"The Day of the Lord"
The descriptive titles given to this book mark it off as being special in its nature, distinct from the other books of the New Testament; and in character and keeping with the prophetic books of the Old Testament. It is called
This is not used as a general term, of the Scriptures or of the Bible, as such:* but in a special sense, not uncommon in the Old Testament, of the "word which comes from God," or which He speaks. Hence, a prophetic message, e.g.,
It is difficult to distinguish between the written Word and the Living Word.
Both make known and reveal God.
When we come to the Apocalypse, we are at once prepared for both Vision of the Living Word, and also the prophetic word of the Living God; both making known to the servants of God the visions and words of "this prophecy" (ver. 3). Five times we have this expression in this book.* Not in the common sense, as in the Gospels and Epistles, but in this special sense of a prophetic message.
In 1:9 John tells us he "was in the Isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ." Leaving the latter expression for a moment, we may remark that the popular interpretation of the word "for" is based on a tradition which doubtless sprang from a misunderstanding of these words. There is no idea of banishment in them. It was no accident which lead to the giving of this prophecy. John went to Patmos "for" the purpose of receiving it (as Paul went into Arabia, Gal. 1:17). "On account of" is the meaning of the word here used, for "for."* If his preaching of "the Word of God" was the cause of this being in Patmos, another expression would have been used. See Exposition below, on 1:9.
Verse 2 tells us that "the word of God" consisted of "the things that he saw." How could John be banished to Patmos because of, or by reason of, the things which he saw in Patmos! No, the truth here recorded is that John was there on account of (i.e., to receive) "the word of God," i.e., the prophetic message, even "the words of this prophecy." There is a second descriptive title which stamps this book. It is called
Seven times we have the word prophecy in this book,* and prophecy is its one great subject.
It is "prophecy" for us, therefore, and not past history.
It is prophecy concerning the events which shall take place "hereafter"
during the day of the Lord, i.e., during the day when the Lord will be the Judge,
in contradistinction to the present day, i.e., "man's day" (1 Cor.
4:3) during which man is judging (to the painful experience of most of us).
See Exposition on 1:10.
That reading commences at once; that hearing commences with the reading. Neither is to be postponed till some future time, or to some particular part of the book: nor are we to be left in ignorance as to where our reading and our blessing commences. We believe that "this prophecy" means "this prophecy," and that we begin at once to read it and to get the blessing. It cannot be that we are to read on and wait till we come to some particular verse where the blessing commences. Our attention to what is written is not to be postponed. All the words are "the words of this prophecy." John was to bear witness of "all things that he saw" (ver. 2); and the command is "what thou seest write in A BOOK." What we have therefore is in "a book;" and that book contains all that John saw and heard; and it is called "this prophecy."
The whole book, therefore, is prophecy for us. It is "those things which are written in it" which we are to keep: and it is as a whole Book that we propose to deal with it. We feel it safer to be guided by what God Himself calls it than by what man tells us as to what part is prophecy and what is not. If they who tell us this were agreed among themselves it would be something; but when they differ, we cannot gain much by listening to them.
The evidence afforded by this title is, that, as the whole book is prophecy, the Church of God is not the subject of it: for, as we have seen, the Church is not the subject of prophecy, but of "revelation." The future of the Church is given and written for our reading and blessing in the Pauline Epistles; especially in 1 Thess. 4., where the Apostle Paul speaks "by the word of the Lord," which means, here as well as elsewhere, a prophetic announcement. Further, we may add that, when John is told that he is to prophesy again (10:11), it is not about the Church, but about "peoples and nations and tongues and kings."
But there is another title given to this book. It is
Now, this may mean the testimony concerning Him (the Gen. of the object or relation); or, the testimony which comes from Him (the Gen. of the subject or origin), i.e., which he bore. If we take it as the former, it then agrees with the whole prophetic word, which is concerning Him as "the coming One."
If we take it in the latter meaning, then it refers to the nature of the testimony which the Lord Jesus bore when on earth; and does not go outside it. That testimony related to the kingdom and not to the Church.
The word for "testimony" is worthy of note. It is (...), marturia (fem.), and not (...), marturion (neuter). Now, when there are two nouns from the same root, one feminine and the other neuter, there is an unmistakable difference, which has to be carefully noted and observed: i.e., if we believe that we are dealing with "the words which the Holy Ghost teacheth," as we most certainly do.
The difference here is clear and decided, and a few illustrations will be convincing. The neuter noun, ending in (...)(-ion), denotes something definite and substantial, while the feminine noun, ending in (...)(ia), denotes the matter referred to or contained in or relating to the neuter noun.
Now, in the Apocalypse, we have maturion (the neuter), testimony, only once (Rev. 15:5), where it is used of a thing, "the tabernacle of the testimony," i.e., the tent and tables of stone which were placed therein. In every other place (nine times) we have marturia, i.e., the testimony given or witness borne (1:2,9; 6:9; 11:7; 12:11,17; 19:10, twice; 20:4). In all these cases therefore, it is testimony or witness borne, as a reference to them will show.
It seems, then, quite clear that, where we read in this prophecy of "the testimony of Jesus" (1:2,9; 12:17; 19:10, twice*), it means the testimony which the Lord Jesus bore or gave on earth as "Jesus" in the days of His humiliation (not as the Christ as raised from the dead).
The testimony was, as we have already said, concerning His kingdom and concerning Israel (see Rom. 15:8); and it is the same testimony which the same Jesus gives in the book of this prophecy.