Revelation 10:4
And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) And when the seven . . .—Translate, And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write: and I heard a voice out of the heaven, saying, Seal up the things which the. seven thunders spoke, and write them not. He could have written down their utterances. It was no mere thunder-like sound he heard: the thunders spoke; and he would have continued his writing as he had been commanded (Revelation 1:11) had not the voice out of heaven forbidden him. The utterances, then, are for those who hear them; they are not to be made generally known. Is it not the solemn, sacred, divine voice not to be known by all, but by those who have ears to hear when “the God of glory thundereth?” “Lo ! He doth send forth His voice, yea, and that a mighty voice” (Psalm 68:33). Mankind may hear the thunder; only those whose ears God has opened can hear the utterances and the inspiriting messages which they bring. So was it once in our Lord’s life. The people said it thundered; some thought an angel spake; but there were articulate words which He who came to do God’s will, in whose heart was God’s law, heard, and to Him that thunderlike voice promised to “glorify His name” (John 12:28-29). Similarly here, the Evangelist (who is in this but a type of the true witnesses for God), who is to prophecy before peoples and kings (Revelation 10:11), hears words spoken by the divine voice which make him strong for his mission. It is so evermore. Dull ears there are who hear thunder, but never God’s voice; dim eyes there are which see no trace of the divine craftsman in all nature, though

“Earth’s crammed with God,

And every common bush aglow with Him.”

The thunders are not to be written down; they are for those who have ears to hear.

10:1-7 The apostle saw another representation. The person communicating this discovery probably was our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, or it was to show his glory. He veils his glory, which is too great for mortal eyes to behold; and throws a veil upon his dispensations. A rainbow was upon his head; our Lord is always mindful of his covenant. His awful voice was echoed by seven thunders; solemn and terrible ways of discovering the mind of God. We know not the subjects of the seven thunders, nor the reasons for suppressing them. There are great events in history, perhaps relating to the Christian church, which are not noticed in open prophecy. The final salvation of the righteous, and the final success of true religion on earth, are engaged for by the unfailing word of the Lord. Though the time may not be yet, it cannot be far distant. Very soon, as to us, time will be no more; but if we are believers, a happy eternity will follow: we shall from heaven behold and rejoice in the triumphs of Christ, and his cause on earth.And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices - After he had listened to those thunders; or when they had passed by.

I was about to write - That is, he was about to record what was uttered, supposing that that was the design for which he hart been made to hear them. From this it would seem that it was not mere thunder - brutum fulmen - but that the utterance had a distinct and intelligible enunciation, or that words were employed that could be recorded. It may be observed, by the way, as Prof. Stuart has remarked, that this proves that John wrote down what he saw and heard as soon as practicable, and in the place where he was; and that the supposition of many modern critics, that the Apocalyptic visions were written at Ephesus a considerable time after the visions took place, has no good foundation.

And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me - Evidently the voice of God: at all events it came with the clear force of command,

Seal up those things - On the word "seal," see the notes on Revelation 5:1. The meaning here is, that he was not to record those things, but what he heard he was to keep to himself as if it was placed under a seal which was not to be broken.

And write them not - Make no record of them. No reason is mentioned why this was not to be done, and none can now be given that can be proved to be the true reason. Vitringa, who regards the seven thunders as referring to the Crusades, supposes the reason to have been that a more full statement would have diverted the mind from the course of the prophetic narrative, and from more important events which pertained to the church, and that nothing occurred in the Crusades which was worthy to be recorded at length: Nec dignae erant quae prolixius exponerentur - "for," he adds, "these expeditions were undertaken with a foolish purpose, and resulted in real detriment to the church," pp. 431, 432. Prof. Stuart (vol. ii. pp. 204-206) supposes that these "thunders" refer to the destruction of the city and temple of God, and that they were a sublime introduction to the last catastrophe, and that the meaning is not that he should keep "entire silence," but only that he should state the circumstances in a general manner, without going into detail. Mede supposes that John was commanded to keep silence because it was designed that the meaning should not then be known, but should be disclosed in future times; Forerius, because it was the design that the wise should be able to understand them, but that they were not to be disclosed to the wicked and profane. Without attempting to examine these and other solutions which have been proposed, the question which, from the course of the exposition, is properly before us is, whether, on the supposition that the voice of the seven thunders referred to the papal anathemas, a rational and satisfactory solution of the reasons of this silence can be given. Without pretending to know the reasons which existed, the following may be referred to as not improbable, and as those which would meet the case:

(1) In these papal anathemas there was nothing that was worthy of record; there was nothing that was important as history; there was nothing that communicated truth; there was nothing that really indicated progress in human affairs. In themselves there was nothing more that deserved record than the acts and doings of wicked people at any time; nothing that fell in with the main design of this book.

(2) such a record would have retarded the progress of the main statements of what was to occur, and would have turned off the attention from these to less important matters.

(3) all that was necessary in the case was simply to state that such threaders were heard: that is, on the supposition that this refers to the Reformation, that that great change in human affairs would not be permitted to occur without opposition and noise - as if the thunders of wrath should follow those who were engaged in it.

(4) John evidently mistook this for a real revelation, or for something that was to be recorded as connected with the divine will in reference to the progress of human affairs. He was naturally about to record this as he did what was uttered by the other voices which he heard; and if he had made the record, it would have been with this mistaken view. There was nothing in the voices, or in what was uttered, that would manifestly mark it as distinct from what had been uttered as coming from God, and he was about to record it under this impression. If this was a mistake, and if the record would do anything, as it clearly would, to perpetuate the error, it is easy to see a sufficient reason why the record should not be made.

(5) it is remarkable that there was an entire correspondence with this in what occurred in the Reformation; in the fact that Luther and his fellow-laborers were, at first, and for a long time - such was the force of education, and of the habits of reverence for the papal authority in which they had been reared - disposed to receive the announcements of the papacy as the oracles of God, and to show to them the deference which was due to divine communications. The language of Luther himself, if the general view here taken is correct, will be the best commentary on the expressions used here. "When I began the affairs of the Indulgences," says he, "I was a monk, and a most mad papist. So intoxicated was I, and drenched in papal dogmas, that I would have been most ready to murder, or assist others in murdering, any person who should have uttered a syllable against the duty of obedience to the pope."

And again: "Certainly at that time I adored him in earnest." He adds, "How distressed my heart was in that year 1517 - how submissive to the hierarchy, not feignedly but really - those little knew who at this day insult the majesty of the pope with so much pride and arrogance. I was ignorant of many things which now, by the grace of God, I understand. I disputed; I was open to conviction; not finding satisfaction in the works of theologians, I wished to consult the living members of the church itself. There were some godly souls that entirely approved my propositions. But I did not consider their authority of weight with me in spiritual concerns. The popes, bishops, cardinals, monks, priests, were the objects of my confidence. After being enabled to answer every objection that could be brought against me from sacred Scripture, one difficulty alone remained, that the Church ought to be obeyed.

If I had then braved the pope as I now do, I should have expected every hour that the earth would have opened to swallow me up alive, like Korah and Abiram." It was in this frame of mind that, in the summer of 1518, a few months after the affair with Tetzel, he wrote that memorable letter to the pope, the tenor of which can be judged of by the following sentences: and what could more admirably illustrate the passage before us, on the interpretation suggested, than this language? "Most blessed Father! Prostrate at the feet of thy blessedness I offer myself to thee, with all that I am, and that I have. Kill me, or make me live; call or recall; approve or reprove, as shall please thee. I will acknowledge thy voice as the voice of Christ presiding and speaking in thee." See the authorities for these quotations in Elliott, vol. ii. pp. 116, 117.

(6) The command not to record what the seven thunders uttered was of the nature of a caution not to regard what was said in this manner; that is, not to be deceived by these utterances as if they were the voice of God. Thus understood, if this is the proper explanation and application of the passage, it should be regarded as an injunction not to regard the decrees and decisions of the papacy as containing any intimation of the divine will, or as of authority in the church. That this is to be so regarded is the opinion of all Protestants; and if this is so, it is not a forced supposition that this might have been intimated by such a symbol as that before us.

4. when—Aleph reads, "Whatsoever things." But most manuscripts support English Version.

uttered their voices—A, B, C, and Aleph omit "their voices." Then translate, "had spoken."

unto me—omitted by A, B, C, Aleph, and Syriac.

Seal up—the opposite command to Re 22:20. Even though at the time of the end the things sealed in Daniel's time were to be revealed, yet not so the voices of these thunders. Though heard by John, they were not to be imparted by him to others in this book of Revelation; so terrible are they that God in mercy withholds them, since "sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." The godly are thus kept from morbid ponderings over the evil to come; and the ungodly are not driven by despair into utter recklessness of life. Alford adds another aim in concealing them, namely, "godly fear, seeing that the arrows of God's quiver are not exhausted." Besides the terrors foretold, there are others unutterable and more horrifying lying in the background.

I was about to write; to write what he understood of the voices of these thunders.

Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not; he was forbidden the publication of them, because they concerned things to be fulfilled at some distance of time, and should be afterward more fully revealed. And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices,.... Or declared all they had to denounce upon the enemies of Christ and his church:

I was about to write; John taking particular notice of what they said, and believing it might be for the advantage, comfort, and support of the church of Christ under its suffering circumstances, to be informed of what God had in reserve among the treasures of his wrath for their adversaries, was going to put it down in writing, that he might retain it, and the better communicate it, and in obedience to the order given him, Revelation 1:19;

and I heard a voice from heaven; from God the Father, for the Son of God in a visionary way was come down from heaven, in the form before described; and this voice answers to the Bath Kol of the Jews, and is the same which ordered John to write, Revelation 14:13, though it here forbad him:

saying unto me, seal up those things; treasure them up in thy mind, keep them within thy breast, hide them from men, for the present, and say nothing of them:

which the seven thunders have uttered, and write them not; that they may not be seen and read at present, because the same things were to be exhibited in another form, and at another time, under the seven vials; only it was thought proper that John should have some intimations of them for his own advantage, and to prepare him for the following vision, for the eating of the book, and for his prophesying before people, nations, tongues, and kings. Mr. Daubuz is of opinion, that by these "seven thunders" are meant seven kingdoms which have received the Reformation, and established it by law within their several dominions, whereby the doctrine and worship of the reformers are become the established religion there; and the laws by which it is established are "the voices" uttered by those supreme authorities; and they are these, 1. The German princes, making one republic. 2. The Swiss cantons. 3. Sweden. 4. Denmark, with Norway. 5. England and Ireland. 6. Scotland. 7. The United Provinces of the Netherlands. And whereas John, who represents the first reformers, and other faithful men, was for writing what these thunders uttered, this denotes the zeal and earnest desires of these good men to push the Reformation further, and make a thorough work of it, as well as their expectation that now was the time in which the mystery of God was to be fulfilled, in which they were mistaken; wherefore John is bid to seal up these things, and not write them, which shows that the progress of the Reformation was to be stopped from doing fully what the first reformers were prompted to by the supreme powers which encouraged them, and that by the opposition of other temporal princes; it not being the will of God that the glorious state of the church should arise from these thunders, and be built on their laws and establishments; and suggests, that this is not the time in which, nor these the ways and means by which the mystery of God will be finished, which will not be until the seventh angel has sounded his trumpet, Revelation 10:7; whereas this period of time, to which the Reformation belongs, is an event of the sixth trumpet: and this exposition bids very fair to be the right one.

{4} And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, {a} Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not.

(4) A godly care is laudable, but must be married with knowledge. Therefore nothing is to be done but by the calling of God, which must be expected and waited for by the godly.

(a) Keep them secret.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Revelation 10:4. To seal or shut up a vision is to keep it secret from mankind, i.e., in the present case (by a sequence of thought which is scarcely logical) to leave it unwritten. In a similar passage (Apoc. Bar. xx. 3) “seal” means to lay up fast in one’s memory (because the realisation is not immediate); but this meaning is suggested by the context, although it might suit the present passage. The seer describes himself as prohibited by a heavenly voice (which reverence leaves as usual undefined, 4 Ezra 6:17 : Dalman viii. 1) from obeying his impulse. No reason is assigned; but the plain sense of the passage is that the author wishes (Weizs., Schön, Bs., Holtzm., Pfleid.) to justify his omission of a seven-thunder source or set of visions circulating in contemporary circles of prophecy (Revelation 10:7). In view oi the authoritative character of such fragments or traditions John justifies his procedure by the explanation that he felt inspired to do so, and also to substitute other oracles. Thus in the middle, as at the opening and end of his book, he reiterates his prophetic authority. The episode may further indicate that the written contents of the Apocalypse represents merely a part of the author’s actual vision (cf. John 21:25), or it may serve to heighten the effect of what is now to be introduced, or it may suggest that while the seer is to write (Revelation 1:11), he is to write only what is revealed through the medium of angels. In Slav. En. xxiii. 3, 6 the seer spends thirty days in writing the remarks of his angel-instructor. To hear ἄρρητα ῥήματα, ἃ οὐκ ἐξὸν ἀνθρώπῳ λαλῆσαι was not incompatible, however, with an ἀποκάλυψις κυρίου (2 Corinthians 12:1-4), cf. Weinel, 162 f. There was an inspiration of restraint as well as an inspiration of impulse. Thus Hermas (Vis. i. 3) listens with wonder to glories of God which he could not remember, “for all the words were awful, such as man cannot bear. The last words, however, I did remember; they were fit for us and mild”. Possibly the seven-thunders source was of a severely punitive character (Revelation 8:5), traversing ground which had been already (6-9) and was to be again (15–16.) covered.4. I was about to write] See Revelation 1:19. It is useless to speculate how far the book was written at the same time that the vision was seen: possibly it may have been in part, but it is enough to suppose that, having been bidden to write, the seer seemed to himself to write, or (so to speak) saw himself writing, at appropriate points of the vision.

Seal up] Cf. Daniel 12:4; Daniel 12:9. There the use of the words is more logical: Daniel is to write the vision, but not to let it be read: contrast in this book Revelation 22:10. Here the use of the word is suggested by the passage in Daniel—in the impassioned style of this book it is forgotten that what is not written cannot and need not be sealed. Why the voices of the thunders were not to be written it is idle to guess: it is worse than idle to guess what they were. And in our ignorance of this it is hardly possible that we should be able to identity the mission of this angel with any special dispensation of God yet known.Verse 4. - And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write; and when the seven thunders spoke, I was, etc. It seems that St. John, in his vision, thought himself to be writing down the incidents as they were displayed before him. This he supposed himself to be doing in obedience to the command in Revelation 1:11, 19. He accordingly is proceeding to do so here, when he is stopped by the angel. And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me. Omit "unto me," with א, A, B, C, P, all the versions, Andreas, Arethas, Primasius, etc. Throughout the Apocalypse we find frequent mention of a voice, without any definite statement as to the possessor. In Revelation 1:11, 12, 13; Revelation 4:1; Revelation 18:4; Revelation 21:5, 15, the voice appears to be that of Christ or God the Father. In Revelation 14:13 it may be that of Christ or an angel; in Revelation 19:9 it seems to be the angel's voice; and in Revelation 6:6 it apparently proceeds from the four living beings; while in Revelation 9:13, although the command appears to be the command of God, the locality from which the voice issues appears to bear reference to the souls of the saints, and their cry for vengeance. Here it seems best to identify the "voice from heaven" with that of Revelation 1, where it is probably Christ himself (see on Revelation 1:10). Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not (cf. Daniel 12:4, "But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, even to the time of the end;" also Acts 1:7, "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power;" also Revelation 22:10, "And he saith unto me. Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand"). As stated in the note on ver. 2, not all God's purposes are revealed. Here we have a positive indication that some truths are withheld. It is useless to speculate on the nature of that which is purposely concealed from us. The probable conclusions which we may deduce are well put by Alford: "From the very character of thunder, that the utterances were of fearful import; from the place which they hold, that they relate to the Church; from the command to conceal them, first, encouragement, that God in his tender mercy to his own does not reveal all his terrors; secondly, godly fear, seeing that the arrows of his quiver are not exhausted, but besides things expressly foretold, there are more behind not revealed to us." To write

According to the injunction in Revelation 1:11.

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