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and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they
lypse. There probably existed some with him a thousand years ;” xx. reason in the revelator's mind why 6. By analogy, then, the Christian he selected the number twenty-four. priests might be divided into twentyThere are two reasons which may be four courses; and each course bavassigned; and they present them- ing one representative in the court selves to our mind with a force so of heaven, would make the twentynearly equal, that it is difficult to four elders. Whether one of these state which has the most power. We reasons, or both of them, operated on will proceed to name them. Ist. There the mind of the revelator; and if only were twelve apostles in the Christian one, which of the two, we must leave church. The Jewish and Christian for the reader to determine. These religion were both divinely appointed elders perform no offices in the drama institutions; and it is possible, there of the Apocalypse which are inconfore, that the revelator desired to rep- sistent with their characters as represent them both, by their elders, in resentatives of the church, or of the the court of heaven. One elder for holy men of both Jewish and Chriseach of the twelve tribes, and one to tian dispensations. They are princi. answer to each of the twelve apostles, pally distinguished by the devout and (who were regarded as the heads of solemn worship which they rendered the tribes of spiritual Israel, Matt. to God and the Lamb; Rev. v. 8; xix. 28,) would make up the number xi. 16; xix. 4. T Clothed in white twenty-four. With this view, the raiment. We have already shown court of heaven is composed, under that inhabitants of the heavenly world the Father, of an equal number of are supposed to be clothed in white, representatives from both the Jewish as a sign of purity and of honor. See and Christian institutions. The twelve the notes on Rev. iii. 4, 5, 18. The Jewish tribes are sometimes used redeemed were washed and made spiritually for the Jews converted to white in the blood of the Lamb; the Christian religion. See James i. vii. 14. How appropriate it was, 1, and Rev. vii. The other reason to then, for the revelator to clothe his which we have referred, which per- elders in white. [Crowns of gold. haps induced the revelator to use the The Christians were kings as well as number twenty-four, is this : Underpriests; and hence the elders were the reign of David the Jewish priests represented each as having a crown were divided into twenty-four orders, of gold upon his head, which he wore courses, or classes, as will be per- in the presence of the Highest, who ceived by examining Numb. xxiv. thus acknowledged the preëminence. The Christian believers, those who The four-and-twenty seats on which had entered Christ's spiritual king- they sat were (thronoi) thrones; and dom, who had come to Mount Zion, we know of no reason why the word the city of the living God, the heav- was not thus rendered, as in Matt. enly Jerusalem, were reckoned as xix. 28. A brief review of what has kings and priests in God's sight. been said on the subject before us, " Ye are a holy priesthood, to offer may present it now to the reader's up spiritual sacrifices ;" 1 Pet. ii. 5. mind in a more definite, clear and “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal single light. In his figurative depriesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar scription, John first puts a throne, people ;" 9. The Christians con- with a glorious personage upon it, fessed that they had been made bright and beautiful to behold. “kings and priests unto God ;" Rev. Round about the throne was a raini. 6; v. 10. "They shall be priests bow. It was encircled also with of God and of Christ, and shall reign four-and-twenty minor thrones, on
had on their heads crowns of gold.
5 And out of the throne proceeded lightnings, and thunder
which sat as many elders, clothed in sticks, sea of glass, the ark of the white, having on their heads crowns covenant, and the like. And as at of gold. No one can suppose this the opening of the temple doors, a description to be a reality; it is pure- trumpet sounded, - so is the allusion ly imaginative. We think the words here. The door in heaven opened, of Dr. Doddridge are worthy of great and a trumpet calls John to come in attention :-“We are not to imagine and see what was there. — (Harmony that the person sitting on the throne, of the New Testament.). The same or the four animals, or the four-and-author says again,
66 The revelator twenty elders, were real beings ex- seeth Christ enthroned in the middle isting in nature; though they repre- of his church, in the same prophetic sented in a figurative manner things and visionary emblem that Ezekiel that did really exist. — And though it had seen ; Ezek. i. and x.; and this is possible that aerial scenes might, by is a commentary and fulfilling of that divine or angelic power, have been scene that Daniel speaketh of; vii. formed, I think it much more proba- | 9, 10, 22. In Ezekiel the Lord, ble that all that passed was purely in when Jerusalem was to be destroyed, the imagination of St. John. This and the glory of the Lord that used to will keep us, in our interpretation, be there, and the people, were to flit clear of a thousand difficulties, not to into another land, - appeareth so en. say absurdities, which would follow throned as sitting in judgment and from a contrary supposition : namely, Aitting away by degrees to another that there is in heaven an animal in place, as compare Ezek. i. and x. well the form of a lamb to represent Christ; together. So Christ here, when the and that there are such living crea- destruction of Jerusalem was near at tares as are here described, and that hand, and his glory and presence God himself appears in a human (were about] to remove from that naform, &c. And this observation I make tion, now given up to unbelief and once for all, desiring it may be re- obduration, to reside among the Genmembered, and applied as occasions tiles, – he is seated upon his throne, present." (See his Expos. on the as judge and king, with glorious atplace.) Such was Doddridge's opin- tendance, to judge that nation for ion, and we have no doubt of its cor- their sins and unbelief, and stating
The great truths of proph- the affair of his church, whither his ecy made known to John were doubt-glory was now removing.” — (Harless divine communications to him mony of the New Testament.) We exbut the imagery is to be understood plain the figures in this chapter on the as imagery merely. We have al- same principle on which we explain ready shown what suggested these similar imagery in the 24th and 25th metaphors to the mind of the revela- chapters of Matthew. The appear
He, doubtless, obtained them ance of God's dwelling-place is drawn from the Old Testament. It is a from that of the camp of Israel. 1. common metaphor of the Old Testa- | The tabernacle was in the middle ment writers to represent God as sit- there; so is the throne here. 2. ting on a throne, all glorious in ap- There, the four squadrons of the pearance. The scene of John's vis- camp of Levi next the tabernacle; ion, says Lightfoot, “is according to so here, the four living creatures. 3. the scheme of the temple, and the There, the whole camp of Israel; so divine glory there. And hence you here, twenty-four elders, representahave mention of the altar, candle- tives of the whole church, built from
ings, and voices. And there are the seven Spirits of God. were seven lamps of fire burn- 6 And before the throne there ing before the throne, which was sea of glass like unto
twelve tribes and twelve apostles; or God; that is, they represented the reference may be made to the twenty- seven spirits of God. This descripfour courses of priests.
tion is taken from Ezek. i. 13. 5. And out of the throne. · This for the likeness of the living creadescription is given to correspond tures, their appearance was like burnwith the ancient notions of the Jews ing coals of fire, and like the appearin regard to the signs that attended ance of lamps : it went up and down the presence of Jehovah. The scene among the living creatures; and the is drawn as if there were some pow- fire was bright, and out of the fire erful being present, invisible to the went forth lightning.” We have outward eye, but who made his pres- shown under former passages what ence known by the lightnings, thun- is meant by the seven spirits of God. derings and voices. Whether there Earthly monarchs, who maintained was anything in the temple service the most magnificence, had seven answering to this, we would not say spirits, confidential ministers, with certainty ; we feel more confi- dwelling near their persons. They dence that the revelator drew the were the means of access which the metaphor from the account given by subjects had, in the most of cases, Moses of the presence of God upon with their sovereign. They, there the mount. “And it came to pass fore, were called his spirits; and beon the third day in the morning, that cause they were watchful to see all there were thunders and lightnings, that was done and report to their and a thick cloud upon the mount, master, they were sometimes repreand the voice of the trumpet exceed - sented, as in Rev. v. 6, by seven eyes ing loud; so that all the people that going out into all the earth, meaning was in the camp trembled. And thereby, far-seeing eyes. See Ezra Moses brought forth the people out vii. 4; Esther i. 10, 14; Jer. iii. 25; of the camp to meet with God; and 1 Esdras viii. 11; Tobit xii. 15. See they stood at the nether part of the particularly our 'notes on. Rev. i. 4 mount. And mount Sinai was alto- and iii. 1. The seven spirits of God gether on a smoke, because the Lord were represented by seven lamps, as descended upon it in fire: and the the seven stars (like lamps) represmoke thereof ascended as the smoke sented the angels of the of a furnace, and the whole mount churches, and the seven candlesticks quaked greatly. And when the voice represented the seven churches them. of the trumpet sounded long, and selves; Rev. i. 20. Having described waxed louder and louder, Moses the throne and Him that sat on it, spake, and God answered him by a so far as appearances were made to voice;" Exod. xix. 16—19. This mortal eyes, and also the court of shows that the ancient Jews did not heaven, the revelator proceeds, in the describe God as a being they could next place, to show what was in front see; but his presence was denoted in of the throne. the manner here pointed out. | Seven 6. A sea of glass like unto crystal. lumps of fire. These answered to the This was before the throne. Obgolden candlestick with seven lamps, serve, it is not a sea of water, but a which was before the most holy place sea of glass, clear, beautiful, like in the tabernacle. The seven lamps unto crystal.' It was a plain, level, of fire (i. e. lighted or burning lamps) beautiful surface, - not liquid, but are said to be the seven spirits of called a sea, because it was so
crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the transparent, that the figures of per- have animal life, as well as beasts. sons were reflected from it as if it The word beast not only degrades were water. The floor, or pavement the signification, but the animals before the tabernacle, on which the here mentioned have parts and appeople stood to worship God, was pearances which beasts have not, and composed of plates or slabs, highly are represented as in the highest polished. It looked like glass, and sense rational.” The revelator seems when persons stood upon it, their to have copied from Ezekiel in this images were so clearly reflected, that description. To describe the apthey seemed almost to be standing proach of Jehovah, the prophet said, on the open sea. Hence, we read, The heavens were opened, and I Rev. xv. 2, “And I saw as it were a saw visions of God;" chap. i. 1. sea of glass mingled with fire; and" And I looked, and behold a whirlthem that had gotten the victory over wind came out of the north, a great the beast, and over his image, and cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and over his mark, and over the number a brightness was about it, and out of of his name, stand on the sea of the midst thereof as the color of glass, having the harps of God.” | amber, out of the midst of the fire. They stand on the sea of glass, - for Also out of the midst thereof came so the pavement seemed to be; and the likeness of four living creatures. they had the harps of God, because And this was their appearance; they they came there to praise him; it had the likeness of a man. And was the place on which the people every one had four faces, and every stood when they assembled to sing in one had four wings. And their feet chorus the sacred songs of the temple. were straight feet; and the sole of
In the midst of the throne. The their feet was like the sole of a calf's beings referred to had a very near foot; and they sparkled like the color approach to the throne; they were of burnished brass. And they had nearer to it than were the four-and- the hands of a man under their wings twenty elders. The cherubim seemed on their four sides; and they four to be in the midst of the ark. “For had their faces and their wings. the cherubims spread forth their two Their wings were joined one to anwings over the place of the ark, and other; they turned not when they the cherubims covered the ark and went; they went every one straight the staves thereof above ;" 1 Kings forward. As for the likeness of their viii. 7; 2 Chron. V. 8; Heb. ix. 5. faces, they four had the face of a From this near relation which the man and the face of a lion, on the cherubim held to the throne, came the right side : and they four had the idea of the revelator. | Four beasts, face of an ox on the left side ; they or rather four living creatures. — The four also had the face of an eagle. four beasts were hieroglyphical rep- Thus were their faces; and their resentations, though the word beasts wings were stretched upward ; two seems to be an unfortunate transla- wings of every one were joined one tion; for they certainly are described to another, and two covered their as intelligent beings," saying, Holy, bodies. And they went every one holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which straight forward ; whither the Spirit was, and is, and is to come. " It was to go, they went; and they turnwas a most unhappy mistake in our ed not when they went. As for the translators, (says Dr. Doddridge,) to likeness of the living creatures, render the word zoa, beasts; it cer- their appearance was like burning tainly signifies any other kind of coals of fire, and like the appearance animals, that is, of creatures which l of lamps :'it went up and down throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. among the living creatures; and the idea which men have of an angel, is fire was bright, and out of the fire that of a being of extraordinary inwent forth lightning. And the liv- telligence, having the power of passing creatures ran and returned as the ing from world to world, especially appearance of a fash of lightning;" from heaven to earth, and from earth 4–14. On this long description we to heaven. How, then, is the angel shall offer a few remarks. The described hieroglyphically? Answer: Egyptians, from the earliest antiqui- As a being that we have never seen ty, were in the habit of writing, es- a human being with wings. So in pecially on sacred subjects, in hie- the description of Ezekiel, his aim roglyphics. In truth, sacred writing being to describe powers all of which is what the word signifies etymo- were not found in the same creature, logically. The people of Egypt had he was obliged to conjoin different exercised a great influence over the creatures; and in this way he proJews, especially in consequence of duced his anomalous animals. But the long bondage which they had suf- it is not to the form of the animals fered there. It was there, perhaps, we are to look, but to the qualities that the latter improved in the art which he represented by them; and of this kind of writing - expressing these qualities were such as he supideas by images In the passage posed God to possess. In the first just quoted from Ezekiel, we have place he described the approach of a sample of the hieroglyphical style. the Deity. He came in a whirlwind And at what did the prophet aim? [a sign of great power); he rode on a Answer: To give a description of brilliant cloud, in the centre of which the unseen Deity. He had said, (ver. was a flame, whose effulgence shined 1,) “I saw visions of God;" ì. e., out like amber. Out of this cloud emblems and symbols of the divine came the likeness of four creatures, to majesty. His object was to describe, represent the powers or attributes of by emblems, the attributes of God. God. And this was their appearance : The Jews never professed to see God. they had the likeness of a man. PreHe was, in their estimation, a spir- eminently, then, the prophet desired itual being ; but still he was actually to give the idea of intelligence. Every a bei possessing all the attributes one had four faces, and every one of the most perfect intelligence. In had four wings. There never the prophet's attempt to give a hier- in reality such a creature; but let us oglyphical representation, he sought see what it represented. By four for the most wonderful powers pos- faces they saw in every direction, sessed by any creatures; and these showing the simultaneous vision powers he represents by the images which God has of all parts of the of the creatures themselves, as is universe. Man, the noblest of all always done in hieroglyphics. Some God's lower works, can see but one of these powers he found in one kind way at a time; but God can see all of a creature, and some in another; things, and in all directions, at a and in bringing them together, they glance. So much for the four faces. form an anomalous animal, such as By their wings they could fly, — they never existed, and probably never could pass from place to place will exist. When we are studying through the air. Their feet were hieroglyphics, therefore, we are not straight; they went every one straight to think so much of the outward ap- forward ; ver. 12. They were brilpearance of the symbol, be it ever liant, sparkled like burnished brass, so anomalous, as of the qualities in- like the feet of the Son of man, mentended to be represented by it. The I tioned Rev. i. 15. They had the