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REVELATION 4

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Introduction to the chapter

Certain features of Christ from the vision of the Son of Man in chapter one were used to describe Him as He spoke to the seven churches, chapters two and three.  Several features were not used there, however, so we may think of them as appropriate to the way in which Christ reveals Himself to the world in judgement before He actually comes.  The features not used in chapters 2 and 3 are:

“One like unto the Son of Man”. HIS OFFICIAL AND UNIVERSAL AUTHORITY.
“Clothed with a garment down to the foot”.  HIS KINGLY DIGNITY
“His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow”. HIS FULNESS OF WISDOM
“His countenance as the sun shineth in his strength”. HIS STERN WRATH
“Have the keys of hell and of death”. HIS FULL AUTHORITY 

    

That chapters 4 to 19 are not in chronological order is seen from the fact that there are references to the end of the tribulation period and the start of the reign of Christ throughout, as follows:

Chapter 5:13 “Every creature…heard I saying”.  This will not happen until the Lord sets up His kingdom.
Chapter 7:17 “These are they that come out of great tribulation”.  This is not tribulation in general, but the specific “tribulation, the great one”, the last three and a half years before Christ comes.
Chapter 11:15 “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our God, and of His Christ”.  This happens when Christ comes to reign, but further  judgements come in chapters 12-18.
Chapter 14:5 “a Lamb stood on mount Sion, and with Him, a hundred and forty four thousand”.  Those sent out to preach in chapter 7 are now safely in heaven before the throne of God, their work over.
Chapter 15:2 “And I saw…them that had gotten the victory over the beast…stand on the sea of glass”.  Those who have gained the victory over the beast are seen before God.
Chapter 19:6 “The Lord God Omnipotent reigneth”.  A celebration in anticipation of the glorious reign of Christ over the earth.  The Beast, the False Prophet and Satan are not yet destroyed, but their end is certain.

So we are given partial revelations of Christ all through chapters 4 to 19, with each revelation contributing to the final personal revelation at His actual coming.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE BOOK OF THE REVELATION CHAPTER 4, VERSES 1 TO 11:

4:1  After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.

4:2  And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.

4:3  And He that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.

4:4  And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.

4:5  And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.

4:6  And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.

4:7  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.

4:8  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 to come.

4:9  And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to Him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,

4:10  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,

4:11  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 THRONE ROOM OF THE CREATOR GOD

4:1  After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter.

After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven- the scene changes at this point in the book.  John had been told that he was to write “the things which thou hast seen, (the vision of the Son of Man in chapter 1), the things that are, (the condition of the seven churches in Asia at that time), and the things which shall be hereafter”.  The latter phrase does not mean after death as the world uses the phrase “the hereafter”, but “after these things”; in other words after the current things concerning the churches.  And now that word “hereafter” occurs again, indicating to us that the third section of the book is about to begin, and matters relative to the future are about to be unfolded.  Or as we read chapter 1:1, “to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass”.  God’s servants need to have an awareness of what is to happen in the future, so that they may serve Him intelligently in the present.  In chapters 2 and 3 the scene is earth, with seven churches bearing testimony in their respective locations in Asia Minor, but now the scene changes to heaven.

We need to be aware of the point of chapters 4 and 5.  They give to us a sight of the heavenly throne-room, and transactions conducted there.  Since God is about to start His long-predicted judgements, it is fitting that we should be shown the seat of government.  Important also, to know through whom that judgement will be executed.  The Lord Jesus taught when He was here below that “the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgement unto the Son: that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father”, John 5:22,23.  And again, the Father hath “given Him authority to execute judgement also, because He is the Son of Man”, John 5:27.  So we are told the object of giving the Son of God the task of judging, namely that He may receive equal honour with the Father.  Most acknowledge that only one who is God is qualified to judge men so as to decide their eternal destiny, and so the Father has allotted this task to His Son to declare yet again His Deity.  We are also told two of the grounds upon which He has been given the task.  First, that He is Son of Man, and as such He has relevance to all men.  Second, that as Son of Man He has been amongst them in His ministry, and they have had opportunity to either respond to Him directly when they came into contact with Him, or indirectly when He was preached to them, or they read the gospel records of His life. 
Solomon’s temple had doors for access to the oracle, or speaking-place, where God spoke to His people, 1 Kings 6:31.  Now John is ushered through a door into the temple of which Solomon’s was but a pattern, see 1 Chronicles 28:11-13.

And the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither- the first voice John heard invited him to come into the presence of God.  The fact that the voice sounded like a trumpet reminds us of the words of 1 Corinthians 15:52, “the last trump”, or 1 Thessalonians 4:16, “the trump of God”.  We have here a rehearsal of what will happen when Christ comes for His church saints, and they shall be caught up to be for ever with the Lord in heaven. 
And I will show thee things which must be hereafter- the church saints shall be caught up to be with the Lord in heaven, but here John anticipates that, and is also given a preview of what will take place after the Lord Jesus has come into the air for the church.

4:2  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- see chapter 1:10 for comments about the expression “in the spirit”.  The fact that John was not in the spirit before tells us that this is not a reference to the position in the Spirit that is true of all believers all the time, but simply means that he is transported into the realm that the body cannot go to at present, although when the resurrection body is received, it will be otherwise.  The doors in Solomon’s temple were made of olive tree wood, and olive oil is a symbol of the Spirit of God in Scripture.  Note the immediate response of John to this invitation to enter heaven’s courts.  We might well ask ourselves whether heaven’s affairs have this sort of attraction for us.  As the apostle Paul wrote, “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.  For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God”, Colossians 3:2,3.
And, behold, a throne was set in heaven- it is good to know that despite the rebellion of angels and men during the last six thousand years, there is still a throne set in heaven.  Nothing has happened to make that throne unstable, let alone remove it.  More than this, the throne, the seat of power and government, is occupied.
And one sat on the throne- the Divine Throne-Sitter is there in all His solitary grandeur.  God has not abdicated His throne, nor will He do so.

4:3  And He that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.

And He that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone- it is noticeable how sparse is the description John gives us of the Throne-Sitter.  He is content to tell us simply that He looked like two precious stones, and that He had a book in His right hand.  In chapter 4 we are introduced to the Judge of all the earth, Genesis 18:25, in His capacity as the Creator-God.  It is fitting, then, that He should be described in terms of the precious things He had hidden in the earth.  This reminds us that the earth is precious to God.  Of all the places in the universe, this is His favourite; not least because on this planet His Son was crucified.  The earth may or may not be the physical centre of the universe, but that event on earth is certainly the moral centre. 
And there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald- as the judgements of God unfold in the following chapters, it becomes clear that many of them are inflicted on men using physical things, such as scorching sun, water made bitter, rivers dried up, hail and fire from heaven, earthquakes, and so on.  It is good to see, therefore, that there is a rainbow round God’s throne, for this is His token in the heavens that He will never again flood the earth as He did in Noah’s time.  He made a covenant with the earth, and the rainbow is the sign of that covenant.  His words were these:
“And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, And I, behold, I establish My covenant with you, and with your seed after you;
And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth.
And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.
And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:
I do set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between Me and the earth.
And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud:
And I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.
And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.
And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between Me and all flesh that is upon the earth”, Genesis 9:8-17. 

So the rainbow is the token of God’s faithfulness to His covenant.  Yet instead of being multi-coloured, this rainbow is emerald-green, the central colour of the rainbow as we see it.  Colours have different effects upon us, and green is the one most likely to calm and quieten.  Despite the upheavals that are about to occur upon the earth, heaven is calm and unruffled. The rainbow derives its colours from the fact that light is split into its colours by droplets of water acting as prisms.  There is no water in this rainbow, however, for otherwise it would not be only green.  This waterless rainbow is a powerful testimony to the fact that God is remembering His covenant with the earth, (in particular that he will not flood it with water again), even whilst He is judging the men on the earth. 
Furthermore, this bow encircles the throne; it is not a part-circle as with us as we look up from the earth, but a complete circle.  God’s purpose for the earth will be fully accomplished, and the rainbow tells us it shall be so.  The reason why God’s purpose shall be fully realised is because the administration of all things is entrusted to His Son, and He cannot fail.

4:4  And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.

And round about the throne were four and twenty seats- we are now introduced to one of three groups of beings John saw in connection with the throne.  There are twenty four seats, or thrones, (the word is the same as the throne on which God sits, but no doubt the translators were anxious to distinguish between the two, and hence called them seats.  The word throne comes from the verb “to sit”).  We mentioned earlier that Solomon’s temple was modelled on the heavenly temple, for David was given the pattern of the temple by the Spirit, 1 Chronicles 28:12.  So also, the administration of that temple was ordered in accordance with David’s arrangements.   There were twenty four courses of priests, 1 Chronicles 24;18; of Levites, verses 20-30; of singers, 25:31, (288, or 12 x 24, altogether, verse 7);  of gate-keepers, 26:17; 12 captains of a host of 24 thousand, plus 12 princes of the tribes of Israel, 27:1-22.  It was these latter persons who gave willingly so that the temple could be built, 28:1; 29:6-9.  Clearly David is organising the temple around the number 24, and hence it is no surprise that there are 24 beings sitting in administration in heaven’s throne-room, which is also heaven’s temple, for justice and holiness co-exist in heaven.  Solomon’s throne of judgement was at the entrance to the temple, 1 Kings 7:7, and thus the temple was central to the government of Israel.
And upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting- we find that these personages are combining the various functions that the officers in the temple carried out.  In 4:4 they are round about the throne, guarding the presence of God like the gatekeepers in the temple courts.  In 4:10 they worship like the priests.  In 5:5 one of the elders explains the situation to John, just as the Levites taught the people.  In 5:9 they play the harp and sing like the musician-singers in the temple choir. 
We know from the book of Daniel that there is a correspondence between angelic beings, whether good or evil, and administration upon earth.  In chapter 10:13,20,21, Daniel learns that Gabriel had been withstood by the angel-prince of Persia, an evil angel allotted by the Devil to defend his wicked interests in the kingdom of Persia.  Gabriel had been helped, however, by the archangel Michael, who stands to defend the interests of God in Israel.  Couple this with the fact that there is a class of angels called “thrones”, Colossians 1:16, and we are ready to see in these twenty four elders those angelic beings who are given special wisdom, (hence they are called elders), to administer for God, and no doubt in particular in connection with His spiritual interests in the earth, centred in the future rebuilt temple at Jerusalem.
Clothed in white raiment- in chapter 1:9 the word for clothed means to have put on clothing, (with the emphasis on the “put on”, since there is no word for garment in the original passage, it is contained within the verb), for the Son of Man as He prepares to judge is assuming a different role, and a different garment is appropriate.  Here, however, the word “clothed” means that which is thrown around, like a mantle.  Perhaps the thought is that whereas the garment of Christ in the vision represents that which He is in Himself, these have been invested with authority from God.  Their garments are white, for they represent the righteousness of God as they administer.
And they had on their heads crowns of gold- of this word crown W.E Vine says it denotes “public honour for distinguished service, especially at the arrival of kings”.  The king is about to make His presence felt on earth, and these elders are appropriately crowned for that momentous occasion.  They wear victor’s crowns, such as was worn by those who had distinguished themselves as citizens of a city.  These had been faithful to God in the past, and this had been recognised.  In verse 10 they cast their crowns before the throne, willingly giving up their role in favour of Christ.

There are those who believe that the four living creatures and the twenty four elders are symbols of the church.  The following things should be borne in mind:

1. They address God in a different way to that appropriate for church believers.
2. John, a member of the church, is separate from them.
3. Individual elders and living creatures are spoken of, so they are not symbolic groupings.
4. The elders know something the apostle does not, 5:5; 7:13.
5. John does not join in their praise.  He weeps, but does not sing.
6. If the elders and living creatures are symbolic, then the angels must be too.

4:5  And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. 

And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices- something of the impending storm of Divine judgement is indicated to us here with the mention of lightnings and thunderings from the throne of God itself.  When James and John, surnamed “sons of thunder” by the Lord Jesus, Mark 3:27, were angry with the Samaritans on one occasion, they asked to call down fire from heaven on them.  Christ rebuked them, however, for they were out of harmony with the character of His mission.  “The Son of Man came not destroy men’s lives, but to save them”, Luke 9:51-56.
The character of God’s dealings with men will have changed by the time this scene is enacted in heaven, and the thunders and lightnings of Divine wrath are heard and seen.  When Ezekiel saw the throne of heaven, the fire issuing forth from God was infolding itself, not streaming forth as far as men, but turning back on itself before it reached them, Ezekiel 1:4.  Now all is different.

There are voices, too, for the demands of God’s throne are about to be met.  As far as believers are concerned, the demands of God’s throne were met at Calvary by their Saviour, but men generally spurned that work, and are now about to reap the consequences.
And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God- in chapter 1:4 John sent greetings from the seven Spirits which are before God’s throne, and the Lord Jesus presented Himself to the church of Sardis as having the seven Spirits of God.  The lampstand in the tabernacle had seven branches, and each branch a bowl for oil, and a lamp burning.  Sardis needed to be restored to burning with a light produced by the Spirit of God, and not the mere light of profession which was liable to go out, Matthew 25:8.
Here, however, the light is of fire, not of testimony.  God is about to judge men, and His anger is about to burn against them in all its fulness, hence the seven lamps of fire, (the Hebrew word for “seven” meaning “complete, full, satisfied”).  Isaiah 4:4 indicates that God intends to purge the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof “by the spirit of judgement, and by the spirit of burning”.

4:6  And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.

And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal- again we are introduced to temple imagery, for in Solomon’s temple there were not only lavers at which the priests washed the sacrifices, but also a brazen sea, so called because of the large volume of water it contained.  This was for the priests to wash in.  In heaven, however, there is no need of cleansing, for all who reach there must have been cleansed from sin on earth.  This sea not only emphasises that point, but also will serve in a later chapter to form the platform upon which the redeemed stand before God, 15:2.  The storms of their earthly experience will be over, and they will stand calmly before God on the crystal sea.  The sea is like glass, reflecting the purity of those who will eventually stand upon it, and the glass is like crystal.  Crystal has the ability to reflect light beautifully, and the glories of heaven are reflected even in the floor of the throne-room.  Both glass and crystal are enough like water to serve as a reminder of God’s Word, which cleansed them from defilement on earth. 
And in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind- they are said to be in the midst of the throne as to their position, and round about the throne as to their function.  In 1 Samuel 4:4 we learn that God dwelleth between the cherubim, as symbolised by the mercy-seat.  In Ezekiel 1:26 we discover that the cherubim formed a chariot upon which Jehovah sat.
Here we find that the living creatures are in the midst of the throne and also around it in some way. Perhaps the throne is curved forwards, and two of the the living creatures are standing behind the throne centrally, and two are standing at either edge, so that they are both in the midst and also around the throne. They are central to the outworking of God’s purposes, and protect His interests.  In order to do this they are full of eyes, for they need to be ever vigilant.  Those eyes are before and behind, for the danger to God’s throne may come from the least expected quarter.  We must always remember that it was an anointed cherub that covered and protected the throne of God, Lucifer, who rebelled against God, Ezekiel 28:14.

4:7  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.

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- just as the number of elders reminds us of the arrangements for the temple, and thus has relevance to God’s spiritual interests in the earth, so these, four in number, link to the earth itself and God’s interests in the material world. We have already noticed that God’s covenant was with Noah the man, (represented perhaps by the living creature with the face of a man); with the fowls, (represented by the eagle); the cattle, (represented by the ox); and the beasts, (represented by the lion).
God
is asserting His creator rights in this chapter, and is beginning to remedy the harm that man has done to the earth, so that it may, as to its natural state, be reconciled to Him again, see Colossians 1:20, and delivered from the bondage of corruption, Romans 8:21.  He is also going to use upsets in the natural world to judge men, and therefore assures us that He is not intent on destroying the earth, but of restoring it eventually.  It is those who destroy the earth who shall be destroyed, 11:18. All the time, however, His throne will have a bow around it, showing he has not abandoned His promises to creation.

These creatures are described as beasts, but we should notice that the word used of them is not the same as is used of the two beasts of Revelation 13.  There the word used emphasises that they are wild animals, whereas here the word used emphasises that they are living, as befits those who surround the throne of the living God.  After all, only one of the living creatures is a wild animal.  But as living creatures they represent the four major classes of creatures on the earth.  The lion is the king of the forest; the calf is the king of the field; the man is king of the earth’s fulness, whereas the eagle is the king of the firmament.  These four, that head up life on earth, are represented in heaven by the living creatures.  The flood had destroyed these classes of living thing on the earth, but the combination of the living creatures and the rainbow round the throne guarantees that no flood will ever engulf the earth again.

It is interesting to notice that the third living creature is only said to have the face of a man, whereas the other creatures were completely like those they represent.  Thus is preserved the distinctiveness of man among the works of God.  The face often stands for the person, as in the expression “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”, 2 Corinthians 4:6.  This reminds us that the personality of man is one of his distinctive features, and is the sign that he alone has been made in the image and likeness of God.  “All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds”, 1 Corinthians 15:39.

4:8  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 to come.

And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him- we are not told the function of the wings of these creatures as we are of the seraphim in Isaiah 6.  Perhaps the emphasis is upon their protection of the throne of God, just as the cherubim overshadowed the mercy-seat with their wings.

And they were full of eyes within- their alertness, as they safeguarded the created world was sourced in the very core of their being.  Theirs was not a casual guardianship, but one to which they were totally committed. 
And they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy- they ascribe thrice-holiness to God, and do so unceasingly.  Of course there is no day and night in heaven, but from the standpoint of earth they continue without ceasing.  John is very conscious of conditions on earth, (just as Daniel was when, in Babylon, he prayed to God as if the temple rituals were still going on, Daniel 9:21).  He is strengthened by the thought that heaven’s worship ceases not, whatever the conditions on earth may be.
God is holy in a threefold way.  First, He is holy in the sense that He is totally separate and distinct from matter.  He is Spirit, and as such is beyond all the limitation that physical things have.  Second, He is holy in the sense that He is creator even of non-material spirit-beings like angels.  Third, He is holy in the sense that the state creation has degenerated into is not to be blamed on Him.  When He subjected creation to vanity and the bondage of corruption, it was of necessity, since it was not suitable that Adam, a fallen head of creation, should be over an unfallen world, see Romans 8:20.  These creatures know these three things, and hence ascribe thrice-holiness to God.
Lord God Almighty- they not only speak of holiness three times, but speak of God’s name in a three-fold way.  He is Lord, God, and Almighty.  As Lord He can be relied upon to keep His covenant with the earth, for Jehovah is His covenant-keeping name.  As God He is the creator of all things, and should be recognised as such.  As Almighty He is competent to maintain what He created.  These three ideas go against the current thinking of men.  There are those who do not believe that God has any interest in this world, but is aloof and distant.  There are those who do not believe that He even exists as the one who created the world.  Others do not believe that it is being maintained by Almighty God, but is in a state of random chaos.
Which was, and is, and is to come- this is the relationship of God to time.  He was, for in the beginning He made all things.  His power and Godhead are eternal, Romans 1:20, but He chose the moment for time to begin.  He is, for He has not abdicated His position as Creator, despite the evolutionary theories of men.  He is to come, for He is about to restore the earth to a state suitable for Christ to reign over. 

4:9  And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to Him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,

And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to Him that sat on the throne- not only is the expression of praise of the living creatures structured around the number three, but the effect of their praise is three-fold.  They give glory to God, recognising Him to be the great originator of all the things they represent.  They honour Him as Creator, and not for one moment dishonour Him by suggesting He is the author of the evil that has blighted the world.  They give thanks to Him for their own existence and preservation, and that of creation generally.  He lives for ever and ever, and manifested His eternal power and Godhead in the creation of all things at the beginning, Romans 1:20.

4:10  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,

The four and twenty elders fall down before Him that sat on the throne, and worship Him that liveth for ever and ever- the worship of the living creatures as they who praise God as creator prompts the twenty four elders to worship God also.  Not only is God the one who dominates time, for He was and is, and is to come, but He is the God of eternity too.  He not only exists for all eternity, but lives; this is the condition of His existence. 
And cast their crowns before the throne, saying- they do this in willing recognition that God is the only one worthy to be honoured with a crown.  In recognition also that there is one about to be invested with universal dominion, so they defer to Him, even Christ, who is about to be introduced in chapter 5.

4:11  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. 

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power- the elders repeat the glory and honour that the living creatures have ascribed to God, but substitute “power” for “thanks”.  The word for power they use gives us the English word dynamite; it is power that accomplishes things.  The elders concentrate on the actual making of all things, rather than God’s relationship to them as suggested by the praise of the living creatures, hence the mention of power.  God is the creator of all things, whether they are visible or not, and He did it by the exercise of His eternal power. 
For thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created- the reason these things were created is now stated, (for the elders always give a reason for their worship).  He has made a universe of order, complexity, beauty, and usefulness, simply because He loves to have it so.  The universe is not therefore the chance coming together of atoms in random fashion, but the orderly production of an intelligent Creator, who takes pleasure in the things He has created.  They are for His pleasure now, and they were when He created them.  Of course, we know that through the fall of man the creation that God pronounced to be “very good”, has been spoiled.  But He can see the end from the beginning, and knows that one day creation shall be released from its bondage, and brought into glorious liberty, and  this the elders celebrate.

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HEBREWS 2:1-10

SUMMARY OF THE CHAPTER
The first five verses of this chapter are a warning based on the truth of chapter one.  If the word spoken by angels was disobeyed, judgement followed. Why should it be any different if the word spoken by the Son is disobeyed?  Everything in chapter one that impresses us with the glory of Christ also warns us about the danger of rejecting one so glorious as He.  In the subsequent verses, there is first of all a quotation from Psalm 8 about man, which gives the theme of the section, and then the seven-fold work of Christ as man is detailed.  This time the contrast is not with the prophets or angels, but with Adam.

STRUCTURE OF THE CHAPTER

Verses 1-4 First warning passage- the word through angels and the word through the Lord.
Verses 5-8 Quotation from Psalm 8- man made lower than angels.
Verses  9-10 Christ made lower than angels.
Verse 11   The path of separation from the world of Adam.
Verse 12  The path of (resurrection) life with Christ.
Verse 13  The path of faith.
Verses 14,15   The path of deliverance.
Verses 16-18 The path of victory over temptation.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS CHAPTER 2, VERSES 1-4

2:1  Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.

 2:2  For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward;

 2:3  How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him;

 2:4  God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will?

Verses 1-4    FIRST WARNING PASSAGE- THE WORD THROUGH ANGELS AND THE WORD THROUGH THE LORD
2:1    Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard- one of the failings of Israel in Old Testament times was they had not listened to the prophets.  But now that the Son has spoken to them, dare they ignore Him, as they had ignored the prophets? 
Lest at any time we should let them slip- The Textus Receptus gives “lest at any time we should slip away”.  For some reason the Authorised Version does not follow it at this point.  The danger was of drifting away from the things they had heard, as those who were not taking earnest heed to them.  If persisted in, this would result in apostasy. 
In chapter one the contrast was between the fragmentary revelations through the prophets, and the full revelation through the Son.  In this chapter, however, the contrast is between the Lord speaking in grace, and angels mediating the Law at Sinai.
Israel had sat at the feet of God, Deuteronomy 33:2,3, and heard the law; Judas had listened to Christ in the upper room, but went out to betray, showing that he had apostatised.

2:2    For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast- Note the contrast between slipping away, and the steadfast word of God, in whatever age.  “Was steadfast” means “became confirmed”.  By the penalty inflicted when the law was broken, God confirmed that He meant what He said. 
And every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward- The law was confirmed by judgement, but the gospel is confirmed by acts of grace.  Not only actual transgressions were judged, but also the attitude of disobedience, the refusal to hear with the intention of obeying.

2:3    How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?- The writer groups himself with the nation as a whole.  The Lord Himself had been in their midst, for He was “a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers”, Romans 15:8.  There was no escape from just recompense of reward if the law was broken and disobeyed, so we need not expect to escape when a greater word from God is uttered.  Law works are not called for now, however, so it a question of simply ignoring the words of grace, and neglecting to believe them.  They had only to let themselves slip away from the words for the judgement to come. 
Which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord- Notice John the Baptist is not included here, for “all the prophets and the law prophesied until John”, Matthew 11:13, but here the prophets and the law are superceded.  The apostle John speaks of “that which ye have heard from the beginning”, 1 John 2:24, meaning from the beginning of Christ’s public ministry.  Note the great salvation is spoken, for it consists in doctrine.  Israel were looking for salvation in war-terms, deliverance from their political enemies.  Compare Matthew 13, where the mysteries of the kingdom begin with a parable about sowing the word of God, not judging enemies.  Note the word is spoken by the Lord, the one with as much authority as the God of Sinai, (see Matthew 5:21,27,33,38).  He is also the Lord of angels, as is indicated by the way the angel of the Lord spoke in Luke 2:11, “a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord”.  The angel’s Lord, and the shepherd’s Lord.
And was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him- This is surely decisive evidence that Paul is not the writer, for he insists that he received the truth of the gospel from the Lord Himself, and “those who seemed to be somewhat” because they had been with the Lord on earth, added nothing to him, Galatians 2:6.  The word confirmed is connected with the word translated steadfast in verse 2.  The law-threats were confirmed by acts of judgement, grace-promises are confirmed by acts of mercy.

2:4    God also bearing them witness- literally “God bearing witness with”.  So all the time the gospel was being made known by those who heard the Lord themselves, and were now bearing witness of what they had heard, God was bearing witness too. 
Both with signs and wonders and with diverse miracles- The Lord had promised that signs would follow those that believed and preached the gospel, Mark 16:17,18.  Signs are the miracles considered as significant acts, illustrations of doctrine.  Wonders are the miracles looked at as unusual and tremendous events, designed to arrest attention.  The word miracles emphasises that what is done is completely out of the ordinary, and which, because they were accompanied by words of truth, could only be caused by Divine power.  (The devil will instigate miracles to promote error, Revelation 16:14).  These three words had been used by Peter to describe those things which Christ did, and which marked Him out as approved of God, Acts 2:22.  So the witness to the apostles was the same as the witness to Christ.  The miracles were also witness to the fact that Christ was the one qualified to bring in the millenial age, for His miracles are “powers of the age to come”, 6:5, showing the sort of changes that the reign of Christ will bring in. 
And gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will- In view of what the Lord had said about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, Matthew 12:22-37, this is a reminder that the miracles and the Holy Spirit go together.  The great and wicked mistake of saying Christ worked miracles by Satan must be avoided if they are to know salvation.  Israel had seen God’s works for 40 years in the desert, yet failed to enter in to “salvation”, 3:9,17-19.  They would have another 40 years of opportunity before the fall of Jerusalem, again with works of power from God. 
The word “gifts” does not refer to the gifts given to believers to further the testimony, in the 1 Corinthians 12 sense.  Rather, the word is literally “distributions”, referring to the strategic way in which the Holy Spirit moved the apostles and others to exercise the gift of the working of miracles.  A reading of the Acts of the Apostles will show this.  The Holy Spirit also retained the right to withdraw the miracles at the time of His choosing, and this He did.  He thus acted according to His Divine will.

 THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS CHAPTER 2, VERSES 5-10

2:5  For unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.

 2:6  But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that Thou visitest him?

 2:7  Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; Thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of Thy hands:

 2:8  Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.

 2:9  But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

 2:10  For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

Verses 5-8    QUOTATION FROM PSALM 8- MAN MADE LOWER THAN ANGELS
2:5    For unto the angels hath He not put in subjection- the fact that the Lord has come, and men have been sent forth with power to work miracles of confirmation and grace, shows us that angels are no longer to the fore.
The world to come whereof we speak- the habitable earth in its future condition is what the writer speaks of in 1:5-2:4.  There are three major words used in the New Testament for “world”.  There is the word cosmos, which, ideally, is the world of order, beauty and harmony as it came from God, (used in Hebrews 9:1); the opposite of cosmos being chaos.  Sadly, that world has been spoiled, and hence it is now the world, not of harmony, but of hostility.  Another word for world is “aionas”; which has to do with the passing of time, and so is the world of history.  The third word is “oikoumene”, the habitable earth, the world of humanity.  So the writer is here referring to the future state of the earth as it will be when man’s day has come to an end, and his rule over the earth is cancelled.  This is the earth as the writer has spoken of it in chapter 1:5-14.  The question is, if that world is not to be subject to angels, then to whom is it to be subject?  And if the answer is man, then the question is, which man?  Who is competent enough to manage the earth for God?  For the answer to this question the writer turns to the David’s words in Psalm 8.  Perhaps he penned the psalm after a night out on the hillside looking after the sheep near Bethlehem, his home town.  Just as centuries later shepherds would be guarding their flock on those same hillsides, when the birth of Christ was announced to them.  As David looked above, he saw the moon and stars; as he looked around, he thought of men; as he looked back he thought of Adam; as he looked forward he thought of Christ. 

2:6    But one in a certain place testified, saying- the writer does not distract us by telling us the name of the psalmist, nor the particular place where the psalm is found. 
What is man, that Thou art mindful of him?- The word used for man in Psalm 8:4 is “enosh”, frail, mortal, man.  Seemingly so fragile, and subject to death, how can God’s purpose be centred there?  He seems almost beneath being noticed by God. 
Or the son of man, that Thou visitest him?- Not only does God notice him, but visit him, to make known His ways.  From this we learn that God has great interest in man.  He not only is mindful of man, but moves towards him.  He not only has interest, but intervenes.
We should not think of this expression “son of man” as being a reference to Christ, for that is not how the psalmist uses it; he is simply describing men as sons of Adam, through their fathers, in a long line which stretches back to Adam.  Implied in this is the fact that a sinful nature is passed on from father to son. 

2:7    Thou madest him a little lower than the angels- both man and the son of man are made by God, either through creation or procreation.  Man will always be lower than angels, so the meaning “for a little while” lower, is not meant here. 
Note that it is not “made a little higher than the animals”.  Man was made on the same day as the land animals, as if to highlight the difference between them, Genesis 1:24-27.  “There is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts,”  1 Corinthians 15:39.  Prominent evolutionists may hoodwink the public that it is “proved” than man came from the lower animals, but it is they themselves who are deceived, for they have adopted a world-view which takes no account of God, and in many instances denies that He exists.  But if God does not exist then there is no logical, rational thought.  So by thinking, the atheist verifies that God exists!

Man is lower than angels because:
Angels are greater in power and might than men, 2 Peter 2:11.
Angels do not die, being pure spirit.
Angels are fitted to live in heaven.
Angels can move from heaven to earth.
Angels are not limited by an earthly body.
Angels rest not day and night, worshipping God, Revelation 4:8.

So angels are higher because of their power, permanence, privilege and praise of God.  But man is said to be only a little lower, so despite the foregoing, there are things which compensate, for man was made in the image and likeness of God, and the Son of God passed angels by, and became man.
God’s intention to make man is expressed in a unique way- “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”, Genesis 1:26.  That this applies to the male and the female is clear from verse 27.  As far as relationship with God is concerned, there is no bias with God towards the male or the female, all are equal in His sight, and both were created in God’s image and after His likeness.
The Lord Jesus in Matthew 22:15-22 referred to the head of Caesar on a coin as the image of Caesar.  In other words, the image represented Caesar and His authority, and those who used the coin were recognising this.  Part of God’s plan in making man, then, was that He might have someone to represent Him to the rest of the creation.  One of the reasons why murder should be penalised by capital punishment is that man is made in the image of God, see Genesis 9:5,6.
Man is also said to be made after God’s likeness.  It was not necessarily true that Caesar’s image on the coin was a very good likeness, but God made sure that man had the capacity to represent Him well, by giving him certain characteristics which He Himself possesses.

Man was made in the likeness of God in a three-fold way:-
God has personality, and each of the persons of the Godhead has his own particular distinctive features, by which He displays Himself.  So man was given personality, to display God through it.

God has spirituality, which not only means that He is a Spirit, see John 4:24, but also means He can appreciate His own glories.  Man was made so that he might appreciate those glories too, and worship God in his spirit.

God has rationality, which means that He reasons, plans, purposes, and decides.  Man has these abilities too; not, of course, in the sense that He could advise God, see 1 Corinthians 2:16, but so that he could order his life in relation to God’s purpose in an intelligent way.

Sadly, as the subsequent chapters show, this perfect state of things did not last long, for man sinned, and Adam “begat a son in his own likeness, after his image”, Genesis 5:3.  The original purpose for which man was created was now only partially realised, and his abilities were now diverted for his own ends. 
The remedy for this situation is found in the Lord Jesus, who became man that He might be the head of a new order of things.  He displayed to perfection those things that God looked for in man. As such He is the perfect example to those who believe.  As Ephesians 4:21 says, “the truth is in Jesus”, which means that if we would see a life lived that is true to God’s will, then we may see it in the earthly life of the Lord Jesus.  Only those who are in Christ, and as such are a new creation, are able to represent God adequately.
Some translations of Psalm 8 say that man was made a little lower than God, since the word the psalmist used was “elohim”, and this is a word used many times for God.  But it is also used in a lesser sense, even of the judges in Israel, Exodus 22:28; Psalm 82:6; John 10:34.  In any case when the inspired writer to the Hebrews came to quote the psalm in Greek, he had separate words for God and angel at his disposal, and chose the word for angel.  Does it not go without saying that man is lower than God; how could he be anything else?  And is he only a little lower? 
Thou crownedst him with glory and honour- Glory is official, honour is moral, and these two perhaps correspond to man made in the image of God, (official position), and after His likeness, (moral character).  So although lower than angels in the ranks of creation, yet man has a potential beyond all the angelic hosts.  The word used for crown here is “stephanos”, a wreath or circlet that was merited, (in contrast to the diadem that was inherited).  The crown of the one who won the race as an athlete; who won respect as a citizen; who won a battle as a soldier; who won a bride as a suitor.
And didst set him over the works of Thy hands- man was a steward, responsible for the safe keeping of the property of another, even God.

2:8    Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet- In the case of Adam this was limited to things on the earth, which the psalmist specifies, sheep, oxen, etc.  Being crowned with glory and honour should have ensured that the task was carried out faithfully.  But Adam allowed his authority to be usurped.
For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him- This shows that there is nothing put under angels, and also that the “all” is not qualified, as if it was only all of a certain range of things, for there is nothing else to be under him.  We must understand this in connection with Adam before we advance to the idea, under the guidance of the writer, that these things can only be fulfilled in Christ. 

Summarising, we may think of what the psalmist says as follows:

What is man, that thou art mindful of him?   The mystery
Thou madest him a little lower than the angels The minority
Thou crownedst him with glory and honour The majesty
Thou didst set him over the works of Thine hands The ministry
Thou hast put all things under his feet  The mastery

But now we see not yet all things put under him- a change has come in, showing that the potential of Psalm 8 has not been realised in Adam, and this situation continues, hence the word “now”.  There is also the word “yet”, telling us that there is something in prospect.  The “now” refers to conditions under Adam, the “yet” to conditions under Christ.
The emphasis in this chapter is on the manhood of Christ, as in chapter one it was on His Deity, and the remainder of the chapter sets out seven things that Jesus has been able to do by coming into manhood:

Verses 5-8 Vindicate God’s trust in man
Verse 9 Consummate God’s purpose
Verses 10-13 Elevate God’s people
Verse 14 Eradicate the Devil
Verse 15 Emancipate the slaves
Verses 16-17  Propitiate sins
Verse 18 Relate to believers’ sufferings

                                         
Verses  9-10        CHRIST MADE LOWER THAN ANGELS
2:9    But we see Jesus- The first of seven uses in the epistle of the name which emphasises His manhood.  The Son of God has been made in fashion as a man, to be all that God expected man to be from the beginning.  The writers of the New Testament are very sparing of their use of the name Jesus on its own, and only use it like that when there is a special need to do so.  The disciples never addressed the Lord as Jesus.  He Himself said, “Ye call Me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am”, John 13:13. 
Who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death- here we see why the writer quoted from Psalm 8, for the full potential of that psalm is not reached in Adam, but in Jesus, who is the second man, and the Last Adam, 1 Corinthians 15:45-47.  By coming into manhood, He, the creator of angels, has become lower than they are, for “made a little lower than the angels” has now become in the writer’s mind the equivalent of saying “became a man”.  Adam was made a little lower than the angels for the enjoyment of life, but sadly, he fell, and this brought in suffering and death.  Only Jesus could remedy this, and He did it by enduring the suffering connected with death.  “For” means “with a view to”, so He became man expressly to die.  Angels do not die, and Adam’s death had no merit- only Christ’s death can deal with the situation brought in by the fall. 
Crowned with glory and honour- not only must He correspond to Adam by being made lower than angels, but He must correspond too in being crowned with glory and honour before His great work is done at the Cross, just as Adam was crowned before his great sin in disobeying God.  So there was seen in Christ the perfect representation and likeness of God that glory and honour involve, and it takes four gospel records to set just a glimpse of it forth.
We see this in the brief insight Luke gives to us of the boyhood of the Lord Jesus.  He is taken by Joseph and Mary to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover.  Instead of returning with them He remained behind.  When they at last found Him He was in the Temple “sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.  And all that heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers”, Luke 2:46,47.  See how his corresponds with what we have said about the image and likeness of God given to man at the beginning:
His personality- “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?”.  He is aware of His distinct mission from the Father, even though He had not yet been anointed for public ministry.
His spirituality- He is with the doctors or teachers in the temple as they discuss the Law.
His rationality- Hearing and answering questions in a manner which impressed the learned doctors, but without asserting Himself as superior to them, for He ever “made Himself of no reputation”. 

That He by the grace of God should taste death for every man- this phrase refers to the whole of the previous part of the verse.  Note the punctuation, with commas between phrases until the word honour, which is followed by a semi-colon.  This would suggest that “crowned with glory and honour” refers to Him during His life, for the first two statements, “made a little lower”, and, “crowned with glory and honour”, become true in order that He might taste death for every man.  He showed Himself fit to die by His life before God and men. 
Adam was made in the image of God, to represent God to creation.  This was a glory indeed.  He was also made after the likeness of God, involving, as we have seen, personality, spirituality and rationality.  These are honourable things, and they were expressed by Adam as far as man is able to manifest them.  Adam fell, however, and lost the dominion that his crown entitled him to.  There is another, however, in whom these features were seen to perfection, and with the eye of faith we discern in Christ when He was here those qualities and characteristics which make a man glorious and honourable. 
The words “every man” could be translated “every thing”, and assure us of the far-reaching effects of the work of Christ, which has guaranteed the deliverance of a groaning creation, Romans 8:20,21; Colossians 1:20.  He gave insights into this deliverance when He was here the first time, as He defeated death, disease, demon-possession, danger and distress, as Matthew 8 details.  No wonder the writer speaks of the Hebrews tasting the powers of the age to come, 6:5.  Adam tasted of the forbidden tree, and forfeited his rights over the earth, but Christ has tasted death, (on a tree, Acts 5:30), and purchased for Himself the right to have all creation subject to Himself.  As the creator of all things, He is supreme over them, but since He has become man He must prove his claim.

2:10    For it became Him- There is no disparity between God’s purpose to bring in glory for the earth through Christ, and the sufferings which He required His Son to pass through.  It is a becoming thing for Him to require, because both sufferings and glories are part of His eternal plan.  Suffering brings in perfection for Christ, and perfection is becoming to God, (“As for God, His way is perfect”, Psalm 18:30), even though it means sufferings for His Son and His people.  The higher good of a restored and delivered creation comes through suffering. 
For whom are all things- Seven times we have the mention of “things” in these verses, (if we include “every man”), and the expression signifies the sum total of all things in God’s creation which are relevant in each instance:

Verse 8  Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet.
  For in that He put all in subjection under him.
  He left nothing that is not put under him.
  But now we see not yet all things put under Him.
Verse 9 That He by the grace of God should taste death for every man (thing).
Verse 10 For whom are all things.
  By whom are all things.

        
The things put under Adam are restricted to sheep, oxen, etc, Psalm 8:7,8.  Under Christ, however, are all things, whether the earth to come; angels, 1 Peter 3:22, Ephesians 1:21,22, (note the quotation from Psalm 8); all rule and authority and power, 1 Corinthians 15:24,25; and at the end of time, even death itself, 1 Corinthians 15:26,27.  Creation in its entirety is for God; it exists for His sake, and for His glory.  “For Thy pleasure they are, and were created”, Revelation 4:11.  Christ will see to it that His creation is preserved for His glory.
And by whom are all things- God is not only the reason for all things existing, but they have been brought into existence by Him, too.  Yet in chapter one the creation of all things is the work of the Son; so they must be co-equal, as a comparison between John 1:3 and Romans 11:34-36 also shows.  Since God is the originator and the goal of all things, (Revelation 1:8), then He has the right to superintend all things through Christ. 
In bringing many sons unto glory- As Firstborn Son of God, the Lord Jesus will have many brethren, Romans 8:29.  Here we learn the pathway through which they are brought to the glory of association with Christ.  Adam brought all descended from him to shame in a corrupted and vain world.  God is ensuring that the last Adam has associates who reach a position of glory.  Note there is no mention of honour here, for the glory is because of association with Christ, which guarantees it, whereas honour depends upon our conduct here. 
To make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings- “Captain” means chief leader or author.  As one who has passed through this world without mishap already, Christ is perfectly qualified (perfect) to lead His people through to their ultimate state of salvation, as well as to be the author or source of their salvation from the pitfalls along the pathway of faith.  Some in Israel wanted to appoint a captain to lead them back into Egypt when the way was hard, whereas the faithful ones were satisfied to be led into the land of Canaan under Joshua, whose name means “Salvation of Jehovah”, and is the equivalent to Jesus.  It is interesting to notice that this was not Joshua’s original name.  Went he went with Caleb and the other ten spies into Canaan he was Oshea, but Moses renamed him at that time, Numbers 13:16.  It was important that when he eventually led the people into the land that they should realise that the salvation was of the Lord, and not of a man and his military prowess. 
Just as Joseph knew sufferings in Egypt before the rest of his family did; and just as Moses knew 40 years of difficulty in the wilderness before the nation did, so Joshua had been a faithful spy, and had risked going into Canaan when it was held by the enemy.  But Joshua was met by the Captain of the host of the Lord as he entered Canaan, Joshua 5:13-15, so there is one superior to Joshua as captain.  So the Lord Jesus has blazed a trail for His people to follow.  He not only died to save from sins judicially, but lives to save from sins practically, showing us the way to tread so that we are saved from sinning.
As a result of these things, we may say that:
The mystery is solved; the minority status is sanctified; the majesty is seen; the ministry is safe; the mastery is and will be successful.  The writer now gives to us five features of this path to glory.