Martyrdom, In The Apocalypse -- By: B. F. Hosford

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 023:90 (Apr 1866)
Article: Martyrdom, In The Apocalypse
Author: B. F. Hosford


Martyrdom, In The Apocalypse

Rev. B. F. Hosford

A genuine epistle should carry incidental evidence of the condition of the persons to whom it was addressed, as well as of the writer’s condition. Assuming what is generally-admitted, that the Christians to whom the Apocalypse was first sent were suffering persecution and in imminent peril of martyrdom, and assuming what the more recent critics admit, that it was written during the persecution under Domitian (a.d. 96?), we propose to consider some of its unstudied intimations of such experience on their part, together with some historical facts illustrating and confirming these intimations.

In the opening of the book (1:5) the writer salutes the churches he is about to address, and pronounces upon them a benediction “from Jesus Christ the Faithful Witness” (ὁ μάτυς ὁ πιστός). This may mean simply that Jesus Christ is faithful and trustworthy in the testimony he is about to give through his apostle John, although this does not exhaust the meaning of the word μάτυς; indeed it hardly touches its most pathetic significance. Jesus, for whom John is now speaking, had suffered violent death rather than retract one iota of what he had said and taught. He not only bore witness to the truth, but he sealed his testimony with blood. John is now writing, at Christ’s suggestion, to his followers, who are in bitter trial, and sorely tempted to renounce the profession of their faith. He therefore says to them, not merely that the Master is faithful and will fulfil all his promises unto them, but he says this in words which remind them of that Master’s steadfastness in like trials. The language pictures to their faith their divine Redeemer enduring the cross for the truth’s sake, and thus appeals to them to show the same steadfastness unto the bit-

ter end. The stimulating argument of the passage is in substance this: Jesus was the Faithful Martyr, a witness steadfast unto death. Be thou also faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

This construction of the passage finds confirmation in 1:13, where the same words (ὁ μάρτυς μου ὁ πιστός. are applied to Antipas, and there rendered “my faithful martyr who was slain,” etc.; and this would seem a specially appropriate and beautiful allusion, if, as some commentators suppose, this Antipas was the beloved Timothy, angel of the church at Ephesus before John assumed the oversight of it.

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