Revelation 4:1-11 Part 8


1)    After these I looked and, lo, a door having been opened in the heaven and the sound, the first that I heard as a trumpet, speaking to me saying “come up here and I will show you what is necessary to take place after these”.

2)    Immediately I did come in spirit and, lo, a throne set in the heaven, and upon the throne One sitting,

3)    and the One sitting like stone, jasper and sardonyx in appearance, and a bow round about the throne like emerald in appearance.

4)    And round about the throne twenty-four thrones, and upon the thrones twenty-four elders having been clothed in white garments, and upon their heads gold crowns.

5)    And from the throne coming forth lightnings and sounds and thunderings, and seven fiery lamps ablaze before the throne that are the seven spirits of God,

6)    and before the throne as glassy sea like crystal, and in midst of the throne and round about the throne four creatures being entirely of eyes front and back,

7)    and the first creature like unto a lion, and the second creature like unto a calf, and the third creature having the face as of man, and the fourth creature like unto a flying eagle,

8)    and the four creatures one by one of them having six wings each, being entirely of eyes around and within, and they have no pause saying “holy holy holy Kurios The God The Almighty, the Was and the Is and the Coming.

9)    And whenever the creatures will present glory and honor and thanksgiving to the One sitting on the throne, to the One living into the ages of the ages,

10) the twenty-four elders will prostrate themselves before the One sitting on the throne, and they will adore the One living into the ages of the ages, and they will cast their crowns before the throne, saying

11) “worthy are You, the Lord and our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power; for You, You did create all, and by Your will they are, and they were created”.


“And the one sitting like stone, jasper and sardonyx in appearance, and a bow round about the throne like emerald in appearance.”

We’ve seen that the Throne of Almighty God is one of judgment, and then redemption.  And that’s exactly what we’ll see all through the remainder of John’s letter to the seven Churches in western Asia.

And so before we come to verse four, I want to spend some time with you regarding that very fact, because the Throne is the central vantage point for the Revelation as a whole.  After the messages to the Churches, Jesus says “come up here”.  And John enters the heaven and sees the throne.  Just as Ezekiel’s throne-room vision (chapter one) is central to the entirety of his prophecy, so the same is true of John’s.  And, as we’ll see throughout the Revelation, the two prophecies are close to identical all the way through!  As a matter of fact, we’ll be referring back to Ezekiel many times in every chapter of John’s Revelation.

We won’t take the time to do it here this morning, but, in your own time, sit down and read the first chapter of Ezekiel and the fourth chapter of The Revelation together, and you’ll note the many similarities.

And as we proceed, we’ll see, more and more, that the central vantage point of both prophecies is the throne-room/judgment seat of God; and that God’s throne is one of judgment and redemption.  There is a very close identification, front to back, between the two.  And, given enough time, sometime in the future we should know both of these books of the Bible very well.

But, as someone once counted, in John’s Revelation there are six hundred and forty references to specific passages of the older testament Scripture.  That means that there are an average of twenty-nine direct quotes and specific references to the Law and the Prophets in every chapter of the Revelation!  That’s an average.  Even without a covenantal approach to Scripture, it makes me wonder why anyone would deal with this Revelation from God on its own without the direct reference to God’s Own Word in the older testament.  After all, it’s the same Speaker!  So, why wouldn’t it be that way?

And just as we couldn’t get along in dealing with John’s Revelation without Ezekiel’s prophecy, we also can’t get along without the books of Moses… especially Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

And before we come to verse four in our text this morning, just a few minutes time in these two books would do us well, I think, because this Revelation to John, one of judgment and redemption, and from the Throne of God, has to do with the things that are necessary to be done quickly.  And those things (for which “the time is near”) have everything to do with the stipulations of God’s covenant – as revealed to Moses and recorded in the book of Deuteronomy.

Stipulations.  What is a stipulation?

Here’s an example for you.  Having chosen a piece of property and agreed to buy it; and having applied for a loan from a mortgage company; and having come to the closing table to complete the transaction; and having received the huge stack of papers that must be signed, one of the papers in that big stack has a very sobering statement on it.

There’s a certain line there that has an amount on it.  And it says that in order for you to retain possession of the property that you’ve purchased, you must pay this amount monthly.  And if you don’t pay this amount monthly (all the way to the last one), then you won’t retain possession of your property.

That’s called a “term” of the transaction – a “condition” – or, to use our word here… a “stipulation”.  Now.  The reason that I don’t use very many examples in preaching is that rarely does an example truly bring out the full meaning of a Biblical truth.  So examples usually leave us somewhat short of God’s Word… (especially personal examples).  On the other hand, there are many Biblical examples (examples that are actually in the Bible) that we are disposed to use here – ready to use here, rather than making something up.

And that’s certainly true in this case, because transactions between people, although they are to be done lawfully, are executed through negotiation, with all parties meeting in agreement in advance, and with all the “terms” spelled out and agreed upon… also in advance.

But our example of the real estate transaction falls far short of the truth of God’s Word when it comes to His covenant.  Just think for a minute about God’s covenant, made among Himself in advance of His creation (“among” being Father, Son and Spirit, of course).

And having created the cosmos according to His covenant, He told Adam that He had made the cosmos – all for man; He had made Adam and placed him on earth in a spectacular garden – one that had the “likeness” of the throne-room of God; He had given him a wife; He had told him to tend the garden, multiply and fill the earth; and He told him that, as a creature, he must obey His Creator.  Should he obey, he would live.  And should he not obey, he would die.

When God “cut” His covenant with His creation (and that’s the term that appears in the Hebrew), when God cut His covenant, there was no negotiation with His creatures.  He says, “here is My covenant with you”.  It is a “unilateral” covenant.   God speaks it; the creation receives it!

And He continues to “establish”, or “strengthen” His covenant through history… the major instances, of course, being the Noahic covenant, the Abrahamic covenant, the Sinaitic covenant and the Davidic covenant, all of which agree.

“Here is My covenant with you.”  Here is what I’ve done; here is what I’ve done for you; here is what I’m going to do.  You see, there are no negotiations; and there are no pre-covenant “agreements” between God and His creatures about what is to be done and when it is to be done and how it’s to be done.

But one thing is certain about the covenant that God has cut with His creation.  There are stipulations.  You see, there is already a Creator/creature relationship, isn’t there?  At the point that the Word of God called the creation into existence, there was established a Creator/creature relationship.  And the distinction between the two – Creator/creature – is quite clear in everything that He’s made… so much so that all mankind is obligated to acknowledge it and give thanks for it.

But, in addition to the “clarity” of His creation by which all men know Him and must acknowledge Him, God has “spoken” His covenant to man; and it has been written for us!  And it has “terms”, or “stipulations”, which reiterate the relationship, and reiterate the obligation that’s so clearly evident in the creation itself.

And subsequently, after the stipulations, God reveals the “sanctions” against His creatures should they not obey the terms – or stipulations – of His covenant.  The best rendering of the stipulations and sanctions of the covenant is Moses’ book – Deuteronomy.  The stipulations of the covenant are found in chapters five through twenty-six; and the sanctions of the covenant (i.e., sanctions for disobedience and lawlessness and faithlessness) the sanctions are found in chapters twenty-seven through thirty.

Then in Moses’ third book, the book of Leviticus, we find much the same thing.  In fact, the sanctions in this book are identical to the sanctions against Israel in John’s Revelation!  If Israel obeys Yahveh, she will be blessed in every area of life.  But if she disobeys, she will be visited with the curse of the covenant (the sanctions), spelled out in horrifying detail (Leviticus chapter twenty-six).  And what’s remarkable about this passage is that the sanctions are laid out for us in a special pattern.  Four times God says that He will punish Israel seven times for her sin!  Let me say that again: “four times God says that He will punish Israel seven times for her sin”.

So there are four seven-fold judgments in Leviticus twenty-six (also picked up in several of the prophets), a pattern of judgment which reaches its full development in John’s Revelation, which is explicitly divided into four sets of seven:  1) the letters to the seven Churches, 2) the opening of the seven seals, 3) the sounding of the seven trumpets, and 4) the outpouring of the seven chalices!  That’s four sets of seven, as in Moses’ book of Leviticus.

All of this is built into the very structure of the Revelation, right out of chapter twenty-six of Leviticus, as our Lord Jesus Christ executes the covenant law suit, the sanctions, against the nation that has vowed before God that it would be faithful to Him.

So, let me be clear here….  The sanctions against Israel that we will see throughout John’s Revelation, that are necessary to be done quickly (chapter one verse three), are exactly what was prophesied in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

And John, in the Revelation, records what he sees and hears in the throne-room, and they are the very words of the prophets as they describe the “harlotry” of the nation of Israel.  Throughout Scripture it is Israel who the prophets condemn as a harlot for her idolatry, because one of the primary analogies for the covenantal relationship between God and His people is marriage.  Marriage is, in many ways, “like” the covenant that God has made with His people.  It is one of God’s institutions for man that “corresponds” to God.  And “Faithfulness” is the stipulation.

And should a wife be unfaithful (an act which does NOT correspond with the Person of God in His heaven), she is condemned as a harlot and executed.  That’s the sanction for unfaithfulness. That’s God’s Law-word.  And John, in the Revelation, writes the very words of Jesus Christ that she, Israel, is “the great harlot… the mother of the harlots and of the abominations of the Land”.

So you see that this is a covenantal law-suit that we’re dealing with here (the time is near); and the central vantage point of the prophecy of judgment and redemption is the throne – the Judgment Seat of God – which is what John is seeing here in our text.  And everything that is “necessary to be done quickly” is all according to the stipulations and sanctions previously recorded in Scripture, in God’s Own Words… the words of the covenant.

But let’s go to the text now at verse four:


“And round about the throne-twenty-four thrones, and upon the thrones twenty-four elders having been clothed in white garments, and upon their heads gold crowns.”


Now, I had quite a bit of information assembled with regard to this description by John, but for weeks I’ve been somewhat worried that I wasn’t really at the “core” of it yet.  But John saw it; it was there, and he recorded the description for the entire Church.  So we know that there is a “correspondence” in God’s creation.  And it should be recorded somewhere in the Law and the Prophets.  We’ve seen that over and over.

Therefore it is of immense importance that the Church sees that, and knows what that correspondence is.  I had looked for it and thought about it, but I hadn’t yet made that ultimate “connection” until I read a couple of statements that Greg Bahnsen made in one of his lectures on Revelation.  And I think it was Dr. Ned Stonehouse that Dr Bahnsen credited with the correct view of the twenty-four elders on twenty-four thrones.

But first there’s a misinterpretation that many commentators pursue; and we need to clear that up.  Not having a solid reason for these twenty-four elders at the throne of judgment and redemption, the temptation is to make up something that sounds reasonable and has a “ring” of truth.  And just to let you know, I was leaning in the direction of following them in their interpretation!  I couldn’t find anything that was rock solid, or anything that was more reasonable, so I was going to go with it.

And what it was that many of these commentators said was that the twenty-four elders on twenty-four thrones was a combination of representatives of the twelve tribes of Old Testament Israel, and the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ in the New Testament.

Now, absent something more solid from Scripture, that certainly sounds reasonable, and it has a ring of truth since there is a consistent connection between older testament saints and newer testament saints.  After all, the entirety of Scripture is Christian (there aren’t two books with two different religions).  And there is unity between all the saints.  We are all “in Christ”.

But this view has some serious problems (and rightly so, since it only “sounds” like it might be right).  One of the issues that occurred to me was that John the apostle, having been commanded to “come up here”, would have been looking at himself if half of the twenty-four elders had consisted of the twelve apostles!

And another issue is the fact that the unity of the Church in Christ is represented in a totally different way in John’s Revelation.  Later in the letter, the New Jerusalem – the new city of God – has twelve foundation stones and twelve gates.  And the information that John receives, and that he writes for us, is that the twelve foundation stones of the new city of God are the patriarchs of the twelve tribes.  And the gates of the new city are the apostles.  And therein is the consistency of the Scripture and the unity in the body of Christ.  The patriarchs of old, looking forward to the coming of God’s Messiah, form the foundation of the new city; and apostolic proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (the keys to the Kingdom) is the gateway to the city.

And the fact is that the twenty-four elders are not resurrected humans at all.  And they’re not the patriarchs of Israel and the twelve apostles.  They are a particular rank of angelic creatures.  All through John’s Revelation these twenty-four creatures perform angelic service around the Throne.

Of particular note, in the next chapter these twenty-four elders are performing an angelic service to the throne of a priestly nature, presenting the incense of the tabernacle, which is the prayers of the saints.  On other occasions they are involved in an activity of a prophetic nature as they speak to John and tell him things.  And, lastly, they are portrayed in Scripture as a “council” of angels, as in the council of the heads of families in Israel.

But, once again, these are not humans.  They are a class of angels particularly given to glorify the Throne of God.  We have one such passage in Isaiah chapter 24.  Here it is:


21) And it shall come to pass in that day, that Jehovah will punish the host of the high ones on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth.

22) And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison; and after many days shall they be visited.

23) Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed; for Jehovah of hosts will reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem; and before his elders shall be glory.


Isaiah is prophesying the “last day” in which the princes of “the earth” receive the sanctions of the covenant from the Judgment Seat of God.  The “earth”, as we’ve seen many times, comes from the prophetic terminology “heaven and earth” as it refers to Israel.  But this is a prophecy of the sun and the moon and the stars of national Israel under judgment from the heaven.  “And before His elders shall be glory”.

They will fall down and worship the radiance of His glory.  Once again, these are not human elders – they are angelic-type creatures.  And their appearance to John is not as human; nor does their appearance represent certain humans.  They are among the “host” of angelic creatures that number in the “ten thousands of ten thousands” round about the throne, praising God and giving Him honor.

They have, as opposed to the cherubim/seraphim/chariots of God, and as opposed to the angelic “messengers” of God, (they have) particular duties around the throne.  John sees no humans there, but these non-human creatures are performing “functions” around the King’s throne.

The elders before the throne, foremost of all, perform priestly functions; and they perform prophetic functions (i.e. they speak to John and explain things); and they perform kingly functions under the sovereign King of Kings.  They wear crowns, and they cast their crowns before the throne.

Now, one more time… these elders at the throne of God are not human; neither do they represent humans.  It’s the other way around.  Humans created by God on this earth are to perform priestly duties and prophetic duties and kingly duties in the likeness of what is in the heaven!

What John sees in the heaven is the Archetype.  What God has created and ordered in His creation is the “likeness”, or the “correspondence” to what is in the heaven.  So the elders don’t represent anything on earth, or in the cosmos.  What is in the earth, or in the cosmos, is in the likeness of what is already in the heaven!

So, you see, the question about who these creatures are, and what they “represent”, is a moot question.  They don’t represent anything; and they don’t represent anybody.  They are functionaries around the throne of Almighty God.  They perform “functions” – duties.  They praise and honor God.  And the priests, prophets and kings of Israel are “likenesses” to that which already exists, pre-exists, at the throne of God.

So the Levitical priesthood of Israel is created by God to correspond to what occurs at the throne of God.  The priesthood of Israel is a “likeness” of the throne that Johns sees, and that Ezekiel saw.  The twenty-four elders perform a priestly function – one that the priesthood of Israel was created to perform in their likeness.  They wore the white priestly garments indicating the purity of the priesthood.

And, by the way, the Levitical priesthood of Israel, prescribed by God in the likeness of His throne-room, was broken down into twenty-four “ranks”!

The heads of families and tribes of Israel were to be the wisest of the wise, the judges of the tribes, the council of elders, the ones to made decisions according to God’s law, the ones who “shepherded” their tribes and families, the ones who spoke the Word of God to the people – a prophetic function.

They were to correspond to what was present in the throne-room.  They were to be in the “likeness” of the elders that John saw before the throne of God in the heaven, giving honor to God and speaking His Word.

The kings of Israel were given by God to correspond to His throne room.  The elders that John saw in the heaven wore gold crowns, and they cast their crowns at the foot of the throne.  So the kings of Israel were to be in their likeness, submitting their kingships over the nation to the King of Kings, knowing and acknowledging the fact that their kingships were given by Him, and that they were to resemble the throne-room of God.

But, you see, the covenant lawsuit against Israel, brought specifically by the prophets sent by God and ultimately by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, condemned the priesthood of Israel.  According to the stipulations of the covenant, the priests of Israel in no way corresponded to what was perfectly evident at God’s throne!

And the covenant lawsuit, again brought specifically by the prophets of God and by our Lord Jesus, condemned the elders of the tribes of Israel, because, according to the stipulations of the covenant, the elders of Israel in no way corresponded to God’s throne.

And the covenant lawsuit, brought specifically by the prophets of God and by our Lord Jesus, condemned the kings and princes of Israel, for they in no way corresponded to God’s throne.

Instead, the priests, elders and kings of Israel were all complicit in beating, imprisoning and killing the prophets of God who constantly called for their repentance.  And finally came The Son.  And all the princes of Israel were complicit in attempting to terminate the Husbandman’s ownership of the whole vineyard of Israel by killing His Son.

So, not only were the priests, elders and kings of Israel NOT corresponding in the likeness of the throne of God, but the view of the throne-room of God that Israel was representing was of the nature of “vile” and “sordid” and “wretched”.  Do you see that?  The priests, elders and kings of Israel, in the gross idolatry and wickedness, were images of a fraudulent judgment seat in the heaven!!  The image of the One True God in the heaven that the princes of Israel portrayed was one who was wicked!

So, like the Canaanites before them, the sins of Israel were filled up; and the sanctions of the covenant so clearly spoken and written in Leviticus and Deuteronomy were about to be brought against this nation.  As John says to the Churches, “the time is near”.  The “unfaithful harlot” is to be executed.

There is One, though, Who perfectly fulfills all of the stipulations of His covenant.  One Who shines with the emerald radiance of the Glory of God in the white garments of perfection.  One Who perfectly fills up all of the Words of His Own prophecy.  One Who is crowned King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

He is the One Who did execute the sanctions of His covenant.  And He is the One Who has now called us, the Gentiles, from the demon-infested, arid wastelands of the earth.  We are now a new temple of priests in Him.  We are now a new holy city of Jerusalem in Him.  We are now a new mountain of God over all the mountains of the world.  We are a new nation of prophets, priests and kings in Him.

We, in Him, sit with Him on His throne in the heaven, with crowns and white robes, having been IN HIM in His suffering, IN HIM in His crucifixion, IN HIM in His burial, IN HIM in His resurrection, and IN HIM in His ascension to the Glory Cloud/ Throne-room/Judgment Seat in the heaven.

And it is for us to live lives of faithful obedience to the stipulations of His covenant as we, as creatures of God, perform our priestly duties, our prophetic duties and our kingly duties as we correspond to the likeness of His throne.