SUMMARY.--The Voice from Heaven.
The Throne and He Who Sat on the Throne.
The Twenty-four Elders.
The Four Living Forms.
Their Cry Night and Day.
The Doxology of the Twenty-four Elders.
It is generally agreed that with this chapter the third section of
Chapters 4 and 5
are preparatory visions. It is not until
is reached that the future begins to be uncovered. In these chapters
there is revealed through the open door of heaven the Almighty upon the
throne in glory surrounded by adoring creatures. The symbolism declares
that he holds in his hands the destinies of the world and knowledge of
the future. Then it is declared that to the Lion of the tribe of Judah
it has been given to open the book of destiny and to reveal the future.
To the Son, who appears in a symbolic form, the book is given amid the
praises of Elders and living creatures.
It is noteworthy that the two greatest prophets of the Old Testament,
those who had the clearest visions of the reign of Christ, were
permitted to behold a similar scene as a preparation for their
are each allowed to behold the glory of God. As the Old Testament
prophets, when about to enter upon their work, were inaugurated to the
office of making known the future by a vision of the Almighty, so John,
the New Testament prophet, the last prophet of the world, was permitted
to have a similar vision. Though the visions differ, the most striking
symbols are beheld by all three of the prophets.
see and describe the throne of God, with its sublime surroundings;
speak of the One who sits on the throne, though they make no attempt to
describe his person;
record his glory;
beholds living creatures around the throne, full of eyes, with
four wings and two hands;
sees the seraphim with six wings who cry, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord
of Hosts. In
the four beasts are about the throne, full of eyes, with six
wings who cry, Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God Almighty. In the case of
all the prophets the vision of God is preparatory and indicates that he
is about to impart the secrets of his future, hitherto held in his own
1-3. After this. "After these things," as in the Revision. After
the letters to the churches had been dictated. "The things which must
be after this" are yet to be shown.
I looked. Rather, "I saw in 
A door was opened in heaven. Heaven standing open so that the
throne within could be seen.
The first voice which I heard. The same voice that he had heard
at first. See
Come up hither. Through the opened door.
The things which must come to pass hereafter. Hence, we know
that what John sees in the vision just opening belongs to events still
future when he wrote.
2. I was in the spirit. At once he was lifted to that spiritual
exaltation which enabled him to behold the heavenly visions.
A throne. The throne of God was revealed and One sat on the
3. He that sat was to look upon like a jasper stone and a
We learn from
the qualities of the jasper meant; a stone of dazzling brilliance, a
mountain of light, clear as crystal. The two probably symbolize the
splendor, holiness and judgments of God.
Rainbow round about the throne. The rainbow was a pledge of
God's faithfulness to his covenants
God sits upon the throne, splendid, dazzling, terrible, but compassed
about by the Covenant of Grace.
4-6. Round about the throne were four and twenty seats. Rather,
"thrones." The central throne was encompassed by twenty-four lesser
Four and twenty elders sitting. These ancients were (1)
twenty-four in number; (2) they were clothed in white, the color of
victory and purity; (3) on their heads were golden crowns, not the
diadem which means a kingly crown, but the golden crown of honor
Critics are not agreed as to the signification of these elders, but
most of them think that they symbolize the glorified church of God
gathered round the throne. They disagree as to the significance of the
number twenty-four. There were twenty-four courses of priests. There
were twelve tribes, and twelve apostles. Possibly the number of the
latter was doubled to symbolize the entire church, Jew and Gentile. In
below I will give my own view of the Twenty-four Elders.
5. Lightnings and voices and thunders. These seem to portray the
threatenings and judgments which proceed from the throne.
Seven lamps of fire. These bright light-giving lamps symbolize
the Holy Spirit in the fulness of its manifestation, indicated by the
seven Spirits of God. See note on
6. A sea of glass like unto crystal. This deep, transparent sea
before the throne is supposed to symbolize the purity and
calmness of the Divine rule. It stands solid, calm and clear.
In the midst of the throne. The four forms which are next
described were to the right and left of the throne and in the midst
between these extremes. The throne was in their midst.
Four living creatures. See Revision. Four "beasts," as in the
Common Version, is an incorrect idea. The Greek for "beasts"
is different. They are four Zoa, "living forms."
Full of eyes. Their eyes looked backward as well as forward.
The description of these wonderful objects is next given. See
at end of chapter.
7-8. The first creature was like a lion. It looked like
a lion, but was not a lion. It had other 
Like a calf. Had a body similar to that of the ox.
Had the face of a man. Otherwise its structure differed from
that of men.
Like a flying eagle. It will be seen that four departments of
animated nature are represented. That of the wild beasts of prey; that
of domestic animals, the human species, and the fowls of the air. Each
is represented by what, in the eyes of a Hebrew, would be regarded as
its highest type.
8. The four living creatures.
Their common characteristics are now pointed out. All have six wings;
they are full of eyes, and they all unite in a ceaseless cry of praise
Full of eyes within. They were full of eyes before and behind,
and when the wings were lifted John saw that they were full of eyes
within also. The eyes, sleepless, possibly symbolize never resting,
They have no rest. They never rest from praising the Lord.
9-11. And when the living creatures shall give glory and honor and
thanks to him that sitteth on the throne.
Shall utter such praises as are given in
verse 8 .
Then the twenty-four elders also join in swelling the anthems. It will
be noted that these two classes, whatever they signify, are both about
the throne, and both engaged in harmonious praise of the Almighty.
10. Cast their crowns before the throne. There are four elements
in this worship: (1) They fall down; (2) they adore; (3) they cast
their crowns before the throne, an act of homage which gives Him who
sitteth there all the glory of their crowns; (4) they offer ascriptions
11. Worthy art thou, etc. The chorus in which they join ascribes
all glory to God as his right as the Creator.
Because of thy will they were. Not as in the Common Version.
They do not say that God created all things "for his pleasure," but
that his will was the efficient cause.
The meaning of the Twenty-four Elders and the
Four Living Creatures has been the subject of much discussion.
It has been held by many discreet commentators that the first
symbolizes the Redeemed Church, and the latter the Animated Creation,
joined around the throne in the praises of the Almighty. It is always
with hesitation and a degree of pain that I differ from those whose
opinions I have studied with profit, but I am compelled to think that
none of the explanations are entirely adequate. I give below my
reasons, and what I think the correct view:
CREATURES.--What is symbolized by these forms? If
the reader will turn to
he will find that the exiled prophet of the old dispensation saw by the
river Chebar of Babylon, the same beings that John described in this
chapter. While there are minor differences, the great features are the
same. Each prophet,
sees (1) four living creatures;
both see (2) four faces, like those of a man, a lion, an ox or calf,
and a flying eagle;
(3) the living creatures of each prophet are full of eyes;
(4) in each case they are winged. There is one minor difference in the
sees six wings, while
mentions four wings and a pair of hands under the wings, making six
The seraphim of
Isaiah, chapter 6
had six wings. The similar appearance, and the fact that the same Greek
is used to represent them, proves beyond doubt that the "four beasts"
of John are the "four living creatures" of Ezekiel. If we therefore can
ascertain the significance of the symbols beheld by the Old Testament
prophets, we will be able to ascertain what the same symbols mean in
Revelation. We are not left in doubt about the identity of the beings
described by them. In the
Ezekiel describes certain beings that he beheld the second time; and in
he says: "And the likeness of their faces was the same faces
which I saw by the river Chebar, their appearances and
themselves." He also says in
that these are the "living creatures I saw by the river Chebar." Again,
he affirms the same thing, and says: "I knew that they were the
on the other hand, declares that the figures he saw were seraphim.
Here, then, is solid ground. The four living creatures, or "beasts,"
of John are not the four elements, four quarters of the earth, four
continents, or four evangelists, but are cherubim or seraphim.
The forms seen by these prophets are probably symbolical of their
nature and work. The information given in the
is scanty, but they are always represented as being very near the
throne of God. When man sinned, it was cherubim who guarded the way to
the tree of life. In the tabernacle cherubim hovered over the mercy
seat and were figured upon the curtains. The Almighty is addressed
as the One who dwells between the cherubim
The brightness of the glory of the Lord is represented as attending
and in the vision of
they are "in the midst of and around the throne."
the Lamb stands "in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts."
In some way the cherubim are immediately about the throne of God.
The forms seen by Isaiah, Ezekiel and John have a symbolical
significance. These angelic intelligences represent the courage of the
lion, the patient strength of the ox, the intellect of the man, and the
swiftness of the eagle. They are full of eyes, or see all things; their
wings are always in motion, or they are distinguished by tireless
activity, and the continually cry, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God
or, without ceasing they minister to the glory of God. Thus much can be
said concerning the "four beasts," or "cherubim," without indulging in
speculation. Cherubim are present at the fall of man; cherubim also
celebrate his redemption and the triumph of the reign of Christ.
Whether they also symbolize four forms of earthly creation is a matter
left to conjecture.
ELDERS.--What has been said will aid us to
determine the meaning of these heavenly elders. It has been usually
held that they were men, representative of the redeemed. The number
has been troublesome, but they have been supposed to represent the
twelve apostles and twelve patriarchs. I think that a careful
examination of all the passages in which they occur will show that they
are of kindred character to the cherubim (the four beasts) and
to the angels. 1. They are about the
2. When the cherubim give glory to God, they also
3. Together they sing the new
4. When the angels honour the Lamb, these unite in saying,
5. When the innumerable multitude of redeemed, clothed in white robes,
praise God for salvation, the angels and elders, and four beasts are
not with these redeemed ones, but about the throne, and join together
in a separate ascription of praise from that offered by
6. One of the elders informs John concerning those arrayed in white
robes, and it is evident that he does not belong to their
7. When the final triumph comes, and the seventh trumpet angel
proclaims that "the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of
our Lord and his Christ," the four and twenty elders who were sitting
on their seats before the throne fell upon their faces and gave thanks
the Lamb has one hundred and forty and four thousand saints about him,
who sing a new song "before the throne, and before the four beasts, and
From all these passages, it will be seen that the elders are grouped,
not with the martyrs, or redeemed, or the one hundred and forty and
four thousand; not with saved men, but with the angels and the cherubim
about the throne of God. This distinction marks their character. They
belong to the heavenly intelligences; to the same class as the cherubim
and angels. They are princes of heaven. They are twenty-four in number.
This number is probably associated with the twenty-four courses of
priests engaged in the service of the temple,
the institutions of which were "patterns of things in the heavens."
They are of the retinue that surround the throne and serve in the
presence of God, and they constantly join in the adoration of the
angelic hosts, and are incessantly employed in carrying out God's plans
for the salvation of the world. 
See the New Song in the Revised Version. The New Song praises the Lamb
for redeeming men and making them a kingdom and priests, but the Four
Living Creatures and the Twenty-four Elders neither here nor elsewhere
offer praises for their own redemption. They do not belong to the