We closed our ‘quick’ look at Revelation chapters 1-3, with this, “those who have ears, let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” He is not just talking to the Pastors, who have some form of authority over the congregants; he is talking to you and me as well.
There is a problem, we are lukewarm, to the point that God will vomit us out of His mouth, but it can be fixed, and you fix it by being proactive and telling people that He is coming soon; here are the signs and you need to prepare your heart to greet Him. (You do this by accepting Jesus to be your life.)
Let’s assume the rapture has taken place; therefore, the common but logical assumption is that the church is now with Jesus, in the heavens.
Revelation 4:1 CJB “After these things, I looked; and there before me was a door standing open in heaven; and the voice like a trumpet which I had heard speaking with me before said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must happen after these things.”
What happens next?
No one with a sound mind can tell you how rapidly any of these events will take place. They can’t tell you because the rapidity is NOT laid out in scripture; this, however, plays into a problem we have, as we tend to see these biblical events/stories in 15-minute increments, and there is nothing to say it must happen that way.
Revelation 4:2-3 NASB “Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. (3) And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance.”
When I went through my introduction, I believe I mentioned that the Revelation was a very Jewish book. If I did not, then I am telling you now. If you wish to understand it, you have to try to think like a Jew, and the primary source of information is still today, the Old Testament. When the Jews heard these words that we see in Revelation 4:2-3, their thoughts turned immediately to Ezekiel’s writings. It would help if you also kept in mind that they had NO Bibles (no scrolls) and NO chapters and verses. The passage selection was the Rabbi’s option and was read in the Synagogue that Saturday and rehearsed throughout their lives, hopefully building it into your memory.
So, what did Ezekiel give them?
(Ezekiel 1:26-28 NASB) “Now above the expanse that was over their heads there was something resembling a throne, like lapis lazuli in appearance; and on that which resembled a throne, high up, was a figure with the appearance of a man. Then I noticed from the appearance of His loins and upward something like glowing metal that looked like fire all around within it, and from the appearance of His loins and downward I saw something like fire, and there was a radiance around Him. As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking.”
Just for fun, Sardius and Jasper have a very similar look, with a coloration much like fire, and in many cases are often aggregated in nature. Now it gets interesting.
Revelation 4:4 NASB “Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones, I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads.”
I struggled for years to understand what I read in Revelation 4:4. This drive to grasp what we see here motivated me to sit through three sermons of a seven-week series, given by a former Pastor, on Revelation. When he got to the elders, he merely said, the twenty-four elders are the church, and quickly moved on with no further explanation. I had had enough, and I quit this pastor and that church.
Several years later, I heard Pastor John MacArthur teach on this very thing, but this time there was an explanation and, it made sense. Let me try to explain it to you.
This is essentially what John MacArthur said about the elders.
“Their joint rule with Christ, their white garments (Rev_19:7-8), and their golden crowns (Rev_2:10) all seem to indicate that these twenty-four represent the redeemed (Rev_4:9-11; Rev_5:5-14; Rev_7:11-17; Rev_11:16-18; Rev_14:3; Rev_19:4).”
Let’s see if these passages that Pastor John gives us define the church as the elders.
Revelation 19:7-8 NASB “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”
When we look back at Revelation 4:4, we see them “clothed in white garments.” I give you a portion of Esther’s story, for it demonstrates that the linen, made from flax, is white.
Esther 1:5-6 NASB When these days were completed, the king gave a banquet lasting seven days for all the people who were present at the citadel in Susa, from the greatest to the least, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace. (6) There were hangings of fine white and violet linen held by cords of fine purple linen on silver rings and marble columns, and couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl, and precious stones
And there is in Ezekiel a description of how the Levitical priests were to be dressed.
Ezekiel 44:15-17 NASB “But the Levitical priests, the sons of Zadok, who kept charge of My sanctuary when the sons of Israel went astray from Me, shall come near to Me to minister to Me; and they shall stand before Me to offer Me the fat and the blood,” declares the Lord GOD. (16) “They shall enter My sanctuary; they shall come near to My table to minister to Me and keep My charge. (17) “It shall be that when they enter at the gates of the inner court, they shall be clothed with linen garments; and wool shall not be on them while they are ministering in the gates of the inner court and in the house.
And though you may not feel like it, this passage from Ezekiel applies to us, at some point, as Jesus did this through His actions on the cross.
Revelation 1:6 NLT He has made us a Kingdom of priests for God his Father. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.
There are always those who resist the truth, and I did tell you to look to the Old Testament for confirmation, so I give you Exodus 19.
Exodus 19:5-6 NLT Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me. (6) And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.’ This is the message you must give to the people of Israel.”
It is looking more like these 24 elders are the church with every passing minute.
Both Exodus 3:16 and Deuteronomy 31:28 speak of the elders being gathered before Moses. As a young man, I went to a Katherine Kuhlman meeting at the Angelus Temple in Los Angeles. When the doors opened, and we were right at one of the doors, the crowd pushed hard so they could get up front, next to Ms. Kuhlman. In this crazed state, we had to get an old lady off the ground so that she did not get trampled. Imagine all Israel trying to get to Moses. From reading the Bible, it is evident that God is inclusive, and no one will be left out. I still struggle to grasp how WE are a part of this group of elders unless they represent us.
I am going to be painfully honest here. I have NEVER felt included in anything until I met Jesus. Sadly, the imagery that I have of heaven is frequently tainted with these broken thoughts. Needless to say, my self-esteem has been shot full of holes. Thankfully, God found me and did not leave me there. I fight hard against the enemy when he comes against me with thoughts of nonacceptance, and I choose to adjust my thinking. So, all this talk about 24 elders, from a broken point of view, lends itself to false pastors who had stood before their congregations and bragged about the cost of their suit or where they can go to eat. Others don’t brag about their premier passes to Disneyland; they merely show you the pictures of their frequent trips and exclusive vacations. These, according to Satan, will most likely be the elders because of the many books they have written, and they, just like here on earth, will be pushing people like me around once again. That kind of negativity makes me think, why would I want to be there. But, I know that those who were able to be first down here will NOT be first in heaven, as they have already acquired their reward, which will burn up at the Bema seat of Christ.
Matthew 19:30 NLT “But many who are the greatest now will be least important then and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.”
As for the Bema seat.
2 Corinthians 5:10 NLT For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.
1 Corinthians 3 tells us that all our works or actions will be tested with fire; so, if you are putting your faith in fancy suits, places you can eat, or premier amusement park passes, they will burn, and you will be left with yourself and Christ.
1 Corinthians 3:13-15 NLT But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. (14) If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. (15) But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.
Revelation 4:4 tells us that they have golden crowns on their heads.
Revelation 2:10 informs us that we will be given a crown of life, but it sounds like an “if-then” statement that includes painful testing and death.
Revelation 2:10 NASB ‘Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
This verse has no mention of a golden crown, but there is always that possibility, and I will remain open to it.
Zechariah 3:5 speaks of a turban.
Zechariah 3:4-5 CJB “who said to those standing in front of him, “Take those filthy garments off of him.” Then to him, he said, “See, I am taking your guilt away. I will clothe you in fine robes.” I said, “They should put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and gave him fine robes to wear, while the angel of Adonai stood by.”
The Word Study Dictionary defines the turban in this way: “It indicates a headpiece often worn by persons in authority in the ancient Near East. It was created by folding long pieces of cloth around a person’s head. It was worn by the high priest of Israel (Zec_3:5). It is used figuratively of righteousness (Job_29:14). People considered it a valued luxury in some cases (Isa_3:23). Zion is described as the royal turban or diadem of the Lord (Isa_62:3).”
This turban may well be the crown; however, Revelation 4:4 is particular about it being a golden crown.
In the Psalms, David speaks about what Jehovah had done for him.
Psalms 21:1-3 NASB For the choir director. A Psalm of David. O LORD, in Your strength the king will be glad, And in Your salvation how greatly he will rejoice! (2) You have given him his heart’s desire, And You have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah. (3) For You meet him with the blessings of good things; You set a crown of fine gold on his head.
David has always been spoken of as an analogy of our own lives and God’s love for us.
Psalm 8:5 is talking about Christ, but aren’t we in Christ when we accept Him?
Psalms 8:4-6 NASB What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? (5) Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty! (6) You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet,
If we are in Him, then it just makes sense that we get to share His crown. Now, before you get too locked into this crown and the attitude that may be associated with it, look at this.
Revelation 4:9-11 NASB “And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”
I attended a church where the elders, who were the only ones who could or would pray for you, frequently spoke of adding more jewels to their crown. Apparently, they ignored the fact that these elders cast their crowns before the throne.
We are NOT told what becomes of those crowns after this, so don’t worry about it.
Perhaps the better question is, where did these Elders come from?
If I am thinking Jewish, then I did not hear elders, I heard the Greek word presbuteros. This word presbuteros was used of the Sanhedrin, and for many, just saying that word leaves a bad taste in their mouths. It was “the supreme council of the Jewish people, in the time of Christ,” and it played a role in Jesus’ death and the persecution of the early church. None of this fits the occasion, so I must be looking for some other definition.
Matthew 19:28 may fill the momentary void, as I scramble to find a correlation with the elders in the Old Testament.
Matthew 19:28 NASB “And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
Now, I will admit that I try to be conscientious about context when explaining a biblical concept, so I must admit that the context lends itself to a conversation Jesus had with Peter, a Jew, and a disciple. The response that Jesus gave to Peter could be construed to be exclusive to the disciples; I might agree with you if Jesus had not said these words, “you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne.”
Haven’t we who accepted Christ followed Him in the regeneration; and, isn’t He NOW sitting on that Glorious Throne?
The short answer is yes.
Titus also addresses regeneration.
Titus 3:5 NASB “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,”
We were regenerated by the washing and renewing of the Holy Spirit; this happened when you accepted Christ, and it continues throughout this walk here on earth. This Idea of washing also appears in Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, where he tells us that it is the Word of God that sanctifies and cleanses us. But there is one more aspect of Paul’s statement that should take your breath away, and that this cleansing by the Word has one specific purpose, “that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.”
Ephesians 5:25-27 NASB “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.
Obviously, there is no mention of elders in Ephesians 5, but it is Jesus who, in a sense, reintroduces us, as the church, to the Father.
In this first letter to the church in Thessalonica, Paul addressed their fears that they had been left behind – well, that is one way of putting it, and it is a good one. Here is what he said.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 NASB (13) But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. (14) For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. (15) For this, we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. (16) For the Lord, Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. (17) Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. (18) Therefore comfort one another with these words.
It is obvious to me that Jesus will come back and retrieve us, and there we will sit with Him at the throne of God.