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book.” Apoc. xxii. 9. This language, it is clear, cannot be that of a real angel, but corresponds very justly with the character of the Baptist, who had been a fellow-servant of the Apostle and his brethren in giving testimony to Jesus, &c. A function suitable to the character of St. John the Baptist; who, as he announced Christ and showed him present to the people; so here he announceth and showeth to St. John the Apostle the History of Christ or of his Church. However, as the Apostle gives to St. John the Baptist the name of angel, perhaps his form and appearance were such on this occasion.
V. 3. “ Blessed is he that readeth and heareth* the words of this prophecy: and keepeth those things which are written in it: for the time is at hand.” We are here assured that great is the advantage of attending to what is delivered in the Apocalypse ; for they are pronounced blessed, who read or hear read the words of this prophecy; and who keep the things which are written in it, that is, who take due notice of the things which are written in it, in order to compare them with what is already fulfilled by real events, to beware of what is foretold to come, and to draw proper instructions from both. These prophecies are the more interesting, as the time is at hand for the accomplishment of some of them, and the rest will follow in their order. This was true at the period when St. John wrote, and will be equally true at whatever period of time the Apocalypse be consulted, as some part of its prophetic history will always be near the time of its accomplishment. It might likewise be said, that the whole would happen soon, with allusion to the shortness of all time when compared with the eternal existence of God, according to that of St. Peter: “One day with the Lord is a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day," 2 Pet. iii. 8. and that of the Psalmist: “A thousand years in thy sight, are but as yesterday, which is past and gone." Psalm lxxxix. 4.
V. 4. “ John to the seven churches which are in Asia, Grace be unto you and peace from Him that is, and that was, and that is to come; and from the seven spirits which are before his throne.”
St. John addresses the seven churches of lesser Asia, which he governed, and which will be specified below, ver. 11. We shall see him there receive an order to send them this prophecy. He salutes these churches, wishing them grace, or benediction and peace from Him who is, and who was, and who is to come; that is, from Almighty God, who exists froin
*In the Greek text, "and those that hear,” &c.
all eternity, continues to exist, will remain for all eternity, and will come at the last day to reward his faithful servants, and to punish the wicked. The Apostle offers the same good wishes from the seven spirits which are before the throne of God, always ready to depart and execute his commands with respect to mankind. These are “ministering spirits, sent to minister for them who shall receive the inheritance of salvation.” Heb. i. 14.
V. 5.“ And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth : who hath loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.
V. 6. “And hath made us a kingdom* and priests to God his Father: to him be glory and empire for ever and ever.
St. John continues his salutation to the seven churches, wishing them grace and peace from Jesus Christ, whom he entitles the faithful witness, as having given testimony to his eternal Father upon earth, and executed faithfully the commission he had received from him. He is also the first-begotten of the dead, having raised himself from death to life by his own power, which no man ever did or can do, nor can any man rise again but by virtue of the resurrection of Christ, according to that of St. Paul: “By a man came death, and by a man the resurrection of the dead. And as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.” 1 Cor. xv, 21, 22. Jesus Christ is likewise styled the prince of the kings of the earth not only as God, but likewise as God-Man having acquired, by the merits of his Incarnation, a sovereign power on earth. On that account, “all power is given to me,” says Christ, “in heaven and in earth.” Mat. xxviii. 18. And again, “ The Father hath given to the Son power to do judgment." Why so ? " Because he is the Son of man,” John v. 27. Here we see ascertained the universal dominion of Christ. Then follow the gracious effects of his bounty towards mankind; for," he hath loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood;" and he “ hath made us kings and priests to God and his Father," that is, he hath made us his co-heirs, and has admitted us to a participation of his own sovereign power over the world, and likewise of his priesthood, by virtue of which we become also “a holy priesthood," as St. Peter says, “to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” 1 Pet. ii. 5. This communication of power granted
* In the Greek text, " made us kings.”
by Christ to his servants, by which they become kings and priests, will chiefly take place in the other world; and it is not only founded on the present text, but is clear from our Saviour's own words: “I dispose to you,” says he, “ as my Father has disposed to me, a kingdom : that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and may sit upon thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Luke xxii. 29, 30. And again, “ To him that shall overcome, I will give to sit with me on my throne.” Apoc. iii. 21. To Christ therefore, our bountiful Saviour and gracious benefactor, be glory and empire for ever and ever. Amen.
V. 7. “Behold, he cometh with the clouds, and every eye shall see him, and they also that pierced him. And all the tribes of the earth shall bewail themselves because of him. Even so. Amen."
The same Jesus Christ, who is prince of the kings of the earth, who has washed us from our sins in his blood, who has chosen us and made us kings and priests to God, is equally entitled to be our judge, and will effectually come in his sovereign power at the last day to Judge the world ; at which tiniu every eye shall see him; and his countenance will be terribs to those who pierced him and crucified him. And even all the tribes of the earth, or the people of all nations upon the face of the earth, will mourn and bewail his death, being amazed and confounded at the unparalleled impiety of those men who crucified him. In the two preceding verses were described the functions which Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, performed upon earth, in fulfilling the charge he had received from his Father in redeeming the world, &c. These functions we see here completed by his coming at the last day to judge mankind, and to decree their rewards and punishments.
V. 8. “ I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, saith the Lord God, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Here the Almighty himself speaks: I am Alpha and Ome. ga; Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek Alphabet, the meaning of which in this place is explained by the subsequent words, the beginning and the end. I am, says Almighty God, the beginning and end of every thing, I am the first cause and last end of all beings. I am the source, from which every thing flows, and to which every thing must return. I created the world by my power, I govern it by my wisdom, and shall put an end to it at my pleasure. I am he who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty. See above, ver. 4.
Thus we see the two great personages, who here preside through the whole scene of the Apocalypse, God, and Jesus Christ. They are placed in the supreme degree of eminence, and are clearly distinguished by their respective titles and attributes.
They are exhibited as the Sovereign rulers of the universe, the moderators of all human transactions. And thus is nobly ushered in the prophetic history, which begins as follows:
V. 9.“ I John your brother and your partner in tribulation, and in the kingdom, and patience in Christ Jesus, was in the island, which is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus.
V. 10. “I was in the spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,
V. 11. “Saying, what thou seest, write in a book : and send to the seven churches which are in Asia, to Ephesus, and to Sinyrna, and to Pergamus, and to Thyatira, and to Sardis, and to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”
St. John here informs us, that he had shared in the persecution and tribulation, which were common to the Christians; that he was partner with them in being a member with them of the body of Christians, which formed the kingdom of Jesus Christ. By the orders of the Emperor Domitian, St. John, as we have seen, was put into a caldron of boiling oil at Rome, which he bore with invincible patience, and came out unhurt; after which he was banished into the island of Patmos, in the Archipelago. There he was an exile for the word of God, for having preached the word of God in opposition to the superstitions of idolatry, and for the testimony of Jesus, or for having borne testimony to Christ, by confessing publicly his holy name, and maintaining his doctrine. He was there in spirit on the Lord's day, or Sunday, which being sanctified by the great mysteries of the resurrection of Christ, and the descent of the Holy Ghost, was certainly a proper day for receiving this important revelation, which comprises the whole history of the Christian Church, from her birth to her final triumphant state in heaven.
He then proceeds to describe the manner in which this history was communicated to him: A.nd I heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, saying, what thou seest, write in a book. We proved, ver. i. p. 2. that this prophecy was delivered to the Apostle by the angel of Christ, St. John Baptist: and he is the great voice like that of a trumpet, which here speaks to the apostle; for the function of the voice on this occasion is similar to that which the Baptist performed when on earth. He then announced, as with the voice of a trumpet, the coming of his divine Master: “ I am the voice," says he,“ of one crying in the wilderness: make straight the way of the Lord.” John i. 23. In like manner he is here distinguished by the appellation of a great voice, and announces what is and what will be his Master's government and administration of his Church. Besides, we read in verse the first of chap. iv. of the Apocalypse: “ The first voice which I heard, as it were of a trumpet speaking with me, said: Come up hither and I will show thee the things which must be done hereafter;" which being compared to verse the eighth of chap. xxii. “ After I had heard and seen, I fell down to adore before the feet of the angel, who showed me these things;" it plainly appears that the voice and the angel indicate the same person, viz. St. John Baptist. This observation premised, the apostle is told: What thou seest, write in a book, and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia, &c. He is ordered to send this book of the Apocalypse to the seven Asiatic churches mentioned in the text, whence it was circulated over the christian world, and transmitted down to us.
V. 12. “ And I turned,” continues St. John, “to see the voice that spoke with me: and being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks.
V. 13. “ And in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks one like to the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.
V. 14. “ And his head and his hairs were white, as white wool, and as snow: and his eyes were as a flame of fire.
V. 15. “ And his feet like unto fine brass, as in a burning furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.
V. 16. “ And he had in his right hand seven stars. And from his mouth came out a sharp two-edged sword: and his face was as the sun shineth in his power.”
St. John, in looking behind him to see the voice that spoke to him, is surprised by the appearance of a remarkable scene: Seven golden candlesticks standing, and in the midst of them a person resembling the Son of Man, or Christ, clothed with a long garment down to the feet, and girt about the breast with a golden girdle, a dress that denotes high rank and dignity; and being girt in this manner shows him to be abor business, namely the government of his Church. His had