Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:
Re 1:1-20. Title: Source and Object of This Revelation: Blessing on the Reader and Keeper of It, as the Time Is Near: Inscription to the Seven Churches: Apostolic Greeting: Keynote, "Behold He Cometh" (Compare at the close, Re 22:20, "Surely I come quickly"): Introductory Vision of the Son of Man in Glory, amidst the Seven Candlesticks, with Seven Stars in His Right Hand.
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).
Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.
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."
Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
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.
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;
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.
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,
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.
And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
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."
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.
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.
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.
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.
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.
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].
I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,
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.
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.
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.
And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;
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."
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].
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.
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.
His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;
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.
And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.
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.
And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.
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.
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:
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].
I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
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).
Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;
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."
The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest 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 sawest are the seven churches.
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!"