Skip to comments.The Apocalypse Of Saint John (Revelation) Chapter 4
Posted on 08/01/2011 6:23:58 AM PDT by Cronos
The vision of the throne of God, the twenty-four ancients and the four living creatures.
 After these things I looked, and behold a door was opened in heaven, and the first voice which I heard, as it were, of a trumpet speaking with me, said: Come up hither, and I will shew thee the things which must be done hereafter.  And immediately I was in the spirit: and behold there was a throne set in heaven, and upon the throne one sitting.  And he that sat, was to the sight like the jasper and the sardine stone; and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.  And round about the throne were four and twenty seats; and upon the seats, four and twenty ancients sitting, clothed in white garments, and on their heads were crowns of gold.  And from the throne proceeded lightnings, and voices, and thunders; and there were seven lamps burning before the throne, which are the seven spirits of God.
 And in the sight of the throne was, as it were, a sea of glass like to crystal; and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four living creatures, full of eyes before and behind.  And the first living creature was like a lion: and the second living creature like a calf: and the third living creature, having the face, as it were, of a man: and the fourth living creature was like an eagle flying.  And the four living creatures had each of them six wings; and round about and within they are full of eyes. And they rested not day and night, saying: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come.  And when those living creatures gave glory, and honour, and benediction to him that sitteth on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever;  The four and twenty ancients fell down before him that sitteth on the throne, and adored him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:
 Thou art worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory, and honour, and power: because thou hast created all things; and for thy will they were, and have been created.
Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. No sooner had St. John received in the preceding vision the documents he was to transmit to the seven Churches of Asia[Asia Minor], when, behold, a new scene displays itself. Heaven opens, and St. John is invited up thither by the voice which had spoken to him before, and is told he shall see what is to happen in future ages. On a sudden appears a throne, and the Almighty himself seated upon it. The rainbow which surrounds the throne, denotes the covenant of reconciliation and peace between God and man. (Walmesley) --- Behold a door open. Here begins what may be looked upon as the second part of the Apocalypse, and from hence to the two last chapters are contained wars and victories of the Church over all its enemies, the devil, Jews, heathens, and heretics.
These visions are so differently expounded, when applied to different events, that this alone may convince us how uncertain are those various interpretations. The servants of God are taught that they must expect to meet with many trials, afflictions, and persecutions; but this ought to be a great subject of consolation to the faithful, that they are assured of victory if they fight manfully, and of a recompense of endless happiness for their short labours. Such visions and majestic descriptions shew that St. John was inspired by the same spirit of God, as the ancient patriarchs and prophets. --- I will shew thee the things which must come to pass hereafter; i.e. after the things already revealed concerning the seven Churches, and therefore after the destruction of Jerusalem, which was about twenty years before St. John wrote this Apocalypse. (Witham)
Ver. 2. I was in the spirit, rapt as it were in an ecstacy into heaven, and saw a throne, and one sitting, representing God the Father. (Witham)
Ver. 3. And he....was to the sight like the jasper, or had the appearance of jaspers, as to the colours with which he appeared, &c. (Witham)
Ver. 4. About the throne were four and twenty seats, or lesser thrones, with twenty-four seniors or senators upon them, representing the illustrious saints both of the Old and New Testament, clothed in white garments, in token of their innocence, and crowns of gold, signifying the glory of the heavenly inhabitants. (Witham) --- These four and twenty elders sitting round the throne of God, represent the judgment which the Almighty was about to pass upon the enemies of his Church. Thus in Daniel, when he was about to pronounce sentence against Antiochus Epiphanes, "thrones were placed, and the ancient of days sat,...the judgment sat, and the books were opened." (Daniel vii. 9, 10.) They represent kings and priests who attend on the Sovereign Judge. It appears as if God intended to designate by the number the ancient patriarchs and the twelve apostles, who judge with the Lord, and condemn the injustice of their persecutors. (Calmet)
Ver. 5. Lightnings, a symbol of God's majesty and power. --- Seven lamps burning, which signified the seven spirits of God, the chief spirits that attend his throne. See chap. i. 4. (Witham) --- The lightnings, loud voices, and thunders, which come from the throne of God, announce alarms and severe hardships, such as persecutions, heresies, calamities, &c. by which he tries the fidelity of his servants on earth. And the seven spirits of God, who appear under the form of burning lamps, are seven Angels, as before mention, (Chap. i. 4.) standing ready to execute the divine commands. (Walmesley)
Ver. 6. A sea of glass, like crystal, calm and transparent, and may signify that the saints had passed a boisterous sea of troubles in this world, which is now changed into everlasting tranquillity. --- Four living creatures, or animals. Alcazar (p. 364) takes notice of thirty different expositions of these animals. He understands the apostles, bishops, and preachers of the Christian faith: others, four of the chief Angels or celestial spirits. Several others expound them of the four evangelists: yet this was before St. John himself had written his gospel. (Witham) --- The extensive sea of glass, here described transparent as crystal, represents what may be called the floor of heaven. Before the throne and round it stand four living creatures, of an extraordinary shape, which denote the four great prophets, Isaias, Jeremias, Ezechiel, and Daniel. Their bodies are described full of eyes, both before and behind, an emblem of their prophetic sight, that penetrates into all ages past, present, and to come. And their being also full of eyes within, indicates that their extensive knowledge arises from an interior divine inspiration. They have each six wings, in the same manner as the seraphim appeared to the prophet Isaias. (Chap. vi. 2.) Some have imagined these four symbolical animals to represent the four evangelists; but we think improperly, as St. John was still living and there present in person. The first animal is here said to resemble a lion, the king of beasts, because the prophet Isaias, represented by it, was descended of the royal race of David. The second animal resembles a calf, and represents the prophet Jeremias in his character of priest; the calf, which was the principal victim in Jewish sacrifices, being on that account the emblem of the priesthood. The third animal, exhibiting Ezechiel, has the countenance of a man; because God, in speaking to that prophet, always addresses him by the name of son of man. The fourth animal, denoting Daniel, resembles a flying eagle, on account of the sublime oracles of this prophet, who soars to the highest objects, and views the succession of all the great empires that were to rise up in the world to the end of time. Probably these four principal prophets are to be understood to represent all the prophets of the old law. (Walmesley)
Ver. 7. Like a lion, &c. The qualities in these animals are observed to be courage and strength in the lion; profit to human life, by the calf; reason and wisdom, by the face of man: soaring high, and rapidity or swiftness, by the eagle: whether we understand those spiritual perfections to belong to blessed spirits, or to the apostles in general, or to the four evangelists. (Witham)
Ver. 8. Each of them six wings. See the like visions, Ezechiel i. 4; Isaias vi. 2. These signify their swiftness in executing God's just commands. --- Full of eyes: a symbol of knowledge and watchfulness. --- They rested not day and night. There is no night in heaven; but hereby is signified, that they praised God without intermission for all eternity, saying: Thou art worthy, O Lord, our God, &c. (Witham) --- They repeat the word holy three times, probably in honour of the blessed trinity. And the four and twenty elders prostrate before the throne, in token of their acknowledging all their happiness and pre-eminence to be his gift. (Walmesley)
Ver. 10. Nothing is so well adapted to give us an idea of the infinite majesty of God, and of the sovereign respect which is due to him, as this description. How ought Christians to appear in the presence of the God of armies, if what is most august and most elevated in heaven acknowledges its lowness and nothing before this tremendous Majesty? (Calmet)
Thanks for post!
thanks for your additions — they give a wealth of understanding!
An ecclesiastical writer who flourished about 270, and who suffered martyrdom probably in 303, under Diocletian.
He was bishop of the City of Pettau (Petabium, Poetovio), on the Drave, in Styria (Austria); hence his surname of Petravionensis or sometimes Pictaviensis, e.g. in the Roman Martyrology, where he is registered under 2 November, which long caused it to be thought that he belonged to the Diocese of Poitiers (France). Until the seventeenth century he was likewise confounded with the Latin rhetorician, Victorinus After. According to St. Jerome, who gives him an honourable place in his catalogue of ecclesiastical writers, Victorinus composed commentaries on various books of Holy Scripture, such as Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Isaias, Ezechiel, Habacuc, Ecclesiastes, the Canticle of Canticles, St. Matthew, and the Apocalypse, besides treatises against the heresies of his time.
St Victorinus commentary From the Fourth Chapter
1. After this, I beheld, and, lo, a door was opened in heaven. The new testament is announced as an open door in heaven.
And the first voice which I heard was, as it were, of a trumpet talking with me, saying, Come up hither. Since the door is shown to be opened, it is manifest that previously it had been closed to men. And it was sufficiently and fully laid open when Christ ascended with His body to the Father into heaven. Moreover, the first voice which he had heard when he says that it spoke with him, without contradiction condemns those who say that one spoke in the prophets, another in the Gospel; since it is rather He Himself who comes, that is the same who spoke in the prophets. For John was of the circumcision, and all that people which had heard the announcement of the Old Testament was edified with his word.
That very same voice, said he, that I had heard, that said unto me, Come up hither. That is the Spirit, whom a little before he confesses that he had seen walking as the Son of man in the midst of the golden candlesticks. And he now gathers from Him what had been foretold in similitudes by the law, and associates with this scripture all the former prophets, and opens up the Scriptures. And because our Lord invited in His own name all believers into heaven, He immediately poured out the Holy Spirit, who should bring them to heaven. He says:
2. Immediately I was in the Spirit. And since the mind of the faithful is opened by the Holy Spirit, and that is manifested to them which was also foretold to the fathers, he distinctly says:
And, behold, a throne was set in heaven. The throne set: what is it but the throne of judgment and of the King?
3. And He that sat upon the throne was, to look upon, like a jasper and a sardine stone. Upon the throne he says that he saw the likeness of a jasper and a sardine stone. The jasper is of the colour of water, the sardine of fire. These two are thence manifested to be placed as judgments upon God's tribunal until the consummation of the world, of which judgments one is already completed in the deluge of water, and the other shall be completed by fire.
And there was a rainbow about the throne. Moreover, the rainbow round about the throne has the same colours. The rainbow is called a bow from what the Lord spoke to Noah and to his sons, that they should not fear any further deluge in the generation of God, but fire. For thus He says: I will place my bow in the clouds, that you may now no longer fear water, but fire.
6. And before the throne there was, as it were, a sea of glass like to crystal. That is the gift of baptism which He sheds forth through His Son in time of repentance, before He executes judgment. It is therefore before the throne, that is, the judgment. And when he says a sea of glass like to crystal, he shows that it is pure water, smooth, not agitated by the wind, not flowing down as on a slope, but given to be immoveable as the house of God. And round about the throne were four living creatures. The four living creatures are the four Gospels.
7-10. The first living creature was like to a lion, and the second was like to a calf, and the third had a face like to a man, and the fourth was like to a flying eagle; and they had six wings, and round about and within they were full of eyes; and they had no rest, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord Omnipotent. And the four and twenty elders, falling down before the throne, adored God. The four and twenty elders are the twenty-four books of the prophets and of the law, which give testimonies of the judgment. Moreover, also, they are the twenty-four fathers twelve apostles and twelve patriarchs. And in that the living creatures are different in appearance, this is the reason: the living creature like to a lion designates Mark, in whom is heard the voice of the lion roaring in the desert. And in the figure of a man, Matthew strives to declare to us the genealogy of Mary, from whom Christ took flesh. Therefore, in enumerating from Abraham to David, and thence to Joseph, he spoke of Him as if of a man: therefore his announcement sets forth the image of a man. Luke, in narrating the priesthood of Zacharias as he offers a sacrifice for the people, and the angel that appears to him with respect of the priesthood, and the victim in the same description bore the likeness of a calf. John the evangelist, like to an eagle hastening on uplifted wings to greater heights, argues about the Word of God. Mark, therefore, as an evangelist thus beginning, The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet; The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Isaiah 40:3 has the effigy of a lion. And Matthew, The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham: Matthew 1:1 this is the form of a man. But Luke said, There was a priest, by name Zachariah, of the course of Abia, and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron: Luke 1:5 this is the likeness of a calf. But John, when he begins, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, sets forth the likeness of a flying eagle. Moreover, not only do the evangelists express their four similitudes in their respective openings of the Gospels, but also the Word itself of God the Father Omnipotent, which is His Son our Lord Jesus Christ, bears the same likeness in the time of His advent. When He preaches to us, He is, as it were, a lion and a lion's cub. And when for man's salvation He was made man to overcome death, and to set all men free, and that He offered Himself a victim to the Father on our behalf, He was called a calf. And that He overcame death and ascended into the heavens, extending His wings and protecting His people, He was named a flying eagle. Therefore these announcements, although they are four, yet are one, because it proceeded from one mouth. Even as the river in paradise, although it is one, was divided into four heads. Moreover, that for the announcement of the New Testament those living creatures had eyes within and without, shows the spiritual providence which both looks into the secrets of the heart, and beholds the things which are coming after that are within and without.
8. Six wings. These are the testimonies of the books of the Old Testament. Thus, twenty and four make as many as there are elders sitting upon the thrones. But as an animal cannot fly unless it have wings, so, too, the announcement of the New Testament gains no faith unless it have the fore-announced testimonies of the Old Testament, by which it is lifted from the earth, and flies. For in every case, what has been told before, and is afterwards found to have happened, that begets an undoubting faith. Again, also, if wings be not attached to the living creatures, they have nothing whence they may draw their life. For unless what the prophets foretold had been consummated in Christ, their preaching was vain. For the Catholic Church holds those things which were both before predicted and afterwards accomplished. And it flies, because the living animal is reasonably lifted up from the earth. But to heretics who do not avail themselves of the prophetic testimony, to them also there are present living creatures; but they do not fly, because they are of the earth. And to the Jews who do not receive the announcement of the New Testament there are present wings; but they do not fly, that is, they bring a vain prophesying to men, not adjusting facts to their words. And the books of the Old Testament that are received are twenty-four, which you will find in the epitomes of Theodore. But, moreover (as we have said), four and twenty elders, patriarchs and apostles, are to judge His people. For to the apostles, when they asked, saying, We have forsaken all that we had, and followed You: what shall we have? our Lord replied, When the Son of man shall sit upon the throne of His glory, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Matthew 19:27-28 But of the fathers also who should judge, says the patriarch Jacob, Dan also himself shall judge his people among his brethren, even as one of the tribes in Israel. Genesis 49:16
5. And from the throne proceeded lightnings, and voices, and thunders, and seven torches of fire burning. And the lightnings, and voices, and thunders proceeding from the throne of God, and the seven torches of fire burning, signify announcements, and promises of adoption, and threatenings. For lightnings signify the Lord's advent, and the voices the announcements of the New Testament, and the thunders, that the words are from heaven. The burning torches of fire signify the gift of the Holy Spirit, that it is given by the wood of the passion. And when these things were doing, he says that all the elders fell down and adored the Lord; while the living creatures that is, of course, the actions recorded in the Gospels and the teaching of the Lord gave Him glory and honour. In that they had fulfilled the word that had been previously foretold by them, they worthily and with reason exult, feeling that they have ministered the mysteries and the word of the Lord. Finally, also, because He had come who should remove death, and who alone was worthy to take the crown of immortality, all for the glory of His most excellent doing had crowns.
10. And they cast their crowns under His feet. That is, on account of the eminent glory of Christ's victory, they cast all their victories under His feet. This is what in the Gospel the Holy Spirit consummated by showing, For when about finally to suffer, our Lord had come to Jerusalem, and the people had gone forth to meet Him, some strewed the road with palm branches cut down, others threw down their garments, doubtless these were setting forth two peoples the one of the patriarchs, the other of the prophets; that is to say, of the great men who had any kind of palms of their victories against sin, and cast them under the feet of Christ, the victor of all. And the palm and the crown signify the same things, and these are not given save to the victor.