Revelation, A Study

REVELATION
INTRODUCTION
The Author of the Apocalypse
There is very strong external evidence to prove that this book was written by the Apostle John. Passing over some earlier apparent witnesses, we find unmistakable mention of it in the writings of Justin Martyr. He expressly refers to it as the work of the apostle, in the dialogue which he held with Trypho, an unbelieving Jew, in the very city of Ephesus where John lived, and within half a century after his death. Equally clear and explicit is the testimony of Irenaeus, a disciple of Polycarp, the disciple of John. Irenaeus even gives as his authority for preferring 666 to 616 as “the number of the beast” (Rev_13:18), the testimony of those who had seen John face to face. The book is twice mentioned in the Canon of the Muratorian Fragment, once in such a way as to imply that it was publicly read in church; it was one of the books on which Melito, Bishop of Sardis, wrote a commentary (about 170 A.D.); and it is expressly quoted as “the Scripture” in the letter sent by the persecuted Christians of Vienne and Lyons to their brethren in Asia Minor (177 A.D.). But soon after the middle of the second century the book began to be regarded with suspicion, owing to the use made of it by the Montanists, who indulged in extravagant notions regarding the “thousand years” of Christ’s reign with His saints (chap. 20.). The feeling of distrust was strengthened by observing what a marked difference there was in the language and style of the Revelation and of the other works ascribed to John; and a considerable amount of controversy took place on the subject. Ultimately, however, the objections were overruled, and the book obtained general acceptance in the Church. In modern times the controversy has been renewed; and objectors are still disposed to insist, as of old, on the internal marks of a different authorship from that of the fourth Gospel. In particular it is pointed out that whereas the Gospel is written in good Greek, the Revelation is full of grammatical mistakes and eccentricities. To meet this objection the following considerations may be adduced:—
(1) The difference in the nature and contents of the two books; the one being mainly narrative or colloquial, the other being formed on the model of the Old Testament prophets.
(2) The possible effect on the Apostle of twenty years’ residence in Ephesus, in the way of improving his knowledge of Greek.
(3) The unfavourable circumstances under which he appears to have written the Revelation; and the possible employment by him of a skilled Greek amanuensis in the composition of the Gospel. On the other hand, amid all the diversity between the two books both in ideas and in language, there are not wanting some important features of resemblance, betokening an identity of authorship.
1. The name “Lamb” is only applied to the Saviour in the fourth Gospel (Joh_1:29; Joh_1:36) and in the Revelation (Rev_5:6; Rev_5:8; Rev_5:12, etc.), although it is indirectly referred to in 1Pe_1:19 and Act_8:32. In like manner the name “Word” is only applied to the Saviour in the Gospel of John (Joh_1:1, etc.), in First Epistle of John (1Jn_1:1, “the Word of life”), and in the Revelation (Rev_19:13, “the Word of God”).
2. Some of John’s favourite expressions, such as “he that overcometh,” “witness” (noun or verb), “keep (my) word,” are of frequent occurrence in the Revelation.
3. In Rev_1:7 we seem to have an echo of Joh_19:34-37, where alone the piercing of our Lord with the spear is recorded, and where there is the same quotation of Zec_12:10 —in the same unusual form.
4. The Greek word meaning “true” or “real,” in opposition to what is false or spurious, occurs nine times in St. John’s Gospel, four times in 1 John, and ten times in the Revelation; but only five times in all the rest of the New Testament.
5. The Revelation, like the fourth Gospel, recognises our Lord’s pre-eminence and His title to Divine honours (Rev_1:8; Rev_1:17-18; Rev_3:14; Rev_3:21; Rev_5:9; Rev_5:13; Rev_19:16; Rev_22:13).
6. A still stronger feature of resemblance may be seen in the similarity of the representations which the two books give of the Saviour’s triumph as resulting from successive conflicts terminating in apparent and temporary defeat. In these conflicts the Gentiles take the place held by the unbelieving Jews in the Gospel; and the “disciples” of the earlier days are represented by the Church, or “the bride” (of Christ). It has been objected that the Revelation, unlike the other writings of John, gives the name of its avowed author (Rev_1:1; Rev_1:4; Rev_1:9; Rev_22:8). But this is sufficiently accounted for by the prophetical character of the book. It was the practice of the prophets of the Old Testament, although not of the historians, to mention their names in their writings. (J. A. McClymont, D. D.)

 

Time and Place of Composition
As to the time of its composition, tradition is far from consistent. The author of the Muratorian fragment, e.g., incidentally places it earlier than the Pauline epistles; but Irenaeus expressly states that it “was seen towards the close of the reign of Domitian.” This is sometimes interpreted as implying that the book was also written then; but more probably he intended his readers to understand that it was written after Domitian’s death—under Nerva, or perhaps even in the reign Of Trajan. But Tertullian seems to suggest the time of Nero as the date. Jerome dates the supposed banishment of John certainly, and the writing probably, in the 14th year of Domitian; but in this, perhaps, he is only repeating Irenaeus. There is some reason to think that this date is partly derived from an interpretation of Rev_1:9, which is not now usually accepted. Epiphanius mentions the time of Claudius. The place where the Revelation was received is professedly Patmos, and ancient writers usually assumed that it was also committed to writing there … . The two-sided character of the evidence, both external and internal, as to date led Grotius (1644) to suggest that the problem raised by it might perhaps be solved by the assumption that the book was written by its one author at different times, partly in Patmos and partly at Ephesus. Vogel (1811-1816) offered a different solution—that it was written partly by the Apostle John and partly by the presbyter John, a theory which seems to have had some attraction for Schleiermacher, and, temporarily at least, for Bleek. Volter (1882-1885) thinks that the original Apocalypse as written by the Apostle in 65-66 A.D. consists of: Rev_1:4-6; Rev_4:1-5; Rev_4:10; Rev_6:1-7; Rev_8:8-9; Rev_11:14-19; Rev_14:1-7; Rev_18:1-19; Rev_14:14-20; Rev_19:5-10. To this the Apostle himself (68-69 A.D.) added Rev_10:1-11; Rev_13:1-18; Rev_14:8; Rev_17:1-18. It received subsequent additions by other hands in the time of Trajan (Rev_11:15; Rev_11:18; Rev_19:11-12; Rev_21:1-8), of Hadrian (chaps. 5:11-14; 7:9-17; 13.; 14:4, 5, 9-12; 15:1-17:1), and of Antoninus Pius (prologue, epistles to churches, etc.). A new line of investigation in the same direction was opened by Vischer, who (1886) sought to show that the groundwork of the composite book was primarily not Christian but Jewish, written in Hebrew, but translated and freely adapted by a Christian redactor. This view was accepted by Harnack (1886), and Substantially, though with large modifications, by Pfleiderer (1887), and Weyland (1888). Schon also (1887) and Sabatier (1888) maintained the composite character of the work, holding it, however, to be essentially of Christian origin (end of first century) but with incorporation of Jewish fragments. The most powerful and suggestive of recent works based on the theory of composite origin is that of Spitta (1889) who dintinguishes a Christian Apocalypse, dating from about 60 A.D., which he attributes to John Mark, and two Jewish Apocalypses dating respectively from Pompey’s capture of Jerusalem in 63 B.C., and from Caligula’s time, about 40 A.D. These three sections of the work correspond roughly to the visions of the seals, the trumpets, and the vials. The work of redaction, spirts holds, was done towards the end of the first century. (J. Sutherland Black.)

 

The Interpretation Of The Apocalypse
According to St. Augustine, the events which come to pass in this world are neither fortuitous nor isolated. Divine Providence directs, co-ordinates, and controls them all, causing everything to concur towards the triumph of purity, holiness, justice, and truth. Whoever hears the voice from on high and follows it, belongs to the elect people—to “the City of God”; beside which lies the city of the earth occupied with the interests of this lower sphere—a city proud, tyrannical, the persecutor of the saints, but which does not the less subserve, albeit by means of which it is unconscious, the establishment of the Divine Kingdom. Such was Babylon in the East; such was Rome in the West: both imperial cities, and both ordained to diffuse God’s revelation—the one the Old Testament, the other the New. The empire of Rome was universal, because such must be the Kingdom of Christ: and as the Old Law was but the preparation for the New, so all events in the old world converged towards Rome and towards the Coming of Christ; in the same manner as all events after that Coming have concurred to the final triumph and to the universality of the Christian Faith. If this central thought be kept in mind, many interpretations, seemingly opposed to each other will be found to harmonize; it being assumed that the successive events which are taken to be the complete accomplishment of an Apocalyptic prediction are but illustrations merely—specimens, so to speak—of God’s dealings with the Church and with the world. There are three principal systems of exposition, as they are commonly classified, according to which the Apocalypse has, for the most part, been interpreted:—the Preterist, the Historical or Continuous, the Futurist. To these, however, must be added the principle of interpretation which adopts for its leading idea the great conception of St. Augustine stated above. This system may be styled the “Spiritual.” As Ebrard says: “The Apocalypse does not contain presages of contingent, isolated events; but it contains warning and consolatory prophecies concerning the great leading forces which make their appearance in the conflict between Christ and the enemy. So full are its contents that every age may learn therefrom, more and more, against what disguises of the serpent one has to guard oneself; and also how the afflicted Church at all times receives its measure of courage and of consolation.” (Archdeacon Lee.)

 

Contents.—
I. The Prologue (chaps. 1.-3.), setting forth—
1. The vision of Christ, including the commission given to the Apostle (Rev_1:1; Rev_1:11; Rev_1:19); an intimation of the historical personality of the seer, as well as the place and occasion of his receiving the Revelation (verses 9-11).
2. The enumeration of the Seven Churches (Rev_1:11; Rev_2:3.) which symbolise the Church universal (Rev_3:22) for whose sake the prophetical utterances are intended.
3. The Seven Epistles (chaps. 2., 3.).
II. The revelation proper (Rev_4:1-11; Rev_5:1-14; Rev_6:1-17; Rev_7:1-17; Rev_8:1-13; Rev_9:1-21; Rev_10:1-11; Rev_11:1-19; Rev_12:1-17; Rev_13:1-18; Rev_14:1-20; Rev_15:1-8; Rev_16:1-21; Rev_17:1-18; Rev_18:1-24; Rev_19:1-21; Rev_20:1-15; Rev_21:1-27; Rev_22:1-5).
1. The prelude (chaps. 4., 5.) which introduces the Divine judgments. These chapters contain two scenes—the appearance in heaven of the throne of God (chap. 4.), and the appearance of the Lamb who takes the sealed book “out of the right hand of Him that sat on the throne” (chap. 5.).
2. The vision of the seven seals (Rev_6:1-17; Rev_7:1-17; Rev_8:1), including an interlude between the sixth and seventh seals which consists of two scenes—that of the sealing of the elect (Rev_7:1-8), and that of the “great multitude which no man could number” (Rev_7:9-17).
3. The vision of the seven trumpets (Rev_8:2-13; Rev_9:1-21; Rev_10:1-11; Rev_11:1-19), including as before an interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpets, which again consists of two scenes—that of the “little book” (Rev_10:1-11), and that of the “two witnesses” (Rev_11:1-14).
4. The vision of the woman and her three enemies (Rev_12:1-17; Rev_13:1-18) the dragon (Rev_12:8-17), the beast from the sea (Rev_12:17; Rev_13:10), the beast from the earth or “false prophet” (Rev_13:11-18).
5. The group of visions in chap. 14.
(1) The vision of the Lamb with His company on Mount Sion (Rev_14:1-5).
(2) The vision of the three angels proclaiming judgments (Rev_14:6-11).
(3) The episode (Rev_14:12-13).
(4) The vision of the harvest and the vintage (Rev_14:14-20).
6. The vision of the seven vials (Rev_15:1-8; Rev_16:1-21), again including an interlude between the sixth and seventh vials which now consists of one scene—that of the three unclean spirits gathering the kings of the earth “into the place which is called Har-Magedon” (Rev_16:13-16).
7. The vision of the final triumph (Rev_17:1-18; Rev_18:1-24; Rev_19:1-21; Rev_20:1-15; Rev_21:1-27; Rev_22:1-5), presenting four scenes.
(1) The history and fall of Babylon (Rev_17:1-18; Rev_18:1-24; Rev_19:1-10)—the hostile world-power.
(2) The overthrow of Satan (Rev_19:11-21; Rev_20:1-10)—the hostile spiritual power.
(3) The universal judgment (Rev_20:11-15).
(4) The glories of the new Jerusalem (Rev_21:1-27; Rev_22:1-5).
III. The epilogue (Rev_22:6-21) which gradually passes from visionary representation, and referring back in Rev_14:8 to the prologue, closes with a Divine attestation, and with threats mingled with promises. (Archdeacon Lee.).

Morning And Evening

Morning

Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” — Rom_8:37
We go to Christ for forgiveness, and then too often look to the law for power to fight our sins. Paul thus rebukes us, “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” Take your sins to Christ’s cross, for the old man can only be crucified there: we are crucified with him. The only weapon to fight sin with is the spear which pierced the side of Jesus. To give an illustration-you want to overcome an angry temper, how do you go to work? It is very possible you have never tried the right way of going to Jesus with it. How did I get salvation? I came to Jesus just as I was, and I trusted him to save me. I must kill my angry temper in the same way? It is the only way in which I can ever kill it. I must go to the cross with it, and say to Jesus, “Lord, I trust thee to deliver me from it.” This is the only way to give it a death-blow. Are you covetous? Do you feel the world entangle you? You may struggle against this evil so long as you please, but if it be your besetting sin, you will never be delivered from it in any way but by the blood of Jesus. Take it to Christ. Tell him, “Lord, I have trusted thee, and thy name is Jesus, for thou dost save thy people from their sins; Lord, this is one of my sins; save me from it!” Ordinances are nothing without Christ as a means of mortification. Your prayers, and your repentance, and your tears-the whole of them put together-are worth nothing apart from him. “None but Jesus can do helpless sinners good;” or helpless saints either. You must be conquerors through him who hath loved you if conquerors at all. Our laurels must grow among his olives in Gethsemane.

Evening

Lo, in the midst of the throne … stood a Lamb as it had been slain.” — Rev_5:6
Why should our exalted Lord appear in his wounds in glory? The wounds of Jesus are his glories, his jewels, his sacred ornaments. To the eye of the believer, Jesus is passing fair because he is “white and ruddy;” white with innocence, and ruddy with his own blood. We see him as the lily of matchless purity, and as the rose crimsoned with his own gore. Christ is lovely upon Olivet and Tabor, and by the sea, but oh! there never was such a matchless Christ as he that did hang upon the cross. There we beheld all his beauties in perfection, all his attributes developed, all his love drawn out, all his character expressed. Beloved, the wounds of Jesus are far more fair in our eyes than all the splendor and pomp of kings. The thorny crown is more than an imperial diadem. It is true that he bears not now the scepter of reed, but there was a glory in it that never flashed from scepter of gold. Jesus wears the appearance of a slain Lamb as his court dress in which he wooed our souls, and redeemed them by his complete atonement. Nor are these only the ornaments of Christ: they are the trophies of his love and of his victory. He has divided the spoil with the strong. He has redeemed for himself a great multitude whom no man can number, and these scars are the memorials of the fight. Ah! if Christ thus loves to retain the thought of his sufferings for his people, how precious should his wounds be to us!
“Behold how every wound of his
A precious balm distills,
Which heals the scars that sin had made,
And cures all mortal ills.
“Those wounds are mouths that preach his grace;
The ensigns of his love;
The seals of our expected bliss
In paradise above.”

Devotional Sermon

On Making Allowances

Rylisms
The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak — Mat_26:41
To Forgive When Hurt Is Hard
There are times when it is very hard to make allowances for other people. To forgive them seems a counsel of perfection. Even if we do forgive we are haunted by a lingering resentment. Gusts of bitterness invade the soul when we remember how deeply we were wronged. To trust again when we have been deceived, with the simple and sweet trust of long ago, seems a victory beyond our powers. Love may abide through bitterest disappointment, for love is strong as death. But the love which has been hideously wronged is seldom quiet as a resting place. Flashes of suspicion visit it; harsh thoughts come surging to the surface; memories, sharp and anguished, break their blighting way into the soul. To make allowance when someone dear has failed us, to forget judgment in a great compassion, to go on trusting hopefully, after the shock of discovered infidelity, that, which falls to the lot of many people, though they very seldom speak about it, is one of the hardest tasks in human life.
Jesus Substitutes Mercy for Resentment
Now it was such a task that met our Saviour in the Garden of Gethsemane. The hearts on whose fidelity He counted in one blinding flash were found to be unfaithful. Who could have wondered if our blessed Lord had turned from these three men in stern revulsion? Who could have wondered if His instant thought had been that He never could trust them anymore? In swift and righteous condemnation might He not have judged them unworthy of His love, and so barred them from His heart forever? That is the first swift impulse, let me say, of every woman who has been deeply wronged. She says (little knowing what she says) I may forgive, but I never can forget. And the beautiful thing is that our Master, pierced to the quick by dear ones’ infidelity, rose to a loftier attitude than that. Judgment was submerged in pity. Compassion took the place of condemnation. The love that had been so terribly wronged wove the garment of mercy round the sinners. And so doing it saved their souls alive and led them onward to that brighter morrow when infidelities were all to be redeemed.
It Would Have Been Human to Be Done with them, But It Was Heavenly to Continue Trusting Them
To understand that magnificence of attitude ponder a moment on the sleep of these disciples. It was not a venial fault of drowsiness; it was a heinous sin of infidelity. It is always a very grave offense if a sentry be found sleeping at his post. Often the penalty for that is death. And these men were not only there in comradeship; they were sentries at the post of duty; they were there to watch as well as to keep awake. I shall not say that had they watched they might have saved the Lord, for it was not the will of God that He be saved. But would not Jesus crave to be forewarned that He might have a last quiet moment with His Father. And He never got it—the armed rabble broke on Him, suddenly, with shouting and with torches, because these sentries were sleeping at their posts. A disloyal soldier is like a disloyal friend—it is supremely difficult to make allowance for him. The heart that has been wronged by infidelity haunts the margins of despairing bitterness. Yet Jesus, towards His disloyal soldiers, who were also His weak disciples, maintained a pitying love that was redemptive. It would have been easy to have done with them. It was very hard to trust them still. To condemn them would have been entirely natural. To keep them still within His heart was heavenly. So our Saviour points the better way for all who find their Garden of Gethsemane in the disloyalties of someone who is dear.
Their Lack of Vigilance Was a Sign of ingratitude
And then, mingling with disloyalty, think of the ingratitude involved. “What, could ye not watch with Me?” For a moment put the accent upon Me. Have not I been the best of friends to you? Have not I toiled for you and prayed for you? Have not I watched many an hour for you? Have not I lavished the riches of My love on you? All that they owed to Him in love and sacrifice, and in the uplift of unrecorded intimacies, was forgotten in that disloyalty of sleep. That is what makes infidelity so bitter. At the heart of it lies rank ingratitude. All the patient ministries of years are forgotten because the flesh is weak. And no one could have blamed our blessed Lord if, in the sudden flaming of disgust, He had torn these disciples from His breast.
He Remembered It Was Past Midnight
But He did not do that, however terrible the provocation. The others might forget, but He remembered. He remembered it was long past midnight; He remembered the awful strain of the past days; He remembered the sorrow that consumed them and their burden of unintelligible mystery. And the condemning wrath that might have ruined them was swallowed up in an infinite compassion—the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Never was there kindlier allowance. It was the consummate handling of heaven. It issued not in tragedy, but in the richer loyalties of resurrection days. So may like grace be given to all in perplexity through infidelities, that they may find a budding morrow in midnight.

From The Sword Study Bible

Our Daily Walk

THE GUIDANCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

They assayed to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus suffered them not. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There was a man of Macedonia, standing beseeching him, and saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.” — Act_16:7-10.
THE SPIRIT of Jesus often shuts doors in the long corridors of life. We pass along, trying one after another, but find that they are all locked, in order that we may enter the one that He has opened for us (Rev_3:7-8). Sometimes in following the Spirit’s guidance, we seem to come to a blank wall. The little missionary band found themselves facing the sea. They had not contemplated crossing to Europe, but there seemed no other course open. They walked to and fro on the sea-wall or landing-stage, looking over the restless waves, and noticing the strange costumes of sailors and travelers who had gathered in the thriving sea-port, which bore the name famous to all the world for the Siege of Troy.
It was with such thoughts in his heart that St. Paul slept that night in his humble lodging, and in his dreams, a man from Macedonia, like one he had seen on the quay, stood and beckoned to him (Act_16:10, R.V.).
Where it is possible for the judgment to arrive at a right conclusion, on the suggestions that may be supplied by the Divine Spirit, we are left to think out the problems of our career. Within your reach are the materials needed for formulating a correct judgment; use them, balance the pros and cons, and looking up to God to prevent you from making a mistake, act. When once you have come to a decision, in faith and prayer, go forward, not doubting or looking back.
A small door may lead to a vast opportunity. St. Paul might have been discouraged by his reception in Europe. He looked for the man whom he had seen in the vision, but the only trace they could find of the worship of God was the gathering together of a few women. How startled they must have been by the sudden appearance of these missionaries, but a mighty work for God began in the life of at least one of them “whose heart the Lord opened.” Let us not despise the smallest opening, for we can never tell into what a wide place it may conduct us.
PRAYER
O God, since we know not what a day may bring forth, but only that the hour for serving Thee is always present, may we wake to the instant claims of Thy holy Will; not waiting for tomorrow, but yielding today. Consecrate with Thy presence the way our feet may go, and the humblest work will shine, and the roughest places be made plain. AMEN.