“Immediately I was in the Spirit and behold, a throne was set in heaven and One sat on the throne. And He that sat was in appearance like a jasper and a sardius stone; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald” (Revelation 4:2,3).

As we saw above, thrones are associated with judgment, even when people sit on them. For example, “The tribes go up [to Jerusalem]…for thrones are set there for judgment” (Psalm 122:3-5). Jesus said of His followers, “I bestow upon you a kingdom…that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:28-30). Jesus will sit on a throne to judge—“When the son of Man comes in His glory…then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another…the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom'…Then he will say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:31-46).

Here in Revelation 4 it is God the Father Himself who sits on the throne of judgment, in such awesome majesty that the living creatures around the throne “do not rest day or night, saying: ‘Holy, holy holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was, and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:8). The twenty-four elders also sit "around the throne on twenty-four thrones" and “fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever" (Revelation 4:10,11).

From a human standpoint, there is something awesome, and even frightening about judgment. We are judged in a human court is when someone has accused us of some crime, and even when we are innocent there is always the fear that some perversion of justice will prevail and we will be condemned. However, with Him who is altogether Holy there is no perversion, and even though in actuality we are all guilty, “God so loved [each one of us] that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16,17).

The sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross is sufficient for all who will accept it. The Holy Spirit has given the invitation and provided His grace (the God-given ability to believe so as to be saved) to everyone who wants it. Those who accept Jesus as their Lord do not need to be afraid of the judgment. “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us…Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment…There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:17,18). God’s mercy is emphasized by the fact that “there was a rainbow around the throne” (Revelation 4:3), a reminder of the God's covenant of mercy (Genesis 9:9-17). God wants to declare His children innocent, not to find them guilty. And that is what the plan of salvation is all about—“that He may be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3: 26).

"And around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold” (Revelation 4:4). Who are the 24 elders? They are wearing the same clothes (white raiment) as "those who oovercome" (Revelation 3:5,18). They are wearing crowns, just as those who faithfully serve as elders have been promised (1 Peter 5:1-4), along with all who faithfully endure trials and temptations (James 1:12, Revelation 2:10).[1] They are the same in number and clothing as the levitical elders appointed by David who led the temple music, acted as gatekeepers for the temple, and participated in the cleansig of the temple.[2] They have a special interest in the redemption of humanity.[2] Thus it is most likely that they are representatives of the human race who participate in the heavenly court.[3]

Continue to next section: 4:5 TWO KINDS OF JUDGMENT

[1] The Greek word for crown, stefanos is the same word used for the crown given to the victors in the Olympic games, and symbolizes victory. This is to be distinguished from diadema, the crowns of authority which the dragon and beast wear in their assumed authority (Revelation 12:3, 13:1) and which Jesus wears as the true King of Kings and Lord of Lords. (Revelation 19:12).

[2] The 24 sons of Asaph, Heman and Jeduthan, were elders/leaders who were appointed by David (along with their "sons and brethren") to take turns leading in the temple services (IChronicles 25:1-6, 9-31). They were the temple musicians and like the 24 elders were dressed in white robes (2Chronicles 5:12, 35:15, Nehemiah 12:45,46). At least some of them were also gatekeepers (1Chronicles 16:42), and in the days of Hezekiah they participated in the cleansing of the temple (2Chronicles 29:13-18). Thus the 24 elders of Revelation comprise another Old Testament link to the cleansing of the sanctuary that takes place during the Day of Atonment.

[3] Revelation 5:8-10, 7:13-17, 11:16-18 The dominant theme of the Levitical musicians (who were the prototypes of the 24 elders) was God's mercy ("for His mercy endures forever" 2Chronicles 7:6).

[4] Although the vast majority of humanity are sleeping in the grave awaiting the resurrection (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), there are some who are already in heaven: Enoch and Elijah were taken up into heaven without dying (Hebrews 11:5,6, 2 Kings 2), Moses was resurrected (Jude 9), and “many” were resurrected at the crucifixion (Matthew 27:52,53, Ephesians 4:8).