And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.…
And immediately I was in the Spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and One sat on the throne, etc. We need not suppose that the supermundane world appeared to John's bodily eye in the forms in which it is here presented. It was a mental vision and nothing more, and a mental vision is often more real, more significant, more impressive, than a material. Commentators of this book have treated these objects as those which were addressed to the senses of the apostle, and have thus turned it into a wilderness of confusion; and preachers have used it to excite the imagination, stir the sensibilities, and stimulate the wildest and idlest speculations concerning a man's higher sphere of being. The whole is a mental vision. We shall take the vision not as a symbolic puzzle, or even a metaphorical representation, but merely as an illustration of two things.
I. THE EXTRAORDINARY CHARACTER of man's higher sphere of being. All things here seem to be of a unique nature and order. An air of the wonderful spreads over all.
1. The general appearances are extraordinary. Observe the social appearances are extraordinary. Royalties abound. "A throne was set in heaven," with one Occupant supreme, as brilliant in aspect as a precious stone. "He that sat was to look upon like a jasper [stone] and a sardine stone [sardius]: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald [to look upon]." Then there were other royalties and dignities seated round the central throne. "And round about the throne were four and twenty seats [thrones]: and upon the seats [thrones] I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed [arrayed] in white raiment [garments]; and they had on their heads crowns of gold." Now, the social appearances of this world are nothing like this. Everywhere there is degradation, not dignity; heads encircled with poverty, sorrow, and care, not "crowns of gold." Indeed, the great bulk of our social world do not even see the throne of the Supreme One in the heavens. They see the motion of the mere material machinery, or a scheme of what they call laws and forces, but not the One central and universal Ruler of all. Man's higher sphere of being, socially, is widely different to this. In the higher one free moral agents are the ruling power, not blind forces. And then over all there is One, and but One over all, on the central throne. Again, the physical phenomena are extraordinary. "And out of the throne proceeded [proceed] lightnings and thunderings [thunders] and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God." True, we have lightnings and thunders here occasionally, but articulate voices in the heavens we hear not, nor do we see torches of fire blazing before the throne. The firmament that spreads over the higher sphere of being will no doubt, in many respects, be very different to the heavens that encircle us. So, also, with the waters. "Before the throne there was [as it were] a sea of glass [a glassy sea] like unto crystal." We have a sea here rolling in majesty round three parts of the globe, but it is not like glass or crystal, ever calm, sparkling, and clear; it is never at rest, often lashed into fury, and black with rage. How calm and clear will be our higher sphere, "a sea of glass," mirroring the peacefulness and the glory of the Infinite! The living creatures also are extraordinary. "Round about the throne were four beasts [living creatures] full of eyes before and behind. And the first beast [creature] was like a lion, and the second beast [creature] like a calf, and the third beast [creature] had a face as [as of] a man, and the fourth beast [creature] was like a flying eagle. And the four beasts [living creatures] had each of them [having each one of them] six wings about him; and they were full [are full] of eyes within [and round about]." Although we have in this earth such beasts and birds and faces of man as here represented, a striking difference is indicated. They had "six wings" and were "full of eyes." Whilst some have the courage of the lion, the patience of the ox, the towering tendency of the eagle, and the sympathy of the man, they are all endowed with transcendent organs of vision and powers of speed - they teem with eyes and wings. It is here suggested, then - I do not say that it is intended to be taught, for I am not gifted with the power to interpret such passages - that man's life in the higher sphere of being differs widely from the present. "Eye hath not seen," etc.
2. The supreme service is extraordinary. What is the supreme service in that higher sphere? Worship. "And they rest not [have no rest] day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God [the] Almighty, which was, and [which] is, and [which] is to come. And when those beasts [the living creatures] give [shall give] glory and honour and thanks to him that sat [sitteth] on the throne, [to him] who liveth forever and ever, the four and twenty elders fall [shall fall] down before him that sat [sitteth] on the throne, and worship [shall worship] him that liveth forever and ever, and cast [shall cast] their crowns before the throne," etc. The worship there is the one ruling, intense, unremitting service. It is anything but that here; business, pleasure, aggrandizement, - these are the great and constant services of life. Real worship is indeed rare.
II. THE REAL ENTRANCE into man's higher sphere of being. "Immediately [straightway] I was in the Spirit." It is suggested that this higher life, this supermundane world, is entered by the Spirit. "Flesh and blood cannot enter the kingdom of heaven." There are two ways by which man can enter the invisible.
1. By the efforts of the imagination. The whole scene before us is evidently the product of the imagination. Extraordinary visions men often have in the stilly watches of the night, in the season of dreams. But imagination can act more accurately, if not more vividly, in the hour of consciousness and intellectual activity. Thus Milton beheld his heavens and his hells, his angels and his devils. We can all, by the force of imagination, penetrate the visible, the material, the tangible, withdraw the sublunary curtain and step into the world of spiritual wonders.
2. By the influx of a new spirit. It is not uncommon for men to come into possession of a new ruling spirit, and with a new spirit comes a new world. When the philosophic spirit enters a man (and it does so in the case of a few in every age and land), the man is ushered into a new world a world of high thoughts, invisible forms, and remedial forces. When the commercial spirit enters the rustic lout, he soon finds himself in a new world - a world of speculations and struggles, of losses and gains. When the parental spirit enters the soul, it is borne into a world before unseen - a world of solicitude, absorbing interests, pains and pleasures, sorrows and joys. When the genuinely religious spirit enters the soul, it enters this higher sphere of human life - the world of brightness and beauty, the world of an "innumerable company of angels, the spirits of just men made Perfect," etc: "And immediately [straightway] I was in the Spirit." "Heaven lies about us in our infancy, and we have only to be in this spirit to realize it. The great Teacher taught that no man can see the kingdom of God, unless he comes into the possession of this spirit. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."
CONCLUSION. Search not for an outward heaven, but rather search for that new spirit, that spirit of Christliness, that will let you into the heaven that lies about you and within you. Were the twelve hundred million men that tenant this earth today to come into possession of this spirit, they would arise on the morrow and exclaim, "Behold, a new heaven and a new earth!" Evermore the state of a man's soul determines his universe. The ruling life within him measures out, builds up, and moulds the external. - D.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.