The eternal Son, the second Person in the Trinity, who afterwards took the human nature, is here denoted. The first thing observed was a throne. It is a throne of glory, a throne of grace, a throne of triumph, a throne of government, a throne of judgment. It is good news to men, that the throne above the firmament is filled with One who appears, even there, in the likeness of a man. The throne is surrounded with a rainbow, the well-known emblem of the covenant, representing God’s mercy and covenanted love to his people. The fire of God’s wrath was breaking out against Jerusalem, but bounds should be set to it; he would look upon the bow, and remember the covenant. All the prophet saw was only to prepare him for what he was to hear. When he fell on his face, he heard the voice of One that spake. God delights to teach the humble. Let sinners, then, humble themselves before him. And let believers think upon his glory, that they may be gradually changed into his image by the Spirit of the Lord.
Ezekiel 1:26–28 KJV And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it. (27) And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about. (28) As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake.
All the other parts of this vision were but a preface and introduction to this. God in them had made himself known as Lord of angels and supreme director of all the affairs of this lower world, whence it is easy to infer that whatever God by his prophets either promises or threatens to do he is able to effect it. Angels are his servants; men are his tools. But now that a divine revelation is to be given to a prophet, and by him to the church, we must look higher than the living creatures or the wheels, and must expect that from the eternal Word, of whom we have an account in these verses. Ezekiel, hearing a voice from the firmament, looked up, as John did, to see the voice that spoke with him, and he saw one like unto the Son of man, Revelation 1:12–13 KJV And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; (13) And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. The second person sometimes tried the fashion of a man occasionally before he clothed himself with it for good and all; and the Spirit of prophecy is called the Spirit of Christ 1 Peter 1:11 KJV Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. and the testimony of Jesus, Revelation 19:10 KJV And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
This glory of Christ that the prophet saw was above the firmament that was over the heads of the living creatures, Ezekiel 1:26 KJV And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it.
Note, The heads of angels themselves are under the feet of the Lord Jesus; for the firmament that is over their heads is under his feet.
Angels, principalities, and powers are made subject to him, 1 Peter 3:22 KJV Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him. This dignity and dominion of the Redeemer before his incarnation magnify his condescension in his incarnation, when he was made a little lower than the angels, Hebrews 2:9 KJV But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
The first thing he observed was a throne; for divine revelation comes backed and supported with a royal authority. We must have an eye of faith to God and Christ as upon a throne. The first thing that John discovered in his visions was a throne set in heaven, Revelation 4:2 KJV And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. which commands reverence and subjection. It is a throne of glory, a throne of grace, a throne of triumph, a throne of government, a throne of judgment. The Lord has prepared his throne in the heavens, has prepared it for his Son, whom he has set King on his holy hill of Zion.
On the throne he saw the appearance of a man. This is good new to the children of men, that the throne above the firmament is filled with one that is not ashamed to appear, even there, in the likeness of man. Daniel, in vision, saw the kingdom and dominion given to one like the Son of man, who therefore has authority given him to execute judgment because he is the Son of man, John 5:27 KJV And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. so appearing in these visions.
He saw him as a prince and judge upon this throne. Though he appeared in fashion as a man, yet he appeared in more than human glory, Ezekiel 1:27 KJV And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about.
Is God a shining light? So is he: when the prophet saw him he saw as the colour of amber, that is, a brightness round about; for God dwells in light, and covers himself with light as with a garment. How low did the Redeemer stoop for us when, to bring about our salvation, he suffered his glory to be eclipsed by the veil of his humanity!
Is God a consuming fire? So is he: from his loins, both upward and downward, there was the appearance of fire. The fire above the loins was round about within the amber; it was inward and involved. That below the loins was more outward and open, and yet that also had brightness round about. Some make the former to signify Christ’s divine nature, the glory and virtue of which are hidden within the colour of amber; it is what no man has seen nor can see. The latter they suppose to be his human nature, the glory of which there were those who saw; the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, John 1:14 KJV And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
He had rays coming out of his hand, and yet there was the hiding of his power, Habakkuk 3:4 KJV And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power. The fire in which the Son of man appeared here might be intended to signify the judgments that were ready to be executed upon Judah and Jerusalem, coming form that fiery indignation of the Almighty which devours the adversaries. Nothing is more dreadful to the most daring sinners than the wrath of him that sits upon the throne, and of the Lamb, Revelation 6:16 KJV And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: The day is coming when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed in flaming fire, 2 Thessalonians 1:7–8 KJV And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, (8) In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: It concerns us therefore to kiss the Son lest he be angry.
The throne is surrounded with a rainbow, Ezekiel 1:28 KJV As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake. It is so in St. John’s vision, Revelation 4:3 KJV And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. The brightness about it was of divers colours, as the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, which, as it is a display of majesty, and looks very great, so it is a pledge of mercy, and looks very kind; for it is a confirmation of that gracious promise God has made that he will not drown the world again, and he has said, I will look upon the bow and remember the covenant, Genesis 9:16 KJV And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. This intimates that he who sits upon the throne is the Mediator of the covenant, that his dominion is for our protection, not our destruction, that he interposes between us and the judgments our sins have deserved, and that all the promises of God are in him yea and amen. Now that the fire of God’s wrath was breaking out against Jerusalem bounds should be set to it, and he would not make an utter destruction of it, for he would look upon the bow and remember the covenant, as he promised in such a case, Leviticus 26:42 KJV Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land.
Lastly, We have the conclusion of this vision. Observe, what notion the prophet himself had of it: This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. Here, as all along, he is careful to guard against all gross corporeal thoughts of God, which might derogate from the transcendent purity of his nature. he does not say, This was the Lord (for he is invisible), but, This was the glory of the Lord, in which he was pleased to manifest himself a glorious being; yet it is not the glory of the Lord, but the likeness of that glory, some faint resemblance of it; nor is it any adequate likeness of that glory, but only the appearance of that likeness, a shadow of it, and not the very image of the thing, Hebrews 10:1 KJV For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.
What impressions it made upon him: When I saw it, I fell upon my face. He was overpowered by it; the dazzling lustre of it conquered him and threw him upon his face; for who is able to stand before this holy Lord God? Or, rather, he prostrated himself in a humble sense of his own unworthiness of the honour now done him, and of the infinite distance which he now, more than ever, perceived to be between him and God; he fell upon his face in token of that holy awe and reverence of God with which his mind was possessed and filled. Note, The more God is pleased to make known of himself to us the more low we should be before him. He fell upon his face to adore the majesty of God, to implore his mercy and to deprecate the wrath he saw ready to break out against the children of his people.
What instructions he had from it. All he saw was only to prepare him for that which he was to hear; for faith comes by hearing. He therefore heard a voice of one that spoke; for we are taught by words, not merely by hieroglyphics. When he fell on his face, ready to received the word, then he heard the voice of one that spoke; for God delights to teach the humble.