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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 5

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

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Verses 1-14


Section Fourth

Second Grand Vision. Heaven-picture of the Seals. (Chs. 4, 5)

General.a. Translation of the Seer to Heaven. A vision within a vision, at the same time denoting a momentary translation into the light of the consummation.—The import of Heaven in the whole of Sacred Writ, from Genesis 1:1 throughout, is at once cosmical and spiritual. Heaven is, so to speak, the plastic symbol of religion, and especially of Christianity. God’s Kingdom, a Kingdom of Heaven.

b. The Throne, the Sitter thereon, and His Government. The Throne indescribable. The figure of the Enthroned One is—and justly—not depicted, but only symbolized, approximately, by precious stones, having the hue of light and life.—The rainbow, or the glory of the Godhead, visible, in the chromatic, seven-fold radiance of revelation, to the spirit-world.—The twenty-four Elders on their thrones, or the elect in the lustre of perfect fellowship with God.—The white robes of consummation.—The ground-forms of Divine revelation: Lightnings, voices, thunders; see Exeg. Notes.—The Seven Spirits of God, under the figure of eternally burning Lamps [Torches], symbols of the eternal living unity of light, life and love.—The glassy sea and the four Life-forms; see Exeg. Notes.—God’s governance under the figure of these Life-forms.—The second doxology (Revelation 4:11) a development of the first (Revelation 1:6)—an expression of the ever richer revelation of God.

c. The Sealed Book of the Course of the World. Lamentation and Consolation. The course of the world as a completed book, or the counsel of God. As a sealed book, or the nocturnal gloom of worldly history. As a terrible book, in the apparent impossibility of unsealing it. As a book full of wonders of salvation, destined to be opened by the Lion of Judah in His victory. Christ the Crucified and Risen One, the Opener, Explainer and Transfigurer [Erklärer und Verklärer] of the book with seven seals. The seals of guilt [Schuld=indebtedness to justice], of imputation of guilt, of judgment, of the curse, of death, of the fear of death, and of despair—how Christ looses them and resolves them all into deliverance and mercy, through His redemption. Even the Gospel is to the unenlightened world a dark book of fate, but through the enlightenment which proceeds from Christ, even the dark destiny of the world shall itself become a Gospel.

d. The Lion as the Lamb. The unity of Lion and Lamb, or the absolute victorious power of perfect love and suffering. Divine omnipotence and Divine endurance in their general unity as exhibited in the history of the world, and in their concentrated unity as exhibited in Christ. The Lamb, the centre of all life, (1) of the Throne of God, (2) of the four ground-forms of His governance, (3) of the chosen presbyters of the Old and the New Covenant.—The symbolic appearance of the Lamb, see Exeg. Notes.—As it had been slain, or the infinite import of the historic phase of Christ and Christianity. Christ has taken the office of solving the riddle of worldly history from the hand of the Father.

e. The Cultus of the Lamb. The third doxology, or the New Song: the type of Christian cultus. An antiphony between the beatified human world and the holy angel-world; a symphony of all good spirits and all creatures, to the praise of the Lamb and the glorification of the all-ruling God.

Special.—[Chs. 4–5.] The great vision of the Providence of God.—[Revelation 4:2-3.] The power of Providence: God on His Throne; [Revelation 4:4.] the aim of Providence: consummation of the spirit-world, represented by the twenty-four Elders; [Revelation 4:5.] operations of Providence: manifestations of the Spirits of God; [Revelation 4:6.] the work of Providence: the glassy sea, the billowy and yet transparent history of the world; [Revelation 4:6-8.] the organs of Providence: the four Life-forms, or ground-forms of the Divine governance; [Revelation 4:8-11.] gloriousness of Providence: its result a continuous doxology; [Revelation 4:1] idea of Providence: the sealed book. [Revelation 4:2-3.] Terrors and obscurities of the government of Divine Providence.—[Revelation 4:4.] The weeping geniuses of humanity.—[Revelation 4:5.] Weep not. How many times these words appear in the New Testament, like fear not, or be of good cheer, and similar heavenly words of encouragement.—[Revelation 4:5-6.] The light and all enlightening centre of Providence: Christ as the Lamb and the Lion.—Christianity, or the Death and Resurrection of Christ in their infinite operation.—The Redemption [Erlösung] as the solving [Lösung] of all riddles of worldly history, of humanity and of the world.—The Elders, appearing, in their attributes, as heirs of perfect communion with God, as the trusted witnesses of His rule.—A Presbytery of God: Christological idea of men who are in affinity with God. and who, through Christ, are elevated into the position of heirs of God.—[Revelation 4:8-11.] Third and completely developed doxology.—Every delineation of the Lion is false, which does not, at the same time, permit the Lamb to be clearly recognized. Every delineation of the Lamb is false, behind which the Lion vanishes. Only the Spirit of Christ can grasp this great contrast as a living unity. As so entirely a unity, that the Lion were not without the Lamb’s nature, or the Lamb without the Lion’s nature.—How Holy Scripture is reflected in the ideal Books which we meet with in the Apocalypse. There are few essential relations at the basis of the Bible which do not here appear in the form of Books.—The Christian cultus, reposing in its truth upon the heavenly cultus of all beings.—Sacred songs and new songs.—All sacred songs are outgushes of the one celestial New Song.—To the song of praise of creation and providence (Revelation 4:11) is added the song of praise of redemption (Revelation 5:9).—The ground-form of worship an antiphony, in which spirits occupying different stand-points exchange their blessed views.—The Amen in the synagogue and in Christian worship.

Starke: Quesnel: One who would know the mysteries of Heaven, must be free from earth.—The Elders: This figure here, as in the whole of this vision, is taken from the Temple at Jerusalem, David having instituted twenty-four orders of priests; these held their councils in the outer court of the Temple, the High Priest sitting in the midst upon his seat, and the four and twenty priests or elders sitting in a half-circle around him and before him on their seats. (The Seer has himself, Revelation 21:0., suggested, as the import of the Elders, the twelve heads of the Tribes of Israel and the twelve Apostles; the appointment of the orders [or courses] of priests, however, is itself connected with the original duodecenary.)—The office of the Elders—nay, of all believers—is to comfort the mourning from God’s Word and not to leave them without encouragement (Isaiah 40:1). He who would emphatically comfort another, must have sufficient grounds for his consolation to rest upon (John 16:33).

Thomas Newton, Dissertations on the Prophecies, London, Dove (p. 528): Most of the best commentators divide the Apocalypse or Revelation into two parts—the book, βιβλίον, sealed with seven seals, and the little book, βιβλαρίσιον, as it is called several times. But it happens, unluckily, that according to their division the lesser book is made to contain as much as, or more than, the larger; whereas, in truth, the little book is nothing more than a part of the sealed book, and is added as a codicil or appendix to it.

De Rougemont, La Révélation (see p. 73): Le trône était environné d’ un arc-en-ciel, qui avail la couleur de l’ éméraude. L’ arc-en-ciel est le signe de l’ alliance de Dieu avec l’ humanité tout entière, issue de Noé, et il annonce ici que les révélations subséquentes auront pour objet l’ histoire future des nations. L’ éméraude est verte, et le vert est la couleur de l’ espérance.

H. W. Rinck (see p. 73): Die Zeichen der letzten Zeit.And I wept much, etc. John had a priestly heart, he was a fellow-partaker in the Kingdom of Christ (Revelation 1:9); the Kingdom of God was more to him than his life—“If I forget thee, let my right hand be forgotten” (Psalms 137:5 [G. V.]) was the key-note of his soul more truly than it was that of the Babylonish captivity;—he longed for the establishment of Jesus’ Kingdom on earth more than did Daniel for the re-establishment of Jerusalem and Israel (Daniel 9:0). Such being his feelings, we can understand the tears that he wept because none was found worthy to open the Book of the Future.

Literature. Roffhack, Schöpfung und Erlösung nach Offenb. 4 u. 5., Barmen, 1866.

[From M. Henry: Revelation 4:1. Those who well improve the discoveries they have had of God already, are prepared thereby for more and may expect them.

Revelation 4:8-9. Note here the object of adoration: 1. One God, the Lord God Almighty, unchangeable and everlasting; 2. Three Holies in this one God, the Holy Father, the Holy Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Revelation 4:10-11. Observe, 1. The Object of worship—the same as in the preceding verses. 2. The acts of adoration: (1) They fell down before Him that sat on the Throne; they discovered the most profound humility, reverence, and godly fear. (2) They cast down their crowns, etc.; they gave God the glory of the holiness wherewith He had crowned their souls on earth, and the honor and happiness with which He crowns them in Heaven. (3) The words of adoration: Thou art worthy, etc.; a tacit acknowledgment that God was exalted far above all blessing and praise; He was worthy to receive glory, but they were not worthy to praise, nor able to do it according to His infinite excellences. 4. The ground and reason of their adoration, which is three-fold: (1) He is the Creator of all things, the first Cause. (2) He is the Preserver of all things, and His preservation is a continual creation. (3) He is the final Cause of all things; for Thy pleasure they are and were created.—Revelation 5:5-6. Christ is a Lion, to conquer Satan; a Lamb, to satisfy the justice of God.—He appears with the marks of His sufferings upon Him, to show that He intercedes in heaven in the virtue of His satisfaction.

Revelation 4:8-11. It is just matter of joy to all the world, to see that God does not deal with men in a way of absolute power and strict justice, but in a way of grace and mercy through the Redeemer. He governs the world, not merely as a Creator and Lawgiver, but as our God and Saviour.—Here observe, 1. The object of worship—the Lamb. It is the declared will of God that all men should honor the Son as they honor the Father; for He has the same nature. 2. Posture of the worshippers—they fell down before Him; gave Him not an inferior sort of worship, but the most profound adoration. 3. The instruments used in their adoration—harps and vials; prayer and praise should always go together. 4. The matter of their song. (1) They acknowledge the infinite fitness and worthiness of the Lord Jesus for the great work of opening the decrees and executing the counsel and purposes of God; Thou art worthy, etc.; every way sufficient for the work and deserving of the honor. (2) They mention the grounds and reasons of this worthiness.

Revelation 4:9. Christ has redeemed His people from the bondage of sin, guilt, and Satan; redeemed them to God; set them at liberty to serve Him and to enjoy Him.

Revelation 4:10. He has highly exalted them. When the elect of God were made slaves by sin and Satan, in every nation of the world, Christ not only purchased their liberty for them, but the highest honor and preferment, making them kings, to rule over their own spirits, and to overcome the world and the evil one; and priests, giving them access to Himself, and liberty to offer up spiritual sacrifices. And they shall reign on the earth; they shall with Him judge the world at the great day.—From The Comprehensive Commentary: Ch. 4. The Lord Jesus, “having overcome the sharpness of death, hath opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers;” and if we look unto Him by faith, and obediently attend to His voice, whilst He calls us to “set our affections on things above,” we shall, by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, behold the glory of our reconciled God on His “throne of grace;” be encouraged by the engagements of His everlasting covenant, and draw nigh in humble boldness with our worship; notwithstanding the terrors of His justice, and the awful curses of His broken law. (Scott.)—Revelation 5:9. Redemption by the blood of Christ (mark it well, O my soul!) is the ground-work of the majestic, triumphant song of praise in heaven; and a disposition to join in it, our chief capacity for, and actual happiness in, time and eternity. (Adams.)—From Vaughan: Chap. 4. We may learn hence the reality of a heavenly world, and of its concern and connection with this;—facts full of confusion and discomfiture to the worldly and sinners, but of comfort and encouragement to the Christian.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Revelation 5". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/revelation-5.html. 1857-84.
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