Author: Ron Graham

Book of Revelation

The Elders Around the Throne
— Revelation 4:1-5

The Revelation of Christ (Revelation 1-5) >Seven Scenes in Heaven >Scene 1 >The 24 Elders

We have completed our study of the first vision in the book of Revelation, in chapters 1 to 3. In that vision, Christ appeared to John and issued messages to the seven churches of Asia. Now we come to the second vision in the book of Revelation, seven scenes in heaven. We find these in chapters 4 and 5.

1 Heaven Opened

A door open in heaven Jesus Christ, "who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut" (Revelation 3:7), now opens a door in heaven. It is open for John and he is told to go up and to enter that door.

The first voice This is the same voice that heralded the first vision in which John saw Christ among the candlesticks (Revelation 1:10). This "voice as of a trumpet" was apparently not the Lord Jesus speaking, because his voice sounded different, "like the sound of many waters" (Revelation 1:15). The "first voice", the one like a trumpet, now heralds the second vision, and summons John to see seven scenes in heaven.

After these things The words, "I will show you what must take place after these things" guide John, and the reader, in understanding the process of the visions. The visions are not chaotic hallucinations, but an orderly presentation, vision by vision, scene by scene, of the glorious gospel. John is now leaving "these things" —namely the vision of Christ which has just taken place, and he is now about to experience "what must take place after" —namely the vision of heaven in seven scenes.

Take place People think of the visions in Revelation as a literary representation of future events. However that is not correct. A given vision may represent...

Therefore we should view the visions as events in themselves. This is also evident in John’s statement...

I was in the Spirit John's way of describing his experience is not "it was in my head" but rather "I was in the Spirit". The visions are not merely played on a kind of spiritual television for John the spectator. They are an actual spiritual experience for John the participator.

There is some discussion about whether the spirit in this verse (also Revelation 1:10) is John’s spirit or the Holy Spirit. Whichever it is, the meaning is that, as part of his vision experience, John was undergoing a spiritual transport, because he twice speaks of being "carried away in the Spirit" (Revelation 17:3, Revelation 21:10). Whether this was an "out of body" experience for John we cannot tell. We do no it was a real experience. Paul having a similar experience, knew that he was indeed transported, but he did not know how (2Corinthians 12:1-4).

2 The Throne of God

One sitting on the throne John sees a throne set in heaven, and One sitting on it who is identified in verse 11. It was "our Lord and our God" whom Daniel called "the Ancient of Days" (Daniel 7:9,13).

A rainbow around the throne The appearance of God in the vision was like precious stones. John saw a glorious and most beautiful light coming from God and surrounding his throne. To describe this light, John compares it with the appearance of precious stones. God, of course, does not emit light such as shines out of the sun or reflects from a jewel. We are thinking here about spiritual light and spiritual darkness.

Now false gods, as man imagines them, all seem to have a dark side in their character, judging by the myths told about them. We know that certainly the demons behind false gods are in darkness and altogether devoid of light. But "God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all" (1John 1:5). John was surely beholding this truth and the glory of God in this vision!

3 The Elders

24 elders... thrones... golden crowns These elders represent the churches of Christ, for elders are pastors (shepherds) of the churches (Acts 20:28). In the next vision, the Lamb will be seen, who is Jesus Christ. The Lamb who purchased the church with his own blood is also the Chief Shepherd of the church (1Peter 5:1-4) who gives to all his shepherds "the unfading crown of glory".

Of course God gives the crown of glory to every faithful member of the flock, as we have seen in previous lessons (Revelation 2:10, 3:11). Elders, however, have special authority in the church and are said to "rule" over the flock (1Thessalonians 5:12, 1Timothy 5:17) although "not lording it over" those allotted to their charge (1Peter 5:3). This rule is represented not only by the crowns, but also by the 24 thrones on which the 24 elders sat (Revelation 4:4).

seven lamps... seven spirits The significance of the seven spirits was dealt with fully in the lesson entitled The Seven Spirits.

Briefly, there are seven Spirits because there are seven churches addressed by the Revelation. Each Spirit is a representation of the Holy Spirit's personal work through prophets in each of the seven churches, delivering to them the God-breathed testimony or gospel of Jesus. The lamps of fire remind us of the "tongues as of fire" which lighted upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).