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CHAPTER 4

4:111. THE VISION OF THE THRONE IN HEAVEN .


1. ] This formula, which occurs again 7:1 (. ), 9, 15:5, 18:1,
serves to introduce a new vision of special importance, (5:1 etc.) being used in
other cases. Here refers to the vision of 1:12 ff. ( .)
which, with the messages to the Churches arising out of it, has occupied the first three
chapters. The vision of the glorified Christ walking among the Churches on earth is
followed by a vision of the Court of Heaven.
] Not as in 3:8 the door of opportunity, or as in 3:20
the door of the heart, but the door of revelation; cf. Enoch 14:13
. The conception of the opened heavens occurs first in Ezek.
1:1 : cf. Mc. 1:10
, Jo. 1:51 . In this vision a door only is
opened (cf. Test. xii patr., Levi 5), and not heaven as a whole, i.e. the vision is limited
to the Seer; only one who has been lifted up into the heavenly places can see what is
passing within. The perf. part. implies that the door stood open, ready for
the Seers coming.
.] The first voice which I heard is apparently
the voice of 1:10 ... , where see note; cf.
Victorinus: id est spiritus quem paulo ante quam filium hominis se vidisse fatetur;
Bede: similis utique priori voci quae dixerat Quae vides scribe in libro. Now it comes
again to prepare John for the second great vision, and calls him up to the height where
the Angel stands. , a constructio ad sensum; behind the trumpet voice there is a
personality who speaks. (= W. Schm., p. 115, cf. Ar. Ran. 35,
Vesp. 979; , Mt. 17:20) recalls the summons at the Lawgiving, Exod. 19:24 f.;
for , hither (Blass, Gr. p. 58 f.), cf. Jo. 6:25, 20:27. For , the Hierophants
(Benson, Apocalypse, p. 15) offer of guidance, see 1:1, 17:1, 21:9 f., 22:1, 22:6;
(1:1, 22:6) comes from Dan. 2:28 f., 2:45. The vision that follows is an
anticipation of a future which is yet to find its accomplishment ( ). WH.
connect (2) with , but the analogy of 1:10 and Dan. l.c. (Th.) seems
to be decisive in favour of the usual punctuation.
2. ] At once, as the words were spoken, I found
myself in the Spirit. The state of spiritual exaltation which preceded the first vision
(1:10 note) has returned, but in greater force; then it gave the Seer ears to hear and eyes
to see; now it lifts him up and places him by the Angel at the open door.
.] When he looked in, the first Object that
met his eyes was a throne and One seated on it. The Person is identified by v. 8 with the
God of Israel (1:4, 1:8), Who is represented in the O.T. sometimes as making the
heaven His throne (Isa. 66:1; cf. Mt. 5:34 f., 23:22), sometimes as enthroned in heaven
(Ps. 10. (11.) 4 , ; cf. Enoch 14:18ff.
Ar. Arethas.
WH. Westcott and Hort, N.T. in Greek (Cambridge, 1891).

.). The imagery of the Apocalypse requires the latter


symbolism in which the Throne is distinguished from the sphere which it occupies.
= (cf. Dan. 7:9), stood, rather than was set up, a rendering which
permits the English reader to suppose that the placing of the throne entered into the
vision. For in this sense cf. Jo. 2:6, 19:29, 21:9, and see Blass, Gr. p. 51. In this
book can scarcely be distinguished from the more exact
or ; for the gen. see 4:9 ff., 5:1, 5:7, 5:13, 6:16, 7:15; for the dat., 7:10, 19:4,
21:5; for the acc., 4:4, 6:2, 6:4 f., 11:16, 20:4.
3. .] The description rigorously shuns anthropomorphic details.
The Seers eye is arrested by the flashing of gemlike colours, but he sees no form: cf.
Exod. 24:10 (Heb. simply

(


) , ,
. Less reserve is manifested in
Ezek. 1:26 , Dan. 7:9 ...
; cf. Enoch 46:1, 71:10. In the great Christian
Apocalypse there is no need for anthropomorphic descriptions of Deity; one like a Son
of Man is always at hand to whom they are naturally transferred (see 1:14, note); cf.
Andreas: ,
.

The Enthroned Majesty was like in appearance (=((


((,,
,
) to the
light of two precious stones, the and the , and their brilliance was
relieved by a circle of emerald green. The three stones are named together as samples of
their kind by Plato (Phaed. 110 E
), and hold an honourable place in Biblical lists of gems; thus, acc. to Exod.
28:17 ff., the and the emerald stand in the first row of stones in the High
Priests breastplate, and the in the second: among the precious stones which
adorn the person of the King of Tyre (Ezek. 28:13) the same three stones stand first,
third, and sixth respectively; and of the twelve foundation stones of Apoc. 21:19 the
is first, the emerald fourth, and the sixth. The (,
,
, said to be
a Persian word, B. D. B. s. v.) appears to have been translucent like glass or rock-crystal
(Apoc. 21:11 , Pliny, H. N. 37:115 semper translucent), whereas the
modern jasper is opaque; the opal has been suggested (Enc. Bibl. s. v.), but it is
excluded by the same consideration. The (,
,
, redness, cf. Epiph. de
gemmis ) is perhaps the carnelian, or other red stone
(see Hastings, D. B. s.v.); acc. to Pliny, H. N. l.c. it derived its name from Sardis, where
it was found. Most of the engraved gems of antiquity were of sard, see King, Antique
Gems, p. 5.
In the vision the flashing lustre of the and the fiery red of the sard are
relieved by the halo () of emerald which encircled the Throne (
, cf. vv. 4, 8). From Homer downwards is the rainbow; the LXX. however
use in this sense (Gen. 9:13, Ezek. 1:28), and is perhaps preferred here and in
10:1 because it may also be used for a complete circle, e.g. a solar or lunar halo. The

conception is borrowed from Ezek. l.c. ,


. But the circle of light seen by
the Apocalyptist was like (for , used as an adj. of two terminations, cf. WM. p. 80,
Blass, Gr. p. 33) in appearance (see v. 3) to an emerald ( sc. ),
, as Arethas says. seems to be . ., but
occurs in Esth. 1:6 A, and . is used by Herod. 2:44,
3:41. Archbp. Benson translates like to a vision of emerald, taking . . as
if it=, but in v. 3 does not lend itself easily to this construction; cf.
however Vg. similis aspectui lapidis iaspidis similis visioni smaragdinae. In Exod.
36:17 (39:10) =(
, , , which suggests a brilliant like rock-crystal (see
Hastings, D. B. 4:620); on its identification with the emerald see King, Antique Gems, p.
27 ff. Since is substituted for , it is precarious to press a reference to the
rainbow of the covenant (Gen. 9:12 ff.); but if the was a green stone, it may
perhaps represent the mercy which tempers the revelation of the Divine Majesty.
4. ] Sc. , unless with WH.
we read ; see their note (p. 138). acc. is well supported, see WH. Notes,
p. 157, Blass, Gr. p. 26.
Beyond the emerald halo there is another circle round the Throne, an environment of
four and twenty other thrones on which are seated four and twenty Elders, white-robed
and gold-crowned. The Elders are not (3:21), but or ,
forming the of Heaven. There may be a reference to the Elders of Israel in
Exod. 24:11, who , and to Isa. 24:23
... . But the number is at first sight
perplexing. As a symbolical number 24 occurs in the Apocalypse only, and there only
when these Elders are mentioned (4:4, 4:10, 5:8, 11:16, 19:4). It has been supposed to
refer to the 24 courses of the sons of Aaron (1 Chron. 24:119); but the Elders do not
fulfil any special priesthood, though they take their part (4:10, 5:8) in the worship of
Him who sits on the Throne. Gunkel suggests (Schpfung u. Chaos, p. 302 ff.) that they
answer to the 24 stars of the Babylonian astrology (cf. Diod. Sic. 2:31
,

,
); but the parallel is
only partial, and the whole question of the Apocalyptists indebtedness to Babylonian
sources needs further investigation. Meanwhile a key which seems to fit the lock is
supplied by the earliest Latin commentator on the Apocalypse, Victorinus, who sees in
the 24 Elders duodecim Apostoli, duodecim Patriarchae; similarly Andreas and
Arethas. The symbol appears to be based on the number of the tribes of Israel; the
is represented by 24 Elders, two for each tribe, the double representation
suggesting the two elements which coexisted in the new Israel, the Jewish and Gentile
believers who were one in Christ. Thus the 24 Elders are the Church in its totality, but
WM. Winer-Moulton, Grammar of N. T. Greek, 8th Engl. ed. (Edinburgh, 1877).
Vg. The Latin Vulgate.

the Church idealized and therefore seen as already clad in white, crowned, and
enthroned in the Divine Presencea state yet future ( ), but already
potentially realised in the Resurrection and Ascension of the Head; cf. Eph. 2:6
.
5. .] The eye of the Seer returns to
the central Throne. What he sees there reminds him of the Lawgiving; cf. Exod. 19:16
, and Ezek. 1:13 . The
same imagery occurs again in 11:19, 16:18, and (with the order
), in 8:5. The thunderstorm is in Hebrew poetry a familiar symbol of the
Divine power and glory: cf. e.g. 1 Sam. 2:10, Ps. 18:9 ff., Job 37:4 f.
.] occur also in Ezekiels vision (l.c.
); but whereas Ezekiels torch-like lights flashed hither and thither
), these burn steadily before the Throne, and
they are seven in number, corresponding, as the Seer recognises, with the Seven Spirits
of God (1:4, 3:1). They are , not as in 1:12, where the reference is
different; the idea presented here is rather that of the
(c. 8:10), except that the torch-like star is seen falling across the sky, whereas these
torches blaze perpetually before the Throne of God.
6. .] In Exod. 24:10 the Elders see under
the Feet of God ,
, and this conception is reproduced in Ezekiel (1:22, 1:26). But
instead of the firmament, the Seer of the Apocalypse sees a glassy Sea before the
Throne. The idea of a celestial sea was current in Jewish circles, cf. Enoch 14:9, Secrets
of Enoch, ed. Charles, p. 4; Test. xii Patr., Levi 2, where a sea greater than any on earth
is seen suspended between the first heaven and the second: cf. Gen. 1:7
, Ps. 103. (104.) 3. The Apocalyptic sea is , a pavement
of glass resembling an expanse of water; comp. a legend in the Koran, Sur. 27, that the
Queen of Sheba mistook for water a glass pavement in Solomons palace. The Seer, still
looking through the door, sees between himself and the Throne a vast surface which
flashes back the light that falls upon it, like the Aegean when on summer days he looked
upon it from the heights of Patmos; cf. 15:2
. Though of glass, the sea was , not semi-opaque, like much
ancient glass, but clear as rock-crystal. may be ice, both here and in Ezek.
1:22, but the mineral is more probably intended in a context which mentions precious
stones; the metaphor occurs again in 22:1 ... . The
costliness of glass in ancient days enhances the splendour of the conception; cf. Job
28:17 LXX. . But the Sea of glass is not only a
striking and splendid feature in the scene; it suggests the vast distance which, even in
the case of one who stood at the door of heaven, intervened between himself and the
Throne of God.
... .] Cf. Enoch 40:2, Apoc. of Baruch
51:11 (ed. Charles). The exact position assigned to the is not easy to grasp.
is from Ezek. 1:5 ( ) , where

some cursives and versions of the LXX. add , but probably from

the Apoc. But . in Ezekiel= ,(



i.e. out of the midst of the fire, which has
no parallel in the present passage. The words must therefore be interpreted
independently. As they stand here, followed by . ., they seem to imply
that the figures are so placed that one of the is always seen before the Throne, and
the others on either side of it and behind, whether stationary or moving round in rapid
gyration; the latter is suggested by Ezek. 1:12 f. (Syr.gw. )((((clearly answers

to Ezekiels ( (, who in Ezek. 9:3, 10:2 ff., 20 ff., are identified with the Cherubim.
The Cherubim are previously mentioned in Scripture in connexion with (1) the story of
the Fall (Gen. 3:24), (2) the Ark (Exod. 25:18 etc.), (3) the inner chamber (
) of
Solomens Temple (1 Kings 6:25 ff., etc.), (4) the Divine title He that sitteth upon the
Cherubim (Ps. 80:1, 99:1, Isa. 37:16). The Ark and the Oracle had but two
representations of cherubic figures; in Ezekiel they are four and yet one, and seem to
symbolize the power which in its worldwide and manifold operations upholds and
pervades while it transcends Creation. The Apocalyptist abandons the complexities of
Ezekiels imagery; the wheels and lightning-like movements of the disappear, and
so does their mysterious unity: the living creatures of the Apocalypse are four distinct
organisms. But in the main no doubt he presents the same idea; the represent
Creation and the Divine immanence in Nature. Cf. Andreas:

.
] Cf. Ezek. 1:18
, 10:12

. Again Ezekiels description is simplified, while the main thought is
preserved; the are full of eyes before and behind and (v. 8) around and within. The
symbolism sets forth the ceaseless vigilance of Nature, or rather of the immanent Power
which works under visible forms. , a somewhat rare word in Biblical Gk.
generally (LXX.8, Mt.2, Lc.1, Paul1), occurs seven times in the Apoc. (4:6, 4:8, 5:8, 15:7,
17:3 f., 21:9); on the construction, see Blass, Gr. p. 102.
7. .] Cf. Ezek. 1:10 (10:14)
... ... ... , where the
forms are the same, but the order differs. The four forms represent whatever is noblest,
strongest, wisest, and swiftest in animate Nature. Nature, including Man, is represented
before the Throne, taking its part in the fulfilment of the Divine Will, and the worship
of the Divine Majesty. On the early (Iren. 3. 11. 8) but unfortunate identification of the
with the , see St Marks2, p. 36 ff., and Zahn, Forschungen, 2. p.
257 ff. : see WM. p. 132.
8. ] Each one of them having severally six
wings. Ezekiel (1:6) gives each of the four wings; six is the number assigned to the
Seraphim in Isa. 6:2, a passage which the Apocalyptist, who does not identify his
with either the Cherubim or the Seraphim, has constantly in view. The wings, if our
interpretation is right, represent the velocities of Nature, as the eyes represented its

sleepless vigilance. For () see Mc. 14:19, note; and for , used as a
distributive adverb, WM. p. 496 f., Blass, Gr. p. 122. , not , here and in v. 7,
because the are invested with intelligence, as the sequel shews; cf. 5:6, 21:14, and

see WM. p. 660. The remarkable reading of Syr.gw (( ((( ((((


)((((
seems to have arisen from Ez. 1:27 (LXX.); see Gwynn ad loc.
. . It is tempting to connect . with the previous
clause, especially if we read with Q : cf. Vict. habentes alas
senas in circuitu et oculos intus et foris; but Ezekiel 1:18 (10:12) seems to decide in
favour of the punctuation given in the text, and corresponds with
. (4:6). adds a new feature, pointing to the secret energies of Nature.
.] While man and the other animals divide the
twenty-four hours between work and repose, and are allowed by the Creator one day in
seven for rest (Exod. 16:23 ), and the individual worker rests
at length in the grave (Apoc. 6:11, 14:13), the wheel of Nature (Jac. 3:6
), i.e. the Divine activity immanent in Nature, pursues an unbroken course: cf.
Jo. 5:17 , . This ceaseless activity of
Nature under the Hand of God is a ceaseless tribute of praise. Cf. Enoch 39:12 those
who sleep not bless Thee; 71:7 round about were Seraphim, Cherubim, and Ophanim;
these are they who sleep not and guard the throne of His glory. Arethas well remarks:
,
.
.] Another loan from Isaiahs description of the
Seraphim (6:3
); the Apocalyptist, as usual, does not tie himself to his source; he inserts
after , changes into , and adds . from 1:8,
dropping altogether Isaiahs , as less appropriate in a
tribute of praise which is offered in heaven. On as a rendering of

(
see 1:8, note. The Liturgies retain the Isaianic form (Brightman, pp. 18 f., 50,
132, etc.; cf. Clem. R., Cor. 34), which has also found its way into the Te Deum; but
they attribute the Ter Sanctus to Cherubim and Seraphim, as if meaning to blend
Isaiahs with Ezekiels vision, after the manner of the Apocalypse. (God
in His future self-manifestations) in the mouth of the suggests the of
Creation (Rom. 8:19 ff., Apoc. 21:1 ff.).
9. .] The difficult , which is probably
the true reading, is not without example, see WH.2 Notes, p. 178, WM. p. 388, Burton,
308; Viteau, tude, 1. pp. 125, 227 ff., and cf. Mc. 8:35, note. Translate: whensoever
the living creatures shall give (i.e. as often as they give) glory the Four and twenty
Elders shall fall etc. The two actions are coordinated as simultaneous. Nature and the
Church must ever unite in the praise of God; when one begins its anthem, it is the signal
for the other to fall upon its knees before the Throne. The Seer states this fact, of which
Vict. Victorinus
WH. Westcott and Hort, N.T. in Greek second edition (1896).

the vision made him cognisant, in the form of a law. This concurrence of the
and the in the worship of God was keenly realised by the Ancient Church; cf.
e.g. the Liturgy of St Mark (Brightman, p. 132), ,
, ,
. There is certainly not less cause for its recognition in an age
which like our own is replete with new revelations of the wonders of the physical
universe. Every fresh discovery of physical science should deepen the adoration of the
faithful.
(=
,

) is from the LXX. (Ps. 8:6, 28. (29.) 1, 95. (96.)7).
The phrase is coupled in the N.T. with (Rom. 2:7), (1 Pet. 1:7),
(Apoc. 4:11, 5:12). , a word which with its cognate verb is unknown
to the canonical books of the LXX., occurs in a theological sense Paul12, Apoc.2, and in
both the Apocalyptic passages is found in a doxology. While and have regard
to the Divine perfections, refers to the Divine gifts in creation and
redemption.
] The Living Creatures and the Elders offer
their tribute to the Living God; created life adores the Uncreated. On see 1:18;
here it is evidently a title of the Father ( ), though not to the
exclusion of the Son, Who is the Fathers , or of the Spirit, Who is
represented by the Seven Spirits before the Throne. With cf. Deut.
32:40, Dan. 4:31 (34), Apoc. 10:6, 15:7.
10. .] Hitherto the Elders have been
silent assessors; now they rise from their thrones (v. 4), fall upon their knees, and
prostrate themselves (, cf. 1 Regn. 25:23) on the floor of heaven, laying
their crowns of victory at the foot of the central Throne, in readiness to offer their
tribute of praise. The last act is suggestive either of the homage paid to an overlord, or
of the submission of a suppliant, seeking mercy from a conqueror. Cf. Plutarch, Lucull.,
p. 522 ; Cicero,
pro Sext. 27 hunc Cn. Pompeius, cum in suis castris supplicem abjectumque vidisset,
erexit, atque insigne regium, qued ille de sue capite abiecerat, reposuit; Tac. ann. 15:29
ad quam [sc. effigiem Neronis] progressus Tiridates sublatum capite diadems imagini
subiecit. In Jabbuk, 1 f. 55, Pharaoh and the Kings of the East are represented as taking
off their crowns in the presence of Moses and Aaron. The crowns of the Elders
however were not but , symbols of victory and eternal life, and in
their case the act is equivalent to an acknowledgment that their victory and their glory
were from God, and were theirs only of His grace. Cf. Andreas: , , ,
. Arethas:
;
11. , .] The addressed the Creator simply as
. The Elders recognise a relation to Him which the Creation as such
cannot claim. He is (1) the Lord, the ,, of revelation, and (2) their God (
, cf. 3:12 ). On the use of the nominatives , , for the
vocatives see Blass, Gr. p. 87. To the and which the ascribe to God the

Elders add , cf. 5:12, 7:12, 19:1, and the doxologies in Mt. 6:13, T.R., Didache
8. Glory, honour, and power are rightly ascribed to the Creator of the universe (
), which owes its existence to His will. is at first sight
perplexing; we expect , cf. Acts 17:28
. (Q), they were not, and out of that state of nonexistence were called into being by the act of creation, is an ingenious correction. But
the better supported also yields a good sense. It places the potential existence of
the universe before its creation. The Divine Will had made the universe a fact in the
scheme of things before the Divine Power gave material expression to the fact. Thus
looks back to the eternal past, to the genesis of Nature. Both are
ascribed to the Father; His Will was the cause ( ), as His Logos was
the Agent of Creation: cf. 1 Cor. 8:6 , ...
, .
Of this chapter as a whole it may be well said with Tertullian de coron. 15 si tales
imagines in visione, quales veritates in repraesentatione?