Towards Understanding Revelation

1/7/23 REVELATION 1:1a, PART 5

And still in the 19th century:

The Apocalypse is the mystery of Christ, or the mystical account of His kingdom from the day of Pentecost till the day of Judgment; not strictly predictive, but interweaving the past, present, and future as seen of God. There is a Divine dignity in the opening words, as in St. John’s Gospel and general Epistle.” [from THE APOCALYPSE WITH NOTES AND REFLECTIONS, by Isaac Williams, 1873]

Mr. Williams is harkening back to earlier times, stating that Revelation is about the history of the Church. At least he sees that Revelation has some future events, though “not strictly predictive.” It’s funny, but I don’t think I’ve ever read about any other Bible prophecy being “not strictly predictive.”

The next quote:

“THIS book is announced as The Revelation of Jesus Christ. The word here translated Revelation occurs, in its substantive and verbal form, in numerous instances in the New Testament, and is variously rendered: Revelation (Rom. ii. 5); manifestation (viii. 9); appearing (1 Peter i. 7); coming (1 Cor. i. 7); enlightening (Luke ii. 32). 

But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; (Romans 2:5; NKJV)

But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is His. (Romans 8:9; KJV) [There doesn’t appear to be any word in this passage that means ‘revelation’ or ‘manifestation.’ I even checked the interlinear Bible and could not find it. I also looked up ‘manifestation’ and could find no other NT book with that word in verse 8:9 or even close. It must be a typo.]

That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ; (1 Peter 1:7; KJV)

So that you come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: (1 Corinthians 1:7; KJV)

A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. (Luke 2:32; KJV)  [a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel — NIV

“It literally means, to disclose what is hidden, to discover what is concealed. There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed (Luke xii. 2). 

For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. (Luke 12:2; KJV)

“It is therefore appropriately employed to express the manifestation of iniquity in the last days, and the revelation or appearing of the Lord at His Second Coming…The Revelation discloses or reveals the state of the church, or of religion, as it would be in the last days, when darkened by error and corrupted by evil, and the coming of the Lord to restore it. The Revelation, it is true, requires itself to be revealed. But all prophecy needs interpretation. Future events are known to God only. He foretells them, to keep alive faith in His promises and dependence on His providence; but not until the time of their fulfillment is the true import of His prophecies revealed. And He who is the Revelator must also be the Interpreter. The Lord gives His revelations through His servants; and as the revelation comes through a chosen medium, so does the interpretation. God is His own interpreter.”

This one has nailed it in my humble opinion. Revelation absolutely expresses “the manifestation of iniquity in the last days,” as well as the state of the church at that time. And of course the Second Coming is foretold. I totally agree that “not until the time of their fulfillment is the true import of His prophecies revealed.” Then there are the new thoughts: “The Revelation, it is true, requires itself to be revealed…He who is the Revelator must also be the Interpreter…God is His own interpreter.” These seem like obvious statements, but truly I never thought about these things this way. Revelation, by it’s very meaning, implies that it must be revealed. How obvious, and yet how profound. For us to understand, then the Revelator must be the interpreter, whether God interprets the revelation through the playing out of events, or, that He provides an explanation through an additional chosen (and perhaps future) medium. Very interesting thought. The quote continues:

“The Revelation of Jesus Christ first of all reveals Himself. Light is that which doth make manifest. But that which manifests all else manifests itself. This book completes and perfects the revealed Word of God, and it is eminently the Revelation of Jesus Christ, as the God and Savior of men, the Guilder and Maker of the city which hath twelve foundations—the last and best Dispensation of the Church on earth, the holy city New Jerusalem. The Gospel reveals Jesus chiefly as He appeared among men in His state of humiliation; the Apocalypse reveals Him as He appears among angels, and as by the eye of faith He is to be seen by men, in His state of exaltation. The Gospel therefore describes the Lord as manifested in the flesh, and to the church of His First Advent; the Apocalypse describes Him as manifested in the spirit, and to the church of His Second Advent.” [from COMMENTARY ON THE REVELATION OF ST. JOHN, by William Bruce, 1877]

The first three lines of this last paragraph harken back to the previous paragraph regarding interpretation. He implies that Christ revealing Himself provides Light, is Light. When light is revealed, it is also made manifest…in seeing it, it exists…when we don’t see it, it doesn’t exist. And when light is present, we see the world…it all exists. The absence of light effectively reduces the world to darkness. Think about this in terms of Christ in your life. Perhaps you have already thought about this.  I’ve certainly thought about Christ as the light of the world, but not quite in this way. Such an amazing idea.

The next quote:

“Let us consider the contents of this book as they are described by the Spirit himself. The book is called the Revelation. The word which is thus translated has become familiar in its English dress. It is the Apocalypse. This book is almost as frequently called “the Apocalypse” as “the Revelation.” But this name is sometimes confounded, especially by the young, with the Apocrypha, a name which is applied to those un­inspired books which are found in some Bibles between the Old Testament and the New. There is a similarity in the names, but they have an oppo­site meaning. Apocrypha means that which is covered or hidden; Apoca­lypse means that which is uncovered or revealed. 

“This book is not only the Revelation, it is the Revelation of Jesus Christ. This does not mean, as many seem to think, that it is a revelation given by Jesus Christ, for in this respect it does not differ from any other book in the Bible. They are all given by Christ, and inspired by his Spirit. It means that it is a revelation of Jesus Christ; that is, it reveals Christ; it makes him known. It is true that in this sense the gospels are a revelation of Jesus Christ. They reveal him as the suffering, dying, buried Savior of his people. They reveal him as he was when he came to earth to do his Father’s will. This book reveals him in a new light. It reveals him as conqueror over his enemies and Lord over his earthly church, leading it to final victory, and making all things work together for its good. It also reveals him as the Supreme Judge of all the gathered multitudes of the universe.  This book, then, is a revelation or apocalypse of Jesus Christ, different from any other which the Spirit has given us in the holy word. As the gospels contain a revelation of his first coming and of his earthly life, so this book contains a revelation of his heavenly life and of his second coming, when he shall come the second time without sin unto salvation. Therefore, in the study of this book, we may expect to find such a revelation of Jesus Christ as is not vouchsafed to us elsewhere; we may expect to find descriptions of glory which will fill our souls with com­fort and with unutterable longings for the things which are to be hereafter.” [from LECTURES ON THE REVELATION, by William J. Reid, 1878]

A very nice quote. He covers the question of whether Christ is the Revealed or the Revealer in a theological manner rather than in a linguistic one. And a very nice summation of the difference between the presentation of Jesus in Revelation vs the rest of the New Testament.

Now the next quote:

“The religious sense of the word Apocalypse…is unknown to Classical writers; nor does it occur in the Septuagint in the sense of a Divine communication…it denotes the act of revealing a Divine mystery (Eph. 3:3).” [i.e. revelation as a verb]

How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words (Ephesians 3:3; KJV)

   “It has also come to signify that which is itself revealed (1 Cor. 14:26).”  [i.e. revelation as a noun]

How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. (1 Corinthians 14:26; KJV)

“Revelation’ on the part of God is the foundation of all true prophecy on the side of man, a spiritual intuition or vision is to be presupposed.”   [from THE HOLY BIBLE ACCORDING TO THE AUTHORIZED VERSION (AD 1611), WITH AN EXPLANATORY AND CRITICAL COMMENTARY, VOL. 4, by F. C. Cook, 1881]

A very basic run down on how the word meaning ‘revelation’ is used in Scripture. Not really providing an interpretation; avoiding taking a stand.

We’ll move on:

“The Revelation, the unveiling of the purposes of God concerning the church. It denotes either the act or the result of the act; here the latter. It comes from the Father to the Son, and from him through his angel to John.”   [from THE BOOK OF REVELATION; OR, THE LAST VOLUME OF PROPHECY, by James. G. Murphy, 1882]

A bit of a stand here: he is stating that Revelation is about God’s plans for the church. Again, I disagree with this; chapters 3 and 4 deal with the state of the church, but hardly shows God’s “purposes” or plan for it, at least in my opinion.

The other opinion he presents is done a bit differently than any we’ve seen before. He says that “the Revelation…denotes either the act or the result of the act; here the latter.” I think that the “act” that he refers to is the act of revelation, i.e., revelation as a verb; and in saying “the result of the act,” he is referring to revelation as a noun. His conclusion: “here the latter” is saying that Jesus is the Revealer, not the Revealed.

And the next quote:

Revelation. The word implies that the book which opens thus is to have a special character…it implies that the contents of the book are to be more than simply inspired teaching; they are prophecy, and more even than in the general sense prophetic, for they are apocalyptic. They are an ‘uncovering’ of things hidden. Of Jesus Christ. The form of the expression may imply, either that Jesus Christ is the Revealer, or that he is the subject of the Revelation.”  [from THE REVELATION OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE, by Justin A. Smith, 1884]

For the first time we are seeing the word ‘apocalyptic’ being used to mean something beyond a ‘revelation.’ Truly, a ‘revelation’ can mean “simply an inspired teaching” and not just a ‘prophecy,’ as long as that teaching is new and previously unseen. As we’ve seen before, the word ‘apocalypse’ is the Greek-based English word having the same meaning as the Latin-based English word ‘revelation;’ however, in common parlance, people have taken ‘apocalypse’ and ‘apocalyptic’ to mean something huge and terrible, and that is how the author appears to be using it here.

Note that the author is not taking a stand on whether Jesus Christ is the Revealed, the Revealer, or both. Maybe he will later on.

We move on:

“… the book is a revelation of Jesus Christ; not so much a revelation of what Jesus Christ Himself is, as one of which He is the Author and Source. He is the Head of His Church, reigning supreme in His heavenly abode. He is the Eternal Son, the Word without whom was not anything made that was made, and who executes all the purposes of the Father, ‘the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever.’  He is at the same time ‘Head over all things to the Church.’ He regulates her fortunes. He controls in her behalf the events of history. He fills the cup which He puts into her hand with prosperity or adversity, with joy or sorrow, with victory or defeat. Who else can impart a revelation so true, so weighty, and so precious?”  [from THE BOOK OF REVELATION, by William Milligan, 1886]

Mr. Milligan seems to be taking the stance that, because Christ is the Head of the Church, then this Revelation from Christ is about the Church. As I said earlier, I think part of it is about the Church, but not the majority of it.

I really like his statement “He is the Eternal Son, the Word without whom was not anything made that was made, and who executes all the purposes of the Father”.  I’m not sure that I’ve seen it put exactly that way before. It’s almost a quote from John’s Gospel, but not quite. Mr. Milligan is summing up John 1:1-5 with the phrase “[He] who executes all the purposes of the Father.” I find this an interesting summation and a different way to think of the great Mediator.

While I agree that Christ is the Head of the Church, I don’t agree with Mr. Milligan’s take on Christ ‘controlling’ and ‘regulating’ and ‘filling’ everything on ‘behalf’ of the Church. The Body of the Church is made up of imperfect men, and while Christ leads us, we are free to not follow Him. More than that, Christ does not make the way smooth for the Church just because it’s His Church. The way is smooth only when the Body is following the Head, which is infrequent at best unfortunately.

Next to the last quote for the day:

“…by the context Jesus Christ is designated as the author and the communicating witness…In conflict with the text, and in itself incorrect, is the remark of Calov [Abraham Calov or Calovius, 1612-1686, a Prussian Lutheran theologian]:  ‘It was given to Christ according to his human nature;’ still more, that of C. a Lap. and Tirin [I am unable to identify either of these gentlemen]: ‘Christ received the revelation from the Father in his conception and incarnation.’ The revelation described in this book, Christ received from the Father, not in the flesh, but when exalted and glorified, the perpetual mediator between God and man, in order to communicate it by his testimony to the prophetic seer, and thus besides to all his servants. Not so far as he is man, but so far as he is the Son, does the Father give to him.”   [from HANDBOOK TO THE REVELATION OF JOHN, by Friedrich Dusterdieck, 1887]

We’ve seen the thought before that Christ was given the Revelation in deference to his “human nature.” It’s an interesting thought, but Mr. Dusterdieck doesn’t agree with it. Personally, I think that Jesus’ human nature is what made Him the Mediator to mankind, so to say that the Revelation was given to Him due to this human nature is actually saying that it was given to Him as Mediator. So in that sense I disagree with Mr. Dusterdieck. If, on the other hand, it is meant that just because of His human nature, Christ was given the Revelation…that it could have been any random, pious human being…then I agree with Mr. Dusterdieck.

The second statement, “Christ received the revelation from the Father in his conception and incarnation,” I definitely agree with Mr. Dusterdieck’s conclusion that Christ did not receive this revelation in the flesh.

Last quote:

“The book is a revelation, a drawing back of the veil which, to the merely human eye, hangs over the purposes of God; and it is a revelation of Jesus Christ, that, not a revelation of what Jesus Christ is, but a revelation which Jesus Christ gives to His Church, even as the Father had given it to Him. As in the Gospel of St. John, God the Father is here the fountain of all blessing; but whatever He has He gives to the Son (John 7:16, 12:49, 14:10, 17:7,8); 

   Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. (John 7:16; KJV)

   For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. (John 12:49; KJV)

   Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. (John 14:10; KJV)

   Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. (John 17:7-8; KJV)

“and whatever the Son has He in His turn makes His people share…We have thus Jesus introduced to us, not simply as He was on earth, but as He has passed through the sufferings of earth to the glory of heaven.”  [from THE ILLUSTRATED COMMENTARY ON THE NEW TESTAMENT IN FOUR VOLUMES, VOL.4: THE CATHOLIC EPISTLES AND REVELATION, by Philip Schaff, 1890]

This is one of those that try to walk the line. First he says “not a revelation of what Jesus Christ is, but a revelation which Jesus Christ gives to His Church,” then later he says “We have thus Jesus introduced to us, not simply as He was on earth, but as He has passed through the sufferings of earth to the glory of heaven,” implying that the revelation is also of Jesus Himself, despite the earlier statement denying that.

That’s enough for today. I will try to finish up the 19th century next time.

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