Revelation 4:2
And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.
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(2) And immediately I was in the spirit.— Comp. Revelation 1:10. The mind and soul were absorbed in the vision of things celestial. (See. 2Corinthians 12:1-4.)

“Words may not tell of that transhuman change;

If I were only what Thou didst create,

Then newly, Love ! by whom the heaven is ruled,

Thou know’st, who by Thy light didst bear me up.”

Paradiso, i. 68-73.

And, behold, a throne was set (i.e., not that the seer saw the throne being set, but when he saw it was already set) in heaven, and one sat on the throne.—Comp. Micaiah’s speech (1Kings 22:19). The enthroned One is not named. Have we here a touch of the Jewish reluctance to name Jehovah? or is it that the descriptive phrase, “He that sat on the throne” is Used here, and kept before us in the whole book to remind us that the great world drama moves forward ever under the eyes of the ruling One. (Comp, Revelation 5:1; Revelation 5:7; Revelation 6:15; Revelation 20:11; Revelation 21:5.)

Revelation 4:2. Immediately I was in the Spirit — Even in a higher degree than before. “This phrase,” says Doddridge, “signifies to be under a strong and supernatural impulse, caused by the miraculous operation of the Spirit of God acting on the imagination, in such a manner as to open extraordinary scenes, which had not any exact external archetype. And it is much illustrated by the view presented to Ezekiel, when he sat in his house among the elders of the people, (Ezekiel 8:1,) who probably saw nothing but the prophet himself, as one who was in a trance or ecstasy, or whose thoughts were so attentively fixed as to be insensible of what passed around him. We are not therefore to imagine that the person sitting on the throne, or the four animals, or the four and twenty elders, were real beings existing in nature, though they represented, in a figurative manner, things that did really exist. And, though it is possible that aerial scenes might, by divine or angelic power, have been formed, I think it much more probable that all that passed was purely in the imagination of St. John. This will keep us, in our interpretation, clear of a thousand difficulties, not to say absurdities, which would follow from a contrary supposition, namely, that there is in heaven an animal in the form of a lamb, to represent Christ, and that there are such living creatures as here described; and that God himself appears in a human form,” &c.

Behold, a throne was set in heaven — Representing that of the blessed God; and one sat on the throne — Of a majestic form and appearance, and arrayed in robes of glory as a king, governor, and judge. Here is described God, the Almighty, the Father of heaven, in his majesty, glory, and dominion.

4:1-8 After the Lord Jesus had instructed the apostle to write to the churches the things that are, there was another vision. The apostle saw a throne set in heaven, an emblem of the universal dominion of Jehovah. He saw a glorious One upon the throne, not described by human features, so as to be represented by a likeness or image, but only by his surpassing brightness. These seem emblems of the excellence of the Divine nature, and of God's awful justice. The rainbow is a fit emblem of that covenant of promise which God has made with Christ, as the Head of the church, and with all his people in him. The prevailing colour was a pleasant green, showing the reviving and refreshing nature of the new covenant. Four-and-twenty seats around the throne, were filled with four-and-twenty elders, representing, probably, the whole church of God. Their sitting denotes honour, rest, and satisfaction; their sitting about the throne signifies nearness to God, the sight and enjoyment they have of him. They were clothed in white raiment; the imputed righteousness of the saints and their holiness: they had on their heads crowns of gold, signifying the glory they have with him. Lightnings and voices came from the throne; the awful declarations God makes to his church, of his sovereign will and pleasure. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne; the gifts, graces, and operations of the Spirit of God in the churches of Christ, dispensed according to the will and pleasure of Him who sits upon the throne. In the gospel church, the laver for purification is the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, which cleanses from all sin. In this all must be washed, to be admitted into the gracious presence of God on earth, and his glorious presence in heaven. The apostle saw four living creatures, between the throne and the circle of the elders, standing between God and the people. These seem to signify the true ministers of the gospel, because of their place between God and the people. This also is shown by the description given, denoting wisdom, courage, diligence, and discretion, and the affections by which they mount up toward heaven.And immediately I was in the Spirit - See the notes on Revelation 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. Tiffs 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 6:1-13 in the holy of holies of the temple; Ezekiel EZechariah 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.

2. And—omitted in the two oldest manuscripts, Vulgate, Syriac.

I was, &c.—Greek, "I became in the Spirit" (see on [2686]Re 1:10): I was completely rapt in vision into the heavenly world.

was set—not was placed, but was situated, literally, "lay."

one sat on the throne—the Eternal Father: the Creator (Re 4:11): also compare Re 4:8 with Re 1:4, where also the Father is designated, "which is, and was, and is to come." When the Son, "the Lamb," is introduced, Re 5:5-9, a new song is sung which distinguishes the Sitter on the throne from the Lamb, "Thou hast redeemed us to God," and Re 5:13, "Unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb." So also in Re 5:7, as in Da 7:13, the Son of man brought before the Ancient of days is distinguished from Him. The Father in essence is invisible, but in Scripture at times is represented as assuming a visible form.

In the Spirit; in an ecstasy, as Paul, 2 Corinthians 12:2, and Peter, Acts 10:10, and Ezekiel, Ezekiel 3:12, and himself was both before and after this, Revelation 1:10 17:3 21:10.

A throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne: God is constantly described, in the prophetical visions, as sitting upon a throne, to denote his power and dominion, that he is the King of kings, and Lord of lords. See Daniel 7:9, &c.

And immediately I was in the Spirit,.... As he had been before, Revelation 1:10; it seems he had been some little time out of his ecstasy, how long cannot be said, and now, upon this new scene of things, returned to it; upon the opening of the door in heaven, and hearing the former voice, and the things it said, the Spirit of God at once possessed and filled him, in an extraordinary manner; and his soul or spirit was immediately taken from the consideration of all sensible objects, and was fixed and intent upon the things presented to it in the vision, so that it was as if it was out of the body. The Arabic version reads, "then therefore I went in the Spirit"; in obedience to the voice that called him up, in which he was assisted by the Spirit of God, who lifted him up as he did Ezekiel, when he saw what follows:

and behold, a throne was set in heaven; not for the final judgment, on which the son of man will sit, when he comes to judge the quick and dead, for he is not the person that fills this but this is a symbol of the power, authority, and dominion now exercised by God, not over the world in general, who has prepared his throne in the heavens, and governs among the nations, according to his sovereign will and pleasure, but which he exercises in his church, signified by "heaven". The allusion is to the temple, and the throne of God in it, Isaiah 6:1. The temple was an emblem of the Gospel church, Jerusalem, or the Gospel church state, and was to be called the throne of the Lord, Jeremiah 3:17, and now his throne is set there. Here he exercises a jurisdiction and government; he is King and lawgiver in it; he has enacted laws, and he writes them on the hearts of his people, and puts his Spirit within them, and makes them both able and willing to obey them.

And one sat on the throne; not the trinity of persons in the Godhead, which some think are signified by the three precious stones in Revelation 4:3, the jasper, sardine, and emerald; for, as distinct from him that sat upon the throne, the Lamb is said to be in the midst of it, and the seven spirits of God are said to be before it: nor is Jesus Christ intended, and his two natures; his divine nature by the jasper, and his human nature by the red and blood coloured sardine; since he, the Lamb, is represented as in the midst of the throne, and is often distinguished from him that sat upon it; see Revelation 5:6; but God the Father is designed, who sits on the throne, though not to the exclusion of the Son and Spirit, yet in distinction from them. This clause is left out in the Ethiopic version.

And {2} immediately I was {a} in the spirit: {3} and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.

(2) The manner of revelation:

(a) See Re 1:10.

(3) A description of God the Father, and of his glory in the heavens, explained to men by his office, nature, attending company, effect, instruments and events that follow afterwards. In this verse he is presented in office as a judge as Abraham said; Ge 18:25 which is declared by his throne as sign of judgment, and his sitting on it.

Revelation 4:2. εὐθέως ἐγενόμην ἐν πνεύαατι. The asyndeton emphasizes the significance of the εὐθέως. After John has heard the voice, Revelation 4:1, he is immediately—and that too because of the voice[1668]—“in the Spirit,” and thereby made capable of ascending into heaven, and beholding the objects there presented. Although in Revelation 4:1, John is already ἐν πνεύματι, i.e., in such a condition that he beholds the opened door, and can hear the heavenly voice, yet the mode of presentation, Revelation 4:2, which, considered in itself alone, can designate the entire recent entrance of the ecstatic condition, has its justification in that an entirely new elevation of prophetic ecstasy belongs thereto, whereby John can ascend in spirit to heaven, and behold what is there shown him. Hence De Wette and Ebrard properly compare with this, Ezekiel 11:5. Even Hengstenb.[1669] has to acknowledge, that, while Revelation 4:2 designates “the complete entrance into the state of ecstasy,” yet Revelation 4:1 already is to be regarded a “preparation” to this condition.

Züll., incorrectly, just as Revelation 1:10 : “I was there [in heaven] by ecstasy.”

In rapid succession directly follows the description of that which is presented to the view of the one drawn into heaven: καὶ ἰδοὺ, θρόνος ἔκειτο, κ.τ.λ. To this entire description, there is a parallel in the Pirke, R. Elieser,[1670] which is very instructive, because it shows how differently, with many similar features, the O. T. types[1671] appear in a N. T. prophet, and the rabbins:[1672] “Four bands of ministering angels praise God. The first is of Michael, on the right; the second, of Gabriel, on the left; the third, of Uriel, before him; the fourth, of Raphael, behind him. But the shekinah of God is in the centre, and he himself is seated on a lofty, elevated throne; and his seat is high, suspended in the air. The splendor of his magnificence is like Chasmal (Ezekiel 1:4). Upon his head is placed a crown, and upon his brow a diadem with Schemhamphorasch. His eyes go through the whole earth; a part of them is fire, but a part hail. On his right is life; on his left, death; and a fiery sceptre is in his hand. Before him is stretched out a veil (פרכת), and seven angels who were created from the beginning minister before him within the veil. But that which is called פרגוד, and the footstool of his feet, are like fire and lightning, and shine beneath the throne of his glory like sapphire and fire. About his throne are righteousness and judgment. The place of his throne is that of the seven clouds surrounding him with glory; and the wheel of his chariot, and the cherub, and the living ones give to him glory. His throne is like sapphire, and at his feet are four living ones, each of whom has four faces, and as many wings. When God speaks from the east, this is done between the two cherubim with the face of a man; when from the south, then between the two cherubim with the face of a lion; when from the west, then between the two cherubim with the face of an ox; when from the north, then between the two cherubim with the face of an eagle.

The living ones also stand beside the throne of glory, yet they know not the place of his glory. The living ones stand also in fear and trembling, in horror and agitation, and from this agitation of their faces, a river of fire flows forth before them. Of the two seraphim, one stands at God’s right hand, another at his left. Each has six wings; with two they cover their face, lest they may see the face of the shekinah; with two they cover their feet, lest the feet may see the shekinah, and immediately be able to find his footstep; but with two they fly, dread and sanctify his great name. One cries out, and another replies, saying, etc.

And the living ones stand beside his glory, yet they know not the place of his glory, but in every place where his glory is, they cry and say, Blessed be the glory of God in its place.”

θρόνος-g0- ἔκειτο-g0-. The expression κεῖσθαι indicates neither an especial breadth of the throne,[1673] nor that it rests upon the cherubim,[1674] because the word here, as in Jeremiah 24:1, LXX.; John 2:6; John 19:29, and in the classics,[1675] expresses the simple idea of “being placed.”[1676]

ΚΑῚ ἘΠῚ ΤῸΝ ΘΡΌΝΟΝ ΚΑΘΉΜΕΝΟς. The mode of representation itself, according to which the reference here is to “one sitting,” and in Revelation 4:3,[1677] the one mentioned in Revelation 4:2 is described simply as “the sitting one,” shows that John does not mention this sitting one more definitely, because he wishes here to do nothing more than with perfect fidelity to report the vision which he has had.[1678] In Revelation 1:12 sqq., also, he has not expressly mentioned the manifestation of Christ. Utterly preposterous is the declaration of Heinr.: “The name seems to have been omitted only by carelessness in writing, which is especially conspicuous in this entire chapter.” Just as impertinent is the allusion to the Jewish dread of uttering the name of God.[1679] Suitable in itself to John would be the explanation of Herder: “To name him, the soul has no image, language no word;”[1680] but even this is not here applicable, as John in general, even where he definitely mentions the vision here described, expressly calls God the enthroned one.[1681] These passages show at the same time that the enthroned one is regarded[1682] not as the Triune God,[1683] but as God the Father, in distinction from the Son,[1684] and the Spirit.[1685] So Alcas., Stern, Grot., Wetst., Vitr., Beng., Hengstenb., etc.

[1668] C. a Lap., Beng., etc.

[1669] Cf. on Revelation 4:1.

[1670] 100:4 in Schöttgen.

[1671] Isaiah 6; Ezekiel 1; Daniel 7:9 sqq.; 1 Kings 22:29.

[1672] Cf. also R. Rocholl, Ueber Merkabah., Zeitschr. f. Luther. Theolog., 1875, p. 393 sqq.

[1673] Beng.

[1674] Hengstenb. Cf. Revelation 4:6.

[1675] Cf. Meyer on John 2:6.

[1676] De Wette, Ebrard.

[1677] Cf. Revelation 4:11; Revelation 5:1.

[1678] Cf. Hengstenb.

[1679] Eichh., Ew.

[1680] Cf. Aret., De Wette, etc.

[1681] Revelation 7:10; Revelation 7:15, Revelation 12:5, Revelation 19:4, Revelation 22:1.

[1682] Cf. Revelation 1:1; 2 Corinthians 13:13.

[1683] N. de Lyra, C. a Lap., Calov.

[1684] “The Lamb,” Revelation 5:6 sqq.

[1685] Cf. Revelation 4:5.

Revelation 4:2. A fresh wave of ecstasy catches up the seer. εὐθέωςπνεύματι, repeating Revelation 1:10, not because the author had forgotten his previous statement, and still less because a new source begins here (Vischer), but simply because every successive phase of this Spirit-consciousness, every new access of ecstasy, was considered to be the result of a fresh inspiration; so the O.T. prophets (e.g., Ezekiel 11:1 καὶ ἀνέλαβέν με πνεῦμα κ.τ.λ., followed by Ezekiel 11:5 καὶ ἔπεσεν ἐπʼ ἐμὲ πνεῦμα, Ezekiel 2:2 and Ezekiel 3:24; cf. Enoch xiv. 9 καὶ ἄνεμοι ἐν τῇ ὁράσει μουεἰσήνεγκάν με εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν followed by ver 14 ἐθεώρουν ἐν τ. . μ. καὶ ἰδοὺ κ.τ.λ., lxxi. 1 and 5, etc.). The primitive Christian conception of the Spirit was that of a sudden and repeated transport rather than a continuous experience (Acts 4:8; Acts 4:31, etc.), particularly in the region of ecstasy. The royal presence is depicted in this theophany by means of similes and metaphors (partly rabbinic) which originally were suggested in part by the marvellous atmospheric colouring of an Eastern sky during storm or sunset; several had been for long traditional and fanciful modes of expressing the divine transcendence (e.g., En. xiv. 18 f. the divine glory like crystal, etc.) which dominates the Apocalypse. God is a silent, enthroned (cf. 1 Kings 22:19 etc.), eternal Figure, hidden by the very excess of light, keeping ward and watch over his people, but never directly interfering in their affairs till the judgment, when mankind appears before his throne for doom and recompense. This reluctance to name or describe God, so characteristic of the later Judaism, was allied to the feeling which mediated his action upon the world through angels or through his Christ (see on Revelation 1:1 and Revelation 15:8). For the tendency to describe God and heaven in priestly terms, cf. Gfrörer, i. 276 f. The whole of the present passage is illustrated by Pirke Elieser, iv.: “majestas sancti benedicti est in medio quattuor classium angelicarum. Ipse insidet throno excelso eleuatus, atque solium eius sublime suspensum est sursum in aere, figura autem gloriae eius est sicut color Chasonal, juxta uerba prophetiae (Ezekiel 1:27) … atque oculi per totum orbem discurrunt. Sagittae eius sunt ignis et grando; a dextra eius uita est, a sinistramors, sceptrum ignitum in manu eius. Expansum est ante eum uelum, et septem angeli qui prius creati sunt, famulantur ei ante uelum … infra thronum gloriae eius est sicuti lapis sapphiri.”

2. I was in the spirit] As Revelation 1:10 q.v. It is implied that he was caught up through the open door into Heaven, and saw what was going on above.

was set] i.e. was there already—not that he saw it put in its place. There is a description of the Throne of God in the apocryphal Book of Enoch, Revelation 14:17-20, very like this: probably St John had read it (cf. Judges 15), and his language shews quotations of it, as well as of the canonical passages in Ezekiel 1 and Daniel 7.

and one sat on the throne] God the Father, not the Trinity: the presence of the other Persons being otherwise indicated, Revelation 4:5, and Revelation 4:6. It is intimated, though with an intentional vagueness, that the Divine Presence was symbolised by a human Form, as in Isaiah 6:1; Isaiah 6:5; Ezekiel 1:26 sq.; Daniel 7:9 : contrast Deuteronomy 4:12, but compare Exodus 24:10-11; Exodus 33:23. Apparently God revealed Himself by such symbols to men whom He had educated to such a point that they should not imagine them to be more than symbols. Therefore perhaps to attempt to include representations of the Father in the range of Christian art is rather of dangerous boldness than ipso facto illegitimate: see on this question Ruskin’s Modern Painters, Part III. Sec. ii. Chap. v. § 7.

Revelation 4:2. Ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, in heaven) Thus the heavenly court is described. Those things which the Apocalypse everywhere touches upon of heavenly subjects, viz. the temple, the throne, the assembly, the altar, the ark of the covenant, may not inappropriately be illustrated from the writings of the ancient Hebrews. See the Dissertation V. of Christian Schoettgenius, appended to the Horæ Hebraicæ, pp. 1212–1223.

Verse 2. - And immediately I was in the Spirit. Omit "and" (see above), so that the passage may be rendered, After these things, immediately, I was in the Spirit; a new scene was opened out, as before (in ver. 1). St. John was already in the Spirit; but now receives a fresh outpouring of grace, enabling him to see yet more deeply into the mysteries of the kingdom of God. And, behold, a throne was set in heaven; or, a throne was situated (ἔκειτο). There is no action of placing or setting up. Compare the vision of Ezekiel, "In the firmament that was above the head of the cherubims there appeared over them as it were a sapphire stone, as the appearance of the likeness of a throne" (Ezekiel 10:1), where the throne appears above the cherubim, in the position of the cloud of glory (cf. also Isaiah 6:1, 2, where the seraphim are above). And one sat on the throne. Probably the Triune God, to whom the Trisagien in ver. 8 is addressed. Some have thought that the Father is indicated, in contradistinction to the other Persons of the Holy Trinity, and that it is from him that the Son takes the book in Revelation 5:8. But as Cornelius a Lapide remarks, "The Son as Man may well be said, especially in a sublime vision like this, to come to God." The Person is not named, because

(1) the Name of God is incommunicable; it is the "new Name" (see on Revelation 3:12); or

(2) because the seer describes only what is seen; or

(3) it is suppressed from a sense of reverence. Revelation 4:2I was in the Spirit (ἐγενόμην ἐν πνεύματι)

Strictly, I:became: I found myself in. Appropriate to the sudden and unconscious transportation of the seer into the ecstatic state. Thus Dante describes his unconscious rapture into Paradise:

"And suddenly it seemed that day to day

Was added, as if He who had the power

Had with another sun the heaven adorned."

Beatrice, noticing his amazement, says:

"Thou makest thyself so dull

With false imagining, that thou seest not

What thou wouldst see if thou hadst shaken it off.

Thou art not upon earth as thou believest;

But lightning, fleeing its appropriate site,

Ne'er ran as thou, who thitherward returnest."

"Paradiso," i., 60-93.

A throne


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