Revelation 4:5
And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
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(5) And out of the throne proceeded (rather, proceed; there is a change in the tense used) lightnings and thunderings and voices.—These are viewed by some as the indications of approaching judgments. Perhaps it is better to view them as the tokens of God’s power of judgment than as hints of immediately approaching judgments. The scene at Sinai (Exodus 19:16) was no doubt in the prophet’s mind. There the clouds and lightnings were not so much tokens of coming judgment as the symbols of that righteous power which can show itself in judgment. “Clouds and darkness are round about Him; righteousness and judgment are the habitation of His throne” (Psalm 97:2). They are the constant tokens of that power of God

“Which makes the darkness and the light,

And dwells not in the light alone,

But in the darkness and the cloud

As over Sinai's peaks of old.”

And there were seven lamps (or, torches) of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.—See Revelation 3:1. The Spirit of God in His manifold powers is thus described under emblems of fire. Not merely as a fire of judgment. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a baptism of fire (Matthew 3:11-12). The flaming presence purges the spirit from sin. The Holy Spirit consumes evil. It is an unquenchable fire against all evils, whether in men’s hearts or in men’s lives, or in the world. (Comp. 1Corinthians 3:13, and Hebrews 12:29.) May there not be allusion to the covenant with Abraham, which was ratified by fire? Lamps, or torches, of fire (lampades puros, LXX., same as in this passage) went between the divided pieces of the heifer and the she-goat. If this be correct, the vision of this chapter reminds us that God is ever mindful of His covenant. The rainbow, the token of the covenant with Noah; the flaming torches, tokens of the covenant with Abraham; and the thunderings and lightnings, the tokens of the covenant at Sinai, are ever with Him. (Comp, also Ezekiel 1:4.)

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 out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices - Expressive of the majesty and glory of Him that sat upon it. We are at once reminded by this representation of the sublime scene that occurred at Sinai Exodus 19:16, where "there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud." Compare Ezekiel 1:13, Ezekiel 1:24. So Milton:

"Forth rushed with whirlwind sound.

The chariot of Paternal Deity,

Flahing thick flames."

"And from about him fierce effusion rolled.

Of smoke, and lightning flame, and sparkles dire."

Par. Lost, b. vi.

The word "voices" here connected with "thunders" perhaps means "voices even thunders" - referring to the sound made by the thunder. The meaning is, that these were echoing and re-echoing sounds, as it were a multitude of voices that seemed to speak on every side.

And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne - Seven burning lamps that constantly shone there, illuminating the whole scene. These steadily burning lamps would add much to the beauty of the vision.

Which are the seven Spirits of God - Which represent, or are emblematic of, the seven Spirits of God. On the meaning of the phrase, "the seven Spirits of God," see the notes on Revelation 1:4. If these lamps are designed to be symbols of the Holy Spirit, according to the interpretation proposed in Revelation 1:4, it may be perhaps in the following respects:

(1) They may represent the manifold influences of that Spirit in the world - as imparting light; giving consolation; creating the heart anew; sanctifying the soul, etc.

(2) they may denote that all the operations of that Spirit are of the nature of light, dissipating darkness, and vivifying and animating all things.

(3) perhaps their being placed here before the throne, in the midst of thunder and lightning, may be designed to represent the idea that - amidst all the scenes of magnificence and grandeur; all the storms, agitations, and tempests on the earth; all the political changes; all the convulsions of empire under the providence of God; and all the commotions in the soul of man, produced by the thunders of the law - the Spirit of God beams calmly and serenely, shedding a steady influence over all, like lamps burning in the very midst of lightnings, and thunderings, and voices. In all the scenes of majesty and commotion that occur on the earth, the Spirit of God is present, shedding a constant light, and undisturbed in his influence by all the agitations that are abroad.

5. proceeded—Greek, "proceed."

thunderings and voices—The two oldest manuscripts transpose, "voices and thunderings." Compare at the giving of the law on Sinai, Ex 19:16. "The thunderings express God's threats against the ungodly: there are voices in the thunders (Re 10:3), that is, not only does He threaten generally, but also predicts special judgments" [Grotius].

seven lamps … seven Spirits—The Holy Spirit in His sevenfold operation, as the light-and-life Giver (compare Re 5:6, seven eyes … the seven Spirits of God; Re 1:4; 21:23; Ps 119:105) and fiery purifier of the godly, and consumer of the ungodly (Mt 3:11).

And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: these words denote a very glorious and terrible appearance of God, denoting his majesty, and power over his enemies. There is, possibly, an allusion to God’s appearance at the giving of the law, Exodus 19:16; only we read there but of one voice, and that of a trumpet, inarticulate. The lamps of fire before the throne, have a correspondence with the seven lamps of the tabernacle, which gave light to the whole house of God, Exodus 27:20; and are here expounded to be

the seven Spirits of God, that is, the Holy Spirit in his seven-fold (that is, manifold) dispensations of grace, 1 Corinthians 12:4,5, by which he enlighteneth, quickeneth, healeth, and comforteth the several souls that are the true members of his church. See Poole on "Revelation 1:4".

And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings,

and voices,.... Which may be understood either of the doctrines of the Gospel which come out of Zion, and out of Jerusalem, the church of God, where he has his throne; and which are comparable to "lightning", both for the light and knowledge they give, and for the swiftness with which they were spread over the world, by the apostles of Christ; and to "thunderings", for the awfulness, authority, and majesty of them, especially as they were delivered out by the Boanergeses, or sons of thunder; and as the prophesies of the prophets are called "the voices" of the prophets, Acts 13:27; so may the doctrines of the Gospel be called "voices", as they are the voice of God, and of Christ, and of his ministers; and are voices of love, grace, mercy, peace, pardon, righteousness, and eternal life. The allusion is to the giving of the law on Mount Sinai, when such things were seen and heard, Exodus 19:16 or else the judgments of God, and the punishments inflicted upon his enemies, and the enemies of his church and people, and his awful threatenings of them, may be designed; see Psalm 18:13; with which compare Revelation 8:5.

And there were seven lamps of burning fire before the throne,

which are the seven spirits of God; in allusion to the seven lamps in the tabernacle and temple, which were trimmed by the priests, and always kept burning, and are expressive of the Spirit, and his gifts; and these being signified by the number "seven", denote the fulness and perfection of them; and being said to be "before the throne", show that there is always a sufficiency of them for the supply of the churches in all ages, to fit and qualify proper persons to minister the word, and administer ordinances; and these being called "lamps of burning fire", point at the light the Spirit of God in his gifts communicates to the churches; and that warmth and heat, comfort and refreshment; conveyed to them, through the preaching of the Gospel, and the dispensation of the ordinances of it, under his illuminating and quickening influences.

{6} And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.

(6) By effects, in that most mightily he speaks all things by his voice and word, Ps 29:3 and with the light of his Spirit and prudence peruses and passes through all.

Revelation 4:5. The throne of God corresponds in its appearance to the majesty of the king sitting thereon. As in Psalms 29.,[1743] the regal[1744] omnipotence of God is made visible in the violence of the thunder-storm, so John here uses the same image in order to describe the unlimited omnipotence of the enthroned one, particularly as exercised in judgment. The throne itself, out of which proceeded “the lightnings, thunderings, and voices,” appears filled with this sign of the Divine omnipotence. The φωναί which are here distinguished from the βρονταί—so that passages as Revelation 6:1, Revelation 10:3, Revelation 14:2,[1745] must not be here compared,—have[1746] to be regarded as the roar which in a storm accompanies the thunder and lightning.[1747] The misunderstandings of the description depend upon the crudeness and arbitrariness of the exposition. So in N. de Lyra:[1748] “The coruscation of miracles, and declaration of rewards for good and the terror of punishments for evil deeds.” Solely on account of the ἐκπορεύονται,”[1749] Aretius understood by the ἀστραπ., φων., and βροντ., even, the Holy Ghost. De Wette[1750] discerns in the lightning, etc., figures of God’s manifestations of power and life in nature, which are to be distinguished, as “critical and powerful revelations of God,” from the seven lamps as “his calm and perpetual influences;” while in Revelation 4:6-8, “nature itself, or the realm of the living,” and finally in Revelation 4:9-11, “the harmony of creation with redeemed humanity, and thus God in his living efficiency and reality,” are brought into consideration. But this interpretation is in more than one respect without foundation. The lightning, voices, and thunder are, according to the O. T. view, on which the present description depends,[1751] not figures of the revelation of God in nature as distinct from another revelation, but of the unlimited power of God, especially as judging;[1752] only we dare not, with Grot., understand the ἀστρ. and βροντ. of general threats, but the φων. of particular afflictions. The throne whence the lightning, etc., proceeds, agrees with that whose form appears to be not only like jasper, but also like a sardine stone.

καῖ ἑπτὰ λαμπάδες πυρὸς, κ.τ.λ. The authentic explanation immediately follows: αἵ εἰσι τὰ ἑπτὰ πνεύματα τοῦ θεοῦ. Cf., besides, Revelation 1:4. The pragmatic significance of the Spirit of God in this connection is not that the Spirit of God “is the principle of the psychical[1753] and spiritual life, and that through him the inner influence of God on nature and the human world occurs;”[1754] for the idea of the λαμπάδες πυρός does not suit the explanation of the closely connected first half of the verse. But Hengstenb. also, who very arbitrarily combines the “seven” of the Spirit with the “three” of the lightning, voices, and thunder, into a “ten,” and herein finds indicated a connection of the Spirit with that lightning, etc., improperly thinks only of an operation of the Spirit, “bringing corruption, punishing, and annihilating.” If also the idea of the work of the Spirit in judging[1755] dare not be left out of consideration, partly because of what precedes, and partly because of the expression, πυρός; on the one hand, the expression λαμπάδες, and, on the other, the parallel Revelation 5:6 (ὀφθαλμοί), indicate that the Spirit is to be regarded chiefly as illuminating, seeing, searching all things,[1756] and just on that account everywhere[1757] active in his holy judgments. Essentially the seven lamps of fire burning before the throne of God indicate nothing else than the eyes of the Lord “as a flame of fire” in Revelation 1:14.[1758]

[1743] Cf. Psalm 97:1 sqq., Revelation 18:8 sqq.

[1744] Psalm 29:10.

[1745] Hengstenb.

[1746] Cf. Exodus 19:16.

[1747] Cf. Vitr., Ew., Hengstenb.

[1748] Cf. already Primas, Beda; also Zeger.

[1749] Cf. John 15:26.

[1750] Cf. also Ebrard.

[1751] Cf. Revelation 8:5, Revelation 11:19, Revelation 16:18.

[1752] Vitr., Hengstenb., etc.

[1753] Genesis 1:2; Psalm 104:30.

[1754] De Wette, Ebrard.

[1755] Cf. Isaiah 4:4; John 16:8.

[1756] Cf. 1 Corinthians 2:10.

[1757] Cf. Revelation 5:6; Psalm 139:7.

[1758] Cf. Daniel 10:6.

Revelation 4:5. The impression of awe is heightened by traits from the primitive Semitic theophany which, especially in judgment, was commonly associated with a thunderstorm (φωναί = the shrieks and roaring blasts of the storm). Thunder in the Apocalypse is either a sort of chorus in praise of God (as here) or punitive (e.g., Revelation 16:18); in Enoch lix. 1 the seer beholds the secrets of the thunder, “how it ministers unto well-being and blessing, or serves for a curse before the Lord of Spirits”. For the “torches of fire” (seven being a sacred number = collective and manifold power, Jastrow 265, Trench 62–70) cf. Ezekiel 1:13 ὡς ὄψις λαμπάδων συστρεφομένων ἀναμέσον τῶν ζῴων καὶ φέγγος τοῦ πυρὸς καὶ ἐκ τοῦ πυρὸς ἐξεπορεύετο ἀστραπή, and Apoc. Bar. xxi. 6, where “holy living creatures, without number, of flame and fire” surround the throne. Fulness, intensity, energy, are implied in the figure, which reflects the traditional association (in the primitive mind) of fire and flame with the divinity, and especially with the divine purity or holiness of which they were regarded as an outward expression. There may be an allusion to the ignes aeterni or sempiterni of Roman mythology, an equivalent for the heavenly bodies; but Jewish eschatology had for over two centuries been familiar with the seven watchers of the heavenly court and their counterparts in Persian and Babylonian mythology. The combination of fire and crystal (Revelation 4:6, see also Revelation 15:2) goes back originally to Exodus 24:9-10; Exodus 24:17, and Ezekiel 1:22; Ezekiel 1:27, mediated by passages like En. xiv. 9, 17 f. , 21–23; while the groundwork of the symbol answers to the seven Persian councillors (Ezra 7:14, Esther 1:14) who formed the immediate circle of the monarch, a counterpart of the divine Amshaspands, as well as to the sacred fire of Ormuzd, which (on Zoroastrian principles) was to be kept constantly burning. Seven burning altars, evidently representing a planetary symbolism, also occur in the cult of Mithra, while in the imageless temple of Melcarth at Gades fires always burned upon the altar, tended by whiterobed priests.—5 c reads like an editorial comment or a liturgical gloss; the πρεσβύτεροι, e.g., are undefined.

5. seven] Typified by the seven lamps of the candlestick in the Tabernacle, and represented by the “seven golden candlesticks” of the Church on earth: see on Revelation 1:20. The significance of the seven-branched candlestick in relation especially to the Spirit is suggested in Zechariah 4.

seven Spirits] See the last note on Revelation 1:4.

Revelation 4:5. Ἀστραπαὶ καὶ φωναὶ καὶ βρονταὶ[59]) In ch. Revelation 8:5 there are mentioned ΒΡΟΝΤΑῚ ΚΑῚ ἈΣΤΡΑΠΑῚ ΚΑῚ ΦΩΝΑῚ ΚΑῚ ΣΕΙΣΜῸς; in Revelation 11:19, ἈΣΤΡΑΠΑῚ ΚΑῚ ΦΩΝΑῚ ΚΑῚ ΒΡΟΝΤΑῚ ΚΑἸ ΣΕΙΣΜῸς ΚΑῚ ΧΆΛΑΖΑ ΜΕΓΆΛΗ; and again with Epitasis, as far as relates to ΣΕΙΣΜῸΝ ΚΑῚ ΧΆΛΑΖΑΝ, in ch. Revelation 16:18; Revelation 16:21. It occasions inconvenience, that the copyists have written lightnings and voices and thunderings, in these four passages, with so little attention to the order: yet in ch. Revelation 4:5, Revelation 11:19, all place lightnings first in order; in Revelation 16:18, almost all; in Revelation 8:5, not one.—ἑπτὰ λαμπάδες, seven lamps) The Holy Spirit, economically, as Wisdom, חבמות, in the plural number. ch. Revelation 5:6, the text explains itself.

[59] AB Vulg. have φωναὶ καὶ βρονταί: Rec. Text, without good authority, βρονταὶ καὶ φωναί.—E.

Verse 5. - And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thundering and voices. The present tense (see on ver. 4). The whole symbolical of the power and majesty of God, as of old he manifested his presence on Sinai. "There were thunders and lightnings and... the voice of the trumpet" (Exodus 19:16). And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. The Holy Spirit, represented in his sevenfold operation, by lamps, which illumine. The same idea is expressed under another figure in Revelation 5:6, where the searching, enlightening power of the Holy Spirit is typified by seven eyes. Revelation 4:5Proceeded (ἐκπορεύονται)

Rev., proceed. The tense is graphically changed to the present.

Lightnings and thunderings and voices

Compare Exodus 19:16. Variously interpreted of God's might, His judgment, His power over nature, and His indignation against the wicked.

Lamps (λαμπάδες)

The origin of our lamp, but, properly, a torch; the word for lamp being λύχνος, a hand-lamp filled with oil (Matthew 5:15; Luke 8:16; John 5:35). See on Matthew 25:1. Trench says: "The true Hindoo way of lighting up, is by torches, held by men who feed the flame with oil from a sort of bottle constructed for the purpose."

Seven Spirits of God

See on Revelation 1:4.

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