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
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"
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
Ac 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,
the former voice.
was as it were--Omit was, it not being in the
Greek. "Behold" governs in sense both "a door," &c., and "the
first voice," &c.
Come up hither--through the "open door."
be--come to pass.
hereafter--Greek, "after these things": after the present
2. And--omitted in the two oldest manuscripts, Vulgate,
I was, &c.--Greek, "I became in the Spirit" (see on
I was completely rapt in vision into the heavenly world.
was set--not was placed, but was situated,
one sat on the throne--the Eternal Father: the Creator
with Re 1:4,
where also the Father is designated, "which is, and was, and is to
come." When the Son, "the Lamb," is introduced,
a new song is sung which distinguishes the Sitter on the
throne from the Lamb, "Thou hast redeemed us to
"Unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb." So also in
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."
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
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
Re 1:14; 10:1;
Eze 1:4; 8:2;
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
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
at His coming again
4. seats--rather as the Greek is translated in this very
verse, "thrones," of course lower and smaller than the grand central
"the seat (rather, throne) of the beasts," in hellish parody of
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
not in their personal, but in their representative character), and
Twelve Apostles. So in
"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"
are antitypical to the seven-branched candlestick also in the holiest,
emblem of the manifold Spirit of God: "the sea of glass"
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 on
The "four living creatures"
(Re 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"
(1Ch 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,
"The thunderings express God's threats against the ungodly:
there are voices in the thunders
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
seven eyes . . . the seven Spirits of God;
Re 1:4; 21:23;
and fiery purifier of the godly, and consumer of the ungodly
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"
(Re 17:1, 15).
"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
above). There is in this sea depth and transparency, but not the
fluidity and instability of the natural sea (compare
It stands solid, calm, and clear, God's judgments are called "a
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
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
four beasts--The Greek for "beasts,"
Re 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
(Ex 22:1; 29:10,
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
as here, it occurs; also
Ps 99:3, 5, 9,
where He is praised as "holy," (1) on account of His majesty
about to display itself; (2) His justice
already displaying itself; (3) His mercy
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
there is added, "the whole EARTH is full of His