The Divine Introduction



Let us, then, in self-distrust, and yet in confidence
in the goodness of our Saviour-God address ourselves to our book. The
introductory verses read very literally: "Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God
gave to him, to show to His bondmen what things must take place shortly, and he
signified it by sending His angel, to His bondrnan John, who testified the word
of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ; whatsoever things he saw. Blessed he
that reads, and they that hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things
written in it; for the time is near."

Note carefully the first words.
The book is not simple inspired, as is all Scripture, but it is a direct
Revelation. This is a most important distinction - "All Scripture is given by
inspiration of God;" but all Scripture is not a revelation from God. When poor
Job moans his awful perplexities, we get no word of revelation; quite the
contrary, we see how sad is man’s case until a gracious God does
intervene. So when the wisest man that ever lived, utters his groan of
"Vanity," he expresses the utter inadequacy of the highest unaided wisdom apart
from revelation. But all is inspired. All is under the control of the Spirit of
God. And he is dull indeed who does not adore the tender, thoughtful love that
has permitted man in his best, and in his wisest, to tell out fearlessly those
profound questions to which God alone can ever provide an - answer. Inspiration
here shows the need of Revelation. We are now to listen to Revelation itself.
God telling us what could be known in no other way. But mark it is a
"Revelation of Jesus Christ," that is a revelation belonging to Jesus Christ.
The Lord Jesus is not here the object of the revelation; but the owner of it,
for God has given it to Him. Wonderful, startling words! Let earlier Scriptures
throw their light tipon them.

Did He not say, when once before in a
smaller sphere He was about to judge: "Shall I hide from Abraham that which I
do?" (Gen. xviii :7.) If not from His "friend," how much less from His Son? And
again, "Surely, the Lord God will do nothing, but He revealeth it to His
servants, the prophets." So surely now to this one perfect "Servant, the
Prophet," Jesus, God is going to reveal what He is about to do.

that we knew Him better. For beautiful is He in whatever light we see Him,
whether with veiled face and unshod foot, we adoringly bow before His
incomprehensible Divinity; or whether we draw closer to Him, in the loving
reverential intimacv of His holy Humanity with its self-assumed limitations.
And it is most clearly in this latter aspect that He is seen here; and the
light of another Scripture must again throw its holy ray on these words that we
may enter into their significance a little, for here is the first key of the

You remember that strange word in that Gospel of the perfect
Servant (Mark xiii :32): "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the
angels which are in heaven, NEITHER THE SON, but the Father." Do we not then
see here something on which this perfect Servant (for in this character is He
presented to us in this gospel) needed a revelation? What was this? It was the
hour of the Father’s counsels as to the earth being brought into effect
and its rule being put into His own hands.

Perfect, perfect man! He
will put away from Himself here all divine prescience, and in absolute
submission, and self-imposed limitation, await in patience God’s time for
receiving that kingdom His own have denied Him - on this He now receives a

This is so important a point that I desire to emphasize it
a little by repetition, especially as I am not aware of its having been made
use of by commentators generally. It is well for us thankfully to recognize
that, as with every book in the Bible, our gracious God hangs up the key to all
its treasure-rooms at its very entrance, so to speak, in the first few verses;
and this should save us from some very common mistakes. For instance, in view
of these words, "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to Him," we may
be quite sure that THE CHURCH is not the main subject of the book. This
"mystery" had, at this time, been made known by revelation (Eph. iii :3) many
years before to another servant, Paul, who, in proclaiming it, had "filled full
the word of God," by which I understand that there is nothing of the "exceeding
riches of His grace," and of the "manifold wisdom of God" that is - not fully
told out by that wondrous mystery: the Church. And yet God’s ways in time
needed further light thrown on them. Paul’s ministry left much as to the
government of the earth unrevealed; and as to this, the scroll of God’s
counsels had yet to be opened, and His purposes brought into effect; and this
could not be, as long as He was calling out a people to share His beloved
Son’s place in the heavens. It is quite true, too, that we may expect to
see the Church, as having the very closest place to her Lord in the wide sphere
of His government; and, as being His House, in responsibility on the earth, to
find that government first exercised there in the earlier chapters (cf. i Pet.
iv :17) ; whilst, at the close, our eyes may be cheered by a sight of the
Bride, The Lamb’s Wife, still clothed with all the fresh beauties of her
bridal attractions; and so, as the unfaded and unfading object of Divine
delight, entering Eternity. It is a blessed and precious final view of her. But
whilst the Spouse of the King has a place in the Kingdom, and a most important
and exalted one, we must not confound that place with the Kingdom itself. Our
book gives a revelation as to this larger sphere.

It is the Kingdom,
then, that we have before us; the government of God over this earth that has
revolted from Him; and which here we shall see brought back. It is a theme
that, in some circles of saints, hardly has its due place. They are so
entranced with the beauties of grace to themselves; so delighted with their own
place and portion that they fail to take a wider view and enter into the
thoughts of God. There is, however, a sublime Drama of the Ages being played
out (if I may be permitted an expression that may seem unworthy) with its good
and evil forces in awful strife; and this book sees and reveals the last
comprehensive Acts in this Drama, and closes with a new creation - earth and
heaven so close together as to be one, and that one tied with chords of willing
subjection and devotion to the Throne of a well-known, and, we may say, blessed
be His name, a well-loved God.

Jesus, as the Servant of God, is alone
the Mediator through whom this can be. God will now tell his Servant what He is
about to do through Him; and He, the blessed Lover of our race, will not keep
the revelation to Himself; but at once send it to His servants, by the hand of
His servant John (note how everything is on the lower level of service, instead
of sonship) in order that they may serve with clear intelligence as to the
future; with no baseless hopes on the one hand, and with no baseless depression
on the other. So that whilst they may see the storm clouds of judgment rapidly
gathering, they may not be discouraged, but look beyond to a day of a thousand
years of "clear shining after rain" (i Sam. xxiii :21). And if this blessed
millennial day, too, closes again in still more furious storms, and more awful
judgments, still further may the servant’s eye pierce, to that still
brighter day, that is never to be darkened with cloud, nor even shadowed by any
falling twilight, but is the Eternal Sabbath of God.

We must not pass
by any characteristic word unnoticed, and there is one in this first verse that
calls for this. He signified it by His angel. This is very striking. We have
not been accustomed to anything like this in the New Testament scriptures,
where all communications between the Lord Jesus and His people have been
direct, and with personal intimacy. It is, however, exactly in accord with His
ways in government, as told us in the scriptures of the Old Testament. There,
constantly, does "the Angel of the Lord" appear to His servants; yet before
this Angel departs, is the eye often opened, and we hear a startled cry of poor
nature uttering its alarm at the discovery of the Lord Himself in that Angel
(Judges Xlii :22).

So here we too may see with John, when he turned,
no inferior angel, but the Lord Himself; only in a majesty that demands
reverent adoration, rather than the holy and blessed familiarity of old. It is
the same Person, but we are in other scenes, and find Him in another aspect and
character, in conformity therewith. He is here the divinely accredited
representative of God’s government; and, as such, His claims begin
instantly with those nearest to Him - with you and me, dear reader, and the
recognition of this must precede true profit from this Book. We shall find
every word in perfect conformity with this, nor shall we be left in the least
in doubt as to the claims of the Book on Conscience or on the Heart. Note how
quickly it lays title to being "The Word of God." Of no other complete book has
such a formal claim been made. As already said, all have been inspired, but not
all have been pure revelation. Paul did not preface all he wrote with "This we
say unto you by the word of the Lord" (i Thess. iv), and this must necessarily
give another character to what immediately follows, putting it on the same
level as the "Thus saith the Lord" of the prophets of old. All here is thus
"The Word of God."

But it is also "the Testimony of Jesus." Will not
this appeal to our heart’s affections, and bid us listen? Here is our Lord
Himself testifying; shall we need more inducement than to know that we are
about to listen to Him? And yet we have something more than a promised special
blessing to him that even reads, but a gracious hand is beckoning to us to
advance still further, and to "hear," that is, to meditate, to let the word
enter deeply into our beings, and not resting satisfied with merely an external
acquaintance with the - letter; but to understand it, as this word "hear" ever
implies. B-ut still further on this pathway is there a blessing for them that
"keep," that is, who obey, and govern their lives practically by it. Nor must
we dissever these three. That "reading" only is blessed which leads to
"hearing," and this to practical "keeping." Only it is to encourage us to begin
with reading, even though we may not at first be able to hear, or understand,
at all. Let us only be willing to put into practice all we do learn, and all
shall eventually become clear.

But this brings us to what with many
will be the first difficulty: "for the time is at hands." Nearly 2,000 weary
years have passed, and yet all the words of the prophecy have certainly not
been fulfilled. Nor is the difficulty lessened by noting that the same form of
words exactly occurs at the very end, "Seal not the words of the prophecy of
this book - the time is at hand"; but this at once turns our minds to the
strongly contrasted command to the other beloved man who wrote a similar word
of prophecy in the Old Testament. "But thou, 0 Daniel, shut up the words and
seal the book, even to the time of the end." In the one case the book is to be
left open; "the time near"; in the other sealed up, for the time was still
afar. Clearly in the former case the thread of time on which, as it were, the
events that are here seen strung begins to unwind at once, and we shall surely
see this. There is nothing to come between in the former - much in the latter.
Nor do the words we are considering at all necessitate the immediate fulfilment
of all the words. They do, however (what the Lord ever seeks) put us in the
attitude of immediate and constant expectancy and watchfulness. Oh, look at
time with God; "long" will not be long then; any more than it will be when we
do actually look back at it from eternity.