The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him, to show to his servants things which must shortly come to pass…
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, etc. Human history seems to be presented here as
(1) a revelation,
(2) a record, and
(3) a study.
I. AS A REVELATION. "The Revelation of Jesus Christ" (ver. 1). Αποκαλύψις Ιησοῦ Ξριστοῦ. To "reveal" means to uncover, to disclose. A revelation is an unveiling of the hidden. Whatever has not appeared, whether things or persons, is hidden or concealed from view. There are universes hidden from us as yet, that in the future may appear. There is only One Being in immensity that can reveal such things because he sees them, and that is God. Hence all that is known of "things which must shortly come to pass," or, indeed, things that will ever come to pass, is "the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him." Observe that the revelation is Divine. Who can reveal the unseen and unknown but God? Christ was once unknown. He revealed him. His advent to earth was a revelation of himself to mankind. No one can reveal God but Christ, and no one can reveal Christ but God. But the object to which the revelation here refers is not any particular person, Divine or human, but the future history of mankind. This is hidden. "We know not what shall be on the morrow." "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power." He reveals the future history of mankind in two ways.
1. By disclosing its essential principles. All the events of human conduct are caused and controlled by two principles - good and evil. All human actions are traceable to one of these, and they are in constant conflict. The colossal image and the little stone, grace and truth, are ever here on this planet battling in human souls throughout the race. These principles Christ hath revealed, not merely in his teachings, but in his agony and bloody sweat. They shone out in lightning, and broke out in thunder on the ghastly heights of Golgotha. He who understands these opposing principles can foretell all human history. He who thoroughly knows the laws of material nature can tell to the hour when a comet will sweep the heavens, when the tide will overstep its boundaries, when celestial eclipses will occur; even so he who duly appreciates the force and tendency of these opposing moral principles will not greatly mistake in his auguries of the future of the race. "That which hath been is now, and that which is will be."
2. By the dispensations of Providence. Christ is the Maker and Manager of all human events. He is in all events; they are his comings to men, his advents. And present events are types and prophecies of the future. In this age the future can be seen, as in the buds and blossoms of this Spring you may see the buds and blossoms of all the springs that are to be.
II. AS A RECORD.
1. Here is a commission from heaven to record certain things. "He sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: who bare record of the Word of God" (ver. 2). "'Messenger' is the literal translation of ἀγγέλου, and makes sense everywhere, which 'angel' does not, for the 'thorn in the flesh' was not an angel." No one can tell who the angel or messenger was; probably Christ himself. A "revelation" is one thing, a "record" another. What we call the Bible is not a "revelation," but the "record" of a "revelation." The things to be revealed are "things which must shortly come to pass." What we call providence is never at rest; its wheels are ever in motion. In the case of every man, family, community, nation, there are things that "must shortly come to pass." Those things continue from period to period and from aeon to aeon, and however differing in form, are identical in spirit. These all deserve "record." They are all streams from an inexhaustible fountain of life, branches from an eternal root of being. Things of the future grow out of the present by the eternal law of evolution. Countless generations will come and go; new revelations will have to be recorded. And thus the Bibles of the race will multiply through all time.
2. Here is a commission from heaven to reveal certain things, addressed to a man. "His servant John." He is a man. Men, not angels, are to be the chroniclers of the Divine for man. John is here the commissioned chronicler. He was in all likelihood the same disciple whom Jesus loved, the author of the Gospel bearing his name, and he to whom the Saviour, on the cross, entrusted his beloved mother.
3. Here is a commission from heaven to record certain things, addressed to a man of the highest moral class. He is here called his "servant," the servant of God - his willing, loving, loyal servant. In his Gospel he had borne "record of the Word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw." Heaven commissions men to record the things that are "coming to pass," and the men to do it are men in thorough sympathy with the true, the beautiful, and the good. Moral goodness is an essential qualification of a true historian.
III. AS A STUDY. The "revelation" is given, the "record" is made, and now comes study. "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein" (ver. 3). Observe:
1. That historic events are of moral significance. There is a Divine meaning in everything that is either produced or permitted by the All-wise and the All-good. There is not a circumstance that transpires in our individual life that does not say to us, "Thus saith the Lord."
2. That the moral significance involves a Divine law. Apart from its element to excite feeling, rouse the imagination, and stimulate speculative thought, it contains law. Hence it is not only said here, "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words," but they that "keep those things that are written therein." The moral lessons which historic events teach are Divine laws, and come on the subject of them with binding force.
3. That in practical obedience to this Divine law there is true happiness. "Blessed is he." "We then," says an able expositor, "as living actors in the world, have not only to read and hear, but to keep - keep in mind and action those principles which preside over the development of all human history." "Be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only." "Blessed are they that hear the Word of God, and keep it." He, and he only, who incarnates the great moral principles of history brings sunshine and music into his soul. - D.T.
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: