Revelation 1:4
John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;
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(4) JOHN to the seven churches (or, congregations) which are in Asia.—It is needless to observe that the Asia here is not to be regarded as co-extensive with what we know as Asia Minor. It is the province of Asia (comp. Acts 2:9-10; Acts 16:6-7), which was under a Roman proconsul, and embraced the western portion of Asia Minor. In St. John’s time it consisted of a strip of sea-board, some 100 square miles in extent. Its boundaries varied at different periods; but roughly, and for the present purpose, they may be regarded as the Caycus on the north, the Mæander on the south, the Phrygian Hills on the east, and the Mediterranean on the west.

Seven churches.—It has been maintained by some (notably by Vitringa) that the epistles to the seven churches are prophetic, and set forth the condition of the Church in the successive epochs of its after-history. The growth of error, the development of schisms, the gloom of superstition, the darkness of mediæval times, the dawn of the Reformation, the convulsions of after-revolutions, have been discovered in these brief and forcible epistles. Such a view needs no formal refutation. The anxiety for circumstantial and limited fulfilments of prophecy has been at the root of such attempts. When we read God’s words as wider than our thoughts we stand in no need of such desperate efforts at symmetrical interpretations; for the truth then is seen to be that words addressed to one age have their fitness for all; and that these epistles are the heritage of the Church in every epoch. In this sense the churches are types and representatives of the whole family of God. Every community may find its likeness here. This much is admitted by the best commentators of all schools. “The seven churches,” says St. Chrysostom, “are all churches by reason of the seven Spirits.” “By the seven,” writes St. Augustine, “is signified the perfection of the Church universal, and by writing to the seven he shows the fulness of one.” And the words, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches,” ‘are, as has been well observed, a direct intimation that some universal application of their teaching was intended.

Grace be unto you, and peace.—Three apostles, St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. John, adopt the same salutation. Not only is this a kind of link of Christian fellowship between them, but its adoption by St. John, after St. Paul had first used it, is a slight token that the Apocalypse cannot be regarded (as some recent critics would have it) as an anti-Pauline treatise. As the Christian greeting, it transcends while it embraces the Greek and Hebrew salutations. There is no tinge of the sadness of separation; it is the greeting of hope and repose, grounded on the only true foundation of either, the grace of God, which is the well-spring of life and love.

From him which is, and which was, and which is to come (or, which cometh).—The phrase presents a remarkable violation of grammar; but the violation is clearly intentional. It is not the blunder of an illiterate writer; it is the deliberate putting in emphatic form the “Name of Names.” “Should not,” says Professor Lightfoot, “this remarkable feature be preserved in an English Bible? If in Exodus 3:14 the words run, ‘I AM hath sent me unto you,’ may we not also be allowed to read here, from ‘HE THAT IS, AND THAT WAS, AND THAT IS TO COME?’“ The expression must not be separated from what follows. The greeting is triple: from Him which is, and which was, and which cometh; from the seven Spirits; and from Jesus Christ—i.e., from the Triune God. The first phrase would therefore seem to designate God the Father, the self-existing, eternal One, the fount and origin of all existence. Professor Plumptre suggests that the phrase used here may be used in allusion and contrast to the inscription spoken of by Plutarch, on the Temple of Isis, at Sais: “I am all that has come into being, and that which is, and that which shall be; and no man hath lifted my vail.” The heathen inscription identifies God with the universe, making Him, not an ever-being, but an ever-becoming, from whom personality is excluded: the Christian description is of the personal, everlasting, self-revealing God—who is, who was, and who cometh. We should have expected after “is” and “was” “will be;” but there is no “will be” with an eternal God. With Him all is; so the word “cometh” is used, hinting His constant manifestations in history, and the final coming in judgment. This allusion to the Second Coming is denied by Professor Plumptre, but as he admits that the words, “He that cometh,” used in the Gospels, and applied by the Jews to the Messiah, may be designedly employed here by the Apostle, it is difficult to see how the Advent idea can be excluded. The word appears to imply that we are to be always looking for Him whose “comings” recur in all history as the earnests of the fuller and final Advent.

From the seven Spirits.—The interpretation which would understand these seven Spirits to be the seven chief angels, though supported by names of great weight, is plainly untenable. The context makes it impossible to admit any other meaning than that the greeting which comes from the Father and the Son comes also from the Holy Spirit sevenfold in His operations, whose gifts are diffused among all the churches, and who divides to every man severally as He will. For corresponding thoughts in the Old Testament, compare the seven lamps and seven eyes of Zechariah (Zechariah 3:9; Zechariah 4:2; Zechariah 4:10), “the symbols of eternal light and all embracing knowledge.” It may not be inappropriate to note that Philo speaks of the number seven in its mystical import as identical with unity, as unity developed in diversity, and yet remaining one. This unity in diversity is the thought St. Paul seems anxious to keep before the minds of the Corinthians, lest their gifts should become the source of division. All work that one and self-same spirit (1Corinthians 12:11). The after-recurrence in this book of the number seven is, I think, selected to support this thought of completeness and variety; the dramatic unity is preserved, though the scenes which are unfolded are amply diversified; and the seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven vials, are not three successive periods, but three aspects of one complete period presided over by that one Spirit whose guidance may be seen in all ages, and in diverse ways. The Spirits are before the throne. This reference to the throne gives a touch of authority to the description. The Holy Spirit who pleads with men is the Spirit from God’s Throne.



Revelation 1:4-5So loftily did John in his old age come to think of his Lord. The former days of blessed nearness had not faded from his memory; rather he understood their meaning better than when he was in the midst of their sweetness. Years and experience, and the teaching of God’s Spirit, had taught Him to understand what the Master meant when He said :-’ It is expedient for you that I go away’; for when He had departed John saw Him a great deal more clearly than ever he had done when he beheld Him with his eyes. He sees Him now invested with these lofty attributes, and, so to speak, involved in the brightness of the Throne of God. For the words of my text are not only remarkable in themselves, and in the order in which they give these three aspects of our Lord’s character, but remarkable also in that they occur in an invocation in which the Apostle is calling down blessings from Heaven on the heads of his brethren. The fact that they do so occur points a question: Is it possible to conceive that the writer of these words thought of Jesus Christ as less than divine? Could he have asked for ‘ grace and peace’ to come down on the Asiatic Christians from the divine Father, and an Abstraction, and a Man? A strange Trinity that would be, most certainly. Rightly or wrongly, the man that said,’ Grace and peace be unto you, from Him which is, and which was, and which is to come, and from the seven Spirits which are before His Throne, and from Jesus Christ,’ believed that the name of the One God was Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

But it is not so much to this as to the connection of these three clauses with one another, and to the bearing of all three on our Lord’s power of giving grace and peace to men’s hearts, that I want to turn your attention now. I take the words simply as they lie here; asking you to consider, first, how grace and peace come to us ‘from the faithful Witness’; how, secondly, they come ‘from the first begotten from the dead’; and how, lastly, they come ‘from the Prince of the kings of the earth.’

I. Now as to the first of these, ‘the faithful Witness.’

All of you who have any familiarity with the language of Scripture will know that a characteristic of all the writings which are ascribed to the Apostle John, viz., his Gospel, his Epistles, and the book of the Revelation, is their free and remarkable use of that expression, ‘Witness.’ It runs through all of them, and is one of the many threads of connection which tie them all together, and which constitute a very strong argument for the common authorship of the three sets of writings, vehemently as that has of late been denied.

But where did John get this word? According to his own teaching he got it from the lips of the Master, who began His career with these words, ‘We speak that we do know, and bear witness to that we have seen,’ and who all but ended it with these royal words, ‘Thou sayest that I am a King! For this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the Truth.’ Christ Himself, then, claimed to be in an eminent and special sense the witness to the world.

The witness of what? What was the substance of His testimony? It was a testimony mainly about God. The words of my text substantially cover the same ground as His own words, ‘I have declared Thy name unto My brethren,’ and as those of the Apostle: ‘The only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.’ And they involve the same ideas as lie in the great name by which He is called in John’s Gospel,’ the Word of God.’

That is to say, all our highest and purest and best knowledge of God comes from the life and conduct and character of Jesus Christ. His revelation is no mere revelation by words. Plenty of men have talked about God, and said noble and true and blessed things about Him. Scattered through the darkness of heathenism, and embedded in the sinfulness of every man’s heart, there are great and lofty and pure thoughts about Him, which to cleave to and follow out would bring strength and purity. It is one thing to speak about God in words, maxims, precepts; it is another thing to show us God in act and life. The one is theology, the other is gospel. The one is the work of man, the other is the exclusive prerogative of God manifested in the flesh.

It is not Christ’s words only that make Him the ‘Amen,’ the ‘faithful and true Witness,’ but in addition to these, He witnesses by all His deeds of grace, and truth, and gentleness, and pity; by all His yearnings over wickedness, and sorrow, and sinfulness; by all His drawings of the profligate and the outcast and the guilty to Himself, His life of loneliness, His death of shame. In all these, He is showing us not only the sweetness of a perfect human character, but in the sweetness of a perfect human character, the sweeter sweetness of our Father, God. The substance of His testimony is the Name, the revelation of the character of His Father and our Father.

This name of ‘witness’ bears likewise strongly upon the characteristic and remarkable manner of our Lord’s testimony. The task of a witness is to affirm; his business is to tell his story-not to argue about it, simply to state it. And there is nothing more characteristic of our Lord’s words than the way in which, without attempt at proof or argumentation, He makes them stand on their own evidence; or, rather, depend upon His veracity. All His teaching is characterized by what would be insane presumption in any of us, and would at once rule us out of court as unfit to be listened to on any grave subject, most of all on religious truth. For His method is this: ‘Verily, verily, I say to you! Take it on My word. You ask Me for proof of My saying: I am the proof of it; I assert it. That is enough for you! ‘Not so do men speak. So does the faithful Witness speak; and instead of the conscience and common-sense of the world rising up and saying, ‘This is the presumption of a religious madman and dictator,’ they have bowed before Him and said, ‘Thou art fairer than the children of men! Grace is poured into Thy lips.’ He is the ‘faithful Witness, who lays His own character and veracity as the basis of what He has to say, and has no mightier word by which to back His testimony than His own sovereign ‘Verily! verily!’

The name bears, too, on the ground of His testimony.

A faithful witness is an eye-witness. And that is what Christ claims when He witnesses about God. ‘‘We speak that we do know, we testify that we have seen.’ ‘I speak that which I have seen with My Father!’ There is nothing more remarkable about the oral portion of our Lord’s witness than the absence of any appearance, such as marks all the wisest words of great men, of having come to them as the result of patient thought. We never see Him in the act of arriving at a truth, nor detect any traces of the process of forming opinions in Him. He speaks as if He had seen, and His tone is that of one who is not thinking out truth or grasping at it, but simply narrating that which lies plain and clear ever before His eyes. I do not ask you what that involves, but I quote His own statement of what it involves: ‘No man hath ascended up into Heaven save He that came down from Heaven, even the Son of Man which is in Heaven.’

There have been plenty of great and gracious words about God, and there have been plenty of black and blasphemous thoughts of Him. They rise in our own hearts, and they come from our brothers’ tongues. Men have worshipped gods gracious, gods loving, gods angry, gods petulant, gods capricious; but God after the fashion of the God whom Jesus Christ avouches to us, we have nowhere else, a God of absolute love, who ‘so loved the world’-that is, you and me-’that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish.’

And now I ask, is there not grace and peace brought to us all from that faithful Witness, and from His credible testimony? Surely the one thing that the world wants is to have the question answered whether there really is a God in Heaven that cares anything about me, and to whom I can trust myself wholly; believing that He will lift me out of all my meannesses and sins, and make me clean and pure and blessed like Himself. Surely that is the deepest of all human needs, howsoever little men may know it. And sure I am that none of us can find the certitude of such a Father unless we give credence to the message of Jesus Christ our Lord.

This day needs that witness as much as any other; sometimes in our unbelieving moments, we think more than any other. There is a wave-I believe it is only a wave-passing over the cultivated thought of Europe at present which will make short work of all belief in a God that does not grip fast to Jesus Christ. As far as I can read the signs of the times, and the tendency of modern thinking, it is this:-either an absolute Silence, a Heaven stretching above us, blue and clear, and cold, and far away, and dumb; or else a Christ that speaks-He or none! The Theism that has shaken itself loose from Him will be crushed; I am sure, in the encounter with the agnosticism and the materialism of this day. And the one refuge is to lay fast hold of the old truth:-’ The only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.’

Oh! you orphan children that have forgotten your Father, and have turned prodigals and rebels; you that have begun to doubt if there is any one above this low earth that cares for you; you that have got bewildered and befogged amidst the manifold denials and controversies of this day; come back to the one voice that speaks to us in tones of confident certainty as from personal knowledge of a Father. ‘He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father,’ says Jesus to us all: ‘hearken unto Me, and know God, whom to know in Me is eternal life.’ Listen to Him. Without His testimony you will be the sport of fears, and doubts, and errors. With it in your hearts you •will be at rest. Grace and peace come from the faithful Witness.

II. We have grace and peace from the Conqueror of Death.

The ‘ first begotten from the dead’ does not precisely convey the idea of the original, which would be more accurately represented by ‘the first born from the dead’-the resurrection being looked upon as a kind of birth into a higher order of life. It is, perhaps, scarcely necessary to observe that the accuracy of this designation, ‘the first born from the dead,’ as applied to our Lord, is not made questionable because of the mere fact that there were others who rose from the dead before His resurrection, for all of these died again. What a strange feeling that must have been for Lazarus and the others, to go twice through the gates of death; twice to know the pain and the pang of separation! But these all have been gathered to the dust, and lie now waiting ‘the adoption, that is the resurrection of the body.’ But this Man, being raised, dieth no more, death hath no more dominion over Him. And how is it that grace and peace come to us from the risen Witness? Two or three words may be said about that.

Think how, first of all, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the confirmation of His testimony. In it the Father, to whom He hath borne witness in His life and death, bears witness to Christ, that His claims were true and His work well-pleasing. He is ‘declared to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead.’ If our Lord did not rise from the dead, as all Christendom to-day [1] has been declaring its faith that He did, then, as it seems to me, there is an end to His claims to be Son of God, and Son of Man, or anything other than a man like the rest of us. If He be no more and naught else than a man, altogether like the rest of us, then there is an end to any special revelation of the Divine nature, heart, purposes, and will, in His works and character. They may still be beautiful, they may still reveal God in the same sense in which the doings of any good man suggest a fontal source of goodness from which they flow, but beyond that they are nothing. So all the truth, and all the peace, all the grace and hope which flow to us from the witness of Jesus Christ to the Father, are neutralized and destroyed unless we believe in the resurrection from the dead. His words may still remain gracious, and true in a measure, only all dashed with the terrible mistake that He asserted that He would rise again, and rose not. But as for His life, it ceases to be in any real sense, because it ceases to be in any unique sense, the revelation to the world of the character of God.

And therefore, as I take it, it is no exaggeration to say that the whole fabric of Christianity and all Christ’s worth as a witness to God, stand or fall with the fact of His resurrection. If you pull out that keystone, down comes the arch. There may still be fair carving on some of the fallen fragments, but it is no longer an arch that spans the great gulf, and has a firm pier on the other side. Strike away the resurrection and you fatally damage the witness of Jesus. You cannot strike the supernatural out of Christianity, and keep the natural. The two are so inextricably woven together that to wrench away the one lacerates the other, and makes it bleed, even to death. If Christ be not risen we have nothing to preach, and you have nothing to believe. Our preaching and your faith are alike vain: ye are yet in your sins. Grace and peace come from faith in the ‘first begotten from the dead.’

And that is true in another way too. Faith in the resurrection gives us a living Lord to confide in-not a dead Lord, whose work we may look back upon with thankfulness; but a living one, who works now upon us, and by whose true companionship and real affection strength and help are granted to us every day. The cold frost of death has not congealed that stream of love that poured from His heart while He lived on earth; it flows yet for each of us, for all of us, for the whole world.

My brother, we cannot do without a living Christ to stand beside us, to sympathize, to help, to love. We cannot do without a living Christ with whom we may speak, who will speak to us. And that communion which is blessedness, that communication of power and righteousness which is life, are only possible, if it be true that His death was not the end of His relationship to us, or of His work in the world, but was only a transition from one stage of that work to another. We have to look to Christ, the ‘faithful Witness,’ the Witness who witnessed when He died; but we have to look to Him that is risen again and takes His place at the right hand of God. And the grace and peace flow to us not only from the contemplation of the past witness of the Lord, but are showered upon us from the open hands of the risen and living Christ.

In still another way do grace and peace reach us, from the ‘first begotten from the dead,’ inasmuch as in Him and in His resurrection-life we are armed for victory over that foe whom He has conquered. If He be the first born, He will have ‘many brethren.’ The ‘first’ implies a second. He has been raised from the dead; therefore death is not the destruction of conscious life. He has been raised from the dead, therefore any other man may be. Like another Samson, He has come forth from the prison-house, with the bars and gates upon His mighty shoulders, and has carried them away up there to the hill-top where He is. And the prison-house door stands gaping wide, and none so weak but he can pass out through the ever open portals. Christ has risen, and therefore if we will trust Him we have conquered that last and grimmest foe. And so for ourselves, when we are trembling, as we all do with the natural shrinking of flesh from the thought of that certain death; for ourselves, in our hours of lonely sorrow, when the tears come or the heart is numbed with pain; for ourselves when we lay ourselves down in our beds to die, grace and peace, like the dove that fell on His sacred head as it rose from the water of the baptism-will come down from His hands who is not only ‘the faithful Witness,’ but the ‘first begotten from the dead.’

III. Lastly, we have grace and peace from the King of kings.

The series of aspects of Christ’s work here is ranged in order of time, in so far as the second follows the first, and the third flows from both, though we are not to suppose that our Lord has ceased to be the faithful Witness when He has ascended His Sovereign Throne. His own saying, ‘I have declared Thy name, and will declare it,’ shows us that His witness is perpetual, and carried on from His seat at the right hand of God.

He is the ‘Prince of the kings of the earth,’ just because He is ‘ the faithful Witness.’ That is to say: -His dominion is the dominion of the truth; His dominion is a kingdom over men’s wills and spirits. Does He rule by force? No! Does He rule by outward means? No I By terror? No I but because, as He said to the astonished Pilate, He came ‘ to bear witness to the truth’; therefore is He the King not of the Jews only but of the whole world. A kingdom over heart and conscience, will and spirit, is the kingdom which Christ has founded, and His rule rests upon His witness.

And not only so, He is ‘ the Prince of the kings of the earth’ because in that witness He dies, and so becomes a ‘martyr’ to the truth-the word in the original conveying both ideas. That is to say, His dominion rests not only upon truth. That would be a dominion grand as compared with the kingdom of this world, but still cold. His dominion rests upon love and sacrifice. And so His Kingdom is a kingdom of blessing and of gentleness; and He is crowned with the crowns of the universe, because He was first crowned with the crown of thorns. His first regal title was written upon His Cross, and from the Cross His Royalty ever flows. He is the King because He is the sacrifice.

And He is the Prince of the kings of the earth because, witnessing and slain, He has risen again; His resurrection has been the step midway, as it were, between the humiliation of earth and death, and the loftiness of the Throne. By it He has climbed to His place at the right hand of God. He is King and Prince, then, by right of truth, love, sacrifice, death, resurrection.

And King to what end? That He may send grace and peace. Is there no peace for a man’s heart in feeling that the Brother that loves him and died for him rules over all the perplexities of life, the confusions of Providence, the sorrows of a world, and the corruptions of his own nature? Is it not enough to drive away fears, to anodyne cares, to disentangle perplexities, to quiet disturbances, to make the coward brave, and the feeble strong, and the foolish wise, and the querulous patient, to think that my Christ is king; and that the hands which were nailed to the Cross wield the sceptre, and that He who died for me rules the universe and rules me?

Oh, brethren! there is no tranquility for a man anywhere else but in the humble, hearty recognition of that Lord as his Lord. Crown Him with your reverence, with your loyal obedience, with your constant desires; crown Him with your love, the most precious of all the crowns that He wears, and you will find that grace and peace come to you from Him.

Such, then, is the vision that this seer in Patmos had of his Lord. It was to him a momentary opening of the heavens, which showed him his throned Lord; but the fact which was made visible to his inward eye for a moment is an eternal fact. To-day as then, to-morrow as to-day, for Asiatic Greeks and for modern Englishmen, for past centuries, for the present, and for all the future, for the whole world for ever, Jesus Christ is the only witness whose voice breaks the awful silence and tells us of a Father; the only Conqueror of Death who makes the life beyond a firm, certain fact; the King whose dominion it is life to obey. We all need Him. Your hearts have wants which only His grace can supply, your lives have troubles which only His peace can still. Sin and sorrow, change and trial, separation and death, are facts in every man’s experience. They are ranked against us in serried battalions. You can conquer them all if you will seek shelter and strength from Him who has died for you, and lives to succour and to save. Trust Him! Let your faith grasp the past fact of the Cross whose virtue never grows old, and the present fact of the Throne from which He bends down with hands full of grace; and on His lips the tender old words: ‘Peace I leave with you, My peace give I unto you I’


[1] Easter Sunday.

Revelation 1:4-6. John — The dedication of this book is contained in the 4th, 5th, and 6th verses; but the whole Revelation is a kind of letter. To the seven churches which are in Asia — That part of the Lesser Asia, which was then a Roman province. There had been several other churches planted here; but it seems these were now the most eminent. And it was among these that St. John had laboured most during his abode in Asia. In these cities there were many Jews. Such of them as believed, in each, were joined with the Gentile believers in one church. Grace be unto you, and peace — The favour of God, with all temporal and eternal blessings; from him who is, and who was, and who cometh, or, who is to come — A wonderful translation of the great name, JEHOVAH: He was of old, he is now, he cometh; that is, will be for ever. And from the seven Spirits which are before his throne — Christ is he who hath the seven Spirits of God. The seven lamps which burn before his throne are the seven Spirits of God. The Lamb hath seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God. Seven was a sacred number in the Jewish Church. But it did not always imply a precise number. It sometimes is to be taken figuratively, to denote completeness, or perfection. By these seven Spirits, not seven created angels, but the Holy Ghost, is to be understood; the angels are never termed Spirits in this book; and when all the angels stand up, while the four living creatures, and the four and twenty elders, worship him that sitteth upon the throne, and the Lamb, the seven Spirits neither stand up nor worship. To these seven Spirits of God, the seven churches, to whom the Spirit speaks so many things, are subordinate; as are also their angels, yea, and the seven angels which stand before God. He is called, The seven Spirits, not with regard to his essence, which is one, but with regard to his manifold operations. And from Jesus Christ, the faithful Witness, the First- begotten from the dead, and the Prince of the kings of the earth — Three glorious appellations are here given him, and in their proper order. He was the faithful Witness of the whole will of God before his death, and in death, and remains such in glory. He rose from the dead, as the first-fruits of them that slept; and now hath all power both in heaven and earth. He is here styled a Prince. But by and by, he bears his title of King; yea, King of kings, and Lord of lords. This phrase, the kings of the earth, signifies their power and multitude, and also the nature of their kingdom. It became the Divine Majesty to call them kings with a limitation; especially in this manifesto from his heavenly kingdom. For no creature, much less a sinful man, can bear the title of king in an absolute sense, before the eyes of God. To him that loved us, and — Out of that free, abundant love, hath washed us from the guilt and power of our sins with his own blood; And hath made us kings — Partakers of his present, and heirs of his eternal kingdom; and priests unto God and his Father — To whom we continually offer ourselves, a holy, living sacrifice; to him be the glory — For his love and redemption; and the might — Whereby he governs all things.

1:4-8 There can be no true peace, where there is not true grace; and where grace goeth before, peace will follow. This blessing is in the name of God, of the Holy Trinity, it is an act of adoration. The Father is first named; he is described as the Jehovah who is, and who was, and who is to come, eternal, unchangeable. The Holy Spirit is called the seven spirits, the perfect Spirit of God, in whom there is a diversity of gifts and operations. The Lord Jesus Christ was from eternity, a Witness to all the counsels of God. He is the First-born from the dead, who will by his own power raise up his people. He is the Prince of the kings of the earth; by him their counsels are overruled, and to him they are accountable. Sin leaves a stain of guilt and pollution upon the soul. Nothing can fetch out this stain but the blood of Christ; and Christ shed his own blood to satisfy Divine justice, and purchase pardon and purity for his people. Christ has made believers kings and priests to God and his Father. As such they overcome the world, mortify sin, govern their own spirits, resist Satan, prevail with God in prayer, and shall judge the world. He has made them priests, given them access to God, enabled them to offer spiritual and acceptable sacrifices, and for these favours they are bound to ascribe to him dominion and glory for ever. He will judge the world. Attention is called to that great day when all will see the wisdom and happiness of the friends of Christ, and the madness and misery of his enemies. Let us think frequently upon the second coming of Christ. He shall come, to the terror of those who wound and crucify him by apostacy: he shall come, to the astonishment of the whole world of the ungodly. He is the Beginning and the End; all things are from him and for him; he is the Almighty; the same eternal and unchanged One. And if we would be numbered with his saints in glory everlasting, we must now willing submit to him receive him, and honour him as a saviour, who we believe will come to be our Judge. Alas, that there should be many, who would wish never to die, and that there should not be a day of judgment!John to the seven churches which are in Asia - The word "Asia" is used in quite different senses by different writers. It is used:

(1) as referring to the whole eastern continent now known by that name;

(2) either Asia or Asia Minor;

(3) that part of Asia which Attalus III, king of Pergamos, gave to the Romans, namely, Mysia, Phrygia, Lycaonia, Lydia, Carla, Pisidia, and the southern coast - that is, all in the western, southwestern, and southern parts of Asia Minor; and,

(4) in the New Testament, usually the southwestern part of Asia Minor, of which Ephesus was the capital. See the notes at Acts 2:9.

The word "Asia" is not found in the Hebrew Scriptures, but it occurs often in the Books of Maccabees, and in the New Testament. In the New Testament it is not used in the large sense in which it is now, as applied to the whole continent, but in its largest signification it would include only Asia Minor. It is also used, especially by Luke, as denoting the country that was called "Ionia," or what embraced the provinces of Caria and Lydia. Of this region Ephesus was the principal city, and it was in this region that the "seven churches" were situated. Whether there were more than seven churches in this region is not intimated by the writer of this book, and on that point we have no certain knowledge. it is evident that these seven were the principal churches, even if there were more, and that there was some reason why they should be particularly addressed.

There is mention of some other churches in the neighborhood of these. Colosse was near to Laodicea; and from Colossians 4:13, it would seem not improbable that there was a church also at Hierapolis. But there may have been nothing in their circumstances that demanded particular instruction or admonition, and they may have been on that account omitted. There is also some reason to suppose that, though there had been other churches in that vicinity besides the seven mentioned by John, they had become extinct at the time when he wrote the Book of Revelation. It appears from Tacitus (History, xiv, 27; compare also Pliny, N. H., v. 29), that in the time of Nero, 61 a.d., the city of Laodicea was destroyed by an earthquake, in which earthquake, according to Eusebius, the adjacent cities of Colosse and Hierapolis were involved. Laodicea was, indeed, immediately rebuilt, but there is no evidence of the re-establishment of the church there before the time when John wrote this book.

The earliest mention we have of a church there, after the one referred to in the New Testament by Paul Colossians 2:1; Colossians 4:13, Colossians 4:15-16, is in the time of Trajan, when Papias was bishop there, sometime between 98 a.d. and 117 a.d. It would appear, then, to be not improbable that at the time when the Apocalypse was written, there were in fact but seven churches in the vicinity. Prof. Stuart (i., 219) supposes that "seven, and only so many, may have been named, because the sevenfold divisions and groups of various objects constitute a conspicuous feature in the Apocalypse throughout." But this reason seems too artificial; and it can hardly be supposed that it would influence the mind of John, in the specification by name of the churches to which the book was sent. If no names had been mentioned, and if the statement had occurred in glowing poetic description, it is not inconceivable that the number seven might have been selected for some such purpose.

Grace be unto you, and peace - The usual form of salutation in addressing a church. See the notes on Romans 1:7.

From him which is, and which was, and which is to come - From him who is everlasting - embracing all duration, past, present, and to come. No expression could more strikingly denote eternity than this. He now exists; he has existed in the past; he will exist in the future. There is an evident allusion here to the name Yahweh, the name by which the true God is appropriately designated in the Scriptures. That name יהוה Yahweh, from היה haayah, to be, to exist, seems to have been adopted because it denotes existence, or being, and as denoting simply one who exists; and has reference merely to the fact of existence. The word has no variation of form, and has no reference to time, and would embrace all time: that is, it is as true at one time as another that he exists. Such a word would not be inappropriately paraphrased by the phrase "who is, and who was, and who is to come," or who is to be; and there can be no doubt that John referred to him here as being himself the eternal and uncreated existence, and as the great and original fountain of all being.

They who desire to find a full discussion in regard to the origin of the name Yahweh, may consult an article by Prof. Tholuck, in the "Biblical Repository," vol. iv., pp. 89-108. It is remarkable that there are some passages in pagan inscriptions and writings which bear a very strong resemblance to the language used here by John respecting God. Thus, Plutarch (De Isa. et Osir., p. 354.), speaking of a temple of Isis, at Sais, in Egypt, says, "It bore this inscription - 'I am all that was, and is, and shall be, and my vail no mortal can remove'" - Ἐγώ εἰμι πᾶν τὸ γεγονός, καὶ ὅν, καὶ ἐσόμενον καὶ τὸν ἐμὸν πέπλον οὐδείς τω θνητὸς ἀνεκάλυψεν Egō eimi pan to gegonos, kai hon, kai esomenon kai ton emon peplon oudeis tō thnētos anekalupsen. So Orpheus (in Auctor. Lib. de Mundo), "Jupiter is the head, Jupiter is the middle, and all things are made by Jupiter." So in Pausanias (Phocic. 12), "Jupiter was; Jupiter is; Jupiter shall be." The reference in the phrase before us is to God as such, or to God considered as the Father.

And from the seven Spirits which are before his throne - After all that has been written on this very difficult expression, it is still impossible to determine with certainty its meaning. The principal opinions which have been held in regard to it are the following:

I. That it refers to God, as such. This opinion is held by Eichhorn, and is favored by Ewald. No arguments derived from any parallel passages are urged for this opinion, nor can any such be found, where God is himself spoken of under the representation of a sevenfold Spirit. But the objections to this view are so obvious as to be insuperable:

(1) If it refers to God as such, then it would be mere tautology, for the writer had just referred to him in the phrase "from him who was," etc.


4. John—the apostle. For none but he (supposing the writer an honest man) would thus sign himself nakedly without addition. As sole survivor and representative of the apostles and eye-witnesses of the Lord, he needed no designation save his name, to be recognized by his readers.

seven churches—not that there were not more churches in that region, but the number seven is fixed on as representing totality. These seven represent the universal Church of all times and places. See Trench's [Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia] interesting note, Re 1:20, on the number seven. It is the covenant number, the sign of God's covenant relation to mankind, and especially to the Church. Thus, the seventh day, sabbath (Ge 2:3; Eze 20:12). Circumcision, the sign of the covenant, after seven days (Ge 17:12). Sacrifices (Nu 23:1; 14:29; 2Ch 29:21). Compare also God's acts typical of His covenant (Jos 6:4, 15, 16; 2Ki 5:10). The feasts ordered by sevens of time (De 15:1; 16:9, 13, 15). It is a combination of three, the divine number (thus the Trinity: the thrice Holy, Isa 6:3; the blessing, Nu 6:24-26), and four the number of the organized world in its extension (thus the four elements, the four seasons, the four winds, the four corners or quarters of the earth, the four living creatures, emblems of redeemed creaturely life, Re 4:6; Eze 1:5, 6, with four faces and four wings each; the four beasts and four metals, representing the four world empires, Da 2:32, 33; 7:3; the four-sided Gospel designed for all quarters of the world; the sheet tied at four corners, Ac 10:11; the four horns, the sum of the world's forces against the Church, Zec 1:18). In the Apocalypse, where God's covenant with His Church comes to its consummation, appropriately the number seven recurs still more frequently than elsewhere in Scripture.

Asia—Proconsular, governed by a Roman proconsul: consisting of Phrygia, Mysia, Caria, and Lydia: the kingdom which Attalus III had bequeathed to Rome.

Grace … peace—Paul's apostolical greeting. In his Pastoral Epistles he inserts "mercy" in addition: so 2Jo 3.

him which is … was … is to come—a periphrasis for the incommunicable name Jehovah, the self-existing One, unchangeable. In Greek the indeclinability of the designation here implies His unchangeableness. Perhaps the reason why "He which is to come" is used, instead of "He that shall be," is because the grand theme of Revelation is the Lord's coming (Re 1:7). Still it is THE Father as distinguished from "Jesus Christ" (Re 1:5) who is here meant. But so one are the Father and Son that the designation, "which is to come," more immediately applicable to Christ, is used here of the Father.

the seven Spirits which are before his throne—The oldest manuscripts omit "are."

before—literally, "in the presence of." The Holy Spirit in His sevenfold (that is, perfect, complete, and universal) energy. Corresponding to "the seven churches." One in His own essence, manifold in His gracious influences. The seven eyes resting on the stone laid by Jehovah (Re 5:6). Four is the number of the creature world (compare the fourfold cherubim); seven the number of God's revelation in the world.

John to the seven churches which are in Asia: John, the apostle and evangelist, writes either to all the churches of Asia under the notion of seven, (which is the number of perfection), or to those seven churches mentioned Revelation 1:11, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea, seven famous places in Asia the Less, where the gospel was planted; which being the most famous churches in that part of the world, John is commanded to deposit this prophecy in their hands, by them to be communicated unto other churches. These churches were in the most famous cities of the Lesser Asia: some think John was the apostle that preached most in Asia, and founded these churches; others, that though they were founded by Peter and Paul, yet after their death John took upon him the charge of them. It is the opinion of some learned men, that the apostle did not, in the epistles to the churches in Asia, design only to tell them of their error, and prescribe to their cure; but that in writing to them, he assigns both a prophetical instruction of us all concerning the state of the church in all periods from that time to the day of judgment, and also to reprove and counsel all present and succeeding churches; but of this we may possibly speak more afterward.

Grace be unto you, and peace: grace and peace is the common apostolical salutation, as to the sense of which we have often spoken: the apostle wisheth them the free love of God, that is, grace, and the seal of it, Romans 5:1, peace with God and their own consciences, and each with other.

From him which is, and which was, and which is to come: these words are a description of God, particularly of Jesus Christ in his eternity and immutability: he was from eternity; he is now; and he shall be for ever. Or, (as some), he was in his promises before his incarnation; he is now God manifested in the flesh; and he is to come as a Judge, to judge the quick and the dead. This was an ancient name of God, Exodus 3:14, I am that I am.—I AM hath sent me unto you. These words interpret the name Jehovah.

And from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; it is very difficult to determine what is meant by the seven Spirits here before the throne: we read of them also, Revelation 3:1 4:5 5:6. Christ is described, Revelation 3:1, as having the seven Spirits of God. It is said, Revelation 4:5, that the seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, are the seven Spirits of God; and Revelation 5:6, that the Lamb’s seven eyes were the seven Spirits of God. This is all the light we have from Scripture. Some think they are seven angels that are here meant. We read, Revelation 8:2, of seven angels that stood before God; and in Revelation 15:6-8, there is a like mention of seven angels; and Zechariah 4:2,10, Zechariah had a vision of seven lamps, and seven pipes, which, Revelation 1:10, are said to be the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth. But John saluting the churches with grace and peace from these seven Spirits, and joining them with Christ, they do not seem to be creatures, angels, that are here meant, but such a Being from whom grace and peace cometh. Others therefore understand by them, the seven workings of Divine Providence in his management of the affairs of the world, with relation to the church, of which we shall read after; but this also seems hard. The sense seems to be, and from the Holy Ghost, who, though but one spiritual Being, yet exerteth his influence many ways, and by various manifestations, called here seven Spirits, because all flow from the same Spirit. They are therefore called, Revelation 4:5, burning lamps; the Holy Ghost descending in the appearance of fire, Acts 2:3,4, and being compared to fire, Matthew 3:11. They are called the Lamb’s seven eyes and seven horns, Revelation 5:6. Christ had the Spirit without measure; and the Holy Spirit is oft called the Spirit of Christ. This seemeth the best sense; the reader may find the objections to it answered in Mr. Pool’s Synopsis Criticorum upon this verse.

John to the seven churches which are in Asia,.... In lesser Asia; their names are mentioned in Revelation 1:11,

grace be unto you, and peace; which is the common salutation of the apostles in all their epistles, and includes all blessings of grace, and all prosperity, inward and outward: See Gill on Romans 1:7. The persons from whom they are wished are very particularly described,

from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; which some understand of the whole Trinity; the Father by him "which is", being the I am that I am; the Son by him "which was", which was with God the Father, and was God; and the Spirit by him "which is to come", who was promised to come from the Father and the Son, as a Comforter, and the Spirit of truth: others think Christ is here only intended, as he is in Revelation 1:8 by the same expressions; and is he "which is", since before Abraham he was the "I am"; and he "which was", the eternal Logos or Word; and "is to come", as the Judge of quick and dead. But rather this is to be understood of the first Person, of God the Father; and the phrases are expressive both of his eternity, he being God from everlasting to everlasting; and of his immutability, he being now what he always was, and will be what he now is, and ever was, without any variableness, or shadow of turning: they are a periphrasis, and an explanation of the word "Jehovah", which includes all tenses, past, present, and to come. So the Jews explain this name in Exodus 3:14,

"Says R. Isaac (k), the holy blessed God said to Moses, Say unto them, I am he that was, and I am he that now is, and I am he that is to come, wherefore is written three times.

And such a periphrasis of God is frequent in their writings (l),

And from the seven spirits which are before his throne; either before the throne of God the Father; or, as the Ethiopic version reads, "before the throne of the Lord Jesus Christ"; by whom are meant not angels, though these are spirits, and stand before the throne of God, and are ready to do his will: this is the sense of some interpreters, who think such a number of them is mentioned with reference to the seven angels of the churches; or to the seven last "Sephirot", or numbers in the Cabalistic tree of the Jews; the three first they suppose design the three Persons in the Godhead, expressed in the preceding clause, and the seven last the whole company of angels: or to the seven principal angels the Jews speak of. Indeed, in the Apocrypha,

"I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels, which present the prayers of the saints, and which go in and out before the glory of the Holy One.'' (Tobit 12:15)

Raphael is said to be one of the seven angels; but it does not appear to be a generally received notion of theirs that there were seven principal angels. The Chaldee paraphrase on Genesis 11:7 is misunderstood by Mr. Mede, for not "seven", but "seventy angels" are there addressed. It was usual with the Jews only to speak of four principal angels, who stand round about the throne of God; and their names are Michael, Uriel, Gabriel, and Raphael; according to them, Michael stands at his right hand, Uriel at his left, Gabriel before him, and Raphael behind him (m). However, it does not seem likely that angels should be placed in such a situation between the divine Persons, the Father and the Son; and still less that grace and peace should be wished for from them, as from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ; and that any countenance should be given to angel worship, in a book in which angels are so often represented as worshippers, and in which worship is more than once forbidden them, and that by themselves: but by these seven spirits are intended the Holy Spirit of God, who is one in his person, but his gifts and graces are various; and therefore he is signified by this number, because of the fulness and perfection of them, and with respect to the seven churches, over whom he presided, whom he influenced, and sanctified, and filled, and enriched with his gifts and graces,

(k) Shemot Rabba, sect. 3. fol. 73. 2.((l) Targum. Jon. in Deuteronomy 32.39. Zohar in Exod. fol. 59. 3. & in Numb. fol. 97. 4. & 106. 2. Seder Tephillot, fol. 205. 1. Ed. Basil. fol. 2. 2. Ed. Amsterd. (m) Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 2. fol. 179. 1.

{2} John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, {3} from him {c} which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from {4} the {d} seven Spirits which are before his throne;

(2) This is the particular or singular inscription, in which salutation is written to certain churches by name, who represent the catholic church: and the certainty and truth of this is declared, from the author of it, in Re 1:8.

(3) That is, from God the Father, eternal, immortal, immutable: wholly unchangeable, John declares in a form of speech which is undeclined. For there is no incongruity in this place, where, of necessity the words must be adapted to the mystery, not the mystery corrupted or impaired by the words.

(c) These three, Is, Was, and Shall be, signify the word Jehovah, which is the proper name for God.

(4) That is, from the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son. This Spirit is one in person according to his subsistence: but in communication of his power, and in demonstration of his divine works in those seven churches, perfectly manifests himself as if there were many spirits, every one perfectly working in his own church. Which is why in Re 5:6 they are called the seven horns and seven eyes of the Lamb, as if to say, as his most absolute power and wisdom. In Re 3:1 Christ is said to have those seven spirits of God, and in Re 4:5 it is said that seven lamps burn before his throne, which also are those seven spirits of God. That this place ought to be so understood, it is thus proved. For first, grace and peace is asked by prayer from this Spirit, which is a divine work, and an action incommunicable in respect to God. Secondly, he is placed between the Father and the Son, as set in the same degree of dignity and operation with them, besides, he is before the throne, as of the same substance with the Father and the Son: as the seven eyes and seven horns of the Lamb. Moreover, these spirits are never said to adore God, as all other things are. Finally, this is the power by which the Lamb opened the book, and loosed the seven seals of it, when no one could be found among all creatures by whom the book might be opened Re 5:1-10 ; Of these things long ago Master John Luide of Oxford wrote to me. Now the Holy Spirit is named before Christ because a long speech about Christ follows.

(d) These are the seven spirits, which are later called the horns and eyes of the Lamb in Re 5:6 and are now acting as a guard waiting on God.

Revelation 1:4-8 contain the epistolary dedication of the entire book to the seven congregations of Asia,[543] Revelation 1:4-6, and its fundamental thought, Revelation 1:7-8. Thus the reference of Revelation 1:4-8 to the whole of the book has been correctly expressed in essentials by Beng.[544] So, also, Klief, who, however, separates Revelation 1:7-8, from Revelation 1:4-6, and tries to refer Revelation 1:7-20 a to the fundamental vision. The opinion of Hengstenberg,[545] that Revelation 1:4-6 have reference only “to the group of the seven epistles,” since everywhere, from Revelation 1:4 to Revelation 3:22, the treatment is concerning the wide province of the entire Church, and there is no special reference to the seven churches, is incorrect, for the reasons that not the contents of the seven epistles, but only those of the entire book, satisfy the announcement of Revelation 1:7; Revelation 1:19; and that, in a formal respect, the correspondence between the introduction, Revelation 1:1 sqq., and the conclusion, Revelation 22:6 sqq.,[546] makes manifest as a whole all that intervenes.

[543] Mentioned in Revelation 1:11.

[544] Cf. Herder, Ew., Lücke, De Wette, Rinck, Ebrard.

[545] Cf., against him, Lücke, p. 420, Ebrard, and Rinck.

[546] Cf. especially Revelation 22:16 with Revelation 1:4.

The epistolary introductory greeting, Revelation 1:4-5, is similar to the Pauline form,[547] but, in its contents, corresponds to the book which follows, with significative references to which it is filled.

John[548] writes to the seven churches in Asia. Ἀσία[549] is Proconsular Asia, consisting of the provinces of Phrygia, Mysia, Caria, Lydia, Ionia, and Æolis. Ephesus[550] was regarded the metropolis. In this Asia, Paul had planted the gospel; also, the First Epistle of Peter had its first readers there.[551]

In the greeting, ΧΆΡΙς and ΕἸΡΉΝΗ are combined, as in all the Pauline Epistles except 1 and 2 Timothy, where, as in 2 John 1:3, ἜΛΕΟς is inserted. ΧΆΡΙς always stands in the foreground as the fundamental condition whence all salvation, all Christian ΧΑΊΡΕΙΝ, alone proceeds; the ΕἸΡΉΝΗ, the effect of divine grace, has an important significance at the head of the book which treats in an especial way of the conflicts of believers. Falsely, N. de Lyra: “grace in the present life; peace in the future, for there human appetite will be altogether quieted.” Rather is the peace which believers already have, through grace, of such nature that they maintain it through patience and victorious perseverance in all tribulations.[552]

ἈΠῸ Ὁ ὬΝ, Κ.Τ.Λ. Description of the divine name יהוה,[553] but not under the cabalistic presupposition, that in that name itself, in a mystical way, the three tenses are indicated.[554] As to the form of the expression, neither is the manifestly intentional combination of the nom. ὁ ὤν, κ.τ.λ., with ἀπό to be impaired by the insertion of τοῦ,[555] or by supplying τοῦ λεγομένου ὁ ὤν, κ.τ.λ., τοῦ ὅς ὁ ὤν, κ.τ.λ., τοῦ θεοῦ ὅς ὁ ὤν, κ.τ.λ., etc.;[556] nor is the irregularity, that, in the absence of a necessary preterite participle in the formula ὁ ην, the finite tense is treated as a participle, to be accounted for by the false conception that stood for ὅς;[557] nor, finally, is ὁ ἐρχόμενος to be taken as precisely equivalent to ὁ ἐσόμενος[558] by an accommodation of the use of הכָּא, perhaps with an allusion to Mark 10:30, John 4:21; John 5:25; John 16:25; John 16:31 : but, in that inflexible firmness of the divine name,[559] there is something mysterious;[560] viz., an intimation of the immutability of the eternal God [see Note XVII., p. 122], who, as is shown also by the idea itself of eternity, and especially by the Ὁ ἘΡΧΌΜΕΝΟς,[561] rules the destinies of his people, as well as of the hostile world, brings his prophecy to fulfilment, and especially holds in his firm hand the entire development of the judgment. Accordingly, John writes not Ὁ ἘΣΌΜΕΝΟς, but with living reference to the fundamental thoughts of the book,[562] Ὁ ἘΡΧΌΜΕΝΟς, as also Revelation 1:8; Revelation 4:8. [See Note XVIII., p. 122.] The question whether, by the formula Ὁ ὬΝ Κ. Ὁ ἩΝ Κ. Ὁ ἘΡΧΌΜΕΝΟς, the triune God, or only God the Father, be designated, can be answered only in connection with the two following members of the sentence. The ἙΠΤᾺ ΠΝΕὙΜΑΤΑ, Κ.Τ.Λ., are, at all events, to be regarded not as angels, neither[563] as “the entire body of angels” (universitas angelorum), who are the ministers of our salvation,[564] nor[565] as the seven archangels[566] found again in Revelation 8:2;[567] against this, the expression,[568] its occurrence before Ἰησοῦ Χρ., and the circumstance that from the ἑπτὰ πνεύματα, as well as from ὁ ὤν, κ.τ.λ., and from Ἰησ. Χρ., grace and peace are to proceed.[569] The seven spirits are, according to Revelation 4:5, where they appear “before the throne of God,” “spirits of God” himself; according to Revelation 1:6, they are “the sent upon the whole earth,” and peculiar to the Lamb, as the seven eyes thereof. Christ “hath” the seven spirits.[570] Thus they belong to God and Christ himself in a way other than can be conceived of any creature. But they cannot be regarded mere attributes or manifestations, “the (seven[571]) virtues of God’s providence,”[572] “the seven members, as it were, of Divine Providence,”[573] “the most perfect nature of Jehovah,”[574] “the virtues, or what is proclaimed, of the Supreme Divinity,”[575]—which is neither clear in itself, nor consistent with John’s concrete mode of view; nor can the cabalistic personifications of the divine glory, nor the ten Sephiroth, be here thought of.[576] Essentially, by the seven spirits before the throne of God, nothing else can be understood than “the Spirit” who speaks to the churches,[577] and the Spirit of Christ[578] who makes men prophets.[579] Nevertheless, the sevenfoldness of this one Spirit is not to be explained, and, least of all, by an appeal to Isaiah 11:2, of the assumed “seven energies” of the Spirit;[580] but[581] John’s type is Zechariah 3:9; Zechariah 4:6; Zechariah 4:10. The Spirit cannot be beheld in his essential unity as he is before God’s throne, or as sent forth into all lands; besides, there is need of a concrete presentation,[582] which occurs according to the holy number of seven, representing the divine perfection; thus the one Spirit, who, as in Zechariah, is the treasure of the Church,[583] appears as seven eyes, lamps, or even as seven spirits.

[547] Romans 1:1 sqq.; 1 Corinthians 1:1 sqq. Cf. Ew., De Wette, Hengstb.

[548] Cf. Revelation 1:2.

[549] ἡ ἰδίως καλουμένη ʼΑσία (Asia properly so called), Ptolem., v. 2. Cf. Winer, Reallex., in loc.

[550] Cf. Revelation 1:11.

[551] 1 Peter 1:1. Cf. Introduction, sec. 3.

[552] Cf. Revelation 1:9; Revelation 3:10Revelation 1:4-8. The prologue.

Prologue, Revelation 1:4-94. John] The Apostle, the son of Zebedee, who (probably afterwards) wrote the Gospel: see Introduction.

seven churches] The number of course is symbolical or representative: there were other churches in Asia, e.g. at Colossae and Hierapolis (Colossians 4:13). But the Seven Churches represent “the Holy Church throughout all the world.” It was very early observed, that St Paul also wrote to seven churches—the Thessalonians, Corinthians, Galatians, Romans, Philippians, Ephesians (?), and Colossians.

in Asia] The proconsular province of that name. In Acts 16:6 “Asia” seems to be used in a still narrower sense, being distinguished from the adjoining districts of Phrygia and Mysia, as well as from the provinces of Galatia and Bithynia; so that it would correspond approximately with the ancient kingdom of Lydia. But as Pergamum was in Mysia, and Laodicea in Phrygia, it seems that here the word is used to include the whole province.

Grace … and peace] So St Paul in all his Epistles to the Seven Churches, Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2; Php 1:2; Colossians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:2; and so Philemon 1:3. In his later private letters the form varies—“Grace, mercy, and peace,” 1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4—as in St John’s second Epistle. St James (Revelation 1:1) uses the common secular salutation “greeting” (cf. Acts 15:23): St Peter has “grace and peace” as here, but in his first Epistle does not say from Whom they are to come.

from him] The sacred Name is in the nominative, being treated as indeclinable: as though we should say in English “from He Who is,” &c. For general remarks on the grammatical (or ungrammatical) peculiarities of this book, see Introduction, p. xxi. Here at least it is plain, that the anomaly is not due to ignorance, but to the writer’s mode of thought being so vigorous That it must express itself in its own way, at whatever violence to the laws of language.

which is, and which was, and which is to come] A paraphrase of the “Ineffable name” revealed to Moses (Exodus 3:14 sq.), which we, after Jewish usage, write “Jehovah” and pronounce “the Lord.” Or, rather perhaps, a paraphrase of the explanation of the Name given to him l. c., “I am That I am”—which is rendered by the LXX. “I am He Which Is;” by the Targum of Palestine on Exod. “I am He who is and who will be.” The same Targum on Deuteronomy 32:39 has “Behold now, I am He who Am and Was, and Will Be.”

which was] is again ungrammatical in Greek: the only word that could be used grammatically, would mean “which was made” or “which began to be,” and is therefore avoided. Compare the opposition of the “being” of God or Christ, and the “becoming” or “being made” of creatures, in St John’s Gospel, John 1:6; John 1:8-9, John 8:58.

is to come] Probably only used to express future time—not referring to the “Coming” of Christ; for thus far we have a threefold name for the Father—the Son is separately mentioned afterwards. Else, “He that is to come” is often used as a familiar and distinctive title of Christ: see Matthew 11:3; Matthew 21:9; John 6:14; John 11:27; Hebrews 10:37; John Ep. John 11:7 : cf. 1 John 2:18, where the same word is pointedly used of Antichrist. But with this more general sense we may compare “the wrath to come,” 1 Thessalonians 1:10, “the world to come,” Mark 10:30, and “things to come,” John 16:13; John 18:4.

seven Spirits] Song of Solomon 3:1; Song of Solomon 4:5; Song of Solomon 5:6. In the second of these passages it would be possible to understand the name of seven chief Angels (see Revelation 8:2): but here it would scarcely seem possible that creatures should be, not merely coupled with the Creator as sources of blessing, but actually thrust into the midst of His being, between the two Divine Persons. “The seven Spirits” thus made coordinate with the Father and the Son can scarcely be other than the Holy Ghost, Who is known to us in His seven-fold operations and gifts, and Who perhaps has some sevenfold character in Himself; which we cannot and need not understand, but of which there seem to be intimations in the passages of this book referred to, and in Zechariah 3:9; Zechariah 4:10, by which these are certainly to be illustrated.

Revelation 1:4. Ἀπὸ ὁ) Erasmus introduced ἀπὸ τοῦ ὁ.[5] This is the first of those passages in which the reviewer says, that I cannot at all be defended. And yet the reading approved of by me, ἀπὸ ὁ, is an early one. See App. Crit. Ed. ii. on the passage: When I pray, will they be moved, who, in their ignorance, esteem the press of Stephens of more value than all the traces of John in Patmos?ἀπὸ ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος, from Him, who is, and who was, and who cometh) In this salutation, James Rhenferd, in his Dissertation respecting the cabalistic[6] style of the Apocalypse, seeks for a description of the Ten Sephiroth,[7] three superior, and seven inferior: and he has proved that there is some resemblance; but he has brought forward from the Cabalistic writers nothing which does not exist in a purer form in the writings of John. Comp. Lamp. Comm. on the Apoc., p. 253. The Hebrew noun יהוה is undeclined; and of that noun this is a periphrasis, ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος, as we shall see presently at Revelation 1:8. And therefore the periphrasis also is used without inflexion of case. The article , three times expressed, gives to the Greek paraphrase of a Hebrew noun the form of a noun.—ἑπτὰ, seven) The Jews, from Isaiah 11:2, speak many and great things respecting the Seven Spirits of the Messiah.—Lightfoot.

[5] AC read ἀπὸ ὁ: Rec. Text, with inferior MSB., ἀπὸ τοῦ ὁ.

[6] The Cabalists were teachers of the Cabala, a tradition of hidden things. They professed to discover great mysteries in the letters of the sacred text. They invented the Ten Sephiroth or Cabalistic tree. See Jennings’ Jewish Antiquities, and Lewis’ Origines Judææ, vol. 3.—T.

[7] A magnificent delineation of these, a hundred years ago (1673) prepared at the command and expense of the Princess Antonia, of happy memory, is to be seen in the Deinacensian temple, which, not many years previously, Eberhard Third, Duke of Würtemburgh, the brother of that most illustrious virgin, had caused to be erected for the benefit of the strangers who make use of the mineral waters. A full description of this monument, which is called Turris Antonia, with the addition of an engraving, has been given by S. R. F. C. Ætinger, now Abbot of the Murrhardensian Monastery, s. t. Œffentliches Denkmal der Lehrtafel einer weyl. Würtembergischen Princessin Antonia, etc., Tub. 1763. There are some who superciliously laugh at all such things as Rabbinical trifles; there are some, perhaps, who value them too highly, almost stopping at the rind (instead of penetrating within). Any one may see what true σωφροσύνη advises, or what the measure of faith permits, and the proportion of knowledge derived from the Word of GOD.—E. B.

Verses 4-8. - The address and greeting. Of this section only vers. 4-6 are, strictly speaking, the salutation; vers. 7, 8 constitute a kind of summary, or prelude - ver. 7 being more closely connected with what precedes, ver. 8 with what follows. The salutation proper (vers. 4-6) should be compared with the salutations in St. Paul's Epistles. Verse 4. - John. Evidently some well-known John, otherwise some designation would be necessary. Would any but the apostle have thus written to the Churches of Asia? St. Paul had some need to insist upon his being an apostle; St. John lind none. To the seven Churches. From the earliest times it has been pointed out that the number seven here is not exact, but symbolical; it does exclude other Churches, but symbolizes all. Thus the Muratorian Fragment: "John in the Apocalypse, though he wrote to the seven Churches, yet speaks to all." Augustine: "By the seven is signified the perfection of the universal Church, and by writing to seven he shows the fulness of the one." So also Bede: "Through these seven Churches he writes to every Church; for by the number seven is denoted universality, as the whole period of the world revolves on seven days;" and he points out that St. Paul also wrote to seven Churches. Compare the seven pillars of the house of wisdom (Proverbs 9:1), the seven deacons (Acts 6:3), the seven gifts of the Spirit. The number seven appears repeatedly in the Apocalypse; and that it is arbitrary and symbolical is shown by the fact that there were other Churches besides these seven - Colossae, Hierapolis, Tralles, Magnesia, Miletus. The repeated formula, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the Churches," proves that the praise and blame distributed among the seven are of universal application. Asia means the Roman proconsular province of Asia, i.e. the western part of Asia Minor (comp. 1 Corinthians 16:19). Grace be unto you, and peace. This combination occurs in the salutations of St. Peter and St. Paul. It unites Greek and Hebrew elements, and gives both a Christian fulness of meaning. From him which is. Why should not we be as bold as St. John, and disregard grammar for the sake of keeping the Divine Name intact? St. John writes, ἀπὸ δ ῶν, κ.τ.λ. not ἀπὸ τοῦ ὅντος, κ.τ.λ. "If in Exodus 3:14 the words may run, 'I AM hath sent me unto you,' may we not also be allowed to read here, 'from HE THAT IS, AND THAT WAS, AND THAT IS TO COME'?" (Lightfoot, 'On Revision,' p. 133). Note the ὁ ῆν to represent the nominative of the past participle of εϊναι, which does not exist, and with the whole expression compare "The same yesterday, and today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). Here every clause applies to the Father, not one to each Person; the three Persons are marked by the three prepositions, "from ... and from ... and from." It is a mistake to interpret ὁ ἐρχόμενος either of the mission of the Comforter or of the second advent. The seven Spirits. The Holy Spirit, sevenfold in his operations (Revelation 5:6). They are before his throne, ever ready for a mission from him (comp. Revelation 7:15). The number seven once more symbolizes universality, plenitude, and perfection; that unity amidst variety which marks the work of the Spirit and the sphere of it, the Church. Revelation 1:4John

Note the absence of all official titles, such as are found in Paul; showing that John writes as one whose position is recognized.


Among every ancient people, especially in the East, a religious significance attaches to numbers. This grows out of the instinctive appreciation that number and proportion are necessary attributes of the created universe. This sentiment passes over from heathenism into the Old Testament. The number seven was regarded by the Hebrews as a sacred number, and it is throughout Scripture the covenant number, the sign of God's covenant relation to mankind, and especially to the Church. The evidences of this are met in the hallowing of the seventh day; in the accomplishment of circumcision, which is the sign of a covenant, after seven days; in the part played by the number in marriage covenants and treaties of peace. It is the number of purification and consecration (Leviticus 4:6, Leviticus 4:17; Leviticus 8:11, Leviticus 8:33; Numbers 19:12). "Seven is the number of every grace and benefit bestowed upon Israel; which is thus marked as flowing out of the covenant, and a consequence of it. The priests compass Jericho seven days, and on the seventh day seven times, that all Israel may know that the city is given into their hands by God, and that its conquest is a direct and immediate result of their covenant relation to Him. Naaman is to dip in Jordan seven times, that he may acknowledge the God of Israel as the author of his cure. It is the number of reward to those who are faithful in the covenant (Deuteronomy 28:7; 1 Samuel 2:5); of punishment to those who are froward in the covenant (Leviticus 26:21, Leviticus 26:24, Leviticus 26:28; Deuteronomy 28:25), or to those who injure the people in it (Genesis 4:15, Genesis 4:24; Exodus 7:25; Psalm 79:12). All the feasts are ordered by seven, or else by seven multiplied into seven, and thus made intenser still. Thus it is with the Sabbath, the Passover, the Feast of Weeks, of Tabernacles, the Sabbath-year, and the Jubilee."

Similarly the number appears in God's dealing with nations outside the covenant, showing that He is working for Israel's sake and with respect to His covenant. It is the number of the years of plenty and of famine, in sign that these are for Israel's sake rather than for Egypt's. Seven times pass over Nebuchadnezzar, that he may learn that the God of his Jewish captives is king over all the earth (partly quoted and partly condensed from Trench's "Epistles to the Seven Churches").

Seven also occurs as a sacred number in the New Testament. There are seven beatitudes, seven petitions in the Lord's Prayer; seven parables in Matthew 13; seven loaves, seven words from the cross, seven deacons, seven graces (Romans 12:6-8), seven characteristics of wisdom (James 3:17). In Revelation the prominence of the number is marked. To a remarkable extent the structure of that book is molded by the use of numbers, especially of the numbers seven, four, and three. There are seven spirits before the throne; seven churches; seven golden candlesticks; seven stars in the right hand of Him who is like unto a son of man; seven lamps of fire burning before the throne; seven horns and seven eyes of the Lamb; seven seals of the book; and the thunders, the heads of the great dragon and of the beast from the sea, the angels with the trumpets, the plagues, and the mountains which are the seat of the mystic Babylon, - are all seven in number.

So there are four living creatures round about the throne, four angels at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds; the New Jerusalem is foursquare. Authority is given to Death to kill over the fourth part of the earth, and he employs four agents.

Again the use of the number three is, as Professor Milligan remarks, "so remarkable and continuous that it would require an analysis of the whole book for its perfect illustration." There are three woes, three unclean spirits like frogs, three divisions of Babylon, and three gates on each side of the heavenly city. The Trisagion, or "thrice holy," is sung to God the Almighty, to whom are ascribed three attributes of glory.

Seven Churches

Not all the churches in Asia are meant, since the list of those addressed in Revelation does not include Colossae, Miletus, Hierapolis, or Magnesia. The seven named are chosen to symbolize the whole Church. Compare Revelation 2:7. Seven being the number of the covenant, we have in these seven a representation of the Church universal.

In Asia

See on Acts 2:9.

Grace - peace

For grace (χάρις), see on Luke 1:30. Both words are used by Paul in the salutations of all his Epistles, except the three Pastorals.


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