Revelation 1:5
And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
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(5) From Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten (or, firstborn) of the dead, and the prince (or, ruler) of the kings of the earth.—The triple title applied to Christ corresponds to the three ideas of this book. Christ the Revealing Prophet, the Life-giving High Priest, and the real Ruler of mankind.

The faithful witness.—There may be a reference here, it has been suggested by Prof. Plumptre, to the bow in the cloud, which is described in Psalm 89:37 as the faithful witness. The coincidence of expression is remarkable: “I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth; he shall stand fast as the sun before me, and as the faithful witness in heaven.” The idea of testimony and witness is a favourite one with St. John, who records its use by our Lord Himself. (Comp. John 3:32; John 5:36; John 18:37. See also Revelation 19:10; Revelation 22:18. Comp. also the work of the Only Begotten as stated in John 1:18.)

The prince (or ruler) of the kings of the earth.—The message does not come from One who will be, but who is the true ruler of all earthly potentates. The disposition to dwell on the future and more visibly recognised reign of Christ hereafter has tended to obscure the truth of His present reign. It is instructive to notice that this book, which describes so vividly the manifestations of Christ’s kingdom (Revelation 11:15; Revelation 12:10), claims for Him at the outset the place of the real King of kings. Such was the Apostle’s faith. “Above all emperors and kings, above all armies and multitudes, he thought of the Crucified as ruling and directing the course of history, and certain in His own due time to manifest His sovereignty” (Prof. Plumptre). “What are we to see in the simple Anno Domini of our dates and superscriptions, but that for some reason the great world-history has been bending itself to the lowly person of Jesus” (Bushnell). “A handful read the philosophers; myriads would die for Christ; they in their popularity could barely found a school; Christ from His cross rules the world” (Farrar, Witness of History). Such is a real kingship.

Unto him that loved us, and washed us.—Instead of “washed us,” some MSS. read, “loosed us.” There is only one letter’s difference in the two words in Greek. The general tone of thought would lead us to prefer “washed” as the true reading. On a solemn occasion, which St. John remembered clearly, our Lord had said, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me.” The thought of the “cleansing blood,” intensified by the recollection of the water and blood which he had seen flowing from Christ’s pierced side, often recurred to his mind (Revelation 7:13-14; 1John 1:7; 1John 5:6-8).



Revelation 1:5The Revised Version rightly makes two slight but important changes in this verse, both of which are sustained by preponderating authority. For ‘ loved’ it reads ‘loveth,’ and for ‘ washed’ it reads ‘loosed’; the whole standing ‘Unto Him that loveth us, loosed us from our sins by His blood.’ Now the first of these changes obviously adds much to the force and richness of the representation, for it substitutes for a past a present and timeless love. The second of them, though it seems greater, is really smaller, for it makes no change in the meaning, but only in the figure under which the meaning is represented. If we read ‘washed,’ the metaphor would be of sin as a stain; if we read ‘loosed,’ the metaphor is of sin as a ‘chain.’ Possibly the context may somewhat favour the alteration, inasmuch as there would then be the striking contrast between the condition of captives or bondsmen, and the dignity of ‘kings and priests unto God,’ into which Jesus brings those whom He has freed from the bondage. Taking, then, these changes, and noting the fact that our text is the beginning of a doxology, we have here three points, the present love of Christ, the great past act which is its outcome and proof, and the praise which should answer that great love.

I. We have here that great thought of the present love of Christ.

The words seem to me to become especially beautiful, if we remember that they come from the lips of him whose distinction it was that he was ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved.’ It is as if he had said, ‘I share my privilege with you all. I was no nearer Him than you may be. Every head may rest on the breast where mine rested. Having the sweet remembrance of that early love, these things write I unto you that ye also may have fellowship with me in that which was my great distinction. I, the disciple whom Jesus loved, speak to you as the disciples whom Jesus loves.’

Mark that he is speaking of One who had been dead for half a century, and that he is speaking to people, none of whom had probably ever seen Jesus in His lifetime, and most of whom had’ not been born when He died. Yet to them all he turns with that profound and mighty present tense, and says, ‘He loveth us.’ He was speaking to all generations, and telling all the tribes of men of a love which is in active operation towards each of them, not only at the moment when John spoke to Asiatic Greeks, but at the moment when we Englishmen read his words, ‘Christ that loveth us.’

Now that great thought suggests two things, one as to the permanence, and one as to the sweep of Christ’s love. With regard to the permanence, we have here the revelation of One whose relation to life and death is altogether unique. For though we must believe that the dead do still cherish the love that lighted earth for them, we cannot suppose that their love embraces those whom on earth they did not know, or that for those who are still held in its grasp it can be a potence in active operation to bless them and to do them good. But here is a Man, to the exercise of whose love, to the clearness of whose apprehension and knowledge, to the outgoing of whose warm affection, the active energy of that affection life or death make no difference. The cold which stays the flow of all other human love, like frost laid upon the running streams which it binds in fetters, has no power over the flow of Christ’s love, which rolls on, unfrozen and unaffected by it. But not only docs Christ’s present love require that He should be lifted above death as it affects the rest of us, but it also demands for its explanation that we shall see in Him true Divinity. For this ‘loveth’ is the timeless present of that Divine nature, of which we cannot properly say either that it was or that it will be, but only that it for ever is, and the outgoings of His love are like the outgoings of that Divine energy of which we cannot properly say that it did or that it will do, but only that it ever does. His love, if I might use such a phrase, is lifted above all tenses, and transcends even the bounds of grammar. He did love. He does love. He will love. All three forms of speech must be combined in setting forth the ever present, because timeless and eternal, love of the Incarnate Word.

Then let me remind you too that this present love of Christ is undiminished by the glory to which Ho is exalted. We find clear and great differences between the picture of Jesus Christ in the four gospels and the picture of Him drawn in that magnificent vision of this chapter. But the differences are surface, and the identity is deep-lying. The differences affect position much rather than nature, and as we look upon that revelation which was given to the seer in his rocky Patmos, and with him ‘in the Spirit’ behold ‘the things that are,’ we carry into all the glory the thought ‘He loveth us’; and the breast girded with the golden girdle is as loving as that upon which John’s happy head lay, and the hand that holds the seven stars is as tender as when it was laid on little children in blessing or on lepers in cleansing; or as when it held up the sinking Apostle, or lifted the sick from their couches, or as when it was stretched on the Cross and pierced with the nails; and the face,’ which is as the sun shineth in his strength,’ is as gracious as when it beamed in pity upon wanderers and sorrowful ones, and drew by its beauty and its sweetness the harlots and publicans to His pity. The exalted Christ loves as did the lowly Christ on earth.

How different this prosaic, worried present would be if we could carry with us, as we may if we will, into all its trivialities, into all its monotony, into all its commonplace routine, into all its little annoyances and great sorrows, that one lambent thought as a source of light and strength and blessing, ‘He loveth us.’ Ah! brethren, we lose tremendously of what we might all possess, because we think so of ‘He loved,’ and travel back to the Cross for its proof, and think so comparatively seldom ‘He loveth,’ and feel the touch of His hand on our hearts for its token.

But here we have not only the present and permanent love, but we have the sweep and extent of it. ‘He loveth us.’ And though John was speaking primarily about a little handful of people scattered through some of the seaboard towns of Asia Minor, the principle upon which he could make the assertion in regard to them warrants us in extending the assertion not only to men that respond to the love, and believe in it, but right away over all the generations and all the successive files of the great army of humanity, down to the very ends of time, ‘He loveth us.’

That universality, wonderful as it is, and requiring for its basis the same belief in Christ’s Divine nature which the present energy of His love requires, has to be translated by each of us into an individualizing love which is poured upon each single soul, as if it were the sole recipient of the fullness of the heart of Christ. When we extend our thoughts or our sympathies to a crowd, we lose the individual. We generalize, as logicians say, by neglecting the particular instances. That is to say, when we look at the forest we do not see the trees. But Jesus Christ sees each tree, each stem, each branch, each leaf, just as when the crowd thronged Him and pressed Him, He knew when the tremulous finger, wasted and shrunken to skin and bone, was timidly laid on the hem of His garment; as there was room for all the five thousand on the grass, and no man’s plenty was secured at the expense of another man’s penury, so each of us has a place in that heart; and my abundance will not starve you, nor your feeding full diminish the supplies for me. Christ loves all, not with the vague general philanthropy with which men love the mass, but with the individualizing knowledge and special direction of affection towards the individual which demands for its fullness a Divine nature to exercise it. And so each of us may have our own rainbow, to each of us the sunbeam may come straight from the sun and strike upon our eye in a direct line, to each of us the whole warmth of the orb may be conveyed, and each of us may say, ‘He loved me, and gave Himself for me.’ Is that your conception of your relation to Jesus Christ and of Christ’s to you?

II. Notice the great proof and outcome of this present love.

Because it is timeless love, and has nothing to do with the distinction of past, present, and future, John lays hold of a past act as the manifestation of a present love. If we would understand what that love is which is offered to each of us in the present, we must understand what is meant and what is involved in that past act to which John points: ‘He loosed us from our sins by His own blood.’ Christ is the Emancipator, and the instrument by which He makes us free is ‘His own blood.’

Now there underlies that thought the sad metaphor that sin is captivity. There may be some kind of allusion in the Apostle’s mind to the deliverance from Egyptian bondage; and that is made the more probable if we observe that the next clause, ‘hath made us kings and priests unto God,’ points back to the great charter of Israel’s national existence which was given immediately after the Exodus. But, be that as it may, the notion of bondage underlies this metaphor of loosing a fetter. If we would be honest with ourselves, in our account of our own inward experiences, that bondage we all know. There is the bondage of sin as guilt, the sense of responsibility, the feeling that we have to answer for what we have done, and to answer -as I believe and as I think men’s consciences for the most part force them to believe-not only here but hereafter, when we appear before the judgment-seat of Christ. Guilt is a chain. And there is the bondage of habit, which ties and holds us with the cords of our sins, so as that, slight as the fetter may seem at first, it has an awful power of thickening and becoming heavier and more pressing, till at last it holds a man in a grip that he cannot get away from. I know of nothing in human life more mystically awful than the possible influence of habit. And you cannot break these fetters yourselves, brethren, any more than a man in a dungeon, shackled to the wall, can file through his handcuffs and anklets with a pin or a broken penknife. You can do a great deal, but you cannot deal with the past fact of guilt, and you can only very partially deal with the present fact of tyranny which the evil habit exercises on you.

‘He loosed us from our sins by His own blood.’ This is not the place to enter upon theological speculations, but I, for my part, believe that, although I may not get to the bottom of the bottomless, nor speak about the Divine nature with full knowledge of all that it is, Scripture is pledged to the fact that the death of Jesus Christ is the Sacrifice for the world’s sin. I admit that a full theory is not within reach, but I do not admit that therefore we are to falter in declaring that Christ’s death is indispensable in order that a man’s sin may be forgiven, and the fetters broken, in so far as guilt and condemnation and Divine disapprobation are concerned.

But that is only one side of the truth. The other, and in some aspects a far more important one, is that that same blood which shed delivers them that trust in Jesus Christ from the guilt of their sin, imparted to men, delivers them from the power of their sin. ‘The blood is the life,’ according to the simple physiology of the Old and of the New Testament. When we read in Scripture that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin, as I believe we are intended to understand that word, the impartation of Christ’s life to us purifies our nature, and makes us, too, in our degree, and on condition of our own activity, and gradually and successively free from all evil. So as regards both aspects of the thralldom of sin, as guilt and as habit: ‘He has loosed us from our sins in His own blood.’

That is the great token and manifestation of His love. If we do not believe that, how else can we have any real conviction and proof of anything worth calling love as being in the heart of Jesus Christ to any of us? To me it seems that unless a man accepts that great thought, ‘He loved me, and gave Himself for me,’ and is daily working in my nature to make it and me more like Himself, he has no real proof that Jesus Christ cares a jot for him, or knows anything about him. But I, for my part, venture to say that looking on Christ and His past as this text does, we can look up to Christ in the present as the seer did, and, behold, enthroned by the side of the glory, the Man, the Incarnate Word, who loves with timeless love every single soul of man.

III. So, lastly, let me point you to the praise which should answer this present love and emancipation.

‘Unto Him,’ says John, ‘be’-or is-’glory and dominion for ever and ever.’ That present love, and that great past act which is its vindication and manifestation, are the true glory of God. For His glory lies, not in attributes, as we call them, that distinguish Him from the limitations of humanity, such as Omniscience and Omnipresence and Eternal Being and the like; all these are great, but they are not the greatest. The divinest thing in God is His love, and the true glory is the glory that rays out from Him whom we behold ‘full of grace and truth,’ full of love, and dying on the Cross. When we look at that weak man there yielding to the last infirmity of humanity, and yet in yielding to it manifesting His dominion over it, there we see God as we do not see Him anywhere besides. To Him is the glory for His love, and His ‘loosing’ manifest the glory, and from His love and His loosing accrue to Him glory beyond all other revenue of praise which comes to Him from creative and sustaining acts.

‘Unto Him be dominion,’ for His rule rests on His sacrifice and on His love. The crown of thorns prepared for the ‘many crowns’ of heaven, the sceptre of reed was the prophecy of the sceptre of the universe. The Cross was the footstool of His Throne. He is King of men because He has loved us perfectly, and given everything for us.

And so, brethren, the question of questions for each of us is, Is Jesus Christ my Emancipator? Do I see in Him He that looses me from my sins, and makes me free indeed, because the Son has made me free and a son? Do I render to Him the love which such a love requires? Do I find in Him my ever-present Lover and Friend, and is His love to me as a stimulus for all service, an amulet against every temptation, a breakwater in all storms, a light in every darkness, the pledge of a future heaven, and the beginning of a heaven even upon earth? I beseech you, recognize your fetters, and do not say ‘ we were never in bondage to any man.’ Recognize your Liberator, put your trust in Him; and then you will be able to join, even here on earth, and more perfectly hereafter, in that great storm and chorus of praise which is in heaven and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, saying, ‘Blessing and honour and glory and power be unto Him that sitteth on the Throne and to the Lamb for ever and ever.’

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!And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness - See the notes on Revelation 1:2. He is faithful in the sense that he is one on whose testimony there may be entire reliance, or who is entirely worthy to be believed. From him "grace and peace" are appropriately sought, as one who hears such a testimony, and as the first-begotten from the dead, and as reigning over the kings of the earth. Thus, grace and peace are invoked from the infinite God in all his relations and operations: as the Father, the Source of all existence; as the Sacred Spirit, going forth in manifold operations upon the hearts of people; and as the Son of God, the one appointed to bear faithful testimony to the truth respecting God and future events.

And the first-begotten of the dead - The same Greek expression - πρωτότοκος prōtotokos - occurs in Colossians 1:18. See it explained in the notes on that passage. Compare the notes at 1 Corinthians 15:20.

And the prince of the kings of the earth - Who has over all the kings of the earth the pre-eminence which kings have over their subjects. He is the Ruler of rulers; King of kings. In Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:16, the same thought is expressed by saying that he is the "King of kings." No language could more sublimely denote his exalted character, or his supremacy. Kings and princes sway a scepter over the million of the earth, and the exaltation of the Saviour is here expressed by supposing that all those kings and princes constitute a community over which he is the head. The exaltation of the Redeemer is elsewhere expressed in different language, but the idea is one that everywhere prevails in regard to him in the Scriptures. Compare Matthew 28:18; Matthew 11:27; John 17:2; Ephesians 1:20-22; Philippians 2:9-11; Colossians 1:15-18. The word "prince" - ὁ ἄρχων ho archōn - means properly, "ruler, leader, the first in rank." We often apply the word "prince" to an heir to a throne who is not invested with absolute sovereignty. The word here, however, denotes that he actually exercises dominion over the rulers of the earth. As this is an authority which is claimed by God (compare Isaiah 10:5 ff; Isaiah 45:1 ff; Psalm 47:2; Psalm 99:1; Psalm 103:9; Daniel 4:34), and which can only pertain to God, it is clear that in ascribing this to the Lord Jesus it is implied that he is possessed of divine attributes. As much of the revelations of this book pertained to the assertion of power over the princes and rulers of this world, there was a propriety that, in the commencement, it should be asserted that he who was to exert that power was invested with the prerogative of a ruler of the nations, and that he had this right of control.

Unto him that loved us - This refers undoubtedly to the Lord Jesus, whose love for people was so strong that nothing more was necessary to characterize him than to speak of him as the one "who loved us." It is manifest that the division in the verses should have been made here, for this commences a new subject, not having any special connection with what precedes. In Revelation 1:4, and the first part of this verse, the writer had invoked grace from the Father, the Spirit, and the Saviour. In the latter clause of the verse there commences an ascription of praise to the Redeemer; an ascription to him particularly, because the whole book is regarded as a revelation from him Revelation 1:1; because he was the one who especially appeared to John in the visions of Patmos; and because he was to be the great agent in carrying into execution the purposes revealed in this book.

And washed us from our sins in his own blood - He has removed the pollution of sin from our souls by his blood; that is, his blood has been applied to cleanse us from sin. Blood can be represented as having a cleansing power only as it makes an expiation for sin, for considered literally its effect would be the reverse. The language is such as would be used only on the supposition that he had made an atonement, and that it was by the atonement that we are cleansed; for in what sense could it be said of a martyr that he "had washed us from our sins in his blood?" How could this language be used of Paul or Polycarp; of Ridley or Cranmer? The doctrine that the blood of Christ cleanses us from sin, or purifies us, is one that is common in the Scriptures. Compare 1 John 1:7; Hebrews 9:14. The specific idea of washing, however - representing that blood as washing sin away - is one which does not elsewhere occur. It is evidently used in the sense of "cleansing" or "purifying," as we do this by "washing," and as the blood of Christ accomplishes in respect to our souls, what washing with water does in respect to the body.

5. the faithful witness—of the truth concerning Himself and His mission as Prophet, Priest, and King Saviour. "He was the faithful witness, because all things that He heard of the Father He faithfully made known to His disciples. Also, because He taught the way of God in truth, and cared not for man, nor regarded the persons of men. Also, because the truth which He taught in words He confirmed by miracles. Also, because the testimony to Himself on the part of the Father He denied not even in death. Lastly, because He will give true testimony of the works of good and bad at the day of judgment" [Richard of St. Victor in Trench]. The nominative in Greek standing in apposition to the genitive, "Jesus Christ," gives majestic prominence to "the faithful witness."

the first-begotten of the dead—(Col 1:18). Lazarus rose, to die again. Christ rose to die no more. The image is not as if the grave was the womb of His resurrection-birth [Alford]; but as Ac 13:33; Ro 1:4, treat Christ's resurrection as the epoch and event which fulfilled the Scripture, Ps 2:7, "This day (at the resurrection) have I begotten Thee." It was then that His divine Sonship as the God-man was manifested and openly attested by the Father. So our resurrection and our manifested sonship, or generation, are connected. Hence "regeneration" is used of the resurrection-state at the restitution of all things (Mt 19:28).

the prince—or Ruler. The kingship of the world which the tempter offered to Jesus on condition of doing homage to him, and so shunning the cross, He has obtained by the cross. "The kings of the earth" conspired against the Lord's Anointed (Ps 2:2): these He shall break in pieces (Ps 2:9). Those who are wise in time and kiss the Son shall bring their glory unto Him at His manifestation as King of kings, after He has destroyed His foes.

Unto him that loved us—The oldest manuscripts read the present, "… loveth us." It is His ever-continuing character, He loveth us, and ever shall love us. His love rests evermore on His people.

washed us—The two oldest manuscripts read, "freed (loosed as from a bond) us": so Andreas and Primasius. One very old manuscript, Vulgate, and Coptic read as English Version, perhaps drawn from Re 7:4. "Loosed us in (virtue of) His blood," being the harder reading to understand, is less likely to have come from the transcribers. The reference is thus to Greek, "lutron," the ransom paid for our release (Mt 20:28). In favor of English Version reading is the usage whereby the priests, before putting on the holy garments and ministering, washed themselves: so spiritually believers, as priests unto God, must first be washed in Christ's blood from every stain before they can serve God aright now, or hereafter minister as dispensers of blessing to the subject nations in the millennial kingdom, or minister before God in heaven.

And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness: here is an express mention of Jesus Christ, because he was the procurer of our redemption, and our Mediator, to whom the Father committed all power as to the church. He is called the faithful and true witness; 1 Timothy 6:13, he witnessed a good confession before Pontius Plate; he bare record of himself, John 8:13,14: see also Isaiah 43:10 55:4 John 18:37.

And the first begotten of the dead; that is, who first rose from the dead, viz. by his own power, John 10:18, and to die no more: see Acts 13:34 1 Corinthians 15:20.

And the prince of the kings of the earth: the King of kings, Revelation 17:14 19:16 1 Timothy 6:15. The first name here given to Christ speaketh his prophetical office, the second his priestly office, this last his kingly office.

Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood: here begins a doxology, or giving glory to Christ, (such forms are frequent in the Epistles), first, as he that washed us from our sins, both from the guilt and from the power and dominion of our sins, with his blood, paying a price, and satisfying God’s justice for, and meriting our sanctification: see Hebrews 9:14 1Jo 1:7.

And from Jesus Christ,.... Who, though the second Person in the Trinity, is mentioned last, because many things were to be said of him; and who is described in all his offices: in his prophetic office,

the faithful witness; as he is of his Father, of his mind and will, with respect to doctrine and worship; of his truth and faithfulness in his promises; and of his love, grace, and mercy, to his chosen; and of himself, of his true deity, proper sonship, and perfect equality with the Father; of his Messiahship, and of salvation through his obedience, sufferings, and death; and of all truth in general, to which he has bore a faithful testimony several ways, in his ministry, by his miracles, at his death, and by the shedding of his blood to seal it; by his Spirit since, and by the ministers of his word: he is described in his priestly office be

the first begotten of the dead: being the first that rose from the dead by his own power, and to an immortal life; for though some few were raised before him, yet not by themselves, nor to live for ever, but to die again. Moreover, he is the firstfruits of the resurrection, the pledge and earnest of it, as well as the efficient cause and exemplar of it. This character supposes that he died, as he did, for the sins of his people; and that he rose again from the dead, as he did, for their justification; and that he rose first as their head and representative, and opened the way of life for them. And he is described in his kingly office, for it follows,

and the Prince of the kings of the earth: which is not to be understood figuratively of the saints, who have power over sin, Satan, and the world, through the efficacious grace of Christ, and of whom he is Prince or King; but literally of the kings and princes of this world, over whom Christ is King and Lord, who receive their crowns and kingdoms from him, and rule by him, and are accountable to him, as they one day must be. Next follows a doxology, or an ascription of glory to him,

unto him that hath loved us; his own, his people, his church, his chosen, and who are given him by his Father; these he has loved with an everlasting and unchangeable love, with a love of complacency and delight, which passes knowledge, and will never end: and which he has shown in espousing their persons, undertaking their cause, assuming their nature, and in nothing more than in giving himself for them as a propitiatory sacrifice, or in dying and shedding his precious blood for them, as is next expressed:

and washed us from our sins in his own blood; which shows that these persons were loved before washed; they were not first washed, and then loved, but first loved, and then washed. Love was the cause of washing, and not washing the cause of love; hence it appears that they were in themselves filthy, and unclean through sin; and that they could not cleanse themselves by anything they could do; and that such was the love of Christ to them, that he shed his precious blood for them, which is a fountain opened, to wash in for sin, and which cleanses from all sin. This is to be understood, not of the sanctification of their natures, which is the work of the Spirit, but of atonement for their sins, and justification from them by the blood of Christ, whereby they are so removed, that they are all fair, and without spot. It is afterwards said, that these same persons are made priests; and it may be observed, that the priests were always washed, before they performed their service, as such (n). The Alexandrian copy and the Syriac and Arabic versions read, "and hath loosed us from our sins in", or "by his blood"; that is, from the guilt of them, which was bound upon them,

(n) Misn. Yoma, c. 3. sect. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

And from Jesus Christ, {5} who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,

(5) A most ample and honourable commendation of Christ, first from his offices of the priesthood and kingdom: secondly from his benefits, as his love toward us, and washing us with his blood, in this verse, and communication of his kingdom and priesthood with us: thirdly, from his eternal glory and power, which is always to be celebrated by us; Re 1:6 Finally, from the accomplishment of all things once to be effected by him, at his second coming, at which time he shall openly destroy the wicked, and comfort the godly in the truth; Re 1:7.

Revelation 1:5. As from the seven spirits of God, as the Spirit of God and of the Lamb beheld in living concretion, comforting, warning, strengthening believers, but judging the world, grace and peace are wished; so also, finally (Revelation 1:5-6), from Jesus Christ, since he is ὁ μάρτυς ὁ πιστὸς, κ.τ.λ. The construction with the genitive is not abandoned in order to indicate “the immutability of the testimony,”[589] neither is it aided by supplying ὅς ἐστίν:[590] but the importance of the ideas breaks through the limitations of regular form; the abrupt mode of speech makes prominent the intense independence of all three predicates. Compare the energetic change of construction in the sentences immediately following. All three predicates of Jesus Christ stand in pragmatic connection with the contents of the entire ἀποκάλυψις communicated through him, but not[591] in correspondence with the three themes of the ascription of praise, τ. ἀγαπῶντι, λύσαντι, and ἐποίησεν ἡμ. βασιλ., κ.τ.λ. Inconsistent with the conception and reference of the three predicates, is also the opinion that in them Christ “is characterized according to the consecutive series of his works, and therefore according to his threefold office.”[592]

Christ exalted to his majesty is first ὁ μάρτυς ὁ πιστός, i.e., the trustworthy[593] witness, and not because in his earthly life he testified, in general, to the divine truth,[594] and maintained it even unto death;[595] nor because what he has threatened and promised in the flesh[596] he will execute: but also, not alone because of the attestation to apocalyptic truth,[597] which reference, of course, must not be omitted, but absolutely as the very one through whom each and every divine revelation occurs, who communicates predictions not only to the prophets in general,[598] as at present to the writer of the Apoc.,[599] but also testifies to the truth[600] by reproving, admonishing, and comforting the churches. That, just on this account, Christ was the faithful witness in the flesh, is self-evident, but lies here beyond the sphere of the visions.

ὁ πρωτότοκος τῶν νεκρῶν. This figurative expression[601] agrees, as to its essential meaning, with the figure, ἈΠΑΡΧΗ ΤῶΝ ΚΕΚΟΙΜΗΜΈΝΩΝ, 1 Corinthians 15:20.[602] The figure is obliterated if ΠΡΩΤΌΤΟΚΟς,[603] without any thing further, be received like ἀρχή, the first.[604] Grot. already justly remarks, “The resurrection is a birth.”[605] Yet the view according to which the resurrection to a new life[606] appears as a birth is to be maintained in its simplicity, and not, as with Ebrard, to be further portrayed.[607] But, since Christ is the ΠΡΩΤΌΤ. Τ. ΝΕΚΡ., he may represent himself as in Revelation 1:18; Revelation 2:8; and that applies to him as returning, which Revelation 1:7 represents as the fundamental thought of the book. [See Note XX., p. 123.] ΚΑῚ Ὁ ἌΡΧΩΝ ΤῶΝ ΒΑΣΙΛΈΩΝ Τῆς Γῆς. This, Christ—to whom, as the Messiah, and that too as one dead and risen again, the dominion over all things belongs[608]—will prove himself to be, in the judgment, at his advent.[609]

[589] Grot., Stern.

[590] Er. Schmid, Schöttg.

[591] According to Ebrard.

[592] Ebrard. Cf. also Coccej., Vitr., Calov.

[593] Because true. Cf. Revelation 3:14, Revelation 19:11, Revelation 21:5, Revelation 22:6.

[594] Cf. John 3:11; 1 Timothy 6:13; Andr., Areth., Par., Coccej., Vitr., Grot., Calov., Eichh., Züll.

[595] Ebrard.

[596] Ewald compares John 7:7; Hengstenb., in addition to John 3:11; also John 16:33, etc.

[597] Revelation 1:2, De Wette; cf. Heinr., Ew. ii.

[598] Revelation 19:10.

[599] Revelation 1:2; Revelation 22:20; Revelation 22:16.

[600] Revelation 3:14.

[601] Cf. Colossians 1:18, πρωτότοκος ἔκ τ. νεκρ.

[602] Where also the partitive genitive denotes the mass to which Christ belongs.

[603] Cf. also Colossians 1:15, where Christ as the first-born is distinguished from that created by him.

[604] Hengstenb.

[605] Cf. also Ew.

[606] Cf. the ἔζησεν, Revelation 2:8.

[607] That the expression ὠδῖνες, Acts 2:24, properly has not been derived by Luke from the LXX. of Psalm 18:5 (cf. Revelation 1:6), but that Peter actually spake of the “bands” of death, is inferred from the fact that it is said that Christ could not have been held by it, viz., by death. That “the birth-pangs of death” could not have held Christ, that Christ forced his way through “these birth-pangs of death,” and therefore is to be understood as the first who “opened the womb,” is the inference of Ebrard.

[608] Psalms 2; cf. Acts 13:33; Psalms 110, Psalm 72:10 sqq., Psalm 89:28; Isaiah 52:13 sqq.; Php 2:9; Matthew 28:18.

[609] Cf. Revelation 6:15, Revelation 17:14, Revelation 1:5. ἀπὸ, κ.τ.λ., another grammatical anomaly; as usual the writer puts the second of two nouns in apposition, in the nominative.—ὁ μ. ὁ π. Jesus not merely the reliable witness to God but the loyal martyr: an aspect of his career which naturally came to the front in “the killing times”. ὁ πρωτότοκος (a Jewish messianic title by itself, Balden-sperger, 88) τ. ν., his resurrection is the pledge that death cannot separate the faithful from his company. The thought of this and of the following trait (cf. Matthew 4:8 f.) is taken fröm Ps. 88:28, κἀγὼ πρωτότοκον θήσομαι αὐτόν, ὑψηλὸν παρὰ τοῖς βασιλεῦσιν τῆς γῆς. On the two allied functions of ruling and witnessing (Isaiah 55:4) cf. the different view of John 18:37. At the inspiring thought of Christ’s lordship the prophet breaks into adoration—ἀγαπῶντι κ.τ.λ. The eternal love (cf. Revelation 3:19) which Christ bears to his people is proved by his death, as a revelation of (a) what he has done for them by his sacrifice, and (b) what he has made of them (so Ephesians 5:25-26 = Revelation 19:7-8). The negative deliverance from sins (cf. Psalm 129:8) at the cost of his own life (ἐν instrumental) is a religious emancipation which issues in (6) a positive relationship of glorious religious privilege.—βασιλείαν, ἱερεῖς, a literal (cf. Charles on Jub. xvi. 18) and inaccurate rendering of ממלכת כחנים (Exodus 19:6) to emphasise the royal standing of the Christian community in connexion with their Christ as ἄρχων, κ.τ.λ., and also (Titus 2:3) their individual privilege of intimate access to God as the result of Christ’s sacrificial death. καὶ ἐποίησεν, the harsh anacolouthon breaks up the participial construction, ἡμᾶς, emphatic. “We Christians are now the chosen people. In us the Danielic prophecy of a reign of the saints is fulfilled and is to be fulfilled.” This is a characteristically anti-Jewish note. Persecution (cf. 1 Peter 2:5) deepened the sense of continuity in the early Christians, who felt driven back on the truth of election and divine protection; they were the true successors of all noble sufferers in Israel who had gone before (cf. the argument of Hebrews 11:32 to Hebrews 12:2). In the Apocalypse the Christian church is invariably the true Israel, including all who believe in Christ, irrespective of birth and nationality. God reigns over them, and they reign, or will reign, over the world. In fact, Christians now and here are what Israel hoped to become, viz., priest-princes of God, and this position has been won for them by a messiah whom the Jews had rejected, and whom all non-Christians will have to acknowledge as sovereign. According to rabbinic tradition, the messianic age would restore to Israel the priestly standing which it had lost by its worship of the golden calf; and by the first commandment (Mechilta on Exodus 20:2), “slaves became kings”. There may also be an implicit anti-Roman allusion. We Christians, harried and despised, are a community with a great history and a greater hope. Our connection with Christ makes us truly imperial. The adoration of Christ, which vibrates in this doxology (cf. Expos. ver. 302–307), is one of the most impressive features of the book. The prophet feels that the one hope for the loyalists of God in this period of trial is to be conscious that they owe everything to the redeeming love of Jesus. Faithfulness depends on faith, and faith is rallied by the grasp not of itself but of its object. Mysterious explanations of history follow, but it is passionate devotion to Jesus, and not any skill in exploring prophecy, which proves the source of moral heroism in the churches. Jesus sacrificed himself for us; αὐτῷ ἡ δόξα. From this inward trust and wonder, which leap up at the sight of Jesus and his grace, the loyalty of Christians flows.

This enthusiasm for Jesus naturally carries the prophet’s mind forward (Revelation 1:7-8) to the time when the Lord’s majesty will flash out on mankind. He resumes the line of thought interrupted by the doxology of 5b–6.

5. who is] These words are probably inserted in the A. V. and R. V. by way of marking the fact that “the faithful Witness” is in the nominative, not in apposition to the name “Jesus Christ.” But whether this has the same object as the anacoluthon of the previous verse—a sort of reverence that forbids the divine Name to be “governed” by any other word—is more doubtful: the general usage of the book appears to ignore the classical rule of apposition.

the faithful witness] See 1 Timothy 6:13 : Jesus Christ was in His Death much more than a martyr, but He was also the perfect type and example of martyrdom. Observe His own words in John 18:37—to which perhaps St Paul l. c. is referring. Here as in the next clause, see below, the language recalls Psalm 89:37, perhaps too Isaiah 55:4.

first begotten of the dead] Explained by St Paul in Colossians 1:18, where He is called “the First-born” (the word is the same) “from the dead.” The sense of “first-born” or “first-begotten” is “first to enter life,” without any fanciful image of death as the womb of earth. The thought in Romans 1:4 is similar.

prince of the kings of the earth] A reminiscence (hardly to be called a quotation) of Psalm 89:27, “I will make Him My First-born, higher than the kings of the earth.”

that loved] Read, that loveth. “It is His ever-abiding character, that He loveth His own, John 13:1” (Alford).

washed us] The balance of evidence is in favour of the reading “loosed us:” the preposition “in” might easily, in a Hebraistic book like this, be used of an instrument, where we should say “by,” or “with.” So we should probably render “redeemed us from our sins by His own Blood”—the Blood of Christ being conceived as the price of our redemption, as in 1 Peter 1:18-19—not, as in Revelation 7:14, Revelation 22:14 (according to the preferable reading), and perhaps in St John’s 1 John 1:7, as the cleansing fountain foretold in Zechariah 13:1. If therefore we ask “when Christ thus freed us,” the answer must be, at His Passion, not at our conversion or baptism.

Revelation 1:5. Ἀπὸ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὁ μάρτυς, κ.τ.λ.) In this book apposition is frequently used between an oblique case and a nominative. We have collected examples in the App. p. 778 [Edit. ii. p. 488]. In this manner the Hebrews decline a nomenclature consisting of many words by only prefixing Mem, for instance: and in like manner the French, by the use of the preposition de, etc. Moreover Luke also has, ἐν τῷ αἵματί μου, τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν ἐκχυνόμενον, ch. Revelation 22:20.—τῶν νεκρῶν) The editions read, ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν.[8] It is only in the Apocalypse that my text shows a reading sometimes different from the printed editions. I have stated the reason at full length in the App. p. 788 [Ed. ii. p. 498 and following], and in either Defence [App. Crit. Ed. ii. P. iv. N. iv. and bx.]—ἈΓΑΠῶΝΤΙ[9]) This is the reading of the most ancient Alex. and of six others, not to be despised, and probably of a greater number, who have been overlooked by ancient collators. Others read ἀγαπήσαντι, on account of the following words, λούσαντι and ἐποίησεν: and it is preferred by Wolf. But the present participle includes the force of the præter-imperfect also. Οἱ μισοῦντες, οἱ ̔ ἀγαπῶντες, οἱ φιλοῦντες, οἱ δοξάζοντες, they who hated, who esteemed, who loved, who honoured: 2 Samuel 19:6; Lamentations 1:2; Lamentations 1:8. Thus Matthew 2:20, οἱ ζητοῦντες, they who were seeking; 2 Peter 1:19, φαίνοντι denotes a light which WAS SHINING, for it is followed by Aorist 1st, διαυγάσῃ and ἀνατείλῃ. Thus θεωροῦντες and ὤν the imperfect, John 9:8; John 9:25, and repeatedly. And the use of the word ἀγαπῶντι in the present with the force of a præterite was so much easier, because two aorists follow. And so the present is used for the præterite, when the præterite follows, ch. Revelation 13:12. But ἀγαπῶντι is strictly a present, and denotes perpetual love, as John 3:35, ὁ Πατὴρ ΑΙ ΑΠΑ τὸν Υἱὸν, καὶ πάντα ΔΕΔΩΚΕΝ ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ, The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand: where the present and præterite are joined together. In the German translation of the Apocalypse I have designedly translated it, who loves us. And such passages, as I understand, displease many. But the style of John and the taste of the present day are as widely apart as the east and the west. In translating, I do not seek to gratify fastidious ears, but I scrupulously follow John, who wrote altogether in accordance with the sense of the Hebrew. This is a part of the reproach of Christ.[10]—αὐτοῦ) I have everywhere written ΑὐΤΟῦ, with a soft breathing,[11] even where it has a reflexive sense, following the example of Erasmus, who indeed, in his editions, almost indiscriminately edits αὐτοῦ, by way of concession to prejudices, as I imagine, and ΑὐΤΟῦ, even in a reflexive sense, from MSS. The reason has been mentioned once for all in the Appar. p. 453 [Ed. ii. p 93], (Buttigius agreeing with me in his preface to the New Testament); and it must be supposed to have been mentioned in each particular passage. Compare therefore on this passage also Appar. Crit. Ed. ii. p. 504. As with the Hebrews ך and other suffixes have both the relative and reciprocal force of the third person: so the writers of the new Testament use ΑὐΤΟῦ in either sense indiscriminately. And so in this passage, ch. Revelation 1:5, ΑὐΤΟῦ altogether refers to Jesus Christ, who hath washed us in His own blood.

[8] ABCh Vulg. omit ἐκ. Rec. Text has no good authority for it.—E.

[9] So ABC: but Rec. Text with Vulg. ἀγαπήσαντι.—E.

[10] καὶ λούσαντι, and washed) In truth he who is not washed is unable to discharge the office of priest.—V. g.

[11] That indeed is done in Ed. maj. and min. of A. 1734, but in the Admonition prefixed to Ed. man. of A. 1753, my sainted father thus says:—In the pronunciation it is right to imitate the custom of the apostles in preference to that which is recent; but because in the reflexive use of αὐτοῦ, not only tiros, but even men of great learning, find a difficulty, I have caused αὑτοῦ to be printed in almost all those passages where the editions of the Stephens’ so read; and I wish the more prudent to remember that this is not to be taken as a rule of pronunciation, but rather as an aid to interpretation. You have a proof, reader, that Bengel was not one who did not know how to yield.—E. B.

Verse 5. - The faithful Witness. This was his function - "to bear witness unto the truth" (John 18:37). The rainbow is called "the faithful witness" (Psalm 89:37). The Firstborn of the dead. Christ was the first who was born to eternal life after the death which ends this life (see Lightfoot on Colossians 1:15, 18; and comp. Psalm 89:27). "The ruler of this world" offered Jesus the glory of the kingdoms of the world, if he would worship him. He won a higher glory by dying to conquer him, and thus the crucified Peasant became the Lord of Roman emperors, "the Ruler of the kings of the earth." The grammar of this verse is irregular; "the faithful Witness," etc., in the nominative being in apposition with "Jesus Christ" in the genitive (comp. Revelation 2:20; Revelation 3:12; Revelation 9:14; Revelation 14:12). Unto him that loved us. The true reading gives "that loveth us" unceasingly. The supreme act of dying for us did not exhaust his love. In what follows it is difficult to decide between "washed" (λούσαντι) and "loosed" (λύσαντι), both readings being very well supported; but we should certainly omit "own" before "blood." The blood of Jesus Christ cleansing us from all sin is a frequent thought with the apostle who witnessed the piercing of the side (Revelation 7:13, 14; 1 John 1:7; 1 John 5:6-8). Revelation 1:5Jesus Christ

The Son. Placed after the Spirit because what is to follow in Revelation 1:5-8 relates to Him. This is according to John's manner of arranging his thoughts so that a new sentence shall spring out of the final thought of the preceding sentence. Compare the Prologue of the Gospel, and Revelation 1:1, Revelation 1:2, of this chapter.

The faithful witness (ὁ μάρτυς ὁ πιστὸς)

For the phraseology see on 1 John 4:9. For witness, see on John 1:7; see on 1 Peter 5:1. As applied to the Messiah, see Psalm 89:37; Isaiah 55:4. The construction again departs from the grammatical rule. The words witness, first-born, ruler, are in the nominative case, instead of being in the genitive, in apposition with Jesus Christ. This construction, though irregular, nevertheless gives dignity and emphasis to these titles of the Lord. See on Revelation 1:4. The word πιστὸς, faithful is used (1), of one who shows Himself faithful in the discharge of a duty or the administration of a trust (Matthew 24:45; Luke 12:42). Hence, trustworthy (1 Corinthians 7:25; 2 Timothy 2:2). Of things that can be relied upon (1 Timothy 3:1; 2 Timothy 2:11). (2), Confiding; trusting; a believer (Galatians 3:9; Acts 16:1; 2 Corinthians 6:15; 1 Timothy 5:16). See on 1 John 1:9. The word is combined with ἀληθινός, true, genuine in Revelation 3:14; Revelation 19:11; Revelation 21:5; Revelation 22:6. Richard of St. Victor (cited by Trench) says: "A faithful witness, because He gave faithful testimony concerning all things which were to be testified to by Him in the world. A faithful witness, because whatever He heard from the Father, He faithfully made known to His disciples. A faithful witness, because He taught the way of God in truth, neither did He care for any one nor regard the person of men. A faithful witness, because He announced condemnation to the reprobate and salvation to the elect. A faithful witness, because He confirmed by miracles the truth which He taught in words. A faithful witness, because He denied not, even in death, the Father's testimony to Himself. A faithful witness, because He will give testimony in the day of judgment concerning the works of the good and of the evil."

The first-begotten of the dead (ὁ πρωτότοκος ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν)

Rev., the first-born. The best texts omit ἐκ from. Compare Colossians 1:18. The risen Christ regarded in His relation to the dead in Christ. He was not the first who rose from the dead, but the first who so rose that death was thenceforth impossible for Him (Romans 6:9); rose with that resurrection-life in which He will finally bring with Him those who sleep in Him (1 Thessalonians 4:14). Some interpreters, rendering first-born, find in the phrase the metaphor of death as the womb which bare Him (see on Acts 2:24). Others, holding by the rendering first-begotten, connect the passage with Psalm 2:7, which by Paul is connected with the resurrection of Christ (Acts 13:32, Acts 13:33). Paul also says that Jesus "was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead" (Romans 1:4). The verb τίκτω which is one of the components of πρωτότοκος first-begotten or born, is everywhere in the New Testament used in the sense of to bear or to bring forth, and has nowhere the meaning beget, unless James 1:15 be an exception, on which see note. In classical Greek the meaning beget is common.

The Ruler of the kings of the earth (ὁ ἄρχων τῶν βασιλέων τῆς γῆς)

Through resurrection He passes to glory and dominion (Philippians 2:9). The comparison with the kings of the earth is suggested by Psalm 2:2. Compare Psalm 89:27; Isaiah 52:15; 1 Timothy 6:16; and see Revelation 6:15; Revelation 17:4; Revelation 19:16.

Unto Him that loved (τῳ ἀγαπήσαντι)

The true reading is ἀγαπῶντι that loveth. So Rev. Christ's love is ever present See John 13:1.

Washed (λούσαντι)

Read λύσαντι loosed. Trench remarks on the variation of readings as having grown out of a play on the words λουτρόν, a bathing, and λύτρον a ransom, both of which express the central benefits which redound to us through the sacrifice and death of Christ. He refers to this play upon words as involved in the etymology of the name Apollo as given by Plato; viz., the washer (ὁ ἀπολούων) and the absolver (ὁ ἀπολύων) from all impurities. Either reading falls in with a beautiful circle of imagery. If washed, compare Psalm 51:2; Isaiah 1:16, Isaiah 1:18; Ezekiel 36:25; Acts 22:16; Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5. If loosed, compare Matthew 20:28; 1 Timothy 2:6; 1 Peter 1:18; Hebrews 9:12; Galatians 3:13; Galatians 4:5; Revelation 5:9; Revelation 14:3, Revelation 14:4.

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