Revelation 1:4b: Him Which Is, and Which Was, and Which Is to Come

[From Him, etc., ἀπὸ τοῦ ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος] It is a solecism[1] (Revius). Erasmus denies that these words have sense, and Gagnæus after him: which saying is as impolite and audacious as it is false (Ribera). Therefore, they construe that in Exodus 3:14, I will be has sent me.[2] Evidently nothing will be allowed to the Holy Spirit that is not pleasing to Priscianus.[3] So that they do not allow that God pronounces His names as ἄκλιτα/indeclinable, who is Himself ἄκλιτος/unchangeable (Pareus). They ineptly reprehend this here as a barbarism, while no greater emphasis is able to be added for describing the essence of God (Apocalyptic Harmony). The construction is able to be freed from difficulty in a variety of ways (Gomar). 1. John wished to express the name יְהוָֹה/Jehovah, and its interpretation, Exodus 3:14 (Cluverus out of Beza, thus Apocalyptic Harmony, Schmidt), by which is signified He who is the fountain of being, unaltered in the eternal flux or present continuum (Apocalyptic Harmony): for אֶהְיֶה is used three times, Present, Past, and Future,[4] and by this he signifies the most perfect stability of God (Beza out of the Hebrews). Therefore, he wished ὢν/being, ἦν, He was, and ἐρχόμενος/ coming to be taken, not as Participles, but as proper Names, that is to say, from the One who is, and He was, and the One who is Coming, and therefore the masculine article is set before. But, since proper Names also are inflected, why did he not say τοῦ ὄντος, etc?[5] Response: Because the name יְהוָֹה/Jehovah is always uniform; therefore John does not wish even the article to be inflected, as if even that is a part of the proper name (Beza). He is unwilling to decline these articles and participles, so that he might show forth all the more the immutability of God; as Proclus says τοῦ ἕν, of the one,[6] on Timæus,[7] as we said on Mark 6:40.[8] Indeed, because εἰμὶ , I am, does not have a past Participle, for the signification of the Past he was constrained to use a word in the Indicative mood.[9] Thus also Revelation 4:8 and 11:17. Now, ἐρχόμενος signifies the same thing as futurus, going to be, in Latin, as in Revelation 4:8; John 16:13;[10] Acts 18:21;[11] and elsewhere. Thus the Hebrews use הבא, the coming one. Thus also 1 Thessalonians 1:10;[12] τῆς ἐρχομένης is the same as τῆς μελλούσης in Matthew 3:7 and Luke 3:7.[13] See also Hebrews 10:37[14] (Grotius). These three, ὁ ὢν, ὁ ἦν, ὁ ἐρχόμενος , who is, who was, who is to come, are here after the likeness of indeclinable names. For thus the ὁ ὢν is to be declined: ὁ ὁ ὢν, τοῦ ὁ ὢν, τῷ ὁ ὢν[15] (Cotterius). He uses Greek Participles as ἄπτωτα, not involving different cases, and he declines, or makes them to be of a certain case, by means of the article set before. Thus in verse 5, ὁ μάρτυς, the Witness, is joined with the Genitive:[16] and in Luke 22:20,[17] τὸ ἐκχυνόμενον agrees with αἵματί (Cocceius). 2. There is here an ellipsis of the word ὄντος[18] (Gomar out of Camerarius, similarly Glassius), as in Matthew 22:21, τὰ Καίσαρος, the of Cæsar, understanding ὄντα/things:[19] in Luke 2:49, ἐν τοῖς τοῦ πατρός μου, in the of my Father, that is, οὖσι/things:[20] 1 Corinthians 13:5;[21] etc. (Glassius’ “Grammar” 3:2:1:170). 3.  The article τοῦ could be put in the place of τούτου [as τῆς is put in the place of ταύτης in verse 3,[22] according to Grotius], and the article set before, that is, ὁ, is in the place of ὃς/who:[23]  Neither is unusual in good authors, and [both] are found in Scripture (Gomar).  [They render the words in this way:]  Verbatim: Ab Ens,[24] ab Id quod erat,[25] et ab Is qui venturus est[26] (Schmidt). From Who (or, from He who [Erasmus, Montanus]) is, and Who was, and Who is going to come (Beza, Piscator, Montanus, Erasmus, etc.).  Thus also Rabbi Solomon ibn Gabirol,[27] etc., treating of the Eternality of God, thus says, He was, and He is, and He will be gloriously.  And certainly by this periphrasis Eternity is aptly expressed, which is soon signified by those phrases, τὸ Α καὶ τὸ Ω, the Alpha and the Omega, ἀρχὴ καὶ τέλος, the beginning and the ending,[28] ὁ πρῶτος καὶ ὁ ἔσχατος, the first and the last[29] (Louis Cappel).  It denotes not only eternity, or immutability, but rather a manifestation of Himself as the Sanctifier of men by grace:  which manifestation has especially three occasions, 1.  of promise:  2.  of the exhibition of Christ:  3.  of the kingdom consummated.  He is said, therefore, to be, because at that time He was manifesting Himself by the preaching of the Gospel: to have been, because He had previously manifested Himself by the word of promise, and by deeds agreeable to that: to come, because He was going to manifest Himself afterwards, both on the day of judgment, and in those things which are described in this book; all which are forerunners of that day (Cocceius). He is God, that is, our Savior, as He promised from the beginning; and He was such even before the ages; and He is going to be certainly and invariably, or, He comes, about to reveal the riches of His beneficence in the next age (Cluverus).  Now, this description is referred, either, 1.  to the entire Trinity (certain interpreters in Cluverus, thus Pererius, Ribera), but indistinctly (Pererius), so that all parts pertain unto the individual persons (Ribera).  Or, 2.  unto the Father (Cotterius, Cluverus, Apocalyptic Harmony, Durham, Cocceius), as it is proven from the distinction from the other two persons (Cocceius), as the fount of Deity (Durham, Cluverus); yet in such a way that the Son and Holy Spirit are not excluded (Durham).  Now, he makes use of this description, either, 1.  so that the essence of God might be better expressed; so that tyrants might see with whom they have to do:  or, 2.  because of idolaters, adoring Creatures, not the Creator (Apocalyptic Harmony).

From him which is, and which was, and which is to come: these words are a description of God, particularly of Jesus Christ in his eternity and immutability: he was from eternity; he is now; and he shall be for ever. Or, (as some,) he was in his promises before his incarnation; he is now God manifested in the flesh; and he is to come as a Judge, to judge the quick and the dead. This was an ancient name of God, Exodus 3:14, I am that I am…. I AM hath sent me unto you. These words interpret the name Jehovah.

[1] A solecism is a violation of normal grammar rules.  Note here the shift from the Genitive case (τοῦ, from Him) to the Nominative case (ὁ/who).

[2] Exodus 3:14b:  “…Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I am hath sent me (אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה שְׁלָחַ֥נִי) unto you.”

[3] Priscianus Cæsariensis (late fifth, early sixth century) wrote a Latin grammar, Institutiones Grammaticæ.  Priscianus’ illustrations of grammatical principles preserve portions of works which are otherwise lost.

[4] Exodus 3:14:  “And God said unto Moses, I am that I am (אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶֽהְיֶ֑ה): and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I am (אֶהְיֶה) hath sent me unto you.”

[5] Observe here that the participle is brought here to match the case of the Genitive article.

[6] Here, ἕν/one, in the Nominative or Accusative case, takes the Genitive article.

[7] Proclus was a fifth century bishop of Constantinople, and a friend of Chrysostom.  He wrote a commentary on Plato’s Timæus.

[8] Mark 6:40:  “And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties (καὶ ἀνέπεσον πρασιαὶ πρασιαί, ἀνὰ ἑκατὸν καὶ ἀνὰ πεντήκοντα).”

[9] Ὤν and ἐρχόμενος are participles; ἦν is in the indicative mood.

[10] John 16:13b:  “…but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak:  and he will shew you things to come (τὰ ἐρχόμενα).”

[11] Acts 18:21a:  “But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh (τὴν ἑορτὴν τὴν ἐρχομένην) in Jerusalem…”

[12] 1 Thessalonians 1:10:  “And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come (ἀπὸ τῆς ὀργῆς τῆς ἐρχομένης).”

[13] Luke 3:7b:  “…O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come (ἀπὸ τῆς μελλούσης ὀργῆς)?”  The same expression is found in Matthew 3:7.

[14] Hebrews 10:37:  “For yet a little while, and he that shall come ( 9O e0rxo/menoj) will come, and will not tarry.”

[15] Since the ὁ ὢν is not declined, the case is indicated by the article.

[16] Revelation 1:5a:  “And from Jesus Christ (Ἰησοῦ Χριστου, in the Genitive case), who is the faithful witness (ὁ μάρτυς ὁ πιστός, in the Nominative case)…”

[17] Luke 22:20:  “Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup (τοῦτο τὸ ποτήριον, Nominative, neuter) is the new testament in the blood (ἐν τῷ αἵματί, Dative, neuter) of me, which is shed (τὸ—ἐκχυνόμενον, Nominative, neuter) for you.”

[18] Revelation 1:4b:  “…Grace be unto you, and peace, from (ἀπὸ, supply ὄντος, the one, in the Genitive case, expected after ἀπὸ) who is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne…”

[19] Matthew 22:21b:  “…Render therefore unto Caesar the of Caesar (τὰ Καίσαρος, supplying things)…”

[20] Luke 2:49b:  “…wist ye not that I must be about the of my Father (ἐν τοῖς τοῦ πατρός μου, supplying things)?”

[21] 1 Corinthians 13:5a:  “Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not the of herself (τὰ ἑαυτῆς, understanding ὄντα/things)…”

[22] Revelation 1:3a:  “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of the prophecy (τῆς προφητείας, with the article τῆς having the force of the demonstrative ταύτης/this)…”

[23] The relative pronoun in the Nominative case.

[24] Ab/from takes the Ablative Case; here, it takes the Nominative Ens, the being One.

[25] Ab/from takes the Ablative Case; here, it takes the Nominative Id/it.  Literally: From It which was.

[26] Ab/from takes the Ablative Case; here, it takes the Nominative Is/He.  Literally: From He who is going to come.

[27] Rabbi Solomon ibn Gabirol (c. 1021-c. 1058) was a Spanish poet and Neoplatonic philosopher.

[28] Verse 8.

[29] Verse 11.

5 thoughts on “Revelation 1:4b: Him Which Is, and Which Was, and Which Is to Come

  1. William Tong (writing for Matthew Henry): ‘Whence this blessing is to come. In whose name does the apostle bless the churches? In the name of God, of the whole Trinity; for this is an act of adoration, and God only is the proper object of it; his ministers must bless the people in no name but his alone. And here, (1.) The Father is first named: God the Father, which may be taken either essentially, for God as God, or personally, for the first person in the ever-blessed Trinity, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; and he is described as the Jehovah who is, and who was, and who is to come, eternal, unchangeable, the same to the Old Testament church which was, and to the New Testament church which is, and who will be the same to the church triumphant which is to come….’

  2. Advanced Studies on the Book of Revelation

    Spurgeon, “Morning and Evening”: ‘”Thou art from everlasting.”—Psalm 93:2

    Christ is everlasting. Of him we may sing with David, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever” [Psalm 45:6]. Rejoice, believer, in Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and for ever [Hebrews 13:8]. Jesus always was. The Babe born in Bethlehem was united to the Word, which was in the beginning, by whom all things were made [John 1:3]. The title by which Christ revealed himself to John in Patmos was, “Him which is, and which was, and which is to come” [Revelation 1:4]. If he were not God from everlasting, we could not so devoutly love him; we could not feel that he had any share in the eternal love which is the fountain of all covenant blessings; but since he was from all eternity with the Father, we trace the stream of divine love to himself equally with his Father and the blessed Spirit. As our Lord always was, so also he is for evermore. Jesus is not dead; “He ever liveth to make intercession for us” [Hebrews 7:25]. Resort to him in all your times of need, for he is waiting to bless you still. Moreover, Jesus our Lord ever shall be. If God should spare your life to fulfil your full day of threescore years and ten, you will find that his cleansing fountain is still opened, and his precious blood has not lost its power; you shall find that the Priest who filled the healing fount with his own blood, lives to purge you from all iniquity. When only your last battle remains to be fought, you shall find that the hand of your conquering Captain has not grown feeble—the living Saviour shall cheer the dying saint. When you enter heaven you shall find him there bearing the dew of his youth; and through eternity the Lord Jesus shall still remain the perennial spring of joy, and life, and glory to his people. Living waters may you draw from this sacred well! Jesus always was, he always is, he always shall be. He is eternal in all his attributes, in all his offices, in all his might, and willingness to bless, comfort, guard, and crown his chosen people.’

  3. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift (2 Cor. 9:15): Christ Jesus, our Lord!
    Enjoyed reading this very much, and your other articles! Good sound reading is such a great blessing in this day of glibly handling God’s Word and its exegesis: saying a lot but leaving the people starving.
    Been enjoying Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament of late, too. God bless you, and all His faithful people.

  4. Although not a Baptist, I have long enjoyed John Gill’s commentary, as it looks at these individual phrases of the verses. On this passage he comments, hopefully it’s useful.

    from him which is, and which was, and which is to come;
    which some understand of the whole Trinity; the Father by him “which is”, being the I am that I am; the Son by him “which was”, which was with God the Father, and was God; and the Spirit by him “which is to come”, who was promised to come from the Father and the Son, as a Comforter, and the Spirit of truth: others think Christ is here only intended, as he is in Rev 1:8 by the same expressions; and is he “which is”, since before Abraham he was the “I am”; and he “which was”, the eternal Logos or Word; and “is to come”, as the Judge of quick and dead. But rather this is to be understood of the first Person, of God the Father; and the phrases are expressive both of his eternity, he being God from everlasting to everlasting; and of his immutability, he being now what he always was, and will be what he now is, and ever was, without any variableness, or shadow of turning: they are a periphrasis, and an explanation of the word “Jehovah”, which includes all tenses, past, present, and to come. So the Jews explain this name in Exo 3:14,

    “Says R. Isaac (k), the holy blessed God said to Moses, Say unto them, I am he that was, and I am he that now is, and I am he that is to come, wherefore אהיה is written three times.

    And such a periphrasis of God is frequent in their writings (l),

    (k) Shemot Rabba, sect. 3. fol. 73. 2. (l) Targum. Jon. in Deut. xxxii. 39. Zohar in Exod. fol. 59. 3. & in Numb. fol. 97. 4. & 106. 2. Seder Tephillot, fol. 205. 1. Ed. Basil. fol. 2. 2. Ed. Amsterd.

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