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the impressions upon the mind of the prophet ; and hence the language he employs to describe them.
While the eye of his mind was fixed, his ear was addressed through this opening in the heavens, by a very powerful and majestic voice: And the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me.-The words may be literally translated, The voice, the former which I heard. The reference is not to voices which were to follow, but to a voice which he had formerly heard. Of this former voice we have the account in chap. i. 10; and by comparing that text with the one before us, we may easily perceive, that the speaker who addressed him on both occasions, by a voice from heaven, was the same person. The voice was like the sound of a trumpet, for the strength, majesty, and grandeur of its tone; and in both cases, it had all the clearness and distinctness of articu. lation which characterize the voice of a man; for this voice is said to have talked with him. A voice talking is a metonymical expression, by which one thing is put for another; as a sound, or voice, for the person by whom it is uttered. I need hardly mention, that what John now heard was the voice of God, and not of man The account which the speaker gives of himself, in the prophet's first vision, could not leave a doubt upon his mind, with respect to his true character. He there announces himself to be the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last.
By this adorable person, John was addressed in the language of invitation. He said unto him, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.—The language reminds us of the charge given to Moses, when he was commanded by the same speaker, to come up into the mount, Exod. xix. 20; only that there was no change of place in the case of John, as we know to have been the case with Moses. John remained stationary ; but Moses went up into the hill, where he continued during the space of forty days. All that is describ- . ed here was presented to the mind by way of extraordinary representation. That John might be qualified to give a full,
distinct, and perfect narration to the church of every thing he was to see and hear, he was impressed with the idea of hav. ing been called from earth to heaven, and set down in the celestial world, where the disclosure was to be made.
He had been previously instructed concerning the things which then were ; particularly the state of the churches of the Lesser Asia. And though living in a sequestered island, at some distance from the seat of these churches, by means of his first vision he was much more intimately acquainted with their condition, than when he laboured in person among them. But he was also to be instructed concerning the future destinies of the Catholic body; the scenes of futurity were to be laid open ; those things which human sagacity never could have divined nor conjectured, were to be disclosed, by signs and representations of a very extraordinary character, but which infinite Wisdom saw to be the fittest for the purposes he meant to serve by them.--John was not called up to see the things themselves; for then they would have been things present, and not the things which were to be hereafter : he was called to notice the signs, symbols, or representations, of future events. By a multitude of sacred and very remarkable symbols, he was to be instructed about futurity; and by the inspired account, which he was afterwards to give, of every thing which might be presented to his notice, he was to lay open the same scenes to the conteinplation of the whole church.
The things which John was called to contemplate were not mere probabilities, or things of little moment or importance. Remate as many of them were from the days of this apostle, and though the greater part, if not the whole of them, might, in human reckoning, be judged improbable, they were equally certain as those which had already come to pass. They were things which must be hereafter. They were fixed and determined in the Divine purpose, and therefore could not fail of their accomplishment.
John was no sooner called, than he was endowed with every gift and qualification necessary for the service he was to discharge. Of this he informs us in the beginning of ver. 2, Immediately I was in the Spirit.He had no time to deliberate how the mount of heaven might be climbed; or, supposing he were lifted up from earth to heaven, how the weight of the heavenly glory might be sustained. He was instantaneously fitted for his work, by a supernatural and very copious unction of the Spirit. A similar declaration is used in chaps. i. 10, xvii., 3, xxi. 10; and in all these passages it is taken to intimate, that he was endowed with a very copious measure of the prophetic spirit. In the same sense, it is manifestly to be understood here.-Every ordinary Christian is endowed with the Spirit; some with a greater, and others with a less measure of his influence. But all Christians are not, in the strict and ordinary acceptation of the word, prophets ; nor were all the prophets endowed with the same measure of the supernatural gifts of the Spirit. Few men ever shared these things more liberally than John; and that we might pay the more attention to what he has written, he oftener than once puts us in mind of his attainments.—The expression is descriptive of the nature as well as of the measure of his attainments. For under the Divine afflatus, the souls of the prophets seem to have acted, in a great measure, independent of their bodies. Hence, when Paul was caught up by the same Spirit into the third heavens, he could not tell whether he was in the body, or out of it, 2 Cor. xii. 2.
Though John does not in so many words inform us of his translation, yet as he enters immediately upon the description of the things in heaven, we are necessarily led to suppose, that he no sooner received this new impulse from the Spirit, than he was carried up, like another Elijah, into heaven. His personal residence was still in Patmos, the place of his banishment; but the scene of manifestation, according to the impression upon his mind, was the third heavens, the habitation of the spirits of just men made perfect.
On this new and very extraordinary scene it was impossible to be an idle or unaffected spectator. There was much to engage his attention and excite his wonder and admiration. Every thing he saw was suited to produce this effect. Accordingly, his account is prefaced with a note of admiration, Behold! And as we cannot conceive of any thing, even in heaven, that can be more glorious and majestic than the throne of the heavens, so, in the description before us, this is the first thing mentioned. A throne, says he, was set in họaven.—The seat of majesty is usually called a throne ; it is, therefore, the appropriate symbol of sovereign power and authority. And as the heavens are high above the earth, this throne being in the heavens, must be intended to symbolize the very highest authority, or that jurisdiction which is exercised over the whole system of things. A material throne can have no place in heaven ; but every thing that a throne is fitted to suggest to the human mind is there in perfection.
This throne is said to have been set. The word properly signifies, to be placed or established. This can hardly be affirmed of the thrones on the earth. Many of them have no sooner been erected, than they were pulled down. In our day, they appear to have been set in very slippery places, as no human structures seem to totter more remarkably than thrones, nor any set of men to be more the sport of adversity than princes. This cannot be matter of surprise to those who have considered by vhat sanguinary measures most of them have been erected, and how deeply aggravated is the guilt with which they are surrounded. But the throne of the heavens is equally beyond the possibility of a change and the perpetration of a crime. Justice and judgment are the habitation of this throne. It is from of old, from everlasting, and will continue, when all other thrones shall be levelled with the dust. The throne which John saw was not an empty seat :
One sat on the thrones-Earthly princes are not permitted to continue long, by reason of death; and as the seats which they occupy are so frequently coveted by human ambition, the average life of princes is much shorter than that of other men. And even while they continue to be intrusted with the administration of the affairs of government, their minds cannot be continually occupied about them; they require moments of relaxation as well as other men ; and in these intervals of business, the throne may appear as if it were empty. But it is otherwise in the heavens. In that country, there is no interregnum, no change of dynasty, no succession of princes, nothing of what may be called a mere regency, nor any interruption in the administration of the government. The King of heaven is the eternal, the immortal, and immutable Jehovah; the only wise God.
John does not speak of this great King by any particular name or designation, neither does he describe him by any peculiar shape or form. He only tells us, (verse 3) that he was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone. The comparison has a reference to the colour, not to the shape or figure, of the stones mentioned. Both are classed among the precious stones ; and, on account of their brilliant and beautiful appearance, they are reckoned of great value. They were set in the breast-plate of Aaron ; and as if the beauty of all the twelve had been united in those which John saw, the one-the jasper was the first, and the other--the sardine was the last, in the constellation of the high-priest, Exod. xxviii. 17–20. They are also mentioned among the ornaments of the new Jerusalem, chap. xxi. 19, 20. One of these stones is said to be very transparent, with strokes or shades of the most beautiful green ; the other is of a bloody or flesh colour. The first is supposed to symbolize the merciful, and the second, the righteous disposition of God. They are, perhaps, rather intended to symbolize the general nature of the dispensations which issue from the throne. To the church, they are full of kindness and mercy; but to her implacable adversaries, they are full of the fury of the Lord.
Considering the place where this throne is said to be set, and the representation that is made of the monarch, there cannot be a doubt of its being intended to symbolize the majestv