This is the commencement of the second great division, which embraces
Revelation ch.4 – ch.22:5, that in which the revelation, properly so called, takes
place. Revelation 4. and 5. contain the first of the seven visions, which is
itself a prelude to the rest.
1 “After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and
the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking
with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things
which must be hereafter.’ After this; or, after these things (μετὰ ταῦτα – meta
tauta – after these things). There is no good ground for supposing, as some do, that,
after the events narrated in ch. 3., an interval occurred in the visions, during which
John possibly wrote down the matter contained in the first three chapters. Nor is
there any justification for assigning what follows to a time after this world.
It would be pressing ταῦτα (these things) very far to make it apply to these present
things of the world; and μετὰ ταῦτα certainly need not mean “the things
after this world.” The expression is used here in its ordinary, natural sense:
“After having seen this, I saw,” etc.; introducing some new phase or
variety of spectacle. I looked; or, I saw (εῖδον - eidon). No fresh act of looking is
signified. I saw in the Spirit, as formerly (ch.1:10, 12). And, behold, a door; or,
and, behold, a door, and the first voice. Such is the construction of the Greek.
Was opened in heaven; or, an open door, in heaven. John did not see the action
of opening the door, but he saw a door which had been set open, through which
he might gaze, and observe what passed within. Contrast Ezekiel 1:1; Matthew 3:16;
Acts 7:56; 10:11, where “the heaven was opened;” and supposes that
the seer is transported through the open door into heaven, from which
position he sees heaven, and views all that happens on the earth. Victorinus
aptly compares the open door to the gospel. And the first voice which I
heard, as it were, of a trumpet talking with me. Omit the “was” which
follows, as well as the colon which precedes, and repeat “a voice,” as in the
Revised Version: And, behold, an open door in heaven, and the first voice
which 1 heard, the voice which was, as it were, of a trumpet. The voice
signified is not the first, but the former voice; viz. that already heard and
described in ch.1:10. The possessor of the voice is not indicated. It seems
rather that of an angel, or at any rate not that of Christ, whose voice in
ch.1:15 is described as “of many waters,” not as “of a trumpet. ” Which said.
The voice (φωνή - phonae) becomes masculine (λέγων - legon - saying).
Though whose voice is not stated, yet the vividness and reality of the vision
causes the writer to speak of the voice as the personal being whom it
signifies. Come up hither. That is in the Spirit — for the apostle
“immediately was in the Spirit” (v. 2). He was to receive a yet higher
insight into spiritual things (compare II Corinthians 12:2, where Paul was
“caught up into the third heaven”). And I will show thee. It is not
necessary to infer that these words are Christ’s. Though from Him all the revelation
comes, He may well use the ministry of angels through whom to signify His will.
Things which must be hereafter; or, the things which must happen hereafter. The
things which it is right should happen, and which, therefore, must needs happen
(δεῖ - dei - must). “Hereafter” (μετὰ ταῦτα); as before in v. 1, but in a somewhat
more general and less definite sense — at some time after this; but when
precisely is not stated. The full stop may possibly be better placed before
“hereafter;” in which case “hereafter” would introduce the following
phrase, exactly as before in this verse. There is no καὶ - kai – and -though in
the Textus Receptus, is omitted in the best manuscripts.
2 “And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in
heaven, and one sat on the throne. And immediately I was in the Spirit.
Omit “and” (see above), so that the passage may be rendered, After these things,
immediately, I was in the Spirit; a new scene was opened out, as before (in v. 1).
John was already in the Spirit; but now receives a fresh outpouring of grace,
enabling him to see yet more deeply into the mysteries of the kingdom of
God. And, behold, a throne was set in heaven; or, a throne was situated
(ἔκειτο – ekeito - laid, located). There is no action of placing or setting up.
Compare the vision of Ezekiel, “In the firmament that was above the head of
the cherubims there appeared over them as it were a sapphire stone, as the
appearance of the likeness of a throne” (Ezekiel 10:1), where the throne appears
above the cherubim, in the position of the cloud of glory (compare also Isaiah
6:1-2, where the seraphim are above). And one sat on the throne.
Probably the Triune God, to whom the Trisagien in v. 8 is addressed.
Some have thought that the Father is indicated, in contradistinction to the
other Persons of the Holy Trinity, and that it is from Him that the Son takes
the book in ch. 5:8. But as Cornelius a Lapide remarks, “The Son as Man may
well be said, especially in a sublime vision like this, to come to God.” The Person
is not named, because:
on ch. 3:12); or
3 “And He that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone:
and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto
an emerald.” And He that sat was to look upon like, etc.; or, He that sat like
in appearance (ὁράσει – horasei – to my vision). The word ὅρασις – horasis -
look - is found in this verse and in two other places only in the New Testament,
viz. in Acts 2:17 (where it is part of a quotation from Joel) and here, ch.9:17.
In the latter place the expression is ἐν τῇ ὁράσει – en tae horasei - and the
presence of the preposition, together with the article, seems to justify the
rendering “in the vision.” In the Septuagint ὅρασις is frequently used to
signify either “vision” or “appearance” (see I Samuel 3:1; Isaiah 1:1;
Lamentations 2:9; Ezekiel 7:13; Daniel 1:17 and 8:1; Obadiah 1:1; Nahum 1:1;
Habakkuk 2:2-3; and many others, where it is “vision.” Also Judges
13:6; Ezekiel 1:5, 13, 26-28; Daniel 8:15; Nahum 2:4; I Samuel 16:12; and many
others, where it is “appearance”). In the classics, ὅραμα – horama - signifies a “vision;”
ὅρασις, “sight,” the power of seeing. A jasper and a sardine stone. The jasper was
the last, and the sardius the first stone of the high priest’s breastplate (Exodus 28:17).
The jasper was the first, and the sardius the sixth of the foundations of the heavenly
stones of the Bible. The modern jasper is opaque, while it is evident that the jasper of
the Revelation is remarkable for its translucent character (see ch.21:11, “jasper stone,
clear as crystal;” ch. 21:18, “The building of the wall of it was of jasper; and the city
was pure gold, like unto clear glass”). It is evident that the stone was
characterized by purity and brilliancy — features which seem to point it out
as the modern diamond. The varying color, which, according to some
authorities, the jasper possessed, is not inconsistent with this view. It is
curious, too, that in Exodus 28:18, the Hebrew יַהְלַם, which in the
Authorized Version is rendered “diamond,” is represented in the Septuagint
by ἴασπις – iaspis – jasper - while in v. 20, יָשְׂפֶה - the English “jasper,” is ὀνύχιον –
onuchion. The sardius was the carnelian, always red, though somewhat varying in
shade. The name has been variously derived from;
color of raw flesh. But
the term being thus an allusion to the semitransparent nature of the stone.
The pure jasper, together with the red sardius, may fitly typify God’s purity
and mercy together with His justice and judgment. And there was a
rainbow round about the throne. The Greek ϊρις – iris - rainbow - which is used
here, is not found in the Septuagint? where τόξον – toxon – bow - is invariably
found, probably to avoid reference to a term which was so pre-eminently heathen.
The rainbow is here, as always (see Genesis 9:12-13), a token of God’s faithfulness in
keeping His promises. It is, therefore, a fit sign of comfort to those
persecuted Christians to whom, and for whose edification, this message
was sent. In sight like unto an emerald. The σμάραγδος – smaragdos – emerald –
is our modern green emerald. It was highly valued in Roman times. It was one of
the stones of the high priest’s breastplate, and the fourth foundation of the
recalls Ezekiel 1:28, “As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud
in the day of rain. so was the appearance of the brightness round about.”
Some have found a difficulty in the association of a rainbow with its varied
colors, and the single green hue of the emerald. But of course it is the
form only of the rainbow which is alluded to, not every quality which a
rainbow may possess. A circular green appearance was seen round the
throne, which perhaps may be described as a green halo. If the purity of the
jasper (see above) be allowed to symbolize God’s purity and spirituality,
and the sardine, man clothed with flesh, the green emerald may fitly
represent God’s goodness displayed in nature.
4 “And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon
the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white
raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.”
And round about the throne were four and twenty seats.
Throughout the vision no past tense is used. The vision represents the
worship of heaven (so far as it can be presented to human understanding)
AS IT CONTINUES ETERNALLY! Thrones.. seats. Render both by the
same English word, as in the Revised Version. Some doubt is attached to the
case of the first θρόνου – thronou – throne. Θρόνους – thronous – thrones –
is found in B, P; and this makes the construction nominative after ἰδού - idou –
lo, behold - compare v. 2); but א, A, 34, 35, read θρόνους, which causes εϊδον –
eidon – I saw; I perceived - to be understood. The point is immaterial, as the
meaning is the same. And upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting.
Omit “I saw” (see above). The number twenty-four, the double of twelve,
represents the Churches of both the old and the new covenants. The elders
are the heads or representatives of the body to which they belong (see
Exodus 19:7; 24:1, and many others; see also the list of elders in
Hebrews 11). In the Christian Church the same distinction exists (see
Acts 14:23, “ordained them elders;” Acts 20:17, Paul sent for
the elders of
the elders represent the saints of both the Old and New Testaments. Thus
they offer “the prayers of the saints” (ch.5:8). Christ, moreover, promised twelve
thrones to His disciples (Luke 22:30) though not to the exclusion of the saints of old,
for both are conjoined in ch. 21:12, 14. In ch.15:2-3, the victorious ones sing
“the song of Moses and of the Lamb.” Other interpretations which
have been advanced are:
garments and the number twenty-four, the number of courses of the
living creatures denote the Gospels, that is, the Christian Church.
Clothed in white raiment; the natural garb of heaven, symbolical of purify.
And they had on their heads crowns of gold (στεφάνους – stephanous – crowns;
wreaths – not διαδήματα – diadaemata - diadems). The crown of victory, not
necessarily the kingly crown. Possibly a reference to the priestly crown (see on
ch.2:10). Some are of opinion that the crowns here denote the kingly condition
of the saints. But Christians are nowhere in the New Testament described as “kings.”
(see ch. 1:6)
5 “And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and
voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the
throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.” The present tense (see on v. 4).
The whole symbolical of the power and majesty of God, as of old He manifested
His presence on Sinai. “There were thunders and lightnings and… the voice of the
trumpet” (Exodus 19:16). And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the
throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. The Holy Spirit, represented in
His sevenfold operation, by lamps, which illumine. The same idea is expressed
under another figure in ch.5:6, where the searching, enlightening power of the
Holy Spirit is typified by seven eyes.
6 “And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and
in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four
beasts full of eyes before and behind.’ And before the throne there was a sea of
glass like unto crystal. Sea of glass, or a glassy sea. The quality of “glassiness” may
refer to the pure appearance of the sea; or it may mean that the sea was in
consistency like unto glass; that is, solid and unyielding, so that there was nothing
strange in the fact that it supported weights. In either case, the notion is
repeated by parallelism in the next clause, “like unto crystal.” But the
glassy sea may mean “a glass laver,” and bear no reference to what is
usually called a sea. The brazen laver is described (I Kings 7:23) as a
“molten sea.” John may therefore mean that before the throne of God
was a laver of the purest material, just as the brazen laver was before the
temple. One difficulty here presents itself, viz. that there would be no use
for a laver in heaven, where all is pure, and the figure therefore appears a
little incongruous. But as it stood before the throne, where all who came
would have to pass by, it may fitly typify the waters of Baptism, passed by
all Christians; and the figure would be aptly suggested to John by the
furniture of the temple to which he has such constant allusions. And in the
midst of the throne, and round about the throne. This may mean either:
Ø that, the throne being rectangular, the four living beings were in the
middle of each side of the parallelogram; or
Ø while one was in front of the throne, the other three formed a
semicircle round it, one being directly behind, and two towards the ends.
Were four beasts; or, four living creatures (Revised Version); or, better
still, four living beings (ζῶα – zoa – living ones). The “beast” (θηρίον – thaerion)
of ch. 6:7; 11:7, etc., must not be confounded with the “living ones” of this passage.
The one quality connoted by the term here used is the possession of life.
The question of the precise meaning and interpretation of the vision of “the
living beings” is a difficult one, and much has been written concerning it.
The vision is evidently connected with the appearances described in Isaiah
6. and Ezekiel 1. and 10., and which are called in Isaiah “seraphim,” in
Ezekiel “cherubim.” We are led, therefore, to inquire what mental ideas
were pictured to the Jews under the symbolical forms of cherubim and
seraphim. The name cherub is probably connected with kirubu, the winged ox god
of the Assyrians, and with kurubu, the vulture or eagle (compare the γρῦπες – grupes –
the guardians of the treasures of the gods); and it is inferred that among heathen
nations the mythic cherubim denote the cloud-masses which appear to
guard the portals of the sky, and on which the sun-god issues at break of
day. With regard to the seraphim, compare the name of the fiery
serpents (s’rafim) of Numbers 21:6, and conclude that the term was
symbolical of the lightning, the weapon of the gods. Now, in Old
Testament passages the cherubim and seraphim are always pictured as the
attendants of God, and the workers of His purposes and judgments — an
idea which may readily have been assimilated by the Jews from the
conceptions of their heathen neighbors. Thus cherubim with the flaming
sword are placed at the entrance of the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:24);
Jehovah rode upon a cherub, and did fly (II Samuel 22:11; Psalm 18:10);
He communes with His people from between the cherubim (Exodus 25:22); He is the
Ezekiel 41:18 is adorned with cherubim, as being the dwelling-place of God; they
are the attendants of the glory of God in Ezekiel 1:22-28; and the seraphim fill an
analogous position (Isaiah 6:2). We may therefore infer that the appearance of the
“living beings” implied the presence of some order of beings in attendance
upon God, the workers of His will, and the manifestation of His glory.
Again, the term used (ζῶα) and the characteristics of the appearance
naturally and almost irresistibly lead us to interpret the form as one
symbolical of life. The human face, the ox as the representative of
domestic, and the lion of wild animals, and the eagle among birds, appear
to be typical of the four most conspicuous orders of animal life. The
ceaseless movements described in v. 8 portray the same idea. The four
living beings draw attention to the woes heaped upon created life
(ch. 6:8). The eyes denote never-resting activity. We may
therefore believe that the living beings are symbolical of all creation
fulfilling its proper office — waiting upon God, fulfilling his will, and
setting forth his glory. It is noteworthy that the human face, as distinct
from the Church, which is represented by the four and twenty elders,
appears to indicate the power of God to use, for His purposes and His glory,
that part of mankind which has not been received into the Church — the
part which constitutes the “other sheep, not of this fold” (John 10:16).
These representatives of created life worship God, and give (v. 11), as a
reason for ascribing glory and honor to him, the circumstance that “thou
didst create all things, and because of thy will they were, and were
created.” The following are other interpretations:
ancient writers, though there are many variations in assigning to each
Gospel its own representative. Victorinus considers the man to be a type of
Matthew, who sets forth prominently the human nature of our Lord; the
kingly lion is referred to Mark; the sacrificial ox to Luke; the
aspiring eagle to John. Amongst the supporters of this interpretation
(though varying in the precise applicability) are
St. Athanasius, St. Irenaeus, St. Gregory, St. Ambrose, Andreas,
Primasius, Bede, I. Williams, Wordsworth (for a full exposition of this
view, see Wordsworth, in loc.).
Lord, the ox; Matthew, the man; Paul, the eagle (Grotius).
was represented by the standards or four tribes (see Numbers 2.), on which
these devices were emblazoned according to tradition (Mede).
Grog. Naz.” (De Lyra and a Lapide).
differing from that first set forth above, bearing in mind the idea of the
ancients that all creation was formed from the four elements.
conscience (a Lapide, quoting Grog. Naz.).
nature, His perfect and spiritual nature soaring beyond all other men
(Arethas-Cramer, p. 245).
Full of eyes before and behind. From Isaiah 6:2-3 the idea of six
wings is borrowed, and also the “Holy, holy, holy” from Ezekiel 1:5-6;
the four figures and four faces (which are united in Ezekiel, but made
separate in the Revelation); and from Ezekiel 10:12 the body full of
eyes. The eyes denote unceasing activity. If the four living beings all faced
towards the throne while standing on each side of it, John would see
them in various positions, and observe the back as well as the front.
7 “And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf,
and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was
like a flying eagle.” (Upon “beast” (ζῶον - - zoon – living one), see on v. 6. For
the signification, see also above on v. 6.) Whether there was any difference
in the forms as a whole, or whether the difference consisted chiefly or
solely in the face, cannot be certainly known. Each being is symbolical of
some class or some quality of which it is representative. (For the
application, see on v. 6.)
8 “And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they
were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying,
Holy, holy, holy, LORD God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to
come.” And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him;
and they were full of eyes within. The stop should probably be after
wings: are full of eyes about and within. In Isaiah 6:2 we have “six
wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet,
and with twain he did fly.” These actions appear to indicate reverence,
humility, obedience. The eyes denote ceaseless activity. And they rest not
day and night, saying. In the Authorized Version “day and night” is
attached to “rest not.” but probably should be taken with “saying,” for, if
connected with the negative phrase, “nor” would be more likely to occur
than “and.” But the point is practically immaterial, since the sense of the passage is
the same in both readings. These representatives of life display the
characteristics of life in its fullest energy. They have no part in anything
which savors of death — no stillness, rest, or sleep. Holy, holy, holy. The
thrice-repeated “holy” has very generally been held to indicate the Trinity
the Godhead. Such is evidently the intention of the
ordering this passage to be read in the Epistle for Trinity Sunday. This
ascription of praise is often, though wrongly, spoken of as the
“Trisagion.” Lord God Almighty. “Almighty” is παντοκράτωρ – panitokrator –
the "All-Ruler," not παντοδύναμος – pantodunamos - the “All-Powerful.”
The former embraces the latter. Which was, and is, and is to come. This phrase
is no doubt intended to attribute to God the quality of eternal existence. But it
may also symbolize three aspects or departments of God’s dealings with mankind:
9 “And when those beasts give glory and honor and thanks to Him that
sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,” And when those beasts give;
or, and as often as the living beings shall give. The expression has a frequentative
force, and also points to a continued repetition of the act in the future; perhaps a
contrast to the past, since before the redemption the Church, as being of the whole
world, could not join in the adoration. Glory and honor and thanks.
The Eucharistic hymn recognizes the glory and honor which are the
inseparable attributes of God, and renders the thanks due to Him from His
creation. To Him that sat on the throne, who liveth forever and ever; or, to
Him sitting on the throne. The Triune God (see on v. 2). “Who liveth
forever and ever” declares that attribute which was ascribed to God, in the
song of the living beings, by the words, “which was, and is, and is to
come” (see on v. 8).
10 “The four and twenty elders fall down before Him that sat on the
throne, and worship Him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their
crowns before the throne, saying,” The four and twenty elders fall down before
Him that sat on the throne, and worship Him that liveth forever and ever. Shall fall,
etc. The tenses are all future except the present “sitteth” and “liveth.” The
four and twenty elders are the representatives of the universal Church (see
on v. 4). And cast their crowns before the throne, saying. Their
crowns of victory, στεφάνους – stephanous – crowns) (see on ch. 2:10 and here, v.4).
11 “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power:
for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were
created.” Thou art worthy, O Lord; or, thou art worthy, our Lord and
our God. In 13, the Syriac, Andreas, Arethas, Theodore-Stud., Arm., and
many others, ἅγιος – hagios - the holy one, is added. To receive glory and
honor and power (τήν δόξαν – taen doxan – the glory - etc.). The presence of the
(1) denotes universality, and the expression is thus equivalent to “all
glory,” “all honor,” “all power; or
(2) refers to the glory and honor mentioned in v. 9. The former view
seems more probable (compare ch.1:6). The Church is represented as
ascribing to God all power (δύναμιν – dunamin); that power which He exercises
in its fullness in heaven, and which, though partially abrogated on earth, He will
nevertheless again take up, as foretold in ch.11:17. For thou
hast created all things; or, for thou didst create all things (τὸ πάντα – ta panta –the all)
- the universe. The representatives of creation thank God for their existence;
the Church sees in His creation reason to ascribe power to him. Thus the
reason for the doxology is given — “because thou didst create.” And for
thy pleasure; much better, as in the Revised Version, and because of thy
will (διὰ τὸ θέλμα – dia to thelma ). When God willed it, the universe had no
existence; again, when He willed it, THE UNIVERSE CAME INTO BEING!
They are, and were created; or, they were, and were created (Revised Version).
There are three variations in the reading of this passage:
(1) η΅σαν - aesan – (existent?) is read in א al - fere Vulgate, Coptic, Syriac,
Arethas, Primasius (in another version), anon-Augustine, Haymo;
(2) εἰσί - eisi – they are - is read in S, P, 1, 7, 35, 49, 79, 87, 91, et al.
(3) οὐκ η΅σαν – ouk aesan – were not existent - is read in B, 14, 38, 51.
“They were” signifies “they existed,” whereas before they were not in
existence; “and were created” points to the manner of coming into
existence and the Person to whom this existence was due. If εἰσί be read,
the meaning is the same. οὐκ η΅σαν would simplify the sentence very much.
It would then run: For thy pleasure, or, At thy will they were not existent,
and again, at thy will they were created. But the weight of authority is
against this reading.
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