« הקודםהמשך »
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 Smyrna, and to Pergamus, and to Thyatira, and to Sardis, and to F'hiladelphia, 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 his-tory 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: And 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 seethe 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 aboi business, namely the government of his Church. His hsad and hair were white, as white wool, and as snow; an emblem of Christ's divine existence from all eternity, whiteness of hair naturally indicating old age. And his eyes were as a flame of fire, as piercing as the flame of fire, penetrating into every thing as he himself says: "I am He, that searcheth the reins and hearts." Apoc. ii. 23. His feet were like unto fine brass, as in a burning furnace; the feet make the extremity of the body, and appear here inflamed as brass in a glowing furnace, to show that at the extremity or end of time, Christ will come to destroy the world by fire. His voice was as the . sound of many waters; his voice sounded like the noise of many flowing waters, as terrible as the roaring of a tempestuous sea. Such will be his voice in denouncing sentence against the wicked at the last day. In his right hand he held seven stars, which will be explained below, ver. 20. And from his mouth came out a sharp two-edged sword, the terrible weapon which Christ will use, as we shall see hereafter, to slay Anti-christ and his armies. It appears to proceed from his mouth, as ready to execute his command. It also shows in general, that Christ punishes his enemies. Lastly, his face shone as bright as when the sun shineth in its full power; this is the bright pleasing countenance which he will show to his saints at the last day.
Thus appears the Son of Man, arrayed in dignity, with the marks of his unlimited power and dominion, with the symbols of his divine and human attributes, and as the sovereign Administrator of his Church.
V. 17. "And when I had seen him," continues St. John, "I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying: Fear not, I am the first and the last.
V. 18. "And alive,* and was dead. And behold lam living for ever and ever, and have the keys of death and of hell."
St. John, struck at the awful appearance of his Lord, falls down at his feet as dead; but is raised up by Christ, who tells him not to fear, and adds, I am the first and the last: I exist before all created beings, and shall continue to exist when time shall be no more; I am from all eternity, and shall be to all eternity. I am alive and was dead: I am the living one; life is essential to me, as God; but I died, as Man-God; and behold I am now living for ever and ever. I hold the keys of death and of hell; mine is the power of opening the graves, and raising the dead bodies; mine is the power of opening hell,
* In the Greek text, "the Living-one."
and drawing thence the souls, to reunite them to their bodies: and thus I am He that shall resuscitate all mankind, and sha.l be their Judge.
V. 19. "Write therefore the things which thou hast seen, and which are, and which must be done hereafter."
Our Saviour here orders St. John to write the scene he has already seen, and the things which are, or which have just 'inw been dictated to him; and to write also the things which uu»t be done hereafter, that is, the history, that will presently 'i» given him, of the events which will happen in the Christian Church.
V. 20. "The mystery of the seven stars," continues ou r Saviour, "which thou sawest in my right hand, and the sever golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the sever, churches; and the seven candlesticks are the seven churches.'
Here Christ himself explains to St. John the mystery or meaning of two particulars: the seven stars, which thou sawest in my right hand, are, or denote the angels of the seven churches in Asia, that is, the bishops of those churches: and the seven candlesticks are, or represent those sever churches. Let us also observe, that these seven candlesticks. or seven churches, may very well represent all the churc^e,of the christian world; and in that case, our Saviour, who i.placed in the midst of them, is naturally exhibited as adminis tering and governing the whole.
HISTORY OF THE FIRST AOE OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH.
Christ proceeds, in the second and third chapters of the Apocalypse, to dictate to St. John particular instructions lor each of the seven above mentioned churches; which as they do not belong to the general history of Christianity, we shall pass over, and shall now proceed to the fourth and fifth chapters, which open a general magnificent scene, that prepares us for the particular transactions.
Prelude to the Opening of the seven Seals.
Apoc. chap. iv. 1. "After these things I looked," say? St. John, "and behold a door was opened in heaven, and 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.
V. 2. "And immediately I was in the spirit: and behold there was a throne set in heaven, and upon the throne one sitting.
V. 3. "And he that sat was to the sight like the jasper and the sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald."
No sooner had St. John received, in the preceding vision, the documents he was to transmit to the seven Asiatic churches; when behold! a new scene displays itself. Heaven opens. St. John is invited up thither by the voice which had spoken ;o him before, that is, by St. John Baptist, and is told ne shall see what is to happen in future ages. On a sudden appears a throne, and the Almighty himself seated upon it, shining in the brightest lustre of jasper green and sardine red, the green colour, as best proportioned to the human eye, speaks his mercy, and the red his justice: these two attributes bearing a particular relation to mankind. The throne is surrounded with a rainbow, in which shines remarkably a most beautiful green, like that of emeralds. This rainbow, with its bright green colour, denotes the covenant of reconciliation and peace, which God made with man after the deluge.
V. 4. "And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats, four and twenty ancients sitting, clothed in white garments, and on their heads crowns of gold."
Round the throne of God" appear sitting four and twenty ancients, representing the saints that preceded the age of Christianity, and for that reason called ancients. They are clothed in white to express the immortal glory they possess in heaven; and their crowns of gold show their royal dignity, God admitting them to sit as judges with him. In the same manner it was said, that Christ makes his saints kings, Apoc. i. 6.—See p. 18.
V. 5. "And from the throne proceeded lightnings and voices, and thunders: and there were seven lamps burning before the throne, which are the seven spirits of God."
The lightnings, loud voices, and thunders, which come from the throne of God, announce alarms and severe hardships, such as persecutions, dissentions, calamities, &c. by which he tries the fidelity of his servants on earth. And the seven spirits o; God, who appear under the form of burning lamps, are seven angels as before mentioned. Apoc. i. 4. standing ready to execute the divine commands.