Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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APOCALYPSE - Chapter 4

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Apocalypse 4

Supplemental Commentary:

II.  THE SEVEN SEALS  4, 1 -- 8, 1

1.  Preparatory Vision  4, 1 -- 5, 14

4, 1-11:  The Court of Heaven.  Hitherto the scene of John's visions was the earth; now it is heaven, where there are no more fears and alarms, and no more wrongdoing.  This vision is here interposed to remind us that all the decrees respecting the future rest with God and are executed in time through Jesus Christ.  It is, therefore, a vision of the Master of human destiny and His court.  The symbols of this vision, and of those to follow, were largely found by John in the Apocrypha, and some reach back to Babylonian astronomy.  But John transformed what he borrowed; he clarified the meaning and gave the symbols a religious signification they did not original possess.

This vision is logically connected with that of 1.  The former voice: the voice of Christ (1, 10).  In the spirit: in ecstasy.  He is spiritually transported to heaven, and there remains till the close of 9.  He does not name the One who sits on the throne in order to add to the majesty and mystery of the scene.  He avoids anthropomorphic details, no form is seen but only lights of various hues flashing through the clouds around the throne.  The rainbow in Genesis symbolizes mercy (Gen. 9, 13).

4-7.  Twenty-four elders: the saints of the Old and New Testament, or, according to some, angels who preside over the destiny of the world.  Lightning . . .  thunder: tokens of God's power, perhaps drawn from the scene of Mt. Sinai (Ex. 19, 16).  Seven lamps: a symbol of the Holy Spirit, in His sevenfold power.  A sea of glass: the firmament above which is the throne of God.  In the midst of the throne: under the throne and supporting it.  Four living creatures: like those called Cherubim in Ezechiel (9, 20), an order of angels and apparently one of the highest orders.  Full of eyes: indicating vigilance.  Like a lion, etc.: the order in Ezechiel is man, lion, ox, eagle.  The characteristics of these animals united in the four creatures to give a picture of their action on the world or creation under God.

8-11.  The imposing liturgy of the heavenly court.  Holy, holy, holy: foreshadowing the blessing, glory, honor, benediction of 9.  Will worship him: the kings of the earth are the enemies of God, but the kings of heaven pay Him homage.  Nature, the angelic host, faithful humanity, represented by the figure of the twenty-four elders, unite to praise and glorify the majesty and holiness of God.  The future tense, will, implies the eternal repetition of this worship.

Confraternity Bible:

The Court of Heaven  1 After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the former voice, which I had heard as of a trumpet speaking with me, said, "Come up hither, and I will show thee the things that must come to pass hereafter."  2 Immediately I was in the spirit; and behold, there was a throne set in heaven, and upon the throne One was sitting.  3 And he who sat was in appearance like to a jasper-stone and a sardius, and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in appearance like to an emerald.

4 And round about the throne are twenty-four seats; and upon the seats twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and on their heads crowns of gold.  5 And from the throne proceed flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder; and there are seven lamps burning before the throne, which are the seven spirits of God.  6 And before the throne there is, as it were, a sea of glass like to crystal, and in the midst of the throne, and round the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes before and behind.  7 And the first living creature is like a lion and the second like a calf, and the third has the face, as it were, of a man, and the fourth is like an eagle flying.  8 And the four living creatures have each of them six wings; round about and within they are full of eyes.  And they do not rest day and night, saying,
"Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God Almighty,

Who was, and who is, and who is coming."
9 And when those living creatures give glory and honor and benediction to him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders will fall down before him who sits upon the throne, and will worship him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
11 "Worthy art thou, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power;

For thou hast created all things, and because of thy will they existed, and were created."