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Representation of the Divine Glory in Heaven.
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 bither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.
2 And immediately I was in the Spirit; and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.
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.
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.
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.
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
before and behind. 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.
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.
9 And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,
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,
11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
Ver. 1. After this I looked, &c.] Our received translation of this passage does not appear perfectly right. Meta tauta might more properly be rendered “ after these things.” For the reader will find, at the end of the verse, these words, uera Taura, repeated, and with plain reference to the same words at the beginning. On which account the translation should run thus: “I will shew thee the things which must happen afer these things.” The propriety of this alteration will be more fully seen by turning to chap. i. 19, and the note there.
The view of the actual state of the seven Churches, as revealed by the all-seeing Lord, is now completed ; and the prophet is called to behold a new scene, from another station, disclosing events which are to happen to the Church of Christ in future. And so called, he is immediately rapt in the Spirit. Now this inspiration need not have been mentioned, had the first vision been still proceeding; the Spirit, necessary to the comprehension of that vision, having already possessed him: “ I was in the Spirit,” (ch. i. 10.) This was therefore a second and separate inspiration, necessary to prepare him for a subsequent and distinct vision. The best commentators seem perfectly agreed in this opinion.
A door was opened in heaven.] Such an opening in heaven is described by the prophet Ezekiel, leading to the visions which he beheld, (ch. i. 1. x. 1.) Such an opening also appeared to the Baptist, (Matt. iii. 16 ;) and to Stephen, (Acts vii. 56.) Daubuz.
Ver. 2. A throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.] It is observed by Vitringa, that this vision of the Almighty on his heavenly throne has resemblance to visions seen and represented by other prophets; by Moses, (Exod. xiv. 9, 10;) by Isa. (vi. 1, 2;) by Ezekiel (i. 1, 26;) by Daniel (vii. 9.) There is a general resemblance, but at the same time such dissimilarity, as shows that they are not copied from each other, but from one common original, varied by circumstances, as portraits of the same person will appear, when drawn by different hands and in varied attitudes. By comparing all these together, it will clearly appear, that the Personage here sitting in nameless majesty is the great Jehovah, the God of Israel, and of the universe. The jasper, to which his splendid appearance is likened, is described by Pliny to be a pellucid watery gem, (Nat. Hist. lib. xxvii.) The glory of the Lord is likened, in another passage of the Apocalypse, to the jasper, where this gem is further described by the epithet kpvorallığwv, (ch. xxi. 11,) it is “ clear as crystal ;" whence it has been supposed to be what we now call the diamond, (Schleusner.) The clear brilliancy of the divine appearance seems to have suggested this likeness at first to the prophet's mind: but there was a fiery tinge in it, such as is represented in Ezekiel i. 27; on which account probably he added to the description the mention of the Sardine stone, which is stated by Pliny to have a fiery glow.
Ver. 3. A rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.] In the vision of Ezekiel, (ch. i. 27, 28,) there is a throne, and one sitting, and around him “as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about, as the appearance of the Bow, that is in the clouds, on the day of rain.' Such was this circular glory, for the bow would be seen in a circular form, as Vitringa rightly observes, present the
if the whole of it could come into view, at the same time, in our hemisphere. Its general appearance was of the green lustre of the emerald.
Ver. 4. And round about the throne were four-andtwenty seats; and upon the seats four-and-twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment, and they had on their heads crowns of gold.] Thus far the likeness of this vision to those of the Old Testament, which re
majesty of the Lord of Hosts, the glory of the God of Israel,” is apparent. But this circular session of the twenty-four elders is, as Vitringa observes, of a character and description entirely new. Though indeed we may note some intimation of such a session surrounding the Almighty in Isaiah xxiv. 23, where it is said, “ the Moon shall be confounded, and the Sun ashamed, when the Lord of Hosts shall reign in Mount Zion and Jerusalem, and before his ancients (or elders, apsolutepo.. Sept.) gloriously.”
This circumstance has occasioned much doubt and difficulty in the explication of these agents in the scene before us. It must be universally agreed that these four-and-twenty elders are persons very supremely distinguished : for they sit on thrones ( (Opovol) in the presence of the Almighty, with crowns of gold on their heads, and clothed in the pure
shining raiment (“ the righteousness of the saints") worn by the Saviour and his followers. Yet they are not angels; for they have nothing in common with those heavenly inhabitants, excepting their heavenly ministration; and the great body of angels is distinct from them, for they are afterwards added to the scene. (See ver. 6 of this chapter, and ver. 11 of the next.) It has therefore been commonly supposed that they represent human beings, but of what description, has not been so generally agreed.
It is their office, as appears throughout this divine book, to surround the throne, and sing praises to the great Creator. They perform the part in heaven, which is allotted to the priesthood on earth; and they are in number twenty-four, like the courses of the priests under the Law. By some commentators they have been supposed to belong to the Old Testament, by others to the New, exclusively; but they may belong to both, (so Mede,) for all are saved by the same Christian efficacy; and the purer worship of the one is typified and prefigured in the more formal services of the other.
The most important information which we seem to derive from this extraordinary exhibition is perhaps this,—and it is most consolatory,—that in the future heavenly life, human beings, of tried and superior faith and virtue, shall be admitted to a near approach to the glory and happiness of the heavenly throne.
The white raiment of these elders, (see ch. iii. 4, 5; vii. 9, 14; xix. 8, 14,) and their crowns of gold, that is, in the plainer language of scripture, “ crowns of righteousness, of life, of glory," (see 1 Cor. ix. 25; 2 Tim. iv. 8; 1 Pet. v. 4,) very strongly imply that they are human beings, or of " the redeemed from earth.”
It may be objected to this conclusion, that human beings, even in their glorified state, cannot be entitled to rank before angels in their approach to the heavenly throne. But it will be shown (ver. 6) that beings of the purest angelic nature possess in this scene a site nearer to the throne; and if other angels are not represented as occupying a prior place in this scene, it may be, that the object of it is to represent human salvation completed by the subsequent appearance of the Lamb on the throne; and