The Throne and its surroundings
We now come to the matter of the Book, which we have indicated by the letter X [in the section The Scope of the Apocalypse Shewn by its Structure]. It consists, as we have seen, of seven pairs of visions.
The first of each pair is a Vision |in heaven|; and the second of each pair is a Vision |on earth.|
Each Vision |in heaven| is preparatory to the Vision afterwards seen |on earth|: and what is seen |on earth| is the carrying out of the Vision previously seen |in heaven.| The one is mutually explanatory of the other. The heavenly Vision explains what is going to take place upon the earth; and the utterances in each heavenly Vision set forth the special object of the earthly events which are to follow. The former Vision of each pair is, therefore, the key to the latter.
These divisions are made by the Holy Spirit Himself; and the divisions , made by man into chapters, where they do not agree with the Divine divisions, are only misleading.
We shall have, therefore, wholly to ignore them, except for purposes of reference.
These heavenly and earthly Visions will form the great chapters or divisions of this part of our work. We shall take each of these fourteen Visions in order: first giving the structure, with any necessary expansions; following each with our own translation, based on a revised Greek Text, according to the authorities quoted in the notes; interspersed with such running expository remarks as may be necessary.
The structures themselves will be found full of teaching, and will give the scope of each section; showing, at a glance, what are the subjects of which our attention is to be fixed.
The following is the structure (in brief) of H^1, the first Vision |in heaven,| consisting of chapters iv. and v.
H^1.^ THE FIRST VISION |IN HEAVEN|
(chap. iv., v)
The Throne and its surroundings
H^1 A iv.1-8-. The Throne, the Elders and the Zoa B -8-11. The utterances of the Zoa and the Elders. Theme: Creation.
A v.1-7. The Throne and the Book: the Lion and the Lamb. B 8-14. The New Song of the Zoa and the Elders. Other heavenly utterances. Theme: Redemption.
From this it will be seen that the great subjects of this Vision |in heaven| are: --
THE THRONE, THE BOOK, AND THE LAMB.
That which comes first in the Book gives its importance and significance to the whole Book. It is the key to all that follows, and carries us forward by the Spirit to the future age, the coming |Day of the Lord.| The first thing seen and the first mentioned (in verse 2) is
|Immediately, I became in Spirit; and behold! a throne was set in heaven.|
No words could be more important as fixing our minds on the great central and all-governing fact which pervades the Book of this prophecy.
It is the day spoken of in Ps. ciii.19.
|The Lord hath prepared His throne in the heavens;
And His kingdom ruleth over all.|
And in Pss. ix. and x., which treat of the coming great Tribulation as the |times of trouble| (ix.9, and x.1), it is declared: The Lord |hath prepared His throne for judgment.| And in Ps. xi.4-6 we read:
|The Lord is in his holy temple,
The Lord's throne is in heaven:
His eyes behold,
His eyelids try the children of men.
The Lord trieth the righteous:
But the wicked and him that loveth violence His soul hateth. Upon the wicked he shall rain snares,
Fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest:
This shall be the portion of their cup.|
These three Psalms foretell and refer to the scenes described more fully in the Apocalypse.
Daniel (vii.9, 10) also speaks of this very moment when he says |I behold till the thrones were set| (not |cast down| as in AV. but |placed| as in RV. ) |and the ancient of days did sit... His throne was like the fiery flame and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him; thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: THE JUDGMENT WAS SET, and the books were opened.|
This throne speaks of judgment; |the throne of grace| is no longer seen. Grace is the character of this present dispensation; while judgment, righteousness, and justice will characterise that which is coming. The heavenly voice announces it. |Just and true are thy ways, thou king of nations| (xv.3 q.v.). |Thy judgments are made manifest| (verse 4). |Thou art just, who art and who wast the holy One, because thou judgedst thus| (xvi.5; see also verse 7, and xix.2, 11). The martyred ones are represented as crying |How long, O Sovereign Lord, the holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on the dwellers on the earth| (vi.10). The reply is, not that this cry is out of place, but that it is only premature: they are to wait a little longer. Heaven itself bids all to rejoice at the execution of judgment (xviii.20; xix.2). |Fear God and give glory to him| (is the cry that will then go forth), |for the hour of his judgment is come| (xiv.7). Judgment is also the final Vision (xx.4); and it is given to the saints who have overcome. Psalm cxlix.5-9 also tells of that final scene.
|Let the saints be joyful in glory:
Let them sing aloud upon their beds.
Let the high praises of God (El) be in their mouth, And a two-edged sword in their hand;
To execute vengeance upon the heathen,
And punishments upon the people;
To bind their kings with chains,
And their nobles with fetters of iron;
To execute upon them the judgment written:
This honour have all His saints. Hallelujah.|
The Throne, therefore, with which this first Vision |in heaven| commences, is the great central object. The structure shows this; and it shows also other prominent objects, viz. the Book and the Lamb, and their relation to two great subjects, Creation (chap. iv.) and Redemption (chap. v).
Before we proceed to the translation we must give the expansion of A. iv.1-8-. Its importance is seen from the minuteness with which the Throne is described.
A. iv.1-8-. The Throne.
A a 1-3-. On it: the Enthroned One.
b d -3. Round it: a Rainbow.
e 4. Round it: 24 Thrones.
c 5-. Out of it: Lightnings.
b d -5. Before it: Seven Lamps.
e 6-. Before it: a Crystal Sea.
a -6-8-. In the midst and round about it: the four Zoa.
We now proceed to give the translation of each separate member, marking each with the corresponding letters, so that its place in the general structure and plan can be easily referred to, found and followed.
A. iv.1-8-. THE THRONE.
a.1-3-. On it: the Enthroned One.
iv.1. After these things] Seven times in this book we have this or a similar expression (iv.1; vii.1, 9; xv.5; xviii.1; xix.1; xx.3). As in the last case a thousand years intervene, it is clear that what is seen does not necessarily follow immediately. (It is a Hebrew idiom. Compare Gen. xxii.1).
I looked, and, behold a door set open IN HEAVEN] There are five openings mentioned in this Book; and, while they do not mark special literary divisions, yet they are all of the deepest importance and significance. See xi.19; xv.5; xix.11; and xxi.1. This first is a |door| opened to admit John. But when the Armies of Heaven come forth, then John says: |And I saw Heaven opened| (xix.11), and not merely a door. The same happened to Ezekiel when he saw |visions of (or from) God.|
And the former voice which I heard (at the beginning, i.10) was as it were of a trumpet speaking with me (i.10), saying, |Come up hither, and I will show thee what things must come to pass hereafter|] There is no necessity for taking these words (...) (die genesthai) differently from i.1, 19; xxii.6. Matt. xxiv.6; xxvi.64. Dan. ii.28, 29. (...) (meta tauta) means (literally) after these things, when used in historic narrative; but when used in promise or prophecy the expression means hereafter. See i.19 and ix.12.
2. Immediately I came to be in Spirit] See chap. i.10; xvii.3; and xxi.10. And for the further uses of (...) (en pneumati) in spirit, see Rom. ix.1; xiv.17; xv.16. I Cor. xii.3, 9.2 Cor. vi.6. I Thess. i.5. Jude 20 and Micah iii.8.
and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and upon the throne was One sitting] This is evidently the Father; who henceforth, throughout the book, is spoken of as |He that sitteth upon the throne.| He is distinguished from the Son in vi.16; vii.10.
3. And He that sat was, in appearance like to a jasper stone and a sardius; and there was a rainbow round about the throne, -- like, in appearance, to an emerald] It cannot be known precisely what is meant by the appearance of these stones, nor can we identify them satisfactorily. But there is no doubt as to the |rainbow.| It speaks of a scene of judgment -- not of water, but of fire; and it tells also of hope and deliverance for those concerned in the covenant of which it is the |sign.| The form tells us of the covenant of Gen. ix.8-17; and the colour, being the opposite of that of fire, tells of mercy in the midst of judgment (Hab. iii.3. Ps. ci.1).
4. And round about the throne (behold) four and twenty thrones; and upon the four and twenty thrones elders sitting, arrayed in white garments] The word for the Elders' thrones is the same as that for |the throne| of verse 2. Probably they were both smaller and lower; as they were also evidently subordinate.
and on their heads crowns of gold] The common interpretation is that the Elders are symbolical of the Church of God. But why not leave them alone? Why must they be something different from what they are? David arranged his twenty-four courses of the Priesthood (I Chron. xxiv.3-5) after the heavenly order. And he had it all |by the Spirit.| |All this,| said David, |the Lord made me understand in writing by His hand upon me| (I Chron. xxviii.11-13, 19). It was the same in the case of the Tabernacle which served |unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as when Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the Tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern showed thee in the mount| (Heb. viii.5 and refs.). Hence, they are called |patterns of things in the heavens| (Heb. ix.23). It was the same with David and the Temple, so that when David copied on earth was a pattern of real things |in the Heavens.| The Temple worship on earth was therefore modelled on that worship which is carried on in heaven: and which , if we were caught up now, we should see being carried on there by these heavenly leaders of heaven's worship.
These elders are the heads of the heavenly priesthood; the chief-priests or elders of Heavenly worship and rule. The comparative (...) (presbuteros) elder) has been distinguished from (...) (presbutes) old man), from the most ancient times, as marking and denoting official position. It is preserved in our Eng. Alderman or elder man. In the papyri is it constantly used of both civil and religious rulers. The affairs of the whole priesthood of the Egyptian mysteries were conducted by an annual council of 25 presbuteroi. The word does not mean |priest| in any sense, for we often find the expression |presbyter-priest| |used of a ruler among priest,| so that there were priestly-governors as well as civil-governors. The word is used in this sense in the Old Testament of |elders of the priests.| (See Isa. xxxvii.1. Jer. xix.1; and passages given below). This is the meaning of the word here also.
David distributed his twenty-four courses, sixteen from the sons of Eleazar; and eight from the sons of Ithamar. These were |governors of the sanctuary and governors of the house of God.| (I Chron. xxiv.5). If we ask, Why twenty-four? the answer is because twelve is the number of governmental perfection; and wherever we find it, or any multiple of it, it is always associated with government and rule.
It was the number (24,000) of the Levites who were to serve in the house of the Lord (I Chron. xxiii.3, 4).
It was the number of the prophets who were to lead the praises of God with instruments of song (I Chron. xxv.31).
The porters of the sons of Levi were twenty-four (I Chron. xxvi.17-19).
The same number obtained in the Palace as in the Temple.
Twelve captains presided over 24,000 (I Chron. xxvii.1-15).
Twelve officers were set over the Treasuries (verses 25-31).
So these four-and-twenty elders are the princely leaders, rulers, and governors of Heaven's worship. They are kings and priests. They were not, and cannot be, the Church of God. They are seen already crowned when the throne is first set up. They are crowned now. They were not, and are not redeemed, for they distinguish between themselves and those who are redeemed. See their song below (chap. v.9, 10 and RV.). They speak of the time of |giving the reward to thy servants| (xi.18), not to us thy servants. They are heavenly unfallen beings, and therefore they are |arrayed in white robes.| They speak of Creation (iv.8-11). And when they sing of Redemption (v.8-14) it is called |a new song.| Redemption would be no new song to the Church of God, for it would be the old song which they had so often sung upon earth as |the old, old story.| One of them speaks to John (vii.13-17) as though separate and different from both the great multitude and from John himself. They offer |golden bowls full of odours, which are the prayers of the saints (v.8). They are priests ministering for others. Is this the work of the Church? Their functions are altogether priestly. See 2 Chron. v.11-14. And, as |elders,| they were also rulers; and hence are seen seated on thrones (see Gen. xxiv.2. Ex. iii.16. In 1 Sam. xxx.26, and 2 Sam. iii.17; v.3). They are next to the King, his councillors. (Compare 2 Sam. xvii.4 and 1 Kings viii.1-3). From all this we may gather the position of these four-and-twenty elders; and see that, to interpret them of the Church is to force many passages of Scripture into a meaning which they cannot have.
5. and out of the throne go forth lightnings and voices and thunders ; and seven torches of fire are burning before the throne, which are the seven spirits of God] See above on i.4; iii.1; and compare v.6. These seven spirits are |before the throne| ready to obey the commands of Him who sits thereon. The throne itself has all the accessories of judgment which inspire awe and speak of coming wrath.
6. and (behold) before the throne, like a glassy sea, like crystal] It does not say what it was, but only what it was |like.| Having been told what it was |like,| it is not for us to seek for any further symbolism. Heaven, we believe, is a place of glorious realities, and not a place of unsubstantial shadows. We shall one day see what John saw, and then we shall know. Now, we have to believe what is written until faith shall be exchanged for sight.
And in the midst of the throne and around the throne, four Zoa, full of eyes before and behind.7. and the first Zoon was like a lion, and the second Zoon like an ox, and the third Zoon having the face as a man, and the fourth Zoon like a flying eagle.8. and the four Zoa had each of them respectively, six wings; around and within they are full of eyes] The word |beasts| is not the same as in chaps. xii. and xvii. Here it is (...) (zoon), and means any living creature; but in chap. xiii. and xvii. it is (...) (therion), a wild, untamed beast. It is difficult to find a term which shall exactly represent the original. |Living creature| is both vague and cumbrous; |living beings| implies too much of humanity; |living ones| would be better, but as the word is sometimes used in the singular number it would cause confusion to say |living one,| inasmuch as |the Living One| is used in this book as one of the Divine titles of the Lord Jesus. We have judged it better therefore to leave the word untranslated, and use Zoon in the singular, and Zoa in the plural. No difficulty will be experienced, as the word is already partly Anglicised and understood in our words, Zoology, Zoological, Zoophyte, Zootomy, Zoonymy, &c., which all have to do with living things; animate as opposed to inanimate.
The first time the Zoa are mentioned in the Bible they are named, though they are not described. In Gen. iii.24 they are called |the Cherubim,| and this word has never been translated in any Version. We have, therefore, a good precedent for leaving their other names, Zoon and Zoa, also untranslated.
The Zoa are described in Ezekiel (chap. i.5-14), and they are identified in Ezek. x.20 with the cherubim. |This is the living creature that I saw under the God of Israel by the river of Chebar; and I knew that they were the cherubims.| The two terms are used interchangeably in Ezekiel. Compare i.22 and x.1, 15. No one can tell us anything about them beyond what God has Himself told us. Man's opinions as to what they |represent| are hardly worth controverting. Our own opinions are equally worthless; we can only point our readers to what God has revealed about them.
Some would have it that they represent the Godhead; but it is hardly likely that God, who commanded that no emblem of Deity should be made, should make one Himself; especially one like unto |an ox that eateth grass.| (See Deut. iv.15, 16. Rom. i.22, 23. Ps. cvi.19, 20). Moreover, they offer worship, but are never worshipped themselves (Isa. vi. Rev. iv., v.).
Some think they represent the four Gospels; but animals can hardly represent books. Moreover, it is difficult to see the point of the four Gospels guarding the Tree of Life, or occupying such a prominent place in the Tabernacle and in the Temple.
That they cannot be the Church is clear from the following facts:
1. Three out of the four are animals, and there must be some sort of congruity between even a symbol and the thing signified.
2. They call for judgment (chap. vi.), and give the bowls |full of wrath of God| to the Seven Vial Angels (chap. xv.). This is surely not the work of the Church, either now or in the future.
3. Rev. v.9, 10, according to the correct text and translation, shows that these Zoa do not speak of themselves as redeemed, but distinguish themselves from such. See below, our exposition of those verses.
4. They cannot be any ordinary angelic beings, inasmuch, as they are distinguished from the angels in chap. v.8, 11. Neither do they ever receive any commission, as angels always do. On the contrary, they give orders, as angels do not.
5. They are attached to the Throne of God, and are never seen apart from it.
6. They are first mentioned, as we have said, in Gen. iii.24: |So He drove out the man; and He placed (in a Tabernacle), at the east of the garden of Eden, Cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.| The verb |keep,| here, means to preserve and care for, and guard, as in Gen. ii.15 and xviii.19, etc. We first see them in connection with the Fall; and we note the fact that they are representative of animate creation, hence their name Zoa. Their number, four, connects them also with the earth ; and Rom. viii.19-21 makes the whole creation to partake of the effects of the Fall |For the earnest expectation of the creation waiteth for the revelation of the sons of God. For to vanity was the creation subjected, not willingly, but on account of Him who subjected the same: and this was in hope, because the creation itself also shall be freed from the bondage of corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth together and travaileth together until now| (Rom. viii.19-21).
These words receive a new significance if we regard the Cherubim, or Zoa, as being the concrete representation of this groaning creation; and as being the pledge that its groaning shall one day cease, and its hope be fulfilled. That hope was given when they were first placed, as in an Tabernacle, (as the word means), at the gate of Eden. There, at that time, was the Lord's presence manifested. Hither Cain and Abel brought their offerings; and from this |presence of the Lord| Cain went out (Gen. iv.14-16).
It may be that the Tabernacle of God continued up to the time of the Flood. For Shem is spoken of as the custodian of this |dwelling place.| The word |placed| in Gen. iii.24 is (...) (shaken), and it means to station or dwell in a tabernacle, and is commonly spoken of as God's dwelling among men and of His dwelling place. In Gen. ix.26, 27, we read:
|Blessed be the Lord God of Shem;
And Canaan shall be his servant.
God shall enlarge Japhet:
And He (i.e., God) shall dwell (or place His tabernacle) in the tents of Shem.|
Here the three patriarchs are mentioned. Canaan (i.e., Ham) and Japhet occupy the two central lines; while Shem and the Lord His God occupy the two outer lines. If this be so, then, this Tabernacle of the Divine presence continued among men down to the Flood and contained the Cherubim.
After the Flood, the Teraphim (probably a corruption of Cherubim) were made in imitation of them, and became objects of worship. The remembrance of them was carried away by the scattered nations (Gen. xi.), and probably the Assyrian sculptures are traditional corruptions of the Cherubim, for they consisted of a man with an eagle's head; a lion or a winged bull with a human head.
When God set up the Tabernacle in Israel it was that He might |dwell among them| (Exod. xxv.8; where we have the same word as that used in Gen. iii.24: |placed in a tabernacle|). The first thing made was not the Tabernacle itself, but the Ark of the Covenant with its mercy-seat and the Cherubim (Exod. xxv.10-12). These were not the real cherubim, of course; they were only copies of them on the mercy-seat. Representations of them were woven into the Vail (Exod. xxvi.31; xxxvi.35). This could only have been to show that, henceforth, the hope of creation was bound up with |the hope of Israel|; and, that both were bound up in, and based on, the merits of atoning blood. From |between the Cherubim| God spoke; and there His glory dwelt. (I Sam. iv.4.2 Sam. vi.2. Ps. lxxx.1, 3, 7, 14, 19. Isa. xxxvii.16). The original Covenant with Adam, and with the Son of Man Himself, takes in the whole animate creation, and tells of the hope of its deliverance (Ps. viii.6-8; cxlviii.7-11). And millennial glory will not be complete without that hope being fulfilled (Isa. xi.6-9).
In Rev. iv. and v. the Son of Man is about to realise this hope of creation; and, therefore, creation rejoices in the blessed prospect. The Zoa are seen attached to the throne, and they speak of creation. The earth is about to be judged; and their deliverance is at hand. Hence they say, |Thou art worthy, O Lord and our God, to receive glory and honour and power; for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they were, and were created| (iv.11). They speak, too, of the redemption on which the coming deliverance is based (chap. v.9, 10; see below); and thus explain the object with which they had been associated with the blood-sprinkled mercy-seat.
In all this we are on Old Testament ground; for when allusion is made to these momentous truths in Rom. viii., creation's hope is spoken of as being distinct from that of the Church, though bound up with it, and depending upon its manifestation in glory. In brief, then, we may say, that the cherubim are heavenly realities; living ones of whom we know nothing by experience. But, the references made to them in Scripture teach us that in some way they tell us of Creation's association with the effects of the Fall, and of the future hope of deliverance from those effects. Hence, their introduction here, now that that deliverance is at hand; and hence their words also, which tell that it is near.
This brings us to the utterances of the Zoa and of the twenty-four Elders in B, iv. -8-11.
B, chap. iv. -8-11.
THE UTTERANCES OF THE ZOA AND ELDERS.
The Theme -- Creation.
We now come to B, iv. -8-11, the subject of which is the worship and utterances of the Zoa and the Elders. This is part of the larger structure of H^1, and still part of the first vision seen |in Heaven.|
The following is the structure:
B f -8-. Worship of the Zoa. |And they rest not
g -8. Their utterance (creation). |Holy, holy, holy... f 9, 10. Worship of the Elders. |And when...
g 11. Their new song (creation). |Thou art worthy...
iv. -8. And they have no cessation day and night, saying |Holy, Holy, Holy
Lord God Almighty
Who was, and who is, and who is coming.|
This is the first of all the seventeen Heavenly utterances. They begin with God Himself, and relate to what He is in Himself; and not to what He has, or has done, or is going to do. The emphasis is on |who was,| because it is put first. The object of the whole Book, and of all that it records, is to establish the Holiness of God, which is here, at the very outset, the first thing that is proclaimed. The reign of Heaven is about to be established in the Earth, when all shall be holy, where now all is unholy. Hence we have the same thought in the great Kingdom-prayer:
|Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed (or Holy) be Thy Name,
Thy Kingdom come,
Thy will be done on earth as it is heaven.|
Then, and not till then, we have |us.| |Give us,| etc. It is remarkable also that there are three Psalms which proleptically speak of this coming reign. Psalms xciii., xcvii., and xcix. The three Psalms which precede these commence with the command to sing, and then these Psalms which follow each begin |the Lord reigneth.| Not yet can they be sung of accomplished facts, but the day is coming when they can, and will be, sung of then present glorious realities. The point, however, we wish to notice is that, each of these three Psalms ends with a reference to God's holiness, because it will then be said |the Lord reigneth.| But the heavenly utterances in Revelation begin with the proclamation of this holiness, because those who say |Holy, Holy, Holy,| are about to call for the judgments which are to bring in that coming Holy Reign. (See Isa. xxiii.18. Zech. xiv.20, 21). Those three Psalms must be carefully read in the light of the Apocalypse.
The first (xciii.) is called for by the song for the Sabbath (xcii.), which speaks of the millennial Sabbath-keeping which is to come, and tells of the destruction of the wicked, the perishing of the enemies and the scattering of the workers of iniquity, before the Lord is exalted as most High for evermore. (verses 7-9). Then comes the answer in Psalm xciii., which begins |THE LORD REIGNETH,| and tells of the Throne being established, and ends with the declaration, |holiness becometh thine house, O Lord, for ever.|
The second (xcvii.) is called for in the Psalm xcvi.1. |O sing unto the Lord a new song; sing unto the Lord, all the earth|; and speaks of the millennial glory, which is summed up in verse 11: |Let the heavens rejoice,
And let the earth be glad.|
This, too, is the burden of the final heavenly utterances in Rev. xix.5, 7. Then comes the answer in Psalm xcvii., which begins |THE LORD REIGNETH,| and tells how |righteousness and judgment are the habitation of this throne| (verse 2; and compare Rev. xv.3; xvi.7; xix.2); and goes on to speak of the very judgments which are described in the Apocalypse, and also of the same exaltation of Jehovah high above all the earth (verse 9; compare xcii.8). It ends by calling on the righteous to |rejoice in the Lord... and give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness.|
The third (xcix.) is called for in Psalm xcviii.1-3: |O sing unto the Lord a new song: for he hath done marvellous things: his right hand and his holy arm hath gotten him the victory... He hath remembered his mercy and his truth toward the house of Israel.| Then comes the answer in Psalm xcix., which begins |THE LORD REIGNETH; let the people tremble: he sitteth between the cherubim, let the earth be moved| (marg., stagger). Three times in this Psalm we have the three-fold |Holy| of the Zoa in Rev. iv.8 giving us its interpretation and significance:
Verse 3. |Let them praise thy great and terrible name: for it is holy.|
Verse 5. |Exalt ye the Lord our God, and worship at his footstool, for he is holy.| And
Verse 9. |Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his holy hill; for he is holy.|
All this truth and teaching is embraced in this first heavenly utterance, spoken by the four Zoa.
We have called attention to the fact that each Vision seen |IN HEAVEN| is marked by heavenly voices; and we have stated that it is in these we must look for the key to the judgment scenes which follow on earth. We shall have, therefore, to give more attention than is usually done to the significance of these utterances; weigh their words, learn their lessons, and note their bearing on what follows |on earth.|
9. And when the Zoa shall give glory, honour, and thanksgiving to Him who sitteth upon the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,
10. The four and twenty elders shall fall down before Him who sitteth upon the throne, and they shall worship Him who liveth for ever and ever, and shall cast their crowns before the throne, saying: |Worthy art thou, O Lord and our God,
To receive glory, and honour, and power;
Because Thou didst create all things,
And for thy pleasure they were, and are created|] Thus, creation is the subject of the first great utterance of the Zoa and the Elders. Their words announce the blessed fact that the judgments which are about to take place, have for their great object the removal of the curse, and of all unholiness from the earth; and the ending of creation's groaning and travail. These heavenly elders take part in this heavenly utterance, and they acknowledge its truth by bowing their heads in worship and homage.
A, chap. v.1-7.
THE THRONE AND THE BOOK: THE LION AND THE LAMB.
Having considered the member B, iv. -8-11, we now come to the member A, v.1-7, the subject of which is The Throne, and the Book: The Lion and the Lamb.
Here, as in A. iv.1-8-, we have the Throne. But, here it is rather Him that sitteth upon the throne, than the Throne itself.
A h 1-. Right hand. |And I saw...
i -1. A Book.
k 2-5. The Lion. |And I saw...
k 6. The Lamb. |And I saw...
i 7-. The Book. |And he came...
h -7. Right hand. |Out of the right hand.
v.1. And I saw on the right hand of Him that sitteth upon the throne, a Book (or Roll), written within and on the back, having been sealed with seven seals] Much ingenuity has been spent in the interpretation of this |Book,| and what it represents. Some have suggested that it is the history of the Christian Church, but we trust our readers are fairly convinced by this time that the Church is not the subject of the Apocalypse.
Neither can it be |the book of the Covenant| yet to be made with Israel, because that New Covenant is in mercy (Heb. x.16, 17), while this book has to do with judgment. Why should we go out of our way to seek for a far-fetched meaning when we have such plain indications in the Word itself of what a sealed book denotes. In Is. xxix.11 we read: |And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed.| In Dan. xii.1-3, we read of the Great Tribulation, which is the central subject of the Apocalypse. But Daniel is not permitted to do much more than make known the fact of the great Tribulation out of which Daniel's people, the Jews, were to be delivered. The particulars, and the circumstances of that day, were not to be made known at that time by Daniel. Hence, it is said to him (Dan. xii.4): |But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end.| And when Daniel enquired (verse 8) as to |what should be the end of these things?| The answer is (verse 9), |Go thy way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.| The details of a former vision Daniel was told also to seal up. |Wherefore shut thou up the vision: for it shall be for many days| (viii.26).
What ought we to look for as the first thing, in the Apocalypse, which, as we have seen, has the end of the |many days| and |the time of the end| for its great subject, but the unsealing of this book, the sealing of which is so prominently spoken of in the book of Daniel? When the time comes for the fulfilment of all that is written in this book, then the seals are opened. Even then, though these seven seals be opened, there are still certain things which even John himself has to |seal up,| viz., |the things which the seven thunders uttered| (x.4). We take it therefore that the opening of the seals of this book is the enlargement, development and continuation of the Book of Daniel, describing, from God's side, the judgments necessary to secure the fulfilment of all that He has foretold. The opening of each seal has a special judgment as its immediate result. The roll given to Ezekiel was of similar import. |He spread it before me, and it was written within and without; and there were written therein, lamentations and mourning and woe| (Ezek. ii.10). In like manner, the opening of the seals of this book disclose tribulation and mourning and woe. But there is more in the |Book| than this. There is also the object of all this judgment. That object is the redemption of the forfeited inheritance. (See the notes on verse 2, below). The special importance of this |Book| (and all that is involved in it) is set forth by its structure, which is as follows: --
THE EXPANSION OF k., v.2-5.
k l 2-. The Angel's proclamation. |And I saw... m -2. Question. |Who is worthy...?
First consequence: Inability
n o 3-. No one able. (Agent).
p -3. To open the book. (Action).
Second consequence: Weeping.
n o 4-. No one able. (Agent).
l 5-. The Elder's consolation. |And one...
m 5. Answer to Question. |Behold...
The Translation of k, v.2-5.
v.2 And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice -- |Who is worthy to open the Book, and to loose the seals thereof?|] It looks as though there is something more in this 7-Sealed Book than what we have said on verse 1. There is evidently more in this book than the mere continuation of Daniel's prophecies. This is there, without doubt, but there must be that which calls for all these judgments and requires the putting forth of all this power. If the Book has to do with the whole subject of prophecy, with its causes, and not merely with its consequences and its end, then it may well take us back to the beginning, to which the cherubim already point us, when man was driven out from Paradise, when he forfeited his inheritance; and the promise of a coming Deliverer and Redeemer was given.
This First Vision |in Heaven| (iv. v.) takes up the history of man in relation to the Throne, at the point where it was left in Gen. iii.24. The Throne is here set up; but man is outside and unable still to gain access to |The Tree of Life.| Hence this proclamation |Who is worthy?| Who has the right to redeem the forfeited inheritance, the lost Paradise? Satan is in possession of this world now. He is its |God| and |prince| (John xii.31; xiv.30; xvi.11. Eph. ii.2), and as such he was able in a peculiar way to tempt Him who had come to redeem it in the only lawful way in which it could be redeemed. (See Lev. xxv.25; Deut xxv.5; and Ruth iv.1-6). If this be so, then we understand this proclamation, which has so important a place in this heavenly vision. And the enquiry will be like that of Boaz, Who will act the Goel's (or Redeemer's) part for man and for Israel, and recover his lost estate. Jer. xxxii. shows that a sealed book was given in connection with such a transaction (read verses 6-16); and if so, then it serves as an illustration for a much weightier redemption, even that of the new song which immediately follows in this Heavenly Vision; the song whose theme is nothing less than the Redemption of Creation, accomplished by One who was altogether worthy, both by unanswerable right and unequalled might. For the Goel was an avenger as well as a Redeemer.
3. and no one was able, in the heaven nor upon the earth, neither under the earth, to open the Book, or to look at it] The worthiness required is so great that no created being is able even to contemplate it. There was not one that could make reply to the herald's challenge.
4. and I was weeping much because no one worthy was found to open the Book or to look at it] The scene must have been very vivid and real to John to produce this sadness. These tears were not caused by disappointed inquisitiveness! Surely, he must have realised, somewhat, the serious nature of the consequences involved if one worthy could not have been found. There must have been something, and enough in the character or appearance of the Book, to tell him this: for no voice had yet said anything as to its nature or contents. One of the Elders breaks the silence.
5. And one of the elders saith to me |Weep not! Behold the Lion which is of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, prevailed so as to open the Book, and shall loose the seven seals of it] Not one of the Elders, or the Cherubim, or Angel, or Spirit, could accomplish the work of the Goel (or Redeemer). None of these could be |next of kin,| none but the Son of Man, who was David's Son and David's Lord. None but He who was at once the |Root| from whence David sprang, and the |offspring| which sprang from David, could be next-of-kin, and therefore entitled to redeem the forfeited Inheritance of the Throne, the Land, and the People. He was |the Lion of the Tribe of Judah| (Gen. xlix.8-10. Num. xxiv.7-9 Isa. ix.6, 7; xi.1. Ps. lxxxix.20-29).
The Lord Jesus will prevail as the Lion; and it is of this the Book treats; but, He first prevailed as the Lamb slain. Hence, when John turned, he saw, not a Lion, according to the Elder's announcement, but a Lamb, according to the prior historical fact.
He first takes the place of man as outside the garden and the tree of life (Gen. iii.24). His Redemption work commenced on earth by His coming, not into a garden, but into a wilderness (Matt. iv.1). He approaches that flaming sword and hears the words of Him who said |Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, and against the MAN that is My fellow, saith the Lord of Hosts| (Zech. xiii.7). This sword was sheathed in Him, and thus He becomes entitled to enter and worthy to take the Book.
When John first looks (verse 1), he sees only |the Throne and the Book,| which are separated from the second by the structure. For when he looks the second time (verse 6), he sees |the Lamb.| The Lamb is now seen in the midst of the Throne. He occupies no longer the outside place. He is entitled to enter and approach the throne, for He alone is |worthy.|
6. And I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four Zoa, and in the midst of the Elders -- a Lamb, standing as having been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God, having been sent into the whole earth] The Elder spoke of a Lion: but John turns and see a Lamb. The Elder spoke of the consequence: John sees the cause. The Lion is about to put forth His power and eject the usurper from his dominion. |The prince of this world is (already) judged| (John xvi.11). Sentence has been passed; a judgment summons has been issued (John xii.31; xvi.11); and execution is about to be put in (Rev. xii). But all this is here first shown to be in virtue of the |right| obtained by the payment of the redemption price: that is why John sees a Lamb as |having been slain.|
Past payment is the basis of future power (Col. ii.15. Heb. ii.14). This it is which established the worthiness of the true Goel. The horns of the Lamb speak of His power (I Sam. ii.1.2 Sam. xxii.3. Ps. lxxv.4; cxxxii.17; cxlviii.14. Lam. ii.3. Ezek. xxix.21. Dan. viii.5, 20, 21, etc.). This power is Divine and has a spiritual and almighty agency able to carry it out. The seven eyes, Zech. iv.10 and iii.9, denotes the fact that the Lord is about to remove the iniquity of the Land of Israel.
7. And He came and took it out of the right hand of Him who sitteth upon the throne] Thus ends the member which has for its subject |The Throne and the Book; the Lion and the Lamb.| It corresponds with Dan. vii.9-14, where the Son of Man is seen coming to the Ancient of Days and receiving a kingdom, dominion, and glory; and it is this which is immediately celebrated in the New Song which follows in chap. v.8-14, concluding this first Vision |In Heaven.|
B., chap. v.8-14.
THE NEW SON OF THE ZOA AND ELDERS.
The Theme -- Redemption.
The last member of C^1 is now reached. In the structure it is marked B, and consists of chap. v.8-14 the subject being, |The New Song of the Zoa, and the elders, and the heavenly utterances of other Angelic Beings.|
It is arranged in orderly sequence; the speakers and their utterances being separated and placed in five pairs, or groups.
EXPANSION OF B., chap. v.8-14.
The New Song of the Zoa, Elders and others.
B q^1 8, 9-. The Four Zoa, and 24 Elders.
r^1 -9, 10. Their New Song.
q^2 11, 12. Many Angels.
r^2 -12. Their Utterance.
q^3 13-. Every creature.
r^3 -13. Their Utterance.
q^4 14-. The Four Zoa.
r^4 -14-. Their Utterance.
q^5 -14-. The 24 Elders.
r^5 -14. Their Utterance.
Here, in q^1 to q^5 we have the heavenly speakers and singers; while, in r^1 to r^5 we have their song and their utterances. The latter relate to the scene which has just taken place |in heaven,| and to the result of it about to be seen in the consequent judgments which follow and take place |on earth.| The point at which the heavenly voices commence is the moment when the Lamb, who alone is entitled and worthy takes the Book.
8. And when He took the Book the four Zoa and the four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb having each a harp , and golden bowls full of incenses which are the prayers of the Saints] In the Old Testament, the harp is associated with joy and gladness (see 1 Chron. xxv.1, 6; 2 Chron. xxix.25; Ps. lxxi.22; xcii.3; cxlix.3); just as sadness is expressed by the absence of it: |The joy of the harp ceaseth| (Isa. xxiv.8). Harps were also specially associated with prophecy (1 Sam. x.5; 1 Chron. xxv.3; Ps. xlix.4).
The golden bowls were vessels belonging to the altar (Zech. xiv.20), and the Septuagint uses the word for the vessels of the Temple (1 Kings vii.45, 50; 2 Chron. iv.22; Ex. xxv.23-29; xxvii.3; xxxvii.10-16). The |prayers of the saints| are the prayers referred to by our Lord in the parable of the Judge, where He applies the parable Himself and asks |and shall not God avenge His own elect which cry day and night with Him though He bear long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man cometh shall he find faith (Gr. the faith) on the earth?| (Luke xviii.7, 8). The faith here spoken of is that referred to in Rev. ii.19; xiii.10; xiv.12. These elect are the saints spoken of and referred to in Matt. xxiv.31, and Dan. vii.18, 22, 27. They are the |Saints of the Most High|; the Most High being a Divine title, always used in connection with the earth; and not with the church. The Elders perform priestly service, because it is on behalf of others. This, the Church cannot do. If the |Elders| are the Church, then the |Saints| cannot be, for the Church cannot offer for itself; nor can one part of it offer for another part! No! The Church is |all one in Christ Jesus,| and cannot be separated or divided.
9. and they sing a New Song, saying] The Zoa speak only in this first Vision |in Heaven| and in the last, in chap. xix.4; and no where else. The Elders speak in the first and last, but also a third time in xi.17. This is significant; as showing the weight and importance of those utterances respectively. In this first vision |in Heaven| their voices are heard twice: First, in connection with the Throne and Him who sitteth thereupon (separately); for the Zoa speak first (iv.8); and the Elders follow (iv.11); their theme being Creation. The second time they speak it is in connection with the Lamb, and the Book, they sing together (chap. v.9, 10), their theme being Redemption.
Six times in this first Vision |in Heaven,| these Heavenly Voices are heard. All Heaven is engaged in singing the worthiness of God as the Creator; and the worthiness of the Lamb as the Redeemer. Surely these are the dominant personages of the whole Book. These are the themes which form its subject: viz., the removal of the curse from creation, the redemption of the purchased inheritance, the ejection of the great usurper; and all accomplished through the payment of Redemption's price by the merits of the Lamb, and the putting forth of Redemption power. Hence, in connection with Him and with the book we have the first of four heavenly utterances:
The New Song of the Zoa and Elders. v.9, 10.
|Worthy art thou
To take the Book,
And to open the seals thereof,
Because thou wast slain
And didst purchase a people for God by thy blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation And didst make them to our God
A kingdom and priests,
And they reign over the earth|]
This is the theme of the New Song. The worthiness of the Lamb to take the Book, because of the Redemption He had accomplished. The People had been once redeemed from Egypt, for it is in connection with the Exodus that Redemption is first mentioned in the Bible, in the Song of Ex. xv.13. |Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: Thou hast guided them by thy strength unto thy holy habitation.| But now the People have been scattered among |every kindred and tongue, and people and nation,| and therefore they must be redeemed from these, |the second time,| |like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt| (Is. ix.11, 16).
The importance of the various readings in verse 9 will be seen, and noted; because upon this turns very much the interpretation of the whole Book. The true reading separates the singers from the Redeemed, and makes them heavenly beings who need no redemption, but who sing of the redemption wrought for others.
But the payment of the price is only one part of the work of redemption. If the price be paid and there be no power to take possession and eject the holder the payment is in vain. And if power be put forth and exercised in casting out the usurper, without the previous payment of the redemption price, it would not be a righteous action. So that for the redemption of the forfeited inheritance two things are absolutely necessary, price and power. The first redemption song has for its theme the payment of the price. The second celebrates the putting forth of the power.
We are first told by whom this second utterance is made.
11. And I saw and heard the voice of many angels around the throne, and of the Zoa, and of the elders, and the number of them was myriads of myriads saying with a loud voice
|Worthy is the Lamb that was slain,
To receive power
They give this sevenfold ascription as to the Lamb's worthiness. The words |Power| and |Strength| divide the seven into three and four. These are all marked off by the Figure Polysyndeton (i.e., the use of |many ands|) which bids us consider each of these seven features of the Lamb's worthiness separately. In doing this we are to note that the great theme is Redemption power and strength.
13. And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and beneath the earth and such as are in the sea and all that are in them heard I saying
|To Him that sitteth upon the throne
And to the Lamb
For ever and ever|]
This is the ascription of the whole creation. Hence it is four-fold because it is in connection with the earth ( of which four is the number) and because He who sitteth upon the Throne is there in relation to the earth. Whereas the ascription to the Person of the Lamb slain is seven-fold because Redemption blood was offered |through the eternal Spirit| (Heb. ix.14).
14. And the four Zoa said
and the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped ]
It seems almost profane to attempt to explain, and comment on these heavenly utterances. They are Heaven's own comment on the wondrous facts seen and heard by John, and brought before us in this first vision seen |in heaven.| When again He brings the First-born into the world, He said |And let all the angels of God worship Him| (Heb. i.6). This is the Septuagint rendering of Deut. xxxii.43, the closing words of the Song of Moses. And why are all the nations there called on to |Rejoice,| and why are all the angels of God called on to worship Him? Because He is about to fulfil the threat He there pronounced and records:
|FOR He will avenge the blood of His servants,
And will render vengeance to His adversaries,
And will be merciful to His Land,
And to His people.|
These are the concluding words of |the song of Moses.| Now, |the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together| (Rom. viii.22), but then, when the day to sing this song of Moses shall have come, and the glory of the Lord shines once more upon Israel, then the song will be in the words written:
|His way will be known upon earth
And His saving health will be made known among all nations: Then shall the nations be glad and sing for joy.
Then shall our land yield her increase| (Ps. lxvii).
|The trees of the wood shall rejoice| (Ps. xcvi).
|The floods shall clap their hands
And the hills shall be joyful together| (Ps. xcviii).
|The beast of the field:
The fowl of the air:
And the fish of the sea:
And whatsoever passeth through the paths of the sea, shall say, 'Oh Jehovah Adonai, how excellent is Thy name in all the EARTH'| (Ps. viii).
|And everything that hath breath| shall praise the Lord (Ps. cl) and say