We are now entering upon the main prophecy. The whole
Revelation may be divided thus:
The first, second, and third chapters contain the introduction;
The fourth and fifth, the proposition;
The sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth describe things which are
The tenth to the fourteenth, things which are now fulfilling;
The fifteenth to the nineteenth, things which will be fulfilled
The twentieth, twenty - first, and twenty - second, things at a
1: After these things - As if he had said, After I had
written these letters from the mouth of the Lord. By the
particle and, the several parts of this prophecy are usually
connected: by the expression, after these things, they are
distinguished from each other, (Re 7:9,19:1). By that
expression, and after these things, they are distinguished, and
yet connected, (Re 7:1,15:5,18:1). St. John always saw
and heard, and then immediately wrote down one part after
another: and one part is constantly divided from another by some
one of these expressions. I saw - Here begins the relation of the
main vision, which is connected throughout; as it appears from
"the throne, and him that sitteth thereon;" "the Lamb;" (who
hitherto has appeared in the form of a man;) " the four living
creatures;" and " the four and twenty elders," represented from
this place to the end. From this place, it is absolutely
necessary to keep in mind the genuine order of the texts, as it
stands in the preceding table. A door opened in heaven - Several
of these openings are successively mentioned. Here a door is
opened; afterward, "the temple of God in heaven,"(Re 11:19,15:5); and, at last, "heaven" itself, (Re 19:11). By
each of these St. John gains a new and more extended prospect.
And the first voice which I had heard - Namely, that of Christ:
afterward, he heard the voices of many others. Said, Come up
hither - Not in body, but in spirit; which was immediately done.
2: And immediately I was in the spirit - Even in an higher
degree than before, (Re 1:10).
And, behold, a throne was set in heaven - St. John is to write
"things which shall be;" and, in order thereto, he is here shown,
after an heavenly manner, how whatever "shall be," whether good
or bad, flows out of invisible fountains; and how, after it is
done on the visible theatre of the world and the church, it flows
back again into the invisible world, as its proper and final scope.
Here commentators divide: some proceed theologically; others,
historically; whereas the right way is, to join both together.
The court of heaven is here laid open; and the throne of God is,
as it were, the centre from which everything in the visible world
goes forth, and to which everything returns. Here, also, the
kingdom of Satan is disclosed; and hence we may extract the most
important things out of the most comprehensive and, at the same
time, most secret history of the kingdom of hell and heaven.
But herein we must be content to know only what is expressly
revealed in this book. This describes, not barely what good or
evil is successively transacted on earth, but how each springs
from the kingdom of light or darkness, and continually tends to
the source whence it sprung: So that no man can explain all that
is contained therein, from the history of the church militant
And yet the histories of past ages have their use, as this book
is properly prophetical. The more, therefore, we observe the
accomplishment of it, so much the more may we praise God, in his
truth, wisdom, justice, and almighty power, and learn to suit
ourselves to the time, according to the remarkable directions
contained in the prophecy. And one sat on the throne - As a
king, governor, and judge. Here is described God, the Almighty,
the Father of heaven, in his majesty, glory, and dominion.
3: And he that sat was in appearance - Shone with a visible
lustre, like that of sparkling precious stones, such as those
which were of old on the high priest's breastplate, and those
placed as the foundations of the new Jerusalem, (Re 21:19,20).
If there is anything emblematical in the colours of these stones,
possibly the jasper, which is transparent and of a glittering
white, with an intermixture of beautiful colours, may be a symbol
of God's purity, with various other perfections, which shine in
all his dispensations. The sardine stone, of a blood - red colour,
may be an emblem of his justice, and the vengeance he was about
to execute on his enemies. An emerald, being green, may betoken
favour to the good; a rainbow, the everlasting covenant.
See (Ge 9:9).
And this being round about the whole breadth of the throne,
fixed the distance of those who stood or sat round it.
4: And round about the throne - In a circle, are four and
twenty thrones, and on the thrones four and twenty elders - The
most holy of all the former ages, (Isa 24:23,Heb 12:1);
representing the whole body of the saints. Sitting - In general;
but falling down when they worship. Clothed in white raiment
- This and their golden crowns show, that they had already
finished their course and taken their place among the citizens
of heaven. They are never termed souls, and hence it is
probable that they had glorified bodies already.
Compare (Mt 27:52).
5: And out of the throne go forth lightnings - Which affect
the sight. Voices - Which affect the hearing. Thunderings - Which
cause the whole body to tremble. Weak men account all this
terrible; but to the inhabitants of heaven it is a mere source
of joy and pleasure, mixed with reverence to the Divine Majesty.
Even to the saints on earth these convey light and protection;
but to their enemies, terror and destruction.
6: And before the throne is a sea as of glass, like crystal
- Wide and deep, pure and clear, transparent and still. Both the
"seven lamps of fire" and this sea are before the throne; and
both may mean "the seven spirits of God," the Holy Ghost; whose
powers and operations are frequently represented both under the
emblem of fire and of water. We read again, (Re 15:2), of
"a sea as of glass," where there is no mention of "the seven
lamps of fire;" but, on the contrary, the sea itself is "mingled
with fire." We read also, (Re 22:1), of "a stream of water
of life, clear as crystal." Now, the sea which is before the
throne, and the stream which goes out of the throne, may both
mean the same; namely, the Spirit of God. And in the midst of
the throne - With respect to its height. Round about the throne
- That is, toward the four quarters, east, west, north, and south.
Were four living creatures - Not beasts, no more than birds. These
seem to be taken from the cherubim in the visions of Isaiah and
Ezekiel, and in the holy of holies. They are doubtless some
of the principal powers of heaven; but of what order, it is not
easy to determine. It is very probable that the twenty - four
elders may represent the Jewish church: their harps seem to
intimate their having belonged to the ancient tabernacle service,
where they were wont to be used. If so, the living creatures
may represent the Christian church. Their number, also, is
symbolical of universality, and agrees with the dispensation
of the gospel, which extended to all nations under heaven. And
the "new song" which they all sing, saying, "Thou hast redeemed
us out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation,"(Re 5:9), could not possibly suit the Jewish without the
Christian church. The first living creature was like a lion - To
signify undaunted courage. The second, like a calf - Or ox,(Eze 1:10), to signify unwearied patience.
The third, with the face of a man - To signify prudence and
compassion. The fourth, like an eagle - To signify activity and
vigour. Full of eyes - To betoken wisdom and knowledge.
Before - To see the face of him that sitteth on the throne.
And behind - To see what is done among the creatures.
7: And the first - Just such were the four cherubim in
Ezekiel, who supported the moving throne of God; whereas each
of those that overshadowed the mercy - seat in the holy of holies
had all these four faces: whence a late great man supposes them
to have been emblematic of the Trinity, and the incarnation of
the second Person. A flying eagle - That is, with wings expanded.
8: Each of them hath six wings - As had each of the seraphim
in Isaiah's vision. "Two covered his face," in token of humility
and reverence: "two his feet," perhaps in token of readiness and
diligence for executing divine commissions. Round about and
within they are full of eyes. Round about - To see everything
which is farther off from the throne than they are themselves.
And within - On the inner part of the circle which they make
with one another. First, they look from the centre to the
circumference, then from the circumference to the centre. And
they rest not - O happy unrest! Day and night - As we speak on
earth. But there is no night in heaven. And say, Holy, holy,
holy - Is the Three - One God.
There are two words in the original, very different from each
other; both which we translate holy. The one means properly
merciful; but the other, which occurs here, implies much more.
This holiness is the sum of all praise, which is given to the
almighty Creator, for all that he does and reveals concerning
himself, till the new song brings with it new matter of glory.
This word properly signifies separated, both in Hebrew and
other languages. And when God is termed holy, it denotes that
excellence which is altogether peculiar to himself; and the
glory flowing from all his attributes conjoined, shining forth
from all his works, and darkening all things besides itself,
whereby he is, and eternally remains, in an incomprehensible
manner separate and at a distance, not only from all that is
impure, but likewise from all that is created.
God is separate from all things. He is, and works from himself,
out of himself, in himself, through himself, for himself.
Therefore, he is the first and the last, the only one and the
Eternal, living and happy, endless and unchangeable, almighty,
omniscient, wise and true, just and faithful, gracious and
Hence it is, that holy and holiness mean the same as God and
Godhead: and as we say of a king, "His Majesty;" so the
scripture says of God, "His Holiness," (Heb 12:10). The Holy
Spirit is the Spirit of God. When God is spoken of, he is often
named "the Holy One:" and as God swears by his name, so he does
also by his holiness; that is, by himself.
This holiness is often styled glory: often his holiness and
glory are celebrated together, (Le 10:3,Isa 6:3). For
holiness is covered glory, and glory is uncovered holiness.
The scripture speaks abundantly of the holiness and glory of the
Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And hereby is the mystery
of the Holy Trinity eminently confirmed.
That is also termed holy which is consecrated to him, and for
that end separated from other things: and so is that wherein we
may be like God, or united to him.
In the hymn resembling this, recorded by Isaiah, (Isa 6:3),
is added, "The whole earth is full of his glory." But this is
deferred in the Revelation, till the glory of the Lord (his
enemies being destroyed) fills the earth.
9-10: And when the living creatures give glory - the
elders fall down - That is, as often as the living creatures
give glory, immediately the elders fall down. The expression
implies, that they did so at the same instant, and that they
both did this frequently. The living creatures do not say
directly, "Holy, holy, holy art thou;" but only bend a little,
out of deep reverence, and say, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord."
But the elders, when they are fallen down, may say, "Worthy art
thou, O Lord our God."
11: Worthy art thou to receive - This he receives not only
when he is thus praised, but also when he destroys his enemies
and glorifies himself anew. The glory and the honour and the
power - Answering the thrice - holy of the living creatures, verse 9.(Re 4:9)
For thou hast created all things - Creation is the ground of all
the works of God: therefore, for this, as well as for his other
works, will he be praised to all eternity. And through thy will
they were - They began to be. It is to the free, gracious and
powerfully - working will of Him who cannot possibly need anything
that all things owe their first existence. And are created - That
is, continue in being ever since they were created.