John to the seven Churches - The apostle begins this much in the manner of the Jewish prophets. They often name themselves in the messages which they receive from God to deliver to the people; e.g. "The vision of Isaiah, the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem." "The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah; to whom the word of the Lord came." "The word of the Lord came expressly unto Ezekiel, the priest." "The word of the Lord that came unto Hosea, the son of Beeri." "The word of the Lord that came to Joel." "The words of Amos, who was among the herdsmen of Tekoa." "The vision of Obadiah; thus saith the Lord." "The word of the Lord came unto Jonah." So, "The revelation of Jesus Christ, which he sent and signified to his servant John." "John to the seven Churches," etc.
The Asia here mentioned was what is called Asia Minor, or the Lydian or Proconsular Asia; the seven Churches were those of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Of these as they occur. We are not to suppose that they were the only Christian Churches then in Asia Minor; there were several others then in Phrygia, Pamphylia, Galatia, Pontus, Cappadocia, etc., etc. But these seven were those which lay nearest to the apostle, and were more particularly under his care; though the message was sent to the Churches in general, and perhaps it concerns the whole Christian world. But the number seven may be used here as the number of perfection; as the Hebrews use the seven names of the heavens, the seven names of the earth, the seven patriarchs, seven suns, seven kinds, seven years, seven months, seven days, etc., etc.; in which the rabbins find a great variety of mysteries.
Grace be unto you - This form of apostolical benediction we have often seen in the preceding epistles.
From him which is, and which was, and which is to come - This phraseology is purely Jewish, and probably taken from the Tetragrammaton, יהוה Yehovah ; which is supposed to include in itself all time, past, present, and future. But they often use the phrase of which the ὁ ων, και ὁ ην, και ὁ ερχομενος, of the apostle, is a literal translation. So, in Sohar Chadash, fol. 7, 1: "Rabbi Jose said, By the name Tetragrammaton, (i.e. יהוה , Yehovah ), the higher and lower regions, the heavens, the earth, and all they contain, were perfected; and they are all before him reputed as nothing; יהיה והוא הוה והוא היה והוא vehu hayah, vehu hoveh, vehu yihyeh ; and He Was, and He Is, and He Will Be. So, in Shemoth Rabba, sec. 3, fol. 105, 2: "The holy blessed God said to Moses, tell them: - לבוא לעתיד הוא ואני עכשיו הוא ואני שהייתי אני ani shehayithi, veani hu achshaiu, veani hu laathid labo ; I Was, I Now Am, and I Will Be in Future." In Chasad Shimuel, Rab. Samuel ben David asks: "Why are we commanded to use three hours of prayer? Answer: These hours point out the holy blessed God; ויהיה הוה היה שהוא shehu hayah, hoveh, veyihyeh ; he who Was, who Is, and who Shall Be. The Morning prayer points out him who Was before the foundation of the world; the Noonday prayer points out him who Is; and the Evening prayer points out him who Is to Come." This phraseology is exceedingly appropriate, and strongly expresses the eternity of God; for we have no other idea of time than as past, or now existing, or yet to exist; nor have we any idea of eternity but as that duration called by some aeternitas a parte ante, the eternity that was before time, and aeternitas a parte post, the endless duration that shall be when time is no more. That which Was, is the eternity before time; that which Is, is time itself; and that which Is to Come, is the eternity which shall be when time is no more.
The seven Spirits - before his throne - The ancient Jews, who represented the throne of God as the throne of an eastern monarch, supposed that there were seven ministering angels before this throne, as there were seven ministers attendant on the throne of a Persian monarch. We have an ample proof of this, Tobit 12:15: I am Raphael, one of the Seven Holy Angels which present the prayers of the saints, and which go in and out before the glory of the Holy One. And in Jonathan ben Uzziel's Targum, on Genesis 11:7; : God said to the Seven Angels which stand before him, Come now, etc.
In Pirkey Eliezer, iv. and vii: "The angels which were first created minister before him without the veil." Sometimes they represent them as seven cohorts or troops of angels, under whom are thirty inferior orders.
That seven Angels are here meant, and not the Holy Spirit, is most evident from the place, the number, and the tradition. Those who imagine the Holy Ghost to be intended suppose the number seven is used to denote his manifold gifts and graces. That these seven spirits are angels, see Revelation 3:1; Revelation 4:5; and particularly Revelation 5:6, where they are called the seven spirits of God Sent Forth into All the Earth.
John to the seven churches which are in Asia - The word “Asia” is used in quite different senses by different writers. It is used:
(1)as referring to the whole eastern continent now known by that name;
(2)either Asia or Asia Minor;
(3)that part of Asia which Attalus III, king of Pergamos, gave to the Romans, namely, Mysia, Phrygia, Lycaonia, Lydia, Carla, Pisidia, and the southern coast - that is, all in the western, southwestern, and southern parts of Asia Minor; and,
(4)in the New Testament, usually the southwestern part of Asia Minor, of which Ephesus was the capital. See the notes at Acts 2:9.
The word “Asia” is not found in the Hebrew Scriptures, but it occurs often in the Books of Maccabees, and in the New Testament. In the New Testament it is not used in the large sense in which it is now, as applied to the whole continent, but in its largest signification it would include only Asia Minor. It is also used, especially by Luke, as denoting the country that was called “Ionia,” or what embraced the provinces of Caria and Lydia. Of this region Ephesus was the principal city, and it was in this region that the “seven churches” were situated. Whether there were more than seven churches in this region is not intimated by the writer of this book, and on that point we have no certain knowledge. it is evident that these seven were the principal churches, even if there were more, and that there was some reason why they should be particularly addressed.
There is mention of some other churches in the neighborhood of these. Colosse was near to Laodicea; and from Colossians 4:13, it would seem not improbable that there was a church also at Hierapolis. But there may have been nothing in their circumstances that demanded particular instruction or admonition, and they may have been on that account omitted. There is also some reason to suppose that, though there had been other churches in that vicinity besides the seven mentioned by John, they had become extinct at the time when he wrote the Book of Revelation. It appears from Tacitus (History, xiv, 27; compare also Pliny, N. H., v. 29), that in the time of Nero, 61 a.d., the city of Laodicea was destroyed by an earthquake, in which earthquake, according to Eusebius, the adjacent cities of Colosse and Hierapolis were involved. Laodicea was, indeed, immediately rebuilt, but there is no evidence of the re-establishment of the church there before the time when John wrote this book.
The earliest mention we have of a church there, after the one referred to in the New Testament by Paul Colossians 2:1; Colossians 4:13, Colossians 4:15-16, is in the time of Trajan, when Papias was bishop there, sometime between 98 a.d. and 117 a.d. It would appear, then, to be not improbable that at the time when the Apocalypse was written, there were in fact but seven churches in the vicinity. Prof. Stuart (i., 219) supposes that “seven, and only so many, may have been named, because the sevenfold divisions and groups of various objects constitute a conspicuous feature in the Apocalypse throughout.” But this reason seems too artificial; and it can hardly be supposed that it would influence the mind of John, in the specification by name of the churches to which the book was sent. If no names had been mentioned, and if the statement had occurred in glowing poetic description, it is not inconceivable that the number seven might have been selected for some such purpose.
Grace be unto you, and peace - The usual form of salutation in addressing a church. See the notes on Romans 1:7.
From him which is, and which was, and which is to come - From him who is everlasting - embracing all duration, past, present, and to come. No expression could more strikingly denote eternity than this. He now exists; he has existed in the past; he will exist in the future. There is an evident allusion here to the name Yahweh, the name by which the true God is appropriately designated in the Scriptures. That name יהוה Yahwehfrom היה haayahto be, to exist, seems to have been adopted because it denotes existence, or being, and as denoting simply one who exists; and has reference merely to the fact of existence. The word has no variation of form, and has no reference to time, and would embrace all time: that is, it is as true at one time as another that he exists. Such a word would not be inappropriately paraphrased by the phrase “who is, and who was, and who is to come,” or who is to be; and there can be no doubt that John referred to him here as being himself the eternal and uncreated existence, and as the great and original fountain of all being.
They who desire to find a full discussion in regard to the origin of the name Yahweh, may consult an article by Prof. Tholuck, in the “Biblical Repository,” vol. iv., pp. 89-108. It is remarkable that there are some passages in pagan inscriptions and writings which bear a very strong resemblance to the language used here by John respecting God. Thus, Plutarch (De Isa. et Osir., p. 354.), speaking of a temple of Isis, at Sais, in Egypt, says, “It bore this inscription - ‹I am all that was, and is, and shall be, and my vail no mortal can remove‘“ - Ἐγώ εἰμι πᾶν τὸ γεγονός, καὶ ὅν, καὶ ἐσόμενον καὶ τὸν ἐμὸν πέπλον οὐδείς τω θνητὸς ἀνεκάλυψεν Egō eimi pan to gegonoskai honkai esomenon kai ton emon peplon oudeis tō thnētos anekalupsenSo Orpheus (in Auctor. Lib. de Mundo), “Jupiter is the head, Jupiter is the middle, and all things are made by Jupiter.” So in Pausanias (Phocic. 12), “Jupiter was; Jupiter is; Jupiter shall be.” The reference in the phrase before us is to God as such, or to God considered as the Father.
And from the seven Spirits which are before his throne - After all that has been written on this very difficult expression, it is still impossible to determine with certainty its meaning. The principal opinions which have been held in regard to it are the following:
I. That it refers to God, as such. This opinion is held by Eichhorn, and is favored by Ewald. No arguments derived from any parallel passages are urged for this opinion, nor can any such be found, where God is himself spoken of under the representation of a sevenfold Spirit. But the objections to this view are so obvious as to be insuperable:
(1)If it refers to God as such, then it would be mere tautology, for the writer had just referred to him in the phrase “from him who was,” etc.
(2)it is difficult to perceive in what sense “seven spirits” could be ascribed to God, or how he could be described as a being of “Seven Spirits.” At least, if he could be spoken of as such, there would be no objection to applying the phrase to the Holy Spirit.
(3)how could it be said of God himself that he was “before the throne?” He is everywhere represented as sitting on the throne, not as before it. It is easy to conceive of angels as standing before the throne; and of the Holy Spirit it is more easy to conceive as being represented thus as ready to go forth and convey a heavenly influence from that throne, but it is impossible to conceive in what sense this could be applied to God as such.
II. The opinion held by Grotius, and by John Henry Heinrichs, that it refers to “the multiform providence of God,” or to God considered as operating in seven or many different ways. In support of this Grotius appeals to Revelation 5:12; Revelation 7:12. But this opinion is so far-fetched, and it is so destitute of support, as to have found, it is believed, no other advocates, and to need no further notice. It cannot be supposed that John meant to personify the attributes of the Deity, and then to unite them with God himself, and with the Lord Jesus Christ, and to represent them as real subsistences from which important blessings descend to people. It is clear that as by the phrase, “who is, and who was, and who is to come,” and by “Jesus Christ, the faithful and true witness,” he refers to real subsistences, so he must here. Besides, if the attributes of God, or the modes of divine operation, are denoted why is the number seven chosen? And why are they represented as standing before the throne?
III. A third opinion is, that the reference is to seven attending and ministering presence-angels - angels represented as standing before the throne of God, or in his presence. This opinion was adopted among the ancients by Clemens of Alexandria Andreas of Cesarea, and others; among the moderns by Beza, Drusius, Hammond, Wetstein, Rosenmuller, Clarke, Prof. Stuart, and others. This opinion, however, has been held in somewhat different forms; some maintaining that the seven angels are referred to because it was a received opinion among the Hebrews that there were seven angels standing in the presence of God as seven princes stood in the Persian court before the king; others, that the angels of the seven churches are particularly referred to, represented now as standing in the presence of God; others, that seven angels, represented as the principal angels employed in the government of the world, are referred to; and others, that seven archangels are particularly designated. Compare Poole, Synoptists in loco. The arguments which are relied on by those who suppose that seven angels are here referred to are briefly these:
(1) The nature of the expression used here. The expression, it is said, is such as would naturally denote beings who were before his throne - beings who were different from him who was on the throne - and beings more than one in number. That it could not refer to one on the throne, but must mean those distinct and separate from one on the throne, is argued from the use of the phrases “before the throne,” and “before God,” in Revelation 4:5; Revelation 7:9, Revelation 7:15; Revelation 8:2; Revelation 11:4, Revelation 11:16; Revelation 12:10; Revelation 14:3; Revelation 20:12; in all which places the representation denotes those who were in the presence of God, and standing before him.
(2) it is argued from other passages in the Book of Revelation which, it is said (Prof. Stuart), go directly to confirm this opinion. Thus, in Revelation 8:2; “And I saw the seven angels which stood before God.” So Revelation 4:5; the seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, are said to be “the seven Spirits of God.” In these passages, it is alleged that the article “the” designates the well-known angels; or those which had been before specified, and that this is the first mention of any such angels after the designation in the passage before us.
(3) it is said that this is in accordance with what was usual among the Hebrews, who were accustomed to speak of seven presence-angels, or angels standing in the presence of Yahweh. Thus, in the Book of Tobit (12:15), Raphael is introduced as using this language: “I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels, which present the prayers of the saints, and which go in and out before the glory of the Holy One.” The apocryphal Book of Enoch (chapter 20) gives the names of the seven angels who watch; that is, of the watchers (compare the notes on Daniel 4:13, Daniel 4:17) who stand in the presence of God waiting for the divine commands, or who watch over the affairs of people. So in the Zendavesta of Zoroaster, seven amshaspends, or archangels, are mentioned. See Prof. Stuart, in loco.
To these views, however, there are objections of great weight, if they are not in fact quite insuperable. They are such as the following:
(1) That the same rank should be given to them as to God, as the source of blessings. According to the view which represents this expression as referring to angels, they are placed on the same level, so far as the matter before us is concerned, with “him who was, and is, and is to come,” and with the Lord Jesus Christ - a doctrine which does not elsewhere occur in the Scriptures, and which we cannot suppose the writer designed to teach.
(2) that blessings should be invoked from angels - as if they could impart “grace and peace.” It is evident that, whoever is referred to here by the phrase “the seven Spirits,” he is placed on the same level with the others mentioned as the source of “grace and peace.” But it cannot be supposed that an inspired writer would invoke that grace and peace from any but a divine being.
(3) that as two persons of the Trinity are mentioned here, it is to be presumed that the third would not be omitted; or to put this argument in a stronger form, it cannot be supposed that an inspired writer would mention two of the persons of the Trinity in this connection, and then not only not mention the third, but refer to angels - to creatures - as bestowing what would be appropriately sought from the Holy Spirit. The incongruity would be not merely in omitting all reference to the Spirit - which might indeed occur, as it often does in the Scriptures - but in putting in the place which that Spirit would naturally occupy an allusion to angels as conferring blessings.
(4) if this refer to angels, it is impossible to avoid the inference that angel-worship, or invocation of angels, is proper. To all intents and purposes, this is an act of worship; for it is an act of solemn invocation. It is an acknowledgment of the “seven Spirits,” as the source of “grace and peace.” It would be impossible to resist this impression on the popular mind; it would not be possible to meet it if urged as an argument in favor of the propriety of angel-invocation, or angel-worship. And yet, if there is anything clear in the Scriptures, it is that God alone is to he worshipped. For these reasons, it seems to me that this interpretation cannot be well founded.
IV. There remains a fourth opinion, that it refers to the Holy Spirit, and in favor of that opinion it may be urged:
(1) That it is most natural to suppose that the Holy Spirit would be invoked on such an occasion, in connection with him “who was, and is, and is to come,” and with “Jesus Christ.” If two of the persons of the Trinity were addressed on such an occasion, it would be properly supposed that the Holy Spirit would not be omitted, as one of the persons from whom the blessing was to descend. Compare 2 Corinthians 13:14; “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.”
(2) it would be unnatural and improper, in such an invocation, to unite angels with God as imparting blessings, or as participating with God and with Christ in communicating blessings to man. An invocation to God to send his angels, or to impart grace and favor through angelic help, would be in entire accordance with the usage in Scripture, but it is not in accordance with such usage to invoke such blessings from angels.
(3) it cannot be denied that an invocation of grace from “him who is, and was, and is to come,” is of the nature of worship. The address to him is as God, and the attitude of the mind in such an address is that of one who is engaged in an act of devotion. The effect of uniting any other being with him in such a case, would be to lead to the worship of one thus associated with him. In regard to the Lord Jesus, “the faithful and true witness,” it is from such expressions as these that we are led to the belief that he is divine, and that it is proper to worship him as such. The same effect must be produced in reference to what is here called “the seven Spirits before the throne.” We cannot well resist the impression that someone with divine attributes is intended; or, if it refer to angels, we cannot easily show that it is not proper to render divine worship to them. If they were thus invoked by an apostle, can it be improper to worship them now?
(4) the word used here is not “angels,” but “spirits”; and though it is true that angels are spirits, and that the word “spirit” is applied to them Hebrews 1:7, yet it is also true that that is not a word which would be understood to refer to them without designating that angels were meant. If angels had been intended here, that word would naturally have been used, as is the case elsewhere in this book.
(5) in Revelation 4:5, where there is a reference to “the seven lamps before the throne,” it is said of them that they “are,” that is, they represent “the seven Spirits of God.” This passage may be understood as referring to the same thing as that before us, but it cannot he well understood of angels; because:
(a)if it did, it would have been natural to use that language for the reason above mentioned;
(b)the angels are nowhere called “the spirits of God,” nor would such language be proper.
The phrase, “Spirit of God” naturally implies divinity, and could not be applied to a creature. For these reasons it seems to me that the interpretation which applies the phrase to the Holy Spirit is to be preferred; and though that interpretation is not free from difficulties, yet there are fewer difficulties in that than in either of the others proposed. Though it may not be possible wholly to remove the difficulties involved in that interpretation, yet perhaps something may be done to diminish their force:
(1) First, as to the reason why the number seven should be applied to the Holy Spirit:
(a) There would be as much propriety certainly in applying it to the Holy Spirit as to God as such. And yet Grotius, Eichhorn, Ewald, and others saw no difficulty in such an application considered as representing a sevenfold mode of operation of God, or a manifold divine agency.
(b) The word “seven” often denotes a full or complete number, and may be used to denote what is full, complete, or manifold; and might thus be used in reference to an all-perfect Spirit, or to a spirit which was manifold in its operations.
(c) The number seven is evidently a favorite number in the Book of Revelation, and it might be used by the author in places, and in a sense, such as it would not be likely to be used by another writer. Thus, there are seven epistles to the seven churches; there are seven seals, seven trumpets, seven vials of the wrath of God, seven last plagues; there are seven lamps, and seven Spirits of God; the Lamb has seven horns and seven eyes. In Revelation 1:16, seven stars are mentioned; in Revelation 5:12, seven attributes of God; Revelation 12:3, the dragon has seven heads; Revelation 13:1, the beast has seven heads.
(d) The number seven, therefore, may have been given to the Holy Spirit with reference to the diversity or the fulness of his operations on the souls of people, and to his manifold agency on the affairs of the world, as further developed in this book.
(2) as to his being represented as “before the throne,” this may be intended to designate the fact that the Divine Spirit was, as it were, prepared to go forth, or to be sent forth, in accordance with a common representation in the Scriptures, to accomplish important purposes on human affairs. The posture does not necessarily imply inferiority of nature, anymore than the language does respecting the Son of God, when he is represented as being sent into the world to execute an important commission from the Father.
The Churches in Asia. â There were more churches in Asia than seven. We may confine ourselves to that western fraction of Asia known as Asia Minor, or we may include still less territory than that; for in even that small portion of Asia Minor where were situated the seven churches which are mentioned, and right in their very midst, there were other important churches. Colosse, to the Christians of which place Paul addressed his epistle to the Colossians, was but a slight distance from Laodicea. Miletus was nearer than any of the seven to Patmos, where John had his vision; and it was an important station for the church, as we may judge from the fact that Paul, during one of his stays there, sent for the elders of the church of Ephesus to meet him at that place. Acts 20:17-38. At the same place he also left, in good Christian hands no doubt, Trophimus, his disciple, sick. 2 Timothy 4:20. And Troas, where Paul spent a season with the disciples, and whence, having waited till the Sabbath was past, he started off upon his journey, was not far removed from Pergamos, named among the seven. It becomes, therefore, an interesting question to determine why seven of the churches of Asia Minor were selected as the ones to which the Revelation should be dedicated. Does what is said of the seven churches in chapter 1, and to them in chapters 2 and 3, have reference solely to the seven literal churches named, describing things only as they then and there existed, and portraying what was before them alone? We cannot so conclude, for the following reasons: âDAR 327.3
1. The entire book of Revelation (see chapter 1:3, 11, 19; 22:18, 19) was dedicated to the seven churches. Verse 11. But the book was no more applicable to them than to other Christians in Asia Minor, â those, for instance, who dwelt in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, and Bithynia, addressed in 1 Peter 1:1; or the Christians of Colosse, Troas, and Miletus, in the very midst of the churches named.DAR 328.1
2. Only a small portion of the book could have personally concerned the seven churches, or any of the Christians of John's day; for the events it brings to view were mostly so far in the future as to lie beyond the lifetime of the generation then living, or even the time during which those churches would continue; and consequently they could have no personal connection with them.DAR 328.2
3. The seven stars which the Son of man held in his right hand (verse 20), are declared to be the angels of the seven churches. The angels of the churches, doubtless all will agree, are the ministers of the churches. Their being held in the right hand of the Son of man denotes the upholding power, guidance, and protection vouchsafed to them. But there were only seven of them in his right hand. And are there only seven thus cared for by the great Master of assemblies? May not, rather, all the true ministers of the whole gospel age derive from this representation the consolation of knowing that they are upheld and guided by the right hand of the great Head of the church? Such would seem to be the only consistent conclusion.DAR 328.3
4. Again, John, looking into the Christian dispensation, saw only seven candlesticks, representing seven churches, in the midst of which stood the Son of man. The position of the Son of man in their midst must denote his presence with them, his watchcare over them, and his searching scrutiny of all their works. But does he thus take cognizance of only seven individual churches in this dispensation? May we not rather conclude that this scene represents his position in reference to all his churches during the gospel age? Then why were only seven mentioned? Seven, as used in the Scriptures, is a number denoting fulness and completeness, being, doubtless, a kind of memorial of the great facts of the first seven days of time, which gave the world the still used weekly cycle. Like the seven stars, the seven candlesticks must denote the whole of the things which they represent. The whole gospel church in seven divisions, or periods, must be symbolized by them; and hence the seven churches must be applied in the same manner.DAR 329.1
5. Why, then, were the seven particular churches chosen that are mentioned? For the reason, doubtless, that in the names of these churches, according to the definitions of the words, are brought out the religious features of those periods of the gospel age which they respectively were to represent.DAR 329.2
For these reasons, âthe seven churchesâ are doubtless to be understood to mean not merely the seven literal churches of Asia which went by the names mentioned, but seven periods of the Christian church, from the days of the apostles to the close of probation. (See on chapter 2, verse 1.)DAR 329.3
The Source of Blessing. â âFrom him which is, and which was, and which is to come,â or is to be, â an expression which signifies complete eternity, past and future, and can be applicable to God the Father only. This language, we believe, is never applied to Christ. He is spoken of as another person, in distinction from the being thus described.DAR 329.4
The Seven Spirits. â This expression probably has no reference to angels, but to the Spirit of God. It is one of the sources from which grace and peace are invoked for the church. On the interesting subject of the seven spirits, Thompson remarks: âThat is, from the Holy Spirit, denominated âthe seven spirits,' because seven is a sacred and perfect number; not thus named as denoting interior plurality, but the fulness and perfection of his gifts and operations.â Barnes says, âThe number seven, therefore, may have been given by the Holy Spirit with reference to the diversity or the fulness of his operations on the souls of men, and to his manifold agency in the affairs of the world, as further developed in this book.â Bloomfield gives this as the general interpretation.DAR 330.1
His Throne. â The throne of God the Father; for Christ has not yet taken his own throne. The seven spirits being before the throne âmay be intended to designate the fact that the Divine Spirit is ever ready to be sent forth, in accordance with a common representation in the Scriptures, to accomplish important purposes in human affairs.âDAR 330.2
And from Jesus Christ. â Then Christ is not the person who, in the verse before, is designated as âhim which is, and which was, and which is to come.â Some of the chief characteristics which pertain to Christ are here mentioned. He is, âDAR 330.3
The Faithful Witness. â Whatever he bears witness to is true. Whatever he promises, he will surely fulfil.DAR 330.4
The First Begotten of the Dead. â This expression is parallel to 1 Corinthians 15:20, 23; Hebrews 1:6; Romans 8:29; and Colossians 1:15, 18, where we find such expressions applied to Christ as âthe first-fruits of them that slept,â âthe first-born among many brethren,â âthe first-born of every creature,â and âthe first-born from the dead.â But these expressions do not necessarily denote that he was the first in point of time to be raised from the dead; for others were raised before him. That would be a very unimportant point; but he was the chief and central figure of all who have come up from the grave; for it was by virtue of Christ's coming, work, and resurrection, that any were raised before his time. In the purpose of God, he was the first in point of time as well as in importance; for it was not till after the purpose of Christ's triumph over the grave was formed in the mind of God, who calleth those things that be not as though they were (Romans 4:17), that any were released from the power of death, by virtue of that great fact which was in due time to be accomplished. Christ is therefore called the âfirst-begotten of the deadâ (chapter 1:5), the âfirst-fruits of them that sleptâ (1 Corinthians 15:20), the âfirst-born among many brethrenâ (Romans 8:29), and âthe first-born from the dead.â Colossians 1:18. In Acts 26:23 he is spoken of as âthe first that should rise from the dead, and should show light unto the people,â or the first who by rising from the dead should show light unto the people. (See the Greek of this passage, and Bloomfield's note thereon; also Here and Hereafter, chapter 17.)DAR 330.5
The Prince of the Kings of the Earth. â Christ is Prince of earthly kings in a certain sense now. Paul informs us, in Ephesians 1:20, 21, that he has been set at the right hand of God in the heavenly places, âfar above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.â The highest names named in this world, are the princes, kings, emperors, and potentates of earth. But Christ is placed far above them. He is seated with his Father upon the throne of universal dominion (chapter 3:21), and ranks equally with him in the overruling and controlling of the affairs of all the nations of the earth.DAR 331.1
In a more particular sense, Christ is to be Prince of the kings of the earth when he takes his own throne, and the kingdoms of this world become the âkingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ,â when they are given by the Father into his hands, and he comes forth bearing upon his vesture the title of âKing of kings and Lord of lords,â to dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. Chapter 19:16; 2:27; Psalms 2:8, 9.DAR 331.2
Unto Him that Loved Us. â We have thought that earthly friends loved us, â a father, a mother, brothers and sisters, or bosom friends, â but we see that no love is worthy of the name compared with the love of Christ for us. And the following sentence adds intensity of meaning to the previous words: âAnd washed us from our sins in his own blood.â What love is this! âGreater love,â says the apostle, âhath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.â But Christ has commended his love to us, in that he died for us âwhile we were yet sinners.â But more than this â âHath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father.â From being leprous with sin, we are made clean in his sight; from being enemies, we are not only made friends, but raised to positions of honor and dignity. This cleansing, and this kingly and priestly exaltation â to what state do they pertain? to the present or the future? â Chiefly to the future; for it is then only that we shall enjoy these blessings in the highest degree. Then, after the atonement has been accomplished, we are absolutely free from our sins; before that time they are pardoned only on condition, and blotted out only by anticipation. But when the saints are permitted to sit with Christ on his throne, according to the promise to the victorious Laodiceans, when they take the kingdom under the whole heaven and reign forever and ever, they will be kings in a sense that they never can be in this present state. Yet enough is true of our present condition to make this cheering language appropriate in the Christian's present song of joy; for here we are permitted to say that we have redemption through his blood, though that redemption is not yet given, and that we have eternal life, though that life is still in the hands of the Son, to be brought unto us at his appearing; and it is still true, as it was in the days of John and Peter, that God designs his people in this world to be unto him a chosen generation, a royal (kingly) priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people. 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 3:21; Daniel 7:18, 27. No wonder the loving and beloved disciple ascribed to this Being who has done so much for us, glory and dominion, forever and ever. And let all the church join in this most fitting ascription to their greatest benefactor and dearest friend.DAR 331.3