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Revelation 1:4

John
This simple statement identifying the writer as “John” is evidence for the traditional view of John the Apostle as author. For what other John would designate himself simply as “John” when “John the Apostle” was the most prominent “John” amongst the Asian churches during this period? If it had been another “John,” he would have clarified so. John was ideally suited to write to these churches because he had been living in Asia Minor and ministering among the churches since approximately A.D. 66.1

seven churches which are in Asia
See Seven Churches of Asia . The names of the seven churches are listed in Revelation Rev. 1:11+. Although the text to follow addresses each church in turn, the book of Revelation is addressed to all seven churches for all seven churches are to benefit from its contents and to learn from those things which are said concerning the other churches (Rev. Rev. 2:7+, Rev. 2:11+, Rev. 2:17+, Rev. 2:29+; Rev. 3:6+, Rev. 3:13+, Rev. 3:22+). See Seven: Perfection, Completeness.

from Him who is and who was and who is to come
This is a reference to God the Father as can be seen by the Son being mentioned in the following verse “and from Jesus Christ” (Rev. Rev. 1:5+). This unusual grammatical construction is comprised of a present participle (ὁ ω῍ν [ho ōn] , he who is), an imperfect verb (ὁ ἦν [ho ēn] , he was) and another present participle (ὁ ἐρχόμενος [ho erchomenos] , he who is coming). A more literal rendering might be, “the One who is and the He was and the coming One. Several unusual aspects of this grammatical construction have been noted:

Another rare grammatical phenomenon of this title is the finite verb en doing duty for a participle (Simcox). It is modified by a definite article and is parallel with participles in the first and third members of the expression. The reason for this peculiarity lies in a limitation of the verb εἰμί [eimi] (“I am”), which has no participial form to express continuing action in past time. The writer wanted to describe the Father’s being by including His eternal and continuing existence prior to the present moment. The imperfect indicative was the only linguistic device for doing so.2

Regarding “who is” (nominative) following the preposition “from,” Wallace observes:

This is the first and worst grammatical solecism in Revelation, but many more are to follow. There are two broad options for how to deal with it: Either the author unintentionally erred or he intentionally violated standard syntax. If unintentional, it could be due to a heavily Semitized Greek, or merely represent the level of linguistic skill that a minimally educated man might achieve (as in the vulgar papyri). Either of these is doubtful here because (1) such a flagrant misunderstanding of the rudiments of Greek would almost surely mean that the author simply could not compose in Greek, yet the Apocalypse itself argues against this; (2) nowhere else does the Seer use a nominative immediately after a preposition (in fact, he uses ἀπό [apo] 32 times with a genitive immediately following). If intentional, the question of what the author intends. Few scholars would disagree with Charles’ assessment [R.H. Charles, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John]: “The Seer has deliberately violated the rules of grammar in order to preserve the divine name inviolate from the change which it would necessarily have undergone if declined. Hence the divine name is here in the nominative.” It would be like one American saying to another, “Do you believe in ‘We the People?’ ” If the question had been, “Do you believe in us the people?” the allusion to the Preamble to the Constitution would have been lost.3

The phrase is to be regarded as an indeclinable proper name4 meant to be familiar to readers of the Greek Old Testament who read of the name which God revealed to Moses at the burning bush, Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὢν [Egō eimi ho ōn] , “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex. Ex. 3:14, LXX). Although the phrase denotes God’s eternality, it also emphasizes one of the themes of this book: His soon coming. “Such a means of referring to the future also heightens the focus upon the imminence of His coming: He who is already on His way may arrive at any moment.”5

It is difficult to understand how so many should assume without further question that ὁ ἐρχόμενος [ho erchomenos] [the coming one] here is==ὁ ἐσόμενος [ho esomenos] [the one who shall be], and that thus we have the eternity of God expressed here so far as it can be expressed, in forms of time: “He who was, and is, and shall be.” But how ὁ ἐρχόμενος [ho erchomenos] should ever have this significance is hard to perceive. . . . What is the key-note to this whole Book? Surely it is, “I come quickly. The world seems to have all things its own way, to kill my servants; but I come quickly.” With this announcement the Book begins, Rev. Rev. 1:7+; with this it ends, Rev. Rev. 22:7+, Rev. 22:12+, Rev. 22:20+ and this is a constantly recurring note through it all, Rev. Rev. 2:5+, Rev. 2:16+; Rev. 3:11+; Rev. 6:17+; Rev. 11:18+; Rev. 14:7+; Rev. 16:15+; Rev. 18:20+.6


seven spirits
Isaiah provides a list of qualities of the Spirit which shall rest upon the Messiah who shall come from the stem of Jesse (David’s father): “The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD” (Isa. Isa. 11:2).7 In the fourth chapter, John calls our attention to “Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God” [emphasis added] (Rev. Rev. 4:5+). These Spirits are also said to be “seven eyes, which are the Seven Spirits of God sent out unto all the earth” (Rev. Rev. 5:6+). The omniscience of the Holy Spirit is in view and His worldwide ministry, also mentioned by Zechariah (Zec. Zec. 4:6-10). One of His worldwide ministries is convicting “of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John John 16:8). He provides the breath of life to all the world’s creatures (Gen. Gen. 2:7; Job Job 34:14-15). He strives with all men to restrain sin (Gen. Gen. 6:3; Gen. 20:6; 2Th. 2Th. 2:6-7). Here, the Spirits are specifically said to be Spirits of God making the connection to Isaiah Isa. 11:2 more plausible and denoting seven different aspects of the Holy Spirit Who was poured out on the Anointed One (the Mashiach or Christos). That these spirits are not angels8 is seen from their elevation on a par with the other two members of the Trinity: “The seven Spirits might conceivably refer to a group of angelic beings. But coming between references to the Father and the Son it is more probable that this is an unusual way of designating the Holy Spirit.”9 The number of spirits matches the number of lampstands and would seem to represent the activity of Christ through the Holy Spirit in and to the seven churches (Zec. Zec. 4:6). The epistle to each church closes with the admonition, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev. Rev. 2:7+, Rev. 2:11+, Rev. 2:17+, Rev. 2:29+; Rev. 3:6+, Rev. 3:13+, Rev. 3:22+).10 See Seven: Perfection, Completeness.

Notes

1 Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1992), 130.

2 Ibid., 65.

3 Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics - Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House and Galaxie Software, 1999, 2002), 62-63.

4 Henry Barclay Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1998, 1906), 5.

5 Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 66.

6 Richard Chenevix Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1861), 6-7.

7 There is some uncertainty as to whether Isaiah lists seven Spirits, or only six (in this case “Spirit of the LORD” being seen as a summary of the six which follow). It seems likely, given the use of seven throughout Scripture, that Isaiah lists these attributes to indicate the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

8 “Some writers say these verses are speaking of the seven angels who are before the throne of God (Rev. Rev. 8:2+).”—Russell L. Penney, “Pneumatology in the Book of Revelation,” in Mal Couch, ed., A Bible Handbook to Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2001), 115. “Other interpreters understand the designation as a reference to the seven archangels of Jewish tradition. In 1 Enoch 20:1-8 they are listed as Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Saraquael, Gabriel, and Remiel (cf. Tobit 12:15; Esd. 4:1; Dan. Dan. 10:13).”—Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977), 69.

9 Robert P. Lightner, “Theology Proper in the Book of Revelation,” in Mal Couch, ed., A Bible Handbook to Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2001), 92.

10 Alan F. Johnson, Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), 24.

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