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living creatures are emblems of the ambassadors of Christ, is evident from the following things; they belong to the fallen race of man; for they were redeemed by the blood of Christ. See chap. v. 8-10; where the four living creatures, and the elders (lay members of the church) devoutly prostrated themselves before Christ, saying, "For thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, and hast made us kings and priests unto our God, and we shall reign on the earth.” "Thou hast redeemed us!" Certainly, then, they are men, and not angels. We repeatedly find that the angels are mentioned besides them, and distinct from them, as chap. v. 11. and vii. 11. "I beheld and heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the living creatures, and the elders." They are ever distinguished, too, from the common members of the church, known as the elders.
Under the seals, in chap. vi., as new events of Providence unfold, each in turn of these living creatures says, "Come and see!" q. d. "Come, behold the works of the Lord!" This is a part of the employment of the ministers of the gospel. The connexion of these living creatures with the sea of glass, as the twelve oxen were connected with the brazen sea of old, suggests, that they denote the same characters, the ambassadors of Christ. And the employments of these emblems decide the same thing: for they are found (in verse 8-11, of our context) leading the common members of the church in the worship of God.
These emblems of the ministry are said to be "in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne!" indicating their nearness to God, and his care of them. The following words of Christ to his ministers, give the true sense of their being in and round about the throne; “Lo, I am with you always." "He that receiveth you receiveth me: but he that despiseth you despiseth me." These stars of Zion our Saviour holds in his own right hand, while he walks in the midst of his golden candlesticksthe churches.
The text assures that these emblems of the ministry are "full of eyes before and behind," which are significant of their correct knowledge, and holy vigilance, to examine all things both before them, and after them.
Ver. 7. And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.
We have here the various gifts of the ministers of Christ. We find that these gifts are often noted in different scriptures: "And he gave to some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors, and teachers." And again, "All things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas;" meaning the different gifts of the ministers of the gospel.
The first class in the text, are like a lion,-bold, undaunted, as well as strong. The second like a calf, or a young ox; alluding to the brazen oxen under the sea in the temple of Israel, "Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox;" or shalt support the ministry. This second class of these emblems denotes a class of ministers patient, strong, and though not brilliant, yet profitable, means of great good in God's husbandry. The third emblem, with the face of a man, may denote ministers who are argumentative, deep, perhaps very humane. The fourth like a flying eagle, swift of flight; of piercing vision; passing fearlessly over deserts, mountains, lakes; towering toward heaven, and flying to different regions. This emblem may remind us of the flights of missionaries, some to the ends of the earth.
Ver. 8. And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within; and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is
Their six wings a-piece assure us of their alacrity in duty; that true ministers fly in swift obedience to their Lord and master; as saith Isaiah, "Here am I, Lord; send me !" and Paul, "For the love of Christ constraineth
Their being "full of eyes within," indicates their gracious self-knowledge, and vigilantly keeping their own hearts, as well as cultivating their mental powers.
Their resting not day nor night, saying, "Holy, holy, holy" is most significant. They are themselves holy! "Be ye clean, who bear the vessels of the Lord." One great business of their lives is to proclaim the holy God, and the holiness of God, as well as to call on men to be holy. Let the following hints illustrate this; "I ceased not to warn every man, night and day, with tears." "I have set watchmen on thy walls, O Jerusalem, who will never hold their peace, day nor night.”
Their saying, holy, holy, holy, is thought by some to allude to the eternal Three in Ore, in Him who is, and was, and is to come! that each in this infinite three is superlatively holy!
Ver. 9. And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,
10. The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
11. Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
The ministers of Christ lead in the holy worship of God; and the churches unite in the same.
The casting of their crowns at God's feet, denotes their most feeling and devout confession, that all their salvation, from its origin to the crown of glory, is of the most free and sovereign gift of God.
One argument used by them is powerful indeedthat God made all things, and this according to his own pleasure! While hypocrites and sinners contend with the Divine sovereignty; the true people of God adore him in it, and rejoice that "the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth !"
May ministers and churches be ever deeply impressed with a view of the great exaltation and responsibility of their character and standing. Verily their duties, at such a day as this, are great and urgent!
What must the many eyes of the ministers of Christ, (eyes before and behind, and within) discover, at this age of infidelity and of licentiousness! May all Christ's ministers clearly discern the signs of the times-what is doing-and what ought to be done! If ever wakefulness and faithfulness were important, they are now important! In the midst of the terrors of the times, just antecedent to the Millennium, let it be remembered, that faithful ministers, and Christ's churches are round about the throne! God is near, and with them, with the rainbow of his covenant faithfulness, which will not fail of bringing salvation to Zion, and desolation to her enemies. They “that be with us, are more than they that be with them." "God is our refuge and strength !"
Having thus far exhibited the actors of the scenes to be unfolded; another preparatory scene is now introduced. A lively exhibition must now be given of the fact, that no revelation of mercy could be given from God (after man's apostacy), and no merciful predictions of future events, but by an infinite Mediator. All the gracious communications which had been made in the Old Testament, from the beginning, of the doctrines, duties, and motives of salvation, in the prophecies and promises, had been made only in anticipation of a Saviour to come. And of this, a clear decision must now be given, before entering on the revelation of scenes of futurity. No such gracious revelation from God to man could have been made, after the fall of man, but through one mighty to save. And a council must here be represented as held in heaven, to see if such a Saviour could be found, and hence such an unfolding of the salvation made! With this view we are prepared to attend to this chapter.
Ver. 1. And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the back side, sealed with seven seals.
God on the throne holds a book in his right hand-a book not of modern, but of ancient form. The form of books
in ancient days, was a leaf (either a parchment, or the rind of papyrus, or some fit substance), written sometimes on both sides, as in the case of Ezekiel's roll; but usually on but one side, and rolled up, the writing inward. If they had matter for more than one leaf, they would write it on another leaf, and roll it over the first; then another; and so on, to any amount. Such a book is seen in the right hand of God the Father, consisting of seven leaves, thus written on the inside, rolled over each other, and sealed on the last edge of each leaf, so that it was, in a sevenfold degree, a sealed book.
The text seems to tell us, that each leaf was written on both sides; but the best expositors agree that this is not the sense of the passage. This erroneous sense is given only by placing a comma in the passage where it does not belong. The pointings of the Bible are of human invention; as are other parts of grammar. This passage is mistakingly so pointed as to read thus: written within and on the back side, sealed with seven seals!" whereas the true reading is as follows: "written within,—and on the back side sealed with seven seals." The whole account shows this to be the true reading; for the book was sealed, and no part of its writing could have been designed to be seen till its seal was broken, and its leaf unrolled by a person able to accomplish it. This sealed book was an emblem of events then future, designed for the salvation of the church.
Ver. 2. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?
3. And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.
The question of infinite interest to a fallen world was to be decided; could there be, in the case of fallen man, any hope, so that salvation, and a merciful unfolding of future scenes, could be given? The inquiry seems great and public, made by a strong angel; probably the greatest agent in the intelligent creation ;-q. d. Is any creature in the universe able to open this book?
And no one, oudeis, (in the original) meaning here, no