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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament
Revelation 4



Other Authors
Verse 1

After these things (μετα ταυταmeta tauta). 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 Rev 1; 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 (ειδονeidon). Second aorist active indicative of οραωhoraō (ιδουidou). Exclamation of vivid emotion as John looked. No effect on the structure and nominative case τυραthura (door) follows it.

Opened (ηνεωιγμενηēneōigmenē). Perfect (triple reduplication) passive participle of ανοιγωanoigō 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 τωι ουρανωιen tōi ouranōi). As in Ezekiel 1:1; Mark 1:10; John 1:51. In Revelation always in singular except Revelation 12:12.

The first (η πρωτηhē prōtē). Reference is to Revelation 1:10.

Speaking (λαλουσηςlalousēs). From λαλεωlaleō rather λεγουσηςlegousēs of Revelation 1:10 from λεγωlegō both agreeing with σαλπιγγοςsalpiggos (trumpet).

Saying (λεγωνlegōn). Present active participle of λεγωlegō repeating the idea of λαλουσηςlalousēs but in the nominative masculine singular construed with πωνηphōnē (feminine singular), construction according to sense because of the person behind the voice as in Revelation 11:15; Revelation 19:14.

Come up (αναβαanaba). Short Koiné form for αναβητιanabēthi (second aorist active imperative second person singular of αναβαινωanabainō).

Hither (ωδεhōde). Originally “here,” but vernacular use (John 6:25; John 10:27).

I will show (δειχωdeixō). Future active of δεικνυμιdeiknumi in same sense in Revelation 1:1.

Hereafter (μετα ταυταmeta tauta). Some editors (Westcott and Hort) connect these words with the beginning of Revelation 4:2.

Verse 2

Straightway I was in the Spirit (ευτεως εγενομην εν πνευματιeutheōs egenomēn en pneumati). 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 (εκειτοekeito). Imperfect middle of κειμαιkeimai old verb, used as passive of τιτημιtithēmi 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 κατημενοςkathēmenos (sitting) for the name of God is like the Hebrew avoidance of the name επι τον τρονονJahweh and is distinguished from the Son in Revelation 6:16; Revelation 7:10.

Upon the throne (Επιepi ton thronon). επι του τρονουEpi with the accusative, as in Revelation 4:4; Revelation 6:2, Revelation 6:4.; Revelation 11:16; Revelation 20:4, but in Revelation 4:9, Revelation 4:10; Revelation 5:1, Revelation 5:7; Revelation 6:16; Revelation 7:15 we have επι τωι τρονωιepi tou thronou (genitive), while in Revelation 7:10; Revelation 19:4; Revelation 21:5 we have epi tōi thronōi (locative) with no great distinction in the resultant idea.

Verse 3

To look upon (ορασειhorasei). Locative case of ορασιςhorasis old word (from οραωhoraō to see) for appearance (in appearance) as in Ezekiel 1:5, Ezekiel 1:26.

Like a jasper stone (ομοιος ιασπιδιhomoios iaspidi). Associative-instrumental case of ιασπιςiaspis 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 (σαρδιωιsardiōi). Old word, in N.T. only here and Revelation 21:20. The carnelian or other red stone, derived from Sardis (Pliny).

Rainbow (ιριςiris). Old word, in N.T. only here and Revelation 10:1. From Ezekiel 1:28.

An emerald (σμαραγδινωιsmaragdinōi). Adjective (from σμαραγδοςsmaragdos Revelation 21:19), of emerald (supply λιτωιlithōi), in associative instrumental case after ομοιοςhomoios John sees no form for God (Exodus 24:10), but only the brilliant flashing gems. “In the vision the flashing lustre of the ιασπιςiaspis and the fiery red of the σαρδsard are relieved by the halo (ιριςiris) of emerald which encircled the Throne” (Swete). A complete circle.

Verse 4

Round about the throne (κυκλοτεν του τρονουkuklothen tou thronou). 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 (τρονοι εικοσι τεσσαρεςthronoi eikosi tessares). So P Q, but Aleph A have accusative τρονουςthronous (supply ειδονeidon from Revelation 4:1) and τεσσαρεςtessares (late accusative in ες̇es). This further circle of thrones beyond the great throne.

I saw four and twenty elders (εικοσι τεσσαρας πρεσβυτερουςeikosi tessaras presbuterous). No ειδονeidon 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 Chron 24:1-19), perhaps some angelic rank (Colossians 1:16) of which we know nothing. Cf. Ephesians 2:6.

Sitting (κατημενουςkathēmenous). Upon their thrones.

Arrayed (περιβεβλημενουςperibeblēmenous). Perfect passive participle of περιβαλλωperiballō (to throw around).

In white garments (ιματιοις λευκοιςhimatiois leukois). Locative case here as in Revelation 3:5 (with ενen), though accusative in Revelation 7:9, Revelation 7:13.

Crowns of gold (στεπανους χρυσουςstephanous chrusous). Accusative case again like πρεσβυτερουςpresbuterous after ειδονeidon (Revelation 4:1), not ιδουidou In Revelation 19:14 εχωνechōn (having) is added. John uses διαδημαdiadēma (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 διαδεμdiadem as the kingly crown and στεπανοςstephanos as the victor‘s wreath is always observed in late Greek.

Verse 5

Out of the throne (εκ του τρονουek tou thronou). 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 (εκπορευονταιekporeuontai). Graphic historical present.

Lightnings and voices and thunders (αστραπαι και πωναι και βρονταιastrapai kai phōnai kai brontai). So exactly in Revelation 11:19; Revelation 16:18, but in Revelation 8:5 with βρονταιbrontai first, αστραπαιastrapai 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; Psalm 18:9.; Job 37:4.” (Swete).

Seven lamps of fire (επτα λαμπαδες πυροςhepta lampades puros). Return to the nominative (ιδουidou not ειδονeidon) with ησανēsan (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 λυχνιαιluchniai (lampstands) as in Revelation 1:12, Revelation 1:20, nor λυχνοςluchnos a hand-lamp with oil (Matthew 5:15). “These torches blaze perpetually before the throne of God” (Swete).

Verse 6

As it were a glassy sea (ως ταλασσα υαλινηhōs thalassa hualinē). Old adjective (from υαλοςhualos glass, Revelation 21:18, Revelation 21:21), in N.T. only here and Revelation 15:2. Possibly from υειhuei (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 κρυσταλλωιhomoia krustallōi). Associative-instrumental case after ομοιαhomoia Old word, from κρυοςkruos (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 μεσωι του τρονουen mesōi tou thronou). As one looks from the front, really before.

Round about the throne (κυκλωι του τρονουkuklōi tou thronou). 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 ζωαtessera zōa). Not τηριαthēria (beasts), but living creatures. Certainly kin to the ζωαzōa of Ezek 1; Ezekiel 2:1-10 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 οπταλμωνgemonta ophthalmōn). Present active participle of γεμωgemō to be full of, with the genitive, signifying here unlimited intelligence (Beckwith), the ceaseless vigilance of nature (Swete).

Verse 7

Like a lion (ομοιον λεοντιhomoion leonti). Associative-instrumental case again. In Ezek (Revelation 1:6, Revelation 1:10) each ζωονzōon 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). ΜοσχοςMoschos 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 (εχωνechōn). Masculine singular (some MSS. εχονechon neuter singular agreeing with ζωονzōon) present active participle of εχωechō changing the construction with the τριτον ζωονtriton zōon almost like a finite verb as in Revelation 4:8.

A face as of a man (προσωπον ως αντρωπουprosōpon hōs anthrōpou). Shows that the likeness in each instance extended only to the face.

Like an eagle flying (ομοιον αετωι πετομενωιhomoion aetōi petomenōi). Present middle participle of πετομαιpetomai 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 αετοςaetos 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.

Verse 8

Each one of them (εν κατ εν αυτωνhen kath' hen autōn). “One by one of them,” a vernacular idiom like εις κατα ειςheis kata heis in Mark 14:19.

Having (εχωνechōn). Masculine participle again as in Revelation 4:7, though ζωονzōon neuter.

Six wings (ανα πτερυγας εχana pterugas hex). Distributive use of αναana “six wings apiece” as in Luke 10:1 (ανα δυοana duo by twos). Like Isaiah 6:2, not like Ezekiel 1:6, where only four wings are given apiece.

Are full of (γεμουσινgemousin). Plural verb, though ζωαzōa neuter, to individualize each one.

Round about and within (κυκλοτεν και εσωτενkuklothen kai esōthen). Perhaps before and behind (Revelation 4:6) and under the wings, “pointing to the secret energies of nature” (Swete).

Rest (αναπαυσινanapausin). See also Revelation 14:11. Old word (from αναπαυωanapauō 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 και νυκτοςhēmeras kai nuktos). Genitive of time, by day and by night.

Holy, holy, holy (αγιοσ αγιοσ αγιοςhagiosτρισαγιονhagiosαγιοςhagios). “The task of the Cherubim together with the Seraphim and Ophannim is to sing the praises of God” (Charles) in the Κυριος ο τεοςtrisagion (triple repetition of εστινhagios).

Is the Lord God (ο παντοκρατωρKurios ho theos). See Isaiah 6:3. The copula ο ην και ο ων και ο ερχομενοςestin (is) is not expressed, but is implied.

The Almighty (ho pantokratōr). See note on Revelation 1:8.

Which was and which is and which is to come (ho ēn kai ho ōn kai ho erchomenos). Just as in Revelation 1:4, Revelation 1:8, but with the order changed.

Verse 9

When the living creatures shall give (οταν δωσουσιν τα ζωαhotan dōsousin ta zōa). Indefinite temporal clause with οτανhotan and the future active indicative (δωσουσινdōsousin) rather than the more common second aorist active subjunctive (δωσινdōsin) 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.”

Verse 10

Shall fall down (πεσουνταιpesountai future middle of πιπτωpiptō), shall worship (προσκυνησουσινproskunēsousin future active of προσκυνεωproskuneō), shall cast their crowns (βαλουσιν τους στεπανουςbalousin tous stephanous future active of βαλλωballō). 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.

Verse 11

Our Lord and our God (ο κυριος και ο τεος ημωνho kurios kai ho theos hēmōn). The nominative form here used as vocative as in John 20:28 and often.

To receive (λαβεινlabein). Epexegetic second aorist active infinitive of λαμβανωlambanō with αχιοςaxios (worthy).

The glory (την δοχανtēn doxan). The article referring to δοχανdoxan in Revelation 4:9 and so with την τιμηνtēn timēn (the honour), though την δυναμινtēn dunamin (the power) is not in Revelation 4:9, but is the power due to be ascribed to God.

Thou didst create (συ εκτισαςsu ektisas). Emphasis on συsu (thou), first aorist active indicative of κτιζωktizō the verb used about the act of creation by Paul in Colossians 1:16 (εκτιστη εκτισταιektisthēδια το τελημα σουektistai), constative aorist giving a summary picture of the whole (not as a process).

Because of thy will (δι ονdia to thelēma sou). Reason for creation of the universe as in Hebrews 2:10 (ησανdi' hon).

They were (και εκτιστησανēsan). 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 (κτιζωkai ektisthēsan). First aorist passive indicative of the same verb, εκτιστηktizō just used and in the plural, while Paul (Colossians 1:16) uses the singular ektisthē See 1 Corinthians 8:6. God‘s will wrought through the Logos (Christ).


Copyright Statement
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)

Bibliography Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

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Friday, November 27th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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