Poole on Revelation 7:1: The Four Tempest Angels

Verse 1:[1] And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, (Dan. 7:2) holding the four winds of the earth, (Rev. 9:4) that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.

[After these things] A manuscript has μετὰ τοῦτο, after this thing,[2] that is, immediately after that which was last narrated (Grotius). With the sixth Seal completed, it would remain to proceed to the seventh. But the Holy Spirit with a certain design delays His advance for a moment, until He might set in view the state of a certain Society contemporaneous to that, which was going to be unharmed, indeed, thriving, under the plagues of it (Mede’s Works 561). These things pertain to the sixth Seal (as it is proven from a comparison with Revelation 8:1), which was foresignifying evil things to the evil and good things to the good; of evil things it is treated in the preceding chapter; of good things, in this chapter (Pererius). There was general and most grievous tribulation of the impious foresignified in the sixth Seal; but, lest it should be thought that it was going to harm the Holy and Elect (Pererius, similarly Ribera), it teaches that those were excepted by God (Ribera), and marvelously preserved, and that at that time their greatest coming forth from the Jews and Gentiles was going to happen (Pererius, similarly Ribera). John had seen terrible portents, and violent convulsions of all ranks of the Christians world under Antichrist. In this chapter, it is taught concerning the state, mourning, and sealing on the forehead of the pious under those (Pareus). The six open Seals exhibited particular types of the first sorrows: the seventh will bring forth so great a mass of evil that they could very well overwhelm the souls of the pious with horror. Therefore, in this chapter is presented a certain synoptic and fortifying view of the rest of this Prophecy in a general type of the rising evil, of the care of Christ concerning the preservation of the Church for Himself under this evil; and of the victory of the Church won over this evil, and thereupon of its happy condition: and thus, both the souls of the faithful are fortified and strengthened; and, because these things are set before the opening of the seventh Seal (of which these are proper events), it is not obscurely indicated that this second evil, even during the time of the first sorrows, made great advances (Forbes). The things that are narrated in this chapter are related for the consolation and joy of the Church after that most savage persecution, etc. (Pererius out of Andreas Cæsarius and Bede and the Carthusian). Others: This Vision has a beginning in some notable restraining of the Goths and other barbarian nations, which nations wrought great massacres in the Church, but were not able to destroy the earth and the trees; but partly they were driven back and dispersed, partly they submitted their necks, partly they were restrained, lest Antichrist should extend his kingdom throughout the entire world (Cocceius). Others: With the Church having now obtained peace and prosperity, yet not making good use of it, other more grievous evils follow, heresies, and the defection of Antichrist, concerning which the Church is warned through the Trumpets. Now, inasmuch as this calamity was going to carry away more members of the Church than open persecution did, God here sets down beforehand the future state of the Church with respect had to the two following Prophecies (Durham’s Commentary upon the Book of Revelation 783); and He consoles the pious by showing His care for the Church, to which He will grant both preservation and victory, and by teaching that the Elect are safe, and that they will be immune to this danger. Furthermore, these things, if you observe the order of their revealing, pertain to the sixth Seal, with the seventh not yet opened; but if you look to the scope and matter, they pertain to the following Prophecies, by way of preparation, even so that the transition from the one Prophecy to the other might be more conspicuous. Now, that they are to be referred to the following, not to the preceding, it appears, 1. because the Seals exhibit temporal judgments, but the Trumpets exhibit spiritual judgments: Now, the Elect are exempted from the latter, but not the former: 2. from a comparison with Revelation 9:4, where from that first woe, which the fifth Trumpet brought in, are exempted those that were sealed, etc.: 3. from a comparison with Revelation 13:8; 14:1, 4, where the effect of this sealing is shown, namely, that the Elect are preserved in purity from the worship of the Beast (Durham). Now, the Vision of the Sealed ones is set down twice: in the first place, here, with the Trumpets beginning, in the first Prophecy; again, as Ἀντίστοιχον, the Antithesis, of the Beast taking control of affairs, in the second Prophecy, Revelation 14. Also, in a twofold regard: here, partly of those to be preserved from catastrophes under the Trumpets; there, partly of those to be commended on account of their keeping faith in God and the Lamb, while the rest of the Inhabitants of the World were deserters. From which it is proven that the Prophecy of the Beast is contemporary with the events of the Trumpets (Mede’s Works 562). Others: After the general description of the vengeance of God against the Jews, here follows the particular execution of the same: in which, first of all, John says that the Vision concerning the care of Christ in plucking up the faithful in the common destruction of the Jews presented itself to me (Hammond).

After these things: The first sufferings of the church under the Roman emperors that were pagans, was foretold under the first six seals, as hath been showed; but they had yet more, if not greater, things to suffer, which are discovered to John, as we shall see when we come to the opening of the seventh and last seal in the next chapter; only it pleaseth God by a vision, in this chapter, to comfort his church: so as though this vision relateth to the sixth seal, and was before the opening of the seventh, yet it hath a relation to that, to show the care that God would take of his church under those great evils that should happen upon the opening of the seventh seal, or when the things foretold upon the opening of it should come to be accomplished.

[I saw four Angels] Either, 1. evil Angels (Piscator, thus Zegers, Cluverus, Gravius, Pareus, Pererius): whom in vain do they absolutely deny to be called angels, as it is evident from Romans 8:38; 1 Corinthians 4:9; 6:3; 2 Peter 2:11; Revelation 9:14 (Cluverus). On the contrary, demons are never called angels, but that something next is added whence they might be understood to be evil, as it is proven from Matthew 25:41; and from 1 Corinthians 6:3, where they are said to be judged by men (Ribera). I think that four princes of the rest of the demons are here denoted, who divided the globe of the earth among themselves, so that they might each perturb and afflict their own parts (Cluverus). Or, 2. good Angels (Ribera, Pererius, Durham); as it appears from verse 3, where they say of our God (Durham), for good Angels also often exact punishment from men (Ribera out of Augustine, thus Pererius, Durham), and harm them corporally (Pererius), as it is apparent from Genesis 19; 2 Kings 19; etc. (Ribera). But nowhere is it attributed to God or the holy Angels τὸ ἀδικῆσαι τὴν γῆν, to wrong the earth (Cluverus). [But ἀδικῆσαι, as previously noted,[3] sometimes only means to harm; especially when it is used of the earth, to which wrong, properly speaking, is not able to be done.] These four are Archangels, who are put in charge of the four compass points of the earth, so that they might preserve the world from destruction, for as long as the Saints were placed beyond the casting of darts (Forbes). These are not the same as the Angels of the Trumpets, but they release the Winds at the sound of those, etc. (Mede).

[Standing (as if ready for labor [Ribera, similarly Durham]) over the four corners (that is, ends, which we call quarters and points [Beza]: γωνίαι, פִּנּוֹת/ corners: any sort of outermost thing is thus called by the Hebrews [Grotius]: that is to say, at the four directions [Gagnæus]) of the earth] That is, either, 1. of Judea (Grotius, Hammond on verse 3), which is often in the Prophets and New Testament, and almost uniformly in this book, called ἡ γῆ, the earth (Hammond on verse 3). As the entire world is wont to be divided into four portions, so also its parts (Grotius). Or, 2. of the world (Gagnæus); East, West, etc. (Menochius, similarly Gagnæus, Ribera). This shows that evil is going to pervade all, as it is evident in the fifth Trumpet, and from the end of Revelation 13 (Forbes). It also teaches that this judgment is imminent and in readiness, so that it might break in on every side (Durham). These Angels had received the power, although limited, both of restraining and of releasing calamities, as it appears from verse 2 (Grotius).

[Holding (that is, attempting and willing to hold, as the following words, Be unwilling to hurt the earth, etc., indicate: For often in Scripture what is attempted and intended is said to be done [Ribera]) the four winds of the earth (that is, who were in charge of the winds, so that at the command of God they might either restrain, or release them, now on this part, now on that part [Mede]: he understands here the four principal winds, namely, the East Wind, the West Wind, the South Wind, and the North Wind, in which also the rest, which are intermediate, are understood [Ribera]), lest they should blow (namely, at the time, while it was not yet safe for the Elect [Durham]) upon the earth (the habitation of men [Cotterius], so that desolation might be brought upon the fields [Grotius], or, in diverse provinces [certain interpreters in Zegers]), neither upon the sea (sea in this book signifies a great People, of which sort especially was the people of Jerusalem: See Revelation 4:6: Achmet interprets it as a Kingdom [Grotius]; or, sea denotes an island [certain interpreters in Zegers]), neither against any tree] By the name of trees are signified those things which are made from trees, like cities; but especially the Temple, which is also called Lebanon in the Prophets because it was constructed out of the trees of Lebanon. See what things we said on Jeremiah 21:14; 22:7, 23; 46:23; Zechariah 11:1. These things pertain to the time of King Agrippa, under whom the peace of Judea was maintained,[4] Josephus’ Jewish War 2:16 (Grotius). The earth, sea, and trees he names agreeably to the image of winds, as upon which winds are wont to bring damage; upon the earth, by the collapsing of buildings; upon the sea, by shipwrecks; upon trees, by manifold overthrow and mangling (Mede, similarly Durham). Now, these things are typical (Forbes, similarly Pareus, Durham), as it is evident from Revelation 9:4, where these trees are said to be sealed in their foreheads. The Phraseology also is taken from the practice of those waging war, who are wont to ruin both the fields, and the sap, and the very things that are produced in the fields by sap, as in 2 Kings 3:19 (Forbes). Allegorically he here understands, not individual believers, but entire particular Churches, for they were signified in the earth, sea, tree, that is, Churches that shall be harmed, signified as remaining safe. Now, the Churches in the inland provinces are denoted by earth, in the maritime and insular privinces by sea, in the forested and mountainous provinces by tree (Pareus). Others: The earth is the place of the visible Church, in which are good trees and bad trees; and to what extent it is afflicted here by that calamity, it denotes earthly men alone, who are in the Church, not out of it: for the sealed, although they are in the earth, are not of the earth,[5] but are citizens of heaven.[6] The sea is the joint worship, in the society of which men are conjoined, whether they be pure or impure. The trees are Christian men, whether good or evil, Ezekiel 17:24; Matthew 3:10; 7:17. Therefore, this evil was going to pervade the entire visible Church indiscriminately, and in it the doctrine, worship, and profession (Forbes). The earth, sea, and trees are mentioned at the same time, as objects of this calamity, by way of allusion to the three types of those professing piety, against which error prevails. The earth denotes earthly men, for whom gain is in the place of religion, who hence are easily led into error, Philippians 3:19; 1 Timothy 6:10; 2 Peter 2:15. The sea denotes light and unstable men, after the likeness of water, 2 Peter 2:17; Jude 13. The trees designate those that are loftier than others in their own and others’ opinion, with respect to knowledge, eloquence, etc. (Durham). Now, to hold the winds lest they should blow, etc., is nothing other than to determine to destroy all thing in the earth and in the sea, which, as they are maintained and preserved by the wind, so with it withheld they are suffocated (Ribera, similarly Pererius): concerning which see Seneca’s Natural Questions 5:18 (Pererius). Stormy winds injure; but blowing mildly and gently, agreeable winds carry influences of fruitfulness to the earth, of purification to the sea and air: hence in the Scripture they denote the influx of spiritual χαρισμάτων/gifts, Song of Songs 4:16; Ezekiel 37:9; John 3:8; Acts 2:2. Therefore, the restraint of the winds signifies the inhibition of spiritual life and grace (Forbes). By winds he understands, either, 1. evil Angels, ministers of vengeance, whom the good Angels restrain, etc. (Napier): or, 2. a ὀλοθρευτικὴν/destructive force, the action of which the Angels were restraining, etc. (Cotterius): or, 3. whatever sort of calamity, whether it be Massacre, Diseases, Poverty (Grotius), the gales of Wars and Disasters (Mede’s Works 562). See Jeremiah 18:17; 49:36; 51:1; Daniel 7:2, 3 (Grotius, Mede); in which places see what things were said. See also Achmet (Grotius). Those winds the Angels were restraining lest they should blow, etc. (Mede). Or, 4. Teachers or preachers of the Gospel (Pareus, Cluverus), who are ministers of the Holy Spirit (Pareus), who is compared to the wind, John 3:8 (Pareus, Cluverus), on account of vehement and penetrating efficacy (Pareus); who comes with a blowing from heaven, Acts 2:2, and was given with a breath, John 20:22. Consult Zechariah 6, where the four winds of heaven are said to stand before the Lord, verse 5, and to have furnished rest for the Spirit of the Lord, verse 8 (Cluverus). Moreover, these winds blow, etc., that is, they sound the Gospel everywhere (Pareus), and by them Christ breathes spiritual life, growth, and refreshment (Cluverus). To hold these lest they should blow is (as all Interpreters agree) to hinder lest they teach (Pareus); or, to delay those salutary effects of the preaching of the word, which demons do; either, by the forging of interdicts of the sacred office by Princes enslaved to them: or, by the corruption of Ecclesiastical dogmas and the twisting of the Scriptures by heretics: or, by blocking the minds and ears of men, etc. (Cluverus). Or, 5. the salutary power and operation of the Holy Spirit through the ministry of the Word and Sacraments, with which ceasing, the salutary fruit of it [of the ministry] is hindered. That those Angels prevent lest they should blow, etc., signifies that those malignant spirits by their own instruments, namely, heresies, obstruct the entire course of the Gospel, and attempt to extirpate the Church out of the world (Gravius). Or, 6. spiritual judgments, like heresies, schisms, contentions, etc., which, after the likeness of winds, have force and momentum against unstable men, Ephesians 4:14; Jude 12. The sense: After the liberation of the Church from persecution, I saw that a new tempest followed, of heresies, schisms, etc., by which many were blown away; which, nevertheless, God restrained, etc. This sense is suggested, 1. by the scope, which is to preserve the elect from these evils, who nevertheless are not exempted from temporal evils, but from spiritual evils, Matthew 24:24; 2. inasmuch as this preservation of the Elect has regard to the evils of Antichrist, and spiritual pollutions, as it is evident from a comparison with Revelation 13:8 and 14:1, 4 (Durham).

I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth; four good angels; God is called their God, verse 3. Holding the four winds of the earth; that is, to whom God had given it in charge that they should inflict his judgments upon all the parts of the earth; for God often useth, by his prophets, the metaphor of winds, to express stormy, troublesome dispensations, as Jeremiah 18:17; 49:36; 51:1. That the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree: this phrase is interpreted variously, God making use of the winds, 1. In a way of judgment, to throw down buildings and trees. 2. In a way of mercy, to purify the air, and by their gentle breathings to cherish things. Some interpret this command to the angels, into a command to these angels to forbear awhile those storms of judgment which were coming, till the servants of God should be sealed. Others interpret them into a command to bring judgments, either corporal or spiritual, which they think is signified by the winds not blowing. The last seemeth to be favoured by the next verse, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea; which seemeth to me to interpret the blowing mentioned in this verse of a hurtful blowing. The earth, the sea, and the trees, seem to signify all the sublunary world, especially the church.

[1] Greek: Καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα εἶδον τέσσαρας ἀγγέλους ἑστῶτας ἐπὶ τὰς τέσσαρας γωνίας τῆς γῆς, κρατοῦντας τοὺς τέσσαρας ἀνέμους τῆς γῆς, ἵνα μὴ πνέῃ ἄνεμος ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, μήτε ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης, μήτε ἐπὶ πᾶν δένδρον. [2] Codices Alexandrinus, Sinaiticus, and Ephræmi Rescriptus, and a majority of Byzantinge manuscripts read μετὰ τοῦτο, after this. [3] Revelation 2:11: “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt (οὐ μὴ ἀδικηθῇ) of the second death.” See what things are written there. [4] Agrippa II (c. 27-c. 93) was able to keep the peace between the Jews and the Romans for a time, but the First Jewish-Roman War erupted in 66. [5] See John 15:10; 17:14-16. [6] See Philippians 3:20.