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church throughout all the world,” collected in every age - for the time of these interluded visions, I repeat, is indefinite. They have palms in their hands; this denotes, that the season of their consummation is symbolized the season until which the martyred souls beneath the altar were told that they must rest is now in the view of the prophetic Spirit. That the hundred and forty and four thousand symbolizes all the redeemed from among men — the number of the elect completed, or soon to be completed --- is corroborated by chap. xiv. 1, &c.
10. “ And they cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb."
This ascription of salvation, in the usual style of prophecy, implies, that salvation, final deliverance, and victory, are already, in anticipation, theirs :
11. “ And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, saying, Amen; blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen."
The angels, observe, surrounding the throne, and them that stand before it, sing this song of praise and congratulation. But why, it may be asked, do not the cherubim and elders join in this song? I should say, because this glorious company is but another emblem for the same thing as the cherubim with the elders — they both symbolize the church triumphant: the latter are included, at least, in the same mystic hundred and forty and four thousand that have the seal of God upon their forehead; and who these are, is beautifully described to us in the closing part of the vision :
blood," but that he had also made them “kings and priests unto God and his Father.” Connect with this the promise to the faithful, (chap. iii. 21,) — “ To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me upon my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father on his throne:” and the emblem is clearly significant of the church triumphant in heaven.
In the seven lamps burning before the throne - emblematical of the Spirit in his sevenfold gifts, or of the completeness of that unction that flows from the exalted Saviour upon all his churches -- and also, in the sea or laver of glass like unto crystal, we are still reminded of the Jewish tabernacle, or rather of that heavenly tabernacle, and of that throne of grace, which the worldly sanctuary represented.
We have here, too, in the same situation which their golden models occupied in the Jewish tabernacle, the cherubim of glory,-"in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne.” That the “ four beasts," or as we should render the term, the four “ living creatures," in this vision, are the same emblems as the cherubim and seraphim in the visions of Ezekiel and Isaiah, will be manifest from a comparison of these visions, especially that of the last mentioned prophet; to the exposition of which I refer.
What these cherubic beings symbolize, has not been uniformly agreed upon by commentators: but they cannot be emblems of the Divine Being, or of his attributes, as has been already remarked; because they appear as worshippers of him that sitteth on the throne: their perpetual employment, indeed, is worship: “ they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come!" They are
emblems, therefore, of some blessed ministering spirits, who serve in the presence of the manifested glory of Jehovab. But yet they are not angels, because they are plainly distinguished from them below : " And I beheld, and heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the beasts, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands,” &c. *
And as they cannot be angels, so, by the representation of the vision before us, they cannot be the powers of nature personified, nor inferior creatures, as distinct from men and angels; for it immediately follows: “ And every creature which is in heaven, and in earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I, saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever!"
As, therefore, neither God, nor his holy angels, nor the powers of nature, nor inferior animals, are denoted by these
living creatures,” they must symbolize the redeemed themselves, or some part of them. And this, too, is clear from what follows.
In the eighth verse of the fifth chapter, we find these cherubic beings join in the thanksgiving of the elders to the Lamb; nay, they lead the song, and express the same expectation of reigning upon the earth, as he begins to unfold the volume of prophecy : " And when he had taken the book, the four beasts, – or living creatures, - and the four and twenty elders, fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new
song, saying, Worthy art thou to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; 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 unto our God kings and priests; and we shall reign on the earth.” We are, therefore, warranted to conclude that the cherubim,” as well as the crowned “ elders,” are symbols of the church triumphant, which is one day to be manifested on earth, and with Christ to take the kingdom and the dominion under the whole heaven. What are the different parts of this blessed company, and what their several functions, as represented by these different emblems, perhaps we cannot know till the day shall reveal it; but these cherubim seem to be stationed nearer to the throne and to the Lamb than even the crowned elders !
I have already expressed my notion of the emblem of “ the Lamb as it had been slain ;" that it is but another symbol for him who sits as a king upon the throne : accordingly, he is seen “in the midst of the throne," as well as in the midst of the cherubim and angels. In short, it is an emblem of something now in God, that is to say, of the manhood taken into God of that human nature which God the Son (who personally sat on the throne) had taken upon himself, in order to redeem mankind, and to accomplish the ultimate purposes of creation. He, according to the flesh, was “ the shoot from the root of David,” “the Lion of the tribe of Judah,” Judah's future victorious Chief. He is represented in the vision as prevailing, by his worthiness, to have the book of futurity unfolded, and its contents revealed for the instruction of his redeemed people. Hence the title of this closing book of Scripture, “ the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which
God gave unto him, to show to his servants things that must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified"or, “ made it known in signs and symbols — by his angel unto his servant John."
I agree with those expositors ? who consider the subsequent vision as divided into distinct portions, in the following manner :
First, into seven greater divisions, by the opening of seven SEALS, that seem to disclose in order the volume or roll of destiny :
Next, the last of these seals is divided into seven other divisions, marked by the sounding of seven TRUMPETS:
Lastly, the seventh of these trumpets is divided into seven new divisions, by the pouring out of seven viALS, which finish the wrath of God, and lead immediately to the establishment of the promised kingdom.
Such is the order of the prophetic narrative of the Revelation, upon which we must keep our eye continually fixed. Various other scenes and symbols are introduced in the vision, to illustrate various mysteries in the dealings of God with his church, and in the permitted hostility of the rulers of the darkness of this world; but these are to be considered in the nature of episodes or interludes.
To understand the vision, we must keep constantly in view the progress of the main train of events, marked by the opening SEALS, the sounded TRUMPETS, and the Vials of wrath poured forth. And all these symbols will be found to signify, in order, various remarkable epochas, with their subsequent eras, in the future history of mankind; all leading, in their successive series, to the deve