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We had for a long time been personally quite convinced that the Revelation of S. John is a magnificent Poem, and that it ought to be printed entire in Hebrew Parallelisms, before our attention was called to Archbishop Benson's posthumous work, “The Apocalypse, A Study." We had not only been so convinced, but we had actually arranged a great part of it in parallelisms, but we had not the boldness to apply it to the whole work. We have adopted his general arrangement of acts and scenes.
“ Blessed is he who keeps reading.” This is the first of the seven benedictions of the Apocalypse (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7; 22:14).
4:2. “ There was a throne set in heaven.”
See Introduction under Scene. There is a description of the throne of God in the book of Enoch 14: 17-23 very much like this. S. John may have read it. Compare Jude 15; Ezekiel 1; Daniel 7.
Some one sitting on it.
The enthroned one is not named. This is in accord with the Jewish reluctance to name Jehovah.
The thought of the enthroned one is kept before us through the whole book (5:1, 7; 6:15; 20:11; 21:5). We are reminded that the great world drama moves forward ever under the eyes of the Great All-Ruler.
Compare Isaiah 6:5; Ezekiel 1: 26, etc.; Daniel 7:9; Deuteronomy 4:12; Exodus 24: 10, 11; 33: 23.
4:4. “ Twenty-four elders." In the similar vision of Ezekiel no human beings are
Their appearance here is significant. They are the representatives of Christ's completed Church. They are the twelve tribes doubled, some say, to indicate the union of the Heathen with the Jewish Church, or, they are the twelve Patriarchs joined with the twelve Apostles, and so represent the true spiritual successors, as priests to God, of those twenty-four courses arranged by David (1 Caron. 24: 1–19).
The same thought is touched on in the double song of Moses and the Lamb (chap. 15:3), and in the gates and foundations of the New Jerusalem (21:12, 14).
4:11. “Worthy art thou our Lord and our God,"
Here we have the praise of God the Creator by his creatures as such. In the next chapter we have the praise of the Redeemer.
“ Each with a harp and gold bowls full of incense." It is not the Church alone which is interested in the rey. elation which will throw light on life's mysteries and the delay in the coming of Christ's Kingdom. The whole creation is groaning and travailing in pain while looking and longing for the great consummation. So here we see the four living creatures who represent creation joining with the twenty-four elders who represent the Church, in the adoration of the Lamb who holds the great secret of life in the hollow of his hand. The harps represent the praises of the Church and the bowls of incense the prayers.
Incense held a conspicuous place in the ritual of the Temple. And so we read in Psalm 141:2, “ Let my prayer be set forth in thy sight as the incense.”
5:9. They keep singing a new song.”
This is the first chorus, the chorus of the purchased possession.
5:12. “ The power, etc."
The praises ascribed to this book are either sevenfold as here, fourfold as in the next verse, or threefold as in 4:11; 19:1.
This is the second chorus, the chorus of the Angels.
5:13. “And every created thing.”
This is the third chorus; the chorus of the universe. The song of the “purchased possession,” echoed by the hosts of angels, is now merged in the utterance of all. The song of praise rises from all quarters, and from every form of creation. The whole universe, animate and inanimate, join in the glad acclaim.
This idea is thoroughly Hebrew. The Hebrew mind delighted in representing every bird, every beast, every element of creation as joining with them in the praise of God. See the last Psalms. Compare also Philippians 2: 10.
The two preceding songs were in honor of the Lamb. Here the Throned One and the Lamb are praised alike. This linking of the Lamb with God as the Throned One is common throughout the book. See 6: 16; 7:17; 19:6, 7; 21:22; 21:23; 21:1; 22: 3.
6:1. “ And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals."
It is at this chapter the most difficult work of the interpreter begins. Many and various have been the interpretations of what follows, and only those who keep to broad and general principles can hope to keep close to the truth of what is from here on the burden of the seer's message.
The mission of Christianity is not to abolish all the evils of the earth at once and by external compulsion but only by degrees and through an internal conviction. And that not by means of peoples and nations and languages as a whole but through the individual believer.
The seals seem to speak a double message. To the world they say: “ When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth ? " To the Church they say: • In the world you will have tribulation : but take courage, I have overcome the world.”
There are two lines of thought in the world and they give rise to two apparently contradictory pictures. We are shown what the world would be if the principles of Christ were fully and universally accepted. On the other hand we see the world as it really is because men do not accept them.
The scenes which the seals unfold are the pictorial statements of Christ's utterances in S. Matthew 24:6, 7. The Church through them is warned to be ready for her mission of suffering.
6:1. " And I heard one of the four living creatures, say. ing . . . Come.”
The living creatures cry : “Come," and they are responded to by the coming of the horsemen.
As already seen the living creatures represent the whole of animate nature, that nature and creation of God which is groaning and travailing in pain together, waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God. They bid the pains and troubles come because they recognize them as the necessary precursors of creation's true King.
6:2. Conquering and to conquer."
This vision of the first horseman is the symbol of Christian victory. It was thus the early Christians ever pictured Christ. He had ascended up on high leading captivity captive. This faith in him was well and thoroughly placed. But their expectation was at fault. It was at fault in the fact that they did not allow time for the abomination of desolation to work. But war, famine, and death must intervene. It is through these the conquerer himself came. It is through these we must come.
6:4.“ And another horse came out, a red horse."
Here is a distinct and unmistakable declaration that we must look for wars and rumors of wars. The advent of the highest good does not bring peace, but a sword. In other words, peace of course is its ultimate goal to which it must of necessity come, but only through war, desolation, and destruction of everything that is radically opposed to it.
Here must ever be the true Christian's position with refer