Notes on Revelation 1

Revelation 1; Hebrews 11:7; Revelation
Gleaned at Lectures in Geneva in 1842
THE first eight verses serve as an introduction to the whole book. It is profitable, and throws light on the Apocalypse itself, to examine the peculiar character of the book, and the manner in which Jesus reveals Himself in it. There is a special blessing attached to the reading of this book (chap. 1: 3; 22: 7). It is a practical thing. " Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein."
Nothing is of more importance. The prophecies of the Old Testament strengthened the Jews in their relationship with God, and attached them to His government. Although God permits men to go their own way, led by their own passions, yet He never did, nor ever will, entirely give up the reins of government as to this world. This is what the Apocalypse shows us. All things work together for the glory of Jesus. We see in Heb. 11:77By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. (Hebrews 11:7) the effects of prophecy on faith. The faith of Abel recognizes the sacrifice; Enoch walks with God. The faith of Noah condemns the world; it was not limited to the recognition of the efficacy of the sacrifice and walking with God; but Noah was warned of God of things not seen as yet, and, separated in walk from the world by this warning, became heir of the righteousness which is by faith, and condemned the world. The world put to death Jesus the heir. The church, warned of God of what is about to come to pass, knows that man in rebellion against God has no title to the inheritance of the world. The church in its suffering state does not possess it.
Christ is presented to us in the Apocalypse as the heir of the world. The church, like Noah, condemns the world, of which she is co-heir with Christ.
Father and of the Son is in question, He is presented as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the Apocalypse, God is presented as the God who governs the world; whereas when it is the church that is in question, He is called Father. Moreover, in the Apocalypse, the subject is (not what relates to His connection with the church, but) the world, and its connection with God as Governor of the world.
In chapter 1 Christ is presented as man, but in glory. The communication is by an angel-not by the Spirit of revelation and of communion, making the church to enjoy the glory and fellowship with the Father and with the Son. There is a great difference between what is communicated to the church and what has the church for its subject. When the church is addressed as to what concerns herself, she is addressed according to the presence of the Spirit which puts her in communion with the Father and the Son as the church, as the family. God communicated to Abraham what concerned Sodom, so to the church what concerns the world.
Verse 1. A revelation is made to Jesus, and He communicates it to John by an angel. It is prophecy, the testimony of Jesus (i.e., that which He gives Himself), and the word of God. The difference between the testimony of Jesus and the testimony to Jesus is of some importance in this book. It is often said that the Spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus; so that those who should receive that alone, and have nothing more, have the testimony of Jesus, and the word of God. In this verse the learned agree to read, not the testimony of Jesus Christ, " and of all things that he saw," but " the testimony of Jesus Christ [viz.] all things that he saw "; that is to say, the visions in the Apocalypse themselves form the testimony. This prophecy is, first, the word of God; secondly, the testimony of Jesus Christ; thirdly, a vision-" all things he saw."
Verse 3. " For the time is at hand." Those things are not fulfilled. The thought of the return of Jesus was so present that the disciples thought John would not die before His coming. John closed revelation.
Malachi closed the Old Testament by the promise of. Elijah. From that time all is apocryphal. There is no new revelation or communications made that would constitute the proof of a recognized relationship. So the Apocalypse, which closes the New Testament revelation, announces the coming of Jesus, and all is apocryphal until the Lord comes to receive the church.
God does not, in the interval, give up His people; but He makes no more revelations. Therefore He says "the time is at hand." Thus the apostles speak of their time as being the last days. All the interval until the return of Jesus is the longsuffering of God towards the world. The church is to walk by faith, and by the revelation already given.
Verse 4. John addresses directly the seven churches.
The salutation agrees with the character of the book. God presents Himself as the Eternal, as the One who reigns and rules. The Spirit is presented in a manner exterior to the relations of God with the church, as a spirit of wisdom and of light. It is the Spirit in His attributes of power and of perfection, the accomplisher of the divine will in the world. Moreover, Jesus is not presented here as the Head of the church in heaven, but as the faithful Witness, as risen, and as Prince of the kings of the earth.
Verse 6. It is the church who receives the revelation and who answers, " Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and made us to God and his Father kings and priests, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." The church cannot forget the love of which she has been the object; and she expresses her own relation to God in the scene which is about to be disclosed. Jesus is placed last (v. 4, 5) because He is one who communicates with the earth and whose of right it all is.
God is on the throne, the Spirit is before the throne, and Jesus is in connection with the earth. This is the object of the book. It is not the church which is here in the thoughts of God; she receives the communication of them. Jesus has, in spite of Satan, title to the inheritance of the world; and He lets the church into the knowledge of His counsels before the thing takes place. God communicates to Abraham what He is going to do to Sodom; and here, to the church, what He is going to do to the world, in order that the church may remain apart from all that system that leads to judgment.
Verse 7. " Behold, he cometh with clouds." This verse passes on to that which establishes His relation with the world, the Jews included. That is the principal thought, the great subject of revelation here. The present dispensation is a dispensation of faith. The church has not seen Jesus risen; she has only seen the witnesses of His resurrection, and she must believe it on their testimony. " Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed," John 20:2929Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. (John 20:29). Such is the principle on which the believer walks in the present dispensation. " Every eye shall see him " (not those only who believe); that is the character of the coming dispensation.
Verse 8. God introduces Himself, after the manifestation of Jesus to every eye, to close the testimony by the revelation of Himself-the same that He had been in the beginning, and the Almighty God; which was, and is, and which is to come; unchanged through all the changes that had taken place. But the title of Alpha and Omega, and of the Eternal, which God takes here, is the same that is given to Jesus (chap. 21: 6), where the prophecy is closed. He is always the image of the invisible God, always God Himself manifested in the flesh; the One who is, who was, and who is to come; the Almighty. Also, in comparing 1 Tim. 6:14, 1614That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: (1 Timothy 6:14)
16Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:16)
, with Rev. 19 i6, we see the title of King of kings and Lord of lords, which, in the first of these passages, is applied to Him " who dwelleth in the light to • which no one can approach," and who shall show Jesus, applied to Jesus in the second; and when Jesus is " shown," He comes with the same titles which He bears who shows Him. The name of Almighty is that by which God reveals Himself to Abraham; Ex. 6:33And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them. (Exodus 6:3). At the end of the verse He reveals Himself as the one who will fulfill to the Jews the promises made to Abraham. The Almighty who had made these promises is the Eternal (that is to say Jehovah, the God of Israel.)
Verse 9. It is well to notice the position of John which is connected with the character of the book. He does not exactly present himself as a member of the body, though he is so, of course; but in his actual position, viz., where the delay of the coming of the Master places the faithful, that is, in tribulation. His actual position was like that of others in the tribulation of Christ as member of His kingdom, and like Him awaiting the moment when the accomplishment of the promises of the glory should take place-" in the tribulation, the kingdom, and the patience of Christ." Such is the position of the church, which becomes her while the king is hidden in God; John 21:2222Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me. (John 21:22). The word of God and the testimony of Jesus had placed him there, and the testimony of Jesus was peculiarly that of the kingdom. Again, observe here that the Lord's day is Sunday. The meaning is not the day of the Lord. Nor is there any doubt that the greater part of the visions apply to what precedes that coming day. The rest of the chapter shows us already the glory of Christ. Affection is inseparable from testimony to the glory of Jesus.
Jesus cannot present Himself as Man without the church and the Holy Ghost recognizing Him as God, Eternal, and Almighty, as the One who has dominion over the world. God gives us to understand His purposes concerning the world, and shows to us Jesus, who suffered, supremely exalted as Man. We see, when the Son of man is manifested in the glory (and so it was when sojourning here below), God Himself, the eternal God, as well as the man to whom all title to glory belongs. Jesus has the reward of having humbled and made Himself of no reputation for us. In Psalm 102, He says, " He weakened my strength in the way; He shortened my days." The answer is, " But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end." John sees also the seven churches (things that are), and Christ in the midst of these churches, not as serving them. His garments descend to His feet; His girdle of gold is divine glory in judgment, not spiritually on oneself, but to be executed on others-judicial firmness. His head reveals the Ancient of days. His eyes were piercing like fire in judgment. Glory and majesty were discovered in Him, and He held the representatives of the seven churches in the right hand of His power.
Verse 16. He judges by the word of His mouth, a two-edged sword. Glory supreme shines in His face.
Verse 17. We do not find the spirit of adoption and confidence. It is man standing in the presence of the glory of Him who rules. Speaking in this character, He communicates the revelation of God to His servant John, the prophet of the church.
Verse 18. Jesus, the Man once dead but now alive again, conqueror of hell and of death, takes away fear from him who finds death in the presence of His divine glory.
Verse 19. We see here the division of the Apocalypse into three parts:
Firstly, The things seen, that is to say, the glory of Jesus such as we have seen it described.
Secondly, The things that are, or the seven churches. Thirdly, The things to come after them, or the prophecy; chapter 4: I.
The order of the book presents thus the Person of Jesus, Son of man in glory; the Eternal God; the churches, and Jesus as a judge in the midst of them; and then revelations concerning the world. Jesus is revealed here, not as the Head of the church, but as judge and ruler in the churches; not as the olive tree which gives the oil, or as the Head that distributes gifts, but as the Head who makes use only of threatenings and of rewards; not as servant or advocate, or shepherd of the sheep; but in a long robe, in the dignity of a judge, and like one who comes to see what light the candlesticks give.
It is important to apprehend that the general object of this book is the revelation of the relations of God, as ruler, with the world, viewed as introducing into it Jesus as heir. It will be seen how much of difficulty this removes. The understanding of the book supposes a soul established in its relations with the Father, and with the Son to whom God will reveal His purposes towards the world, as God. It would be grievous and shameful for us not to be sufficiently of the family of God to feel interested in all His glory.