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Verse 18. I am he that liveth. In the foregoing verses the Lord spoke more immediately of his divine nature: I am the first and the last-which is—was is to come; he now speaks of his human nature, which alone could die. I am Jesus Christ, the mediator between God and man, who suffered death on the cross in your presence, for the sins of the world, and who now liveth to all eternity.
For evermore. εις τες αιώνας των αιώνων, This expression evidently indicates an infinite duration, but yet an infinite duration of distinguished times. All finite beings live in a suc.cession of time, which they measure either by external objects, or by the series of thought and reflection within their own mind. Only God inhabits eternity, and lives exalted above these limits of creation, which can never become the perfection of a creature; because they have began to exist, from which point their time can always be computed. This must, I presume, also be the case with the human nature of our blessed Lord ? That it is, as to his mediatorial office, and future reign, the apostle expressly affirms. 1 Cor. xv. 28.* The ancient Asiatics, according to Herder, who were acquainted with the Chaldean wisdom, and the religious tenets of Zoroaster, considered the whole duration of the world as subdivided by many general revolutions or catastrophes like the flood, predetermined in the councils of heaven. Between these revolutions, the Su. preme Deity, in their opinion, changed his ministers and governors of this inferior world, so that no one of the heavenly powers had more than one time of reign on earth. The time of such a reign, from one revolution to the other, the Chaldeans called OLAM, Daniel
* When the Son shall have arrived at the summit of his Mediatorial glory, having gradually subjected all contrary power, and death itself to his jurisdiction; then a new economy will be established, and a new exalted relation between Christ and his Father, in regard to his manhood, which shall continue through a new succession of ages.
ii. 4. chap. iv. 3. chap. vii. 18. Ezr. iv, 15. which word often occurs in Daniel, and never signifies an absolute eternity, but only an unknown time, or a time having a beginning, but an unknown duration. For an absolute eternity, the Hebrew term is GNAD. Isaiah Lvii. 15. This Olam, they expressed in the Greek language by the term aiwy, and made this word the vehicle, of this vast and important Asiatic idea. Hence all the doctrine and beresies about these Aionas during the first centuries of the christian æra. This division of the duration of the world into so many Aionas, is a fundamental idea in the Zend-Avesta, the holy scriptures of the Persians, attributed to Zoroaster, the great reformer of Sabiism ; whose religious opinions obtained unlimited sway over all Asia, since the time of Cyrus, and were prevalent yet among Jews and Gentiles, even in the time of St. John. From these considerations, I presume to say, the above original ought to be rendered, “ through all ages of the world;" In accordance with this idea, the apostle Paul terms Satan, 2 Cor. iv. 4. O 805 T8 CIWOS T8T8, the God, or governor of this age, n. a. in which the kingdom of God is oppressed by temptation, and intellectual darkness, of which Satan is the chief and first cause.
Keys of death and hell. By the word hell we understand the place of eternal torment, which is not at all the true meaning of the original word Hades. It is the Scheol of the Hebrews, the place of shades, of dawning light, of longing and silent solitude, the place of the general congregation of the dead, the court-yard of eternal justice; where Christ appeared in the assembly of departed spirits. 1. Pet. iii. 17-iv. 6. Hebrews xi. 39, 40. Death, in our common acceptation of the word signifies the extinction of animal life in our bodies, or the separation of body and soul. But this cannot be the meaning here. After a mature consideration of all the parallel places, where these words occur, it appears, that after our dissolution, Hades is the
place and state ofall separate spirits, and Thanatos the place and state of the body; where it is dissolved into its first elements, in order that the immortal bud or germ of the future body may be set at liberty, to bring forth its glorious fruit. In this Hades is Tartarus to the wicked, and Elysium to the good, Thanatos and Hades are often menn tioned together in scripture. Ps. vi. 5. Isaiah xxviii. 18. xxxviii. 18. and both described as strong and powerful. 1 Cor. xv. 55. Song of Sol viii. 6. To each of these states and places the Orientals assigned a superintending angel, who governed by severe laws, and defended bis own with authority against the encroachments of others.
Keys are emblems of power and dignity; they indicate in this place, that our blessed Saviour has sovereign power over both, Rom. xiv. 9. which he has proved even in the moment of his death. The graves were opened ; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. Math. xxvii. 52, 53. Where have these saints been during all this time, since their death? And what was their employment? They have surely not been idle : for in the kingdom of God all is industry to useful purposes; and yet, they were only new partakers of his resurrection. Christ should be the first born of the dead, and thereby demonstrate, that he has des
poiled death and hades of their power, and brought life - and immortality to light. The most noble saints of the
Old Testament, became the first glorious garland of his resurrection. When Paul endeavours to describe the pleni- . tude of his power, his words encompass the extremities of the universe, when he says: he passed into the lowermost parts of the earth, and ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things. Eph. iv. 9, 10. All knees should bow before him in heaven, on earth, and under the earth; and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord of glory. Phil. ii. 10, 11. Hebrows i. 3. TIO
apostle Peter extends the message of his triumph even unto the spirits in prison. 1 Pet. iii. 17-to chap. iv. 6, to those, who had once been the first patterns of wickedness and infidelity, and on that account, pass even in Heathen mithologies for a race of demons, against whom as they say, the Supreme God armed stars and angels, and washed the elements of their pollutions by the flood.
Here the second chapter ought to commence with the 19th verse; for the Lord now begins to dictate the seven epistles to the apostle, whom she commands to be his secretary and amanuensis by saying, write. This divine order however does not only refer to these seven epistles, but also to the whole contents of the Apocalypse; which by his authority, is divided into three parts. St. John was to write and has written:
I. The things which he had seen, from chap.
i. 11-18. . II. The things which are, from chap. i. 19, 20.
ii. 147. III. The things which shall be hereafter, from
chap. ii. 8. When doctors disagree, who shall decide the controversy? And they differ widely in this place. Some con. tend, that these addresses are not prophetic, and only concern those seven individual churches in Asia, and their bishops or pastors. Others look upon them, as wholly of a prophetic nature, and as containing a description, of the internal state of vital religion and the most interesting events in the Church of Christ, during seven different periods. Some make these periods of equal, and others of unequal lengths; some describe them as arising in succession, and others let them run parallel to each other for many years. They all hold these seven candlesticks to signify seven churches, and the seven stars their pastors; but they disagree in their applications of these prophecies, and select very different objects, in which they suppose them ful
filled. It is very probable these great men may have erred on both sides, and the truth lie between them. Those who contend for seven different churches in succession, cannot draw the line of distinction between them with any degree of exactness; and those which only understand the churches in Asia, are often wavering as they proceed to explain, and give us but little saticfaction. I look upon this subject as important and well deserving of mature consideration. If in my researches on this bead I have been so fortunate, as to hit upon a rich bed of precious metal, by following a good appearance a few feet deeper; the credit is certainly due to those, who first dug tho shaft into the bowels of the earth, and prepared the way for entrance.
These seven stars and seven candlesticks are called a mystery in the 20th verse, and must therefore be of a more comprehensive signification, than merely to denote those churches in Asia : though they surely were of first import to them. These epistles, no doubt, most properly belong to the following prophecy, and stand strictly con. nected with its contents. We only wish to know in what point of view their relation is to be considered. I have in part ventured my opinion on this head, though with all sincere respect due to the talents, learning, and labours of others. If it should not appear convincing to all my readers, probably some of them have not studied this subject as it deserves. These churches are by their number seven(which is the holy number, the number of perfection) the representation of the whole church of Christ, at seven different periods of time; and these addresses, are seven pastoral charges of the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls, to his gospel ministry, and where our Lord expressly designates, also to all the members of his church. They are chiefly addressed to the gospel ministry ; in direct terms, at the head of every epistle, and the churches are not expressly comprehended in them, except in the annexed