« PreviousContinue »
heavenly truths with all the aid of reference to typical institutions, to well-remembered prophetic symbols, and to illustrative figures.
John had then a vision of the state of glory in which GOD is worshiped in Trinity; as we learn from the triple ascription of holiness, denoting the concentration of the attributes of godhead in each person; (v. 8;) and from the parallel vision Isa. vi, whereof the Spirit expressly says that Isaiah spake of CHRIST and saw his glory.b He therefore is the King, Jehovah of hosts," whom Isaiah's eyes beheld, and at whose voice the posts of the door of the temple moved. It was doubtless that door of the temple in heaven which was now opened to John, typified by that which in the Jewish temple opened into the people's court for heavenly things must be presented to the mind in conformity to its habitual manner of embodying ideas of them; especially when that manner was prescribed by God himself,—viz. in a typical ritual given to the Hebrew nation to which John belonged, and by which, in connexion with prophecy, Christ had explained all things concerning his sufferings and his
glory.-This adds to the difficulty
rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. The description of the throne, and of Him who sat thereon encircled by the rainbow, in token of his covenant of peace, resembles that in Ezek. i, 25-28; which represents the manhood on the throne of the divine majesty, as the appearance of the likeness of the glory of Jehovah ;" which, throughout Ezekiel, is evidently the title given to Messiah; for this Glory of Jehovah," appears, speaks, stands, departs, returns, as a man." Lowth on that first chapter asserts, it was a vision of the second person of the Trinity." The subject of the book
* Sir Isaac Newton founded all his interpretation on chap. xi, 19; but surely the visions of the seals and trumpets were vouchsafed previously to John's receiving the "little book." His explaining the whole in allusion to the temple services, though it often elucidates the subject, involves him nevertheless in some insurmountable difficulties. He says that the temple is the scene of all the visions, and this answers for those of the third series. He adds, that the visions of the temple relate to the feast of tabernacles. Now it is true that "the Jews' feasts were typical of things to come,' the passover of the chief object of the first advent, the feast of tabernacles of the millennial scene, when "the tabernacle of God will be with men, and he will dwell with them, &c."--but what can it have to do, or how is it compatible, with all the transactions previous to its antitype;-such as the first six seals, all the trumpets, and the vials of judgement? On chapter iv, 1, Sir Isaac remarks, "Jolin was called up to the east gate of the great court, to see the visions in the temple, on the door being opened: the mercy seat on the ark of the testament between the cherubim, Ps. xcix, 1, was respected by Jews as the throne of God. The twenty four seats answer to the chambers of the twenty four princes of the priests clothed in linen." According to this mode of elucidation, heaven was represented by the holy of holies or sanctuary of the true ecclesiastical state.
b John xii, 41.
we are considering, is especially the manifestation of the personal glory and work of Jesus Christ, as the Mediator of the new covenant, the covenant of grace, betokened by the bow in the cloud. (See also his appearance, chap. x, 1.)
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." Commentators explain the 24 elders as denoting the prophets and apostles: which is literal enough; for they are the elders of the old and new testament Church. They appear in this connexion, being Israelites, as the heads of the church of literal Israel under both dispensations, the individuals to whom the promises were personally made, for the accomplishment of which they surround the throne, as once with supplications, so now with adoration and praise; and that continually, as their sitting posture on their promised throne signifies. Their white raiment betokens the imputed righteousness of saints, a spotless covering and their crowns of gold, that crown of life which the Lord promised to those faithful unto death. Both betokened their being kings and priests, or a royal priesthood, a peculiar people. v. 5. " Out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices." This I conceive to be This I conceive to be the manifestations of the presence of the Godhead, the same as in Exod. xix, 16.
The seven lamps of fire" form the symbol of the Spirit of judge
ment and of burning," in the energy of his sevenfold operations in the judgements about to be revealed; in which terminates the dispensation of the special ministry of the Spirit, as promised by Christ on his departure. His words are, He shall convince the world of sin, because they believe not on ME; of righteousness, because I go to the Father, (to inter'cede for the elect, and receive 'the rod or sceptre of iron wherewith to smite the nations on his return,) and ye see me no more (as the lowly sufferer ;) of judgement, because the prince of this ' world is judged :” i. e. Satan is adjudged to his doom at the close of that dispensation, during which the kingdoms of the Roman earth (ouμεvn) are delivered to his disposal.d
vv. 6, 7. “ 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,
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.” The sea is the symbol of peoples. It has been suggested that "the sea of glass," alluding to the brazen sea, signifies the container rather than that contained.* But I think it is taken together to denote the Gentile multitudes, entered into the rest which remaineth for the people of God, who are before his throne who is the Peace; he having so CC reconciled both Jews and Gentiles unto God in one body by the cross, that Gentiles are now fellow citizens with
were four beasts full of eyes before
and behind. And the first beast was
c See also Luke xxii, 30. d See John
xvi, 8-11; Luke iv, 5; Rev. xx, 2, 3.
* Typified by the brazen sea between the porch and the altar. Sir I. Newton says the brazen sea suggested the sea of glass! But the complete imagery of the Bible was in the mind of the Spirit when he ordered the type to be made, and taught John the symbol of the Gentile multitude. Rev. vii, 22-26.
lowers in the present symbolic representation.
One living creature stands before, one behind, one on either side of the throne. Some suppose they represent the Church in the four quarters of the globe; but the only scene of prophecy is the seat of the four successive monarchies of Daniel's comprehensive vision. Other nations are adverted to only in their connexion with that scene of prophetic action. For sometime it appeared to the writer that as the 24 elders represented the Israelitish Church, and as there can be no unnecessary or redundant symbol, (i. e. the same persons and things are never represented by two symbols in the same prophecy,) that therefore these four living creatures, (mis-translated beasts,") denoted the Gentile Church, gathered out of the four chief monarchies, and shown to Daniel under the emblem of four beasts descriptive of the characteristics of each empire; and that the difference, between the monsters which symbolized the heathen empire and the emblem which symbolized the Church gathered out of each, might be accounted for by the difference of the object symbolized,
pires, out of which I supposed the Church they symbolized to be gathered. This view with others respecting the two following chapters occurred on comparing the vision of Daniel with that of John, and examining Genesis xlix with Num. ii. I afterwards understood that it resembled Mr Faber's, as given in his "Calendar of Prophecy," a work which I have not had opportunity to read.
a heathen empire in the one case, and God's Church in the other. This notion respecting spiritual Israel seemed to be confirmed by the remarkable and evidently intentional clue to the apprehension of the symbol of the living creatures, afforded by the banners of the four tribes which headed the twelve tribes, bearing the same figures as the banners of the four em
Lately however Sir Isaac Newton's exposition,* and a closer examination of the preceding diagram, led me to think that these "living creatures represent the Church of literal Israel. In this case, the sea of glass betokens the mixed multitude of gentile proselytes gathered out of these monarchies and their dependencies in all the earth. The twenty four elders still represent the priests, who surrounded the throne of God in the tabernacle and in the temple ; “and the four living creatures" denote the Church triumphant gathered out of the twelve tribes of literal Israel, or the 144,000 of the children of Israel in Rev. vii, 4.
In Ezekiel's two visions of the cherubim or living creatures § each figure is compounded of the face of a man, lion, ox and eagle on the body of a man; their office and that of the seraphim in Isaiah's vision (chap. vi,) denotes angelic intelligence. But though many offices of the cherubim and seraphim, (as their guarding Paradise, forming the throne above the mercy seat and the chariots of the Almighty, ministering the fire of his wrath h and of purification,i &c.) cannot be
*From the encampment of the twelve tribes under the standard of the four leading tribes, were formed (says Sir Isaac) the hieroglyphics of cherubim and seraphim. These cherubim had one body with the four faces of a lion, ox, man, and eagle, looking to the four winds of heaven. Ezek. i.-The four Seraphs had the same four faces with four bodies. The four beasts of the Revelation are therefore four Seraphs (No! see chap. v, 9) standing on the four sides of the people's court, &c."
8 Chap. i and x, h Ezek. x, 17. i Isa. vi, 6, 7.
performed by the Church of God selected from among men ;- and though these cannot bear titles which signify fulness of knowledge," and burning or shining ones ; "*-and though the hieroglyphic used in John's Revelation for the Church, being the same as that which denotes cherubim and seraphim, presents a great difficulty; -still it cannot in his vision signify the angelic host, both because the angels are seen separately surrounding these living creatures as they surround the throne, j and because they sing a song which the angels cannot,-" Thou hast redeemed us," &c.k
I object to call them "hieroglyhieroglyphics of cherubim and seraphim, framed to represent the people of Israel;" for where cherubim and seraphim are named, I believe they denote angelic intelligences; but the resurrection Church is admitted into so similar a state of knowledge, reflected light, blessedness and glory, and to such similar services of love and zeal and worship, that similar hieroglyphics may well be used to denote it. They differ however, inasmuch as each is a single and not a compound figure; each body having but one face, different from each other, but together like the four faces of the cherubim.
Moses was ordered to have the
cherubim embroidered on the curtains and veil of the tabernacle ;1 and Solomon carved all the walls and the two doors of the house of the Lord with figures of cherubim and palm trees and open flowers.m Cherubim were also wrought on the veil of this temple." Allusions to the cherubim in the holy of holies, whose wings above the mercy seat formed the throne, are frequent in the Psalms and Prophets; as that God appeared from between them, &c. They bore up the personal glory of Jehovah, when he left the temple and ascended from the holy city. Surely angels are represented in all these instances : as the very propriety of each description and allusion requires.
The living creatures seen by John must represent the Church triumphant; both because they praise the Lamb slain to redeem themselves, and because the angels encompass them when all unite to form the adoring throng around the throne.
v. 8. They had "each of them six wings" like the seraphim in Isaiah's vision, to denote unwearied and unceasing service,-ever on the wing, "infaticabilmente agili e preste." The cherubim in Ezekiel's vision needed not the two which covered their faces in Isaiah's, because they were under the throne. -In Ezek. x, 12, the whole body,
*The appearance of the cherubim in Ezekiel's vision was like burning coals of fire, the reflection of the Light of Israel who was and is as a fire, and his Holy One for a flame." This affords a remarkable representation of the unity and distinctness of these two persons of the Trinity. For, as the Jews say, "their unity is unlike every other," i.e. I suppose, not oneness, but concord. Ezekiel saw these cherubim run and return, as the appearance of a flash of lightning, indicating their velocity and unmixed energy in serving him without sin.
+ Though Scott's views do not accord with those of the writer, it is worth remarking that he considers the living creatures in Ezekiel to denote angelic agency, and in Revelation the ministers of the Church, the similarity of whose endowments accounts for the coincidence.
j Chap. v, 11. k Chap. v, 9.
1 Exod. xxvi.
o Ezek. x and xi.
m 1 Kings vi. n 2 Chron. iii.