The Revelation of Christ

to his servants of things that are, and things that shall be.

Brief notes in interpretation by F. W. Grant.

Published by Loizeaux Brothers, Bible Truth Depot, 1 East 13th Street, New York.

Section 1 — Present Things

as foreshown in Revelation 1 — 3.

Preface

The Book and Its Subject. (Revelation 1:1-3)

The book of Revelation is the one only book of New Testament prophecy. As the completion of the whole prophetic Scriptures, it gathers up the threads of all the former books, and weaves them into one chain of many links which binds all history to the throne of God. As New Testament prophecy, it adds the heavenly to the earthly sphere, passes the bounds of time, and explores with familiar feet eternity itself. Who would not, through these doors set open to us, press in to learn the things yet unseen, so soon to be for us the only realities? Who would not imagine that such a book, written with the pen of the living God Himself, would attract irresistibly the hearts of Christians, and that no exhortation would be needed for a moment to win them to its patient and earnest study?

It should be so, assuredly. How little it is so, the book in its first words is witness to us: for no book is so full of just such exhortation. And especially the first part, with which we are to be for the present occupied, abounds with solemn warnings to attention, regularly appended to its several sections: "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." Why is it that just here, where at first sight we have only addresses to the churches of far-distant times, these calls should be multiplied? Why but because there was just this danger to be guarded against? why but because the Spirit of God foresaw that a generation of men, most blind to their own interests when most wedded to them, would slight the very words of Christ Himself unless thus directly made over to them? What shall we say of those who with all this warning slight them still?

Scripture is thus ever prophetic, not in its plain predictions merely, but in its manner also. Why should Peter be the one to tell us that all Christians are "a holy priesthood," but in view of those who should misuse his name in after-times? or why should he be the one to announce to us that we are born again by the word of God, which is preached in the gospel, thus with two blows destroying ritualism to its foundations? or why should Mary never prefer a request to her Son and Lord but to be checked for it, save as an after-rebuke to those who should think to avail themselves of the virgin's intercession?

So too is not the very title of this book, with its subject announced, and encouragement both to reader and hearer? How could words be better suited to rebuke the neglect, into which so many have fallen, in which so many still are found, of what is Christ's own "revelation," given to Him by God, "to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass"? Does a "revelation" hide, or reveal? Is that which is revealed to servants, to be kept (Rev. 1:3) by them in their service to their Lord, given in so doubtful a manner as to be more perplexity than guidance? Is not this an accusation of Him who has forbidden to His people doubtful paths, because "whatsoever is not of faith is sin"?

Strange is the mistake that "the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him," means His "appearing," because His appearing is the central theme of the book! No doubt it is so, and that His appearing is spoken of elsewhere as His revelation; but here, that "which God gave unto Him, to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass," is plainly the book itself, and defines its character. It is not simply an inspiration, as all Scripture is, but something revealed for the instruction of the saints. Many are too little clear yet as to the difference between the two. But revelation is that in which is a direct communication from God to man — a fresh discovery of truth otherwise unknown; while inspiration is that which preserves from error, and assures that all that is written is for true profit and blessing to man.

"Jesus Christ's revelation" emphasizes the book before us, as what is from the Lord Himself in a peculiar way, of special importance and value where all is of value; and it is received by Him from God, as One who all through takes the place of Man, and as such is exalted of God, never exalts Himself. True pattern for His servants! He asks them to walk in no other path than He has trodden, and where they may have fellowship with Him.

This book is the servant's book. So it is plainly stated: "To show unto His servants." We may not expect, therefore, to be shown, except we come under this title; and indeed every child of God has the responsibility and privilege of service, — has something, no doubt, of the reality of it, as the Lord says, "He that hath My commandments and keepeth them, he it is who loveth Me" (John 14:21). And so the apostle: "This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments" (1 John 5:3). Both passages maintain that the only right measure of love is that of practical obedience. Emotional glow, warm feelings, are indeed to be desired, — nay, to be expected, from those conscious of redemption by the blood of Christ; but these vary with different natures, vary in the same person at different times, may even deceive very much the subject of them, while obedience is the test of the judgment-seat itself. Words and deeds we read of then as alone in question.

Yet there is need of a counter-check here too; for how much frequently goes under the name of service which is in truth even disobedience and self-will! How much there is also of legal drudgery and pretentious claim, which the light of God's holy presence will shrivel into nothing! "Lo, these many years do I serve thee" is the language of one to whom the music of the father's house was a strange and unaccustomed sound; and "I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess" was said by one less acceptable to God by far than the despised publican, who could only groan out in His presence, "God be merciful to me the sinner!"

The service of love and the service of claim are opposites. "He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him who died for them and rose again." This is the moral power of Christianity — the fruit of grace, and only that. For if still there is a possibility of condemnation in the day of judgment, fear stirs me to self-interest, I work for myself to escape the condemnation. "Faith worketh by love" — an entirely opposite principle. Such service is necessarily freedom, the more so the more it rules me, and entire happiness. In exact proportion to love will be the desire to serve the object of our love: as we read of the "work of faith," so we do of the "labor of love." But earnest and self-sacrificing as this labor may be, it can never be drudgery, never aught but joy. If such is our service, the thankful offering of those knowing themselves washed from their sins in the blood of Christ, then Revelation, with its survey of the whole field of labor, and its communication of the mind of Christ as to all, — Revelation, with its windows open toward Jerusalem, and its eternal sunshine for our souls, — Revelation, with its throne of God and the Lamb, and the stimulation of its encouraging words to the overcomer, — is the very book for us, surely. We shall enter with rapt hearts into the truth of this: "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of the book of this prophecy, and keep the things that are written therein."

It is the book for all servants. We have many and different fields of service, it is true; and happy as well as important it is to recognize this fact. There are high positions and lowly ones; positions before the eyes of multitudes, and positions hidden from almost all eyes, save His who are in every place. But every where it is a joy to know that we are accepted, not according to the place we are put in, but the way we fill it — the way we do the Master's work there. Lowliness and obscurity will be no discouragement to those in the communion of the Father and the Son: they cease to have meaning there. And publicity and prominence are how unspeakably dangerous, if the soul is not correspondingly before God; like the tree which spreads its branches and lifts its top toward heaven, if its roots are not proportionately deep in the unseen depths below.

Whatever the field of service, the book of Revelation is for all. All need alike the warnings, all need alike the encouragement. From the most hidden retirement, He whom we serve in love would have our hearts with Himself, busy with all that is of interest to Him. In the place of intercession Himself above, He would have us in fellowship with Him below; our prayers rising up for all parts of the earth His Word is visiting, and where the true "irrepressible conflict" is going on between the evil and the good; our praises, too, returning to Him for all He is daily accomplishing. In Revelation is given us the one "mind of Christ" about all, that our prayers may be the intelligent guiding of the Holy Spirit, and our hearts giving their sympathies aright, our energies going forth in channels of His own making. Little indeed, in many of the systems of interpretation of this book, may be found, it is true, such help as this; and quite unable we may be to extract the spiritual blessing to be found in seals or trumpets which speak only of Alaric the Goth, or Attila the Hun: but for the simple ones who believe God, the mere direct label of this book for Christ's servants may certify that there is something deeper while simpler than all this for souls that seek it. There the words stand for faith to receive and rejoice in, — "Jesus Christ's revelation, which God gave unto Him, to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass." Join us in prayer, beloved reader, ere we pass on, that we may give His people from these pages real help and blessing drawn from this precious book!

"Things which must shortly come to pass." This would now no doubt impress us, as we look back from the end of eighteen centuries fulfilled since it was written, with the belief that already some, if not much, of what is here spoken of must already have come to pass. And this we shall find confirmed fully in the sequel. But two things we should guard here carefully, — the possibility on the one hand, and the profit on the other, of tracing with certainty, in the light of the prophetic Word, things which have not come to pass, and even will not while we are upon the earth. These two things, it is plain, hang very much together; for if there be not profit in it, it would seem clear that God would not enable us to do it; while of course there can, on the other hand, be no profit to us in a thing we cannot do.

But this impossibility of knowing can only be meant seriously as applying to details, and to a certain extent every Christian would allow this. Events are not so mapped out and put together for us as to make us able to see otherwise than "through a glass darkly" — the apostle's own emphatic word. We can see only as one behind a window, and in twilight, and are apt to fall into mistakes. Many have been thus made, which have thrown the study of future prophecy, for some, into utter disrepute. Yet who would say, or think the apostle meant to say, that "through a glass darkly" nothing, or nothing to the purpose, could be seen? The uncertainty applies mainly to the smaller features; there is much certain, much that grows always clearer as we look upon it. Who that would use the mistakes that have been made for discouragement from prophetic study has ever been a student of it? I dare to say, none. Granted, the mistakes: let us use them for humility, use them as arguments to more prayer, more careful searching, then, after all, they will be helpful in the end. We can see already why and how many of them came about; we can see how better to avoid them also in the future, and that the Word was not to blame, is not the less trustworthy, because we made them. We see that we trusted it too little, trusted ourselves too much.

Then as to the profit. All our blessings lie in the field of unfulfilled prophecy. What are all our promises but this? And then as to the earth, and what is to take place upon it, it is true that such interpretations as are common in many popular books leave one with the profound sense that they minister rather to spiritual dissipation than to profit. What can be supposed more unprofitable than the question if the antichrist is to come of the Napoleon family? — a great and grave point with many for years past; or whether the stars falling from heaven might be fulfilled in a shower of meteors? Such things seem to be utterly barren, and unworthy of a book so solemnly announced so commended to us as is this.

Surely, "he that prophesieth speaketh to the church to edification and exhortation and comfort" might not be an inapt word to condemn such profitless speculation; and there is abundance of it in, popular commentaries. But here the question is really not of fulfilled or unfulfilled prophecy. Such supposed fulfillment may be brought forward to vindicate Scripture — which has no need of it — or a certain system of interpretation, which it more justly would set aside. But unfulfilled prophecy, as we find it in the Word of God, even when it speaks of earthly events, and such as cannot be while we are upon the earth, always gives them morally; as what can be more practical for us than to trace out in the future, as men are constantly seeking to do, the results of the present? In this way we may find the scriptural fall of stars to have the deepest significance.

That all here is in the fullest way practical is very clear, from the blessing pronounced on those who "keep the things which are written" in the book. This "keeping" is observing them in such a way that our practical conduct shall be governed by them. Indeed we shall find that the wisdom of them we must be content to "buy," with what men would call many a sacrifice. There are costs to be counted if we would possess it really. And this is the demand that all truth makes upon us. It requires subjection to it as the first thing. We must not trifle with the words of our Lord and Saviour, nor set Him limits as to how far we shall obey Him. It is this, however little avowed, that darkens the minds of saints, diminishing all spiritual perception. It is this that is at the bottom of all doctrinal heresy. We will not have the truth, and seek out inventions to cover our nakedness; or at least we have not the soldier's "virtue," which is courage, and so cannot "add to" our "virtue knowledge."

I would warn my readers that the book of Revelation makes great demands upon those who keep its words. But I may assure them, on the other hand, that the more the demand the greater the blessing. Can it be otherwise when Christ it is who is speaking to us of that easy yoke and that light burden, in which, as we take them, we find rest to our souls? Will any that know their Lord charge Him with being a "hard man," or a taskmaster? Our givings up are here in reality only gains. We have that in Him which we are never called to give up, and which the more we prove the more its sufficiency is found for all conditions; the more we give up for it the deeper the endless joy.

But submission there must be. Absolute submission is what He rightly calls for; and it is well to search our hearts, to see if our desire and purpose are, to give Him that without reserve. How blessed to be among those who in uprightness of heart can say, "I esteem all Thy precepts concerning all things to be right, and I hate every false way" (Ps. 119:128)!

The Style and Character of the Book. (Revelation 1:4-8.)

We now come to the opening words of the book itself. It is in form a letter from the beloved apostle to "the seven assemblies which are in Asia." This Asia was the Roman province called by this name, being the west coast of what is now, for the sins of christendom, Turkey in Asia. The churches in it were even then, though traditionally the scene of John's as in the Acts of Paul's labors, already departing from the faith and spiritual power of Christianity; and this, as we may see more hereafter, gives at once a certain character to the book. Whoever they were of whom Paul in his very last epistle says, "This thou knowest, that all they which be in Asia are turned away from me, of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes," it is clear that Asia was thus the scene of a revolt from that "apostles' doctrine and fellowship" which it was a marked feature of the bright Pentecostal times to maintain.

The salutation shows at once the style of the book. It is not "grace and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ," but "from Him who is, and who was, and who is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before His throne; and from Jesus Christ, the faithful Witness, and the First-born* of the dead, and the Ruler of the kings of the earth." Here, it is evident, we are not in the intimacy of children, but in the character of servants, according to what the previous verses have announced. The book is the book of the throne — of divine government; and that, not merely of the world, but of Christians no less. Indeed, where should divine government be more exemplified and maintained than among the people of God. "You only have I known of all the families of the earth," says God to His people of old; "therefore will I punish you for your iniquities." It is true that toward us now grace is fully revealed, and the throne is a "throne of grace," but its holiness is none the less inflexible. Would it be grace if it were not so? or do we desire to be delivered from the conditions of holiness, or from the sovereignty of God? No; grace enables for the conditions, — does not set them aside; and it sets God fully on the throne for us, makes the "shout of a King" to be in our midst. Children with the Father, where should there be whole-hearted, unreserved obedience if not among these?

{*As there are many (smaller or greater) inaccuracies in the common version of the book of Revelation, I take advantage of the difference here (though not a textual one,) to say that I follow, wherever it is possible, the new revision. Wherever I may not be able to do this, I hope to note the fact, and my reasons.}

The throne here is Jehovah's throne, for "who is, and was, and is to come" is just the translation of the covenant-name of Israel's God. "Grace and peace" salute us from this unchangeable One — this eternal God. The new revelation has not displaced, nor mended, (as rationalism would have it,) the God of Israel for us! It has declared Him: displaced shadows, filled in gaps, perfected the partial and fragmentary into the glorious God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! taught us to see in the older Scriptures themselves a fullness of meaning of which those who wrote them could have no possible perception. Do David's psalms yield us less than they yielded to faith of old? And if the New Testament has no corresponding book, is it not because, now that the Spirit of God is come, our psalmody is to be found in every book, which for us He has combined into one harmony of praise and triumphant joy?

Yes, the One who is was, and is to come. Our present God is He who from first to last abides, in every generation, amid all changes changeless; sitting on high above all water-floods; whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. What a resting-place for faith! "Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling-place in all generations!"

But not only are grace and peace breathed from this ever-living One, but also "from the seven Spirits which are before His throne." We all recognize at once that these seven Spirits stand for the plenitude of the Holy Spirit; and in the fourth chapter they are represented as seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, while in the fifth they are the "seven eyes" of the Lamb, "sent forth into all the earth." This, again, evidently connects with Isaiah 11, where these seven Spirits are seen to be energies of the Spirit which are found in the Man, Christ Jesus, as reigning over the earth.

"Grace and peace," then, from these — how blessed! All the ministries of divine government upon the earth working in blessing toward us; all the course of things as guided and controlled by God, spite of all hindrances, all puzzles and perplexities, still working in one harmony of grace and peace toward His own. How easy to be bold and patient both, if we believe this!

Then also "from Jesus Christ, the faithful Witness, and the First-born of the dead, and the Ruler of the kings of the earth." "Faithful" is emphasized here, for our encouragement surely, if grace and peace are from such an One, but yet in contrast with other witness too, as that of the Church, so little faithful. Is it not a needed word for those oppressed with the sense of failure, — almost ready to give up what are His principles, because of the break-down of those who have undertaken to carry them out? In such a case, how good to remember that on the one hand we are servants and not masters, with no liberty to dispense with one even of His commandments, and on the other, that we serve One who Himself is faithful, however we have failed. Shall we go to Him and say, "Master, Thy principles are impracticable for a world and a time like this"? or shall we lack in courage when results are in His hand who has never failed, and never will, while He oftentimes submits to apparent defeat. Such was the cross, the victory of victories, and we must submit, here as elsewhere, to the rule of the woman's Seed. To this are we not in fact brought in the next words? "The First-born of the dead" unites us with Him as the later-born, and resurrection is the mode of His triumph over apparent defeat. But it is divine triumph, in which not alone evil is vanquished, but God is manifested in His resources and in His grace.

Grace and peace are ours from One who is conqueror over death, and who brings us into the place into which as Forerunner He has entered, while already He is, as risen, and on the Father's throne, Ruler of the kings of the earth, — the scene through which in the meantime we are passing. In a little while, when He takes His own throne, we shall share also in this.

Thus are we furnished at the outset for present service. Placed before the living and eternal God, the energies of His Spirit ministering to us, the Captain of our salvation cheering us on with the joy of already accomplished victory, the pledge of certainty as to our own. Now for the response of our hearts to this before we start: without our hearts are in tune, and we can go cheerily into the battlefield — for it is a battlefield into which we go, and not as spectators merely, we should only expose ourselves there to our shame. The singers must be in the forefront of the Lord's army, as in Jehoshaphat's of old, and then there will be good success. So the saints' answer to their Captain's voice here is with a song:
"Unto Him who loveth us,
And hath washed* us from our sins
In His own blood,
And hath made us a kingdom,
Priests to His God and Father, —
Unto Him be glory and might
Unto the ages of ages.
Amen."

{*"Washed us," I believe, is right. The Revised Version puts it, however, into the margin, and "loosed us" into the text. Most of the modern editors agree with this, and it has the weight of the oldest MS. authority in its favor, although the great mass of MSS. give "washed." The latter seems more in the apostle's manner as 1 John 1:7; Rev. 7:14 (though in the latter case it is not persons, but robes).}

This is a sweet response of loyal hearts on the edge of the battlefield. It is the good confession of His name, and of the debt we owe Him, which has made us His own forever. Good it is, the open joyful maintenance of this, which at once separates us from the world that rejects Him, and puts us in the ranks of His witnesses and followers. "By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, confessing His name." No such wholesome, invigorating, gladdening work as is confession.

"Unto Him who loveth us," not "loved us," as the common version reads. It is a present reality, measured only aright by a past work — "and hath washed us from our sins in His own blood." Let us take care we measure it ever so! Not by our own changeful feelings or experiences, as we are so prone to do, but by the glorious manifestation of itself thus: an infinite measure of an infinite fullness; for who knows aright the value of the blood of Christ?

"And hath washed us from our sins:" what an encouragement for those who have to go into a world full of temptation and defilement! We have known sin as sin — known it as needing the precious blood of Christ to cleanse us from its guilt, and known ourselves too as thus cleansed. If we are "idle and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ," it can only be because we have "forgotten that" we were "purged from" our "old sins."

But more: He has "made us a kingdom,* priests to His God and Father." Israel was promised, conditionally upon obedience, "Ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation." (Ex. 19:6.) They failed in obedience, and Levi's special priesthood was the consequence of their failure, while, as part of this failed people, not even the priesthood could pass within the vail. Grace has now given us as Christians that access to God to them denied, and to God fully revealed as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who has thus revealed God has given us our place in His presence — a happy, holy place of praise and intercession. "To Him be the glory and might unto the ages of ages!"

{*All authorities, upon the warrant of the three oldest MSS. and some ancient versions, give this instead of the "kings and priests" of our common one. The reference to Exodus 19 is plain, but I do not see how in either passage we have the equivalent of the other reading. A "kingdom of priests" does not convey the thought of "kings and priests," which we have, however, undoubtedly, in Rev. 5:10. Is it not rather a people who own God's sovereignty, instead of being a rabble of independent and rebellious wills, as once? Well may we praise Him who has done all this for us! Internal criticism, however, as opposed to authorities, might suggest the defensibility of the "Received Text." The MSS. are evidently here also in some confusion.}

An "Amen" is added here, that we may as individuals join our voices to the voice of the Church at large. It is a blessed thing to be part of the innumerable company who have a common theme and a common joy; but it is also blessed to have our own distinct utterance and our own peculiar joy. The more distinct the better. Would the apostle have felt it the same thing to say, "Who loved us, and gave Himself for us," true as it might be, as to say, "Who loved me, and gave Himself for me"? Assuredly he would not. The "chief of sinners," realizing himself that, had something which was individual to himself, and which would not be lost or overlooked in the general song. And we have, each one of us surely, special experiences to call forth peculiar praise. Note, too, that the power of the life lived to God is associated by him with this individualization: "The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me."

Thus, then, the heart gives out its response to its beloved Lord. Now, then, it is qualified for testimony to Him. "If we be beside ourselves, it is to God; if we be sober, it is for your cause." The soul in company with Christ turns necessarily to the world with its testimony of Him: the Enoch-life is joined with the Enoch-witness. For it was he of whom it is written, "he walked with God, and he was not, for God took him," who "prophesied, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment upon all.'" The Church it is who is called, like another Enoch, to walk here with Him whom she is soon to be called away to meet and be ever with; and the next verse in Revelation puts into her mouth her similar testimony: —

"Behold, He cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him, and all the tribes of the earth shall wail because of Him."

This is evidently not the Church's hope, but the Church's testimony. It takes up the theme of the Old Testament prophets, with direct appeal even to their prophecies; for Daniel saw of old the Son of Man come with the clouds of heaven, and Zechariah declares how Israel look upon Him whom they have pierced, and how the tribes of the land mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son, and are in heaviness as he that is in heaviness for his first-born." (Dan. 7:13; Zech. 12:10, 12.)

I do not doubt that, while the words in Revelation repeat the very language of the older prophets, — for "kindreds" in the common version is literally "tribes," and "earth" and "land" are, both in Hebrew and Greek, but the same word, — yet that in the passage before us a wider application is to be made than this. Not only shall they see who have pierced Him, but "every eye." Naturally, therefore, not the tribes of the land only, but of the earth at large, shall wail on account of Him. The testimony is neither to nor of Israel only, though including these. And while the mourning in Zechariah is unto repentance, the word here is large enough to admit of the wail of despair as well as of repentance.

The Church's testimony is addressed to all. Christ is coming; the day of grace running out; judgment nearing with every stroke of the hour. A testimony which we know from Scripture, as we may realize every day around us, wakes only the scorn of "scoffers, walking in their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of His corning? for since the fathers fell asleep all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." Whose, then, is this Voice which here solemnly confirms the testimony of approaching judgment? It is surely none other than the voice of God Himself: —

"Yea, amen: I am Alpha and Omega, saith the Lord God, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty."

The "Yea, amen," are not, as our books give them, part of the seventh verse, but commence the verse following; and the words "I am Alpha and Omega, the Eternal, the Almighty," exhibit fully the One with whom men's unbelief brings them into controversy. He challenges all unbelief. Is He not doing so today, when on every side signs political, ecclesiastical, moral, and spiritual warn men, if they will but attend, that the Lord is at hand? Why, the cry itself is a sign — "Behold the Bridegroom!" Can they deny it has gone forth? Call it a mistake; call it enthusiasm; call it high treason to the world's magnificent and immense progress; still it stands written, —

"And at midnight there was a cry, 'Behold the bridegroom! go ye forth to meet him!' . . . And as they went to buy, the bridegroom came."

He who speaks is Alpha and Omega, whose word is the beginning and end of all speech: all that can be said is said when He has spoken; at the beginning, who spoke all things into being, and whose word, "It is done," will fix their eternal state.

He who speaks is Jehovah, the covenant-keeping God, unchangeable amid all changes, true to His threats and to His promises alike.

And He who speaks is the Almighty, lacking no power to fulfill His counsel. This is He who says, "Yea, amen," to the testimony that He who was crucified in weakness shall come again in power, and every knee shall bow to Him, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The Son of Man Among the Churches (Revelation 1:9-20.)

We come now to the vision which introduces the messages to the seven assemblies which with it constitute the first part of the book. The second part is similarly introduced by the vision of the fourth and fifth chapters. There is a very evident and characteristic difference between the stand-points of the two. In the one case it is John, companion with the saints in tribulation and endurance, and the scene is on earth; in the other case he is called up to heaven, and the scene is there.

The apostle writes, not as such, but as one in the common fellowship of the martyrs of Jesus, with whom testimony and suffering were linked necessarily together, the kingdom to be reached through tribulation. He being in Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ, the word of God is afresh communicated to him, and the testimony of Christ anew committed into his hands. Is it not the abiding principle, only in a more than usually eminent example, that "to him that hath shall more be given"? Did ever any one find himself so in Patmos without learning something of the revelations of Patmos? Surely it could not be. Joseph becomes in his prison the "revealer of secrets;" Moses in his wilderness banishment sees the burning bush; David in his affliction develops the sweet singer of Israel; Paul gives out the mystery of the Church from the place of his captivity; John follows only in the footsteps of these; and those who have followed him, though at a humbler distance, and with no fresh revelations because the Word of God is complete, have they no unfoldings of the Word, no nearer views of its Subject and Revealer, to more than compensate for the sorrow of the way — rhapsodies though they may seem to those of days of less demand and less enthusiasm?

Yet when the apostle puts himself down thus simply as "partaker with you in the tribulation and kingdom and patience in Jesus," does he not expect us also, and invite us, as it were, into this fellowship? and must we not in some true sense be there in order to profit aright by this communication? If we will be friends with the world, can we expect to understand or be in sympathy with the prophet of Patmos? And if it be a Christian world we think of, the words have nothing but an evil significance, if we take the significance from Scripture. But among the many tongues with which for our sins we are afflicted, how few are content to speak simply the language of Scripture!

"I became in the Spirit on the Lord's day," it should be. It was not simply in the right and normal Christian state in which John found himself, as so many think, but carried out of himself by the power of the Spirit; his senses closed to other things, his spirit awake to behold the things presented to him, and hear the voice that speaks to us also in him. The expression is found again in the beginning of the fourth chapter, at the opening of the vision there.

"On the Lord's day" does not mean, as some suppose, the prophetic "day of the Lord," for which there is a different expression, and which would not really apply at all to this first vision and what follows it. It is the Lord's day, the day of Christian privilege, in which in the joy of His resurrection we look back upon His death. Yet this does not surely shut out the looking forward to His coming: "ye do show forth the Lord's death till He come." This is the only right attitude for the Christian to be in, as one that expects his Lord. And this is indeed why, as it would seem, the voice that John hears speaks behind him, and he has to turn to see the One who speaks to him. His attention is to be directed to the present state of the Church; turned back, therefore, from the contemplation of the coming glory, to what to one so engrossed is a thing behind.

He turns, and sees seven golden candlesticks, or "lampstands," as the word is. They answer in number to the seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, the significance of which we have already seen. They represent, as we are told, the seven assemblies (Rev. 1:20), and, plainly, as responsible to exhibit the light of the Spirit, during the night of the Lord's absence. The reference to the golden candlestick of the sanctuary is evident, and the contrast with it is as much intended for our notice, and should be as evident. The candlestick of the sanctuary was one only, its six branches set into the central stem, and it speaks of Christ, not the Church. The seven candlesticks are for lights, not in the sanctuary, where Christ alone is that, but in the world. And while there is a certain unity, as representing doubtless the whole Church, yet it is the Church seen, not in its dependent connection with Christ, but historically and externally, as "churches." Each lampstand is set upon its own base, stands in its own responsibility, as is manifest. To speak of the Son of Man in the midst as the invisible bond of union is surely a mistake. He is judging, not uniting.

Moreover, it is the Church in the larger, not the narrower sense here. Sardis as a whole is dead, and not alive. Christ is outside of Laodicea. Individually, they are local assemblies, which, as we shall see, stand each for the professing church of a certain epoch, or what in it characterizes the epoch. To see in them but Ephesus and its contemporary churches, as a large mass of interpreters still do, is indeed to be blind, and not see afar off; but the proof as to this comes naturally later. They are golden candlesticks, as set for the display of the glory of God (of which the gold speaks); but this is not what of necessity is displayed by them; they have the privilege and responsibility of it, but the candlestick may be, and in fact is, removed.

But the vision here is not simply, nor mainly, of the candlesticks — the churches; it is of One rather from whom alone they receive all their importance, — "One like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about at the breasts with a golden girdle." The attire is that of a priest, but not in service, for the girdle is not about the loins, and the dress hangs loosely to the feet. As Priest, He is therefore a son of man, but He is more; and this the words, "One like unto the Son of man," indicate. Why "like unto" this, if He were indeed only this? The precise expression, moreover, is from Daniel, as what follows unites with it the features of the Ancient of days as pictured there. Thus it is the divine-human Priest, the true Mediator between God and men, as God and Man.

Yet He is not interceding. The characters which follow show Him as when He comes to judge the world, and these are applied, in the third and fourth addresses, to the judgment of the churches. "His head and His hair were white as white wool, as snow;" this marks Him as the Ancient of days, the perfection of holy wisdom; "and His eyes were like a flame of fire" — with the same absolute holiness searching all things; "and His feet like unto white [-hot] brass, as glowing in a furnace*," — judgment following, as inexorable against evil; "and His voice as the voice of many waters," — the sound of that ocean which reduces man so easily to his native littleness and impotence.

{*On the whole, this seems the sense; but a word unknown to the lexicons perplexes the commentators.}

Such is He who in grace has become the Son of man, but whose holiness is as unchangeable as His love is perfect. All judgment is committed unto Him, because He is the Son of man. The Church and the world alike are in His hand whose glorious uprising will bring, in a short time, summer to the earth. "And He had in His right hand seven stars; and out of His mouth goeth a sharp two-edged sword; and His countenance was as the sun shineth in its strength."

All this exhibits the Lord as just ready to come forth and take the kingdom; it is as if He had left the sanctuary, and were clothing Himself in the cloud with which He returns. And so Scripture, when urging our responsibility upon us, carries us constantly on to the day of His appearing, when the result of conduct will be brought out and manifested to all. There is a wide distinction always recognized between this and His coming to receive us to Himself, with which nothing but grace is associated. This is the time when we receive the fruit of His work; and beautiful it is to see, and unspeakably comforting it is to realize, that first of all — before any thing else, His heart must have its way, and the sufficiency of His cross be shown to set the believer in full, unchallengeable possession of eternal blessedness, before ever a note of judgment has sounded, or a question as to his work been made. And this is plain from the fact of what the resurrection of the saint is stated to be. "It is sown in corruption" — the body of the dead saint; — "it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power." And we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord, we shall be changed like them into the image of the heavenly, and caught up together with them, to meet the Lord in the air. Thus incorruption, glory, power, are ours before ever we see the face of the Lord or are manifested before His judgment-seat.

But with His appearing is associated the recompense of works; and thus all exhortations, warnings, encouragements, contemplate this. And so the Lord is seen in the vision here, though among the churches. In this way all is simple, and we cannot confound His being "in the midst of the assembly" with His being in the midst of the assemblies, or seek for principles of gathering in what is of a totally different nature. "Who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks" is the Lord's own word to the church in Ephesus. How different is the thought of His walking in the midst from His being in the midst as the centre of gathering!

Principles of church-order and discipline are not to be sought in the book of Revelation. It is most important to realize that God's Word, if it be beyond our systems, has a system of its own; and that He has so arranged His truth that His people may know where to look for it, and find it with more simplicity than in fact we do. Each book has its line of truth, distinct from., however much connected with, every other one. The first of Corinthians is the book of church-order and discipline. Revelation is the book of the throne, and divine judgment. And the simplest view of the vision before us agrees with this, which will only be more manifest the deeper we look.

The vision of glory overpowers the apostle: "And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying, Fear not.'" How the Christ of the gospel comes out here! What words more characteristic of Him than this, "Fear not"? "Perfect love casteth out fear," and such love is His who speaks, not alone to John in this, but to all who, realizing more His majesty than His grace, would put Him back into the distance and darkness from which He has come out to us. What we are is no more in question; the cross has manifested that fully all for us lies now in what He is; and the cross has revealed that too. Word and deed witness for Him and unto us, and His right hand of power acts with His word: "Fear not; I am the First and the Last, and the Living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of death and of hades."

Here again divine and human characters are mingled. The First is Cause of all; the Last, the end of all. "All things were created by Him and for Him:" no expression of divinity could be clearer or fuller than this. Then the Living One is necessarily also the Source of life, — living and life-giving. But this Living One has died, gone into death to become its Conqueror. Alive for evermore, He has the keys of death and of hades, — that is, of that which holds the body and that which holds the soul of the dead.* Thus man's condition is plumbed to the bottom, for death is the seal of that condition. Only that which meets the condition can break the seal of it.

{*A similar connection of death and hades is found in the twentieth chapter: "Death and hades delivered up the dead which were in them" — the one, the soul; the other, the body. "Hades" is never "the grave," as our common version sometimes renders it, and never "hell," which is its alternate rendering. "Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell," as spoken of the Lord (Acts 2:27, 31), agrees with neither. The distinction in these terms shows very simply that it is the body only which really dies, or over which death has its proper empire.}

He, then, who has been in death for us has turned its awful shadow into morning, not to bring back indeed out of its grasp the first creation, but to open for us the door into infinitely higher blessing. The gates of strength* have yielded to our Samson, and more: out of the eater comes forth meat, and out of the strong sweetness. How beyond measure is this love of One who, though the Living One, has been in death for us! How rich have we become through this voluntary poverty! And "He who descended is the same also who ascended up, far above all heavens, that He might fill all things,"

{*"Gaza" means "the strong."}

He goes on: — "Write, then" — with this assurance, — "the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be after these; the mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in My right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven candlesticks are the seven churches."

These words give us the division of the book. "The things which are" must needs apply to the seven assemblies and their state. "The things which shall be after these" — not "hereafter," which is too vague, — to the things which follow from the fourth chapter on. This is evident, whatever view we take of the interpretation of these sections. With the first of them only have we to do here, — "the things which are," or present things.

Present, then, in what sense? present at that time merely, and now long past? or, as many now consider, present still? Do the addresses to the churches give only such lessons for us here today as must necessarily be found in what is said to Christian gatherings of by-gone days by One who with perfect wisdom, knowledge, holiness, and love speaks to just such as we are? Or is there, beside all this, as many believe, a more precise, designed correspondence between these seven Asiatic assemblies and as many successive periods in the history of the Church at large — a prophetic teaching for all time, until the Lord come, and our path here is ended? Let us look briefly at what has been urged as to this latter view.

Against, it has been urged that the addresses are not given as a prophecy of the future, but simply as to churches then existing, now long passed away. This is undoubtedly the most forcible objection that has been made for imagination is unholy license in the things of God, and the addresses have not the general style of prophecy, as must be admitted. We do right, then, to be watchful here.

But answer has been made to this: in the first place, that at the very beginning of the book, we have the whole of it called a prophecy "Blessed is he that readeth and they that hear the words of the book of this prophecy, and keep the things that are written therein." It seems, therefore, that we have distinct warrant for holding the addresses to be prophetic, and that we should rather require it for refusing them this place.

Beside this, the disguise which confessedly they assume may be accounted for. The Christian's privilege and duty are, to be always expecting his Lord. He who says in his heart, My Lord delayeth His coming, is a "wicked servant." There was to be left room for this expectancy, as the best help against discouragement, the most effectual remedy against settling down in the world, the best means of fixing the eyes upon Christ and things above. This was not to beget false hope or encourage mistake, for the time of the Lord's return they were assured they did not know: "Watch, for ye know not when the time is." But thus to put before men a prophecy of a long earthly history for the Church would be to destroy what was to be a main characteristic of Christians, to take out of their hands the lamp of testimony to the world itself, the virgin's lamp lighted to go forth to meet her Lord.

And it is blessed to see that now, if, in the end of the days, the full meaning is being revealed, and we are shown how much of the road we have actually traveled, the effect is, after all the long delay, to encourage expectation, not to damp it. That we are nearing the end is sure that any part of the road remains before us to be trodden, we have no assurance. The very thing which to past generations would have been an evil too fully to disclose is now for us as great and manifest a gain.

For the prophetic view is further urged the constant emphatic appeal to our attention with which every one of these addresses ends. Was it only for men of that day and place that it is written, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches"? No part of Scripture is so emphasized beside. Again, are there no candlesticks amid which Christ walks except those of these Asiatic churches? The very number 7 is characteristic of this book, as it is significant of completeness also. As the seven Spirits speak of the complete energy of the one blessed Spirit, do not the seven churches stand for the varied aspects of the one Church of God on earth?

And to them as representatives of this one Church is the whole book committed, — not for their own use merely, but for ours. As John is the representative servant, so the churches are representatives of the Church.

But the great proof of the correctness of the prophetic view is (what as yet it would be premature at any length to enter on,) the real correspondence between the picture given of the seven churches and the well-known history of the professing church. We have the successive steps of its decline — first hidden, then external; the judaizing process by which it was transformed from a company of saved and heavenly people into a mixed multitude uncertain of heaven, clinging to the certainties of earth; away from God, and committing the sacred things, for which they are too unclean, to an official class of go-betweens. Then open union with the world, once persecuting, now friendly, Balaam-teachers for hire promoting and celebrating it. Then the reign of Jezebel, inspired and infallible, her cup full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication. Then Protestantism, soon forgetting the things which it had heard, sunk into its grave of nationalism, though with a separate remnant as ever, dear to God. Then an era of revival and blessing, the Spirit of God working freely, outside of sectarian boundary-lines, uniting to Christ and to one another. Then, alas! collapse and threat of removal, Christ rejected and outside, the lukewarmness of water ready to be spued out of His mouth.

Such is the picture: does it appeal to us? In the midst of all this, in the central church, the centre of the darkness, at midnight surely, there begins a cry, faint though at first, but gathering strength as the time goes on, "Go ye out to meet Him!" In Thyatira first, "Hold fast till I come!" To Sardis, "I will come on thee as a thief." To Philadelphia, — more as in haste now, — "I come quickly." Then Laodicea, and the end!

Does this appeal to us? What follows then? Briefly: a scene in heaven, and a redemption-song before the throne; a Lamb slain, who as Judah's Lion unseals the seven-sealed book; churches no more on earth, but once more Jews and Gentiles; and out of these, a multitude who come out of the great tribulation; until, after the marriage of the Lamb has taken place in heaven, its gates unclose, and the white-horsed Rider and His armies come out to the judgment of the earth.

This to many even yet may read as strange as any fiction. I cannot of course enter on it now. But there are those who object that by this view the relative importance of events is quite inverted. Two chapters give us the whole course of christendom; the largest part of the book by far is taken up with the details of some seven years after the Church is removed to heaven: why so rapid a survey of what so immediately concerns us? — so lengthy a relation of what will not take place till after the saints of the present time have passed from the scene?

But how often are we mistaken in the relative importance of things! God sees not as man sees; and the common view which appropriates seal after seal to the succession of Roman emperors, trumpet after trumpet to the inroads of Goths and Vandals, vial after vial to the French revolution and Napoleonic wars, has surely missed His estimate of importance. But more: the events which fill so many chapters have indeed for us the very greatest significance. The time is that "end of the age" which is the harvest of the world; it is the judgment for which all around is ripening, and in which every thing comes out as He who judges sees it. Is it not for us of the greatest possible moment to see that final, conclusive end of what is now often so pretentious and delusive? Here we may surely gather, if we will, lessons of sanctification of the most practical nature. Indeed we are sanctified by the truth; and whatever is of the truth will sanctify.