Twenty-Four Thrones
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24. Twenty-Four Thrones
Revelation 4.4-6a

"Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also, in front of the throne, there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal." (Revelation 4.4-6a)✞

Circle of Thrones

Twenty-Four ThronesAround God's central throne are a circle of twenty-four thrones. Elders occupy these thrones. From the throne, "lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder" evoke fear and terror at the significant events happening in Heaven. In the Old Testament account of the giving of the Law or "the Torah" on Mount Sinai, lightning and thunder accompany the presentation of the Ten Commandments to Moses. The Torah describes the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, which Moses wrote down. Exodus 19.16 informs us, "On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled."

Sevenfold Spirit

There are seven lamps which are representative of the seven spirits of God. "The seven spirits of God" may also be translated as "the sevenfold Spirit." This phrase indicates the presence of the Holy Spirit. The question is, "Who were these twenty-four elders seated on these thrones?" A possible answer might be that they are twelve tribal leaders from the Old Testament and twelve Apostles from the New Testament. They must be humans rather than angels, and the crowns they wear are not kingly crowns but crowns of victory. These elders are victorious in life and death. The thrones and elders may be representatives of all the redeemed people of God from all times. Some scholars try to name them individually, but that to my mind is a fruitless task! The number "twenty-four" is likely to be symbolic of a complete assembly representing the whole of the faith community. The name "twelve" makes up multiples of three times four. "Three" is the number for God, and "four" is often considered the number for human beings, thus multiplied to a total of twelve times two indicates the entire Kingdom of God. In the New Jerusalem, the gates of the city have the names of the twelve patriarchs inscribed on them, and the twelve Apostles have their names marked on the city's foundation stones. These symbolize both faithful Jews and faithful Gentiles who are now part of God's family in Heaven. The twelve patriarchs plus the twelve Apostles of Jesus could be the twenty-four elders seated on thrones around the great throne of the Highest God. Close your eyes to picture the throne of God, the thrones of the elders, and all the wondrous colors and images that surround it.

Twenty Four Elders

Twenty-Four EldersThe twenty-four elders dressed in white robes have gold crowns on their heads. Revelation's "twenty-four elders" in Heaven may be representative heads of cities, families, or nations seen "dressed white" or literally "glowing white." White is "color without hue" or a mixture of all the colors in the spectrum. White represents purity, and wearing crowns of gold upon their heads portrays the elders' victory like kings as the leading twenty-four elders in the courts of heaven. The twenty-four elders may be the twelve leaders of each of the tribes of Israel plus the twelve Apostles in the New Testament, but we do not know if this is a correct interpretation or not. The twenty-four elders cast their crowns before the throne of God and worship and praise continuously at this seat of the supreme government. They bring the people's prayers to God, and one even encourages John of Patmos when he is sad. Revelation 5.4-5 explains in John of Patmos' own words, "I wept and wept because no one arose who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, 'Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He can open the scroll and its seven seals.'"

A Council in Heaven

LightningThere are indications in other places in the Bible of elders in the council in Heaven. At the Creation we read in Genesis 3.22, "the Lord God said, 'The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.'" "One of us" suggests a council of elders speaking with God, or it may be a reference to the Trinity in Heaven or even to a gathering of angels. Isaiah 24.23b fuels this intriguing concept further when the prophet writes, "For the Lord Almighty will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before its elders - with great glory."

Heaven Glass Sea

Sea of GlassIn this Revelation account of Heaven, before the throne of God is a "sea of crystal glass." Glass has been traced back to BC 3500 in Mesopotamia, but it is very scarce and precious in Old and even New Testament times. Crystal-clear glass is virtually impossible to find. In ancient times, it was poured in the molten state into molds to make rudimentary window panes. Craftsmen also made glass into jewelry and even tableware. Glass beads from BC 3,000 used as decorations upon mummies appear in Egypt and Mesopotamia. One early view of the cosmos pictures a sea of glass, above the dome of the heavens on which the God's throne rests. A sea of glass is an awe-inspiring and magnificent scene that highlights both the beauty and holiness of God.✞

Sea of Glass

Sunset seasThe ancients learned how to make rudimentary glass slabs, which are polished by hand until shiny. This pure plate glass is produced by pouring a large puddle of molten glass on to an iron surface and then polishing both sides. Alternately, artisans blow large bubbles of crown glass, cut, and press them flat into rectangular sheets. The glass sea described in Revelation looks like crystal, and this may be an image adapted from Ezekiel, of the smooth Aegean Sea in a sunset. Ezekiel 1.22 says, "Spread out above the heads of the living creatures was what looked something like a vault, sparkling like crystal, and awesome." Revelation 15.2 also speaks of "a sea of glass glowing with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and its image and the number of its name. They held harps given them by God."

Queen of Sheba

SolomonThere is a fascinating tradition of a floor of glass in King Solomon's palace. Solomon, who died in BC c931, was the King of Israel after David, his father. The floor in the palace is so smooth and shiny that the visiting Queen of Sheba thought it was water and picked up her skirts to walk across it! She was very wealthy and had come to Jerusalem to meet King Solomon. 1 Kings 10.2 describes her, "Arriving at Jerusalem with a very great caravan — with camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold, and precious stones — she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind." Solomon's God-given wisdom is renowned even in faraway lands.

"Twenty-Four Thrones"
by Ron Meacock © 2019

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