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At this Chapter, we enter upon those Prophecies which relate to the Church of God, from the Ascension of Christ, going on through a regular Progression, to the Descension of Christ, at the great Day of God. John is here introduced into the Visions concerning those wonderful Events. He is led to behold the Throne of God, and the glorified Inhabitants of Heaven round the Throne.
(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. (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.
Here is the opening of the second vision, with which John was favored. This Chapter appears to have been intended, as preparatory to what was to follow; not unlike the first. In the first Chapter, John had that glorious vision of the Person of his Lord. The next Chapter, Christ's message began, to the Churches. So here, John hath in this Chapter, a solemn and glorious vision, of the parties concerned in what was to follow; and then, in the succeeding Chapter, the business for which the Apostle was favored with the vision.
There is here in this Chapter, a view of the Lord's Church, with the Lord himself presiding over it. And one of the most solemn representations which can be. John begins it With observing, that after he had received from the Lord his messages to the seven Churches; and, perhaps, for ought we know to the contrary, delivered them.; he looked, and behold a door was opened in the heavens. By which is meant, that his spiritual faculties were called forth into exercise, and, looking up, he saw heaven opened to his view, as though he had beheld through it, this wonderful, and supernatural sight, which he hereafter describes. The first thing after looking up which attracted his attention was the sound of a voice, inviting him
to raise his affections above the earth to heaven; and a promise accompanied the invitation, that he that invited him would show him things which should be hereafter. And immediately John found himself, as he had upon the former vision, in the Spirit; meaning, under divine influences, See Revelation 1:10 . Reader! pause, and do not fail to observe, how soon the Lord the Holy Ghost works upon the spirits of the people. No sooner had John heard the voice, but immediately he was in the Spirit.
The throne which John saw, and upon which One sat, hath been considered, as representing the Unity of the Divine Nature, in his threefold character or Persons. And the Jasper, Sardine, and Emerald stones, are supposed to be the representation of the Threefold nature of the Godhead. But it is observable, that though the brilliancy of these stones set forth the splendor of shining glory, yet no Personal appearance was seen. No man hath seen God at anytime, John 1:18 . In relation to the Rainbow round about the throne, there can be no question to whom this refers, because the Rainbow, from the very first Covenant of grace made with Noah, was declared by the Lord himself, to be the token of the everlasting Covenant. There are so many very blessed things connected with this token of the Rainbow, that I beg the Reader's indulgence, to dwell upon the subject somewhat more particularly.
And, first. Let it be considered, how is the Rainbow formed? It is the effect from the sun's beams upon the watery clouds. And Christ, the Sun of righteousness, forms, by his shining, the whole effects of the Covenant of grace, upon all that is cloudy, in our nature. So that Jesus is the true Rainbow, of which that beautiful arch, formed in the heavens, is but a type or shadow.
Secondly. As the Rainbow in nature, is held forth by the Lord, to be an everlasting memorial of God's Covenant with the earth, that God will no more destroy the earth by a deluge: so Christ, the Rainbow in grace, is God's memorial, and man's confidence, that amidst all the deluge of sin, God will not destroy his people, for whom Jesus is the Covenant.
Thirdly. As the Rainbow in nature hath been in all ages the token of God's Covenant for the, earth's safety, when the Lord brings a cloud over the earth, and the bow is seen in the cloud; Genesis 9:13-14 , so here, the throne of God which John saw, was encircled with the Bow, to intimate its everlasting abiding, like to the throne itself; being fixed of an everlasting green like an Emerald, to show its unfading nature, and its never-ceasing efficacy.
Fourthly. That this Rainbow was, and is Christ, is evident, for John saw Christ upon another occasion, as a mighty Angel come down from heaven, clothed with a rainbow, and his face was as it were the Sun, and his feet as pillars of fire, Revelation 10:1 . So John had seen him before, Revelation 1:15-16 . It is the peculiar prerogative of Christ, to shine as the sun upon his people, and to lift up the light of his countenance upon them.
Fifthly. John tells the Church in the fifth verse, that out of the throne proceeded lightnings, and thunderings, and voices. Perhaps these were meant to show, the many dispensations of the Lord, both to the Church, and to the world. But whatever dispensations come from the throne, they must all pass through the Rainbow, for the Rainbow was all round the throne, so that nothing could be manifested but through it. And this, very blessedly teacheth the Church, how everlastingly safe all Christ's redeemed must be, since nothing can come to pass, but it must pass his hands. And on the other hand, how awful to his enemies, since Christ is in all dispensations, and nothing can escape him.
Lastly. While the Rainbow in the heavens shadows Christ, and is designed to point to him, for which purpose God hangs out the Bow, it doth but half resemble Christ, for it only forms an half circle in the beautiful Arch we behold. But Jesus encircles the whole throne. Neither is it possible for God to look any way to his people, but in him, and through him. Oh! the blessedness to behold the Lord Jehovah, by faith upon his throne; and that throne encircled with mercy, in the Person and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.
(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. (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. (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. (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. (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. (9) And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth forever and ever, (10) The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth forever 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.
I would speak with all possible reverence, on a subject so infinitely sublime, as the one contained in this Chapter; and desire, rather to propose all I have to offer, by way of inquiry, than in a single instance to speak decidedly. But I venture to believe, that as in this Chapter, in the second vision John was favored with, the Lord was about to commit to him, certain prophecies, which his Church would have unfolded and accomplished, in the different ages, from that time, to the consummation of all things; the Lord in this Chapter was preparing his servant's mind for that subject, by the solemn representation of what is here delivered. The Lord therefore begins with an account of the throne of God, similar to that of Isaiah 6:0 , where all the sanctities of heaven are around. It is the Church in which God erects his throne, therefore we find Elders worshipping before the throne, and though the song they sing is not recorded here, yet it is in the next Chapter, ascribing their redemption to Christ, Revelation 5:9 . Now this could not be the song of Angels, but men. Hence, those Elders are men.
And it is as evident, that this representation is to set forth that Church upon earth; for the sea of glass, like unto crystal, intimated the fountain opened for sin, and uncleanness, and which are needed not in heaven. And the seven lamps, figurative of the sevenfold gifts of God the Spirit, are specially for the Lord's people in this life. They are no longer required as principles of regeneration, and quickening in the state of perfection above. Not that the Holy Ghost through all eternity ceased his sweet influences, either to the Person of the glorious Head of his Church, or his members; but then not in a way as here below, of regenerating, illuminating, convincing, and converting mercy.
Concerning the Elders, and the four Beasts, there needs not to speak of them particularly. The Holy Ghost hath not thought proper to give the Church deeper views, into the mysteries of the kingdom, than is necessary, and to attempt lifting the veil higher, would be both presumptuous and unprofitable. It is enough for us to understand, that they belong to the Church of God: more than this, we need not.
But, Reader! here is enough to gratify our best intellectual faculties, and to employ our contemplation forever, in attending to the Hymn of Heaven, sung by the whole Choir, the Church. Oh! what unknown glories, in the holiness, greatness, and eternity of the whole Persons of the Godhead! This thrice repeating of Jehovah's holiness, is striking. All God's perfections and attributes, are standards of character, distinguishing the Lord from all his creatures. But yet, we never meet with any other prerogative of Jehovah, trebled as this is of his holiness. We do not say faithful, faithful, faithful, Lord God Almighty! I do not presume to explain. But I think it proper to notice it. Oh! for grace, to join the whole body the Church in the same hymn of praise, till we all come before the throne, in one full body of the redeemed, to praise God and the Lamb forevermore! Amen.
READER! Let us seek grace, that, like the beloved Apostle, we may by faith hear the sweet voice, saying, Come up hither, and like him, may be immediately in the Spirit, when we come to visions and revelations of the Lord!
Oh! Lord the Holy Ghost! as it is thy blessed office to glorify the Lord Jesus; do thou forever glorify him to the view of thy people, that as oft as thou liftest the eye, and the soul to look to the throne; oh! to see the Lord Jesus, as the Rainbow encircling the throne, and, as God the Father's bow, the everlasting token of God's good will to man. Yea, Almighty Father, behold thy Church in Him, through Him, and by Him, as our everlasting security and portion. And let thy Church begin the Hymn, and all thy redeemed Elders and Men, follow in one vast song in the same, to celebrate the wonders of thy grace. And what a song will that be finally in heaven, when all the redeemed from every nation, country, and clime, shall be assembled before thee, to sing to the Lord's glory forevermore?
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Revelation 4". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
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