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After these things (μετα ταυτα). Change in the panorama, not chronology (Revelation 7:1; Revelation 7:9; Revelation 15:5; Revelation 18:1; Revelation 19:1). This vision is of heaven, not of earth as was true of chapters Revelation 4:1; Revelation 4:2. The first vision of Christ and the messages to the seven churches began in Revelation 1:12. This new vision of the throne in heaven (Revelation 4:1-11) succeeds that to which it here alludes.
I saw (ειδον). Second aorist active indicative of οραω.
Behold (ιδου). Exclamation of vivid emotion as John looked. No effect on the structure and nominative case θυρα (door) follows it.
Opened (ηνεωιγμενη). Perfect (triple reduplication) passive participle of ανοιγω as in Revelation 3:8 (door of opportunity) and Revelation 3:20 (door of the heart), here the door of revelation (Swete).
In heaven (εν τω ουρανω). As in Ezekiel 1:1; Mark 1:10; John 1:51. In Revelation always in singular except Revelation 12:12.
The first (η πρωτη). Reference is to Revelation 1:10.
Speaking (λαλουσης). From λαλεω, rather λεγουσης of Revelation 1:10 from λεγω, both agreeing with σαλπιγγος (trumpet).
Saying (λεγων). Present active participle of λεγω repeating the idea of λαλουσης, but in the nominative masculine singular construed with φωνη (feminine singular), construction according to sense because of the person behind the voice as in Revelation 11:15; Revelation 19:14.
Come up (αναβα). Short Koine form for αναβηθ (second aorist active imperative second person singular of αναβαινω).
Hither (ωδε). Originally "here," but vernacular use (John 6:25; John 10:27).
I will show (δειξω). Future active of δεικνυμ in same sense in Revelation 1:1.
Hereafter (μετα ταυτα). Some editors (Westcott and Hort) connect these words with the beginning of verse Revelation 4:2.
Straightway I was in the Spirit (ευθεως εγενομην εν πνευματ). But John had already "come to be in the Spirit" (Revelation 1:10, the very same phrase). Perhaps here effective aorist middle indicative while ingressive aorist in Revelation 1:10 (sequel or result, not entrance), "At once I found myself in the Spirit" (Swete), not "I came to be in the Spirit" as in Revelation 1:10.
Was set (εκειτο). Imperfect middle of κειμα, old verb, used as passive of τιθημ. As the vision opens John sees the throne already in place as the first thing in heaven. This bold imagery comes chiefly from 1 Kings 22:19; Isaiah 6:1; Ezekiel 1:26-28; Daniel 7:9. One should not forget that this language is glorious imagery, not actual objects in heaven. God is spirit. The picture of God on the throne is common in the O.T. and the N.T. (Matthew 5:34; Matthew 23:22; Hebrews 1:3 and in nearly every chapter in the Revelation, Revelation 1:4, etc.). The use of καθημενος (sitting) for the name of God is like the Hebrew avoidance of the name Jahweh and is distinguished from the Son in Revelation 6:16; Revelation 7:10.
Upon the throne (επ τον θρονον). Επ with the accusative, as in Revelation 4:4; Revelation 6:2; Revelation 6:4; Revelation 11:16; Revelation 20:4, but in verses Revelation 4:9; Revelation 4:10; Revelation 4:1; Revelation 4:7; Revelation 4:13; Revelation 6:16; Revelation 7:15 we have επ του θρονου (genitive), while in Revelation 7:10; Revelation 19:14; Revelation 21:5 we have επ τω θρονω (locative) with no great distinction in the resultant idea.
To look upon (ορασε). Locative case of ορασις, old word (from οραω, to see) for appearance (in appearance) as in Ezekiel 1:5; Ezekiel 1:26.
Like a jasper stone (ομοιος ιασπιδ). Associative-instrumental case of ιασπις, old word (Persian), used for stones of different colors, one opaque like opal, one translucent (Revelation 21:11; Revelation 21:18, possibly here, only N.T. examples), one a red or yellow stone (Isaiah 54:12). Some even take it for the diamond. Certainly not our cheap modern jasper.
A sardius (σαρδιω). Old word, in N.T. only here and Revelation 21:20. The carnelian or other red stone, derived from Sardis (Pliny).
Rainbow (ιρις). Old word, in N.T. only here and Revelation 10:1. From Ezekiel 1:28.
An emerald (σμαραγδινω). Adjective (from σμαραγδος, Revelation 21:19), of emerald (supply λιθω), in associative instrumental case after ομοιος. John sees no form for God (Exodus 24:10), but only the brilliant flashing gems. "In the vision the flashing lustre of the ιασπις and the fiery red of the σαρδ are relieved by the halo (ιρις) of emerald which encircled the Throne" (Swete). A complete circle.
Round about the throne (κυκλοθεν του θρονου). Here as a preposition with the genitive, though only adverb in Revelation 4:8 (only N.T. examples save Textus Rec. in Revelation 5:11).
Four and twenty thrones (θρονο εικοσ τεσσαρες). So P Q, but Aleph A have accusative θρονους (supply ειδον from Revelation 4:1) and τεσσαρες (late accusative in -ες). This further circle of thrones beyond the great throne.
I saw four and twenty elders (εικοσ τεσσαρας πρεσβυτερους). No ειδον in the text, but the accusative case calls for it. Twenty-four as a symbolic number occurs only in this book and only for these elders (Revelation 4:4; Revelation 4:10; Revelation 5:8; Revelation 11:16; Revelation 19:4). We do not really know why this number is chosen, perhaps two elders for each tribe, perhaps the twelve tribes and the twelve apostles (Judaism and Christianity), perhaps the twenty-four courses of the sons of Aaron (1 Chronicles 24:1-19), perhaps some angelic rank (Colossians 1:16) of which we know nothing. Cf. Ephesians 2:6.
Sitting (καθημενους). Upon their thrones.
Arrayed (περιβεβλημενους). Perfect passive participle of περιβαλλω (to throw around).
In white garments (ιματιοις λευκοις). Locative case here as in Revelation 3:5 (with εν), though accusative in Revelation 7:9; Revelation 7:13.
Crowns of gold (στεφανους χρυσους). Accusative case again like πρεσβυτερους after ειδον (Revelation 4:1), not ιδου. In Revelation 19:14 εχων (having) is added. John uses διαδημα (diadem) for the kingly crown in Revelation 12:3; Revelation 13:1; Revelation 19:12, but it is not certain that the old distinction between διαδεμ as the kingly crown and στεφανος as the victor's wreath is always observed in late Greek.
Out of the throne (εκ του θρονου). Back to the throne itself. The imagery is kin to that in Exodus 19:16; Exodus 24:9; Ezekiel 1:22; Ezekiel 1:27.
Proceed (εκπορευοντα). Graphic historical present.
Lightnings and voices and thunders (αστραπα κα φωνα κα βροντα). So exactly in Revelation 11:19; Revelation 16:18, but in Revelation 8:5 with βροντα first, αστραπα last, all old and common words. "The thunderstorm is in Hebrew poetry a familiar symbol of the Divine power: cf., e.g., 1 Samuel 2:10; Psalms 18:9; Job 37:4." (Swete).
Seven lamps of fire (επτα λαμπαδες πυρος). Return to the nominative (ιδου, not ειδον) with ησαν (were) understood. Metaphor drawn from Ezekiel 1:13; Zechariah 4:12. Our word "lamp," but here a torch as in Revelation 8:10, identified with the Holy Spirit (the Seven Spirits of God) as in Revelation 1:4; Revelation 3:1, not λυχνια (lampstands) as in Revelation 1:12; Revelation 1:20, nor λυχνος a hand-lamp with oil (Matthew 5:15). "These torches blaze perpetually before the throne of God" (Swete).
As it were a glassy sea (ως θαλασσα υαλινη). Old adjective (from υαλος, glass, Revelation 21:18; Revelation 21:21), in N.T. only here and Revelation 15:2. Possibly from υε (it rains), like a raindrop. At any rate here it is the appearance, not the material. Glass was made in Egypt 4,000 years ago. In Exodus 24:10 the elders see under the feet of God in the theophany a paved work of sapphire stone (cf. Ezekiel 1:26). The likeness of the appearance of sky to sea suggests the metaphor here (Beckwith).
Like crystal (ομοια κρυσταλλω). Associative-instrumental case after ομοια. Old word, from κρυος (ice and sometimes used for ice), in N.T. only here and Revelation 22:1, not semi-opaque, but clear like rock-crystal.
In the midst of the throne (εν μεσω του θρονου). As one looks from the front, really before.
Round about the throne (κυκλω του θρονου). Merely an adverb in the locative case (Romans 15:19), as a preposition in N.T. only here, Revelation 5:11; Revelation 7:11. This seems to mean that on each of the four sides of the throne was one of the four living creatures either stationary or moving rapidly round (Ezekiel 1:12).
Four living creatures (τεσσερα ζωα). Not θηρια (beasts), but living creatures. Certainly kin to the ζωα of Revelation 4:1; Revelation 4:2 which are cherubim (Ezekiel 10:2; Ezekiel 10:20), though here the details vary as to faces and wings with a significance of John's own, probably representing creation in contrast with the redeemed (the elders).
Full of eyes (γεμοντα οφθαλμων). Present active participle of γεμω, to be full of, with the genitive, signifying here unlimited intelligence (Beckwith), the ceaseless vigilance of nature (Swete).
Like a lion (ομοιον λεοντ). Associative-instrumental case again. In Revelation 1:6; Revelation 1:10) each ζωον has four faces, but here each has a different face. "The four forms represent whatever is noblest, strongest, wisest, and swiftest in nature" (Swete). But it is not necessary to try to find a symbolism in each face here like the early baseless identification with the Four Evangelists (the lion for Mark, the man for Matthew, the calf for Luke, the eagle for John). Μοσχος is first a sprout, then the young of animals, then a calf (bullock or heifer) as in Luke 15:23; Luke 15:27; Luke 15:30, or a full-grown ox (Ezekiel 1:10).
Had (εχων). Masculine singular (some MSS. εχον neuter singular agreeing with ζωον) present active participle of εχω, changing the construction with the τριτον ζωον almost like a finite verb as in verse Revelation 4:8.
A face as of a man (προσωπον ως ανθρωπου). Shows that the likeness in each instance extended only to the face.
Like an eagle flying (ομοιον αετω πετομενω). Present middle participle of πετομα, to fly, old verb, in N.T. only in Revelation 4:7; Revelation 8:13; Revelation 12:14; Revelation 14:6; Revelation 19:17. The αετος in Matthew 24:28; Luke 17:37 may be a form of vulture going after carrion, but not in Revelation 8:13; Revelation 12:14.
Each one of them (εν καθ' εν αυτων). "One by one of them," a vernacular idiom like εις κατα εις in Mark 14:19.
Having (εχων). Masculine participle again as in verse Revelation 4:7, though ζωον neuter.
Six wings (ανα πτερυγας εξ). Distributive use of ανα, "six wings apiece" as in Luke 10:1 (ανα δυο, by twos). Like Isaiah 6:2, not like Ezekiel 1:6, where only four wings are given apiece.
Are full of (γεμουσιν). Plural verb, though ζωα neuter, to individualize each one.
Round about and within (κυκλοθεν κα εσωθεν). Perhaps before and behind (Revelation 4:6) and under the wings, "pointing to the secret energies of nature" (Swete).
Rest (αναπαυσιν). See also Revelation 14:11. Old word (from αναπαυω, to relax), as in Matthew 11:29. God and Christ cease not their activity (John 5:17). "This ceaseless activity of nature under the hand of God is a ceaseless tribute of praise" (Swete).
Day and night (ημερας κα νυκτος). Genitive of time, by day and by night.
Holy, holy, holy (αγιοσ, αγιοσ, αγιος). "The task of the Cherubim together with the Seraphim and Ophannim is to sing the praises of God" (Charles) in the τρισαγιον (triple repetition of αγιος).
Is the Lord God (Κυριος ο θεος). See Isaiah 6:3. The copula εστιν (is) is not expressed, but is implied.
The Almighty (ο παντοκρατωρ). See on Revelation 1:8.
Which was and which is and which is to come (ο ην κα ο ων κα ο ερχομενος). Just as in Revelation 1:4; Revelation 1:8, but with the order changed.
When the living creatures shall give (οταν δωσουσιν τα ζωα). Indefinite temporal clause with οταν and the future active indicative (δωσουσιν) rather than the more common second aorist active subjunctive (δωσιν) with the notion of repetition rather than unbroken continuance, "whenever they give." The giving of praise and glory to God by the four living creatures (representatives of nature) is met by corresponding worship by the redeemed (the four and twenty elders). "Created life adores the Uncreated" (Swete), "to the one living for ages of ages."
Shall fall down (πεσουντα, future middle of πιπτω),
shall worship (προσκυνησουσιν, future active of προσκυνεω),
shall cast their crowns (βαλουσιν τους στεφανους, future active of βαλλω). The two actions by the two groups (living creatures, elders) are coordinated (simultaneous in the repetition). They thus acknowledge that all this kingly dignity comes from God, who is King of kings and Lord of lords. Charles takes the elders, however, to be angels, not redeemed men.
Our Lord and our God (ο κυριος κα ο θεος ημων). The nominative form here used as vocative as in John 20:28 and often.
To receive (λαβειν). Epexegetic second aorist active infinitive of λαμβανω with αξιος (worthy).
The glory (την δοξαν). The article referring to δοξαν in verse Revelation 4:9 and so with την τιμην (the honour), though την δυναμιν (the power) is not in verse Revelation 4:9, but is the power due to be ascribed to God.
Thou didst create (συ εκτισας). Emphasis on συ (thou), first aorist active indicative of κτιζω, the verb used about the act of creation by Paul in Colossians 1:16 (εκτισθη, εκτιστα), constative aorist giving a summary picture of the whole (not as a process).
Because of thy will (δια το θελημα σου). Reason for creation of the universe as in Hebrews 2:10 (δι' ον).
They were (ησαν). Imperfect tense with a cursory glance at the universe as a fact, possibly a potential existence in God's purpose in the eternal past before the actual creation in time.
And were created (κα εκτισθησαν). First aorist passive indicative of the same verb, κτιζω, just used and in the plural, while Paul (Colossians 1:16) uses the singular εκτισθη. See 1 Corinthians 8:6. God's will wrought through the Logos (Christ).
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Revelation 4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter