Revelation Part 4: The Seven-Sealed Scroll, Part I (Revelation 4-5)
(New American Standard Bible, 1995):
Rev. 4:1 ¶ After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things."
Rev. 4:2 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne.
Rev. 4:3 And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance.
Rev. 4:4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads.
Rev. 4:5 Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God;
Rev. 4:6 and before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind.
Rev. 4:7 The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle.
Rev. 4:8 And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, "HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME."
Rev. 4:9 And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever,
Rev. 4:10 the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
Rev. 4:11 "Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created."
Rev. 5:1 ¶ I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals.
Rev. 5:2 And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?"
Rev. 5:3 And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it.
Rev. 5:4 Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it;
Rev. 5:5 and one of the elders said to me, "Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals."
Rev. 5:6 ¶ And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth.
Rev. 5:7 And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.
Rev. 5:8 When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
Rev. 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
Rev. 5:10 "You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth."
Rev. 5:11 ¶ Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands,
Rev. 5:12 saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing."
Rev. 5:13 And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, "To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever."
Rev. 5:14 And the four living creatures kept saying, "Amen." And the elders fell down and worshiped.
Novum Testamentum Graece (New Testament in Greek)
Nestle-Aland, 27th Edition, prepared by Institut für neutestamentliche Testforschung Münster/Westfalen, Barbara and Kurt Aland (Editors). Copyright © 1898 and 1993 by Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart.
Used by permission.
Morphological tagging by William D. Mounce and Rex A. Koivisto
Copyright © 2003 William D. Mounce.
Copyright © 2006 OakTree Software, Inc.
All rights reserved.
(You must have the Helena font installed in order to see the Greek text rendered correctly; it can be obtained here: http://www.accordancebible.com/)
Rev. 4:1 ¼ Meta» tauvta eidon, kai« idou/, qu/ra hjnewgme÷nh en tw× oujranw×, kai« hJ fwnh\ hJ prw¿th h§n h¡kousa wJß sa¿lpiggoß lalou/shß met emouv, le÷gousa, Ana¿ba wde, kai« dei÷xw soi a± dei gene÷sqai meta» tauvta.
Rev. 4:2 kai« eujqe÷wß egeno/mhn en pneu/mati: kai« idou/, qro/noß e¶keito en tw× oujranw×, kai« epi« touv qro/nou kaqh/menoß:
Rev. 4:3 kai« oJ kaqh/menoß hn o¢moioß oJra¿sei li÷qw ia¿spidi kai« sardi÷nw: kai« iriß kuklo/qen touv qro/nou oJmoi÷a oJra¿sei smaragdi÷nw.
Rev. 4:4 kai« kuklo/qen touv qro/nou qro/noi ei¶kosi kai« te÷ssareß: kai« epi« tou\ß qro/nouß eidon tou\ß ei¶kosi kai« te÷ssaraß presbute÷rouß kaqhme÷nouß, peribeblhme÷nouß en imati÷oiß leukoiß, kai« e¶scon epi« ta»ß kefala»ß aujtw×n stefa¿nouß crusouvß.
Rev. 4:5 kai« ek touv qro/nou ekporeu/ontai aÓstrapai« kai« brontai« kai« fwnai÷. kai« epta» lampa¿deß puro\ß kaio/menai enw¿pion touv qro/nou, aiº eisi ta» epta» pneu/mata touv Qeouv:
Rev. 4:6 kai« enw¿pion touv qro/nou qa¿lassa uJali÷nh, oJmoi÷a krusta¿llw. kai« en me÷sw touv qro/nou kai« ku/klw touv qro/nou te÷ssara zw×a ge÷monta ojfqalmw×n e¶mprosqen kai« o¡pisqen.
Rev. 4:7 kai« to\ zw×on to\ prw×ton o¢moion le÷onti, kai« to\ deu/teron zw×on o¢moion mo/scw, kai« to\ tri÷ton zw×on e¶con to\ pro/swpon wJß aýnqrwpoß, kai« to\ te÷tarton zw×on o¢moion aÓetw× petwme÷nw.
Rev. 4:8 kai« te÷ssara zw×a, en kaq eauto\n eicon aÓna» pte÷rugaß ex kuklo/qen, kai« e¶swqen ge÷monta ojfqalmw×n, kai« aÓna¿pausin oujk e¶cousin hJme÷raß kai« nukto/ß, le÷gonta, ðAgioß, agioß, agioß Ku/rioß oJ Qeo\ß oJ pantokra¿twr, oJ hn kai« oJ w·n kai« oJ erco/menoß.
Rev. 4:9 kai« o¢tan dw¿sousi ta» zw×a do/xan kai« timh\n kai« eujcaristi÷an tw× kaqhme÷nw epi« touv qro/nou, tw× zw×nti eiß tou\ß aiw×naß tw×n aiw¿nwn,
Rev. 4:10 pesouvntai oi ei¶kosi kai« te÷ssareß presbu/teroi enw¿pion touv kaqhme÷nou epi« touv qro/nou, kai« proskunouvsi tw× zw×nti eiß tou\ß aiw×naß tw×n aiw¿nwn, kai« ba¿llousi tou\ß stefa¿nouß aujtw×n enw¿pion touv qro/nou, le÷gonteß,
Rev. 4:11 Axioß ei, Ku/rie, labein th\n do/xan kai« th\n timh\n kai« th\n du/namin: o¢ti su\ e¶ktisaß ta» pa¿nta, kai« dia» to\ qe÷lhma¿ sou eisi« kai« ekti÷sqhsan.
Rev. 5:1 ¼ Kai« eidon epi« th\n dexia»n touv kaqhme÷nou epi« touv qro/nou bibli÷on gegramme÷non e¶swqen kai« o¡pisqen, katesfragisme÷non sfragisin epta¿.
Rev. 5:2 kai« eidon aýggelon iscuro\n khru/ssonta fwnhØv mega¿lhØ, Ti÷ß estin aýxioß aÓnoixai to\ bibli÷on, kai« luvsai ta»ß sfragidaß aujtouv;
Rev. 5:3 kai« oujdei«ß hjdu/nato en tw× oujranw×, oujde« epi« thvß ghvß, oujde« uJpoka¿tw thvß ghvß, aÓnoixai to\ bibli÷on, oujde« ble÷pein aujto/.
Rev. 5:4 kai« egw» e¶klaion polla¿, o¢ti oujdei«ß aýxioß euJre÷qh aÓnoixai kai« aÓnagnw×nai to\ bibli÷on, ou¡te ble÷pein aujto/.
Rev. 5:5 kai« eiß ek tw×n presbute÷rwn le÷gei moi, Mh\ klaie: idou/, eni÷khsen oJ le÷wn oJ w·n ek thvß fulhvß Iou/da, hJ rJi÷za Dabi÷d, aÓnoixai to\ bibli÷on kai« luvsai ta»ß epta» sfragidaß aujtouv.
Rev. 5:6 kai« eidon, kai« idou/, en me÷sw touv qro/nou kai« tw×n tessa¿rwn zw¿wn, kai« en me÷sw tw×n presbute÷rwn, aÓrni÷on esthko\ß wJß esfagme÷non, e¶con ke÷rata epta» kai« ojfqalmou\ß epta¿, oiº eisi ta» epta» touv Qeouv pneu/mata ta» aÓpestalme÷na eiß pa×san th\n ghvn.
Rev. 5:7 kai« hlqe, kai« ei¶lhfe to\ bibli÷on ek thvß dexia×ß touv kaqhme÷nou epi« touv qro/nou.
Rev. 5:8 kai« o¢te e¶labe to\ bibli÷on, ta» te÷ssara zw×a kai« oi eikosite÷ssareß presbu/teroi e¶peson enw¿pion touv aÓrni÷ou, e¶conteß eºkastoß kiqa¿raß, kai« fia¿laß crusa×ß gemou/saß qumiama¿twn, aiº eisin ai proseucai« tw×n aJgi÷wn.
Rev. 5:9 kai« aýdousin wÓdh\n kainh/n, le÷gonteß, Axioß ei labein to\ bibli÷on, kai« aÓnoixai ta»ß sfragidaß aujtouv: o¢ti esfa¿ghß, kai« hjgo/rasaß tw× Qew× hJma×ß en tw× aiºmati÷ sou ek pa¿shß fulhvß kai« glw¿sshß kai« laouv kai« e¶qnouß,
Rev. 5:10 kai« epoi÷hsaß hJma×ß tw× Qew× hJmw×n basileiß kai« iereiß, kai« basileu/somen epi« thvß ghvß.
Rev. 5:11 kai« eidon, kai« h¡kousa fwnh\n aÓgge÷lwn pollw×n kuklo/qen touv qro/nou kai« tw×n zw¿wn kai« tw×n presbute÷rwn: kai« hn oJ aÓriqmo\ß aujtw×n muria¿deß muria¿dwn kai« cilia¿deß cilia¿dwn,
Rev. 5:12 le÷gonteß fwnhØv mega¿lhØ, Axio/n esti to\ aÓrni÷on to\ esfagme÷non labein th\n du/namin kai« plouvton kai« sofi÷an kai« iscu\n kai« timh\n kai« do/xan kai« eujlogi÷an.
Rev. 5:13 kai« pa×n kti÷sma oº estin en tw× oujranw×, kai« en thØv ghØv, kai« uJpoka¿tw thvß ghvß, kai« epi« thvß qala¿sshß a esti, kai« ta» en aujtoiß pa¿nta, h¡kousa le÷gontaß, Tw× kaqhme÷nw epi« touv qro/nou kai« tw× aÓrni÷w hJ eujlogi÷a kai« hJ timh\ kai« hJ do/xa kai« to\ kra¿toß eiß tou\ß aiw×naß tw×n aiw¿nwn.
Rev. 5:14 kai« ta» te÷ssara zw×a e¶legon, Amh/n. kai« oi eikosite÷ssareß presbu/teroi e¶pesan kai« proseku/nhsan zw×nti eiß tou\ß aiw×naß tw×n aiw¿nwn.
(Dr. Constable's brief outline)
This is the first half of a two-part study of "The Seven Sealed Scroll," chapters 4-7. There is a definite break in the scripture between chapters 3 and 4; the futurist view holds that chapters 1-3 were fulfilled during John's time, while 4-21 will be fulfilled in a compacted length of time at some date in the future. Chapter 4 and 5 serve as an introduction to the extended and primary set of revelations seen in chapters 6-20.
These two chapters serve as the centerpiece of the whole book of Revelation, linking the warnings and exhortations to the seven churches to visions of prophetic fulfillments.
These two chapters are also a vision of divine judgment in the legal sense, illustrated as a heavenly court modeled like that of the Temple in Jerusalem, with Father God the Creator personally sitting in the throne of judgment, ruling who is worthy to initiate the final scenes of human history. As Constable notes, "it reveals the ground of assurance that God's gracious purpose for the universe will come to pass."
The Rapture: This is an event that some Christians (called premillennial dispensationalists) believe will occur when Christ removes His church from the earth, usually assumed to be directly before a great period of struggle and disaster known as the Tribulation (detailed in Daniel 9, 12 and Rev 11). Acts 1:11 states quite plainly that Christ will reappear suddenly, just as He suddenly was lifted to Heaven, and the general assumption of premillennialists is that the church will depart in the same speed and manner. Rev. 4:1c is a line frequently attributed as Jesus speaking of the Rapture, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this." 'After this' is thought by some to be Christ referring to a post-rapture period of tribulation. The word "rapture" does not appear anywhere in scripture, the nearest direct reference to it is in 1 Thess 4:16-17
1Th. 4:16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves.
1Th. 4:17 Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.
This is bolstered by the passage about mortal and heavenly bodies of men in 1 Corinthians 15, which cumulates in this:
1Cor. 15:51 ¶ But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed!
1Cor. 15:52 It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed.
A passage in Titus also speaks of a sudden reappearance of Christ, one that will bring succor to his church:
Titus 2:11 ¶ For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.
Titus 2:12 And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God,
Titus 2:13 while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed.
Another passage in 1 Thessalonians speaks of the sudden reappearance of Christ, one that brings hope to the saved and is tragic for the lost:
1Th. 5:1 ¶ Now concerning how and when all this will happen, dear brothers and sisters, we don't really need to write you.
1Th. 5:2 For you know quite well that the day of the Lord's return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night.
1Th. 5:3 When people are saying, "Everything is peaceful and secure," then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman's labor pains begin. And there will be no escape.
1Th. 5:4 ¶ But you aren't in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won't be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief.
However, by far the most direct passage about a sudden rapturing of the church is found in Luke, a direct quote of Christ's teaching:
Luke 17:30 Yes, it will be 'business as usual' right up to the day when the Son of Man is revealed.
Luke 17:31 On that day a person out on the deck of a roof must not go down into the house to pack. A person out in the field must not return home.
Luke 17:32 Remember what happened to Lot's wife!
Luke 17:33 If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it.
Luke 17:34 That night two people will be asleep in one bed; one will be taken, the other left.
Luke 17:35 Two women will be grinding flour together at the mill; one will be taken, the other left."
Luke 17:37 ¶ "Where will this happen, Lord?" the disciples asked. Jesus replied, "Just as the gathering of vultures shows there is a carcass nearby, so these signs indicate that the end is near."
Quite frankly, it is really not important exactly what vehicle God uses to end the world as we know it, and usher in His glorious new world. It is going to happen, we will all be involved in the transformation, believer and unbeliever alike, in one way or another. Christ laid out exactly what is to come in his Olivet Discourse, Matthew 24-25:
Matt. 24:1 ¶ As Jesus was leaving the Temple grounds, his disciples pointed out to him the various Temple buildings.
Matt. 24:2 But he responded, "Do you see all these buildings? I tell you the truth, they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!"
Matt. 24:3 ¶ Later, Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives. His disciples came to him privately and said, "Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will signal your return and the end of the world?"
Matt. 24:4 ¶ Jesus told them, "Don't let anyone mislead you,
Matt. 24:5 for many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Messiah.' They will deceive many.
Matt. 24:6 And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don't panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won't follow immediately.
Matt. 24:7 Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world.
Matt. 24:8 But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.
Matt. 24:9 ¶ "Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers.
Matt. 24:10 And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other.
Matt. 24:11 And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people.
Matt. 24:12 Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold.
Matt. 24:13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Matt. 24:14 And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.
Matt. 24:15 ¶ "The day is coming when you will see what Daniel the prophet spoke aboutthe sacrilegious object that causes desecration standing in the Holy Place." (Reader, pay attention!)
Matt. 24:16 "Then those in Judea must flee to the hills.
Matt. 24:17 A person out on the deck of a roof must not go down into the house to pack.
Matt. 24:18 A person out in the field must not return even to get a coat.
Matt. 24:19 How terrible it will be for pregnant women and for nursing mothers in those days.
Matt. 24:20 And pray that your flight will not be in winter or on the Sabbath.
Matt. 24:21 For there will be greater anguish than at any time since the world began. And it will never be so great again.
Matt. 24:22 In fact, unless that time of calamity is shortened, not a single person will survive. But it will be shortened for the sake of God's chosen ones.
Matt. 24:23 ¶ "Then if anyone tells you, 'Look, here is the Messiah,' or 'There he is,' don't believe it.
Matt. 24:24 For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God's chosen ones.
Matt. 24:25 See, I have warned you about this ahead of time.
Matt. 24:26 ¶ "So if someone tells you, 'Look, the Messiah is out in the desert,' don't bother to go and look. Or, 'Look, he is hiding here,' don't believe it!
Matt. 24:27 For as the lightning flashes in the east and shines to the west, so it will be when the Son of Man comes.
Matt. 24:28 Just as the gathering of vultures shows there is a carcass nearby, so these signs indicate that the end is near.
Matt. 24:29 ¶ "Immediately after the anguish of those days,
the sun will be darkened,
the moon will give no light,
the stars will fall from the sky,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
Matt. 24:30 ¶ And then at last, the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
Matt. 24:31 And he will send out his angels with the mighty blast of a trumpet, and they will gather his chosen ones from all over the worldfrom the farthest ends of the earth and heaven.
Matt. 24:32 ¶ "Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near.
Matt. 24:33 In the same way, when you see all these things, you can know his return is very near, right at the door.
Matt. 24:34 I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene until all these things take place.
Matt. 24:35 Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.
Matt. 24:36 ¶ "However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.
Matt. 24:37 ¶ "When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah's day.
Matt. 24:38 In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat.
Matt. 24:39 People didn't realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.
Matt. 24:40 ¶ "Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left.
Matt. 24:41 Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left.
Matt. 24:42 ¶ "So you, too, must keep watch! For you don't know what day your Lord is coming.
Matt. 24:43 Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into.
Matt. 24:44 You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.
Matt. 24:45 ¶ "A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them.
Matt. 24:46 If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward.
Matt. 24:47 I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns.
Matt. 24:48 But what if the servant is evil and thinks, 'My master won't be back for a while,'
Matt. 24:49 and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk?
Matt. 24:50 The master will return unannounced and unexpected,
Matt. 24:51 and he will cut the servant to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Matt. 25:1 ¶ "The Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.
Matt. 25:2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.
Matt. 25:3 The five who were foolish didn't take enough olive oil for their lamps,
Matt. 25:4 but the other five were wise enough to take along extra oil.
Matt. 25:5 When the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
Matt. 25:6 ¶ "At midnight they were roused by the shout, 'Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out and meet him!'
Matt. 25:7 ¶ "All the bridesmaids got up and prepared their lamps.
Matt. 25:8 Then the five foolish ones asked the others, 'Please give us some of your oil because our lamps are going out.'
Matt. 25:9 ¶ "But the others replied, 'We don't have enough for all of us. Go to a shop and buy some for yourselves.'
Matt. 25:10 ¶ "But while they were gone to buy oil, the bridegroom came. Then those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was locked.
Matt. 25:11 Later, when the other five bridesmaids returned, they stood outside, calling, 'Lord! Lord! Open the door for us!'
Matt. 25:12 ¶ "But he called back, 'Believe me, I don't know you!'
Matt. 25:13 ¶ "So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return.
Matt. 25:14 ¶ "Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone.
Matt. 25:15 He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the lastdividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.
Matt. 25:16 ¶ "The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more.
Matt. 25:17 The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more.
Matt. 25:18 But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master's money.
Matt. 25:19 ¶ "After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money.
Matt. 25:20 The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, 'Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.'
Matt. 25:21 ¶ "The master was full of praise. 'Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let's celebrate together!'
Matt. 25:22 ¶ "The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, 'Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.'
Matt. 25:23 ¶ "The master said, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let's celebrate together!'
Matt. 25:24 ¶ "Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, 'Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn't plant and gathering crops you didn't cultivate.
Matt. 25:25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.'
Matt. 25:26 ¶ "But the master replied, 'You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn't plant and gathered crops I didn't cultivate,
Matt. 25:27 why didn't you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.'
Matt. 25:28 ¶ "Then he ordered, 'Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver.
Matt. 25:29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.
Matt. 25:30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
Matt. 25:31 ¶ "But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne.
Matt. 25:32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
Matt. 25:33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.
Matt. 25:34 ¶ "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.
Matt. 25:35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.
Matt. 25:36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.'
Matt. 25:37 ¶ "Then these righteous ones will reply, 'Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink?
Matt. 25:38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing?
Matt. 25:39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?'
Matt. 25:40 ¶ "And the King will say, 'I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'
Matt. 25:41 ¶ "Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, 'Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.
Matt. 25:42 For I was hungry, and you didn't feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn't give me a drink.
Matt. 25:43 I was a stranger, and you didn't invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn't give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn't visit me.'
Matt. 25:44 ¶ "Then they will reply, 'Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?'
Matt. 25:45 ¶ "And he will answer, 'I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.'
Matt. 25:46 ¶ "And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life."
Dr. Constable's Charts
IVP-New Bible Commentary
4:1-11 The throne in heaven
The scene of John's vision changes from earth to heaven and remains there until ch. 10, after which the point of view continually alternates. It is to be noted that the prophet alone, not the church, is called to go through the door, his elevation in vision is for the purpose of revelation, in order that he may communicate what he sees to those on earth.
2 The first object to catch John's eye is a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. It is of first importance to know that the God who dwells in heaven possesses absolute authority over the universe. 3 No description is given of God; John simply tells of various colors emanating from precious stones flashing through a strange rainbow-cloud. There is some uncertainty about the names given to jewels in the ancient world: jasper was probably a diamond (cf. 21:11), carnelian was red, but we are unsure about the emerald. It may denote rock crystal, which acts as a prism, and in that case the rainbow after the flood is recalled, a reminder of God's covenant to restrain his wrath from humanity on earth (Gn. 9;13). Throne and rainbow, omnipotence and mercy, are signficant symbols in a book whose overriding theme is the judgment and kingdom of God.
4 The twentyfour elders are reminiscent of Is. 24:23, where the 'elders' were viewed as Jewish leaders. These elders have often been interpreted as representatives of Israel and the church (twelve patriarchs and twelve apostles). In 1 Ch. 24:4, however, we read of twentyfour priestly orders, and in 1 Ch. 25:1 of twentyfour orders of Levites appointed to prophesy and praise with harps and cymbals. Since in 5:8 the elders present the prayers of God's people and in 4:6-11 are linked with the four living creatures, they are evidently to be understood as exalted angelic beings, worshipping and serving with the Creator. 5 The flashes of lightning and peals of thunder recall the theophany at Sinai (Ex. 19:16) and portray the awesomeness of God. For the seven spirits of God see 5:6. 6 It is not said that the sea of glass was a literal sea, but that it looked like one. It is an adaptation of the conception of waters above the firmament (Gn. 1:7), but is here introduced apparently to emphasize the greatness of God.
Four living creatures stand around the throne. Their description is drawn from Ezekiel's vision of the cherubim (Ezk. 1:5-21) but considerably modified. the chief differences are that in Ezekiel the cherubim each have four faces, but here each has only one. the former possess 'wheels' with rims 'full of eyes all around' (they bear the throne of God), but here the creatures themselves possess the eyes. 78 Their ceaseless worship rendered to God may well represent the subjection of all creation to God. The Jews came to understand Ezekiel's vision in this way, regarding the man as chief representative of the creatures, the eagle of birds, the lion of beasts, and the ox of cattle. The ancient symbolizing of the four winds and the four chief constellations of the zodiac by these four figures, if known to John, would but serve to strengthen this view. The song of the cherubim implies that the future triumph of God is rooted n his very nature; the Lord, who is holy and almighty, is to come. 910 The renunciation by the twentyfour elders of their crowns would appear to be the expression of adoration given on special occasions when God 'comes' and manifests his sovereign power to judge and to save (see 5:8, 14; 11:15-18; 19:4). 11 The elders recognize that one only is worthy to take preeminence in creationthe Creator. In their song that celebrates his worth read 'on account of' your will they were created (instead of by). This has a forward rather than backward look; God's will is the ultimate power in the universe and that will shall be done. That is the supreme lesson of the visions of Revelation.
5:1-14 The scroll and the Lamb
The focus of the vision dramatically changes. It is as though a television camera in heaven zooms in on the hand of God to show a scroll which noone can open. The camera then focuses on one as yet not seen: he is standing in the centre of the throne, and by virtue of his 'triumph' he is able to take and open the scroll. When he does so, all heaven rings with his praise. It is likely that we have here a representation of the coronation of Jesus the Lord in terms of the ancient enthronement ceremonies of the Middle East. The steps of the ceremony are generally defined as exaltation, presentation, enthronement and acclamation. The equivalent of the exaltation is seen in v 5, the presentation in v 6, the bestowal of authority in v 7, and the acclamation in vs 8-14. So the ChristRedeemer enters upon his reign in power.
1 There has been much speculation as to the nature of the scroll in the hand of God. Of the suggestions that have been advanced, two are especially noteworthy: one that it is a double inscribed contract deed, the other a testament or will. The former goes back to ancient time, when contracts were written on tablets, wrapped round with clay, on the outside of which the nature of the contract was briefly stated. When papyrus or parchment was introduced, fundamentally the same procedure was used, and the document was sealed with seven seals. A related procedure took place with the writing of a will, in that a will was sealed by seven witnesses, and after the death of the testator it was opened, when possible, in their presence. No description of the contents was written on the outside, but that feature in John's vision could be due to a conscious echo of Ezk. 2:8-10. In reality the two notions are closely related, in that a contract is an everyday form of covenant, and a testament is a special kind of covenant. On that understanding, the scroll in the hand of God represents his covenant promise of judgment and kingdom for humanity.
2-3 The angel must be mighty, since his voice has to carry throughout heaven, earth and the realm of the dead (under the earth is Hades; cf. Phil. 2:10).
5 The Lion of the tribe of Judah (cf. Gn. 49:9), the Root of David (Is. 11:1, 10) has triumphed through his death and resurrection, and so he is able to open the scroll and its seven seals. The redemption wrought by the Christ was the means by which God's kingdom of salvation was established. 6 The description of the Lamb combines varied uses of this figure in Hebrew thought. It looks as if it had been slain and yet is standing in the centre of the throne, alive and victorious! In Revelation, exodus is the fundamental picture of redemption; the slain Lamb then is the Passover lamb. We also recall the slaughtered lamb of Is. 53:7, the Servant of the Lord, suffering in innocence for all humankind. But the Lamb has seven horns, which signifies immense power (Ps. 75:4-7) and royal status (Zc. 1:18). This takes up the contemporary apocalyptic representation of the Messiah as the powerful leader (Ram!) of the flock of God, who delivers the sheep, conquering the wild beasts that seek to destroy them. In Zc. 4:10 it is God who has seven eyes, symbolizing omniscience; here they are identified with the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth, in harmony with the teaching of Jn. 16:7-11. The Messiah of OT promise and apocalyptic hope thus stands revealed in terms of new covenant fulfilment.
8-10 The cherubim and the elders sing a new song, because Jesus has introduced the new era of the kingdom of God by his redemptive work (cf. Is. 42:9-10, which speaks of the new song in a similar context). The Lord has purchased men for God from all nations. The figure is that of setting people free at a price. In the ancient world slaves were sometimes set free through generous people paying the cost; in the modern world hostages have been similarly liberated. The pattern in view here, however, is that of the liberation of Israel in Egypt to become the free people of God in the land of promise. The greater emancipation, for life eternal in the kingdom of God, has been accomplished for all humankind at the cost of the Redeemer's blood. Hence the redeemed become a kingdom and priests to serve our God, so fulfilling the vocation to which the ancient people of God were called (Ex. 19:6). Their reign on the earth will be their 'service' (cf. 20:4-6; 22:3).
11-14 The angelic multitudes now take up the song of praise to the Lamb (cf. Dn. 7:10). The doxology has reference to the power and blessings of Christ at the commencement of his reign (11:17) and is closely similar to that sung to God in 7:12. All creation in heaven, earth, sea and the realm of the dead finally joins the host of angels and archangels (13). Whereas the praise of heaven in vs 8-12 celebrates the Lamb's initiating the kingdom of salvation, the universal worship of God and the Lamb awaits its consummation in the future. The like applies to the hymn of Phil. 2:6-11: the Lord has been given the name above every name at his exaltation to the throne of God; its acknowledgment awaits his manifestation in glory.
John's Throne Vision
Jewish mystics (many of whom penned apocalypses, like 1 Enoch) strove for visions of the invisible God, and modeled their views of what they would find on visions of God's enthroned glory in Isaiah 6 and Ezekiel 1 (cf. Ex 24:9-11; 1 Kings 22:19; Dan 7:9-10). In time these visions were embroidered with every fantastic magnification of the divine glory the mystics could imagine. In contrast to such elaborate reports of the preexistent throne of God, John's description is simple, like the Old Testament accounts: just enough description to convey the point of God's majesty. The picture of the throne room, including the activity of those surrounding the throne, may also be a parody on the imperial court and the worship in the imperial templesa daring revelation for a banished Jewish prophet like John.
4:1. "After these things" functions as a transition device to the next vision he would see (7:9; 15:5; 18:1; cf. 7:1; 19:1; 20:3; Jn 5:1; 6:1; 7:1); it was commonly used as such a transition. "I looked, and behold," is typical visionary language (e.g., Ezek 10:1; 44:4; Dan 10:5; also 1 Enoch, 4 Ezra and other writings based on this genre). On the trumpet, cf. Revelation 1:10. Although elsewhere in Revelation John is told, "Come here" (17:1; 21:9; cf. Jn 1:39), in this instance "Come up here" may also allude to God's call to Moses to come up the mountain (in later Jewish tradition, to heaven) to receive revelation (Ex 19:24; 24:12; 34:2); the same language appears frequently in apocalypses. The opened heavens are a figure for revelation as well (Rev 11:19; 19:11; Jn 1:51), again following an important Old Testament pattern for such visions (Ezek 1:1), developed in other Jewish apocalypses (including the door, e.g., 1 Enoch).
4:2. "In the Spirit " means that John is prophetically inspired in his vision (see comment on 1:10); Ezekiel had similarly been carried elsewhere in visions (Ezek 11:1, 24). Jewish mystics stressed the mortal dangers of the ascent to see God's throne; they had to know special passwords, and many did not know enough to survive their purported ascent through the spirit realms (see especially 3 Enoch and the rabbis). But some apocalypses allow that angels could immediately lift one into the heavens (2 Baruch, Similitudes of Enoch, 2 Enoch, Testament of Abraham). Like Ezekiel, John is simply caught up immediately by God's Spirit.
4:3. For this description of the throne, see Ezekiel 1:26, 28 and 10:1. (Thrones indicated the ruler's dignity and were generally approached by several steps; their bases could portray peoples subdued by the ruler.) This simple description contrasts with the Roman emperor's pomp. It also contrasts with other elaborations of heavenly palaces (1 Enoch 14), the magnitude of majesty (e.g., the later rabbis' crowning angel is a five hundred years' journey tall), or a tour of earth, heaven and hell (especially in later works); John does not even elaborate by weaving together other available Old Testament throne imagery (cf., e.g., Dan 7 in 1 Enoch 14).
4:4. "Elders" were those with authority in Old Testament cities and later Jewish communities who could function as representatives for their communities (e.g., Deut 21:6); see Isaiah 24:23. In the art of Asia Minor, a few priests could be used to represent thousands of worshipers. The number "twenty-four" has been related to the twenty-four books Jewish writers assigned to the Hebrew canon, to the twelve tribes plus the twelve apostles and so forth, but it almost certainly alludes to the twenty-four orders of priests. These orders were fixed in the Old Testament (1 Chron 24-25), continued in the New Testament period and were still commented on by later rabbis and in later inscriptions. The faithful dead are thus portrayed as priests offering worship to God (Rev 1:6). (Jewish apocalyptic literature often overlapped images of the future age with the present heaven for the righteous dead.)
Greek accounts sometimes portrayed deities as appearing in white (e.g., Demeter and Kore); at least some ancient thinkers, like Pythagoras and some rabbis, associated white with good and black with evil. This contrast no doubt arose in ancient thought through the contrast between day and night, the latter being more associated with witchcraft and (in Jewish thought) demons.
Romans and often Jews buried the dead in white. In Jewish tradition, angels were nearly always garbed in gleaming white. More significant here is the widespread tradition of worshipers dressing in white (3:4). Jewish teachers portrayed Israel as crowned at the revelation at Sinai; the righteous were sometimes viewed as crowned in heaven. (The Ascension of Isaiah has the righteous crowned, robed and enthroned in heaven, but it may well be a Christian work; the Odes of Solomon, which has a catching up to heaven by the Spiritcf. 4:2is a Christian work. But it is not always easy to distinguish early Christian works from Jewish works revised with Christian interpolations.) But the crowns here are probably victors' crowns for those who persevered to death (see comment on 2:10; 3:11). (Many Jewish traditions speak of a heavenly assemblyin the rabbis, a legislative or judicial bodycomposed of angels or deceased scholars; the antecedents of the image go back to the angelic court of God in the Old Testament and the Canaanite images of El's pantheon of seventy gods, replaced by the angels of the seventy nations in Jewish tradition.)
The arrangement is undoubtedly significant. Greek choruses would often sing or dance in circles; amphitheaters surrounded stages; and the Jewish Sanhedrin sat in a semicircle with the high priest in the middle.
4:5. The special effects rehearse the glory of God's self- revelation at Sinai (Ex 19:16; cf. Ezek 1:4, 13). Some apocalyptic texts report the sources of lightnings and thunderings in particular levels of heaven.
4:6-7. The "sea of glass" (15:2) alludes to the sea in Solomon's temple (1 Kings 7:23; 2 Chron 4:2, 6). It had always been natural to speak figuratively of God's heavenly temple (e.g., Ps 11:4), given the ancient Near Eastern tradition of the earthly temple reflecting the heavenly one. John's emphasis on worship leads to a portrayal of God's throne room in exclusively temple terms: an altar of incense (5:8), an altar of sacrifice (6:9), the ark (11:19; cf. 15:5-8), which functioned as God's throne in the Old Testament, and so forth. The crystal firmament derives from Ezekiel 1:22. The cherubim were covered with eyes in Ezekiel 10:12; the four creatures had four faces in Ezekiel 1:10 (where, however, each creature had all the features). Ezekiel's imagery may be intentionally figurative (cf. 1 Chron 12:8) but may draw on Babylonian throne and temple imagery and indicate a God greater than any pagans could have conceived; cf. also 1 Kings 7:29.
4:8. Ezekiel also spoke of the six wings (Ezek 1:11). The trisagion ("Holy, holy, holy") is from Isaiah 6:3, where seraphimfiery, holy angels modeled after the cherubim of the tabernaclesurround God's throne in the Jerusalem temple, symbolizing his universal glory (Is 6:3) and demonstrating the impurity of sinful mortals like the prophet (Is 6:5). Later Jewish texts also employ the biblical imagery of these creatures and this song, which came into use in synagogue and later church liturgy as well. One may contrast the permanently appointed imperial cult choir at Pergamum, where thirty-six members were to sing hymns in honor of the deified Augustus.
4:9-10. Prostration on one's face was a form of homage offered to gods and rulers in antiquity.
4:11. The emperor Domitian demanded worship as "our Lord and God" but never claimed the role of Creator. Jesus receives the same words of honor in John 20:28.
The Passover Lamb and the Scroll
5:1. Legal documents were sealed, often with seven seals imprinted with the attestations of seven witnesses. (The wax seals would have to be broken to loose the strings beneath them, which wrapped the scroll and guaranteed that it had not been opened and thus altered.) This form was used for contract deeds and wills; it became increasingly common in Roman documents of the period, and some Palestinian Jewish documents of this sort have been recovered. Scrolls were normally written on only one side of a papyrus sheet, reserving the outside for the title or address; but this scroll is particularly full and written on both sides (cf. Ezek 2:9-10). The writing side was called the recto, where the fibers were horizontal and easier for writing; the verso was used only when the recto had inadequate space. Documents written on both sides are rare enough to have a technical name, an opisthograph.
5:2-3. See Isaiah 6:8 for a similar call.
5:4. Loud wailing was normally reserved for intense mourning, such as for a person's death.
5:5. Lions were used on Torah shrines (containers which housed law scrolls) in early Jewish art and were regarded as figures of strength and authority, but a more direct background lies at hand. The "lion of Judah" alludes to Genesis 49:9-10, which predicted the Davidic dynasty and was understood messianically in later Jewish literature (4 Ezra, the rabbis). "Root of David" alludes to Isaiah 11:1 and 10 (Jesse was David's father), which suggests that the Messiah would come after the Davidic line had seemed cut off. The image is also used messianically in later texts (e.g., Ecclesiasticus), and both these images are combined in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Apocalypses and other texts often included dialogue with heavenly particpants in the scenes revealed (e.g., Dan 7:16; Zech 4:11; 5:2).
5:6. Whereas a lion was the ultimate symbol of power in ancient views of the animal kingdom (cf. also, e.g., Is 35:9; 65:25), a lamb was considered powerless (cf. Is 40:11); a slaughtered lamb was a dramatic contrast with a reigning lion (cf. Is 53:7). Lambs were associated with a variety of sacrifices, but in Revelation this figure especially represents the Passover lamb, who delivers God's people from the plagues of the following chapters (cf. Ex 12:12-13).
Many texts mention lamb's horns, but the imagery of horns as symbols for authority is rooted in Daniel 8. The seven eyes ranging throughout the earth are from Zechariah 3:9 and 4:10. Because these may refer to angels (the image in Zechariah is modeled after Persian royal emissaries) in Zechariah 1:10 and 6:5-7, Revelation may apply the image to the seven traditional archangels of Judaism (8:2), subservient to Christ, rather than representing the Spirit of God. At any rate, the eyes in Zechariah are God's eyes; here they belong to the Lord Jesus.
5:7. Although Revelation is full of "sevens," it may be significant that Roman wills were normally sealed with seven seals; seals on legal documents guaranteed that no one had opened or tampered with them. A will could not be opened until the death of the person whose will it was could be attested; if a will is in view here, it is significant that it is the lamb who has been slain who is worthy to open it. (The book may well be the lamb's book of life; cf. 3:5; 20:12.) At any rate, under Roman law a document was valid only when the addressee had received it; it is thus ready to take effect.
Worshiping the Lamb
5:8. Prostration was particularly a sign of worship before gods and kings in antiquity; Jewish texts usually reserved it for God himself. The image of prayers as incense was not uncommon (e.g., Ps 141:2), but here it alludes to the altar of incense and its censer in the heavenly temple (Rev 8:3). In this context, the harps probably indicate worship as in the charismatic, Levitical temple choir of old (1 Chron 25:1, 3, 6; 2 Chron 5:12; 29:25; Neh 12:27; cf. 1 Sam 10:5).
5:9-10. Received in a context of worship (1:10) and offered to congregations presumably gathered in worship (chaps. 2-3), visions of heavenly worship would encourage the church on earth that they stood in continuity with a much greater chorus than their persecutors in the imperial cult could muster. The Dead Sea Scrolls show that earthly worshipers could envision themselves participating in heavenly worship with the angels. Inspired, spontaneous psalms composed by the temple worship leaders had been called "new songs" in the Old Testament (Ps 33:3; 40:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1).
The particular praise reflects the redemption of Israel from Egypt by the blood of the Passover lamb (see also comment on Rev 1:6), except that the people of God now explicitly include representatives from every people, celebrating redemption in their multiethnic, diverse styles of worship. Further, they would finally reign over the rest of the earth; Jewish traditions portrayed Israel as receiving the kingdom and reigning over the nations in the end time.
5:11. Some Jewish texts were given to citing fantastically large numbers of people (e.g., they listed more slain in one battle than all the people who have lived in history); more reasonably, such texts estimated even larger numbers of angels. "Ten thousand" was the largest single number used in Greek, so "ten thousands of ten thousands" (myriads of myriads) is the author's way of calling them innumerable.
5:12. An early-second-century Roman governor confirms that Christians worshiped Christ as a god. It is interesting that what became the official text of the Passover celebration, praising God for redemption from Egypt, also lists seven praises (as does a Qumran text); John's predilection for sevens is broader than and independent of the Passover image, however, so it may be only coincidental.
5:13-14. Although the Old Testament and Judaism believed that the world would submit to God's rule wholly in the end time, they recognized that all the elements of the universe answered to his authority in the present.
Revelation 4:1-11. VISION OF GOD'S THRONE IN HEAVEN; THE FOUR AND TWENTY ELDERS; THE FOUR LIVING CREATURES.
Here begins the Revelation proper; and first, the fourth and fifth chapters set before us the heavenly scenery of the succeeding visions, and God on His throne, as the covenant God of His Church, the Revealer of them to His apostle through Jesus Christ. The first great portion comprises the opening of the seals and the sounding of the trumpets (fourth to eleventh chapters). As the communication respecting the seven churches opened with a suitable vision of the Lord Jesus as Head of the Church, so the second part opens with a vision suitable to the matter to be revealed. The scene is changed from earth to heaven.
1. After this Greek, "After these things," marking the opening of the next vision in the succession. Here is the transition from "the things which are" (Revelation 1:19), the existing state of the seven churches, as a type of the Church in general, in John's time, to "the things which shall be hereafter," namely, in relation to the time when John wrote. I looked rather as Greek, "I saw" in vision; not as English Version means, I directed my look that way. was Omit, as not being in the Greek. opened "standing open"; not as though John saw it in the act of being opened. Compare Ezekiel 1:1; Matthew 3:16; Acts 7:56; 10:11. But in those visions the heavens opened, disclosing the visions to those below on earth. Whereas here, heaven, the temple of God, remains closed to those on earth, but John is transported in vision through an open door up into heaven, whence he can see things passing on earth or in heaven, according as the scenes of the several visions require. the first voice which I heard the voice which I heard at first, namely, in Revelation 1:10; the former voice. was as it were Omit was, it not being in the Greek. "Behold" governs in sense both "a door," etc. and "the first voice," etc. Come up hither through the "open door." be come to pass. hereafter Greek, "after these things": after the present time (Revelation 1:19).
2. And omitted in the two oldest manuscripts, Vulgate, Syriac. I was, etc. Greek, "I became in the Spirit" (see note on Revelation 1:10): I was completely rapt in vision into the heavenly world. was set not was placed, but was situated, literally, "lay." one sat on the throne the Eternal Father: the Creator (Revelation 4:11): also compare Revelation 4:8 with Revelation 1:4, where also the Father is designated, "which is, and was, and is to come." When the Son, "the Lamb," is introduced, Revelation 5:5-9, a new song is sung which distinguishes the Sitter on the throne from the Lamb, "Thou hast redeemed us to God," and Revelation 5:13, "Unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb." So also in Revelation 5:7, as in Daniel 7:13, the Son of man brought before the Ancient of days is distinguished from Him. The Father in essence is invisible, but in Scripture at times is represented as assuming a visible form.
3. was omitted in the two oldest manuscripts but supported by Vulgate and Coptic . to look upon Greek, "in sight," or "appearance." jasper From Revelation 21:11, where it is called most precious, which the jasper was not, EBRARD infers it was a diamond. Ordinarily, the jasper is a stone of various wavy colors, somewhat transparent: in Revelation 21:11 it represents watery crystalline brightness. The sardine, our cornelian, or else a fiery red. As the watery brightness represents God's holiness, so the fiery red His justice executing fiery wrath. The same union of white or watery brightness and fiery redness appears in Revelation 1:14; 10:1; Ezekiel 1:4; 8:2; Daniel 7:9. rainbow round about the throne forming a complete circle (type of God's perfection and eternity: not a half circle as the earthly rainbow) surrounding the throne vertically. Its various colors, which combined form one pure solar ray, symbolize the varied aspects of God's providential dealings uniting in one harmonious whole. Here, however, the predominating color among the prismatic colors is green, the most refreshing of colors to look upon, and so symbolizing God's consolatory promises in Christ to His people amidst judgments on His foes. Moreover, the rainbow was the appointed token of God's covenant with all flesh, and His people in particular. Hereby God in type renewed to man the grant originally made to the first Adam. The antitype will be the "new heavens and the new earth" restored to redeemed man, just as the earth, after the destruction by the flood, was restored to Noah. As the rainbow was first reflected on the waters of the world's ruin, and continues to be seen only when a cloud is brought over the earth, so another deluge, namely, of fire, shall precede the new heavens and earth: the Lord, as here, on His throne, whence (Revelation 4:5) proceed "lightnings and thunderings," shall issue the commission to rid the earth of its oppressors: but then, amidst judgment, when other men's hearts fail them for fear, the believer shall be reassured by the rainbow, the covenant token, round the throne (compare DE BURGH, Exposition of Revelation ). The heavenly bow speaks of the shipwreck of the world through sin: it speaks also of calm and sunshine after the storm. The cloud is the regular token of God's and Christ's presence, for example, in the tabernacle's holiest place; on Mount Sinai at the giving of the law; at the ascension (Acts 1:9); at His coming again (Revelation 4:7).
4. seats rather as the Greek is translated in this very verse, "thrones," of course lower and smaller than the grand central throne. So Revelation 16:10, "the seat (rather, throne ) of the beasts," in hellish parody of God's throne. four and twenty elders Greek, "the four and twenty (or as one oldest manuscript, 'twenty-four') elders": the well-known elders [ALFORD]. But TREGELLES translates, "Upon the twenty-four thrones (I saw: omitted in two oldest manuscripts) elders sitting": which is more probable, as the twenty-four elders were not mentioned before, whereas the twenty-four thrones were. They are not angels, for they have white robes and crowns of victory, implying a conflict and endurance, "Thou hast redeemed us ": they represent the Heads of the Old and New Testament churches respectively, the Twelve Patriarchs (compare Revelation 7:5-8, not in their personal, but in their representative character), and Twelve Apostles. So in Revelation 15:3, "the song of Moses, and of the Lamb," the double constituents of the Church are implied, the Old Testament and the New Testament. "Elders" is the very term for the ministry both of the Old and New Testament, the Jewish and the catholic Gentile Church. The tabernacle was a "pattern" of the heavenly antitype; the holy place, a figure of HEAVEN ITSELF. Thus Jehovah's throne is represented by the mercy seat in the holiest, the Shekinah-cloud over it. "The seven lamps of fire before the throne" (Revelation 4:5) are antitypical to the seven-branched candlestick also in the holiest, emblem of the manifold Spirit of God: "the sea of glass" (Revelation 4:6) corresponds to the molten sea before the sanctuary, wherein the priests washed themselves before entering on their holy service; so introduced here in connection with the redeemed "priests unto God" (compare Note, see note on Revelation 15:2). The "four living creatures" (Revelation 4:6, 7) answer to the cherubim over the mercy seat. So the twenty-four throned and crowned elders are typified by the twenty-four chiefs of the twenty-four courses of priests, "Governors of the sanctuary, and governors of God" (1 Chronicles 24:5; 25:1-31).
5. proceeded Greek, "proceed." thunderings and voices The two oldest manuscripts transpose, "voices and thunderings." Compare at the giving of the law on Sinai, Exodus 19:16. "The thunderings express God's threats against the ungodly: there are voices in the thunders (Revelation 10:3), that is, not only does He threaten generally, but also predicts special judgments" [GROTIUS]. seven lamps . . . seven Spirits The Holy Spirit in His sevenfold operation, as the light-and-life Giver (compare Revelation 5:6, seven eyes . . . the seven Spirits of God; Revelation 1:4; 21:23; Psalms 119:105) and fiery purifier of the godly, and consumer of the ungodly (Matthew 3:11).
6. Two oldest manuscripts, A, B, Vulgate, Coptic, and Syriac read, "As it were a sea of glass." like . . . crystal not imperfectly transparent as the ancient common glass, but like rock crystal. Contrast the turbid "many waters" on which the harlot "sitteth" (Revelation 17:1, 15). Compare Job 37:18, "the sky . . . as a molten looking-glass." Thus, primarily, the pure ether which separates God's throne from John, and from all things before it, may be meant, symbolizing the "purity, calmness, and majesty of God's rule" [ALFORD]. But see the analogue in the temple, the molten sea before the sanctuary (see note on Revelation 4:4, above). There is in this sea depth and transparency, but not the fluidity and instability of the natural sea (compare Revelation 21:1). It stands solid, calm, and clear, God's judgments are called "a great deep" (Psalms 36:6). In Revelation 15:2 it is a "sea of glass mingled with fire." Thus there is symbolized here the purificatory baptism of water and the Spirit of all who are made "kings and priests unto God." In Revelation 15:2 the baptism with the fire of trial is meant. Through both all the king-priests have to pass in coming to God: His judgments, which overwhelm the ungodly, they stand firmly upon, as on a solid sea of glass; able like Christ to walk on the sea, as though it were solid. round about the throne one in the midst of each side of the throne. four beasts The Greek for "beasts," Revelation 13:1, 11, is different, therion, the symbol for the carnal man by opposition to God losing his true glory, as lord, under Him, of the lower creatures, and degraded to the level of the beast. Here it is zoon, "living creatures"; not beast.
7. calf "a steer" [ALFORD]. The Septuagint often uses the Greek term here for an ox (Exodus 22:1; 29:10, etc.). as a man The oldest manuscripts have "as of a man."
8. about him Greek, "round about him." ALFORD connects this with the following sentence: "All round and within (their wings) they are (so two oldest manuscripts, A, B, and Vulgate read) full of eyes." John's object is to show that the six wings in each did not interfere with that which he had before declared, namely, that they were "full of eyes before and behind." The eyes were round the outside of each wing, and up the inside of each when half expanded, and of the part of body in that inward recess. rest not literally, "have no rest." How awfully different the reason why the worshippers of the beast "have no rest day nor night," namely, "their torment for ever and ever." Holy, holy, holy The "tris-hagion" of the Greek liturgies. In Isaiah 6:3, as here, it occurs; also Psalms 99:3, 5, 9, where He is praised as "holy," (1) on account of His majesty (Revelation 4:1) about to display itself; (2) His justice (Revelation 4:4) already displaying itself; (3) His mercy (Revelation 4:6-8) which displayed itself in times past. So here "Holy," as He "who was"; "Holy," as He "who is": "Holy," as He "who is to come." He showed Himself an object of holy worship in the past creation of all things: more fully He shows Himself so in governing all things: He will, in the highest degree, show Himself so in the consummation of all things. "Of (from) Him, through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen." In Isaiah 6:3 there is added, "the whole EARTH is full of His glory." But in Revelation this is deferred until the glory of THE LORD fills the earth, His enemies having been destroyed [BENGEL]. Almighty answering to "Lord of hosts" (Sabaoth), Isaiah 6:3.
The cherubim here have six wings, like the seraphim in Isaiah 6:2; whereas the cherubim in Ezekiel 1:6 had four wings each. They are called by the same name, "living creatures." But whereas in Ezekiel each living creature has all four faces, here the four belong severally one to each. See note on Ezekiel 1:6. The four living creatures answer by contrast to the four world powers represented by four beasts. The Fathers identified them with the four Gospels, Matthew the lion, Mark the ox, Luke the man, John the eagle: these symbols, thus viewed, express not the personal character of the Evangelists, but the manifold aspect of Christ in relation to the world (four being the number significant of world-wide extension, for example, the four quarters of the world) presented by them severally: the lion expressing royalty, as Matthew gives prominence to this feature of Christ; the ox, laborious endurance, Christ's prominent characteristic in Mark; man, brotherly sympathy with the whole race of man, Christ's prominent feature in Luke; the eagle, soaring majesty, prominent in John's description of Christ as the Divine Word. But here the context best suits the view which regards the four living creatures as representing the redeemed election-Church in its relation of ministering king-priests to God, and ministers of blessing to the redeemed earth, and the nations on it, and the animal creation, in which man stands at the head of all, the lion at the head of wild beasts, the ox at the head of tame beasts, the eagle at the head of birds and of the creatures of the waters. Compare Revelation 5:8-10, "Thou hast redeemed us by Thy blood out of every kindred . . . and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth "; and Revelation 20:4, the partakers with Christ of the first resurrection, who conjointly with Him reign over the redeemed nations that are in the flesh. Compare as to the happy and willing subjection of the lower animal world, Isaiah 11:6-8; 65:25; Ezekiel 34:25; Hosea 2:18. Jewish tradition says the "four standards" under which Israel encamped in the wilderness, to the east, Judah, to the north, Dan, to the west, Ephraim, to the south, Reuben, were respectively a lion, an eagle, an ox, and a man, while in the midst was the tabernacle containing the Shekinah symbol of the Divine Presence. Thus we have "the picture of that blessed period when the earth having been fitted for being the kingdom of the Father the court of heaven will be transferred to earth, and the 'tabernacle of God shall be with men' (Revelation 21:3), and the whole world will be subject to a never-ending theocracy" (compare DE BURGH, Exposition of Revelation ). The point of union between the two views given above is: Christ is the perfect realization of the ideal of man; Christ is presented in His fourfold aspect in the four Gospels respectively. The redeemed election-Church similarly, when in and through Christ (with whom she shall reign) she realizes the ideal of man, shall combine in herself human perfections having a fourfold aspect: (1) kingly righteousness with hatred of evil and judicial equity, answering to the "lion"; (2) laborious diligence in every duty, the "ox"; (3) human sympathy, the "man"; (4) the contemplation of heavenly truth, the "eagle." As the high-soaring intelligence, the eagle, forms the contrasted complement to practical labor, the ox bound to the soil; so holy judicial vengeance against evil, the lion springing suddenly and terribly on the doomed, forms the contrasted complement to human sympathy, the man. In Isaiah 6:2 we read, "Each had six wings: with twain he covered his face (in reverence, as not presuming to lift up his face to God), with twain he covered his feet (in humility, as not worthy to stand in God's holy presence), and with twain he did fly [in obedient readiness to do instantly God's command]."
9-11. The ground of praise here is God's eternity, and God's power and glory manifested in the creation of all things for His pleasure. Creation is the foundation of all God's other acts of power, wisdom, and love, and therefore forms the first theme of His creatures' thanksgivings. The four living creatures take the lead of the twenty-four elders, both in this anthem, and in that new song which follows on the ground of their redemption (Revelation 5:8-10). when that is, whensoever: as often as. A simultaneous giving of glory on the part of the beasts, and on the part of the elders. give "shall give" in one oldest manuscript. for ever and ever Greek, "unto the ages of the ages."
10. fall immediately. Greek, "shall fall down": implying that this ascription of praise shall be repeated onward to eternity. So also, "shall worship . . . shall cast their crowns," namely, in acknowledgment that all the merit of their crowns (not kingly diadems, but the crowns of conquerors) is due to Him.
11. O Lord The two oldest manuscripts, A, B, Vulgate, and Syriac add, "and our God." "Our" by virtue of creation, and especially redemption. One oldest manuscript, B, and Syriac insert "the Holy One." But another, A, Vulgate, and Coptic omit this, as English Version does. glory, etc. "the glory . . . the honour . . . the power." thou emphatic in the Greek: "It is THOU who didst create." all things Greek, "the all things": the universe. for, etc. Greek, "on account of"; "for the sake of Thy pleasure," or "will." English Version is good Greek. Though the context better suits, it was because of Thy will, that "they were" (so one oldest manuscript, A, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic read, instead of English Version "are": another oldest manuscript, B, reads, "They were not, and were created," were created out of nothing), that is, were existing, as contrasted with their previous non-existence. With God to will is to effect: to determine is to perform. So in Genesis 1:3, "Let there be light, and there was light": in Hebrew an expressive tautology, the same word and tense and letters being used for "let there be," and "there was," marking the simultaneity and identity of the will and the effect. D. LONGINUS [On the Sublime, 9], a heathen, praises this description of God's power by "the lawgiver of the Jews, no ordinary man," as one worthy of the theme. were created by Thy definite act of creation at a definite time.
Revelation 5:1-14. THE BOOK WITH SEVEN SEALS: NONE WORTHY TO OPEN IT BUT THE LAMB: HE TAKES IT AMIDST THE PRAISES OF THE REDEEMED, AND OF THE WHOLE HEAVENLY HOST.
1. in, etc. Greek, "(lying) upon the right hand." His right hand was open and on it lay the book. On God's part there was no withholding of His future purposes as contained in the book: the only obstacle to unsealing it is stated in Revelation 5:3 [ALFORD]. book rather, as accords with the ancient form of books, and with the writing on the backside, "a roll." The writing on the back implies fulness and completeness, so that nothing more needs to be added (Revelation 22:18). The roll, or book, appears from the context to be "the title-deed of man's inheritance" [DE BURGH] redeemed by Christ, and contains the successive steps by which He shall recover it from its usurper and obtain actual possession of the kingdom already "purchased" for Himself and His elect saints. However, no portion of the roll is said to be unfolded and read; but simply the seals are successively opened, giving final access to its contents being read as a perfect whole, which shall not be until the events symbolized by the seals shall have been past, when Ephesians 3:10 shall receive its complete accomplishment, and the Lamb shall reveal God's providential plans in redemption in all their manifold beauties. Thus the opening of the seals will mean the successive steps by which God in Christ clears the way for the final opening and reading of the book at the visible setting up of the kingdom of Christ. Compare, at the grand consummation, Revelation 20:12, "Another book was opened . . . the book of life"; Revelation 22:19. None is worthy to do so save the Lamb, for He alone as such has redeemed man's forfeited inheritance, of which the book is the title-deed. The question (Revelation 5:2) is not (as commonly supposed), Who should reveal the destinies of the Church (for this any inspired prophet would be competent to do)? but, Who has the WORTH to give man a new title to his lost inheritance? [DE BURGH]. sealed . . . seven seals Greek, "sealed up," or "firmly sealed." The number seven (divided into four, the world-wide number, and three, the divine) abounds in Revelation and expresses completeness. Thus, the seven seals, representing all power given to the Lamb; the seven trumpets, by which the world kingdoms are shaken and overthrown, and the Lamb's kingdom ushered in; and the seven vials, by which the beast's kingdom is destroyed.
2. strong (Psalms 103:20). His voice penetrated heaven, earth, and Hades (Revelation 10:1-3).
3. no man Greek, "no one." Not merely no man, but also no one of any order of beings. in earth Greek, "upon the earth." under the earth namely, in Hades. look thereon to look upon the contents, so as to read them.
4. and to read inserted in English Version Greek text without good authority. One oldest manuscript, ORIGEN, CYPRIAN, and HILARY omit the clause. "To read" would be awkward standing between "to open the book" and "to look thereon." John having been promised a revelation of "things which must be hereafter," weeps now at his earnest desire being apparently frustrated. He is a pattern to us to imitate, as an eager and teachable learner of the Apocalypse.
5. one of Greek, "one from among." The "elder" meant is, according to some (in LYRA), Matthew. With this accords the description here given of Christ, "the Lion, which is (so the Greek ) of the tribe of Juda, the root of David"; the royal, David-descended, lion-aspect of Christ being that prominent in Matthew, whence the lion among the fourfold cherubim is commonly assigned to him. GERHARD in BENGEL thought Jacob to be meant, being, doubtless, one of those who rose with Christ and ascended to heaven (Matthew 27:52, 53). The elders in heaven round God's throne know better than John, still in the flesh, the far-reaching power of Christ. Root of David (Isaiah 11:1, 10). Not merely "a sucker come up from David's ancient root" (as ALFORD limits it), but also including the idea of His being Himself the root and origin of David: compare these two truths brought together, Matthew 22:42-45. Hence He is called not merely Son of David, but also David. He is at once "the branch" of David, and "the root" of David, David's Son and David's Lord, the Lamb slain and therefore the Lion of Juda: about to reign over Israel, and thence over the whole earth. prevailed Greek, "conquered": absolutely, as elsewhere (Revelation 3:21): gained the victory: His past victory over all the powers of darkness entitles Him now to open the book. to open that is, so as to open. One oldest manuscript, B, reads, "He that openeth," that is, whose office it is to open, but the weight of oldest authorities is with English Version reading, namely, A, Vulgate, Coptic, and ORIGEN.
6. I beheld, and, lo One oldest manuscript, A, omits "and, lo." Another, B, CYPRIAN, etc,. support, "and, lo," but omit, "and I beheld." in the midst of the throne that is, not on the throne (compare Revelation 5:7), but in the midst of the company (Revelation 4:4) which was "round about the throne." Lamb Greek, "arnion "; always found in Revelation exclusively, except in John 21:15 alone: it expresses endearment, namely, the endearing relation in which Christ now stands to us, as the consequence of His previous relation as the sacrificial Lamb. So also our relation to Him: He the precious Lamb, we His dear lambs, one with Him. BENGEL thinks there is in Greek, "arnion," the idea of taking the lead of the flock. Another object of the form Greek, "arnion," the Lamb, is to put Him in the more marked contrast to Greek, "therion," the Beast. Elsewhere Greek, "amnos," is found, applying to Him as the paschal, sacrificial Lamb (Isaiah 53:7, Septuagint; John 1:29, 36; Acts 8:32; 1 Peter 1:19). as it had been slain bearing marks of His past death wounds. He was standing, though bearing the marks of one slain. In the midst of heavenly glory Christ crucified is still the prominent object. seven horns that is, perfect might, "seven" symbolizing perfection; "horns," might, in contrast to the horns of the Antichristian world powers, Revelation 17:3; etc. Daniel 7:7, 20; 8:3. seven eyes . . . the seven Spirits . . . sent forth So one oldest manuscript, A. But B reads, "being sent forth." As the seven lamps before the throne represent the Spirit of God immanent in the Godhead, so the seven eyes of the Lamb represent the same sevenfold Spirit profluent from the incarnate Redeemer in His world-wide energy. The Greek for "sent forth," apostellomena, or else apestalmenoi, is akin to the term "apostle," reminding us of the Spirit-impelled labors of Christ's apostles and minister throughout the world: if the present tense be read, as seems best, the idea will be that of those labors continually going on unto the end. "Eyes" symbolize His all-watchful and wise providence for His Church, and against her foes.
7. The book lay on the open hand of Him that sat on the throne for any to take who was found worthy [ALFORD]. The Lamb takes it from the Father in token of formal investiture into His universal and everlasting dominion as Son of man. This introductory vision thus presents before us, in summary, the consummation to which all the events in the seals, trumpets, and vials converge, namely, the setting up of Christ's kingdom visibly. Prophecy ever hurries to the grand crisis or end, and dwells on intermediate events only in their typical relation to, and representation of, the end.
8. had taken Greek, "took." fell down before the Lamb who shares worship and the throne with the Father. harps Two oldest manuscripts, A, B, Syriac and Coptic read, "a harp": a kind of guitar, played with the hand or a quill. vials "bowls" [TREGELLES]; censers. odours Greek, "incense." prayers of saints as the angel offers their prayers (Revelation 8:3) with incense (compare Psalms 141:2). This gives not the least sanction to Rome's dogma of our praying to saints. Though they be employed by God in some way unknown to us to present our prayers (nothing is said of their interceding for us), yet we are told to pray only to Him (Revelation 19:10; 22:8, 9). Their own employment is praise (whence they all have harps ): ours is prayer.
9. sung Greek, "sing": it is their blessed occupation continually. The theme of redemption is ever new, ever suggesting fresh thoughts of praise, embodied in the "new song." us to God So manuscript B, Coptic, Vulgate, and CYPRIAN. But A omits "us": and a reads instead, "to our God." out of the present election-church gathered out of the world, as distinguished from the peoples gathered to Christ as the subjects, not of an election, but of a general and world-wide conversion of all nations. kindred . . . tongue . . . people . . . nation The number four marks world-wide extension: the four quarters of the world. For "kindred," translate as Greek, "tribe." This term and "people" are usually restricted to Israel: "tongue and nation" to the Gentiles (Revelation 7:9; 11:9; 13:7, the oldest reading; Revelation 14:6). Thus there is here marked the election-Church gathered from Jews and Gentiles. In Revelation 10:11, for "tribes," we find among the four terms "kings"; in Revelation 17:15, "multitudes."
10. made us A, B, a, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic read, "them." The Hebrew construction of the third person for the first, has a graphic relation to the redeemed, and also has a more modest sound than us, priests [BENGEL]. unto our God So B and a read. But A omits the clause. kings So B reads. But A, a, Vulgate, Coptic, and CYPRIAN, read, "A kingdom." a reads also "a priesthood" for priests. They who cast their crowns before the throne, do not call themselves kings in the sight. of the great King (Revelation 4:10, 11); though their priestly access has such dignity that their reigning on earth cannot exceed it. So in Revelation 20:6 they are not called "kings" [BENGEL]. we shall reign on the earth This is a new feature added to Revelation 1:6. a, Vulgate, and Coptic read, "They shall reign." A and B read, "They reign." ALFORD takes this reading and explains it of the Church EVEN NOW, in Christ her Head, reigning on the earth: "all things are being put under her feet, as under His; her kingly office and rank are asserted, even in the midst of persecution." But even if we read (I think the weightiest authority is against it), "They reign," still it is the prophetical present for the future: the seer being transported into the future when the full number of the redeemed (represented by the four living creatures ) shall be complete and the visible kingdom begins. The saints do spiritually reign now; but certainly not as they shall when the prince of this world shall be bound (see on Revelation 20:2-6). So far from reigning on the earth now, they are "made as the filth of the world and the offscouring of all things." In Revelation 11:15, 18, the locality and time of the kingdom are marked. KELLY translates, "reign over the earth" (Greek, "epi tees gees "), which is justified by the Greek (Septuagint, Judges 9:8; Matthew 2:22). The elders, though ruling over the earth, shall not necessarily (according to this passage) remain on the earth. But English Version is justified by Revelation 3:10. "The elders were meek, but the flock of the meek independently is much larger" [BENGEL].
11. I beheld the angels: who form the outer circle, while the Church, the object of redemption, forms the inner circle nearest the throne. The heavenly hosts ranged around gaze with intense love and adoration at this crowning manifestation of God's love, wisdom, and power. ten thousand times ten thousand Greek, "myriads of myriads."
12. to receive power Greek, "the power." The remaining six (the whole being seven, the number for perfection and completeness ) are all, as well as "power," ranged under the one Greek article, to mark that they form one complete aggregate belonging to God and His co-equal, the Lamb. Compare Revelation 7:12, where each of all seven has the article. riches both spiritual and earthly. blessing ascribed praise: the will on the creature's part, though unaccompanied by the power, to return blessing for blessing conferred [ALFORD].
13. The universal chorus of creation, including the outermost circles as well as the inner (of saints and angels), winds up the doxology. The full accomplishment of this is to be when Christ takes His great power and reigns visibly. every creature "all His works in all places of His dominion" (Psalms 103:22). under the earth the departed spirits in Hades. such as are So B and Vulgate. But A omits this. in the sea Greek, "upon the sea": the sea animals which are regarded as being on the surface [ALFORD]. all that are in them So Vulgate reads. A omits "all (things)" here (Greek, "panta "), and reads, "I heard all (Greek, "pantas ") saying": implying the harmonious concert of all in the four quarters of the universe. Blessing, etc. Greek, "the blessing, the honor, and the glory, and the might to the ages of the ages." The fourfold ascription indicates world-wide universality.
14. said So A, Vulgate, and Syriac read. But B and Coptic read, "(I heard) saying." Amen So A reads. But B reads, "the (accustomed) Amen." As in Revelation 4:11, the four and twenty elders asserted God's worthiness to receive the glory, as having created all things, so here the four living creatures ratify by their "Amen" the whole creation's ascription of the glory to Him. four and twenty omitted in the oldest manuscripts: Vulgate supports it. him that liveth for ever and ever omitted in all the manuscripts: inserted by commentators from Revelation 4:9. But there, where the thanksgiving is expressed, the words are appropriate; but here less so, as their worship is that of silent prostration. "Worshipped" (namely, God and the Lamb). So in Revelation 11:1, "worship" is used absolutely.
Analysis of the Chapter
THIS chapter properly commences the series of visions respecting future events, and introduces those remarkable symbolical descriptions which were designed to cheer the hearts of those to whom the book was first sent, in their trials, and the hearts of all believers in all ages, with the assurance of the final triumph of the gospel. See the Introduction.
In regard to the nature of these visions, or the state of mind of the writer, there have been different opinions. Some have supposed that all that is described was made only to pass before the mind, with no visible representation; others, that there were visible representations so made to him that he could copy them; others, that all that is said or seen was only the production of the author's imagination. The latter is the view principally entertained by German writers on the book. All that would seem to be apparent on the face of the bookand that is all that we can judge byis, that the following things occurred:
(1.) The writer was in a devout frame of minda state of holy contemplationwhen the scenes were represented to him, Rev. 1:1-10.
(2.) The representations were supernatural; that is, they were something which was disclosed to him, in that state of mind, beyond ally natural reach of his faculties.
(3.) These things were so made to pass before him that they had the aspect of reality, and he could copy and describe them as real. It is not necessary to suppose that there was any representation to the bodily eye; but they had, to his mind, such a reality that he could describe them as pictures or symbolsand his office was limited to that. He does not attempt to explain themnor does he intimate that he understood them; but his office pertains to an accurate recorda fair transcriptof what passed before his mind. For anything that appears, he may have been as ignorant of their signification as any of his readers, and may have subsequently studied them with the same kind of attention which We now give to them, (See Note on 1 Pet. 1:11) See Note on 1 Pet. 1:12, and may have, perhaps, remained ignorant of their signification to the day of his death. It is no more necessary to suppose that he understood all that was implied in these symbols, than it is that one who can describe a beautiful landscape understands all the laws of the plants and flowers in the landscape; or, that one who copies all the designs and devices of armorial bearings in heraldry should understand all that is meant by the symbols that are used; or, that one who should copy the cuneiform inscriptions of Persepolis, or the hieroglyphics of Thebes, should understand the meaning of the symbols. All that is demanded or expected, in such a case, is, that the copy should be accurately made; and, when made, this copy may be as much an object of study to him who made it as to any one else.
(4.) Yet there was a sense in which these symbols were real; that is, they were a real and proper delineation of future events. They were not the mere workings of the imagination. He who saw them in vision, though there may have been no representation to the eye, had before him what was a real and appropriate representation of coming events. If not, the visions are as worthless as dreams are.
The visions open (Rev. 4) with a Theophany, or a representation of God. John is permitted to look into heaven, and to have a view of the throne of God, and of the worship celebrated there. A door (qura or opening is made into heaven, so that he, as it were, looks through the concave above, and sees what is beyond, He sees the throne of God, and him who sits on the throne, and the worshippers there; he sees the lightnings play around the throne, and hears the thunder's roar; he sees the rainbow that encompasses the throne, and hears the songs of the worshippers. In reference to this vision, at the commencement of the series of symbols which he was about to describe, and the reason why this was vouchsafed to him, the following remarks may be suggested:
(1.) There is, in some respects, a striking resemblance between this and the visions of Isaiah (Isa. 6 and Ezek. 1) As those prophets, when about to enter on their office, were solemnly inaugurated by being permitted to have a vision of the Almighty, so John was inaugurated to the office of making known future thingsthe last prophet of the worldby a similar vision. We shall see, indeed, that the representation made to John was not precisely the same as that which was made to Isaiah, or that which was made to Ezekiel; but the most striking symbols are retained, and that of John is as much adapted to impress the mind as either of the others. Each of them describes the throne, and the attending circumstances of sublimity and majesty; each of them speaks of one on the throne, but neither of them has attempted any description of the Almighty. There is no delineation of an image, or a figure representing God, but everything respecting him is veiled in such obscurity as to fill the mind with awe.
(2.) The representation is such as to produce deep solemnity on the mind of the writer and the reader. Nothing could have been better adapted to prepare the mind of John for the important communications which he was about to make than to be permitted to look, as it were, directly into heaven, and to see the throne of God. And nothing is better fitted to impress the mind of the reader than the view which is furnished, in the opening vision, of the majesty and glory of God. Brought, as it were, into his very presence; permitted to look upon his burning throne; seeing the reverent and profound worship of the inhabitants of heaven, we feel our minds awed, and our souls subdued, as we hear the God of heaven speak, and as we see seal after seal opened, and hear trumpet after trumpet utter its voice.
(3.) The form of the manifestationthe opening visionis eminently fitted to show us that the communications in this book proceed from heaven. Looking into heaven, and seeing the vision of the Almighty, we are prepared to feel that what follows has a higher than any human origin; that it has come direct from the throne of God. And,
(4.) there was a propriety that the visions should open with a manifestation of the throne of God in heaven, or with a vision of heaven, because that also is the termination of the whole; it is that to which all the visions in the book tend. It begins in heaven, as seen by the exile in Patmos; it terminates in heaven, when all enemies of the church are subdued, and the redeemed reign triumphant in glory.
The substance of the introductory vision in this chapter can be stated in few words:
(a) A door is opened, and John is permitted to look into heaven, and to see what is passing there, Rev. 4:1, 2.
(b) The first thing that strikes him is a throne, with one sitting on the throne, Rev. 4:2.
(c) The appearance of him who sits upon the throne is described, Rev. 4:3. He is "like a jasper and a sardine stone." There is no attempt to portray his form; there is no description from which an image could be formed that could become an object of idolatrous worshipfor who would undertake to chisel anything so indefinite as that which is merely "like a jasper or a sardine stone?" And yet the description is distinct enough to fill the mind with emotions of awe and sublimity, and to leave the impression that he who sat on the throne was a pure and holy God.
(d) Round about the throne there was a bright rainbowen symbol of peace, Rev. 4:3.
(e) Around the throne are gathered the elders of the church, having on their heads crowns of gold: symbols of the ultimate triumph of the church, Rev. 4:4.
(f) Thunder and lightning, as at Sinai, announce the presence of God, and seven burning lamps before the throne represent the Spirit of God, in his diversified operations, as going forth through the world to enlighten, sanctify, and save, Rev. 4:5.
(g) Before the throne there is a pellucid pavement, as of crystal, spread out like a sea: emblem of calmness, majesty, peace, and wide dominion, Rev. 4:6.
(h) The throne is supported by four living creatures, full of eyes: emblems of the all-seeing power of Him that sits upon the throne, and of his ever-watchful providence, Rev. 4:6.
(i) To each one of these living creatures there is a peculiar symbolic face: respectively emblematic of the authority, the power, the wisdom of God, and of the rapidity with which the purposes of Providence are executed, Rev. 4:7. All are furnished with wings; emblematic of their readiness to do the will of God, (Rev. 4:8,) but each one individually with a peculiar form.
(j) All these creatures pay ceaseless homage to God, whose throne they are represented as supporting: emblematic of the fact that all the operations of the Divine government do, in fact, promote his glory, and, as it were, render him praise, Rev. 4:8, 9.
(k) To this the eiders, the representatives of the church, respond: representing the fact that the church acquiesces in all the arrangements of Providence, and in the execution of all the Divine purposes, and finds in them all ground for adoration and thanksgiving, Rev. 4:10, 11.
1. After this. Gr., "after these things;" that is, after what he had seen, and after what he had been directed to record in the preceding chapters, How long after these things this occurred, he does not saywhether on the same day, or at some subsequent time; and conjecture would be useless. The scene, however, is changed. Instead of seeing the Saviour standing before him, (chapter 1) the scene is transferred to heaven, and he is permitted to look in upon the throne of God, and upon the worshippers there.
I looked. Gr., I saweidon. Our word look would rather indicate purpose or intention, as if he had designedly directed his attention to heaven, to see what could be discovered there. The meaning, however, is simply that he saw a new vision, without intimating whether there was any design on his part, and without saying how his thoughts came to be directed to heaven.
A door was opened. That is, there was apparently an opening in the sky, like a door, so that he could look into heaven.
In heaven. Or, rather, in the expanse abovein the visible heavens as they appear to spread out over the earth. So Ezek. 1:1, "The heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God." The Hebrews spoke of the sky above as a solid expanse; or as a curtain stretched out; or as an extended arch above the earthdescribing it as it appears to the eye. In that expanse, or arch, the stars are set at gems, (See Note on Isa. 34:4) through apertures or windows in that expanse the rain comes down, Gen. 7:11; and that is opened when a heavenly messenger comes down to the earth, Matt. 3:16. Compare Luke 3:21; Acts 7:56; 10:11.
Of course, all this is figurative, but it is such language as all men naturally use. The simple meaning here is, that John had a vision of what is in heaven as if there had been such an opening made through the sky, and he had been permitted to look into the world above.
And the first voice which I heard. That is, the first sound which he heard was a command to come up and see the glories of that world. He afterwards heard other soundsthe sounds of praise; but the first notes that fell on his ear were a direction to come up there and to receive a revelation respecting future things. This does not seem to me to mean, as Professor Stuart, Lord, and others suppose, that he now recognised the voice which had first, or formerly spoken to him, (Rev. 1:10) but that this was the first in contradistinction from other voices which he afterwards heard. It resembled the former "voice" in this that it was "like the sound of a trumpet," but besides that there does not seem to have been anything that would suggest to him that it came from the same source. It is certainly possible that the Greek would admit of that interpretation, but it is not the most obvious or probable.
Was as it were of a trumpet. It resembled the sound of a trumpet, Rev. 1:10.
Talking with me. As of a trumpet that seemed to speak directly to me.
Which said. That is, the voice said.
Come up hither. To the place whence the voice seemed to proceedheaven.
And I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. Gr., "after these things." The reference is to future events; and the meaning is, that there would be disclosed to him events that were to occur at some future period. There is no intimation here when they would occur, or what would be embraced in the period referred to. All that the words would properly convey would be, that there would be a disclosure of things that were to occur in some future time.
2. And immediately I was in the Spirit. See Note on Rev. 1:10.
He does not affirm that he was caught up into heaven, nor does he say what impression was on his own mind, if any, as to the place where he was; but he was at once absorbed in the contemplation of the visions before him. He was doubtless still in Patmos, and these things were made to pass before his mind as a reality; that is, they appeared as real to him as if he saw them, and they were in fact a real symbolical representation of things occurring in heaven.
And, behold, a throne was set in heaven. That is, a throne was placed there. The first thing that arrested his attention was a throne. This was "in heaven"an expression which proves that the scene of the vision was not the temple in Jerusalem, as some have supposed. There is no allusion to the temple, and no imagery drawn from the temple. Isaiah had his vision (Isaiah 6) in the holy of holies of the temple; Ezekiel, (Ezek. 1:1)by the river Chebar; but John looked directly into heaven, and saw the throne of God, and the encircling worshippers there.
And one sat on the throne. It is remarkable that John gives no description of him who sat on the throne, nor does he indicate who he was by name. Neither do Isaiah or Ezekiel attempt to describe the appearance of the Deity, nor are there any intimations of that appearance given from which a picture or an image could be formed. So much do their representations accord with what is demanded by correct taste; and so sedulously have they guarded against any encouragement of idolatry.
3. And he that sat was to look upon. Was in appearance; or, as I looked upon him, this seemed to be his appearance. He does not describe his form, but his splendour.
Like a jasperiaspidi. The jasper, properly, is "an opaque, impure variety of quartz, of red, yellow, and also of some dull colours, breaking with a smooth surface. It admits of a high polish, and is used for vases, seals, snuff-boxes, etc. When the colours are in stripes or bands, it is called striped jasper."Dana, in Webster's Dic. The colour here is not designated, whether red or yellow. As the red was, however, the common colour worn by princes, it is probable that that was the colour that appeared, and that John means to say that he appeared like a prince in his royal robes. Compare Isa. 6:1.
And a sardine stonesardiw. This denotes a precious stone of a blood-red, or sometimes of a flesh-colour, more commonly known by the name of carnelian.Rob. Lex. Thus it corresponds with the jasper, and this is only an additional circumstance to convey the exact idea in the mind of John, that the appearance of him who sat on the throne was that of a prince in his scarlet robes. This is all the description which he gives of his appearance; and this is
(a) entirely appropriate, as it suggests the idea of a prince or a monarch; and
(b) it is well adapted to impress the mind with a sense of the majesty of Him who cannot be described, and of whom no image should be attempted. Compare Deut. 4:12: "Ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude."
And there was a rainbow round about the throne. This is a beautiful image, and was probably designed to be emblematical as well as beautiful. The previous representation is that of majesty and splendour; this is adapted to temper the majesty of the representation. The rainbow has always, from its own nature, and from its associations, been an emblem of peace. It appears on the cloud as the storm passes away. It contrasts beautifully with the tempest that has just been raging. It is seen as the rays of the sun again appear clothing all things with beautythe more beautiful from the fact that the storm has come, and that the rain has fallen. If the rain has been gentle, nature smiles serenely, and the leaves and flowers refreshed appear clothed with new beauty; if the storm has raged violently, the appearance of the rainbow is a pledge that the war of the elements has ceased, and that God smiles again upon the earth. It reminds us, too, of the "covenant" when God did "set his bow in the cloud," and solemnly promised that the earth should no more be destroyed by a flood, Gen. 9:9-16. The appearance of the rainbow, therefore, around the throne, was a beautiful emblem of the mercy of God, and of the peace that was to pervade the world as the result of the events that were to be disclosed to the vision of John. True, there were lightnings and thunderings and voices, but there the bow abode calmly above them all, assuring him that there was to be mercy and peace.
In sight like unto an emerald. The emerald is green, and this colour so predominated in the bow that it seemed to be made of this species of precious stone. The modified and mild colour of green appears to every one to predominate in the rainbow. Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:28) has introduced the image of the rainbow also in his description of the vision that appeared to him, though not as calmly encircling the throne, but as descriptive of the general appearance of the scene. "As is the appearance of the bow that is on the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about." Milton also has introduced it, but it is also as a part of the colouring of the throne:
"Over their heads a crystal firmament,
Whereon a sapphire throne, inlaid with pure
Amber, and colours of the showery arch."
Paradise Lost, b. vii
4. And round about the throne were four and twenty seats. Or rather thronesqronoithe same word being used as that which is rendered throneqronoß. The word, indeed, properly denotes a seat, but it came to be employed to denote particularly the seat on which a monarch sat, and is properly translated thus in Rev. 4:2-3. So it is rendered in Matt. 5:34; 19:28; 23:22; 25:31; Luke 1:32; and uniformly elsewhere in the New Testament, (fifty-three places in all,) except in Luke 1:52; Rev. 2:13; 4:4; 11:16; 16:10, where it is rendered seat and seats. It should have been rendered thrones here, and is so translated by Professor Stuart. Coverdale and Tyndale render the word seat in each place in verses 2-5. It was undoubtedly the design of the writer to represent those who sat on those seats as, in some sense, kingsfor they have on their heads crowns of goldand that idea should have been retained in the translation of this word.
And upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting. Very various opinions have been entertained in respect to those who thus appeared sitting around the throne, and to the question why the number twenty-four is mentioned. Instead of examining those opinions at length, it will be better to present, in a summary manner, what seems to be probable in regard to the intended reference. The following points, then, would appear to embrace all that can be known on this subject:
(1.) These elders have a regal character, or are of a kingly order. This is apparent
(a) because they are represented as sitting on "thrones," and
(b) because they have on their heads "crowns of gold."
(2.) They are emblematic. They are designed to symbolize or represent some class of persons. This is clear
(a) because it cannot be supposed that so small a number would compose the whole of those who are in fact around the throne of God, and
(b) because there are other symbols there designed to represent something pertaining to the homage rendered to God, as the four living creatures and the angels, and this supposition is necessary in order to complete the symmetry and harmony of the representation.
(3.) They are human beings, and are designed to have some relation to the race of man, and somehow to connect the human race with the worship of heaven. The four living creatures have another design; the angels (chapter 5) have another; but these are manifestly of our racepersons from this world before the throne.
(4.) They are designed in some way to be symbolic of the church as redeemed. Thus they say, (Rev. 5:9) "Thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood."
(5.) They are designed to represent the whole church in every land and every age of the world. Thus they say, (Rev. 5:9) "Thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation." This shows, further, that the whole representation is emblematic; for otherwise in so small a numbertwenty-fourthere could not be a representation out of every nation.
(6.) They represent the church triumphant; the church victorious. Thus they have crowns on their heads; they have harps in their hands, (Rev. 5:8) they say that they are "kings and priests," and that they will "reign on the earth," Rev. 5:10.
(7.) The design, therefore, is to represent the church triumphantredeemedsavedas rendering praise and honour to God; as uniting with the hosts of heaven in adoring him for his perfections and for the wonders of his grace. As representatives of the church, they are admitted near to him; they encircle his throne; they appear victorious over every foe; and they come, in unison with the living creatures, and the angels, and the whole universe, (Rev. 5:13) to ascribe powers and dominion to God.
(8.) As to the reason why the number "twenty-four" is mentioned, perhaps nothing certain can be determined. Ezekiel, in his vision, (Ezek. 8:16; 11:1) saw twenty-five men between the porch and the altar, with their backs toward the temple, and their faces toward the earthsupposed to be representations of the twenty-four "courses" into which the body of priests was divided, (1 Chron. 24:3-19) with the high priest among them, making up the number twenty-five. It is possible that John in this vision may have designed to refer to the church considered as a priesthood, (See Note on 1 Pet. 2:9) and to have alluded to the fact that the priesthood under the Jewish economy was divided into twenty-four courses, each with a presiding officer, and who was a representative of that portion of the priesthood over which he presided. If so, then the ideas which enter into the representation are these:
(a.) that the whole church may be represented as a priesthood, or a community of priestsan idea which frequently occurs in the New Testament.
(b.) That the church, as such a community of priests, is employed in the praise and worship of Godan idea, also, which finds abundant countenance in the New Testament.
(c.) That, in a series of visions having a designed reference to the church, it was natural to introduce some symbol or emblem representing the church, and representing the fact that this is its office and employment. And
(d.) that this would be well expressed by an allusion derived from the ancient dispensationthe division of the priesthood into classes, over each one of which there presided an individual who might be considered as the representative of his class. It is to be observed, indeed, that in one respect they are represented as "kings," but still this does not forbid the supposition that there might have been intermingled also another idea, that they were also "priests." Thus the two ideas are blended by these same elders in Rev. 5:10: "And hath made us unto our God kings and priests." Thus understood, the vision is designed to denote the fact that the representatives of the church, ultimately to be triumphant, are properly engaged in ascribing praise to God. The word elders here seems to be used in the sense of aged and venerable men, rather than as denoting office. They were such as by their age were qualified to preside over the different divisions of the priesthood.
Clothed in white raiment. Emblem of purity, and appropriate therefore to the representatives of the sanctified church. Compare Rev. 3:4; 6:11; 7:9.
And they had on their heads crowns of gold. Emblematic of the fact that they sustained a kingly office. There was blended in the representation the idea that they were both "kings and priests." Thus the idea is expressed by Peter, (1 Pet. 2:9) "a royal priesthood"basileion ierateuma.
5. And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices. Expressive of the majesty and glory of Him that sat upon it. We are at once reminded by this representation of the sublime scene that occurred at Sinai, (Exod. 19:6) where "there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud." Compare Ezek. 1:13, 24. So Milton-
"Forth rushed with whirlwind sound
The chariot of Paternal Deity,
Flashing thick flames."
"And from about him fierce effusion rolled
Of smoke, and lightning flame, and sparkles dire."
Paradise Lost. b. vi
The word "voices" here connected with "thunders" perhaps means "voices even thunders "referring to the sound made by the thunder. The meaning is, that these were echoing and re-echoing sounds, as it were a multitude of voices that seemed to speak on every side.
And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne. Seven burning lamps that constantly shone there, illuminating the whole scene. These steadily burning lamps would add much to the beauty of the vision.
Which are the seven Spirits of God. Which represent, or are emblematic of, the seven Spirits of God. On the meaning of the phrase, "the seven Spirits of God," See Note on Rev. 1:4.
If these lamps are designed to be symbols of the Holy Spirit, according to the interpretation proposed in Rev. 1:4, it may be perhaps in the following respects:
(1.) They may represent the manifold influences of that Spirit in the worldas imparting light; giving consolation; creating the heart anew; sanctifying the soul, etc. They may denote that all the operations of that Spirit are of the nature of light, dissipating darkness, and vivifying and animating all things.
(2.) Perhaps their being placed here before the throne, in the midst of thunder and lightning, may be designed to represent the idea that amidst all the scenes of magnificence and grandeur; all the storms, agitations, and tempests on the earth; all the political changes, all the convulsions of empire under the providence of God, and all the commotions in the soul of man, produced by the thunders of the law, the Spirit of God beams calmly and serenelyshedding a steady influence over alllike lamps burning in the very midst of lightnings, and thunderings, and voices. In all the scenes of majesty and commotion that occur on the earth, the Spirit of God is present, shedding a constant light, and undisturbed in his influence by all the agitations that are abroad.
6. And before the throne there was a sea of glass. An expanse spread out like a sea composed of glass: that is, that was pellucid and transparent like glass. It is not uncommon to compare the sea with glass. See numerous examples in Wetstein, in loc. The point of the comparison here seems to be its transparent appearance. It was perfectly clearapparently stretching out in a wide expanse, as if it were a sea.
Like unto crystal. The word crystal means properly anything congealed and pellucidas ice; then anything resembling that, particularly a certain species of stone distinguished for its clearness-as the transparent crystals of quartz; limpid and colourless quartz; rock or mountain quartz. The word crystal now, in mineralogy, means an inorganic body which, by the operation of affinity, has assumed the form of a regular solid, by a certain number of plane and smooth faces. It is here used manifestly in its popular sense to denote anything that is perfectly clear like ice. The comparison, in the representation of the expanse spread around the throne, turns on these points:
(1.) It appeared like a seastretching afar.
(2.) It resembled, in its general appearance, glass; and this idea is strengthened by the addition of another image of the same characterthat it was like an expanse of crystal, perfectly clear and pellucid. This would seem to be designed to represent the floor or pavement on which the throne stood. If this is intended to be emblematical, it may denote
(a) that the empire of God is vastas if it were spread out like the sea; or
(b) it may be emblematic of the calmness, the placidity of the Divine administrationlike an undisturbed and unruffled ocean of glass. Perhaps, however, we should not press such circumstances too far to find a symbolical meaning.
And in the midst of the throne. en mesw tou qronou. Not occupying the throne, but so as to appear to be intermingled with the throne, or "in the midst" of it, in the sense that it was beneath the centre of it. The meaning would seem to be, that the four living creatures referred to occupied such a position collectively that they at the same time appeared to be under the throne, so that it rested on them, and around it, so that they could be seen from any quarter. This would occur if their bodies were under the throne, and if they stood so that they faced outward. To one approaching the throne they would seem to be around it, though their bodies were under, or "in the midst" of it as a support. The form of their bodies is not specified, but it is not improbable that though their heads were different, their bodies, that were under the throne, and that sustained it, were of the same form.
And round about the throne. In the sense above explainedthat, as they stood, they would be seen on every side of the throne.
Were four beasts. This is a very unhappy translation, as the word beasts by no means conveys a correct idea of the original word. The Greek word (zwon) means properly a living thingand it is thus indeed applied to animals, or to the living creation; but the notion of their being living things, or living creatures, should be retained in the translation. Professor Stuart renders it, "living creatures." Isaiah, (chapter 6) in his vision of Jehovah, saw two Seraphim; Ezekiel, whom John more nearly resembles in his description, saw four "living creatures" twøyAj (Ezek. 1:5)that is, living, animated, moving beings. The words "living beings" would better convey the idea than any other which could be employed. They are evidently, like those which Ezekiel saw, symbolical beings; but the nature and purpose of the symbol is not perfectly apparent, The "four and twenty elders" are evidently human beings, and are representatives, as above explained, of the church. In Rev. 5:11, angels are themselves introduced as taking an important part in the worship of heaven; and these living beings, therefore, cannot be designed to represent either angels or men. In Ezekiel, they are either designed as poetic representations of the majesty of God, or of his providential government, showing what sustains his throne: symbols denoting intelligence, vigilance, the rapidity and directness with which the Divine commands are executed, and the energy and firmness with which the government of God is administered. The nature of the case, and the similarity to the representation in Ezekiel, would lead us to suppose that the same idea is to be found substantially in John; and there would be no difficulty in such an interpretation, were it not that these "living creatures" are apparently represented in Rev. 5:8-9, as uniting with the redeemed from the earth in such a manner as to imply that they were themselves redeemed. But perhaps the language in Rev. 5:9, "And they sung a new song," etc., though apparently connected with the "four beasts" in Rev. 4:8, is not designed to be so connected. John may intend there merely to advert to the fact that a new song was sung, without meaning to say that the "four living beings" united in that song. For, if he designed merely to say that the "four living beings" and the "four and twenty elders" fell down to worship, and then that a song was heard, though in fact sung only by the four and twenty elders, he might have employed the language which he actually has done. If this interpretation be admitted, then the most natural explanation to be given of the "four living beings" is to suppose that they are symbolical beings designed to furnish some representation of the government of Godto illustrate, as it were, that on which the Divine government rests, or which constitutes its supportto wit, power, intelligence, vigilance, energy. This is apparent
(a) because it was not unusual for the thrones of monarchs to be supported by carved animals of various forms, which were designed undoubtedly to be somehow emblematic of governmenteither of its stability, vigilance, boldness, or firmness. Thus Solomon had twelve lions carved on each side of his throneno improper emblems of government1 Kings 10:19-20.
(b) These living beings are described as the supports of the throne of God, or as that on which it rests, and would be, therefore, no improper symbols of the great principles or truths which give support or stability to the Divine administration.
(c) They are, in themselves, well adapted to be representatives of the great principles of the Divine government, or of the Divine providential dealings, as we shall see in the more particular explanation of the symbol.
(d) Perhaps it might be added, that, so understood, there would be completeness in the vision. The "elders" appear there as representatives of the church redeemed; the angels in their own proper persons render praise to God. To this it was not improper to add, and the completeness of the representation seems to make it necessary to add, that all the doings of the Almighty unite in his praise; his various acts in the government of the universe harmonize with redeemed and unfallen intelligences in proclaiming his glory. The vision of the "living beings," therefore, is not, as I suppose, a representation of the attributes of God as such, but an emblematic representation of the Divine governmentof the throne of Deity resting upon, or sustained by, those things of which these living beings are emblemsintelligence, firmness, energy, etc. This supposition seems to combine more probabilities than any other which has been proposed; for, according to this supposition, all the acts, and ways, and creatures of God unite in his praise. It is proper to add, however, that expositors are by no means agreed as to the design of this representation. Professor Stuart supposes that the attributes of God are referred to; Mr. Elliott, (i. 93,) that the "twenty-four elders and the four living creatures symbolize the church, or the collective body of the saints of God; and that as there are two grand divisions of the church, the larger one that of the departed in Paradise, and the other that militant on earth, the former is depicted by the twenty-four elders, and the latter by the living creatures;" Mr. Lord, (pp. 53, 54,) that the living creatures and the elders are both of one race: the former perhaps denoting those like Enoch and Elijah, who were translated, and those who were raised by the Saviour after his resurrection, or those who have been raised to special eminencethe latter the mass of the redeemed; Mr. Mede, that the living creatures are symbols of the church worshipping on earth; Mr. Daubuz, that they are symbols of the ministers of the church on earth; Vitringa, that they are symbols of eminent ministers and teachers in every age; Dr. Hammond regards him who sits on the throne as the metropolitan bishop of Judaea, the representative of God, the elders as diocesan bishops of Judaea, and the living creatures as four apostles, symbols of the saints who are to attend the Almighty as assessors in judgment! See Lord on the Apocalypse, pp. 58, 59.
Full of eyes. Denoting omniscience. The ancients fabled Argus as having one hundred eyes, or as having the power of seeing in any direction. The emblem here would denote an ever-watchful and observing Providence; and in accordance with the explanation proposed above, it means that, in the administration of the Divine government, everything is distinctly contemplated; nothing escapes observation; nothing can be concealed. It is obvious that the Divine government could not be administered unless this were so; and it is the perfection of the government of God that all things are seen just as they are. In the vision seen by Ezekiel, (Ezek. 1:18) the "rings" of the wheels on which the living creatures moved are represented as "full of eyes round about them," emblematic of the same thing. So Milton
"As with stars their bodies all,
And wings were set with eyes; with eyes the wheels
Of beryl, and careening fires between."
Before. In front. As one looked on their faces, from whatever quarter the throne was approached, he could see a multitude of eyes looking upon him.
And behind. On the parts of their bodies which were under the throne. The meaning is, that there is universal vigilance in the government of God. Whatever is the form of the Divine administration; whatever part is contemplated; however it is manifestedwhether as activity, energy, power, or intelligenceit is based on the fact that all things are seen from every direction. There is nothing that is the result of blind fate or of chance.
7. And the first beast was like a lion. A general description has been given, applicable to all, denoting that in whatever form the Divine government is administered, these things will be found; a particular description now follows, contemplating that government under particular aspects, as symbolized by the living beings on which the throne rests. The first is that of a lion. The lion is the monarch of the woods, the king of beasts, and he becomes thus the emblem of dominion, of authority, of government in general. Compare Gen. 49:9; Amos 3:8; Joel 3:16; Dan. 7:4.
As emblematic of the Divine administration, this would signify that He who sits on the throne is the ruler over all, and that his dominion is absolute and entire. It has been made a question whether the whole body had the form of a lion, or whether it had the appearance of a lion only as to its face or front part. It would seem probable that the latter only is intended, for it is expressly said of the "third beast" that it had "the face of a man," implying that it did not resemble a man in other respects; and it is probable that, as these living creatures were the supports of the throne, they had the same form in all other particulars except the front part. The writer has not informed us what was the appearance of these living creatures in other respects, but it is most natural to suppose that it was in the form of an ox, as being adapted to sustain a burden. It is hardly necessary to say that the thing supposed to be symbolical here in the government of Godhis absolute ruleactually exists, or that it is important that this should be fairly exhibited to men.
And the second beast was like a calf. or, more properly, a young bullock, for so the word (moscoß) means. The term is given by Herodotus (ii. 41; iii. 28) to the Egyptian god Apis, that is, a young bullock. Such an emblem, standing under a throne as one of its supports, would symbolize firmness, endurance, strength, (compare Prov. 14:4) and, as used to represent qualities pertaining to him who sat on the throne, would denote stability, firmness, perseverance: qualities that are found abundantly in the Divine administration. There was clearly, in the apprehension of the ancients, some natural fitness or propriety in such an emblem. A young bullock was worshipped in Egypt as a god. Jeroboam set up two idols in the form of a calf, the one in Dan and the other in Bethel, 1 Kings 12:28-29. A similar object of worship was found in the Indian, Greek, and Scandinavian mythologies, and the image appears to have been adopted early and extensively to represent the divinity. A description of a calf-idol from the collection made by the artists of the French Institute at Cairo:
It is recumbent, with human eyes, the skin flesh-coloured, and the whole afterparts covered with a white and sky-blue drapery: the horns not on the head, but above it, and containing within them the symbolical globe surmounted by two feathers.
For some cause, the calf was regarded as an emblem of the divinity. It may illustrate this, also, to remark that among the sculptures found by Mr. Layard, in the ruins of Nineveh, were not a few winged bulls, some of them of large structure, and probably all of them emblematic. One of these was removed with great difficulty, to be deposited in the British Museum. See Mr. Layard's "Nineveh and its Remains," vol. 2 pp. 6475. Such emblems were common in the East; and, being thus common, they would be readily understood in the time of John.
And the third beast had a face as a man. There is no intimation as to what was the form of the remaining portion of this living creature; but as the beasts were "in the midst of the throne," that is, under it as a support, it may be presumed that they had such a form as was adapted to that purposeas supposed above, perhaps the form of an ox. To this living creature there was attached the head of a man, and that would be what would be particularly visible to one looking on the throne. The aspect of a man here would denote intelligencefor it is this which distinguishes man from the creation beneath him; and, if the explanation of the symbol above given be correct, then the meaning of this emblem is, that the operations of the government of God are conducted with intelligence and wisdom. That is, the Divine administration is not the result of blind fate or chance; it is founded on a clear knowledge of things, on what is best to be done, on what will most conduce to the common good. Of the truth of this there can be no doubt; and there was a propriety that in a vision designed to give to man a view of the government of the Almighty, this should be appropriately symbolized. It may illustrate this to observe, that in ancient sculptures it was common to unite the head of a man with the figure of an animal, as combining symbols. Among the most remarkable figures discovered by Mr. Layard, in the ruins of Nineveh, were winged, human-headed lions. These lions are thus described by Mr. Layard:"They were about twelve feet in height, and the same number in length. The body and limbs were admirably portrayed; the muscles and bones, although strongly developed, to display the strength of the animal, showed, at the same time, a correct knowledge of its anatomy and form. Expanded wings sprung from the shoulder and spread over the back; a knotted girdle, ending in tassels, encircled the loins. These sculptures, forming an entrance, were partly in full, and partly in relief. The head and forepart, facing the chambers, were in full; but only one side of the rest of the slab was sculptured, the back being placed against the wall of sun-dried bricks."Nineveh and its Remains, vol. i. p. 75. The head, indicating intelligence, and the wings denoting rapidity. On the use of these figures, found in the ruins of Nineveh, Mr. Layard makes the following sensible remarksremarks admirably illustrating the view which I take of the symbols before us: "I used to contemplate for hours these mysterious emblems, and muse over their intent and history. What more noble forms could have ushered the people into the temple of their gods? What more sublime images could have been borrowed from nature by men who sought, unaided by the light of revealed religion, to embody their conceptions of the wisdom, power, and ubiquity of a Supreme Being? They could find no better type of intellect and knowledge than the head of a man; of strength, than the body of the lion; of rapidity of motion, than the wings of a bird. These winged, human-headed lions were not idle creations, the offspring of mere fancy; their meaning was written upon them. They had awed and instructed races which flourished 3000 years ago. Through the portals which they guarded, kings, priests, and warriors had borne sacrifices to their altars, long before the wisdom of the East had penetrated into Greece, and had furnished its mythology with symbols long recognised by the Assyrian votaries."Nineveh and its Remains, i. 75, 76.
And the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. All birds, indeed, fly; but the epithet flying is here employed to add intensity to the description. The eagle, is distinguished, among the feathered race, for the rapidity, the power, and the elevation of its flight. No other bird is supposed to fly so high; none ascends with so much power; none is so majestic and grand in his ascent towards the sun. That which would be properly symbolized by this would be the rapidity with which the commands of God are executed; or this characteristic of the Divine government, that the purposes of God are carried into prompt execution. There is, as it were, a vigorous, powerful, and rapid flight towards the accomplishment of the designs of Godas the eagle ascends unmolested towards the sun. Or, it may be that this symbolizes protecting care, or is an emblem of that protection which God, by his providence, extends over those who put their trust in him. Thus in Exod. 19:4: "Ye have seen how I bare you on eagles' wings." Psa. 17:8: "Hide me under the shadow of thy wings." Psa. 63:7: "In the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice." Deut. 32:11-12: "As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: so the Lord alone did lead him," etc. As in the case of the other living beings, so it is to be remarked of the fourth living creature also, that the form of the body is unknown. There is no impropriety in supposing that it is only its front aspect that John here speaks of, for that was sufficient for the symbol. The remaining portion "in the midst of the throne" may have corresponded with that of the other living beings, as being adapted to a support. In further illustration of this it may be remarked, that symbols of this description were common in the Oriental world. Figures in the human form, or in the form of animals, with the head of an eagle or a vulture, are found in the ruins of Nineveh, and were undoubtedly designed to be symbolic. "On the earliest Assyrian monuments," says Mr. Layard, (Nineveh and its Remains, ii. 348, 349,) "one of the most prominent sacred types is the eagle-headed, or the vulture- headed, human figure. Not only is it found in colossal proportions on the walls, or guarding the portals of the chambers, but it is also constantly represented in the groups on the embroidered robes. When thus introduced, it is generally seen contending with other mythic animalssuch as the human-headed lion or bull; and in these contests it is always the conqueror. It may hence be inferred that it was a type of the Supreme Deity, or of one of his principal attributes. A fragment of the Zoroastrian oracles, preserved by Eusebius, declares that 'God is he that has the head of a hawk. He is the first, indestructible, eternal, unbegotten, indivisible, dissimilar; the dispenser of all good; incorruptible; the best of the good, the wisest of the wise; he is the father of equity and justice, self-taught, physical and perfect, and wise, and the only inventor of the sacred philosophy." Sometimes the head of this bird is added to the body of a lion. Under this form of the Egyptian hieraco-sphinx it is the conqueror in combats with other symbolical figures, and is frequently represented as striking down a gazelle or wild goat. It also clearly resembles the gryphon of the Greek mythology, avowedly an eastern symbol, and connected with Apollo, or with the sun, of which the Assyrian form was probably an emblem." If these views of the meaning of these symbols are correct, then the idea which would be conveyed to the mind of John, and the idea, therefore, which should be conveyed to our minds, is, that the government of God is energetic, firm, intelligent, and that in the execution of its purposes it is rapid like the unobstructed flight of an eagle, or protective like the care of the eagle for its young. When, in the subsequent parts of the vision, these living creatures are represented as offering praise and adoration to Him that sits on the throne, (Rev. 4:8; 5:8, 14) the meaning would be, in accordance with this representation, that all the acts of Divine government do, as if they were personified, unite in the praise which the redeemed and the angels ascribe to God. All living things, and all acts of the Almighty, conspire to proclaim his glory. The church, by her representatives, the "four and twenty elders," honours God; the angels, without number, unite in the praise; all creatures in heaven, in earth, under the earth, and in the sea, (Rev. 5:13) join in the song; and all the acts and ways of God declare also his majesty and glory: for around his throne, and beneath his throne, are expressive symbols of the firmness, energy, intelligence, and power with which his government is administered.
8. And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him. An emblem common to them all, denoting that, in reference to each and all the things here symbolized, there was one common characteristicthat in heaven there is the utmost promptness in executing the Divine commands. Compare Isa. 6:2; Psa. 18:10; 104:3; Jer. 48:40.
No mention is made of the manner in which these wings were arranged, and conjecture in regard to that is vain. The Seraphim, as seen by Isaiah, had each one six wings, with two of which the face was covered, to denote profound reverence; with two the feet, or lower partsemblematic of modesty; and with two they flewemblematic of their celerity in executing the commands of God, Isa. 6:2. Perhaps without impropriety we may suppose that, in regard to these living beings seen by John, two of the wings of each were employed, as in Isaiah, to cover the facetoken of profound reverence; and that the remainder were employed in flightdenoting the rapidity with which the Divine commands are executed. Mercury, the messenger of Jupiter among the heathen, was represented with wings, and nothing is more common in the paintings and bas-reliefs of antiquity than such representations.
And they were full of eyes within. Professor Stuart more correctly renders this, "around and within are full of eyes;" connecting the word "around" ["about"], not with the wings, as in our version, but with the eyes. The meaning is, that the portions of the beasts that were visible from the outside of the throne, and the portions under or within the throne, were covered with eyes. The obvious design of this is to mark the universal vigilance of Divine Providence.
And they rest not. Marg., have no rest. That is, they are constantly employed; there is no intermission. The meaning, as above explained, is, that the works and ways of God are constantly bringing praise to him.
Day and night. Continually. They who are employed day and night fill up the whole timefor this is all.
Saying, Holy, holy, holy. For the meaning of this, See Note on Isa. 6:3.
Lord God Almighty. Isaiah (Isa. 6:3) expresses it, "Jehovah of hosts." The reference is to the true God, and the epithet Almighty is one that is often given him. It is peculiarly appropriate here, as there were to be, as the sequel shows, remarkable exhibitions of power in executing the purposes described in this book.
Which was, and is, and is to come. Who is eternalexisting in all past time; existing now; and to continue to exist for ever. See Note on Rev. 1:4.
9. And when those beasts give glory, etc. As often as those living beings ascribe glory to God. They did this continually, (Rev. 4:8) and, if the above explanation be correct, then the idea is, that the ways and acts of God in his providential government are continually of such a nature as to honour him.
10. The four and twenty elders fall down before him, etc. The representatives of the redeemed church in heaven (See Note on Rev. 4:4) also unite in the praise. The meaning, if the explanation of the symbol be correct, is, that the church universal unites in praise to God for all that characterizes his administration. In the connexion in which this stands here, the sense would be, that as often as there is any new manifestation of the principles of the Divine government, the church ascribes new praise to God. Whatever may be thought of this explanation of the meaning of the symbols, of the fact here stated there can, be no doubt. The church of God always rejoices when there is any new manifestation of the principles of the Divine administration. As all these acts, in reality, bring glory and honour to God, the church, as often as there is any new manifestation of the Divine character and purposes, renders praise anew. Nor can it be doubted that the view here taken is one that is every way appropriate to the general character of this book. The great design was to disclose what God was to do in future times, in the various revolutions that were to take place on the earth, until his government should be firmly established, and the principles of his administration should everywhere prevail; and there was a propriety, therefore, in describing the representatives of the church as taking part in this universal praise, and as casting every crown at the feet of Him who sits upon the throne.
And cast their crowns before the throne. They are described as "crowned," (Rev. 4:4) that is, as triumphant, and as kings, (compare Rev. 5:10) and they are here represented as casting their crowns at his feet in token that they owe their triumph to Him. To his providential dealings, to his wise and merciful government, they owe it that they are crowned at all; and there is, therefore, a propriety that they should acknowledge this in a proper manner by placing their crowns at his feet.
11. Thou art worthy, Lord. In thy character, perfections, and government, there is that which makes it proper that universal praise should be rendered. The feeling of all true worshippers is, that God is worthy of the praise that is ascribed to him. No man worships him aright who does not feel that there is that in his nature and his doings which makes it proper that he should receive universal adoration.
To receive glory. To have praise or glory ascribed to thee.
And honour. To be honoured; that is, to be approached and adored as worthy of honour.
And power. To have power ascribed to thee, or to be regarded as having infinite power. Man can confer no power on God, but he may acknowledge that which he has, and adore him for its exertion in his behalf and in the government of the world.
For thou hast created all things. Thus laying the foundation for praise. No one can contemplate this vast and wonderful universe without seeing that He who has made it is worthy to "receive glory and honour and power." See Note on Job 38:7.
And for thy pleasure they are. They exist by thy willdia to qelhma. The meaning is, that they owe their existence to the will of God, and therefore their creation lays the foundation for praise. He "spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast." He said, "Let there be light; and there was light." There is no other reason why the universe exists at all than that such was the will of God; there is nothing else that is to be adduced as explaining the fact that anything has now a being. The putting forth of that will explains all; and consequently whatever wisdom, power, goodness is manifested in the universe, is to be traced to God, and is the expression of what was in him from eternity. It is proper, then, to "look up through nature to nature's God," and wherever we see greatness or goodness in the works of creation to regard them as the faint expression of what exists essentially in the Creator.
And were created. Bringing more distinctly into notice the fact that they owe their existence to his will. They are not eternal; they are not self-existent; they were formed from nothing.
Analysis of the Chapter
THIS chapter introduces the disclosure of future events. It is done in a manner eminently fitted to impress the mind with a sense of the importance of the revelations about to be made. The proper state of mind for appreciating this chapter is that when we look on the future and are sensible that important events are about to occur; when we feel that that future is wholly impenetrable to us; and when the efforts of the highest created minds fail to lift the mysterious veil which hides those events from our view. It is in accordance with our nature that the mind should be impressed with solemn awe under such circumstances; it is not a violation of the laws of our nature that one who had an earnest desire to penetrate that future, and who saw the volume before him which contained the mysterious revelation, and who yet felt that there was no one in heaven or earth who could break the seals, and disclose what was to come, should weep. Rev. 5:4. The design of the whole chapter is evidently to honour the Lamb of God, by showing that the power was entrusted to him which was confided to no one else in heaven or earth, of disclosing what is to come. Nothing else would better illustrate this than the fact that he alone could break the mysterious seals which barred out the knowledge of the future from all created eyes; and nothing would be better adapted to impress this on the mind than the representation in this chapterthe exhibition of a mysterious book in the hand of God; the proclamation of the angel, calling on any who could do it to open the book; the fact that no one in heaven or earth could do it; the tears shed by John when it was found that no one could do it; the assurance of one of the elders that the Lion of the tribe of Judah had power to do it; and the profound adoration of all in heaven and in earth and under the earth, in view of the power entrusted to him of breaking these mysterious seals.
The main points in the chapter are these:
(1.) Having in chapter 4 described God as sitting on a throne, John here (Rev. 5:1) represents himself as seeing in his right hand a mysterious volume; written all over on the inside and the outside, yet sealed with seven seals; a volume manifestly referring to the future, and containing important disclosures respecting coming events.
(2.) A mighty angel is introduced making a proclamation, and asking who is worthy to open that book, and to break those seals; evidently implying that none unless of exalted rank could do it, Rev. 5:2.
(3.) There is a pause: no one in heaven, or in earth, or under the earth, approaches to do it, or claims the right to do it, Rev. 5:3.
(4.) John, giving way to the expressions of natural emotionindicative of the longing and intense desire in the human soul to be made acquainted with the secrets of the futurepours forth a flood of tears because no one is found who is worthy to open the seals of this mysterious book, or to read what was recorded there, Rev. 5:4.
(5.) In his state of suspense and of grief, one of the eldersthe representatives of that church for whose benefit these revelations of the future were to be made (See Note on Rev. 4:4)approaches him and says that there is one who is able to open the book; one who has the power to loose its seals, Rev. 5:5. This is the Messiahthe Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of Davidcoming now to make the disclosure for which the whole book was given, Rev. 1:1
(6.) Immediately the attention of John is attracted by the Messiah, appearing as a Lamb in the midst of the throne; with horns, the symbols of strength, and eyes, the symbols of all-pervading intelligence. He approaches and takes the book from the hand of Him that sits on the throne; symbolical of the fact that it is the province of the Messiah to make known to the church and the world the events which are to occur, Rev. 5:6, 7. He appears here in a different form from that in which he manifested himself in chapter 1, for the purpose is different. There he appears clothed in majesty, to impress the mind with a sense of his essential glory. Here he appears in a form that recalls the memory of his sacrifice; to denote perhaps that it is in virtue of his atonement that the future is to be disclosed; and that therefore there is a special propriety that he should appear and do what no other one in heaven or earth could do.
(7.) The approach of the Messiah to unfold the mysteries in the book, the fact that he had "prevailed" to accomplish what there was so strong a desire should be accomplished, furnishes an occasion for exalted thanksgiving and praise, Rev. 5:8-10. This ascription of praise in heaven is instantly responded to, and echoed back, from all parts of the universeall joining in acknowledging the Lamb as worthy of the exalted office to which he was raised, Rev. 5:11-13. The angels around the throneamounting to thousands of myriadsunite with the living creatures and the elders; and to these are joined the voices of every creature in heaven, on the earth, under the earth, and in the sea, ascribing to Him that sits upon the throne and the Lamb universal praise.
(8.) To this loud ascription of praise from far-distant worlds the living creatures respond a hearty Amen, and the elders fall down and worship him that lives for ever and ever, Rev. 5:14. The universe is held in wondering expectation of the disclosures which are to be made, and from all parts of the universe there is an acknowledgment that the Lamb of God alone has the right to break the mysterious seals. The importance of the developments justifies the magnificence of this representation; and it would not be possible to imagine a more sublime introduction to these great events.
1. And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne. Of God, Rev. 4:3-4. His form is not described there, nor is there any intimation of it here except the mention of his "right hand." The book or roll seems to have been so held in his hand that John could see its shape, and see distinctly how it was written and sealed.
A book, biblion. This word is properly a diminutive of the word commonly rendered book, (bibloß) and would strictly mean a small book, or a book of diminutive sizea tablet, or a letter.Liddell and Scott, Lex. It is used, however, to denote a book of any sizea roll, scroll, or volume; and is thus used
(a) to denote the Pentateuch, or the Mosaic law, Heb. 9:19; 10:7;
(b) the book of life, Rev. 17:8; 20:12; 21:27;
(c) epistles, which were also rolled up, Rev. 1:11;
(d) documents, as a bill of divorce, Matt. 19:7; Mark 10:4. When it is the express design to speak of a small book, another word is used, (biblardion) Rev. 10:2, 8-10.
The book or roll referred to here was that which contained the revelation in the subsequent chapters, to the end of the description of the opening of the seventh sealfor the communication that was to be made was all included in the seven seals; and to conceive of the size of the book, therefore, we are only to reflect on the amount of parchment that would naturally be written over by the communications here made. The form of the book was undoubtedly that of a scroll or roll; for that was the usual form of books among the ancients, and such a volume could be more easily sealed with a number of seals, in the manner here described, than a volume in the form in which books are made now. On the ancient form of books, See Note on Luke 4:17.
Written within and on the back side. Gr., 'within and behind.' It was customary to write only on one side of the paper or vellum, for the sake of convenience in reading the volume as it was unrolled. If, as sometimes was the case, the book was in the same form as books are nowof leaves bound togetherthen it was usual to write on both sides of the leaf, as both sides of a page are printed now. But in the other form it was a very uncommon thing to write on both sides of the parchment, and was never done unless there was a scarcity of writing material; or unless there was an amount of matter beyond what was anticipated; or unless something had been omitted. It is not necessary to suppose that John saw both sides of the parchment as it was held in the hand of him that sat on the throne. That it was written on the back side he would naturally see, and, as the book was sealed he would infer that it was written in the usual manner on the inside.
Sealed with seven seals. On the ancient manner of sealing, See Note on Matt. 27:66, See Note on Job 38:14.
The fact that there were seven sealsan unusual number in fastening a volumewould naturally attract the attention of John, though it might not occur to him at once that there was anything significant in the number. It is not stated in what manner the seals were attached to the volume, but it is clear that they were so attached that each seal closed one part of the volume, and that when one was broken and the portion which that was designed to fasten was unrolled, a second would be come to, which it would be necessary to break in order to read the next portion. The outer seal would indeed bind the whole; but when that was broken it would not give access to the whole volume unless each successive seal were broken. May it not have been intended by this arrangement to suggest the idea that the whole future is unknown to us, and that the disclosure of any one portion, though necessary if the whole would be known, does not disclose all, but leaves seal after seal still unbroken, and that they are all to be broken one after another if we would know all? How these were arranged, John does not say. All that is necessary to be supposed is, that the seven seals were put successively upon the margin of the volume as it was rolled up, so that each opening would extend only as far as the next seal, when the unrolling would be arrested. Any one by rolling up a sheet of paper could so fasten it with pins, or with a succession of seals, as to represent this with sufficient accuracy.
2. And I saw a strong angel. An angel endowed with great strength, as if such strength was necessary to enable him to give utterance to the loud voice of the inquiry. "Homer represents his heralds as powerful, robust men, in order consistently to attribute to them deep-toned and powerful voices."Professor Stuart. The inquiry to be made was one of vast importance; it was to be made of all in heaven, all on the earth, and all under the earth, and hence an angel is introduced so mighty that his voice could be heard in all those distant worlds.
Proclaiming with a loud voice. That is, as a herald or crier. He is rather introduced here as appointed to this office than as self-moved. The design undoubtedly is to impress the mind with a sense of the importance of the disclosures about to be made, and at the same time with a sense of the impossibility of penetrating the future by any created power. That one of the highest angels should make such a proclamation would sufficiently show its importance; that such an one, by the mere act of making such a proclamation, should practically confess his own inability, and consequently the inability of all of similar rank, to make the disclosures, would show that the revelations of the future were beyond mere created power.
Who is worthy to open the book, etc. That is, who is "worthy" in the sense of having a rank so exalted, and attributes so comprehensive, as to authorize and enable him to do it. In other words, who has the requisite endowments of all kinds to enable him to do it? It would require moral qualities of an exalted character to justify him in approaching the seat of the holy God to take the book from his hands; it would require an ability beyond that of any created being to penetrate the future, and disclose the meaning of the symbols which were employed. The fact that the book was held in the hand of him that was on the throne, and sealed in this manner, was in itself a sufficient proof that it was not his purpose to make the disclosure directly, and the natural inquiry arose whether there was any one in the wide universe who, by rank, or character, or office, would be empowered to open the mysterious volume.
3. And no man in heaven. No oneoudeiß. There is no limitation in the original to man. The idea is, that there was no one in heavenevidently alluding to the created beings therewho could open the volume. Is it not taught here that angels cannot penetrate the future, and disclose what is to come? Are not their faculties limited in this respect like those of man?
Nor in earth. Among all classes of mensages, divines, prophets, philosopherswho among those have ever been able to penetrate the future, and disclose what is to come?
Neither under the earth. These divisions compose, in common language, the universe: what is in heaven above; what is on the earth; and whatever there is under the earththe abodes of the dead. May there not be an allusion here to the supposed science of necromancy, and an assertion that even the dead cannot penetrate the future, and disclose what is to come? See Note on Isa. 8:19.
In all these great realms no one advanced who was qualified to undertake the office of making a disclosure of what the mysterious scroll might contain.
Was able to open the book. Had abilityhdunatoto do it. It was a task beyond their power. Even if any one had been found who had a rank and a moral character which might have seemed to justify the effort, there was no one who had the power of reading what was recorded respecting coming events.
Neither to look thereon. That is, so to open the seals as to have a view of what was written therein. That it was not beyond their power merely to see the book is apparent from the fact that John himself saw it in the hand of him that sat on the throne; and it is evident also (Rev. 5:5) that in that sense the elders saw it. But no one could prevail to inspect the contents, or so have access to the interior of the volume as to be able to see what "was written there. It could be seen, indeed, (Rev. 5:1) that it was written on both sides of the parchment, but what the writing was no one could know.
4. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy, etc. Gr., as in Rev. 5:3, no one. It would seem as if there was a pause to see if there were any response to the proclamation of the angel. There being none, John gave way to his deep emotions in a flood of tears. The tears of the apostle here may be regarded as an illustration of two things which are occurring constantly in the minds of men:
(1.) The strong desire to penetrate the future; to lift the mysterious veil which shrouds that which is to come; to find some way to pierce the dark wall which seems to stand up before us, and which shuts from our view that which is to be hereafter. There have been no more earnest efforts made by men than those which have been made to read the sealed volume which contains the record of what is yet to come. By dreams, and omens, and auguries, and astrology, and the flight of birds, and necromancy, men have sought anxiously to ascertain what is to be hereafter. Compare, for an expression of that intense desire, Foster's Life and Correspondence, vol. 1 p. 111, and vol. 2. pp. 237-238.
(2.) The weeping of the apostle may be regarded as an instance of the deep grief which men often experience when all efforts to penetrate the future fail, and they feel that after all they are left completely in the dark. Often is the soul overpowered with grief, and often are the eyes filled with sadness at the reflection that there is an absolute limit to the human powers; that all that man can arrive at by his own efforts is uncertain conjecture, and that there is no way possible by which he can make nature speak out and disclose what is to come. Nowhere does man find himself more lettered and limited in his powers than here; nowhere does he feel that there is such an intense disproportion between his desires and his attainments. In nothing do we feel that we are more absolutely in need of Divine help than in our attempts to unveil the future; and were it not for revelation man might weep in despair.
5. And one of the elders saith unto me. See Note on Rev. 4:4.
No particular reason is assigned why this message was delivered by one of the elders rather than by an angel. If the elders were, however, (See Note on Rev. 4:4) the representatives of the church, there was a propriety that they should address John in his trouble. Though they were in heaven, they were deeply interested in all that pertained to the welfare of the church, and they had been permitted to understand what as yet was unknown to him, that the power of opening the mysterious volume which contained the revelation of the future was entrusted particularly to the Messiah. Having this knowledge, they were prepared to comfort him with the hope that what was so mysterious would be made known.
Weep not. That is, there is no occasion for tears. The object which you so much desire can be obtained. There is one who can break those seals, and who can unroll that volume and read what is recorded there.
Behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah. This undoubtedly refers to the Lord Jesus; and the points needful to be explained are, why he is called a Lion, and why he is spoken of as the Lion of the tribe of Judah.
(a) As to the first: This appellation is not elsewhere given to the Messiah, but it is not difficult to see its propriety as used in this place. The lion is the king of beasts, the monarch of the forest, and thus becomes an emblem of one of kingly authority and of power, (See Note on Rev. 4:7) and as such the appellation is used in this place. It is because Christ has power to open the sealsas if he ruled over the universe, and all events were under his control, as the lion rules in the forestthat the name is here given to him.
(b) As to the other point: He is called the "Lion of the tribe of Judah," doubtless, with reference to the prophecy in Gen. 9:9"Judah is a lion's whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion;" and from the fact that the Messiah was of the tribe of Judah. Compare Gen. 49:10. This use of the term would connect him in the apprehension of John with the prophecy, and would suggest to him the idea of his being a ruler, or having dominion. As such, therefore, it would be appropriate that the power of breaking these seals should be committed to him.
The Root of David. Not the Root of David in the sense that David sprung from him as a tree does from a root, but in the sense that he himself was a "root-shoot" or sprout from David, and had sprung from him as a shoot or sprout springs up from a decayed and fallen tree. See Note on Isa. 11:1.
This expression would connect him directly with David, the great and glorious monarch of Israel, and as having a right to occupy his throne. As one thus ruling over the people of God, there was a propriety that to him should be entrusted the task of opening these seals.
Hath prevailed. That is, he has acquired this power as the result of a conflict or struggle. The word used hereenikhsenrefers to such a conflict or struggle, properly meaning to come off victor; to overcome; to conquer; to subdue: and the idea here is that his power to do this, or the reason why he does this, is the result of a conflict in which he was a victor. As the series of events to be disclosed, resulting in the final triumph of religion, was the effect of his conflicts with the powers of evil, there was a special propriety that the disclosure should be made by him. The truths taught in this verse are,
(l) that the power of making disclosures in regard to the future is entrusted to the Messiah; and
(2) that this, so far as he is concerned, is the result of a conflict or struggle on his part.
6. And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne. We are not to suppose that he was in the centre of the throne itself, but he was a conspicuous object when the throne and the elders and the living beings were seen. He was so placed as to seem to be in the midst of the group made up of the throne, the living beings, and the elders.
And of the four beasts. See Note on Rev. 4:6.
Stood a Lamb. An appellation often given to the Messiah, for two reasons:
(1) because the lamb was an emblem of innocence; and
(2) because a lamb was offered commonly in sacrifice. See Note on John 1:29.
As it had been slain. That is, in some way having the appearance of having been slain; having some marks or indications about it that it had been slain. What those were the writer does not specify. If it were covered with blood, or there were marks of mortal wounds, it would be all that the representation demands. The great work which the Redeemer performedthat of making an atonement for sinwas thus represented to John in such a way that he at once recognised him, and saw the reason why the office of breaking the seals was entrusted to him. It should be remarked that this representation is merely symbolic, and we are not to suppose that the Redeemer really assumed this form, or that he appears in this form in heaven. We should no more suppose that the Redeemer appears literally as a lamb in heaven with numerous eyes and horns, than that there is a literal throne and a sea of glass there; that there are "seats" there, and "elders," and "crowns of gold."
Having seven horns. Emblems of authority and powerfor the horn is a symbol of power and dominion. Compare Deut. 33:17; 1 Kings 22:11; Jer. 48:25; Zech. 1:18; Dan. 7:24.
The propriety of this symbol is laid in the fact that the strength of an animal is in the horn, and that it is by this that he obtains a victory over other animals. The number seven here seems to be designed, as in other places, to denote completeness. See Note on Rev. 1:4.
The meaning is, that he had so large a number as to denote complete dominion.
And seven eyes. Symbols of intelligence. The number seven here also denotes completeness; and the idea is, that he is able to survey all things. John does not say anything as to the relative arrangement of the horns and eyes on the "Lamb," and it is vain to attempt to conjecture how it was. The whole representation is symbolical, and we may understand the meaning of the symbol without being able to form an exact conception of the figure as it appeared to him.
Which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. See Note on Rev. 1:4.
That is, which represent the seven Spirits of God; or the manifold operations of the one Divine Spirit. As the eye is the symbol of intelligenceoutward objects being made visible to us by thatso it may well represent an all-pervading spirit that surveys and sees all things. The eye, in this view, among the Egyptians was an emblem of the Deity. By the "Seven Spirits" here the same thing is doubtless intended as in Rev. 1:4; and if, as there supposed, the reference is to the Holy Spirit considered with respect to his manifold operations, the meaning here is, that the operations of that Spirit are to be regarded as connected with the work of the Redeemer. Thus, all the operations of the Spirit are connected with, and are a part of, the work of redemption. The expression "sent forth into all the earth," refers to the fact that that Spirit pervades all things. The Spirit of God is often represented as sent or poured out; and the meaning here is, that his operations are as if he was sent out to survey all things and to operate everywhere. Compare 1 Cor. 12:6-11.
7. And he came and took the book out of the right hand, etc. As if it pertained to him by virtue of rank or office. There is a difficulty here, arising from the incongruity of what is said of a lamb, which it is not easy to solve. The difficulty is in conceiving how a lamb could take the book from the hand of Him who held it. To meet this several solutions have been proposed.
(1.) Vitringa supposes that the Messiah appeared as a lamb only in some such sense as the four living beings (Rev. 4:7) resembled a lion, a calf, and an eagle; that is, that they bore this resemblance only in respect to the head, while the body was that of a man. He thus supposes, that though in respect to the upper part the Saviour resembled a lamb, yet that to the front part of the body hands were attached by which he could take the book. But there are great difficulties in this supposition. Besides that nothing of this kind is intimated by John, it is contrary to every appearance of probability that the Redeemer would be represented as a monster. In his being represented as a lamb there is nothing that strikes the mind as inappropriate or unpleasant, for he is often spoken of in this manner, and the image is one that is agreeable to the mind. But all this beauty and fitness of representation is destroyed, if we think of him as having human hands proceeding from his breast or sides, or as blending the form of a man and an animal together. The representation of having an unusual number of horns and eyes does not strike us as being incongruous in the same sense; for though the number is increased, they are such as pertain properly to the animal to which they are attached.
(2.) Another supposition is that suggested by Professor Stuart, that the form was changed, and a human form resumed when the Saviour advanced to take the book and open it. This would relieve the whole difficulty, and the only objection to it is, that John has not given any express notice of such a change in the form; and the only question can be whether it is right to suppose it in order to meet the difficulty in the case. In support of this it is said that all is symbol; that the Saviour is represented in the book in various forms; that as his appearing as a lamb was designed to represent in a striking manner the fact that he was slain, and that all that he did was based on the atonement, so there would be no impropriety in supposing that when an action was attributed to him he assumed the form in which that act would be naturally or is usually done. And as in taking a book from the hand of another it is wholly incongruous to think of its being done by a lamb, is it not most natural to suppose that the usual form in which the Saviour is represented as appearing would be resumed, and that he would appear again as a man?But is it absolutely certain that he appeared in the form of a lamb at all? May not all that is meant be, that John saw him near the throne, and among the elders, and was struck at once with his appearance of meekness and innocence, and with the marks of his having been slain as a sacrifice, and spoke of him in strong figurative language as a lamb? And where his "seven horns" and "seven eyes" are spoken of, is it necessary to suppose that there was any real assumption of such horns and eyes? May not all that is meant be that John was struck with that in the appearance of the Redeemer of which these would be the appropriate symbols, and described him as if these had been visible? When John the Baptist saw the Lord Jesus on the banks of the Jordan, and said, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world," (John 1:29) is it necessary to suppose that he actually appeared in the form of a lamb? Do not all at once understand him as referring to traits in his character, and to the work which he was to accomplish, which made it proper to speak of him as a lamb? And why, therefore, may we not suppose that John in the Apocalypse designed to use language in the same way, and that he did not intend to present so incongruous a description as that of a lamb approaching a throne and taking a book from the hand of Him that sat on it, and a lamb too with many horns and eyes? If this supposition is correct, then all that is meant in this passage would be expressed in some such language as the following: "And I looked, and lo there was one in the midst of the space occupied by the throne, by the living creatures, and by the elders, who, in aspect, and in the emblems that represented his work on the earth, was spotless, meek, and innocent as a lamb; one with marks on his person which brought to remembrance the fact that he had been slain for the sins of the world, and yet one who had most striking symbols of power and intelligence, and who was therefore worthy to approach and take the book from the hand of Him that sat on the throne." It may do something to confirm this view to recollect that when we use the term "Lamb of God" now, as is often done in preaching and in prayer, it never suggests to the mind the idea of a lamb. We think of the Redeemer as resembling a lamb in his moral attributes and in his sacrifice, but never as to form. This supposition relieves the passage of all that is incongruous and unpleasant, and may be all that John meant.
8. And when he had taken the book, the four beasts, etc. The acts of adoration here described as rendered by the four living creatures and the elders are, according to the explanation given in Rev. 4:4-7, emblematic of the honour done to the Redeemer by the church, and by the course of providential events in the government of the world,
Fell down before the Lamb. The usual posture of profound worship. Usually in such worship there was entire prostration on the earth, See Notes on Matt. 2:2; 1 Cor. 14:25.
Having every one of them harps. That is, as the construction, and the propriety of the case would seem to demand, the elders had each one of them harps. The whole prostrated themselves with profound reverence; the elders had harps and censers, and broke out into a song of praise for redemption, This construction is demanded, because
(a) the Greek wordeconteßmore properly agrees with the word elderspresbuteroiand not with the word beastszwa;
(b) there is an incongruity in the representation that the living creaturesin the form of a lion, a calf, an eagle, should have harps and censers; and
(c) the song of praise that is sung (Rev. 5:9) is one that properly applies to the elders as the representatives of the church, and not to the living creatures"Thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood." The harp was a well known instrument used in the service of God, Josephus describes it as having ten strings, and as struck with a key.Antiquities, vii. 12, 3. See Note on Isa. 5:12.
And golden vials. The word vial with us, denoting a small slender bottle with a narrow neck, evidently does not express the idea here. The article here referred to was used for offering incense, and must have been a vessel with a large open mouth. The word bowl or goblet would better express the idea, and it is so explained by Professor Robinson, Lex., and by Professor Stuart, in loc. The Greek wordfialhoccurs in the New Testament only in Revelation, (Rev. 5:8; 15:7; 16:1-4, 8, 10, 12, 17; 17:1; 21:9) and is uniformly rendered vial and vials, though the idea is always that of a bowl or goblet.
Full of odours. Or rather, as in the margin, full of incensequmiamatwn. See Note on Luke 1:9.
Which are the prayers of saints. Which represent or denote the prayers of saints. Compare Psa. 141:2, "Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense." The meaning is, that incense was a proper emblem of prayer. This seems to have been in two respects:
(a) as being acceptable to Godas incense produced an agreeable fragrance; and
(b) in its being wafted towards heavenascending towards the eternal throne. In Rev. 8:3, an angel is represented as having a golden censer: "And there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne". The representation there undoubtedly is, that the angel is employed in presenting the prayers of the saints which were offered on earth before the throne. See Note on Rev. 8:3.
It is most natural to interpret the passage before us in the same way. The allusion is clearly to the temple service, and to the fact that incense was offered by the priest in the temple itself at the time that prayer was offered by the people in the courts of the temple. See Luke 1:9-10. The idea here is, therefore, that the representatives of the church in heaventhe eldersspoken of as "priests," (Rev. 5:10) are described as officiating in the temple above in behalf of the church still below, and as offering incense while the church is engaged in prayer. It is not said that they offer the prayers themselves, but that they offer incense as representing the prayers of the saints. If this be the correct interpretation, as it seems to be the obvious one, then the passage lays no foundation for the opinion expressed by Professor Stuart, as derived from this passage, (in loc.,) that prayer is offered by the redeemed in heaven. Whatever may be the truth on that pointon which the Bible seems to be silent-it will find no support from the passage before us. Adoration, praise, thanksgiving, are represented as the employment of the saints in heaven: the only representation respecting prayer as pertaining to that world is, that there are emblems there which symbolize its ascent before the throne, and which show that it is acceptable to God. It is an interesting and beautiful representation that there are in heaven appropriate symbols of ascending prayer, and that while in the outer courts here below we offer prayer, incense, emblematic of it, ascends in the holy of holies above. The impression which this should leave on our minds ought to be, that our prayers are wafted before the throne, and are acceptable to God.
9. And they sung a new song. Compare Rev. 14:3. New in the sense that it is a song consequent on redemption, and distinguished therefore from the songs sung in heaven before the work of redemption was consummated. We may suppose that songs of adoration have always been sung in heaven; we know that the praises of God were celebrated by the angelic choirs when the foundations of the earth were laid, (Job 38:7) but the song of redemption was a different song, and is one that would never have been sung there if man had not fallen, and if the Redeemer had not died. This song strikes notes which the other songs do not strike, and refers to glories of the Divine character which but for the work of redemption would not have been brought into view. In this sense the song was new; it will continue to be new in the sense that it will be sung afresh as redeemed millions continue to ascend to heaven. Compare Psa. 40:3; 96:1; 144:9; Isa. 42:10.
Thou art worthy to take the book, etc. This was the occasion or ground of the "new song," that by his coming and death he had acquired a right to approach where no other one could approach, and to do what no other one could do.
For thou wast slain. The language here is such as would be appropriate to a lamb slain as a sacrifice. The idea is, that the fact that he was thus slain constituted the ground of his worthiness to open the book. It could not be meant that there was in him no other ground of worthiness, but that this was that which was most conspicuous. It is just the outburst of the grateful feeling resulting from redemption, that he who has died to save the soul is worthy of all honour, and is fitted to accomplish what no other being in the universe can do. However this may appear to the inhabitants of other worlds, or however it may appear to the dwellers on the earth who have no interest in the work of redemption, yet all who are redeemed will agree in the sentiment that He who has ransomed them with his blood has performed a work to do which every other being was incompetent, and that now all honour in heaven and on earth may appropriately be conferred on him.
And hast redeemed us. The word here usedagorazwmeans properly to purchase, to buy; and is thus employed to denote redemption, because redemption was accomplished by the payment of a price. On the meaning of the word, See Note on 2 Pet. 2:1.
To God. That is, so that we become his, and are to be henceforward regarded as such; or so that he might possess us as his own. See Note on 2 Cor. 5:15.
This is the true nature of redemption, that by the price paid we are rescued from the servitude of Satan, and are henceforth to regard ourselves as belonging unto God.
By thy blood. See Note on Acts 20:28.
This is such language as they use who believe in the doctrine of the atonement, and is such as would be used by them alone. It would not be employed by those who believe that Christ was a mere martyr, or that he lived and died merely as a teacher of morality. If he was truly an stoning sacrifice, the language is full of meaning; if not, it has no significance, and could not be understood.
Out of every kindred. Literally, "of every tribe"fulhß. The word tribe means properly a comparatively small division or class of people associated together.Professor Stuart. It refers to a family, or race, having a common ancestor, and usually associated or banded togetheras one of the tribes of Israel; a tribe of Indians; a tribe of plants; a tribe of animals, etc. This is such language as a Jew would use, denoting one of the smaller divisions that made up a nation of people; and the meaning would seem to be, that it will be found ultimately to be true that the redeemed will have been taken from all such minor divisions of the human familynot only from the different nations, but from the smaller divisions of those nations. This can only be true from the fact that the knowledge of the true religion will yet be diffused among all those smaller portions of the human race; that is, that its diffusion will be universal.
And tongue. People speaking all languages. The word here used would seem to denote a division of the human family larger than a tribe but smaller than a nation. It was formerly a fact that a nation might be made up of those who spoke many different languagesas, for example, the Assyrian, the Babylonian, or the Roman nations. Compare Dan. 3:29; 4:1. The meaning here is, that no matter what language the component parts of the nations speak, the gospel will be conveyed to them, and in their own tongue they will learn the wonderful works of God. Compare Acts 2:8-11.
And people. The word here usedlaoßproperly denotes a people considered as a mass, made up of smaller divisionsas an association of smaller bodiesor as a multitude of such bodies united together. It is distinguished from another word commonly applied to a peopledhmoßfor that is applied to a community of free citizens, considered as on a level, or without reference to any minor divisions or distinctions. The words here used would apply to an army, considered as made up of regiments, battalions, or tribes; to a mass-meeting, made up of societies of different trades or professions; to a nation, made up of different associated communities, etc. It denotes a larger body of people than the previous words; and the idea is, that no matter of what people or nation, considered as made up of such separate portions, one may be, he will not be excluded from the blessings of redemption. The sense would be well expressed by saying, for instance, that there will be found there those of the Gaelic race, the Celtic, the Anglo-Saxon, the Mongolian, the African, etc.
And nation. eqnouß. A word of still larger signification; the people in a still wider sense; a people or nation considered as distinct from all others. The word would embrace all who come under one sovereignty or rule: as, for example, the British nation, however many minor tribes there may be; however many different languages may be spoken; and however many separate people there may beas the Anglo-Saxon, the Scottish, the Irish, the people of Hindustan, of Labrador, of New South Wales, etc. The words here used by John would together denote nations of every kind, great and small; and the sense is, that the blessings of redemption will be extended to all parts of the earth.
10. And hast made us unto our God kings and priests. See Note on Rev. 1:6.
And we shall reign on the earth. The redeemed, of whom we are the representatives. The idea clearly is, in accordance with what is so frequently said in the Scriptures, that the dominion on the earth will be given to the saints; that is, that there will be such a prevalence of true religion, and the redeemed will be so much in the ascendency, that the affairs of the nations will be in their hands. Righteous men will hold the offices; will fill places of trust and responsibility; will have a controlling voice in all that pertains to human affairs. See Notes on Dan. 7:27; Rev. 20:1, seq. To such a prevalence of religion all things are tending; and to is this, in all the disorder and sin which now exist, are we permitted to look forward. It not said that this will be a reign under the Saviour in a literal kingdom on the earth; nor is it said that the saints will descend from heaven, and occupy thrones of power under Christ as a visible king. The simple affirmation is, that they will reign on the earth; and as this seems to be spoken in the name of the redeemed, all that is necessary to be understood is, that there will be such a prevalence of true religion on the earth that it will become a vast kingdom of holiness, and that, instead of being in the minority, the saints will everywhere have the ascendency.
11. And I beheld. And I looked again.
And I heard the voice of many angels. The inhabitants of heaven uniting with the representatives of the redeemed church, in ascribing honour to the Lamb of God. The design is to show that there is universal sympathy and harmony in heaven, and that all worlds will unite in ascribing honour to the Lamb of God.
Round about the throne and the beasts and the elders. In a circle or area beyond that which was occupied by the throne, the living creatures, and the elders. They occupied the centre as it appeared to John, and this innumerable company of angels surrounded them. The angels are represented here, as they are everywhere in the Scriptures, as taking a deep interest in all that pertains to the redemption of men, and it is not surprising that they are here described as uniting with the representatives of the church in rendering honour to the Lamb of God. See Note on 1 Pet. 1:12.
And the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand. One hundred millionsa general term to denote either a countless number, or an exceedingly great number. We are not to suppose that it is to be taken literally.
And thousands of thousands. Implying that the number before specified was not large enough to comprehend all. Besides the "ten thousand times ten thousand," there was a vast, uncounted host which one could not attempt to enumerate. The language here would seem to be taken from Dan. 7:10: "Thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him." Compare Psa. 68:17: "The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels." See also Deut. 33:2; 1 Kings 22:19.
12. Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain. See Notes on Rev. 5:2, Rev. 2:9.
The idea here is, that the fact that he was slain, or was made a sacrifice for sin, was the ground or reason for what is here ascribed to him. See Note on Rev. 5:5
To receive power. Power or authority to rule over all things. See Note on Matt. 28:18.
The meaning here is, that he was worthy treat these things should be ascribed to him, or to be addressed and acknowledged as possessing them. A part of these things were his in virtue of his very natureas wisdom, glory, riches; a part were conferred on him as the result of his workas the mediatorial dominion over the universe, the honour resulting from his work, etc. In view of all that he was, and of all that he has done, he is here spoken of as "worthy" of all these things.
And riches. Abundance. That is, he is worthy that whatever contributes to honour, and glory, and happiness, should be conferred on him in abundance. Himself the original proprietor of all things, it is fit that he should be recognised as such; and having performed the work which he has, it is proper that whatever may be made to contribute to his honour should be regarded as his.
And wisdom. That he should be esteemed as eminently wise; that is, that as the result of the work which he has accomplished, he should be regarded as having ability to choose the best ends, and the best means to accomplish them. The feeling here referred to is that which arises from the contemplation of the work of salvation by the Redeemer, as a work eminently characterized by wisdomwisdom manifested in meeting the evils of the fall; in honouring the law; in showing that mercy is consistent with justice; and in adapting the whole plan to the character and wants of man. If wisdom was anywhere demanded, it was in reconciling a lost world to God; if it has been anywhere displayed, it has been in the arrangements for that work, and in its execution by the Redeemer. See Note on 1 Cor. 1:24; compare Matt. 13:54 Luke 2:40, 52
1 Cor. 1:20-21, 30; Eph. 1:8; 3:10.
And strength. Ability to accomplish his purposes. That is, it is meet that he should be regarded as having such ability. This strength or power was manifested in overcoming the great enemy of man; in his control of winds, and storms, and diseases, and devils; in triumphing over death; in saving his people.
And honour. He should be esteemed and treated with honour for what he has done.
And glory. This word refers to a higher ascription of praise than the word honour. Perhaps that might refer to the honour which we feel in our hearts; this to the expression of that by the language of praise.
And blessing. Everything which would express the desire that he might be happy, honoured, adored. To bless one is to desire that he may have happiness and prosperity; that he may be successful, respected, and honoured. To bless God, or to ascribe blessing to him, is that state where the heart is full of love and gratitude, and where it desires that he may be everywhere honoured, loved, and obeyed as he should be. The words here express the wish that the universe would ascribe to the Redeemer all honour, and that he might be everywhere loved and adored.
13. And every creature which is in heaven. The meaning of this verse is, that all created things seemed to unite in rendering honour to Him who sat on the throne and to the Lamb. In the previous verse, a certain numbera vast hostof angels are designated as rendering praise as they stood round the area occupied by the throne, the elders, and the living creatures; here it is added that all who were in heaven united in this ascription of praise.
And on the earth. All the universe was heard by John ascribing praise to God. A voice was heard from the heavens, from all parts of the earth, from under the earth, and from the depths of the sea, as if the entire universe joined in the adoration. It is not necessary to press the language literally, and still less is it necessary to understand by it, as Professor Stuart does, that the angels who presided over the earth, over the under-world, and over the sea, are intended. It is evidently popular language; and the sense is, that John heard a universal ascription of praise. All worlds seemed to join in it; all the dwellers on the earth and under the earth and in the sea partook of the spirit of heaven in rendering honour to the Redeemer.
Under the earth. Supposed to be inhabited by the shades of the dead. See Notes on Job 10:21-22"; Isa. 14:9.
And such as are in the sea. All that dwell in the ocean. In Psa. 148:7-10, "dragons, and all deeps;beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl," are called on to praise the Lord; and there is no more incongruity or impropriety in one description than in the other. In the Psalm, the universe is called on to render praise; in the passage before us it is described as actually doing it. The hills, the streams, the floods; the fowls of the air, the dwellers in the deep, and the beasts that roam over the earth; the songsters in the grove, and the insects that play in the sunbeam, in fact declare the glory of their Creator; and it requires no very strong effort of the fancy to imagine the universe as sending up a constant voice of thanksgiving.
Blessing, and honour, etc. There is a slight change here from Rev. 5:12, but it is the same thing substantially. It is an ascription of all glory to God and to the Lamb.
14. And the four beasts said, Amen. The voice of universal praise came to them from abroad, and they accorded with it, and ascribed honour to God.
And the four and twenty elders fell down, etc. The living creatures and the elders began the work of praise, (Rev. 5:8) and it was proper that it should conclude with them; that is, they give the last and final response.Professor Stuart. The whole universe, therefore, is sublimely represented as in a state of profound adoration, waiting for the developments to follow on the opening of the mysterious volume. All feel an interest in it; all feel that the secret is with God; all feel that there is but One who can open this volume; and all gather around, in the most reverential posture, awaiting the disclosure of the great mystery.
Jewish New Testament Commentary
Futurists who are also Dispensationalists find in this verse an indication of the Church's Pre-Tribulation Rapture (on the terminology and theological background of this note see 1:1N, 1 Th 4:15-17&N). Clearly at this point Yochanan's visions shift from earth to heaven (there are many shifts in the book of Revelation; see R. H. Charles's commentary, Volume 1, p. 109), but nothing is said about removing believers. The Pre-Tribulationists' interpretation requires three assumptions:
(1) The sequence of Yochanan's visions corresponds to the sequence of events in future history.
(2) The Messianic Community (the Church, the Body of the Messiah) does not appear at all in Chapters 4-18.
(3) Those believers who come to faith during the Tribulation are not part of the Messianic Community.
Against these assumptions it may be argued:
(1) The text gives no reason to suppose that the sequence of Yochanan's visions is the same as the order in which the events depicted occur; therefore one should not assume it. On the contrary, 12:1-5&N provides a counterexample. Moreover, if, as may be the case, a given event is depicted by more than one vision, then a direct chronological correspondence is also impossible logically.
(2) It is not true that the Messianic Community is absent from Chapters 4-18. It is true that the Greek word "ekklêsia" (usually translated "Church" and in the Jewish New Testament translated "Messianic Community"; see Mt 16:18N) does not appear after 3:22 until 22:16. But from this fact one might also infer that the Church does not take part in the marriage supper of the Lamb (19:7-9) or in the Millennium and Last Judgment (Chapter 20).
Believers are clearly present throughout the visions of Chapters 6-18 see 6:9 (the martyred souls under the altar), 7:1-8, 14:1-5 (the 144,000 from the tribes of Israel), 7:9-10, 13-14 (the huge crowd from all nations dressed in white robes), 11:13 (those who give glory to the God of Israel after the two witnesses are resurrected), 12:17 (the rest of the woman's children, who obey God's commands and bear witness to Yeshua), 13:8-10 (those whose names are written in the Book of Life), 14:12-13 (God's people, who observe his commands and exercise Yeshua's faithfulness), 15:2-3 (those defeating the beast, who sing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb), 18:4 (God's people called to come out of Babylon).
In most cases these believers are on earth, not in heaven. The descriptions applied to them in these verses are exactly those appropriate to members of the Messianic Community. However, the next assumption excludes them from being members of the Messianic Community; therefore assumption (3) must be addressed.
(3) The argument that Tribulation believers do not belong to the Messianic Community depends on drawing a rigid distinction between Israel and the Church, as do all Pre-Tribulation theologies with which I am acquainted. It is assumed that during the present era what Dispensationalists call the "parenthesis" or "Church Age," defined as the period between Pentecost (Acts 2) and the Tribulation God's clock with Israel has stopped at the end of the 69th week of Daniel 11:26-27 and he is now dealing only with the Church. After the Rapture, Israel's clock will again begin to tick, as Daniel's 70th week, the Tribulation, unfolds.
There is circular reasoning here; for if it is only believers who come to faith during the "Church Age" who are counted as part of the Messianic Community, and the "Church Age" is defined as ending with the Tribulation, then by definition no one who comes to faith during or after the Tribulation is in the Messianic Community, even though by every other criterion their faith is identical with that of Messianic Community members.
Moreover, for the following three reasons Israel (the Jewish people) is not as fully distinct from the Messianic Community as the Pre-Tribulationists would have one think:
(a) Gentile believers have been grafted into Israel, that is, into the Jewish people (Ro 11:17-24). Thus there is an indissoluble connection; they are not to be ungrafted at some future date unless they cease to have faith.
(b) The New Covenant, even though it creates the Messianic Community, has been made, not with the Messianic Community, but with Israel, (Jeremiah 31:30-33(31-34), MJ 8:8-12). The Messianic Community, if separated from the Jewish people, is deprived of its constitutional basis for existence.
(c) Sha'ul, a member of the Messianic Community when he wrote his letters, writes that he is an Israelite (2C 11:22, Ro 11:1). He does not say he was formerly an Israelite and has now left Israel to join the Messianic Community. Rather, like every other Jewish believer, he is both.
But if Sha'ul and other Jewish believers are members both of Israel and of the Messianic Community, Pre-Tribulationists must answer this question: when the rapture takes place, do Jewish believers in Yeshua stay behind with the rest of physical Israel, or do they join the rest of the Messianic Community with Yeshua in the air? They can't be in both places at once. Is it a matter of our personal choice? Do we have to choose whether to be more loyal to the Jewish people or to our brothers in the Messiah? This is an absurd question, absurd because the situation proposed will never arise. The Jewish believer does not abandon his people. He never has to choose between loyalty to the Jews and loyalty to the Messianic Community, except in worldly relationships that is, in order to follow the Jewish Messiah, he may have to choose rejection by the Jewish community as presently constituted in the world.
Some Dispensationalists are not unnerved by this question but answer unequivocally, "It is not a matter of individual choice. Jews who accept Jesus are raptured along with other Christians. Only unbelieving Jews will remain behind to face the terrors of the Tribulation." But when told this Messianic Jews very often are unnerved. This is not what they bought into when they came to faith. They were told, "Now you're a Jew who has accepted his Messiah." They were not told, "Now you have abandoned your Jewish people and will spend eternity without them." Yet this is the clear implication of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture position, based, as it is, on the idea of two eternally separate peoples of God.
Israel and the Messianic Community are two, yet they are one. Overemphasizing the "one"-ness led Christian theologians to conclude that the Church had replaced the Jews as God's people. But overemphasizing the "two"-ness yields errors just as serious, and, in their own way, just as potentially antisemitic. Messianic Judaism should set for itself the task of elucidating correctly the relationship between the Jewish people and the Messianic Community of Jews and Gentiles by means of "olive tree theology" (Ro 11:23-24N, 11:26aN; Ga 6:16N).
Instantly I was in the Spirit. Yochanan was already in the Spirit (1:9). This seems to refer to his experiencing a change of circumstances within his vision.
Although both Tanakh and New Testament teach that God is invisible (Exodus 33:20, Yn 1:18, 1 Ti 1:17), both report that people have seen God (to be specific, God the Father; God the Son is described differently in Chapter 5). Indeed, Yochanan's vision closely resembles several found in the Tanakh. Exodus 24:9-11 says that Moses, two sons of Aaron and seventy elders "saw the God of Israel" on "a paved work of sapphire stone as clear as heaven," very much like the sea of glass, clear as crystal of v. 6a (also see 15:2). The k'ruvim Ezekiel saw closely resemble the living beings of vv. 6b-8a (Ezekiel 1:5-11; 10:12); he also saw a man on a throne with surroundings similar to those Yochanan describes in vv. 2-6a (Ezekiel 1:22, 26-28; 10:1). The prophet Mikhayahu (Micaiah) said, "I saw Adonai sitting on his throne and all the army of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left" (1 Kings 22:19, 2 Chronicles 18:18). Isaiah wrote, "I saw Adonai sitting on a throne, high and lifted up" (Isaiah 6:1). He too saw winged beings (s'rafim) who worshipped God in language like that of v. 8b, crying to each other, "Holy, holy, holy is Adonai of heaven's armies" (Isaiah 6:2-3), a phrase which is part of the Kedushah ("Sanctification" of God) in the synagogue prayers (see the third blessing of the 'Amidah).
Twenty-four elders. Who are they? Four possibilities:
(1) Representatives of the 24 divisions of cohanim (see Lk 1:5N).
(2) The twelve emissaries of Yeshua plus the twelve founders of the tribes of Israel; if so, they represent all of redeemed humanity.
(3) A special group of angels, since at 5:10 they refer to the redeemed as "them" and not "us."
(4) Unspecified representatives of saved humanity in the 'olam haba. In this regard it is interesting that Yochanan's description, including the gold crowns and the worship of vv. 10-11, closely resembles the imagery used by Rav in the Talmud to depict saved human beings in the age to come:
"In the 'olam haba... the righteous sit with their crowns upon their heads and feast on the Sh'khinah." (B'rakhot 17a)
(On "Sh'khinah" see Paragraph (3) of MJ 1:2-3N.)
Voices. Or: "rumblings"; see Ac 2:4-13&N. The sevenfold Spirit of God. See 1:4N.
In front of the throne was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. The description resembles that of Exodus 24:10 and Ezekiel 1:22, 26.
See 1:4N, 1:8&N.
This wonderful New Testament Hallel ("doxology," "expression of praise") is the first of several in the book of Revelation; others are found at 5:9-10, 12, 13; 7:10, 12; 11:15, 17-18; 12:10-12; 14:7, 8; 15:3-4; 16:5-6, 7; 19:1-2, 5, 6-8. See also Ro 11:33-36; 1 Ti 1:17, 3:16; Yd 24-25; and in the Tanakh, of course, the whole book of Psalms.
Scroll, or, possibly a book with pages. See 10:8-11N. Most of the rest of the book of Revelation describes God's judgments, revealed when the scroll's seven seals are removed.
The Lion of the tribe of Y'hudah. This description of the Messiah draws on Jacob's blessing upon his son Judah, which has been understood in Judaism as a Messianic prophecy:
"Y'hudah is a lion's cub.
My son, you stand over the prey.
He stoops down, crouching like a lion,
a mighty lion who will dare make him get up?
"The scepter will not depart from Y'hudah,
or the ruler's staff from between his feet,
until he comes to whom it belongs [or: "until Shiloh comes"],
and the peoples obey him." (Genesis 49:9-10)
Within the Messianic Community many peoples obey Yeshua, to whom the scepter belongs (compare Isaiah 9:5-6(6-7); MJ 1:8, 7:14).
The Root of David. (See also 22:16&N.) This draws on Isaiah 11:1-10, which commences with, "There will come forth a rod from the stem of Yishai" (Jesse, King David's father), "and a branch will grow out of his roots." This description of the Messiah is followed by details about his rule (compare Isaiah 9:5-6(6-7)) and the Messianic Age of peace which he establishes. The passage concludes with: "On that day nations [or: "Gentiles"] will seek the root of Yishai, which stands as a banner [or: "as a miracle"] "for the peoples; and his dwelling-place will be glorious."
Of particular interest are the two verses which follow, where there is an astonishingly clear prophecy of the present and future ingathering of the Jewish people:
"In that day Adonai will set his hand again a second time to recover the remnant of his people, ...the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth." (Isaiah 11:11-12)
The description does not fit either the Exodus from Egypt or the return from Babylon; and "that day" can only be the Messianic Age, which has not yet fully come. Both the rabbis and the writers of the New Testament adhere to the principle that a biblical citation implies its context. Therefore Yochanan, by alluding to Isaiah 11, affirms that God will yet fulfill his promises to restore the Jewish people to our Land, Israel. I stress this because it is sometimes claimed that the New Testament cancels the promises God made to the Jewish people. Quite the contrary: of the Jewish people the New Testament says, "With respect to being chosen they are loved for the Patriarchs' sake, for God's free gifts and his calling are irrevocable" (Ro 11:28-29; see Mt 5:5N for references on refuting Replacement theology).
By his incarnation, obedient life and atoning death Yeshua has won the victory over human sin which gives him the right to open the scroll and its seven seals.
A Lamb that appeared to have been slaughtered. The allusion is to Isaiah 53:7-8, "Like a lamb brought to be slaughtered... he was cut off out of the land of the living." Philip expounded this passage to the Ethiopian eunuch as being about Yeshua (Ac 8:26-39). Yochanan 1:29 speaks of "God's lamb... taking away the sin of the world." See also Mt 26:26-29; Ro 8:3-4; 1C 5:6-8, 11:23-26; MJ 9:11-10:20; 1 Ke 1:19.
The Lion of Y'hudah is a Lamb... slaughtered. The juxtaposition of these contrasting descriptions of the Messiah in vv. 5-6 is one of the clearest expressions in the New Testament of the dual functioning of Yeshua, who came first as a Lamb sacrificed for sin, and returns (6:16-17) as a Lion to execute judgment, rule the world and bring peace. Jewish tradition, unable or unwilling to reconcile these two roles in one person, invented the idea of Mashiach Ben-Yosef who dies and a different Mashiach Ben-David who rules.
Seven horns. In the Tanakh horns symbolize power; seven is the number of completeness (1:4 N). Hence Yeshua has complete power (compare Mt 28:18, Yn 17:1-2). In the Apocrypha at 1 Enoch 90:9 the Maccabees are symbolized by "horned lambs." In Testament of Joseph 19:8 is imagery similar to that of this verse: the Messiah is designated a lamb who goes forth from the midst of horns with a lion on his right.
Seven eyes, which are the sevenfold Spirit of God (see 1:4N) sent out into all the earth. Compare Zechariah 4:10, a difficult verse, which apparently says that the seven lamps of Zechariah 4:2 (see 1:12&N above) represent "the eyes of Adonai" which "rove to and fro throughout the whole earth," preventing anything from impeding the building of the second Temple under Z'rubavel. If the Lamb has "seven eyes," he has complete knowledge to match his complete power.
The Messiah's normal position in the present age is at the right hand of the One sitting on the throne (Psalm 110:1; Mt 22:44; Ac 2:34-35, 7:56; MJ 1:3).
Harp. The usual instrument of praise in the book of Psalms.
Gold bowls filled with incense are also among the accoutrements of worship in the Tanakh; they symbolize the prayers of God's people (compare 6:9-10, 8:3).
A new song, as in Psalms 33:3, 98:1, 144:9, 149:1.
These verses, like 1:12-16, repeat elements of the Daniel 7:9-14 vision, in which an "Ancient of Days," served by "a thousand thousands and ten thousand times ten thousand" is visited by "one like a son of man," to whom is given "dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and tongues should serve him." The context there and in Revelation thus shows that the phrase, "every tribe, language, people and nation" (and its variations at 7:9, 10:11, 11:9, 13:7, 14:6 and 17:15), refers to the Gentile nations of the world.
You made them into a kingdom for God to rule, cohanim to serve him. The language comes from Exodus 19:6, Isaiah 61:6. See 1 Ke 2:9&N; also compare 1:6 above.
They will rule over the earth in the Millennium (20:4) and on the new earth (22:5); see also Mt 5:5; 1C 4:8.
God the Father, the One sitting on the throne, already has power, honor, etc., from time immemorial. He grants these attributes to the Lamb, who is worthy to receive them because he did not grasp at them (Pp 2:5-11). They henceforth belong both to him and to his Father forever and ever. See also 7:12, and compare Yochanan 17.
Every creature will acknowledge God's universal rule (Pp 2:9-11&N, Co 1:20), but demons and the wicked will not enjoy its benefits (20:11-15 &NN, Ya 2:19).
Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament
The Revelation proper now begins.
1. After this (meta» tauvta). Rev., literally, after these things. Not indicating a break in the ecstatic state of the seer, but only a succession of separate visions.
I looked (eidon). Rev., better, I saw. Not of the directing of attention, but of the simple reception of the vision.
A door was opened (qu/ra aÓnewgme÷nh). Rev., rightly, omits was. A door set open. The A.V. implies that the seer witnessed the opening of the door.
In Heaven. Compare Ezekiel 1:1; Matthew 3:16; Acts 7:56; 10:11. In all these heaven itself is opened.
Was. Omit. Render, as Rev., "a voice as of a trumpet."
A trumpet (sa¿lpiggoß). See on Matthew 24:31. Properly a war-trumpet, though the word was also used of a sacred trumpet, with the epithet iera¿ sacred.
Speaking saying (lalou/shß le÷gousa). See on Matthew 28:18. The former verb indicates the breaking of the silence, the latter the matter of the address.
Hereafter (meta» tauvta). Some editors connect these words with the succeeding verse, substituting them for kai« and at the beginning of that verse, and rendering, "I will show thee the things which must come to pass. After these things straightway I was," etc.
2. I was in the Spirit (egeno/mhn en pneu/mati). Strictly, I became: I found myself in. Appropriate to the sudden and unconscious transportation of the seer into the ecstatic state. Thus Dante describes his unconscious rapture into Paradise:
"And suddenly it seemed that day to day
Was added, as if He who had the power
Had with another sun the heaven adorned."
Beatrice, noticing his amazement, says:
"Thou makest thyself so dull
With false imagining, that thou seest not
What thou wouldst see if thou hadst shaken it off.
Thou art not upon earth as thou believest;
But lightning, fleeing its appropriate site,
Ne'er ran as thou, who thitherward returnest."
"Paradiso," i., 6093.
A throne. See Ezekiel 1:2628.
Was set (e¶keito). Denoting merely position, not that the seer saw the placing of the throne. Compare John 2:6.
One sitting. He is called henceforward throughout the book He that sitteth on the throne, and is distinguished from the Son in chapter 6:16; 7:10, and from the Holy Spirit in verse 5.
He is commonly understood to be God the Father; but some understand the triune God. [Note: So Professor Milligan, who thinks that the whole scene is founded on Isaiah 6., which, he remarks, is always justly regarded as one of the greatest adumbratious of the Trinity contained in the Old Testament.]
3. Jasper stone. The last of the twelve stones in the High Priest's breastplate (Exodus 28:20; 39:13), and the first of the twelve enumerated in the foundation of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:19). Also the stone employed in the superstructure of the wall of the Heavenly City (chapter 21:18). The stone itself was of different colors, the best being purple. According to chapter 21:11, it represents a crystalline brightness.
Sardine. Rev., Sardius. The sixth foundation-stone of the Heavenly Jerusalem in chapter 21:20. A red stone, supposed to answer to our cornelian. Pliny derives its name from Sardis where it was discovered. Others from the Persian sered, yellowish red. The exact meaning of the symbolism must remain uncertain, owing to our ignorance of the precise meaning of "jasper," a name which seems to have covered a variety of stones now known under other classifications. Some interpreters, assuming the jasper to be sparkling white, find in it a representation of the holiness of God, and in the fiery sardius a representation of His wrath.
Rainbow (iriß). Only here and chapter 10:1. The word is identical, and seems to have had some original connection with Iris, the deity known as the messenger-goddess of Olympus. In Homer the word is used in both senses.
"And if thou wishest now to ask of me,
No dream I am, but lovely and divine:
Whereof let this be unto thee a sign,
That when thou wak'st, the many-colored bow
Across the world the morning sun shall throw.
But me indeed thine eyes shall not behold.
Then he, awaking in the morning cold,
A sprinkle of fine rain felt on his face,
And leaping to his feet, in that wild place,
Looked round, and saw the morning sunlight throw
Across the world the many-colored bow;
And trembling knew that the high gods indeed
Had sent the messenger unto their need."
William Morris, "Jason," xi., 190200.
In classical Greek the word is used of any bright halo surrounding another body; of the circle round the eyes of a peacock's tail, and of the iris of the eye.
"And I beheld the flamelets onward go,
Leaving behind themselves the air depicted,
And they of trailing pennons had the semblance,
So that it overhead remained distinct
With sevenfold lists, all of them of the colors
Whence the sun's bow is made, and Delia's girdle." [Note: I.e., the halo round the moon.]
Dante, "Purgatorio," xxix, 7378.
"Within the deep and luminous subsistence
Of the High Light appeared to me three circles,
Of threefold color and of one dimension,
And by the second seemed the first reflected
As Iris is by Iris, and the third
Seemed fire that equally from both is breathed."
"Paradiso," xxxiii., 115120.
On this passage, which belongs to the description of Dante's vision of the Eternal Trinity, Dean Plumptre remarks: "One notes, not without satisfaction, that Dante shrinks from the anthropomorphism of Byzantine and early Western art, in which the Ancient of Days was represented in the form of venerable age. For him, as for the more primitive artists, the rainbow reflecting rainbow is the only adequate symbol of the "God of God, Light of Light" of the Nicene Creed, while the fire of love that breathes from both is that of the Holy Spirit, "proceeding from the Father and the Son."
Round about the throne. Compare Ezekiel 1:26, 28.
Emerald (smaragdi÷nw). The stone is first mentioned by Herodotus, who describes a temple of Hercules which he visited at Tyre. He says: "I found it richly adorned with a number of offerings, among which were two pillars, one of pure gold, the other of emerald (smara¿gdou li÷qou), shining with great brilliancy at night" (ii., 44). Also in his story of Polycrates of Samos, the signet-ring which Polycrates cast into the sea, was an emerald set in gold (iii., 41). It is claimed, however, that the real emerald was unknown to the ancients. Rawlinson thinks that the pillar in the Tyrian temple was of glass. The bow was not wanting in the other colors, but the emerald was predominant.
4. Throne (qro/nou). A seat or chair. In Homer, an armchair with high back and footstool. Cushions were laid upon the seat, and over both seat and back carpets were spread. A royal throne. Used of the oracular seat of the priestess of Apollo. Apollo, in the "Eumenides" of Aeschylus, says: "Never, when I sat in the diviner's seat (mantikoisin en qro/noiß) did I speak aught else than Zeus the father of the Olympians bade me" (616618). Plato uses it of a teacher's seat. "I saw Hippias the Elean sitting in the opposite portico in a chair (en qro/nw). Others were seated round him on benches (epi« ba¿qrwn)," questioning him, "and he ex cathedreâ (en qro/nw kaqh/menoß, lit., sitting in the chair) was determining their several questions to them, and discoursing of them" ("Protagoras," 315). Also used of a judge's bench, and a bishop's seat.
Seats (qro/noi). Rev., rightly, thrones. The word is the same as the last.
I saw. Omit.
Elders (presbute÷rouß). See on Acts 14:23. The twenty-four elders are usually taken to represent the one Church of Christ, as at once the Church of the old and of the new Covenant, figured by the twelve patriarchs and the twelve apostles.
"Then saw I people, as behind their leaders,
Coming behind them, garmented in white,
And such a whiteness never was on earth
Under so fair a heaven as I describe
The four and twenty-elders, two by two,
Came on incoronate with flower-de-luce."
Dante, "Purgatorio," xxix., 6484.
Clothed (peribeblhme÷nouß). Rev., arrayed. Better, as indicating a more solemn investiture. See on chapter 3:5.
They had. Omit.
Crowns (stefa¿nouß). See on 1 Peter 5:4; James 1:12. Ste÷fanoß with the epithet golden is found only in Revelation. Compare chapter 9:7; 14:14. The natural inference from this epithet and from the fact that the symbolism of Revelation is Hebrew, and that the Jews had the greatest detestation of the Greek games, would be that ste÷fanoß is here used of the royal crown, especially since the Church is here represented as triumphant- a kingdom and priests. On the other hand, in the three passages of Revelation where John evidently refers to the kingly crown, he uses dia¿dhma (chapter 12:3; 13:1; compare 17:9, 10; 19:12). Trench ("Synonyms of the New Testament") claims that the crown in this passage is the crown, not of kinghood, but of glory and immortality. The golden crown (ste÷fanoß) of the Son of Man (chapter 14:14) is the conqueror's crown.
It must be frankly admitted, however, that the somewhat doubtful meaning here, and such passages of the Septuagint as 2 Samuel 12:30; 1 Chronicles 20:2; Psalms 20:3; Ezekiel 21:26; Zechariah 6:11,14, give some warrant for the remark of Professor Thayer ("New Testament Lexicon") that it is doubtful whether the distinction between ste÷fanoß and dia¿dhma (the victor's wreath and the kingly crown) was strictly observed in Hellenistic Greek. The crown of thorns (ste÷fanoß) placed on our Lord's head, was indeed woven, but it was the caricature of a royal crown.
5. Proceeded (ekporeu/ontai). Rev., proceed. The tense is graphically changed to the present.
Lightnings and thunderings and voices. Compare Exodus 19:16. Variously interpreted of God's might, His judgment, His power over nature, and His indignation against the wicked.
Lamps (lampa¿deß). The origin of our lamp, but, properly, a torch; the word for lamp being lu/cnoß, a hand-lamp filled with oil (Matthew 5:15; Luke 8:16; John 5:35). See on Matthew 25:1. Trench says: "The true Hindoo way of lighting up, is by torches, held by men who feed the flame with oil from a sort of bottle constructed for the purpose."
Seven Spirits of God. See on chapter 1:4.
6. Of glass (uJali÷nh). Rev., glassy, which describes the appearance not the material. The adjective, and the kindred noun u¢aloß glass occur only in Revelation. The etymology is uncertain; some maintaining an Egyptian origin, and others referring it to the Greek u¢w to rain, with the original signification of rain-drop. Originally, some kind of clear, transparent stone. Herodotus says that the Ethiopians place their dead bodies "in a crystal pillar which has been hollowed out to receive them, crystal being dug up in great abundance in their country, and of a kind very easy to work. You may see the corpse through the pillar within which it lies; and it neither gives out any unpleasant odor, nor is it in any respect unseemly: yet there is no part that is not as plainly visible as if the body were bare" (3:24). Glass is known to have been made in Egypt at least 3,800 years ago. The monuments show that the same glass bottles were used then as in later times; and glass blowing is represented in the paintings in the tombs. The Egyptians possessed the art of coloring it, and of introducing gold between two layers of glass. The ruins of glass-furnaces are still to be seen at the Natron Lakes. The glass of Egypt was long famous. It was much used at Rome for ornamental purposes, and a glass window has been discovered at Pompeii: Pliny speaks of glass being malleable.
Crystal. Compare Ezekiel 1:22; Job 37:18; Exodus 24:10. The word is used in classical Greek for ice. Thucydides, describing the attempt of the Plataeans to break out from their city when besieged by the Peloponnesians and Boeotians, relates their climbing over the wall and crossing the ditch, but only after a hard struggle; "for the ice (kru/stalloß) in it was not frozen hard enough to bear" (iii., 23). Crystal, regarded as a mineral, was originally held to be only pure water congealed, by great length of time, into ice harder than common. Hence it was believed that it could be produced only in regions of perpetual ice.
In the midst of round about. Commonly explained as one in the midst of each of the four sides of the throne. "At the extremities of two diameters passing through the center of the round throne" (Milligan).
Beasts (zw×a). Rev., living creatures. Alford aptly remarks that beasts is the most unfortunate word that could be imagined. Beast is qhri÷on. Zw×on emphasizes the vital element, qhri÷on the bestial.
Full of eyes before and behind. The four living beings are mainly identical with the cherubim of Ezekiel 1:510; 10:520; Isaiah 6:2, 3; though with some differences of detail. For instance, Ezekiel's cherubim have four wings, while the six described here belong to the seraphim of Isaiah. So also the Trisagion (thrice holy) is from Isaiah. In Ezekiel's vision each living being has all four faces, whereas here, each of the four has one.
"There came close after them four animals,
Incoronate each one with verdant leaf,
Plumed with six wings was every one of them,
The plumage full of eyes; the eyes of Argus
If they were living would be such as these.
Reader I to trace their forms no more I waste
My rhymes; for other spendings press me so,
That I in this cannot be prodigal.
But read Ezekiel who depicteth them
As he beheld them from the region cold
Coming with cloud, with whirlwind, and with fire;
And such as thou shalt find them in his pages,
Such were they here; saving that in their plumage
John is with me, and differeth from him."
Dante, "Purgatorio," xxix., 92105.
7. Lion, calf, man, eagle. From this passage is derived the familiar symbolism of the four Evangelists; Mark seated on a lion, Luke on a steer, Matthew on a man, and John on an eagle. These are varied however. Irenaeus attributes the lion to John, and the eagle to Mark. Augustine the lion to Matthew, the man to Mark.
Lion. See on 1 Peter 5:8.
Calf (mo/scw). Compare Luke 15:23. In the Septuagint for an ox or steer. Exodus 22:1; Ezekiel 1:10.
Eagle (aÓetw×). See on Matthew 24:28.
8. Had (eicon). The best texts read e¶cwn having, the participle in the singular number agreeing with each one.
Each of them (eºn kaq eauto\). Lit., one by himself. The best texts read eºn kaq eºn one by one or every one. Compare Mark 14:19.
Six wings. Compare Isaiah 6:2. Dante pictures his Lucifer, who is the incarnation of demoniac animalism, with three heads and six wings.
"Underneath each came forth two mighty wrings,
Such as befitting were so great a bird;
Sails of the sea I never saw so large.
No feathers had they, but as of a bat
Their fashion was; and he was waving them,
so that three winds proceeded forth therefrom.
Thereby Cocytus wholly was congealed."
"Inferno," xxxiv., 4652.
Dean Plumptre remarks that the six wings seem the only survival of the higher than angelic state from which Lucifer had fallen.
About him (kuklo/qen). The best texts place the comma after eºx six instead of after kuklo/qen around, and connect kuklo/qen with the succeeding clause, rendering, are full of eyes round about and within. So Rev.
They were full (ge÷monta). Read ge÷mousin are full.
Round about and within. Around and inside each wing, and on the part of the body beneath it.
They rest not (aÓna¿pausin oujk e¶cousin). Lit., they have no rest. So Rev. See on give rest, Matthew 11:28; and resteth, 1 Peter 4:14.
Holy, etc. Compare Isaiah 6:3, which is the original of the formula known as the Trisagion (thrice holy), used in the ancient liturgies. In the Apostolic Constitutions it runs: "Holy, holy, holy Lord God of Hosts! Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory, who art blessed forever, Amen." Afterwards it was sung in the form "Holy God, holy Mighty, holy Immortal, have mercy upon us." So in the Alexandrian liturgy, or liturgy of St. Mark. Priest. "To Thee we send up glory and giving of thanks, and the hymn of the Trisagion, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, now and ever and to ages of ages. People. Amen! Holy God, holy Mighty, Holy and Immortal, have mercy upon us." In the liturgy of Chrysostom the choir sing the Trisagion five times, and in the meantime the priest says secretly the prayer of the Trisagion. "God which art holy and restest in the holies, who art hymned with the voice of the Trisagion by the Seraphim, and glorified by the Cherubim, and adored by all the heavenly powers! Thou who didst from nothing call all things into being; who didst make man after Thine image and likeness, and didst adorn him with all Thy graces; who givest to him that seeketh wisdom and understanding, and passest not by the sinner, but dost give repentance unto salvation; who has vouchsafed that we, Thy humble and unworthy servants, should stand, even at this time, before the glory of Thy holy altar, and should pay to Thee the worship and praise that is meet; receive, Lord, out of the mouth of sinners, the hymn of the Trisagion, and visit us in Thy goodness. Forgive us every offense, voluntary and involuntary. Sanctify our souls and bodies, and grant that we may serve Thee in holiness all the days of our life; through the intercession of the holy Mother of God, and all the saints who have pleased Thee since the beginning of the world. (Aloud.) For holy art Thou, one God and to Thee."
According to an unreliable tradition this formula was received during an earthquake at Constantinople, in the reign of Theodosius II., through a boy who was caught up into the sky and heard it from the angels. The earliest testimonies to the existence of, the Trisagion date from the fifth century or the latter part of the fourth. Later, the words were added, "that was crucified for us," in order to oppose the heresy of the Theopaschites (Qeo/ß God, pa¿scw to suffer) who held that God had suffered and been crucified. To this was added later the words "Christ our king:" the whole reading, "Holy God, holy Mighty, holy Immortal, Christ our king that was crucified for us, have mercy on us." The formula thus entered into the controversy with the Monophysites, who claimed that Christ had but one composite nature. Dante introduces it into his "Paradiso."
"The One and Two and Three who ever liveth
And reigneth ever in Three and Two and One,
Not circumscribed and all things circumscribing,
Three several times was chanted by each one
Among those spirits, with such melody
That for all merit it were just reward."
"Paradiso," xiv., 2833.
"When I was silent, sweetest song did flow
Through all the heaven, and my lady too
With them cried holy, holy, holy! "
"Paradiso," xxvi., 6769.
The interpretations of the symbols of the four living creatures are, of course, numerous and varied. Some of them are: the four Evangelists or Gospels; the four elements; the four cardinal virtues; the four faculties or powers of the human soul; the Lord in the fourfold great events of redemption; the four patriarchal churches; the four great apostles, the doctors of the Church; the four principal angels, etc. The best modern interpreters explain the four forms as representing animated nature "man with his train of dependent beings brought near to God, and made partakers of redemption, thus fulfilling the language of St. Paul, that 'the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God'" (Romans 8:21; Milligan). Düsterdieck says: "The essential idea which is symbolized in the figures of the four living creatures may be expressed in such words as those of Psalms 103:22." Full of eyes, they are ever on the alert to perceive the manifestations of divine glory. Covering their faces and feet with their wings (Isaiah 6:2), they manifest their reverence and humility. Flying, they are prompt for ministry. "We thus have the throne of God surrounded by His Church and His animated world; the former represented by the twenty-four elders, the latter by the four living beings" (Alford).
Which is to come (oj erco/menoß). Lit., which cometh or is coming.
9. When (o¢tan). Whensoever, implying, with the future tense, the eternal repetition of the act of praise.
Give (dw¿sousin). Lit., as Rev., shall give.
10. Cast (ba¿llousin). Read balouvsin shall cast. The casting of the crowns is an act of submission and homage. Cicero relates that when Tigranes the king of the Armenians was brought to Pompey's camp as a captive, prostrating himself abjectly, Pompey "raised him up, and replaced on his head the diadem which he had thrown down" (Oration "Pro Sestio," xxvii.). Tacitus gives an account of the public homage paid by the Parthian Tiridates to the statue of Nero. "A tribunal placed in the center, supported a chair of state on which the statue of Nero rested. Tiridates approached, and having immolated the victims in due form, he lifted the diadem from his head and laid it at the feet of the statue, while every heart throbbed with intense emotion" ("Annals," xv., 29).
11. O Lord (ku/rie). Read oj ku/rioß kai« oj Qeo\ß hJmw×n our Lord and our God. So Rev. See on Matthew 21:3.
To receive (labein). Or perhaps, better, to take, since the glory, honor, and power are the absolute possession of the Almighty. See on John 3:32.
Power. Instead of the thanks in the ascription of the living creatures. In the excess of gratitude, self is forgotten. Their thanksgiving is a tribute to the creative power which called them into being. Note the articles, "the glory," etc. (so Rev.), expressing the absoluteness and universality of these attributes. See on chapter 1:6.
All things (ta»\ pa¿nta). With the article signifying the universe.
For thy pleasure (dia» to\ qe÷lhma sou). Lit., because of thy will. So Rev. Alford justly remarks: "For thy pleasure of the A.V. introduces An element entirely strange to the context, and, however true in fact, most inappropriate here, where the o¢ti for renders a reason for the worthiness to take honor and glory and power."
They are (eisi«n). Read hsan they were. One of the great MSS., B, reads oujk hsan they were not; i.e., they were created out of nothing. The were is not came into being, but simply they existed. See on John 1:3; 7:34; 8:58. Some explain, they existed in contrast with their previous non-existence; in which case it would seem that the order of the two clauses should have been reversed; besides which it is not John's habit to apply this verb to temporary and passing objects. Professor Milligan refers it to the eternal type existing in the divine mind before anything was created, and in conformity with which it was made when the moment of creation arrived. Compare Hebrews 8:5. "Was the heaven then or the world, whether called by this or any other more acceptable name assuming the name, I am asking a question which has to be asked at the beginning of every inquiry was the world, I say, always in existence and without beginning, or created and having a beginning? Created, I reply, being visible and tangible and having a body, and therefore sensible; and all sensible things which are apprehended by opinion and sense are in a process of creation and created. Now that which is created must of necessity be created by a cause. But how can we find out the father and maker of all this universe? And when we have found him, to speak of his nature to all men is impossible. Yet one more question has to be asked about him, which of the patterns had the artificer in view when he made the world? the pattern which is unchangeable, or that which is created? If the world be indeed fair and the artificer good, then, as is plain, he must have looked to that which is eternal. But if what cannot be said without blasphemy is true, then he looked to the created pattern. Every one will see that he must have looked to the eternal, for the world is the fairest of creations and he is the best of causes "(Plato, "Timaeus," 28, 29).
1. In (epi÷). Lit., on. The book or roll lay upon the open hand.
A Book (bibli÷on). See on Matthew 19:7; Mark 10:4; Luke 4:17. Compare Ezekiel 2:9; Jeremiah 36:2; Zechariah 5:1, 2.
Within and on the back side (e¶swqen kai« o¡pisqen). Compare Ezekiel 2:10. Indicating the completeness of the divine counsels contained in the book. Rolls written on both sides were called opistographi. Pliny the younger says that his uncle, the elder Pliny, left him an hundred and sixty commentaries, most minutely written, and written on the back, by which this number is multiplied. Juvenal, inveighing against the poetasters who are declaiming their rubbish on all sides, says: "Shall that one then have recited to me his comedies, and this his elegies with impunity? Shall huge 'Telephus' with impunity have consumed a whole day; or with the margin to the end of the book already filled 'Orestes,' written on the very back, and yet not concluded?" (i., 3~6).
Sealed (katesfragisme÷non). Only here in the New Testament. The preposition kata¿ denotes sealed down. So Rev., close sealed. The roll is wound round a staff and fastened down to it with the seven seals. The unrolling of the parchment is nowhere indicated in the vision. Commentators have puzzled themselves to explain the arrangement of the seals, so as to admit of the unrolling of a portion with the opening of each seal. Düsterdieck remarks that, With an incomparably more beautiful and powerful representation, the contents of the roll are successively symbolized by the vision which follows upon the opening of each seal. "The contents of the book leap forth in plastic symbols from the loosened seal." Milligan explains the seven seals as one seal, comparing the seven churches and the seven spirits as signifying one church and one spirit, and doubts if the number seven has here any mystical meaning. Others, as Alford, claim that the completeness of the divine purposes is indicated by the perfect number seven.
2. Strong. Either as being of higher rank, or with reference to the great voice.
Worthy (aýxioß). As in John 1:27. Morally entitled.
3. Under the earth. In Hades.
To look (ble÷pein). See on John 1:29. To take a single look at the contents.
4. I wept (e¶klaion). Audible weeping. See on Luke 6:21.
5. Of the elders (ek tw×n presbute÷rwn). Strictly, from among the elders.
The Lion. See Genesis 49:9.
The Root of David. See on Nazarene, Matthew 2:23.
Hath prevailed (eni÷khsen). Or overcame.
To loose. Omit.
6. And lo! Omit.
In the midst of. Not on the throne, but perhaps in the space in the center of which is the throne, and which is surrounded by the twenty-four elders.
A Lamb (aÓrni÷on). The diminutive, very frequent in Revelation, and once in the Gospel of John (21:15). Nowhere else in the New Testament. Compare Isaiah 53:7; John 1:29, 36. Christ had just been spoken of as a lion. He now appears as a lamb. Some interpreters emphasize the idea of gentleness, others that of sacrifice.
Slain (esfagme÷non). The verb indicates violence, butchery. See on 1 John 3:12. It is also the sacrificial word. Exodus 12:6.
Stood (esthko\ß). Rev., more correctly, standing. Though slaughtered the lamb stands. Christ, though slain, is risen and living.
Seven horns and seven eyes. See remarks on the Apocalyptic imagery, chapter 1:16. The horn is the emblem of might. See 1 Samuel 2:10; 1 Kings 22:11; Psalms 112:9; Daniel 7:7, 20 sqq.; Luke 1:69. Compare Matthew 28:18. The eyes represent the discerning Spirit of God in its operation upon all created things.
Sent forth (aÓpestalme÷na). See on Mark 3:14.
7. Took (ei¶lhfen). Lit., hath taken. The perfect, alternating with the aorist, is graphic.
8. Had taken (e¶laben). Lit., took. The aorist is resumed.
Every one of them harps (eºkastoß kiqa¿raß). Rev., less clumsily, having each one a harp. Each one, that is, of the elders. Kiqa¿ra harp signifies an instrument unlike our harp as ordinarily constructed. Rather a lute or guitar, to which latter word kithara is etymologically related. Anciently of a triangular shape, with seven strings, afterwards increased to eleven. Josephus says it had ten, and was played with a plectrum or small piece of ivory.
Vials (fia¿laß). Only in Revelation. The word vial, used commonly of a small bottle, gives a wrong picture here. The fia¿lh was a broad, flat vessel, used for boiling liquids, sometimes as a cinerary urn, and for drinking, or pouring libations. Also of the shallow cup, usually without a foot, in which libations were drawn out of the mixer. Herodotus says that at Plataea the Spartan Helots were bidden by Pausanias to bring together the booty of the Persian camp, and that they found "many golden mixers and bowls (fia¿laß), and other ekpw¿mata (drinking-vessels)" (ix., 30). From its broad, flat shape Areoß fia¿lh bowl of Mars was a comic metaphor for a shield. It was also used for sunken work in a ceiling. In the Septuagint the word is frequently used for bowls or basons. See Numbers 7:13, 19, 25, 31, 37, 43, etc.; 1 Kings 7:50; Zechariah 9:15. Here, censers, though several different words of the Septuagint and New Testament are rendered censer; as qui¦/skh, 1 Kings 7:50; qumiath/rion, 2 Chronicles 26:19; Ezekiel 8:11; Hebrews 9:4; libanwto\n, Revelation 8:3. Quiskh however is the golden incense-cup or spoon to receive the frankincense which was lighted with coals from the brazen altar, and offered on the golden altar before the veil. The imagery is from the tabernacle and temple service.
Incense (qumiama¿twn). The directions for the composition of the incense for the tabernacle-worship, are given Exodus 30:37, 38.
Prayers. For incense as the symbol of prayer, see Leviticus 16:12,13; Psalms 141:2. See on Luke 1:9. Edersheim, describing the offering of incense in the temple, says: "As the President gave the word of command which marked that 'the time of incense had come,' the whole multitude of the people without withdrew from the inner court and fell down before the Lord, spreading their hands in silent prayer. It is this most solemn period, when, throughout the vast temple-buildings, deep silence rested on the worshipping multitude, while within the sanctuary itself the priest laid the incense on the golden altar, and the cloud of odors rose up before the Lord, which serves as the image of heavenly things in Revelation (8:1, 3, 4). The prayers offered by priests and people at this part of the service are recorded by tradition as follows: 'True it is that Thou art Jehovah, our God and the God of our fathers; our King and the King of our fathers; our Savior and the Rock of our salvation; our Help and our Deliverer. Thy name is from everlasting, and there is no God beside Thee. A new song did they that were delivered sing to Thy name by the seashore. Together did all praise and own Thee as King, and say, 'Jehovah shall reign who saveth Israel.'" Compare "the Song of Moses," chapter 15:3, and "a new song," verse 9.
9. They sing. Present tense, denoting the continuous, unceasing worship of heaven, or possibly, as describing their "office generally rather than the mere one particular case of its exercise" (Alford).
Redeem (hjgo/rasaß). Lit., purchase, as Rev. See John 4:8; 6:5.
Us. Omit us and supply men, as Rev.
With Thy blood (en tw× aiºmati÷ sou). Lit., "in Thy blood." The preposition in is used Hebraistically of the price; the value of the thing purchased being contained in the price.
Kindred (fulhvß). Rev., tribe. Often in the New Testament of the twelve tribes of Israel.
People, nation (laouv, e¶qnouß). See on 1 Peter 2:9.
10. Us (hJma×ß). Read aujtou\ß them.
Kings (basileiß). Read, basilei÷an a kingdom. See on chapter 1:6.
We shall reign (basileu/somen). Read basileu/ousin they reign. Their reigning is not future, but present.
11. Ten thousand times ten thousand (muri÷adeß muri÷adwn). Lit., ten thousands of ten thousands. Compare Psalms 68:17; Daniel 8:10. Muria¿ß, whence the English myriad, means the number ten thousand. So, literally, Acts 19:19, aÓrguri÷ou muria¿daß pe÷nte fifty-thousand pieces of silver; lit., five ten-thousands. In the plural used for an unlimited number. See Luke 12:1; Acts 21:20; Hebrews 12:22; Jude 1:14.
Thousands (cilia¿deß). Cilia¿ß, a collective term like, muria¿ß, meaning the number one thousand, is almost invariably used with men in Revelation. See chapter 7:4; 11:13. Only once with a material object (chapter 21:16). With inferior objects ci÷lioi a thousand is used. See chapter 11:3; 12:6. These words are the theme of Alford's noble hymn
"Ten thousand times ten thousand
In sparkling raiment bright,
The armies of the ransomed saints
Throng up the steeps of light:
'Tis finished, all is finished,
Their fight with death and sin;
Fling open wide the golden gates,
And let the victors in."
12. Power, etc. Rev., "the power." Compare the ascription in chapter 4:11, on which see note, and notice that each separate particular there has the article, while here it is attached only to the first, the power, the one article including all the particulars, as if they formed but one word. On the doxologies, see on chapter 1:6.
Riches (plouvton). Not limited to spiritual riches, but denoting the fulness of every gift of God. James 1:17; Acts 17:25. Only here in a doxology.
Blessing (eujlogi÷an). See on the kindred word eujloghto\ß blessed, I Peter 1:3.
13. Creature (kti÷sma). See 1 Timothy 4:4; James 1:18. From kti÷zw to found. A thing founded or created Rev., created thing. See on John 1:3.
In the sea (epi« thvß qala¿sshß). More accurately, "on the sea," as Rev. Not ships, but creatures of the sea which have come up from its depths to the surface.
Blessing (hj eujlogi÷a). Rev. rightly "the blessing." All the particulars of the following ascription have the article.
Honor (timh/). Originally a valuing by which the price is fixed, hence the price itself, the thing priced, and so, generally, honor. See on Acts 28:10.
Power (to\ kra¿toß). Rev., the dominion. For the different words for power, see on 2 Peter 2:11.
Word Biblical Commentary: Volume 52a: Revelation 1-5, Volume 52b: Revelation 6-16 & Volume 52c: Revelation 17-22, David E. Aune
Barnes' Notes on the New Testament: Revelation of St. John the Divine, Albert Barnes
The Book of Ezekiel: Chapters 1-24 and The Book of Ezekiel: Chapter 25-48: The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, Damiel I. Block
An Introduction to the New Testament, D. A. Carson & Douglas J. Moo
Dr. Constable's Notes on Revelation, Dr. Thomas L. Constable, Dallas Theological Seminary (his class notes)
Revelation: Four Views. A Parallel Commentary, Steve Gregg
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, 1871 Edition, Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown
Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation, Dennis E. Johnson
Revelation Unveiled, Tim LaHaye
Macarthur New Testament Commentary Series: Revelation 1-11, Revelation 12-22, John MacArthur
The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Book of Revelation, Robert H. Mounce
The Preacher's Commentary: 1,2 & 3 John/Revelation, Earl F. Palmer
Exploring Revelation: Am Expository Commentary, John Phillips
The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation, Vern S. Poythress
"Behold, He Cometh": A Verse-by-Verse Commentary on the Book of Revelation, John R. Rice
Jewish New Testament Commentary, David H. Stern
Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament, Marvin R. Vincent
The Bible Speaks Today: The Message of Revelation, Michael Wilcock
IVP Pocket Dictionaries:
Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzke and Cherith Fee
Pocket Dictionary of Biblical Studies, Arthur G. Patzia and Anthony J. Petrotta -
Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics and Philosophy of
Religion, Stephen Evans -
Pocket Dictionary for the Study of New Testament
Greek, Matthew S. DeMoss Intervarsity Press' New Testament Commentary Intervarsity Press' New Bible Commentary Intervarsity Press' Hard Sayings of the Bible
IVP Pocket Dictionaries:
- Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzke and Cherith Fee Nordling
- Pocket Dictionary of Biblical Studies, Arthur G. Patzia and Anthony J. Petrotta
- Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics and Philosophy of Religion, Stephen Evans
- Pocket Dictionary for the Study of New Testament Greek, Matthew S. DeMoss
Intervarsity Press' New Testament Commentary
Intervarsity Press' New Bible Commentary
Intervarsity Press' Hard Sayings of the Bible
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