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AN EXPOSITION OF THE APOCALYPSE
1. Of Deity Before Manifestation in Flesh
The apostle who had the honor of receiving the Apocalypse for transmission to the servants of the Deity, has called our attention to the consideration of the fountain and origin of life and power in what is commonly called the gospel according to John. He there points us to a certain commencement, and saith, "In the beginning was ho Logos, and the Logos was with the Theos, and Theos was the Logos." In the Common Version this reads, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." We may see from this the propriety of God styling himself "the First," "the Beginning," and "He who is and who was." He was from the beginning, whether that beginning be referred to the creation narrated by Moses, or a remoter beginning before ever the earth was; and none but a fool, the Spirit saith, would affirm that God is not.
Though John introduces two words into the text, he is careful to inform us that they are not representative of two Gods contemporary
with the beginning, but of one only; for he expressly says that "Theos was the Logos."
In this text, then, there is ONE DEITY, and he is styled THE LOGOS. This word signifies, "the outward form by which the inward thought is expressed and made known; also, the inward thought or reason itself. So that the word comprehends both the ideas of reason and speech." Hence, by John styling Him the Logos,* it was equivalent to affirming that he was a reasoner and a revelator: or, as Daniel declared to Nebuchadnezzar, that "the !hebrew! Elahh in the heavens revealed secrets," even "the deep and secret things."
[ * "This title is not taken, as some have imagined, either from Plato or from Philo (with whose writings there is no sufficient reason to think that the apostles were acquainted), but from the scriptures of the Old Testament, and from the subsequent style of the ancient Jews in conformity thereto. It is not at all wonderful that something should be met with about , a Divine Word, not only in Plato, but also in Timaeus the Pythagorean, and the Stoics, since Plato, Pythagoras, and Zeno conversed with the Jews, and derived from them many other of their notions and expressions." - Parkhurst.]
But was the Deity reason and speech only? In other words, an abstraction independent of substance; or, as some affirm, "without body or parts"? To preserve us from such a supposition, John informs us that "the Logos was with the Theos," Here was companionship and identity - "the Logos was with the Theos, and Theos was the Logos." Never was there a conceivable point of time, or eternity, when the one existed without the other. "Jehovah [Yahweh] possessed me," saith the Logos, "in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from olahm (the hidden period) from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth: while as yet he had not made the earth, nor the open places, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the deep; when he established the clouds above; when he strengthened the fountains of the deep; when he gave to the sea his decree that the water should not pass his commandment; when he appointed the foundations of the earth: then I was by him as one brought up with him (the Logos was with the Theos): and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth, and my delights with the sons of men" (Prov. 8:22).
No Logos, then there would be no Theos; and without Theos, the Logos could have no existence. This may be illustrated by the relation of reason, or intelligence and speech, to brain, as affirmed in the
proposition, No brain, -- no thought, reason, nor intelligence. Call the brain Theos; and thought, reason, and understanding intelligently expressed, Logos; and the relation and dependence of Theos and Logos, in John's use of the terms, may readily be conceived. Brain-flesh is substance, or the hypostasis, that underlies thought; so Theos is substance which constitutes the substratum of Logos. Theos is the substance called Spirit; as it is written, "Theos is Spirit;" and he who uttered these words is declared to be himself both substance and spirit.
But why is the Divine Substance called Theos? It is a name taken by the Septuagint translators from the heathen; and from them appropriated by the apostles, who wrote in Greek. The derivations proposed of the word are various. The most probable seems to be that which deduces it from the verb, !hebrew! to place, appoint, constitute, ordain. Phurnutus the Stoic, who wrote in the reign of Nero, says, "It is probable that !hebrew! (the gods) were so called from !hebrew!, position, or placing - for the ancients took those for gods or theoi whom they found to move in a certain regular and constant manner, thinking them the causes of the changes in the air, and of the conservation of the universe; these then are the theoi or gods, which are the disposers (!hebrew!) and formers of all things." And long before Phurnutus, Herodotus had written that the Pelasgi, the ancient inhabitants of Greece, "called them theoi, because the gods had disposed or placed in order all things and all countries."
Theos, then, in the singular, may reasonably be supposed to have been adopted by the sacred writers of the New Testament, as an appropriate designation for the Divine Substance, as the disposer and "former of all things;" especially as he claims to be so in Jer. 10:16. With a softer pronunciation, that is, by changing th into d, and o into u, the Romans borrowed this word from the Greeks, and called it Deus, from which we derive our word Deity. In my translation I have used this word wherever Theos occurs in the original, except in two places in which the word "God" will be found for the sake of the metre (ch. 4:9, 10). Deity, then, declares the Divine Substance to be the Disposer and Former of all things; a truth which the Spirit in the scriptures is careful to place prominently before the minds of men. A few instances will show this. "This people (Israel) I formed for myself. I am Yahweh that maketh all things, that stretcheth forth the heavens ALONE; that spreadeth abroad the earth by MYSELF. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I, Yahweh, do all these things. I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I
commanded. Thus saith Yahweh, He the Elohim that formed the earth and made it; He hath established it, he created it not in vain, He formed it to be inhabited: I, Yahweh; and none else" (Isaiah 43:21; 45:7,12,18). He is truly "the Former of all things," alone and by himself; hence his title of THE DEITY, which suggests this great truth to all who are acquainted with him.
As to the Anglo-Saxon word "God," it is a term that may be applied to any one of goodness and authority without profanity. God is a contraction of the word Good. Hence, God signifies the Good One; and was perhaps suggested to our ancestors by the saying of Jesus, that "there is none good but the Theos," or Deity. But the Deity has not chosen to designate himself by this term. The idea of goodness is not contained in the word Theos; and therefore I do not use it as its representative.
And here it may be remarked that the seventy Israelites who translated the Hebrew scriptures into Greek for the king of Egypt, used the word Theos as equivalent for !hebrew! Ail, and !hebrew! Elohim; the first a noun singular; and the last, plural. By so doing, the true import of a multitude of passages was obscured. This defect of the Septuagint has been transferred to the English Version by rendering them indiscriminately God, which does not at all express the signification of the Hebrew terms. Theos comes nearer to these than God; for a being might be good, but far from mighty for the formation of all things; but he could not be Theos, the Disposer and Former of all things, without being AIL in the almightiest sense of the word. The Seventy, however, erred in not respecting the Hebrew distinction of singular and plural. In adopting Theos for Ail, they ought to have written theoi for Elohim in the plural. But they did this evil that good might come; at least, so it is said. "The Seventy," says Parkhurst, "have constantly (very few passages excepted) translated the plural name !hebrew! elohim, when used for the true God, by the singular !hebrew!, Theos, never by the plural !hebrew!, theoi. In so doing one may at first sight think them blamable. But let it be considered that, at the time the Septuagint translation was made, the Greek idolatry was the fashionable superstition, especially in Egypt under the Ptolemys, and that, according to this, their gods were regarded as Demons, that is, intelligent beings totally separate and distinct from each other; and that consequently, had the Greek translators rendered the name Elohim by the plural Theoi, they would thereby have given the grecizing heathen an idea of the true God, inconsistent with the Unity of the Divine Essence, and conformable to their own polytheistic notions; whereas, by translating it Theos in the singular, they inculcated the grand point (with
the heathen, I mean) of God's unity, and at the same time did not deny a plurality of agents or persons in the Divine Nature; since the Greeks called the whole substance of their God the Heavens, !hebrew! in the singular, as well as !hebrew! in the plural."
As we have said, the Hebrew representative of Theos is AIL. This is a primitive word, which to the mind of the Hebrew always presented the idea of strength and power. It is applied in the prophets to the Former of all things when contemplating Him in His almightiness. The meaning of the word is strength, might, power, and when used of a person, signifies a mighty one, a powerful one, a strong one, a hero. The first place in which it occurs is in Gen. 14:18, where Melchizedec is styled "the priest of the most high AIL." This teaches, by implication, that there are other Ailim, but that He whose priest Melchizedec was, was the highest of them all.
The term is used in a multitude of places in the Old Testament, in the greater number of which it is rendered "God." This, however, does not at all express its meaning, for goodness is no element of the word. The Deity informs us through Moses that it is a part of the name He chose for Himself in His communications with Abraham. "I appeared," said he, "to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob by the name !hebrew! AIL-Shaddai; but by my name !hebrew! YAHWEH (commonly, but erroneously, pronounced Jehovah) was I not known unto them." (Exod 6:3). In the English Version, AIL-Shaddai is rendered "God Almighty;" but this does not express the original. Shaddai is indeed rendered almighty, omnipotent, by lexicographers; but their reason for so doing is theological, not etymological. They have invented what they call a pluralis excellentia, by which a plural noun is applied to a person or thing in the singular, to express its excellency. Hence, to show how excellent the Deity is in power and majesty, they suppose the scriptures speak of him as many powers or many gods, as is implied by Elohim, Shaddai, and so forth. But this is a weak invention, which only reveals the ignorance of the learned respecting the Name of the Deity exhibited in "the Mystery of Godliness." Their pluralis excellentiae, is a mere fiction. It admits plurality in regard to Deity, but has entirely failed in giving a rational and scriptural exposition.
Shaddai is a plural masculine, and derived from the root !hebrew! shahdad, "to be strong, powerful." Shaddai is the plural of !hebrew! shad, "mighty, powerful," and therefore signifies the mighty or powerful ones. Three of them appeared to Abraham in the plains of Mamre. Moses informs us that "Yahweh appeared to him there;" and that when he lifted up his eyes to see Yahweh apparent, "he saw three men standing by him." Hence, Yahweh, or Jehovah, was apparent in these three
men, Here was One-Three, or Three-One. AIL was the One, Shaddai the Three. These "three men" were mighty, powerful, strong, and therefore they were styled Shaddai. They were harmless, patient, and sociable with Abraham and Lot, but terrible in power to Sodom, Gomorrah, and the cities of the plain. But was their power absolute and independent, or was it derived? Could they say, "Before us there was nothing formed of Ail?" Could they say, "We three are the Divine Nature in Trinity, original, uncreated, underived?" The name by which they were known to Abraham answers these questions in the negative. Their power was not absolute and underived. It was derived from the DIVINE SUBSTANCE John terms THEOS, and which Paul says, "only hath deathlessness (!hebrew!), dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see." But Abraham saw the three men, or Jehovah [Yahweh] apparent, therefore they were not the ETERNAL FIRST CAUSE, but a Spirit-Manifestation of Him, whose name was known to Abraham as AIL-Shaddai, the STRENGTH of the Mighty Ones.
Now the Deity was also known to Jacob by the same name, and appeared to him in like manifestation as to Abraham. Jacob saw a host of Shaddai, styled by Moses !hebrew! malachai elohim, "Messengers of Elohim." - Elohim sent of AIL. He wrestled with one of them, and prevailed, and in consequence received the honourable title Isra-ail, "because as a prince hast thou power with Elohim." "And Jacob called the name of the place (where he wrestled) Peni-ail," "Faces of Power:" "for," said he, "I have seen Elohim faces to faces, and my life is preserved" (Gen. 32:2,28,30).
Here was the most high AIL in multitudinous manifestation. Jacob never saw His person, for no man has ever seen that; but he saw persons like Him in form and substance; as much so as sons are like their father in these particulars. He saw as much of the Father Ail as men see of an invisible father in his children. They study the father in these in the absence of other data. Their father is in them as a Flesh-Manifestation of their parental original.
The Shaddai are styled Elohim, as expressive of the parental relation subsisting between them and AIL in nature and power. As the Highest and Most Powerful One in the universe, He styles Himself the AIL-Elohim - the Power of powers: a truth memorialized by Jacob in the Altar he named AIL-Elohai- Yisra-ail - the Strength of the Powers of Israel.
Elohim !hebrew! is a plural noun, which in the singular is written !hebrew! Eloah. The use of this in Hab. 1:11 shows that the idea of strength or power is the radical meaning of the word
!hebrew!, as to this one, his strength is his Eloah, or the one in whom he trusts. The three men who appeared to Abraham were each of them an Eloah, but not each of them Elohim: the three together were Elohim. ELOAH occurs fifty-six times in the scriptures and four of these times only in the Psalms; but in Job forty-one times. The use of Ail and Eloah by Job would indicate that one and the same being is meant. Every member of the heavenly host is an Eloah, but of all the Elohim ONE ONLY is the original and self-existent AIL - the absolute, omnipotent, and independent power of the universe.
Speaking of Himself in His address to the ends of the earth, He says, "Look unto me, for I am AIL, and none else" (Isa 46:22); and to Israel He saith, "Ye are my witnesses, and my servant whom I have chosen, that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I, YAHWEH, am He; before me AIL or Power, has not been formed, nor after me shall be" (Isa 43:10); a testimony that identifies Ail with the Logos and Theos of John, which as ONE POWER, he saith, "made all things; and without him was not any thing made that was made." From Him came the Apocalypse; as it is written, "a revelation which the THEOS committed to Jesus Christ."
Having thus shown the meaning of these several terms applied in the scriptures to Deity, I proceed to offer a few ideas upon the Divine Nature as suggested in the revelation of the mystery.
We learn from the Bible that the Deity it reveals has both body and parts. Paul teaches us this in declaring that the resurrected and anointed Jesus is "the !hebrew! or reflexion of the glory, and !hebrew! peculiar nature of the !hebrew! or substance of the THEOS" (Heb. 1:3). In other words, he partakes of the Divine Nature; so that what he now is, is what the Deity hath always been. The substance of the Theos is essentially living substance. It could not exist and yet be dead substance, for "the Father hath life in himself," and that life is His inherent peculiarity. It is underived from any antecedent existence; nor can it forsake the Divine Substance, for in that event the Deity would be mortal. But Paul styles Him "the Incorruptible Theos," and says that "He is the only one having athanasia or deathlessness." Hence, the essential qualities of the substance, which underlies all that is predicable of Him, are incorruptibility and life.
Incorruptible and living substance, then, is the Body of the Deity; and, as the glorified Jesus is "the IMAGE of the lnvisible Theos," he must have "parts" It is not, therefore, a mere figure of speech to speak, as the scriptures do, of the hand, ear, eye, and so forth, of the Invisible Power. He has form and parts, as well as body, and is the Great Archetype, or divine original, after which all the
Elohim, or immortal intelligences, of His universe are modelled and made. He dwells in unapproachable light, and is "a consuming fire." Light and heat, then, in their essentiality, with incorruptibility and life, are concentred in His substance; for He is the great focal centre of these in all the universe of power. If I might venture a conjecture upon so profound a subject, I would suggest, that the Divine Nature is that wonderful and extraordinary essence observed in that terrible and destructive agent the scriptures term "spirit," and philosophy, electricity, consolidated and corporealized from the necessity of the thing. This glowing substance is too intensely bright for human vision, therefore Paul not only says, "whom no man hath seen," but adds, "nor can see."
Now these suggestions are sustained by "the likeness of the glory of Jehovah [Yahweh]" which appeared to Ezekiel. "Above the firmament," says this prophet, "that was over the heads of the four living ones, was the likeness of a THRONE, as the appearance of a sapphire stone; and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of A MAN above upon it. And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about; as the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of YAHWEH" (1:26). This was the Deity in symbol, which is brought out again in ch. 8:2, 3. In this place Ezekiel adds, that He whom the likeness represented "put forth the form of a hand, and took me by a lock of my head." Being thus secured, he says, "the Spirit lifted me up." This was equivalent to saying, that the likeness represented THE SPIRIT, which Jesus says is Theos or AIL.
All the similitudes in the prophets representative of the Deity are of this bright and burning character. In Daniel He is exhibited as the Ancient of Days sitting upon a throne like the fiery flame, and His wheels as burning fire, with a fiery stream issuing forth from before Him (7:9). And so in the Apocalypse; "out of the throne" He sits upon, "proceed lightnings, and thunderings, and voices"; and before the throne seven lamps of fire burning, which are representative of the Seven Spirits of the Deity (4:5).
Light, heat, incorruptibility, and life, concentrated in one Eternal Substance, is the great self-existing and central power of the universe. This substance is Spirit, for "the Deity is Spirit." All power, life, and light concentre in Him, so that not a sparrow falls to the ground
without His perception thereof. "He upholdeth all things," and "in him we live, and move, and do exist." This is by "the SEVEN SPIRITS which is before his throne" (Apoc. 1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6). Though symbolically "seven," they are complete in one, for saith Paul, "there is ONE SPIRIT" (Eph. 4:4) Seven is the symbol of unity and perfection. Hence, being representative of the one spirit, the substantive verb is expressed in the third person singular and not in the plural, as the grammar of the sentence requires. "The Seven Spirits which is, "not "which are before the throne." There is but one spirit there, and this one is the nominative to the word is.
The Father of the spirit is the Divine Substance, for it proceedeth forth from thence; and because it issues thence, He is styled "the Father of glory." Spirit irradiates the boundless universe from the throne of light, and pervades it in all its space. Thus the spirit is consubstantial with the divine nature, or "free," radiating from unapproachable light, everywhere, and illimitably, so that wherever spirit is, there is the Deity present; and consequently, as Paul said to the Athenians, "not far from every one of us." This universality of the divine presence by His "free spirit," is beautifully and forcibly expressed in Ps. 139:7-12, as "Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend into the heavens, Thou art there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me, even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee."
"There is one Deity, the Father, ex ou, out of whom are all things" (1 Cor. 8:6). The divinity of the schools gives us an idea contrary to this. By the schoolmen we are told that God created all things out of nothing! Where they got this notion from we know not, save from their own imaginations. The proverb says, "take nothing from nothing and nothing comes;" but they have reversed all this, and taught the world that out of nothing something doth come, and that something the universe of God! But away with this foolishness. Out of Deity all things have proceeded. His free, radiant spirit is the substratum of every existing thing, from the star of the first magnitude to the minutest insect of the air. The all-pervading electricity is the simple undecomposable radiation "out of" the Divine Substance, which, under the fiat of His will, constitutes the atomic nucleus of all bodies, solid, fluid, or aeriform. Thus, "by His spirit he garnished the heavens," illuminating
boundless immensity with orbs of light, teeming with life, and all the wonders of His wisdom and power.
Such, then, was Deity before the appearance of Jesus - Spirit, substantial and radiant: substantial in his own person; radiant thence into all the Elohim of his universe, in whom the radiant matter, by the fiat of the Divine Will, became fixed, organic, corporeal, and consubstantial with the Deity himself. Thus, He is Eloah in chief; and "without me," he saith, "of Elohim there is none else," and "without me there are no Elohim," and therefore it is we find the phrase in Isaiah 46:18, !hebrew! "HE the Elohim" - He, the only Deity, by his Spirit, a multitude of mighty ones.
Having considered the Deity under the apocalyptic aspect of "Him who was," of the "Alpha," of "the First," and of "the Beginning," I shall proceed to treat, in the next place, of the same Deity "who is" in the development of the great mystery.