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THE SEVEN EPISTLES.
8. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.
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 Patinos, 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 two-edged 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.
THE SEVEN EPISTLES.
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.
The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” This Book is not the revelation of St. John but a revelation to St. John, and through him to the Church of God; it is a revelation, not a sealed book, and contains a descriptive narration of judgments yet to come upon the world ; written in intelligible language, which will have a literal accomplishment, and which will be consummated in the personal descent of God's anointed king to assume the reins of universal government, and to be the acknowledged King of kings and Lord of lords. The whole contents of the book, from the opening of the first seal, have reference to this great event, it is therefore with great propriety entitled, “ The Revelation of Jesus Christ.
“ Which God gave unto him.” Christ as God can receive nothing
but as man he receives all from God, and as man, God gave to him this revelation.
“ To shew unto his servants.” It is no new thing for God to shew future events to his servants, it has been his pleasure to do so from
THE SEVEN EPISTLES.
the beginning—to Enoch, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and onward through a long line of distinguished saints—and so it is written, Surely the Lord will do nothing but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets." Unto his servants it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven; and unto them is this revelation given, which will place them on a vantage ground so that that day may not come unawares or overtake them as a thief.
Things which must shortly come to pass.” The term shortly is not to be understood as measured by the standard of our “three score years and ten,” but by the scale of the world's duration, and by the time occupied by events already accomplished. Four thousand years fulfilled all the preliminaries to the first advent, then the fulness of the time was come for God to send forth his son. The first advent is past, and all things which were written concerning it are fulfilled. Now the preliminaries to his second and final advent are going on ; when these are accomplished, the things recorded in this book will come to pass. Nearly two thousand years have elapsed since it was said they must shortly come to pass; the period therefore cannot now be distant.
" And he sent and signified it by his Angel. This Angel was one of the human family, a departed saint, whom the Lord commissioned with this important work ; he was “of his brethren the prophets, and of them who keep the sayings of this book.”
“ Unto his servant John." John was originally a fisherman of Galilee—when at an after period he was arraigued before the Jewish
THE SEVEN EPISTLES.
Sanhedrim they regarded him as unlearned and ignorant—yet this man, of no importance in the estimation of the world, is accounted worthy to be the channel of this divine revelation. This is the sarne who “bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.”
“Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear
the words of this prophecy, and keep those
things which are written therein." Here is encouragement to all to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the sacred contents of this book ; a blessing from God is promised to the reader, and to such as hear it read, and preserve in memory the things which are written therein.
“For the time is at hand.” This is a reiteration of the former statement that the things must shortly come to pass, and also a reason why we should become acquainted with those things, that, when they are being fulfilled, we may know that the Judge is at the door. If the time was at hand when this revelation was given, how much nearer must it now be! If the night was then far spent, how much farther spent now! The great work to be done between the first and second coming was the calling of the Gentiles. “ God hath visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for his name.” When “the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled then shall the end come.” Now the times of the Gentiles have been of equal length with those of the Israelitish nation, from the date of their exodus from Egypt; and, being so, it may reasonably be inferred that the time is really at hand.
THE SEVEN EPISTLES.
“John, to the Seven Churches which are in Asia." The Seven Churches are those over which John presided after his release from exile ; they were placed under his special jurisdiction. And Ephesus became his abode after the martyrdom of Timothy. The Epistles were for all churches, through all time, and until his coming again. The number seven is used as a symbol for completeness, and represents the One Universal Church.
“Grace be unto you and peace.” Grace is communicated from God; in ourselves we are graceless-for in us, that is in our flesh, there dwelleth no good thing—and so the apostle testified, saying, “ By the grace of God I am what I am,” but "to every one that asketh it shall be given." "If any of you lack wisdom (saith St. James) let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.” Grace is to the soul what the sun and the rain are to the soil, and as the sun and rain come on all soils, so the grace of God cometh on all men, for the grace of God and the gift by grace which is by one man Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many, even to as many as have become dead through the offence of one man. The grace of God to all appears in bringing salvation to all. The kindness and love of God our Saviour towards man, appears, in that he died for all—and he died for all, because all were dead-but this grace may be received in vain, it may come as the rain comes upon the ground, which bringeth forth thorns and briers, and which is rejected and is nigh unto cursing ; grace may descend on hard and stony hearts, which are utterly insensible to its genial influence, it may be rejected, and so be withdrawn; but