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Sixth Edition, 1915
By Dr. John Thomas (first edition written 1861)



Chapter 1


Subsection 1

1. The Son of Man in the midst of the Seven Lightstands; and the Seven Stars.


I John, both your brother, and a joint-partaker in the tribulation, and in the kingdom, and in the waiting for Jesus Anointed, was in the isle which is called Patmos, on account of the word of the Deity and on account of the testimony of Jesus Anointed.

I was in spirit in the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet saying, I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last; and what thou beholdest write for a scroll, and send to the Seven Ecclesias which are in Asia; to Ephesus, and to Smyrna, and to Pergamos, and to Thyatira, and to Sardis, and to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.

And I turned to see the voice which spake with me; and having turned I saw Seven Golden Lightstands, and in the midst of the seven lightstands I saw like to a Son of man invested to the feet, and compassed about the breasts with a golden zone. And his head, and the hairs white, as it were wool, white as snow; and his eyes as a flame of fire: and his feet like to incandescent brass as if they had been glowing in a furnace; and his voice as a sound of many waters: and having in his right hand Seven Stars; and out of his mouth a sharp, double-edged longsword proceedeth; and his aspect as the sun shineth in his strength.

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And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying to me, Fear not! I am the First and the Last, and the Living One: and I was dead, and behold, I am living for the Aions of the Aions; Amen; and I have the keys of the invisible and of death. Write the things thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall come to pass after these.

The mystery of the Seven Stars which thou sawest at my right hand, and the Seven Lightstands which are golden, is this: The Seven Stars are the Angels of the Seven Ecclesias; and the Seven Lightstands which thou sawest are Seven Ecclesias (Apoc. 1:9-20).


In introducing his description of the first apocalyptic vision with which he was favored, John gives us a brief notice, in which he defines his own position and circumstances at the time. In the salutation, he addressed himself to the Seven Ecclesias of the Lydian or proconsular Asia. But there he simply styles himself "John," saying, "John to the Seven Ecclesias." It is true, that in the second and third verses he says a little more about himself; but these verses were most probably prefixed after he had "written for a scroll" what he had beheld; for the preface to a book is always written last.

Having, then, announced himself as the channel through which the divine salutation of joy and peace flowed to them, he proceeds to inform them, as there were many named "Johannes" besides himself, what particular man of that name it was who addressed them. It is "I, John, your brother," says he, "and joint-partaker in the tribulation, and in the kingdom, and waiting for Jesus Anointed." He and the Seven Ecclesias were in fellowship; of which he says, "and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Anointed ... The Deity is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth; but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Anointed, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:3-7). They were brethren walking in the light of Deity; for, in relation to them he writes, "The darkness is passed, and the true light now shines" (ch. 2:8). It is evident from this, that if the true light shone in John's day, the "light" that now shines is not the true. The spiritual guides and their peoples profess to be walking in the light, in the very blaze of gospel sunshine; nevertheless "they do not the truth" -- they neither believe it nor obey it. John therefore proclaims their walk to be in darkness, and them to be not of the truth, but liars. "He that saith I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1 John 2:4). This puts all clergy and all their "Names and Denominations" beyond the pale of John's fellowship, which was with Deity. He is not "brother" to the pietists of our day; neither are these, consequently, in fellowship with the Seven Ecclesias.

Being the brother of these seven, he was, therefore, "a joint partaker in the tribulation." This was a persecution which began to rage

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against the Christians in the latter end of the reign of Domitian, the last of the Flavian family, who became emperor of Rome A.D. 81. The tribulation commenced A.D. 95. He does not appear to have been embittered against them in the beginning. In imitation of his father Vespasian, he made inquiry for such of the Jews as were descended from the royal line of David. His motives were evidently political. But there wanted not those who were glad of any opportunity of wreaking their malice on Christians. Some persons, who were brought before the emperor, were charged with being related to the royal family of Judah. They appear to have been related to Jesus, and were grandsons of Jude the Apostle, his cousin. Domitian asked them if they were of the family of David, which they acknowledged. He then demanded what possessions they enjoyed, and what money they had. They laid open the poverty of their circumstances, and owned that they maintained themselves by their labor. The truth of their confession was evinced by their hands, and by their appearance in general. Domitian then interrogated them concerning Christ and his kingdom -- when and where it should appear. They answered like Jesus when questioned by Pilate -- that his kingdom was not of this Order or !greek! kosmos; that its glory should appear at the consummation of the Order, when he would judge the living and the dead, and reward every man according to his works: poverty is sometimes a defence against oppression, though it never shields from contempt. Domitian was satisfied that his power was in no danger from Christian ambition; so the grandsons of Jude were dismissed with the same sort of derision with which Jesus had formerly been dismissed by Herod. They were indigent, but rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom promised to the obedient.

As Domitian increased in cruelty, toward the end of his reign, he renewed the horrors of Nero's persecution, which began A.D. 64, and was the first time the Romans persecuted Christians according to law. Domitian put to death many persons accused of atheism, the common charge against Christians, on account of their refusal to worship the pagan gods. Among these was the consul Flavius Clemens, his cousin, who had espoused Flavia Domitilla, his relation. Suetonius observes, that this man was quite despicable on account of his slothfulness.

Many others were condemned likewise, who had embraced Jewish customs, says Dion; part of them were put to death, others spoiled of their goods, and Domitilla herself was banished into the island of Pandataria. Eusebius records the same facts with a little variation: but, as he professes to borrow from the pagan writers in this instance, we may be content with their account. The charge of indolence against

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Domitian's cousin was natural enough, and does honor to the unworldly character of Flavius, who could not partake with the spirituals in the wickedness of their high places. Domitian, as emperor, was also PONTIFEX MAXIMUS, or the High Priest of the Roman superstition; as the Pope, who is his Image in the same city, is at this day. Flavius Clemens and his wife, as Christians, must have been peculiarly obnoxious to him; and, in the spirit of the times, regarded by him as "the enemies of mankind." He therefore determined to get rid of them, and all such, whose unsociable atheism, as it was considered, was a troublesome rebuke and condemnation of the religion as by custom and law established.

While the malignity of Domitian did not forbear to shed the blood of the imperial house, it was not to be expected that he would spare the ringleader of the sect everywhere spoken against to which his relatives belonged. Tertullian accordingly informs us, that, by Domitian's order, John was apprehended, and cast into a caldron of boiling oil; but, after the example of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from Nebuchadnezzar's furnace, came out again from the scalding bath unhurt. This wonderful result, however, did not soften the iron-hearted Domitian, who might possibly suppose that the apostle had been fortified by magical incantations. He banished him into the solitary and desolate isle of the Archipelago, called Patmos, where he was while he wrote the words we are considering. This persecution affected all the ecclesias he was addressing; for he tells them he was their "brother and joint partaker in the tribulation." It continued to harass the saints until the death of Domitian, who was slain A.D. 96. He was succeeded by Nerva, who published a pardon for those who were condemned for impiety in the pagan sense, recalled those who were banished, including John, and forbade the accusing of any men on account of impiety, or Judaism, by which was meant Christianity. Others, who were under accusation or under sentence of condemnation, now escaped by the lenity of Nerva. Thus the "joy and peace" of the salutation came to the Ecclesias from the Deity. Only one person was not restored by Nerva's amnesty. Domitilla still continued in exile, probably because she was a relative of the late tyrant, whose name was now odious throughout the empire. After his return from Patmos, John is said to have continued among the seven ecclesias till the time of Trajan, about three or four years after his release, having been preserved to the age of about a hundred years, for the benefit of the Body of the Lord. He died about A.D. 103.

Being a joint partaker in the tribulation as the consequence of his maintaining his fidelity to the "One Lord, one faith, one baptism,

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and one Hope of the invitation," he writes himself also "a joint partaker in the kingdom, and waiting for Jesus Anointed." He knew from him, and the collateral testimony of his brethren in the apostleship, that "it is through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom of the Deity." He did not, therefore, shrink from tribulation, having the assurance that "if we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him." The Lord Jesus had promised him equality with angels; and a throne in his kingdom, on which he should sit, ruling one of the tribes of Israel. That this was to be when the Son of Man should sit upon the throne of his glory; and in the regeneration characterized by the restoration of all the things spoken of by the prophets. John was awaiting patiently for this, as his beloved teacher had instructed him, saying to him and his brethren, "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men waiting for their Lord, when he shall return on account of the nuptials; so that, coming and knocking, they may open to him immediately. Blessed those servants whom the Lord coming shall find watching" (Luke. 12:32-37; Apoc. 16:15). This was John's position. He had witnessed the disruption and overthrow of the Commonwealth of Judah, the sacking of the Holy City and Temple, and the dispersion of his countrymen to the four winds. He was himself an exile, because of his fidelity to "the word of the Deity and the testimony of Jesus Anointed": his life ebbing away, as it were, on a desolate island. Surrounded by all these circumstances, and enlightened by these testimonies, it was impossible for him to imagine that he was in any other kingdom than Satan's. But while in this, and feeling acutely Satan's tyranny in banishing him from the society of the faithful, he was still "as a man awaiting his Lord," and rejoicing in hope of his kingdom and glory, for which he had been accounted worthy to suffer tribulation.

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