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usual attendants of the Deity; they have no other attribute or character of those heavenly inhabitants, than that of heavenly ministration. These are not, then, “ the innumerable company of angels,” described by the Apostle to the Hebrews, (ch. xii.) which sacred writer, if Saint Paul, (as is probable,) had been admitted to the heavenly scene*. No; this “ innumerable com“pany of angels” is added to the scenery, in the next chapter t; nor can we with greater probability suppose them to represent that, which immediately follows in the same description, “ the general assembly and “ Church of the first-born which are written in heaven;" because, by comparing this part of the vision with that which follows in ch. xiv. 1, we shall plainly discover, that the twenty-four elders, although they may represent a part of Christ's Church, redeemed from earth, and seated in heaven, do not represent “ the general assembly,” or whole body. For, the Lamb, the Redeemer, when he appears on Mount Sion, is attended by an hundred and forty-four thousand; who are expressly said to be “the redeemed from amongst men I.” And these are distinct from the Elders : for they “sing " a new song before the throne, and before the living “ creatures, and before the Elders.” And these are also said to be “ a first fruit to God and to the Lamb,” (ver. 4.) and to have “the name of the Lamb and of “ his father written on their foreheads;" (ver. 1.) which description agrees so exactly with that of” the general assembly and Church of the FIRST-BORN (wpcTalouw) which are WRITTEN in heaven,” that we must necessarily account them as such, and therefore look for another body, with whose description the twentyfour Elders may agree. Such another body is dis* 2 Cor. xii, 1–5. + See ver. ll.
Cb. xiv. 4.
closed * Jobu viii. 56.
closed in the very same passage of the Apostle to the Hebrews; for, in his description of the inhabitants of heaven, having mentioned, 1st, this general assembly of Christ's Church, 2dly, “ God, the Judge of all,” he adds, 3dly, “the spirits of just men made perfect:"" which is indeed a very general expression, and, as such, if occurring in any other place, might be understood to comprehend the whole of the Christian Church, perfected in heaven. But as in this passage of the Epistle to the Hebrews, there is an evident distinction between “ the spirits of just men made perfect,” and " the general assembly of the Church ;” and as the same distinction is to be observed, in this passage of the Apocalypse, between the company of " the redeemed “ from amongst men,” and the twenty-four elders; so we seem authorised to look for another explanation ; for one which may bring together the two remaining unexplained descriptions, those of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and of the Apocalypse. We have already shewn that the twenty-four elders are not of the angelic nature ; and it will be easily supposed from whąt has already appeared, that they are “just men "made perfect.” Bụt of what period and description? To answer this question, let it be observed, that the point of time when this vision opens, and the twenty-four elders appear, is antecedent to the coming of Christ in the flesh. The great mystery of redemption by his blood, as of a Lamb without spot, is represented, upon the same scene, in the ensuing chapter. Yet, before these times of the Gospel, numbers of “ just men” had lived; some of whom, as our Lord tells us of Abraham, saw the day of redemption, and rejoiced * These Patriarchs and Prophets of the old
Church are expressly called Tiger Bulegos, Elders, by the Apostle *; and they seem in this vision to be represented by the body of twenty-four. This is that part of the Christian Church (for all are redeemed through Christ) which, having already “fought its good fight” on earth, appears triumphant in heaven ; and seems properly distinguished from the part which still remains upon earth, whose future conflicts with Satan and Antichrist are described in the succeeding visions. They are called Elders, because such, with the Jews, was the title given to eminent men selected to be their rulers. Such, among other ancient nations, also, were the Patres of the Romans, and the reprole of the Carthaginians f. Tliey who have the experience of age, are the fittest to direct; especially in those times and nations where little attention has been given to education. Such, among the Gothic nations of Europe, were the Earls, or Elders (as the word imports), and whence is derived our Elderman, or Alderman. Among the Jews, a selection of such a body was first made by advice of Jethro f, and afterwards by Divine appointment g. These were seventy in number. Such was the grand superior council, called the Sanhedrim, which was always permitted to form a court, and to transact business, if twenty-three of its members should be present. And beside this supreme council, there was in Jerusalem, and in every considerable city, another court of elders, twenty-three in number, who exercised criminal jurisdiction ||. This body would have been more complete in number, if it had been composed of
* Heb. xi. 2.
+ Polybius, lib. x. p. 591. | Exod. xviii.
Numb. xi. 1. Maimonides, in Sanhed. Per. 1, 2, 3. Spencer, de Leg. Heb. Lewis, Orig. Heb. lib. i. c. 6.
twenty-four members, like the priests of the courses, two for each tribe, (1 Chron. xxiv.) but an unequal number was preferred, in order that upon a division on any vote or sentence, there might be a decisive majority. Either of these courts, the greater when reduced to twenty-three, or the less when full, resembles the session of these twenty-four elders in heaven ; who, being now “made perfect," and placed beyond the reach of error in judgment, are represented as complete in their number, because unanimous in their decisions. In Isaiah xxiv. 23, the Supreme Lord is described as “ reigning before his Elders (Tape o bulegav) gloriously." Thus does he also appear in this passage of the Apocalypse. More observations on this body, will occur in the note below, ver. 6.
Ib. White raiment.] Such is the array of those, who, through faith, and the power of the Redeemer, are described as having overcome the enemies of their salvation, washing their garments white in the blood of the Lamb *. This confirms us in the notion that these Elders are of " the redeemed from the earth.”
Ib. Crowns of Gold.] See note, chap. ii. 10. Such are promised to the faithful throughout the Gospel. They shall reign with Christ t; they shall receive “a “crown of righteousness, of life, of glory t." This is another confirmation that the Elders are of the redeemed from earth.
Ib. Lightnings, and thunderings, and voices.] With such terrific pomp the majesty of God appeared at Mount Sinai, and is thus represented frequently in the Book of Psalms.
* Ch. iii. 4, 5. vii. 9, 14. xix. 8, 14. + 1 Cor. ix. 25. 2 Tim. ii. 12. 1 2 Tim. iv. 8. James i. 12. 1 Pet. v. 4.
Ib. Seven lamps of fire.] These are not auxviai, as in chap. i. 12, but lapides : not the receptacles of the lights, but the lights themselves. We have the same imagery in Zech. iv. 1, 7, 10; on which the Angel observes, by way of explanation; "Not by might, por “ by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts.” Therefore, under this symbol was represented the Holy Spirit of God. This agrees perfectly with the representation before us, which will receive additional con. firmation by recurring to chap. i. 4, and the note thereon; where the seven Spirits before the throne, appear evidently to represent the Third Person in the Holy Trinity.
Ib. A Sea, glassy.] The clearness and purity of water is expressed by the same image in the classical writers;
One of the sacred vessels in the ancient Temple was called the Sea. It was a large receptacle of water, thirty cubits in circumference, supported by twelve images of oxen *; and it was used for the purification of the priests. The Sea before the throne in heaven may be supposed to have a similar use and efficacy under the new covenant. Upon our Lord's coming, (as foretold by the Prophet Malachi t) he was “ to purify the sons “of Levi;” to prepare, for them and for his “ peculiar “people $,” the means of a more perfect purification, But what does this appear to be, by the whole tenour of
* 1 Kings vii. 2 Chron. iv. Joseph. Antiq. viii. iji, 6, 8. † Ch. iii. 3.
Țit. ji. 14,