Rev. 1: 1. The "revelation" (unveiling, uncovering, manifestation, as in Romans 8, "manifestation of the sons of God") "of Jesus Christ" (in this book to show the way in which He meets all God's desires in the midst of the wreck and ruin of the Church) which God gave unto Him, to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass." There is a great meaning in the manifestation being especially made to the servants, this applying to those gathered out from the churches -- "He that hath an ear, let him hear." There may be a difficulty in the last clause of this verse. Perhaps the meaning is, God signified by Christ to His servant John. The revelation of Jesus Christ in this book is of a different character to that which we get in the epistles. This goes beyond the scope of what is unfolded there.
Rev. 1: 4. Grace and peace, not from the Father, as in the epistles, but from God in the abstract sense -- self-existence, power, and eternity being the attributes implied in the thought. "From the seven Spirits," etc., source of government in connection with the earth; "from Jesus Christ," the characteristics here named, "Faithful Witness," etc., are not those of special relationship to the Church, but are more His intrinsic personal distinctions and offices, and relate to Him in the universal sphere of His dominion. John in his right place is a worshipper. "To Him who hath loved us," etc.
Rev. 1: 8. He speaks of Him; he first realizes the washing from sin, which was necessary before he could be a priest. If we do not take our right place in the first thing, we are not in our right position in the second. The prodigal son would not have made a good servant in the Father's house; he must get into his place as a son. God's ways with us are all according to the glory of His Son. "All things work together for good," therefore the judgment of the churches. The very highest abstract title of God is given to Christ, "Which is, and was, and which is to come;" also the title expressive of His power, "Almighty," "Alpha, and Omega" -- the "Beginning and the Ending," connected with all testimony; the Word -- first and last letters of the word. "First and Last" expresses that which was in existence before the "Beginning," and continues after the "Ending." It is more connected with the eternity of Christ as God. In the addresses to the churches, it is observable that those in which there is the sense of responsibility in government, the title with which He comes to them is connected with something in His person, as the "Ancient of days;" but when there is most the expression of grace, it is connected with what lies deep in His own bosom, individual dealing; e.g. Philadelphia.
It is needful to remember that God has given all truth for me. I must be holding fast what God gives, and be keeping always in my soul the conviction that I have not got all yet. Two things are very important to remember; first, all is in Christ, therefore I cannot get it for myself; and second, all is in Christ, and I am in Him, therefore all is safe for me, and God is for us. Grace and truth have never been held together in human controversies, therefore you constantly find yourself at "Pihahiroth" -- nothing but sea before you; you are conscious you cannot act out, and can do nothing.
John is surprised and alarmed at seeing Christ come to judge the churches (walking amongst the candlesticks). He had learned the truth of the heavenly calling of the Church, and was not prepared for this; therefore his anxiety. The suddenness of it was another cause. If John had had more faith and understanding of Christ's holiness. and consequently of the need to judge the churches which He had set up, he would not have been surprised or afraid. But see the condescension of Christ in meeting him just where he was. (vv. 17, 18.) His highest title, "First and Last," associated with human being, "He that liveth, and was dead." This condescension of Christ in all our difficulties is like oil upon the conscience. How little we realize it as we might! We humble ourselves perhaps, and pray about a thing, and then have five hundred anxious thoughts about those very things we have confessed or prayed about. Christ uses this terror of John at seeing Him on earth to express to him this moral truth connected with Himself. (v. 17.) When "he fell at His feet as dead," "He laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and death." The touch is very peculiar. One stranger does not touch another stranger; but here Christ comes, and lays His hands upon John, as much as to say, "You lay on my bosom once. I am the same." "I am He that liveth, and was dead; and am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death" -- all power over hades and death. What perfect sympathy as a man associated with divine glory in this chapter! In personal experience, "I have passed through deeper waters than you, and have come up out of them," Christ would say, "and have the mastery of the unseen world -- death and hades."