sanctuary service and its beautiful significance. When a sinner confesses his sins, and receives forgiveness, he lays them on Christ, the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world. In the books of heaven where they are recorded, the blood of Christ covers them, and if the follower of God is faithful to his profession, those sins will never be revealed, but will be destroyed by the fires that purify the earth when sin and sinners were consumed. Says the prophet Isaiah, "Thou has cast all my sins behind Thy back." Isaiah 38: 17. Then will apply the statement of the Lord through Jeremiah, "I will remember their sin no more." Jeremiah 31: 34.

No wonder the loving and beloved disciple John ascribed to this Being who has done so much for us, glory and dominion, forever and ever!

Verse 7 Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen.

Here John carries us forward to the second advent of Christ in glory, the climax and crowning event of His intervention in behalf of this fallen world. Once He came in weakness, now He comes in power; once in humility, now in glory. He comes with clouds, in like manner as He ascended. (Acts 1: 9, 11)

His Coming Visible. "Every eye shall see Him." All who are alive at the time of His coming shall see Jesus. We know of no personal coming of Christ that will be as the stillness of midnight or take place only in the desert or the secret chamber. He comes not as a thief in the sense of stealing in secretly and quietly upon the world. But He comes to take to Himself His dearest treasure, His sleeping and His living saints, Himself His dearest treasure, His sleeping and His living saints, whom He has purchased with His own precious blood; whom He has wrested from the power of death in fair and open conflict; and for whom His coming will be no less open and triumphant. It will be with the brilliancy and splendor of the lightning as it shines from east to the west. (Matthew 24: 27.) It will be with the sound of a trumpet that will pierce to earth's lowest depths, and with a mighty voice that shall wake the sainted sleepers from their dusty beds. (Matthew 24: 31, margin; 1 Thessalonians 4: 16.) He will come upon the wicked as a thief, only because they persistently shut their eyes to the tokens of His approach, and will not believe the declarations of His word that He is at the door. To represent two comings, a private and a public one, in connection with the second advent, as some do, is wholly unwarranted from the Scriptures.

"They Also Which Pierced Him." They also (in addition to the "every eye" before mentioned) who were chiefly concerned in tragedy of His death shall behold Him returning to earth in triumph and glory. But how is this? They are not now living, and how then shall they behold Him when He comes? There will be a resurrection from the dead. This is the only possible avenue to life to those who have once been laid in the grave. But how is it that these wicked persons come up at this time, since the general resurrection of the wicked does not take place until a thousand years after the second advent? (Revelation 20: 1-6.) On this point Daniel says further:

"And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great Prince which stands for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." Daniel 12: 1, 2.

Here a partial resurrection is brought to view, a resurrection of a certain group of both righteous and wicked. This takes place before the general resurrection of either group. Many, not all, that sleep shall awake some of the righteous, not all of them, to everlasting life, and some of the wicked, not all of them, to shame and everlasting contempt. This resurrection takes place in connection with the great time of trouble such as never was, which precedes the coming of the Lord. May not "they also which pierced Him" be among those who then come up to shame and everlasting contempt? What could be more appropriate than that those who took part in our Lord's greatest humiliation, and other special leaders in crime against Him, should be raised to behold His terrible majesty as He comes triumphantly in flaming fire to take vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not His gospel?

The response of the church is, "Even so, Amen." Though this coming of Christ is to the wicked a scene of terror and destruction, it is to the righteous a scene of joy and triumph. This coming, which is with flaming fire, and for the purpose of taking vengeance on the wicked, is to recompense all those who believe. (2 Thessalonians 1: 6-10.) Every friend and lover of Christ will hail every declaration and every token of His return as glad tidings of great joy.

Verse 81 am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, said the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.

Here another speaker than John is introduced. In declaring who He is, He uses two of the same characterizations, "Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending," as are found in Revelation 22: 13, where according to verses 12 and 16 of that chapter, it is plainly Christ who is speaking. We conclude, then, that it is Christ who is speaking in verse 8.

Verse 9 I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.

The subject here changes, for John introduces the place and the circumstances under which the Revelation was given. He first sets himself forth as a brother of the universal church, their companion in the tribulations of the Christian.

In this passage John evidently has reference to the future kingdom of glory. He introduces the thought of tribulation as part of the necessary preparation for entry into the kingdom of God. This idea is emphasized in such scriptures as: "We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." Acts 14: 22. "If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him." 2 Timothy 2: 12. It is true that while here in the flesh, believers in Christ have access to the throne of grace. This is the throne of the kingdom of grace into which we are inducted at conversion, for He "hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son." Colossians 1: 13. But at the second advent of the Savior, when the kingdom of glory will be inaugurated, then the saints, members of the kingdom of grace here, redeemed from this present evil world, will have access to the throne of His glory. Then tribulation will be over, and the children of God will bask in the sunlight of the presence of the King of kings throughout eternity.

The Place of the Writing. Patmos is a small, barren island off the west coast of Asia Minor, between the island of Icaria and the promontory of Miletus, where in John's day was located the nearest Christian church. It is about ten miles long, six miles wide at its greatest breadth. Its present name is Patmo. The coast is high and consists of a succession of capes, which form many ports. The only one now in use is a deep bay sheltered by high mountains on every side but one, where it is protected by a projecting cape. The town attached to this port is situated upon a high, rocky mountain rising immediately from the sea. About halfway up the mountain on which this town is built there is shown a natural grotto in the rock where tradition says that John had his vision and wrote the Revelation. On account of the stern and desolate character of this island, it was used under the Roman Empire as a place of banishment. This accounts for the exile of John there. The banishment of the apostle took place under the emperor Domitian about the year AD 94; and from this supposition the date assigned to the writing of the Revelation is AD 95 or 96.

The Cause of Banishment. "For the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ." This was John's high crime and misdemeanor. The tyrant Domitian, who was then invested with the imperial purple of Rome, more eminent for his vices than even for his civil position, quailed before this aged but dauntless apostle. He dared not permit the promulgation of the gospel within the bounds of his kingdom. he exiled John to lonely Patmos, where, if anywhere this side of death, he might be said to be out of the world. After confining him to that barren spot, and to the cruel labor of the mines, the emperor doubtless thought that this preacher of righteousness was finally disposed of, and that the world would hear of him no more.

Probably the persecutors of John Bunyan thought the same when they had shut him up in Beford jail. But when man thinks he has buried the truth in eternal oblivion, the Lord gives it a resurrection in tenfold glory and power. From Bunyan's dark and narrow cell there blazed forth a spiritual light, through the Pilgrim's Progress, which for almost three hundred years has built up the interests of the gospel. From the barren Isle of Patmos, where Domitian thought he had forever extinguished at least one torch of truth, there arose the most magnificent revelation of all the sacred canon, to shed its divine luster over the whole Christian world until the end of time. How many will revere the name of the beloved disciple, and thrill with delight at his enraptured visions of heavenly glory, who will never learn the name caused his banishment! Verily those words of the Scriptures are sometimes applicable to the present life, which declare that "the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance," but "the name of the wicked shall rot." (Psalms 112: 6; Proverbs 10: 7.)

Verse 101 was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Though John was exiled from all of like faith, and almost from the world, he was not exiled from God, nor from Christ, nor from the Holy Spirit, nor from angels. He still had communion with his divine Lord. The expression "in the Spirit" seems to denote the highest state of spiritual elevation into which a person can be brought by the Spirit of God. It marked the beginning of his vision.

"On the Lord's Day." What day is intended by this designation? On this question four different positions are taken by various classes. On class holds that the expression "the Lord's day" covers the whole gospel age, and does not mean any particular twenty-four-hour day. Another class holds that the Lord's day is the day of judgment, the future "day of the Lord" so often brought to view in the Scriptures. A third view is that the expression refers to the first day of the week. Still another class holds that it means the seventh day, the Sabbath of the Lord.

To the first of these positions it is sufficient to reply that the book of Revelation is dated by John on the Isle of Patmos, and upon the Lord's day. The writer, the place where it was written, and the day upon which it was dated, have each a real existence, no merely a symbolical or mystical one. But if we say that the day means the gospel age, we give it a symbolical or mystical meaning, which is not admissible. Why would it be necessary for John to explain that he was writing in the "Lord's day" if it meant the gospel age? It is well known that the book of Revelation was written some sixty-five years after the death of Christ.

The second position, that it is the day of judgment, cannot be correct. Though John might have had a vision concerning the day of judgment, he could not have had one on that day when it is yet future. The word translated "on" is {GREEK CHARACTERS IN PRINTED TEXT}, en, and is defined by Thayer when relating to time: "Periods and portions of time in which anything occurs, in, on, at, during."

It never means "about" or "concerning." Hence those who refer it to the judgment day either contradict the language used, making it mean "concerning" instead of "on," or they make John state a strange falsehood by saying that he had a vision upon the Isle of Patmos, nearly eighteen hundred years ago, on the day of judgment which is yet future.

The third view, that by "Lord's day" is meant the first day of the week, is the one most generally entertained. On this we inquire for the proof. What evidence have we for this assertion? The text itself does not define the term "the Lord's day;" hence if it means the first day of the week, we must look elsewhere in the Bible for the proof that that day of the week is ever so designated. The only other inspired writers who speak of the first day at all, are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul; and they speak of it simply as "the first day of the week." They never speak of it in a manner to distinguish it above any other of the six working days. This is the more remarkable, viewed from the popular standpoint, as three of them speak of it at the very time when it is said to have become the Lord's day by the resurrection of the Lord upon the first day of the week, and two of them mention it some thirty years after that event.

If it is said that "the Lord's day" was the usual term for the first day of the week in John's day, we ask, Where is the proof of this? It cannot be found. In truth, we have proof of the contrary. If this were the universal designation of the first day of the week at the time the Revelation was written, the same writer would most assuredly call it so in all his subsequent writings. But John wrote his Gospel after he wrote the Revelation, and yet in that Gospel he calls the first day of the week, not "the Lord's day," but simply "the first day of the week." For proof that John's Gospel was written at a period subsequent to the Revelation, the reader is referred to standard authorities.

The claim here set up in behalf of the first day, is still further disproved by the fact that neither the Father nor the Son has ever claimed the first day as His own in any higher sense than He has each or any or the other laboring days. Neither of them has ever placed any blessing upon it, or attached any sanctity to it. If it were to be called the Lord's day from the fact of Christ's resurrection upon it, Inspiration would doubtless have somewhere so informed us. But there are other events equally essential to the plan of salvation, such as the crucifixion and the ascension; and in the absence of all instruction upon the point, why not call the day upon which either of these occurred, the Lord's day, as well as the day upon which He rose from the dead?

Since the three positions already examined have been disproved, the fourth that by Lord's day is meant the Sabbath of the Lord now demands attention. This of itself is susceptible of the clearest proof. When God gave to man in the beginning six days of the week for labor, He expressly reserved the seventh day to Himself, placed His blessing upon it, and claimed it as His holy day. (Genesis 2: 1-3.) Moses told Israel in the wilderness of Sin on the sixth day of the week, "Tomorrow is the rest of the Sabbath unto the Lord." Exodus 16:23.

We come to Sinai, where the great Lawgiver proclaimed His moral precepts in awful grandeur; and in that supreme code He thus lays claim to His hallowed day: "The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God:. . . for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it." By the prophet Isaiah, about eight hundred years later, God spoke as follows: "If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on My holy day, . . . then shall thou delight thyself in the Lord," Isaiah 58: 13.

We come to New Testament times, and He who is one with the Father declares expressly, "The Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath." Mark 2: 28. Can any man deny that that day is the Lord's day, of which He has emphatically declared that He is the Lord? Thus we see that whether it be the Father or the Son whose title is involved, no other day can be called the Lord's day but the Sabbath of the great Creator.

There is in the Christian Era one day distinguished above the other days of the week as "the Lord's day." How completely this great fact disproves the claim put forth by some that there is no Sabbath in the gospel age but that all days are alike! By calling it the Lord's day, the apostle has given us, near the close of the first century, apostolic sanction for the observance of the only day which can be called the Lord's day, which is the seventh day of the week.

When Christ was on earth, He clearly designated which day was His day by saying, "The Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath day." Matthew 12: 8. If He had said instead, not that now be set forth as conclusive proof that Sunday is the Lord's day Certainly, and with good reason. Then it ought to be allowed to have the same weight for the seventh day, in reference to which it was spoken.

Verse 11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. 12 And I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; 13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. 14 His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire; 15 And His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and His voice as the sound of many waters. 16 And He had in His right hand seven stars: and out of His mouth went a sharp two edged sword: and His countenance was as the sun shines in His strength. 17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: 181 am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

The expression, "I turned to see the voice," refers to the person from whom the voice came.

Seven Golden Candlesticks. These cannot be the antitype of the golden candlestick of the ancient typical temple service, for that was but one candlestick with seven branches. That is ever spoken of in the singular number. But here are seven, and these are more properly "lamp stands" than simply candlesticks, stands upon which lamps are set to give light in the room. They bear no resemblance to the candlestick of the ancient tabernacle. On the contrary the stands are so distinct, and so far separated one from another, that the Son of man is seen walking about in the midst of them.

The Son of Man. The central and all-attractive figure of the scene now opened before John's vision is the majestic form of the Son of man, Jesus Christ. The description here given of Him, with His flowing robe, His hair white, not with age, but with the brightness of heavenly glory, His flaming eyes, His feet glowing like molten brass, and His voice as the sound of many waters, cannot be excelled for grandeur and sublimity. Overcome by the presence of this august Being, and perhaps under a keen sense of all human unworthiness, John fell at His feet as dead, but a comforting hand is laid upon him, and a voice of sweet assurance tells him not to fear. It is equally the privilege of Christians today to feel the same hand laid upon them to strengthen and comfort them in hours of trial and affliction, and to hear the same voice saying to them, "Fear not."

But the most cheering assurance in all these words of consolation is the declaration of this exalted one who is alive forevermore, that He is the arbiter of death and grave. I have, He says, "the keys of hell [{GREEK CHARACTERS IN PRINTED TEXT}, hades, the grave] and of death."

Death is a conquered tyrant. He may gather to the grave the precious of earth, and gloat for a season over his apparent triumph. But he is performing a fruitless task, for the key to his dark prison house has been wrenched from his grasp, and is now held in the hands of a mightier than he. He is compelled to deposit his trophies in a region over which another has absolute control; and this one is the unchanging Friend and the pledged Redeemer of His people. Then grieve not for the righteous dead; they are in safekeeping. An enemy takes them away for a while, but a friend holds the key to the place of their temporary confinement.

Verse 19 Write the things which thou has seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;

A more definite command is given in this verse to John to write the entire Revelation, which would relate chiefly to things which were then in the future. In some few instances, events then in the past or then taking place were referred to; but these references were simply for the purpose of introducing events to be fulfilled after that time, so that no link in the chain might be lacking.

Verse 20 The mystery of the seven stars which thou saw in My right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou saw are the seven churches.

To represent the Son of man as holding in His hand only the ministers of seven literal churches in Asia Minor, and walking in the midst of only those seven churches, would be to reduce the sublime representations and declarations of this and following chapters to comparative insignificance. The providential care and presence of the Lord are not with a specified number of churches only, but with all His people; not in the days of John merely, but through all time. "Lo, I am with you always," said He to His disciples, "even unto the end of the world." (See remarks on verse 4.)


[1]    Augustus C. Thompson, Morning Hours in Patmos, pp. 28, 29.

[2]    Ibid., pp. 34, 35.

[3]    Albert Barnes, Notes on Revelation, p. 62, comment on Revelation 1: 4. See also S. T. Bloomfield, D. D., The Greek Testament With English Notes, Vol. II, p. 565, comment on Revelation 1: 4.

[4]    Albert Barnes, Notes on Revelation, p. 62, comment on Revelation 1: 4.




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