And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.…
I. First, let us look up at this wonderful throne. Of course, we understand such a thing to be the symbol of GOVERNMENT — of the Divine government in the universe — for that Being in the seat of royalty is God. But what do the other emblems mean?
1. Observe that the exalted Monarch is said to be "like a jasper and a sardine stone." See the supreme advantage we have in knowing that we are under a splendid and sufficient government in this world of ours, where all appears so confused and independent. I confess my mind grows restful and glad when I look up and seem to see this dazzling diamond of infinite perfection subduing itself to my weak comprehension till it looks like a carnelian, which I gaze upon constantly and yet live.
2. Then, next to this, observe in like manner the attendants which are represented as forming the King's retinue: "And round about the throne were four and twenty thrones," etc. Here again is a disclosure upon which it will cheer the Christian's heart to dwell. This is more than a splendid government; it must be amazingly potent and irresistibly strong. The very nobles are crowned, and wear royal raiment: their ordinary seats are thrones.
3. But does God know what Him wicked and wilful creatures are doing so far away from His presence? That leads us forward another step in the vision, and we observe that this must be a very watchful government; the language is quite peculiar: there was "before the throne, as it were a glassy sea like unto crystal," etc. We cannot delay to examine in turn every one of these interesting symbols. It must be enough to say that the lion is the chief of wild beasts, as the ox is the chief of those tamed and domestic; the eagle is the king of the air, and man is the monarch among created things; each is sovereign and supreme of his kind, for the Lord God could receive no less into Him court for His servants. But the main particular to notice in this description is the suggestion — here twice made — that they were all "full of eyes," and the floor beneath the throne was of glass as transparent as crystal. "And thou sayest, hove doth God know? can He judge through the dark cloud?" But now this vision teaches that earth can always and everywhere be seen from heaven.
4. Observe, once more, that this is an unimpeachable government. These living creatures are worshipping while watching: "they have no rest day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy," etc. No one can know better than those nearest to a monarch how pure he is. This King in the throne never broke one of His promises, never deceived one of His subjects, never forgot one of His creatures in its time of possible need.
II. Thus much does this first symbol in the vision teach. Now we come to study the second; the "rainbow, in sight like unto an emerald." This represents a COVENANT, as the other represented a rule.
1. Observe first, that the ancient covenant of reaction has in it the promise of the covenant of grace. This is Noah's bow repeated with fresh and better engagements for John.
2. Notice again, that its appearance just here in John's vision is welcomed more for its graciousness than for its antiquity. No one can read the Bible without noticing more and more ]plainly that the God of nature desires to transfer the allegiance of His creatures so that they may fully recognise Him as the God of grace.
3. Once more: observe how well this vision teaches us that God's covenant is completed. A perfect circle is the finest figure we could imagine of the covenant of God's love fully complete.
4. The symbols here employed seem to teach that this is an abiding covenant: it will stand for ever. In oriental countries green is the emblem of unchangeableness. It signifies fidelity, incorruptible and for ever to be trusted.
5. This covenant is to each of us individual and personal. Each beholder is the master and owner of his particular arch in the heavens. Thus it comes to pass that we are sure no two persons ever see the same iris even on the clouds of the same storm, though they are almost side by side in their outlook; for there are different drops which fall into the angle of range, and different sunbeams to touch them. Do not waste this conception in admiration of the beautiful phenomenon of nature. God's covenant is made with a generous distribution of grace, but to each reception and bestowment of favour there are only two parties, Himself and a single believer.
III. Thus we reach the last point for our consideration; namely, the COLLOCATION of the two symbols. "The rainbow was round about the throne."
1. God's promise surrounds God's majesty. The ancient Rabbins used to render the verse in Genesis concerning the rainbow thus: "It shall be a sign between My word and all the earth." So now we look up at this vision of John, and we learn to rest in our Creator. We are not left to vague considerations of Jehovah's consistency with His own character, or, as we sometimes phrase it, "His name"; we dwell upon His recorded language of blessing, "Thou hast magnified Thy word above all Thy name." The word is "round about" the name, the rainbow is round about the throne.
2. God's grace surrounds God's justice. We lift our eyes, and see this rainbow as really the most conspicuous thing in the vision. Its vast emerald arch shines all around the supreme tribunal on the floor of crystal. The suggestion is immediately clear, it is a comfort that we are now under the New Testament.
3. God's love surrounds God's power. Love is symbolised in the rainbow, and power in the throne; and the rainbow is round about the throne.
4. God's glory surrounds God's children. For just look up and see the position and collocation of these two objects; the emerald ring is all around the sapphire seat of royalty.
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.