John to the seven churches which are in Asia
In lesser Asia; their names are mentioned in ( Revelation 1:11 ) ;
grace [be] unto you, and peace;
which is the common salutation of the apostles in all their epistles, and includes all blessings of grace, and all prosperity, inward and outward: (See Gill on Romans 1:7). The persons from whom they are wished are very particularly described,
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 ( Revelation 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 ( Exodus 3:14 ) ;
``Says R. Isaac F11, 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 (hyha) is written three times.''And such a periphrasis of God is frequent in their writings F12.
And from the seven spirits which are before his throne;
either before the throne of God the Father; or, as the Ethiopic version reads, "before the throne of the Lord Jesus Christ"; by whom are meant not angels, though these are spirits, and stand before the throne of God, and are ready to do his will: this is the sense of some interpreters, who think such a number of them is mentioned with reference to the seven angels of the churches; or to the seven last "Sephirot", or numbers in the Cabalistic tree of the Jews; the three first they suppose design the three Persons in the Godhead, expressed in the preceding clause, and the seven last the whole company of angels: or to the seven principal angels the Jews speak of. Indeed, in the Apocrypha,
``I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels, which present the prayers of the saints, and which go in and out before the glory of the Holy One.'' (Tobit 12:15)Raphael is said to be one of the seven angels; but it does not appear to be a generally received notion of theirs that there were seven principal angels. The Chaldee paraphrase on ( Genesis 11:7 ) is misunderstood by Mr. Mede, for not "seven", but "seventy angels" are there addressed. It was usual with the Jews only to speak of four principal angels, who stand round about the throne of God; and their names are Michael, Uriel, Gabriel, and Raphael; according to them, Michael stands at his right hand, Uriel at his left, Gabriel before him, and Raphael behind him F13. However, it does not seem likely that angels should be placed in such a situation between the divine Persons, the Father and the Son; and still less that grace and peace should be wished for from them, as from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ; and that any countenance should be given to angel worship, in a book in which angels are so often represented as worshippers, and in which worship is more than once forbidden them, and that by themselves: but by these seven spirits are intended the Holy Spirit of God, who is one in his person, but his gifts and graces are various; and therefore he is signified by this number, because of the fulness and perfection of them, and with respect to the seven churches, over whom he presided, whom he influenced, and sanctified, and filled, and enriched with his gifts and graces.
F11 Shemot Rabba, sect. 3. fol. 73. 2.
F12 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.
F13 Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 2. fol. 179. 1.