on Revelation 1 :1
The Revelation of Jesus Christ - The word Αποκαλυψις, from which we have our word Apocalypse, signifies literally, a revelation, or discovery of what was concealed or hidden. It is here said that this revelation, or discovery of hidden things, was given by God to Jesus Christ; that Christ gave it to his angel; that this angel showed it to John; and that John sent it to the Churches. Thus we find it came from God to Christ, from Christ to the angel, from the angel to John, and from John to the Church. It is properly, therefore, the Revelation of God, sent by these various agents to his servants at large; and this is the proper title of the book.
Things which must shortly come to pass - On the mode of interpretation devised by Wetstein, this is plain; for if the book were written before the destruction of Jerusalem, and the prophecies in it relate to that destruction, and the civil wars among the Romans, which lasted but three or four years, then it might be said the Revelation is of things which must shortly come to pass. But if we consider the book as referring to the state of the Church in all ages, the words here, and those in Revelation 1:3, must be understood of the commencement of the events predicted; as if he had said: In a short time the train of these visions will be put in motion: -
- et incipient magni procedere menses.
"And those times, pregnant with the most stupendous events, will begin to roll on."
on Revelation 1 :1
The Revelation of Jesus Christ - This is evidently a title or caption of the whole book, and is designed to comprise the substance of the whole; for all that the book contains would be embraced in the general declaration that it is a revelation of Jesus Christ. The word rendered "Revelation" - Ἀποκάλυψις Apokalupsis, whence we have derived our word "Apocalypse" - means properly an that is, nakedness; from ἀποκαλύπτω apokaluptō, to uncover. It would apply to anything which had been covered up so as to be bidden from the view, as by a veil, a darkness, in an ark or chest, and then made manifest by removing the covering. It comes then to be used in the sense of disclosing or revealing, by removing the veil of darkness or ignorance. "There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed." It may be applied to the disclosing or manifesting of anything which was before obscure or unknown. This may be done:
(a) by instruction in regard to what was before obscure; that is, by statements of what was unknown before the statements were made; as in Luke 2:32, where it is said that Christ would be "a light to lighten the Gentiles" - φῶς εἰς ἀποκάλυψιν ἐθνῶν phōs eis apokalupsin ethnōn; or when it is applied to the divine mysteries, purposes, or doctrines, before obscure or unknown, but made clear by light revealed in the gospel, Romans 16:25; 1 Corinthians 2:10; 1 Corinthians 14:6; Ephesians 3:5.
(b) by the event itself; as the manifestation of the wrath of God at the day of judgment will disclose the true nature of his wrath. "After thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and "revelation" of the righteous judgment of God," Revelation 2:5. "For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation (Greek revelation) of the sons of God," Romans 8:19; that is until it shall be manifest by the event what they who are the children of God are to be. In this sense the word is frequently applied to the second advent or appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ, as disclosing him in his glory, or showing what he truly is; "When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed," 2 Thessalonians 1:7 - ἐν τῇ ἀποκαλυψει en tēn apokalupsei - in the revelation of Jesus Christ; "Waiting for the coming (the revelation - την ἀποκάλυψιν tēn apokalupsin of our Lord Jesus Christ," 1 Corinthians 1:7; "At the appearing (Greek revelation) of Jesus Christ," 1 Peter 1:7; "When his glory shall be revealed," 1 Peter 4:13.
(c) It is used in the sense of making known what is to come, whether by words, signs, or symbols, as if a veil were lifted from what is hidden from human vision, or which is covered by the darkness of the unknown future. This is called a revelation, because the knowledge of the event is in fact made known to the world by Him who alone can see it, and in such a manner as he pleases to employ; though many of the terms or the symbols may be, from the necessity of the case, obscure, and though their full meaning may be disclosed only by the event. It is in this sense, evidently, that the word is used here: and in this sense that it is more commonly employed when we speak of a revelation. Thus, the word גּלה gaalaah is used in Amos 3:7, "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants." So Job 33:16, "Then he openeth (margin, revealeth or uncovereth; Heb. יגלה yigleh the ears of men"; that is, in a dream, he discloses to their ears his truth before concealed or unknown. Compare Daniel 2:22, Daniel 2:28-29; Daniel 10:1; Deuteronomy 29:29. These ideas enter into the word as used in the passage before us. The idea is that of a disclosure of an extraordinary character, beyond the mere ability of man, by a special communication from heaven. This is manifest, not only from the usual meaning of this word, but by the word "prophecy," in Revelation 1:3, and by all the arrangements by which these things were made known. The ideas which would be naturally conveyed by the use of this word in this connection are two:
(1) that there was something which was before hidden, obscure, or unknown; and,
(2) that this was so disclosed by these communications as to be seen or known.
The things hidden or unknown were those which pertained to the future; the method of disclosing them was mainly by symbols. In the Greek, in this passage, the article is missing - ἀποκάλυψις apokalupsis - a Revelation, not ἡ hē, the Revelation. This is omitted because it is the title of a book, and because the use of the article might imply that this was the only revelation, excluding other books claiming to be a revelation; or it might imply some previous mention of the book, or knowledge of it in the reader. The simple meaning is, that this was "a Revelation"; it was only a part of the revelation which God has given to mankind.
The phrase, "the Revelation of Jesus Christ," might, so far as the construction of the language is concerned, refer either to Christ as the subject or object. It might either mean that Christ is the object revealed in this book, and that its great purpose is to make him known, and so the phrase is understood in the commentary called Hyponoia (New York, 1844); or it may mean that this is a revelation which Christ makes to mankind, that is, it is his in the sense that he communicates it to the world. That this latter is the meaning here is clear:
(1) because it is expressly said in this verse that it was a revelation which God gave to him;
(2) because it is said that it pertains to things which must shortly come to pass; and,
(3) because, in fact, the revelation is a disclosure of eyelets which were to happen, and not of the person or work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Which God gave unto him - Which God imparted or communicated to Jesus Christ. This is in accordance with the representations everywhere made in the Scriptures, that God is the original fountain of truth and knowledge, and that, whatever was the original dignity of the Son of God, there was a mediatorial dependence on the Father. See John 5:19-20, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for whatsoever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and showeth him (δεικνυσιν αὐτῷ deiknusin autō) all things that himself doeth." "My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me," John 7:16. "As my Father hath taught me ἐδιδάξεν με edidaxen me, I speak these things," John 8:28. "For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak," John 12:49. See also John 14:10; John 17:7-8; Matthew 11:27; Mark 13:32. The same mediatorial dependence the apostle teaches us still subsists in heaven in his glorified state, and will continue until he has subdued all things 1 Corinthians 15:24-28; and hence, even in that state, he is represented as receiving the Revelation from the Father to communicate it to people.
To show unto his servants - That is, to his people, to Christians, often represented as the servants of God or of Christ, 1 Peter 2:16; Revelation 2:20; Revelation 7:3; Revelation 19:2; Revelation 22:3. It is true that the word is sometimes applied, by way of eminence, to the prophets 1 Chronicles 6:49; Daniel 6:20, and to the apostles Rom 1:1; Galatians 1:10; Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:1; James 1:1; but it is also applied to the mass of Christians, and there is no reason why it should not be so understood here. The book was sent to the churches of Asia, and was clearly designed for general use; and the contents of the book were evidently intended for the churches of the Redeemer in all ages and lands. Compare Revelation 1:3. The word rendered "to show" (δεῖξαι deixai) commonly denotes to point out, to cause to see, to present to the sight, and is a word eminently appropriate here, as what was to be revealed was, in general, to be presented to the sight by sensible tokens or symbols.
Things which must shortly come to pass - Not all the things that will occur, but such as it was deemed of importance for his people to be made acquainted with. Nor is it certainly implied that all the things that are communicated would shortly come to pass, or would soon occur. Some of them might perhaps he in the distant future, and still it might be true that there were those which were revealed in connection with them, which soon would occur. The word rendered "things" (ἅ ha) is a pronoun, and might be rendered "what"; "he showed to his servants what things were about to occur," not implying that he showed all the things that would happen, but such as he judged to be needful that his people should know. The word would naturally embrace those things which, in the circumstances, were most desirable to be known. The phrase rendered "must come to pass" (δεῖ γενέσθαι dei genesthai), would imply more than mere futurity; The word used (δεῖ dei) means "it needs, there is need of," and implies that there is some kind of necessity that the event should occur.
on Revelation 1 :1
1:1 The Revelation - Properly so called; for things covered before are here revealed, or unveiled. No prophecy in the Old Testament has this title; it was reserved for this alone in the New. It is, as it were, a manifesto, wherein the Heir of all things declares that all power is given him in heaven and earth, and that he will in the end gloriously exercise that power, maugre all the opposition of all his enemies. Of Jesus Christ - Not of John the Divine, a title added in latter ages. Certain it is, that appellation, the Divine, was not brought into the church, much less was it affixed to John the apostle, till long after the apostolic age. It was St. John, indeed, who wrote this book, but the author of it is Jesus Christ. Which God gave unto him - According to his holy, glorified humanity, as the great Prophet of the church. God gave the Revelation to Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ made it known to his servants. To show - This word recurs, Rev 22:6; and in many places the parts of this book refer to each other. Indeed the whole structure of it breathes the art of God, comprising, in the most finished compendium, things to come, many, various; near, intermediate, remote; the greatest, the least; terrible, comfortable; old, new; long, short; and these interwoven together, opposite, composite; relative to each other at a small, at a great, distance; and therefore sometimes, as it were, disappearing, broken off, suspended, and afterwards unexpectedly and most seasonably appearing again. In all its parts it has an admirable variety, with the most exact harmony, beautifully illustrated by those very digressions which seem to interrupt it. In this manner does it display the manifold wisdom of God shining in the economy of the church through so many ages. His servants - Much is comprehended in this appellation. It is a great thing to be a servant of Jesus Christ. This book is dedicated particularly to the servants of Christ in the seven churches in Asia; but not exclusive of all his other servants, in all nations and ages. It is one single revelation, and yet sufficient for them all, from the time it was written to the end of the world. Serve thou the Lord Jesus Christ in truth: so shalt thou learn his secret in this book; yea, and thou shalt feel in thy heart whether this book be divine, or not. The things which must shortly come to pass - The things contained in this prophecy did begin to be accomplished shortly after it was given; and the whole might be said to come to pass shortly, in the same sense as St. Peter says, The end of all things is at hand; and our Lord himself, Behold, I come quickly. There is in this book a rich treasure of all the doctrines pertaining to faith and holiness. But these are also delivered in other parts of holy writ; so that the Revelation need not to have been given for the sake of these. The peculiar design of this is, to show the things which must come to pass. And this we are especially to have before our eyes whenever we read or hear it. It is said afterward, Write what thou seest; and again, Write what thou hast seen, and what is, and what shall be hereafter; but here, where the scope of the hook is shown, it is only said, the things which must come to pass. Accordingly, the showing things to come, is the great point in view throughout the whole. And St. John writes what he has seen, and what is, only as it has an influence on, or gives light to, what shall be. And he - Jesus Christ. Sent and signified them - Showed them by signs or emblems; so the Greek word properly means. By his angel - Peculiarly called, in the sequel, the angel of God, and particularly mentioned, Rev 17:1; 21:9; 22:6,16. To his servant John - A title given to no other single person throughout the book.