I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ…
(with Genesis 3:8): — The Book of Revelation is a mosaic, in which the previous parts of the Bible are brought together and formed into a new picture, illustrative of the fortunes of the Church and the world. As Genesis is the book of beginnings, so Revelation is the book of completions.
1. Between the two revelations of God to man which meets us respectively at the commencement and at the close of the sacred Scriptures, we find the closest connection. He who appeared to our first parents walking among the trees of the garden, appeared in vision to the beloved disciple in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks in the Isle of Patmos. The two Divine manifestations were essentially the same, although they differed in outward form and circumstances. Between them there were connecting links. The experience of the exile on Horeb, for instance, was repeated in the case of the exile in Patmos. The same vision of the burning bush which appeared to Moses appeared to John in the vision of the seven golden candlesticks. The Son of Man associated Himself with the one symbol in the same way that He had associated Himself with the other. The occasion in both oases was similar. The burning bush was never to be extinguished, it was to become a candlestick; and the fire of God's dealings with His people for their purification was to become a conspicuous light held aloft to lighten the whole world. The same truth is still further illustrated by the fact that the vision of John in Patmos was based upon the Jewish tabernacle and temple. Separated outwardly from the solemnities of the ancient worship — from the priesthood, the altars, the sacrifices, the festivals, the Hebrew Christians could still enjoy all that was most precious and enduring in the possession of their race. And the modification in the old form which the apostle beheld was itself full of significance. The single candlestick of pure gold, whose light illumined the holy place which was the pattern of the Church upon earth, appeared before John in the darkness and loneliness of his exile, multiplied into seven distinct candlesticks, as if each branch of the prototype had become a separate candlestick; in token that the original Jewish Church, which was one — the Church of a single people — had differentiated into a Christian Church, which while one as to its unity of faith and love, is also many as regards its organisation and individual life, the Church of all nations and people and tribes and tongues. And as the vision of Patmos was thus connected with the tabernacle and temple, and with the vision of Horeb, so we can trace them all back to the Adamic revelation, whose symbol was the tree of life in the midst of the garden. The difference between the living tree and the dead fuel on the hearth or in the lamp, is that the fire in the one, owing to the conserving power of the vital principle, is burning without being consumed; whereas in the other is the burning and consuming — reducing to dust and ashes, because of the absence of the vital conserving principle. The bowls which contained the oil were shaped like an almond-nut, the knops looked like the flower buds, and the carved flowers resembled the fully-expanded blossoms of the almond tree. This tree was selected as the pattern of the golden candlestick, and as that which yielded Aaron's miraculous rod, because it is the first to awaken from sleep of winter, as its Hebrew name signifies. It was a symbol of the life of nature, rising in perpetual youth and beauty out of the decaying ruins of man's works. And so the Hebrew candlestick might be regarded as emblematical of the life of the Church, being the first to awaken out of the wreck of human sin, exhibiting its beauties of holiness and fruits of righteousness, while all around the world is wrapt in the winter sleep of spiritual torpor.
2. But between the revelation of Eden and the revelation of Patmos there are some striking points of contrast. The revelation of Eden was given in circumstances of peace and happiness. Nature was a faithful outward reflection of man's moral state. Its beauty and fruitfulness coincided with man's moral beauty and fruitfulness. But the revelation of Patmos was amid widely different circumstances. The symbol of it was not the tree that grew spontaneously by the laws of natural growth, but the candlestick wrought by human hands, with the sweat of the face. The gold of which it was composed was dug with toil and trouble from the mine, melted in the furnace, purified from its ore, and not cast into a mould, but beaten out of a solid piece with the hammer into the form in which it appeared. The oil for the light was also beaten from the olive berries grown, gathered, and expressed by human toil and skill; and the wick in like manner was a human manufacture made of the fine twined linen which formed part of the curtains of the tabernacle. The whole idea of the candlestick implied toil and trouble. And this is the great characteristic of the revelation of which it is the symbol. Everything connected with it indicates salvation from sin through toil and suffering. Every image, every symbol and type in sacred Scripture, speaks of the curse of the ground and the sorrow of the soul which sin had brought into the world. This great factor is taken into account in all remedial schemes. The first promise to our race announces redemption through pain and toil and sorrow. The bruising of the serpent's head is to be accomplished only through the wounding of the victor's heel. The Levitical institutions disclose the painfulness of the covenant of grace in g most remarkable manner. Their limitations, their restrictions, their heavy burdens, their awful sanctions, their sacrifices of blood and death, all speak in the most impressive manner of the evil of sin and the costliness of the deliverance from it. And the life and death of our Saviour disclose this in a way still more solemn and emphatic. The trees of Eden in His case were converted into the Cross of Calvary; and the glorious fiat of the first creation, "Let there be light, and there was light," into the awful cry of darkness and death — the birth-pang of the new creation, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" In the midst of the seven golden candlesticks the beloved disciple heard Him saying, "I am He that liveth and was dead." In the midst of the throne, John, through his tears, saw "a Lamb as it had been slain."
3. Another point of contrast between the revelation or Patmos and the revelation of Eden is the clearness and fulness of the one, in comparison with the dimness and obscurity of the other. God talked with Adam not only among but through the medium of the trees of the garden, conveyed to him spiritual instruction by the objects and processes of nature around him. Religion meant to Him simply the knowledge, worship, and service of God as He was revealed by the objects and processes of nature; and on these points nature could give him all the light that he needed. But we have sinned and fallen, and religion to us includes, besides these elements, repentance of sin and dependence upon an atonement. Nature therefore cannot solve the awful doubts which arise in the human heart regarding the justice of God. "How shall man be just with God?" We need that He who at first commanded the light to shine out of darkness, should give us the light of the knowledge of His glory in the face of Jet-as Christ. God has given to us this special revelation, suited to our altered sinful state, in the economy of redemption.
4. And now we come to the last point of contrast between the revelation of Eden and the revelation of Patmos, namely, the transitory nature of the one and the permanence of the other. God appeared to our first parents walking among the trees of the garden. These trees were in their very nature evanescent. But, on the other hand, God in Christ appeared to the beloved disciple in Patmos in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; and these candlesticks were the symbols of the Word of the Lord which endureth for ever. The form and substance of these candlesticks indicated the imperishable nature of the revelation which they symbolised. They were all beaten out of solid gold — the most enduring of all earthly materials — the very pavement of heaven itself. They were carved with the figures of flowers and fruits, preserving the exquisite loveliness of the fading flowers and fruit of earth in an imperishable form. Thus they are appropriate emblems of the beauty and glory of the new creation of God, a creation, though new, yet founded as it were on the ruins of the old, fashioned of lasting and unfading materials, and yet combining all the beauty and glory of that which shall pass away.
(H. Macmillan, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.