This is actually just a short extraction from my forthcoming book, “ON THAT DAY … LEAST EXPECTED.”
What happened to John in Revelation 4:1 is symbolic of the rapture. “After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”
He is called to heaven in his vision, just like Paul said the believers will (1 Thessalonians 4:16). He also heard a voice like the sound of a trumpet, that said: “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”
This also happened to Paul about 40 years earlier, when he was taken to the Throne of God (2 Corinthians 12:1-4). However, Paul was not allowed to give detail, while John was instructed to record everything he saw.
Revelation 4-5 plays off in heaven, around the throne of God. Revelation 4:1 starts with John’s words “After these things….” which refer to the things following the dispensation era of the church on earth. While the glorified Church finds itself in heaven (Revelation 4-5), horrific events are taking place on earth during the seven year tribulation period (Revelation 6 to 19).
In Revelation 4:2-4 and Revelation 21:11, John compares the excellence and brightness of God to the most radiant precious stones. Sardius has a deep red shade and symbolises the precious blood of the Lamb. The green rainbow around the throne indicates the promise of eternal life that we have in the Lord Jesus. The never-ending circle points to eternity, while green is the colour of life.
“ Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns[b] of gold on their heads.” (Revelation 4:4).
The twenty-four elders represent the Church. They sit on thrones, which indicate that they reign with Christ. It is repeatedly said that the church will rule and reign with Christ (Revelation 2:26-27, Revelation 5:10, Revelation 20:4; Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30). The number 24 has special significance. In 1 Chronicles 24, king David appointed 24 families to the priestly ministry in the temple. In 1 Peter 2:9 every believer in the New Testament is called to a “royal priesthood.”
The 24 elders identify themselves beyond any doubt when they fall down before the Lamb in worship: “You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). All the members of the body of Christ will gather around the throne to participate in the Lord’s judgement over the world during the tribulation period (1 Corinthians 6:2).
Some suggest that they are angelic beings but nowhere in the Bible do angels ever rule or sit on thrones. The Greek word translated as “elders” is also never used to refer to angels, who do not age. Their mode of dress would also indicate these are men. While angels do appear in white, white garments are more commonly found on believers, symbolizing Christ’s righteousness imputed to us at salvation (Revelation 3:5,18; Revelation 19:8).
Crowns are also not promised to angels, but to believers. The word translated “crown” refers to the victor’s crown, worn by those who have successfully completed the race, as Christ promised (Revelation 2:10; 2 Timothy 4:8; James 1:12).
The twenty-four elders can also not represent Israel as Israel as a whole nation had not yet been redeemed. Neither can they represent the tribulation saints.
The seven-fold Spirit of God (Revelation 4:5), is an Old Testament idiom for the Holy Spirit. The sea of glass was characterized on Earth by the bronze laver or wash- basin that stood outside the Holy Place. It symbolizes God’s Word. On Earth, we wash in His Word (Ephesians 5:26). In Heaven, we “stand on it.”
The four cherubim (Revelation 4:6-8) who guard the throne of God are the same cherubim as in Ezekiel’s vision of God’s Throne. They all have four faces, namely a lion, an ox, a man, and an eagle. Isaiah does however not describe their faces at all.
Only Christ is worthy to break the seals and to open the book. (Revelation 5:5-6) When the seals are opened the most violent judgements of all times will be poured out upon the earth.
Judgement seat of the righteous
The redeemed is not condemned and will not be standing before the Great White Throne but at the bema seat.
John 5:24 says. “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” In John 3:18 Christ said to Nicodemus, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” In Romans 8:1 Paul says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”
In Revelation, Jesus said to each of the seven churches, “I know your works…”
After the Rapture has taken place, the redeemed will appear before the bema seat of Christ. The judgement of believers is to determine their rewards and should not be confused with the White Throne judgement of unbelievers after the Millennial Kingdom of Christ.
“…we shall all stand before the judgement seat of Christ… So then each of us shall give account of himself to God” (Rome 14:10, 12).
“For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
In this context, the word “bad” actually relates to worthlesness of some of the works that were done after repentance. The works of believers will be tested by the fire of His judgement. In a parable in Luke 19:11-27, Jesus also referred to the day when the redeemed will have to give account of their lives.
“…each one will receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become manifest; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:8-16).
The basis of judgement
The redeemed will not be judged on the basis of the presence or absence of faith in their lives as they have all been saved through grace alone by faith alone and that is a gift of God. Ephesians 2:8-9 clearly states that we are saved by faith, without works. It is the fruit we bear and our works of faith that will be tested.
“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26).
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
The redeemed will be awarded crowns at the judgement seat of Christ, for works produced with eternal value under the power of the Holy Spirit.
“Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord” (Matthew 25:21).
The following crowns are promised to those who remained faithful:
1. The imperishable crown for a holy life
“Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
“And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown” (1 Corinthians 9:25).
2. The crown for soul-winners
The great commission that Christ gave to His disciples is to preach the Gospel to all creation.
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). For those who lead other people to Christ, the crown of rejoicing is promised.
“For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?” (1 Thessalonians 2:19).
3. The crown of glory for faithful pastors
“The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lamp stands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lamp stands which you saw are the seven churches” (Revelation 1:20).
The preacher is likened to an angel. “And of the angels He says: Who makes His angels [serving] spirits and His ministers a flame of fire” (Hebrews 1:7).
“Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Peter 5:2-4).
4. The crown of life for Christian martyrs
Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). To the martyrs He said “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
Included in the category of martyrs are those who were persecuted by fellow men, suffered trials, testing, afflictions and temptation.
“Blessed in the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).
5. The crown for those who love His appearing
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may conform to His glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21).
Paul fought the good fight of faith in proclaiming God’s kingdom in a heathen world, while also expressing his strong expectation of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).