The Throne Of God (rev. 4:3-5)

And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance.

As we begin considering the vision that John wrote down for the benefit of others who would read his apocalypse, we must go to the text that parallels this one and read this truly fascinating description in Ezekiel 1:26-27:

26 Now above the expanse that was over their heads there was something resembling a throne, like lapis lazuli in appearance; and on that which resembled a throne, high up, was a figure with the appearance of a man. 27 Then I noticed from the appearance of His loins and upward something like glowing metal that looked like fire all around within it, and from the appearance of His loins and downward I saw something like fire; and there was a radiance around Him. 28 As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking.

The parallels are close and fascinating. What is striking is that they do not give an impression of literary dependence – meaning that John read what Ezekiel wrote and rewrote his own material somewhat differently. Instead the level of perception of what they saw and the language is so different (although it is clear they are describing something extremely similar) that the strong impression  the (religious) reader gets is that the same type of vision may have been experienced by both Ezekiel and the author of Revelation.

Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads.

The throne of God was surrounded by another twenty-four thrones with the elders crowned (crown represents legitimacy) and dressed in white (white garments represent absolute purity and holiness). This feature is unparalleled in any other Jewish apocalyptic works. The big question here, however, is not really the meaning of the crowns and the garments, but the number of elders. Who are the 24 persons making up God’s heavenly council? In the text that we will consider in more detail in Revelation 11:15-19, the 24 elders seem to function as God’s chief worshipers with the authority of the mediating priests:

15 Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” 16 And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying, “We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign. 18 And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.” 19 And the temple of God which is in heaven was opened; and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple, and there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm.

Another text that shows us the 24 elders in action is found in Revelation 19:3-5. There we read that the 24 elders were a very important part of the polyphony of heavenly voices, whether priestly or not is not clear:

And a second time they said, “Hallelujah! Her smoke rises up forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!”

While this is not certain, the best possible candidate for the 24 elders around God’s throne is the unity government of the original and now renewed Israel, i.e. twelve heads of tribes of Israel plus twelve new heads of Israel – the apostles of Christ Jesus.

If, however, the joint Jewish and Roman Imperial background is in view, then it is possible that 24 elders could also parallel 24 lictors (civil servants with right and power to command the Roman Emperor). Given the addresses of the seven letters to the assemblies and their largely non-Jewish background (former Roman God-fearers, now followers of the Jewish Christ) this may be an attractive proposition.

Whether the beginning of the night visions of Daniel in chapter 7 can shed any light on the heavenly courtroom throne (vs. 9) motif is not clear, since we do not know if the 24 thrones (the elders) are in view or if only two  personages are in view (the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man).

We read in Daniel 7:9:

“I kept looking until thrones were set up, and the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow and the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames, its wheels were a burning fire.”

Since in Daniel 7:13-14 we are told about the crowning ceremony of the Son of Man, it stands to reason to assume that the plurality of the thrones in Daniel 7:9 refers to two thrones only:

“I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days. And was presented before Him. 14 “And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which will not pass away. And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.

There is one caveat that deserves a note here. Modern translations translate the twenty-four thrones as we are used to reading the number  “twenty four,” but the Greek manuscripts preserve the ancient Hebraic reversed numbering “four and twenty.” It means the same thing, but the Hebraism is preserved in some translations (see King James Version for example):

“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” (Rev.4:4).

Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God; and before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal;

This text is extremely close to the description given in the above-quoted passage in Ezekiel 1:26-27. The heavenly menorah (the seven lamps of fire) is shown here to be a symbol of the seven Spirits of God (see earlier discussion on Revelation of John 1:4 where the Spirits are first mentioned). The glory of the Ancient of Days is described in terms of the magnificence of the heavenly throne and the heavenly throne room, if we can speak of it in such a way, since God’s throne is not stationary. It seems to exist in one particular place, but it is essentially a traveling throne-chariot of Israel’s God. This area of discussion in Jewish studies is usually referred to as Merkavah (chariot) mysticism – the experience of seeing the heavenly, in this case the traveling throne of the LORD God himself.

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Dr. Eli Lizorkin-EyzenbergTo secure your spot in our new course “The Jewish Background of New Testament” - CLICK HERE NOW

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  1. Kat H

    What has been confusing to me is who we see and who we worship on the throne- God or Jesus?
    Time is circular – a continual cycle of beginnings and endings (clock)
    John 1:1 seems to be the throne of God. (Jesus is in the bosom of the Father, I and the Father are one, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.)
    • The throne of God – In the beginning was the Word” and Jesus (looking like two tribes) is now sitting on the throne in His Father’s bosom.
    • The 24 seats are the 12 tribes and now the 12 Apostles (a new cycle of beginnings).
    • Out of the throne of God is the 7 spirits of created order.
    • Before the throne the sea of life (Genesis 1:21) has become the sea of glass (translucent)
    • The 4 beasts can see the translucent created order are no longer chanting God of the armies of the heavens, but are chanting Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come (2nd coming or establishing Kingdom?)
    • The beasts give glory, honour, and thanks to Jesus
    • The elders fall down before the throne and worship (as children of God) the one worthy of glory, honor, and power for He has created all things (John 1

  2. Kat H

    Yes Dr Charles I can read your post. I do now see that the rainbow was probably in the heavens. Water has become a life giving symbol. This makes me wonder if the armor of God is something we put on after we are saved or before we are saved 🙂 I see the day of evil like Romans 7 (before the gospel). Delivered from evil would be Romans 8. – Sabbath peace 🙂
    “to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me”

    1. Drs. Charles van den Berg

      Before we repented and before we belonged Him , we were a prey of the enemy. From the moment we belong to Him, our enemies are His enemies . From then, we have to be silent and the LORD will fight for us Exodus 14:14 The Lord is a man of war Exodus 15:3

      And what is the armor of God? Listen:
      ‘ He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak. Isaiah 59:16-18 .
      So He himself is so the armor . When we take up the whole armor of God, we take up Himself, We are covered with God himself.

      So the armor of God we put on after we are saved. Don’t forget: after we are saved, there is a way to go of spiritual growth, a race to run.. And part of this is to overcome the enemy in the evil day. Not by our own power, but by Him.
      After leaving Egypt, there is a way to go before we in the promised Land.

      1. Kat H

        I agree that Christ is the armor. What made me “prey” of replacement theology was I had the revelation of Christ prior to hearing the gospel. In other words I already knew something I had never “heard” of or read before in scriptures. I believe it was heavenly messengers. This was something that Christ promised to those who repented and by His power vs Bible interpretation. This is why my foundation can’t be burned down and everything else has the potential to go up in flames 🙂

  3. Kat H

    The image of the rainbow in the Kingdom (on earth, as it is in heaven) looks to me like the earth is already being judged (the 2nd coming of Christ?) This is due to my understanding 🙂 of the Hebrew word glory (“the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord” ). Glory as I understand it means “God didn’t hold anything back” This could mean judgement on earth outside of the Kingdom.

    1. Drs. Charles van den Berg

      Sorry Kat…I don’t know you can read this. But I can’t read your post like I received in my email.

  4. Drs. Charles van den Berg

    An alternative point of view regarding the rainbow around the throne of God..

    The bow (Hebrew: qesheth) in Ezekiel 1:28 , is seen in the heavenly world around in the throne of God.

    God set his rainbow in the cloud as a sign of His covenant with the earth after the flood (Gen. 9:23), generally understood as a bow in the clouds of the physical world.

    Because the rainbow must have existed as an atmospheric phenomenon before the flood, It seems to me that God set the bow of the covenant not in the physical, but in his heavenly world. In addition it is suprising the word cloud (Hebrew : anan) is used for a fysical cloud ass well as for the clouds of God´s shekinah .

    When all this is true, the bow around God ´s throne in Ezechiel could be the same as the Covenant bow of Genesis.

    Further, the Hebrew word ´qesheth´ means the bow in the clouds ass well as the bow used as battle weapon.

    .The trone of Christ is in the heavenly places Eph. 1:20 . We have a battle in the heavenly places against the powers of darkness that give us temptation to sin.. Eph. 6:12
    So God’s Covenant promise could be : He gives us victory over the demonic enemy by His bow to able us to rule over sin, rather than to destroy the earth because of our sin .

    1. Drs. Charles van den Berg

      Gen. 9:23 is to be Gen. 9:11-17

  5. jane z. mazzola

    Thank you for the suggestion. I’ll find it & listen to it. Blessings, as always, Jane M

  6. jane z. mazzola

    These passages & your commentary remind me of the Commandment of “Thou shalt not take the Lord’s Name in vain”; in short. the grandeur of these visions of the “heavenly kingdom” is displayed, which I, as well as others, often treat so casually in contemporary speech.

    Glad you mentioned the wording used in the old KJV. For many of its supposed inaccuracies, there is still a beauty of language from the Hebrew patterns, as well as classic English, not found in most modern English translations.

    Thank you again, Dr. Eli, for your study & vision which you share graciously.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      I think everyone that has disdain for KJV (and not only) should listen on iTunes University “God’s Secretaries: The Makings of King James Bible”. It is a fantastic lecture.

  7. HEZEKIAH

    Interesting write up. What do you say Dr, about the interpretation of this particular text stands for thorough scrutiny evident in the use of eye irony for 24 elders/4 living creatures to the Lord. That after seeing and observing Christ Jesus without a blemish, the 24 elders and the 4 living creatures bow to worship in hesitation in that they are kept for check and balance of Christ.

  8. premkumar Samuel

    thanks again Dr.Eli for your wonderful exegesis.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Samuel and thank you again for the words of great encouragement!