Welcome to the second post of our study on Revelation chapters 4 and 5. In this post, we’re going to look at the 24 elders seated on their thrones and the repeated phrase, “lightnings and thunderings and voices.” Enjoy!
Revelation Chapter Four
Second in a Seven-Part Series
by Karen Thompson
The Twenty-Four Elders
Rev. 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.
In verse 4, John said “round about the throne were four and twenty seats….” Around the throne of God, he saw 24 “seats.” It’s puzzling why the King James translators used the word seats to describe what the 24 elders were sitting on, because the Greek word they translated as seats is the Greek word thronos which was translated as “throne” in reference to God’s throne. So actually, what John saw was 24 thrones around God’s throne. And there were 24 elders who sat on the 24 thrones. These 24 elders are there to judge and to witness. Court is in session.
John described the appearance of the elders: “…sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold” (v. 4). All 24 elders were sitting, they wore white clothing, and they had gold crowns on their heads. As discussed in the previous chapter, the occupants in heaven wear white clothing. White symbolizes righteousness and purity.
The elders each had gold crowns on their heads. The color gold is symbolic of the glory of God. The crown is symbolic of someone who wins or someone who is an overcomer. In fact, there are several places in scripture where believers are promised a crown as a reward. Timothy, a disciple of Paul, said there was laid up for him a crown of righteousness that the Lord will give to him on “that day.” But this crown of righteousness, he said, was not just for him, but it was going to be given to “all that love His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8). Also, the apostle James said, “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” (James 1:12). Lastly, to the believers in the church at Smyrna, the Lord promised them a crown of life for those who were faithful unto death.
Lightnings, Thunderings, and Voices
Rev. 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.
Upon John’s entrance into the throne room, there was an immediate dramatic outburst. Proceeding from God’s throne came forth lightning, thundering, and voices! Whoa! It is the very first bit of action that takes place. As I read this, I try to put myself in John’s shoes and imagine what it must have been like. First, he finds himself no longer on earth but in heaven, in the throne room of God, no less. Then just as he is taking in all the sights of heaven, BOOM! This sudden explosion of sound: lightning, thundering, and voices coming forth from God’s throne.
But this noise of lightning, thundering, and voices is not simply noise for noise’s sake. It has a very specific purpose. It is a sort of pronouncement. This phrase, “lightnings and thunderings and voices” can be found three more times in the book of Revelation. In 8:5 it reads, “and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings”; then in 11:19 it reads, “there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings”; and finally, in 16:18 it says, “and there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings.”
Here in Revelation 4:5 is the first time we see this phrase. It is the pronouncement of the beginning of God’s judgments. The first phase of judgment is the seven seals being opened, which initiate events that trigger the start of Daniel’s 70th week. The second time we see this phrase is right before the seven trumpets are blown. The third time we see this phrase is right before the bowl judgments are poured out. And then, finally, the last time we see this phrase, the city referred to as the whore of Babylon receives her judgment of destruction. The four instances of “voices, thunders, and lightnings” are a pronouncement of the four phases of God’s judgment.
Triune Godhead Present in Throne Room
Now, let’s look at the last half of verse five: “there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.” As we noted before in Revelation chapter one, the seven spirits of God represent the Holy Spirit. Again, we see the presence of the triune Godhead together in the throne room. We have Almighty Father seated on His throne. We have the Holy Spirit before the throne. And included in this scenario later on in chapter five, we see the Lamb of God that was slain in the midst of the throne. Here we see the triune Godhead present in the throne room about to execute the last days’ events.
In the next post, we’ll talk about the four living creatures before God’s throne.
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