The seven churches. Heaven-picture and earth-picture
Rev_1:9 to Rev_3:22
A.—THE IDEAL HEAVENLY LIFE-PICTURE OF THE CHURCH. HEAVEN-PICTURE OF THE SEVEN CHURCHES. STAND-POINT OF THE SEER
THE GREAT VISION; FIRST, AS A BASIS FOR THE SEVEN EPISTLES TO THE SEVEN CHURCHES. HENCE ALSO AS THE BASIS OF THE FOLLOWING VISIONS (BECAUSE ALL THE VISIONS RELATE TO THE PERFECTION OF THE CHURCH AS REPRESENTED IN THE SEVEN CHURCHES)
John in the Spirit
9I, John, who also am [om. who also am] your brother, and companion [fellow-partaker] in [ins. the] tribulation, and in the [om. in the] kingdom and patience [endurance] of [in] Jesus Christ [om. Christ] [Lange: (in Christ)], was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ 10[om. Christ]. I was [Lange: transported] in the Spirit [spirit] on the Lord’s day, and [ins. I] heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, 11Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, [om. I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and,] What thou seest, write in [into] a book, and send it [om. it] unto the seven churches which are in Asia [om. which are in Asia]; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamus, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.
Appearance of Christ in His Glory
12And I turned [ins. about] to see the voice that spake [was speaking] with me. And being turned [having turned about], I saw seven golden candlesticks; 13And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the [the] Son of man, clothed with a garment down [reaching] to the foot [Lange: festal or priestly robe], and girt about [round at] the paps [breasts] [Lange: not as a working dress about the loins] with a golden girdle. [And] 14His head and his hairs were white like [ins. white] wool, as white [om. as white] as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; 15And his feet like unto fine brass [Alford: chalcolibanus], as if they burned [as if they had been burned, or as when burned] in a furnace [Lange: And his feet like unto a stream of molten metal, as it had become glowing in a furnace]; 16and his voice as the sound [voice] of many waters. And [: and] he [om. he] had [having] in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went [going forth] a sharp two-edged [two-edged sharp] sword: and his countenance was [om. was] as the sun shineth in his [its] strength.
Convulsing and Exalting Effect
17And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me [om. unto me], Fear not; I am the first and the last: [om.:] 18I am he that [om. I am he that] liveth, [and the living One;] and [ins. I] was dead; [om.;] and, behold, I am alive [living] for evermore, [into the ages of the ages;] Amen; [om. Amen;] and [ins. I] have the keys of hell and of [om. hell and of] death [ins. and of hades].
John’s Prophetic Calling and Commission
19Write [ins. therefore] the things which thou hast seen, [;] and [both] the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter [are about to happen after these];20The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in [upon] my right hand, and the seven golden [om. golden] candlesticks [ins. of gold]. The seven stars are the [om. the] angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest [om. which thou sawest] are the [om. the] seven churches.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
[Rev_1:9-20. Alford: “Introduction to the Epistles, Appearance of our Lord to St. John, and command to write what he saw, and to send it to the seven churches.”—E. R. C.]
The entire section has a two-fold significance. In the first place, as a heavenly action [an action taking place in heaven], it lays the foundation for the critical review of the seven churches in the seven epistles. Secondly, it forms the basis of the whole Apocalypse. We must observe, however, that it is contrary to the text and to all internal probability to suppose that the entire series of visions, and even the recording of them, took place in one day (Bengel, Hengstenberg and others). In accordance with prophetic form, John begins his book with the announcement of his calling and commission; comp. Jeremiah 1.; Ezekiel 1.
Rev_1:9. I, John.—We find the same expression in Rev_22:8; comp. Rev_1:4. Düsterdieck: “The conjunction of
with the name is Danielic” (Dan_7:15; Dan_8:1; Dan_9:2; Dan_10:2; Dan_12:5). [Trench: “The only other writer, either in the Old Testament or the New, who uses this style is Daniel—‘I, Daniel’ (Dan_7:28, Dan_9:2, Dan_10:2).”—E. R. C.] It is, therefore, an apocalyptic form, and it has been imitated by apocryphal apocalyptists. The conjunction of the name with what follows signalizes the Apocalyptist as the living mediator between God and the Church.
Your brother and companion.—This companionship has its foundation in Jesus, in fellowship with Jesus. It is a companionship at first in tribulation; then in the glory of the kingdom; the great contrast being harmonized by endurance (Romans 8; 2Ti_2:10; 2Ti_2:12; 1 Pet.). To the suffering of affliction at the hands of the hostile world, as a suffering with Christ, for His name’s sake, the principial possession of the glory of the kingdom corresponds, on which principial possession the hope of the perfect appearing of that glory is based. The goal is not attained, however, without endurance in Christ; see Rev_13:10; Rev_14:12. [“As yet, however, while the tribulation is present, the kingdom is only in hope; therefore he adds to these, as that which is the link between them ‘and patience (endurance) of Jesus Christ; cf. Act_14:22, where exactly these same three, the tribulation, the patience, and the kingdom, occur.
, which we have rendered ‘patience,’ is not so much the ‘patientia’ as the ‘perseverentia’ of the Latin: which last word Cicero (De Invent. 2:54) thus defines: ‘In ratione bene consideratâ stabilis et perpetua mansio;’ and Augustine (Quæst. 83 qu. 31): ‘Honestatis aut utilitatis causa rerum arduarum ac difficilium voluntaria ac diuturna perpessio.’ It is indeed a beautiful word, expressing the brave patience of the Christian—
, Chrysostom does not fear to call it.” Trench.—E. R. C.]
Was in the isle.—The Apocalyptist introduces himself to his readers under the aspect of his martyrdom [Martyrium], wherein they also participate, in that blessed fellowship of love and suffering, to which the Apostle Paul delighted to refer (see 2 Cor.). Düsterdieck thinks that this reference of “companion” to a suffering of affliction as a martyr is not admissible. The simple and obvious traditional reference of the following words: “for the word of God, etc.”—to John’s banishment to the Isle of Patmos, a fact attested by Church history, is disputed by De Wette, Lücke, Bleek, Düsterdieck.
, as they take it, indicates that John was on the island of Patmos in order that he might receive the testimony of Jesus. A marvellous idea, this, that John should have been obliged to travel from Ephesus to Patmos for the sake of receiving a revelation from Jesus! These commentators affirm that, according to the usage of the Apocalypse, the
cannot mean witness concerning Jesus, as Ebrard and others suppose. “On the contrary, the genitive accompanying
is invariably a subjective genitive.” In support of this view they cite: Rev_1:2; Rev_12:17; Rev_19:10; Rev_20:4, in connection with the passages Rev_1:5; Rev_12:11. The Apocalyptist, however, manifestly regards the
of Jesus as a grand unitous fact, as that world-historical witnessing unto, and suffering for, the truth (Joh_18:37), in which Jesus stands in the midst of His people as the faithful Witness, but which all faithful believers participate in, by virtue of the very fact that they testify of Jesus. For testimony of or concerning Jesus has a heavenly significance only through its being a testimony with Jesus of the whole revelation of God; as, on the other hand, a testimony with Jesus can not exist without a testimony of or concerning Him. [Believers, in filling up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ (Col_1:24), continue His witness—they witness both with and concerning Him.—E. R. C.] Moreover, it cannot be denied that this strained interpretation, which identifies the ideas of revelation and testimony, is in the interest of that criticism which seeks to set aside the authorship of the Apostle John. The expression, was on the island, permits a distinct discrimination between the time of the revelation itself, or the grand series of visions, and the time of the inditing of the scripture. Whether it follows, however, that, at the time of writing, the Apocalyptist was no longer on the island, is extremely doubtful. Various attempts to explain
, see in Düsterdieck, p. 120. [Alford remarks: “When an event is notified with
, we express the meaning by ‘came to pass:’ when a person, we have no word which will do it;” and he continues on the same word, Rev_1:10 : “Not merely ‘I was,’ but ‘I became.’ ”—E. R. C.]
That is called Patmos.—The first readers of the Apocalypse were of course aware of this; doubtless, therefore,
is not intended as an indication of the smallness of the island, but as a historical item for the more extended circle of readers. On the situation and character of the island (Patino or Palmosa), comp. the lexicons and works of travel.
Rev_1:10. I was in the spirit, i. e., transported out of the ordinary every-day consciousness, and placed in the condition of prophetic ecstasy [trance], Acts [Rev_10:10] Rev_11:6, Rev_22:17, 1Co_14:2. The contrast is: to be in one’s right mind [the ordinary right condition of mind; or rather to be
.—E. R. C.] (Act_12:11), or to be and to speak in the understanding (
) [1Co_14:14]. It is the contrast of reflecting consciousness, holding intercourse with the world through the medium of the senses, and of a higher, or rather, polarily opposed form of consciousness, in which direct spiritual contemplation predominates. By the spirit, therefore, we undoubtedly are to understand, not the Spirit of God (as Grotius and others maintain), but that spiritual life of man which stands contrasted with his relation to the world; which, as a prophetic state, is inconceivable without the operation of the Holy Spirit, and hence presupposes the more general life in the Spirit (Rom_8:9) as its basis. [The expression is simply
, the article does not appear. “That which is born of the Spirit, is spirit” (
ἐê ôïῦ Ðíåýìáôïò ðíåῦìÜ ἐóôé
), Joh_3:6. The ordinary condition of the Christian, and the extraordinary condition of the prophet, are spiritual conditions produced by the Holy Spirit.—E. R. C.]
On the Lord’s day.—Not transported by the Spirit of the Lord to the Last Day (Wetstein and others), for the being in the spirit is an independent idea, but on Sunday (Act_20:7; 1Co_11:20; 1Co_16:2). On the reference of this to Easter day, and the ideas connected with this view, see Düsterdieck, p. 121. [Alford discusses the entire subject at considerable length.—E. R. C.]
And I heard behind me.—This represents, as Düsterdieck correctly remarks, the utter unexpectedness and surprisingness of the divine voice. Consequently, its pure and certain objectivity likewise. Various interpretations—as indicative of the invisibleness of God—of the position of the prophet, as on earth, etc., see in Düsterdieck. That commentator, however, fails to recognize the reference to the fact that, in the region of prophecy, the auricular wonder generally precedes the ocular wonder; and after the latter has faded away, the tones of the former are still heard—a fact in perfect accordance with psychological relations. The Jewish popular notion that no man can see God without dying, can of course have no application here; it is itself, however, but a dark reflection of the actual fact that every first or greatest view of the glory of the Lord has so astounding an effect upon the prophet as to cast him to the earth (Isaiah 6.; Jer_1:6; Eze_1:28; Dan_8:17); thus it was here. Ebrard rightly gives prominence to the gradualness of the development of the visionary state.
As of a trumpet.—Düsterdieck remarks that this is a mere comparison without any particular significance. The trumpet, however, significantly opens the Apocalypse, as a signal of the last time; see 1Th_4:16 [Mat_24:31]. In Exo_19:19, it is the signal of the revelation of the law. According to Num_10:6-7, the mere blowing of the trumpet was the signal for the gathering together of the congregation; the sounding of an alarm, on the other hand, being the signal for the breaking up of the camp—a distinction such as exists between the symbolical import of the peal of bells and the cannonade. This voice, according to Hengstenberg, proceeds from Christ Himself. Düsterdieck regards Rev_4:1 as militating against this view. It is, manifestly, the visional trumpet of the visional form of the Angel of Christ, i. e. Christ Himself in His symbolical appearance.
Rev_1:11. Saying: What thou seest.—Prophetic present.—In a book (
).—Hengstenberg: Everything, to the end of Revelation 3, is intended. Düsterdieck: The whole revelation is meant. Since this first, leading vision forms the foundation not only of the seven epistles, but also of the entire scripture, the latter view is established beyond a doubt. The commission to send the book to the seven churches devolved upon John immediately at the opening of the revelation in Patmos. This alone does not prove that the book was written on Patmos; nor, still less, that its author wrote it while in the ecstatic condition (as Hengstenberg affirms). But, since it is not supposable that John made any unnecessary delay in writing down such great things, it is highly probable that the book was written during his stay on Patmos. It would seem as if the first
were modified by the second, particularly when we consider the great contrast between being in the spirit (
) and being in the understanding (
Send unto the seven churches.—Though the seven-foldness of the churches constitutes, as a sacred number, a symbolical type of the whole Church, this type is also founded upon a unitous organization of the diocese of Ephesus, to be inferred from the exchange of Paul’s Ephesian cyclical epistle from [i. e., received by the Colossians from.—E. R. C.]. Laodicea and the epistle to the Colossians (Col_4:16).—The order of the seven churches accords with their geographical position in respect to Patmos and Ephesus. Comp. the maps, ancient geography, and the travels of Schubert, Strauss, and others.
Rev_1:12. And I turned about.—Effect of the voice. To see the voice.—The prophetic voice pre-supposes a speaker in the background, and to visional seeing a more general sense attaches.—Seven golden candlesticks—These are the first things that he sees, for the whole Apocalypse treats of the future of the kingdom of God as represented by the. Church. Seven candlesticks; “not one candlestick with seven arms” (Düsterdieck, in opposition to Grotius).
Rev_1:13. And in the midst (
).—The fact that Christ is always in His Church (Mat_28:20) and, indeed, in the midst of the seven candlesticks, is here symbolically displayed to prophetic contemplation. Herder has observed that every one of the seven epistles commences with a feature of this vision. On the candlesticks comp. Mat_5:14-16. The appearance is directly signalized as an appearance of Christ by the apocalyptic sign, Dan_7:13; Dan_10:16-18. Why is the word
used? Hengstenberg; To indicate that the Person seen is no mere man. Lyra: To indicate that it is the Angel of Christ. Ebrard: The Danielic
(Dan_7:13). The state of the case is simply this: Christ is called the Son of man, but is like a son of man (Rom_8:3; Php_2:7). The Seer adopts the latter form as the original apocalyptic term, and the one corresponding to the mysteriousness of the phenomenon. Doubtless he was in part led to the use of this expression—Son of man—by the fact that it was Christ’s own name for Himself; [It was one of the prophetic names of the Messiah—a name highly significant (see note*, p. 24), and the name adopted by Christ Himself.—E. R. C.]; and
is also in part expressive of the apostolic view that the human personality of Christ, in its glorification, is clothed with the splendor of divine majesty. The garment of Christ, the long talar (
, reaching to the feet), denotes the High-priest; the golden girdle, the King. Christ is both these in the highest power, since He even makes His people kings and priests (Rev_1:6). He wears the girdle about His breast, not about His hips. Why is this? Ebrard’s explanation is justly rejected by Düsterdieck (p. 124). It is well known that the girdle, when worn about the loins, denotes a preparedness for travel and, consequently, for labor; surrounding the breast, it is an ornament, expressive of rest and festivity. The priests also wore their girdles thus, according to Josephus (see the citation in Düsterdieck).
Rev_1:14. His head and His hairs.—The head (pursuant to the irregular conjunction of terms) first appears under the aspect of the hair; since that, according to Oriental ideas, was the especial representative of its dignity. The whiteness of the hair is doubly characterized, the second image surpassing the first (Isa_1:18; Mar_9:3). What does this whiteness denote? Cocceius: Purity from sin. Hengstenberg: Holiness and glory. De Wette: A celestial light [lucid] nature. Düsterdieck, with others: Eternity, in accordance with the appearance of the Ancient of Days, Dan_7:9;—with reference to Rev_1:17-18. In the history of the transfiguration and elsewhere, the white lustre certainly denotes the lucid or light-nature, in which eternity is conditioned by purity and maturity [together with the dignity and authority that (especially among the Orientals) belong to age—the Ancient of days.—E. R. C.], perfection. [Augustine (Exp. ad Gal_4:21): “Dominus non nisi ob antiquitatem veritatis in Apocalypsi albo capite apparuit.”—E. R. C.]
As a flame (Rev_19:12; Dan_10:6).—Interpretations: Vitringa and others: Omniscience. Hengstenberg and others: Avenging justice. Ebrard: Holiness, consuming all that is unclean. Düstérdieck: Omniscience, directed, with holy wrath, against all that is unholy. De Wette: The translumining, consuming glance of heavenly light-essences (analogy: classical descriptions of the gods). It is significant that the eyes of flame re-appear in the epistle to Thyatira. The all-piercing glance of the Judge is specially directed to the distinguishing of mock-holy fanaticism, such as Jezebel’s, from genuine spiritual life. The Greek term for pureness, sincerity,
, is derived from the sun-ray [and the English pure, from
Rev_1:15. His feet like unto fine brass [or molten gold].—In the epistle to Thyatira this specification is conjoined with the eyes of flame. On the obscure
, comp. the lexicons, Ebrard, p. 138, and Düsterdieck, p. 126. The interpretations furthest from the point are: olibanum [Erzweihrauch, frankincense of deep hue] (Ewald); furnace ore [Ofenerz] (Hitzig); but neither is white ore [Weisserz, “a mixture of sulphuret of silver, sulphuret of copper, sulphuret of lead, and sulphuret of antimony.”—Sanders’ Wörterbuch.—Tr.] (Hengstenberg), or Lebanon ore (iron) [Ebrard], satisfactory. For what idea could readers living in Asia Minor connect with either of these? Züllig supposes
to be a provincial term peculiar to Asia Minor. Perhaps we should go back to
, and translate: fused copper [Kupferguss—a gush or flow of molten copper], glowing copper, heated in the furnace to a white glow, a golden stream, so that
may be a word unknown, indeed, to the lexicons, and yet a perfectly correct term for molten, white-glowing metal; see Rev_10:1. According to De Wette, these feet, radiant with a fiery glow, are significant only of brightness and splendor; according to Düsterdieck, they denote the down-treading of unholy foes, with reference to Psa_60:12; Isa_63:6; Dan_10:6. But as feet in themselves are instruments of motion, and as the golden-yellow hue denotes pure motion, so, especially, this metal, purified in the furnace, fluent and glowing with white heat, denotes the holiest motion. And hence, also, this characteristic of Christ is properly opposed to the unholy and mischievous motion of a fanatical Jezebel of Thyatira.
And His voice as the voice of many waters.—The surging waters represent the life of the nations. As the voice of Christ is, on the one hand, like a trumpet of God, it may, on the other, be heard in the sea-like roar of the voices of Christian nations. Whether the many waters admit of so simple a translation as “the majesty of ocean, calmly roaring” [die Majestät des ruhig rauschenden Meeres”] is doubtful.
Rev_1:16. And having (
) in His right hand.—The stars have, with exceedingly bad taste, been turned into jewels or rings (Eichhorn). [“Not on His right hand, as a number of jewelled rings, but in his right hand, as a wreath or garland held in it.” Alford.—E. R. C.] The fact of His being able to lay the same hand on the head of John is contrary to the sensuous apperception, but not to the symbolical representation. That the stars are in His hand is expressive not simply of the fact that the churches are His property (Düsterdieck); but also that they are surrounded by His providence. We cannot, with Hengstenberg, regard this trait as pre-eminently expressive of His punitive power, though neither is that to be excluded. Nor is the element of comfort (Herder) pre-eminent. What is primarily taught is simply Christ’s [property in, and] rule over His Church, a doctrine branching into consolation, admonition, and warning.
And out of His mouth.—This unpicturesque but symbolically pregnant combination is expressive of the fact that Christ overcomes the world with His word, as with a two-edged sword, Isa_11:4; Isa_49:2; Wis_18:15; 2Th_2:8. Christ’s simple word is intended here; hence there is also a reference to the power of that word in so far as it is contained in the preaching of His servants (a point which Düsterdieck denies); even the testimony of each individual Christian is included, Eph_6:17. [The word of the Lord is almighty; by His word He acts—He creates, He overcomes, and He destroys. The last, or the last two, seem to be the fact, or facts, set forth by this figure.—E. R. C.]
And His countenance.—Düsterdieck translates: His appearance, declaring that in Rev_10:1, the word is
]. But is it probable that different portions of the body would be described and the face, of all things, left out? And are we to suppose that the whole form shone as the sun, and yet that the white hair, the stars in the hand, and the white glow of the molten metal were perceptible in this dazzling radiance, whilst the face itself was invisible? Dan_10:6, would then offer a diversity.—In its might.—The noon-tide blaze of the sun, unobscured by clouds or mist.
Rev_1:17. And when I saw Him.—Exo_33:20; Isa_6:5; Eze_1:28; Dan_8:17; Dan_10:7. “The impression made by the appearance of the Lord is that of deadly terror, for because death is the wages of sin, no sinful man can stand before God and live” (Düsterdieck). In the first place, we must distinguish the pure meaning of Exo_33:20 from the popular Jewish notion set forth in Jdg_13:22; the astounding and, possibly, well-nigh fatal effect which the appearance of the Heavenly and Holy One produces on sinful man does indeed remain; yet, as Ebrard justly remarks, it would be a very one-sided proceeding to regard this element of fear in view of death as the only one at work in the breast of the aged John. Was an element of rapture combined, an emotion of pleasurable fear, as the same commentator claims? At all events, the tremendous operation of the physiological and cosmical contrast is to be taken into account. Perfect spiritual sight is in itself a sort of death to this world (second consciousness), a state into which the seer is transported by a death-like convulsion, and a transportation from the earthly to the heavenly condition of existence is not conceivable without a metamorphosis. Comp. the history of the transfiguration and the resurrection. On the inconsistency which De Wette pretends to discover in this description, see Düsterdieck. Be it remarked only that this event signalizes the commencement of the visionary state and not its entire course.
He laid His right hand upon me.—See the miracles of Christ. According to Düsterdieck, the laying of the right hand upon John was but a friendly sign accompanying the aid actually given by the word of Christ. Unseasonable separation of the two sides of one act!
Fear not.—The same words that ring through the Gospels.
I am the First, and the Last [Rev_1:18]. And the Living One.—The First: this, Christ is in a mediate sense, as the Father is the same in an absolute sense: He, Christ, is the principle of the world (Epistle to the Colossians) and the final goal of the world (Epistle to the Ephesians), especially of the Kingdom of God; and both these He is in the unity of the simple Living One, whose life and demonstrations of life go on from Alpha to Omega (Rev_22:13). The Living One does not directly signify
(Grotius) [it includes it, however.—E. R. C.]; but neither does it simply mean one who is alive; in power and effect it denotes Him who is the fountain of life, and who now restores life and animation to the paralyzed John.
And I was dead.—As Man, also, He is the Living One, Who, by His resurrection, has got death behind Him and under Him (Rom_6:9; Act_13:34).
And behold, I am living.—He lives from æon to æon. This expression is significant of eternity—not, however, as a rigid unit, void of distinction and diversity, but as a series of peculiar and original conformations of the æon or the æons of the æons. The latter conception is one of infinite grandeur. As there is a heaven of heavens, i. e., as the uranic units unite into one more general unity, so there is an æon, composed, not of years, but of æons, and this æon, again, unfolds into a plurality. And Christ does not live passively into these æons, but as He who has the keys of death and Hades. Hell is not spoken of in this passage.
The keys denote authority—exclusive authority. Christ can redeem men from death and Hades, and can cast men into them; and He alone is possessed of this power, Rev_3:7; Rev_9:1; Rev_20:1. And have these keys, through Peter’s hands, been transmitted to the popes? The distinction between death and the realm of death occasions difficulty. We cannot think of death as a place to which keys give access. This place is Hades; see the articles on Sheol and Hades. Thus both terms seem to express one and the same idea (De Wette); yet the Seer further distinguishes between death and Hades, Rev_6:8; Rev_20:14. In the first passage, Death manifestly appears as the former lord of Hades, the previous possessor of its keys—Death is personified, therefore, as in Psa_9:13; Job_38:17. And it is personified because it had become an independent power, inasmuch as the natural spirit-life of humanity was powerless in its presence. Christ, in communicating to John a new and exalted consciousness of this His glory, not only raises him up again, but also endues him with that elevation of mind without which he would be unable to view the terrors of the last times.
Rev_1:19. Write now [therefore]—Because thou art now freed from thy dread, and hast but to write of life’s triumph over death. This verse, based upon Rev_1:17-18, is in part a repetition of Rev_1:11 (Hengstenberg). What thou hast seen, is not limited to the vision introduced in Rev_1:12 (Düsterdieck), but includes what thou shalt have seen, i. e., the whole series of visions. The visions, however, relate first to what is, what now is (thus most commmentators, whilst Bleek, De Wette and others interpret
in the sense of: what it signifies), and, secondly, to that which is to come. [“Two meanings of
are possible. 1. The things which are, viz., which exist at the present time … 2. What things they (the
) signify … In deciding between these we have the following considerations: a. the use of the plural
, as marking off this clause in meaning from the next, which has
ἃ ìÝëëåé ãåíÝóèáé
. If this latter is singular, why not this? Is it not because the
merely signifies the future time, in which this latter class, en masse, were to happen, whereas this
imports what these things, each of them severally, mean? And, b. this seems to be borne out by the double repetition of
in the next verse, both times unquestionably in this (the second) meaning.” Alford.—E. R. C.]
Rev_1:20. The mystery of the seven stars.—This adjunct is of the highest moment in a two-fold aspect. In the first place, it gives us to understand that the whole apocalyptic prophecy will really be a history of the seven stars and the seven candlesticks; secondly, that the entire series of visions will consist of symbolical mysteries, not to be understood literally, requiring interpretation; yet susceptible of interpretation through biblical means. The interpretation which Christ here gives by way of example, reminds us of the interpretation of the first two parables in Matthew 13., also designed as a guide to the interpretation of the rest. Hence an angel of exegesis appears once more in the darker portion of the Apocalypse, Rev_17:7 sqq.; and at the close of Revelation 13., there is a fresh reference to the fact that we have to do with riddles. The mystery of the seven stars is that which is symbolized by them. Sacrum secretum, per ipsas significatum (Lyra). “A
is everything that man is unable to understand by means of his own unassisted reason, and which can be apprehended only through divine showing and interpretation, such as immediately follow here” (Düsterdieck). But this definition is undoubtedly too narrow; or do commentaries on the Apocalypse pretend to be the direct result of divine notifications? A mystery is a deep-lying and concealed truth or fact, to be disclosed not by direct revelation, but by the Spirit of enlightenment in His own time, which time, however, God has always reserved to Himself, 1Ti_3:16. Düsterdieck justly declares that the command to write this mystery is fulfilled throughout the book, “for the prophetic unfolding of the hope in the triumphant consummation of Christ’s Church through His own return, rests upon the mystery of the seven stars in Christ’s hand and the seven candlesticks amidst which He walks—i. e., upon the fact that Christ is the all-powerful protector of His Church, the vanquisher of all its foes.” [Lange seems to misapprehend Düsterdieck. The “divine showing and interpretation” spoken of by the latter is not necessarily an immediate divine influence upon the mind of each apprehender—as Lange evidently supposes him to mean. A
, revealed immediately to one for the instruction of others, is revealed for all, and to all, who, under the ordinary enlightening operations of the Spirit, apprehend His instructions. It is generally supposed that the essential idea of a “mystery” is that of something hidden—that it ceases to be a “mystery” when it is apprehended. This is indeed the meaning of the term in ordinary language, and seems to be the one contemplated by Lange; it is not however the import of the term as employed in Scripture. There the essential idea is simply that of something undiscoverable by mere human reason—it is necessarily hidden until it is revealed, but the fact of being hidden does not enter into its essential character; it continues to be a “mystery” after it has been revealed, and after the revelation has been apprehended. Specifically, there are hidden mysteries, revealed mysteries, and (so far as individuals are concerned) apprehended mysteries. The symbolic relation of marriage to the union between Christ and His Church is as much a mystery now, as it was before the inspired Apostle announced it in the Epistle to the Ephesians (Eph_5:32). And so with the mysteries of which the Apostles were stewards, comp. 1Co_4:1, with Mat_13:11, 1Co_1:26; the mystery of the gospel, Eph_6:19, of the faith, 1Ti_3:9, etc. (See all the passages in which the term occurs; the Greek term is invariably translated mystery, and the English word never occurs save as the translation of
.)—E. R. C.]
The seven stars are angels.—This interpretation seems at first sight but to exchange one mystery for another; we must consider, however, that in apostolic times the idea of angels was more intelligible than at the present day. Interpretations: 1. Heads, teachers, (Mal_2:7); either as bishops (ancient view) or as the whole ecclesiastical government of the church—the presbytery eventually, with the bishop at its head (Hengstenberg; Rothe: the bishop in idea). 2. The church itself (Andreas and others), or the personified church-spirit (De Wette; he identifies this church-spirit with the
). 3. The messenger of the church, i. e., the delegate, who went to and fro between the church and the Apostle (Ebrard). John, however, could not write to this delegate, since it was he who took charge of all manuscripts; neither is it probable that there was more than one delegate between John and the Church in Asia Minor.
If we consider the distance betwixt a star and a candlestick, we shall put both bishops and presbyteries out of the question, and above all, Irvingite wandering stars. We must consider, in the first place, that the epistles are addressed to the angels just as though they were addressed to the churches themselves. The angel receives praise and censure as the representative of the church. Again, he seems to be significant of the conscience of the church; the church’s reformation and awakening were to proceed from him. Now both these points coincide in the idea of the personified character or life-picture of the church (to be distinguished from the church-spirit; comp. Act_12:15). It may indeed be objected that a symbol cannot be replaced by a symbol (Rothe). And certainly a symbol cannot be written to. But the ideal (in the sense of existing in idea, not in the sense of conforming to God’s perfect idea) fundamental type of a Church is a reality in heaven and in the sight of God, as well as in the church’s own disposition, and every amendment of a church must start from a laying hold on this fundamental type. It also results from this address that the letters are not episcopal, but apocalyptic. Episcopal letters Christ would, we believe, have left to John. It further results that the epistles form a constituent part of the Apocalypse, and not a mere introduction to it (Bleek); and, furthermore, that the churches are cited not simply as empirical congregations, but as seven universal types of the Church in all places and ages. That there is an empirical foundation for the epistles, is an unquestionable fact.
[Note on the Angels of the Churches.—The subject of the Angels of the Churches is one of great interest, apart from the fact that it has an important bearing on the question of the government of the primitive Church. Beside the interpretations given by Lange, there are two others which it is most strange that he failed to mention—since the former was advocated by Origen, Greg. Nys., and Jerome, and in modern days by Alford; and the latter by Vitringa, Lightfoot, Bengel, and Winer. They will now be presented, and will be numbered in continuance of the interpretations given above. 4. Celestial angels, in some way representing the churches. 5. Officers in the primitive churches similar to the
(nuncius ecclesiæ) of the synagogue. The objection urged by Lange to the 3d view is insuperable; and to this may be added the fact that there is no evidence that any delegate from the churches waited upon John. The 5th view is supported only by a similarity in name—the title of the synagogue officer referred to may be translated:
. It seems to be a fatal objection, however, that the Hebrew minister was one of the inferior officers of the synagogue (see Kitto’s Cyclopædia, Tit. Synagogue), and the Angel of the Apocalypse, if a single person, must have been the chief ruler of the church. Schaff (Hist. of the Ap. Ch.) thus writes: “We must at the outset discard the view, that the angels here correspond to the deputies of the Jewish synagogues. … For these had an entirely subordinate place, being mere clerks, or readers of the standing forms of prayers, and messengers of the synagogue; whereas the angels in question are compared to stars, and represented as presiding over the churches; nor have we elsewhere any trace of the transfer of that Jewish office to the Christian Church.” The 2d view, the one advocated by Lange, viz.: that by angel was meant the church, or the personified character thereof—is liable not only to the objection mentioned by himself, but to the far stronger one, that the angel is clearly distinguished from the church (Rev_1:13; Rev_1:16; Rev_1:20). The arguments in favor of the 4th view may be abridged from Alford as follows: (1) The constant usage of this book, in which the word
occurs only in this sense; (2) the further usage of this book, in which we have, ch Rev_16:5, the
ἄããåëïò ôῶí ὑäÜôùí
introduced without any explanation, who can be none other than the angel presiding over the waters; (3) the expression of our Lord Himself, Mat_18:10, together with Act_12:15, both asserting the doctrine of guardian or representative angels; (4) the extension of this from individuals to nations, Dan_10:21; Dan_12:1; (5) the fact that throughout these Epistles nothing is ever addressed individually, as to a teacher, but as to some one person reflecting the complexion and fortunes of the church, as no mere human teacher or ruler could; (6) as against the objection that sin is charged upon the angel, “that there evidently is revealed to us a mysterious connection between ministering angels and those to whom they minister, by which the former in some way are tinged by the fates and fortunes of the latter. E. g., in our Lord’s saying cited above (Mat_18:10), the place of dignity there asserted of the angels of the little children, is unquestionably connected with the character of those whose angels they are,” etc. As against this view it may be urged—a. that the preceding answer is not satisfactory—the citation does not support the assertion; and even if it did, it would afford no basis for the charging the sin of the churches upon the holy ministering spirits of God; and b. it is well nigh inconceivable that our Lord should have selected a human Apostle yet in the flesh, as His medium of communication with the blessed spirits who minister before His face. The first view is not only the most natural, but it is liable to the fewest objections.
The epistles are such as might properly have been addressed to the chief ruler or rulers of the respective churches, and would naturally have been addressed to them as representing their congregations. The sole difficulty arises from the use of the term angel. This, however, in view of the peculiar nature of the Apocalypse, should occasion no serious difficulty, and most certainly the difficulty is less in supposing an unusual application of the term, than is connected with any hypothesis that gives to the term a precedented meaning. No opinion is expressed as to whether by the angel was meant a single prelate, a bench of presbyters, or the moderator of a presbytery—a primus inter pares. These are questions which are not determinable from the passage before us, and which can be determined only from a discussion of the entire scriptural teaching on the subject of Church order—a discussion which cannot in this place be entered upon. (For valuable discussions of the subject of the Angels, see Neander, Kitto’s Bib. Cyc., title Bishop; Alford, Trench (: The Epistles to the Seven Churches), Onderdonk’s Episcopacy tested by Scripture, Alexander’s Primitive Church Offices, Killen’s Anc. Ch., Schaff’s Hist. of the Ap. Ch. and Hist. of the Chr. Ch., Vol. I.)—E. R. C.]
The seven candlesticks.—The churches as light-bearers. Their sevenfoldness is the ramification of the one seven-armed candlestick in the temple, symbolical of all revelation. “For this very reason the churches must represent the Church universal, or the kingdom of God” (?). De Wette.
Seven churches.—Are merely the seven churches in the empirical sense intended (Wolf; a singular variation by Harenberg, see in Düsterdieck), or have they a more general import? De Wette and many others are in favor of the latter view. In adopting the latter view, we must distinguish between the Church and the Kingdom of God, however. The question next suggests itself as to whether these types are to be chronologically apprehended and applied strictly to the different periods of the Church (Vitringa); or whether they are types of different conditions of the Church (Düsterdieck); or, finally, whether a combination of these two views is admissible (Ebrard); or, again, whether these types shall be realized in the last times exclusively (Hofmann). On these points, see the Introduction and the Notes on the Seven Epistles. We will but remark in passing, that the typical grouping of the ecclesiastical ground-forms of ecclesiastical life in a totality, composed of the sacred number seven, is evident; the chronological arrangement unmistakably offers striking analogies—a circumstance which, however, must doubtless be referred to the fact that the outward consecution of these forms is based upon a considerable degree of inner ethical construction, nearly in accordance with the psychological law of oscillation. To that decrease of the first love, accompanying an honest zeal and activity, in Ephesus, succeeds a re-inflammation of the Church under her martyrdom in Smyrna; the mixture with the world which gained ground in Pergamus, amid all the faithful confession of the Church there, is followed by the reaction of a more active spiritual life in Thyatira, where even worldliness is induced to assume the garb of religious enthusiasm, which agitations, however, relapse into deep exhaustion, into a death-slumber, such as appears at Sardis; then, again, follows the reaction of faithfulness in the Church of Philadelphia, with its little strength; this reaction, however, cannot hinder the condition of final lukewarmness in the Church—a condition elsewhere described in the eschatological discourses and parables of the Lord.
[These variations, it may further be observed, occur in individual Christian experience, in the life of individual churches, and in the history of the Universal Church. And not only so, but they all find their illustrations in different portions of the Catholic Church of any one period. Though in each period the Church as a whole may predominantly present one of the seven types, yet illustrations of all the others may be found in different sections. (See add. note, p.139.—E.R.C.]
Rev_1:9. [Rec. inserts
; it is omitted in all critical editions, in accordance with all the leading Codices.—E. R. C.]
Rev_1:9. [Rec. has
with P. and a few minuscules; it is generally omitted in critical editions with
. A. B*. C, etc. Vulg., etc.—E. R. C.]
. C. [P.], Vulg., etc., read
Rev_1:9. [Lachmann omits
with A. C, Vulg., etc.; Alford brackets it; it is found in
. B*. P., etc.—E. R. C.]
Rev_1:9. [Lachmann and Alford omit
.1 A. C P., Vulg., etc.; it is found in
.3c B.*, etc.—E. R. C.]
Rev_1:11. The addition
, etc. is not well founded. [It is found only in P. (which omits
) and a few minuscules; it is omitted in
. A. B*. C., Vulg., etc.—E. R. C.]
Rev_1:11. [Rec. gives
ôáῖò ἐí Ἀóßá
, with Vulgate (Clementine); all the Codd. omit, together with the Amiatinus and other MSS. of the Vulgate.—E. R. C.]
Rev_1:12. [Critical Editors generally adopt
. B*. C., Vulg., etc.; Rec. with P. gives
; A. gives
.—E. R. C.]
Rev_1:13. [Lachmann omits
with A. C. P., etc.; Alford brackets it;
. B., etc., agree with Rec. in giving it.—E. R. C.]
Rev_1:14. [There is no article in the original. In justification of the retention of “the” (italicised) the following is quoted from Alford: “In New Testament Greek we should be no more justified in rendering
in such a connection as this “a son of man,” than
, a spirit of God. That meaning would, doubtless, have been here expressed by
ôïῖò õἱïῖò ôῶí ἀíèñþðåí
.”—E. R. C.]
Rev_1:13. The reading
Cod. B., etc., probably arose from the fear lest the apparition should not be taken for an appearance of Christ.
Rev_1:13. Different forms:
Cod. C [P.] Rec. and
Cod. A. [
.—E. R. C.].
Rev_1:15. [Alford transfers the Greek word
, its meaning not being known. See Exegetical Notes.—E. R. C.]
Rev_1:15. The reading
. Tischendorf [and Alford] in accordance with Codd. B. A. and P.,
, relating to the feet, which gives no sense. Feet cannot be made to glow in a furnace, but the lustre of gold ore is doubled when it appears glowing white in a glowing furnace. [Lachmann gives
, citing as authorities A. and C., which Alford confirms, although he himself gives -
(confirmed by Vulgate) which, as a masculine or neuter dative, better agrees with Lange’s idea. See Exeg. Notes.—E. R. C.]
is utterly without authority.—E. R. C.]
3a. and B*. give
.1 A. C. P. omit.—E. R. C.]
. A. B*. C. P., Vulg., and all recent critical editors, give
.—E. R. C.]
Rev_1:19. [Alford (in accordance with Bleek and De Wette and others) translates this verse: “Write therefore the things which thou sawest and what things they signify, and the things which are about to happen after these.” See Ex. Notes.—E. R. C.]
Rev_1:20. The Rec. and Tischendorf
[also B*.]; A. C. [P.] give
. [A. gives
ἐí ôῇ äåîéᾷ
.—E. R. C.]
Rev_1:20. [The Rec. reading
is supported only by P. and a few minuscules. Critical Editors, in accordance with
. A. B*. C. omit it.—E. R. C.]
[“The usage of our writer himself in the passages where he speaks of death by persecution (Rev_6:9, Rev_20:4), show that with him
in this connection is because of, in consequence of. De Wette naively says that had it not been for these parallel places such a meaning would never have been thought of here. We may as simply reply, that owing to those parallel passages it must be accepted here.” Alford.—E. R. C.]
Comp. my treatise on the two-fold consciousness in the Zeitschrift für christtiche Wissenschaft, 1851, p. 242.
[See remarks on. Rev_1:4, p. 90.—E. R. C.]
[Alford correctly remarks: “This word has defeated all the ingenuity of commentators hitherto. … If conjecture were admissible (which it is not), I should in despair of any way out of the difficulty, suggest whether the word might not have been
, a stream of melted brass:
having been read
or N.”——E. R. C.]
[It is to be regretted that Lange d
SPECIAL DOCTRINO-ETHICAL AND HOMILETICAL NOTES (ADDENDUM)
First Vision. Heaven-picture of the Seven Churches (Rev_1:9-20)
General.—The pastoral fidelity of man here appears in reciprocal action with the pastoral fidelity of God. John on Patmos thinks of his seven churches in the spirit of prayer. But the Lord, through the Spirit of revelation, changes his glance at the seven churches into a vision of the whole future of the Church.—Heavenly blessedness in the midst of earthly martyrdom.—The prophetic visions as the theocratic higher reality of the Platonic ideas, the lofty mysterious source-points of all fundamental spiritual currents, or of the stream of salvation in the history of the world.—Preliminary conditions of prophecy—external affliction, internal solemn joy, loneliness, prayer.—Forms of revelation.—Development of revelation from the auricular to the ocular wonder.—Appearance of Christ in His glory in respect of its fundamental features. Christ, the Son of God, also eternally the glorified Son of Man—The shock experienced by the Seer at the appearance of the Lord in His revelation, a species of death, and hence a source of new, high life. How this shock—a. In its original form runs through the history of the prophetic callings (Exo_3:6; Exo_4:24; Exo_34:30-35; Isa_6:5; Jer_1:6; Eze_3:14-15; Daniel 10.); b. Is reflected in Jewish tradition (Ju. 13:22) and in Greek manticism, in which the manticist himself represents death, whilst the priest who expounds his oracle is representative of new life; c. Is shadowed in the history of apostate prophets, especially in that of Balaam (Num_24:4); d. Is crystallized in the fundamental forms of regeneration; repentance and faith—death of the old, resurrection of the new, man.—Doctrine of the kingdom of the dead, and of death.—Hades is to be distinguished from Gehenna.—The appearance of Christ, deadly for the moment, conferring life for ever.—Sacred literature (Rev_1:19).—Key of symbolism (Rev_1:20).
Special.—[Rev_1:9.] John, an exile on earth, at home in Heaven.—The great Prophet, a brother and companion [fellow-partaker] of all Christians, (1) in tribulation, (2) in the glory of the Kingdom, (3) in the endurance of Jesus.—Patmos, so poor in geography, so glorified in the Theocracy, like Bethlehem and Nazareth. The like is true of Palestine and the earth itself. [Rev_1:10.] Sunday in its apostolic radiance: The day of the spirit; of transport; of complete revelation.—Sunday quiet, absorption of life in its profoundest depths, and thereby, at the same time, in the richest retrospect, and the clearest fore-view.—The sacred voice.—[Rev_1:11.] The sacred Book.—The Bible reposing upon Divine voices and trumpets.—The Christian who, through deep absorption of spirit, finds the three times [the past, present and future] in the present, thereby learns to know God as He Who is, Who was and Who cometh.—The seven churches or representatives of all churches—primarily, of all those in Asia Minor—or the one Church in its seven-fold form.—The sacred septenary of the churches, founded upon the septenary of the Spirits of God, and ever recurring in the subsequent sevens.—[Rev_1:12-13.] Christ is, therefore, here in the midst of the candlesticks, as well as in the other world. The same hierarchism which sunders doctrine and life, belief and morals, clergy and laity, spirit and nature, faith and culture, body and soul, also tears earth and Heaven apart. As the deist confines God to the other world, so the Hierarchy banishes the Lord Jesus Christ thither.—Christ is the living unity of the seven individual golden candlesticks, and through this unity alone is the type of the one seven-branched candlestick fulfilled (Exo_25:31-37).—[Rev_1:14-16.] The form of Christ, considered in regard to its attributes; or the difference between theocratic symbolism and humanistic æsthetics.—[Rev_1:17.] Fear not, a groundword of Christianity from beginning to end (Luk_2:10; Mat_28:5; see the Concordances, Title, Fear not).—The history and operation of the Death and Resurrection of Christ lift all fear from all believers.—[Rev_1:18.] Christ, the Living One, (1) in respect of His spiritual essence and mission (the First, the Last, the Life of life); (2) in respect of His history (having been dead, and having become alive forever); (3) in respect of His power (having the keys of Death and Hades),—[Rev_1:19.] “Write what thou seest.” All Scripture a copy of Divine reality.—[Rev_1:20.] The key of symbolism must form the starting-point for the disclosure of all Apocalyptic mysteries.—The Angels of the churches, neither presbyteries, nor bishops, nor preachers, but the spirit of the churches in symbolic personification—the spirit which, undoubtedly, should be represented by the heads of the churches, but which is very frequently not represented by them. This spirit represents their idiocrasy, their ideal, the quality of their spiritual life, and is the local invisible church.—The churches as candlesticks.—Celebration of Sunday.—Bible festivals.—Celebration of Easter.—Festival of the dead.—Celebration of church consecration (or consecration of the angel of a church).—Celebration of the ministry.—See the succession of the visions, Rev_4:2 (individual items) Rev_17:3 (individual items).—Parallels: Act_10:10 sqq.; Rev_20:7; Zec_4:2; Daniel 7.; Daniel 10.; Isa_41:10; Isa_48:12; Mal_2:7.*
*[The G.V. here reads “Engel”=angel, instead of the “messenger” of the E. V.—Tr.]
Starke: A man is in the Spirit (1) ordinarily, when he permits himself to be governed by the Spirit of God (Rom_8:9; Gal_5:5); (2) extraordinarily, by transport and a Divine revelation of things to come (Mat_22:43).—Christ is always present with His Church, to enlighten, sanctify and defend it (Eph_5:26).—He has, therefore, no need of any vicar.—The Church has for its foundation-pillar the invincible power and strength of Christ.—Christ’s servants are in His hand, honored by Him and assured of His help.
Richter (see p. 73): In Rev_1:17-18, Jesus declares, in different words, the same thing that is expressed in Mat_28:18, “All power [authority] is given unto Me in Heaven and on earth,” and the same that is expressed in that other saying of His, “I and the Father are one” [Joh_10:30]. After the lapse of nearly two thousand years, we find ourselves in a different posture toward this saying—so far as belief in it is concerned—from that occupied by the Church in John’s time. Has there not been a considerable progress in the setting up of Christ’s Kingdom? (It is true that we must not overlook the fact that, together with the furtherances of faith during the course of the centuries, there has been a constant new formation of apparent hindrances.)
Gaertner (see p. 73): With the trumpet-sound of the voice of Christ, the Revelation was opened for the ear;—with the seven candlesticks, it was opened for the eye.—These seven candlesticks precisely correspond to the seven lamps on the seven-branched candlestick in the Holy Place of the Tabernacle. The independent candlesticks, having each one its own standard, denote the greater perfection of the New Testament Church; furthermore, the Lord walks in the midst of them, which would be impossible, so far as the figure is concerned, in the case of the one seven-branched candlestick (rather, this fact is declaratory that there shall be, in the New Covenant, no external visible hierarchic unity of the churches). What is there more beautiful and more cheering than a bright light upon a candlestick in a dark and gloomy night! So the Church is a light in the darkness of this world, shining into the gloom and obscurity of mankind. Where there is a church that has the pure word of God and acts in accordance therewith, there is a golden candlestick; just so the faithful Church in Israel was a light to the Gentiles throughout the whole of the Old Testament time. The seven candlesticks are indicative of a perfect Church, into which the Holy Spirit from God’s inner world streams seven-fold (seven-fold, and yet singly, through Christ).
[Bonar (Rev_1:17): And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. O sinner, learn to know this Christ now as the Saviour, ere the day arrives when you shall see Him as the Judge! His love would save you now; His majesty will crush you then.]