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the present state of the seven Churches, as discovered by their all-seeing Lord, is now completed; and we enter upon the second, which contains the disclosure of events which were then to come. Accordingly it is a new vision which is now presented; and the words “ immediately I was in the spirit,” shew it to be such; for they needed not to have been repeated from chap. i. 10, if it had been otherwise.
Ib. In the heaven.] The same kind of opening in the heaven, is described by other Prophets, who were favoured with such visions *. This opening of the heaven was previous to Saint John's ascent thither, and seems to have been seen by him, before he was carried in the Spirit to become a spectator of the sublime scene which he is going to describe.
Ver. 2. I was in the Spirit.] The celerity with which the Apostle, rapt in the Spirit, is presented before the scenery in heaven, is sublime. It is like that alluded to by Saint Paul, who knew not whether he was bodily or only spiritually present t. It is not like the fabled ascent of Mahomet, on the beast Alborak I.
Ib. A throne.] This representation has a near resemblance to what it pleased the Holy Spirit to display, at other times, of the majesty of Jehovah 5. The ineffable presence of God, as Bishop Lowth remarks ll, can only be represented by sensible and earthly images. Here is displayed the utmost magnificence of eastern state.
Ib. Upon the throne one sitting.] There is great sublimity in this nameless majesty of God; and ipsum
* Ezek. i. 2. x. 1.
Prideaux' Life of Mahomet. Isaiah vi. Ezek. i. 26, &c. xlii. i. 9. . l On Isaiah vi.
verbum sedere, the very word, sitting, says Jerome, shews the power and authority of his rule *.
Ver. 3. Jasper---sardine-stone.] The jasper is represented to be a pellucid, watery gem, its colour va. rious t, the sardine also transparent, but of a fiery tinge. So, to express in some measure, by sensible images, the ineffable brightness of Him who sate upon the throne, 'the clear jasper first presented itself in the Prophet's mind, but a fiery glow was wanting to coin plete the description ; he therefore adds the sardine. There is a resemblance to this in Exod. xxiy. 10, 17..
;i Ib. Radiance.] In the vision of Ezekiel f, there is a throne, and one sitting, and around him “as it were “the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round “about, as the appearance of the bow that is in the “ clouds on the day of rain.” Such was this circular glory; it was not a rainbow, but like it; and of a green hue and lustre, like an emerald. 4. Ver. 4. Twenty-four thrones--twenty-four elders.] Comparing this vision, so far as we have proceeded, with those exhibited in the Old Testament to the Prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel, we cannot hesitate to declare, that it represents (to use the words of these Prophets) “ the King, the Lord of Hosts, the Glory “ of the God of Israel !" But who are these, whom we behold on the twenty-four thrones, seated in state, and dignified with crowns? They are admitted to distinguishing honour in the Divine presence; and yet they are certainly servants, for they officiate as such (v. 10, and ch. xi. 16.) in postures of adoration, as before an eastern monarch, with crowng, abased, doing homage to the Supreme King. Yet they are not angels, the 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 |; 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. I, we shall plainly discover, that the twenty-four elders, although they may represent à 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 (apoToloxwv) 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 dis2 Cor. xii, 1–5. See ver. 11. Cb. xiv.4.
• Hieron. Comm. in Ephes. i. 20.
| Ch. i. 27, 28.
closed in the very same passage of the Apostle to the Hebrews; for, in his description of the inhabitants of heaven, having mentioned, ist, 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 $s 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 what has already appeared, that they are “ just men * made perfect.” But 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 ate expressly called Teerfulegos, 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 theit rulers. Such, among other ancient nations, also, were the Patres of the Románs, and the repsol of the Carthaginians t: 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 I, 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. . 591. Exod. xviii.
Numb. xi. || Maimonides, in Sanhed. Per. 1, 2, 3. Spencer, de Leg. Heb. Lewis, Orig. Heb. lib. i. c. 6.