Revelation 4:1-5

Sunday, March 1st, 2015

Text: Revelation of Jesus Christ 4:1-5

THE TWENTY-FOUR ELDERS

INTRODUCTION:

I remind you of the verse in Revelation of Jesus Christ 1 which provides an outline for the Book of Revelation.

Revelation of Jesus Christ 1:19 - Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter.

The things which thou hast seen refers to Revelation of Jesus Christ 1 .

The things which are refers to Revelation of Jesus Christ 2-3 .

The things which shall be hereafter refers to Revelation of Jesus Christ 4-22 .

Whereas chapters 2-3 concern the seven churches, beginning in Revelation of Jesus Christ 4:1 the church is not mentioned again in the entire book. It points to a time when the church will not be there. At the end of chapter 3 the rapture will have taken place. The church age will cease and the church will no longer be present on earth. God's program for the local churches on earth will be over, but His program for Israel continues. The tribulation is the time of Jacob's (i.e. Israel's) trouble.

Jeremiah 30:7 - Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.

I. THE INVITATION FROM HEAVEN - 4:1

Revelation of Jesus Christ 4:1 - (1) After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.

After this is after these things, meaning after the things which have occurred in chapters 1-3.

I looked, which refers to John, is simply I saw.

Behold is used to gain the reader's attention.

What John observed is that a door was opened in heaven. The fact that it is an opened door indicates that it was open at the time that John looked and that it had been opened prior to his looking. Opened is passive, which indicates that someone other than John opened it; but it is not revealed who opened this door.

There is a question regarding the first voice which I heard.

Is it a reference to the first voice John heard in the book of Revelation, i.e. the voice of the risen Lord Jesus Christ in chapter 1; or is it the first voice John was to hear in this heavenly scene? Although one cannot be absolutely certain of this, this voice in chapter 4 also appears to be the voice of Christ. So, both could be true.

Was as it were of a trumpet talking with me describes this first voice John heard.

As it were is simply as.

Of a trumpet suggests that this voice which John heard would give loud, sharp, clear tones which would demand the attention of the hearer.

John had had a similar experience in Revelation of Jesus Christ 1:10

Revelation of Jesus Christ 1:10 - I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet.

This voice was talking with me, which means it was speaking with me (i.e. it was speaking with John).

Which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.

Come up hither is come up here, meaning that John is to come up to heaven where God is; and its tense indicates that John is to do this at once and without delay.

I will shew thee things which must be hereafter is literally I will show you (or I will make known to you) what things are necessary to be after these things.

It is a clear reference to what was stated in Revelation of Jesus Christ 1:19 . Except for the word translated must be, which means are necessary, this phrase is identical in the Greek text with the last phrase in Revelation of Jesus Christ 1:19 , and the things which shall be hereafter. In 4:1 these things refer to what has been stated in chapters 2 and 3.

Two things point to a pre-tribulational rapture of believers.

First is the fact that beginning in Revelation of Jesus Christ 4:1 the church is not mentioned again in the entire book.

Second is the fact that the content of chapters 4-19 deals with the tribulation era. It is a time when the church will not be there.

II. THE VIEWING OF GOD'S THRONE - 4:2-3

Revelation of Jesus Christ 4:2-3 - (2) And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. (3) 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.

Immediately is at once and suggests without any delay.

I was in the spirit is reminiscent of what John wrote in Revelation of Jesus Christ 1:10 where he wrote, I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day. . . . where the Greek text is identical with the Greek text in this verse.

It is interesting that spirit is capitalized in Revelation of Jesus Christ 1:10 but not in this verse. Capitalization of spirit is something which was done when the translators (or subsequent editors) believed it referred to the Holy Spirit. When they believed it referred to the individual's own spirit, they left it with the lower case. The Greek text is not helpful in these matters. Thus, the capitalization of Spirit in Revelation indicates that the translators (or later editors) viewed it as the Holy Spirit. Its not being capitalized in this verse indicates that the translators (or later editors) viewed spirit as referring to John's own spirit.

In spite of the capitalization or lack of it, the phrase in the spirit in this verse may refer to the Holy Spirit. If so, it suggests that John was particularly under the influence of the Holy Spirit. As a result he was taken beyond where his normal senses and experiences would have taken him. He was about to receive a revelation directly from the Lord.

On the other hand, in the spirit may refer to John's own spirit. If so, it would indicate that John's spirit was caught up to heaven but that his body remained on the isle of Patmos. Both ideas are possible and both make good sense in the context of this passage as well as in the context of Scripture.

And behold is used to gain the reader's attention.

John saw that a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.

The context suggests that the throne which was set in heaven is God the Father's throne.

Was set in heaven is stood in heaven.

And one sat on the throne is literally and (up)on the throne (One) sitting. The One sitting upon the throne is undoubtedly God the Father because the Lamb, Who is Christ, is seen in Revelation of Jesus Christ 5:7 taking the book out of the right hand of Him that sat on the throne.

He is also distinguished from the Holy Spirit in Revelation of Jesus Christ 4:5 where the Holy Spirit is represented by seven lamps of fire which are said to be the seven Spirits of God.

God the Father is identified throughout the Book of Revelation as the One sitting upon the throne.

Revelation of Jesus Christ 4:3 - 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.

He that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone refers to God the Father.

A jasper stone is a precious stone found in various colors, mostly reddish, sometimes green, brown, blue, yellow, and white. In antiquity the name was not limited to the variety of quartz now called jasper, but could designate any opaque precious stone.

In Revelation of Jesus Christ 21:11 a jasper is described as being clear as crystal, which means that it would appear like a diamond.

Revelation of Jesus Christ 21:11 - Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.

A sardine stone is a sardius and is red like a ruby.

The jasper and sardine (i.e. sardius) represent the first and last tribes of Israel. Therefore, they may be regarded as including all the other stones in between and refer to all of Israel.

The person John sees on the throne looking like a jasper and sardine stone is God the Father in relation to the nation of Israel.

And there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.

A rainbow or halo is described as all of green like an emerald. It forms a rich background for the glorious scene which John saw.

Like unto is like or similar to.

An emerald is a bright green, transparent, precious stone.

The intent of the vision is to show the glory of God.

III. THE TWENTY-FOUR ELDERS - 4:4

Revelation of Jesus Christ 4:4 - (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.

Round about the throne is simply around the throne or encircling the throne.

The elders are described as sitting on thrones, being clothed in white raiment, and having crowns of gold upon their heads.

Twenty-four seats are twenty-four thrones.

I saw twenty-four elders sitting.

Twenty-four elders were sitting on these twenty-four thrones, but John does not indicate who these elders are. The appears before elders indicating that this is a particular group of elders. The text reads literally I saw the twenty-four elders sitting.

These twenty-four elders are not only sitting on these twenty-four thrones but are also clothed in white raiment.

They are further described by and they had on their heads crowns of gold.

The identity of these twenty-four elders is not as clear as one might wish. They are typically viewed in three ways:

(1) as being angels

(2) as being comprised of representatives of Old Testament and New Testament saints

(3) as being representatives of believers from the church age.

When one remembers some of the things which have been said to the overcomers in Revelation of Jesus Christ 3 , he begins to draw the conclusion that these elders are some of those who have overcome and are now in heaven. In Revelation of Jesus Christ 3:5 it is learned that the overcomers will be clothed in white raiment.

Revelation of Jesus Christ 3:5 - (5) He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.

Revelation of Jesus Christ 19:7-8 - (7) Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. (8) And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.

In Revelation of Jesus Christ 3:21 it is learned that the overcomers will sit with Christ in His throne,

Revelation of Jesus Christ 3:21 - To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

It is also learned in Revelation of Jesus Christ 3:21 that Christ sat down with His Father in His Father's throne. If it is correct to identify the persons sitting on these twenty-four thrones as overcomers, it would seem reasonable to understand the crowns of gold as indicating that the Bema Seat judgment has already taken place and that the crowns of gold are the rewards these twenty-four elders have received for faithful service during their lifetimes.

Crowns of gold indicates that they are crowns worn by victors rather than crowns worn by kings. This also suggests that they have already been rewarded at the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ.

The Bema Seat Judgment of believers is described in -

I Corinthians 3:11-15 - (11) For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (12) Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; (13) Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. (14) If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. (15) If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

It is also described in -

Romans 14:11-12 - (11) For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. (12) So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

Inasmuch as angels have not yet been judged at the time represented by this vision, it would eliminate them from consideration as being these twenty-four elders.

Likewise, inasmuch as Daniel 12:3 indicates that the Old Testament saints are not resurrected from the dead until after the second coming of Christ, which does not occur until Revelation of Jesus Christ 19 , this would eliminate them from consideration also.

Daniel 12:1-3 - 1 And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. 2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.

So, as I understand it, the twenty-four elders have already been rewarded at the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ and should, therefore, be regarded as a group representing the church as the Body of Christ just as the Old Testament priesthood was represented by twenty-four orders of priests.

Will there only be these twenty-four rewarded and sitting on these twenty-four thrones, or will all believers who have been raptured eventually take their turns sitting on these twenty-four seats or thrones?

Inasmuch as the overcomer has been promised the privilege of sitting with Christ in His throne, it seems best to understand this as something that each overcomer will eventually be privileged to do and that eventually they will all take their turns doing so in groups of twenty-four.

The number twenty-four seems to be taken from I Chronicles 24:7-19 where Solomon divided the Levitical priests into twenty-four courses, divisions, or orders where each division was responsible for a specific function assigned to it and each member of each division served a specified time on a rotating basis. Each priest in the division would eventually take his turn. Thus, Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, was of the course of Abia (Luke 1:5 ); and the birth of his son was announced to him while he was executing the priest's office before God in the order of his course (Luke 1:8 ).

IV. THE SEVEN SPIRITS OF GOD - 4:5

Revelation of Jesus Christ 4:5 - (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.

The throne is the throne of God the Father which is surrounded by the twenty-four thrones upon which the twenty-four elders are seated.

Proceeded is actually present tense and is understood in the sense of are proceeding or as a historical present in the sense of were proceeding.

The lightnings, thunderings, and voices (i.e. sounds or noises) which were proceeding from the throne are prophetic of the righteous judgment of God upon a sinful world.

These lightnings, thunderings, and voices (or noises) emanating from the throne would certainly gain the attention of anyone present and suggest that something important is about to happen. The judgment of the nations is about to take place.

The seven lamps of fire burning before (i.e. in front of) the throne are identified as the seven spirits of God mentioned in Revelation of Jesus Christ 1:4 and 3:1.

Revelation of Jesus Christ 1:4 - (4) John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne.

Revelation of Jesus Christ 3:1 - (1) And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.

The Holy Spirit is described in Isaiah 11:2 in a sevenfold manner as the Spirit of the Lord, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.