Revealing Revelation – Order in the Court

02Mar11

As Chapter four progresses we discover that John has been transported into what appears to be a courtroom scene. This heavenly court is resided over by the Ancient of Days and observed by the 24 elders.

Rev 4:2 At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. 3And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. 4Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. 5From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God

This impressive picture has many clues to the participants. We know that it is not Christ seated at this point because of His appearance later as the one who appears like a lamb. This then leaves us with an understanding that this is the Heavenly Father, the Ancient of Days. This again reminds us of Daniel 7 in which the Son of Man comes up on the clouds to be presented before the Ancient of Days.

Around the throne are 24 elders who are dressed in white and have crowns of gold. Some argue that this represents the Church. Others argue they are angels. Some state they represent nothing more particular than an assembly or even a jury, but nameless none the same. The best understanding may be that they represent the fullness of true Israel with representation of the natural Israel’s twelve tribes and the Church represented by the 12 chosen Apostles.

The clues as to their identity can be found in their wardrobe. First they are wearing crowns which is a quite common New Testament theme of those who belong to Christ (1 Cor 9:25, 2 Tim 2:5, 2 Tim 4:8, James 1:2, 1 Pet 5:4) as well as a primary description in the Book of Revelation (2:10, 3:11, 12:10).

They are also seen wearing white robes. This appearance is revealed later in revelation to be those who are Christ’s as well (6:11, 7:9, 7:11, 7:13). These white garments are seen later as being dipped in the blood of Christ to be made white.

This understanding in which they represent true Israel shows the fulfillment of God’s original covenant to bless all nations and to call out a people from within all the nations. Whatever their identity their primary purpose is to continue the worship of God. they are seen throwing their crowns before them and worshipping the Lord on several occasions.

The last description worth noting here is that of the lightning, thunder and voices. This image is quite familiar to the reader of the Old testament as it reflects the presence of God on Sinai as the Old Covenant is ratified with the children of Israel. This picture might best represent this ratification of the New Covenant as described in Hebrews 12. In Hebrews 12 we are told of a shaking that will set loose those things which can be shaken so that those things which cannot be shaken would remain.

Hebrews, referring to Hag 2 here, is arguing for an everlasting Kingdom, one that cannot be shaken. This is the picture of the New Covenant’s superiority over the Old Covenant, since it can be shaken and, in fact, was destroyed with the destruction of the Temple fulfilling what Hebrews describes and what will be pictured later in Revelation (as well as the Olivet Discourse). The Old Covenant with it’s earthly sacrificial system was inferior to the New Covenant with it’s “once and for all” sacrifice. That is why the author of Hebrews could declare that the Old Covenant was “vanishing” away.

The rest of Chapter four describes the first of seven scenes of worship that take place in Revelation. Remember, as we discussed earlier, that one of the primary themes of Revelation is worship. The reader can do nothing but discover this God is worthy beyond all other gods for unending and authentic worship. Especially in light of the establishing of the New and better Covenant. Hebrews, in the same passage discussed above, declares the same thing.

Heb 12:28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe


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2 Responses to “Revealing Revelation – Order in the Court”

  1. 1 Tracey Bonsell

    Do most expositors believe ch. 4 is a courtroom scene? If not, what are some other interpretations?

    • 2 low5point

      Most actually do. Some would simply state it is the throne room. The issue will be what the document in question represents. The court room scene, though, runs in conjunction to most viewing the scroll as a document that creates or initiates judgment. As to what it is, we will have to wait a few days 🙂


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