Father E.S. Berry’s Notes on Revelation 1:9-13, 17-19

Rev 1:9  I, John, your brother and your partner in tribulation and in the kingdom and patience in Christ Jesus, was in the island which is called Patmos, for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus.

For the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus refers to sufferings which St John endured for his faith.  thus the martyrs were slain ‘for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held.’  This interpretation is confirmed by the fact that the Apostle shared in the sufferings of his brethren; he was ‘a partner in their tribulations.’  He was even then suffering the hardships of exile in Patmos.

Many authors take the words of St John to mean that he was on the Island of Patmos for the purpose of receiving the ‘word of God’ and to give testimony  y his writing.  But in the Apocalypse St John does not use the Greek word ‘dia’ in connection with the ‘word of God’ to express this purpose.  It always means ‘for the sake of’ or ‘in consequence of.’  No doubt, St John would also look upon his banishment as an act of divine Providence perparing him for these great revelations.

Toward the end of Domitian’s reign, St John was brought to Rome and cast into a cauldron of boiling oil.  Miraculously escaping from this he was banished to the Island of Patmos about the year 95 A.D.  Upon the Death of Domitian the following year, St John returned to Ephesus where he died a peaceful death about 100 A.D.

Patmos is a desolate island of volcanic rocks in the Aegean Sea, about sixty miles southwest of Ephesus.  Its excellent harbor made it a stopping place for vessels on the way from Rome to Ephesus.  Pliny informs us that it was used as a place of exile.  A cave about half way between the shore and the modern town of Patmos is pointed out as the spot where St John received his revelation.

Rev 1:10  I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,

St John received this revelation on Sunday-the Lord’s day.  This fact is interesting because it shows at what an early date the Christians dedicated the first day of the week to the service of God as indicated by the name ‘Lord’s day.’  Perhaps St John had withdrawn from his fellow exiles on that day to devote himself to prayer.  While thus engaged in prayer he heard a voice clear and piercing as a trumpet blast.  It was a voice to be heard to the uttermost parts of the earth.

Rev 1:11  Saying: What thou seest, write in a book and send to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamus and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.
Rev 1:12  And I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks:
Rev 1:13  And in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, one like to the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the feet, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.

Turning to see whence the voice came, St John beheld a vision of seven golden candlesticks, and in the midst of them our Lord, clothed in the white robe of the priesthood.  He appeared to St John in his huan form-‘like to the son of man.’

The seven candlesticks represent the seven churches of Asia.  As noted above, seven is the perfect number which denotes universality.  Hence by extension the seven candlesticks represent all churches throughout the world for all time.  Gold signifies the charity of Christ which pervades and vivifies the Church.

Rev 1:17  And when I had seen him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying: Fear not. I am the First and the Last,
Rev 1:18  And alive, and was dead. And behold I am living for ever and ever and have the keys of death and of hell.

Overcome with fear and admiration St John fell to the ground.  Our Lord then revealed His identity with words of reassurance: ‘Fear not, for I am the Lord who arose from the dead to die no more.’  ‘Christ rising again from the dead, dieth now no more; death shall no more have dominion over him’ (Rom 6:9), because He holds the keys of death and hell.  The words of Christ must certainly have carried St John back to that other scene on Mount Tabor where our Lord revealed His glory to the three Apostles some sixty-five years before (Matt17:1-8).

Rev 1:19  Write therefore the things which thou hast seen: and which are: and which must be done hereafter.
Rev 1:20  The mystery of the seven stars, which thou sawest in my right hand and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches. And the seven candlesticks are the seven churches.

Christ Himself explains the meaning of the candlesticks and stars.  He thus shows that the prophecies of the Apocalypse are to be understood in an allegorical sense unless the text clearly indicates a different interpretation.  I some few passages the meaning is explained.  In most cases the interpretation must be sought in the writings of the prophets who used like symbols to express similar truths.

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One Response to Father E.S. Berry’s Notes on Revelation 1:9-13, 17-19

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for Divine Mercy Sunday, Year C | stjoeofoblog

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