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felt palpably by the apostle agrees with that part of holy writ which represents our Lord's body an object of feeling after his resurrection. This passage is sublime. . Mahomet has imitated it, but with a vicious excess. The hand of God, touching him, he represents to be cold.
Fear not.] Similar to this was the comforting assurance given to the holy Virgin, to Zacharias, to the shepherds, to the women at the sepulchre, under like circumstances of alarm, “ Fear not. ” At our Lord's transfiguration, as told by St. Matthew, (ch. xvii.) the three chosen apostles, of whom John was one, “ were sore afraid, and fell upon their faces; and Jesus came, and touched them, and said, arise, be not afraid.” The similarity of this transaction, remembered by St.John, must have been highly consolatory to him at this awful time.
Who can read," says. Michaelis, " the address of Jesus to John, sinking to the ground with fear, and not be affected with the greatness of the thought and the expressions ?” (Introd. to New Test. ch. xxxiii. sect. 10.) In fact, it was a true and simple description of a real and awful event.
I am the first and the last : I am he that liveth.] See above, ver. 8. But in the form and connexion in which this passage stands here, I have thought it useful to propose
a slight correction in the translation, extending only to the punctuation, and removing the fuller stop to the end of the sentence. Εγω ειμι ο πρωτος, και ο εσχατος, και ο ζων. «I am the first, and the last, and He who liveth.” For eternity of life is an essential attribute of the Son of God, inherent in his divine nature. He lives of himself, we live through him. (See John v. 26.
. xi. 25.) But though immortal in his divine nature, for man's salvation he took an human form, and “ became obedient unto death,” and by this extraordinary submission obtained “the keys of death and of hell.”
1 Prideaux, Life of Mahomet. Vie de Mahomed, par Boulainvilliers.
Death is a formidable foe to human nature, deriving his power from the transgression of our first parents. The passage of death leads directly to Hell; by which we are to understand, not the Gehenna or place of punishment, but the Scheol of the Hebrews, the Hades of the Greeks, (which word is here used,) the place of departed souls, whether happy or miserable. (See the learned notes of Grotius on Matt. xvi. 18; Luke xvi. 23. xxiii. 43; and Schleusner or Parkhurst on the word 'Adns.) The gates of Hell are mentioned by our Saviour, (Matt. xvi. 18.) The gates of Death in other passages of Scripture, (Job xxxviii. 17; Psa. ix.13.) The same metaphorical expressions are used by heathen writers, (Homer. Il. ix. 312.) The keys of these gates are in the exclusive keeping of “ the Captain of our salvation,” who, by suffering death, hath obtained the mastery over it, and insured to his faithful followers a safe passage through them to his kingdom of glory, (Heb. ii. 14.)
Ver. 19. Write, &c.] This verse, as it stands in the received translation, may perhaps be usefully corrected as follows: “ Write therefore the things that thou seest; (Eldes, aorist)—“ both the things that now are, and those which are about to be after these.” The particle ouv is not noticed in the received translation, but it has great force in this passage, as Grotius has observed. [ergo],” says he, “ id est, quia me tam potentem vides.” For thus the subject matter, which the prophet is commissioned to deliver to the seven Churches, is divided (as it naturally divides) into two parts. First, the scene
at that time before him, with the addresses to the Churches, revealing to them, and commenting upon their present internal state; secondly, the events which were to happen to the Church universal in future times. In confirmation of this, it may be noted, that after the present state of the Churches has been gone through in the three first chapters, the prophet is called to another situation, where he is to behold“ the things which must be hereafter,"
“ the things which must happen after these.” Both are revealed by the same prophetic holy Spirit, which was equally necessary to discover the real internal state of the Church then existing, as the events which were to happen to it in futurity. Sardis, for instance, had the reputation of a Living Church, a church flourishing in faith, doctrine, and practice; but by the Spirit she is discovered, and pronounced to be dead, (ch. iii. 1.)
Ver. 20. The mystery.] Mvornprov, in scriptural language, generally signifies hidden and recondite knowledge, which is accessible only by divine favour and revelation. But here, as also in ch. xvii.
. it is used to signify the meaning concealed under figurative resemblances. Thus the stars are angels or messengers, and the candlesticks are churches. With respect to the first of these, we may observe, that in Malachi ii. 7, the priest of the Lord is styled the angel or messenger of the Lord. And it appears, from the accounts we have received of the ancient synagogue, or Church of the Jews, that the ruler, or chief minister, was styled Sheliach Zibbor, the angel of the synagogue or congregation. (Buxtorf, Synag. Jud. Vitringa, de Syn. Vet. atque ad locum.) In conformity with this, the presidents (or bishops, as they were afterwards called)
of the ancient Christian Church, were so denominated.
The words Αποστολος and κηρυξ, principally used in the New Testament, have a similar meaning. They imply, that such persons act by a delegated authority from the Lord Christ, as his messengers or ambassadors; who are therefore fitly represented under the emblem of stars, placed in his hand, under his direction; being the lights supplied by him to illumine and instruct the Churches, which are represented as the candlesticks or lampbearers, on which the sacred light or doctrine is placed, and held forth to the world.
Address to the Church in Ephesus.
CHAP. ii. ver. 1-7.
1 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write: These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;
2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them
3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.
7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
Ver. 1. Unto the Angel of the Church.] The addresses of our Lord, to the angels, or presidents of the seven Churches, are not to them personally, but to the Church over which each of them presides, This might be made to appear from several instances, but will be sufficiently manifest in that to the Church of Thyatira, where 'vuiv pev dɛyw (I say to you, not to thee) seems plainly to show it.
They are addressed to the seven Asiatic Churches in particular; and through them to the universal Christian Church in all times and places. Such is the figurative import of the number seven ; and in this sense this part of the Apocalypse was understood and applied by the most ancient expositors, who have been followed by Grotius, Hammond, Daubuz, Bengel, Bishop Newton, &c.
1 A few writers, among whom are the respectable names of Henry More and Vitringa, have thought that they have discovered a yet deeper prophetical mystery in these addresses, viz. that in them is foreshown and delineated the future state of the Church, from the time of the apostles to the end of the world, divided into seven successive and similar periods. The first idea of this mystical interpretation seems to have arisen among some mor of the thirteenth century. The student in divinity may see the question discussed with superior learning and ability by Vitringa, (in locum.) But if, captivated by his author, he should proceed with him to apply, in regular order, the description of the seven particular Churches to seven successive periods of the universal Church, he will encounter insuperable difficulties. No description of any of the seven Churches will be found to quadrate with the long period of Gothic darkness, which preceded the Reformation. Nor have any of them (especially the last of them, which ought to contain it, viz. Laodicea) any similarity to that victorious and purer period, which, from the prophecies of this sacred book, we are entitled to look forward to in the latter days. At all events, the application of these addresses, as prophetical of times to come, in the draft given by Vitringa, cannot be the true one ; for he closes it with his own times, as ful