Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
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:SPECIAL DOCTRINO-ETHICAL AND HOMILETICAL NOTES
Prologue (Revelation 1:1–8)
General.—Of God.—Of Revelation.—Of witness [Martyrium].—Of visions.—Of Divine service.—Of the Church.—Of the Trinity.—Of salvation.—Of the destination of Christians.—Of the Coming of Christ, in order to the complete revelation of God.
Special.—[Rev 1:1.] Revelation as the Apocalypse, the end and crown of revelations.—-The end and crown of the Biblical Books.—The end and crown of the doctrines of the Christian faith.—The end and crown of paræneses.
[Rev 1:2.] The Apostles as the great martyrs or witnesses of Christ:—Of His past, present, future [or coming].—John, in respect to his import in a doctrinal and a homiletical point of view.—John as the Seer of spirit in realities (the Gospel) and of realities in spirit (the Apocalypse).—The vision as a sign of the depth of the inner human life, and the height of the ripened Christian life.—[Rev 1:3.] Blessedness of the Christian in anticipation of the Coming of Christ.—The always certain nearness of the last time in the rapid course and change of Christian times.—The Coming of Christ in every Christian age.—Christian worship in the simple ground-form of readers and hearers.—Common blessedness of the leading and the led in a true cultus.—[Rev 1:4, 5.] As the all-embracing idiocrasy of Christ is divided and reflected in the Apostles, so the idiocrasies of the Apostles are divided and reflected in those of the Church.—The Seven Churches in the deepest reality One Church.—The Trinity of God in the glory of its revelation: The Father, as the Primal Source of grace and peace—Who is, Who was, and Who cometh; The Holy Ghost in the manifestations of the Seven Spirits before the Throne of the Divine Rule; The Son of God, as the Faithful Witness, the First-born from the dead; as the Prince of the kings of the earth; as He Who hath loved us and washed us from our sins in His blood.—The grace which is upon Christians, and the peace which is in them, an eternally new benedictive greeting from the Triune God.—[Rev 1:6.] The high calling of Christians, by which they are made a kingdom of priests; how this calling is realized for them, and how it becomes realized in them.—Kings and priests considered in respect of their connection: 1. Kings and priests, in the sense of their degeneracy, alternately war and conspire against each other; 2. Kings and priests, in the sense of the worldly order of things, mutually balance and limit each other; 3. Kings and priests, as servants of God, in the sense of the spiritual life, are one, and mutually condition each other.—A man becomes a king, in the service of God, only when he continually sacrifices or surrenders all things to Him in pure self-renunciation, as a priest.—A man becomes a priest of the Eternal Spirit only when he can administer kingly possessions in kingly freedom.—The first doxology: 1. Glory; 2. Dominion; 3. Both to continue into the æons.—Whereby can I perceive that God is glorified on earth? 1. When no earthly glory obscures, like a cloud, this heavenly Sun. 2. When His glory is duly seen and appreciated in the reflected lustre of all that is holy and glorious on earth.—In God’s Kingdom, His dominion is based upon His glory, as is His glory upon His dominion.—What is the meaning of eternities [æons? the G. V. has: von Ewigkeit zu Ewigkeit=from eternity to eternity]? Infinite revelation of the Divine Essence. Infinite unfolding of a blessed life. Infinite development and unveilment of the world.—The Biblical Amen: The perfected Personality of Christ; Perfected phase of the Kingdom; Perfected certitude of prayer.—[Rev 1:7.] The Theme of the Book: He cometh.—Also the theme of worldly history; of religious presentiments; of science and of art.—With the clouds. As high and free as are the clouds as they emerge to view out of the depths of Heaven; as hidden and as manifest as the lightning in the cloud; as elevated above the earth, and as surely destined for the earth.—And every eye shall see Him. One day these eyes of ours shall show to each and all of us the Lord.—How this announcement finds its incipient fulfillment in every act of worship that we perform: We look up to Him. We perceive ourselves to be guilty in respect of the cross of Christ. We celebrate His Passion and His Death with sacred lamentations for the Dead.—This prophecy shall one day become a completed reality.—With Christ’s Coming Sunday comes; true and unceasing worship comes; the word of revelation comes upon the whole earth.—Even His enemies must see Him; must recognize their guilt in respect of Him in their guilt in respect of their inmost selves; must join, in one way or another, in the last lamentation over Him.—[Rev 1:8.] In the Coming of Christ, God shall perfectly manifest Himself as Jehovah, the Covenant God:—faithful to Himself—faithful to His people—faithful to His justice toward all.—Alpha and Omega; or the most profound idea elementarily illustrated. As the whole expression embraces the entire spirit-world, so the Spirit of God comprehends the beginning, the middle, and the end of things.—Import of the fact that God will not perfectly manifest Himself until the end of the course of this world; that He is utterly distinct from (1) fate, (2) despotism, (3) arbitrariness, (4) chance.—On the Martyrs.—On Divine Service.—On the Feast of Trinity.—On Confirmation.
Comp. Ex. 19.; Isa. 6.; Ezek. 1.; Dan. 7.; Zech. 12.; Matt. 24:30, et al.
STARKE: All revelations of God come to us through Christ.—The most eminent function of an Apostle or Teacher is to testify of Christ.—Such a reading and hearing of Holy Scripture as is pleasing to God, confers blessedness.—The wish:  The utterer of the wish;  The objects of the wish;  The subject of the wish;  The One to Whom the wish is addressed.—CRAMER: The condition of a Christian a noble condition.—Ναὶ, ἀμὴν Esther gemina confirmatio, una græca, altera hebraica.
SANDER (“Versuch einer Erklärung,” 1829, see p. 73): If the Revelation of John be compared with the rest of the Sacred Writings, especially those of the Prophets, it will be found that John uses scarce any image that is not contained in these and that might not be explained through them. Compare Rev. 1. and Ezek. 1:26; Isa. 6., etc. (Moreover, the homogeneousness of the images presupposes the homogeneousness of the facts.) Only in John’s writings all those things which in the other Prophets are more scattered, are concentrated; he catches, as it were, in the focus of a burning-glass all the rays of individual Prophets, so that it is not to be wondered at that the brightness thence resultant dazzles many.
WAECHTLER (see p. 74): A knowledge of the Revelation of St. John is highly important for all Christians (Rev. 1:1–3)—Grace and peace from God, the inexhaustible Fountain of all comfort (Rev 1:4–6).
BÖHMER (see p. 73): In the Christian creed, the Holy Ghost is placed after the Father and the Son, as proceeding from Them both. John, however, is writing, not a system of divinity, but a sacred history, in which the general point of departure is the all-sovereign eternal God; next are revealed the powers which prepare the way for the fulfillment of His counsel of salvation, and last comes Christ Himself—first, as the true and highest Prophet, the “faithful Witness,” then as the “First-born of the dead,” and finally as the “Prince of the kings of the earth.”
[BARNES: Rev 1:7. And every eye shall see Him. Every one has this in certain prospect, that he shall see the Son of Man coming as a Judge.]
On the literature (see above, p. 74). LILIENTHAL, Bibl. Archivarius, p. 808.—DANZ, p. 57 and Supplement, p. 6.
FIRST OR EXEGETICAL DIVISION
FIRST OR EXEGETICAL DIVISION
Comp. the Gospel according to John, Rev 1:1–18; 1 John 1:1–3
REV 1:1. THE REVELATION.
REV 1:2. JOHN.
REV 1:3. THE READERS IN GENERAL.
REV 1:5. THE IMMEDIATE READERS: THE SEVEN CHURCHES, AS SUCH—ALSO, HOWEVER, AS REPRESENTATIVES OF THE CHURCH IN ITS TOTALITY. (THE GENERAL DEDICATION OF THE REVELATION TO THE SEVEN CHURCHES MUST BE DISTINGUISHED FROM THE SEVEN EPISTLES, WHICH ARE NOT EPISCOPAL, BUT PROPHETIC, ORIGINATING IN THE VISION AND FORMING A PART OF THE APOCALYPSE ITSELF.)
REV 1:4, 5, 6. GREETING AND BENEDICTION (GOD, JEHOVAH. THE SEVEN SPIRITS. CHRIST, THE FAITHFUL WITNESS. HIS DIGNITY AND WORK. DIGNITY OF CHRISTIANS).
REV 1:7, 8. ANNOUNCEMENT OF CHRIST’S COMING; THE THEME OF THE BOOK.
THE REVELATION OF ST. [om. ST.] JOHN THE DIVINE [om. THE DIVINE1]
1The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which [what things] must shortly [Lange: in swift succession] come to pass; and he sent [sending] and [om. and] signified it [om. it]2 by his angel unto his servant John: 2Who bare record [testified] of the word [Lange: Logos=Word] of God, and of [om. of] the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of [om. and of]3 3all things that [whatsoever things] he saw. Blessed is he that readeth,4 [aloud] and they that hear4 the words5 of this [the] prophecy, and keep those [the] things which are written therein: for the time [Lange: decision-time]5 is at hand [near].
DEDICATION AND GREETING [WITH DOXOLOGY]
4John to the seven churches which are [om. which are]6 in Asia: Grace be [om. be] unto you, and peace, from him which [who] is, [om.,] and which [who] was, [om.,] and which [who] is to come [cometh]7; and from the seven Spirits8 which [that] are before his throne; 5And from Jesus Christ, who is [om. who is] the faithful witness, and [om. and] the first-begotten [first-born] of9 the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved [loveth10] us, and washed11 6us from12 our13 sins in his own [om. own] blood, and [ins. he] hath made us kings [om. kings—ins. a kingdom]14 and [om. and] priests unto [ins. his] God and his [om. his] Father; to him be glory and dominion forever and ever [into the ages of the ages].15 Amen.
THE ANNOUNCEMENT. THEME OF THE BOOK
7Behold, he cometh with [ins. the] clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also [om. also] which [who] pierced him: and all kindreds [the tribes] of the earth 8shall wail because of him. Even so [Yea], Amen. I am [ins. the] Alpha and [ins. the] Omega, the beginning and the ending [om. the beginning and the ending,]16 saith the Lord [ins. God],17 which [who] is, [om.,] and which [who] was, [om.,] and which is to come [who cometh], the Almighty [or All-ruler].18
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
a. THE SUPERSCRIPTION
[In this section the nature, subject, and writer of the Book are declared, and the importance of the subject indicated by a benediction on those who shall hear and read it in the spirit of obedience. (Altered from Alford).—E. R. C.]
See very rigorous revisions of the text by Kelly.—On John the Theologian, see Biographies of John.
Rev 1:1. Revelation of Jesus Christ. Indicative not of the form of the Book, but of its substance. The Book likewise receives its title from its subject-matter. Inadequate conceptions of the essence of the Apocalypse may be found in the works of Bunsen and Holtzmann. [Ἀποκάλυψις is employed in the New Testament as indicating—1. The disclosure by word or symbol of that which is hidden or future, Rom. 16:25; 1 Cor. 14:6, 26; 2 Cor. 12:1, 7; Gal. 1:12, 2:2; Eph. 2:3; 2. The manifestation in substance of that which was hidden or future, Rom. 2:5, 8:19; 1 Cor. 1:7; 2 Thess. 1:7; 1 Pet. 1:1, 13; 3. Illumination (possibly) Luke 2:32; this meaning, however, may be resolved into the first. It is manifest from the following δεῖξαι that the term is here employed in the first of these senses. The following from the Treatise of Sir Isaac Newton is well worthy of consideration: “The Apocalypse of John is written in the same style and language with the prophecies of Daniel, and hath the same relation to them which they have to one another, so that all of them together make but one complete prophecy.—The prophecy is distinguished into seven successive parts; by the opening of the seven seals of the book which Daniel was commanded to seal up; and hence it is called the Apocalypse or Revelation of Jesus Christ.”—E. R. C.]—Of Jesus Christ.—Genit. subj.: Christ the mediatory cause.—God, in the absolute sense, as the Father, being the primal source of all things, is likewise the fountain of Revelation.—[Which God gave unto Him.—God, i. e. the Father: Christ, the Mediator, knows not the times and seasons (καιρούς, Rev 1:3) which the Father hath put in His own power, save as they are revealed to Him. Comp. Acts 1:7; Mark 13:32.—E. R. C.]
To show unto His servants.—Statement of the purpose: To set before the eyes of the servants of Christ. Hengstenberg: the prophets. Ebrard: believers. These servants we hold to be believers who are in a condition to discuss the mysteries of the Apocalypse with the Church proper.—Such things are to be shown as must come to pass, in the sense of Providence, in the Christian apprehension of the term. [Must, “by the necessity of the divine decree. See Rev 4:1; Matt. 21:6, 26:54; Dan. 11:28.”—ALFORD.—E. R. C.]
In swift succession [shortly].—Different interpretations of ἐν τάχει. Ebrard correctly interprets it as referring to the rapidity of the course of the events prophesied.19 Düsterdieck maintains that this view is inconsistent with ἐγγύς, Rev 1:3. But the καιρός is εγγύς, irrespective of the length of time consumed by what is to come to pass. The whole course of the καιρός has for its final component part a period of a thousand years. The expression: what shall come to pass, cannot, however, be paraphrased by: what shall begin to come to pass. That exegetical prejudice which is incapable of distinguishing between religious and chronological dates, comes in play here (see Düsterdieck against Vitringa and others).—Ἐσήμανεν is a modification of δεῖξαι, indicative of the signs employed, the symbolical representation.20 It relates to Christ. [Christ is the sender; see Rev 22:16.—E. R. C.] Hence, there is a change of construction, according to Düsterdieck and others.
Sending,21 ἀποστείλας; absolute.—By His angel (compare Rev 22:6).—In respect to the various hypotheses concerning these words—the angel of the Lord—Gabriel—the angel who accompanied the Apocalyptist, or who did but throw him into his rapt state, etc.—we refer to the Comm. on Genesis, p. 385 sqq. [Am. Ed.]. From this Angel of Christ, in His universal form, particular angelic appearances are to be distinguished. Düsterdieck regards the term as generic, signifying that particular angel of whom Christ made use in each particular case. If we assume the angelic visible appearance of Christ to be the angel of the Apocalypse (comp. Acts 12:11, 15), we do indeed encounter a difficulty in the fact that the angel designates Himself in Rev 22:9, as σύνδουλος; doubtless, however, it suffices to remark that He appears to the apostle in the quality of an angel.22
To His servant John.—Is it conceivable that a presbyter John could have applied this emphatic term to himself, so long as the memory of the great Apostle John endured?
Rev 1:2. Who testified.—According to Düsterdieck and many others (from Andreas of Cæsarea to Bleek, Lücke, Ewald, II.) the whole of Rev 1:2d refers to nothing but the present scripture. This supposition they hold to be in nowise inconsistent with ἐμαρτύρηαε. Not only, however, is the Aorist thus rendered of no distinctive value, but the μαρτυρεῖν and μαρτυρία are likewise deprived of their full weight. Neither to a vision nor to the report of a vision could these expressions be applied. We, therefore, with many others—from Ambrosiaster to Eichhorn—refer this passage to what was known as the earlier ministry of John; not simply to his Gospel, but, with Ebrard, to his whole evangelical and apostolic witness, corroborated by his martyrhood, and familiar to his readers.23
The Word of God (comp. Rev 19:13).—Why should not the Logos be intended, as Ebrard and others maintain? [See the preceding extract.—E. R. C.]
The testimony [Zeugnissthat=witness-act] of Jesus Christ.—Not testimonium de Christo (Lyra), and still less the angelic message of Christ. [See preceding extract.—E. R. C.] How natural it was for the Apostle, in his martyrhood, to think of Christ as the great Martyr (see Rev 1:5).—Ὅσα εἶδε. Düsterdieck: The visions here described. Comp. against this view 1 John 1:1; Gosp. of John 1:14, 19:35.—The expression embraces the whole witness of John concerning his whole view of the glory of Christ, in the grandeur of His deeds and demonstrations.
Rev 1:3. Blessed is [or be] he. [Comp. Matt. 5:3–11.—E. R. C.]—This conveys an idea of the importance of this book totally different from that which is represented by many moderns—Schleiermacher, for instance, in his Introduction to the New Testament. Düsterdieck affirms that this μακάριος has reference only to a participation in the kingdom of glory, and not to conservation in the conflicts which precede its establishment—as if the two ideas were separable.—That readeth, and they that hear. Representation of a religious assembly. If the hearing be intended to convey the idea of religious earnestness [comp. Rev 2:6, 11, 17, 29, 3:6, 13, 22, &c.—E. R. C.] thus being emphatic, why may not the reading be expressive of the same idea? [These words imply the duty of striving to understand—a duty still further implied by the following direction to keep. How can that be kept which is not understood? There are those who refrain from the study of unfulfilled prophecy, upon the ground that “the prophecies were not designed to make us prophets.” This is true; but a prophet is one thing, and an understander of prophecy is another. There is, indeed, a curious prying into things not revealed, an effort to make determinate those times and seasons which our Lord has expressly declared are (for us) left indeterminate (comp. Matt. 24:36; Acts 1:7). Such conduct, however, is entirely different from the reverential, prayerful study of the word as revealed. It should be remembered that our Lord rebuked the Jews and His disciples for not understanding the prophecies relating to His first Advent, (comp. John 5:39, 46; Luke 11:52; Matt. 16:3; Luke 24:25); and that His last great eschatological discourse was delivered that His people might be fore-warned (comp. Matt. 24:4, 15, 24, 25, 33)—the implication, of course, being that it should be studied. It is not intended by these remarks to assert that a full and complete understanding of all prophecies will be attained to, by all who faithfully study; their design is to set forth the duty of study. Doubtless, many things will remain dark to the most earnest students, even to the beginning of the end; it may be confidently believed, however, that to such, much important knowledge will be vouchsafed which will be withheld from the negligent; and, furthermore, that all knowledge expedient for them to possess will be granted.—E. R. C.]—The words of the prophecy. These eschatological predictions.—And keep. An edifying impression on the heart is not the sole thing intended here; reference is had to the faithful holding fast of all things set down in this prophecy, and to a corresponding observation of the signs of the times.
For the decision-time. This is not to be considered as relating to μακάριος, as Düsterdieck thinks, for the blessedness cannot refer to the future alone; that time is intended when that which relates to the last things shall begin—hence ὁ καιρός. [The classical meaning of καίρός is the right measure, the right proportion. In the New Testament it is used to indicate a time, a period; but it seems to carry with it its classical force of determinate proportion—it is a season fixed as to time of occurrence and duration. Comp. Matt. 8:29, 13:30, 21:34, 26:18, John 5:4; Acts 1:7, 17:27; Rev. 12:14, etc. But what καιρός is here referred to? Is it not, manifestly, the entire period, viewed as a unit, in which the things symbolically seen by the Apocalyptist should come to pass?—a period near to the Apostle when he wrote; to us, present.—E. R. C.]
b. DEDICATION AND GREETING [WITH DOXOLOGY]
The view of Hengstenberg and Ebrard,24 who regard this dedication, from Rev 1:4–6, as relating only to the seven epistles, in antithesis to the established theory, is opposed to the organic simplicity of the book. The entire prologue belongs to the entire book, as does the entire epilogue. The seven churches, however, as the congregations of the first readers, represent the entire Christian reading-world; just as the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts composed by him, were not designed for Theophilus alone.
Rev 1:4. John to the seven churches.—On the relation of the Apostle John to the Church in Asia Minor, comp. Church History. The fact that the seven churches formed an ecclesiastical diocese, extending from the metropolis of Ephesus to Laodicea, is intimated by the address of the Epistle to the Ephesians, taken in connection with Col. 4:16. [It is difficult to perceive the intimation. Most certainly the fact that neighboring Churches are exhorted to exchange epistles directed to them respectively, does not imply that they belong to one diocese.—E. R. C.] On the accounts of John’s labors in Ephesus, comp. Steitz. The reality of the septenary does not preclude its symbolical import.
Asia.—In the narrowest sense—proconsular Asia. See Winer and others. [See an exceedingly valuable and interesting passage in Conybeare and Howson’s Life and Epistles of St. Paul, Vol. I. Rev 8. Also Smith and Kitto.—E. R. C.]
Grace be with you and peace.—As in the writings of the Apostle Paul principally. Comp. also 2 John 3.
From the: He is present, etc.—Declaration of the name of Jehovah, not an etymological analysis of it, as earlier exegetes imagined (see the citation of Bengel in Düsterdieck). The declaration He is, He was, He cometh, or He is to come, does not do full justice to the idea, for the word Jehovah signifies that God is ever present, at hand, for His people, as the faithful covenant-keeping God; neither is this idea contained in the expression who is, etc. [Alford writes: “A paraphrase of the unspeakable name יהוָֹה, resembling the paraphrase אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה in Exod. 3:14, for which the Jerusalem Targum has, as here, qui fuit, est, et erit: as has the Targum of Jonathan in Deut. 32:39; Schemoth R. 3. f. 105, 2: ‘Dixit Deus S. B. ad Mosen: Ego fui et adhuc sum, et ero in posterum.’ Schöttg., Wetst., De Wette.”—E. R. C.] On the [grammatical] imparity of this formula, and the attempts to smooth it down (τοῦ-ἦν-ἐρχόμενος), see Düsterdieck, page 100. [Trench, in his Com. on the Epistles to the Seven Churches, thus treats of “the departure from the ordinary rules of grammar: Doubtless, the immutability of God, ‘the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever’ (Heb. 13:8), is intended to be expressed in this immutability of the name of God, in this absolute resistance to change or even modification which that name here presents. ‘I am the Lord; I change not’ (Mal. 3:6), this is what is here declared.”—E. R. C.] The name is no direct designation of the Trinity; at most, it contains but an indirect allusion to the three economies.
From the seven Spirits.—See Is. 11:2; Rev. 3:1; 4:5; 5:6. The seven Spirits burn like lamps [Germ. Fackeln, torches] before the throne, as Spirits of God, and are at the same time seven eyes of the Lamb. By this we understand seven ground-forms of the revelation of the Logos or heavenly Christ in the world (hence ideals of Christ; lamps of God; eyes of Christ); neither, therefore, seven properties of the Holy Ghost, though, the Spirit of God is their unitous life; nor properties of God (Eichhorn); nor the symbolical totality of the angels (Lyra); nor the seven archangels, in accordance with the traditional view (of these archangels six only are grouped together on canonical and apocryphal ground); as in Is. 11:2, the six spirits are merged in the unity of the septenary [Siebenzahl];25 nor seven of the ten Sephiroth (Herder). We must likewise distinguish from these seven Spirits the Spirit who speaks to the churches (Rev 2:7, 11:29); with reference to Zech. 3:9, 4:6, 10.26
Rev 1:5. From Jesus Christ.—From Him also the blessing of grace and peace comes; hence, to Him divine operations are attributable.
[Who is].—The nominative, making a change in the construction, manifestly gives prominence to the three following designations of Christ as favorite Apocalyptic names. As God Himself, in an Apocalyptic view, is preëminently He Who is present, Who was present, and Who draweth nigh [present], so Christ is, first, the Great Martyr in a unique sense; secondly, the Conqueror of death; thirdly, the Prince of the kings of the earth. In accordance with the sense, a τοῦ ὁ would be in place here also. These names, therefore, serve neither as a foundation for that which follows nor for that which precedes them, though it is not without reason that Ebrard parallelizes these three names of Christ with the following three soteriological operations. With the faithful Witness correspond the words: Who loveth us, etc. The three offices of Christ are likewise suggested here, though Düsterdieck disputes even this. We must remark that the reading λύσαντι would convert the high-priestly function into a kingly one.
The faithful Witness.—See Rev 3:14; also Rev 19:11, 21:5, 22:6.—Düsterdieck apprehends this as intimating the fact that Christ is the Mediator of all divine revelation, and disputes the very reference in point; viz.: to the fact that Christ, in the extremity of temptation under suffering, sealed the revelation of God with His testimony (Ebrard). The revelation of God is likewise enwrapped in both the following points; the First-born and the Prince. Other references [of the faithful Witness—TR.] either to the fulfillment of threats and promises, or to the truth of the apocalyptic words, pass by the fundamental idea. [The following comment of Richard of St. Victor, quoted by Trench, sets forth the truths involved in this appellation in great fullness: “Testis fidelis, quia, de omnibus quæ per Eum testificanda erant in mundo testimonium fidele perhibuit. Testis fidelis, quia quæcunque audivit a Patre fideliter discipulis suis nota fecit. Testis fidelis, quia viam Dei in veritate docuit, nee Ei cura de aliquo fuit, nee personas hominum respexit. Testis fidelis, quia reprobis damnationem, et electis salvationem nunciavit. Testis fidelis, quia veritatem quam verbis docuit, miraculis confirmavit. Testis fidelis quia testimonium Sibi a Patre nec in morte negavit. Testis fidelis, quia de operibus malorum et bonorum in die judicii testimonium verum dabit.”—E. R. C.]
The First-born of the dead.—See Col. 1:18; 1 Cor. 15:20.—The idea of the ancient Church, that the day of a man’s death is the day of his higher birth, was founded upon fact in the history of Jesus, and upon the word of the apostles. [The reference however, of the title First-born of the dead was not to a glorification co-incident with death, but to the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Comp. Col. 1:18; 1 Cor. 15:20, 23.—E. R. C.] Christ, according to the epistle to the Colossians, is the ἀρχή in a two-fold sense: the ἀρχή of the creation and of the resurrection; the latter is of course implied here, for the heavenly birth of Christ is the efficient cause of the resurrection of the dead (Eph. 1:19 sqq.).27
The PRINCE of the Kings.—In Rev 19:16, He is called the KING of kings. There He has taken possession of the kingdom; in the beginning of the Apocalypse He has but unfolded the power and right of a king in a princely manner before the eyes of His people, and commenced to give proof thereof in the world; see Matt. 28:18; Acts 13:33; Phil. 2:6 sqq. Comp. Ps. 110; Is. 53, and other passages. As the kingly principle, even now dynamically ruling over the kings of the earth, and destined in the end to prevail over the Antichristian powers also, He works on and on until His appearance as the King proper.
The three names jointly form the foundation for the truth of the facts of the Apocalypse. The whole of divine revelation, whose goal is a new world, is sealed by the faithful Witness; the principial foundation of its work of renewal—a deadly work to the old world—is in the First-born; it is continually at work and unfolding its royal power in the Prince.
From Him who loveth us.—According to Düsterdieck [the E. V., Lachmann and Alford], the doxological formula begins here. The doxology at the close of Rev 1:6, however, is independent;28 it is founded upon all that has been previously affirmed of Christ. Düsterdieck rightly insists upon the significancy of the present [tense] form ἀγαπῶντι (Rev 22:17;29 Rom. 8:37). The real motive for the foundation of a new world is the loving glance of God and Christ at the men of God, who are to be the fruits of creation and redemption.
And washed us.—It is an unmistakable fact that one and the same root lies at the foundation of both λούειν and λύειν;30 that the one involves the other, and that both are embraced in this concrete expression of Scripture. Nevertheless, the ideas of liberation from the guilt [reatus = liability to punishment.—E. R. C.] of sin and liberation from the bondage of sin are contra-distinguished, not only in doctrinal theology, but also in the Holy Scriptures. Now it is manifest that in Rev 7:14, a liberation from guilt is meant; so likewise in 1 John 1:7. These analogies, as well as the consideration that an atonement for the guilt of sin lies at the foundation of a redemption from its power, add weight to the remark that the operation of Christ’s blood is distinct from His special act of making us kings. We cannot, therefore, with Düsterdieck, find “substantially the same idea in both readings.”
Rev 1:6. A kingdom.—It is true that believers are, in a spiritual sense, kings as well as priests. They are true priests, however, through individual self-sacrifice. It is impossible for them, on the other hand, to exercise an individual government, thus encroaching upon the rights of Christian fellowship;—kings they can be only in the community of the Church. Hence there are material reasons, as well as documentary ones, for preferring the more difficult reading ἡμᾶς to ἡμῖν and ἡμῶν; though the abstract fact that Christians are spiritually possessed of kingly dignity is to be maintained; that fact is also supported by Rev 5:10 (βασιλεύειν). The term, then, denotes neither, on the one hand, a people of kings, nor, on the other: the subjects of the kingdom, for the essential element in this kingdom is that the members of it rule by serving and serve by ruling (Matt. 20:25 sqq.) or the identity of sovereignty and subjection [serving. The ideas of serving and subjection are widely different.—E. R. C.] Christians, therefore, are a kingdom, because they are priests,—by virtue of a self-abnegation, heavenly in its purity. (On the Old Testament type, see Exodus 19) [See Excursus at the end of the section.—E. R. C.]
To His God.—Ἀυτοῦ “appertains to the whole term τῷ θεῷ καὶ πατρί.” (Düsterdieck, against De Wette and Ebrard.) Believers are priests on the basis of the High-Priesthood of Christ, because, with reconciled consciences, they have immediate access to God in prayer for themselves and intercession for others (Rom. 5:2), in the spirit of self-surrender, giving proof of this spirit in their sufferings, and that not only as witnesses (Rom. 12:1); these sufferings are of course (as Ebrard remarks in reference to Col. 1:24) to be distinguished from the perfect expiatory passion of Christ. “We find a kindred conception in Rev 21:22, where the new Jerusalem is represented as destitute of a temple.” (Düsterdieck.)
To Him be.—According to De Wette and Düsterdieck, δόξα should be supplemented by ἐστί, after the manner of 1 Pet. 4:11. A more obvious explanation of the ellipsis is in accordance with the sense of Rev. 4:9, 11, and other passages. [Alford remarks: “The like ambiguity is found in all doxological sentences.”—E. R. C.]
c. THE ANNOUNCEMENT. THE THEME
Rev 1:7. Behold, He cometh.—In the following words the Apostle announces the theme of his book with prophetic vivacity. Behold, ἰδού (see Rev 16:15). He directs the attention of his readers to a new and grand fact as one who himself beholds and wonders. This form is likewise met with in the Gospels.—He cometh. Not: He shall come. The strong Apocalyptic term He cometh, for He cometh quickly, is partly based upon the idea that He is continually coming—continually on the way.
With the clouds.—Dan. 7:13; Mark 14:62.—“Among the later Jews the Messiah is actually called the Cloud-Man” (Düsterdieck after Ewald). God also is said to have His dwelling among the clouds (Ps. 97:2, 18:11). The cloud is, so to speak, a material symbol of the divine presence, or the divine mystery—partly veiling, partly revealing. [We are not to suppose, however, that the declaration “He cometh with clouds” is figurative. The clouds with which He will come may be symbolic, but they will be real. Of the literal fulfillment of a prophecy solemnly repeated by our Lord in His discourse on the Mount of Olives (Matt. 24:30), and again to the High Priest, before the Sanhedrin, on the occasion of His trial (Matt. 26:64; Mark 14:62); and referred to in the account of the ascension (Acts 1:9, 11);—all under circumstances that preclude the idea of figure;—there should be no doubts.—E. R. C.]
Every eye.—All mankind; not believers simply (Matt. 25:32).
And they who pierced Him.—According to Düsterdieck, this is significant of the Jews alone. The following sentence he renders: and all the Gentiles shall wail because of Him. This, however, does not accord with Zechariah 12:10. Why should not those who at the first pierced the Lord be the mourners afterwards? And if a mere external historical meaning be attached to the former clause, the saying would apply to a few individual Jews only. The text leaves the question as to whether, and to what degree, repentance is involved, undecided. An element of judgment, startling to all, is enwrapped in the appearance of the Crucified One. Particular interpretations by Ebrard and Düsterdieck, see in the work of the latter, p. 116. The ἐξεκέντησαν appears also in John 19:37. It was for the Apostle a point of the highest symbolical significance. [Alford makes the following important comment: “As there (John 19:36) St. John evidently shows what a deep impression the whole circumstance here referred to produced on his own mind, so it is remarkable here that he should again take up the prophecy of Zechariah (12:10) which he there cites, and speak of it as fulfilled. That this should be so, and that it should be done with the same word ἐξεκέντησαν, not found in the LXX. of the passage, is a strong presumption that the Gospel and the Apocalypse were written by the same person.”—E. R. C.]
Yea (ναὶ), amen.—Double assurance in the Greek and Hebrew.
Rev 1:8. Alpha and Omega—(Rev 21:6).—Indication of the principle and the final goal of all things, in a symbolism drawn from the Greek alphabet (see Rom. 11:36). Hence the interpolated gloss by way of exegesis. The corresponding Jewish symbolism says: from א to ת. The deduction of the divine Essence from the revelation of that Essence in the world forms the foundation for the deduction of the divine Rule, in accordance with the divine Essence as revealed; and upon this latter deduction the certainty of the last things is based.
The All-ruler.—It is not without reason that this expression παντοκράτωρ is of constant occurrence in the Apocalypse. It is one of the tasks of the last times to hold fast this assurance, notwithstanding all appearance to the contrary. [The Apocalypse is the only portion of the New Testament in which the word occurs, except in 2 Cor. 6:18. It is, however, of frequent occurrence in the Septuagint, and to that book we must look for the determination of its meaning. In Job it is used to translate שַׁרַּי, the Almighty; elsewhere it is employed as the second member of the compound expression (κύριος παντοκράτωρ) which most frequently represents—not translates—the Hebrew compound יְהוָֹה צְנָאוֹת Jehovah of hosts. (Sometimes the second term is translated by τῶν δυνάμεων (Ps. 24:10), τῶν στρατιῶν (Amos 6:14), and frequently it is reproduced, σαββαώθ, as in Is. 1:9). Now, it is impossible to suppose that the Seventy regarded παντοκράτωρ as the Greek equivalent for צְנָאוֹת; the most natural supposition is that they looked upon the entire Hebrew expression as an ellipsis for יְהוָֹה אֱלהֵֹי צְבָאית, which would give as the meaning of the Greek term one consistent with its etymology, viz.: God of hosts. This supposition is confirmed by the fact that, in several instances where the three terms occur, as in Jer. 5:14, 15:16, 44:7; Amos 3:13 (in this instance four), παντοκράτωρ is used to render the last two. From all these facts it is natural to conclude that it was used as a term expressive of infinite supremacy, including the two correlated ideas of universal dominion (God of hosts) and almighty power. This meaning, which is most in accordance with the classical and sacred usage of the words from which παντοκράτωρ is compounded, and which is consistent with every instance of its use in the New Testament, is, almost certainly, the meaning that should be attached to it.—E. R. C.]
So the Rec.; Cod. B.* has the Theologian [Divine] and Evangelist. [Lach., Alf., Treg., Tisch., with א. C., give simply Ἀποκάλυψις Ἰωάννου. The title of A. is lost.—E. R. C.]
Rev 1:1. [“Whether ἐσήμανεν has its object expressed in ἥν of this verb, or in ὅσα εἶδε of Rev 1:2, or whether the object is to be supplied by a pronoun for ἀποκάλυψις, or for & δεῖ γενέσθαι, or, lastly, whether the verb is used absolutely, are questions, some of them at least, more difficult than important, into which we need not enter. A translation, especially of the divine oracles, ought not to be more explicit and determinate than the original.—No object is supplied by Wick., Tyn., Cran., Gen., Rheims,—Vulg., Syr.,—Erasm., Vat., Castal., Cocc., Vitr., Ros., Greenf., Lord, Kenr.”—NOTE OF DR. LILLIE IN HIS TRANSLATION FOR THE A. M. BIB. UNION.—E. R. C.]
Rev 1:2. The τε after ὅσα of the Rec. disturbs the sense, and is omitted, according to A. B.* C. א. There is also an erroneous exegetical addition in [some] minuscules. Thus Düsterdieck. [Omitted by Crit. Eds. generally.—E. R. C.]
Rev 1:3. Ὁ ἀναγινώσκων καὶ οἱ ἀκούοντες. Unimportant variations and additions in minuscules.
Rev 1:3. [Lach., Alf., Treg., Tisch. (1859) give τοὺς λόγους with A. C. P., Vulg., etc.; Tisch. (8th Ed.), with א. B.,* gives τὸν λόγον.—E. R. C.]
Rev 1:4. The words which are do not occur in the Edition of 1611.—E. R. C.]
Rev 1:4. Variations: before ὁ ὢν α τοῦ (on which see Delitzsch, Handschriftliche Funde), also θεοῦ, and instead of ὁ, ὃς. [Rec. gives τοῦ before ὁ ὢν; B.* gives Θεοῦ; Lach., Alf., Treg. Tisch., with א. A. C., etc., give simply ἀπὸ ὁ ὤν. The last mentioned reading is adopted in the text. The translation is to come, although not erroneous, is objectionable, as it is liable to have put upon it the erroneous meaning, is to be. The Rheims, following the Vulgate, translates and which [who] shall come. (See Trench On the Epistles to the Seven, Churches). Still better is the translation given above.—E. R. C.]
Rev 1:4. Πνευμάτων ἅ; B.* C. The additions are explanatory. [Lach., Alf, and Tisch., read as above; for ἅ given by B*. C, Treg. reads τῶν with א. A.; Rec., in accordance with P., inserts ἐστίν alter ἅ, which is omitted by א. A. B*. C., etc.—E. R. C.]
Rev 1:5. The ἐκ is omitted [by Crit. Eds. generally] in accordance with א. A. B*. C. [(Also by P. Vulg. Cop. Syr., etc.) The German Vers. reads “from the dead.” Rec. gives ἐκ.—E. R. C.]
Rev 1:5. Τῷ ἀγαπῶντι, א. A. B*. C. [So read Lach., Alf., Treg., and Tisch.—E. R. C.]
Rev 1:5. Λούσαντι according to B*. Vulg.; more Johannean than λύσαντι. See, however, Düsterdieck. [Lachm., Treg., and Tisch. (8th Ed.) give λύσαντι in accordance with א. A. C.; Alford presents both readings (but brackets the o), λούσαντι, in accordance with B*. P., Vulg. etc. Tisch. (1859) gave λούσαντι.—E. R. C.]
Rev 1:5. [Lach., Alf., Treg., Tisch. (8th Ed.) give ἐκ with א. A. C., etc.; Tisch. (1859) gives ἀπό with P. B*.—E. R. C.]
Rev 1:5. Ἡμῶν is better established than the omission of it. [Lach., Treg., and Tisch., give ἡμῶν with א. C. P. B*.; Lach. (Min. Ed.) omits with A.; Alford brackets.—E. R. C.]
Rev 1:6. The reading βασιλείαν established by א*. A. C., etc., against βασιλεῖς [by Rec. and P., and βασίλειον by B*.—E. R. C.] Ἡμᾶς established by א. and B*. against ἡμῖν and ἡμῶν. [Alf. and Tisch. read ἡμᾶς with א. B*. P. Vulg. (Cl.), etc.; Lach. (Ed. Maj.) gives ἡμῶν in accordance with C., Alford cites in favor of this reading the following MSS. of the Vulgate—Amiat., Fuld., Harl., Toll. Lach. (Ed. Min.), and Treg., give ἡμῖν with A. The correct reading of each word is exceedingly uncertain.—E. R. C.]
Rev 1:6. [Lach. (Ed. Min.), Tisch. (1859), and Alf., omit τῶν αἰώνων with A. P.; Lach. (Ed. Maj.), Treg., Tisch. (8th Ed.) and Lange retain it with א. B* C., etc., Vulgate.—E. R. C.]
Rev 1:8. The unauthorized addition ἀρχὴ καὶ τέλος is explanatory. [These words find no place in any one of the old Codices.—E. R. C.]
Rev 1:8. Κύριος ὁ Θεός against the Rec. [They are given by Crit. Eds., with א. A. B*. C. P., etc.—E. R. C.]
Rev 1:8. [For the translation All-ruler see Add. Com. on Rev 1:8, p. 93.—E. R. C.]
[The contrary opinion as to the meaning of ἐν τάχει, is ably set forth by ALFORD in the following extract: “The context, the repetition below, ὁ γὰρ καιρὸς ἐγγύς, and the parallel, Rev 22:6, followed ib. 7, by ἰδοὺ ἔρχομαι ταχύ, fix this meanings (before long) here, as distinguished from the other of swiftly, which indeed would be hardly intelligible with the historic aorist γενέσθαι. This expression, as De Wette well remarks, must not be urged to signify that the events of apocalyptic prophecy were to be close at hand; for we have a key to its meaning in Luke 18:7, 8, where long delay is evidently implied.”—E. R. C.]
[This restriction of the meaning of σημαίνω is not in accordance with the other instances of its use in the New Testament (three of the five, it will be observed, being by John), John 12:33, 18:32, 21:19, Acts 11:28, 25:27. In all these instances the signifying was by word and not by symbol.—E. R. C.]
[Lange translates, in that he sent (indem er Botschaft sandte), a German idiom equivalent to the sending, with which the E. V. in this translation is corrected.—E. R. C.]
[The comparison of Acts 12:11 with 15, most certainly does not show that by “the angel of the Lord,” Rev 1:11, it was intended to indicate in any sense “a visible appearance of Christ.” The disciples, manifestly, did not intend to designate Peter himself by that which they styled his angel—at the most, all they could have intended was his spiritual representative, a person or thing distinct from himself. On the supposition that by “the Angel of the Lord” it was intended to designate some special representative of Christ, he would be distinct from Christ, and, as a creature, would represent himself as a σύνδουλος. On the supposition that by the Angel was meant Christ Himself, it is impossible satisfactorily to explain the language of Rev 22:9. The explanation of Lange does not suffice. However He might have appeared (either subjectively or objectively) to the Apostle, it is impossible to conceive of Him as using the language there attributed to the angel.—E. R. C.]
[As supporting this view, see John 21:24; 1 John 1:1, 2. On the other hand, ALFORD writes: “The objections to Ebrard’s reference are to me insuperable. First, as to its introduction with the simple, relative ὅς. We may safely say that, had any previous writing or act been intended, we should have had ὅς καὶ, or even more than this. … Next, as to the things witnessed. The words ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ κ. ἡ μαρτυρία Ἰ Χρ. cannot with any likelihood be taken to mean ‘the (personal) Word of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ;’ for why, if the former term refer to Christ personally, should He be introduced in the second member under a different name? Besides, the words occur again below, Rev 1:9, as indicating the reason why John was in the island of Patmos; and there surely they cannot refer to his written Gospel, but must be understood of his testimony for Christ in life and words: moreover, ἡ μαρτυρία Ἰησοῦ is itself otherwise explained in this very book, Rev 19:10. But there is yet another objection to the supposed reference to the Gospel arising from the last words, ὅσα εἶδεν. First, the very adjective ὅσα refutes it; for the Evangelist distinctly tells us, John 20:30, that in writing his Gospel he did not set down ὅσα εἶδεν, but only a portion of the things which Jesus did in the presence of His disciples. … But still more does the verb εἶδεν carry this refutation. In no place in the Gospel does St. John use this verb of his eye-witnessing as the foundation of his testimony. … But in this book it is the word in regular and constant use, of the seeing of the Apocalyptic visions. … Taken then as representing the present book, τὸν λόγον here will be the aggregate of οἱ λόγοι, Rev 1:3: ἡ μαρτυρία Ἰ Χρ. will be the πνεῦμα τῆς προφητείας, embodied in the Church in all ages.”—E. R. C.]
[Alford attributes to Ebrard the exactly opposite view.—E. R. C.]
[Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Sealthiel, Jeremiel. The doctrine of a true septenary of archangels was advanced in later times, though not so late as 1460. Comp. the note in Düsterdieck.—E. R. C.]
[That created beings cannot he intended by the Seven Spirits is evident from their being mentioned between the Father and Jesus Christ, and also from their being regarded as sources of blessing. The view as to their nature advocated by Lange is inconsistent with their being associated with Persons, and their being named with and still more before Christ. Trench judiciously remarks: “There is no doubt that by ‘the seven spirits’ we are to understand not indeed the sevenfold operations of the Holy Ghost, but the Holy Ghost sevenfold in His operations. Neither need there be any difficulty in reconciling this interpretation, as Mede urges, with the doctrine of His personality. It is only that He is regarded here not so much in His personal unity, as in His manifold energies; for ‘there are diversities of gifts but the same Spirit,’ 1 Cor. 12:4.—The manifold gifts, operations, energies of the Holy Ghost are here represented under the number seven, being as it is the number of completeness in the Church. We have anticipations of this in the Old Testament. When the Prophet Isaiah would describe how the Spirit should be given not by measure to Him whose name is the Branch, the enumeration of the gifts is sevenfold (11:2); and the seven eyes which rest upon the stone which the Lord had laid can mean nothing but this (Zech. 3:9, cf. 4:10; Rev. 5:6).”—E. R. C.]
On Düsterdieck’s controversy with Ebrard in respect to ὠδῖνες, Acts 2:24, see the note in Düsterdieck, p. 113.
[This position can be maintained only in defiance of all grammatical propriety. For obvious reasons, the datives άγαπῶντι and λουσαντι should be connected, not with the preceding genitives governed by ἀπό, but with the following αὐτῷ. The solecism of Rev 1:4, can have no place here, as the grounds of its existence are wanting; and, further, a similar solecism, were it in place, would give us άγαπῶν and not ἀγαπῶντι.—E. R. C.]
[“The certainty that Christ continually loves His people is as significant, in the connection of the book, as the certainty that He is the Faithful Witness, etc. The Bride, rejoicing, comforts herself with the coming of Him who loves her (Rev. 22:17; comp. Rom. 8:37”). DUESTERDIECK, p. 113.—TR.]
[Liddell and Scott present both ΛΥΩ and ΛΟΥΩ as root words, the latter contracted from the old λοέω. They remark in a note under the latter—“Akin to Lat. luo, diluo, eluo, lavo, but hardly to the Greek λύω.” (A similar note is appended to the former.)—E. R. C.]
And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.[EXCURSUS ON THE BASILEIA, Rev 1:6.]
By the American Editor
[The expression KINGDOM OF GOD (and its manifest synonyms, Kingdom of Heaven.31 The Kingdom, Kingdom of Christ, etc.) is of most frequent occurrence in the New Testament, and apparently of greatest importance. It is the phrase employed to designate that—(1) which the Baptist heralded (Matt. 3:2); which our Lord, in the beginning of His ministry, proclaimed as at hand (Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:14); (3) to the exposition of which His life before His Crucifixion was mainly devoted (Luke 4:43, and the Gospels pass.); (4) concerning which He gave prëeminent instruction throughout the forty days that followed His Resurrection (Acts 1:3); (5) which He sent forth His disciples to herald before His Passion (Matt. 10:7; Luke 9:2; 10:9); (6) concerning which His ministers, after His Ascension, went everywhere giving instruction (Acts 8:12; 14:22; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 31; and the Eps.
It might naturally be supposed that some one objective would be represented by this oft-recurring and apparently important phrase, and yet there is no expression which the great mass of interpreters regard as having been used in so many varied and mutually exclusive senses. In some instances it is represented as designating something established on earth in New Testament times, either before the Crucifixion, or at the Ascension, or on the day of Pentecost; in others (and by the same interpreter), as something to be established in the future. Where it is regarded as indicating something already established—in some instances it is viewed as representing true religion in the heart; in others, the vital Church; and in others still, the apparent Church. Where viewed as designating something future—sometimes it is held to signify the millenial era on earth; and sometimes the Kingdom of glory in Heaven. Dr. Robinson, who may be regarded as a representative of the most numerous school of evangelical interpreters, and who, through his Greek and Hebrew Dictionaries, exerts a most powerful influence upon the theological thought of the ministry of this country, under the title Βασιλεία, thus writes: “We may therefore regard the kingdom of heaven, etc. in the New Testament as designating in its Christian sense, the Christian dispensation, or the community of those who receive Jesus as the Messiah, and who, united by His Spirit under Him as their Head, rejoice in the truth, and live a holy life in love and communion with Him. This spiritual kingdom has both an internal and an external form. As internal, it already exists and rules in the hearts of all Christians (it is then a principle.—E. R. C.) and is therefore present. As external, it is either embodied in the visible church of Christ, and in so far is present and progressive; or it is to be perfected in the coming of the Messiah to judgment and His subsequent spiritual reign in bliss and glory, in which view it is future. But these different aspects are not always distinguished, the expression often embracing both the internal and external sense, and referring both to its commencement in this world and its completion in the world to come.” In his following digest of passages he gives instances of all these alleged uses. Now it is evident that a dispensation, a principle, and a people actuated by that principle, are distinct, mutually exclusive objectives. To suppose that they were designated by one and the same expression, and that expression manifestly one of the most important in the Book of Life, is to attribute to the inspired writers a looseness in the use of language which, to say the least, would be thought strange in an uninspired teacher, and which, in the case of men writing under the influence of the Spirit for the instruction of the Church in all ages, is scarce conceivable. To such a supposition we should be driven only by most urgent considerations. The question naturally arises—Is there not some one objective which the expression may be regarded as indicating in each instance of its occurrence, and which objective shall satisfy all the demands of the expression—grammatical and contextual—in all its occurrences in the word of God? If such an objective can be set forth, it must, manifestly, be regarded as the one contemplated by the Spirit of the Lord. The writer believes that there is such an one—complex indeed, as is the objective of the term Church—but which, in all its fullness, may be regarded as designated by the expression wherever it occurs.—To the exposition of that objective this Excursus is devoted.
As preliminary, however, to this consideration of the nature of the Basileia (which, for the sake of precision, that Kingdom of God heralded by John and preached by Jesus will, in this article, be styled) it will be necessary to discuss another topic, viz.: its futurity. The generally received opinion that the Scriptures teach that it, in some one of its phases, was established in the days of our Lord, or shortly after His Ascension, lies at the basis of the prevalent idea as to its nature; and, consequently, until that opinion is at least shaken, and several of the texts which, almost without question, are assumed so to teach, are shown to have no such force, it cannot be expected that due weight will be given to those expressions which set forth its nature in language inapplicable to aught that now exists, or has ever existed, on earth.
I. THE FUTURITY OF THE BASILEIA
Before presenting the scriptural argument it is proper to premise that—
(a). The fact that the natural Kingdom of God includes the earth as a revolted province, affords no proof that the Basileia prophesied by Daniel as future was established by Jesus. That natural Kingdom existed from the beginning.
(b). The mere fact that the existing order of things on earth—an organized Church, grace in the heart—can be spoken of as a Kingdom, does not imply that the Basileia has been established; a similar state of things existed when Daniel prophesied of the establishment of the Basileia as future.
With these remarks we proceed to the argument.
1. Our Lord and His Apostles at every stage of New Testament history referred to its establishment as future:
(1). Indefinitely as to accompanying event (only the leading passages will be cited): Jesus preached that it was at hand (i.e., not then established) Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:14: He taught His disciples to pray “Thy Kingdom come,” Matt. 6:10; Luke 11:2: He sent them forth to preach the coming Kingdom, Matt. 10:7; Luke 9:2, 10:9: near the close of His ministry He spake a parable for the instruction of those who thought it “should immediately appear” (μέλλει αναφαίνεσθαι), Luke 19:11: in the institution of the Supper He again and again referred to its futurity Matt. 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:16–18, 24–30: it is declared that, after the Resurrection, “He opened their (the Apostles’) understanding, that they might understand the scriptures” (Luke 24:45), and also that “He was seen of them forty days, (and) speaking of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God,” Acts 1:3;—on the last day of His sojourn with them, they, illuminated and instructed, asked a question, “Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore the Kingdom unto Israel,” evidently based upon the belief that it had not already been established, and He gave an answer that implied the correctness of that belief; is it conceivable either that they were mistaken, or that, if they had been, He would have so answered as to confirm them in their mistake? The Apostle James speaks of believers as heirs of a promised Kingdom, 2:5: Paul, of his being preserved unto God’s heavenly Kingdom, 2 Tim. 4:18; of inheriting the Kingdom, 1 Cor. 6:9, 10, 15:50; Gal. 5:21; Eph. 5:5; of his fellow-workers unto (εἰς) the Kingdom, Col. 4:11: Peter exhorts believers so to walk that they might enter into the everlasting Kingdom, 2 Pet. 1:11.
(2). By representing it as synchronous with the second glorious Advent of the Messiah: This intimation was first given by Jesus just before the Transfiguration and after He had begun to show to His disciples that the first Advent was to be one of humiliation, comp. Matt. 16:21, 27, 28; Mark 8:31, 38, 9:1; Luke 9:22, 26, 27. It is evident from a comparison of our Lord’s last discourse (the Greek text) on the Mount of Olives (Matt. 24, 25; Mark 13; Luke 21:5–33), with the LXX. of Daniel (7:9–27, 9:27, 12:1–13), that He had those prophecies in view throughout; and that He, as did Daniel (7:13, 14), connected the establishment of the Basileia with a future glorious Advent of the “Son of Man;” comp. Matt. 24:3, 27, 30, 39, 25:1, 31, 34; Mark 13:26; Luke 21:27, 28 (and note especially) 31: see also 2 Thess. 1:5–10; 2 Tim. 4:1. (There was probably an allusion to this in the institution of the Supper; comp. Matt. 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:16, 18, with 1 Cor. 11:26).
2. Jesus implied that the offer of immediate establishment was withdrawn from the Jewish Church because of its rejection of Him, and that the establishment itself was postponed; comp. Luke 19:41–44 (the weeping over Jerusalem and the accompanying remarks) with the subsequent addresses in the temple, Matt. 21:23–23:39, especially 21:42, 43, 23:37–39. The preceding scriptures do not in themselves imply more than the withdrawal of the offer from the Jewish Church, in order to an immediate establishment amongst Jewish and Gentile converts; but, in connection with the words of Jesus referred to under the preceding head, the implication of an indefinite postponement becomes manifest. This view finds confirmation in the prediction of the humiliation of the Church until the day of Christ’s glorious appearing, 1 Pet. 4:13; (see also Acts 14:22; 2 Tim. 2:12, 3:12, etc.).
3. There is no critically undisputed passage in the Scriptures which declares, or necessarily implies, even a partial establishment in New Testament times (Rev. 1:6, is not contemplated in this argument, as the correct reading is uncertain).
The passages which have been referred to as proving the doctrine of a present establishment may be divided into two classes, viz.: those which it is alleged (1) logically imply it, (2) directly declare it. These will be examined in the order indicated. It should be distinctly noted that it is not denied that many of these passages are consistent with the hypothesis of a present establishment. All that is now claimed (save in reference to one or two of them) is that they are also consistent with the hypothesis of an entirely future establishment.
(1). Those passages which, it is alleged, logically imply a present establishment of the Basileia.
a. Those in which our Lord, and others, declare it to be near (ἐγγίζειν), as Matt. 3:2, 4:17, etc. Admitting that any reference in argument to the distinction between prophetic and historic nearness would, in this connection, be out of place, it is enough to say that the offer of an immediate establishment, an offer subsequently withdrawn because of virtual rejection, fully satisfies all the requirements of the language referred to.
b. Those which declare that Jesus was a King, Matt. 2:2, 21:5; John 1:49; 18:37, etc. Reference need only be made to the manifest distinction between a King de jure and a King de facto. He was born King of the Jews, and yet confessedly for thirty years He did not establish His Kingdom. A similar explanation may be given to the fact that believers are styled a βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα, 1 Pet. 2:9. (The fact that He is now exalted to the throne of universal dominion, Eph. 1:20–22, no more proves that the Basileia is now established on earth, than did the universal government of God in the days of Daniel prove that the Kingdom of God was then established on earth. We must distinguish between a Kingdom on earth, and a Kingdom over earth—which includes earth as a revolted province.)
c. The exhortations of our Lord to “seek the Kingdom of God,” Matt. 6:33; Luke 12:31. It is manifest that both these exhortations are consistent with the hypothesis of a future Kingdom—as though He had said, So act, that when the Basileia is established you may enter it. Indeed the contexts of both exhortations require that we should put that interpretation upon them: the one in Matt. follows the direction to pray “Thy Kingdom come” (Rev 1:10), and that in Luke is manifestly parallel with the exhortation to wait for an absent Lord (Rev 1:35–40).
d. The declaration “this generation shall not pass,” etc., Matt. 24:34; Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32. The term γενεά is one of the most indefinite in the Greek language. It is used to represent a race of men, a generation (of which three make a century, an age (see Liddell and Scott). Immediately after the preceding utterance our Lord declared that the time of His second coming was concealed (Matt. 24:36); is it not probable that, in using this indefinite term, He did so designedly, that no note of time might be given?
e. The declaration of Jesus, “There be some standing here,” etc., Matt. 16:28; Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27. This, according to the opinion of Chrysostom and others (see Lange Comm. on Matt. 16:28), may find its fulfillment in the immediately following Transfiguration. In this event the Basileia was not merely symbolized, but in all its glory was for a moment set up on earth (comp. 2 Pet. 1:16–18).
(2) The passages which, it is alleged, declare a present Basileia.
a. Matt. 11:12; Luke 16:16. It is assumed that βιάζεται and ἁρπάζουσιν are taken in a good sense, as in the E. V. Against this assumption may be urged—(a) the established usage of the words: βιάζειν occurs in the New Testament only in the passages under consideration; in the LXX. it occurs (undisputed) ten times, it represents rape (Deut. 22:25, 28; Esther 7:8), the breaking through the barriers around Sinai (Exodus 19:24), simple violence (Sir. 4:29; 31:24; 2 Macc. 14:41), urging (Gen. 30:12; Judges 19:7; 2 Kings 5:23); the leading idea of the word when applied to persons is, inimical violence; ἁρπάζειν occurs thirty-three times in the LXX., and (with possibly four exceptions) is always used in a bad sense; it represents the violence of the robber, the ravening of the lion and the wolf (Gen. 37:33; Lev. 6:4, etc.); in the New Testament (besides the instance under consideration) it occurs, Matt. 13:19; John 10:12, 28, 29; 6:15; Acts 8:39; 23:10; 2 Cor. 12:2, 4; in all these instances the idea is that of overmastering force, and in the first four, which (with the one under consideration) are the only instances of its use by our Saviour, it indicates sinful force: (b) The unfitness of the terms, when used in a good sense, to represent the approach of a penitent sinner to Christ: the disciples were captives—not conquerors; (c) Their unfitness in a good sense, and their fitness in a bad sense, to represent the condition of things then existing. It is true that in the beginning of our Lord’s ministry the people crowded around Him; but few, however, in the modern sense of the phrase, “entered the kingdom;” on the occasion indicated by Matt. 11:12, the people were deserting Him (Rev 1:12–25), and their leaders were engaged in that system of opposition and persecution that culminated in His crucifixion. Must we not conclude that by these words our Lord intended to indicate that violent opposition to, and ravening upon, the offered kingdom in the person of Him, its representative, which resulted in the withdrawal of the offer (Matt. 21:43) and the fearful denunciations of Matt. 23:13–39?
b. Matt. 12:28; Luke 11:20. The original is both cases is ἔφθασαν ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς, not ἔρχεται (Luke 17:20), nor ἀναφαίνεσθαι (Luke 19:11). “In the New Testament, with the exception of 1 Thess. 4:15, (?) φθάνειν occurs only in the later, weakened sense of reaching to” (Lange Com. on 1 Thess., p. 43, E. V.). The phrase is similar to the one in 1 Thess. 2:16, where, manifestly, it was not designed to represent the wrath spoken of as already poured forth upon its objects—they were living men, but as having reached unto, overhanging them, comp. also Rom. 9:31; 2 Cor. 10:14; Phil. 3:16; 1 Thess. 4:15, in all which, however, the prepositions are different. The passages under consideration aptly accord with the idea of a near approach of the Basileia to the Jews in the person of Christ, implying an offer of establishment which might be withdrawn; they are equivalent to the declaration of Luke 10:9, 11.
c. Luke 17:20, 21. This passage, probably, by the advocates of the prevalent theory of the Basileia, is regarded as their most important proof-text, both as to its nature and present establishment. In this portion of the Excursus, only its bearing on the latter of these points is to be considered. In the E. V. there is a difference in tense between the question of the Pharisees and the answer of Jesus—they asking, when the Basileia should come, and He answering, it cometh not with observation, it is within you—which necessarily implies a declaration of then existing establishment. This difference is altogether unauthorized—both the question and the answer are in the present; the question of the Pharisees should be translated “when cometh (ἕρχεται) the kingdom of God?” The question was asked in the vivid, dramatic present; it manifestly had reference to the future; it would be in defiance of every conceivable law of language to suppose that our Lord, in following the lead of His questioners, intended to indicate a different tense. The question and the answer are but illustrations of that law proper to all languages, but pre-eminently to the Greek, by which a certain future may be represented by a verb in the present; illustrations may be found, Matt. 26:2 (after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of Man is betrayed, etc.); 1 Cor. 15:42–44 (it is sown in corruption, it is [in the future resurrection] raised in incorruption), (see Jelf, Winer, Kühner, and grammarians generally). To the conclusion that the language of our Lord must be understood as having reference to the future, it may also be remarked, we are shut up by the following considerations: The supposition that He indicated an existing Basileia (a) implies that it was set up in (or among) the Pharisees; (b) disconnects His words from the immediately-following address to the disciples, whilst the contrary supposition brings them into manifest and beautiful connection therewith, and with His other utterances.32
d. In this connection may be considered that class of passages which are regarded as teaching the doctrine of a present Basileia from their use of present verb when mentioning it. (Reference is not now had to those in which there is aught in the context that apparently requires the hypothesis of a present kingdom—each of these receives an independent consideration). These passages are: all those parables which thus refer to the Basileia, Matt. 13:31, 38, 44, 45, 47, etc.; also Matt. 11:11; Rom. 14:17. These, it is admitted, are all consistent with the hypothesis of a present kingdom; but, under the rule set forth under the preceding head, they are all grammatically consistent with that of a certain future establishment. That there is nothing in the nature of the Basileia as set forth in the parables to require the hypothesis of a present kingdom, but the contrary, will appear in the second general division of this Excursus.
e. Acts 2:29–36. It is assumed by many that the exaltation of Rev 1:33 constitutes the session on the throne of David of Rev 1:30. But the assumption is wholly gratuitous. Nowhere in his sermon did the apostle declare the oneness of the two events; and most certainly the exaltation there spoken of does not imply the session as already existing—it may be an exaltation begun, to culminate in a visible occupancy of the throne of David. (The visible establishment by an emperor of the seat of his government in the heart of a once revolted province, does not derogate from his dignity—does not imply an abdication of government in the rest of his empire.) But beyond this, not only is the assumption gratuitous; it is against probabilities that amount to certainty. The apostle, be it remembered, was arguing with Jews, to prove that the absent Jesus was the Messiah (Rev 1:36); he was arguing with those, one of whose most cherished beliefs it was that the Messiah should occupy a visible throne. To suppose that, under such circumstances, he should advance a doctrine at war with this belief without a word of explanation or proof, and that too in a sentence capable of an interpretation consistent therewith, is inconceivable. The interpretation suggested by the writer is confirmed not only by its consistency with the previous teachings of our Lord, but by the address delivered by the Apostle Peter shortly after, Acts 3:19, 20. The literal translation of the passage referred to is as follows (see Lange Com. and Alford): “Repent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, in order that the times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send the Messiah Jesus, who was appointed unto you, whom the heavens must receive until the times of the restitution of all things,” etc. It is also confirmed by the subsequent teachings of the apostle in his epistles; comp. 1 Peter 1:4–7, 13; 2 Peter 1:11, 16; the κληρονομία and ἀποκάλυψις of the I Epistle are manifestly synonymous with the βασιλεία and παρουσία of the II.
1 Thess. 2:12. The preposition in the Greek is εἰς. But since believers on earth are not yet in glory, the whole expression is manifestly proleptical, and the E. V. gives the translation, unto.
Col. 1:13. At first glance, the passage apparently teaches that believers are already translated de facto into the Basileia; it may however legitimately be regarded as teaching a de jure translation. Not only does this interpretation bring the passage into harmony with the great mass of Scripture, but it seems to be required by the immediately preceding and succeeding contexts; believers are not yet delivered de facto from the ἐξουσία of Satan (Eph. 5:12), nor have they yet received de facto, certainly not in completeness, the ἀπολύτρωσιν (comp. Luke 21:28; Rom. 8:23; Eph. 1:14; 4:30; see Lange Comm. in loc.).
Heb. 12:28. The reception of the Basileia herein spoken of manifestly may be de jure. Believers on earth receive a sure title to their future possession.
II. NATURE OF THE BASILEIA
When the Baptist and our Lord began to preach “the Kingdom of God is at hand,” the subject of their discourse was no novelty. The Jews were then expecting the establishment of a Basileia, which had been foretold by the prophets. The phrases “Kingdom of God,” “Kingdom of Heaven,” do not indeed occur in exact form in the Old Testament; cognate expressions, however, appear, which may be divided into two classes—(1). Those which refer to the natural Kingdom of God over the universe, Dan. 4:3, 34, 6:26; Ps. 145:12, 13; (LXX. 3:33, 4:31, 6:27; Ps. 144:12, 13). (2). Those in which the then future Basileia of the Messiah was predicted, Dan. 2:44, 7:14, 27, (LXX. as Heb.); allied to the prophecies from which these citations are made, are Isa. 11, 32, 59:20–66:24; Ps. 2, 72, etc. There can be no doubt that the Basileia foretold in the latter class was the one contemplated by Jesus, especially in view of the distinct reference to the prophecies of Daniel, and the quotations therefrom, in His great eschatological discourse on the Mount of Olives.
1. The apparent characteristics of the Basileia as deduced from a normal33 interpretation of the prophecies referred to, are as follows:
It was a government to be established.—(1) in a glorious, visible advent of “the Son of man,” Dan. 7:13, 14; (2) in the συντέλεια τοῦ καιροῦ, Dan. 9:27, 12:4, 13; (3) after a period of great θλῖψις. Dan. 12:1, 11:26, 27; (4) whose members should be governors (the subject nations were under, not members of the Basileia), Dan. 7:18, 22, 27; (5) as œcumenical, Dan. 7:14, 27, et pass. the other prophecies; (6) as political, in the proper sense of the term, as indicating an external government exercised, as are now merely human governments, over the persons and property of men, (passim the prophecies; (7) whose members should be the saints (spiritually holy ones) of the covenanted people of the preceding æon or καιρός, Dan. 7:18, 22, 27 (comp. 27, 9:27, 12:4, 13); (8) in which righteousness (spiritual and external) should prevail, (pass. the prophecies).
Let it be observed concerning these characteristics—a. That no one is exclusive of any other; all may co-exist in one and the same objective. b. That if fairly deduced from the normal sense of the Old Testament Scriptures they are to be regarded as the true characteristics, unless it can be shown that the New Testament teachers declared that the prophecies are not to be normally interpreted, at least in reference to the points specified. c. That whilst the first six accord with those presented in what is universally recognized as the old Jewish scheme, the 7th and 8th are different—for the Saints of the covenanted people, the Jews substituted the natural seed of Abraham, and for spiritual, mere ceremonial righteousness.
2. Jesus and the other inspired New Testament teachers recognized the truth of the foregoing characteristics.
They did so not only by positive affirmation in respect to each one; but also by direct condemnation of the Jews for misinterpreting the Scriptures, where they substituted different doctrines, and by silence at times, as well as occasional affirmation, in respect to all those other points on which the Jewish belief accorded with them. (In the following exhibit, for purposes of compactness and distinctness in argument, the 7th and 8th of the characteristics will be considered first, and in the inverse order—the preceding notation, however, being preserved.)
(8). The Basileia was to be a government in which righteousness (spiritual and external) should prevail.
It is a universally recognized fact that the great mass of the Jews of our Saviour’s day regarded all righteousness as consisting in ceremonial observance. Our Lord in rebuking this opinion, and in declaring to the people, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees ye shall in no case enter into the Kingdom of heaven,” (Matt. 5:20), proceeded on the ground, not that the true meaning of the Old Testament had been hidden beneath a mystic veil which He came to remove, but that they had “made the law of God of none effect (i. e. had set aside its normal interpretation) through their (your) traditions” (Matt. 15:6). Throughout the whole of His ministry, as lies on the surface of the New Testament, He taught the great doctrine previously taught by the prophets, that into the Basileia nothing impure should enter. (As to the special force, as bearing on this point, of the parables in Matt. 13, 12, 25, see below.)
(7). Whose members should be the saints (spiritually holy ones) of the covenanted people of the preceding æon.
The Jews believed that the members of the Basileia were to be selected from the members of the covenanted people of the preceding æon, and on this point our Lord uttered no denial. He referred not merely to those then living as entering into the future Kingdom, but to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as having a place therein, Luke 13:28. His teachings manifestly accorded with their beliefs. The Apostle Paul declared, “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,” and, further, that upon those who remain upon earth until the coming of the Lord a resurrection change should pass (comp. 1 Cor. 15:50–52 with 1 Thess. 4:14–17), implying that those who inherit the Kingdom are the changed Saints of a former dispensation.
For the Saints, however, the Jews substituted the ceremonially righteous, and for the covenanted people, the natural seed of Abraham. Both these substitutions Jesus condemned, and that in accordance with the normal interpretation of the Old Testament. The former condemnation and its ground were virtually considered under the preceding characteristic.
As to the latter, the Baptist declared: “God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham,” Matt. 3:9, and our Lord declared to the Chief Priests and Elders, “The Kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation (ἔθνος=gentile people) bringing forth the fruits thereof,” Matt. 21:43. Now, in making these declarations, Jesus and His forerunner were not uttering new revelations—they were proceeding on the platform of Old Testament Scripture, whose normal sense was ignored by the Jews. It is true that the covenant belonged pre-eminently to the natural seed of Abraham; yet, from the beginning, on the one hand, great branches of that seed had been cast aside; and, on the other, provision had been made for the reception of proselytes, and it had also been prophesied that in process of time Jehovah would call them His people (צָם=λαός) who had not been His people, Hos. 2:23. In that portion of the epistle to the Romans (9–11) in which the Apostle establishes the covenant relations of converted Gentiles, their true engrafting into the covenanted people (10:17–21), he does not speak of it as a strange thing, but argues it as the fulfillment of prophecy, quoting the prophecy of Hosea above cited (9:24–26). Manifestly the New Testament teachers not merely approve this characteristic, but the Apostle Paul approves it as in accordance with the Old Testament.
(1). It was to be established in a glorious visible advent of “the Son of Man.”
This is universally recognized as one of the most prominent doctrines of the Jews. If it had been an error, it is inconceivable that our Lord would not have rebuked it in terms as decided as those employed in reference to other errors. But on the contrary He affirmed it, and affirmed it, manifestly, as the fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel (see under section 1, (2), of the I. division). The only instances in which it is claimed that He denied it (or spoke of a Basileia as coming in any other mode) are Luke 17:21, 22, and those few passages in which He referred to the Kingdom in the use of a present verb. The passage in Luke is best explained as being in harmony with His other teachings (see above), and the other passages, as we have seen, are grammatically consistent therewith.
(2). In the συντέλεια τοῦ καιροῦ (Dan. 9:27, 12:4, 13). This was directly taught and in manifest reference to the prophecy of Daniel, comp. Matt. 24:3, 6, 13, 34; Mark 13:7; Luke 21:9, 31; see also Matt. 13:39, 40, 49, with context.
(3). After a period of great θλῖψις (Dan. 12:1, 7:26, 27). Confirmed in the New Testament, Matt. 24:21, 29; Mark 13:19, 24; 1 Pet. 4:12, 13; 2 Thess. 1:4–7.
(4). The members to be governors (Dan. 7:18, 22, 27). This was a doctrine never controverted by our Lord; but, on the contrary, He again and again so spake as to manifest that He took its truth for granted. See Matt. 19:28, 24:47, 25:21, 23; Luke 12:44, 19:17, 19, 22:29, 30. The counsel that He gave His disciples on the occasion of the ambitious request of the Sons of Zebedee, Matt. 20:25–28, and the rebuke He administered at the Last Supper, Luke 22:24–27, cannot be understood as negativing that doctrine. His design on both these occasions was, not to teach that there should be no ruling in the Basileia, but to rebuke the ambitious spirit that seeks after authority for the sake of self, and to teach that the true idea of ruling is that of rendering service. This is evident from the fact that He presented Himself, the acknowledged Master, as their model; and from the further facts that, on the first of the mentioned occasions, He implied that one was to sit on His right hand and another on His left (to share in superior authority), Matt. 20:23, and that, in the latter, immediately after the rebuke, He declared to His Apostles that they should sit on thrones, Luke 22:29, 30. (See also 1 Cor. 6:2, 3; Jude 14, 15; Rev. 3:21, 5:10, 20:6, 22:5.)
(5). As œcumenical. No one affirms that this characteristic was ever denied by our Lord. It was not, indeed, directly declared by Him that the saints should be associated with Him in the rule of all the earth; it was manifestly implied, however, in His evident reference to the prophecies of Daniel as of normal interpretation without any qualification, and in His association of His disciples with Himself in government, in connection with the known belief of the Jews. It seems to be directly affirmed, 1 Cor. 6:2, 3; Jude 14, 15; Rev. 20:6.
(6). As political, (i. e., an external government exercised over the persons and property of men).
There can be no question as to the apparent teaching of the Old Testament on this point; all the prophecies bearing on the Basileia present the idea of an external, political government. And it is also universally admitted that the Jews were expecting such a kingdom of the Messiah, an expectation which was shared by the Apostles. It is utterly inconceivable that if they had been mistaken on this point, especially as their mistake was confirmed by the apparent teaching of the prophecies, the Great Teacher would not have distinctly undeceived them. And yet throughout His whole ministry He continually so spake as to leave them in error if they were in error. On the occasion of the Last Supper, He employed language which must have confirmed them in their belief on this point, Luke 22:29, 30,—a belief not shaken by His forty days teaching on the subject of the Basileia after His resurrection, as is evident from their last question, and in which He must have still further confirmed them by His answer, Acts 1:3–7. The alleged instances of His teaching a contrary doctrine will be considered in the following division.
III. Our Lord and His disciples taught no doctrine of the (or a) Basileia (either complete or inchoate) as lacking any one of the preceding characteristics.
It is alleged that this was done in those utterances in which the Basileia is spoken of in the use of a present verb, and also in Luke 12:14; 17:20, 21; Matt. 13:31–52; John 18:36; Rom. 14:17. All these passages, it is contended, set forth a Basileia having a merely internal character. As to those texts whose force in this direction is derived merely from their grammatical form, we have seen that they are consistent with the idea of a future Basileia. We have also seen that Luke 17:20, 21, is consistent with the theory maintained in this excursus. The other passages will be considered in their order.
Luke 12:14. “Who made Me a judge or a divider over you?” The kingdom had not then been established; our Lord at that time occupied simply the position of a teacher.
Matt. 13:31–52. It is contended that in the parables of the mustard seed and the leaven especially, Jesus taught concerning the Basileia, that it begins silently and imperceptibly in the heart and in the community, and gradually increases. The force of the argument is derived from the assumption that in these parables the thing next to the verb of comparison is that to which the Basileia is compared—that in one case it is compared to the mustard seed, and in the other to the little leaven which the woman hid. But if this rule hold good in one case, it must in all others; and under its operation we have the kingdom likened (Rev 1:24) to the sower, (Rev 1:45) to the merchant-man, (20:1) to the householder. (22:2) to the king, etc. Manifestly, in all these instances, we must pass over the next thing to the verb of comparison, to seek for the object of comparison. Doubtless the true explanation of the phrase “the kingdom is likened, etc.,” is the one given by Alford on Matt. 13:24, “is like the whole circumstances about to be detailed,” i. e., the entire parable presents a truth concerning the kingdom. With this explanation, unity as to the nature of the Basileia (which on the current interpretation is lacking) is brought into this whole series of parables, and these and all the other parables are brought into beautiful consistency with all the other teachings of our Lord. The series in Matt. may be regarded as setting forth that nothing impure, imperfect, or immature, can have place in the Basileia—in such case the good grain, the mighty tree, the thoroughly leavened lump, the treasure separated from the field, the pearl, the good fish, will represent it.
John 18:36. In this utterance, it is contended that our Lord intended to declare to Pilate that the kingdom He came to establish was not after the manner of the kingdoms of this world, i. e., not external, political. It is admitted that the utterance considered in itself will bear this interpretation; but it will also bear one consistent with the theory herein advocated, especially in view of the introduction of νῦν in the last clause of the verse, which may be regarded as a particle of time—My kingdom is not now established. Which of these interpretations are we to adopt? The one supposes that our Lord whispered into the ear of a heathen (neither the disciples nor the Jews were in the Pretorium, Rev 1:28), the great truth concerning His kingdom, which he had not only concealed from His disciples (hid from them in a bewildering enigma) but a few hours before on the solemn occasion of the institution of the Supper, Luke 22:29, 30; but which, also, He continued to conceal throughout the forty days of His subsequent continuance with them, during which time He is represented as “speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God,” Acts 1:3, and as opening “their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures,” Luke 24:45! The other interpretation supposes that He spake in consistency with His previous and subsequent teaching.
Rom. 14:17. This passage is perfectly consistent with the hypothesis of a merely internal Basileia, but manifestly it is also consistent with the hypothesis of a perfectly holy external government. “Meat and drink” do not necessarily infer externality, they may refer to mere fleshly enjoyment which has no place in the Basileia as set forth in this excursus.
In conclusion of the whole subject it may be remarked:
(1). If it has been fairly shown that the great mass of Scriptures in which the term Basileia occurs, require as the objective thereof the one set forth in this excursus, then is it utterly illogical, from the possible force of a few scattered passages, which may, without straining, be interpreted in consistency with the others; either, on the one hand, to deny the validity of the objective established, or, on the other hand, to hypothesize a second and variant objective—to conclude that the term was used ambiguously.
(2). The theory herein defended is not liable to the objection that it presents a “carnal” or “material” doctrine concerning the nature of the Basileia. Most certainly the doctrine is not “carnal” in the bad sense of that term, nor as teaching that gross flesh and blood shall inherit the kingdom; nor is it “material” save so far as the doctrine of the resurrection of the body is so. It agrees with this latter doctrine in implying that the redemption of Christ respects the body as well as the soul, and also with the doctrine set forth in Rom. 8:18–23.
(3). Much important matter bearing on this subject, connected with the scriptural use of the terms συντέλεια, παρουσία, ἐπιφάνεια, ἀνάστασις, παλιγγενεσία, ἀποκατάστασις, κληρονομία, ζωὴ αἰώνιος, has necessarily been passed over. Fully to discuss the subject in connection with all these terms would require a volume.
(4). If the foregoing reasoning be valid, increased doubt is thrown upon the reading ἡμᾶς βασιλείαν, Rev 1:6, of this chapter. Should, however, the now generally accepted reading be sustained, the passage may be rendered consistent with the theory herein supported by attributing to ἐποίησεν a proleptical, or rather de jure, force.
And, lastly, this excursus has been written in a spirit of deep conviction, but not, it is trusted, in one of dogmatism. The writer feels that any man should study so vast and important a subject with the deepest humility and self-distrust, and express his conclusions with the utmost modesty; and he more keenly feels, as he finishes his work, than in the beginning, how unfit he is to grapple with it. If aught of dogmatism should have appeared in the expression of his views, he trusts that it will be attributed to the necessity of his situation, where brevity in expression is of prime importance.—E. R. C.]
[The phrase Kingdom of Heaven occurs only in the Gospel of Matthew. That it is strictly synonymous with Kingdom of God is manifest from the following comparisons—Matt. 4:17 with Mark 1:14, 15; Matt. 5:3 with Luke 6:20; Matt. 13:11 with Mark 4:11, Luke 8:10; Matt. 13:31 with Mark 4:30, 31; Matt 19:14 with Mark 10:14, Luke 18:16; Matt. 19:23 with Mark 10:23, Luke 18:24. Matthew himself uses Kingdom of God five times (6:33, 12:28, 19:24, 21:31, 43). It needs but a glance at these passages to perceive that he uses the phrase as synonymous with the one more frequently employed by him.—E. R. C.]
[Fully to appreciate this remark, we must appreciate the force of the terms παρατηρήσις and ἐντός. The former of these occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, and only in one disputed passage in the LXX. Its verbal root, however, occurs several times, and always has the force of close watching or observation (Mark 3:2; Luke 6:7; 14:1; 20:20; Acts 9:24; Gal. 4:10). In accordance with the meaning of the verb, the Lange Com. (Van Oosterzee) translatesμετα παρατηρήσεως: “with or under observation,” remarking “so that it can be recognized and observed by outward tokens, and that one could exclaim with assurance, Lo here! lo there!” The translation doubtless is correct, and also, in the main, the accompanying remark. The latter, however, might be so modified as to distinctly set forth the twofold idea of observation—(1) as to essence (as that which in itself is visible), and (2) as to manifestation or approach (as the dawn, whose approach is with or under observation). With this modification; not under observation, would mean either without visibility (as the wind), or without the signs of gradual approach (as the lightning). The strict meaning of ἐντός is within, in the midst of, as in Matt. 23:36; that which is ἐντός men individually, is that which is internal to them individually; that which is ἐντός them collectively (viewed as one whole), is that which is internal to them as a whole—in the midst of them—among them individually. This latter use of the term occurs Xenophon Anab. i. 10, 3—ἀλλὰ καὶ ταύτην ἔσωσαν (οἰ Ἒλληνες) καὶ ἄλλα ὁπόσα ἐ ν τ ὸ ς α ὐ τ ῶ ν, etc.. (see Alford in loc.) Now. remembering the close connection in the Jewish mind between the establishment of the Basileia, and the glorious coming of the Son of Man—a connection established by the prophecy of Daniel (7:13,14), and not previously rebuked but approved by Jesus (Luke 9:26, 27)—let any one hypothesize as the meaning of μετὰ παρατηρήσεως with the signs of a gradual approach, and of εντὸς in the midst of, and read the entire passage, Rev 1:20–30. The Pharisees ask our Lord “when cometh the Kingdom of God?” He answers, “It cometh not with the signs of a gradual approach; neither shall they say, Lo here, or lo there, for lo the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” Then turning to His disciples He says: “The days will come when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and ye shall not see it. And they shall say to you, Lo here, lo there; go not after nor follow. For as the lightning that lighteneth (flashing) from one part under heaven shineth to the other part under heaven (comes not with the signs of a gradual approach), so also shall the Son of Man be in his day,” etc. Does not the very unity perceptible in the entire address—the vividness of the scene it presents—the manifest oneness of the doctrine with that elsewhere taught by our Lord, especially on the Mount of Olives—place the stamp of truth on the hypothesis? Does it not become manifest that this passage, so far from teaching the doctrine of a present establishment of the Basileia, must be numbered amongst those that connect the establishment with the Second Advent?—E. R. C.]
[Normal is used instead of literal (the term generally employed in this connection) as more expressive of the correct idea. No terms could have been chosen more unfit to designate the two great schools of prophetical exegetes than literal and spiritual. These terms are not antithetical, nor are they in any proper sense significant of the peculiarities of the respective systems they are employed to characterize. They are positively misleading and confusing. Literal is opposed not to spiritual but to figurative; spiritual is in antithesis on the one hand to material, on the other to carnal (in a bad sense). The Literalist (so called) is not one who denies that figurative language, that symbols, are used in prophecy, nor does he deny that great spiritual truths are set forth therein; his position is, simply, that the prophecies are to be normally interpreted (i. e. according to the received laws of language) as any other utterances are interpreted—that which is manifestly literal being regarded as literal, that which is manifestly figurative being so regarded. The position of the Spiritualist (so called) is not that which is properly indicated by the term. He is one who holds that whilst certain portions of the prophecies are to be normally interpreted, other portions are to be regarded as having a mystical (i. e. involving some secret meaning) sense. Thus, for instance, Spiritualists (so called) do not deny that when the Messiah is spoken of as “a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief,” the prophecy is to be normally interpreted; they affirm, however, that when He is spoken of as coming “in the clouds of heaven” the language is to be “spiritually” (mystically) interpreted (see the quotation from Robinson in the introduction to the Excursus). The terms properly expressive of the schools are normal and mystical.—E. R. C.]
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.SECTION SECOND
First Vision. Heaven-picture of the Seven Churches (Revelation 1:9–20)
General.—The pastoral fidelity of man here appears in reciprocal action with the pastoral fidelity of God. John on Patmos thinks of his seven churches in the spirit of prayer. But the Lord, through the Spirit of revelation, changes his glance at the seven churches into a vision of the whole future of the Church.—Heavenly blessedness in the midst of earthly martyrdom.—The prophetic visions as the theocratic higher reality of the Platonic ideas, the lofty mysterious source-points of all fundamental spiritual currents, or of the stream of salvation in the history of the world.—Preliminary conditions of prophecy—external affliction, internal solemn joy, loneliness, prayer.—Forms of revelation.—Development of revelation from the auricular to the ocular wonder.—Appearance of Christ in His glory in respect of its fundamental features. Christ, the Son of God, also eternally the glorified Son of Man—The shock experienced by the Seer at the appearance of the Lord in His revelation, a species of death, and hence a source of new, high life. How this shock—a. In its original form runs through the history of the prophetic callings (Ex. 3:6; 4:24; 34:30–35; Isa. 6:5; Jer. 1:6; Ezek. 3:14, 15; Dan. 10.); b. Is reflected in Jewish tradition (Ju. 13:22) and in Greek manticism, in which the manticist himself represents death, whilst the priest who expounds his oracle is representative of new life; c. Is shadowed in the history of apostate prophets, especially in that of Balaam (Num. 24:4); d. Is crystallized in the fundamental forms of regeneration; repentance and faith—death of the old, resurrection of the new, man.—Doctrine of the kingdom of the dead, and of death.—Hades is to be distinguished from Gehenna.—The appearance of Christ, deadly for the moment, conferring life for ever.—Sacred literature (Rev 1:19).—Key of symbolism (Rev 1:20).
Special.—[Rev 1:9.] John, an exile on earth, at home in Heaven.—The great Prophet, a brother and companion [fellow-partaker] of all Christians, (1) in tribulation, (2) in the glory of the Kingdom, (3) in the endurance of Jesus.—Patmos, so poor in geography, so glorified in the Theocracy, like Bethlehem and Nazareth. The like is true of Palestine and the earth itself. [Rev 1:10.] Sunday in its apostolic radiance: The day of the spirit; of transport; of complete revelation.—Sunday quiet, absorption of life in its profoundest depths, and thereby, at the same time, in the richest retrospect, and the clearest fore-view.—The sacred voice.—[Rev 1:11.] The sacred Book.—The Bible reposing upon Divine voices and trumpets.—The Christian who, through deep absorption of spirit, finds the three times [the past, present and future] in the present, thereby learns to know God as He Who is, Who was and Who cometh.—The seven churches or representatives of all churches—primarily, of all those in Asia Minor—or the one Church in its seven-fold form.—The sacred septenary of the churches, founded upon the septenary of the Spirits of God, and ever recurring in the subsequent sevens.—[Rev 1:12, 13.] Christ is, therefore, here in the midst of the candlesticks, as well as in the other world. The same hierarchism which sunders doctrine and life, belief and morals, clergy and laity, spirit and nature, faith and culture, body and soul, also tears earth and Heaven apart. As the deist confines God to the other world, so the Hierarchy banishes the Lord Jesus Christ thither.—Christ is the living unity of the seven individual golden candlesticks, and through this unity alone is the type of the one seven-branched candlestick fulfilled (Ex. 25:31–37).—[Rev 1:14–16.] The form of Christ, considered in regard to its attributes; or the difference between theocratic symbolism and humanistic æsthetics.—[Rev 1:17.] Fear not, a groundword of Christianity from beginning to end (Luke 2:10; Matt. 28:5; see the Concordances, Title, Fear not).—The history and operation of the Death and Resurrection of Christ lift all fear from all believers.—[Rev 1:18.] Christ, the Living One, (1) in respect of His spiritual essence and mission (the First, the Last, the Life of life); (2) in respect of His history (having been dead, and having become alive forever); (3) in respect of His power (having the keys of Death and Hades),—[Rev 1:19.] “Write what thou seest.” All Scripture a copy of Divine reality.—[Rev 1:20.] The key of symbolism must form the starting-point for the disclosure of all Apocalyptic mysteries.—The Angels of the churches, neither presbyteries, nor bishops, nor preachers, but the spirit of the churches in symbolic personification—the spirit which, undoubtedly, should be represented by the heads of the churches, but which is very frequently not represented by them. This spirit represents their idiocrasy, their ideal, the quality of their spiritual life, and is the local invisible church.—The churches as candlesticks.—Celebration of Sunday.—Bible festivals.—Celebration of Easter.—Festival of the dead.—Celebration of church consecration (or consecration of the angel of a church).—Celebration of the ministry.—See the succession of the visions, Rev 4:2 (individual items) Rev 17:3 (individual items).—Parallels: Acts 10:10 sqq.; 20:7; Zech. 4:2; Dan. 7.; Dan. 10.; Isa. 41:10; 48:12; Mal. 2:7.*
*[The G.V. here reads “Engel”=angel, instead of the “messenger” of the E. V.—TR.]
STARKE: A man is in the Spirit (1) ordinarily, when he permits himself to be governed by the Spirit of God (Rom. 8:9; Gal. 5:5); (2) extraordinarily, by transport and a Divine revelation of things to come (Matt. 22:43).—Christ is always present with His Church, to enlighten, sanctify and defend it (Eph. 5:26).—He has, therefore, no need of any vicar.—The Church has for its foundation-pillar the invincible power and strength of Christ.—Christ’s servants are in His hand, honored by Him and assured of His help.
RICHTER (see p. 73): In Rev 1:17 and 18, Jesus declares, in different words, the same thing that is expressed in Matt. 28:18, “All power [authority] is given unto Me in Heaven and on earth,” and the same that is expressed in that other saying of His, “I and the Father are one” [John 10:30]. After the lapse of nearly two thousand years, we find ourselves in a different posture toward this saying—so far as belief in it is concerned—from that occupied by the Church in John’s time. Has there not been a considerable progress in the setting up of Christ’s Kingdom? (It is true that we must not overlook the fact that, together with the furtherances of faith during the course of the centuries, there has been a constant new formation of apparent hindrances.)
GAERTNER (see p. 73): With the trumpet-sound of the voice of Christ, the Revelation was opened for the ear;—with the seven candlesticks, it was opened for the eye.—These seven candlesticks precisely correspond to the seven lamps on the seven-branched candlestick in the Holy Place of the Tabernacle. The independent candlesticks, having each one its own standard, denote the greater perfection of the New Testament Church; furthermore, the Lord walks in the midst of them, which would be impossible, so far as the figure is concerned, in the case of the one seven-branched candlestick (rather, this fact is declaratory that there shall be, in the New Covenant, no external visible hierarchic unity of the churches). What is there more beautiful and more cheering than a bright light upon a candlestick in a dark and gloomy night! So the Church is a light in the darkness of this world, shining into the gloom and obscurity of mankind. Where there is a church that has the pure word of God and acts in accordance therewith, there is a golden candlestick; just so the faithful Church in Israel was a light to the Gentiles throughout the whole of the Old Testament time. The seven candlesticks are indicative of a perfect Church, into which the Holy Spirit from God’s inner world streams seven-fold (seven-fold, and yet singly, through Christ).
[BONAR (Rev 1:17): And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. O sinner, learn to know this Christ now as the Saviour, ere the day arrives when you shall see Him as the Judge! His love would save you now; His majesty will crush you then.]
THE COURSE OF THE WORLD TO THE END OF THE WORLD
THE COURSE OF THE WORLD TO THE END OF THE WORLD
The seven churches. Heaven-picture and earth-picture
A.—THE IDEAL HEAVENLY LIFE-PICTURE OF THE CHURCH. HEAVEN-PICTURE OF THE SEVEN CHURCHES. STAND-POINT OF THE SEER
THE GREAT VISION; FIRST, AS A BASIS FOR THE SEVEN EPISTLES TO THE SEVEN CHURCHES. HENCE ALSO AS THE BASIS OF THE FOLLOWING VISIONS (BECAUSE ALL THE VISIONS RELATE TO THE PERFECTION OF THE CHURCH AS REPRESENTED IN THE SEVEN CHURCHES)
John in the Spirit
9I, John, who also am [om. who also am]34 your brother, and companion [fellow-partaker] in [ins. the] tribulation, and in the [om. in the]35 kingdom and patience [endurance] of [in] Jesus Christ [om. Christ] [Lange: (in Christ)],36 was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for37 the testimony of Jesus Christ 10[om. Christ].38 I was [Lange: transported] in the Spirit [spirit] on the Lord’s day, and [ins. I] heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, 11Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, [om. I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and,]39 What thou seest, write in [into] a book, and send it [om. it] unto the seven churches which are in Asia [om. which are in Asia];40 unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamus, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.
Appearance of Christ in His Glory
12And I turned [ins. about] to see the voice that spake [was speaking]41 with me. And being turned [having turned about], I saw seven golden candlesticks; 13And in the midst of the seven42 candlesticks one like unto the [the]43 Son44 of man, clothed with a garment down [reaching] to the foot [Lange: festal or priestly robe], and girt about [round at] the paps [breasts] [Lange: not as a working dress about the loins] with a golden girdle.45 [And] 14His head and his hairs were white like [ins. white] wool, as white [om. as white] as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; 15And his feet like unto fine brass [Alford: chalcolibanus],46 as if they burned [as if they had been burned, or as when burned] in a furnace [Lange: And his feet like unto a stream of molten metal, as it had become glowing47 in a furnace]; 16and his voice as the sound [voice] of many waters. And [: and] he [om. he] had [having] in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went [going forth] a sharp two-edged [two-edged sharp] sword: and his countenance was [om. was] as the sun shineth in his [its] strength.
Convulsing and Exalting Effect
17And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me [om. unto me],48 Fear not; I am the first and the last: [om.:] 18I am he that [om. I am he that] liveth, [and the living One;] and [ins. I] was dead; [om.;] and, behold, I am alive [living] for evermore, [into the ages of the ages;] Amen; [om. Amen;]49 and [ins. I] have the keys of hell and of [om. hell and of] death [ins. and of hades].
John’s Prophetic Calling and Commission
19Write [ins. therefore]50 the things which thou hast seen, [;] and [both] the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter [are about to happen after these];51 20The mystery of the seven stars which52 thou sawest in [upon]53 my right hand, and the seven golden [om. golden] candlesticks [ins. of gold]. The seven stars are the [om. the] angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest [om. which thou sawest]54 are the [om. the] seven churches.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
[Rev 1:9–20. ALFORD: “Introduction to the Epistles, Appearance of our Lord to St. John, and command to write what he saw, and to send it to the seven churches.”—E. R. C.]
The entire section has a two-fold significance. In the first place, as a heavenly action [an action taking place in heaven], it lays the foundation for the critical review of the seven churches in the seven epistles. Secondly, it forms the basis of the whole Apocalypse. We must observe, however, that it is contrary to the text and to all internal probability to suppose that the entire series of visions, and even the recording of them, took place in one day (Bengel, Hengstenberg and others). In accordance with prophetic form, John begins his book with the announcement of his calling and commission; comp. Jer. 1.; Ezek. 1.
Rev 1:9. I, John.—We find the same expression in Rev 22:8; comp. Rev 1:4. Düsterdieck: “The conjunction of ἐγώ with the name is Danielic” (Dan. 7:15, 8:1, 9:2, 10:2, 12:5). [TRENCH: “The only other writer, either in the Old Testament or the New, who uses this style is Daniel—‘I, Daniel’ (7:28, 9:2, 10:2).”—E. R. C.] It is, therefore, an apocalyptic form, and it has been imitated by apocryphal apocalyptists. The conjunction of the name with what follows signalizes the Apocalyptist as the living mediator between God and the Church.
Your brother and companion.—This companionship has its foundation in Jesus, in fellowship with Jesus. It is a companionship at first in tribulation; then in the glory of the kingdom; the great contrast being harmonized by endurance (Rom. 8; 2 Tim. 2:10, 12; 1 Pet.). To the suffering of affliction at the hands of the hostile world, as a suffering with Christ, for His name’s sake, the principial possession of the glory of the kingdom corresponds, on which principial possession the hope of the perfect appearing of that glory is based. The goal is not attained, however, without endurance in Christ; see Rev 13:10, 14:12. [“As yet, however, while the tribulation is present, the kingdom is only in hope; therefore he adds to these, as that which is the link between them ‘and patience (endurance) of Jesus Christ; cf. Acts 14:22, where exactly these same three, the tribulation, the patience, and the kingdom, occur. Ὑπομονή, which we have rendered ‘patience,’ is not so much the ‘patientia’ as the ‘perseverentia’ of the Latin: which last word Cicero (De Invent. 2:54) thus defines: ‘In ratione bene consideratâ stabilis et perpetua mansio;’ and Augustine (Quæst. 83 qu. 31): ‘Honestatis aut utilitatis causa rerum arduarum ac difficilium voluntaria ac diuturna perpessio.’ It is indeed a beautiful word, expressing the brave patience of the Christian—βασιλὶς τῶν̔ὰρετῶν, Chrysostom does not fear to call it.” TRENCH.—E. R. C.]
Was in the isle.—The Apocalyptist introduces himself to his readers under the aspect of his martyrdom [Martyrium], wherein they also participate, in that blessed fellowship of love and suffering, to which the Apostle Paul delighted to refer (see 2 Cor.). Düsterdieck thinks that this reference of “companion” to a suffering of affliction as a martyr is not admissible. The simple and obvious traditional reference of the following words: “for the word of God, etc.”—to John’s banishment to the Isle of Patmos, a fact attested by Church history, is disputed by De Wette, Lücke, Bleek, Düsterdieck. Διά, as they take it, indicates that John was on the island of Patmos in order that he might receive the testimony of Jesus. A marvellous idea, this, that John should have been obliged to travel from Ephesus to Patmos for the sake of receiving a revelation from Jesus! These commentators affirm that, according to the usage of the Apocalypse, the μαρτυρία Ἰησοῦ cannot mean witness concerning Jesus, as Ebrard and others suppose. “On the contrary, the genitive accompanying μαρτυρία is invariably a subjective genitive.” In support of this view they cite: Rev 1:2, 12:17, 19:10, 20:4, in connection with the passages Rev 1:5, 12:11.55 The Apocalyptist, however, manifestly regards the μαρτυρία of Jesus as a grand unitous fact, as that world-historical witnessing unto, and suffering for, the truth (John 18:37), in which Jesus stands in the midst of His people as the faithful Witness, but which all faithful believers participate in, by virtue of the very fact that they testify of Jesus. For testimony of or concerning Jesus has a heavenly significance only through its being a testimony with Jesus of the whole revelation of God; as, on the other hand, a testimony with Jesus can not exist without a testimony of or concerning Him. [Believers, in filling up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ (Col. 1:24), continue His witness—they witness both with and concerning Him.—E. R. C.] Moreover, it cannot be denied that this strained interpretation, which identifies the ideas of revelation and testimony, is in the interest of that criticism which seeks to set aside the authorship of the Apostle John. The expression, was on the island, permits a distinct discrimination between the time of the revelation itself, or the grand series of visions, and the time of the inditing of the scripture. Whether it follows, however, that, at the time of writing, the Apocalyptist was no longer on the island, is extremely doubtful. Various attempts to explain ἐγενόμην, see in Düsterdieck, p. 120. [ALFORD remarks: “When an event is notified with ἐγένετο, we express the meaning by ‘came to pass:’ when a person, we have no word which will do it;” and he continues on the same word, Rev 1:10: “Not merely ‘I was,’ but ‘I became.’ ”—E. R. C.]
That is called Patmos.—The first readers of the Apocalypse were of course aware of this; doubtless, therefore, τῇ καλουμένῃ is not intended as an indication of the smallness of the island, but as a historical item for the more extended circle of readers. On the situation and character of the island (Patino or Palmosa), comp. the lexicons and works of travel.
Rev 1:10. I was in the spirit, i. e., transported out of the ordinary every-day consciousness, and placed in the condition of prophetic ecstasy [trance], Acts [10:10] 11:6, 22:17, 1 Cor. 14:2. The contrast is: to be in one’s right mind [the ordinary right condition of mind; or rather to be ἐν ἑαυτῷ.—E. R. C.] (Acts 12:11), or to be and to speak in the understanding (νοῦς) [1 Cor. 14:14]. It is the contrast of reflecting consciousness, holding intercourse with the world through the medium of the senses, and of a higher, or rather, polarily opposed form of consciousness, in which direct spiritual contemplation predominates. By the spirit, therefore, we undoubtedly are to understand, not the Spirit of God (as Grotius and others maintain), but that spiritual life of man which stands contrasted with his relation to the world; which, as a prophetic state, is inconceivable without the operation of the Holy Spirit, and hence presupposes the more general life in the Spirit (Rom. 8:9) as its basis.56 [The expression is simply ἐν πνεύματι, the article does not appear. “That which is born of the Spirit, is spirit” (ἐκ τοῦ Πνεύματος πνεῦμά ἐστι), John 3:6. The ordinary condition of the Christian, and the extraordinary condition of the prophet, are spiritual conditions produced by the Holy Spirit.—E. R. C.]
On the Lord’s day.—Not transported by the Spirit of the Lord to the Last Day (Wetstein and others), for the being in the spirit is an independent idea, but on Sunday (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:20, 16:2). On the reference of this to Easter day, and the ideas connected with this view, see Düsterdieck, p. 121. [Alford discusses the entire subject at considerable length.—E. R. C.]
And I heard behind me.—This represents, as Düsterdieck correctly remarks, the utter unexpectedness and surprisingness of the divine voice. Consequently, its pure and certain objectivity likewise. Various interpretations—as indicative of the invisibleness of God—of the position of the prophet, as on earth, etc., see in Düsterdieck. That commentator, however, fails to recognize the reference to the fact that, in the region of prophecy, the auricular wonder generally precedes the ocular wonder; and after the latter has faded away, the tones of the former are still heard—a fact in perfect accordance with psychological relations. The Jewish popular notion that no man can see God without dying, can of course have no application here; it is itself, however, but a dark reflection of the actual fact that every first or greatest view of the glory of the Lord has so astounding an effect upon the prophet as to cast him to the earth (Is. 6.; Jer. 1:6; Ezek. 1:28; Dan. 8:17); thus it was here. Ebrard rightly gives prominence to the gradualness of the development of the visionary state.
As of a trumpet.—Düsterdieck remarks that this is a mere comparison without any particular significance. The trumpet, however, significantly opens the Apocalypse, as a signal of the last time; see 1 Thess. 4:16 [Matt. 24:31]. In Exodus 19:19, it is the signal of the revelation of the law. According to Numbers 10:6, 7, the mere blowing of the trumpet was the signal for the gathering together of the congregation; the sounding of an alarm, on the other hand, being the signal for the breaking up of the camp—a distinction such as exists between the symbolical import of the peal of bells and the cannonade. This voice, according to Hengstenberg, proceeds from Christ Himself. Düsterdieck regards Rev 4:1 as militating against this view. It is, manifestly, the visional trumpet of the visional form of the Angel of Christ, i. e. Christ Himself in His symbolical appearance.
Rev 1:11. Saying: What thou seest.—Prophetic present.—In a book (βιβλίον).—Hengstenberg: Everything, to the end of Rev 3, is intended. Düsterdieck: The whole revelation is meant. Since this first, leading vision forms the foundation not only of the seven epistles, but also of the entire scripture, the latter view is established beyond a doubt. The commission to send the book to the seven churches devolved upon John immediately at the opening of the revelation in Patmos. This alone does not prove that the book was written on Patmos; nor, still less, that its author wrote it while in the ecstatic condition (as Hengstenberg affirms). But, since it is not supposable that John made any unnecessary delay in writing down such great things, it is highly probable that the book was written during his stay on Patmos. It would seem as if the first ἐγενόμην were modified by the second, particularly when we consider the great contrast between being in the spirit (πνεῦμα) and being in the understanding (νοῦς).
Send unto the seven churches.—Though the seven-foldness of the churches constitutes, as a sacred number, a symbolical type of the whole Church, this type is also founded upon a unitous organization of the diocese of Ephesus, to be inferred from the exchange of Paul’s Ephesian cyclical epistle from [i. e., received by the Colossians from.—E. R. C.]. Laodicea and the epistle to the Colossians (Col. 4:16).57—The order of the seven churches accords with their geographical position in respect to Patmos and Ephesus. Comp. the maps, ancient geography, and the travels of Schubert, Strauss, and others.
Rev 1:12. And I turned about.—Effect of the voice. To see the voice.—The prophetic voice pre-supposes a speaker in the background, and to visional seeing a more general sense attaches.—Seven golden candlesticks—These are the first things that he sees, for the whole Apocalypse treats of the future of the kingdom of God as represented by the. Church. Seven candlesticks; “not one candlestick with seven arms” (Düsterdieck, in opposition to Grotius).
Rev 1:13. And in the midst (ἐμμέσω).—The fact that Christ is always in His Church (Matt. 28:20) and, indeed, in the midst of the seven candlesticks, is here symbolically displayed to prophetic contemplation. Herder has observed that every one of the seven epistles commences with a feature of this vision. On the candlesticks comp. Matt. 5:14–16. The appearance is directly signalized as an appearance of Christ by the apocalyptic sign, Dan. 7:13, 10:16–18. Why is the word ὅμοιος used? Hengstenberg; To indicate that the Person seen is no mere man. Lyra: To indicate that it is the Angel of Christ. Ebrard: The Danielic פ (Rev 7:13). The state of the case is simply this: Christ is called the Son of man, but is like a son of man (Rom. 8:3; Phil. 2:7). The Seer adopts the latter form as the original apocalyptic term, and the one corresponding to the mysteriousness of the phenomenon. Doubtless he was in part led to the use of this expression—Son of man—by the fact that it was Christ’s own name for Himself; [It was one of the prophetic names of the Messiah—a name highly significant (see note*, p. 24), and the name adopted by Christ Himself.—E. R. C.]; and ὅμοιος is also in part expressive of the apostolic view that the human personality of Christ, in its glorification, is clothed with the splendor of divine majesty. The garment of Christ, the long talar (ποδήρης, reaching to the feet), denotes the High-priest; the golden girdle, the King. Christ is both these in the highest power, since He even makes His people kings and priests (Rev 1:6). He wears the girdle about His breast, not about His hips. Why is this? Ebrard’s explanation is justly rejected by Düsterdieck (p. 124). It is well known that the girdle, when worn about the loins, denotes a preparedness for travel and, consequently, for labor; surrounding the breast, it is an ornament, expressive of rest and festivity. The priests also wore their girdles thus, according to Josephus (see the citation in Düsterdieck).
Rev 1:14. His head and His hairs.—The head (pursuant to the irregular conjunction of terms) first appears under the aspect of the hair; since that, according to Oriental ideas, was the especial representative of its dignity. The whiteness of the hair is doubly characterized, the second image surpassing the first (Is. 1:18; Mark 9:3). What does this whiteness denote? Cocceius: Purity from sin. Hengstenberg: Holiness and glory. De Wette: A celestial light [lucid] nature. Düsterdieck, with others: Eternity, in accordance with the appearance of the Ancient of Days, Dan. 7:9;—with reference to Rev. 1:17, 18. In the history of the transfiguration and elsewhere, the white lustre certainly denotes the lucid or light-nature, in which eternity is conditioned by purity and maturity [together with the dignity and authority that (especially among the Orientals) belong to age—the Ancient of days.—E. R. C.], perfection. [Augustine (Exp. ad Gal. 4:21): “Dominus non nisi ob antiquitatem veritatis in Apocalypsi albo capite apparuit.”—E. R. C.]
As a flame (Rev 19:12; Dan. 10:6).—Interpretations: Vitringa and others: Omniscience. Hengstenberg and others: Avenging justice. Ebrard: Holiness, consuming all that is unclean. Düstérdieck: Omniscience, directed, with holy wrath, against all that is unholy. De Wette: The translumining, consuming glance of heavenly light-essences (analogy: classical descriptions of the gods). It is significant that the eyes of flame re-appear in the epistle to Thyatira. The all-piercing glance of the Judge is specially directed to the distinguishing of mock-holy fanaticism, such as Jezebel’s, from genuine spiritual life. The Greek term for pureness, sincerity, εἰλικρίνεια, is derived from the sun-ray [and the English pure, from πῦρ, fire.—TR.]
Rev 1:15. His feet like unto fine brass [or molten gold].—In the epistle to Thyatira this specification is conjoined with the eyes of flame. On the obscure χαλκολίβανον, comp. the lexicons, Ebrard, p. 138, and Düsterdieck, p. 126. The interpretations furthest from the point are: olibanum [Erzweihrauch, frankincense of deep hue] (Ewald); furnace ore [Ofenerz] (Hitzig); but neither is white ore [Weisserz, “a mixture of sulphuret of silver, sulphuret of copper, sulphuret of lead, and sulphuret of antimony.”—Sanders’ Wörterbuch.—TR.] (Hengstenberg), or Lebanon ore (iron) [Ebrard], satisfactory. For what idea could readers living in Asia Minor connect with either of these? Züllig supposes χαλκολίβανον to be a provincial term peculiar to Asia Minor. Perhaps we should go back to λείβω, λιβάξω, λιβάς, λιβάδιον, and translate: fused copper [Kupferguss—a gush or flow of molten copper], glowing copper, heated in the furnace to a white glow, a golden stream, so that λίβανον may be a word unknown, indeed, to the lexicons, and yet a perfectly correct term for molten, white-glowing metal;58 see Rev 10:1. According to De Wette, these feet, radiant with a fiery glow, are significant only of brightness and splendor; according to Düsterdieck, they denote the down-treading of unholy foes, with reference to Ps. 60:12; Is. 63:6; Dan. 10:6. But as feet in themselves are instruments of motion, and as the golden-yellow hue denotes pure motion, so, especially, this metal, purified in the furnace, fluent and glowing with white heat, denotes the holiest motion. And hence, also, this characteristic of Christ is properly opposed to the unholy and mischievous motion of a fanatical Jezebel of Thyatira.
And His voice as the voice of many waters.—The surging waters represent the life of the nations. As the voice of Christ is, on the one hand, like a trumpet of God, it may, on the other, be heard in the sea-like roar of the voices of Christian nations. Whether the many waters admit of so simple a translation as “the majesty of ocean, calmly roaring” [die Majestät des ruhig rauschenden Meeres”] is doubtful.59
Rev 1:16. And having (ἔχων) in His right hand.—The stars have, with exceedingly bad taste, been turned into jewels or rings (Eichhorn). [“Not on His right hand, as a number of jewelled rings, but in his right hand, as a wreath or garland held in it.” Alford.—E. R. C.] The fact of His being able to lay the same hand on the head of John is contrary to the sensuous apperception, but not to the symbolical representation. That the stars are in His hand is expressive not simply of the fact that the churches are His property (Düsterdieck); but also that they are surrounded by His providence. We cannot, with Hengstenberg, regard this trait as pre-eminently expressive of His punitive power, though neither is that to be excluded. Nor is the element of comfort (Herder) pre-eminent. What is primarily taught is simply Christ’s [property in, and] rule over His Church, a doctrine branching into consolation, admonition, and warning.
And out of His mouth.—This unpicturesque but symbolically pregnant combination is expressive of the fact that Christ overcomes the world with His word, as with a two-edged sword, Is. 11:4; 49:2; Wisd. 18:15; 2 Thess. 2:8. Christ’s simple word is intended here; hence there is also a reference to the power of that word in so far as it is contained in the preaching of His servants (a point which Düsterdieck denies); even the testimony of each individual Christian is included, Eph. 6:17. [The word of the Lord is almighty; by His word He acts—He creates, He overcomes, and He destroys. The last, or the last two, seem to be the fact, or facts, set forth by this figure.—E. R. C.]
And His countenance.—Düsterdieck translates: His appearance, declaring that in Rev 10:1, the word is πρόσωπον [instead of ὄψις]. But is it probable that different portions of the body would be described and the face, of all things, left out? And are we to suppose that the whole form shone as the sun, and yet that the white hair, the stars in the hand, and the white glow of the molten metal were perceptible in this dazzling radiance, whilst the face itself was invisible? Dan. 10:6, would then offer a diversity.—In its might.—The noon-tide blaze of the sun, unobscured by clouds or mist.60
Rev 1:17. And when I saw Him.—Exodus 33:20; Is. 6:5; Ezek. 1:28; Dan. 8:17, 10:7. “The impression made by the appearance of the Lord is that of deadly terror, for because death is the wages of sin, no sinful man can stand before God and live” (Düsterdieck). In the first place, we must distinguish the pure meaning of Ex. 33:20 from the popular Jewish notion set forth in Judg. 13:22; the astounding and, possibly, well-nigh fatal effect which the appearance of the Heavenly and Holy One produces on sinful man does indeed remain; yet, as Ebrard justly remarks, it would be a very one-sided proceeding to regard this element of fear in view of death as the only one at work in the breast of the aged John. Was an element of rapture combined, an emotion of pleasurable fear, as the same commentator claims? At all events, the tremendous operation of the physiological and cosmical contrast is to be taken into account. Perfect spiritual sight is in itself a sort of death to this world (second consciousness), a state into which the seer is transported by a death-like convulsion, and a transportation from the earthly to the heavenly condition of existence is not conceivable without a metamorphosis. Comp. the history of the transfiguration and the resurrection. On the inconsistency which De Wette pretends to discover in this description, see Düsterdieck. Be it remarked only that this event signalizes the commencement of the visionary state and not its entire course.
He laid His right hand upon me.—See the miracles of Christ. According to Düsterdieck, the laying of the right hand upon John was but a friendly sign accompanying the aid actually given by the word of Christ. Unseasonable separation of the two sides of one act!
Fear not.—The same words that ring through the Gospels.
I am the First, and the Last [Rev 1:18]. And the Living One.—The First: this, Christ is in a mediate sense, as the Father is the same in an absolute sense: He, Christ, is the principle of the world (Epistle to the Colossians) and the final goal of the world (Epistle to the Ephesians), especially of the Kingdom of God; and both these He is in the unity of the simple Living One, whose life and demonstrations of life go on from Alpha to Omega (Rev 22:13). The Living One does not directly signify ζωοποιῶν (Grotius) [it includes it, however.—E. R. C.]; but neither does it simply mean one who is alive; in power and effect it denotes Him who is the fountain of life, and who now restores life and animation to the paralyzed John.
And I was dead.—As Man, also, He is the Living One, Who, by His resurrection, has got death behind Him and under Him (Rom. 6:9; Acts 13:34).
And behold, I am living.—He lives from æon to æon. This expression is significant of eternity—not, however, as a rigid unit, void of distinction and diversity, but as a series of peculiar and original conformations of the æon or the æons of the æons. The latter conception is one of infinite grandeur. As there is a heaven of heavens, i. e., as the uranic units unite into one more general unity, so there is an æon, composed, not of years, but of æons, and this æon, again, unfolds into a plurality. And Christ does not live passively into these æons, but as He who has the keys of death and Hades. Hell is not spoken of in this passage.
The keys denote authority—exclusive authority. Christ can redeem men from death and Hades, and can cast men into them; and He alone is possessed of this power, Rev 3:7, 9:1, 20:1. And have these keys, through Peter’s hands, been transmitted to the popes? The distinction between death and the realm of death occasions difficulty. We cannot think of death as a place to which keys give access. This place is Hades; see the articles on Sheol and Hades.61 Thus both terms seem to express one and the same idea (De Wette); yet the Seer further distinguishes between death and Hades, Rev 6:8; 20:14. In the first passage, Death manifestly appears as the former lord of Hades, the previous possessor of its keys—Death is personified, therefore, as in Ps. 9:13; Job 38:17. And it is personified because it had become an independent power, inasmuch as the natural spirit-life of humanity was powerless in its presence. Christ, in communicating to John a new and exalted consciousness of this His glory, not only raises him up again, but also endues him with that elevation of mind without which he would be unable to view the terrors of the last times.
Rev 1:19. Write now [therefore]—Because thou art now freed from thy dread, and hast but to write of life’s triumph over death. This verse, based upon Rev 1:17 and 18, is in part a repetition of Rev 1:11 (Hengstenberg). What thou hast seen, is not limited to the vision introduced in Rev 1:12 (Düsterdieck), but includes what thou shalt have seen, i. e., the whole series of visions. The visions, however, relate first to what is, what now is (thus most commmentators, whilst Bleek, De Wette and others interpret ἃ εἰσὶν in the sense of: what it signifies), and, secondly, to that which is to come. [“Two meanings of ἃ εἰσὶν are possible. 1. The things which are, viz., which exist at the present time … 2. What things they (the ἃ εἶδες) signify … In deciding between these we have the following considerations: a. the use of the plural εἰσίν, as marking off this clause in meaning from the next, which has ἃ μέλλει γενέσθαι. If this latter is singular, why not this? Is it not because the μέλλει γενέσθαι merely signifies the future time, in which this latter class, en masse, were to happen, whereas this ἃ εἰσὶν imports what these things, each of them severally, mean? And, b. this seems to be borne out by the double repetition of εἰσίν in the next verse, both times unquestionably in this (the second) meaning.” ALFORD.—E. R. C.]
Rev 1:20. The mystery of the seven stars.—This adjunct is of the highest moment in a two-fold aspect. In the first place, it gives us to understand that the whole apocalyptic prophecy will really be a history of the seven stars and the seven candlesticks; secondly, that the entire series of visions will consist of symbolical mysteries, not to be understood literally, requiring interpretation; yet susceptible of interpretation through biblical means. The interpretation which Christ here gives by way of example, reminds us of the interpretation of the first two parables in Matt. 13., also designed as a guide to the interpretation of the rest. Hence an angel of exegesis appears once more in the darker portion of the Apocalypse, Rev 17:7 sqq.; and at the close of Rev 13., there is a fresh reference to the fact that we have to do with riddles. The mystery of the seven stars is that which is symbolized by them. Sacrum secretum, per ipsas significatum (Lyra). “A μυστήριον is everything that man is unable to understand by means of his own unassisted reason, and which can be apprehended only through divine showing and interpretation, such as immediately follow here” (Düsterdieck). But this definition is undoubtedly too narrow; or do commentaries on the Apocalypse pretend to be the direct result of divine notifications? A mystery is a deep-lying and concealed truth or fact, to be disclosed not by direct revelation, but by the Spirit of enlightenment in His own time, which time, however, God has always reserved to Himself, 1 Tim. 3:16. Düsterdieck justly declares that the command to write this mystery is fulfilled throughout the book, “for the prophetic unfolding of the hope in the triumphant consummation of Christ’s Church through His own return, rests upon the mystery of the seven stars in Christ’s hand and the seven candlesticks amidst which He walks—i. e., upon the fact that Christ is the all-powerful protector of His Church, the vanquisher of all its foes.” [Lange seems to misapprehend Düsterdieck. The “divine showing and interpretation” spoken of by the latter is not necessarily an immediate divine influence upon the mind of each apprehender—as Lange evidently supposes him to mean. A μυστήριον, revealed immediately to one for the instruction of others, is revealed for all, and to all, who, under the ordinary enlightening operations of the Spirit, apprehend His instructions. It is generally supposed that the essential idea of a “mystery” is that of something hidden—that it ceases to be a “mystery” when it is apprehended. This is indeed the meaning of the term in ordinary language, and seems to be the one contemplated by Lange; it is not however the import of the term as employed in Scripture. There the essential idea is simply that of something undiscoverable by mere human reason—it is necessarily hidden until it is revealed, but the fact of being hidden does not enter into its essential character; it continues to be a “mystery” after it has been revealed, and after the revelation has been apprehended. Specifically, there are hidden mysteries, revealed mysteries, and (so far as individuals are concerned) apprehended mysteries. The symbolic relation of marriage to the union between Christ and His Church is as much a mystery now, as it was before the inspired Apostle announced it in the Epistle to the Ephesians (5:32). And so with the mysteries of which the Apostles were stewards, comp. 1 Cor. 4:1, with Matt. 13:11, 1 Cor. 1:26; the mystery of the gospel, Eph. 6:19, of the faith, 1 Tim. 3:9, etc. (See all the passages in which the term occurs; the Greek term is invariably translated mystery, and the English word never occurs save as the translation of μυστήριον.)—E. R. C.]
The seven stars are angels.—This interpretation seems at first sight but to exchange one mystery for another; we must consider, however, that in apostolic times the idea of angels was more intelligible than at the present day. Interpretations: 1. Heads, teachers, (Mal. 2:7); either as bishops (ancient view) or as the whole ecclesiastical government of the church—the presbytery eventually, with the bishop at its head (Hengstenberg; Rothe: the bishop in idea). 2. The church itself (Andreas and others), or the personified church-spirit (De Wette; he identifies this church-spirit with the ἄγγελοσς ἔφορος). 3. The messenger of the church, i. e., the delegate, who went to and fro between the church and the Apostle (Ebrard). John, however, could not write to this delegate, since it was he who took charge of all manuscripts; neither is it probable that there was more than one delegate between John and the Church in Asia Minor.
If we consider the distance betwixt a star and a candlestick, we shall put both bishops and presbyteries out of the question, and above all, Irvingite wandering stars. We must consider, in the first place, that the epistles are addressed to the angels just as though they were addressed to the churches themselves. The angel receives praise and censure as the representative of the church. Again, he seems to be significant of the conscience of the church; the church’s reformation and awakening were to proceed from him. Now both these points coincide in the idea of the personified character or life-picture of the church (to be distinguished from the church-spirit; comp. Acts 12:15). It may indeed be objected that a symbol cannot be replaced by a symbol (Rothe). And certainly a symbol cannot be written to. But the ideal (in the sense of existing in idea, not in the sense of conforming to God’s perfect idea) fundamental type of a Church is a reality in heaven and in the sight of God, as well as in the church’s own disposition, and every amendment of a church must start from a laying hold on this fundamental type. It also results from this address that the letters are not episcopal, but apocalyptic. Episcopal letters Christ would, we believe, have left to John. It further results that the epistles form a constituent part of the Apocalypse, and not a mere introduction to it (Bleek); and, furthermore, that the churches are cited not simply as empirical congregations, but as seven universal types of the Church in all places and ages. That there is an empirical foundation for the epistles, is an unquestionable fact.
[NOTE ON THE ANGELS OF THE CHURCHES.—The subject of the Angels of the Churches is one of great interest, apart from the fact that it has an important bearing on the question of the government of the primitive Church. Beside the interpretations given by Lange, there are two others which it is most strange that he failed to mention—since the former was advocated by Origen, Greg. Nys., and Jerome, and in modern days by Alford; and the latter by Vitringa, Lightfoot, Bengel, and Winer. They will now be presented, and will be numbered in continuance of the interpretations given above. 4. Celestial angels, in some way representing the churches. 5. Officers in the primitive churches similar to the שליח צבור (nuncius ecclesiæ) of the synagogue. The objection urged by Lange to the 3d view is insuperable; and to this may be added the fact that there is no evidence that any delegate from the churches waited upon John. The 5th view is supported only by a similarity in name—the title of the synagogue officer referred to may be translated: ἄγγελος ἐκκλησίας. It seems to be a fatal objection, however, that the Hebrew minister was one of the inferior officers of the synagogue (see Kitto’s Cyclopædia, Tit. SYNAGOGUE), and the Angel of the Apocalypse, if a single person, must have been the chief ruler of the church. SCHAFF (Hist. of the Ap. Ch.) thus writes: “We must at the outset discard the view, that the angels here correspond to the deputies of the Jewish synagogues. … For these had an entirely subordinate place, being mere clerks, or readers of the standing forms of prayers, and messengers of the synagogue; whereas the angels in question are compared to stars, and represented as presiding over the churches; nor have we elsewhere any trace of the transfer of that Jewish office to the Christian Church.” The 2d view, the one advocated by Lange, viz.: that by angel was meant the church, or the personified character thereof—is liable not only to the objection mentioned by himself, but to the far stronger one, that the angel is clearly distinguished from the church (Rev 1:13, 16, 20). The arguments in favor of the 4th view may be abridged from Alford as follows: (1) The constant usage of this book, in which the word ἄγγελος occurs only in this sense; (2) the further usage of this book, in which we have, ch 16:5, the ἄγγελος τῶν ὑδάτων introduced without any explanation, who can be none other than the angel presiding over the waters; (3) the expression of our Lord Himself, Matt. 18:10, together with Acts 12:15, both asserting the doctrine of guardian or representative angels; (4) the extension of this from individuals to nations, Dan. 10:21; 12:1; (5) the fact that throughout these Epistles nothing is ever addressed individually, as to a teacher, but as to some one person reflecting the complexion and fortunes of the church, as no mere human teacher or ruler could; (6) as against the objection that sin is charged upon the angel, “that there evidently is revealed to us a mysterious connection between ministering angels and those to whom they minister, by which the former in some way are tinged by the fates and fortunes of the latter. E. g., in our Lord’s saying cited above (Matt. 18:10), the place of dignity there asserted of the angels of the little children, is unquestionably connected with the character of those whose angels they are,” etc. As against this view it may be urged—a. that the preceding answer is not satisfactory—the citation does not support the assertion; and even if it did, it would afford no basis for the charging the sin of the churches upon the holy ministering spirits of God; and b. it is well nigh inconceivable that our Lord should have selected a human Apostle yet in the flesh, as His medium of communication with the blessed spirits who minister before His face. The first view is not only the most natural, but it is liable to the fewest objections.
The epistles are such as might properly have been addressed to the chief ruler or rulers of the respective churches, and would naturally have been addressed to them as representing their congregations. The sole difficulty arises from the use of the term angel. This, however, in view of the peculiar nature of the Apocalypse, should occasion no serious difficulty, and most certainly the difficulty is less in supposing an unusual application of the term, than is connected with any hypothesis that gives to the term a precedented meaning. No opinion is expressed as to whether by the angel was meant a single prelate, a bench of presbyters, or the moderator of a presbytery—a primus inter pares. These are questions which are not determinable from the passage before us, and which can be determined only from a discussion of the entire scriptural teaching on the subject of Church order—a discussion which cannot in this place be entered upon. (For valuable discussions of the subject of the Angels, see Neander, Kitto’s Bib. Cyc., title BISHOP; Alford, Trench (: The Epistles to the Seven Churches), Onderdonk’s Episcopacy tested by Scripture, Alexander’s Primitive Church Offices, Killen’s Anc. Ch., Schaff’s Hist. of the Ap. Ch. and Hist. of the Chr. Ch., Vol. I.)—E. R. C.]
The seven candlesticks.—The churches as light-bearers. Their sevenfoldness is the ramification of the one seven-armed candlestick in the temple, symbolical of all revelation. “For this very reason the churches must represent the Church universal, or the kingdom of God” (?). DE WETTE.
Seven churches.—Are merely the seven churches in the empirical sense intended (Wolf; a singular variation by Harenberg, see in Düsterdieck), or have they a more general import? De Wette and many others are in favor of the latter view. In adopting the latter view, we must distinguish between the Church and the Kingdom of God, however. The question next suggests itself as to whether these types are to be chronologically apprehended and applied strictly to the different periods of the Church (Vitringa); or whether they are types of different conditions of the Church (Düsterdieck); or, finally, whether a combination of these two views is admissible (Ebrard); or, again, whether these types shall be realized in the last times exclusively (Hofmann). On these points, see the Introduction and the Notes on the Seven Epistles. We will but remark in passing, that the typical grouping of the ecclesiastical ground-forms of ecclesiastical life in a totality, composed of the sacred number seven, is evident; the chronological arrangement unmistakably offers striking analogies—a circumstance which, however, must doubtless be referred to the fact that the outward consecution of these forms is based upon a considerable degree of inner ethical construction, nearly in accordance with the psychological law of oscillation. To that decrease of the first love, accompanying an honest zeal and activity, in Ephesus, succeeds a re-inflammation of the Church under her martyrdom in Smyrna; the mixture with the world which gained ground in Pergamus, amid all the faithful confession of the Church there, is followed by the reaction of a more active spiritual life in Thyatira, where even worldliness is induced to assume the garb of religious enthusiasm, which agitations, however, relapse into deep exhaustion, into a death-slumber, such as appears at Sardis; then, again, follows the reaction of faithfulness in the Church of Philadelphia, with its little strength; this reaction, however, cannot hinder the condition of final lukewarmness in the Church—a condition elsewhere described in the eschatological discourses and parables of the Lord.
[These variations, it may further be observed, occur in individual Christian experience, in the life of individual churches, and in the history of the Universal Church. And not only so, but they all find their illustrations in different portions of the Catholic Church of any one period. Though in each period the Church as a whole may predominantly present one of the seven types, yet illustrations of all the others may be found in different sections. (See add. note, p.139.—E.R.C.]
Rev 1:9. [Rec. inserts καὶ after ὁ; it is omitted in all critical editions, in accordance with all the leading Codices.—E. R. C.]
Rev 1:9. [Rec. has ἐν τῇ with P. and a few minuscules; it is generally omitted in critical editions with א. A. B*. C, etc. Vulg., etc.—E. R. C.]
Rev 1:9. Codd. א. C. [P.], Vulg., etc., read ἐν Ἰησοῦ; A., ἐν Χριστῶ.
Rev 1:9. [Lachmann omits διά with A. C, Vulg., etc.; Alford brackets it; it is found in א. B*. P., etc.—E. R. C.]
Rev 1:9. [Lachmann and Alford omit Χριστοῦ with א.1 A. C P., Vulg., etc.; it is found in א.3c B.*, etc.—E. R. C.]
Rev 1:11. The addition ἐγώ εἰμι, etc. is not well founded. [It is found only in P. (which omits εἰμι) and a few minuscules; it is omitted in א. A. B*. C., Vulg., etc.—E. R. C.]
Rev 1:11. [Rec. gives ταῖς ἐν Ἀσία, with Vulgate (Clementine); all the Codd. omit, together with the Amiatinus and other MSS. of the Vulgate.—E. R. C.]
Rev 1:12. [Critical Editors generally adopt ἐλάλει with א. B*. C., Vulg., etc.; Rec. with P. gives ἐλάλησε; A. gives λαλεῖ.—E. R. C.]
Rev 1:13. [Lachmann omits ἑπτά with A. C. P., etc.; Alford brackets it; א. B., etc., agree with Rec. in giving it.—E. R. C.]
Rev 1:14. [There is no article in the original. In justification of the retention of “the” (italicised) the following is quoted from ALFORD: “In New Testament Greek we should be no more justified in rendering υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου in such a connection as this “a son of man,” than πνεῦμα θεοῦ, a spirit of God. That meaning would, doubtless, have been here expressed by τοῖς υἱοῖς τῶν ἀνθρώπεν.”—E. R. C.]
Rev 1:13. The reading υἱόν Cod. B., etc., probably arose from the fear lest the apparition should not be taken for an appearance of Christ.
Rev 1:13. Different forms: μαστο͂ς Cod. C [P.] Rec. and μαζοῖς Cod. A. [μασθοῖς, א.—E. R. C.].
Rev 1:15. [Alford transfers the Greek word χαλκολίβανον, its meaning not being known. See Exegetical Notes.—E. R. C.]
Rev 1:15. The reading πεπυρωμένης corrected to πεπυρωμένῃ. Tischendorf [and Alford] in accordance with Codd. B. A. and P., πεπυρωμένοι, relating to the feet, which gives no sense. Feet cannot be made to glow in a furnace, but the lustre of gold ore is doubled when it appears glowing white in a glowing furnace. [Lachmann gives πεπυρωμένης, citing as authorities A. and C., which Alford confirms, although he himself gives -οι; א. gives πεπυρωμένῳ (confirmed by Vulgate) which, as a masculine or neuter dative, better agrees with Lange’s idea. See Exeg. Notes.—E. R. C.]
Rev 1:17. [The μοι is utterly without authority.—E. R. C.]
Rev 1:18. [א3a. and B*. give ἀμήν; א.1 A. C. P. omit.—E. R. C.]
Rev 1:19. [א. A. B*. C. P., Vulg., and all recent critical editors, give οὖν.—E. R. C.]
Rev 1:19. [Alford (in accordance with Bleek and De Wette and others) translates this verse: “Write therefore the things which thou sawest and what things they signify, and the things which are about to happen after these.” See Ex. Notes.—E. R. C.]
Rev 1:20. The Rec. and Tischendorf ὦν [also B*.]; A. C. [P.] give οὕς.
Rev 1:20. Ἐπί as against ἐν. [A. gives ἐν τῇ δεξιᾷ.—E. R. C.]
Rev 1:20. [The Rec. reading ἅς εἶδες is supported only by P. and a few minuscules. Critical Editors, in accordance with א. A. B*. C. omit it.—E. R. C.]
[“The usage of our writer himself in the passages where he speaks of death by persecution (6:9, 20:4), show that with him διά in this connection is because of, in consequence of. De Wette naively says that had it not been for these parallel places such a meaning would never have been thought of here. We may as simply reply, that owing to those parallel passages it must be accepted here.” ALFORD.—E. R. C.]
Comp. my treatise on the two-fold consciousness in the Zeitschrift für christtiche Wissenschaft, 1851, p. 242.
[See remarks on. Rev 1:4, p. 90.—E. R. C.]
[Alford correctly remarks: “This word has defeated all the ingenuity of commentators hitherto. … If conjecture were admissible (which it is not), I should in despair of any way out of the difficulty, suggest whether the word might not have been χαλκολιβαδίω, a stream of melted brass: ΔΙ having been read ΔΙ or N.”——E. R. C.]
[It is to be regretted that Lange does not give us the name of the author whom he quotes. If the above sentence was written in ridicule, it is singularly inappropriate. There is an internal calm, a “hiding of power,” in that which is truly mighty when producing effects within its scope, that makes the expression “calmly roaring,” when applied to the ocean, beautifully appropriate. As there is no sound on earth so majestic as the roar of ocean, and at the same time so suggestive of a hidden power, what figure so appropriate to represent the voice of the Almighty?—E. R. C.]
[TRENCH: “The description of the glorified Lord, which has now been brought to a conclusion, sublime as a purely mental conception, but intolerable if we were to give it an outward form and expression, and picture Him with this sword proceeding from His mouth, these feet as burning brass, this hair white as wool, and the rest, may suggest a few reflections on the apocalyptic, and generally the Hebrew symbolism, and the very significant relations of difference and opposition in which it stands to the Greek. Religion and art for the Greek ran into one another with no very great preponderance of the claims of the former over the latter. Even in his religious symbolism the sense of beauty, of form, of proportion, overrules every other and must, at all costs, find its satisfaction. … But with the Hebrew symbolism it is altogether different. The first necessity there is that the symbol should set forth truly and fully the religious idea of which it is intended to be the vehicle. How it would appear when it clothed itself in an outward form and shape, whether it would find favor and allowance at the bar of taste, this was quite a secondary consideration; may be confidently affirmed not to have been a consideration at all; for, indeed, with the one exception of the cherubim, there was no intention that it should embody itself there, but rather that it should remain ever and only a purely mental conception, the unembodied sign of an idea. I may observe, by the way, that no skill of delineation can make the cherubim other than unsightly objects to the eye. Thus, in this present description of Christ, sublime and majestic as it is, it is only such so long as we keep it wholly apart from any external embodiment.”—E. R. C.]
[See the Excursus on Hades under Rev 20:14.—E. R. C.]