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15 And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever.

16 And the four and twenty elders, who sat before God on their thrones, fell upon their faces, and worshiped God,

17 Saying, We give you thanks, O Lord God Almighty, who is, and was, and is to come; because you have taken to you your great power, and have reigned.


Part 1 - Revelation 11:15-17


*** Background ***: After the sixth trumpet, we see an interlude, just like the one between the sixth and the seventh seals. We will study the interlude between the final trumpets in the following lessons. For now, let's continue with the last trumpet and see what happened at the sound of the third and final woe.

In Revelation 10:5-7, we see that the angel makes an important announcement. The end will only come when the last trumpet sounds. When that happens, the "mystery of God" will be fully disclosed. God has been revealing His mystery through His prophets throughout time. A piece of His mystery is revealed with the preaching of the Gospel to the World. God's army will finish the proclamation of the Gospel at the sound of the last trumpet: "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." (Mathew 24:14).

*** The announcement ***: When the seventh angel sounds the trumpet, Heavenly beings respond by making a loud statement. The "mystery of God" is complete, and Heaven announces with "great voices": "[...] The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever." (Revelation 11:15). The last time we saw the Heavenly chorus is saying something in a loud voice, they were praising Jesus (Revelation 5:12). In both instances, the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped God after making a loud statement.

Revelation 5:12,14 Revelation 11:15,16
"Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing." "The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever."
"And the four living creatures said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshiped him that lives forever and ever." "And the four and twenty elders, who sat before God on their thrones, fell upon their faces, and worshiped God"

The scene John describes immediately after the sounding of the trumpet takes place in Heaven. This is different than the previous trumpets, where the scenes happen on Earth. The event following the sounding of the trumpet triggers a special worship service in Heaven.

*** The kingdom of this world ***: When God finished the creation of our planet, He gave to Adam and Eve the rulership of this new kingdom (Genesis 1:26-30). When they sinned, humans lost the dominion over the Earth, and handed it to the one they listened to: Satan. The enemy became the "prince of this world", as Jesus referred to him sometimes (John 12:31; John 14:30; John 16:11). Jesus had to provide a way to take back the rulership of the World in order to free people from slavery. Under Satan's dominion, people are kept tied up to sin. When they believe in the sacrifice Jesus made for them, they are freed from sin, and no longer belong to the enemy. Jesus paid the price to acquire the "kingdom of this world". By believing in Satan's lies, we lost our freedom. By believing in Jesus' Truth, we will gain it back.

*** The kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ ***: The last trumpet announces that the kingdom of this world is under new management. It has become "the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ" (Revelation 11:15). The meaning of the word "Christ" is very special. Christ is not Jesus' last name. 'Christ' is a title. The word comes from the Greek Christos, meaning 'the anointed'. Christos is the direct equivalent of the Hebrew name Messiah, which means 'anointed one'. The king of Israel was often referred as the 'anointed' (Psalm 2:2;  1 Samuel 24:6;  2 Samuel 3:39;  2 Samuel 22:51). The terms 'anointed' and 'kingship' are related when it comes to ruling over God's chosen people. Jesus was the One whom the Father had chosen to sit on the throne with Him and rule the Universe together. The kingdom of the Earth had become the kingdom of the Father and of the Son. This kingdom will last forever, just as the prophecy we read in Daniel 2:44 said: "And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever."

*** The twenty-four elders worshiping ***: Once all recognize that the perfect kingdom of the Lord and of His Christ will last forever, the twenty-four elders fall down on their faces to worship God and give Him thanks for what He has done. They address God as "Lord God Almighty" (Revelation 11:17). What they say next differs slightly depending on which manuscript your Bible version is based on. The versions based on the Textus Receptus read "who is, and was, and is to come". The versions based on Sinaitic manuscripts read: "who is, and was", and omit the "is to come". The Greek expression for "is to come" is erchomenos, and was seen in Revelation 1:4, referring to the Father (please see study #5). We also see it in Revelation 1:8, in a very similar statement to the one in Revelation 11:17: "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, says the Lord, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty." (revelation 1:8). Either way, this is a clear reference to God. The twenty-four elders identify Him as the one in charge. Some translations use the expression "have reigned", for the Greek word ebasileusas. This Greek word actually translates more accurately as "begun to reign". When we take all these considerations into account, we understand that the special worship service is a celebratory one, marking the beginning of the Almighty Lord's eternal reign.

*** Overview ***: The seventh trumpet is received with great joy in Heaven. Heavenly beings worship God with a loud voice and are thankful for the things God has done for them. The Lord Almighty is the supreme ruler of the Universe. His Truth has spread throughout the whole Earth. Everyone had a chance to make their choice. The "mystery of God" has been disclosed to humanity. With the Second Coming of Jesus, the kingdom of this World becomes the kingdom of the Father and the Son, and together, as one, they begin their everlasting reign. In chapter 5, when Jesus sat on the right side of the Father, they were reigning undisputedly over the rest of Universe but the Earth still had people being influenced by the arguments of the accuser. God was still giving a chance to those who dwell on Earth to change their minds, repent, and turn to Him. With the sounding of the seventh trumpet, there is no longer time to change sides. When that moment comes, those who have listened to what the Spirit had been saying all along - those who remain faithful to the end, will be filled with overwhelming joy and thankfulness because the time has come for God's reign to start, in His great power.

Saturday, 15 October 2016 22:23

35. Singing a new song - PART 2 * Revelation 5:9-10

9 And they sang a new song, saying, You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open the seals thereof: for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation;

10 And have made us unto our God a kingdom and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.


*** Have redeemed us to God by your blood ***: Now we need to continue where we left off on study #34, the analysis of the unclear section in Revelation 5:8. There are a few different views on this passage. So, let's consider the different possibilities:

Option 1 - If only the elders were singing the new song in Revelation 5:9: On study #28, we saw that it is possible that the 24 elders are a complete representation of the people of God throughout History. And under this view, it makes sense that they were singing a new type of song. A song that talks about how it feels to be redeemed by the blood of Jesus. Unfallen beings don’t need personal salvation. They never sinned. They did not experience redemption in the way people who abandoned a life of sin did. That is why, under the assumption of Option 1, the four living creatures could not have sung the lyrics: “[…] for you were slain, and have redeemed US to God by your blood out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation”. (Similar translation found in: King James, New King James, Aramaic Bible in Plain English, Webster’s Bible Translation, World English Bible, Young’s Literal Translation, and others). Most Greek manuscripts, including the Textus Receptus, have the word “us” in this verse.

Option 2 - If the elders and the four living beings were singing the song in Revelation 5:9: In this case, the song would have to be different for the beings to be singing along with the elders. The line we just mentioned, talking about redemption, was written in the first person (“redeemed us”) in all but two Greek manuscripts. According to Stephanovic, the codex Alexandrinus and an Ethiopian versions do not have “us” in the text. In these two versions, the translation of the song, matching the assumption of option 2, reads: “and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (similar translation found in: New International Version, New Living Translation, English Standard Version, American Standard Version, New American Standard Bible, Darby Bible Translation, and others). In this version of the text, the living beings and the elders are singing about how Jesus had redeemed the people on Earth, and they are praising Him for this achievement.

*** Out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation ***: The redeemed people do not come from a specific group in the world. Jesus said in John 10:15-17: "As the Father knows me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. Therefore does my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.” No matter where His people are, they will hear His voice, and come to Him at the right time, regardless of their appearance, language, or geographical location. We could even expand this concept to say that God has people everywhere, regardless of their religious affiliation. As representatives of the saved people, the 24 elders were likely from different places and nationalities as well.

*** Made us unto our God a kingdom and priests: and we shall reign on the earth ***: Once again, we see a difference in the use of “we” and “they”, referring to who they were singing about. These were promises made to the people of God throughout the Bible. We see these statements in the book of Revelation as well (Revelation 1:6; Revelation 2:26-27; Revelation 3:21; Revelation 20:4-6). Christ’s death sealed the job description for His people. His followers were made priests, with a mission of serving Him and carrying His message throughout the world. Jesus’ sacrifice also guaranteed that one day, the redeemed of God would reign with Him forever (Revelation 20:4-6; see study #5). These statements are true for both God’s people on Earth, and the 24 elders in Heaven. As we saw on study #28, the elders have both kingly and priestly characteristics: they had crowns, thrones, royal robes, harps, and censers.

*** Overview ***: As we saw in lesson #34, Christ’s victory then became the lyrics of a new song. Weather or not the elders were the only ones singing this song, is not the issue. Wether or not the song included the word “us” or “they”, is not essencial for the understanding of the new song. Jesus’ blood is the main theme of the song. From that point in time, His sacrifice had the power to redeem God’s children on Earth forward into the future, as well as backward into the past. And not only that, it also had the power to redeem the humans that were living in Heaven. The strength of the Cross can pass right through any human barriers. God’s promises are not limited by the walls of separation people raise around themselves here on Earth. When God calls His people to come to Him, all those who belong to Him will answer, no matter where they are, what they are, or who they are. Jesus’s blood can transform a repentant sinner into a priest and a king. What we used to be is forgotten. What we become when we experience redemption is what is important.

Saturday, 08 October 2016 00:33

34. Singing a new song - PART 1 * Revelation 5:7-9

7 And he came and took the scroll out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne.

8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of saints.

9 And they sang a new song, saying, You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open the seals thereof: for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation;


*** He took the scroll out of the right hand the Father ***: Back in Revelation 5:1, we studied that the sealed scroll was at the right hand of God (study #31), from the rare Greek expression epi ten dēxian. According to Stefanovic, here we have another rare expression ek tēs dexias, which also does not occur anywhere else in the New Testament. Even though this expression could mean both ‘from the right hand’, or ‘from the right side’, we can understand that this expression also refers to the right side of God the Father, the one who was sitting on the throne at the time of Jesus’ arrival in Heaven (see study #33). Verse 7 implies that Jesus approached the throne, and took possession of the sealed book.

*** The four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down ***: Once again, the four living creatures and the 24 elders are leading the praise and worship. After Jesus took the scroll, the four living beings and the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb. This is a similar reaction we saw from John, in Revelation 1:17 (study #10), when he was in the presence of Jesus. In contrast to Revelation 5:8, where the elders and the living beings fell down, in verse 5:14 only the 24 elders bow down and worship God.

*** Every one of them had harps, and golden bowls full of incense ***: There is an angel in Revelation 8:3-5, who has a golden censer and incense to offer with the prayers of the saints. So, the idea that angels could participate in presenting the prayers of the saints to God is seen in another part of Revelation. But here, the text starts to get a little more complicated. It is not completely clear if only the 24 elders had the harps and the bowls of incense, or if the four living creatures had them too. At a first glance, it sounds like they were all holding the harp and the incense, but we cannot discard the possibility that only the 24 elders had them. Later on, in verse 14, only the elders fell down to worship God, while the four living creatures were saying something else. The expression “every one of them”, in verse 8, comes from the Greek hekastos, which refers to each distinct individual, as opposed to the group. It comes right after “four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb”. This raises the question: were the 24 elders doing something different from the 4 living creatures, from verse 8 forward? The answer to this question possibly ties up with verse 9, and who was singing the new song.

*** Golden bowls of incense ***: In the Old Testament Sanctuary, the priest had to keep incense burning constantly (Exodus 30:7-8). This was the job of a priest (2 Chronicles 26:18-19). And this was such a serious job, that if it was not done correctly, as specified by God, it could be a matter of life and death (Leviticus 16:12-13). The fact that the 24 elders have the bowls of incense, means they have a priestly role in heaven. The bowls of incense are very important. Revelation 5:8 says they “are the prayers of the saints”. Just like the smoke of the incense, in the Earthly Sanctuary, would cover the mercy seat of the Arc of the Covenant, the prayers of the saints flow right to the throne of God. Those holding the incense seem to be involved in the bringing of people’s prayers to God.

*** They sang a new song ***: They were singing a type of song they had never sung before. It had a new theme, one that had never been seen in Heaven before. Christ had just returned as the lamb who was slain, and so the heavenly chorus adjusted their songs to reflect the brand new role of Jesus Christ as the Redeemer. Before Jesus’ death and resurrection, Jesus had not fully paid the price for humanity yet. His mission to show the Father was, for the most part, complete even before the cross. But Jesus had to die our ‘forever death’ in our place in order to validade the plan of salvation. A song presented with this theme would have not made sense before He went through the entire process. And so, now that Jesus had finished that section of the plan, the singing of a new song, featuring the recent event of Christ’s victory, was in order. Jesus had just earned the right to open the scroll and its seals. We will continue to analyze the last part of Revelation 5:9 in study #35.

*** Overview ***: After Jesus arrived in Heaven, He approached the throne, and got the sealed book from the right side of the Father. Immediately, the 4 living beings and the 24 elders began to worship Christ. Jesus’ victory granted Him the ability to open the sealed book. Not only they were having a worship service in the throne room, they were also conducting activities which were assigned to priests. They were carrying bowls of incense. The prayers of the saints seem to be important enough for John to mention in this section. Christ’s victory then became the lyrics of a new song. Heaven was celebrating and rejoicing in an unprecedented manner. The way the Universe would now look at Christ had changed forever. His death and resurrection meant life not just for Himself, but for all the people who believe in the power of His sacrifice.

Saturday, 03 September 2016 00:20

29. Round and about the throne * Revelation 4:5-8

5  And out of the throne proceeded lightning and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.

6  And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind.

7  And the first living creature was like a lion, and the second living creature like a calf, and the third living creature had a face as a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle.

8  And the four living creatures had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.


***Lightening, thunderings, and voices ***: Verses 2, 3, and 4 of this chapter give a detailed description of the throne of God. In verse 5, we start to see some important activities happening in that throne room. There are flashes of lightning, thunderings, and voices coming out of the throne. This description reminds us of the scene at Mount Sinai, when God was giving the Ten Commandments (Exodus 19:16; Exodus 20:18). These are not the only time when the presence of God is associated with thundering and lightning (Job 40:9; Psalm 77:18; Psalm 104:7; Ezekiel 1:13). Out of the throne comes the active and powerful presence of God.

*** Seven lamps burning ***: Right in front of the throne, there are seven lamps. These lamps are burning, and they are the seven Spirits of God. The Greek word used for lamps here is the word lampade, which refers to a hand-held torch that has a wick and is fueled with oil. In Zachariah 4, we have seven lamps which were the eyes of the Lord “which range throughout the earth”. In Revelation 5:6 we read that the seven Spirits are seven eyes sent out to all the Earth. As we discussed in lesson #5, the seven Spirits of God are the perfect representation of the Holy Spirit. He is present there, before the throne.

*** The sea of glass ***: John mentions the sea of glass in Revelation 4:6, and also in Revelation 15:2. Here in chapter 4, he describes this element as being located in front of the throne. He compares it to three things: sea, glass, and crystal. The sea gives the idea of water and movement. Glass and crystal are solid and static objects. All of them have a translucent quality, and can become reflective depending on how light hits their surface. It is not clear if the glass description refers to a smooth flat section of glass, or to broken pieces of glass and more of a textured look. Revelation 15:2 adds yet another descriptor: fire. John says he "saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire". Also, he says the victorious people are standing on this sea of glass and fire. In chapter 4, the saved people are not there yet. And the fire, although present as the Holy Spirit standing in front of the throne of the Father, is not mentioned as being in or on the sea of glass at that time. In terms of Sanctuary language, the water element was represented as the bronze basin. The basin was sometimes called the sea (2 Kings 25:13-16; 1 Chronicles 18:8; 2 Chronicles 4:6; Jeremiah 52:17,20). The priests had to wash themselves there before sacrifices and before entering the Tent of Meeting. It was a symbol for baptism, as we saw in study #9. In Matthew 3:11, we read the words of John the Baptist, referring to Christ: "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that comes after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit, and with fire". Daniel 7:10 mentions a river of fire that was flowing out of the throne of God. It is interesting to note that in Revelation 15:2, when the saved people are standing on the sea of glass, fire is there mixed in. But in chapter 4, which is a scene that happens before the people get there, the fire is described separately. Very likely, this is not a literal combination of sea, glass, or fire. The sea of glass seems to be a hard to describe place. The point is, it marks an important area before the throne of God where the overcomers will stand one day.

*** The four living creatures ***: This is not the only time these beings appear in Revelation. They are always found near the throne of God, serving and worshiping Him (Revelation 4:6,8-9; Revelation 5:6,8-9,14; Revelation 6:1-8; Revelation 14:3; Revelation 19:4). This is also not the first time in the Bible where they are mentioned either. We can read about them in Ezekiel 1:5-10; Ezekiel 10:12,14,20-22; Isaiah 6:2-3. They remind us of the golden cherubim on the Arch of the Covenant in the Earthly Sanctuary. (Exodus 25:18-21; 1 Kings 6:23-28). The image of God sitting between cherubim is seen in other passages of the Old Testament as well (2 Kings 19:15; Psalm 80:1; Psalm 99:1; Isaiah 37:16). Isaiah calls them seraphim, and tells us they praise Him saying “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:2-3). In Revelation 4:8, John also tells us that they do not rest during the day or night, and remain praising God continually, “saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” Both in Isaiah, and in Revelation, we see these beings praising the Trinity.

Full of eyes in front and behind, and inside; having six wings each and four different faces: Ezekiel 10:12 describes them as being “full of eyes all around”. He also says they each have 4 faces: as of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle (Ezekiel 1:5-10). Ezekiel saw one being with four faces, and John sees four beings, each with a different face (Revelation 4:7). Ezekiel had a long and detailed description of these beings. But it seems that for John, they are not the focus of the scene, and perhaps only one side of each of those beings was revealed to him. It could also be a different order of angels. Regardless of their specific anatomy, their role seems to be very special. They lead the praise and worship, and they serve God very closely. These beings are also involved in the opening of the first four seals (Revelation 6:1-8). There are different views as to what each of their faces represent. It could be a reference to their strength, service, intelligence, and swiftness. It could also be a symbol for the qualities of God’s character, including His ability to see and know everything.

*** Overview ***: There was lightning and thundering coming out of the throne of God. That means the throne was not empty. The magnitude of His glory could be felt, seen and heard. The Holy Spirit was also in the scene, in all his perfection and fulness, described as the seven Spirits of God. But not all members of the Trinity were present there. Jesus was not there. Even so, the heavenly creatures near the throne of God kept worshiping the Trinity continuously, by saying: “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty” (Revelation 4:8). This description refers to a moment in time, when neither Jesus nor the overcomers were present. No one was standing on the sea of glass just yet. Just from what we read in chapter 4, we can understand that this happened before the Second Coming of Christ. A time when Jesus was not there, but when the Holy Spirit was. In reality, the Holy Spirit is omnipresent. His appearance in the throne room does not prevent His activities from happening on Earth at the same time. But for the sake of John’s understanding, as well as ours today, this is how it was shown to John. We can understand that this part of the vision seems to describe what was happening in Heaven before Jesus’ ascension. Chapter 4 show us what it was like to be standing there, in the presence of God.

Saturday, 27 August 2016 01:20

28. An open door to the throne * Revelation 4:1-4

1   After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up here, and I will show you things which must be hereafter.

2   And immediately I was in the spirit; and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.

3   And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a carnelian stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in appearance like unto an emerald.

4   And round about the throne were four and twenty thrones: and upon the thrones I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white clothing; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.


In chapters 1 to 3, we have Jesus walking in the middle of the churches, and the focus is on what is happening with the church here on Earth. The text in chapter 1 uses symbology that refers to the Old Testament Sanctuary. In that chapter, we studied the references John made about the candlesticks, the items of bronze, and the priestly outfit. The last of the seven letters to the churches in Asia end with a promise to the one who overcomes. It says that the overcomer will sit with Jesus in His throne, just as He sat with His Father, in His throne (Revelation 3:21). This verse is the perfect segway to chapter 4, where we see the description of the events that are taking place in Heaven. These events hold the key to the understanding of the rest of the book of Revelation. The Sanctuary language continues in chapter 4 and 5, where we read about things that happen around the throne of God.

*** Opened door in Heaven, and the invitation from the One with the voice like a trumpet ***: After John received the message about the churches, he looks up, and sees an open door in Heaven. Then, John hears the One with the voice like a trumpet. It is the same voice he first heard in Revelation 1:10 (lesson #7). Jesus is calling John to come up through the open door. Jesus wants to show him what must take place in the future, from John’s perspective. This statement also reminds us of what Jesus told John in Revelation 1:19. But here, John is not asked to write down the things Jesus is showing him. He is invited to see them. Upon hearing this invitation, John is immediately taken in a vision, receiving the message from Christ. Just like he said in Revelation 1:10, he is “in the Spirit”. This door that John goes through leads to a room in Heaven, and he sees a beautiful throne there. The word door (in the Greek thura), occurs many times in the Old Testament, and most often than not, it refers to the Sanctuary or the Temple. This is very significant, because we will see in the following verses, that this open door was the passageway to the Heavenly Sanctuary.

*** The throne and the One who sat on the throne ***: John initially sees a magnificent throne. The throne of God is found in 16 of the 22 chapters of Revelation, and in many instances the throne is used to represent God Himself. The throne is the central theme of chapter 4. Everything is described in relation to the throne. John then sees the One sitting on the throne. He identifies Him as “Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come” (Revelation 4:8), and “Lord” (Revelation 4:11). But in other verses, John refers to God as “the One sitting on the Throne” (Revelation 4:3,9,10; Revelation 5:1,7,13). The image of God sitting on His throne in Heaven is often depicted in the Old Testament, where He reigns in all His glory and power (1 Kings 22:19; Psalm 47:8; Psalm 93:1-2; Psalm 97:1-9; Psalm 99:1-5; Isaiah 6:1; Ezekiel 1:26; Daniel 7:9).

*** Description of God: He looks like a jasper, a carnelian, and an emerald stone ***: Some Bible versions translate carnelian (in Greek sardiō) as sardius, or ruby. Emerald (in Greek smaragdinō), is sometimes translated as turquoise. All three of these stones were found covering the king of Tyre (Ezekiel 28:13). They are also in the foundation of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:19). But since the Sanctuary symbolism is so strong in this chapter, we must concentrate on what we find there to help us understand the meaning of these stones. They are found on the breastplate of the High Priest in the Old Testament (Exodus 28:17-20). Sardius and Jasper are the first and the last stones on the breastplate. They represent the tribes of Reuben, and Benjamin respectively. And the emerald is the 4th stone on the breastplate, representing the tribe of Juda. Under the light of the Sanctuary language, we see that this description of the stones are identifying the One who sits on the throne as having the same characteristics as Christ: “the first and the last” (Revelation 1:11,17), and the “Lion from the tribe of Juda” (Revelation 5:5). The One who sits on the throne is one with Christ.

*** The rainbow around the throne ***: Ezekiel 1:28 also described the rainbow around the throne of God, saying it “was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD.” The rainbow is a 7-color arch that God placed in the sky after the flood, as a perpetual covenant between God and His people. It was to remind them that He would never destroy the Earth with water ever again (Genesis 9:12-17). We can understand that the glory of the Lord itself is for us a reminder of how trustworthy He is.

*** 24 thrones and 24 elders, dressed in white and wearing a crown ***: John's attention is drawn to the other thrones. He first sees 24 of them, and then he mentions the 24 elders. In the Old Testament, we read about the group of 24 priests who took turns as the Sanctuary officials (1 Chronicles 24:1-19). Once again, the Sanctuary symbolism is present here, and it is not out of place. Interestingly enough, they are not present in the throne visions of the prophets in the Old Testament. Even though they are not present in the Old Testament visions, their presence here is actually not all that surprising. In verse 4, John gives a brief description of the elders. They are mentioned in other parts of the book as well, so let’s look at all the information we have on these elders, so we can figure out who they are. Are they angels? Are they human? We can draw a parallel between this description of the 24 elders and the promises made to the one who overcomes throughout the book of Revelation. The overcomer is promised the things that the elders already have:

  24 Elders Those who overcome
1) They sit on thrones around the throne of God (Revelation 4:4) They will sit in a throne with God (Revelation 3:21)
2) They are wearing white robes, and have the stephanos crown on their head (Revelation 4:4) They will wear white robes and a stephanos crown of victory (Revelation 3:5; Revelation 2:10)
3) They worship God (Revelation 4:10-11; Revelation 5:14; Revelation 11:16; Revelation 19:4) They will worship God (Revelation 7:10)
4) They have on their hands harps and bowls of incense, which are the prayers of the saints (Revelation 5:8) They will have harps (Revelation 15:2), and they pray/cry out to God (Revelation 6:10)
5) God had made them kingdom and priests, and they will reign on the Earth (Revelation 5:10)* They are made kingdom and priests (Revelation 1:6), They will reign on the Earth (Revelation 2:26-27)
6) They were redeemed by the blood of Jesus (Revelation 5:9) They are redeemed by the blood of Jesus (Revelation 7:14)

* From the Textus Receptus manuscripts, which is one of the manuscripts that some of the earlier Bible translations were based on, such as the King James.

All unfallen creatures, such as angels or other celestial beings, worship God. The fact that the elders worship God does not help us identify them more specifically. These unfallen beings never sinned, and so, they cannot be considered to be redeemed. It becomes evident that the elders could not be unfallen beings or angels, since Revelation 5:9 says the elders were redeemed by the blood (according to Bible translations based on the Textus Receptus manuscripts). Other arguments supporting this view are that there are no promises in the Bible made to angels, saying they will reign on the Earth. God’s chosen people on Earth are the ones called to be kingdom and priests. Only His redeemed people receive the promise of a white robe of righteousness and a victory crown. Angels are never portrayed as wearing victory crowns. And finally, only the redeemed are promised to sit on a throne with God. Angels are always mentioned as standing or falling down in the presence of God. We can clearly see that the 24 elders must be humans. Humans that have been glorified already. But how did humans end up in Heaven before the Second Coming of Christ?

As we studied in lesson #10, when humans die, the norm is that they are not immediately taken to a place of eternal fire, or to Heaven. The Bible teaches that the dead actually don’t know anything (Eclesiastes 9:5), they are as if they were asleep (Psalm 90:5; John 11:11-14;  1 Thessalonians 4:13), and that people’s reward will be given to them on the last day (Revelation 22:12). However, the Bible mentions a few special people who got their reward earlier, and had the privilege to be taken to Heaven before the Second Coming. We know that Enoch, Moses and Elijah were taken to Heaven (Genesis 5:24; Hebrews 11:5; Jude 1:9; 2 Kings 2:11; Matthew 17:3). Enoch and Elijah never actually experienced death. The Bible also tells us that when Christ died, and resurrected, “the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints that slept arose” (Matthew 27:52). As it was the custom of a victorious king in the ancient times, upon winning a battle against His enemy, Christ took with Him the spoils of war. In other words, He took for Himself people who were to be integrated into the population of Jesus' own Celestial Country. Psalm 68:18 and Ephesians 4:8 tell us that Jesus led a group of captives when He ascended. Those people had been tied down to their brief existence on Earth, and slaves to their grave. They were in bondage. But Jesus took them out of that condition. We don’t know how many were resurrected at that time, but it is possible that they were the ones taken to Heaven to serve as Sanctuary officials, serving as priests and kings - living representatives of humanity in Heaven. The fact that there are 24 of them is also relevant, because it is twice the number 12. The number 12 is prominent in Revelation, because it relates to the 12 tribes of Israel (standing as the church in the Old Testament time), and the 12 disciples (Standing as the church from the New Testament forward). The New Jerusalem is described as having 12 gates named after the 12 tribes, and 12 foundations named after the 12 apostles (Revelation 21:12-14). The number 12 + 12 represents the totality of God's people throughout History.

All the Bible texts we reviewed in this study, tell us that it is not the norm to go to Heaven after death. Actually, those captives, as well as Moses, were resurrected first, before being taken up to Heaven. And that is what is going to happen on the last day as well. Those who died in the faith of Jesus will be resurrected first (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Over and over, we see that the people who died on Earth and that were (or are going to be) taken to Heaven, always, without exception, go through the process of resurrection first - including Jesus. The group of the 24 elders is likely formed by those people mentioned in the Bible, who were taken up without experiencing death like Enoch and Elijah, and also the ones who were resurrected and then taken up, like Moses. They are the perfect representation of the people of God that will be joining them in the last day: “[…] and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

*** Overview ***: The first four verses in chapter 4 have two main themes, which will be recurring over the next chapters: the throne of God, and the 24 elders. The throne however, is the central focus, since everything is described using the throne as the point of reference (upon the throne, around the throne, from the throne, before the throne, in the midst of the throne). John describes the throne as something spectacular, and he uses some of the precious stones from the Old Testament High Priest garment to help with this description. God’s unbreakable covenant is also present, and represents the unfailing glory and mercy of God. God’s word is true, trustworthy. He has the first word, and the also final. The description of the throne of the Father reminds us of the atributes used to describe Christ. The throne of God is a direct reference to the Father Himself, and His unity with the Son. The parallelism with the Old testament Sanctuary is very evident, and is a strong indicator of where John is in this vision: the Heavenly Sanctuary. The Sanctuary on Earth was only a copy (or shadow) of the one which is in Heaven (Hebrews 8:2,5). Now that we situated where this vision is taking place, we can expect to see some of the things that were found in the Earthly Sanctuary. And we do: there are 24 elders, who serve as priests - they carry “bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (Revelation 5:8). These elders represent the redeemed of God.

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