Page images
PDF
EPUB

ality of his love, and his readiness to maintain the cause of his people. His head and his hair white as wool or snow, like the Ancient of Days, who appeared in vision to the Prophet Daniel, represent his majesty, purity, and eternity. His eyes like a flame of fire, were a lively emblem of his penetrating wisdom and knowledge. His feet like fine brass burning in a furnace, may portray the stability, holiness, and excellency of all his proceedings and dispensations. His voice like the sound of many waters, may represent the invincible energy of his word in providence and grace. The seven stars in his right hand were emblematical of the angels or presiding ministers of the seven churches, which the Apostle addressed, who were upheld, guided, and preserved by the power and grace of this glorious Redeemer. The sharp two-edged sword out of his mouth was a symbol of his invincible justice towards his enemies. His countenance like the sun shining in his strength, denoted the cheering and reviving influences communicated to the objects of his love by this glorious Personage, who is elsewhere described as “the Sun “ of righteousness, that rises with healing under his “wings.” The appearance of the Lord Jesus on this occasion, was so awfully glorious, that the Apostle was overwhelmed at the sight, and “ fell at his feet “ as dead.” But the divine Redeemer laid his right hand upon him, and said, “ Fear not; I am the first “.and the last; I am he that liveth and was dead ; “ and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and “ have the keys of hell and of death." * This vision was calculated to make a very deep impression upon the mind of the Apostle. It was suitable to prepare him for what he was to see, and hear, and write. It was, moreover, peculiarly adapted to console his spirit under any apprehensions he might have on account of his brethren and companions in tribulation, from whom he was now separated; or on account of the church of Christ in

[graphic]

general. The Apostles were all dead, himself except: but Jesus lived, and possessed absolute authority over the invisible world. He had power to save or destroy. The keys of heaven and hell hung at his girdle; and by these he possessed the power of opening and shutting at his sovereign will and pleasure. Therefore neither had the Apostle, nor any of the Redeemer's friends, ought to fear from any creature, in life, death, or the eternal world.

St. John was commanded to write for the information of the Church, the things which he had seen; namely, the circumstances of the vision as recorded in this first chapter: and the things which then were, or which related to the churches at that time, and especially to that of the seven churches as represented in the two next chapters: and the things which should be hereafter; or the prophecies he was about to receive. Here we clearly see what are to be the contents of the book. Accordingly we find it to be a history and a prophecy of the Church from the time of the vision to the end of the world, with an account of the final judgment and the heavenly state appended.

What is said of the “ seven stars and seven “ golden candlesticks” is calculated to afford instruction, consolation, and encouragement, both to the ministers and churches of Christ in general. The seven stars are the seven angels or presiding ministers of the seven churches to whom the epistles of Christ were to be sent, who were the messengers, angels (aylenoi), or ambassadors of Christ to them : and the seven golden candlesticks represented the seven churches themselves.

From this awful and gracious appearance of our blessed Redeemer to the Apostle, we are reminded that he can confer unspeakable felicity on his faithful servants while suffering in his cause. St. John, while in a state of banishment on the desolate island of Patmos, was infinitely happier than Domitian, by whom he was sent thither, seated on his throne. There his gracious Lord condescended to visit him, opened his eyes to prophetic visions, and diffused around himn celestial glories. Let us be thankful that he now reveals himself to us by the instrumentality of men, and by the medium of his written word.—Let us learn to value and improve the Lord's day. It was on this day that the Apostle was in the spirit, and received the manifestations of the Almighty.-If believers are confined from public ordinances, by necessity, and not by choice, they may expect consolation and manifestation of the divine favour from the influences of the Holy Spirit, and by hearing the voice and contemplating the glory of Christ. After reading the preceding account of our Lord's appearance to his Apostle, may our souls again bend, in humble veneration, to Him who is the “ Alpha and Omega, the first and the last !” May we hearken to his voice, lean on his arm, and receive the encouragements of his love to obviate our fears! He is the Almighty Saviour who “ liveth, “ and was dead; and is now alive for evermore." He has the keys of the unseen world and of death : if, therefore, we are found in the number of true believers, whenever we are removed by the stroke of our last enemy, the event is only to be considered as his turning the key which will dismiss us from this vale of misery and tears, and introduce us into the world of eternal felicity and glory.

15

PART III.

ever

The Epistles of Jesus Christ to the seven Churches

in Asia.

We shall now proceed to the consideration of the third Part of the Revelation, in conformity to the division that has been made of the book, namely, the epistles of Jesus Christ to the seven churches of Asia.

These epistles to the seven churches of Asia, the names of which have been already mentioned, are contained in the second and third chapters. In order to obtain a lucid view of this instructive and practical part of the book, it may be proper, first, to make a few general remarks respecting these interesting epistles, and the churches to which they were directed; and then briefly to notice each separately.

SECTION 1. General Remarks respecting the Epistles, and the

Churches to which they were directed. 1. It may be remarked, first, that these epistles are descriptive of the state of the seven particular churches to which they were written. Some expositors of respectability have supposed that these epistles were mystical prophecies of seven distinct periods of the universal church, including the whole term of time from the Apostle's days to the end of the world.

But the objections to this scheme are so plain and obvious, that it is almost unnecessary to state them. This hypothesis does not agree with the division made by the divine Author of this revelation. According to this division, the second and third chapters contain the things which are; and the remaining chapters unfold the things which shall be (uSTA TAUTA) after these. Again; it no where appears that there were to be seven distinct and separate periods of the Church, with successive variations answerable to the state of these seven churches as they then existed ; nor could any two expositors ever be found who would agree in particularizing these periods, unless they borrowed their sentiments from each other. But one more argument may be mentioned, which in itself is sufficient to destroy this untenable hypothesis. The last state of the Church, as described in this book, is represented as by far the most glorious of all ; but the church of Laodicea, the last mentioned in these epistles, is represented as “ wretched, and miserable, and poor, and “ blind, and naked.” It is evident, therefore, that these epistles are descriptive of the seven identical churches to which they were addressed. Should it be asked why the epistles were written to seven churches, and why these were particularly fixed on, it might be replied, that it would be a matter of no importance to be unable to assign any satisfactory answer to such a question. It may however be observed, that these churches had been under the immediate inspection and apostolical care of St. John, who is said to have constituted bishops over them. To which it may be added, the number seven seems best to harmonize with the character of the book, the principal subjects of which are comprised of sevens : it contains the mysteries of seven seals, seven trumpets, seven vials, seven thunders, and seven spirits before the throne. The term seven, according to its Hebrew etymology, signifies fulness

[graphic]
[graphic]
« PreviousContinue »