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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 4

Wallace's Commentary on the Book of RevelationWallace on Revelation

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With this section begins the Revelation proper, following the antecedent vision of Chapter 1 and the preliminary messages to the seven churches.

This section surrounds Christ as conqueror, in conflict of his Cause with the secular powers and Jewish authorities. The developments are gathered around the divine promise of 1:7--"Behold he cometh,” and 22:7--“Behold, I come quickly,” coupled with and corresponding to the closing prayer “even so, come Lord Jesus.” It signified the coming of the Lord in the immediate great events, which he would overrule to the triumph of his cause and the success of his kingdom-- Rev_11:15 .

The repetition of the promise to come must be interpreted in keeping with the non-literal character of the book; hence, not his personal coming, not the second coming advent, but in the various events, judgments and rewards-- Rev_1:7 , Rev_22:12 .

The phrases “the coming of the Lord”; and “his coming”; and “son of man cometh”; have numerous connotations in the scriptures.

(1) It is used in reference to the first advent of Christ -- Gen_49:10 ; Joh_6:14 ; Act_7:52 ; Mat_11:3 ; 2Pe_1:16 .

(2) It is further used in reference to his second advent -- Act_1:11 ; 1Co_11:26 ; 1Th_2:19 ; 1Th_3:13 ; 1Th_4:15 ; 1Th_5:23 and, hence in these passages to the end of time.

(3) It refers to his presence in the apostles-- Joh_14:28 ; Joh_14:3 ; Mat_28:20 , hence in these verses to inspiration, to his indwelling in them.

(4) It indicates the presence of Christ in the Christian -- Joh_14:23 ; Rev_3:20 .

(5) It designates the destruction of Jerusalem-- Zec_14:1 ; Mat_24:3-30 ; Mat_26:64 ; Jam_5:7-8 .

(6) It denotes the appearance of his kingdom-- Matthew 16:27-8 ; Mark_9:1-50 :1 -his coming on Pentecost.

(7) It is applied to the death of a Christian-- 1Co_1:7 ; 1Co_4:7 .

(8) It is descriptive of the judgment day-- Mat_15:31 ; 2Ti_4:1 ; 2Th_2:1 ; 1Pe_3:10 ; Jud_1:21 .

(9) It is connected with the fulfillment of promises-- Rom_9:9 ; Mal_3:2 ; Mal_4:5 ; Act_2:20 ; Act_15:16 .

(10) It symbolizes events of both retribution and reward in the imagery of Revelation--l:7; 2:5, 25; 3:11, 20; 22:7, 20.

From beginning to end the book abounds in imagery, full of puzzling enigmas, but notwithstanding the obscurities which give rise to conflicting interpretation, it nevertheless finds both application and fulfillment in the history of the first century period of persecution.

Albert Barnes remarked that he was unable to apply the symbols of Revelation until he had read Gibbon’s history of Rome. Philip Schaff said that the internal evidence is strongly in favor of the conclusion of many scholars who hold to the early date--between A.D. 60 to 70--before the destruction of Jerusalem, supporting the view that it was written under the Neroan period rather than the Domitian, being therefore descriptive of the approaching destruction of Jerusalem, the downfall of Judaism and the dissolution of paganism and the heathen world by the expansion of Christianity.

The imagery therefore surrounds the ancient city of Jerusalem, not Rome. The inclusion of the Roman Empire into the symbols was collateral to the persecutions, the Roman emperors representing the secular power with which the destinies of Jerusalem and Judaism were affiliated in the political history. The contents of the book confirm this conclusion of an impressive number of scholars, and the past historical exegesis rather than the prophetical and continuous-historical theory is the only satisfactory application of its majestic and magnificent imagery.

It unrolls a sublime panorama of the victorious Christ, called the Lamb; and of his triumphant church, called the Bride--the Lamb’s bride. As a light shining in darkness, it was a book of hope and comfort to a church on the threshold of persecution, for amidst the ominous signs of calamity was also the omen of victory.

Convinced of and committed to this view, the author will follow this exegesis.

Verse 1


The One on the throne--4:1-3.

1. “A door was opened in heaven”--4:1.

The word heaven here signifies the source of all revelation, being the place of God’s residence. ( Dan_4:26 ; Joh_1:51 ; Joh_3:27 ; Rom_1:18 ; Gal_1:8 ; Heb_12:25 ; 1Pe_1:12 ; Mat_16:17 ) And from the heavenly throne proceeded these visions. It is the abode of God who is “the God of heaven.” ( 1Ki_8:30 ; Dan_2:28 ; Mat_5:45 ) It is there that God has his throne. ( Isa_66:1 ; Psa_103:19 ; Psa_11:4 ) It is the seat of sovereignty, the symbol of regal authority, from which justice and judgment are dispensed. ( Psa_89:14 ) Being thus the sign of royalty, throne is applied to the center of all divine authority. ( Mat_19:28 ) “Come up hither and I will show thee.” The apocalypse in its complete composition proceeded from the one who sits on the throne. ( Dan_2:47 ; Mat_11:27 ; Php_3:15 ; Joh_4:1 )

Verses 2-3

2. “A throne was set in heaven”--4:2.

The throne was not there for this vision only, it was set, established as the throne of heaven. ( Psa_119:89 )

3. “He that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone”4:3.

Here was the figure of intense splendor. Jasper was an opaque species of different colors, subject to high polish. The New Testament use of the term “jasper,” here and elsewhere referred to a transparent gem, the diamond, or the translucent chalcedon. Sardine (or Sardius) was an ancient favorite of the engraver’s art, discovered in Asia Minor, of lasting beauty of color; it was a brilliant fleshred. But no physical or material substance can be made comparable to God’s person; at best it serves only as an emblem of the resplendent and exquisite grandeur and glory of his divine Being.

4. “A rainbow round about the throne"--4:3.

The rainbow stands for a covenant-- Gen_9:13-17 -- and the emblem here is of the covenanted protection from the judgment of impending events; not escape from the suffering, but exemption from judgments, which would come upon the enemies of the church.

5. “In sight like an emerald"--4:3.

The rainbow is a seven-color reflection. Its brilliance appears between the shining sun and the rain clouds. Here emerald in the bow is specified--a very precious gem, of deep green color-which is its real value, as the deepest colors were the prized. The word emerald had a root meaning of glowing. The emerald-green in the rainbow signified that through the grace of patience deliverance was vouchsafed.

Verses 4-5

The four and twenty elders--4:4-5.

1. “Four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting”--4:4.

The four and twenty signified the patriarchs and apostles- twelve each, twenty-four in number. It was the symbol of the totality of God’s people in the New Testament church; the whole body of the redeemed. The twelve tribes and the twelve apostles represented the completeness of the church; the Old and the New were combined in the symbol represented in the chiefs: the patriarchs of the Old, and the apostles of the New.

2. “Lightnings . . . voices . . . thunderings"--4:5.

These were signs of a procession of terrible and awful events and is an impressive representation of Omnipotence. ( Exo_19:16 ) It was a symbol of the accompanying divine presence in the “seven lamps and the seven spirits” before the throne, signifying universal presence, with eyes to search whole world, and to bring all men to judgment.

Verses 6-7

The four living beasts (beings)--4:6-11.

1. The sea of glass--4:6.

This denotes the great broad space. A throne chamber with crystal pavement as a figure of magnitude and grandeur was added to the scene.

2. The beings full of eyes--4:6.

The eyes were before, behind, and all around, symbolizing superhuman intelligence. It was imagery of the divine providential rule and protection of an all-seeing God.

3. The four beasts--4:6-7.

“In the midst of the throne and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.” The meaning of the word beasts here is beings, or creatures resembling the animals. It is necessary to distinguish these “beasts” or beings from the beasts that symbolized the persecutors. These beings were “in the midst . . . round about the throne”; hence, not beasts as in the persecutor symbol.

The first beast was like a lion, symbolizing strength; the second beast was like a calf (ox), meaning endurance under yoke; the third beast was the face of a man, signifying intelligence, reason, and wisdom; the fourth beast was like an eagle, representing penetrating vision and swiftness in the execution of judgment. The four beasts (beings) had six wings each (Verse 8), and the wings were full of eyes, indicating the universal survey of an all-seeing Omniscience.

And they rest not day and night --praising the One on the throne without surcease. There was no suspension of God’s providence; no cessation in the honor ascribed; no interruption of the praise; no intermission in the various dispensations and acts of his providence and in the praise, glory, homage derived and received, and in the worship rendered to him who was declared to be eternal.

Verses 8-11

4. The doxology--4:8-11.

Compare the seraphim of Isa_6:2 ; and the angelic guard of attendants, suited to a grand composite scene, it pictured a glorious epiphany. Acting in concert, the creature-- beings--say, “holy, holy, Lord God Almighty”; and the elders on the throne-seats fell before Him who sat on the throne and worshiped in unison, without discord; in unity of worship, and in unity of honor to one God; and they cast their crowns before Him as a sign of surrender to God’s will, for they were as he willed and were created to do his pleasure.

Bibliographical Information
Wallace, Foy E. "Commentary on Revelation 4". "Wallace's Commentary on the Book of Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/foy/revelation-4.html. 1966.
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