1: And I saw - This is a continuation of the same narrative.
In the right hand - The emblem of his all - ruling power. He held
it openly, in order to give it to him that was worthy. It is
scarce needful to observe, that there is not in heaven any real
book of parchment or paper or that Christ does not really stand
there, in the shape of a lion or of a lamb. Neither is there on
earth any monstrous beast with seven heads and ten horns. But
as there is upon earth something which, in its kind, answers
such a representation; so there are in heaven divine counsels
and transactions answerable to these figurative expressions.
All this was represented to St. John at Patmos, in one day, by
way of vision. But the accomplishment of it extends from that
time throughout all ages. Writings serve to inform us of
distant and of future things. And hence things which are yet to
come are figuratively said to be "written in God's book;" so
were at that time the contents of this weighty prophecy. But
the book was sealed. Now comes the opening and accomplishing
also of the great things that are, as it were, the letters of
it. A book written within and without - That is, no part of it
blank, full of matter. Sealed with seven seals - According to the
seven principal parts contained in it, one on the outside of
each. The usual books of the ancients were not like ours, but
were volumes or long pieces of parchment, rolled upon a long
stick, as we frequently roll silks. Such was this represented,
which was sealed with seven seals. Not as if the apostle saw
all the seals at once; for there were seven volumes wrapped up
one within another, each of which was sealed: so that upon
opening and unrolling the first, the second appeared to be
sealed up till that was opened, and so on to the seventh. The
book and its seals represent all power in heaven and earth given
to Christ. A copy of this book is contained in the following
chapters. By "the trumpets," contained under the seventh seal,
the kingdom of the world is shaken, that it may at length become
the kingdom of Christ. By "the vials," under the seventh
trumpet, the power of the beast, and whatsoever is connected
with it, is broken. This sum of all we should have continually
before our eyes: so the whole Revelation flows in its natural
2: And I saw a strong angel - This proclamation to every
creature was too great for a man to make, and yet not becoming
the Lamb himself. It was therefore made by an angel, and one
of uncommon eminence.
3: And none - No creature; no, not Mary herself. In heaven,
or in earth, neither under the earth - That is, none in the
universe. For these are the three great regions into which the
whole creation is divided. Was able to open the book - To declare
the counsels of God. Nor to look thereon - So as to understand
any part of it.
4: And I wept much - A weeping which sprung from greatness
of mind. The tenderness of heart which he always had appeared
more clearly now he was out of his own power. The Revelation
was not written without tears; neither without tears will it be
understood. How far are they from the temper of St. John who
inquire after anything rather than the contents of this book!
yea, who applaud their own clemency if they excuse those that
do inquire into them!
5: And one of the elders - Probably one of those who rose
with Christ, and afterwards ascended into heaven. Perhaps one of
the patriarchs. Some think it was Jacob, from whose prophecy
the name of Lion is given him, (Ge 49:9).
The Lion of the tribe of Judah - The victorious prince who is, like
a lion, able to tear all his enemies in pieces. The root of
David - As God, the root and source of David's family,(Isa 11:1,10).
Hath prevailed to open the book - Hath overcome all obstructions,
and obtained the honour to disclose the divine counsels.
6: And I saw - First, Christ in or on the midst of the
throne; secondly, the four living creatures making the inner
circle round him; and, thirdly, the four and twenty elders
making a larger circle round him and them. Standing - He lieth
no more; he no more falls on his face; the days of his weakness
and mourning are ended. He is now in a posture of readiness to
execute all his offices of prophet, priest, and king. As if he
had been slain - Doubtless with the prints of the wounds which he
once received. And because he was slain, he is worthy to open
the book, verse 9, (Re 5:9) to the joy of his own people, and
the terror of his enemies. Having seven horns - As a king, the
emblem of perfect strength. And seven eyes - The emblem of perfect
knowledge and wisdom. By these he accomplishes what is contained
in the book, namely, by his almighty and all - wise Spirit. To
these seven horns and seven eyes answer the seven seals and the
sevenfold song of praise, verse 12. (Re 5:12) In Zechariah,
likewise, iii. 9, iv. 10, (Zec 3:9,4:10) mention is made
of "the seven eyes of the Lord, which go forth over all the
earth." Which - Both the horns and the eyes. Are the seven
spirits of God sent forth into all the earth - For the effectual
working of the Spirit of God goes through the whole creation;
and that in the natural, as well as spiritual, world. For could
mere matter act or move? Could it gravitate or attract? Just
as much as it can think or speak.
7: And he came - Here was "Ask of me,"(Ps 2:8), fulfilled in the most glorious manner.
And took - it is one state of exaltation that reaches from our
Lord's ascension to his coming in glory. Yet this state admits of
various degrees. At his ascension, "angels, and principalities,
and powers were subjected to him." Ten days after, he received
from the Father and sent the Holy Ghost. And now he took the
book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne - who
gave it him as a signal of his delivering to him all power in
heaven and earth. He received it, in token of his being both
able and willing to fulfil all that was written therein.
8: And when he took the book, the four living creatures
fell down - Now is homage done to the Lamb by every creature.
These, together with the elders, make the beginning; and
afterward, (Re 5:14), the conclusion. They are together
surrounded with a multitude of angels, (Re 5:11), and together
sing the new song, as they had before praised God together,(Re 4:8), &c.
Having every one - The elders, not the living creatures. An
harp - Which was one of the chief instruments used for thanksgiving
in the temple service: a fit emblem of the melody of their hearts.
And golden phials - Cups or censers. Full of incense, which are the
prayers of the saints - Not of the elders themselves, but of
the other saints still upon earth, whose prayers were thus
emblematically represented in heaven.
9: And they sing a new song - One which neither they nor
any other had sung before. Thou hast redeemed us - So the living
creatures also were of the number of the redeemed. This does
not so much refer to the act of redemption, which was long
before, as to the fruit of it; and so more directly to those who
had finished their course, "who were redeemed from the earth,"(Re 14:1),
out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation - That is,
out of all mankind.
10: And hast made them - The redeemed. So they speak of
themselves also in the third person, out of deep self - abasement.
They shall reign over the earth - The new earth: herewith agree
the golden crowns of the elders. The reign of the saints in
general follows, under the trumpet of the seventh angel;
particularly after the first resurrection, as also in eternity,(Re 11:18,15:7,20:4,22:5,Da 7:27,Ps 49:14).
11: And I saw - The many angels. And heard - The voice and
the number of them. Round about the elders - So forming the third
circle. It is remarkable, that men are represented through this
whole vision as nearer to God than any of the angels. And
the number of them was - At least two hundred millions, and two
millions over. And yet these were but a part of the holy
angels. Afterward, (Re 7:11), St. John heard them all.
12: Worthy is the Lamb - The elders said,(Re 5:9), "Worthy art thou." They were more nearly allied to
him than the angels. To receive the power, &c. - This sevenfold
applause answers the seven seals, of which the four former
describe all visible, the latter all invisible, things, made
subject to the Lamb. And every one of these seven words bears
a resemblance to the seal which it answers.
13: And every creature - In the whole universe, good or bad.
In the heaven, on the earth, under the earth, on the sea - With
these four regions of the world, agrees the fourfold word of
praise. What is in heaven, says blessing; what is on earth,
honour; what is under the earth, glory: what is on the sea,
strength; is unto him. This praise from all creatures begins
before the opening of the first seal; but it continues from
that time to eternity, according to the capacity of each. His
enemies must acknowledge his glory; but those in heaven say,
Blessed be God and the Lamb.
This royal manifesto is, as it were, a proclamation, showing
how Christ fulfils all things, and "every knee bows to him,"
not only on earth, but also in heaven, and under the earth.
This book exhausts all things, (1Co 15:27,28), and is
suitable to an heart enlarged as the sand of the sea. It
inspires the attentive and intelligent reader with such a
magnanimity, that he accounts nothing in this world great; no,
not the whole frame of visible nature, compared to the immense
greatness of what he is here called to behold, yea, and in part,
St. John has in view, through the whole following vision, what
he has been now describing, namely, the four living creatures,
the elders, the angels, and all creatures, looking together at
the opening of the seven seals.