I. Scripture Text.
Revelation 4:1-4New English Translation
The Amazing Scene in Heaven
1 After these things I looked, and there was a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet said: “Come up here so that I can show you what must happen after these things.” 2 Immediately I was in the Spirit, and a throne was standing in heaven with someone seated on it! 3 And the one seated on it was like jasper and carnelian in appearance, and a rainbow looking like it was made of emerald encircled the throne. 4 In a circle around the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on those thrones were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white clothing and had golden crowns on their heads.
II. Discussion. The Bible Knowledge Commentary.
A. Revelation 4:1.
1. The Invitation.
a. John saw the vision of the heavenly throne after he heard the revelation of the messages to the churches. The time sequence is indicated by the expression “after this (meta tauta, in the NASB, “after these things”).
b. John saw “a door…open in heaven” and heard a voice inviting him, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” The words, “what must take place after this,” are similar to those in 1:19, “what will take place later.” Whereas 1:19 indicates that the events will take place later, in 4:1b the Greek word “dei” is used, which means that the events “must” occur. This points not only to the future but also the sovereign purpose of God. The similarity of the two expresssions confirms the threefold chronological outline given in 1:19. Both the revelation and its fulfillment are chronologically subsequent to chapters 1-3.
B. Revelation 4:2-3.
The Heavenly Throne.
John stated that immediately “he was in the Spirit” (or “in [my] spirit”; cf. 1:10; 17:3) meaning that experientially he was taken up to heaven though his body was actually still on the island of Patmos. “In Heaven” he saw a gret “throne” with One “sitting on it” who “had the appearance of jasper and carnelian.” This jasper (cf. 21:18) is a clear stone in contrast to the opaque jasper stones known today; it may have resembled a diamond. The carnelian, also known as ruby (the NIV trans. it “ruby” in the OT), and sardius, were a ruby-red color. The jasper and the carnelian were the first and last of the 12 gemstones worn on the high priest’s breast (cf. Ex 28:17-21). Jasper and sardius were used in relation to the king of Tyre (Ezek. 28:13) and will be the foundation of the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:19-20). The throne’s overall appearance was one of great beauty and color, enhanced by “a rainbow, resembling an emerald,” which “encircled the throne.” The green color of the emerald added further beauty to the scene.
C. Revelation 4:4.
The 24 Elders.
1. Around the principal “throne” were “24” lesser “thrones” on which were “seated … 24 elders.” “They were dressed in white” and were wearing “crowns of gold on their heads.” The crowns were similar to those given victors in Greek games (“stephanos”), in contrast with the crown of a sovereign ruler (diadema,”diadem”). The crowns seem to indicate that the elders had been judged and rewarded.
2. There has been much speculation on the identify of the elders. The two major views are (1) that they represent the church raptured prior to this time and rewarded in heaven, or (2) that they are angels who have been given large responsibilities. The number 24 is the number of representation, illustrated by in the fact that in the Law of Moses there were 24 orders of the priesthood. (For further discussion of the identity of the 24 elders, see the comments on 5:8-10, as follows: While scholars differ on this point, it would seem that since the elders are on thrones and are crowned as victors, they represent the church and Old Testament saints (Eph 48) rather than angels. Angels have not been judged and rewarded at this point in the program of God. But, angels soon join the creatures and the elders in praising the Lamb (5:11-12)).
III. Added Comments.
A. Ryrie Study Bible.
4:4. “twenty-four elders.” Some understand these to be angelic beings, though it is likely that the 24 elders represent redeemed people who are glorified, crowned, and enthroned. Angels are never said to be given crowns, though believers are (2 Tim 4:8; James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4; Rev 2:10).
B. Scofield Study Bible.
4:4. The appearance of these elders, already glorified, crowned, and enthroned before the opening of the sealed book of judgment (ch.5) and before the end-time judgments are loosed upon the world (chs. 6-18), reaffirms that the Church is not to be subjected to the judicial wrath and judgments of that time (compare Jn. 5:24; Rom 5:9; 1 Thes 1:10; 5:1-11; Rv 3:10).