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Bible Commentaries

Knollys' Commentary on Revelation

Revelation 4

Verse 1

Revelation 4:1

Revelation 4:1 After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.

“ After this I looked”

that is, after the apostle John had seen the vision of the seven golden candlesticks, he looked, that is, he waited and expected to have more visions and revelations from the Lord Jesus Christ. One glimpse of the glory of God in the Revelation of Jesus Christ, {2 Corinthians 4:6} doth cause his saints and servants to look for more, {Psalms 63:1-2} To see thy power and thy glory, as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.

“ And behold, a door was opened in heaven”

Stephen had heaven opened, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus Christ standing on the right hand of God. {Acts 7:55-56} Peter also saw heaven opened, {Acts 10:11-16} and St. John beheld a door opened in heaven; that is, he had an open vision of unseen glory, as Stephen had, and a revelation of things that should come to pass.

"And the first voice which I heard,"

see Revelation 1:10-11

"was as it were of a trumpet talking with me;"

that is, a loud voice, full of majesty, yet familiar and friendly, talking with me. John’s spiritual acquaintance with Jesus Christ in glory, begot a holy and humble familiarity with his majesty without fear.

“ Which said, come up hither; ”

that is, to Christ, to me, that is, in heaven, where Christ is;

“ and I will show thee”

make known unto thee

“ things which must be hereafter”

viz. Those things that are to come, and shall shortly come to pass. See Revelation 1:1; Revelation 1:19.

Verse 2

Revelation 4:2

Revelation 4:2 And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.

As soon as Christ has said unto John, come up hither, he was immediately in the spirit; that is, without any delay, instantly,

“ I was in the spirit”

or in a spiritual rapture and ecstasy. (See the exposition, Revelation 1:10).

See KNOLLYS: Revelation 1:10

“ And behold, a throne was set in heaven.”

This metaphorical word is borrowed from the great monarchs and kings of the earth, who have their thrones set for judgement, {Psalms 122:5} The throne of his father David, which God promised to give Jesus Christ, {Lu 1:31-33} or else mystically it is the Church of God, which is called glorious throne, {Jeremiah 17:12} A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary; and {Jeremiah 3:17} Jerusalem, the throne of JEHOVAH.

“ And one sat on the throne”

namely, King Jesus, {Isaiah 41:14-15} I AM JEHOVAH, your holy ONE, the creator of Israel your King, The King of Saints, {Revelation 15:3} The King of Sion, {Psalms 149:1-2} The King of Nations, {Jeremiah 10:7} The only Potentate, {1 Timothy 6:15} the King of Kings. {Revelation 19:12-16}

Verse 3

Revelation 4:3

Revelation 4:3 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.

“ And he that sat”

to sit upon a throne, doth signify, first, to make laws and constitutions for all his subjects, his churches, ministers and saints, how they should walk and worship God, {James 4:12} There is one law-giver. {Isaiah 33:22} The Lord is our law-giver -The Lord is our King, and HE will save us.

“ Was to look upon like a jasper”

our Lord Jesus Christ, the king, priest, and prophet of his church, is here resembled by three precious stones in Aaron’s breast plate; the jasper, the sardine, and the emerald, {Exodus 28:20-39} which were also three of the foundation stones of the holy city, the new Jerusalem. {Revelation 21:11-20} This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of JEHOVAH, Jesus, in Ezekiel’s vision. {Ezekiel 1:26-28} The other jasper is a precious stone, which shineth so bright, that no color can darken it; hereby it figured forth the shining glory of Jesus Christ, who is the brightest of his father’s glory. {Hebrews 1:3; 2 Corinthians 4:6} The sardine, or sardius, is a precious stone of a clear carnation color; hereby is represented the spiritual beauty, and loveliness of Jesus Christ, Song of Solomon 5:10-16 who is white and ruddy, and altogether lovely; made so precious to sanctified believers by his sufferings. {1 Peter 2:4-7} A crucified Jesus is a precious Jesus, {Isaiah 63:1-3} glorious in his red apparel; his bloody garments of redemption and salvation. {Ephesians 1:7; Isaiah 61:10} The emerald is a lively lovely green stone, mixed with shining rays, and sparklings of other excellent and pleasant colors, which make that precious stone very desirable for its worth, beauty, and lustre. So is our precious Lord Jesus Christ ten thousand thousand times more worth, more glorious, and more desirable for the variety of his spiritual gifts and graces.

“ And there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald”

And Christ is said to have a rainbow upon his head, {Revelation 10:1} The rainbow was a token of Gods covenant with Noah, {Genesis 9:11-16} and was applied by the prophet for the everlasting comfort of the church of God, {Isaiah 54:5-10} and signifies that God and Christ is ever mindful of the new covenant, and will perform his word to a thousand generations. {De 7:9; Psalms 111:5} God will not break his covenant, {Psalms 89:30-35} and Christ is the mediator of the new convenant between God and his people. {1 Timothy 2:5-6; Hebrews 8:6}

Verse 4

Revelation 4:4

Revelation 4:4 And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.

“ four and twenty seats”

The four and twenty seats upon which John saw four and twenty elders sitting round about the throne, do signify the ministry of Christ in his church, who had the care and charge of the flock, to feed them, {Acts 20:28} and who have the rule over the members of the church, {Hebrews 13:7-17} to govern them by the laws of the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, they did sit upon seats (or thrones) being governors in the church of God, according to Christ’s institution. {Ephesians 4:11-13; 1 Corinthians 12:28; 1 Corinthians 4:1-6}

Clothed in white raiment, and they had on their heads crowns of gold

Hereby is signified, first, their holiness or sanctification, called the righteousness of the saints, {Revelation 19:7-8} their garments of salvation, and robe of righteousness, {Isaiah 61:10} their raiment is made white in the blood of Christ, wherein they washed their robes, as they did {Revelation 7:14-15} therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his Temple; that is, his church. Secondly, their honour or dignity of eldership; the elders that rule well are worthy of double honour; { 1 Timothy 5:17; Revelation 4:10-11} whereof Christ hath the pre-eminence, as in all other things. {Colossians 1:18}

Verse 5

Revelation 4:5

Revelation 4:5 And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.

"lightnings, and thunderings, and voices"

By the lightnings, and thunderings, and voices which proceeded out of the throne, the Church of God, that is, from Christ and the elders; we may understand the dispensations of the gospel, that cometh not in word only (signified by voices) but in power, {1 Thessalonians 1:5} (expressed by lightnings and thunders) such are the right and just censures of Christ and his church, {1 Corinthians 5:4-5} against those in the church that are hereticks, schismaticks, or scandalous sinners; and the seven lamps of fire are the Seven Spirits of God. {See Revelation 1:14}

Verse 6

Revelation 4:6

Revelation 4:6 And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.

This sea of glass beareth some resemblance unto the sea of brass in Solomon’s Temple, {1 Kings 7:2-3} like crystal, that is, clear and perspicuous; such is the gospel of the grace of God, {2 Corinthians 3:18} wherein we have an open vision of Jesus Christ, who is the image of the unseen glory of God. {2 Corinthians 4:6} By this sea of glass we may understand the pure worship of God under the gospel, {Revelation 15:3-5} mixed with fire; that is, with fiery trials, persecutions and sufferings for Christ, on which the victors stood with Christ, singing, praising and worshipping him.

“ And in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts”

Tessara zwa (quatnor Animalia) four living creatures, (zyon) signifies (Animale Rationale) a rational living creature, not a beast, for these were some of Christ’s redeemed ones, {Revelation 5:8-9} they were men who worshipped God. {Revelation 4:9-10; Revelation 5:14} The four and twenty elders were the ministers of God in general: these four living creatures were the four sorts of officers of Christ in special, fixed and set by him in every particular congregation and church of saints, who waited and attended on the work of the ministry in the church. {Romans 12:7-8; 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11-13}

"Full of eyes, before and behind"

whereby is signified the watchfulness of the elders, whom the holy spirit hath made overseers of the flock of God, the church of saints. {Acts 20:28} They had eyes within; that is, the pastors and teachers are to look to themselves, and to their doctrine. {1 Timothy 4:16} They had eyes before; that is, they ought to look that no false brethren creep in unawares. {Galatians 2:4-5} And they had eyes behind; that is, they ought to look after the members of the church, and see that they walk orderly, {Colossians 2:5-7} and have their conversation as becometh the gospel. {Philippians 1:27}

Verse 7

Revelation 4:7

Revelation 4:7 And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.

"first living creature was like a lion"

ONE, that is, the first living creature was like a lion the lion is a kingly beast for courage and boldness, {Proverbs 21:1-2; 2 Samuel 17:10} and turneth not away for any. {Proverbs 30:30} When he roareth the beasts of the forest do tremble. {Amos 3:8} So the elders that rule well in the churches of saints have boldness for Christ, (as Peter and John had,){ Acts 4:13} and the church prayed God to give his ministers boldness {Acts 4:19; Acts 4:29} which holy boldness the ministers of Christ are to exercise, both in preaching the word, and in ruling and governing the church and flock of Christ, {1 Timothy 5:20; 2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:13; Titus 3:10} according to Christ’s institutions.

"And the second living creature like a calf or ox"

The ox is a strong beast, {Proverbs 14:4} and laborious under the yoke. {Psalms 144:14; De 25:4} By the ox, here is signified the pastors that labour in the word and doctrine, {1 Corinthians 3:9; 1 Corinthians 9:4-11; 1 Timothy 5:17} etc. The apostle exhorted the saints in the church of the Thessalonians to own them and esteem them highly for their work’s sake, who did labour among them, and were over them in the Lord. {1 Thessalonians 5:12-13}

“ And the third living creature had a face as a man”

Whereby the deacons of the churches of saints are fitly resembled, whose office, ministry, and work, is to attend the outward affairs of the church of God, and to serve tables in the daily ministration: They are to make provision for the Lords table, the ministers table, the poors table, and the strangers table; and to this end the apostle appointed that there should be collections for the saints in the churches every first day, {1 Corinthians 16:1-2} and they counselled the church at Jerusalem to choose seven men fitly, qualified for this work, and they ordained them unto this office. {Acts 6:1-7} They that have used the office of a deacon well, purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. {1 Timothy 3:13}

“ And the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle”

The eagle flieth aloft towards heaven, {Proverbs 25:3} She mounteth up on high, {Job 39:27} whereunto the teachers in churches of saints are fitly resembled, who give attendance to reading, expounding, interpreting and teaching, {Acts 12:6-7; 1 Timothy 4:13-15} studying to show themselves workmen approved of God, who need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth; especially the prophecies and mysteries of the gospel, and of the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ; as. {Acts 28:31}

Verse 8

Revelation 4:8

Revelation 4:8 And the four beasts 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 Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.

"And the four living creatures had each of them six wings above him"

So had the cherubims in Ezekiel’s vision of the thrones of the Lord’s glory; four wings, {Ezekiel 1:1-10; Ezekiel 10:1-8} also the seraphims in Isaiah’s vision. {Isaiah 6:2-7} Each one had six wings; whereby we may understand the alacrity and readiness of all the officers in the churches of saints to attend upon their duty, as. {Romans 12:6-8}

And they rest not day and night, saying, holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come

They rest not day and night

that is, they are instant in season, and out of season, preaching the word of God, {2 Timothy 4:1-2} and praying, {1 Thessalonians 3:10} and serving God night and day in his Temple, as they did, {Revelation 7:15} saying, holy, holy, holy that is, most holy Lord God; the father, word and holy spirit, for these three are ONE. {1 John 5:7} Almighty, that is, able to do what he pleaseth to do, in heaven, in earth, and in all places, who worketh all things according to the counsel of his own will. {Ephesians 1:11} See Revelation 1:8 which was, and is, and is to come viz. The eternal God.

Verse 9

Revelation 4:9

Revelation 4:9 And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,

And when those living creatures give glory

that is, when the ministers begin to worship God in the church by celebrating his praise; attributing all glory and honour unto God the father, son, and holy spirit, and give him thanks for all spiritual blessings, and temporal mercies received from him that sitteth upon the throne, who liveth forever and ever.

Verse 10

Revelation 4:10

Revelation 4:10 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,

The four and twenty elders fall down, etc. and worship

they joined with the four living creatures, and all the rest of the members of the church in worshipping God;

And they cast their crowns before the throne

See Revelation 4:4. They do acknowledge that they received all their ecclesiastical authority, power, and dignity from Christ.

Verse 11

Revelation 4:11

Revelation 4:11 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.

In this verse we have, first, the elders confession,

Thou are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honour, and power.

Secondly, the reason they give.

For thou hast created all things

visible and invisible. {John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16-18} For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth-And by him all things consist-That in all things he might have the pre-eminence.

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Bibliographical Information
Knollys, Hanserd. "Commentary on Revelation 4". "Knollys' Commentary on Revelation".