The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him, to show to his servants things which must shortly come to pass…
Of what sort was the Christianity of St. John between thirty and forty years after Christ's death, as we find it in the Book of the Revelation?
(1) In chap. Revelation 4. we have a vision reminding us of Isaiah and Ezekiel. There is a Throne, and One who sits on it. He is Lord and God. He lives for ever and ever. He created all things, and is worthy to receive glory and honour and power. In the second chapter we read of One who is the Son of God. He in whom St. John believes is therefore God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
(2) This Son of God is Jesus Christ, who is also King of kings and Lord of lords, and therefore Lord of all men, our Lord. The Lamb, that is Christ, is worshipped by every created thing, in one breath with Him that sitteth upon the Throne.
(3) The Incarnation of Christ is implied in His crucifixion, His blood, His death, and the title, or description, Son of Man. All of these are expressly mentioned in the Revelation. Besides we find Christ described by him as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and the Root of David.
(4) That Christ suffered is implied in His overcoming, and in His being a Lamb, as it had been slain; a phrase recalling the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, where the suffering is described at length, and where it is foretold that the Sufferer shall triumph after death.
(5) The Descent into Hades must be understood from the words, "I was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore," etc. The Resurrection is not only stated in these and other like words, but is a fundamental conception of the whole book.
(6) We do not read of the Ascension; yet as the death took place on earth, and Christ is described as in heaven after His resurrection, an ascension is implied.
(7) The sitting on the Throne of God, and the coming again to judgment are me prominent as to need no special reference.
(8) Then we have the Spirit, symbolised in His abundant powers by the seven lamps before the Throne, and again by the seven eyes of the Lamb. From this last may we not infer the double procession?
(9) The Communion of Saints is indicated in many ways. The Angels of the Seven Churches are wreathed into a garland of stars in the right hand of the Son of Man. The souls of the martyrs, under the altar, are to wait for their brethren. The great multitude who have come out of the great tribulation stand before the Throne and before the Lamb.
(10) The Remission of Sins meets us in the very first chapter;
(11) the Resurrection of the Dead comes in the twentieth; and(12) the Life Everlasting is the one great gift variously shadowed forth by the Tree of Life, the Crown of Life, the Hidden Manna, the Morning Star, the Book of Life, the Pillar in the Temple, the Sitting Down with Christ on His Throne; the Seven Gifts to the Seven Churches. Here then, in this venerable monument of the apostolic age, are all the Articles of the Christian faith, as we now have them in our creed.
2. Until a man has made a careful study of the Revelation, he might very possibly set it down as a tissue of harsh allegories, thrown together without skill or method, and betokening little in its author but a bewildered enthusiasm. But indeed there is in it a wonderful order. The whole book seems to have been all present to the writer's mind at once, like the universe to the mind of the Creator, before a word of it was written. Vision follows vision, each complete in itself, like a picture, yet all adding something new, like each of the seven parables in the 13th of St. Matthew, to the manifold lineaments of the kingdom of heaven. Then there is this peculiarity: Almost every phrase of the Revelation has its counterpart in the old Testament. The Revelation consists of Old Testament ideas spiritually combined with New Testament narratives.
3. St. John, after all, only translates the Old Testament prophecies out of their local dialect into catholic speech. Malachi's pure offering in every place, Zechariah's feast of tabernacles, Daniel's kingdom of the saints, Jeremiah's Jerusalem with the ark. What is all this but our Lord's teaching to the woman of Samaria, and the absence of a sanctuary from the New Jerusalem — everywhere Immanuel? Then we have Isaiah's abounding prophecies of these things, the Psalms with their trumpet-call to all lands, the seed of Abraham blessing the nations, nay, the primal promise of bruising the serpent's head — the wonder is that there could ever have been a mistake. These old prophets saw there was something in their faith and worship, different in kind from the local idolatries of other nations, something which had in it the germ of catholicity. St. John had touched and handled the stem which grew from that germ, and he knew that it must grow till it filled the earth.
4. St. John paints an ideal; and ideals are never realised completely in this world. But what would the world have been without them? Here in England, what has been, deep down beneath the vulgar strife of parties, the ground of our Constitution in Church and State? What but the walking of our nation amidst the light of the holy city, and our kings bringing their glory into it?
(J. Foxley, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: