Thursday, May 7, 2015

KJV versus JST: Twenty four elders and beasts around the throne in Revelation 4


There’s a fair amount of Joseph Smith Translation differences in Revelation 4 that I think are worth looking at, particularly in verses 4 - 6.

KJV
JST
My thoughts
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 in the midst of 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.
The JST places the seats not round about the throne, but in the midst of the throne.  Since we take the throne to be the throne of God, to say these seats are in the middle of the throne tells us these 24 elders have been exalted and share in the authority and power of God, having been given the privilege of having the same power God has.  They couldn’t be given this if they hadn’t achieved great holiness and righteousness.
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: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven servants of God.
The JST changes “Spirits” to “servants,” and this prevents us from falling into some kind of error of thinking there are 7 Holy Ghosts and not just one.  The way I see it, the seven servants give light, and they are between the throne and whoever would approach the throne, so they represent a level of righteousness we must get to first before we can become perfected.
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:
and in the midst of the throne were the four and twenty elders; and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.
The JST clarifies that it is not the 4 beasts in and around the throne, but it is the 24 elders in the throne and the 4 beasts are around the throne.  To put beasts in the throne and elders outside of it would essentially demote righteous perfected men below heavenly animals, which is laughable.  No, man is the crowning creation of God and His children, so of course in their exalted perfected state they will still be higher than exalted animals.

It is also useful to look at D&C 77, a revelation given to Joseph Smith about these verses as well.

2 Q. What are we to understand by the four beasts, spoken of in the same verse?
A. They are figurative expressions, used by the Revelator, John, in describing heaven, the paradise of God, the happiness of man, and of beasts, and of creeping things, and of the fowls of the air; that which is spiritual being in the likeness of that which is temporal; and that which is temporal in the likeness of that which is spiritual; the spirit of man in the likeness of his person, as also the spirit of the beast, and every other creature which God has created.
 3 Q. Are the four beasts limited to individual beasts, or do they represent classes or orders?
A. They are limited to four individual beasts, which were shown to John, to represent the glory of the classes of beings in their destined order or sphere of creation, in the enjoyment of their eternal felicity.
 4 Q. What are we to understand by the eyes and wings, which the beasts had?A. Their eyes are a representation of light and knowledge, that is, they are full of knowledge; and their wings are a representation of power, to move, to act, etc. (D&C 77:2-4)

Why do these verses from the D&C matter to us? 

Let me give you an example from my life.  I had pet fish as a teenager, and one of my favorite fish was killed by one of my siblings.  If you ask my sister, to this day she will deny that she did it, but I did find the fish’s body dried up under her bed.  I was tremendously grieved about that fish; there was much weeping and wailing in all the land. 

When it came to the deaths of people, I had a testimony of the resurrection and the plan of salvation, but I didn’t quite know what would happen to my fish. 

D&C 77: 2-4 elaborates on how John’s vision reveals that not just human creation will be exalted, but animal creation as well.  The four beasts shown represent “the glory of the classes of beings . . . in the enjoyment of their eternal felicity.”    What is felicity?  Intense happiness.  Like the elation when school is let out for the holidays. 

So next time you or one of your children loses a beloved pet, comfort them with those scriptures so they know for sure that their pets will enjoy eternal happiness as well.

2 comments:

Unknown said...

Hi Michaela
I have always struggled over the word "midst". Does it mean in the middle, or is a word that means a part of the group, thank you for shedding light on this.
As for animals, will they be judged also? Something to ponder
Also, who is on those 24 thrones, I thought it might be the Jerusalem 12 and the Nephite 12, but that would leave out Adam. Noah, Enoch, etc.

Michaela Stephens said...

Ramona, those are very good questions.
I think "midst" means middle in this case.

I don't know anything about whether animals will be judged or not.

As for who the 24 elders are, I have also thought they were the Jerusalem 12 and the Nephite 12, but that is my own private musings and as you say, that leaves out a lot of other fabulous prophets. Considering the Lord could easily have named those 24 people, what do you think we learn from the fact that those 24 elders go unnamed?

Thanks for stopping by. You always have great questions that make me think.