In this chapter the prophetical scene opens; and, as the epistolary
part opened with a vision of Christ
so this part is introduced with a glorious appearance of the great God,
whose throne is in heaven, compassed about with the heavenly host.
This discovery was made to John, and in this chapter he,
I. Records the heavenly sight he saw,
II. The heavenly songs he heard,
The Vision of Heaven.
A. D. 95.
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
show 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.
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--
We have here an account of a second vision with which the apostle John
was favoured: After this, that is, not only "after I had seen
the vision of Christ walking in the midst of the golden candlesticks,"
but "after I had taken his messages from his mouth, and written and
sent them to the several churches, according to his command, after this
I had another vision." Those who well improve the discoveries they have
had of God already are prepared thereby for more, and may expect them.
I. The preparation made for the apostle's having this vision.
1. A door was opened in heaven. Hence we learn,
(1.) Whatever is transacted on earth is first designed and settled in
heaven; there is the model of all the works of God; all of them are
therefore before his eye, and he lets the inhabitants of heaven see as
much of them as is fit for them.
(2.) We can know nothing of future events but what God is pleased to
discover to us; they are within the veil, till God opens the door. But,
(3.) So far as God reveals his designs to us we may and ought to
receive them, and not pretend to be wise above what is revealed.
2. To prepare John for the vision, a trumpet was sounded, and he was
called up into heaven, to have a sight there of the things which were
to be hereafter. He was called into the third heavens.
(1.) There is a way opened into the holiest of all, into which the sons
of God may enter by faith and holy affections now, in their spirits
when they die, and in their whole persons at the last day.
(2.) We must not intrude into the secret of God's presence, but stay
till we are called up to it.
3. To prepare for this vision, the apostle was in the Spirit. He
was in a rapture, as before
whether in the body or out of the body we cannot tell; perhaps he
himself could not; however all bodily actions and sensations were for a
time suspended, and his spirit was possessed with the spirit of
prophecy, and wholly under a divine influence. The more we abstract
ourselves from all corporeal things the more fit we are for communion
with God; the body is a veil, a cloud, and clog to the mind in its
transactions with God. We should as it were forget it when we go in
before the Lord in duty, and be willing to drop it, that we may go up
to him in heaven. This was the apparatus to the vision. Now
II. The vision itself. It begins with the strange sights that the
apostle saw, and they were such as these:--
1. He saw a throne set in heaven, the seat of honour, and
authority, and judgment. Heaven is the throne of God; there he resides
in glory, and thence he gives laws to the church and to the whole
world, and all earthly thrones are under the jurisdiction of this
throne that is set in heaven.
2. He saw a glorious one upon the throne. This throne was not empty;
there was one in it who filled it, and that was God, who is here
described by those things that are most pleasant and precious in our
world: His countenance was like a jasper and a sardine-stone; he
is not described by any human features, so as to be represented by an
image, but only by his transcendent brightness. This jasper is a
transparent stone, which yet offers to the eye a variety of the most
vivid colours, signifying the glorious perfections of God; the
sardine-stone is red, signifying the justice of God, that essential
attribute of which he never divests himself in favour of any, but
gloriously exerts it in the government of the world, and especially of
the church, through our Lord Jesus Christ. This attribute is displayed
in pardoning as well as in punishing, in saving as well as in
3. He saw a rainbow about the throne, like unto an emerald,
The rainbow was the seal and token of the covenant of the providence
that God made with Noah and his posterity with him, and is a fit emblem
of that covenant of promise that God has made with Christ as the head
of the church, and all his people in him, which covenant is as the
waters of Noah unto God, an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things
and sure. This rainbow looked like the emerald; the most
prevailing colour was a pleasant green, to show the reviving and
refreshing nature of the new covenant.
4. He saw four-and-twenty seats round about the throne, not
empty, but filled with four-and-twenty elders, presbyters,
representing, very probably, the whole church of God, both in the
Old-Testament and in the New-Testament state; not the ministers of the
church, but rather the representatives of the people. Their sitting
denotes their honour, rest, and satisfaction; their sitting about the
throne signifies their relation to God, their nearness to him, the
sight and enjoyment they have of him. They are clothed in white
raiment, the righteousness of the saints, both imputed and
inherent; they had on their heads crowns of gold, signifying the
honour and authority given them of God, and the glory they have with
him. All these may in a lower sense be applied to the gospel church on
earth, in its worshipping assemblies; and, in the higher sense, to the
church triumphant in heaven.
5. He perceived lightnings and voices proceeding out of the throne;
that is, the awful declarations that God makes to his church of his
sovereign will and pleasure. Thus he gave forth the law on mount Sinai;
and the gospel has not less glory and authority than the law, though it
be of a more spiritual nature.
6. He saw seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which
are explained to be the seven Spirits of God
the various gifts, graces, and operations of the Spirit of God in the
churches of Christ; these are all dispensed according to the will and
pleasure of him who sits upon the throne.
7. He saw before the throne a sea of glass, like unto crystal.
As in the temple there was a great vessel of brass filled with water,
in which the priests were to wash when they went to minister before the
Lord (and this was called a sea), so in the gospel church the
sea or laver for purification is the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ,
who cleanses from all sin, even from sanctuary-sins. In this all those
must be washed that are admitted into the gracious presence of God on
earth or his glorious presence in heaven.
8. He saw four animals, living creatures, between the throne and
the circle of elders (as seems most probable), standing between God and
the people; these seem to signify the ministers of the gospel, not only
because of this their situation nearer to God, and between him and the
elders or representatives of the Christian people, and because fewer in
number than the people, but as they are here described,
(1.) By their many eyes, denoting sagacity, vigilance, and
(2.) By their lion-like courage, their great labour and diligence (in
which they resemble the ox), their prudence and discretion becoming
men, and their sublime affections and speculations, by which they mount
up with wings like eagles towards heaven
and these wings full of eyes within, to show that in all their
meditations and ministrations they are to act with knowledge, and
especially should be well acquainted with themselves and the state of
their own souls, and see their own concern in the great doctrines and
duties of religion, watching over their own souls as well as the souls
of the people.
(3.) By their continual employment, and that is, praising God, and not
ceasing to do so night and day. The elders sit and are ministered unto;
these stand and minister: they rest not night nor day. This now leads
to the other part of the representation.
The Vision of Heaven.
A. D. 95.
--8 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 for ever and ever,
10 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on
the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever 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.
We have considered the sights that the apostle saw in heaven: now let
us observe the songs that he heard, for there is in heaven not only
that to be seen which will highly please a sanctified eye, but there is
that to be heard which will greatly delight a sanctified ear. This is
true concerning the church of Christ here, which is a heaven upon
earth, and it will be eminently so in the church made perfect in the
heaven of heavens.
I. He heard the song of the four living creatures, of the ministers of
the church, which refers to the prophet Isaiah's vision,
Isaiah 6:1-13 .
1. They adore one God, and one only, the Lord God Almighty,
unchangeable and everlasting.
2. They adore three holies in this one God, the Holy Father, the Holy
Son, and the Holy Spirit; and these are one infinitely holy and eternal
Being, who sits upon the throne, and lives for ever and ever. In
this glory the prophet saw Christ, and spoke of him.
II. He heard the adorations of the four-and-twenty elders, that
is, of the Christian people represented by them; the ministers led, and
the people followed, in the praises of God,
1. The object of their worship, the same with that which the ministers
adored: Him that sat on the throne, the eternal everliving God.
The true church of God has one and the same object of worship. Two
different objects of worship, either co-ordinate or sub-ordinate, would
confound the worship and divide the worshippers. It is unlawful to join
in divine worship with those who either mistake or multiply the object.
There is but one God, and he alone, as God, is worshipped by the church
on earth and in heaven.
2. The acts of adoration.
(1.) They fell down before him that sat on the throne; they
discovered the most profound humility, reverence, and godly fear.
(2.) They cast their crowns before the throne; they gave God the
glory of the holiness wherewith he had crowned their souls on earth and
the honour and happiness with which he crowns them in heaven. They owe
all their graces and all their glories to him, and acknowledge that his
crown is infinitely more glorious than theirs, and that it is their
glory to be glorifying God.
3. The words of adoration: they said, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to
receive glory, and honour, and power,
(1.) They do not say, We give thee glory, and honour, and power;
for what can any creature pretend to give unto God? But they say,
thou art worthy to receive glory.
(2.) In this they tacitly acknowledge that God is exalted far above all
blessing and praise. He was worthy to receive glory, but they were not
worthy to praise, nor able to do it according to his infinite
4. We have the ground and reason of their adoration, which is
(1.) He is the Creator of all things, the first cause; and none but the
Creator of all things should be adored; no made thing can be the object
of religious worship.
(2.) He is the preserver of all things, and his preservation is a
continual creation; they are created still by the sustaining power of
God. All beings but God are dependent upon the will and power of God,
and no dependent being must be set up as an object of religious
worship. It is the part of the best dependent beings to be worshippers,
not to be worshipped.
(3.) He is the final cause of all things: For thy pleasure they are
and were created. It was his will and pleasure to create all
things; he was not put upon it by the will of another; there is no such
thing as a subordinate creator, that acts under and by the will and
power of another; and, if there were, he ought not to be worshipped. As
God made all things at his pleasure, so he made them for his pleasure,
to deal with them as he pleases and to glorify himself by them one way
or other. Though he delights not in the death of sinners, but rather
that they should turn and live, yet he hath made all things for
Now if these be true and sufficient grounds for religious worship, as
they are proper to God alone, Christ must needs be God, one with the
Father and Spirit, and be worshipped as such; for we find the same
causality ascribed to him.
All things were created by him and for him, and he is before all
things, and by him all things consist.
Matthew Henry "Verse by Verse Commentary for 'Revelation' Matthew Henry Bible Commentary".