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• The faithful witness.' _Of the two other members of the triune source of grace and peace, it may be said that the apostle confined himself to pointing them out distinctly—God, as the eternal being, and the Holy Spirit, as the seven spirits before the throne ; but when he comes to mention the last member, Jesus Christ, whose unveiling is to be the subject especially of his book, he gives an epitome of his character, his dignity, his work, the results of his work, the glory due to him, and the manner in which this glory is to be manifested at his second coming.
A faithful witness, that is, a witness worthy of full faith and confidence. “It behooved him to be made like unto his brethren ; that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest,” (Heb. ii. 17,) that is, a high priest to be depended upon. We call a martyr faithful when he dies at the stake in adherence to his testimony, although he may be in error; we cannot, therefore, depend upon the testimony of a martyr in this respect; but with Jesus Christ there is no danger of mistake-in whatever testimony he bore, all doctrines taught by him while in the flesh, and all taught by him, through his apostles, are so much testimony of which he is the witness; but besides this, we are now about to go into his testimony in the book before us. It is important, therefore, that we should establish our minds in the conviction that the witness about to testify, is one that cannot be mistaken, and will not deceive. He is a faithful witness—worthy of unlimited confidence.
$11. “The first begotten of the dead'—or rather the first born from the dead; ο πρωτότοκος εκ των νεκρών. We are apt to make use of these terms begotten and born as equivalents. We speak of regeneration as a new birth merely, and we speak of the resurrection of Christ here as a new generation ; whereas there is a marked distinction between the ideas to be conveyed in the two cases.* To be born implies a previous existence; but to be begotten, or generated, does not admit the idea of previous existence. It cannot be correct to say that Jesus Christ is the first generated from the dead. Accordingly the same Greek term which is here translated begotten, is rendered Col. i. 18, by the word born—"the first born from the dead”and in no other place of the New Testament is expressed by begotten, except Hebrews i. 6; where it should have been rendered by the word born, as it there refers in a figure to the bringing in of the remedial plan of propitiation, as an event taking place in the Divine mind at a particular moment; although we know that in the Divine mind the purpose must have been eternally the same.
The reason given in Colossians for this precedence of Christ, in his birth from the dead, is, that in all things he might have the pre-eminence, (npwrevwv,) the being first, in allusion we suppose to the specimen afforded by the first fruits-Christ taking the lead, as we may say,
in the process
* As there is a similar distinction between the Greek verbs tixtu and yerrów,
resurrection, as he had done in the work of redemption :-typifying in a spiritual sense his resurrection from the position of condemnation, to which he had subjected himself in man's behalf, and exemplifying, in a material sense, his triumph over the powers of corruption ; spiritually, affording the disciple an assurance of justification in him; and physically, an assurance of a re-existence in an incorruptible, material body of flesh and bones; such as he was seen to have, Luke xxiv. 39. The disciple of Christ, adopted in him, and accounted to partake of his merits, and to be conformed to his image, being raised from a position of death in trespasses and sins, of which Christ’s resurrection is the earnest or first fruits. As it is said, (1 Cor. xv. 1317,) If Christ be not risen, your faith is vain, ye are yet
sins—while at the same time his material resurrection, as a first fruit, is a sample of the material re-existence of his followers. The word 'Andoxý, rendered first fruits in our common version of this passage, in Corinthians strictly signifying first part, or sample piece, (Rob. Lex. 55.) As in a lump of leavened dough, if a piece taken from the outside be leavened, it is a proof that the state of the whole lump corresponds with it; the process of leavening haying commenced from the centre. As the first piece is, therefore, so is the whole; as is the fruit, so is the tree ; as are the branches, so is the stock; as was the material resurrection of Christ, so will be that of his followers—not in manner, however, but in kind.
$12. “The prince, or rather the ruler (ó őoxwv) of the kings' or chiefs of the earth.'—We have not yet reached the commencement of the apostle's description of the vision, and cannot yet say that the language and figures here employed, are those of vision ; but we may say, that the language is already figurative, and that the term kings of the earth signifies here something else than political rulers, in the ordinary sense of the term; as we find Paul uses the expression, 1 Cor. iv. 8, somewhat sarcastically perhaps : “Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us.” So Jesus Christ says, (Luke xxii. 21,) "Behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” Opposite to which we may suppose the kingdoms of the earth, or of the world, to be something within the disciple, opposed to the reign of God in the heart. “ The Lord is our King,” it is said Is. xxxii. 22, “ He will save us.” Earthly sovereigns were formerly looked up unto by the people, in a time of trouble, and were trusted in for their power to save. Kings of the earth may thus represent supposed means of salvation, and as the earth is an opposite of heaven, the kingdoms of the earth must be opposites of the kingdom of heaven; and the kings of the earth we may consider leading principles of these kingdoms of the earth ;-leading principles of economies of salvation opposed to the economy of grace: all which leading principles are subordinate, and subservient to the manifestation of the power of Christ. The element of salvation by grace, through the imputed
righteousness of Christ, predominating over the principles of all earthly schemes of redemption. As it is said of those justified in Christ, Col. ii. 10, “ Ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power;" who also, it is added, (vs. 14, 15,)“ in blotting out the hand-writing of ordinances," "spoiled principalities and powers :" as Christ is also said, Eph. i. 21, to have been “ raised far above all principality and power, and might and dominion, and every name that is named.” So it is said of disciples, (Eph. vi. 11, 12,) that they “ wrestle not against flesh and blood," (human power in a literal sense,)“ but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world.” These quotations sufficiently showing that kings and kingdoms of the earth, or of this world, are figurative terms, even in portions of Scripture where we might suppose the literal sense to be more strictly adhered to.
We have thus in this designation of Christ, as the source of grace and peace, three important particulars : that he is a witness to be depended upon; that he is the earnest of the resurrection from the dead, both in a spiritual and in a material sense ; and that as a Redeemer, his power predominates over every other principle.
$ 13. “Unto him that loved us.'—We now come to the reminiscence of the great cause of gratitude; as it is said, (1 John iv. 19,) “We love him because he first loved us." And 1 John ix. 10, “ Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” And as Paul expresses it, Gal. ji. 20, “ The life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” So Rom. viii. 35–37, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ ?" Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us.” The love of God and the love of Christ being uniformly spoken of in Scripture as identical; the passage which exhibits one, applies equally to the other ; as we shall perceive more fully in the progress of this development of the character of our Redeemer.
$ 14. “And washed us from our sins in his own blood.'--As it is said, 1 John i. 7, the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin; and this for the reason afterwards given, that he is the propitiation for our sins, (1 John ii. 2;) as it is also said 1 Cor. vi. 11, “But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” The washing in the name of Christ, being an expression equivalent to that of being cleansed by his blood.
$ 15. And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father.'What we have just now said of kings, is equally applicable here. It is evident that the term is not to be understood in a literal sense. For if all the followers of Jesus were kings, they would be kings literally without subjects. The peculiar characteristic of a king amongst the Hebrews was that of being anointed, or set apart. So the kings of Israel were styled the Lord's anointed. In which respect a king was a type of Christ, who is pre-eminently the anointed of the Lord, spoken of, Ps. ii. 2, and lxxxiv. 9. In which respect Christ himself also represents all who are adopted in him, (Ps. xviii. 50.) To be a king, therefore, in this spiritual sense, is to be the Lord's anointed, set apart in Christ; and in him reigning and triumphing over the powers of the earth, opposed to the salvation of the sinner. Such an anointing appears to be alluded to by David, Ps. xcii. 10, as an anointing of fresh oil ; that is, an unction in a spiritual sense, as contradistinguished from the literal oil, with which as king he had been before anointed.
Priests were also anointed ones ; as Moses poured oil on Aaron's head, Lev. viii. 12; but priests were also admitted to sacrifice at the altar, and the high priest, by virtue of his office, entered even the Holy of Holies. So, in Christ, the disciple, in a spiritual sense, is admitted to all these privileges. In Christ, he serves in the temple of God; in Christ, he offers his body an acceptable sacrifice; and in Christ, he is admitted even into the holiest ; identified, or accounted identic in the sight of God with his Divine Redeemer. It is thus in Christ only, that disciples are kings and priests; and this to God, not to man, or in the sight of men.
The word translated king, is said to have been originally applied to one who presided over sacred things, (Rob. Lex. 104.) According to some editions of the Greek, however, this word should be rendered a kingdom, or a royal dignity, (Rob. Lex. 101 ;) and the word priests without the conjunction seems to be intended in apposition, and not in addition, to the preceding term-et fecit nos regnum, Sacerdotes Deo et Patri suo—(G. & L.) And has constituted us a royal dignity, that is, priests, &c., corresponding with the royal priesthood, spoken of, 1 Peter ii. 9. As Christ was a priest after the order of Melchizedek, a royal priest ; so in him his followers are accounted priests of the same order. As Melchizedek brought forth the offering of bread and wine, so Christ brings forth the sacrifice of his own righteousness, the bread of life, and the offering of his own atoning blood, the wine procured from the water of purification ; and so the disciple in Christ is accounted to offer to God perpetually the sacrifice of his Redeemer's merits; the bread and wine of eternal life.
$16. “To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever, amen.'—To him, that is, to Christ, as appears by the Greek order; and yet we are told that God will not give his glory to another, (Is. xlii. 8.) We are thus continually reminded that the Father and Son must be two exhibitions of the same Deity. The ascriptions of the apostle John being no doubt in strict accordance with that of another apostle, (Jude 25,) To the only wise God and our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. The word be is supplied by our translators; perhaps the sense would be
better expressed by the word is. To him is the glory and dominion, for ever and ever. So let it be. The glory belongs to the Saviour, and is and will be his whether any of his creatures should give it to him or not; and this the apostle declares positively: He has loved us and washed us from our sins, and made us a royal priesthood, and to him is the glory. And so it should be, adds the apostle. Amen, so let it be. It is even to teach us that this glory and dominion is his, that he unveils, or reveals, himself to us, especially in the following pages.
V.7. Behold he cometh with clouds ; 'Ιδού, έρχεται μετά των νεφελών, και όψεand every eye shall see him: and they ται αυτόν πάς οφθαλμός, και οίτινες αυτόν also which pierced him, and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.
εξεκέντησαν· και κόψονται επ' αυτόν πάσαι Even so. Amen.
αι φυλαί τής γής: ναι. αμήν. $17. Behold, &c.'-Here the apostle, as if carried away by the transport of his feelings, anticipates apparently the great subject matter, as we apprehend it to be, of the revelation committed to him ; that of the second coming, or manifestation of his Master; as if he had said, In the revelation about to be made, the coming of the Lord is to be found. He that loved us is there about to unveil himself. He that hath done so much for us is now, amidst the types and shadows and figurative language of this book, as, amidst the clouds, about to manifest himself;—to reveal his love and the mysteries of the work of his salvation. Here, in this revelation spiritually interpreted, he is coming to the understanding.
The coming of the Lord is expressed in sixteen places of the New Testament, by the Greek word napovoíu ; in two, by the word évzóvjeros, and in one, 1 Cor. i. 7, by inoxáhvpı,* which last term is the same as that rendered Revelation in the title of this book. There can be no doubt that all these terms relate to the same coming. So the Greek term apocalypse is rendered Rom. viii. 19 by manifestation, and 1 Peter i. 7 by appearing, while in the 13th verse of the same chapter of Peter, it is translated by revelation. Comparing the two verses together, it is evident that this apostle considered the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ and the revelation of Jesus Christ as identic, and consequently to be expressed by the same term ; and it is equally evident that what Peter terms an apocalypse is that which Paul terms parousia. The word apocalypse is also made to express (Luke ii. 32) light, or enlightening ; while the appearing of Jesus Christ, termed 1 Peter i. 7, apocalypsis, is expressed in other places by the word énıpaveia, a shining upon, (1 Tim. vi. 14.) An exhibition of brightness, which, according to 2 Thes. ii. 8, is to destroy that wicked—the man of sin ; then to be simultaneously revealed, unveiled, (anoxahvgańcerai.) The coming of this wicked
*"So that you come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall confirm you unto the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ."