This chapter is a general preface to the whole book, and contains,
I. An inscription, declaring the original and the design of it,
II. The apostolic benediction pronounced on all those who shall pay a
due regard to the contents of this book,
III. A glorious vision or appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ to the
apostle John, when he delivered to him this revelation,
|The Substance of the Book.
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1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to
show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass;
and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant
2 Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of
Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.
Here we have,
I. What we may call the pedigree of this book.
1. It is the revelation of Jesus Christ. The whole Bible is so;
for all revelation comes through Christ and all centres in him; and
especially in these last days God has spoken to us by his Son,
and concerning his Son. Christ, as the king of his church, has been
pleased thus far to let his church know by what rules and methods he
will proceed in his government; and, as the prophet of the church, he
has made known to us the things that shall be hereafter.
2. It is a revelation which God gave unto Christ. Though Christ
is himself God, and as such has light and life in himself, yet, as he
sustains the office of Mediator between God and man, he receives
his instructions from the Father. The human nature of Christ, though
endowed with the greatest sagacity, judgment, and penetration, could
not, in a way of reason, discover these great events, which not being
produced by natural causes, but wholly depending upon the will of God,
could be the object only of divine prescience, and must come to a
created mind only by revelation. Our Lord Jesus is the great trustee of
divine revelation; it is to him that we owe the knowledge we have of
what we are to expect from God and what he expects from us.
3. This revelation Christ sent and signified by his angel.
Observe here the admirable order of divine revelation. God gave it to
Christ, and Christ employed an angel to communicate it to the churches.
The angels are God's messengers; they are ministering spirits to the
heirs of salvation. They are Christ's servants: principalities and
powers are subject to him; all the angels of God are obliged to worship
4. The angels signified it to the apostle John. As the angels
are the messengers of Christ, the ministers are the messengers of the
churches; what they receive from heaven, they are to communicate to the
churches. John was the apostle chosen for this service. Some think he
was the only one surviving, the rest having sealed their testimony with
their blood. This was to be the last book of divine revelation; and
therefore notified to the church by the last of the apostles. John was
the beloved disciple. He was, under the New Testament, as the prophet
Daniel under the Old, a man greatly beloved. He was the servant
of Christ; he was an apostle, an evangelist, and a prophet; he served
Christ in all the three extraordinary offices of the church. James was
an apostle, but not a prophet, nor an evangelist; Matthew was an
apostle and evangelist, but not a prophet; Luke was an evangelist, but
neither a prophet nor an apostle; but John was all three; and so Christ
calls him in an eminent sense his servant John.
5. John was to deliver this revelation to the church, to all his
servants. For the revelation was not designed for the use of Christ's
extraordinary servants the ministers only, but for all his servants,
the members of the church; they have all a right to the oracles of God,
and all have their concern in them.
II. Here we have the subject-matter of this revelation, namely, the
things that must shortly come to pass. The evangelists give us an
account of the things that are past; prophecy gives us an account of
things to come. These future events are shown, not in the clearest
light in which God could have set them, but in such a light as he saw
most proper, and which would best answer his wise and holy purposes.
Had they been as clearly foretold in all their circumstances as God
could have revealed them, the prediction might have prevented the
accomplishment; but they are foretold more darkly, to beget in us a
veneration for the scripture, and to engage our attention and excite
our enquiry. We have in this revelation a general idea of the methods
of divine providence and government in and about the church, and many
good lessons may be learned hereby. These events (it is said) were such
as should come to pass not only surely, but shortly; that
is, they would begin to come to pass very shortly, and the whole would
be accomplished in a short time. For now the last ages of the world had
III. Here is an attestation of the prophecy,
It was signified to John, who bore record of the word of God, and of
the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. It is
observable that the historical books of the Old Testament have not
always the name of the historian prefixed to them, as in the books of
Judges, Kings, Chronicles; but in the prophetical books the name
is always prefixed, as Isaiah, Jeremiah, &c. So in the New
Testament, though John did not prefix his name to his first epistle,
yet he does to this prophecy, as ready to vouch and answer for the
truth of it; and he gives us not only his name, but his office. He was
one who bore record of the word of God in general, and of the testimony
of Jesus in particular, and of all things that he saw; he was an
eye-witness, and he concealed nothing that he saw. Nothing recorded in
this revelation was his own invention or imagination; but all was the
record of God and the testimony of Jesus; and, as he added nothing to
it, so he kept back no part of the counsels of God.
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3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of
this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein:
for the time is at hand.
4 John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto
you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to
come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;
5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and
the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of
the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in
his own blood,
6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father;
to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him,
and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth
shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.
8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the
Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the
We have here an apostolic benediction on those who should give a due
regard to this divine revelation; and this benediction is given more
generally and more especially.
I. More generally, to all who either read or hear the words of the
prophecy. This blessing seems to be pronounced with a design to
encourage us to study this book, and not be weary of looking into it
upon account of the obscurity of many things in it; it will repay the
labour of the careful and attentive reader. Observe,
1. It is a blessed privilege to enjoy the oracles of God. This was one
of the principal advantages the Jews had above the Gentiles.
2. It is a blessed thing to study the scriptures; those are well
employed who search the scriptures.
3. It is a privilege not only to read the scriptures ourselves, but to
hear them read by others, who are qualified to give us the sense of
what they read and to lead us into an understanding of them.
4. It is not sufficient to our blessedness that we read and hear the
scriptures, but we must keep the things that are written; we must keep
them in our memories, in our minds, in our affections, and in practice,
and we shall be blessed in the deed.
5. The nearer we come to the accomplishment of the scriptures, the
greater regard we shall give to them. The time is at hand, and we
should be so much the more attentive as we see the day approaching.
II. The apostolic benediction is pronounced more especially and
particularly to the seven Asian churches,
These seven churches are named in
and distinct messages sent to each of them respectively in the chapters
following. The apostolic blessing is more expressly directed to these
because they were nearest to him, who was now in the isle of Patmos,
and perhaps he had the peculiar care of them, and superintendency over
them, not excluding any of the rest of the apostles, if any of them
were now living. Here observe,
1. What the blessing is which he pronounces on all the faithful in
these churches: Grace and peace, holiness and comfort.
Grace, that is, the good-will of God towards us and his good
work in us; and peace, that is, the sweet evidence and assurance
of this grace. There can be no true peace where there is not true
grace; and, where grace goes before, peace will follow.
2. Whence this blessing is to come. In whose name does the apostle
bless the churches? In the name of God, of the whole Trinity; for this
is an act of adoration, and God only is the proper object of it; his
ministers must bless the people in no name but his alone. And here,
(1.) The Father is first named: God the Father, which may be taken
either essentially, for God as God, or personally, for the first person
in the ever-blessed Trinity, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ; and he is described as the Jehovah who is, and who was, and
who is to come, eternal, unchangeable, the same to the
Old-Testament church which was, and to the New-Testament church which
is, and who will be the same to the church triumphant which is to come.
(2.) The Holy Spirit, called the seven spirits, not seven in
number, nor in nature, but the infinite perfect Spirit of God, in whom
there is a diversity of gifts and operations. He is before the throne;
for, as God made, so he governs, all things by his Spirit.
(3.) The Lord Jesus Christ. He mentions him after the Spirit, because
he intended to enlarge more upon the person of Christ, as God
manifested in the flesh, whom he had seen dwelling on earth before, and
now saw again in a glorious form. Observe the particular account we
have here of Christ,
[1.] He is the faithful witness; he was from eternity a witness
to all the counsels of God
and he was in time a faithful witness to the revealed will of God, who
has now spoken to us by his Son; upon his testimony we may safely
depend, for he is a faithful witness, cannot be deceived and cannot
[2.] He is the first-begotten or first-born from the dead, or the first
parent and head of the resurrection, the only one who raised himself by
his own power, and who will by the same power raise up his people from
their graves to everlasting honour; for he has begotten them again to a
lively hope by his resurrection from the dead.
[3.] He is the prince of the kings of the earth; from him they have
their authority; by him their power is limited and their wrath
restrained; by him their counsels are over-ruled, and to him they are
accountable. This is good news to the church, and it is good evidence
of the Godhead of Christ, who is King of kings and Lord of lords.
[4.] He is the great friend of his church and people, one who has done
great things for them, and this out of pure disinterested affection. He
has loved them, and, in pursuance of that everlasting love, he has,
First, Washed them from their sins in his own blood. Sins leave
a stain upon the soul, a stain of guilt and of pollution. Nothing can
fetch out this stain but the blood of Christ; and, rather than it
should not be washed out, Christ was willing to shed his own blood, to
purchase pardon and purity for them. Secondly, He has made
them kings and priests to God and his Father. Having justified and
sanctified them, he makes them kings to his Father; that is, in his
Father's account, with his approbation, and for his glory. As kings,
they govern their own spirits, conquer Satan, have power and prevalency
with God in prayer, and shall judge the world. He hath made them
priests, given them access to God, enabled them to enter into the
holiest and to offer spiritual and acceptable sacrifices, and has given
them an unction suitable to this character; and for these high honours
and favours they are bound to ascribe to him dominion and glory for
[5.] He will be the Judge of the world: Behold, he cometh, and every
eye shall see him,
This book, the Revelation, begins and ends with a prediction of the
second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. We should set ourselves to
meditate frequently upon the second coming of Christ, and keep it in
the eye of our faith and expectation. John speaks as if he saw that
day: "Behold, he cometh, as sure as if you beheld him with your
eyes. He cometh with clouds, which are his chariot and pavilion.
He will come publicly: Every eye shall see him, the eye of his
people, the eye of his enemies, every eye, yours and mine." He shall
come, to the terror of those who have pierced him and have not repented
and of all who have wounded and crucified him afresh by their apostasy
from him, and to the astonishment of the pagan world. For he comes to
take vengeance on those who know not God, as well as on those that obey
not the gospel of Christ.
[6.] This account of Christ is ratified and confirmed by himself,
Here our Lord Jesus justly challenges the same honour and power that is
ascribed to the Father,
He is the beginning and the end; all things are from him and for him;
he is the Almighty; he is the same eternal and unchangeable one. And
surely whoever presumes to blot out one character of this name of
Christ deserves to have his name blotted out of the book of life. Those
that honour him he will honour; but those who despise him shall be
|John's Vision of Christ.
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9 I John, who also am your brother, and companion in
tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was
in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for
the testimony of Jesus Christ.
10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a
great voice, as of a trumpet,
11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and,
What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven
churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and
unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto
Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.
12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being
turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;
13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto
the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt
about the paps with a golden girdle.
14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as
snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;
15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a
furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.
16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his
mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as
the sun shineth in his strength.
17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid
his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first
and the last:
18 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.
19 Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which
are, and the things which shall be hereafter;
20 The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right
hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the
angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which
thou sawest are the seven churches.
We have now come to that glorious vision which the apostle had of the
Lord Jesus Christ, when he came to deliver this revelation to him,
I. The account given of the person who was favoured with this vision.
He describes himself,
1. By his present state and condition. He was the brother and
companion of these churches in tribulation, and in the kingdom and
patience of Christ. He was, at their time, as the rest of true
Christians were, a persecuted man, banished, and perhaps imprisoned,
for his adherence to Christ. He was their brother, though an
apostle; he seems to value himself upon his relation to the church,
rather than his authority in it: Judas Iscariot may be an apostle, but
not a brother in the family of God. He was their companion: the
children of God should choose communion and society with each other. He
was their companion in tribulation: the persecuted servants of God did
not suffer alone, the same trials are accomplished in others. He was
their companion in patience, not only a sharer with them in suffering
circumstances, but in suffering graces: if we have the patience of the
saints, we should not grudge to meet with their trials. He was their
brother and companion in the patience of the kingdom of Christ,
a sufferer for Christ's cause, for asserting his kingly power over the
church and the world, and for adhering to it against all who would
usurp upon it. By this account he gives of his present state, he
acknowledges his engagements to sympathize with them, and to endeavour
to give them counsel and comfort, and bespeaks their more careful
attention to what he had to say to them from Christ their common Lord.
2. By the place where he was when he was favoured with this vision: he
was in the isle Patmos. He does not say who banished him
thither. It becomes Christians to speak sparingly and modestly of their
own sufferings. Patmos is said to be an island in the Aegean Sea, One
of those called Cyclades, and was about thirty-five miles in compass;
but under this confinement it was the apostle's comfort that he did not
suffer as an evil-doer, but that it was for the testimony of Jesus, for
bearing witness to Christ as the Immanuel, the Saviour. This was a
cause worth suffering for; and the Spirit of glory and of God rested
upon this persecuted apostle.
3. The day and time in which he had this vision: it was the Lord's
day, the day which Christ had separated and set apart for himself,
as the eucharist is called the Lord's supper. Surely this can be
no other than the Christian sabbath, the first day of the week, to be
observed in remembrance of the resurrection of Christ. Let us who call
him our Lord honour him on his own day, the day which the Lord
hath made and in which we ought to rejoice.
4. The frame that his soul was in at this time: He was in the
Spirit. He was not only in a rapture when he received the vision,
but before he received it; he was in a serious, heavenly, spiritual
frame, under the blessed gracious influences of the Spirit of God. God
usually prepares the souls of his people for uncommon manifestations of
himself, by the quickening sanctifying influences of his good Spirit.
Those who would enjoy communion with God on the Lord's day must
endeavour to abstract their thoughts and affections from flesh and
fleshly things, and be wholly taken up with things of a spiritual
II. The apostle gives an account of what he heard when thus in the
Spirit. An alarm was given as with the sound of a trumpet, and then
he heard a voice, the voice of Christ applying to himself the
character before given, the first and the last, and commanding
the apostle to commit to writing the things that were now to be
revealed to him, and to send it immediately to the seven Asian
churches, whose names are mentioned. Thus our Lord Jesus, the
captain of our salvation, gave the apostle notice of his glorious
appearance, as with the sound of a trumpet.
III. We have also an account of what he saw. He turned to see the
voice, whose it was and whence it came; and then a wonderful scene
of vision opened itself to him.
1. He saw a representation of the church under the emblem of seven
golden candlesticks, as it is explained in the
The churches are compared to candlesticks, because they hold forth the
light of the gospel to advantage. The churches are not candles: Christ
only is our light, and his gospel our lamp; but they receive their
light from Christ and the gospel, and hold it forth to others. They are
golden candlesticks, for they should be precious and pure, comparable
to fine gold; not only the ministers, but the members of the churches
ought to be such; their light should so shine before men as to engage
others to give glory to God.
2. He saw a representation of the Lord Jesus Christ in the midst of the
golden candlesticks; for he has promised to be with his churches always
to the end of the world, filling them with light, and life, and love,
for he is the very animating informing soul of the church. And here we
(1.) The glorious form in which Christ appeared in several particulars.
[1.] He was clothed with a garment down to the foot, a princely
and priestly robe, denoting righteousness and honour.
[2.] He was girt about with a golden girdle, the breast-plate of
the high priest, on which the names of his people are engraven; he was
ready girt to do all the work of a Redeemer.
[3.] His head and hairs were white like wool or snow. He was the
Ancient of days; his hoary head was no sign of decay, but was indeed a
crown of glory.
[4.] His eyes were as a flame of fire, piercing and penetrating
into the very hearts and reins of men, scattering terrors among his
[5.] His feet were like unto fine burning brass, strong and
stedfast, supporting his own interest, subduing his enemies, treading
them to powder.
[6.] His voice was as the sound of many waters, of many rivers
falling in together. He can and will make himself heard to those who
are afar off as well as to those who are near. His gospel is a
profluent and mighty stream, fed by the upper springs of infinite
wisdom and knowledge.
[7.] He had in his right hand seven stars, that is, the
ministers of the seven churches, who are under his direction, have all
their light and influence from him, and are secured and preserved by
[8.] Out of his mouth went a two-edged sword, his word, which
both wounds and heals, strikes at sin on the right hand and on the
[9.] His countenance was as the sun shining, its strength too
bright and dazzling for mortal eyes to behold.
(2.) The impression this appearance of Christ made upon the apostle
He fell at the feet of Christ as dead; he was overpowered with
the greatness of the lustre and glory in which Christ appeared, though
he had been so familiar with him before. How well is it for us that God
speaks to us by men like ourselves, whose terrors shall not make us
afraid, for none can see the face of God and live!
(3.) The condescending goodness of the Lord Jesus to his disciple:
He laid his hand upon him,
He raised him up; he did not plead against him with his great power,
but he put strength into him, he spoke kind words to him.
[1.] Words of comfort and encouragement: Fear not. He commanded
away the slavish fears of his disciple.
[2.] Words of instruction, telling him particularly who he was that
thus appeared to him. And here he acquaints him, First, with his
divine nature: The first and the last. Secondly, With his former
sufferings: I was dead; the very same that his disciples saw
upon the cross dying for the sins of men. Thirdly, With his
resurrection and life: "I live, and am alive for evermore, have
conquered death and opened the grave, and am partaker of an endless
life." Fourthly, With his office and authority: I have the
keys of hell and of death, a sovereign dominion in and over the
invisible world, opening and none can shut, shutting so that none can
open, opening the gates of death when he pleases and the gates of the
eternal world, of happiness or misery, as the Judge of all, from whose
sentence there lies no appeal. Fifthly, With his will and
pleasure: Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things
which are, and which shall be hereafter. Sixthly, With the meaning
of the seven stars, that they are the ministers of the churches;
and of the seven candlesticks, that they are the seven churches,
to whom Christ would now send by him particular and proper