Revelation 1:1: The Time Is at Hand

Updated: Apr 4, 2019

[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.



[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,[22] 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[23]); or, in the time of the New Testament (certain interpreters in Pareus, Ambrosius[24] 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[25] (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’[26] “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,[27] 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[28] (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;[29] Romans 16:20;[30] though indeed sometimes it signifies the time immediately following a command, as Acts 12:7;[31] 22:18:[32] 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.?



[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;[33] 18:32;[34] 21:19[35] [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[36] is not dissimilar to Matthew 2:16[37] and 14:10:[38] 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.

[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.


[22] 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.


[23] 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.


[24] 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.


[25] 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).”


[26] 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.


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


[28] 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).”


[29] 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?”


[30] 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.”


[31] 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.”


[32] 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.”


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


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


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


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


[37] 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…”


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

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ABOUT US

Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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