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Bible Commentaries

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament
Revelation 4

 

 

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Verse 1

Revelation 4:1. ΄ετὰ ταῦτα, after these things) In this passage there is a great division of interpretations into two paths. For the question arises, Whether the event of the seals began immediately after the writing of the book, or whether it is still altogether future? The celebrated D. Lange, besides others, maintains the latter opinion; the former is plainly shown even by the particle, after these things, repeated in this verse. The former expression (after these things) connects the vision [with what has preceded], the other connects with the same the result itself. After these things, that is, after those things, which ARE, which relate to the seven churches and their angels, must come to pass the things, which the Lord will now show. The past and the present and the future, Revelation 1:19 (from which verse the expression, after these things, is here repeated), comprise the whole of the book which follows: and, as the past and the present are so joined together, that the present, in Revelation 1:11, what thou seest, passes into the past, which thou sawest, Revelation 1:20; and again the past, which thou sawest, passes into the present, are, are, in the same verse; so the present and the future immediately cohere, without any hiatus, and the connection between the past and the present is only subservient to the connection between the present and the future. Not only is there no trace of delay from the age of John until the last times, but delay is even openly excluded. Future things, the quick approach of which is evidently declared, Revelation 1:1; Revelation 22:6, are closely connected with the present by the expression, after these things.

D. Lange so explains the particle, after these things, that, according to the prophetical meaning of the seven epistles, after the lapse of the same number of periods of the Church, the seals are completed, etc. Comm. Apoc. f. 62, 73. I reply: I. We have refuted such a prophetical meaning of the seven epistles, in ch. Revelation 2:1. II. If the historical meaning of the epistles is preserved, the particle, after these things, has its limits within the events of the churches in Asia; and this would be the case, even if these churches had a prophetical meaning affixed to them. III. If they were periods, they would not be interrupted by the destruction of the Whore and the Beast, as D. Lange imagines, but they would rather extend beyond the millennium and the short time of the loosing of Satan to the end of the world, together with the time of the Church itself being a wayfarer, the change in the condition of which he also makes too great in the millennium (see below, on ch. Revelation 19:11, Revelation 21:2), and thus they would run out beyond the seals, and trumpets, and vials. He says, that the CHIEF subject of the Apocalypse is the mystery of the last times, ch. Revelation 10:7, Revelation 11:15, and following verses. See Comm. Apoc., fol. 5; Hermen. Einl., p. 27. It easily happens, that when any truth is gladly received, it is too eagerly declared, and carried beyond its proper limits. Thus this celebrated man takes the millennium for the half-hour during which there was silence in the seventh seal, the former seals being thus very much crowded together, and all the trumpets being accommodated to this: then, having stated his opinion respecting the mystery of the last times, as the chief subject of the Apocalypse, he presently afterwards assumes, and continually takes it for granted, as though it were demonstrated: fol. 9, and 11 at the beginning. This is the hinge of the Apocalyptic system made up by this most celebrated commentator. But by such a method that CHIEF point is extended too much. That is no doubt the subject of the Apocalypse, from the passages quoted (since it is there set forth as such), thenceforward even to the end of the book: but the very words of the text extend the subject of the preceding chapters to a much wider range than he supposes. In them there is no beast, no whore: it is not until after ch. 10 that they come forth upon the stage, and that too after an interval. Wherefore the beginning of the judgments upon the antichristian enemies ought not to be reckoned from the seals themselves. See this treated at greater length on ch. Revelation 6:2, Revelation 11:15.

In the same place he so divides the chapters of the Apocalypse, that almost all are deferred to the future. We thus arrange them:—

Chap. 1. 2. 3.

contain the Preparation.

4. 5.

the Proposition.

6–9.

are fulfilled, as is shown, without any violence.

10–14.

are in course of fulfilment, and have been for some time, as is proved by suitable arguments.

15–19.

exhibit things about to take place shortly.

20–22.

look to things more distant.

Whoever has the power, let him subject to the most severe laws of DEMONSTRATION both his treatise and mine.


Verse 2

Revelation 4:2. ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, in heaven) Thus the heavenly court is described. Those things which the Apocalypse everywhere touches upon of heavenly subjects, viz. the temple, the throne, the assembly, the altar, the ark of the covenant, may not inappropriately be illustrated from the writings of the ancient Hebrews. See the Dissertation V. of Christian Schoettgenius, appended to the Horæ Hebraicæ, pp. 1212–1223.


Verse 3

Revelation 4:3. ἰάσπιδι, a jasper) While the Sardine stone is of a fiery colour, and resembles the appearance of blood, the Jasper expresses a WHITISH red.—Lampe on this passage.— σαρδίῳ) Erasmus, with the inferior Latin editions, have σαρδίνῳ: the others correctly, σαρδίῳ. λίθῳ ἰάσπιδι καὶ σαρδίῳ are substantives: comp. ch. Revelation 21:20; but σμαραγδίνῳ ( ὁράσει) is an adjective, and of the feminine gender also, from which, in consequence of the rhythm, that word σαρδίνῳ was interpolated unawares by the copyist, although Wolf thinks that the termination σαρδίνῳ is confirmed by the word σμαραγδίνῳ.(57)


Verse 4

Revelation 4:4. θρόνοι(58)καὶ εἰκοσιτέσσαρας πρεσβυτέρους καὶ στεφάνους χρυσοῦς) See App. Crit., Ed. ii. The 1st edition of Erasmus is correct: for John is accustomed to mix the cases: ch. Revelation 1:16, Revelation 18:12-13, etc.— τοὺς) The article with the force of a relative. There are 24 thrones, and 24 elders; and each of the elders has his separate throne. I wish that he had weighed the force of this article, who in a recent cabalistic work multiplied the thrones, and those seated upon them. The elders (comp. πρεσβύτεροι, Hebrews 11:2), and they 24 in number, appear to be so many individuals, the most excellent of the human race; for instance, Adam, Seth, Enos, Kenan, Mahalaleel, Jered, Henoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah, Shem, Arphaxad, Selah, Eber, Peleg, Regu, Serug, Nahor, Terah, Abram, Isaac, Jacob, Abel, Japhet (Melchisedech, Job).


Verse 5

Revelation 4:5. ἀστραπαὶ καὶ φωναὶ καὶ βρονταὶ(59)) In ch. Revelation 8:5 there are mentioned βρονταὶ καὶ ἀστραπαὶ καὶ φωναὶ καὶ σεισ΄ὸς; in Revelation 11:19, ἀστραπαὶ καὶ φωναὶ καὶ βρονταὶ καἰ σεισ΄ὸς καὶ χάλαζα ΄εγάλη; and again with Epitasis, as far as relates to σεισ΄ὸν καὶ χάλαζαν, in ch. Revelation 16:18; Revelation 16:21. It occasions inconvenience, that the copyists have written lightnings and voices and thunderings, in these four passages, with so little attention to the order: yet in ch. Revelation 4:5, Revelation 11:19, all place lightnings first in order; in Revelation 16:18, almost all; in Revelation 8:5, not one.— ἑπτὰ λαμπάδες, seven lamps) The Holy Spirit, economically, as Wisdom, חבמות, in the plural number. ch. Revelation 5:6, the text explains itself.


Verse 6

Revelation 4:6. ὡς θάλασσα ὑαλίνη, as a sea of glass) The force of the particle ὡς, as, falls more upon the word, of glass, than upon the word, sea; and the word, sea, is here used with somewhat greater literalness than the words, of glass. For a certain depth is denoted, and that both fluid and transparent, although not flowing, but standing calmly. Comp. ch. Revelation 15:2, where both the expression, as a sea of glass, is used, and also a sea of glass, being the same as to substance, as I think. So John 6:19, ὠς σταδίους εἰκοσιπέντε, where ὡς properly relates to the number. Vitringa departs further from the meaning of a sea, when he explains it to be a street or pavement.— ζῶα) There is a wide difference between ζῶον and θήριον. φύσεις ζώων καὶ θυμοὺς θηρίων: Wisdom of Solomon 7:20. These four beasts are living emblems and ornaments of the throne, denoting a nearer admission than the 24 Elders. [In German you may call them Lebbilder, as Mannsbild, Weibsbild.—V. g.] Let their confession be looked to, ch. Revelation 5:9; whence they are accustomed to be spoken of, as being most closely connected with the throne, as though they were parts inserted into it.


Verse 7

Revelation 4:7. ΄όσχῳ) a bullock, an ox. The Hebrew בקר and פר and שור are rendered by the Septuagint μόσχος.


Verse 8

Revelation 4:8. ἔχον) εἶχον, Er. (without the sanction of the other copies of Andreas) and Bar. L.; ἔσχον, Hunt. The ἀνὰ is thought by Wolf to require the plural form of the verb: the singular however occurs, Revelation 21:21. The others, with great agreement, have ἔχον or εἶχον.(60)(61) γέμουσις(62) ὀφθαλμῶν) Uffenb., a recent book indeed, has γέμουσιν ὀφθαλμούς; but that this was the reading of others also, you may collect from And. I., who substitutes ἔχοντα ὀφθαλμούς. The same Uff., Revelation 4:6, has also γέμοντα ὀφθαλμούς. Perhaps more MSS. have the same variety, which may have been overlooked by collators. The verb γέμω is found with a genitive and accusative together, ch. Revelation 17:4.— ἅγιος, ἅγιος, ἅγιος, holy, holy, holy) Some copyists wrote this nine times, in accordance with the liturgical custom of the Greeks; but John, as Isaiah, wrote it three times. And in John the four beasts raise this cry to Him that sits upon the throne, that is, the Father, from whose right hand the Lamb, that is, Christ, takes the book which is sealed with seven seals. The τρισάγιον, as the Greeks term it, occurs also in Psalms 99, where, on the announcement of His Majesty which is about to display itself, of His Justice which already displays itself, and of His Mercy displayed in time past, there resound three addresses on the subject of His Holiness. And, as in that instance, so this Apocalyptic τρισάγιον also in the text itself, points out its own meaning in relation to itself:

Holy, He who was:

Holy, He who is:

Holy, He who is to come.

He showed Himself as an object of holy worship, in the creation of all things: He shows Himself further more fully as an object of holy worship, in the governing of all things: He will in the highest degree show Himself an object of holy worship, in the consummation of all things. From Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things: to Him be glory to all ages. Castellio is not inconsistent with those things which we said on the subject of Holiness in the German Notes; for, according to his explanation, קדוש is Augustus, as T. L. Bunemann observes in the Index of the Bible of Castellio.

In a similar hymn, Isaiah 6:3, there is added, THE EARTH is full of His glory. But in the Apocalypse this is deferred, until the glory of THE LORD fills the earth, His enemies having been destroyed. See ch. Revelation 5:10, Revelation 11:16-18, Revelation 19:2. By the use of which passages, we collect, that the four beasts are more occupied, while the action is in heaven; the elders, while it is extended to the earth.


Verse 9-10

Revelation 4:9-10. ὅταν δώσουσιπεσοῦνται) Each future expresses a simultaneous act of giving of glory on the part of the beasts and on the part of the elders: and, at the same time, it has a frequentative force: As often as the beasts give glory, immediately the elders fall.


Verse 11

Revelation 4:11. θέλημα, pleasure [will]) רצון, a free and gracious will.— ἐκτίσθησαν) They are created, that is, they remain in existence. There are other expressions very similar: he shall be blessed, that is, he shall continue blessed, Genesis 27:33; I have written, that is, I do not change it, John 19:22; is tamed, that is, permits itself to be tamed, James 3:7; shall be changed, i.e. shall undergo a change, and continue changed, Hebrews 1:12. [Creation is the foundation of all the other works of GOD, and therefore it is the ground also of all the thanksgiving which arises from His creatures.—V. g.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/revelation-4.html. 1897.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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