Greek Study Revelation 1:4b-8 and John 18:33-37 – Christ the King Sunday
v4b απο ο ων "from he who is" - present participle of the verb “to-be” functions as a substantive. The Greek is emasculated here due to the Jewish desire not to mention “the name” so John treats the divine name as indeclinable, since απο, "from", should be followed by a genitive rather than the nominative case.
ο ερχομενος (ερχομαι) pres. part. "[and] the one who is to come" - participle functions as a substantive. There is nothing unusual in the descriptive title for God, but the third descriptor is somewhat unexpected. We would expect, "the one who will ever be (eternal one)" but this is not what John says. John seems to be describing God in the terms of the one who is about to bring all things to their end, so he is "coming" in the sense of judgment. We witness God's power active in the past and present, and will witness it in the future; a Trinitarian formula.
v5 ο μαρτυς ο πιστος "the faithful witness" - it is possible these two separate words standing in apposition, i.e. "the witness, the faithful one", although the adjective "faithful" takes an article and is in the nominative case (rather than genitive) it is likely that it functions as an adjective. Jesus is "the faithful witness", and here the word "witness" moves toward the meaning "martyr" in Revelation.
ο πρωτοτοκος adj. "the firstborn [from the dead]" – a nominative in apposition to "faithful witness." If John is alluding to Psalm 89:27, firstborn is used in the sense of sovereignty, so "firstborn over death", but if the common NT sense is used then Jesus is "the firstborn from the dead", i.e. the first of a resurrected community. Both senses may be intended.
των Βασιλεων (ευς εως) gen. "of the kings [of the earth]" - genitive is adjectival, probably subordination, "ruler over the kings of the earth." The genitive της γης, "of the earth" is possessive; so "belonging to the earth." These kings are the enemies of Christ.
v5b τω αγαπωντι (αγαπαω) pres. part. "to him who loves [us]" – as with "having freed" λυσαντι (λυω) aor. part. (or loosed).
v6 εποιησεν (ποιεω) aor. "has made" - he probably best in the sense of "appointed" ημας acc. "us" - dative variant exists implying that believers are not the kings and priests, but are given a kingdom where priests serve them.
βασιλειαν, ιϑρεις "a kingdom and priests" - possibly in apposition conveying the sense that priestly service (mediation) is part of the business of reigning. The word "kingdom" here is probably not referring to a place but a role, ie. the saints will participate with Christ in ruling his kingdom. In fact, "kingdom" is plural, so "kings and priests" -"He lets us rule as kings and serve God his Father as priests".
v7 ιδου "look" – a demonstrative particle.
ερχεται (ερχομαι) pres. "he is coming" - present tense indicating ongoing action, but not necessarily future action, but as it is coordinated with οψεται (which is future) it is what we call a futuristic present - the "now/not yet". It is important to note that Christ's "coming" is to the Ancient of Days to take up his authoritative role as Lord of the universe (Dan.7:13). It is possible to speak of an act of divine judgment as the "coming" of Christ so, for example, the destruction of Jerusalem was such a "coming." None-the-less, here Christ's "coming" is not to the world but to his heavenly throne.
των νεφελων (η) "the clouds" - in the gospels Jesus is "on" or "in" the clouds. The cloud is not an earthly cloud but the mist associated with the shekinah of the divine is presence in the Temple as represented by the temple menorahs.
οψεται αυτον πας οφθαλμος "every eye will see him" – an allusion from Zechariah that is not to suggest every human will see Jesus coming (since his "coming" is to heaven) nor that all participants in this cosmic event will see. The "every" implies "universal significance" in the "coming" of the Son of Man to take up his eternal reign and to bring all things into subjection to himself.
οιτινες rel. pro. "those" - a particular class of persons; "the ones who..." referring to rebellious Israel and others who persecuted the prophets and the Christ.
κοψονται (κοπτω) "will mourn" – literally “will beat themselves with remorse” "weeping" over the destruction of Babylon (and Jerusalem?).
v8 το αλφα και το ω∴ "[I am] the Alpha and the Omega" - the statement of opposites serving to emphasize everything between, here used to underline God's omnipotence.. Note the addition exegesis of "alpha and omega" - "beginning and end." "I am the beginning and end of all history." Note also omega is not spelled out as the word ωμεγα did not exist until the seventh century.
κυριος (ος) "Lord" - the divine title given to Jesus, but here of God used instead of the divine name, Yahweh.
ο ων "who is" - as with ο ερχομενος, "who is to come" serves as a substantive.
ο παντοκρατωρ "the Almighty" – a reference to the omnipotent one used eight times in Revelation but only one other time in the NT (2 Cor.6:18)!
v33 παλιν adv. "again" - There are a number of textual variants here indicating that there is confusion as to where Jesus is and what Pilate's movements are.
των Ιουδαιων gen. adj. "[are you the king] of the Jews?" - adjective serves as a substantive, the genitive is adjectival, expressing subordination (king over the Jews) – clearly a political charge although it seems unlikely the term "king of the Jews" would refer to an existing royal rule in Israel. It is possible that the "you" is emphatic and Pilate is employing sarcasm. It is likely the term was the popular jargon used of the Messiah as the national Jewish aspiration the Roman authorities would have been well aware of.
v34 απο + gen. "[is that your own idea]" - expressing origin. This answer to Pilate's question is the limit of Jesus' response in the synoptics, interestingly the NIV translation makes the answer a direct one, it is not direct in the Greek so "whatever you think" is probably a better way to capture the sense of it. If Pilate genuinely wants to know the truth about Jesus, Jesus is willing to tell him, but if it's just a matter of legal games, then Jesus is not interested. So the response is probably snarky; "So did you work this out for yourself, or are you just mouthing what others have told you?"
v35 εγω Ιουδαιος ειμι "Am I a Jew?" - Possibly an indignant or contemptuous response, indicating Pilate has no interest in such an absurd claim. Of course Pilate's response is factual, he is not in fact a Jew nor is he religious. He has no knowledge of Jesus' identification with a Messiah other than what the Jewish authorities told him and its ramifications on Roman peacekeeping. If this is the case, Pilate is genuinely asking Jesus to defend himself, but is this likely?
v36 εκ + gen. "[my kingdom is not] of [this world]" - expressing origin, "out of, from this” world. Jesus' answer is for the Roman governor of Palestine. Jesus seeks to establish that his role is spiritual, not political and therefore, not a threat to Rome. Jesus supports his claim with evidence, if he was a political leader, where is his army or his activists? Given the context of this exchange, it is dangerous to develop a theology regarding the extent of God's rule on earth from it. God's reign is spiritual but that doesn't mean it is not real, nor does it imply it is not here and now and affecting the world through the lives of those who recognize Christ's kingly rule. Jesus' statement should not be misconstrued as meaning that his kingdom is not active in this world, or has nothing to do with this world.
οι υπηρεται οι εμοι "my servants" - John has already used the noun "servant" for the temple guards, indicating that Jesus' words are selected for Pilate's ears. Jesus' "guards" didn't take up arms to resist his arrest and the one who did was told to sheathe his sword! ηγωνιζοντο (αγωνιζομαι) imperf. "would fight" – the imperfect carries the sense of "continue to fight".
τοις Ιουδαιοις dat. adj. "by the Jewish leaders" – a dative of indirect object.
νυν δε "but now" - yet now - this serves to reinforce the contrast of Christ's kingship, as it exists in now with that rule implied in Pilate's question in v33.
εντευθεν adv. literally "from another place"
v37 ουκουν (ουν) "[you are a king], then!" - This particular form of the conjunction ουν occurs only here in the New Testament. It is inferential, but does carry an emphatic sense. Moule, in his Idiom Book, looks in detail at this verse; suggesting a number of possibilities: "well then, you are a king"; "are you not a king, then?" but most likely, "so then, after all is said and done, you are a king?"
οτι "[you are right in saying I am a king] / [you say] that [I am a king]" - a dependent statement expressing what Pilate is saying, namely, that Jesus is a king. It is likely that this is John's parallel with the synoptic "you say so." The title "king" is not one Jesus would choose for himself, He avoids the title because it is bound to confuse. John states clearly in the next verse that Jesus came into this world to "testify to the truth" and to save a people to himself. In this sense he is the deliverer-king, which makes his kingdom not of this world. But Jesus is speaking here to a pagan Roman, not to a Jew.
γεγεννημαι (γενναω) .... εληλυθα (ερχομαι) perf. "I was born ..... came" - have been born .... have come. John employs parallelism in establishing that the purpose of Jesus' birth is not for kingship (certainly in earthly terms), but for proclamation.
τη αληθεια (a) dat. "to the truth" - dative is adverbial, "with respect to the truth.