Revelation 1:4a: Particular Inscription to the Seven Churches

Verse 4:[1] John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him (Ex. 3:14; Rev. 1:8) which is, and (John 1:1) which was, and which is to come; (Zech. 3:9; 4:10; Rev. 3:1; 4:5; 5:6) and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne…

[John to the seven Churches (the names of which are related in verse 11 [Piscator]) which are in Asia] Namely, Asia Minor (Ribera, Zegers, Cluverus, Menochius), in which these seven cities were (Ribera): or, in Asia, properly so called, where the Kingdom of Gog had been[2] (Grotius): in Asia, Lydian or Proconsular, as the Most Reverend Ussher demonstrates in great detail in a tractate concerning this matter:[3] thus Asia is taken in Acts 19:26 and 20:18 (Hammond). To the seven, that is, either, 1. to all the Churches (Bede and Arethas[4] in Ribera, thus a great many in Pererius): for the whole is wont to be designated by number seven (Ribera), which is the number of perfection (Pareus). Or, 2. to seven properly (Pererius, Ribera, Pareus), since they are διακριτικῶς/separately named (Pareus, similarly Pererius). Now, unto those he writes in particular (Grotius); either, 1. because they were more excellent than the others (Cluverus, Durham), and were the principal cities (Grotius), and the metropolitan cities (Apocalyptic Harmony, Hammond); as the seat of the Roman Proconsuls, as testify Ulpianus,[5] Ptolemy[6] in his Geography 1, 2, and Pliny[7] in his Natural History 6:29, 30 (Hammond): or, 2. because, as long as he was able, he, being present, had governed those (Grotius); because they had fallen to him in the division of the lands, and he had taught in them for a long time (Ribera); because they had been founded either by himself (Jerome in Apocalyptic Harmony), or rather were founded by Peter and Paul, but were taken up and cared for by John after the martyrdom of those: or, 3. because these were having a need for correction more than others: or, 4. because here the propagation of the Gospel first flourished (Apocalyptic Harmony): or, 5. because heresies were springing forth there, and the Christians were disquieted, and there was a danger that they might fall away from the sincerity of the faith (Pererius): and upon these Churches he had foreseen that the fury of Satan was first going to lie (Apocalyptic Harmony, similarly Durham). But under the name of them he tacitly comprehends also other Churches, for their states and qualities are able to be applied unto seven classes, as it were, an example of which classes those Asiatic Churches provide (Grotius). What he writes to these seven churches he writes to all others; just as Paul, what things he wrote to the Romans or Corinthians, wrote for the use of all the faithful also (Menochius, similarly Durham). And John wished this Prophecy to be transmitted from these Churches to the others (Durham). John made those Churches repositories of this book, so that by them it might be kept and carried to all Christians. But also those seven Churches, distinct with respect to locations, were enigmatically signifying the universal Church in distinct times all the way unto the end of the world. What? Does Christ walk only among the seven Churchs? or hold only the seven stars in His hand? or is the Holy Spirit the Spirit of these only? And what morning star arose to the Church of Thyatira according to promise? And what notable preservation of the Philadelphian Church? Neither is it proven that the remaining things written here happened in those Churches. Therefore, by their names he understands the Church of all times (Cocceius).

John to the seven churches which are in Asia: John, the apostle and evangelist, writes either to all the churches of Asia under the notion of seven, (which is the number of perfection,) or to those seven churches mentioned Revelation 1:11, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea, seven famous places in Asia the Less, where the gospel was planted; which being the most famous churches in that part of the world, John is commanded to deposit this prophecy in their hands, by them to be communicated unto other churches. These churches were in the most famous cities of the Lesser Asia: some think John was the apostle that preached most in Asia, and founded these churches; others, that though they were founded by Peter and Paul, yet after their death John took upon him the charge of them. It is the opinion of some learned men, that the apostle did not, in the epistles to the churches in Asia, design only to tell them of their error, and prescribe to their cure; but that in writing to them, he assigns both a prophetical instruction of us all concerning the state of the church in all periods from that time to the day of judgment, and also to reprove and counsel all present and succeeding churches; but of this we may possibly speak more afterward.

[1] Greek: Ἰωάννης ταῖς ἑπτὰ ἐκκλησίαις ταῖς ἐν τῇ Ἀσίᾳ· χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ Θεοῦ ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος· καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν ἑπτὰ πνευμάτων ἃ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θρόνου αὐτοῦ.

[2] It is thought that Gog was located in the region between and around the Black and Caspian seas.  See Genesis 10:2.

[3] A Geographical and Historical Disquisition, Touching the Asia properly so Called, the Lydian Asia (Which Is the Asia so often Mentioned in the New Testament), the Proconsular Asia, and the Asian Diocese.

[4] Arethas of Cæsarea (ninth century) was a Greek Orthodox bishop and scholar.  He compiled a scholia on the Apocalypse, the oldest extant.

[5] Domitius Ulpianus (d. 228 AD) was a Roman jurist.

[6] Claudius Ptolemæus (c. 90-c. 168), of Roman Alexandria, was a scientist and thinker of great profundity; and his contribution to the fields of geography and astronomy in the Western world has been enormous.

[7] Gaius Plinius Secundus, or Pliny the Elder (23-79), distinguished himself as a learned author, a distinguished Roman Procurator, and a courageous soldier.

Revelation 1:3: The Blessedness of Bible Study

Verse 3:[1] (Luke 11:28; Rev. 22:7) Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for (Rom. 13:11; Jam. 5:8; 1 Pet. 4:7; Rev. 22:10) the time is at hand.

[Blessed is he who, etc., μακάριος ὁ ἀναγινώσκων, καὶ οἱ ἀκούοντες τοὺς λόγους τῆς, etc.] Thus Daniel 12:12, μακάριος ὁ ὑπομένων, blessed is he that waits.[2] The foresignified retributions of God against the Jews and Romans were able to convey solace to Christians everywhere vexed. See Revelation 13:10 (Grotius). He commends the book, which he foresaw would come to seem useless to many (Durham). The sense: It is exceedingly profitable to read, to learn, and to keep those things that are found here (Menochius). For all these are to be joined (Ribera). [Thus they translate:] He that reads, and (understand, blessed are they [Piscator, Beza]) that hear (a Hebraic change of number [Beza]: he reads, they hear: for we read alone, we hear joined together [Cotterius, similarly Cluverus]: He adds this, that this book was not going to reach unto all immediately; but those that had obtained it were going to read aloud in good faith to others those things that they had read [Grotius]: Or, he changes the number, lest the unlearned, ignorant of reading, should appear to be excluded from this fruit [Pareus, similarly Durham]; and so that the public reading, hearing, and interpretation, of this book might be commended before all [Durham]: But with what fruit will we read and hear what we do not grasp? Response: God will be near and influence those piously reading these mysteries [Cotterius], and the seals of this book have already been opened [Durham]) the words (the word, verse 2: The word is one, as true, manifold, as it truly contains many things [Cotterius]) of this prophecy (τῆς, of the, in the place of ταύτης, of this:[3] See Romans 11:29 [Grotius]: Even if past and present things are described, verse 19 [Cotterius], yet future things principally, with respect to which it is called a Prophecy [Cotterius, similarly Durham]), and keep (that is, retain in memory [Grotius, similarly Lapide, Piscator], in such a way that they often consider them, and have confidence in them, and establish their lives according to those things [Piscator]: Or, observe [Beza, Gomar] through faith of the truth and love of the precepts [Gomar]) those things which are written in it (Piscator, Beza, etc.), namely, so that they might compare them with events, whence they might be further reinforced in faith (Grotius); so that they might be stirred by them unto obedience to God, and a holy life, and suffering for Christ (Lapide). Question: But how are we hence rendered blessed? Response: Because the Apocalypse discusses everywhere the ends especially of good men and of evil men, and the means unto those: the very calamities also, which are here predicted, cry out that there must be repentance (Cotterius). Blessed are they, because they know such things to be guided, not by chance, but by divine providence; because they are not offended by the cross of the Church, but persevere in it; because they know that the insolence of enemies is only going to endure for a brief time, and that they are in the end going to reign with Christ eternally (Apocalyptic Harmony). Τηρεῖν, to keep, here is the same as συντηρεῖν in Luke 2:19,[4] and διατηρεῖν in Luke 2:51[5] (Grotius).

Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy: from hence is well concluded, that this is a portion of holy writ to be read publicly and privately, otherwise no blessing would have been pronounced to the readers or the hearers of it. It is also well from hence concluded, that this book is no history of things done, but a prediction of things to come to pass; for though prophecy in some scriptures signifieth more largely the revelation of the Divine will, yet here it must signify strictly. And keep those things which are written therein; that keep it in memory, and live in view of it, and as persons that believe it; they are blessed, as they will from it be comforted, concerning all the sufferings of the church, and people of God.

[The time, etc., καιρὸς, etc.] For the time (either, 1. in which those things will begin to be accomplished [Piscator]: or, 2. of certain things; as concerning the civil wars of the Romans, concerning the destruction of Jerusalem [Grotius]: or, 3. of judgment, or of blessedness [Menochius]; or, of seizing thence the most abundant fruit [Lapide, similarly Menochius, Tirinus], that is, for him that reads the words, hears in faith, and keeps in deed [Gagnæus]: Concerning the word καιρὸς, see Acts 1:7[6] [Grotius]: It is a moment of time [Camerarius]; or, an occasion, or opportuneness of time: In which he tacitly admonishes that present persecutions are not so much calamities as opportunities for rewards and crowns [Ribera, similarly Lapide]) is at hand (Piscator, Beza), or, is near (Camerarius), so that it is possible that some now living might attain to it (Piscator). Thus he renders them more attentive and vigilant, and excites them by the hope of near reward (Ribera). In the writings of the Prophets, קָרֺב יוֹם, near is the day, is common, as in Deuteronomy 32:35;[7] Isaiah 13:6;[8] Jeremiah 48:16;[9] Joel 1:15;[10] Obadiah 15;[11] Zephaniah 1:7,[12] 14.[13] John does not wish to be objected to himself what had been objected to Ezekiel, Ezekiel 12:27 (Grotius).

For the time is at hand; the season for the accomplishment of these things is nigh, not past, but the time when they shall begin to happen is not very far off.

[1] Greek: μακάριος ὁ ἀναγινώσκων, καὶ οἱ ἀκούοντες τοὺς λόγους τῆς προφητείας καὶ τηροῦντες τὰ ἐν αὐτῇ γεγραμμένα· ὁ γὰρ καιρὸς ἐγγύς.

[2] Thus Theodotion.

[3] The demonstrative use of the definite article.

[4] Luke 2:19:  “But Mary kept (συνετήρει) all these things, and pondered them in her heart.”

[5] Luke 2:51b:  “…but his mother kept (διετήρει) all these sayings in her heart.”

[6] Acts 1:7b:  “…It is not for you to know the times or the seasons (χρόνους ἢ καιροὺς), which the Father hath put in his own power.”

[7] Deuteronomy 32:35:  “To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time:  for near is the day (קָרוֹב֙ י֣וֹם) of their calamity, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.”

[8] Isaiah 13:6:  “Howl ye; for near is the day (קָר֖וֹב י֣וֹם) of the Lord; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty.”

[9] Jeremiah 48:16:  “The calamity of Moab is near (קָרוֹב) to come, and his affliction hasteth fast.”

[10] Joel 1:15:  “Alas for the day! for near is the day (קָרוֹב֙ י֣וֹם) of the Lord, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.”

[11] Obadiah 15a:  “For near is the day of the Lord (קָר֥וֹב יוֹם־יְהוָ֖ה) upon all the heathen…”

[12] Zephaniah 1:7:  “Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord God: for near is the day (קָרוֹב֙ י֣וֹם) of the Lord: for the Lord hath prepared a sacrifice, he hath bid his guests.”

[13] Zephaniah 1:14a:  “Near is the day of the Lord (קָר֤וֹב יוֹם־יְהוָה֙), the great day; it is near (קָרוֹב), and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the Lord…”

Revelation 1:1c-2: A Faithful Witness

[96 AD]  Verse 1:  The Revelation of Jesus Christ, (John 3:32; 8:26; 12:49) which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which (Rev. 4:1; 1:3) must shortly come to pass; and (Rev. 22:16) he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John…

[And, etc., καὶ ἐσήμανεν ἀποστείλας, etc.] And (namely, Christ [Menochius]: or, which things, the copula in the place of the Relative pronoun [Grotius]) He signified (that is, either, He showed by signs and the obscurity of figures [certain interpreters in Ribera, similarly Cotterius]; rightly, if you observe the Apocalypse, how promiscuously it is set before mortals [Cotterius]: or rather, He manifested or indicated [Ribera, Gagnæus, similarly Pareus, Grotius], as the word is taken in John 12:33;[1] 18:32;[2] 21:19[3] [Ribera]: for it is explaind by δεῖξαι, to show, Revelation 22:6, and μαρτυρῆσαι, to testify/ witness, Revelation 22:16 [Pareus]) sending (that is, this Apocalypse [Menochius], that is, depositing it in his presence; to him entrusting this treasure, so that he might send it to the Church under his own seal [Cotterius]) by His Angel (sometimes by this, sometimes by that, Angel that He had sent: Now, this construction[4] is not dissimilar to Matthew 2:16[5] and 14:10:[6] Learn this also that, when God or Christ is said to have appeared, it ought to be understood as by an Angel acting in the name of God or Christ and representing His attributes: See on Revelation 1:13, and the things said on the Decalogue, and on Acts 18:9 [Grotius] [and what things others here and there produce to the contrary]: He makes use of an Angel as an instrument [Cotterius], either, so that He might preserve His own dignity; or, so that He might win confidence for the Prophecy [Durham]; or, because human weakness was not able to bear gazing upon His majesty [Brightman]) to His servant (namely, by special delegation and office [Durham]: He does not say to the Apostle; for those that are enlighted by Divine visions, for them especially a lowliness of spirit is fitting: So also Isaiah call himself a servant of God, Isaiah 49:5; and Daniel, Daniel 9:17 [Grotius]) John (Montanus), namely, the Apostle (Cotterius, Piscator, Grotius, Hammond, Durham, Erasmus, Beza): while the name of the Angel is suppressed (Cotterius). Now, the Prophets are wont to set down and repeat a number of times their names, so that those that trust good men might apply faith to their sayings (Grotius).

And he sent and signified it by his angel; first by one angel, and then by another, or (possibly) constantly by the same. Unto his servant John: who this John was, we shall declare further, Revelation 1:2, 4.


Verse 2:[7] (1 Cor. 1:6; Revelation 6:9; 12:17; 1:9) Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things (1 John 1:1) that he saw.

[Who, etc., ὃς ἐμαρτύρησε τὸν λόγον—καὶ τὴν μαρτυρίαν—ὅσα τε εἶδε] Because John was a name common to many, he designates himself more particularly. Μαρτυρεῖν, to bear record, generally takes the Dative; but here the Accusative, because it is put in the place of κηρύσσειν, to proclaim, or ἀναγγέλλειν, to announce. See John 21:24[8] and Revelation 22:16,[9] 20.[10] Ἐμαρτύρησε μαρτυρίαν, he testified a testimony, is an expression both Hebraic and Greek. Thus 2 Kings 17:13 (Grotius). Who testified (that is, confirmed by his own testimony [Camerarius]; or, announced, or proclaimed [Vatablus, Grotius], to many peoples [Grotius]) the word of God (by which he understood, either, 1. Christ [Zegers, thus Ribera], with respect to His Divinity [Zegers], which he everywhere preached [Ribera], John 1:1 [Zegers]; or, 2. his Gospel [Piscator, Louis Cappel[11] on Revelation 19:10, Bede[12] and Lyra[13] and others in Pererius, Durham], the precepts of the Gosepl [Grotius]: To which it is opposed that the Gospel was written after the Apocalypse [concerning which see Pererius]: John testified concerning the word of God, that is, concerning the faith and doctrine of Christ, both by preaching, and by miracles and suffering for it [Pererius]: Or, 3. the Apocalypse [Cotterius, thus Lapide], which he calls the Gospel, that is, the best announcement of the coming persecution on account of Christ, and the blessedness following it [Lapide]) and the testimony of Jesus Christ (he explains what he said [Ribera]; that is to say, Concerning Jesus Christ, who is that word of God, for it is Hendiadys and Apposition [Lapide out of Ribera]: Of Christ, that is, concerning Christ; an objective Genitive [Piscator]: He understands, either, 1. the very things concerning which he bears testimony, or those things which Christ did, as the following things show [Grotius]; or, 2. the Gospel, as preached by Christ, who is called the faithful witness, Revelation 1:5, whence it is called both the testimony [both] of Christ, 1 Corinthians 1:6; 2 Timothy 1:8, [and] of God, 1 Corinthians 2:1 [Hammond]; or, 3. the Spirit of Prophecy, from a comparison with Revelation 19:10 [Louis Cappel on Revelation 19:10]; or, 4. the Apocalypse, which the Father by the words of this book [which are the word of God] signified, and which Christ confirmed by His own testimony: Note τὸ πρέπον, the correlation: For the testimony agrees with the Father, the Word with Christ, John 5:32; 12:47 [Cotterius]: The sense, that is to say, he who wrote this revelation, which is the testimony of Christ, and testified that that is from God [Menochius]: Here John commends his own confidence in delivering this Prophecy [certain interpreters in Gomar]: To others the sense is, Who singularly declared the word of God, that is, the testimony concerning Christ, both in writing and in word, from a comparison of Revelation 1:9; 6:9; 20:4 [Gomar]: He describes here his Apostolic function [Cluverus, thus Brightman], of which two certain and proper emblems are here related, a testimony presented to the word of God, etc., and a manifest confidence in the things that he solemnly asserts [Brightman]) and whatsoever he saw (Erasmus, Beza, Piscator, etc.). He explains what he understands [by] the testimony of Jesus Christ, namely, those things which he had seen, the Miracles, Death, restored Life, Ascension into heaven, of Christ. See 1 John 1:1-3 (Grotius, similarly Ribera). Others: This is to be referred to the Apocalyptic visions themselves (Lapide, similarly Louis Cappel, Piscator, Durham, Cotterius, Gomar). He teaches that he relates, not things imagined, but things done and seen, so that he might acquire authority for the work (Gomar). What things he saw, that is, John saw, since these visions were set before him (Menochius). He saw, namely, in the Spirit and in figure. Indeed, he heard many things, Revelation 22:8, but he saw a very great many. Thus verse 1, that He might show. What, says he, God speaks, Christ testifies, John saw, all that is worthy of faith. But the Apocalypse is of that sort (Cotterius). Some Greek Codices add here, καὶ ὅσα ἤκουσε, καὶ ἅτινά εἰσι, καὶ ἅ χρὴ γενέσθαι μετὰ ταῦτα, and as many things as he heard, and whatsoever things are, and what things must be after these (Gagnæus, thus Grotius). Which things crept in out of verse 19: for these things are not in the best manuscripts, nor in the Latin (Grotius). The things written near the division were copied into the context by unskilled copyists (Cotterius).

Who bare record of the word of God: this phrase determines the controversy about the penman of this part of holy writ, and puts it out of doubt that it was John the apostle and evangelist; the phrase so agrees to John 1:19, 32, 34; 19:35. The word in the Greek signifies, bare testimony to, or of, the word of God. Some understand Christ, so called, 1 John 1:1, 2. Some would have the gospel meant by it; and if any think this the more probable sense, because, though Christ be elsewhere called the Word, yet he is not called the word of God; and it is not here in the dative, but the accusative case; I see no reason to contradict them. And of the testimony of Jesus Christ: by the testimony of Christ is to be understood the doctrine of Christ, called so, because it is a testimony concerning him; or rather, that which he testified, who is elsewhere called the true and faithful witness. And of all things that he saw: this may be understood with reference to what went before; so it agreeth with 1 John 1; or to what followeth in this Revelation, made to him in visions in a great measure.

[1] John 12:33:  “This he said, signifying (σημαίνων) what death he should die.”

[2] John 18:32:  “That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying (σημαίνων) what death he should die.”

[3] John 21:19a:  “This spake he, signifying (σημαίνων) by what death he should glorify God….”

[4] That is, a participle of attending circumstance.

[5] Matthew 2:16:  “Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sending forth (ἀποστείλας) he slew all the children that were in Bethlehem…”

[6] Matthew 14:10:  “And sending (πέμψας) he beheaded John in the prison.”

[7] Greek: ὃς ἐμαρτύρησε τὸν λόγον τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ τὴν μαρτυρίαν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὅσα τε εἶδε.

[8] John 21:24:  “This is the disciple which testifieth of these things (ὁ μαρτυρῶν περὶ τούτων), and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.”

[9] Revelation 22:16a:  “I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify (μαρτυρῆσαι) unto you these things (ταῦτα, in the accusative) in the churches….”

[10] Revelation 22:20a:  “He which testifieth (ὁ μαρτυρῶν) these things (ταῦτα, in the accusative) saith, Surely I come quickly….”

[11] Louis Cappel (1585-1658) was a Huguenot divine of broad and profound learning.  He served as a minister of the gospel and Professor of Hebrew and Theology at Saumur.  Although his expertise in the Hebrew language was beyond question, his denial of the authority of the vowel points and of the absolute integrity of the Hebrew texts were hotly contested.

[12] Bede (c. 672-735), known as the Venerable Bede, was an English monk whose fame rests largely on his ecclesiastical history of England (c. 731).  He wrote many other works, including commentaries on the Pentateuch, Kings, Esdras, Tobias, the Gospels, Acts, and the Catholic Epistles.  His interpretive work is characterized by his commitment to the tradition of the Fathers and by his use of the allegorical method of interpretation.

[13] Little is known about the early life of Nicholas de Lyra (1270-1340).  He entered the Franciscan Order and became a teacher of some repute in Paris.  His Postilla in Vetus et Novum Testamentum are remarkable for the time period:  Lyra was firmly committed to the literal sense of the text, as a necessary control for allegorical exposition; and he drew heavily upon Hebraic and Rabbinical materials.  His commentary was influential among the Reformers.

Revelation 1:1b: The Time is at Hand

[96 AD]  Verse 1:[1]  The Revelation of Jesus Christ, (John 3:32; 8:26; 12:49) which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which (Rev. 4:1; 1:3) must shortly come to pass; and (Rev. 22:16) he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John…

[What things, etc., ἃ δεῖ γενέσθαι ἐν τάχει] What things it is necessary (namely, upon the supposition of the Divine decree and counsel [Pareus]) to be done (which I preferred to to happen: For God does not only explain what things are Future, but what things He Himself is going to do [Cotterius]: Therefore, he does not treat of past things, but of those things which either were happening at that time, or were going to be afterwards [Cluverus]; not concerning things ambiguous, uncertain [Ribera], confused, or doubtful, nor concerning future prognostications, what sort are of Devils, Astrologers, etc., but concerning the infallible and immutable decrees and judgments of God [Cluverus]) soon (Piscator, Beza, Pagnine,[1] Erasmus, Tigurinus, etc.), or, in, or with, speed (Montanus, Piscator). Question: How shall they be done quickly, since most things in the Apocalypse pertain unto the consummation of the world (Ribera, similarly Pererius, Lapide)? Response 1: To me these words appear to be a key, as it were, to this entire Prophecy, especially when they are repeated in Revelation 22:6, and the same is soon inculcated in verse 3, the time is near. And from those things I gather and confidently determine that the Apocalyptic Visions pertained to the times most nearly following, and that in them they had their fulfillment (Hammond). All things in the Apocalypse pertain, either, 1. to the destruction of Jerusalem; or, 2. to Pagan Rome (Grotius in More). But many things stand in the way of this opinion: 1. Concerning the first, Christ had already prophesied with consummate clarity previously. It is a vain fancy, therefore, that here so many Visions are spent on this event, and those so obscure that they are not even now able to be applied to known Events. Concerning the second, the Visions are sufficiently clear and distinct, that the six Seals pertain to Pagan Rome. And why, I ask, would not the vision be concerning the Empire after it was made Christian, and again was paganized under Christianity, and in this Apostasy most cruelly oppressed the members of Christ? Why might not also this state of things be predicted just as the prior (More’s Synchronistic Rationale of the Apocalyptic Visions 195)?  Certainly the scope of this book demonstrates that here it is treated concerning events about to happen, and specifically regarding the Church and servants of Christ, concerning the internal ills of the Church and its enemies, and especially concerning the coming great defection of the Church, concerning the state of the Church under those unto the end of the world; also concerning the last judgment and eternal rewards of the pious and punishments of the impious, as it is evident out of the most express words (Durham’s Commentary upon the Book of Revelation 786).  2.  Those matters were not able to be of the number of those things that were necessarily quickly to be done, for these were already passed; inasmuch as they were done before the time of Domitian, under which it is evident that the Apocalypse was communicated to John (More’s Works 764).  3.  This opinion is harsh and forced (More’s Works 764), novel and singular, and contrary to the judgment of all writers ancient and more recent, even of the Pontifical writers, who nevertheless heartily wish it to be true (Durham’s Commentary upon the Book of Revelation 786).  4.  It is also incompatible with the nature of certain events predicted, like the Reign of the Saints, and the Binding of Satan, which events are predicted to last through a thousand years (More’s Works 764).  5.  It is also inconsistent with their own Hypothesis (Durham).  For they are compelled to interpret certain things of the events as happening after the thousand years, like the loosing of Satan, the army of Gog and Magog, the siege of the beloved City, the fire sent down from heaven upon the besiegers, the Day of universal Judgment, and similar things (More’s Works 764).  They [Grotius and Hammond] take Gog and Magog concerning the Turks, who rise three hundred years after those things; and they say that the destruction of them, yet future, is there predicted (Durham).  [6.  That ἐν τάχει, quickly, they clear in a variey of ways:  He speaks thus:]  Either, 1.  so that he might snatch from us the depraved sense of the flesh, which imagines that the promises of the other life are always going to be giving ground before the former things, etc. (Cotterius):  or, 2. quickly, that is, in the present time (Ribera out of Haymo[2]); or, in the time of the New Testament (certain interpreters in Pareus, Ambrosius[3] in Pererius), which, compared with former times (Ambrose), with the future life (Gagnæus), with eternity, is most brief (Ribera, Pareus, etc.), Psalm 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8, whence it is also called the last hour, 1 John 2:18[4] (Pareus).  Now, thus the Holy Spirit speaks to shake off from men, both security, 1 Thessalonians 5:1, etc., and curiosity for seaching out the days and times, Acts 1:7, etc. (Glassius’[5] “Grammar” 3:5:9:444).  And this formula of speech is used both in the Old and New Testaments concerning the last day, which we yet await (Beza).  Or, 3.  that is to say, what things will begin quickly to be done, although they will not be finished quickly (Lapide, Menochius, Tirinus,[6] similarly Beza, Pererius, Pareus, More out of Alcasar, Glassius), for the entire series of events begins at that time (More’s Works 764). Although many things were very distant, nevertheless many things were near at hand (Pererius).  Those things are also said to be done which begin to be done (Pareus).  If I should say that such a Comedy is to be performed after the eighth part of the hour, who would thence infer that all its acts and scenes are not going to go beyond the fourth part of the hour (More’s Works 196)? What things will quickly be done, other things more quickly; the very latest things, with one or the other place excepted, within above five hundred years.  For this is exceedingly little in comparison with the amount of time in which the world has stood.  Thus in Haggai 2:6, we said that the yet a little time was five hundred years, ἃ δεῖ γενέσθαι, things which must shortly come to pass, מָ֛ה דִּ֥י לֶהֱוֵ֖א, Daniel 2:29[7] (Grotius).  7.  These words are not to be extended to all the Prophecies of this book, but are to be restricted to chapters 1-3, whether unto the Epistles to the seven Churches, or unto the events contained in them, which he warns are going to happen quickly.  An Antithesis is also manifest between these words, ἃ δεῖ γενέσθαι ἐν τάχει, things which must shortly come to pass, which are a preface to the things said in chapters 1-3, and those words in Revelation 4:1, ἃ δεῖ γενέσθαι μετὰ ταῦτα, things which must come to pass after these things, which are in the place of a preface to the Prophecies exhibited in the following chapters (Anonymous 35).

Things which must shortly come to pass; ἃ δεῖ γενέσθαι ἐν τάχει. This phrase puts us out of doubt, that this book is not a relation or narrative of things past, but a revelation or prediction of things to come: see also Revelation 22:6, 16. Which makes me wonder at the confidence of a learned annotator of our own, that all things here relate, either to the siege of Jerusalem (which was past more than twenty years before this Revelation to St. John,) or to pagan Rome, which, indeed, continued two hundred and odd years after this. But his notion is contrary to the general sense of all interpreters, whether the ancient fathers or modern writers. The phrase, indeed, signifies shortly, but never what was past, nor always what shall in a few days come to pass; see Luke 18:8;[8] Romans 16:20;[9] though indeed sometimes it signifies the time immediately following a command, as Acts 12:7;[10] 22:18:[11] and considering it is God’s phrase, to whom a thousand years are but as yesterday, Psalm 90:4, and who calls the things that are not as if they were, and who manifestly calls all those years betwixt Christ’s coming and the end of the world (almost one thousand seven hundred of which are past already) the last days, we may allow him to say, those things should be shortly, which soon after should begin to be effected, though not finished till Christ’s second coming. Though therefore we may allow this verse the key to open the whole Apocalypse, yet we must judge the learned author hath turned it the wrong way. Christ had foretold the ruin of Jerusalem, Matthew 24, nor was it now the matter of a prophecy, but history. The first six seals plainly show the state of the Christian church under Rome pagan; what shall we say to all things represented under the seventh seal, etc.?

[1] Pagnine (1466-1541) was an Italian Dominican.  He was gifted as a Hebraist, exegete, and preacher.  He was commissioned by Pope Leo X to produce a new Latin translation of the Scripture.

[2] Haymo of Auxerre (died c. 855) was a Benedictine monk.  Little is known about his life.  He wrote a commentary on Revelation in the Historicist tradition.

[3] This is likely a reference to Ambrosius Autpertus (died c. 778), the Abbot of the Benedictine Monastery of St. Vincent on the river Voltorno.  He wrote In Apocalypsim Libri Novem, Decem.

[4] 1 John 2:18:  “Little children, it is the last hour (ἐσχάτη ὥρα): and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last hour (ἐσχάτη ὥρα).”

[5] Solomon Glassius (1593-1656) was a German Lutheran divine and critic.  He was Professor of Divinity at the University of Jena.  His Philologia Sacra was a groundbreaking work in Biblical Hebrew.

[6] James Tirinus (1580-1636) was a Flemish Jesuit priest.  His abilities as a commentator are displayed in his Commentaria in Sacram Scripturam.

[7] Daniel 2:29:  “As for thee, O king, thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter (מָ֛ה דִּ֥י לֶהֱוֵ֖א אַחֲרֵ֣י דְנָ֑ה; πάντα ὅσα δεῖ γενέσθαι ἐπ᾽ ἐσχάτων τῶν ἡμερῶν, however many things it was necessary to come to pass in the last days, in the Septuagint; τί δεῖ γενέσθαι μετὰ ταῦτα, what it was necessary to come to pass hereafter, in Theodotion):  and he that revealeth secrets maketh known to thee what shall come to pass (מָה־דִ֥י לֶהֱוֵֽא׃; ἃ δεῖ γενέσθαι, in the Septuagint and Theodotion).”

[8] Luke 18:8:  “I tell you that he will avenge them speedily (ἐν τάχει).  Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”

[9] Romans 16:20:  “And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly (ἐν τάχει).  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.  Amen.”

[10] Acts 12:7:  “And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison:  and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly (ἐν τάχει).  And his chains fell off from his hands.”

[11] Acts 22:18:  “And saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly (ἐν τάχει) out of Jerusalem:  for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me.”

[1] Greek: Ἀποκάλυψις Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ἣν ἔδωκεν αὐτῷ ὁ Θεὸς δεῖξαι τοῖς δούλοις αὐτοῦ, ἃ δεῖ γενέσθαι ἐν τάχει, καὶ ἐσήμανεν ἀποστείλας διὰ τοῦ ἀγγέλου αὐτοῦ τῷ δούλῳ αὐτοῦ Ἰωάννῃ…

Revelation 1:1a: Revelation is Revelation

[96 AD]  Verse 1:[1]  The Revelation of Jesus Christ, (John 3:32; 8:26; 12:49) which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which (Rev. 4:1; 1:3) must shortly come to pass; and (Rev. 22:16) he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John…

[The Apocalypse, Ἀποκάλυψις] The revealing (Castalio, Piscator), that is, the oracle (Castalio); the Revelation (Erasmus, Vatablus,[2] Camerarius, Piscator, etc.), that is, of various events which were going to happen in the Church and World (Piscator), or of things previously hidden (Beza, similarly Pererius, Cotterius). It is the title or inscription of the book, after the fashion of the Prophets[3] (Beza, similarly Erasmus, Pererius). Afterwards he calls it a Prophecy,[4] then a book,[5] and in the last chapter a book of Prophecy.[6] Now, this Prophecy is called a Revelation, with respect to both, 1. the signs, that is, the visions and similitudes, which are here described and revealed: and, 2. the things signified, for the signification of the visions was revealed to John (Pererius). However, by Apocalypse he does not understand here the book (for the Son did not receive the book from the Father, nor is the book said to be signified), but the events or series of events written in the book; as εὐαγγέλιον, the Gospel, in Mark 1:1 is not the book, but the truth of those things that Christ did and said. Καλύπτειν is to hide; ἀποκαλύπτειν is to bring forth a hidden matter into the open (Cotterius): נִגְלָה/ἀποκαλύπτεσθαι, to be revealed, is often in Daniel[7] concerning those things, the knowledge of which is had by a Divine gift. Thence Ἀποκάλυψις, by which name that book of Enoch is called, concerning which we spoke on Jude. In Isaiah 25:7, בִּלַּע—הַלּוֹט , He will destroy…the covering,[8] is a circumluction ἀποκαλύψεως, for revelation. The Greeks translate it, παράδος ταῦτα πάντα τοῖς ἔθνεσιν, Impart thou all these things to the nations. The language ἀποκαλύψεως, of revelation, is used in this sense in 1 Corinthians 14:26;[9] 2 Corinthians 12:1,[10] 7;[11] Galatians 2:2[12] (Grotius). Now, revelation here is understood, not as common to all the faithful, as in Matthew 11:25 and Ephesians 1:17, but as singular, as in Numbers 24:4;[13] 1 Samuel 2:27[14] (Cluverus’ Apocalyptic Dawn 3), and extraordinary (Beza).

[Of Jesus Christ]  Either, 1.  Passively, which Christ received from the Father (Hammond).  Or, 2.  Actively (Pareus), received from Christ (Menochius), accomplished through Christ (Grotius, similarly Beza, Piscator, Durham), as the Church’s everlasting mediator (Beza), and great Prophet (Durham); through whom the Father treats (Cotterius), and reveals Himself to the Church (Beza), and exhibits to us knowledge and grace (Hammond).

[Which to Him God gave]  That is, the Father, for here He is set over against the Son (Cotterius).  For, just as power, so also the knowledge of such things, is in Christ by God the Father, Revelation 5:7; John 7:16; 14:10.  Consult Isaiah 8:18 (Grotius).  Thus he speaks, for the Father is the first author of all things, from whom also the Son draws, John 5:19, 30, and learns, John 8:28; but here He is only said to have received, for this agrees more closely with Christ glorified (Cotterius).  It denotes the order of the subsisting and working of the persons.  The Father works of Himself through the Son (Durham). He gave to Him, namely, as man (Piscator, similarly Pererius, Aquinas[15] in Ribera); or, as the Mediator (Durham, Pareus):  for as God He of Himself knew (Piscator, Durham).  Now, He gave, either, 1.  in His conception and incarnation, for with respect to that Christ is said to be full of all knowledge, grace, etc. (Lapide, similarly Ribera), but now is said to have received, for now it was known to men, as matters are said to be done at that time when they become known (Ribera).

The Revelation of Jesus Christ; the Apocalypse, (as this book is sometimes called,) that is, the discovering or unveiling of some hidden things; so the word revelation signifieth. The Greek word is often used in the New Testament, and is ordinarily translated so. It is called The Revelation of Jesus Christ because Christ received it from his Father, as the next words show. Which God gave unto him, as he was Mediator: by God, here, is to be understood the Father, not exclusively to the Son, as if he were not God, but to show the order of working in the Holy Trinity, John 7:16; 14:10. Christ in his state of humiliation is said to learn of the Father; in his state of exaltation, to receive from the Father.

            [Openly, etc., δεῖξαι, etc.[16]] An expression of the Greeks, of which sort is in Luke 1:72, ποιῆσαι, for the purpose of doing.[17] Thus Matthew 5:17, I have not come to destroy, etc.[18] (Ribera). Δεῖξαι is in the place of εἰς τὸ δεῖξαι, for the purpose of showing. There is a similar sort of speaking in John 6:52[19] and elsewhere (Grotius). So that He might point out (or, represent [Erasmus, Zegers[20]], openly produce, or, exhibit [Vatablus], not plainly, but by enigmas and symbols [Menochius]: or, show [Erasmus, Vatablus, thus Valla,[21] Cotterius], that is, as if He would place events, clothed in figures, before their eyes: it indicates the force and splendor of the figures [Cotterius]: or, reveal, that is, that He, the Christ, might reveal, in accordance with the promise, John 16:12 [Grotius]) to the servants of Him (Beza, Piscator), that is, either, of God the Father (Cotterius): or, of Christ, as the reciprocal αὐτοῦ/His indicates (Pareus out of Beza). To His servants, that is, to John, namely, so that he might write (Pareus): or, to the teachers and pastors of the Churches (Piscator): or, to the principal men of the Christians (Grotius): or, to Christians (Menochius, Piscator), or to all the faithful (Pareus, Durham), so that every one might from thence draw out what according to his own time and capacity would be sufficient for his education in the faith and fear of the Lord (Cotterius).

To show unto his servants; to John, and by him to all saints that will be studious of things revealed.

[1] Greek: Ἀποκάλυψις Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ἣν ἔδωκεν αὐτῷ ὁ Θεὸς δεῖξαι τοῖς δούλοις αὐτοῦ, ἃ δεῖ γενέσθαι ἐν τάχει, καὶ ἐσήμανεν ἀποστείλας διὰ τοῦ ἀγγέλου αὐτοῦ τῷ δούλῳ αὐτοῦ Ἰωάννῃ…

[2] Francis Vatablus (c. 1485-1547) was a prominent Hebrew scholar, doing much to stimulate Hebraic studies in France.  He was appointed to the chair of Hebrew in Paris (1531).  Because of some consonance with Lutheran doctrine, his annotations (Annotationes in Vetus et Novum Testamentum), compiled by his auditors, were regarded with the utmost esteem among Protestants, but with a measure of suspicion and concern by Roman Catholics.  Consequently, the theologians of Salamanca produced their own edition of Vatablus’ annotations for their revision of the Latin Bible (1584).

[3] For example, Obadiah 1.

[4] Revelation 1:3.

[5] For example, Revelation 1:11.

[6] Verses 7, 10, 18, 19.

[7] For example, Daniel 10:1a:  “In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a thing was revealed (נִגְלָה; ἀπεκαλύφθη in the Theodotion) unto Daniel…”

[8] Isaiah 25:7:  “And he will destroy (וּבִלַּע) in this mountain the face of the covering cast (פְּנֵֽי־הַלּ֥וֹט׀ הַלּ֖וֹט) over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations.”

[9] 1 Corinthians 14:26a:  “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 (ἀποκάλυψιν), hath an interpretation….”

[10] 2 Corinthians 12:1:  “It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations (ἀποκαλύψεις) of the Lord.”

[11] 2 Corinthians 12:7a:  “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations (τῶν ἀποκαλύψεων), there was given to me a thorn in the flesh…”

[12] Galatians 2:2a:  “And I went up by revelation (ἀποκάλυψιν), and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles…”

[13] Numbers 24:4:  “He hath said, which heard the words of God, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open (וּגְל֥וּי עֵינָֽיִם׃; ἀποκεκαλυμμένοι οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ αὐτοῦ, in the Septuagint)…”

[14] 1 Samuel 2:27:  “And there came a man of God unto Eli, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Did I plainly appear (הֲנִגְלֹ֤ה נִגְלֵ֙יתִי֙; ἀποκαλυφθεὶς ἀπεκαλύφθην, in the Septuagint) unto the house of thy father, when they were in Egypt in Pharaoh’s house?”

[15] Thomas Aquinas (c. 1224-1274) was perhaps the greatest of the mediæval scholastic theologians.  He wrote on much of the Bible, gathering together the comments, observations, and interpretations of the Fathers.

[16] Revelation 1:1a:  “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew (δεῖξαι) unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass…”

[17] Luke 1:72:  “To perform (ποιῆσαι) the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant…”  Here, the infinitive is used to express purpose.

[18] Matthew 5:17:  “Think not that I am come to destroy (katalu=sai) the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy (katalu=sai), but to fulfil (plhrw~sai).”

[19] John 6:52:  “The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat (φαγεῖν)?”

[20] Nicholas Tacitus Zegers (died 1559) was a Flemish Franciscan exegete.  He wrote Scholion in Omnes Novi Testamenti Libros (1553), Epanorthotes, sive Castigationes Novi Testamenti (1555), and Inventorium in Testamentum Novum, a concordance (1558).

[21] Laurentius Valla (1406-1457) was one of the great Latin scholars of his age.  He was Professor of Eloquence at Parvia, then at Milan.  Later he served as Canon of St. John the Lateran.  He wrote In Novum Testamentum Annotationes and De Collationibus Novi Testamenti.