4John, to the seven ecclesias which are in the province of Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him Who is and Who was and Who is coming, and from the seven spirits which are before His throne, 5and from Jesus Christ, the Faithful Witness, the Firstborn of the dead, and the Suzerain of the kings of the earth.
To Him Who is loving us and looses us from our sins by His blood
6and makes us a kingdom and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and might for the eons of the eons! Amen! 7Lo! He is coming with clouds, and every eye shall be seeing Him - those, also, who stab Him - and all the tribes of the land shall be grieving over Him. Yea! Amen!
8"I am the Alpha and the Omega," is saying the Lord God, Who is and Who was and Who is coming, the Almighty.
THE PROPHETIC SECTION
FIRST things are important. The introduction to the Prophetic Section is as much a key to its understanding as the general introduction was found to be to the whole scroll.
Before the vision which precedes the seven letters we have a rich prelude, including an invocation, an ascription and a divine response. As these describe to us the characters which God and Christ, as well as His messengers assume, and define for us the people to whom they are addressed, it will repay us to linger here for a little.
The source of the grace and peace which John invokes upon them is threefold: Yahweh, the seven spirits, and Jesus Christ. A similar grouping is found in 1 Tim.5:21, where the elect messengers are associated with God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Each one of the three Who are invoked are presented with new and striking appellations. Yahweh is expanded into its Greek equivalent. Jesus Christ is brought before us in His humiliation, His resurrection, and His glorification on the earth.
The two great titles of God which dominate the Hebrew Scriptures are Elohim and Yahweh. The very first sentence of Genesis defines Elohim for us as the One connected with the heavens and the earth. He is the God of space.
The universe may be analyzed into two elements: time and space. As it was created out of God we may reasonably expect God Himself to appear in some definite relation to these two essential principles.
This is just what we find in the divine records. Space is associated with Elohim, time with Yahweh. But there is a vast difference between these two elements. Space is stable; time is fleeting, evanescent. What was future yesterday may be past today. The present itself is but the meeting point of the past and the future. This is reflected in the title which stands for time. Too often Yahweh is used as a synonym of Absolute Deity. This is not so in the Scriptures. It is one of God's assumptions which eventually vanishes.
Yahweh is the God of the eons. He is especially associated with the eonian nation, Israel. Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures He is never acknowledged as the God of any other nation. Outside of the Unveiling the Greek Scriptures make no effort to express the significance of the Hebrew name. The title "Lord" is used quite indiscriminately for Yahweh or Adonai. Now, however, there is a systematic effort made to reestablish the old relation between Yahweh and the people with whom He had made the covenant, and this begins by proclaiming His name.
There is considerable divergence in the more modern views as to the pronunciation and derivation of the title Yahweh. As the Jews never pronounced it, and the Massoretic vowels with which it is usually furnished belong either to Adonai or Elohim (which were substituted for it in the oral reading) no one really knows how it was anciently spoken. Names which have probably been derived from it, as Jove, seem to indicate that "Yahweh" may be quite as correct as the modern "Yahweh."
Some take the name as a simple statement of absolute existence from the Hebrew verb being. Others derive it from two forms of the verb to be, the so-called future and past. Another explanation, however, just as agreeable to the Hebrew, is in closest accord with the interpretation of the Spirit of God in the Unveiling. This makes it a compound of three forms of to be: future, present and past, or, rather, the nearest approach to this which is possible in Hebrew.
In three passages (Rev.1:4,8; 4:8) we have all three elements of time brought before us in the effort to render the incommunicable name into Greek. This may appear cumbersome, but it has the great advantage of setting forth each element distinctly and, what is still more important, allows for variation in their order. The following shows the Hebrew components and the variations in the Unveiling.
|Hebrew: || He will be - Being - He was |
|Rev.1:4,8: || Being - Who was - Who is coming |
|Rev.4:8: || Who was - Being - Who is coming |
|Rev.11:17; 16:5: || Being - Who was |
Why this change? Why does a part of the name actually drop off? Are there no critical readings which suggest a restoration to uniformity and conformity to the Hebrew?
There is no reason to believe that these alterations are human errors. Rather, as we examine them, we will find them full of divine truth. Yahweh varies His title to accord with the revelation. In the past all the stress has been laid on His future coming. Hence this element is put first in His name. This continues so long as His advent is viewed from a distance. But when it is imminent the stress is shifted to the great fact that He is. When we enter the Unveiling, it is no longer His distant coming, but His powerful presence which the title urges on our attention. To give prominence to this fact, the present tense is rescued from its obscure place in the middle of the title to a forceful position at its front. Thus we have it twice in the introduction to the Prophetic Section.
It is most interesting and illuminating to note how this title is used after He has come, either in judgment or blessing. Then the last part of the title is most appropriately omitted. His name becomes simply "Who art and Who wast" (11:17; 16:5).
How marvelous is the great incommunicable name of Yahweh! Its preciousness lies, not in an absolute and unyielding tyranny over time, but in its flexible adaptation to the times so that a part of it actually retires when its function has been performed. Who would have Him eternally coming, but never arriving? Would not that be the torture of Tantalus? He is the Coming One only during His absence. That part of His name glorifies Him most by being laid aside. In the eons of the eons the sacred name will be shortened by the fulfillment of its promise. When the times of the eons are past the remainder will doubtless have been fulfilled and give place to the closer and more cordial conception of God which it is calculated to introduce into the hearts of His creatures. One name will then be His, and that name is Father.
The association of the seven spirits with Yahweh and Christ has been vigorously contested by almost everyone who seeks to unfold this scroll. As these seven spirits are mentioned in between Christ and Yahweh there is no way of dissociating them. The usual plan is to make them figurative emblems of God's spirit. But such an artifice will not work in the other passages where these spirits are mentioned, nor does it account for the facts. We know that seven spirits, or seven messengers are associated with Christ in the execution of these judgments. The seven trumpets and seven bowls are in the hands of messengers. In fact, much more of the ministry of messengers is evident in this scroll than of Christ Himself. Why, then, should they not enter into the introduction and wish grace and peace upon the ecclesias? In the throne scene these seven spirits appear as torches of fire (4:5). On the Lambkin they are seven horns and seven eyes (5:6). It would be most unfortunate for us to rid the introduction of these seven spirits. Gabriel was probably one of them (Luke 1:19).
We are told that they are commissioned for the entire earth (5:6). The serpent and the wild beast distribute their world-wide sovereignty to seven heads. They doubtless copy this from the divine administration. In the tenth of Daniel the curtain is withdrawn for a moment and we are allowed a glimpse behind the scenes. We find that even Israel has a "prince" (Dan.10:21). That this is not Christ is evident, for he is called "one of the chief princes" (Dan.10:13). God's Anointed could take no such subordinate place (Heb.1:9).
Then there are the princes of Persia and Javan, or Greece (Dan.10:20). It is evident that there are seven spirits commissioned for the entire earth and these take a most prominent part in this Unveiling. All attempts to ignore or expunge them are unavailing. They are not given the administration of the world to come (Heb.2:5) but they are the executors of Christ during this judgment era, before Israel is placed at the helm.
Our Lord, Jesus Christ, is here presented, as He usually is in the writings of the Circumcision, with reference to His humiliation, as the Faithful Witness; His resurrection, as the Firstborn of the dead; and His coming glory, as the Suzerain of the kings of the earth. These are earthly honors. His heavenly dignities (with which we are so vitally concerned) have little or no place in this description of Him.
Little is said of the Lord's witness until we come to the writings of John, the same one who received this Unveiling. He speaks of it more than all the other writers. But why, we may ask, is this aspect of His ministry suggested here? Because this is the one great need of the era which is covered by this prophecy. He was a faithful Witness - even to death. What better Example could be set before them? They too, are called upon to bear faithful testimony and, in countless cases, it will cost them their lives.
The Firstborn of the dead is another suggestive and comforting title. Death will be robbed of its terrors to a large extent for those who know Him as the Firstborn of the dead. They, too, may look forward to a blessed resurrection if they should lose their lives on account of their testimony.
Indeed, this title goes much further than resurrection. It includes vivification beyond the reach of death. Our Lord was not the first to be raised from the dead. He Himself raised others such as Lazarus. But theirs was but a recall to the life they had before. They were subject to death as before. He and those who are His in His presence will be made alive, or vivified.
And more than this, those who bear faithful witness in that day will not only partake of His life but will share His throne when He becomes the Suzerain of the kings of the earth. "Happy and holy are those having part in the former resurrection: over these the second death has no jurisdiction, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and they will be reigning with Him the thousand years" (20:6).
How precious in their response to the heart of the Lord!" To Him Who is loving us and looses us from our sins by His blood." We are almost tempted to "apply" these to ourselves, for He does love us. To prove it, however, He has done far more than release us from our sins. But the next statement we cannot "apply" without serious injury to ourselves as well as the Circumcision for whom it is intended. He "makes us a kingdom and priests to His God and Father." This can be true of Israel only. We are no kingdom. We are not priests. If we reign, where are our subjects? Paul could say to the Corinthians, "would that ye did reign!" And if we are priests for whom do we approach? Thank God, we all have access to the Father now and need no priest to hinder our immediate approach to the Father. But in the days of the promised kingdom Israel alone will rule and Israel alone will serve Him in His temple. The other nations will be subordinate and approach through them.
This was His primeval purpose for them, when He called them out of Egypt to Himself. In the wilderness of Sinai Moses was instructed to speak to them as follows: "Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto Myself. Now, therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine: And ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Ex.19:4-6).
Though we are not that holy nation, we cannot but echo their ascription, though, perhaps we would change it slightly. "To Him be glory and might for the eons of the eons! Amen!"
In view of the consummation (which is not within the scope of this Unveiling) when the Son subordinates Himself and might is no longer needed, we cannot (as current Versions would have us) wish these to be His "forever and ever." They are limited to the eonian times. Beyond them might is not only unnecessary but hints at opposition such as will never mar that ultimate perfection.
"Lo! He is coming with clouds!" What an inspiration this will be to the sorely tried saints in the period which precedes that coming! Upon the same Mount of Olives to which He will come, our Lord gave them a brief account of the very events which are detailed in this scroll (Mt.24:3-31). "Immediately after the great affliction . . . shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then shall all the tribes of the land mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory."
What a sight this will be to the nation which has rejected Him for so many centuries! When they see the marks of His passion, the spirit of grace and supplication will overwhelm them and they will mourn over the past and be in bitterness because of their rejection of Messiah. It will be national - all the tribes of the land will beat their breasts because of Him. Zechariah tells us that, in the day when Yahweh seeks to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem, the whole land shall mourn (Zech.12: 9-14).
Yahweh Elohim interposes at this point to add still other titles which are peculiarly in point in this prophecy. "I am the A and the Z," (or, as the Greek has it, the Alpha and the Omega, the first and last letters of the alphabet) connects this, the last scroll, with the earliest Hebrew scriptures and all previous revelation. In the Greek the first letter, Alpha, is spelled in full, the last is a single character. Unless this suggests a lingering period of promise with a short, sharp fulfillment it is difficult to account for it.
This appellation is most apt in this connection, for now He proceeds to fulfill the promises given so long before. He will complete what He has started. He will accomplish what He has commenced. He is the Originator and Consummator of His own revelation just as He is the source and goal of the universe.
The introduction to the Prophetic Section has been reviewed. Every detail confirms us in the position that these ecclesias are composed of the sons of Israel. The title, Yahweh, the kingdom of priests, the grieving tribes - all appeals to them but has no point for us.
Today the sons of Israel have returned to the land where He will find a remnant at His return. Never before has there been such yearning in their hearts for Zion. Nothing can kill the longing that God has implanted in their breasts for the land of their fathers.
It is the privilege of His saints to intelligently and willingly cooperate in the fulfillment of God's will. It is no less sure that the unbeliever, though obstinate and ignorant, will carry out God's plans and purposes. So is Israel today. Moved by the unseen hand of Yahweh, they are preparing for the return of their Messiah even while they reject Him. Back to the land where once they lived their weary feet have hastened. The tragedy of this Unveiling has not, indeed, begun. But the scenery is being shifted, the properties are being set, so that even the climax of His coming will find the grievig tribes in the land where they crucified their Christ. One sight of Him and they are His.