"Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book."
Revelation 4 - Quick Links
1 After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, "Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this."
Recall from Revelation 1:19, the Lord told John to write the things he had "seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this." John recorded the things he saw in Revelation 1. The things "which are" deal with the Church, which John recorded in Revelation 2 & 3. John is about to record what will take place "after these things" that relate to the Church.
Recall, the entire message given to John was for Christ's servants, which are His followers (Revelation 1). Furthermore, each church was not to receive only their part of the letter addressed to them, but also the entire Revelation. In other words, the letters in Revelation 2 & 3 are not only for those seven specific churches, but for the Church body at large. The Church, also called the "assembly," is not mentioned again until Revelation 22. Therefore, many believe that "the things which are" extend beyond John's time, covering the entire Church Age and leading up to, but not into the time of the seven-year Tribulation.
It is important to note, that nearly every eschatological view that takes the Church into the Tribulation, does not relate the transition that John is making in chapter 4 of Revelation to a change in dispensation. Rather, other views generally limit "the things which are" only to John's day, with the period "after these things" starting sometime in the first century and continuing until the Millennium.
However, there is not any other clear transition recorded by John in the Revelation that indicates that the Church Age is over, like there is in this passage. Not recognizing this transition leads to opinions that vary widely, for those who do not believe that the events "after these things" begin with the closing of the "dispensation of grace." But "God is not the author of confusion" (1 Corinthians 14:33). I believe God gave John a clear transition between dispensations at this point in the Revelation. The next few sections support this notion.
In Revelation 3:8, Philadelphia was given an "open door" to spread the Gospel unhindered. The "open door" in Heaven is different. This open door is the physical entrance to the Kingdom of God, which today is still in Heaven. It will be open to those that had already spiritually entered the door to Heaven upon salvation and closed to those not saved:
Luke 13:23-28 - Then one said to Him, "Lord, are there few who are saved?" And He said to them, "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open for us,' and He will answer and say to you, 'I do not know you, where you are from,' then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.' But He will say, 'I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.' There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out.
It is only through Jesus that we (the "sheep") can enter the Kingdom (the "pasture"):
John 10:7-9 - Then Jesus said to them again, "Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture."
Revelation 4:1 - And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, "Come up here..."
"In the Spirit," John goes through the open door into Heaven (Revelation 4:2). Though this verse cannot be used as a proof text to support a pre-Tribulation rapture, it certainly fits. The Lord calls John, as a type for the Church, to Heaven in the same fashion that He will call believers to Heaven at the rapture. To be clear, parallels and patterns should never be used to determine doctrine, but rather to support what has been already been revealed by the Holy Spirit, through the clear teaching of the Word. (See "Prophetic Patterns in Numbers").
Note the following parallels of John's experience to the rapture of the Church:
The Lord transported John "in the Spirit" to see prophecies of the future, from the vantage point of Heaven, "after these things" (Revelation 4:1) that were just shown to him.
Recall from Revelation 1:10, that being "in the Spirit" is different from being in-dwelt by the Spirit, where the Holy Spirit resides within the believer, guiding and directing them until the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30). God transported prophets like John and Ezekiel "in the Spirit," to show them future events and directed them to record these prophetic revelations. Paul also had a similar experience to John, where he was "caught up" to the "third Heaven":
2 Corinthians 12:1-4 - It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago-whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows - such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man - whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows - how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
Many believe that the Lord transported Paul, like John, to "Paradise," in the "third heaven." Based on Genesis 1 and other passages, we can surmise that the "first heaven" is the atmosphere of the earth, and the "second heaven" encompasses the cosmos. Paul is vague on what he saw in the "third heaven." He was not even permitted to share what he heard. In contrast, the Lord commanded John to record the details of what he saw, and most of what he heard, save the "seven thunders" in Revelation 10.
It is interesting to note that Paul was not certain when he visited the "third heaven," whether he was "in the body," or "out of the body." Therefore we should not assume how John arrived to Heaven. The point is that John, being "in the Spirit," witnessed future events, many from a heavenly perspective.
A throne is a seat of authority. The throne in Heaven is the throne of God, from which He maintains sovereignty over all:
Psalms 103:19 - The LORD has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.
God governs from His throne in righteousness and justice:
Psalms 89:14 - Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; mercy and truth go before Your face.
Psalms 9:4-8 - For You have maintained my right and my cause; You sat on the throne judging in righteousness. You have rebuked the nations, You have destroyed the wicked; You have blotted out their name forever and ever. O enemy, destructions are finished forever! And you have destroyed cities; even their memory has perished. But the LORD shall endure forever; He has prepared His throne for judgment. He shall judge the world in righteousness, and He shall administer judgment for the peoples in uprightness.
God not only delivers judgment from His throne, He also extends grace:
Hebrews 4:16 - Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Many believe that the "One" on the throne is God the Father. However, as we discussed in Revelation 1:14, the Father cannot be seen by anyone:
John 1:18 - No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.
Jesus is the only physical manifestation of the Godhead that there is:
Hebrews 1:1-3 - God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
Colossians 2:9 - For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.
Scripture is clear that Jesus is the only physical form of the invisible God. Therefore, Jesus must be the "One" sitting on the throne:
Colossians 1:15 - He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
The Lord's appearance may give us clues to confirm that the form on the throne is Christ. The "One" on the throne has the appearance of jasper and sardius. In the Old Testament, the last and the first stones on the breastplate of judgment worn by the high priest are the "sardius" and "jasper" stones. Note that the Hebrew language reads from right to left, hence the order of stones shown on the breastplate:
Exodus 28:4, 15-21 - And these are the garments which they shall make: a breastplate, an ephod, a robe, a skillfully woven tunic, a turban, and a sash. So they shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons, that he may minister to Me as priest.... You shall make the breastplate of judgment. Artistically woven according to the workmanship of the ephod you shall make it: of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, you shall make it. It shall be doubled into a square: a span shall be its length, and a span shall be its width. And you shall put settings of stones in it, four rows of stones: The first row shall be a sardius, a topaz, and an emerald; this shall be the first row; the second row shall be a turquoise, a sapphire, and a diamond; the third row, a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst; and the fourth row, a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper. They shall be set in gold settings. And the stones shall have the names of the sons of Israel, twelve according to their names, like the engravings of a signet, each one with its own name; they shall be according to the twelve tribes.
These stones represent the twelve tribes of Israel. The last and the first sons of Israel were Benjamin and Reuben. Names in the Bible are rich with meaning, as shown in the study "What is in a Name?" Benjamin means "Son of the right hand" (Genesis 35:18). Reuben means "The Lord has looked upon my affliction" (Genesis 29:32). Therefore, the jasper and sardius stones show that the occupant that sits on the throne in Heaven is the "Son of the Right Hand, who was afflicted." Note that Jesus does not sit at the right hand of any likeness of the Father. Rather, the Son sits at the right hand of the "power of God":
Luke 22:69 - Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.
Acts 2:29-36 - "Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. "For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: 'The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool." ' "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."
Jesus calls Himself the "First and the Last" (Revelation 1:11). As just shown, the first and last stones on the breastplate of judgment, worn by the high priest represent Jesus. Jasper comes in a variety of colors, but the passage below indicates that the likeness of this stone in Heaven is "clear as crystal":
Revelation 21:10-11 - And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.
The jasper stone reflects light, appearing as varying colors, in brilliance and sparkle. The sardius stone, also known as the carnelian, is a blood-red color. The sardius and jasper stones together would certainly fit Daniel's description of the throne of God, being a "fiery flame":
Daniel 7:9-10 - I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, its wheels a burning fire; a fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, and the books were opened.
As the flood encircled Earth, a full rainbow encircles God's throne in Heaven. The rainbow is a sign of the covenant that God made with the earth, that He would never destroy all flesh with a flood again:
Genesis 9:13-17 - "I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth." And God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth."
Unlike the earthly rainbow, which includes an array of colors, the rainbow in Heaven appears as hues of an emerald. The emerald was the third stone in the breastplate of judgment of the high priest (Exodus 28:17). This stone represents the tribe of Levi. Levi means "My husband will be joined unto me" (Genesis 29:34). God desires restoration of an intimate relationship with His people. The Church is the "Bride of Christ," who is joined in "one spirit with Him" (1 Corinthians 6:17). After the Tribulation, Israel will rejoin the Father (Ezekiel 16, Jeremiah 31).
As the rainbow in Heaven encircles God's throne, Israel will encompass the Lord during the Millennium:
Jeremiah 31:22, 31-34 - How long will you gad about, O you backsliding daughter? For the LORD has created a new thing in the earth - a woman shall encompass a man.... "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah - not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."
Though God has promised that He would never destroy all flesh again with water, He is a God of justice, and must deal with transgression of the "everlasting covenant." Next time judgment will come on Earth by fire, not water:
Isaiah 24:5-6 - The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants, because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore the curse has devoured the earth, and those who dwell in it are desolate. Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left.
One-third of Israel will come to the Lord through the fiery Tribulation:
Zechariah 13:8-9 - And it shall come to pass in all the land," Says the LORD, "That two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, but one-third shall be left in it: I will bring the one-third through the fire, will refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say, 'This is My people'; and each one will say, 'The LORD is my God.'"
In addition to God's remnant of Israel, believing Gentiles who survive the fiery Tribulation period will enter the Kingdom and repopulate the earth, just as Noah's family did after the flood. (See "The Millennium").
John was not the only prophet to see the throne of God. Ezekiel gives a similar account:
Ezekiel 10:1 - And I looked, and there in the firmament that was above the head of the cherubim, there appeared something like a sapphire stone, having the appearance of the likeness of a throne.
Ezekiel 1:26-28 - And above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it. Also from the appearance of His waist and upward I saw, as it were, the color of amber with the appearance of fire all around within it; and from the appearance of His waist and downward I saw, as it were, the appearance of fire with brightness all around. Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. So when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of One speaking.
While John did not tell us that he saw a likeness of a man on the throne, Ezekiel indicates that the fiery likeness was in human form. Ezekiel saw the rainbow, but did not describe it as having hues of an emerald, as John described. While John did not share the color of the throne itself, Ezekiel tells us that its appearance was like a sapphire stone, which is a deep blue color. Though not described as a throne, Moses, Aaron, his sons, and the elders saw the Lord on a sapphire stone:
Exodus 24:9-12 - Then Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel. And there was under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity. But on the nobles of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand. So they saw God, and they ate and drank. Then the LORD said to Moses, "Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them."
While it isn't clear, some speculate that the tablets of stone that bore the ten commandments came from the sapphire stone. Incidentally, God told Israel to wear a garment made with blue thread to remind them of the commandments, which is the same hue as the throne of God:
Numbers 15:38-40 - "Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a blue thread in the tassels of the corners. And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the LORD and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined, and that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy for your God."
The sapphire stone is the fifth stone on the breastplate of judgment, which represents the tribe of Dan (Exodus 28:18). Interestingly, the name Dan means "God has judged" (Genesis 30:6). As we will see in the next few chapters of Revelation, God is about to mete out judgment on the world, in preparation for His Kingdom on Earth, where He will rule on the throne of David:
Isaiah 9:6-7 - For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
In summary of the last few sections, we have seen that the throne of God, occupied by Christ, is chock full of imagery that portrays judgment and redemption. Revelation 5 & 6 confirms that this is the matter at hand, concerning the earth and its inhabitants.
Revelation 4:4 - Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads.
In this passage John begins to describe what he saw surrounding the throne of God in Heaven. First, he sees twenty-four elders sitting on thrones, which encompass the throne Jesus sits on. Later in Revelation 4:6, John reports that four living creatures were in the "midst of the throne, and around the throne." In other words, the area or platform on which the thrones sit, are all considered part of the throne of God.
God revealed to Daniel, that "thrones" would be put in place near His throne. This heavenly court is present when the Lord judges the antichrist, or "the beast":
Daniel 7:9-11 - I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, its wheels a burning fire; a fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, and the books were opened. I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking; I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame.
Daniel 7:21-26 - I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom. "Thus he said: 'The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all other kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, trample it and break it in pieces. The ten horns are ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall rise after them; he shall be different from the first ones, and shall subdue three kings. He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time.' But the court shall be seated, And they shall take away his dominion, To consume and destroy it forever."
John also saw the thrones of the heavenly court. While John leaves out the beast's judgment before the court, he does indicate the verdict is eternity in the "lake of fire":
Revelation 19:19-20 - And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.
John also notes that those seated on "thrones" will judge the Tribulation saints:
Revelation 20:4 - And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
While thrones are not mentioned, Isaiah's account of judgment against rebellious beings, from both the heavenly and earthly realms, will be in audience "before His elders":
Isaiah 24:21-23 - It shall come to pass in that day that the LORD will punish on high the host of exalted ones, and on the earth the kings of the earth. They will be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and will be shut up in the prison; after many days they will be punished. Then the moon will be disgraced and the sun ashamed; for the LORD of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem and before His elders, gloriously.
The occupants of these "thrones" in the passages above are clearly the twenty-four elders, who are given judicial authority from the throne of God. Elders are spiritual leaders and teachers for both Israel and the Church. They also are representatives for the group at large:
Numbers 11:16-17 - So the LORD said to Moses: "Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tabernacle of meeting, that they may stand there with you. Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone."
1 Peter 5:1-4 - The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.
The number "twenty-four" takes us back to the time of David, when he was making preparations for the temple on his death-bed. Of all the Levites, David chose twenty-four thousand, a multiple of twenty-four, to work in the temple:
1 Chronicles 23:1-4 - So when David was old and full of days, he made his son Solomon king over Israel. And he gathered together all the leaders of Israel, with the priests and the Levites. Now the Levites were numbered from the age of thirty years and above; and the number of individual males was thirty-eight thousand. Of these, twenty-four thousand were to look after the work of the house of the LORD....
The Levitical priesthood consisted of twenty-four divisions (1 Chronicles 24:1-19). David also divided up the Levitical musicians into twenty-four groups (1 Chronicles 25:1, 8-31). Interestingly, the twenty-four elders in Revelation are musically inclined, having harps and singing unto the Lord:
Revelation 5:8-10 - Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth."
Though not specified as white, the Levitical priests wore garments made of fine linen (Exodus 28:39-43), complete with a crown:
Leviticus 8:9 - And he [Moses] put the turban on his [Aaron's] head. Also on the turban, on its front, he put the golden plate, the holy crown, as the LORD had commanded Moses.
However, like the twenty-four elders, the Levite musicians wore white:
2 Chronicles 5:12 - ...and the Levites who were the singers, all those of Asaph and Heman and Jeduthun, with their sons and their brethren, stood at the east end of the altar, clothed in white linen, having cymbals, stringed instruments and harps, and with them one hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets.
From these scriptural evidences, we can see that David was prophetically given the pattern of the heavenly court, in delegating temple duties of the Levitical priesthood. Note the parallels:
Some have surmised from the comparisons above, that the elders represent Israel. However, as shown in Revelation 4:8, Israel is better represented by the four living creatures. All things considered, note the following characteristics of the elders, which match that of the Church:
Take note, that several of the characteristics of the elders also describe other believers from different dispensations. For example, the Tribulation saints will also reign with Christ in His Kingdom on Earth (Revelation 20:4), are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 12:11), and will wear white (Revelation 7:14). However, Scripture shows that only believers in the body of Christ, the Church, will be given judicial authority from the Lord (Matthew 19:28, 1 Corinthians 6:2-3). The Church is also the only body of believers promised crowns for their works.
The crowns are made of gold. Recall from Revelation 1:13, gold can represent holiness and purity, as it retains all of its qualities when tested in fire (Job 23:10). The tabernacle was holy, which is why many of the items in it were gold (Exodus 28:36, Exodus 39:30, Hebrew 9:3-4). Gold can also be associated with kingship, as illustrated throughout the Old Testament, with the great amounts of gold bestowed to many of Israel's kings. As discussed in Revelation 1:6, Paul calls the Church body a pure or "chaste virgin" betrothed to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2), and later the "Bride" and "Wife" of Christ (Revelation 19:7, 21:9). As the spouse of the "King of kings" (Revelation 19:16), the Church saints are royal heirs to the Kingdom, so it makes sense for the elders who represent the church to wear gold crowns that symbolize puirity and kingship.
The Greek word translated as "crown" is "stephanos," which was the type of crown given as a reward to the victors in athletic events, such as the Olympics. Recall from our study on the seven churches in Revelation 2-3, that Christ has claimed victory by overcoming the world. Believers overcome the world through His victory:
1 John 5:4-5 - For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Speaking of athletic events, Paul even uses the example of running in a race to obtain a crown:
1 Corinthians 9:24-26 - Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.
After the rapture, the Church will stand before Jesus at the "Bema," or "judgment seat." The Church will receive "victors" crowns as rewards for works at the "Judgment Seat of Christ":
1 Corinthians 4:5 - Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one's praise will come from God.
2 Corinthians 5:10 - For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
At the "Bema," Christ will put believer's works through a refining fire:
1 Peter 1:6-9 - In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith - the salvation of your souls.
1 Corinthians 3:10-15 - According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
The passage above shows that Christ has laid the foundation for our crowns. Our good works that survive the fire will be our rewards. These will adorn our crowns with "gold, silver" and "precious stones." The following verses describe the specific works that are rewarded with crowns:
The Crown of Life - Reward for faithfulness, even unto death:
James 1:12 - Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
Revelation 2:10 - Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
The Incorruptible Crown - Reward for living set apart for the Lord and from the world:
1 Corinthians 9:24-25 - Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.
The Crown of Rejoicing - Reward for sharing the Gospel that leads to others accepting Christ:
1 Thessalonians 2:17-20 - But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire. Therefore we wanted to come to you - even I, Paul, time and again - but Satan hindered us. For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.
Philippians 4:1 - Therefore, my beloved and longed - for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.
The Crown of Glory - Reward for leading and ministering to other believers:
1 Peter 5:2-4 - Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.
The Crown of Righteousness - Reward for those who have devotion to watching,
2 Timothy 4:8 - Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
Coming back to the elders, the evidence shown above supports the twenty-four elders representing the Church. The number twenty-four breaks down as follows:
6 x 4 = Number of man x Number of creation
12 x 2 = Governmental perfection x Division
3 x 8 = Complete or divine x New beginning or renewal
Combining the biblical meaning of these numbers, with the pattern delegated to the Levitical priesthood by David, describes the following group of believers:
These are all descriptions of the Church. God showed the earthly pattern to Moses, which was later delegated by David to the Levitical priesthood, in preparation for the earthly temple:
Hebrews 8:4-5 - ...there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, "See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain."
Revelation Flow Chart:
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