Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.VII.
(1) And after these things . . Better, And after this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding fast the four winds of the earth, that there might not blow a wind upon the earth, nor upon the sea, nor upon any tree. In the sixth seal the winds had blown, and had shaken violently the fig-tree, causing its untimely figs to drop off: the untimely or winter figs represented those whose religious life was unequal to the strain of trial, and who failed in the crisis to which they were exposed. But is all the fruit shaken off? No; Christ had said that “if a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch;” but that those who abode in Him, purged by their trials, would bring forth more fruit, and the fruit which these bore was not a fruit easily shaken off, but fruit that should remain (John 15:6; John 15:5; John 15:16). They would not be as winter figs, easily torn from the boughs, for their strength was in God: before the stormy winds of manifold trials had blown they had been sealed with the seal of the living God. This is the scene which is brought before us in this chapter. In it the care of God, who restrains from violence the winds, that they should net shake too soon the immature fruit, the tokens by which the sealed are known and the meaning of their sealing are set forth. The chapter, in fact, answers the solemn question of the last chapter: “Who is able to stand?” The winds are clearly emblems of days of trouble or judgment; as the winds sweep away the chaff and clear the atmosphere, so do judgments try the ungodly, who are like the chaff which the wind driveth away: the storm of God’s judgments shakes the mountains and the wilderness, and strips the oaks of the forest. (Comp. Psalms 29) These winds of judgment are ready to blow from all quarters (four corners of the earth), but they are restrained till the servants of God are sealed. For passages where winds are used as emblems of judgment, see especially Jeremiah 49:36-37, “Upon Elam I will bring the four winds from the four quarters of heaven. And I will bring evil upon them, even My fierce anger, saith the Lord.” Comp, also Daniel 7:2, “I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea.” But those tempests would not arise or shake a single leaf till the securing of God’s servants was accomplished.
And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea,(2) And I saw another angel . . .—Translate, And I saw another angel going up from the rising of the sun, having a seal of the living God, and he was crying with a great voice to the four angels to whom it was given to injure the earth and the sea, saying, Injure ye not the earth, nor the sea, nor the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God upon their foreheads. The angels appear as carrying out the purposes of God. This angel rises into view from the door of the dawn. In the midst of the dark symptoms of coming storm and judgment there springs up a light for the righteous and joyful gladness for such as are true-hearted: they need not be afraid of evil tidings whose hearts stand fast believing in the Lord. This angel carries a seal of the living God. The seal is the emblem of security. The seal was placed on our Lord’s sepulchre to keep the tomb safe from invasion; the king’s seal was, in the same way, placed on the stone which was laid at the mouth of the den in which Daniel was imprisoned: “the king sealed it with his own signet” (Daniel 6:17). The intrusting of the seal into the hands of others was the token that royal authority had been for the time delegated to man. So Jezebel “wrote letters in Ahab’s name, and sealed them with his seal” (1Kings 21:8). Esther obtained the use of the king’s seal to protect her countrymen from the mischief devised by Haman: “for the writing which is written in the king’s name, and sealed with the king’s ring, may no man reverse” (Esther 8:8). There is also a seal of the living God. St. Paul tells us that this seal bears two legends. “The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, ‘The Lord knoweth them that are his,’ and, ‘ Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity’” (2Timothy 2:19). On the one side, it is dependence on and communion with God; on the other side, it is holiness of life. The sealed are found in Christ, not having their own righteousness, but the righteousness which is of God by faith (Philippians 3:9). For this is the righteousness which will endure to the end, and which is found in them who are “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:13-14). God’s image and superscription is impressed on such; just as afterwards we are told of all the servants of God, “His name shall be in their foreheads” (Revelation 22:4). This token is a true safe-guard and talisman; as the sprinkled blood on the lintel protected the house from the destroying angel at the first Passover. It is a token also of those who have not conformed to the evil world; they are like those whom Ezekiel saw in Jerusalem, when the Lord sent the man with the inkhorn “to set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done” (Ezekiel 9:4). There has been much misapprehension respecting this act of sealing. It has been said that it implies security, and assures God’s servants of protection in the coming judgments: this is, in a sense, true; but the sealing, as will have been seen by the passages quoted above, is that sealing of the Spirit, that root of heavenly life in the soul, which is the pledge of the soul’s union with God; and the terms of the charter of their protection are, Who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? In the Bible idea, sin, or moral defilement, is the only real evil: all other things work together for good. The breastplate which turns aside the fiery darts is the breastplate of righteousness: those who, escaping the corruptions which are in the world through lust, become partakers of the divine nature are in consequence victorious over all the evil. They are not exempt from the vicissitudes and tribulation of life: the winds are let loose to blow, but they are sealed, and they cannot be shaken; for what and who can separate them from the love of Christ? They are sealed by the Holy Spirit; they have an earnest of that Spirit in their hearts (Ephesians 4:30, and 2Corinthians 1:22), and the pledge of His power in their lives. St. John gives the same two-fold test as St. Paul (2Timothy 2:9): (1) “Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit” (1John 4:13); and (2) “Hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments” (1John 2:3). The sealing is on the forehead: it is God’s mark, but it is where all may see it. “By their fruits ye shall know them.” The cry of the angel is, Injure not the sea nor the trees. Doubtless the sea and trees are mentioned as these are the objects which would be most disturbed and injured by a storm of wind. Trees are used as emblems of real and of pretended religionism. The true-hearted in faith are described as trees planted by the waterside, whose fruit does not wither; and it is singular that St. Jude, who pictures the Antinomian teachers of his day under the image of autumn trees (not trees whose fruit withereth, as in English version) without fruit, immediately adds an expression which almost suggests the sudden uprising of a testing storm: the fruitless trees are “plucked up by the roots” (Jude 1:12).
And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.(4) And I heard the number of them . . . Translate, And I heard the number of the sealed: there were a hundred and forty and four thousand sealed out of every tribe of the sons of Israel. There are two or three questions which these verses suggest. What are we to understand by the number twelve thousand from each tribe? Who are these who are drawn from the tribes of Israel? Why is there a change of the order and name of the tribes? It may help us to clearer thoughts to take the second of these questions first. (1) Who are these one hundred and forty-four thousand? An answer to this has been partly anticipated in our previous comments; but perhaps a fuller consideration is needed. Some have thought that the sealed ones must be Jewish Christians: i.e., they are disposed to take the twelve tribes literally. The scope of the previous verses seems decisive against this view. The time of judgment and trial is drawing near; we have seen the tokens of the coming storm in the opening of the sixth seal; our wish is to know the lot of the saints of God; this chapter answers this wish: they are safe, having the seal of God. Now, to limit the answer to the Israelitish Christians is to break in abruptly upon the general flow of thought with a bold literalism. The sealed ones are explained to be the servants of God; the description which follows proclaims them to be the “Israel of God.” It would be a strange leap away from the subject to introduce a sudden limitation of thought. Nor is there any necessity for doing so. Israelitish and Jewish names are freely adopted by the sacred writers, and used in a spiritual sense without any explanation of such usage; and the Apostle most emphatically laid down the principle that “he is not a Jew which is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh, but he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit and not in the letter” (Romans 2:28-29); and the principle he applies by affirming that in Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek” (Galatians 3:28). The Christian Church absorbs the Jewish, inherits her privileges, and adopts, with wider and nobler meaning, her phraseology. She has her Jerusalem, but it is a heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:22): a Jerusalem from above (Galatians 4:26): a new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2; see Revelation 3:12); and to that Jerusalem of God the true Israel of God, the chosen generation and royal priesthood of every age, turn the eye of faith. It is needless to say that this view does not rob, as it has been said, the Jew of God’s promises; it only intensifies those promises by showing the growth of that Church in which the Jew may yet find the truest consummation of his holiest and highest hopes, and into which God is yet able to graft them in again (Romans 11:23; Romans 11:25-26), and in which he may yet play a part loftier than men dream of. (2) How are we to understand the numbers? As we cannot adopt the literal interpretation of the tribes of Israel, still less can we admit a literal interpretation of the numbers here mentioned; but they are not on this ground to be looked upon as meaningless numbers: there is an appropriate symbolism in the numbers of the Apocalypse. Twelve is used as the number of those who in every age have been called out to witness for some truth which the world needed. Thus the twelve tribes of Israel were the appointed witnesses of a pure theology and a pure morality in the days of idolatry and license; and later, the twelve Apostles became the inheritors of a similar, though higher, spiritual work in the world. The number twelve, then, stands for a world-witness of divine truth; and the fruits of this world-witness is a wide and sustained success: the twelve multiplied by the twelve a thousand-fold—“the native and not degenerate progeny of the Apostles apostolically multiplied” (Mede, quoted by Dr. Currey). The skeleton organisation is twelve, the college of the Apostles; the one hundred and forty-four thousand represent the growth into full numbers of the choice ones of God. (3) Does the change in the order and names of the tribes symbolise anything? The alterations are not without significance. They are briefly these: The tribe of Dan is omitted, and the name of Ephraim does not appear, but the number is made up to twelve by two representatives of Joseph: Manasseh, who stands sixth in order, and Joseph (superseding the name, but representing the tribe of Ephraim), who is placed eleventh on the list. The number twelve is maintained to show that in all changes God’s purposes stand. The omission of one tribe and the changed name of another are designed to show that in the Church, as in Israel, the most splendid opportunities may be lost. Dan, once a tribe, and not an insignificant tribe, which had reared its heroes, gradually lapsed into idolatry and immorality, dwindled in numbers and importance, and at length disappeared, and as a tribe became extinct. Its omission in this list is a silent but emphatic comment on the sacred warnings: “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” “Begin not to say we have Abraham to our father: God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” Similarly, Ephraim, as has been suggested by a thoughtful writer, who exalted himself in Israel, is now lost in the greater name of Joseph. (Comp. Hosea 13:1; Hosea 10:11; Luke 18:14.) The order of the names is altered. Reuben no longer stands first: Judah has taken the firstborn’s place; and Levi, though named, does not occupy the third, the place of his birthright, but the eighth place. Here, again, the changes have their teachings. The unstable Reuben, with all his splendid advantages—the firstborn, the excellency of dignity and the excellency of power—failed to hold his own among his brethren; the fatal instability of his character accompanied his history, and weakened his otherwise pre-eminent powers; yet weak and erring, the type of the brilliant and vacillating, he is not an outcast altogether, but finds place, and high place, among the servants of God. Judah, lion-like, resolute, and strong, wins the foremost place; from him springs the true Ruler, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, to unfold the counsels of God, and to rule the world with a righteous sceptre. Levi’s subordinate position is thought to be due to the fact that the Mosaic ritual and Levitical priesthood are at an end. This may be so; the changes are the result of the actual history of the tribes, and illustrate how in the Christian Church, as in the Jewish, privileges may be lost, opportunities seized or cast away, offices and functions used for a time, and then laid aside when their work is accomplished; but in all and through all changes, God’s unchanging purpose runs onward to its certain close. The grouping of the tribes is, as has been pointed out, in the order of closest kinship: “We find not one violent separation of those who are naturally united, where both are truly members of the Israel of God” (Rev. C. H. Waller, Names on Gates of Pearl).
After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;(9) After this I beheld . . .—Better, After these things I saw, and behold! a great multitude which no one was able to number, out of every nation, and (all) tribes, and peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches in their hands. “A great multitude:” We have just had the picture of the sealing of a multitude which could be numbered: now we have the picture of a countless throng. Who are these? Are they the same as the one hundred and forty-four thousand, or are they others? Our answer must be that this vision gives the climax of the previous one. The sealing represented the Passover of the Church: this vision represents its Feast of Tabernacles. The sealing assured us that in the midst of the severe times of testing there would be those who, wearing God’s armour, would come forth unscathed: this vision shows us the fruition of their labour and their rest after conflict. The sealing assured us that God’s hidden ones would be safe in trouble: this tells us that they have come safe out of it—they are those who have come out of the great tribulation (Revelation 7:14). But how can the numbered of the one vision be the same as the numberless of the next? They are numbered in the first vision, as it is one of the assurances of their safety. In that vision the idea of their security in trial and danger is the main one. The servants or God are safe, for they are sealed and numbered; they are among those sheep of Christ whom He calls by name, whose very hairs are numbered; they are those whose reliance is not on self, but on their shepherd; and the sealing is the echo of Christ’s words, “they shall never perish;” they are the servants of God, known by Him and recognised by Him. But in the next vision, the expanding prospects of the Church and her final repose are shown to us. The idea of victory and peace, not so much safety in danger as freedom from it, is set forth; and then countless multitudes are seen; the numbered are found to be numberless; countless as the sand by the sea and as the stars in heaven, they are yet in the reckoning and knowledge of Him who “telleth the number of the stars and calleth them all by their names.” The numbering must not be understood to imply limitation. We have seen that it is a number which symbolises expansive energy and extensive success; it implies the real security and wide-spread growth of the Church of God; it has no limits; it gathers from every nation, and people; it welcomes all; where there is neither Jew, nor Greek, barbarian, Scythian, bond, nor free; its gates are open all night and all day to every quarter of the world—
“From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl stream in the countless host,
Singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Alleluia.”
The multitude are clothed with white robes, and carry palm branches in their hands. It has been thought that these are the emblems of victory; they doubtless are tokens of a triumph: it is the sacred rejoicing of the Israel of God. The imagery is drawn from the Feast of Tabernacles: just as the sealing reminded us of the protecting sign on the lintels of the houses of Israel in Egypt, so do these palm branches and songs of joy recall the ceremonies of the later feast. No imagery would be more natural to the sacred seer, and none more appropriate to his subject. The Feast of Tabernacles commemorated God’s care over them in the wilderness, and their gratitude for the harvest. The people forsook the houses, and dwelt in booths; the streets were full of glad multitudes who carried branches of palm, and olive, and myrtle; everywhere the sounds of rejoicing and singing were heard; “there was very great gladness” (Exodus 23:16; Leviticus 23:43; Nehemiah 8:14-17). The vision here shows us a far greater feast. “The troubles of the wilderness are ended, the harvest-home of the Church is come,” and God tabernacles (Revelation 7:15) among His servants.
And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.(10) And cried with a loud voice . . .—Better, And they cry with a loud voice, saying, The salvation to our God who sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb. Their cry, littered with a loud voice, is the acknowledgment that their salvation—the salvation which they now taste—is due not to themselves, but to their God and to the Lamb. The salvation here must, I think, be taken in its most comprehensive sense, including every deliverance—from the curse of law, from the power of sin, and from the perils of life. The explanation in Revelation 7:14 confirms this. (Comp. Galatians 3:13; Philippians 3:9.) This is “the voice of rejoicing and salvation which is in the tabernacles of the righteous,” when the Lord, who is their strength and song, “has become their salvation” (Psalm 118:14). Note the recurrence of “the Lamb.” They are before the throne and before the Lamb; their salvation is ascribed to God and to the Lamb.
And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,(11) And all the angels . . .—Translate, And all the angels were standing round the throne, and the elders, and the four living beings . . . saying, Amen. The great concourse of angels—those among whom there has been joy in heaven when a sinner has repented—now add their “Amen” to the cry of the redeemed, and then raise the seven-fold ascription of praise—
The blessing, and the glory, and the wisdom,
And the thanksgiving,
And the honour, and the power, and the strength,
(Is) unto our God Unto the ages of the ages.
The seven-fold form of the doxology, which implies a divine completeness, is appropriate to this vision, which shows us the close of the Church’s agony, and is in itself a slight indication that the view which would limit the seals to some short period of Church history is incorrect, as it is assuredly inadequate.
And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?(13) And one of the elders answered, saying unto me.—The seer had asked no question, but the elder answers the wondering thoughts and questionings which fill his mind. Perhaps this scene was in Dante’s mind when he described himself in Paradise:
“Silent was I, yet desire
Was painted in my looks; and thus I spake
My wish more earnestly than language could.”
—Paradiso, iv. 10-12.
The elder asks the question which he knows St. John would fain ask. These who are clothed in white robes, who are they, and whence came they? The question brings the white robes into prominence. Is it, as has been suggested, that the wonder of the seer is excited more by the emblem of holiness and innocence than anything else? He recognises the multitudes as men and women out of every nation and tribe of sinful humanity, and he sees them clothed in the garb of holiness. Who are these countless throngs of holy ones?
And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.(14) And I said unto him . . .—The form in which the answer of the seer is given shows how completely the elder had anticipated his thoughts; for he describes his reply as instantaneous. And I have said, My Lord—the language is that of reverent regard, but not of worship (see Revelation 19:10; Revelation 22:8-9)—thou knowest—i.e., it is for thee to tell me: thy knowledge and thy view-point is higher than mine; thou knowest: it is thine to speak, and mine to hearken.
And he said to me . . .—Read, And he said to me, These are they who come (the present tense is used: these are those coming) out of the great tribulation. They are those who come, not all at once, but gradually. The saints of God are continually passing into the unseen world, and taking their place among the spirits of just men made perfect. They come out of the great tribulation. Are we to limit the expression to the special and peculiar afflictions of the last great trial? There is no doubt about the emphasis which the definite article (unfortunately, ignored in our English version) gives: it is the great tribulation; but while there may yet be in store for the Church of Christ trials so great that they may be called, in comparison with those which went before, the great tribulation, it yet seems out of harmony with the spirit of the Apocalypse and the complexion of this vision to limit the phrase to some special season of trial. Is not the great tribulation the tribulation which those must encounter who are on the side of Christ and righteousness, and refuse to receive the mark of worldliness and sin on their heart, conscience, and life? In all ages it is true that we must through much tribulation enter the Kingdom of God; and the vision here is surely not of those who will come safe out of some particular trials, but of the great multitude from every age and every race who waged war against sin, and who, in the midst of that protracted conflict, endured the great tribulation which is to continue until Christ’s return. And they washed (not “have washed,” for the washing was done during their earthly life) their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. The imagery is to be found in the Gospel and in the Epistle (John 13:8-11; and 1John 1:7); its use here and in Revelation 1:5 (if the reading washed is to be preferred to loosed) points to a common authorship: the emblem of the blood which washes white, or cleanses, is not used with such distinctness elsewhere in the New Testament. It is, in St. John’s lips, but a following out of the twice-repeated words which he quotes from John the Baptist at the opening of the Gospel, when he proclaimed Christ to be “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” In that Lamb of God those who came out of great tribulation found the forgiveness and the spiritual power which gave them confidence and hope in the midst of life’s war and life’s weariness; for the man who knows that he is forgiven and that he is being helped to holiness is the man who thinks no fiery trial strange, but rejoices in the knowledge that his salvation is of God.
Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.(15) Therefore are they before the throne . . . —Better, On this account are they before the throne of God—i.e., because they so washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Comp. Revelation 22:14, where a well-supported reading is, “Blessed are they that wash their robes, that they may have right to the tree of life,” &c.) They are before the throne: they are like Him, for they see Him as He is (1John 3:2), and serve Him day and night in His temple, and He that sitteth upon the throne shall tabernacle over them. The life is not simply one of joy or safety, it is one also of service. (Comp. Revelation 22:3.) Those who were made priests to God here carry on their service in His temple; yet it is to be remembered that this can only be figurative language, for in the heavenly city there is no temple (Revelation 21:22). It serves to teach us that the servant will find his fitting work of service there as well as here. He that sitteth upon the throne shall tabernacle over them. It is worth noticing how persistently St. John keeps up the phrase, “He that sitteth upon the throne” (Revelation 4:2; Revelation 5:1; Revelation 5:7; Revelation 5:13; Revelation 7:10). Tabernacle, or dwell as in a tent: The rendering “shall dwell” among them does not do justice to this word, and at the same time obscures the allusion which the seer has in his mind. The allusion is to the Shechinah, the symbol of the Divine Presence, which rested over the mercy seat. “The idea that the Shechinah, the σκηνή; (skéné), the glory which betokened the Divine Presence in the Holy of Holies, and which was wanting to the sacred temple, would be restored once more in Messiah’s days was a cherished hope of the Jewish doctors during and after the Apostolic ages.” The expected and wished-for glory would be seen among God’s saints. God’s tabernacle shall be with them (Revelation 21:3), and with them so as to stretch over them: He will tabernacle over (or, upon) them. With this we may compare St. Paul’s expression in 2Corinthians 12:9 (“that the power of Christ may tabernacle” —“rest” in the English version—“upon me”), where Professor Lightfoot (whose words have just been quoted) thinks that there is a similar reference to the symbol of the Divine Presence in the Holy of Holies. (Comp. Isaiah 4:5-6; Ezekiel 37:27; and John 1:14.) There seems also to be a carrying on of the imagery derived from the Feast of Tabernacles: as there were the palm branches of the harvest joy, so there will be the booth, or tabernacle, of God’s presence among them. He shall be their pavilion, their shelter. “There shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the day-time from the heat, and for a place of refuge and for a covert from storm and from rain.”
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.(16) They shall hunger no more . . .—Better, They shall not hunger any more, nor yet thirst any more; neither at all shall the sun light upon them, nor any heat. The negatives are emphatic, and rise in force as the verse proceeds. None of the privations which they have endured for Christ’s sake shall trouble them; none of the dissatisfactions and weariness of life shall afflict them; for hunger, thirst, and fatigue will be no more, for the former things are passed away (Revelation 21:3-4). And then, too, shall that blessed hunger and thirst —the hunger and thirst for righteousness—be appeased. Christ’s benediction will then be realised in its fulness: Blessed are they who so hunger, for they shall be filled. And as they will receive inward strength and satisfaction, so also will they be kept from the outward trials which wear down the strength of the strongest. The sun shall not light on them: The Eastern sun, in its fierce and overpowering intensity, was a fit emblem of those trials which dry up the springs of strength. The sun, risen with a burning heat, devoured the beauty of the flower (James 1:11); the rootless growth on the stony ground was scorched when the sun was up (Matthew 13:5-6). Man’s beauty of wealth and talent, man’s resolutions of better things, all fade away before the testing beams of this sun; but the time of trial is past, the pains and temptations of life are over, the sun in that land will not scorch, for there is no longer need of these burning beams; the city has no need of the sun, for the glory of God lightens it, and the Lamb is the light thereof (Revelation 21:23). No sun, and no heat, no burning hot wind like the sirocco, will spread withering influence there.
For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.(17) For the Lamb . . .—Translate, Because the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall tend them, and shall lead them to fountains of waters of life (or, life-springs of waters); and God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes. The Lamb is described as “the Lamb in the midst of the throne.” The writer told in Revelation 5:6 that he had seen a Lamb in the midst of the throne. When he looked towards the throne, he saw the Lamb as the central object immediately in front of it. He who would draw near to the throne must pass the Lamb. The position which the Lamb held was one of significance, and is therefore repeated here. The Lamb will tend His people as a shepherd tends his flock (the word translated “feed” has this force), and will lead them to the springs of the water of life. The twenty-third Psalm rises at once to our minds. The Lord who was David’s shepherd (Psalm 23:2), who was the Good Shepherd who sought and brought home the lost for whom He died (Luke 15:4; John 10:11), does not forget the shepherd’s work in heaven. He who made His people to drink of the brook in the way (Psalm 110:7), who gave to those who came to Him the water which alone would quench their thirst (John 4:13-14; John 7:37-39), leads them now to the springs of the living water, and makes them drink of the river of His pleasures (Psalm 36:8). Significantly enough the springs of this living water are in the throne itself (Revelation 22:1). Ezekiel saw the stream issuing forth from the Temple (Ezekiel 48:1), but in the city where there is no temple we are carried to the very throne of God, to find the well-spring of every gladness. In this emblem of the water we have another allusion to the Feast of Tabernacles. Among the ceremonies observed at the feast was that of the drawing water; the priest drew a vessel of water from the brook of Siloam, and poured it out in the temple-court by the altar of burnt offering, and the people sang the words, “With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3). Here the Lamb, who is also the High Priest, leads His people to the springs of the water of life. Joy, too, is theirs; for God shall wipe away every tear from (or, out of) their eyes (Isaiah 25:8; Revelation 21:4). In Isaiah it is said God shall wipe away tears from off all faces: here it is every tear. Thus shall all sorrow be removed from all: no tears shall gather in any eye, for the sources of sorrow will be cut off in the land where there is no more sin. None can weep again when it is God who wiped away their tears. Blessed are they that mourn, said Christ—blessed indeed in this, that God becomes their comforter. Only those who have wept can enjoy this consolation. Who would not shed life’s tears to have God’s hand to wipe them away!