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THE VISION PRECEDING THE BOOK WITH SEVEN SEALS.
After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven; and the first voice whick I heard, was as it were of a trumpet talking with me ; which said, Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter. 2 And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. 3 And he that sat was to look
upon like a jasper and a sardine stone : and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. 4 And round about the throne were four and twenty seats : and upon the seats I saw four and tuenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment ; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. 5 And out of the throne proceeded ightnings, and thunderings, and voices : And there were seven hmps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven spirts of God. 6 And before the throne there was a sea of glass likı unto crystal : and in the midst of the throne, and round abost the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes before and be. hind. 7 And the first living creature was like a lion, and the second living creature like a calf, and the third. living creature had a face as a man, and the fourth living creature was like a fying eagle. 8 And the four living creatures had each of them six wings about him ; and they were full of eyes within : and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy Lord God Amighty,
which was, and is, and is to come. 9 And when those living creatures give glory, and honour, and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, 10 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honour, and power : for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
The whole of this chapter is introductory to what follows. The scene of the vision is the heavenly world. Nowhere else could it have been with equal propriety. Where, but at the fountain of intelligence and influence, should a creature learn the secrets of futurity? When Ahab's destiny was revealed to Micaiah, the scene of the vision was laid in heaven.*
A door being opened, the apostle is invited to enter in. Hay. ing entered, he immediately finds himself under prophetic inspiration. He was not removed from earth as to his body: but, as Ezekiel was carried by the Spirit to Jerusalem, and saw what was transacting there, while his body was still in Chaldea, so it was with bim; he was still in the Isle of Patmos, while wrapt up by divine inspiration, and introduced into the immediate presence of God.
lı this supernatural state of mind he beheld a “throne," and one" sitting upon it,” who was the Supreme Disposer of all the concerns of creatures. Such a sight would impress bim with the conviction that whatever should befall the church, or the world, it wis all according to his will who ruled in the armies of heaven, and
imong the inhabitants of the earth. Ver. 1, 2. No description is given of the ever blessed God, only that bis glory seemed to resemble the lustre of certain precious stones; and this may allude to the visible glory of the God of Israel as displayed in the temple. A rainbow was also round about the throne, in appearance like an emerald. We know that this froni of old was a sign of peace and good will to men. It
here denote that the glorious majesty of God, which in itself were too
* 1 Kings xxii. 19-22.
much to be endured, would be displayed towards his church in connexion with covenant mercy. Ver. 3.
Having spoken of the King eternal, immortal, and invisible, sitting on his throne, he next describes his retinue. . Here are twenty-four seats, or subordinate thrones, on which sat twenty-four elders, clothed in white, and with crowns of gold upon their heads. The "lightnings, and thunderings, and voices,” may denote not only the awful majesty of God, as when he appeared at Sinai, but that from him proceeded all the terrible judgments which would shortly afflict the earth. Besides these there were seven lamps of fire before the throne,” which are said to be “the seven spirits of God;" answering, it may be, to the seven candlesticks, and being as it were a lamp to each candlestick. The light imparted by the churches is all derived from the Holy Spirit. These seven lamps enlighten the world. Ver. 4, 5.
“ Before the throne was a sea of glass like unto crystal.' This crystal sea, as it was in appearance, but which was so solid that the barpers are afterwards described as standing upon it, may be Copposed to the troubled tumultuous sea out of which the beast would rise, and may denote the grandeur and immutability of the divine throne as opposed to the turbulence and uncertainty of earthly thrones. The four living creatures seem to be the same as those described by Ezekiel, and to allude, as they did, to the cherubim in the holy of holies. That which the wheels were to the one, the elders are to the other; connected with them like horses in a chariot, in all their movements. Of the former it is said, “When the living creatures went, the wheels went by them; when those stood, these stood; and when those were lifted up from the earth, these were lifted up over against them : for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels." * latter it is said, “When those living creatures 'give glory and honour and thanks to bim that sitteth on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, the four and twenty elders fall down before him, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to
receive glory, and honour, and power, for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”
The living creatures cannot be angels, for both they and the elders are distinguished from them in Chap. vii. 11., where all the angels are said to stand round about the throne, and about the elders and the four living creatures. Besides this, the living creatures and the elders speak of themselves as “redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation." Chap. v. 9. Those who led the worship under the Old Testament might be meant by the living creatures of Ezekiel ; and those who lead the worship under the New Testament may be signified by those of John. They and the elders, like the stars and the candlesticks, appear to be the representatives of Christ's ministers and churches in the heavenly assembly. They are not described as being themselves on earth, or in a state of affliction, but as before the throne of God : as though a number of the spirits of just men made perfect bad been chosen of God, to represent in his immediate presence their brethren upon earth, and who, as things should be described which concerned the church, would express the interest they felt in them.
The description of the living creatures as bearing a resemblance to certain animals, and as having each six wings, which wings were “full of eyes within,” would naturally express their useful properties, particularly the union of zeal and knowledge; and their unceasing ascriptions of glory to God may denote the tendency of their ministerial labours. The elders were crowned, but they cast their crowns before the throne. Such appear to be the scene and the scenery of this preparatory vision. Ver. 6-11.