Good morning all! Today we finish off the 19th century, starting with John (1805-1877) and Jacob (1803-1879) Abbott. These two brothers were both prolific writers, and they teamed up on the book: ILLUSTRATED NEW TESTAMENT — REVELATION, published in 1878 (which was posthumously for John). They provide us with a very no-nonsense quote:
“…a great number of systems have been advanced for connecting these prophecies with the subsequent events of history. In these labors a vast amount of learned research and ingenuity has been expended, and, as it would seem much of it expended in vain; for they have produced, on the whole, no very satisfactory results; and, indeed, we may safely suppose that, when divine predictions, given for the express purpose of authenticating revelation, shall be fulfilled, the correspondence of the event with the prediction will not be one which it will require minute and labored ingenuity to show.”
I was born and raised in New Hampshire, and the Abbott brothers were born and raised in Maine…I can tell. This quote is acerbic just like a New Englander, especially northern New England. Sounds like a piece of home. And, I agree with it very much!
The next author is William Milligan (1821-1893), a Presbyterian minister, scholar, and theologian of Scotland. He wrote two books on Revelation, one published in 1886, the other in 1902. The one I’m quoting from today is THE REVELATION OF ST JOHN from 1886:
“…the conception of the Apocalypse is powerfully moulded by St. John’s recollections of the life of Jesus. What these recollections were we know from that Gospel which is also the production of his pen; and the strong individuality of which, stamped upon its every line, reveals not the influence of a general tradition as it appears in the three earlier Gospels, but the manner in which St. John himself recalled the life of his Divine Master upon earth…When we compare the two [John’s Gospel with Revelation] we shall find that, alike in general scope and in particular details, the Gospel is the model of the Apocalypse; that all the lines of the one are followed in the other; and that, separated as the two books are in many of their outward features by what is often thought an impassable gulf, the later is yet, in the deeper conceptions which pervade it, a repetition of the earlier.
“One point of distinction must indeed be kept steadily in view. The two books are written from a different standpoint. The Gospel is the record of the Word made flesh, of the Life come down from heaven to give life unto the world, of the creation of the union between Christ and His people. In the Apocalypse this union has been formed and is seen subsisting. The Son of God in the glory of His Ascension-state is still the Son of man, and the latter aspect of His Person becomes prominent. In the very first vision He is spoken of as ‘like unto a Son of man.’ He is the great High Priest and King of His people, not so much the eternal Logos (although He is that also) as He who became dead, and behold. He is alive for evermore.”
In earlier posts we’ve seen writers declare that the styles of the Revelation and John’s Gospel were so disparate that they really doubted that John wrote Revelation. Well, Mr. Milligan would beg to differ, and I’m glad. I don’t pretend to be knowledgeable enough to determine this for myself, but I also am so ignorant that I don’t let the Greek mess with my conclusions, which is what is usually going on when they can’t reconcile the two books…because the Greek is supposed to be so bad in Revelation and yet sublime in the Gospel. Just looking at content, my sense is that they are very similar, so I’m happy that someone learned agrees with me.
The last author is Uriah Smith (1832-1903), another New Englander, but this time from southern New Hampshire. He was born in Wilton, N.H., one my high school’s biggest rivals in basketball in the 60’s. Wikipedia reports him as having gone through “The Great Disappointment” in 1844 (at age 13)…this was when Baptist preacher William Miller decided that Jesus would return by 1844, and of course He didn’t. This put Uriah off of religion until later on when he became a Seventh-Day Adventist. One other point of interest: Uriah had his left leg amputated in 1844 as well, secondary to an infection.
The book I’m quoting from is DANIEL AND REVELATION, published in 1897. The Introduction to the Book of Revelation is pretty short and sweet, so here it is:
“The Revelation, usually termed “The Apocalypse,” from its Greek name, Apokalypsis, meaning “a disclosure, a revelation,” has been described to be “a panorama of the glory of Christ.” In the Evangelists we have the record of His humiliation, His condescension, His toil and sufferings, His patience, His mockings by those who should have done Him reverence, and finally His death upon the shameful cross a death esteemed in that age to be the most ignominious that men could inflict. In the Revelation we have the gospel of His enthronement in glory, His association with the Father upon the throne of universal dominion, His overruling providence among the nations of the earth, and His coming again, not a homeless stranger, but in power and great glory, to punish His enemies and reward His followers.
“Scenes of glory surpassing fable are unveiled before us in this book. Appeals of unwonted power bear down upon the impenitent from its sacred pages in threatenings of judgment that have no parallel in any other portion of the book of God. Consolation which no language can describe is here given to the humble followers of Christ in this world. No other book takes us at once, and so irresistibly, into another sphere. Long vistas are here opened before us, which are bounded by no terrestrial objects, but carry us forward into other worlds. And if ever themes of thrilling and impressive interest, and grand and lofty imagery, and sublime and magnificent description, can invite the attention of mankind, then the Revelation invites us to a careful study of its pages, which urge upon our notice the realities of a momentous future and an unseen world.”
No acerbic language here! It’s a fine comparison of the content of the Gospels with that of Revelation, showing their differences, and yet also their similarities as Revelation picks up where the Gospels left off. John’s Gospel deals more with the spiritual, which is why I think has stronger similarities with Revelation.
The final paragraph of the quote is a perfect description of how people can view Revelation, even when they don’t understand it. He mentions the terrible judgments, unlike any thing else in the Bible; he talks about the consolation offered; he tells how Heaven is described in it’s wonder; and he describes how we should be drawn to Revelation as it tells about our future. A very compelling preface.
The next post moves into the 20th century. I’m trying to choose at least one author from each decade. Many of the powerhouse pastors and commentators of the 20th century wrote specifically on Revelation, mirroring the increasing interest of the public. Meanwhile, I’ll be praying that your interest and excitement about Revelation is building.