Towards Understanding Revelation

12/23/22 REVELATION 1:1a, PART 4

Continuing on in the 19th century with Joseph Augustus Seiss:

“What concerns the subject and contents of this book, I find for the most part in the name which it gives itself. It is the common rule with Scripture names, to express the substance of the things to which they are applied. The name of God expresses what God is; so themes of the Lord Jesus Christ, and all the leading names found in the Bible. Even those which the Church has given, are often wonderfully expressive and significant, Genesis is the generation of things; Exodus, the going forth from bondage; The Gospel, the very heart and substance of all God’s gracious communications the good news. And when God himself designates this book The Revelation of Jesus Christ, we may rest assured, that it is the very substance and kernel of the book that is expressed in this title…

“It is a book of which Christ is the great subject and centre, particularly in that period of his administrations and glory designated as the day of his uncovering, the day of his appearing. It is not a mere prediction of divine judgments upon the wicked, and of the final triumph of the righteous, made known by Christ; but a book of the revelation of Christ, in his own person, offices, and future administrations, when he shall be seen coming from heaven, as he was once seen going into heaven. If ‘The Revelation of Jesus Christ’ meant nothing more than certain communications made known by Christ, I can see no significance or propriety in affixing this title to this book, rather than to any other books of holy Scripture.  Are they not all alike the revelation of Jesus Christ, in this sense? Does not Peter say of the inspired writers in general, that they were moved by the Spirit of Christ which was in them? Why then single out this particular book as ‘The Revelation of Jesus Christ,’ when it is no more the gift of Jesus than any other inspired book? Besides, it would be particularly strange, that this book should be so specially designated ‘The Revelation of Jesus Christ’ in the sense of revelation by Christ, when the book itself declares that it was not received from Christ, but from an angel or messenger of Christ. These considerations alone ought to satisfy us that there is something more distinctive and characteristic in this title than is embraced in its ordinary acceptation.  For my own part, I am perfectly convinced, from a review of the places in which the word occurs in the New Testament, as well as from all the contents of this particular part of it, that The Apocalypse, or Revelation of Jesus Christ, means Jesus Christ revealed, and uncovered to mortal view; and not merely Jesus Christ revealing, and making known hidden things to be recorded for our learning. Let me refer to a few passages bearing upon the case. 

Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians (1: 7), speaks of them as enriched in every spiritual gift, confirmed in the testimony of Christ, and ‘waiting for the Apocalypse…the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.’  The original word here is exactly the same as that in the text; the structure of the sentence is also much the same; but no one mistakes its meaning for a moment. All agree that it refers to Christ in his revelation from heaven, when he shall come in the clouds with power and great glory. And if such is its unmistakable meaning here, why not take it in the same sense in the text?” 

I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; That in every thing you are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: So that you come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:4-7; KJV)

So in Thessalonians (1:6-10) he refers his readers to a time of rest, ‘when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven (…literally, at the Apocalypse of the Lord), with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God; —when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them, that believe. ‘No one misunderstands what The Apocalypse of the Lord Jesus is in this passage. Paul himself explains it to be His coming, in just such administrations as were shown John in this book.’”

Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10; KJV)

“So again in 1 Peter 1:7, where that apostle speaks of his brethren as ‘in heaviness through manifold temptations,’ that the trial of their faith, ‘being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the Apocalypse…appearing of Jesus Christ.’ “

6Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 7That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ… (1 Peter 1:6-7; KJV)

“Also in verse 13, where he exhorts his readers to ‘be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto them at the Apocalypse…the revelation of Jesus Christ.’ All understand the reference in these passages to be to the coming of Christ in the glory of his second advent, when ‘every eye shall see him, and they which pierced him.’  We all feel that it would be a willful perversion of the word of God to make the Apocalypse ofChrist, in these passages, mean anything else than his personal appearing. And the same is the fixed meaning of this phrase in every other passage in which it is used. Even in that from Galatians (1:12), which might seem to assign it a different signification, the idea is not simply that of a revealer, but of one revealed by personal manifestation.” 

For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:12; KJV)

“Paul there avers, that the gospel he preached was not of man; ‘for,’ says he, ‘I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the Apocalypse… through the revelation ofJesus Christ;’ that is, by Christ’s personal appearance to him, as the succeeding verses show; for he straightway proceeds to narrate that marvelous affair on the way to Damascus. What that Apocalypse was, he on various occasions described.”

[The author cites Galatians as the Scripture where Paul tells his story to King Agrippa, but then he quotes a long passage from Acts. So, I’ve skipped the passage quoted by the author and add the passage from Acts.]

Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee (Acts 26:12-16; KJV)

“Hence his appeal in vindication of his apostleship. ‘Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord ?” (1 Cor. 9:1.)’”

Am I am not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not you my work in the Lord? (1 Corinthians 9:1; KJV)

All this shows, as conclusively as may be, that the Apocalypse of Christ, through which he obtained, at once his office and his text, was a personal appearance, as every real Apocalypse predicated of a person must be. 

“With the meaning of this word thus established, what can that book be, of which it is descriptive, but an account of the revelation of Christ in his personal forthcoming from his present invisible estate, to receive his Bride, judge the wicked, and set up his eternal kingdom on the earth.”  [from THE APOCALYPSE, A SERIES OF SPECIAL LECTURES ON THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST, VOL 1, by J. A. Seiss, 1865] 

As we see here, Mr. Seiss is in the camp of Revelation being about, and also revealed by, Jesus Christ. He uses the same method of deciding on this as John Cumming, but decides that Jesus is both subject and object, rather than just object. I tend to see it the same way as Mr. Seiss.

Here’s the next author:

“The Lord Jesus, in his mediatorial character, is the great Prophet of the church, the incarnate ‘Word of God’, by whom he reveals himself to men.(Notes, Deut. xviii. 15-19, John i. 4-9, Col. iii. 16,17. 1 Pet. i. 10-12.)”

15The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him you shall hearken; 16According to all that thou desiredst of the Lord thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. 17And the Lord said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. 18I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. 19And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. (Deuteronomy 18:15-19; KJV) 

4In him was life; and the life was the light of men.  5And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.  6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  7The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.  8He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.  9That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. (John 1:4-9; KJV)

16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17And whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. (Colossians 3:16-17; KJV)

10Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: 11Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. 12Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into. (1 Peter 1:10-12; KJV) 

I’m not sure these quotes speak exactly to what the author was speaking about. There are some rather vague references to prophets and prophesy (the Deuteronomy quote could refer to Jesus, but there were many prophets between that time and Jesus’ time), and some slight dancing around the ‘Word of God’ title. I can think of better references, such as:

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:14; KJV)

Back to the quote:

“In this sense some things were given to him, ‘as his revelation,’ to be through him communicated to his servants, and others were not. (Note, Mark xii. 32.) 

  And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: (Mark 12:32; KJV) 

Another questionable reference: surely the Jews had learned this truth before Jesus came! Wouldn’t this be more relevant to the revelation of Christ:  

But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. (Matthew 24:36; KJV)

And back to the quote:

“An infinity of the divine designs of decrees remain impenetrably concealed in the mind of God, till the event discovers them; but he has seen good previously to make known some of his purposes respecting future ages, in order to confirm the faith, encourage the hope, and enlarge the views of his people; and that the accomplishment of them, in after times, might demonstrate the truth of the scriptures to every diligent enquirer. (Note, Deut. xxix. 29.)”. [from THE HOLY BIBLE; CONTAINING THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS, VOL. 6, by Thomas Scott, 1866]

The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29; KJV)

I think the “secret things” of the Father are important to bare in mind. He will always know more than we do. We are lucky to understand that which He has shared with us.

The next author introduces a rabbit hole that I would like to explore a bit. The book is called THE ANTITHESIS BETWEEN SYMBOLISM AND REVELATION, by Prof. Abraham Kuyper. It’s basically a lecture that was given to the Historical Presbyterian Society in Philadelphia, published in 1867. Of course, when I saved the pdf I thought the book referred to Revelation the book; but on reading it I found that he is actually referring to revelation as a noun…even though he repeatedly capitalizes it.  The rabbit hole is this: his thesis is that Symbolism is not only the opposite of Revelation, but that it stops Revelation. His, and the Society’s, complaint is that the children of the day were moving to the Episcopalian church, away from the more Calvinist churches, because they were seeking that very addictive thing called Symbolism. He goes on to state that the Episcopalian church adds more and more Symbolism and ritual every year, getting closer and closer to the Roman church. Here are two interesting quotes:

“Freemasonry aims at the Infinite, but rejects all revelation, and therefore it created from the very first, and still advocates, the most explicit and elaborated symbolism. Spiritism, on the contrary, is almost choked with thirst for revelation from the other side of the tomb, and consequently knows of no symbolical fancy whatsoever. 

“So Revelation and Symbolism are opposed one to the other by principle. Both have in view to establish a perceivable relation between the Infinite and the finite, but they are so diametrically opposed, that by the means of Revelation it is the infinite Being himself who unveils and stipulates the relation to be accepted by the finite creature by faith; — and that, on the other hand, on the field of Symbolism, it is the finite man who conventionally coins such a relation symbolically, to be grasped not by faith, but by sensation.” 

This idea intrigues me. I can see how Symbolism is addictive. I had an English professor in college who was so addicted to it that she saw sexual symbolism is absolutely everything. It got to be hilarious; and it made tests really easy. 

I suspect that when you use Symbolism to understand something, your brain gets a dopamine boost, or something similar….as Mr. Kuyper says…a sensation. At the very least, it takes something revealed by God, and turns it into something that man has provided for himself, and the boost comes from that achievement. And ritual seems to go along with it: it is, again, something that man often provides for himself. 

There are some God-given exceptions to both of these. The Bible is very clear when something is symbolic, such as the lamp stands in Revelation; and, among many others, Christ gave us the ritual of bread and wine, and God provided multiple Jewish rituals. It’s the man-made pomp and circumstance that, when added to Symbolism, can get us into trouble. I will keep thinking about this, but for now, on with Revelation.

Our next author was a self-taught man who sounds like he was a real rabble-rouser. Here’s his quote on the first phrase:

“…at the first verse of this first chapter we have the expression—’the Revelation of Jesus Christ.’ The word revelation is there. Something that is dark, obscure, that cannot be understood? Are these the definitions that apply to the word ‘Revelation?’ Hardly. It is a revelation–something made known. But what? It is stated here, I only know as the Lord himself has given it.” [from THE VOICE OF SEVEN THUNDERS or LECTURES ON THE APOCALYPSE, by Joseph Lemuel Martin, 1870]

You can tell from this first quote he was a down-home kind of guy from Indiana. Boys were only allowed to go to school until the age of 9 at that time and place; after that they were required to help on the family farm. J.L. Martin worked the farm from age 9 to 14, and then made a contract with his father to disinherit himself and to allow him to continue with about 4 months more schooling. At 16 he learned cabinet-making and worked the summer in that trade, while teaching during the winter (and learning as he taught). He paid his father $75 a year to replace his labor on the farm! Anyway, you get the idea of what his life was like. He went into preaching, but like everything else, he did it on his own terms. He should be interesting to follow as we go on.

Here’s the last author for today:

We, who live at a distance of more than seventeen hundred years from the date of the Apocalypse, and look back from our own age to that of St. John, know what the prospect was, which was seen by Him who dictated the Apocalypse—‘the Revelation of Jesus Christ.’ 

   “We also know, that some things lie still beyond us, which were foretold by Patriarchs and Prophets, and were clearly foreseen by Christ. His Second Advent, the General Resurrection, the Universal Judgment, the joys of Heaven, and the pains of Hell, these things lay open to His eye… Ireneaus…says, ‘the Apocalypse was seen’…; a passage which shows that this title of the book, ‘the Apocalypse’ is very ancient, probably from St. John himself.

   “It is this act of revealing which the title describes….it is the office of revealing the future which is assigned to Christ by God, and this truth is declared in the name and contents of the Apocalypse. Accordingly we shall see that it is Christ, Who commands John to write the seven Epistles to the Seven Churches, and reveals what some of them will suffer.”   [from THE NEW TESTAMENT OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST, IT THE ORIGINAL GREEK, VOL 2, by Charles Wordsworth, 1872]

In case your wondering, Charles Wordsworth was the nephew of William Wordsworth, the famous English poet.

Obviously, he saw Revelation as revealed by Christ, rather than as Christ  revealed. And, he saw what was being revealed as ‘the future.’

I’m thinking about making a table outlining who believes what. It might help you pick books to read that either bolster your views, or challenge them. Both are good!

Next time we’ll continue in the 1870’s, and maybe be able to hit the 1880’s.


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