Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Revelation 4:4

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Four and twenty elders - Perhaps this is in reference to the smaller Sanhedrin at Jerusalem, which was composed of twenty-three elders; or to the princes of the twenty-four courses of the Jewish priests which ministered at the tabernacle and the temple, at first appointed by David.

Clothed in white raiment - The garments of the priests.

On their heads crowns of gold - An emblem of their dignity. The Jewish writers represent human souls as being created first; and before they enter the body, each is taken by an angel into paradise, where it sees the righteous sitting in glory with crowns upon their heads. Rab. Tanchum, fol. 39, 4.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

And round about the throne were four and twenty seats - Or rather, “thrones” - θρόνοι thronoi- the same word being used as what is rendered “throne” - θρόνος thronosThe word, indeed, properly denotes a seat, but it came to be employed to denote particularly the seat on which a monarch sat, and is properly translated thus in Revelation 4:2-3. So it is rendered in Matthew 5:34; Matthew 19:28; Matthew 23:22; Matthew 25:31; Luke 1:32; and uniformly elsewhere in the New Testament (53 places in all), except in Luke 1:52; Revelation 2:13; Revelation 4:4; Revelation 11:16; Revelation 16:10, where it is rendered “seat and seats.” It should have been rendered “thrones” here, and is so translated by Prof. Stuart. Coverdale and Tyndale render the word “seat” in each place in Revelation 4:2-5. It was undoubtedly the design of the writer to represent those who sat on those seats as, in some sense, kings - for they have on their heads crowns of gold - and that idea should have been retained in the translation of this word.

And upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting - Very various opinions have been entertained in respect to those who thus appeared sitting around the throne, and to the question why the number twenty-four is mentioned. Instead of examining those opinions at length, it will be better to present, in a summary manner, what seems to be probable in regard to the intended reference. The following points, then, would appear to embrace all that can be known on this subject:

(1)These elders have a regal character, or are of a kingly order. This is apparent:

(a) because they are represented as sitting on “thrones,” and

(b) because they have on their heads “crowns of gold.”

(2)they are emblematic. They are designed to symbolize or represent some class of persons. This is clear:

(a) because it cannot be supposed that so small a number would compose the whole of those who are in fact around the throne of God, and,

(b) because there are other symbols there designed to represent something pertaining to the homage rendered to God, as the four living creatures and the angels, and this supposition is necessary in order to complete the symmetry and harmony of the representation.

(3)they are human beings, and are designed to have some relation to the race of man, and somehow to connect the human race with the worship of heaven. The four living creatures have another design; the angels Revelation 5:1-14 have another; but these are manifestly of our race - persons from this world before the throne.

(4)they are designed in some way to be symbolic of the church as redeemed. Thus, they say Revelation 5:9, “Thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood.”

(5)they are designed to represent the whole church in every land and every age of the world. Thus, they say Revelation 5:9, “Thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” This shows, further, that the whole representation is emblematic; for otherwise in so small a number - twenty-four - there could not be a representation out of every nation.

(6)they represent the church triumphant - the church victorious. Thus, they have crowns on their heads; they have harps in their hands Revelation 5:8; they say that they are “kings and priests,” and that they will “reign on the earth,” Revelation 5:10.

(7)the design, therefore, is to represent the church triumphant - redeemed - saved - as rendering praise and honor to God; as uniting with the hosts of heaven in adoring him for his perfections and for the wonders of his grace; As representatives of the church, they are admitted near to him; they encircle his throne; they appear victorious over every foe; and they come, in unison with the living creatures, and the angels, and the whole universe Revelation 5:13, to ascribe power and dominion to God.

(8)as to the reason why the number “twenty-four” is mentioned, perhaps nothing certain can be determined. Ezekiel, in his vision Ezekiel 8:16; Ezekiel 11:1, saw twenty-five men between the porch and the altar, with their backs toward the temple, and their faces toward the earth - supposed to be representations of the twenty-four “courses” into which the body of priests was divided 1 Peter 2:9), and to have alluded to the fact that the priesthood under the Jewish economy was divided into twenty-four courses, each with a presiding officer, and who was a representative of that portion of the priesthood over which he presided. If so, then the ideas which enter into the representation are these:

(a) That the whole church may be represented as a priesthood, or a community of priests - an idea which frequently occurs in the New Testament.

(b) That the church, as such a community of priests, is employed in the praise and worship of God - an idea, also, which finds abundant countenance in the New Testament.

(c) That, in a series of visions having a designed reference to the church, it was natural to introduce some symbol or emblem representing the church, and representing the fact that this is its office and employment. And,

(d) that this would be well expressed by an allusion derived from the ancient dispensation - the division of the priesthood into classes, over each one of which there presided an individual who might be considered as the representative of his class.

It is to be observed, indeed, that in one respect they are represented as” kings,” but still this does not forbid the supposition that there might have been intermingled also another idea, that they were also “priests.” Thus, the two ideas are blended by these same elders in Revelation 5:10; “And hath made us unto our God kings and priests.” Thus understood, the vision is designed to denote the fact that the representatives of the church, ultimately to be triumphant, are properly engaged in ascribing praise to God. The word “elders” here seems to be used in the sense of aged and venerable men, rather than as denoting office. They were such as by their age were qualified to preside over the different divisions of the priesthood.

Clothed in white raiment - Emblem of purity, and appropriate, therefore, to the representatives of the sanctified church. Compare Revelation 3:4; Revelation 6:11; Revelation 7:9.

And they had on their heads crowns of gold - Emblematic of the fact that they sustained a kingly office. There was blended in the representation the idea that they were both “kings and priests.” Thus, the idea is expressed by Peter 1 Peter 2:9, “a royal priesthood” - βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα basileion hierateumaf0.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
After the Lord Jesus had instructed the apostle to write to the churches "the things that are," there was another vision. The apostle saw a throne set in heaven, an emblem of the universal dominion of Jehovah. He saw a glorious One upon the throne, not described by human features, so as to be represented by a likeness or image, but only by his surpassing brightness. These seem emblems of the excellence of the Divine nature, and of God's awful justice. The rainbow is a fit emblem of that covenant of promise which God has made with Christ, as the Head of the church, and with all his people in him. The prevailing colour was a pleasant green, showing the reviving and refreshing nature of the new covenant. Four-and-twenty seats around the throne, were filled with four-and-twenty elders, representing, probably, the whole church of God. Their sitting denotes honour, rest, and satisfaction; their sitting about the throne signifies nearness to God, the sight and enjoyment they have of him. They were clothed in white raiment; the imputed righteousness of the saints and their holiness: they had on their heads crowns of gold, signifying the glory they have with him. Lightnings and voices came from the throne; the awful declarations God makes to his church, of his sovereign will and pleasure. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne; the gifts, graces, and operations of the Spirit of God in the churches of Christ, dispensed according to the will and pleasure of Him who sits upon the throne. In the gospel church, the laver for purification is the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, which cleanses from all sin. In this all must be washed, to be admitted into the gracious presence of God on earth, and his glorious presence in heaven. The apostle saw four living creatures, between the throne and the circle of the elders, standing between God and the people. These seem to signify the true ministers of the gospel, because of their place between God and the people. This also is shown by the description given, denoting wisdom, courage, diligence, and discretion, and the affections by which they mount up toward heaven.
Ellen G. White
Faith and Works, 23.2

Discussions may be entered into by mortals strenuously advocating creature merit, and each man striving for the supremacy, but they simply do not know that all the time, in principle and character, they are misrepresenting the truth as it is in Jesus. They are in a fog of bewilderment. They need the divine love of God which is represented by gold tried in the fire; they need the white raiment of Christ's pure character; and they need the heavenly eyesalve that they might discern with astonishment the utter worthlessness of creature merit to earn the wages of eternal life. There may be a fervor of labor and an intense affection, high and noble achievement of intellect, a breadth of understanding, and the humblest self-abasement, laid at the feet of our Redeemer; but there is not one jot more than the grace and talent first given of God. There must be nothing less given than duty prescribes, and there cannot be one jot more given than they have first received; and all must be laid upon the fire of Christ's righteousness to cleanse it from its earthly odor before it rises in a cloud of fragrant incense to the great Jehovah and is accepted as a sweet savor. FW 23.2

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Ellen G. White
The Retirement Years, 144.2

We honor God and our Lord Jesus Christ when we rest in His love. You are one of the Lord's witnesses, whom He will never leave nor forsake. I am instructed to say to you, He has pardoned all your sins, and put upon you the white robe of His righteousness. All He requires of you now is to rest in His love. He has you in His keeping. You have fought the battles of the Lord Jesus Christ, you have kept the faith, and henceforth there is laid up for you a crown of life, to be your reward in that day when life and immortality shall be given to all who have kept the faith and have not denied the Saviour's name. RY 144.2

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