(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.


1.   There is no indication, here, that the One sitting upon the throne looks anything like a man. This may mean that John was looking upon some representation of the essence and glory of Almighty God Who, being a spirit, has no human form. The descriptions John gives us are extremely informative, however, for the impressions he gets observing Him Who sits on the throne are impressions of color.


2.   The two stones are quite interesting. Jasper is thought by a number of scholars to be the present day diamond. If that is so, the jasper might be a symbol of the transparent holiness and crystalline purity of the Lord God.[1],[2]


3.   The sardine stone, being red, possibly a ruby color, could be symbolic of the saving work of the Lord Jesus, which was accomplished by the shedding of blood. Without the shedding of blood there is no remission.


4.   The stones could also represent other things. You might remember the garments worn by the high priest of Israel during the age of the Mosaic Law. The high priest wore a breast pouch, which had twelve stones on it, representing the twelve tribes of Israel.


5.   The sardine stone was the first stone, representing the first son of Jacob whose name was Reuben.[3] The jasper stone represented the last son of Jacob whose name was Benjamin. Reuben means, “behold a son” and Benjamin means “son of my right hand.” Maybe this means that although Christ represents Israel, as indicated by Reuben and the meaning “behold a son,” He also is the Son of God, symbolized by Benjamin meaning “son of my right hand.” Nothing definitive, but something to ponder.


6.   “Rainbow is the Greek word iris. It can mean halo. While the rainbow polychrome, here it is emerald which is green (Ezekiel 1:28). After the judgment of the flood the rainbow appeared as a reminder of God’s covenant not destroy the earth again with a flood (Genesis 9:13-15). It appears here before the judgment of the Great Tribulation as a reminder that a flood will not be used in judgment. Green is the color of earth. The suggestion is that of Habakkuk: ‘In wrath remember mercy.’”[4]


7.   “The difficult problem of identification has been solved in various ways. Actually both the Father and the Son are properly on the throne as Christ Himself mentioned in Revelation 3:21. One explanation would have Christ on the throne in chapter 4 and the Father on the throne in chapter 5. Another point of view is that both chapters picture God the Father on the throne in the special character of the God of Israel. The seeming contradiction may also be resolved in the doctrine of the Trinity as Christ expressed it in John 14:9: “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” It is significant that God is not given an anthropomorphic figure in this revelation and does not appear as a man. Apart from the fact that He is said to sit on the throne, no description is given except the colors which impressed John. It is evident that the glory of God was the intent of the vision rather than an anthropomorphic representation.”[5]



(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.


1.   Who are these elders mentioned in verse 4? Could they be angels? Could they be Old Testament believers gone to heaven? Could they be New Testament believers gone to heaven? Could they be both Old Testament and New Testament believers gone to heaven? Well, the way to discover who they are is to eliminate who they cannot be, leaving who they really are left over. Amen? That is the Sherlock Holmes method of Bible study.


2.   We know that these twenty-four elders cannot be angels or any other heavenly being. There are a number of good reasons for this. Let me give them to you:


#1  These elders are clothed in white raiment, which commonly speaks of redemption. Angels are not saved creatures, according to any indication given in God’s Word. Holy angels, having never sinned, do not need to be saved. Fallen angels are not given God’s hand of saving grace by any indication in God’s Word. Their fate is sealed.


#2  The elders are wearing crowns. Nowhere in Scripture is there any mention of angels wearing crowns. But there are several places in the New Testament in which believers are promised crowns of the sort mentioned here.


#3  The elders are seated in seats. The Greek word for those seats is the word “qronoi,” which is the same word for thrones. These are royal seats the elders are sitting on. Angels do not sit on these kinds of stools. As a matter of fact, angels are never pictured as sitting in God’s Word.


3.   Since the elders mentioned in verse 4 are sitting, they must be believers, from either the Old or New Testament era. However, there are reasons for believing that Old Testament believers are not a part of this particular group.


#1  Old Testament believers are never mentioned as wearing crowns or earning crowns of this type.


#2  Old Testament believers do not experience their resurrection until after the Tribulation period. Therefore, they could not, at this time, be in heaven with their glorified bodies. Note the sketch below and examine Revelation 20.4-6:


4     And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

5     But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.

6     Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.


The first resurrection, which we will deal with at greater length later on, will take place in three distinct parts. First, there was the resurrection of Christ. Next, the church age believers are resurrected at the time of the Rapture. Finally, the Old Testament saints and the Tribulation period martyrs will be resurrected at the time of Christ’s second coming. All three of these events comprise the first resurrection. (See figure below)


Future Events


4.   So, what are the reasons for believing that these twenty-four elders represent church age believers only? There are several reasons:


#1  They wear crowns. These crowns are not diadems, which are the kinds of crowns worn by kings. Rather, these crowns are “stefanoi,” which refers to a victor’s crown. These are the kinds of crowns which are placed on one’s head as a reward for winning a battle or winning a race. These elders represent overcomers who are wearing the symbols of the rewards given to them by Jesus Christ for their faithful service down here on earth.


#2  The elders are sitting on thrones. Christians have been promised that we will reign with the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen? John shows these twenty-four elders occupying royal thrones. Our reign with Christ will take effect immediately after the judgment and rewards to the believer take place at the Judgment Seat of Christ, which John passes over without comment in his revelation, but which Paul deals with quite extensively in his writings.


These two reasons are sufficient in themselves to establish that the twenty four elders represent the Christians of our present era.


5.   Why, then, are twenty-four elders mentioned? Twenty-four refers to the number of courses of priests that Israel had to minister in the temple. You see, by the time David was king of Israel there were simply too many priests for them to all minister in the Tabernacle, and later on in the Temple, at one time.[6] Therefore, to keep them from falling all over each other, David devised a rotating schedule whereby each course, made up of certain families whose descendants would always serve in a particular course, would serve for one month every two years. It was one of these twenty-four courses that John the Baptist’s father, Zacharias, was serving in when Gabriel informed him that he would have a son, Luke 1.5-20.


6.   These elders are not priests of Israel. However, this number of elders might signify the priestly office that New Testament believers occupy. Remember, Revelation 1.6 reads, “And hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father, to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”


7.   How remarkable it is that God’s Word paints a genuine picture of what John saw . . . and what he saw was evidence of our being what Revelation 1.6 said we were . . . kings and priests.


8.   I am confident that the white raiment and gold crowns substantially prove these men to be New Testament era Christians. The seats they are on show them to be ruling. The number of elders, twenty-four, suggests priestly courses.


(4.5)    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.


1.   Imagine yourself a Jewish Christian, which many believers were during the first century. Even the Gentile churches had a much stronger Jewish flavor than most congregations do today. But imagine reading this verse from the viewpoint of someone with a strong Jewish perspective.


2.   What would lightnings and thunderings and voices remind the Jewish person of? Would that not cause him to hearken back to Mount Sinai and the very presence of Almighty God? That would indicate, to me, that it was the Almighty Who was sitting on this throne John saw set before him in heaven, in the midst of the twenty-four elders.


3.   We are told that the seven lamps of fire in the vicinity of the throne are the seven Spirits of God. But what is referred to by the phrase “seven Spirits of God”? Do you remember from Revelation 1.4 and Isaiah 11.2? Let us read those two verses again:


Revelation 1.4:     “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.”


Isaiah 11.2:  “And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD


John’s symbology refers to the Holy Spirit of God and the sevenfold aspects of the Spirit’s glorious ministry.


4.   Allow me to summarize at this point: “John’s attention is also directed to seven lamps of fire which are seen burning before the throne. These are identified as “the seven Spirits of God” mentioned earlier in 1:4 and 3:1. These are best understood as a representation of the Holy Spirit in a sevenfold way rather than seven individual spirits which would require that they be understood as seven angels. Ordinarily the Holy Spirit is not humanly visible unless embodied in some way. When the Holy Spirit descended on Christ on the occasion of His baptism, only John the Baptist saw Him descending in the form of a dove. If it had not been for that representation, John could not have seen the Holy Spirit. In a similar way on the day of Pentecost, the coming of the Spirit would not have been visible if it had not been for the “cloven tongues like as of fire” (Acts 2:3). The seven lamps of fire therefore are the means by which John is informed of the presence of the Holy Spirit. The number seven is characteristic of the perfection of the Spirit and is in keeping with the revelation of Isaiah 11:2-3. In the heavenly scene it may be concluded on the basis of both chapters 4 and 5 that all three Persons of the Trinity are in evidence, each in His particular form of revelation.”[7] 

[1] Fritz Reinecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 822.

[2] See footnote for Revelation 4.3 from John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 1998.

[3] Exodus 28.17; 39.10

[4] J. Vernon McGee, Reveling Through Revelation, Part I, (Pasadena, CA: Thru The Bible Books, 1979), page 15.

[5] John Walvoord, The Revelation Of Jesus Christ, (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1966), page 105.

[6] It should be kept in mind that David assembled the materials to construct the Temple, but its actual construction was left to Solomon, 1 Chronicles 28.2-3.

[7] Adapted and altered from John Walvoord, The Revelation Of Jesus Christ, (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1966), page 108.

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