Notes on Revelation 4-5

Revelation 4-5
CHAPTERS 4, 5
These two chapters together form a whole, a sort of preface, which introduces us into the scene where the prophet was introduced, that is to say, heaven. The prophecy, properly so called, begins only with chapter 6, at the opening of the seals.
Chapter 4 begins with the things which must be hereafter; that is to say, after the seven churches. The things that he saw are the glory of Christ in the midst of the churches. The things which are are the seven churches. The things which must be hereafter begin when the churches are set aside; chap. 3: 16; compare chap. 4: I: 19. The seven churches are a moral prophecy, containing promises and threatenings, founded on a certain conduct. The church, being judged as it were, is put aside. These letters may be applied to the church in every state thus described. They are the voice of Jesus judging the state of the churches.
In chapter 4 we see the things which are to come afterward. It is no more the things which are: these last so long as the church remains. It is from that term " which are " that the double interpretation of the Apocalypse proceeds. If the seven churches are taken as a sketch of the history of the church, Laodicea, the last one, receives this sentence-" I will spue thee out of my mouth." Consequently, the church is then no more recognized on earth; and what follows in the Revelation is the history of the government of God, and the chastisements sent on the earth from that time, until Christ comes to establish His kingdom. If the churches are taken in a literal sense, the types of the prophecy must be applied to events which have for the greater part already taken place; but in any case the church in the Revelation is neither recognized nor presented on earth from chapter 4, from the time that the scene changes, and that John, leaving " the things which are," is introduced into heaven to see " the things which are to come."
The things which are being then put aside, chapter 4 begins. As long as those things are, nothing in chapter 4 has yet taken place. In this chapter the church is always looked at as being in heaven, although she is not as yet manifested (which only takes place in chapters 19 and 2o). The subject of chapter 4 is creation, and the right of God over creation.
The subject of chapter 5 is the rights of the Lamb as Redeemer, Jesus' right of redemption. The Holy Ghost is no more presented in God's relations with His children; it is the relationship of God and of the world. Since Jesus has rights over the world, He is presented here in the throne, and God likewise is seen sitting on it. The right of God's throne in creation. The right of the Lamb in redemption. This is, as a summary, the subject of these two chapters.
Chapter 4: 1. Come up hither. The earth is done with (as his place); he leaves the earth. The time will come when there shall be a throne on the earth. In the passage before us God's throne is in heaven. The throne of God was once on the earth at Jerusalem. This will take place once more, as it is said in Jer. 3:1717At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart. (Jeremiah 3:17). The shekinah of glory was in the temple; but from the time that Jerusalem was taken by Nebuchadnezzar it entirely ceased. Then began the times of the Gentiles, and God gave the kingdom to Nebuchadnezzar.
At the beginning of Ezekiel the same cherubim are seen leaving the temple and the city; Ezek. 10:18; 11: 2318Then the glory of the Lord departed from off the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubims. (Ezekiel 10:18). Jehovah stands on the threshold of the house; Ezek. 9:33And the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, whereupon he was, to the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed with linen, which had the writer's inkhorn by his side; (Ezekiel 9:3). At last He forsakes the house and the city-the earthly power was given to the Gentiles; Dan. 2:3737Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. (Daniel 2:37). The people having been unfaithful, God forsook His people, and from that time He has not taken again His place in the earth. The only thing God did was to present His Son as King, and as having right to reign over the Jews; but the Son was rejected. From that time God is gathering the church, the co-heirs with Christ. Christ is sitting on the throne with the Father, where He is interceding for us. When the church, viewed as a dispensation on earth, has come to an end, the throne of God becomes again the center of relation with the earth, and God begins to intervene again directly in the world, without having yet replaced His Son on the earth. If we examine the throne (v. 2, 5, 6), we find everything ordered there according to the pattern of the temple; but the subject is here government.
We find here all the characters of God except that of Father. The rainbow (v. 3) is God's alliance with creation. There was no government before Noah. After the deluge, God makes a promise to bless the earth, and He sets man in power with the sword to rule and to repress evil. When the Jews were rejected, God transmitted the government to the Gentiles, who retain it until this day.
Verse 4. The twenty-four elders correspond with the twenty-four classes of priests in 1 Chron. 24; but they are crowned. The number twenty-four represents twice twelve. One might perhaps see here the twelve patriarchs and the twelve apostles-the saints in the two dispensations.
Verse 5. The lightnings, the thunderings, the voices, are God's power in judgment, and in ruling, as in Sinai. The seven lamps of fire are the manifestation of God in leading, enlightening, and blessing; it is the guiding power of the Holy Ghost with the elements of strength and wisdom. He discerns with a power which acts amidst what He discerns.
The sea of glass corresponds with the brazen sea of the tabernacle and of the temple, where however no veil is here seen. The sea of glass is a purity that has become solid, having taken the character of a permanent state; it is no more water, that is to say, a mere way of cleansing, as on the earth in the brazen sea.
The four living creatures full of eyes are the supporters of the throne. They have significative attributes. The lion is expressive of strength, royal power. Jesus is the Lion of Judah. The resemblance to a calf recalls firmness, the solidity peculiar to the foot of the ox. The resemblance to a man's face sets forth intelligence. The flying eagle designates rapidity in judgments. It is always God in the creation. It is an allusion to Ezek. 1; but in Ezekiel every living creature had four faces, showing the power of providence which sees all and acts on earth.
But here we see the stability and the firmness of God's throne in heaven. We see here God's power and His claims over creation, not the agents of this power. It has not been sufficiently observed that principles of action are here spoken of, and not agents. That is the reason why the four living creatures have not been well understood.
Verse 8. We have here still all the names of God, save the one in which the church is concerned-that of Father. He is Lord God Almighty, Eternal. These are the names by which God has revealed Himself in every dispensation. With the redeemed now He takes the name of Father. We have all that God has been on the earth with His people, and nothing else. These living creatures acknowledge God as the Holy One in all He does on earth, and they give Him glory.
Verse 9. The twenty-four elders prostrate themselves (it is positive worship), and do not, like the four living creatures, give glory merely. The church (it might perhaps be well to say the saints above; we must understand it as the twenty-four elders, including probably the faithful in the Old Testament) joins in the praises of the four living creatures, and worships God as the Creator (v. II). It is not according to the relation between God and the church. The church here sees God as the Creator. It is important to apprehend this character of government of the things of this world. It is from this throne, as the center of government, that everything in the Revelation comes. This throne is about to intervene in the government of the earth, and it is precisely because Christ comes to claim His rights to the government of the earth, that Antichrist is preparing to make war with Christ.
Chapter 5. We find in this chapter another truth of great moment; it is the right of the Lamb put to death, to open the book and to set all these things in motion. Verse 5. We have here the counsels of God in giving the inheritance to His Son. This book, sealed with seven seals, is the book of the inheritance (that is, of the investiture)-the description of the means used by God in order to put Jesus in possession- of His ways in judgment full of patience to the end, of which the right of redemption which devolves on Jesus forms the basis. (See Isa. 26:5-105For he bringeth down them that dwell on high; the lofty city, he layeth it low; he layeth it low, even to the ground; he bringeth it even to the dust. 6The foot shall tread it down, even the feet of the poor, and the steps of the needy. 7The way of the just is uprightness: thou, most upright, dost weigh the path of the just. 8Yea, in the way of thy judgments, O Lord, have we waited for thee; the desire of our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee. 9With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. 10Let favor be showed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness: in the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the Lord. (Isaiah 26:5‑10) Jeremiah, in chapter 32, tells us that the purchase of an inheritance was subscribed on two books, one sealed, and the other open. The sealed book is the contract of the inheritance that is to be given to the Son. Who can unroll the events which will invest Christ with the inheritance of the earth? No one but Christ Himself. Who has a right to do it? He alone, the Redeemer, who has purchased it, who by His blood and by His power can claim and deliver everything as His own. (Compare Eph. 1) Alas! there is no weeping now, because no one is found worthy to read the book; because one does not understand how the inheritance shall be given to the Son of man. However, the " Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof." Adam had a right to the inheritance, but he lost it. Christ had to redeem this right from Satan's hands. He had to pay the price: and this price was His own death, which He gave for it. He has redeemed everything for Himself. All was created by Him and for Him; but through Adam this lower creation fell into Satan's hands, who uses it to corrupt men and to keep them at a distance from God.
Verses 6, 10. In the midst of the throne and of the elders stood a Lamb as it had been slain. The Lamb had seven horns. The horns are the emblem of power; seven is the symbol of perfection. The seven horns are expressive of perfection in power; the seven eyes are the perfection of the Spirit who sees all. It is the active power of the perfect wisdom of the Lamb who acts on the earth. The Lamb is always seen as if it had been slain, and not as yet manifested in glory. Boaz had to redeem Elimelech's land, and Ruth is a type of the redeemed. Jesus, the true Boaz, the alone mighty One, redeems Ruth, His own people, and the land of Elimelech, the earth. That which gives to the Lamb the right to exercise all power is that He has paid the ransom to God. God had, as it were, lost the inheritance. But the Lamb has redeemed it to God.
Verse 10. The joy of those whom He has redeemed. They rejoice because they know they shall reign on earth, according to the right of Jesus which they can claim. They see the Lamb having taken the book, and God beginning to intervene, in order to give Christ the government of the earth, and they see that they shall reign.
Verses 11-14. The angels do not say that He has redeemed them. He only preserved them. Creation has again her voice to bless Him who redeemed her. God lives forever and ever. Man having killed the Heir, it would seem for a while that the inheritance is his. But God lives forever and ever. The patience of God and His goodness in the midst of evil will have been manifested. If there had been no evil, the goodness of God would never have been thus manifested. But God has overcome evil with good. The church's place is to be in the intimacy of God and to understand Christ's intentions and God's thoughts. These things have been revealed unto us by His Spirit. It is, in this sense, knowledge which distinguishes the church. Hereafter, the church will enjoy all that Christ possesses in power. These two chapters are very important for the understanding the glory of Christ and the Revelation. The glory of Christ is that which is particularly brought out by the Revelation. If the reading of this book makes the glory of Christ precious to us, our enjoyment of it will be much greater. May God shed abroad that love in our hearts and give us to delight in the love of Jesus!