hline

Revelation 4 – An introduction to the seals

Part I

By: Hakham Dr. Yosef ben Haggai,

Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David

Paqid Adon Poriel ben Abraham

Paqid Adon Mikha ben Abraham

hline

 


In the lead up to the seven seals (starting in Revelation 6), there is an interlude where Hakham Yochanan sees, and is told some incredible things. This section comes after the chastisement of the seven Jewish communities in chapters 2 and 3.

 

In chapters 4 and 5 of Revelation, Hakham Yochanan introduces several important symbols that will appear later in Revelation, and in this introduction he gives much needed clarification as to whom the seals are most relevant to. We’ll find that the seals are actually relevant more to Goyim (Gentiles) than they are to the Jews.

 

It’s also interesting to note that the imagery found in this interlude might not necessarily be an original work of Hakham Yochanan’s. According to Beale & Carlson[1], a survey of chapters four and five of the book of Revelation reveals a like structure to that of Daniel 7:9-28. They list the following fifteen elements of similarity:

 

  1. Both visions contain the image of a sea (Daniel 7:2-3; and Revelation 4:6).
  2. Introductory vision phraseology (Daniel 7:9 [cf. 7:2, 6-7]; and Revelation 4:1);
  3. The setting of a throne(s) in the heavens (Daniel 7:9a; and Revelation 4:2a [cf. 4:4a]);
  4. HaShem sitting on a throne (Daniel 7b; and Revelation 4:2b);
  5. The description of HaShem’s appearance on the throne (Daniel 7:9c; and Revelation 4:3a);
  6. Fire before the throne (Daniel 7:9d-10a; and Revelation 4:5)
  7. Heavenly servants surrounding the throne (Daniel 7:10b; and Revelation 4:4b, 6b-10; 5:8, 11, 14)
  8. Scroll(s) before the throne (Daniel 7:10c; and Revelation 5:1-7)
  9. The “opening” of the scroll(s) (Daniel 7:10d; and Revelation 5:2-5, 9)
  10. A divine (Messianic) figure approaches HaShem’s thrown in order to receive authority to reign forever over a “kingdom” (Daniel 7:13-14a; and Revelation 5:5b-7, 9a, 12-13);
  11. This “kingdom” includes “all peoples, nations and languages” – i.e. the Gentiles (Daniel 7:14a; and Revelation 5:9b);
  12. The seer’s emotional distress on account of the vision (Daniel 7:15; and Revelation 5:4);
  13. The seer’s reception of heavenly counsel concerning the vision from one among the heavenly throne servants (Daniel 7:16; and Revelation 5:5a)
  14. The Tzaddikim (saints) are also given authority to reign over a kingdom (Daniel 7:18, 22, 27a; and Revelation 5:10); and
  15.  A concluding mention of HaShem’s eternal reign (Daniel 7:27b; and Revelation 5:13-14).

 

It appears then that Revelation 4 - 5 repeat these fifteen elements basically in the same order with some variations and amplifications. In other words it is possible to come to the conclusion that Revelation 4:1 - 5:14 is a restatement of Daniel 7:9-28 albeit with further elucidation. Therefore, Hakham Yochanan intends that chapters 4-5 depict the fulfillment of the prophecy in Daniel seven of the reign of the Aramaic: “bar Enosh,” or the Hebrew: “ben Adam” (son of man – i.e. Head of restored humanity) and the Tzaddikim (saints), which has been inaugurated by Mashiach’s resurrection and his approach before the throne to receive authority.

 

There is also an allusion, in these two chapters of the book of Revelation, to the vision of Ezekiel chapters one and two, as well as to Isaiah chapter six, and Exodus nineteen. Nevertheless, it is the structure of Daniel chapter seven that pervades throughout the whole of the vision in Revelation chapters four and five.

 

EXEGESIS OF THE TEXT

 

Nomenclature:

 

(KJV +) =        King James Version of the Holy Bible

(1850 Revision) with embedded Strong’s Numbers

 

(YLT) =           Young’s Literal Translation of the Holy Bible

(by J. N. Young, 1862, 1898)

 

(ALT) =           Analytical-Literal Translation of the New Testament of the Holy Bible

(© 1999-2001 by Garry F. Zeolla of Darkness to Light Ministry)

 

Revelation 4:1

 

(KJV+) After3326 this5023 I looked,1492 and,2532 behold,2400 a door2374 was opened455 in1722 heaven:3772 and2532 the3588 first4413 voice5456 which3739 I heard191 was as it were5613 of a trumpet4536 talking2980 with3326 me;1700 which said,3004 Come up305 here,5602 and2532 I will show1166 you4671 things which3739 must1163 be1096 hereafter.3326, 5023

 

(YLT) After these things I saw, and lo, a door opened in the heaven, and the first voice that I heard is as of a trumpet speaking with me, saying, `Come up here, and I will show you what must come to pass after these things;'

 

(ALT) After these things I saw, and look!, a door having been opened in heaven, and the first voice which I heard [was] like a trumpet-blast speaking with me, saying, "Come up here, and I will show to you what must occur after these [things]."

 

After these things:

 

After Hakham Yochanan had seen the vision of Mashiach, in the midst of the golden candlesticks, with seven stars in his right hand; after he was bid to write what he had seen, and what were, and should be hereafter; and after he had by order written the seven letters of judgment to the seven Jewish congregations in the diaspora, and where the cures to these judgments could be found, he now goes on to a different plane, the judgment of the Goyim, as Hakham Tsefet teaches in the Pshat (Literal Level):

 

1 Peter 4:17 For [it is] the time for the judgment to begin with the house of God; but if with us first, what [will be] the end of the ones refusing to believe/obey the Gospel/Masorah of God?

 

This, phrase marks the opening of the next vision in the succession. Here we are given the transition from “the things which are” (Revelation 1:19), the existing state of the seven Jewish congregations in the diaspora, to “the things which will be hereafter,” namely, in relation to a time where the Goyim are to be judged concerning:

 

  1. Their evil deeds towards the Jewish people;
  2. Their rebellion against the Seven Laws of Noach; and
  3. Their repudiation of the observance of the Seven Biblical/Jewish Festivals.

 

I saw:

 

I.e. – “I saw in a vision.” Interesting that in the English language, one does not hear what lies ahead, rather we say that one sees what lies ahead. That is, a person hears about immediate things, but sees about future things. Learners start by hearing and understanding the present things, but leaders need to have an accurate vision about the future in order that the leadership endeavors might be successful! The Pshat (Mishna) and Remez (Gemara) are about hearing/touching whilst the Drash (Midrash) and the Sod (Zohar) are about seeing/smelling.

 

A door opened in the heaven:

 

The Hebrew word for “door” is דלת and can be pronounced either as DELET (four), or DALET (door). A door from a Hebraic perspective has four boundaries, and every door must have a mezuzah (small case containing a scroll with verses written on it by a scribe) affixed to its right lintel, as it is stated in Deuteronomy 11:20, “And you will write them on the door posts of your house, and on your gates.”

 

Another interesting connection to the door are the two kinds of proselytes known in Judaism. One category is that of the “Proselyte of the Gate” or perhaps better put as “proselyte of the door”, who has accepted upon himself the Seven Laws of Noach and therefore becomes a Righteous / Generous Gentile” but has not yet fully accepted upon himself the 613 commandments of the Torah. The second category is that of the “Proselyte of Righteousness / Generosity” which has accepted upon himself the yokes of the Kingdom and of the Torah with its 613 commandments, and is considered fully Jewish. Persons in the second category, are said to have passed through the door to become part of the household of Israel, whilst persons in the first category are said, so to speak, to be living on the porch outside the door, but near the door. As for the rest of unbelievers and disobedient, these are far from the door.

 

The number four, the door, and the mezuzah on the right lintel of the door, as we will see further on, play key roles in this and subsequent chapters of the book of Revelation.

 

It is interesting to note that while in other visions mentioned in the Scriptures (cf. Ezekiel 1:1; Matthew 3:16; Acts 7:56; and Acts 10:11) “the heavens” are said to open so that the seer can see a message, however here, the heavens, i.e. the Temple of HaShem, remains closed to the Gentiles, and Hakham Yochanan, a Jew, is transported in vision through an open door up into heaven, where he can see things passing on earth or in heaven, according as the scenes that the several visions indicate.

 

One thing that we ought not to forget is that the heavenly Temple and the earthly Temple are corresponding realities one being the type and the other the anti-type. If one takes a metal seal and impresses it against hot wax, the metal seal is the type and the impression the seal has made on the hot wax is the anti-type. Therefore it is said: “Fortunate [are] the ones doing His commandments, so that their right will be to the tree of life (i.e. Mashiach), and they will enter by the gates into the city” (Revelation 22:14). These gates are the door with its mezuzah portrayed in this verse.

 

The first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me:

 

That is, the voice which I heard at first, cf. Revelation 1:10, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord's-day, and I heard behind me a great voice, as of a shofar, saying,” and better translated as: “the former voice”, i.e. “the great voice, as of a shofar” mentioned in Revelation 1:10.

 

However in Exodus 19:16-19 we read:

 

“16. And on the third day, it being morning, it happened: There were thunders and lightnings, and a heavy cloud on the mountain, and the sound of a ram's horn, very strong! And all the people in the camp trembled. 17. And Moses caused the people to go up from the camp to meet God. And they took their stand at the lower part of the mountain. 18. And the mountain of Sinai was smoking, all of it, because HaShem came down on it in fire. And its smoke went up like the smoke of a furnace; and the mountain quaked exceedingly. 19. And it happened while the sound of the ram's horn was sounding, and becoming very strong, Moses spoke. And God answered him by a voice.”

 

The Targum Pseudo Jonathan renders this as:

 

“And it was on the third day, on the sixth of the month, in the time of the morning, that on the mountain there were voices of thunders, and lightnings, and mighty clouds of smoke, and a voice of a shofar exceeding loud; and all the people in the camp trembled. And Moshe brought forth the people from the camp to meet the glorious Presence of the Lord; and suddenly the Lord of the world uprooted the mountain, and lifted it in the air, and it became luminous as a beacon, and they stood beneath the mountain. And all the mount of Sinai was in flame; for the heavens had overspread it, and He was revealed over it in flaming fire, and the smoke went up as the smoke of a furnace, and all the mountain quaked greatly. [JERUSALEM. And all mount Sinai sent up smoke, because the glory of the Shechinah of the Lord was revealed upon it in flame of fire.] And the voice of the trumpet went forth, and grew stronger: (then) Moshe spoke, and was answered from before the Lord with a gracious and majestic voice, and with pleasant and gracious words.”

 

A shofar talking with me? The Hebrew word employed commonly to denote a trumpet shofar - שׁופר, means bright and clear, and is supposed to have been given to the instrument on account of its clear and shrill sound, as we now give the name clarion to a certain wind-instrument.

 

It was not that a heavenly shofar was speaking to Hakham Yochanan, but rather that the voice that he was hearing was bright and clear as the sounds of the shofar. Further, we may also say, following the comments of Targum Pseudo Jonathan, that the voice that Hakham Yochanan heard was “a gracious majestic voice, and with pleasant and gracious words” such as the sounds of the shofar!

 

Also, we must not forget the statement in Pirke Avot 6:2, where we read:

 

Rabbi Yehoshua the son of Levi says: Day after day a Heavenly voice issues from Mount Horeb proclaiming the following: “Woe to mankind for their contempt of the Torah,” for whoever is not occupied with the Torah is considered rebuked, as it is said – “As a golden ring in a swine’s snout, so is a beautiful woman who deviates from discretion” (Proverbs 11:22). And it is said: “And the Tablets are the work of HaShem and the writing is HaShem’s writing, engraved upon the Tablets” (Exodus 32:16). Read not engraved [CHARUTH] but freedom [CHERUTH], for there is none who is free save one who is occupied with Torah study, And anyone who is occupied with Torah study will become exalted, as it is said: “From HaShem’s gift [MATTANA} to HaShem’s heritage [NACHALIEL} to high places [BAMOTH]” (Numbers 21:19).”

 

This further indicates then, that the voice that Hakham Yochanan (John) heard is this same heavenly voice which issues from Mt. Horeb and is directed to mankind (i.e. all the Goyim) who have a sinful predisposition “for contempt of the Torah.”

 

Come up here, and I will show you things which must be hereafter:

 

As a Nazarean Jew, Hakham Yochanan had the right to speak with the Mashiach and to enter through the open door of the Heavenly Temple, for he was his beloved follower and did not shy away from doing HaShem’s commandments as a righteous / generous Jew.

 

This brings us to an interesting point about the earthly Temple (synagogue). One of the key functions of the Synagogue is to “show you things which must be hereafter,” and this is done through the open proclamation of the weekly Torah portion which is both read aloud and expounded in Jewish Synagogues on the Shabbat and festivals throughout most countries of the world!

 

We need to understand therefore that when the Torah is read, we are reading prophecy for the immediate week in which a Torah Seder is read, as well as what will happen hereafter. Some of the things are immediately recognizable as prophecy and other things, in these weekly readings, need careful attention and much diligent study in order to discover their well hidden prophecies.

 

Thus, every time we enter through the door of a synagogue on the Shabbats and festivals, is like entering, with Hakham Yochanan, through the door or gate of the heavenly Temple where HaShem, most blessed be He, will show us in His Torah the way of justice in the first place, and secondly “things which must be hereafter.” If we see our going to a genuine synagogue in this way, then our enjoyment of this activity will be in overabundance, and our understanding of HaShem’s Holy Word will be incredible!

 

The virulent Christian anti-Semite, David Chilton[2], makes a totally erroneous claim as to what this phrase is supposed to mean. He states:

 

“Nevertheless, we must also recognize that St. John does ascend to a worship service on the Lord’s Day; and this is a clear image of the weekly ascension of the Church into heaven every Lord’s Day where she joins in the communion of the saints and angels “in festal array” (Hebrews 12:22-23) for the heavenly liturgy.”

 

Hendriksen[3] also erroneously states concerning Revelation 1:10:

 

“It is the Lord’s day, that is, Sunday, the first day of the week, the day upon which we commemorate the Lord’s resurrection ... How anyone can possibly identify “The Lord’s Day” with “the Day of the Lord” is a mystery to me. The Lord’s Day is the day which we observe in commemoration of the Lord’s resurrection, just as the Lord’s Supper, I Corinthians 11:20, is the supper which we observe in remembrance of the Lord’s death on the cross. The term “the Day of the Lord” is a translation of the Hebrew “the Day of HaShem” and has a completely different meaning.”

 

Mounce[4] also erroneously states:

 

“The vision takes place “on the Lord’s day.” Some have interpreted this as a reference to “the day of YHWH.” That is, John is carried forward by the Spirit to the day of consummation when Mashiach is revealed and the judgment of God falls on mankind. It is more probable that this is the first mention in Christian literature of the Lord’s day as a technical term for the first day of the week. It is the Lord’s day because on the first day of the week Mashiach rose victorious from the grave.”

 

This classical Christian reasoning has a number of deficiencies. For example:

 

  1. Mashiach did not rise from the dead on the first day of the week. All that texts observe, is that after Shabbat the women went to the tomb and He had already risen. This implies that He had risen from the dead earlier than the women’s visit, that is, on Shabbat. So, to say that the first day of the week commemorates the resurrection of Mashiach from the dead is totally inaccurate.
  2. If the expression “the Lord’s day” is used in connection to the days of the week then the weekly Shabbat is HaShem’s day.
  3. The book of Revelation’s central theme is one of judgment, and just as creation, according to Rabbinical understanding was an act of HaShem’s judgment, since the name of G-d connected with creation is Elohim, i.e. HaShem in His attribute of justice, so the Scriptures conclude with a book bearing upon the subject of HaShem’s judgment.
  4. Now the weekly Shabbat is not characterized as a day of judgment. Neither it is a day dedicated to “the things which must come to pass hereafter”! True, the festivals are also called Shabbats in the Torah. And from these Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) is known as a Shabbat of Shabbats, but the day is more bent upon repentance, and reconciliation than on judgment. The only festival Shabbat that is concerned with judgment is the one called the Festival of Trumpets or Rosh HaShanah (New Year). On this day the scrolls of accusations and judgments are opened, and a season of ten days is inaugurated in order to repent from our sins (infractions of HaShem’s Laws) and accept HaShem’s merciful and graceful forgiveness, and thereby overturn the unfavorable judgment against us.
  5. The connection of the shofar (the symbol of the binding of Isaac), with judgments, seems to point in fact to the first day of the month of Tishri, whereby it is said that HaShem judges on this day all human beings, and otherwise known as the Feast of Trumpets (shofarot).
  6. It is clear then that both Revelation 1:10 and 4:1 happens on the Day of the Festival of Trumpets, and/or the subsequent ten Days of Repentance.
  7. If Yochanan ascends in the vision to a worship service in the heavens, as David Chilton proposes, then this is none other than the service of Yom Teruah, the Festival of Trumpets, and subsequent services for the next ten days, culminating in the services of Yom Kippur. To do otherwise is to distort the structure and background in which this book is couched. Anyone doing this inherits upon himself “the plagues which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:19).
  8. Just as the revelation of the Torah happened on Shavuot (Pentecost) accompanied by the sound of the heavenly shofar, cf. Exodus 19:16-19, the revelation of HaShem’s judgment happens on Yom Teruah accompanied by the sound of the heavenly shofar. [To this day the shofar is sounded in synagogues on Yom Teruah and Yom Kippur.]

 

We must conclude therefore, that one of the critical errors that Christians make is to superimpose a pagan calendar of Roman polytheistic invention and force Scripture into this foreign calendar. If Scripture is to be harmonious and one part must be in agreement with the other, if HaShem revealed a special calendar to Israel, and to anyone that worships the G-d of Israel, there is no reason for any human being to say that Mashiach abolished HaShem’s calendar and substituted it for a Roman Pagan / Idolatrous one! If Mashiach had done this, then this is a sure sign that he was an impostor and a false Mashiach, which is not the case. Sadly, no Jew or critically thinking person will believe this Christian Mashiach due to the distortions, gross errors, and blasphemies which Christianity has enwrapped the authentic Mashiach!

 

Revelation 4:2

 

(KJV+) And2532 immediately2112 I was1096 in1722 the spirit:4151 and,2532 behold,2400 a throne2362 was set2749 in1722 heaven,3772 and2532 one sat2521 on1909 the3588 throne.2362

 

(YLT) and immediately I was in the Spirit, and lo, a throne was set in the heaven, and upon the throne is one sitting,

 

(ALT) And immediately I came to be in spirit [or, in [the] Spirit]. And look! A throne was standing in heaven (and [Someone was] sitting on the throne),

 

And immediately I came to be in the Spirit

 

This phrase seems to intimate that after the vision of Revelation 1-3, Hakham Yochanan returns to a normal state of consciousness, and in the beginning of Revelation chapter four, he again falls into an altered state of consciousness as the phrase “And immediately I came to be in the Spirit” suggests a new ecstatic state. From Tishri 1 to Tishri 10, or as these ten days are known as “the Ten Days of Returning/Repentance,” there are four Sabbaths. On Tishri 1 we have the first day festival Shabbat of the Feast of Trumpets, and on Tishri 2 we have the second day of the Festival Shabbat of the Feast of Trumpets, followed by a special weekly Shabbat known as Shabbat Shuvah (Shabbat of returning/repentance), and concluding with Tishri 10 being the festival Shabbat of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) [note, this festival Shabbat may at times also coincide with the weekly Shabbat]. Perhaps Revelation 1-3 is a vision Hakham Yochanan had in Patmos on the 1st day of Yom Teruah (Festival of Trumpets), and Revelation 4-5 took place on the 2nd day of the festival Shabbat of the Feast of Trumpets. This would account for the words “And immediately” or as other version translate: “Straightaway.”

 

A throne was set in the heaven, and upon the throne is one sitting:

 

There is a perfect correspondence here to what David says in Psalm 47:8-10 -

 

“8. For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises in a skilful song. 9. God reigns over the nations; God sits upon His holy throne. 10. The princes of the peoples are gathered together, the people of the God of Abraham; for unto God belong the shields of the earth; He is greatly exalted.”

 

The throne is therefore explained by the Psalmist as a symbol of HaShem’s absolute sovereignty, particularly, in this case, with regards to the nations (Gentiles).

 

Revelation 4:3

 

(KJV+) And2532 he that sat2521 was2258 to look upon3706 like3664 a jasper2393 and2532 a sardine4555 stone:3037 and2532 there was a rainbow2463 round about2943 the3588 throne,2362 in sight3706 like unto3664 an emerald.4664

 

(YLT) and He who is sitting was in sight like a stone, jasper and sardine: and a rainbow was round the throne in sight like an emerald.

 

(ALT) similar in appearance to a jasper stone [i.e. a gem of varying colors] and to a sardius [or, carnelian; i.e. a red gem], and [there was] a rainbow around the throne, likewise [similar] in appearance to an emerald.

 

And He who is sitting was in sight similar in appearance to a jasper stone [i.e. a gem of varying colors] and to a sardius [or, carnelian; i.e. a red gem]

 

In the first Epistle of Hakham Shaul to his beloved Talmid (Rabbinic disciple) Timothy, chapter six, he instructs him as follows:

 

13. I am giving strict orders to you before HaShem, the One giving life to all [things], and [before] Yeshuah the Mashiach, the One having testify before Pontius Pilate the good confession, 14. [for] you to keep the commandment spotless [and] blameless [or, above reproach], until the Appearing of our Master Yeshuah the Mashiach, 15. which He (HaShem) will reveal in His (HaShem’s) own times, the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of the ones being kings and Lord of the ones exercising lordship, 16. the only One having immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no one of people saw nor is able to see, to whom [is] honor and eternal might [or, dominion]! Amen (so be it)!

 

The one sitting in the throne is depicted by the brilliance of light that is reflected from precious stones. This accords with Hakham Shaul’s statement above “dwelling in unapproachable light.”

 

Further, the Psalmist declares:

 

Psalm 104:1-2 Bless HaShem, O my soul! O HaShem my God, You are very great; You have put on honor and majesty, covering Yourself with light like a cloak, and stretching out the heavens like a curtain;

 

We must note nevertheless, that the two different stones (Jasper and Carnelian) mentioned in this verse were also used in the High Priest’s breastplate representing the twelve tribes of Israel. In this verse (4:3) the allusion is to: Benjamin and Reuben, and these two stones were also the last one and first one on the breastplate, and thus the mentioning of these two stones is a pars pro toto alluding to all of the twelve stones.

 

The jasper, at least one sort of them, is of various colours, and spotted with divers spots; that which is most valued is the green, spotted with red or purple. This stone, which is the twelfth in the high priest's breastplate, and on which the name of Benjamin was written, is called, by the Targum of Onkelos on Exodus 28:20, Pantere, and of the Targum of ben Uzziel, on the same place, Apanturin, and on Song of Songs 5:14, Apantor, because some are variegated and spotted like panthers. The same is with the Sardius, and in Exodus 28:17 this was the stone on which Reuben's name was written; this is of a red, or blood colour as its name אדם, in Hebrew, shows, and the same that is called a carnelian; and one could speculate that the color of this stone is expressive of the fiery indignation of HaShem whose fury is poured out like fire, and who nakedly and absolutely considered, is a consuming fire to the wicked / lawless, his enemies, and the enemies of His Jewish people.

 

But we may ask, the stones indicated here in this phrase do issue light but rather reflect light. Where is the source for this light being reflected? The answer to this question is answered in the immediate phrase.

 

Revelation 4:4

 

(KJV+) And2532 round about2943 the3588 throne2362 were four and twenty5064, 2532, 1501 seats:2362 and2532 upon1909 the3588 seats2362 I saw1492 four and twenty5064, 2532, 1501 elders4245 sitting,2521 clothed4016 in1722 white3022 raiment;2440 and2532 they had2192 on1909 their848 heads2776 crowns4735 of gold.5552

 

(YLT) And around the throne are thrones twenty and four, and upon the thrones I saw the twenty and four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and they had upon their heads crowns of gold;

 

(ALT) And around the throne [were] twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones the twenty-four elders [were] sitting, having been clothed in white garments, and on their heads [were] golden victor's wreaths.

 

And around the throne [were] twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones the twenty-four elders [were] sitting

 

We know that there were twenty-four courses of Aaronic priests (I Chronicles 24:5), and there were also twenty-four divisions of Levite singers in the Temple (I Chronicles 25), and tradition also instructs us that there were also twenty-four courses of Hakhamim (Judges) called the Ma’amad that accompanied the twenty-four courses of the Kohanim (Priests). Hakham Yochanan knew this and perhaps this he uses as the structure for the depiction of the worship service in the heavens depicted in this vision.

 

However, some are of the opinion that this is composite figure of elders representing the twelve Patriarchs of Israel on the one hand and twelve disciples of the Master on the other. There is justification for this, further in Revelation 15:3, where those who overcame the beast and its image, having harps of HaShem, “sing the song of Moses, the servant of HaShem, and the song of the Lamb.” We also know that when the Master was teaching on earth he told his Talmidim (Rabbinic disciples):

 

Matthew 19:28 “So Yeshuah said to them, "Amen (positively, truly), I say to you, that you, the ones having followed me, in the Regeneration, when the Son of Humanity sits on [the] throne of his glory, you also will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

 

What is important here to note is that this heavenly tribunal is not composed of twenty-four Christian Elders as many have written and taught, but of twenty-four Jewish Elders, who in this vision are going to judge the Gentiles. The judgment upon the Jewish people already took place in the vision of Revelation 1-3, in the judgment against the seven Jewish congregations. Now in this vision the judgment is against the Gentiles.

 

The word sitting implies three things in the Hebrew. Either sitting for Torah study, and thus a school for children or a seminary is called, in Hebrew, a Yeshivah (Literally: “place of sitting”), or sitting for judgment (as in the expression “the sitting of this tribunal will take place on such and such a time, and at such and such a place”); and lastly the word also denotes worship, for large parts of the synagogue service is done in the sitting posture. The last two uses of the word “to sit” apply to this vision of Revelation 4-5.

 

Sitting always applies to judgment, and any common time we sit it is for the purposes of judgment. The three occasions to sit are all related to judgment.

 

Clothed in white garments

 

White is not only the symbol of purity and sincerity, but it is also the symbol of leadership and wisdom. Thus, in Jewish tradition, black stands for knowledge, grey for understanding and white for wisdom. We must note here that there is and should be a complete correspondence between heavenly and earthly realities. Elders are presented to us in the heavenly reality in their robes of office. Similarly, in the synagogue the Elders should also present themselves in their robes of office. Some have dispensed with these robes with disastrous consequences. We must understand that the Elders of the synagogue do not perform their tasks on the Sabbaths as private individuals, but as ministers of the congregation representing the community to HaShem on the one hand and beings spokesmen for HaShem and His revelation in the Torah. If the elders are robed in heaven why not on earth, after all did not the Master taught us to pray “Your will be done on earth as it is in the heavens”?

 

And they had upon their heads crowns of gold

 

The Mishnaic tractate Pirke Abot (Chapters of the Fathers) instructs us in VI.6:

 

Greater is the crown of Torah than the crown of priesthood and the crown of kingship, for the crown of kingship is achieved through thirty advantages and the crown of priesthood through twenty four, but the crown of Torah is acquired through forty eight qualifications. They are: (1) by diligent study; (2) by attentive listening; (3) by proper enunciation; (4) by an understanding and perceptive heart; (5) by reverence; (6) by awe; (7) by humility; (8) by joy; (9) by ministering to the sages; (10) by attaching oneself to colleagues; (11) by keen discussion among students; (12) by calm deliberation; (13) by study of Scripture; (14) by study of Mishnah; (15) by moderating business activity; (16) by moderating involvement in worldly matters; (17) by moderating pleasure; (18) by moderating sleep; (19) by moderating idle chatter; (20) by moderating jest; (21) by being slow to anger; (22) by having a good heart; (23) by trusting in the sages; (24) by acceptance of affliction; (25) by recognizing one’s place; (26) by rejoicing in one’s portion; (27) by putting a guard to one’s words; (28) by not claiming merit for oneself; (29) by being beloved; (30) by loving HaShem; (31) by loving humankind; (32) by loving acts of charity; (33) by loving rectitude; (34) by loving reproof; (35) by keeping distant from honor; (36) by not boasting of one’s learning; (37) by not enjoying handing down decisions; (38) by sharing burden’s with one’s fellow; (39) by judging one’s fellow charitably; (40) be leading one’s fellow to the truth; (41) by leading one’s fellow to peace; (42) by being studious in learning; (43) by asking and answering listening and adding to knowledge; (44) by learning in order to teach; (45)by learning in order to practice; (46) by enhancing the wisdom of one’s teacher; (47) by being exact in what one has learned; and (48) by reporting a statement in the name of its author, for thus you have learned – whoever reports a statement in the name of its author brings deliverance to the world, as it is said: “And Esther told it to the King in Mordechai’s name” (Esther 2:22).

 

Thus, the “golden crown” that each of these twenty-four Elders have “upon their heads” is not the crown of priesthood, nor the crown of royalty but a superior crown that of the Torah in whose service for the sake of HaShem and Mashiach they joyfully and enthusiastically spent their lives laboring in it through study and establishment of it.

 

The Midrash Tanhuma brings additional information regarding these elders:

 

Midrash Tanhuma (Lev.) 19:1-22 In the age to come the Holy One will sit down, and the angels will place thrones for the great ones of Israel for them to sit down, so that the Holy One will be sitting with them like the president of the court (Av Bet Din). Then they shall judge the peoples of the world, as stated (in Is. 3:14): THE LORD WILL COME IN JUDGMENT ALONG WITH THE ELDERS OF HIS PEOPLE AND THEIR PRINCES (Exod. R. 5:12; see Wisdom 3:8; I Enoch 38:5; 48:9; I Corinthians 6:2.). “Against the elders of his people” is not written here, but ALONG WITH THE ELDERS <OF HIS PEOPLE>. <Scripture> is teaching that the Holy One will sit along with the elders and princes of Israel to judge the nations of the world. And which < thrones> are they? These are the thrones of the house of David and the elders of Israel, as stated (in Ps. 122:5): THERE STOOD THE THRONES OF JUDGMENT, THRONES OF THE HOUSE OF DAVID. R. Pinhas said in the name of R. Hilqiyah the Southerner (i.e., from Judah), <who spoke> in the name of R. Reuben: If you say: When thrones stand there for judgment, they are thrones of the house of David. Then what is <the meaning of> (Dan. 7:9): AND THE ANCIENT OF DAYS TOOK HIS SEAT? That he sits among them like the president of the court, and with them he judges the Gentiles. It is therefore written (ibid.): UNTIL THRONES WERE SET IN PLACE. What is the meaning of (ibid., cont.): AND THE HAIR OF HIS HEAD WAS LIKE CLEAN WOOL? When the Holy One cleanses himself from the nations of the world (& Cf. the parallel in the traditional Midrash Tanhuma, Lev. 6:11 (Jerusalem: Eshkol, nd.), which reads: “The Holy One cleanses himself from the worshipers of idols”), he gives them compensation for the easy commandments which they have observed in this world. <He does so> in order to judge them and convict them in the world to come, so that they will have no excuse and have no merit found for them. Thus it is stated (in Is. 14:32): AND WHAT WILL HE ANSWER THE ANGELS OF [mal’akhe - In the biblical context, the word should be rendered as “messengers of,” but the midrash interprets the passage eschatologically] A <GIVEN> NATION? THAT THE LORD HAS ESTABLISHED ZION, AND IN IT THERE WILL THE AFFLICTED OF HIS PEOPLE TAKE REFUGE. Then he immediately renders the judgment against them. At that time the Holy One becomes exalted in his world, as stated (in Is. 5:16): THE LORD OF HOSTS IS EXALTED IN JUDGMENT, [AND THE HOLY GOD IS SANCTIFIED IN JUSTICE].

 

In the Midrash Tanhuma, we see that the thrones established are for the House of King David the Mashiach and the elders of the people of Yisrael. Midrash Tanhuma seems to point out that HaShem will also take precedence over them like the Nasi (president) of a rabbinical court. It also points out that he will judge the nations of the world with these same elders.

 

In a similar vein Pirke Abot VI.7 instructs:

 

Great is the Torah, for it brings life to those who practice it, in this world, and in the world to come, as it is said: “For they are life to those who find them and health to all their flesh” (Proverbs 4:22); and it says: “It will be health to your body and marrow to your bones”(Proverbs 3:8); and it says: “It is a tree of life to those who maintain it and those who uphold it are happy” (Proverbs 3:18); and it says: “They will be a garland (crown) of grace for your head, and necklaces around your neck” (Proverbs 1:9); and it says: “It gives to your head a garland (crown) of grace, and will bestow upon you a crown of glory (Proverbs 4:9); and it says: “For through Me the number of your days will grow, and the years of your life will be increased” (Proverbs 9:11); and it says: “Length of days is in its right hand, in its left hand are riches and honor” (Proverbs 3:16); and it says: “For length of days and years of life and peace will they add to you” (Proverbs 3:2).”

 

A number of Christian commentators have stated that this crown was a wreath put on the head for being and over comer, however these commentators refuse to see the book of Revelation in its Hebraic context, and in the Hebraic culture to which this book belongs. The above quotes from the Mishna, Tractate Pirke Avot, makes it perfectly clear that this is a crown reserved for Torah Scholars who have labored diligently and faithfully in the Torah, its practice, teaching and establishment.

 

Revelation 4:5

(KJV+) And2532 out1537 of the3588 throne2362 proceeded1607 lightnings796 and2532 thunderings1027 and2532 voices:5456 and2532 there were seven2033 lamps2985 of fire4442 burning2545 before1799 the3588 throne,2362 which3739 are1526 the3588 seven2033 Spirits4151 of God.2316

 

(YLT) and out of the throne proceed do lightnings, and thunders, and voices; and seven lamps of fire are burning before the throne, which are the Seven Spirits of God,

 

(ALT) And from the throne proceed lightning flashes and voices and peals of thunder, and seven lamps of fire [were] burning before His throne, which are seven spirits [fig., is the seven-fold Spirit] of God.

 

and out of the throne proceed do lightnings, and thunders, and voices:

 

The lightning flashes may be understood either of the teachings of the Torah which come out of Jerusalem, the congregation of HaShem, where He has his throne; and which are comparable to lightning, both for the light and knowledge they give, and for the swiftness with which they were spread over the world, by the servants of the Word; and to thunders, for the awfulness, authority, and majesty of these teachings; and as the prophesies of the prophets are called "the voices of the prophets which are read every Shabbat [2 Lukas (Acts) 13:27]; so may the teachings of the Torah be called "voices", as they are the voice of HaShem, most blessed be He, and of His Mashiach, and of His teaching/judging servants; and these are voices of love, grace, mercy, peace, pardon, obligation, righteousness / generosity, and eternal life. The allusion here is to the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai, when such things were seen and heard, cf. Exodus 19:16, as well as the judgments of HaShem, and the punishments inflicted upon His enemies, and the enemies of His people Israel, and His awful threats to them, see Psalm 18:13.

 

The meaning here is that these voices of the Torah were echoing and re-echoing sounds, as it were a multitude of voices that seemed to speak on every side and in every dimension of time, as we read previously in Pirke Abot 6:2 –

 

“Rabbi Yehoshua the son of Levi says: Day after day a Heavenly voice issues from Mount Horeb proclaiming the following: “Woe to mankind for their contempt of the Torah,” for whoever is not occupied with the Torah is considered rebuked, as it is said – “As a golden ring in a swine’s snout, so is a beautiful woman who deviates from discretion” (Proverbs 11:22). And it is said: “And the Tablets are the work of HaShem and the writing is HaShem’s writing, engraved upon the Tablets” (Exodus 32:16). Read not engraved [CHARUTH] but freedom [CHERUTH], for there is none who is free save one who is occupied with Torah study, And anyone who is occupied with Torah study will become exalted, as it is said: “From HaShem’s gift [MATTANA} to HaShem’s heritage [NACHALIEL} to high places [BAMOTH]” (Numbers 21:19).”

 

And seven lamps of fire are burning before the throne, which are the Seven Spirits of God,

 

The lamps as a whole (i.e. the Menorah – candelabra) are a symbol of the Holy Spirit in the first place and therefore the text is an allusion to Isaiah 11:1-10, where we read:

 

1. And there will come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch [Netzer] will grow forth out of his roots. 2. And the spirit of HaShem will rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of HaShem. 3. And his delight will be in the fear of HaShem; and he will not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither decide after the hearing of his ears; 4. But with righteousness / generosity will he judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the land [of Israel]; and he will smite the land [of Israel] with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips will he slay the wicked/lawless. 5. And righteousness / generosity will be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. 6. And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child will lead them. 7. And the cow and the bear will feed; their young ones will lie down together; and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8. And the sucking child will play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child will put his hand on the basilisk's den. 9. They will not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of HaShem, as the waters cover the sea.10. And it will come to pass in that day, that the root of Jesse, that stands for an ensign of the peoples, unto him will the [Gentile] nations seek; and his resting-place will be glorious.

 

It appears here at first sight that only six spirits of the seven-fold Spirit of HaShem are identified, but when these are assembled in the menorah one can quickly identify the unmentioned spirit of the seven set – i.e. the shamash or servant.

 


 

3

2

1

7

6

5

4

Counsel

Understand

Wisdom

Service

Fear of the Lord

Knowledge

Might

 


Another way of understanding this seven-fold spirit of HaShem it to consider each of the spirits as a particular gift of the Spirit in human form to each local congregation of HaShem, as mentioned by Hakham Shaul (Paul) in Ephesians 4:11-12 –

 

11. And He gave some [to be] apostles, and some [to be] prophets, and some [to be] evangelists, and some [to be] shepherds [or, pastors] and teachers, 12. for the purpose of the equipping of the holy ones for [the] work of service, for [the] building up of the body of Mashiach,

 

These seven officers of each local synagogue[5] are as follows:


 

1

Sheliach Bet Din [Bishop/Apostle] / Sheliach Tzibbur [Angel of the Congregation/Cantor]

1

2

Darshan [Expounder] or Magid [Preacher/Prophet]

1

3

Masoret [Master of Tradition/Evangelist/Catechist]

1

4

Parnassim or Shamashim [Pastors/Deacons/Deaconesses]

3

5

Moreh [School Teacher]/Meturgeman [Translator/Interpreter]

1

 

TOTAL

7

 


Yet another interpretation of the meaning of this seven-fold spirit of HaShem is that they also represent the seven festival Sabbaths in the Jewish / Biblical calendar which are according to Hakham Yochanan (John):

 

  1. Pesach first day (First Day of Passover)
  2. Pesach last day (Last Day of Passover)
  3. Shavuot (Pentecost)
  4. Yom Teruah (Rosh Hashanah) – (Feast of Trumpets)
  5. Yom HaKippurim (Day of Atonements)
  6. Succoth, first day (Tabernacles First Day)
  7. Succoth, last day (Tabernacles Eighth Day)

 

Thus, these seven burning lamps before the throne of HaShem are emblems of the seven fold spirit of HaShem and each is the emblem of:


 

1

Wisdom

Sheliach Bet Din

Passover 1st Day

2

Understanding

Sheliach Tzibbur

Passover 7th Day

3

Counsel

Masoret

Pentecost

4

Might

Darshan

Feast of Trumpets

5

Knowledge

Moreh/Meturgeman

Day of Atonements

6

Fear of HaShem

Magid

Succoth 1st Day

7

Service

Parnassim/Shamashim

Succoth 8th Day

 


Observe that there is no contradiction between the meaning of these seven symbols here but rather, they perfectly complement each other in a three dimensional scheme.

 

Revelation 4:6

 

(KJV+) And2532 before1799 the3588 throne2362 there was a sea2281 of glass5193 like unto3664 crystal:2930 and2532 in1722 the midst3319 of the3588 throne,2362 and2532 round about2945 the3588 throne,2362 were four5064 beasts2226 full1073 of eyes3788 before1715 and2532 behind.3693

 

(YLT) and before the throne is a sea of glass like to crystal, and in the midst of the throne, and round the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes before and behind;

 

(ALT) And before the throne [was something] like a glassy sea like crystal [or, ice], and in [the] center of the throne and around the throne [were] four living creatures full of [or, covered with] eyes in front and in back.

 

And before the throne is a sea of glass like to crystal

 

While in Revelation 17:1,15 we are presented with the fluidity and instability of the natural sea, here we are presented with a sea that stands solid, and calm, and clear. Interestingly in the Psalms, HaShem’s judgments are called “a great deep” – as it is stated:

 

Psalm 36:6 Your righteousness/generosity is like the mountains of God; Your judgments are a great deep; O HaShem, You preserve animal and man.

 

Now, we may ask is there a kind of water in the Scriptures that contain HaShem’s judgment? And the answer is yes, the waters of the ashes of the Red Heifer! And these waters are symbolic of the heavens in their purifying effect, for in Hebrew the heavens are called SHAMAYIM and which is a combination of two Hebrew words: ESH = Fire, and Mayim = Waters. And the waters of the ashes of the Red Heifer are a combination of fire (i.e. Ashes of the Red Heifer) + water. In Revelation 15:2 this “sea of glass” is described as “a sea of glass mingled with fire” which is a perfect description of the heavens in its Hebrew name, i.e. SHAMAYIM (fire and water).

 

Not surprisingly, as well, we find the laver for the washings of the priests before performing their services in the Tabernacle. This laver we are told was made of the mirrors that the Israelite women used in Egypt to make themselves attractive in order that their exhausted husbands would be tempted to sleep with them and thus perpetuate the Israelite nation. When the Tabernacle was built the Israelite women donated their mirrors for the purpose of making the laver for the priests[6].

 

Thus we may conclude that the allusion here of “the sea of glass like to crystal” is to the laver as taught in Exodus 38:8, and as it is stated: “And he made the laver of brass, and the base thereof of brass, of the mirrors of the serving women that did service at the door of the tent of meeting.” And so Sir Isaac Newton writes: “between the altar and the porch of the Temple there was a sea of glass like unto crystal [the great brazen laver.].”[7]

 

Further, figuratively speaking we Jews refer to the Law as "the sea of the law", and the "sea of wisdom"; and also “the sea of the Talmud", or "sea of teaching" for therein is contained all the judgments of HaShem, most blessed be He!

 

And in [the] centre of the throne and around the throne [were] four living creatures full of [or, covered with] eyes in front and in back

 

These “living creatures” are seen as one in the midst of each side of the throne, denoting the four points of the compass – i.e. north, south, east, and west and symbolizing HaShem’s sovereignty and superintendence over all of His creation.

 

Some translations have “four beasts” instead of “four living creatures.” four beasts, the Greek for beasts, Revelation 13:1, 11, is different, (Greek: thay-ree'-on), the symbol for the carnal man by opposition to HaShem’s Law losing his true glory, as lord, under Him, of the lower creatures, and degraded to the level of the beast. Here it is “zo’on” - “living creatures”; not beasts!

 

These four living creatures echo Ezekiel 1:5; and by whom are meant not the angels, though there are many things which agree with them; they are said by some to be the archangels Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael.

 

The three angels are placed in this manner: Michael at his right hand, Uriel at his left, and Gabriel before Him. Sometimes thus: Michael on His right hand, Gabriel on His left, Uriel before Him, and Raphael behind Him, and HaShem, most blessed be He, in the middle.

 

Others find here an allusion to the four standards of the camp of Israel in the wilderness, to which there seems to be some reference in the whole of this account; as the tabernacle there was placed in the midst, so the throne of HaShem here; as the priests and Levites were round about that, so the four and twenty elders here; as there were seven lamps, over against the candlestick in the tabernacle, continually burning, so there are seven spirits here before the throne; and as there were four princes, who were standard bearers, placed at the four corners of the camp, so here four living creatures, who are standard bearers: the standard of Judah, with Issachar and Zebulon under him, was at the east of the tabernacle; and Ephraim, with Manasseh and Benjamin, at the west; Reuben, with Simeon and Gad, at the south; and Dan, with Asher and Naphtali, at the north; and our Sages say, that on Judah's standard was the figure of a lion, on Ephraim's the figure of an ox, on Reuben's the figure of a man, and on Dan's the figure of an eagle; and to which the four living creatures are likened here.

 


 


Whatever symbol we may attribute to these four “living creatures,” one thing is clear, and it is that they are emanations, attributes, or even beings charged with maintaining HaShem’s governance and providence over all of His creation. This becomes perfectly clear when we observe the next phrase: “full of [or, covered with] eyes in front and in back.” The symbol here would denote an ever-watchful and observing Providence; and, therefore meaning that, in the administration of the divine government, everything is distinctly contemplated; nothing escapes observation; nothing can be concealed. In a way, these four living creatures have the Jewish “Batei Dinae” (Torah Jewish Tribunals) as their anti-type here on earth. For the Batei Din, are also charged with the administration of HaShem’s governance in the local communities under their jurisdiction, and HaShem’s Presence (Shekhinah) are with them “with eyes in front and in back” revealing to the open that which was/is concealed, so that the administration of justice be done elegantly and with equity to all concerned.

 

Revelation 4:7

 

 (KJV+) And2532 the3588 first4413 beast2226 was like3664 a lion,3023 and2532 the3588 second1208 beast2226 like3664 a calf,3448 and2532 the3588 third5154 beast2226 had2192 a face4383 as5613 a man,444 and2532 the3588 fourth5067 beast2226 was like3664 a flying4072 eagle.105

 

(YLT) and the first living creature is like a lion, and the second living creature is like a calf, and the third living creature had the face as a man, and the fourth living creature is like an eagle flying.

 

(ALT) And the first living creature [was] like a lion, and the second living creature [was] like a calf, and the third living creature having the face like a person, and the fourth {living creature} [was] like a flying eagle.

 

As we have noted above:

 

These four living creatures echo Ezekiel 1:5; and by whom are meant not the angels, though there are many things which agree with them; they are said by some to be the archangels Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael; the first three they place in this manner, Michael at his right hand, Uriel at his left, and Gabriel before Him . Sometimes thus, Michael on His right hand, Gabriel on His left, Uriel before Him, and Raphael behind Him, and HaShem, most blessed be He, in the middle. Others find here an allusion to the four standards of the camp of Israel in the wilderness, to which there seems to be some reference in the whole of this account; as the tabernacle there was placed in the midst, so the throne of God here; as the priests and Levites were round about that, so the four and twenty elders here; as there were seven lamps, over against the candlestick in the tabernacle, continually burning, so there are seven spirits here before the throne; and as there were four princes, who were standard bearers, placed at the four corners of the camp, so here four living creatures, who are standard bearers: the standard of Judah, with Issachar and Zebulon under him, was at the east of the tabernacle; and Ephraim, with Manasseh and Benjamin, at the west; Reuben, with Simeon and Gad, at the south; and Dan, with Asher and Naphtali, at the north; and our Sages say, that on Judah's standard was the figure of a lion, on Ephraim's the figure of an ox, on Reuben's the figure of a man, and on Dan's the figure of an eagle; and to which the four living creatures are likened here.

 

This vision is anchored then in the vision of Ezekiel as described in Chapters 1 and 10 of his book. Hendriksen[8] finds the following seven similarities between these two visions:

 

1.     In both cases these beings are called “living one” (cf. Ezekiel 1:5; Revelation 4:6);

2.     In both cases the symbolic number is the same, namely, four (cf. Ezekiel 1:5; Revelation 4:6);

3.     In both cases the appearance of their faces is compared to that of man, lion, ox, and eagle (Cf. Ezekiel 1:10; Revelation 4:7);

4.     In both cases they are closely associated with The Throne (cf. Ezekiel 1:26; Revelation 4:6);

5.     In both cases fire moves to and fro among the “living ones” (cf. Ezekiel 1:13; Revelation 4:5 – “out of the fire went lightning”;

6.     In both cases these “living ones” are said to be studded all over with eyes (cf. Ezekiel 1:18; 1:21; 10:12; Revelation 4:8);

7.     In both cases a rainbow encircles The Throne with which the “living ones” are associated (cf. Ezekiel 1:29; Revelation 4:3).

 

It must be noted that in Ezekiel 10:20 these “living creatures” are identified as “cherubim.” however, as we shall see in the next verse, based upon the vision of the Prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 6:1-3 these are identified as Seraphim. On the other hand, Maimonides in the Mishneh Torah, Yesode Ha-Torah 2:7, notes that there are ten levels of angels. Their names are Chayot (living creatures), Ofanim, Er’elim, Chashmalim, Seraphim, Malachim, Elohim, B’ne Elohim, Cherubim, and Ishim. Thus, according to the Rambam these four “living creatures” are the highest order of angelic creatures.

 

An interesting point that escapes many, is that if we add the twenty-four Elders in the vision together with “the four living creatures,” we arrive at the significant number twenty-eight! This number is symbolic of four menorot (Candelabras) with seven branches each to the four corners of the world (four points of the compass). And each of these menorot in themselves are symbolic of the seven spirit of HaShem we mentioned above, as well as instruments of HaShem’s revelation of the Torah, administration of His government (Kingdom) here on earth, as well as symbols of HaShem’s providence and superintendence. From this perspective, the twenty-four Elders and the four living creatures must be taken as one symbol in and by itself rather than two unconnected and separate symbols by themselves. This is important in interpreting this vision because its central theme is the throne of HaShem, i.e. His government (Kingdom), upon which the rest of the items in this vision are subject to, surround it, and are but aspects of His holy governance, providence and superintendence of all of His creation.

 

In consonance with this understanding we may ask, are not these the middle signs in the four quarters of the mazzaroth, And are not these the tribes[9] that surrounded the Ark when Israel was encamped?

 

            Lion =             Leo =               Judah  

            Bull =              Taurus =          Ephraim

            Man =             Aquarius =      Reuben

            Eagle =            Scorpio[10] =     Dan

 

Therefore, these “four living creatures” are a par excellance emblematic of the four corners of the world / universe to which HaShem’s revelation, governance, providence, and superintendence reaches, and therefore meaning that there is not a single place in the universe and in the world where these do not reach.

 

A Christian tradition, traced as back as we can ascertain to Ireneaus[11] (circa 170 c.e.), proposes that the faces of the cherubim (man, lion, ox, eagle) are "images of the life and work of the Son of God," and assigns the man to Matthew, and the ox to Luke, but the eagle to Mark and the lion to John. Victorinus[12] on the third century c.e., and later Jerome[13] on the fourth century c.e., accepted this concept but changed the order. Now the “lion” was Matthew, the “man” Mark, the “ox” Luke, and the “eagle” John.

 

This Christian tradition is in part correct and in part incorrect, for the Jewish people before Yeshuah came to walk on earth, already knew that the Torah was to be interpreted in four levels of hermeneutics as described in the following diagram[14]:


 

פרדס

פשת

רמז

דרש

סוד

PaRDeS

Pshat

Remez

Derash

Sod

Definition

Simple

Hint

Explore - Ask

Secret

Literary level

Grammatical

Allegory

Parabolic

Mystical

Audience level

Common People

Noble

(Lawyers, Judges, Scientists)

Kingly

(civil servants, political scientists)

Mystic

(psychologists)

Hermeneutic level[15]

7 Hillel Laws

13 Ishmael Laws

32 Ben Gallil Laws

42 Zohar Laws

Rabbinic level

Mishna

Gemara

Midrash

Zohar

Gospel

Marqos (Mark),

1 & 2 Peter

I and II Luqas (Luke)

Matityahu (Matthew)

Yochanan (John) 1, 2, 3, and Revelation

Presentation

HaShem’s Servant

Son of Man

The King

Son of G-D

Gospel

Marqos[16]

(Mark)

Luqas[17]

(Luke)

Matitiyahu

(Matthew)

Yochanan

(John)

Principle Concern

What do we have to do?

What is the meaning behind what we have to do?

How do we go about establishing HaShem's Kingdom on earth?

What metaphysical meaning is there to what is happening?

World

Asiyah

Yetzirah

Beriyah

Atzilut

Symbol

Man

Ox/Bull

Lion

Eagle

Mazzaroth

Deli

Shaur

Aryeh

Aqurav

Tribe

Reuben

Ephraim

Judah

Dan

Temple

Outside Chatzer

Chatzer

Kodesh

Kodesh Kodashim

Purim

Mikrah Megillah

Matanot L’Evyonim

Mishloach Manot

Seudas Purim

 


From this perspective, these “four living creatures” are thus responsible of carrying the Torah / Gospel to the four corners of the earth in all these four modes of interpretation, so that no human can be excused because they are ignorant of the message of HaShem’s salvation and HaShem’s governance and superintendence of the universe.

 

Revelation 4:8

 

(KJV+) And2532 the four5064 beasts2226 had2192 each of them303, 1520, 2596, 1438 six1803 wings4420 about2943 him; and2532 they were full1073 of eyes3788 within:2081 and2532 they rest2192, 372 not3756 day2250 and2532 night,3571 saying,3004 Holy,40 holy,40 holy,40 Lord2962 God2316 Almighty,3841 which was, and is, and is to come.3801

 

(YLT) And the four living creatures, each by itself severally, had six wings, around and within are full of eyes, and rest they have not day and night, saying, `Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and who is, and who is coming;'

 

(ALT) And {the} four living creatures, each one having six wings apiece covered with eyes around and within, and they do not have rest day and night, saying, "Holy, holy, holy [is] the Lord God, the Almighty, the One [who] was and the One being and the One [who is] coming!"

 

And {the} four living creatures, each one having six wings apiece

 

As to the meaning of the six wings of the Seraphim, as seen by Isaiah, we can but surmise that, “with two of which the face was covered,” denotes profound reverence for HaShem (i.e. “fear of the LORD”); “with two the feet, or lower parts” - emblematic of modesty; and “with two they flew”, symbolic of their promptness in executing the commandments of God (Isaiah 6:2).

 

covered with eyes around and within

 

The eye is the symbol of HaShem’s omniscience, who knows all and sees all, as well as a symbol for prophecy, for we call a prophet also a “seer,” and prophecy is the unveiling of secrets for the wise to see.

 

And they do not have rest day and night,

 

The symbol means that in eternity there is no sense of time, and day and night are alike. And so these creatures forever keep on exercising their commanded tasks without ceasing, i.e. it is their nature to always be in reverence, modesty, and swiftness occupied with HaShem’s commands.

 

saying, ‘Holy, holy, holy, LORD God Almighty, who was, and who is, and who is coming;’

 

Most Christian commentators see this as a reference to the so called trinity. We of course, see it differently. We see here each mention of term HOLY (Hebrew: Kadosh) as related to the meaning of the Name of HaShem revealed in Exodus 3:13-15, where we read:

 

13. And Moses said unto God: 'Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and will say unto them: The God of your fathers has sent me unto you; and they will say to me: What is His name? What will I say unto them?' 14. And God said unto Moses: 'I AM THAT I AM'; and He said: 'Thus will you say unto the children of Israel: I AM has sent me unto you.' 15. And God said moreover unto Moses: 'Thus will you say unto the children of Israel: HASHEM, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me unto you; this is My name for ever, and this is My memorial unto all generations.

 

In other words, the meaning here is HaShem who was Holy, HaShem who is Holy, and HaShem who will be Holy. And this is the meaning of the name of HaShem known to us in private conversation as HASHEM and before ten men as ADONAI. The rendering “who is coming” is unfortunate, and should be read rather as “will be,” so that the entire phrase be properly read as “who was, who is, and who will be” – i.e. the Eternal G-d Who transcends time. There are others who render this as the Eternal G-d Who became HaShem, Who becomes HaShem, and Who will be becoming HaShem.

 

Targum Yonathan renders the phrase “Holy, Holy, Holy” in Isaiah 6:3 as: “Holy is the most exalted heaven, the abode of His Presence; Holy on earth, product of His strength; Holy forever and ever is HaShem Master of Legions; the whole earth is filled with the brilliance of His glory.” Again a connection is here made with the “I was that I am, that I will be” of Exodus 3:13-15.

 

Revelation 4:9-11

 

(KJV+) And2532 when3752 those beasts2226 give1325 glory1391 and2532 honor5092 and2532 thanks2169 to him that sat2521 on1909 the3588 throne,2362 who lives2198 forever and ever,1519, 165, 165

(KJV+) The3588 four and twenty5064, 2532, 1501 elders4245 fall down4098 before1799 him that sat2521 on1909 the3588 throne,2362 and2532 worship4352 him that lives2198 forever and ever,1519, 165, 165 and2532 cast906 their848 crowns4735 before1799 the3588 throne,2362 saying,3004

(KJV+) You are1488 worthy,514 O Lord,2962 to receive2983 glory1391 and2532 honor5092 and2532 power:1411 for3754 you4771 have created2936 all things,3956 and2532 for1223 your4675 pleasure2307 they are1526 and2532 were created.2936

 

(YLT) and when the living creatures do give glory, and honour, and thanks, to Him who is sitting upon the throne, who is living to the ages of the ages,

(YLT) fall down do the twenty and four elders before Him who is sitting upon the throne, and bow before Him who is living to the ages of the ages, and they cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

(YLT) `Worthy are You, O Lord, to receive the glory, and the honor, and the power, because You--You did create the all things, and because of Your will are they, and they were created.'

 

(ALT) And whenever the living creatures ascribe glory and honor and thanksgiving to the One sitting on the throne, the One living into the ages of the ages [fig., forever and ever],

(ALT) the twenty-four elders will fall down before the One sitting on the throne and will prostrate themselves in worship before the One living into the ages of the ages [fig., forever and ever], and they will cast their victor's wreaths before the throne, saying,

(ALT) "You are worthy, our Lord and God, the Holy [One], to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because _You_ created {all} the [things], and because of Your will they are [fig., exist] and were created!"

 

Note that these three verses are in reality one thought: “And whenever the living creatures ascribe ... the twenty and four elders do fall down before Him ...” That is, as often as the living creatures give glory, immediately the elders fall down. The expression implies, that they did so at the same instant, and that they both did this frequently. However, the living creatures out of deep reverence say, "Holy, Holy, Holy is HASHEM." But the elders, fall down (prostrate themselves) and say, "Worthy are You, O Lord, to receive the glory, and the honour, and the power, because You--You did create the all things, and because of Your will are they, and they were created."

 

In our morning prayer services when we come to the section of Kedushah the Chazan (Cantor) and the congregation recite aloud: “Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh Adonai Ts’baot, M’Lo Kol-HaArets K’bodo – Holy, Holy, Holy is Ha-Shem, Master of Legions, the whole world is filled with His glory.” Then the Chazan reads: “Then the Ofanim and the holy living creatures, with great noise raise themselves towards the Seraphim. Facing them they give praise saying:” And then the congregation and the Chazan reciate aloud: “Barukh K’bod Adonai MiM’qomo, Blessed is the glory of HaShem from this place!” It is unfortunate that Christianity does not relive, in their congregational prayers, this great vision of worship in the Heavenly Sanctuary. How true is even unto this day, the saying of Yeshuah to the Samaritan (Gentile) woman: “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is of the Jewish people” (John 4:22).

 

Similarly, when the Chazan (Chantor) of the congregation chants “Shema Yisrael, Adonai Elohenu Adonai ECHAD – Hear O Israel, HaShem our HaShem, ONE is,” then the whole congregation responds in an undertone: “Barukh Shem K’vod Malkhuto L’Olam Va’Ed, Blessed is the Name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity!”

 

Interestingly it appears here that we have two commentaries on the meaning of “Holy, Holy. Holy.” On the one hand Hakham Yochanan comments “And whenever the living creatures ascribe glory and honour and thanksgiving to the One sitting on the throne,” and on the other the twenty-four Elders say: “Worthy art You, O Lord, to receive the glory, and the honour, and the power ...”

 

Thus we have:

 

            HOLY - Glory to HaShem

            HOLY - Honour to HaShem

            HOLY - Thanksgiving/power to HaShem

 

Thus Hakham Yochanan (Apostle John) is here teaching that all service to HaShem must have these three clearly marked components. Yet, some will ask, ‘where is repentance?’ And to this we answer, this is included in thanksgiving / power to HaShem, for in returning / repentance the power of HaShem is exalted in forgiveness, mercy, justice, and redemption!

 

By the grace of HaShem we have finished this commentary on Chapter Four of the book of Revelation of Hakham Yochanan, to HaShem, most blessed be He, be the glory, the honour and the power, forever and ever amen ve amen!

 

 

* * *

 


This study was written by:

Hakham Dr. Yosef ben Haggai,

Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David

Paqid Adon Poriel ben Abraham

Paqid Adon Mikha ben Abraham.

Comments may be submitted to:

 

Rabbi Dr. Greg Killian

4544 Highline Drive SE

Olympia, WA 98501

 

Internet address:  gkilli@aol.com

Web page:  http://www.betemunah.org/

 

(360) 918-2905

 

Return to The WATCHMAN home page

Send comments to Greg Killian at his email address: gkilli@aol.com

 

 



[1]              G.K. Beale & D. A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2007, p.1098

[2] David Chilton, The Days of Vengeance, Ft. Worth, Texas: The Dominion Press, 1987, p.147

[3] W. Hendriksen, More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1967, pp. 70, 263.

[4] Robert H. Mounce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Book of Revelation, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977, p. 76.

[5] Cf. synagog.html

[6] Cf. Rabbi Yitzchak Magriso, Yalkut Me’Am Lo’Ez: The Torah Anthology Exodus VI, Vol. 9, New York: Moznaim Publishing Corp., 1990, pp.292-293; and Rabbi Yitzchak Magriso, Yalkut Me’Am Lo’Ez: The Torah Anthology Exodus VII, Vol. 10, New York: Moznaim Publishing Corp., 1990, pp.242-246.

[7] Cf. King's College, Cambridge, Keynes Ms. 5: two treatises on prophecy (part 1: ff. I-VI and 1-56), by Isaac Newton

 

[8] W. Hendriksen, “More than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation,” Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1967, p.106.

[9] Cf.

[10] The eagle seems to have been in ancient times the symbol for what today we call Scorpio. In Abraham’s day Scorpio was figured as an eagle according the Chaldean Astrological symbolism in vogue. See: Richard Hinkely Allen, Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning, New York: Dover Publications, 1963, pp. 57, 362.

[11] Ireneaus, Adversus Haereses, III. 11, 8.

[12] Quoted in: George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John, Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eeerdmans Publishing Co.,1972, p.78.

[13] Jerome, Epist. 103, <ad Paulinum>,

[14]            Cf. rules.html

 

[15] The Hermeneutical Laws for the first and second levels of Rabbinical Hermeneutics you will find in the Siddur. In the ArtScroll Siddur (Nusach Sefard), pp. 53-54, which are found in the Morning Service on the "Offerings Section" before the "Kadish D'Rabanan" (The Rabbi's Kaddish) and which are a quote from the Sifra. The laws of Hermeneutics for this second level are recited every single day of the year by all Torah Observant Jews!

[16] Greek form of the Hebrew Mordecai.

[17] Greek form of the Hebrew Hillel.