RPM, Volume 19, Number 13, March 26 to April 1, 2017

Barnes' New Testament Notes

Notes on the New Testament
Explanatory and Practical
Part 99

By Albert Barnes




The contents of the epistle to the church at Sardis (Re 3:1-6) are:

(1.) The usual salutation to the angel of the church, Re 3:1.

(2.) The usual reference to the attributes of the Saviour—those referred to here being that he had the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars, Re 3:1.

(3.) The assurance that he knew their works, Re 3:1.

(4.) The statement of the peculiarity of the church, or what he saw in it—that it had a name to live and was dead, Re 3:1.

(5.) A solemn direction to the members of the church, arising from their character and circumstances, to be watchful, and to strengthen the things which remained, but which were ready to die; to remember what they had received, and to hold fast that Which had been communicated to them, and to repent of all their sins, Re 3:2,3.

(6.) A threat that if they did not do this, he would come suddenly upon them, at an hour which they could not anticipate, Re 3:3.

(7.) A commendation of the church as far as it could be done, for there were still a few among theta who had not defiled their garments, and a promise that they should walk before him in white, Re 3:4.

(8.) A promise, as usual, to him that should be victorious. The promise here is, that he should walk before him in white; that his name should not be blotted out Of the book of life; that he should be acknowledged before the Father, and before the angels, Re 3:5.

(9.) The usual call on all persons to hear what the Spirit said to the churches. Sardis was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia, one of the provinces of Asia Minor, and was situated at the foot of mount Tmolus, in a fine plain watered by the river Pactolus, famous for its golden sands. It was the capital where the celebrated Croesus, proverbial for his wealth, reigned. It was taken by Cyrus, (B.C. 548,) when Croesus was king, and was at that time one of the most splendid and opulent cities of the East. It subsequently passed into the hands of the Romans, and under them sank rapidly in wealth and importance. In the time of Tiberius it was destroyed by an earthquake, but was rebuilt by order of the emperor. The inhabitants of Sardis bore an ill repute among the ancients for their voluptuous modes of life. Perhaps there may be an allusion to this fact, in the words which are used in the address to the church there, "Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments." Successive earthquakes, and the ravages of the Saracens and the Turks, have reduced this once celebrated city to a heap of ruins, though exhibiting still many remains of former splendour. The name of the village which now occupies the place of this ancient capital is Sart. It is a miserable village, comprising only a few wretched cottages, occupied by Turks and Greeks. There are ruins of the theatre, the stadium, and of some ancient churches. The most remarkable of the ruins are two pillars supposed to have belonged to the temple of Cybele; and if so, they are among the most ancient in the world, the temple of Cybele having been built only three hundred years after that of Solomon. The Acropolis serves well to define the site of the city. Several travellers have recently visited the remains of Sardis, and its appearance will be indicated by a few extracts from their writings. Arundell, in his "Discoveries in Asia Minor," says, "If I were asked what impresses the mind most strongly in beholding Sardis, I should say its indescribable solitude, like the darkness of Egypt, darkness that could be felt. So the deep solitude of the spot, once the 'lady of kingdoms',—produces a corresponding feeling of desolate abandonment in the mind, which can never be forgotten."

The Rev. J. Hartley, in regard to these ruins, remarks: "The ruins are, with one exception, more entirely gone to decay than those of most of the ancient cities which we have visited. No Christians reside on the spot: two Greeks only work in a mill here, and a few wretched Turkish huts are scattered among the ruins. We saw the churches of St. John and the Virgin, the theatre, and the building styled the Palace of Croesus; but the most striking object at Sardis is the temple of Cybele. I was filled with wonder and awe at beholding the two stupendous columns of this edifice, which are still remaining: they are silent but impressive witnesses of the power and splendour of antiquity."

The impression produced on the mind is vividly described in the following language, of a recent traveller, who lodged there for a night:

'Every object was as distinct as in a northern twilight; the snowy summit of the mountain [Tmolus], the long sweep of the valley, and the flashing current of the river [Pactolus]. I strolled along towards the banks of the Pactolus, and seated myself by the side of the half-exhausted stream.

"There are few individuals who cannot trace on the map of their memory some moments of overpowering emotion, and some scene, which, once dwelt upon, has become its own painter, and left behind it a memorial that time could not efface. I can readily sympathize with the feelings of him who wept at the base of the pyramids; nor were my own less powerful, on that night, when I sat beneath the sky of Asia to gaze upon the ruins of Sardis, from the banks of the golden-sanded Pactolus. Beside me were the cliffs of the Acropolis, which, centuries before, the hardy Median scaled, while leading on the conquering Persians, whose tents had covered the very spot on which I was reclining. Before me were the vestiges of what had been the palace of the gorgeous Croesus; within its walls were once congregated the wisest of mankind, Thales, Cleobulus, and Solon. It was here that the wretched father mourned alone the mangled corpse of his beloved Atys; it was here that the same humiliated monarch wept at the feet of the Persian boy who wrung from him his kingdom. Far in the distance were the gigantic tumult of the Lydian monarchs, Candaules, Halyattys, and Gyges; and around them were spread those very plains once trodden by the countless hosts of Xerxes, when hurrying on to find a sepulchre at Marathon.

"There were more varied and more vivid remembrances associated with the sight of Sardis than could possibly be attached to any other spot of earth; but all were mingled with a feeling of disgust at the littleness of human glory. All—all had passed away! There were before me the fanes of a dread religion, the tombs of forgotten monarchs, and the palm-tree that waved in the banquet-hall of kings; while the feeling of desolation was doubly heightened by the calm sweet sky above me, which, in its unfading brightness, shone as purely now as when it beamed upon the golden dreams of Croesus."— Emerson's Letters from the AEgean, p. 113, seq. The present appearance of the ruins is indicated by the following engraving.

Verse 1. And unto the angel of the church in Sardis. See Barnes on "Re 1:20".

These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God. See Barnes on "Re 1:4".

If the phrase, "the seven spirits of God," as there supposed, refers to the Holy Spirit, there is great propriety in saying of the Saviour, that he has that Spirit, inasmuch as the Holy Spirit is represented as sent forth by him into the world, Joh 15:26-27; 16:7,13-14.

It was one of the highest characteristics that could be given of the Saviour to say, that the Holy Ghost was his to send forth into the world, and that that great Agent, on whose gracious influences all were dependent for the possession of true religion, could be given or withheld by him at his pleasure.

And the seven stars. See Barnes on "Re 1:16".

These represented the angels of the seven churches, (See Barnes "Re 1:20") and the idea which the Saviour would seem to intend to convey here is, that he had entire control over the ministers of the churches, and could keep or remove them at pleasure.

I know thy works. See Barnes "Re 2:2".

That thou hast a name that thou livest. Thou dost profess attachment to me and my cause. The word life is a word that is commonly employed, in the New Testament, to denote religion, in contradistinction from the natural state of man, which is described as death in sin. By the profession of religion, they expressed the purpose to live unto God, and for another world; they professed to have true, spiritual life.

And art dead. That is, spiritually. This is equivalent to saying that their profession was merely in name; and yet this must be understood comparatively, for there were some even in Sardis who truly lived unto God, Re 3:4. The meaning is, that, in general, the profession of religion among them was a mere name. The Saviour does not, as in the case of the churches of Ephesus and Thyatira, specify any prevailing form of error or false doctrine; but it would seem that here it was a simple want of religion.

{a} "seven spirits" Re 5:6

{b} "know" Re 2:2

{C} "livest" 1 Ti 5:6


Verse 2. Be watchful. Be wakeful; be attentive and earnest—in contradistinction from the drowsy condition of the church.

Strengthen the things which remain. The true piety that still lives and lingers among you. Whatever there was of religion among them, it was of importance to strengthen it, that the love of the Saviour might not become wholly extinct. An important duty in a low and languishing state of religion is, to "strengthen the things that still survive." It is to cultivate all the graces which do exist; to nourish all the love of truth which may linger in the church; and to confirm, by warm exhortation, and by a reference to the gracious promises of God's word, the few who may be endeavouring to do their duty, and who, amidst many discouragements, are aiming to be faithful to the Saviour. In the lowest state of religion in a church there may be a few, perhaps quite obscure and of humble rank, who are mourning over the desolations of Zion, and who are sighing for better times. All such it is the duty of the ministers of religion to comfort and encourage; for it is in their hearts that piety may be kept alive in the church—it is through them that it may be hoped religion may yet be revived. In the apparent hopelessness of doing much good to others, good may always be done to the cause itself by preserving and strengthening what there may be of life among those few, amidst the general desolation and death. It is much to preserve life in grain sown in a field through the long and dreary winter, when all seems to be dead—for it will burst forth, with new life and beauty, in the spring. When the body is prostrate with disease, and life just lingers, and death seems to be coming on, it is much to preserve the little strength that remains; much to keep the healthful parts from being invaded, that there may be strength yet to recover.

That are ready to die. That seem just ready to become extinct. So sometimes, in a plant, there seems to be but the least conceivable life remaining, and it appears that it must die. So, when we are sick, there seems to be but the feeblest glimmering of life, and it is apparently just ready to go out. So, when a fire dies away, there seems but a spark remaining, and it is just ready to become extinct. And thus, in religion in the soul—religion in a church—religion in a community—it often seems as if it were just about to go out for ever.

For I have not found thy works perfect before God. I have not found them complete or full. They come short of that which is required. Of what church, of what individual Christian, is not this true? Whom might not the Saviour approach with the same language? It was true, however, in a marked and eminent sense, of the church at Sardis.

{d} "strengthen" Re 2:4

{e} Perfect" Da 5:27


Verse 3. Remember therefore how thou hast received. This may refer either to some peculiarity in the manner in which the gospel was conveyed to them—as, by the labours of the apostles, and by the remarkable effusions of the Holy Spirit; or to the ardour and love with which they embraced it; or to the greatness of the favours and privileges conferred on them; or to their own understanding of what the gospel required, when they were converted. It is not possible to determine in which sense the language is used; but the general idea is plain, that there was something marked and unusual in the way in which they had been led to embrace the gospel, and that it was highly proper in these circumstances to look back to the days when they gave themselves to Christ. It is always well for Christians to call to remembrance the "day of their espousals," and their views and feelings when they gave their hearts to the Saviour, and to compare those views with their present condition, especially if their conversion was marked by anything unusual.

And heard. How thou didst hear the gospel in former times; that is, with what earnestness and attention thou didst embrace it. This would rather seem to imply that the reference in the whole passage is to the fact that they embraced the gospel with great ardour and zeal.

And hold fast.

(1.) Hold fast the truths which thou didst then receive;

(2.) hold fast what remains of true religion among you.

And repent. Repent in regard to all that in which you have departed from your views and feelings when you embraced the gospel.

If therefore thou shalt not watch. The speaker evidently supposed that it was possible that they would not regard the warning; that they would presume that they would be safe if they refused to give heed to it, or that by mere inattention and indifference they might suffer the warning to pass by unheeded. Similar results have been so common in the world as to make such a supposition not improbable, and to make proper, in other cases as well as that, the solemn threatening that he would come suddenly upon them.

I will come on thee as a thief. In a sudden and unexpected manner. See Barnes on "1 Th 5:2".

And ye shall not know what hour I will come upon thee. You shall not know beforehand; you shall have no warning of my immediate approach. This is often the way in which God comes to men in his heavy judgments. Long beforehand, he admonishes us, indeed, of what must be the consequences of a course of sin, and warns us to turn from it; but when sinners refuse to attend to his warning, and still walk in the way of evil, he comes suddenly, and cuts them down. Every man who is warned of the evil of his course, and who refuses or neglects to repent, has reason to believe that God will come suddenly in his wrath, and call him to his bar, Pr 29:1. No such man call presume on impunity; no one who is warned of his guilt and danger can feel that he is for one moment safe. No one can have any basis of calculation that he will be spared; no one can flatter himself with any probable anticipation that he will have time to repent when God comes to take him away. Benevolence has done its appropriate work in warning him;—how can the Great Judge of all be to blame, if he comes then, and suddenly cuts the sinner off?

{f} "remember" Heb 2:1

{g} "repent" Re 3:19

{h} "thief" Re 16:15


Verse 4. Thou hast a few names even in Sardis. The word names here is equivalent to persons; and the idea is, that even in a place so depraved, and where religion had so much declined, there were a few persons who had kept themselves free from the general contamination. In most cases, when error and sin prevail, there may be found a few who are worthy of the Divine commendation; a few who show that true religion may exist even when the mass are evil. See Barnes "Ro 11:4".

Which have not defiled their garments. See Barnes "Jude 1:23".

The meaning is, that they had not defiled themselves by coming in contact with the profane and the polluted; or, in other words, they had kept themselves free from the prevailing corruption. They were like persons clothed in white walking in the midst of the defiled, yet keeping their raiment from being soiled.

And they shall walk with me in white. White is the emblem of innocence, and is hence appropriately represented as the colour of the raiment of the heavenly inhabitants. The persons here referred to had kept their garments uncontaminated on the earth, and as an appropriate reward it is said that they would appear in white raiment in heaven. Compare Re 7:9; 19:8.

For they are worthy. They have shown themselves worthy to be regarded as followers of the Lamb; or, they have a character that is fitted for heaven. The declaration is not that they have any claim to heaven on the ground of their own merit, or that it will be in virtue of their own works that they will be received there; but that there is a fitness or propriety that they should thus appear in heaven. We are all personally unworthy to be admitted to heaven, but we may evince such a character as to show that, according to the arrangements of grace, it is fit and proper that we should be received there. We have the character to which God has promised eternal life.

{a} "white" Re 7:9; 19:8


Verse 5. He that overcometh. See Barnes on "Re 2:7".

The same shall be clothed in white raiment. Whosoever he may be that shall overcome sin and the temptations of this world, shall be admitted to this glorious reward. The promise is made not only to those in Sardis who should be victorious, but to all in every age and every land. The hope that is thus held out before us, is that of appearing with the Redeemer in his kingdom, clad in robes expressive of holiness and joy.

And I will not blot out his name out of the book of life. The book which contains the names of those who are to live with him for ever. The names of his people are thus represented as enrolled in a book which he keeps—a register of those who are to live for ever. The phrase "book of life" frequently occurs in the Bible, representing this idea. See Barnes "Php 4:3".

Compare Re 15:3; 20:12,15; 21:27

Re 22:19. The expression "I will not blot out" means, that the names would be found there on the great day of final account, and would be found there for ever. It may be remarked, that as no one can have access to that book but he who keeps it, there is the most positive assurance that it will never be done, and the salvation of the redeemed will be, therefore, secure. And let it be remembered that the period is coming when it will be felt to be a higher honour to have the name enrolled in that book than in the books of heraldry —in the most splendid catalogue of princes, poets, warriors, nobles, or statesmen, that the world has produced. But I will confess his name, etc. I will acknowledge him to be my follower. See Barnes "Mt 10:32".

{b} "book of life" Re 17:8

{c} "confess" Lu 12:8


Verse 6. He that hath an ear, etc. See Barnes "Re 2:7".


Verse 7. And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia. See Barnes "Re 1:20".

These things saith he that is holy. This refers undoubtedly to the Lord Jesus. The appellation holy, or the holy one, is one that befits him, and is not unfrequently given to him in the New Testament Lu 1:35; Ac 2:27; 3:14.

It is not only an appellation appropriate the Saviour, but well adapted to be employed when he is addressing the churches. Our impression of what is said to us will often depend much on our idea of the character of him who addresses us, and solemnity and thoughtfulness always become us when we are addressed by a holy Redeemer. He that is true. Another characteristic of the Saviour well fitted to be referred to when he addresses men. It is a characteristic often ascribed to him in the New Testament, (Joh 1:9,14,17; 8:40,45; 14:6; 18:37; 1 Jo 5:20) and one which is eminently adapted to impress the mind with solemn thought in view of the fact that he is to pronounce on our character, and to determine our destiny.

He that hath the key of David. This expression is manifestly taken from Isa 22:22, "And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder." As used by Isaiah, the phrase is applied to Eliskim; and it is not to be inferred because the language here is applied to the Lord Jesus that originally it had any such reference. "The application of the same terms," says Professor Alexander on Isa 22:22, "to Peter, (Mt 16:19) and to Christ himself, (Re 3:7) does not prove that they here refer to either, or that Eliakim was a type of Christ, but merely that the same words admit of different applications." The language is that which properly denotes authority or control—as when one has the key of a house, and has unlimited access to it; and the meaning here is, that as David is represented as the king of Israel residing in a palace, so he who had the key to that palace had regal authority.

He that openeth, and no man shutteth, etc. He has free and unrestrained access to the house; the power of admitting any one, or of excluding any one. Applied here to the Saviour, as king in Zion, this means that in his kingdom he has the absolute control in regard to the admission or exclusion of any one. He can prescribe the terms; he can invite whom he chooses; he can exclude those whom he judges should not be admitted. A reference to this absolute control was every way proper when he was addressing a church, and is every way proper for us to reflect on when we think of the subject of our personal salvation.

{a} "holy" Ac 3:14

{b} "true" 1 Jo 5:20

{c} "key" Isa 22:22

{d} "shutteth" Job 12:14


Verse 8. I know thy works. See Barnes on "Re 2:2".

Behold, I have set before thee an open door. Referring to his authority as stated in Re 3:7. The "open door" here evidently refers to the enjoyment of some privilege or honour; and, so far as the language is concerned, it may refer to any one of the following things: either

(1) the ability to do good—represented as the "opening of the door." Compare Ac 14:27; 1 Co 16:9; 2 Co 2:12; Col 4:3.

(2.) The privilege of access to the heavenly palace; that is, that they had an abundant opportunity of securing their salvation, the door being never closed against them by day or by night. Compare Re 21:25 Or

(3) it may mean that they had before them an open way of egress from danger and persecution. This latter Professor Stuart supposes to be the true meaning; and argues this because it is immediately specified that those Jewish persecutors would be made to humble themselves, and that the church would but lightly experience the troubles which were coming upon the world around them. But the more natural interpretation of the phrase "an open door," is that it refers to access to a thing rather than egress from a thing; that we may come to that which we desire to approach, rather than escape from that which we dread. There is no objection, it seems to me, to the supposition that the language may be used here in the largest sense—as denoting that, in regard to the church at Philadelphia, there was no restraint. He had given them the most unlimited privileges. The temple of salvation was thrown open to them; the celestial city was accessible; the whole world was before them as a field of usefulness, and anywhere, and everywhere, they might do good, and at all times they might have access to the kingdom of God.

And no man can shut it. No one has the power of preventing this, for he who has control over all things concedes these privileges to you.

For thou hast a little strength. This would imply that they had not great vigour, but still that, notwithstanding there were so many obstacles to their doing good, and so many temptations to evil, there still remained with them some degree of energy. They were not wholly dead; and, as long as that was the case, the door was still open for them to do good. The words "little strength" may refer either to the smallness of the number—meaning that they were few; or it may refer to the spiritual life and energy of the church—meaning that, though feeble, their vital energy was not wholly gone. The more natural interpretation seems to be to refer it to the latter; and the sense is, that although they had not the highest degree of energy, or had not all that the Saviour desired they should have, they were not wholly dead. The Saviour saw among them the evidences of spiritual life; and in view of that he says he had set before them an open door, and there was abundant opportunity to employ all the energy and zeal which they had. It may be remarked that the same thing is true now; that wherever there is any vitality in a church the Saviour will furnish ample opportunity that it may be employed in his service.

And hast not denied my name. When Christians were brought before heathen magistrates in times of persecution, they were required to renounce the name of Christ, and to disown him in a public manner. It is possible that, amidst the persecutions that raged in the early times, the members of the church at Philadelphia had been summoned to such a trial, and they had stood the trial firmly. It would seem from the following verse, that the efforts which had been made to induce them to renounce the name of Christ had been made by those who professed to be Jews, though they evinced the spirit of Satan. If so, then the attempt was probably to convince them that Jesus was not the Christ. This attempt would be made in all places where there were Jews.

{e} "open door" 1 Co 16:9


Verse 9. Behold, I will make. Greek, "I give"—didwmi; that is, I will arrange matters so that this shall occur. The word implies that he had power to do this, and consequently proves that he has power over the heart of man, and can secure such a result as he chooses.

Them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews. Who profess to be Jews, but are really of the synagogue of Satan. See Barnes "Re 2:9".

The meaning is, that, though they were of Jewish extraction, and boasted much of being Jews, yet they were really under the influence of Satan, and their assemblages deserved to be called his "synagogue."

And are not, but do lie. It is a false profession altogether. See Barnes on "1 Jo 1:6".

Behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet. The word rendered worship here, means properly to fall prostrate; and then to do homage, or to worship in the proper sense, as this was commonly done by failing prostrate. See Barnes on "Mt 2:2".

So far as the word is concerned, it may refer either to spiritual homage, that is, the worship of God; or it may mean respect as shown to superiors. If it is used here in the sense of Divine worship properly so called, it means that they would be constrained to come and worship "before them," or in their very presence; if it is used in the more general signification, it means that they would be constrained to show them honour and respect. The latter is the probable meaning; that is, that they would be constrained to acknowledge that they were the children of God, or that God regarded them with his favour. It does not mean necessarily that they would themselves be converted to Christ, but that, as they had been accustomed to revile and oppose those who were true Christians, they would be constrained to come and render them the respect due to those who were sincerely endeavouring to serve their Maker. The truth taught here is, that it is in the power of the Lord Jesus so to turn the hearts of all the enemies of religion that they shall be brought to show respect to it; so to incline the minds of all people that they shall honour the church, or be at least outwardly its friends. Such homage the world shall yet be constrained to pay to it.

And to know that I have loved thee. This explains what he had just said, and shows that he means that the enemies of his church will yet be constrained to acknowledge that it enjoys the smiles of God, and that instead of being persecuted and reviled, it should be respected and loved.

{f} "say" Re 2:9

{g} "come" Isa 60:14


Verse 10. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience. My word commanding or enjoining patience; that is, thou hast manifested the patience which I require. They had shown this in the trials which they had experienced; he promises now, that in return he will keep them in the future trials that shall come upon the world. One of the highest rewards of patience in one trial is the grace that God gives us to bear another. The fact that we have been patient and submissive may be regarded as proof that he will give us grace that we may be patient and submissive in the trials that are to come. God does not leave those who have shown that they will not leave him.

I also will keep thee. That is, I will so keep you that you shall not sink under the trials which will prove a severe temptation to many. This does not mean that they would be actually kept from calamity of all kinds, but that they would be kept from the temptation of apostasy in calamity. He would give them grace to bear up under trials with a Christian spirit, and in such a manner that their salvation should not be endangered.

From the hour of temptation. The season; the time; the period of temptation. You shall be so kept that that which will prove to be a time of temptation to so many shall not endanger your salvation. Though others fall, you shall not; though you may be afflicted with others, yet you shall have grace to sustain you.

Which shall come upon all the world. The phrase here used—"all the world"—may either denote the whole world; or the whole Roman empire; or a large district of country; or the land of Judaea. See Barnes on "Lu 2:1".

Here, perhaps, all that is implied is, that the trial would be very extensive or general— so much so as to embrace the world, as the word was understood by those to whom the epistle was addressed. It need not be supposed that the whole world literally was included in it, or even all the Roman empire, but what was the world to them—the region which they would embrace in that term. If there were some far-spreading calamity in the country where they resided, it would probably be all that would be fairly embraced in the meaning of the word. It is not known to what trial the speaker refers. It may have been some form of persecution, or it may have been some calamity by disease, earthquake, or famine that was to occur. Tacitus (see Wetstein, in loc.) mentions an earthquake that sank twelve cities in Asia Minor in one night, by which, among others, Philadelphia was deeply affected; and it is possible that there may have been reference here to that overwhelming calamity. But nothing can be determined with certainty in regard to this.

To try them that dwell upon the earth. To test their character. It would rather seem from this that the affliction was some form of persecution as adapted to test the fidelity of those who were affected by it. The persecutions in the Roman empire would furnish abundant occasions for such a trial.

{h} "I also" 2 Pe 2:9


Verse 11. Behold, I come quickly. That is, in the trials referred to. See Barnes "Re 1:1, See Barnes "Rev 1:11, See Barnes "Re 1:16".

Hold that fast which thou hast. That is, whatever of truth and piety you now possess. See Barnes "Re 3:3".

That no man take thy crown. The crown of life appointed for all who are true believers. See Barnes "2 Ti 4:8".

The truth which is taught here is, that by negligence or unfaithfulness in duty we may be deprived of the glory which we might have obtained if we had been faithful to our God and Saviour. We need to be on our constant guard, that, in a world of temptation, where the enemies of truth abound, we may not be robbed of the crown that we might have worn for ever.

See Barnes "2 Jo 8".

{a} "come" Zep 1:14

{b} "quickly" Re 3:3


Verse 12. Him that overcometh. See Barnes on "Re 2:7".

Will I make a pillar in the temple of my God. The promised reward of faithfulness here is, that he who was victorious would be honoured as if he were a pillar or column in the temple of God. Such a pillar or column was partly for ornament, and partly for support; and the idea here is, that in that temple he would contribute to its beauty and the justness of its proportions, and would at the same time be honoured as if he were a pillar which was necessary for the support of the temple. It is not uncommon in the New Testament to represent the church as a temple, and Christians as parts of it. See 1 Co 3:16-17; 6:19; 2 Co 6:16; 1 Pe 2:5.

And he shall go no more out. He shall be permanent as a part of that spiritual temple. The idea of "going out" does not properly belong to a pillar; but the speaker here has in his mind the man, though represented as a column. The description of some parts would be applicable more directly to a pillar; in others more properly to a man. Compare Joh 6:37; 10:28-29; 1 Jo 2:19, for an illustration of the sentiment here. The main truth here is, that if we reach heaven, our happiness will be secure for ever. We shall have the most absolute certainty that the welfare of the soul will no more be periled; that we shall never be in danger of falling into temptation; that no artful foe shall ever have power to alienate our affections from God; that we shall never die. Though we may change our place, and may roam from world to world till we shall have surveyed all the wonders of creation, yet we shall never "go out of the temple of God." See Barnes "Joh 14:2".

When we reach the heavenly world, our conflicts will be over, our doubts at an end. As soon as we cross the threshold, we shall be greeted with the assurance, "he shall go no more out for ever." That is to be our eternal abode, and whatever of joy or felicity or glory that bright world can furnish, is to be ours. Happy moment, when, emerging from a world of danger and of doubt, the soul shall settle down into the calmness and peace of that state where there is the assurance of God himself that world of bliss is to be its eternal abode!

And I will write upon him the name of my God. Considered as a pillar or column in the temple. The name of God would be conspicuously recorded on it to show that he belonged to God. The allusion is to a public edifice on the columns of which the names of distinguished and honoured persons were recorded; that is, where there was a public testimonial of the respect in which one whose name was thus recorded was held. The honour thus conferred on him "who should overcome" would be as great as if the name of that God whom he served, and whose favour and friendship he enjoyed, were inscribed on him in some conspicuous manner. The meaning is, that he would be known and recognised as belonging to God; the God of the Redeemer himself— indicated by the phrase "the name of my God."

And the name of the city of my God. That is, indicating that he belongs to that city, or that the New Jerusalem is the city of his habitation. The idea would seem to be, that in this world, and in all worlds wherever he goes and wherever he abides, he will be recognised as belonging to that holy city; as enjoying the rights and immunities of such a citizen.

Which is New Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the place where the temple was reared, and where the worship of God was celebrated. It thus came to be synonymous with the church—the dwelling-place of God on earth.

Which cometh down out of heaven from my God. See Barnes on "Re 21:2"

Of course, this must be a figurative representation, but the idea is plain. It is,

(1.) that the church is, in accordance with settled Scripture language, represented as a city—the abode of God on earth.

(2.) That this, instead of being built here, or having an earthly origin, has its origin in heaven. It is as if it had been constructed there, and then sent down to earth ready formed. The type, the form, the whole structure is heavenly. It is a departure from all proper laws of interpretation to explain this literally, as if a city should be actually let down from heaven; and equally so to infer from this passage, and the others of similar import in this book, that a city will be literally reared for the residence of the saints. If the passage proves anything on either of these points, it is, that a great and splendid city, such as that described in chapter 21, will literally come down from heaven. But who can believe that? Such an interpretation, however, is by no means necessary. The comparison of the church with a beautiful city, and the fact that it has its origin in heaven, is all that is fairly implied in the passage.

And I will write upon him my new name. See Barnes "Re 2:17".

The reward, therefore, promised here is, that he who by persevering fidelity showed that he was a real friend of the Saviour, would be honoured with a permanent abode in the holy city of his habitation. In the church redeemed and triumphant he would have a perpetual dwelling; and wherever he should be, there would be given him sure pledges that he belonged to him, and was recognised as a citizen of the heavenly world. To no higher honour could any man aspire; and yet that is an honour to which the most humble and lowly may attain by faith in the Son of God.

{c} "New Jerusalem" Re 22:2,10


Verse 13 There are no notes for Re 3:13.


Verse 14. And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write. See Barnes "Re 1:20".

These things saith the Amen. Referring, as is the case in every epistle, to some attribute of the speaker adapted to impress their minds, or to give peculiar force to what he was about to say to that particular church. Laodicea was characterized by lukewarmness, and the reference to the fact that he who was about to address them was the "Amen"—that is, was characterized by the simple earnestness and sincerity denoted by that word—was eminently fitted to make an impression on the minds of such a people. The word Amen means true, certain, faithful; and, as used here, it means that he to whom it is applied is eminently true and faithful. What he affirms is true; what he promises or threatens is certain. Himself characterized by sincerity and truth, (See Barnes "2 Co 1:20") he can look with approbation only on the same thing in others: and hence he looks with displeasure on the lukewarmness which, from its very nature, always approximates insincerity. This was an attribute, therefore, every way appropriate to be referred to in addressing a lukewarm church.

The faithful and true witness. This is presenting the idea implied in the word Amen in a more complete form, but substantially the same thing is referred to. He is a witness for God and his truth, and he can approve of nothing which the God of truth would not approve. See Barnes "Re 1:5".

The beginning of the creation of God. This expression is a very important one in regard to the rank and dignity of the Saviour, and, like all similar expressions respecting him, its meaning has been much controverted. See Barnes on "Col 1:15".

The phrase here used is susceptible, properly, of only one of the following significations, viz.: either

(a) that he was the beginning of the creation in the sense that he caused the universe to begin to exist—that is, that he was the author of all things; or

(b) that he was the first created being; or

(c) that he holds the primacy over all, and is at the head of the universe. It is not necessary to examine any other proposed interpretations, for the only other senses supposed to be conveyed by the words, that he is the beginning of the creation in the sense that he rose from the dead as the first-fruits of them that sleep, or that he is the head of the spiritual creation of God, are so foreign to the natural meaning of the words as to need no special refutation. As to the three significations suggested above, it may be observed, that the first one—that he is the author of the creation, and in that sense the beginning, though expressing a scriptural doctrine, (Joh 1:3; Eph 3:9; Col 1:16) —is not in accordance with the proper meaning of the word here used—arch. The word properly refers to the commencement of a thing, not its authorship, and denotes properly primacy in time, and primacy in rank, but not primacy in the sense of causing anything to exist. The two ideas which run through the word as it is used in the New Testament are those just suggested. For the former—primacy in regard to time—that is properly the commencement of a thing, see the following passages where the word occurs: Mt 19:4,8; 24:8,21; Mr 1:1; 10:6; 13:8,19; Lu 1:2; Joh 1:1-2 Joh 2:11; 6:64; 8:25,44; 15:27; 16:4; Ac 11:15; 1 Jo 1:1; 2:7,13-14,24 1 Jo 3:8,11; 2 Jo 5-6.

For the latter signification, primacy of rank, or authority, see the following places: Lu 12:11; 20:20; Ro 8:38; 1 Co 15:24; Eph 1:21; 3:10; Eph 6:12; Col 1:16,18; 2:10,15; Tit 3:1.

The word is not, therefore, found in the sense of authorship, as denoting that one is the beginning of anything in the sense that he caused it to have an existence. As to the second of the significations suggested, that it means that he was the first created being, it may be observed

(a) that this is not a necessary signification of the phrase, since no one can show that this is the only proper meaning which could be given to the words, and therefore the phrase cannot be adduced to prove that he is himself a created being. If it were demonstrated from other sources that Christ was, in fact, a created being, and the first that God had made, it cannot be denied that this language would appropriately express that fact. But it cannot be made out from the mere use of the language here; and as the language is susceptible of other interpretations, it cannot be employed to prove that Christ is a created being.

(b) Such an interpretation would be at variance with all those passages which speak of him as uncreated and eternal; which ascribe Divine attributes to him; which speak of him as himself the Creator of all things. Compare Joh 1:1-3; Col 1:16; Heb 1:2,6,8,10-12.

The third signification, therefore, remains, that he is "the beginning of the creation of God," in the sense that he is the head or prince of the creation; that is, that he presides over it so far as the purposes of redemption are to be accomplished, and so far as is necessary for those purposes. This is

(1) in accordance with the meaning of the word, Lu 12:11; 20:20, et al, ut supra; and

(2) in accordance with the uniform statements respecting the Redeemer, that "all power is given unto him in heaven and in earth," (Mt 28:18) that God has "given him power over all flesh," (Joh 17:2) that all things are "put under his feet," (Heb 2:8; 1 Co 15:27) that he is exalted over all things, Eph 1:20-22. Having this rank, it was proper that he should speak with authority to the church at Laodicea.

{1} "church" "in Laodicea"

{a} "Amen" Isa 65:16


Verse 15. I know thy works. See Barnes on "Re 2:2".

That thou art neither cold nor hot. The word cold here would seem to denote the state where there was no pretension to religion; where everything was utterly lifeless and dead. The language is obviously figurative, but it is such as is often employed, when we speak of one as being cold towards another, as having a cold or icy heart, etc. The word hot would denote, of course, the opposite— warm and zealous in their love and service. The very words that we are constrained to use when speaking on this subject—such words as ardent, (i.e. hot, or burning;) fervid, (i.e. very hot, burning, boiling)—show how necessary it is to use such words, and how common it is. The state indicated here, therefore, would be that in which there was a profession of religion, but no warm-hearted piety; in which there was not, on the one hand, open and honest opposition to him, and, on the other, such warm-hearted and honest love as he had a right to look for among his professed friends; in which there was a profession of that religion which ought to warm the heart with love, and fill the soul with zeal in the cause of the Redeemer; but where the only result, in fact, was deadness and indifference to him and his cause. Among those who made no profession, he had reason to expect nothing but coldness; among those who made a profession, he had a right to expect the glow of a warm affection, but he found nothing but indifference.

I would thou wert cold or hot. That is, I would prefer either of those states to that which now exists. Anything better than this condition, where love is professed, but where it does not exist; where vows have been assumed which are not fulfilled. Why he would prefer that they should be "hot" is clear enough; but why would he prefer a state of utter coldness—a state where there was no profession of real love? To this question the following answers may be given:

(1.) Such a state of open and professed coldness or indifference is more honest. There is no disguise; no concealment; no pretence. We know where one in this state "may be found;" we know with whom we are dealing; we know what to expect. Sad as the state is, it is at least honest; and we are so made that we all prefer such a character to one where professions are made which are never to be realised—to a state of insincerity and hypocrisy.

(2.) Such a state is more honourable. It is a more elevated condition of mind, and marks a higher character. Of a man who is false to his engagements, who makes professions and promises never to be realized, we can make nothing. There is essential meanness in such a character, and there is nothing in it which we can respect. But in the character of the man who is openly and avowedly opposed to anything; who takes his stand, and is earnest and zealous in his course, though it be wrong, there are traits which may be, under a better direction, elements of true greatness and magnanimity. In the character of Saul of Tarsus, there were always the elements of true greatness; in that of Judas Iscariot, there were never. The one was capable of becoming one of the noblest men that has ever lived on the earth; the other, even under the personal teaching of the Redeemer for years, was nothing but a traitor—a man of essential meanness.

(3.) There is more hope of conversion and salvation in such a ease. There could always have been a ground of hope that Saul would be converted and saved, even when "breathing out threatening and slaughter;" of Judas, when numbered among the professed disciples of the Saviour, there was no hope. The most hopeless of all persons, in regard to salvation, are those who are members of the church without any true religion; who have made a profession without any evidence of personal piety; who are content with a name to live. This is so, because

(a) the essential character of any one who will allow himself to do this is eminently unfavourable to true religion. There is a lack of that thorough honesty and sincerity which is so necessary for true conversion to God. He who is content to profess to be what he really is not, is not a man on whom the truths of Christianity are likely to make an impression.

(b) Such a man never applies the truth to himself. Truth that is addressed to impenitent sinners he does not apply to himself, of course; for he does not rank himself in that class of persons. Truth addressed to hypocrites he will not apply to himself; for no one, however insincere and hollow he may be, chooses to act on the presumption that he is himself a hypocrite, or so as to leave others to suppose that he regards himself as such. The means of grace adapted to save a sinner, as such, he will not use; for he is in the church, and chooses to regard himself as safe. Efforts made to reclaim him he will resist; for he will regard it as proof of a meddlesome spirit, and an uncharitable judging in others, if they consider him to be anything different from what he professes to be. What right have they to go back of his profession, and assume that he is insincere? As a consequence, there are probably fewer persons by far converted of those who come into the church without any religion, than of any other class of persons of similar number; and the most hopeless of all conditions, in respect to conversion and salvation, is when one enters the church deceived.

(c) It may be presumed that, for these reasons, God himself will make less direct effort to convert and save such persons. As there are fewer appeals that can be brought to bear on them; as there is less in their character that is noble and that can be depended on in promoting the salvation of a soul; and as there is special guilt in hypocrisy, it may be presumed that God will more frequently leave such persons to their chosen course, than he will those who make no professions of religion. Compare Ps 109:17,18; Jer 7:16; 11:14 Isa 1:15; Ho 4:17.

{b} "would" 1 Ki 18:21


Verse 16. So then because thou art lukewarm-I will spue thee out of my mouth. Referring, perhaps, to the well-known fact that tepid water tends to produce sickness at the stomach, and an inclination to vomit. The image is intensely strong, and denotes deep disgust and loathing at the indifference which prevailed in the church at Laodicea. The idea is, that they would be utterly rejected and cast off as a church: a threatening of which there has been an abundant fulfilment in subsequent times. It may be remarked, also, that what was threatened to that church may be expected to occur to all churches, if they are in the same condition; and that all professing Christians, and Christian churches, that are lukewarm, have special reason to dread the indignation of the Saviour.


Verse 17. Because thou sayest, I am rich. So far as the language here is concerned, this may refer either to riches literally, or to and spiritual riches; that is, to a boast of having religion enough. Professor Stuart supposes that it refers to the former, and so do Wetstein, Vitringa, others. Doddridge, Rosenmuller, and others, understand it in the latter sense. There is no doubt that there was much wealth in Laodicea, and that, as a people, they prided themselves on their riches. See the authorities in Wetstein, on Col 2:1, and Vitringa, p. 160. It is not easy to determine which is the true sense; but may it not have been that there was an allusion to both, and that, in every respect, they boasted that they had enough? May it not have been so much the characteristic of that people to boast of their wealth, that they carried the spirit into everything, and manifested it even in regard to religion? Is it not true that they who have much of this world's goods, when they make a profession of religion, are very apt to suppose that they are well off in everything, and to feel self-complacent and happy? And is not the possession of much wealth by an individual Christian, or a Christian church, likely to produce just the lukewarmness which it is said existed in the church at Laodicea? If we thus understand it, there will be an accordance with the well-known fact that Laodicea was distinguished for its riches, and, at the same time, with another fact, so common as to be almost universal, that the possession of great wealth tends to make a professed Christian self-complacent and satisfied in every respect; to make him feel that, although he may not have much religion, yet he is on the whole well off; and to produce, in religion, a state of just such lukewarmness as the Saviour here says was loathsome and odious. And increased with goods. Peploukhta—"I am enriched." This is only a more emphatic and intensive way of saying the same thing. It has no reference to the kind of riches referred to, but merely denotes the confident manner in which they affirmed that they were rich.

And have need of nothing. Still an emphatic and intensive way of saying that they were rich. In all respects, their wants were satisfied; they had enough of everything. They felt, therefore, no stimulus to effort; they sat down in contentment, self-complacency, and indifference. It is almost unavoidable that those who are rich in this world's goods should feel that they have need of nothing. There is no more common illusion among men than the feeling that if one has wealth, he has everything; that there is no want of his nature which cannot be satisfied with that; and that he may now sit down in contentment and ease. Hence the almost universal desire to be rich; hence the common feeling among those who are rich that there is no occasion for solicitude or care for anything else. Compare Lu 12:19.

And knowest not. There is no just impression in regard to the real poverty and wretchedness of your condition.

That thou art wretched. The word wretched we now use to denote the actual consciousness of being miserable, as applicable to one who is sunk into deep distress or affliction. The word here, however, refers rather to the condition itself than to the consciousness of that condition, for it is said that they did not know it. Their state was, in fact, a miserable state, and was fitted to produce actual distress if they had any just sense of it, though they thought that it was otherwise.

And miserable. This word has, with us now, a similar signification; but the term here used—eleeinov—rather means a pitiable state than one actually felt to be so. The meaning is, that their condition was one that was fitted to excite pity or compassion; not that they were actually miserable. See Barnes "1 Co 15:19".

And poor. Notwithstanding all their boast of having enough. They really had not that which was necessary to meet the actual wants of their nature, and, therefore, they were poor. Their worldly property could not meet the wants of their souls; and, with all their pretensions to piety, they had not religion enough to meet the necessities of their nature when calamities should come, or when death should approach; and they were, therefore, in the strictest sense of the term, poor.

And blind. That is, in a spiritual respect. They did not see the reality of their condition; they had no just views of themselves, of the character of God, of the way of salvation. This seems to be said in connexion with the boast which they made in their own minds—that they had everything; that they wanted nothing. One of the great blessings of life is clearness of vision, and their boast that they had everything must have included that; but the speaker here says that they lacked that indispensable thing to completeness of character and to full enjoyment. With all their boasting, they were actually blind,—and how could one who was in that state say that he "had need of nothing?"

And naked. Of course, spiritually. Salvation is often represented as a garment, (Mt 22:11-12; Re 6:11; 7:9,13-14) and the declaration here is equivalent to saying that they had no religion. They had nothing to cover the nakedness of the soul, and in respect to the real wants of their nature they were like one who had no clothing in reference to cold, and heat, and storms, and to the shame of nakedness. How could such an one be regarded as rich? We may learn from this instructive verse,

(1.) that men may think themselves to be rich, and yet, in fact, be miserably poor. They may have the wealth of this world in abundance, and yet have nothing that really will meet their wants in disappointment, bereavement, sickness, death; the wants of the never-dying soul; their wants in eternity. What had the "rich fool," as he is commonly termed, in the parable, when he came to die? Lu 12:16, seq. What had "Dives," as he is commonly termed, to meet the wants of his nature when he went down to hell? Lu 16:19, seq.

(2.) Men may have much property, and think that they have all they want, and yet be wretched. In the sense that their condition is a wretched condition, this is always true; and in the sense that they are consciously wretched, this may be and often is true also.

(3.) Men may have great property, and yet be miserable. This is true in the sense that their condition is a pitiable one, and in the sense that they are actually unhappy. There is no more pitiable condition than that where one has great property, and is self-complacent and proud, and who has nevertheless no God, no Saviour, no hope of heaven, and who perhaps that very day may "lift up his eyes in hell, being in torments;" and, it need not be added, that there is no greater actual misery in this world than that which sometimes finds its way into the palaces of the rich. He greatly errs who thinks that misery is confined to the cottages of the poor.

(4.) Men may be rich, and think they have all that they want, and yet be blind to their condition. They really have no distinct vision of anything. They have no just views of God, of themselves, of their duty, of this world, or of the next. In most important respects, they are in a worse condition than the inmates of an asylum for the blind, for they may have clear views of God and of heaven. Mental darkness is a greater calamity than the loss of natural vision; and there is many an one who is surrounded by all that affluence can give, who never yet had one correct view of his own character, of his God, or of the reality of his condition, and whose condition might have been far better if he had actually been born blind.

(5.) There may be gorgeous robes of adorning, and yet real nakedness. With all the decorations that wealth can impart, there may be a nakedness of the soul as real as that of the body would be if, without a rag to cover it, it were exposed to cold, and storm, and shame. The soul, destitute of the robes of salvation, is in a worse condition than the body without raiment: for, how can it bear the storms of wrath that shall beat upon it for ever, and the shame of its exposure in the last dread day?

{a} "I am rich" Hos 12:8


Verse 18. I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire. Pure gold; such as has been subjected to the action of heat to purify it from dross. See Barnes on "1 Pe 1:7".

Gold here is emblematic of religion—as being the most precious of the metals, and the most valued by men. They professed to be rich, but were not; and he counsels them to obtain from him that which would make them truly rich.

That thou mayest be rich. In the true and proper sense of the word. With true religion; with the favour and friendship of the Redeemer, they would have all that they really needed, and would never be in want.

And white raiment. The emblem of purity and salvation. See Barnes "Re 3:4".

This is said in reference to the fact (Re 3:17) that they were then naked.

That thou mayest be clothed. With the garments of salvation. This refers, also, to true religion, meaning that that which the Redeemer furnishes will answer the same purpose in respect to the soul which clothing does in reference to the body. Of course, it cannot be understood literally, nor should the language be pressed too closely, as if there was too strict a resemblance.

And that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear. We clothe the body as well for decency as for protection against cold, and storm, and heat. The soul is to be clothed that the "shame" of its sinfulness may not be exhibited, and that it may not be offensive and repellent in the sight.

And anoint thine eyes with eye-salve. In allusion to the fact that they were blind, Re 3:17. The word eye-salve— kollourion—occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It is a diminutive from kollura—collyra—a coarse bread or cake, and means properly a small cake or cracknel. It is applied to eye-salve as resembling such a cake, and refers to a medicament prepared for sore or weak eyes. It was compounded of various substances supposed to have a healing quality. See Wetstein, in loc. The reference here is to a spiritual healing—meaning that, in respect to their spiritual vision, what he would furnish would produce the same effect as the collyrium or eye-salve would in diseased eyes. The idea is, that the grace of the gospel enables men who were before blind to see clearly the character of God, the beauty of the way of salvation, the loveliness of the person and work of Christ, etc. See Barnes "Eph 1:18".

{a} "buy" Isa 55:1

{b} "nakedness" Re 16:15


Verse 19. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Of course, only on the supposition that they deserve it. The meaning is, that it is a proof of love on his part, if his professed friends go astray, to recall them by admonitions and by trials. So a father calls back his children who are disobedient; and there is no higher proof of his love than when, with great pain to himself, he administers such chastisement as shall save his child. See the sentiment here expressed fully explained. See Barnes "Heb 12:6, seq. The language is taken from Pr 3:12

Be zealous therefore, and repent. Be earnest, strenuous, ardent in your purpose to exercise true repentance, and to turn from the error of your ways. Lose no time; spare no labour, that you may obtain such a state of mind that it shall not be necessary to bring upon you the severe discipline which always comes on those who continue lukewarm in religion. The truth taught here is, that when the professed followers of Christ have become lukewarm in his service, they should lose no time in returning to him, and seeking his favour again. As sure as he has any true love for them, if this is not done, he will bring upon them some heavy calamity, alike to rebuke them for their errors, and to recover them to himself.

{c} "As many" Heb 12:5,6


Verse 20. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock. Intimating that, though they had erred, the way of repentance and hope was not closed against them. He was still willing to be gracious, though their conduct had been such as to be loathsome, Re 3:16. To see the real force of this language, we must remember how disgusting and offensive their conduct had been to him. And yet he was willing, notwithstanding this, to receive them to his favour; nay more, he stood and pleaded with them that he might be received with the hospitality that would be shown to a friend or stranger. The language here is so plain that it scarcely needs explanation. It is taken from an act when we approach a dwelling, and, by a well-understood sign—knocking—announce our presence, and ask for admission. The act of knocking implies two things:

(a) that we desire admittance; and

(b) that we recognise the right of him who dwells in the house to open the door to us or not, as he shall please. We would not obtrude upon him; we would not force his door; and if, after we are sure that we are heard, we are not admitted, we turn quietly away. Both of these things are implied here by the language used by the Saviour when he approaches man as represented under the image of knocking at the door: that he desires to be admitted to our friendship; and that he recognises our freedom in the matter. He does not obtrude himself upon us, nor does he employ force to find admission to the heart. If admitted, he comes and dwells with us; if rejected, he turns quietly away—perhaps to return and knock again, perhaps never to come back. The language here used, also, may be understood as applicable to all persons, and to all the methods by which the Saviour seeks to come into the heart of a sinner. It would properly refer to anything which would announce his presence:—his word; his Spirit; the solemn events of his Providence; the invitations of his gospel. In these and in other methods he comes to man; and the manner in which these invitations ought to be estimated would be seen by supposing that he came to us personally and solicited our friendship, and proposed to be our Redeemer. It may be added here, that this expression proves that the attempt at reconciliation begins with the Saviour. It is not that the sinner goes out to meet him, or to seek for him; it is that the Saviour presents himself at the door of the heart as if he were desirous to enjoy the friendship of man. This is in accordance with the uniform language of the New Testament, that "God so loved the world as to give his only-begotten Son;" that "Christ came to seek and to save the lost;" that the Saviour says, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden," etc. Salvation, in the Scriptures, is never represented as originated by man.

If any man hear my voice. Perhaps referring to a custom then prevailing, that he who knocked spake, in order to let it be known who it was. This might be demanded in the night, (Lu 11:5) or when there was apprehension of danger, and it may have been the custom when John wrote. The language here, in accordance with the uniform usage in the Scriptures, (compare Isa 55:1; Joh 7:37; Re 22:17) is universal, and proves that the invitations of the gospel are made, and are to be made, not to a part only, but fully and freely to all men; for, although this originally had reference to the members of the church in Laodicea, yet the language chosen seems to have been of design so universal (ean tiv) as to be applicable to every human being; and any one, of any age and in any land, would be authorized to apply this to himself, and, under the protection of this invitation to come to the Saviour, and to plead this promise as one that fairly included himself. It may be observed farther, that this also recognises the freedom of man. It is submitted to him whether he will hear the voice of the Redeemer or not; and whether he will open the door and admit him or not. He speaks loud enough, and distinctly enough, to be heard, but he does not force the door if it is not voluntarily opened.

And open the door. As one would when a stranger or friend stood and knocked. The meaning here is simply, if any one will admit me; that is, receive me as a friend. The act of receiving him is as voluntary on our part as it is when we rise and open the door to one who knocks. It may be added,

(1.) that this is an easy thing. Nothing is more easy than to open the door when one knocks; and so everywhere in the Scriptures it is represented as an easy thing, if the heart is willing, to secure the salvation of the soul.

(2.) This is a reasonable thing. We invite him who knocks at the door to come in. We always assume, unless there is reason to suspect the contrary, that he applies for peaceful and friendly purposes. We deem it the height of rudeness to let one stand and knock long; or to let him go away with no friendly invitation to enter our dwelling. Yet how differently does the sinner treat the Saviour! How long does he suffer him to knock at the door of his heart, with no invitation to enter—no act of common civility such as that with which he would greet even a stranger! And with how much coolness and indifference does he see him turn away—perhaps to come back no more, and with no desire that he ever should return!

I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. This is an image denoting intimacy and friendship. Supper, with the ancients, was the principal social meal; and the idea here is, that between the Saviour and those who would receive him, there would be the intimacy which subsists between those who sit down to a friendly meal together. In all countries and times, to eat together, to break bread together, has been the symbol of friendship, and this the Saviour promises here. The truths, then, which are taught in this verse, are

(1) that the invitation of the gospel is made to all—"if any man hear my voice;"

(2) that the movement towards reconciliation and friendship is originated by the Saviour—"behold, I stand at the door and knock;"

(3) that there is a recognition of our own free agency in religion—"if any man will hear my voice, and open the door;"

(4) the ease of the terms of salvation, represented by "hearing his voice," and "opening the door;" and

(5) the blessedness of thus admitting him, arising from his friendship—"I will sup with him, and he with me." What friend can man have who would confer so many benefits on him as the Lord Jesus Christ? Who is there that he should so gladly welcome to his bosom?

{d} "knock" So 5:2; Lu 12:36


Verse 21. To him that overcometh. See Barnes on "Re 2:7".

Will I grant to sit with me in my throne. That is, they will share his honours and his triumphs. See Barnes on "Re 2:26-27" See Barnes on "Ro 8:17".

Even as I also overcame. As I gained a victory over the world, and over the power of the tempter. As the reward of this, he is exalted to the throne of the universe, (Php 2:6-11) and in these honours, achieved by their great and glorious Head, all the redeemed will share.

And am set down with my Father in his throne. See Barnes "Php 2:6-11".

That is, he has dominion over the universe. All things are put under his feet, and, in the strictest unison and with perfect harmony, he is united with the Father in administering the affairs of all worlds. The dominion of the Father is that of the Son—that of the Son is that of the Father; for they are one. See Barnes "Joh 5:19, See Barnes "Eph 1:20, seq, See Barnes "1 Co 15:24, seq.

{b} "overcometh" Re 12:11; 1 Jo 5:4,5

{c} "sit" Lu 22:30

{d} "overcome" Re 2:17


Verse 22. He that hath an ear, etc. See Barnes "Re 2:7".




THIS chapter properly commences the series of visions respecting future events, and introduces those remarkable symbolical descriptions which were designed to cheer the hearts of those to whom the book was first sent, in their trials, and the hearts of all believers in all ages, with the assurance of the final triumph of the gospel. See the Introduction.

In regard to the nature of these visions, or the state of mind of the writer, there have been different opinions. Some have supposed that all that is described was made only to pass before the mind, with no visible representation; others, that there were visible representations so made to him that he could copy them; others, that all that is said or seen was only the production of the author's imagination. The latter is the view principally entertained by German writers on the book. All that would seem to be apparent on the face of the book—and that is all that we can judge by—is, that the following things occurred:

(1.) The writer was in a devout frame of mind—a state of holy contemplation—when the scenes were represented to him, Re 1:1-10.

(2.) The representations were supernatural; that is, they were something which was disclosed to him, in that state of mind, beyond ally natural reach of his faculties.

(3.) These things were so made to pass before him that they had the aspect of reality, and he could copy and describe them as real. It is not necessary to suppose that there was any representation to the bodily eye; but they had, to his mind, such a reality that he could describe them as pictures or symbols—and his office was limited to that. He does not attempt to explain them—nor does he intimate that he understood them; but his office pertains to an accurate record—a fair transcript—of what passed before his mind. For anything that appears, he may have been as ignorant of their signification as any of his readers, and may have subsequently studied them with the same kind of attention which We now give to them, (See Barnes "1 Pe 1:11") See Barnes "1 Pe 1:12" and may have, perhaps, remained ignorant of their signification to the day of his death. It is no more necessary to suppose that he understood all that was implied in these symbols, than it is that one who can describe a beautiful landscape understands all the laws of the plants and flowers in the landscape; or, that one who copies all the designs and devices of armorial bearings in heraldry should understand all that is meant by the symbols that are used; or, that one who should copy the cuneiform inscriptions of Persepolis, or the hieroglyphics of Thebes, should understand the meaning of the symbols. All that is demanded or expected, in such a case, is, that the copy should be accurately made; and, when made, this copy may be as much an object of study to him who made it as to any one else.

(4.) Yet there was a sense in which these symbols were real; that is, they were a real and proper delineation of future events. They were not the mere workings of the imagination. He who saw them in vision, though there may have been no representation to the eye, had before him what was a real and appropriate representation of coming events. If not, the visions are as worthless as dreams are.

The visions open (Re 4) with a Theophany, or a representation of God. John is permitted to look into heaven, and to have a view of the throne of God, and of the worship celebrated there. A door (yura or opening is made into heaven, so that he, as it were, looks through the concave above, and sees what is beyond, He sees the throne of God, and him who sits on the throne, and the worshippers there; he sees the lightnings play around the throne, and hears the thunder's roar; he sees the rainbow that encompasses the throne, and hears the songs of the worshippers. In reference to this vision, at the commencement of the series of symbols which he was about to describe, and the reason why this was vouchsafed to him, the following remarks may be suggested:

(1.) There is, in some respects, a striking resemblance between this and the visions of Isaiah (Isa 6 and Eze 1) As those prophets, when about to enter on their office, were solemnly inaugurated by being permitted to have a vision of the Almighty, so John was inaugurated to the office of making known future things—the last prophet of the world—by a similar vision. We shall see, indeed, that the representation made to John was not precisely the same as that which was made to Isaiah, or that which was made to Ezekiel; but the most striking symbols are retained, and that of John is as much adapted to impress the mind as either of the others. Each of them describes the throne, and the attending circumstances of sublimity and majesty; each of them speaks of one on the throne, but neither of them has attempted any description of the Almighty. There is no delineation of an image, or a figure representing God, but everything respecting him is veiled in such obscurity as to fill the mind with awe.

(2.) The representation is such as to produce deep solemnity on the mind of the writer and the reader. Nothing could have been better adapted to prepare the mind of John for the important communications which he was about to make than to be permitted to look, as it were, directly into heaven, and to see the throne of God. And nothing is better fitted to impress the mind of the reader than the view which is furnished, in the opening vision, of the majesty and glory of God. Brought, as it were, into his very presence; permitted to look upon his burning throne; seeing the reverent and profound worship of the inhabitants of heaven, we feel our minds awed, and our souls subdued, as we hear the God of heaven speak, and as we see seal after seal opened, and hear trumpet after trumpet utter its voice.

(3.) The form of the manifestation—the opening vision—is eminently fitted to show us that the communications in this book proceed from heaven. Looking into heaven, and seeing the vision of the Almighty, we are prepared to feel that what follows has a higher than any human origin; that it has come direct from the throne of God. And,

(4.) there was a propriety that the visions should open with a manifestation of the throne of God in heaven, or with a vision of heaven, because that also is the termination of the whole; it is that to which all the visions in the book tend. It begins in heaven, as seen by the exile in Patmos; it terminates in heaven, when all enemies of the church are subdued, and the redeemed reign triumphant in glory.

The substance of the introductory vision in this chapter can be stated in few words:

(a) A door is opened, and John is permitted to look into heaven, and to see what is passing there, Re 4:1,2.

(b) The first thing that strikes him is a throne, with one sitting on the throne, Re 4:2.

(c) The appearance of him who sits upon the throne is described, Re 4:3. He is "like a jasper and a sardine stone." There is no attempt to portray his form; there is no description from which an image could be formed that could become an object of idolatrous worship—for who would undertake to chisel anything so indefinite as that which is merely "like a jasper or a sardine stone?" And yet the description is distinct enough to fill the mind with emotions of awe and sublimity, and to leave the impression that he who sat on the throne was a pure and holy God.

(d) Round about the throne there was a bright rainbowen symbol of peace, Re 4:3.

(e) Around the throne are gathered the elders of the church, having on their heads crowns of gold: symbols of the ultimate triumph of the church, Re 4:4.

(f) Thunder and lightning, as at Sinai, announce the presence of God, and seven burning lamps before the throne represent the Spirit of God, in his diversified operations, as going forth through the world to enlighten, sanctify, and save, Re 4:5.

(g) Before the throne there is a pellucid pavement, as of crystal, spread out like a sea: emblem of calmness, majesty, peace, and wide dominion, Re 4:6.

(h) The throne is supported by four living creatures, full of eyes: emblems of the all-seeing power of Him that sits upon the throne, and of his ever-watchful providence, Re 4:6.

(i) To each one of these living creatures there is a peculiar symbolic face: respectively emblematic of the authority, the power, the wisdom of God, and of the rapidity with which the purposes of Providence are executed, Re 4:7. All are furnished with wings; emblematic of their readiness to do the will of God, (Re 4:8,) but each one individually with a peculiar form.

(j) All these creatures pay ceaseless homage to God, whose throne they are represented as supporting: emblematic of the fact that all the operations of the Divine government do, in fact, promote his glory, and, as it were, render him praise, Re 4:8,9.

(k) To this the eiders, the representatives of the church, respond: representing the fact that the church acquiesces in all the arrangements of Providence, and in the execution of all the Divine purposes, and finds in them all ground for adoration and thanksgiving, Re 4:10,11.

Verse 1. After this. Gr., "after these things;" that is, after what he had seen, and after what he had been directed to record in the preceding chapters, How long after these things this occurred, he does not say—whether on the same day, or at some subsequent time; and conjecture would be useless. The scene, however, is changed. Instead of seeing the Saviour standing before him, (chapter 1) the scene is transferred to heaven, and he is permitted to look in upon the throne of God, and upon the worshippers there.

I looked. Gr., I saw—eidon. Our word look would rather indicate purpose or intention, as if he had designedly directed his attention to heaven, to see what could be discovered there. The meaning, however, is simply that he saw a new vision, without intimating whether there was any design on his part, and without saying how his thoughts came to be directed to heaven.

A door was opened. That is, there was apparently an opening in the sky, like a door, so that he could look into heaven.

In heaven. Or, rather, in the expanse above—in the visible heavens as they appear to spread out over the earth. So Eze 1:1, "The heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God." The Hebrews spoke of the sky above as a solid expanse; or as a curtain stretched out; or as an extended arch above the earth—describing it as it appears to the eye. In that expanse, or arch, the stars are set at gems, (See Barnes on "Isa 34:4") through apertures or windows in that expanse the rain comes down, Ge 7:11; and that is opened when a heavenly messenger comes down to the earth, Mt 3:16. Compare Lu 3:21; Ac 7:56; 10:11.

Of course, all this is figurative, but it is such language as all men naturally use. The simple meaning here is, that John had a vision of what is in heaven as if there had been such an opening made through the sky, and he had been permitted to look into the world above.

And the first voice which I heard. That is, the first sound which he heard was a command to come up and see the glories of that world. He afterwards heard other sounds—the sounds of praise; but the first notes that fell on his ear were a direction to come up there and to receive a revelation respecting future things. This does not seem to me to mean, as Professor Stuart, Lord, and others suppose, that he now recognised the voice which had first, or formerly spoken to him, (Re 1:10) but that this was the first in contradistinction from other voices which he afterwards heard. It resembled the former "voice" in this that it was "like the sound of a trumpet," but besides that there does not seem to have been anything that would suggest to him that it came from the same source. It is certainly possible that the Greek would admit of that interpretation, but it is not the most obvious or probable.

Was as it were of a trumpet. It resembled the sound of a trumpet, Re 1:10.

Talking with me. As of a trumpet that seemed to speak directly to me.

Which said. That is, the voice said.

Come up hither. To the place whence the voice seemed to proceed—heaven.

And I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. Gr., "after these things." The reference is to future events; and the meaning is, that there would be disclosed to him events that were to occur at some future period. There is no intimation here when they would occur, or what would be embraced in the period referred to. All that the words would properly convey would be, that there would be a disclosure of things that were to occur in some future time.

{a} "voice" Re 1:10

{b} "come up" Re 11:12


Verse 2. And immediately I was in the Spirit. See Barnes "Re 1:10".

He does not affirm that he was caught up into heaven, nor does he say what impression was on his own mind, if any, as to the place where he was; but he was at once absorbed in the contemplation of the visions before him. He was doubtless still in Patmos, and these things were made to pass before his mind as a reality; that is, they appeared as real to him as if he saw them, and they were in fact a real symbolical representation of things occurring in heaven.

And, behold, a throne was set in heaven. That is, a throne was placed there. The first thing that arrested his attention was a throne. This was "in heaven"—an expression which proves that the scene of the vision was not the temple in Jerusalem, as some have supposed. There is no allusion to the temple, and no imagery drawn from the temple. Isaiah had his vision (Isaiah 6) in the holy of holies of the temple; Ezekiel, (Eze 1:1)by the river Chebar; but John looked directly into heaven, and saw the throne of God, and the encircling worshippers there.

And one sat on the throne. It is remarkable that John gives no description of him who sat on the throne, nor does he indicate who he was by name. Neither do Isaiah or Ezekiel attempt to describe the appearance of the Deity, nor are there any intimations of that appearance given from which a picture or an image could be formed. So much do their representations accord with what is demanded by correct taste; and so sedulously have they guarded against any encouragement of idolatry.

{a} "in the spirit" Re 17:3; 21:10; Eze 3:12-14

{b} "throne" Isa 6:1; Jer 17:12; Eze 1:26,28

{c} "sat" Da 7:9; Heb 8:1


Verse 3. And he that sat was to look upon. Was in appearance; or, as I looked upon him, this seemed to be his appearance. He does not describe his form, but his splendour.

Like a jasper—iaspidi. The jasper, properly, is "an opaque, impure variety of quartz, of red, yellow, and also of some dull colours, breaking with a smooth surface. It admits of a high polish, and is used for vases, seals, snuff-boxes, etc. When the colours are in stripes or bands, it is called striped jasper."— Dana, in Webster's Dic. The colour here is not designated, whether red or yellow. As the red was, however, the common colour worn by princes, it is probable that that was the colour that appeared, and that John means to say that he appeared like a prince in his royal robes. Compare Isa 6:1.

And a sardine stone—sardiw. This denotes a precious stone of a blood-red, or sometimes of a flesh-colour, more commonly known by the name of carnelian.—Rob. Lex. Thus it corresponds with the jasper, and this is only an additional circumstance to convey the exact idea in the mind of John, that the appearance of him who sat on the throne was that of a prince in his scarlet robes. This is all the description which he gives of his appearance; and this is

(a) entirely appropriate, as it suggests the idea of a prince or a monarch; and

(b) it is well adapted to impress the mind with a sense of the majesty of Him who cannot be described, and of whom no image should be attempted. Compare De 4:12: "Ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude."

And there was a rainbow round about the throne. This is a beautiful image, and was probably designed to be emblematical as well as beautiful. The previous representation is that of majesty and splendour; this is adapted to temper the majesty of the representation. The rainbow has always, from its own nature, and from its associations, been an emblem of peace. It appears on the cloud as the storm passes away. It contrasts beautifully with the tempest that has just been raging. It is seen as the rays of the sun again appear clothing all things with beauty—the more beautiful from the fact that the storm has come, and that the rain has fallen. If the rain has been gentle, nature smiles serenely, and the leaves and flowers refreshed appear clothed with new beauty; if the storm has raged violently, the appearance of the rainbow is a pledge that the war of the elements has ceased, and that God smiles again upon the earth. It reminds us, too, of the "covenant" when God did "set his bow in the cloud," and solemnly promised that the earth should no more be destroyed by a flood, Ge 9:9-16. The appearance of the rainbow, therefore, around the throne, was a beautiful emblem of the mercy of God, and of the peace that was to pervade the world as the result of the events that were to be disclosed to the vision of John. True, there were lightnings and thunderings and voices, but there the bow abode calmly above them all, assuring him that there was to be mercy and peace.

In sight like unto an emerald. The emerald is green, and this colour so predominated in the bow that it seemed to be made of this species of precious stone. The modified and mild colour of green appears to every one to predominate in the rainbow. Ezekiel (Eze 1:28) has introduced the image of the rainbow also in his description of the vision that appeared to him, though not as calmly encircling the throne, but as descriptive of the general appearance of the scene. "As is the appearance of the bow that is on the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about." Milton also has introduced it, but it is also as a part of the colouring of the throne:—

"Over their heads a crystal firmament,
Whereon a sapphire throne, inlaid with pure
Amber, and colours of the showery arch."
Paradise Lost, b. vii


Verse 4. And round about the throne were four and twenty seats. Or rather thrones—yronoi—the same word being used as that which is rendered throne—yronov. The word, indeed, properly denotes a seat, but it came to be employed to denote particularly the seat on which a monarch sat, and is properly translated thus in Re 4:2-3. So it is rendered in Mt 5:34; 19:28; 23:22; 25:31; Lu 1:32; and uniformly elsewhere in the New Testament, (fifty-three places in all,) except in Lu 1:52; Re 2:13; 4:4; 11:16; 16:10

where it is rendered seat and seats. It should have been rendered thrones here, and is so translated by Professor Stuart. Coverdale and Tyndale render the word seat in each place in verses 2-5. It was undoubtedly the design of the writer to represent those who sat on those seats as, in some sense, kings— for they have on their heads crowns of gold—and that idea should have been retained in the translation of this word.

And upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting. Very various opinions have been entertained in respect to those who thus appeared sitting around the throne, and to the question why the number twenty-four is mentioned. Instead of examining those opinions at length, it will be better to present, in a summary manner, what seems to be probable in regard to the intended reference. The following points, then, would appear to embrace all that can be known on this subject:

(1.) These elders have a regal character, or are of a kingly order. This is apparent

(a) because they are represented as sitting on "thrones," and

(b) because they have on their heads "crowns of gold."

(2.) They are emblematic. They are designed to symbolize or represent some class of persons. This is clear

(a) because it cannot be supposed that so small a number would compose the whole of those who are in fact around the throne of God, and

(b) because there are other symbols there designed to represent something pertaining to the homage rendered to God, as the four living creatures and the angels, and this supposition is necessary in order to complete the symmetry and harmony of the representation.

(3.) They are human beings, and are designed to have some relation to the race of man, and somehow to connect the human race with the worship of heaven. The four living creatures have another design; the angels (chapter 5) have another; but these are manifestly of our race—persons from this world before the throne.

(4.) They are designed in some way to be symbolic of the church as redeemed. Thus they say, (Re 5:9) "Thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood."

(5.) They are designed to represent the whole church in every land and every age of the world. Thus they say, (Re 5:9) "Thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation." This shows, further, that the whole representation is emblematic; for otherwise in so small a number— twenty-four—there could not be a representation out of every nation.

(6.) They represent the church triumphant; the church victorious. Thus they have crowns on their heads; they have harps in their hands, (Re 5:8) they say that they are "kings and priests," and that they will "reign on the earth," Re 5:10.

(7.) The design, therefore, is to represent the church triumphant— redeemed—saved—as rendering praise and honour to God; as uniting with the hosts of heaven in adoring him for his perfections and for the wonders of his grace. As representatives of the church, they are admitted near to him; they encircle his throne; they appear victorious over every foe; and they come, in unison with the living creatures, and the angels, and the whole universe, (Re 5:13) to ascribe powers and dominion to God.

(8.) As to the reason why the number "twenty-four" is mentioned, perhaps nothing certain can be determined. Ezekiel, in his vision, (Eze 8:16; 11:1) saw twenty-five men between the porch and the altar, with their backs toward the temple, and their faces toward the earth—supposed to be representations of the twenty-four "courses" into which the body of priests was divided, (1 Ch 24:3-19) with the high priest among them, making up the number twenty-five. It is possible that John in this vision may have designed to refer to the church considered as a priesthood, (See Barnes on "1 Pe 2:9") and to have alluded to the fact that the priesthood under the Jewish economy was divided into twenty-four courses, each with a presiding officer, and who was a representative of that portion of the priesthood over which he presided. If so, then the ideas which enter into the representation are these:

(a.) that the whole church may be represented as a priesthood, or a community of priests—an idea which frequently occurs in the New Testament.

(b.) That the church, as such a community of priests, is employed in the praise and worship of God—an idea, also, which finds abundant countenance in the New Testament.

(c.) That, in a series of visions having a designed reference to the church, it was natural to introduce some symbol or emblem representing the church, and representing the fact that this is its office and employment. And

(d.) that this would be well expressed by an allusion derived from the ancient dispensation—the division of the priesthood into classes, over each one of which there presided an individual who might be considered as the representative of his class. It is to be observed, indeed, that in one respect they are represented as "kings," but still this does not forbid the supposition that there might have been intermingled also another idea, that they were also "priests." Thus the two ideas are blended by these same elders in Re 5:10: "And hath made us unto our God kings and priests." Thus understood, the vision is designed to denote the fact that the representatives of the church, ultimately to be triumphant, are properly engaged in ascribing praise to God. The word elders here seems to be used in the sense of aged and venerable men, rather than as denoting office. They were such as by their age were qualified to preside over the different divisions of the priesthood.

Clothed in white raiment. Emblem of purity, and appropriate therefore to the representatives of the sanctified church. Compare Re 3:4; 6:11; 7:9.

And they had on their heads crowns of gold. Emblematic of the fact that they sustained a kingly office. There was blended in the representation the idea that they were both "kings and priests." Thus the idea is expressed by Peter, (1 Pe 2:9) "a royal priesthood" —basileion ierateuma.

{d} "four and twenty" Re 11:16

{e} "white raiment" Re 3:4,5

{f} "crowns" Re 4:10


Verse 5. And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices. Expressive of the majesty and glory of Him that sat upon it. We are at once reminded by this representation of the sublime scene that occurred at Sinai, (Ex 19:6) where "there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud." Compare Eze 1:13,24. So Milton-

"Forth rushed with whirlwind sound
The chariot of Paternal Deity,
Flashing thick flames."

"And from about him fierce effusion rolled
Of smoke, and lightning flame, and sparkles dire."

Paradise Lost. b. vi

The word "voices" here connected with "thunders" perhaps means "voices even thunders "—referring to the sound made by the thunder. The meaning is, that these were echoing and re-echoing sounds, as it were a multitude of voices that seemed to speak on every side.

And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne. Seven burning lamps that constantly shone there, illuminating the whole scene. These steadily burning lamps would add much to the beauty of the vision.

Which are the seven Spirits of God. Which represent, or are emblematic of, the seven Spirits of God. On the meaning of the phrase, "the seven Spirits of God," See Barnes "Re 1:4".

If these lamps are designed to be symbols of the Holy Spirit, according to the interpretation proposed in Re 1:4, it may be perhaps in the following respects:

(1.) They may represent the manifold influences of that Spirit in the world—as imparting light; giving consolation; creating the heart anew; sanctifying the soul, etc. They may denote that all the operations of that Spirit are of the nature of light, dissipating darkness, and vivifying and animating all things.

(2.) Perhaps their being placed here before the throne, in the midst of thunder and lightning, may be designed to represent the idea that amidst all the scenes of magnificence and grandeur; all the storms, agitations, and tempests on the earth; all the political changes, all the convulsions of empire under the providence of God, and all the commotions in the soul of man, produced by the thunders of the law, the Spirit of God beams calmly and serenely—shedding a steady influence over all—like lamps burning in the very midst of lightnings, and thunderings, and voices. In all the scenes of majesty and commotion that occur on the earth, the Spirit of God is present, shedding a constant light, and undisturbed in his influence by all the agitations that are abroad.

{a} "lightnings" Re 8:5; 16:18

{b} "seven lamps" Ge 15:17; Ex 37:23; Zec 4:2

{c} "seven spirits" Re 1:4


Verse 6. And before the throne there was a sea of glass. An expanse spread out like a sea composed of glass: that is, that was pellucid and transparent like glass. It is not uncommon to compare the sea with glass. See numerous examples in Wetstein, in loc. The point of the comparison here seems to be its transparent appearance. It was perfectly clear—apparently stretching out in a wide expanse, as if it were a sea.

Like unto crystal. The word crystal means properly anything congealed and pellucid—as ice; then anything resembling that, particularly a certain species of stone distinguished for its clearness-as the transparent crystals of quartz; limpid and colourless quartz; rock or mountain quartz. The word crystal now, in mineralogy, means an inorganic body which, by the operation of affinity, has assumed the form of a regular solid, by a certain number of plane and smooth faces. It is here used manifestly in its popular sense to denote anything that is perfectly clear like ice. The comparison, in the representation of the expanse spread around the throne, turns on these points:

(1.) It appeared like a sea—stretching afar.

(2.) It resembled, in its general appearance, glass; and this idea is strengthened by the addition of another image of the same character —that it was like an expanse of crystal, perfectly clear and pellucid. This would seem to be designed to represent the floor or pavement on which the throne stood. If this is intended to be emblematical, it may denote

(a) that the empire of God is vast—as if it were spread out like the sea; or

(b) it may be emblematic of the calmness, the placidity of the Divine administration—like an undisturbed and unruffled ocean of glass. Perhaps, however, we should not press such circumstances too far to find a symbolical meaning.

And in the midst of the throne. en mesw tou yronou. Not occupying the throne, but so as to appear to be intermingled with the throne, or "in the midst" of it, in the sense that it was beneath the centre of it. The meaning would seem to be, that the four living creatures referred to occupied such a position collectively that they at the same time appeared to be under the throne, so that it rested on them, and around it, so that they could be seen from any quarter. This would occur if their bodies were under the throne, and if they stood so that they faced outward. To one approaching the throne they would seem to be around it, though their bodies were under, or "in the midst" of it as a support. The form of their bodies is not specified, but it is not improbable that though their heads were different, their bodies, that were under the throne, and that sustained it, were of the same form.

And round about the throne. In the sense above explained—that, as they stood, they would be seen on every side of the throne.

Were four beasts. This is a very unhappy translation, as the word beasts by no means conveys a correct idea of the original word. The Greek word (zwon) means properly a living thing—and it is thus indeed applied to animals, or to the living creation; but the notion of their being living things, or living creatures, should be retained in the translation. Professor Stuart renders it, "living creatures." Isaiah, (chapter 6) in his vision of Jehovah, saw two Seraphim; Ezekiel, whom John more nearly resembles in his description, saw four "living creatures"— HEBREW (Eze 1:5)—that is, living, animated, moving beings. The words "living beings" would better convey the idea than any other which could be employed. They are evidently, like those which Ezekiel saw, symbolical beings; but the nature and purpose of the symbol is not perfectly apparent, The "four and twenty elders" are evidently human beings, and are representatives, as above explained, of the church. In Re 5:11, angels are themselves introduced as taking an important part in the worship of heaven; and these living beings, therefore, cannot be designed to represent either angels or men. In Ezekiel, they are either designed as poetic representations of the majesty of God, or of his providential government, showing what sustains his throne: symbols denoting intelligence, vigilance, the rapidity and directness with which the Divine commands are executed, and the energy and firmness with which the government of God is administered. The nature of the case, and the similarity to the representation in Ezekiel, would lead us to suppose that the same idea is to be found substantially in John; and there would be no difficulty in such an interpretation, were it not that these "living creatures" are apparently represented in Re 5:8-9, as uniting with the redeemed from the earth in such a manner as to imply that they were themselves redeemed. But perhaps the language in Re 5:9, "And they sung a new song," etc., though apparently connected with the "four beasts" in Re 4:8, is not designed to be so connected. John may intend there merely to advert to the fact that a new song was sung, without meaning to say that the "four living beings" united in that song. For, if he designed merely to say that the "four living beings" and the "four and twenty elders" fell down to worship, and then that a song was heard, though in fact sung only by the four and twenty elders, he might have employed the language which he actually has done. If this interpretation be admitted, then the most natural explanation to be given of the "four living beings" is to suppose that they are symbolical beings designed to furnish some representation of the government of God—to illustrate, as it were, that on which the Divine government rests, or which constitutes its support—to wit, power, intelligence, vigilance, energy. This is apparent

(a) because it was not unusual for the thrones of monarchs to be supported by carved animals of various forms, which were designed undoubtedly to be somehow emblematic of government —either of its stability, vigilance, boldness, or firmness. Thus Solomon had twelve lions carved on each side of his throne—no improper emblems of government—1 Ki 10:19-20.

(b) These living beings are described as the supports of the throne of God, or as that on which it rests, and would be, therefore, no improper symbols of the great principles or truths which give support or stability to the Divine administration.

(c) They are, in themselves, well adapted to be representatives of the great principles of the Divine government, or of the Divine providential dealings, as we shall see in the more particular explanation of the symbol.

(d) Perhaps it might be added, that, so understood, there would be completeness in the vision. The "elders" appear there as representatives of the church redeemed; the angels in their own proper persons render praise to God. To this it was not improper to add, and the completeness of the representation seems to make it necessary to add, that all the doings of the Almighty unite in his praise; his various acts in the government of the universe harmonize with redeemed and unfallen intelligences in proclaiming his glory. The vision of the "living beings," therefore, is not, as I suppose, a representation of the attributes of God as such, but an emblematic representation of the Divine government—of the throne of Deity resting upon, or sustained by, those things of which these living beings are emblems—intelligence, firmness, energy, etc. This supposition seems to combine more probabilities than any other which has been proposed; for, according to this supposition, all the acts, and ways, and creatures of God unite in his praise. It is proper to add, however, that expositors are by no means agreed as to the design of this representation. Professor Stuart supposes that the attributes of God are referred to; Mr. Elliott, (i. 93,) that the "twenty-four elders and the four living creatures symbolize the church, or the collective body of the saints of God; and that as there are two grand divisions of the church, the larger one that of the departed in Paradise, and the other that militant on earth, the former is depicted by the twenty-four elders, and the latter by the living creatures;" Mr. Lord, (pp. 53, 54,) that the living creatures and the elders are both of one race: the former perhaps denoting those like Enoch and Elijah, who were translated, and those who were raised by the Saviour after his resurrection, or those who have been raised to special eminence—the latter the mass of the redeemed; Mr. Mede, that the living creatures are symbols of the church worshipping on earth; Mr. Daubuz, that they are symbols of the ministers of the church on earth; Vitringa, that they are symbols of eminent ministers and teachers in every age; Dr. Hammond regards him who sits on the throne as the metropolitan bishop of Judaea, the representative of God, the elders as diocesan bishops of Judaea, and the living creatures as four apostles, symbols of the saints who are to attend the Almighty as assessors in judgment! See Lord on the Apocalypse, pp. 58, 59.

Full of eyes. Denoting omniscience. The ancients fabled Argus as having one hundred eyes, or as having the power of seeing in any direction. The emblem here would denote an ever-watchful and observing Providence; and in accordance with the explanation proposed above, it means that, in the administration of the Divine government, everything is distinctly contemplated; nothing escapes observation; nothing can be concealed. It is obvious that the Divine government could not be administered unless this were so; and it is the perfection of the government of God that all things are seen just as they are. In the vision seen by Ezekiel, (Eze 1:18) the "rings" of the wheels on which the living creatures moved are represented as "full of eyes round about them," emblematic of the same thing. So Milton—

"As with stars their bodies all,
And wings were set with eyes; with eyes the wheels
Of beryl, and careening fires between."

Before. In front. As one looked on their faces, from whatever quarter the throne was approached, he could see a multitude of eyes looking upon him.

And behind. On the parts of their bodies which were under the throne. The meaning is, that there is universal vigilance in the government of God. Whatever is the form of the Divine administration; whatever part is contemplated; however it is manifested—whether as activity, energy, power, or intelligence—it is based on the fact that all things are seen from every direction. There is nothing that is the result of blind fate or of chance.

{d} "sea" Re 15:2

{e} "four beasts" Eze 1:5; 10:14


Verse 7. And the first beast was like a lion. A general description has been given, applicable to all, denoting that in whatever form the Divine government is administered, these things will be found; a particular description now follows, contemplating that government under particular aspects, as symbolized by the living beings on which the throne rests. The first is that of a lion. The lion is the monarch of the woods, the king of beasts, and he becomes thus the emblem of dominion, of authority, of government in general. Compare Ge 49:9; Am 3:8; Joe 3:16; Da 7:4.

As emblematic of the Divine administration, this would signify that He who sits on the throne is the ruler over all, and that his dominion is absolute and entire. It has been made a question whether the whole body had the form of a lion, or whether it had the appearance of a lion only as to its face or front part. It would seem probable that the latter only is intended, for it is expressly said of the "third beast" that it had "the face of a man," implying that it did not resemble a man in other respects; and it is probable that, as these living creatures were the supports of the throne, they had the same form in all other particulars except the front part. The writer has not informed us what was the appearance of these living creatures in other respects, but it is most natural to suppose that it was in the form of an ox, as being adapted to sustain a burden. It is hardly necessary to say that the thing supposed to be symbolical here in the government of God—his absolute rule—actually exists, or that it is important that this should be fairly exhibited to men.

And the second beast was like a calf. or, more properly, a young bullock, for so the word (moscov) means. The term is given by Herodotus (ii. 41; iii. 28) to the Egyptian god Apis, that is, a young bullock. Such an emblem, standing under a throne as one of its supports, would symbolize firmness, endurance, strength, (compare Pr 14:4) and, as used to represent qualities pertaining to him who sat on the throne, would denote stability, firmness, perseverance: qualities that are found abundantly in the Divine administration. There was clearly, in the apprehension of the ancients, some natural fitness or propriety in such an emblem. A young bullock was worshipped in Egypt as a god. Jeroboam set up two idols in the form of a calf, the one in Dan and the other in Bethel, 1 Ki 12:28-29. A similar object of worship was found in the Indian, Greek, and Scandinavian mythologies, and the image appears to have been adopted early and extensively to represent the divinity. A description of a calf-idol from the collection made by the artists of the French Institute at Cairo:

It is recumbent, with human eyes, the skin flesh-coloured, and the whole afterparts covered with a white and sky-blue drapery: the horns not on the head, but above it, and containing within them the symbolical globe surmounted by two feathers.

For some cause, the calf was regarded as an emblem of the divinity. It may illustrate this, also, to remark that among the sculptures found by Mr. Layard, in the ruins of Nineveh, were not a few winged bulls, some of them of large structure, and probably all of them emblematic. One of these was removed with great difficulty, to be deposited in the British Museum. See Mr. Layard's "Nineveh and its Remains," vol. 2 pp. 64—75. Such emblems were common in the East; and, being thus common, they would be readily understood in the time of John.

And the third beast had a face as a man. There is no intimation as to what was the form of the remaining portion of this living creature; but as the beasts were "in the midst of the throne," that is, under it as a support, it may be presumed that they had such a form as was adapted to that purpose—as supposed above, perhaps the form of an ox. To this living creature there was attached the head of a man, and that would be what would be particularly visible to one looking on the throne. The aspect of a man here would denote intelligence—for it is this which distinguishes man from the creation beneath him; and, if the explanation of the symbol above given be correct, then the meaning of this emblem is, that the operations of the government of God are conducted with intelligence and wisdom. That is, the Divine administration is not the result of blind fate or chance; it is founded on a clear knowledge of things, on what is best to be done, on what will most conduce to the common good. Of the truth of this there can be no doubt; and there was a propriety that in a vision designed to give to man a view of the government of the Almighty, this should be appropriately symbolized. It may illustrate this to observe, that in ancient sculptures it was common to unite the head of a man with the figure of an animal, as combining symbols. Among the most remarkable figures discovered by Mr. Layard, in the ruins of Nineveh, were winged, human-headed lions. These lions are thus described by Mr. Layard:—

They were about twelve feet in height, and the same number in length. The body and limbs were admirably portrayed; the muscles and bones, although strongly developed, to display the strength of the animal, showed, at the same time, a correct knowledge of its anatomy and form. Expanded wings sprung from the shoulder and spread over the back; a knotted girdle, ending in tassels, encircled the loins. These sculptures, forming an entrance, were partly in full, and partly in relief. The head and forepart, facing the chambers, were in full; but only one side of the rest of the slab was sculptured, the back being placed against the wall of sun-dried bricks.—Nineveh and its Remains, vol. i. p. 75.

The head, indicating intelligence, and the wings denoting rapidity. On the use of these figures, found in the ruins of Nineveh, Mr. Layard makes the following sensible remarks—remarks admirably illustrating the view which I take of the symbols before us:

I used to contemplate for hours these mysterious emblems, and muse over their intent and history. What more noble forms could have ushered the people into the temple of their gods? What more sublime images could have been borrowed from nature by men who sought, unaided by the light of revealed religion, to embody their conceptions of the wisdom, power, and ubiquity of a Supreme Being? They could find no better type of intellect and knowledge than the head of a man; of strength, than the body of the lion; of rapidity of motion, than the wings of a bird. These winged, human-headed lions were not idle creations, the offspring of mere fancy; their meaning was written upon them. They had awed and instructed races which flourished 3000 years ago. Through the portals which they guarded, kings, priests, and warriors had borne sacrifices to their altars, long before the wisdom of the East had penetrated into Greece, and had furnished its mythology with symbols long recognised by the Assyrian votaries.— Nineveh and its Remains, i. 75, 76.

And the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. All birds, indeed, fly; but the epithet flying is here employed to add intensity to the description. The eagle, is distinguished, among the feathered race, for the rapidity, the power, and the elevation of its flight. No other bird is supposed to fly so high; none ascends with so much power; none is so majestic and grand in his ascent towards the sun. That which would be properly symbolized by this would be the rapidity with which the commands of God are executed; or this characteristic of the Divine government, that the purposes of God are carried into prompt execution. There is, as it were, a vigorous, powerful, and rapid flight towards the accomplishment of the designs of God—as the eagle ascends unmolested towards the sun. Or, it may be that this symbolizes protecting care, or is an emblem of that protection which God, by his providence, extends over those who put their trust in him. Thus in Ex 19:4: "Ye have seen how I bare you on eagles' wings." Ps 17:8: "Hide me under the shadow of thy wings." Ps 63:7: "In the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice." De 32:11-12: "As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: so the Lord alone did lead him," etc. As in the case of the other living beings, so it is to be remarked of the fourth living creature also, that the form of the body is unknown. There is no impropriety in supposing that it is only its front aspect that John here speaks of, for that was sufficient for the symbol. The remaining portion "in the midst of the throne" may have corresponded with that of the other living beings, as being adapted to a support. In further illustration of this it may be remarked, that symbols of this description were common in the Oriental world. Figures in the human form, or in the form of animals, with the head of an eagle or a vulture, are found in the ruins of Nineveh, and were undoubtedly designed to be symbolic.

On the earliest Assyrian monuments," says Mr. Layard, (Nineveh and its Remains, ii. 348, 349,) one of the most prominent sacred types is the eagle-headed, or the vulture- headed, human figure. Not only is it found in colossal proportions on the walls, or guarding the portals of the chambers, but it is also constantly represented in the groups on the embroidered robes. When thus introduced, it is generally seen contending with other mythic animals—such as the human-headed lion or bull; and in these contests it is always the conqueror. It may hence be inferred that it was a type of the Supreme Deity, or of one of his principal attributes. A fragment of the Zoroastrian oracles, preserved by Eusebius, declares that "God is he that has the head of a hawk. He is the first, indestructible, eternal, unbegotten, indivisible, dissimilar; the dispenser of all good; incorruptible; the best of the good, the wisest of the wise; he is the father of equity and justice, self-taught, physical and perfect, and wise, and the only inventor of the sacred philosophy." Sometimes the head of this bird is added to the body of a lion. Under this form of the Egyptian hieraco-sphinx it is the conqueror in combats with other symbolical figures, and is frequently represented as striking down a gazelle or wild goat. It also clearly resembles the gryphon of the Greek mythology, avowedly an eastern symbol, and connected with Apollo, or with the sun, of which the Assyrian form was probably an emblem.

If these views of the meaning of these symbols are correct, then the idea which would be conveyed to the mind of John, and the idea, therefore, which should be conveyed to our minds, is, that the government of God is energetic, firm, intelligent, and that in the execution of its purposes it is rapid like the unobstructed flight of an eagle, or protective like the care of the eagle for its young. When, in the subsequent parts of the vision, these living creatures are represented as offering praise and adoration to Him that sits on the throne, (Re 4:8; 5:8,14) the meaning would be, in accordance with this representation, that all the acts of Divine government do, as if they were personified, unite in the praise which the redeemed and the angels ascribe to God. All living things, and all acts of the Almighty, conspire to proclaim his glory. The church, by her representatives, the "four and twenty elders," honours God; the angels, without number, unite in the praise; all creatures in heaven, in earth, under the earth, and in the sea, (Re 5:13) join in the song; and all the acts and ways of God declare also his majesty and glory: for around his throne, and beneath his throne, are expressive symbols of the firmness, energy, intelligence, and power with which his government is administered.


Verse 8. And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him. An emblem common to them all, denoting that, in reference to each and all the things here symbolized, there was one common characteristic —that in heaven there is the utmost promptness in executing the Divine commands. Compare Isa 6:2; Ps 18:10; 104:3; Jer 48:40.

No mention is made of the manner in which these wings were arranged, and conjecture in regard to that is vain. The Seraphim, as seen by Isaiah, had each one six wings, with two of which the face was covered, to denote profound reverence; with two the feet, or lower parts— emblematic of modesty; and with two they flew—emblematic of their celerity in executing the commands of God, Isa 6:2. Perhaps without impropriety we may suppose that, in regard to these living beings seen by John, two of the wings of each were employed, as in Isaiah, to cover the face—token of profound reverence; and that the remainder were employed in flight—denoting the rapidity with which the Divine commands are executed. Mercury, the messenger of Jupiter among the heathen, was represented with wings, and nothing is more common in the paintings and bas-reliefs of antiquity than such representations.

And they were full of eyes within. Professor Stuart more correctly renders this, "around and within are full of eyes;" connecting the word "around" ["about"], not with the wings, as in our version, but with the eyes. The meaning is, that the portions of the beasts that were visible from the outside of the throne, and the portions under or within the throne, were covered with eyes. The obvious design of this is to mark the universal vigilance of Divine Providence.

And they rest not. Marg., have no rest. That is, they are constantly employed; there is no intermission. The meaning, as above explained, is, that the works and ways of God are constantly bringing praise to him.

Day and night. Continually. They who are employed day and night fill up the whole time—for this is all.

Saying, Holy, holy, holy. For the meaning of this, See Barnes "Isa 6:3".

Lord God Almighty. Isaiah (Isa 6:3) expresses it, "Jehovah of hosts." The reference is to the true God, and the epithet Almighty is one that is often given him. It is peculiarly appropriate here, as there were to be, as the sequel shows, remarkable exhibitions of power in executing the purposes described in this book.

Which was, and is, and is to come. Who is eternal—existing in all past time; existing now; and to continue to exist for ever. See Barnes "Re 1:4".

{a} "six wings" isa 6:2

{1} "rest not" "have no rest"


Verse 9. And when those beasts give glory, etc. As often as those living beings ascribe glory to God. They did this continually, (Re 4:8) and, if the above explanation be correct, then the idea is, that the ways and acts of God in his providential government are continually of such a nature as to honour him.

{b} "who liveth" Re 5:14


Verse 10. The four and twenty elders fall down before him, etc. The representatives of the redeemed church in heaven (See Barnes "Re 4:4") also unite in the praise. The meaning, if the explanation of the symbol be correct, is, that the church universal unites in praise to God for all that characterizes his administration. In the connexion in which this stands here, the sense would be, that as often as there is any new manifestation of the principles of the Divine government, the church ascribes new praise to God. Whatever may be thought of this explanation of the meaning of the symbols, of the fact here stated there can, be no doubt. The church of God always rejoices when there is any new manifestation of the principles of the Divine administration. As all these acts, in reality, bring glory and honour to God, the church, as often as there is any new manifestation of the Divine character and purposes, renders praise anew. Nor can it be doubted that the view here taken is one that is every way appropriate to the general character of this book. The great design was to disclose what God was to do in future times, in the various revolutions that were to take place on the earth, until his government should be firmly established, and the principles of his administration should everywhere prevail; and there was a propriety, therefore, in describing the representatives of the church as taking part in this universal praise, and as casting every crown at the feet of Him who sits upon the throne.

And cast their crowns before the throne. They are described as "crowned," (Re 4:4) that is, as triumphant, and as kings, (compare Re 5:10) and they are here represented as casting their crowns at his feet in token that they owe their triumph to Him. To his providential dealings, to his wise and merciful government, they owe it that they are crowned at all; and there is, therefore, a propriety that they should acknowledge this in a proper manner by placing their crowns at his feet.

{c} "crowns" Re 4:4


Verse 11. Thou art worthy, Lord. In thy character, perfections, and government, there is that which makes it proper that universal praise should be rendered. The feeling of all true worshippers is, that God is worthy of the praise that is ascribed to him. No man worships him aright who does not feel that there is that in his nature and his doings which makes it proper that he should receive universal adoration.

To receive glory. To have praise or glory ascribed to thee.

And honour. To be honoured; that is, to be approached and adored as worthy of honour.

And power. To have power ascribed to thee, or to be regarded as having infinite power. Man can confer no power on God, but he may acknowledge that which he has, and adore him for its exertion in his behalf and in the government of the world.

For thou hast created all things. Thus laying the foundation for praise. No one can contemplate this vast and wonderful universe without seeing that He who has made it is worthy to "receive glory and honour and power." See Barnes "Job 38:7".

And for thy pleasure they are. They exist by thy will—dia to yelhma. The meaning is, that they owe their existence to the will of God, and therefore their creation lays the foundation for praise. He "spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast." He said, "Let there be light; and there was light." There is no other reason why the universe exists at all than that such was the will of God; there is nothing else that is to be adduced as explaining the fact that anything has now a being. The putting forth of that will explains all; and consequently whatever wisdom, power, goodness is manifested in the universe, is to be traced to God, and is the expression of what was in him from eternity. It is proper, then, to "look up through nature to nature's God," and wherever we see greatness or goodness in the works of creation to regard them as the faint expression of what exists essentially in the Creator.

And were created. Bringing more distinctly into notice the fact that they owe their existence to his will. They are not eternal; they are not self-existent; they were formed from nothing.

{d} "worthy" Re 5:12

{e} "power" Col 1:16




THIS chapter introduces the disclosure of future events. It is done in a manner eminently fitted to impress the mind with a sense of the importance of the revelations about to be made. The proper state of mind for appreciating this chapter is that when we look on the future and are sensible that important events are about to occur; when we feel that that future is wholly impenetrable to us; and when the efforts of the highest created minds fail to lift the mysterious veil which hides those events from our view. It is in accordance with our nature that the mind should be impressed with solemn awe under such circumstances; it is not a violation of the laws of our nature that one who had an earnest desire to penetrate that future, and who saw the volume before him which contained the mysterious revelation, and who yet felt that there was no one in heaven or earth who could break the seals, and disclose what was to come, should weep. Re 5:4. The design of the whole chapter is evidently to honour the Lamb of God, by showing that the power was entrusted to him which was confided to no one else in heaven or earth, of disclosing what is to come. Nothing else would better illustrate this than the fact that he alone could break the mysterious seals which barred out the knowledge of the future from all created eyes; and nothing would be better adapted to impress this on the mind than the representation in this chapter—the exhibition of a mysterious book in the hand of God; the proclamation of the angel, calling on any who could do it to open the book; the fact that no one in heaven or earth could do it; the tears shed by John when it was found that no one could do it; the assurance of one of the elders that the Lion of the tribe of Judah had power to do it; and the profound adoration of all in heaven and in earth and under the earth, in view of the power entrusted to him of breaking these mysterious seals.

The main points in the chapter are these:

(1.) Having in chapter 4 described God as sitting on a throne, John here (Re 5:1) represents himself as seeing in his right hand a mysterious volume; written all over on the inside and the outside, yet sealed with seven seals; a volume manifestly referring to the future, and containing important disclosures respecting coming events.

(2.) A mighty angel is introduced making a proclamation, and asking who is worthy to open that book, and to break those seals; evidently implying that none unless of exalted rank could do it, Re 5:2.

(3.) There is a pause: no one in heaven, or in earth, or under the earth, approaches to do it, or claims the right to do it, Re 5:3.

(4.) John, giving way to the expressions of natural emotion—indicative of the longing and intense desire in the human soul to be made acquainted with the secrets of the future—pours forth a flood of tears because no one is found who is worthy to open the seals of this mysterious book, or to read what was recorded there, Re 5:4.

(5.) In his state of suspense and of grief, one of the elders—the representatives of that church for whose benefit these revelations of the future were to be made (See Barnes "Re 4:4") — approaches him and says that there is one who is able to open the book; one who has the power to loose its seals, Re 5:5. This is the Messiah—the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David—coming now to make the disclosure for which the whole book was given, Re 1:1

(6.) Immediately the attention of John is attracted by the Messiah, appearing as a Lamb in the midst of the throne; with horns, the symbols of strength, and eyes, the symbols of all-pervading intelligence. He approaches and takes the book from the hand of Him that sits on the throne; symbolical of the fact that it is the province of the Messiah to make known to the church and the world the events which are to occur, Re 5:6,7. He appears here in a different form from that in which he manifested himself in chapter 1, for the purpose is different. There he appears clothed in majesty, to impress the mind with a sense of his essential glory. Here he appears in a form that recalls the memory of his sacrifice; to denote perhaps that it is in virtue of his atonement that the future is to be disclosed; and that therefore there is a special propriety that he should appear and do what no other one in heaven or earth could do.

(7.) The approach of the Messiah to unfold the mysteries in the book, the fact that he had "prevailed" to accomplish what there was so strong a desire should be accomplished, furnishes an occasion for exalted thanksgiving and praise, Re 5:8-10. This ascription of praise in heaven is instantly responded to, and echoed back, from all parts of the universe—all joining in acknowledging the Lamb as worthy of the exalted office to which he was raised, Re 5:11-13. The angels around the throne—amounting to thousands of myriads—unite with the living creatures and the elders; and to these are joined the voices of every creature in heaven, on the earth, under the earth, and in the sea, ascribing to Him that sits upon the throne and the Lamb universal praise.

(8.) To this loud ascription of praise from far-distant worlds the living creatures respond a hearty Amen, and the elders fall down and worship him that lives for ever and ever, Re 5:14. The universe is held in wondering expectation of the disclosures which are to be made, and from all parts of the universe there is an acknowledgment that the Lamb of God alone has the right to break the mysterious seals. The importance of the developments justifies the magnificence of this representation; and it would not be possible to imagine a more sublime introduction to these great events.

Verse 1. And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne. Of God, Re 4:3-4. His form is not described there, nor is there any intimation of it here except the mention of his "right hand." The book or roll seems to have been so held in his hand that John could see its shape, and see distinctly how it was written and sealed.

A book, biblion. This word is properly a diminutive of the word commonly rendered book, (biblov) and would strictly mean a small book, or a book of diminutive size—a tablet, or a letter.— Liddell and Scott, Lex. It is used, however, to denote a book of any size—a roll, scroll, or volume; and is thus used

(a) to denote the Pentateuch, or the Mosaic law, Heb 9:19; 10:7;

(b) the book of life, Re 17:8; 20:12; 21:27;

(c) epistles, which were also rolled up, Re 1:11;

(d) documents, as a bill of divorce, Mt 19:7; Mr 10:4. When it is the express design to speak of a small book, another word is used, (biblardion) Re 10:2,8-10.

The book or roll referred to here was that which contained the revelation in the subsequent chapters, to the end of the description of the opening of the seventh seal—for the communication that was to be made was all included in the seven seals; and to conceive of the size of the book, therefore, we are only to reflect on the amount of parchment that would naturally be written over by the communications here made. The form of the book was undoubtedly that of a scroll or roll; for that was the usual form of books among the ancients, and such a volume could be more easily sealed with a number of seals, in the manner here described, than a volume in the form in which books are made now. On the ancient form of books, See Barnes on "Lu 4:17".

Written within and on the back side. Gr., 'within and behind.' It was customary to write only on one side of the paper or vellum, for the sake of convenience in reading the volume as it was unrolled. If, as sometimes was the case, the book was in the same form as books are now—of leaves bound together—then it was usual to write on both sides of the leaf, as both sides of a page are printed now. But in the other form it was a very uncommon thing to write on both sides of the parchment, and was never done unless there was a scarcity of writing material; or unless there was an amount of matter beyond what was anticipated; or unless something had been omitted. It is not necessary to suppose that John saw both sides of the parchment as it was held in the hand of him that sat on the throne. That it was written on the back side he would naturally see, and, as the book was sealed he would infer that it was written in the usual manner on the inside.

Sealed with seven seals. On the ancient manner of sealing, See Barnes on "Mt 27:66, See Barnes "Job 38:14".

The fact that there were seven seals—an unusual number in fastening a volume—would naturally attract the attention of John, though it might not occur to him at once that there was anything significant in the number. It is not stated in what manner the seals were attached to the volume, but it is clear that they were so attached that each seal closed one part of the volume, and that when one was broken and the portion which that was designed to fasten was unrolled, a second would be come to, which it would be necessary to break in order to read the next portion. The outer seal would indeed bind the whole; but when that was broken it would not give access to the whole volume unless each successive seal were broken. May it not have been intended by this arrangement to suggest the idea that the whole future is unknown to us, and that the disclosure of any one portion, though necessary if the whole would be known, does not disclose all, but leaves seal after seal still unbroken, and that they are all to be broken one after another if we would know all? How these were arranged, John does not say. All that is necessary to be supposed is, that the seven seals were put successively upon the margin of the volume as it was rolled up, so that each opening would extend only as far as the next seal, when the unrolling would be arrested. Any one by rolling up a sheet of paper could so fasten it with pins, or with a succession of seals, as to represent this with sufficient accuracy.

{a} "book" Eze 2:9,10

{b} "sealed" Isa 29:11


Verse 2. And I saw a strong angel. An angel endowed with great strength, as if such strength was necessary to enable him to give utterance to the loud voice of the inquiry. "Homer represents his heralds as powerful, robust men, in order consistently to attribute to them deep-toned and powerful voices."—Professor Stuart. The inquiry to be made was one of vast importance; it was to be made of all in heaven, all on the earth, and all under the earth, and hence an angel is introduced so mighty that his voice could be heard in all those distant worlds.

Proclaiming with a loud voice. That is, as a herald or crier. He is rather introduced here as appointed to this office than as self-moved. The design undoubtedly is to impress the mind with a sense of the importance of the disclosures about to be made, and at the same time with a sense of the impossibility of penetrating the future by any created power. That one of the highest angels should make such a proclamation would sufficiently show its importance; that such an one, by the mere act of making such a proclamation, should practically confess his own inability, and consequently the inability of all of similar rank, to make the disclosures, would show that the revelations of the future were beyond mere created power.

Who is worthy to open the book, etc. That is, who is "worthy" in the sense of having a rank so exalted, and attributes so comprehensive, as to authorize and enable him to do it. In other words, who has the requisite endowments of all kinds to enable him to do it? It would require moral qualities of an exalted character to justify him in approaching the seat of the holy God to take the book from his hands; it would require an ability beyond that of any created being to penetrate the future, and disclose the meaning of the symbols which were employed. The fact that the book was held in the hand of him that was on the throne, and sealed in this manner, was in itself a sufficient proof that it was not his purpose to make the disclosure directly, and the natural inquiry arose whether there was any one in the wide universe who, by rank, or character, or office, would be empowered to open the mysterious volume.


Verse 3. And no man in heaven. No one—oudeiv. There is no limitation in the original to man. The idea is, that there was no one in heaven —evidently alluding to the created beings there—who could open the volume. Is it not taught here that angels cannot penetrate the future, and disclose what is to come? Are not their faculties limited in this respect like those of man?

Nor in earth. Among all classes of men—sages, divines, prophets, philosophers—who among those have ever been able to penetrate the future, and disclose what is to come?

Neither under the earth. These divisions compose, in common language, the universe: what is in heaven above; what is on the earth; and whatever there is under the earth—the abodes of the dead. May there not be an allusion here to the supposed science of necromancy, and an assertion that even the dead cannot penetrate the future, and disclose what is to come? See Barnes "Isa 8:19".

In all these great realms no one advanced who was qualified to undertake the office of making a disclosure of what the mysterious scroll might contain.

Was able to open the book. Had ability—hdunato—to do it. It was a task beyond their power. Even if any one had been found who had a rank and a moral character which might have seemed to justify the effort, there was no one who had the power of reading what was recorded respecting coming events.

Neither to look thereon. That is, so to open the seals as to have a view of what was written therein. That it was not beyond their power merely to see the book is apparent from the fact that John himself saw it in the hand of him that sat on the throne; and it is evident also (Re 5:5) that in that sense the elders saw it. But no one could prevail to inspect the contents, or so have access to the interior of the volume as to be able to see what "was written there. It could be seen, indeed, (Re 5:1) that it was written on both sides of the parchment, but what the writing was no one could know.


Verse 4. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy, etc. Gr., as in Re 5:3, no one. It would seem as if there was a pause to see if there were any response to the proclamation of the angel. There being none, John gave way to his deep emotions in a flood of tears. The tears of the apostle here may be regarded as an illustration of two things which are occurring constantly in the minds of men:

(1.) The strong desire to penetrate the future; to lift the mysterious veil which shrouds that which is to come; to find some way to pierce the dark wall which seems to stand up before us, and which shuts from our view that which is to be hereafter. There have been no more earnest efforts made by men than those which have been made to read the sealed volume which contains the record of what is yet to come. By dreams, and omens, and auguries, and astrology, and the flight of birds, and necromancy, men have sought anxiously to ascertain what is to be hereafter. Compare, for an expression of that intense desire, Foster's Life and Correspondence, vol. 1 p. 111, and vol. 2. pp. 237- 238.

(2.) The weeping of the apostle may be regarded as an instance of the deep grief which men often experience when all efforts to penetrate the future fail, and they feel that after all they are left completely in the dark. Often is the soul overpowered with grief, and often are the eyes filled with sadness at the reflection that there is an absolute limit to the human powers; that all that man can arrive at by his own efforts is uncertain conjecture, and that there is no way possible by which he can make nature speak out and disclose what is to come. Nowhere does man find himself more lettered and limited in his powers than here; nowhere does he feel that there is such an intense disproportion between his desires and his attainments. In nothing do we feel that we are more absolutely in need of Divine help than in our attempts to unveil the future; and were it not for revelation man might weep in despair.


Verse 5. And one of the elders saith unto me. See Barnes on "Re 4:4".

No particular reason is assigned why this message was delivered by one of the elders rather than by an angel. If the elders were, however, (See Barnes on "Re 4:4") the representatives of the church, there was a propriety that they should address John in his trouble. Though they were in heaven, they were deeply interested in all that pertained to the welfare of the church, and they had been permitted to understand what as yet was unknown to him, that the power of opening the mysterious volume which contained the revelation of the future was entrusted particularly to the Messiah. Having this knowledge, they were prepared to comfort him with the hope that what was so mysterious would be made known.

Weep not. That is, there is no occasion for tears. The object which you so much desire can be obtained. There is one who can break those seals, and who can unroll that volume and read what is recorded there.

Behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah. This undoubtedly refers to the Lord Jesus; and the points needful to be explained are, why he is called a Lion, and why he is spoken of as the Lion of the tribe of Judah.

(a) As to the first: This appellation is not elsewhere given to the Messiah, but it is not difficult to see its propriety as used in this place. The lion is the king of beasts, the monarch of the forest, and thus becomes an emblem of one of kingly authority and of power, (See Barnes on "Re 4:7") and as such the appellation is used in this place. It is because Christ has power to open the seals—as if he ruled over the universe, and all events were under his control, as the lion rules in the forest— that the name is here given to him.

(b) As to the other point: He is called the "Lion of the tribe of Judah," doubtless, with reference to the prophecy in Ge 9:9 —"Judah is a lion's whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion;" and from the fact that the Messiah was of the tribe of Judah. Compare Ge 49:10. This use of the term would connect him in the apprehension of John with the prophecy, and would suggest to him the idea of his being a ruler, or having dominion. As such, therefore, it would be appropriate that the power of breaking these seals should be committed to him.

The Root of David. Not the Root of David in the sense that David sprung from him as a tree does from a root, but in the sense that he himself was a "root-shoot" or sprout from David, and had sprung from him as a shoot or sprout springs up from a decayed and fallen tree. See Barnes on "Isa 11:1".

This expression would connect him directly with David, the great and glorious monarch of Israel, and as having a right to occupy his throne. As one thus ruling over the people of God, there was a propriety that to him should be entrusted the task of opening these seals.

Hath prevailed. That is, he has acquired this power as the result of a conflict or struggle. The word used here—enikhsen— refers to such a conflict or struggle, properly meaning to come off victor; to overcome; to conquer; to subdue: and the idea here is that his power to do this, or the reason why he does this, is the result of a conflict in which he was a victor. As the series of events to be disclosed, resulting in the final triumph of religion, was the effect of his conflicts with the powers of evil, there was a special propriety that the disclosure should be made by him. The truths taught in this verse are,

(l) that the power of making disclosures in regard to the future is entrusted to the Messiah; and

(2) that this, so far as he is concerned, is the result of a conflict or struggle on his part.

{a} "Lion" Ge 49:9,10; Nu 24:9; Heb 7:14

{b} "Root" Re 22:16; Isa 11:1,10


Verse 6. And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne. We are not to suppose that he was in the centre of the throne itself, but he was a conspicuous object when the throne and the elders and the living beings were seen. He was so placed as to seem to be in the midst of the group made up of the throne, the living beings, and the elders.

And of the four beasts. See Barnes on "Re 4:6".

Stood a Lamb. An appellation often given to the Messiah, for two reasons:

(1) because the lamb was an emblem of innocence; and

(2) because a lamb was offered commonly in sacrifice. See Barnes "Joh 1:29".

As it had been slain. That is, in some way having the appearance of having been slain; having some marks or indications about it that it had been slain. What those were the writer does not specify. If it were covered with blood, or there were marks of mortal wounds, it would be all that the representation demands. The great work which the Redeemer performed—that of making an atonement for sin—was thus represented to John in such a way that he at once recognised him, and saw the reason why the office of breaking the seals was entrusted to him. It should be remarked that this representation is merely symbolic, and we are not to suppose that the Redeemer really assumed this form, or that he appears in this form in heaven. We should no more suppose that the Redeemer appears literally as a lamb in heaven with numerous eyes and horns, than that there is a literal throne and a sea of glass there; that there are "seats" there, and "elders," and "crowns of gold."

Having seven horns. Emblems of authority and power—for the horn is a symbol of power and dominion. Compare De 33:17; 1 Ki 22:11; Jer 48:25; Zec 1:18; Da 7:24.

The propriety of this symbol is laid in the fact that the strength of an animal is in the horn, and that it is by this that he obtains a victory over other animals. The number seven here seems to be designed, as in other places, to denote completeness. See Barnes "Re 1:4".

The meaning is, that he had so large a number as to denote complete dominion.

And seven eyes. Symbols of intelligence. The number seven here also denotes completeness; and the idea is, that he is able to survey all things. John does not say anything as to the relative arrangement of the horns and eyes on the "Lamb," and it is vain to attempt to conjecture how it was. The whole representation is symbolical, and we may understand the meaning of the symbol without being able to form an exact conception of the figure as it appeared to him.

Which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. See Barnes "Re 1:4".

That is, which represent the seven Spirits of God; or the manifold operations of the one Divine Spirit. As the eye is the symbol of intelligence—outward objects being made visible to us by that—so it may well represent an all-pervading spirit that surveys and sees all things. The eye, in this view, among the Egyptians was an emblem of the Deity. By the "Seven Spirits" here the same thing is doubtless intended as in Re 1:4; and if, as there supposed, the reference is to the Holy Spirit considered with respect to his manifold operations, the meaning here is, that the operations of that Spirit are to be regarded as connected with the work of the Redeemer. Thus, all the operations of the Spirit are connected with, and are a part of, the work of redemption. The expression "sent forth into all the earth," refers to the fact that that Spirit pervades all things. The Spirit of God is often represented as sent or poured out; and the meaning here is, that his operations are as if he was sent out to survey all things and to operate everywhere. Compare 1 Co 12:6-11.

{a} "Lamb" Isa 53:7; Joh 1:29,36

{b} "seven eyes" Zec 4:10


Verse 7. And he came and took the book out of the right hand, etc. As if it pertained to him by virtue of rank or office. There is a difficulty here, arising from the incongruity of what is said of a lamb, which it is not easy to solve. The difficulty is in conceiving how a lamb could take the book from the hand of Him who held it. To meet this several solutions have been proposed.

(1.) Vitringa supposes that the Messiah appeared as a lamb only in some such sense as the four living beings (Re 4:7) resembled a lion, a calf, and an eagle; that is, that they bore this resemblance only in respect to the head, while the body was that of a man. He thus supposes, that though in respect to the upper part the Saviour resembled a lamb, yet that to the front part of the body hands were attached by which he could take the book. But there are great difficulties in this supposition. Besides that nothing of this kind is intimated by John, it is contrary to every appearance of probability that the Redeemer would be represented as a monster. In his being represented as a lamb there is nothing that strikes the mind as inappropriate or unpleasant, for he is often spoken of in this manner, and the image is one that is agreeable to the mind. But all this beauty and fitness of representation is destroyed, if we think of him as having human hands proceeding from his breast or sides, or as blending the form of a man and an animal together. The representation of having an unusual number of horns and eyes does not strike us as being incongruous in the same sense; for though the number is increased, they are such as pertain properly to the animal to which they are attached.

(2.) Another supposition is that suggested by Professor Stuart, that the form was changed, and a human form resumed when the Saviour advanced to take the book and open it. This would relieve the whole difficulty, and the only objection to it is, that John has not given any express notice of such a change in the form; and the only question can be whether it is right to suppose it in order to meet the difficulty in the case. In support of this it is said that all is symbol; that the Saviour is represented in the book in various forms; that as his appearing as a lamb was designed to represent in a striking manner the fact that he was slain, and that all that he did was based on the atonement, so there would be no impropriety in supposing that when an action was attributed to him he assumed the form in which that act would be naturally or is usually done. And as in taking a book from the hand of another it is wholly incongruous to think of its being done by a lamb, is it not most natural to suppose that the usual form in which the Saviour is represented as appearing would be resumed, and that he would appear again as a man?—But is it absolutely certain that he appeared in the form of a lamb at all? May not all that is meant be, that John saw him near the throne, and among the elders, and was struck at once with his appearance of meekness and innocence, and with the marks of his having been slain as a sacrifice, and spoke of him in strong figurative language as a lamb? And where his "seven horns" and "seven eyes" are spoken of, is it necessary to suppose that there was any real assumption of such horns and eyes? May not all that is meant be that John was struck with that in the appearance of the Redeemer of which these would be the appropriate symbols, and described him as if these had been visible? When John the Baptist saw the Lord Jesus on the banks of the Jordan, and said, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world," (Joh 1:29) is it necessary to suppose that he actually appeared in the form of a lamb? Do not all at once understand him as referring to traits in his character, and to the work which he was to accomplish, which made it proper to speak of him as a lamb? And why, therefore, may we not suppose that John in the Apocalypse designed to use language in the same way, and that he did not intend to present so incongruous a description as that of a lamb approaching a throne and taking a book from the hand of Him that sat on it, and a lamb too with many horns and eyes? If this supposition is correct, then all that is meant in this passage would be expressed in some such language as the following: "And I looked, and lo there was one in the midst of the space occupied by the throne, by the living creatures, and by the elders, who, in aspect, and in the emblems that represented his work on the earth, was spotless, meek, and innocent as a lamb; one with marks on his person which brought to remembrance the fact that he had been slain for the sins of the world, and yet one who had most striking symbols of power and intelligence, and who was therefore worthy to approach and take the book from the hand of Him that sat on the throne." It may do something to confirm this view to recollect that when we use the term "Lamb of God" now, as is often done in preaching and in prayer, it never suggests to the mind the idea of a lamb. We think of the Redeemer as resembling a lamb in his moral attributes and in his sacrifice, but never as to form. This supposition relieves the passage of all that is incongruous and unpleasant, and may be all that John meant.


Verse 8. And when he had taken the book, the four beasts, etc. The acts of adoration here described as rendered by the four living creatures and the elders are, according to the explanation given in Re 4:4-7, emblematic of the honour done to the Redeemer by the church, and by the course of providential events in the government of the world,

Fell down before the Lamb. The usual posture of profound worship. Usually in such worship there was entire prostration on the earth, See Barnes "Mt 2:2" See Barnes "1 Co 14:25".

Having every one of them harps. That is, as the construction, and the propriety of the case would seem to demand, the elders had each one of them harps. The whole prostrated themselves with profound reverence; the elders had harps and censers, and broke out into a song of praise for redemption, This construction is demanded, because

(a) the Greek word—econtev—more properly agrees with the word elders—presbuteroi—and not with the word beasts—zwa;

(b) there is an incongruity in the representation that the living creatures—in the form of a lion, a calf, an eagle, should have harps and censers; and

(c) the song of praise that is sung (Re 5:9) is one that properly applies to the elders as the representatives of the church, and not to the living creatures— "Thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood." The harp was a well known instrument used in the service of God, Josephus describes it as having ten strings, and as struck with a key. —Antiquities, vii. 12, 3. See Barnes "Isa 5:12".

And golden vials. The word vial with us, denoting a small slender bottle with a narrow neck, evidently does not express the idea here. The article here referred to was used for offering incense, and must have been a vessel with a large open mouth. The word bowl or goblet would better express the idea, and it is so explained by Professor Robinson, Lex., and by Professor Stuart, in loc. The Greek word—fialh— occurs in the New Testament only in Revelation, (Re 5:8; 15:7; 16:1-4,8,10,12,17; 17:1; 21:9) and is uniformly rendered vial and vials, though the idea is always that of a bowl or goblet.

Full of odours. Or rather, as in the margin, full of incenseyumiamatwn. See Barnes "Lu 1:9".

Which are the prayers of saints. Which represent or denote the prayers of saints. Compare Ps 141:2, "Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense." The meaning is, that incense was a proper emblem of prayer. This seems to have been in two respects:

(a) as being acceptable to God—as incense produced an agreeable fragrance; and

(b) in its being wafted towards heaven—ascending towards the eternal throne. In Re 8:3, an angel is represented as having a golden censer: "And there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne". The representation there undoubtedly is, that the angel is employed in presenting the prayers of the saints which were offered on earth before the throne. See Barnes "Re 8:3".

It is most natural to interpret the passage before us in the same way. The allusion is clearly to the temple service, and to the fact that incense was offered by the priest in the temple itself at the time that prayer was offered by the people in the courts of the temple. See Lu 1:9-10. The idea here is, therefore, that the representatives of the church in heaven— the elders—spoken of as "priests," (Re 5:10) are described as officiating in the temple above in behalf of the church still below, and as offering incense while the church is engaged in prayer. It is not said that they offer the prayers themselves, but that they offer incense as representing the prayers of the saints. If this be the correct interpretation, as it seems to be the obvious one, then the passage lays no foundation for the opinion expressed by Professor Stuart, as derived from this passage, (in loc.,) that prayer is offered by the redeemed in heaven. Whatever may be the truth on that point—on which the Bible seems to be silent-it will find no support from the passage before us. Adoration, praise, thanksgiving, are represented as the employment of the saints in heaven: the only representation respecting prayer as pertaining to that world is, that there are emblems there which symbolize its ascent before the throne, and which show that it is acceptable to God. It is an interesting and beautiful representation that there are in heaven appropriate symbols of ascending prayer, and that while in the outer courts here below we offer prayer, incense, emblematic of it, ascends in the holy of holies above. The impression which this should leave on our minds ought to be, that our prayers are wafted before the throne, and are acceptable to God.

{c} "four beasts" Re 4:4,8,10

{d} "harps" Re 15:2

{a} "prayers" Ps 141:2

{1} "odours" "incense"


Verse 9. And they sung a new song. Compare Re 14:3. New in the sense that it is a song consequent on redemption, and distinguished therefore from the songs sung in heaven before the work of redemption was consummated. We may suppose that songs of adoration have always been sung in heaven; we know that the praises of God were celebrated by the angelic choirs when the foundations of the earth were laid, (Job 38:7) but the song of redemption was a different song, and is one that would never have been sung there if man had not fallen, and if the Redeemer had not died. This song strikes notes which the other songs do not strike, and refers to glories of the Divine character which but for the work of redemption would not have been brought into view. In this sense the song was new; it will continue to be new in the sense that it will be sung afresh as redeemed millions continue to ascend to heaven. Compare Ps 40:3; 96:1; 144:9; Isa 42:10.

Thou art worthy to take the book, etc. This was the occasion or ground of the "new song," that by his coming and death he had acquired a right to approach where no other one could approach, and to do what no other one could do.

For thou wast slain. The language here is such as would be appropriate to a lamb slain as a sacrifice. The idea is, that the fact that he was thus slain constituted the ground of his worthiness to open the book. It could not be meant that there was in him no other ground of worthiness, but that this was that which was most conspicuous. It is just the outburst of the grateful feeling resulting from redemption, that he who has died to save the soul is worthy of all honour, and is fitted to accomplish what no other being in the universe can do. However this may appear to the inhabitants of other worlds, or however it may appear to the dwellers on the earth who have no interest in the work of redemption, yet all who are redeemed will agree in the sentiment that He who has ransomed them with his blood has performed a work to do which every other being was incompetent, and that now all honour in heaven and on earth may appropriately be conferred on him.

And hast redeemed us. The word here used—agorazw—means properly to purchase, to buy; and is thus employed to denote redemption, because redemption was accomplished by the payment of a price. On the meaning of the word, See Barnes "2 Pe 2:1".

To God. That is, so that we become his, and are to be henceforward regarded as such; or so that he might possess us as his own. See Barnes on "2 Co 5:15".

This is the true nature of redemption, that by the price paid we are rescued from the servitude of Satan, and are henceforth to regard ourselves as belonging unto God.

By thy blood. See Barnes on "Ac 20:28".

This is such language as they use who believe in the doctrine of the atonement, and is such as would be used by them alone. It would not be employed by those who believe that Christ was a mere martyr, or that he lived and died merely as a teacher of morality. If he was truly an stoning sacrifice, the language is full of meaning; if not, it has no significance, and could not be understood.

Out of every kindred. Literally, "of every tribe"—fulhv. The word tribe means properly a comparatively small division or class of people associated together.—Professor Stuart. It refers to a family, or race, having a common ancestor, and usually associated or banded together—as one of the tribes of Israel; a tribe of Indians; a tribe of plants; a tribe of animals, etc. This is such language as a Jew would use, denoting one of the smaller divisions that made up a nation of people; and the meaning would seem to be, that it will be found ultimately to be true that the redeemed will have been taken from all such minor divisions of the human family—not only from the different nations, but from the smaller divisions of those nations. This can only be true from the fact that the knowledge of the true religion will yet be diffused among all those smaller portions of the human race; that is, that its diffusion will be universal.

And tongue. People speaking all languages. The word here used would seem to denote a division of the human family larger than a tribe but smaller than a nation. It was formerly a fact that a nation might be made up of those who spoke many different languages—as, for example, the Assyrian, the Babylonian, or the Roman nations. Compare Da 3:29; 4:1. The meaning here is, that no matter what language the component parts of the nations speak, the gospel will be conveyed to them, and in their own tongue they will learn the wonderful works of God. Compare Ac 2:8-11.

And people. The word here used—laov—properly denotes a people considered as a mass, made up of smaller divisions—as an association of smaller bodies—or as a multitude of such bodies united together. It is distinguished from another word commonly applied to a people—dhmov—for that is applied to a community of free citizens, considered as on a level, or without reference to any minor divisions or distinctions. The words here used would apply to an army, considered as made up of regiments, battalions, or tribes; to a mass-meeting, made up of societies of different trades or professions; to a nation, made up of different associated communities, etc. It denotes a larger body of people than the previous words; and the idea is, that no matter of what people or nation, considered as made up of such separate portions, one may be, he will not be excluded from the blessings of redemption. The sense would be well expressed by saying, for instance, that there will be found there those of the Gaelic race, the Celtic, the Anglo-Saxon, the Mongolian, the African, etc.

And nation. eynouv. A word of still larger signification; the people in a still wider sense; a people or nation considered as distinct from all others. The word would embrace all who come under one sovereignty or rule: as, for example, the British nation, however many minor tribes there may be; however many different languages may be spoken; and however many separate people there may be—as the Anglo-Saxon, the Scottish, the Irish, the people of Hindustan, of Labrador, of New South Wales, etc. The words here used by John would together denote nations of every kind, great and small; and the sense is, that the blessings of redemption will be extended to all parts of the earth.

{b} "new song" Re 13:3

{c} "blood" Ac 20:28; Eph 1:7; Heb 9:12; 1 Pe 1:18,19


Verse 10. And hast made us unto our God kings and priests. See Barnes on "Re 1:6".

And we shall reign on the earth. The redeemed, of whom we are the representatives. The idea clearly is, in accordance with what is so frequently said in the Scriptures, that the dominion on the earth will be given to the saints; that is, that there will be such a prevalence of true religion, and the redeemed will be so much in the ascendency, that the affairs of the nations will be in their hands. Righteous men will hold the offices; will fill places of trust and responsibility; will have a controlling voice in all that pertains to human affairs. See Barnes on "Da 7:27" See Barnes "Re 20:1, seq. To such a prevalence of religion all things are tending; and to is this, in all the disorder and sin which now exist, are we permitted to look forward. It not said that this will be a reign under the Saviour in a literal kingdom on the earth; nor is it said that the saints will descend from heaven, and occupy thrones of power under Christ as a visible king. The simple affirmation is, that they will reign on the earth; and as this seems to be spoken in the name of the redeemed, all that is necessary to be understood is, that there will be such a prevalence of true religion on the earth that it will become a vast kingdom of holiness, and that, instead of being in the minority, the saints will everywhere have the ascendency.

{e} "kings" re 1:6 {f} "reign" Re 22:5


Verse 11. And I beheld. And I looked again.

And I heard the voice of many angels. The inhabitants of heaven uniting with the representatives of the redeemed church, in ascribing honour to the Lamb of God. The design is to show that there is universal sympathy and harmony in heaven, and that all worlds will unite in ascribing honour to the Lamb of God.

Round about the throne and the beasts and the elders. In a circle or area beyond that which was occupied by the throne, the living creatures, and the elders. They occupied the centre as it appeared to John, and this innumerable company of angels surrounded them. The angels are represented here, as they are everywhere in the Scriptures, as taking a deep interest in all that pertains to the redemption of men, and it is not surprising that they are here described as uniting with the representatives of the church in rendering honour to the Lamb of God. See Barnes "1 Pe 1:12".

And the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand. One hundred millions—a general term to denote either a countless number, or an exceedingly great number. We are not to suppose that it is to be taken literally.

And thousands of thousands. Implying that the number before specified was not large enough to comprehend all. Besides the "ten thousand times ten thousand," there was a vast, uncounted host which one could not attempt to enumerate. The language here would seem to be taken from Da 7:10: "Thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him." Compare Ps 68:17: "The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels." See also De 33:2; 1 Ki 22:19.

{a} "number" Da 7:10; Heb 12:22


Verse 12. Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain. See Barnes on "Re 5:2, See Barnes "Re 2:9".

The idea here is, that the fact that he was slain, or was made a sacrifice for sin, was the ground or reason for what is here ascribed to him. See Barnes "Re 5:5"

To receive power. Power or authority to rule over all things. See Barnes on "Mt 28:18".

The meaning here is, that he was worthy treat these things should be ascribed to him, or to be addressed and acknowledged as possessing them. A part of these things were his in virtue of his very nature—as wisdom, glory, riches; a part were conferred on him as the result of his work—as the mediatorial dominion over the universe, the honour resulting from his work, etc. In view of all that he was, and of all that he has done, he is here spoken of as "worthy" of all these things.

And riches. Abundance. That is, he is worthy that whatever contributes to honour, and glory, and happiness, should be conferred on him in abundance. Himself the original proprietor of all things, it is fit that he should be recognised as such; and having performed the work which he has, it is proper that whatever may be made to contribute to his honour should be regarded as his.

And wisdom. That he should be esteemed as eminently wise; that is, that as the result of the work which he has accomplished, he should be regarded as having ability to choose the best ends, and the best means to accomplish them. The feeling here referred to is that which arises from the contemplation of the work of salvation by the Redeemer, as a work eminently characterized by wisdom—wisdom manifested in meeting the evils of the fall; in honouring the law; in showing that mercy is consistent with justice; and in adapting the whole plan to the character and wants of man. If wisdom was anywhere demanded, it was in reconciling a lost world to God; if it has been anywhere displayed, it has been in the arrangements for that work, and in its execution by the Redeemer. See Barnes on "1 Co 1:24" compare Mt 13:54 Lu 2:40,52 1 Co 1:20-21,30; Eph 1:8; 3:10.

And strength. Ability to accomplish his purposes. That is, it is meet that he should be regarded as having such ability. This strength or power was manifested in overcoming the great enemy of man; in his control of winds, and storms, and diseases, and devils; in triumphing over death; in saving his people.

And honour. He should be esteemed and treated with honour for what he has done.

And glory. This word refers to a higher ascription of praise than the word honour. Perhaps that might refer to the honour which we feel in our hearts; this to the expression of that by the language of praise.

And blessing. Everything which would express the desire that he might be happy, honoured, adored. To bless one is to desire that he may have happiness and prosperity; that he may be successful, respected, and honoured. To bless God, or to ascribe blessing to him, is that state where the heart is full of love and gratitude, and where it desires that he may be everywhere honoured, loved, and obeyed as he should be. The words here express the wish that the universe would ascribe to the Redeemer all honour, and that he might be everywhere loved and adored.

{b} "worthy" Re 4:11


Verse 13. And every creature which is in heaven. The meaning of this verse is, that all created things seemed to unite in rendering honour to Him who sat on the throne and to the Lamb. In the previous verse, a certain number—a vast host—of angels are designated as rendering praise as they stood round the area occupied by the throne, the elders, and the living creatures; here it is added that all who were in heaven united in this ascription of praise.

And on the earth. All the universe was heard by John ascribing praise to God. A voice was heard from the heavens, from all parts of the earth, from under the earth, and from the depths of the sea, as if the entire universe joined in the adoration. It is not necessary to press the language literally, and still less is it necessary to understand by it, as Professor Stuart does, that the angels who presided over the earth, over the under-world, and over the sea, are intended. It is evidently popular language; and the sense is, that John heard a universal ascription of praise. All worlds seemed to join in it; all the dwellers on the earth and under the earth and in the sea partook of the spirit of heaven in rendering honour to the Redeemer.

Under the earth. Supposed to be inhabited by the shades of the dead. See Barnes on "Job 10:21"

See Barnes "Job 10-22" See Barnes "Isa 14:9".

And such as are in the sea. All that dwell in the ocean. In Ps 148:7-10, "dragons, and all deeps;—beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl," are called on to praise the Lord; and there is no more incongruity or impropriety in one description than in the other. In the Psalm, the universe is called on to render praise; in the passage before us it is described as actually doing it. The hills, the streams, the floods; the fowls of the air, the dwellers in the deep, and the beasts that roam over the earth; the songsters in the grove, and the insects that play in the sunbeam, in fact declare the glory of their Creator; and it requires no very strong effort of the fancy to imagine the universe as sending up a constant voice of thanksgiving.

Blessing, and honour, etc. There is a slight change here from Re 5:12, but it is the same thing substantially. It is an ascription of all glory to God and to the Lamb.

{c} "creature" Php 2:10

{d} "Blessing" 1 Ch 29:11; 1 Ti 6:16; 1 Pe 4:11


Verse 14. And the four beasts said, Amen. The voice of universal praise came to them from abroad, and they accorded with it, and ascribed honour to God.

And the four and twenty elders fell down, etc. The living creatures and the elders began the work of praise, (Re 5:8) and it was proper that it should conclude with them; that is, they give the last and final response.—Professor Stuart. The whole universe, therefore, is sublimely represented as in a state of profound adoration, waiting for the developments to follow on the opening of the mysterious volume. All feel an interest in it; all feel that the secret is with God; all feel that there is but One who can open this volume; and all gather around, in the most reverential posture, awaiting the disclosure of the great mystery.

{e} "four beasts" Re 19:4

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