The Four and Twenty Elders

Revelation

The Four and Twenty Elders

February 11th, 1962 @ 8:15 AM

Revelation 4:1-11

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 hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. And 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 to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. 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. And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. 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 beasts full of eyes before and behind. And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. And the four beasts 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, which was, and is, and is to come. And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
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THE FOUR AND TWENTY ELDERS

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Revelation 4

2-11-62    8:15 a.m.

 

On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  This is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled The Four and Twenty Elders.  In your Bible, you can follow the message if you will turn to the last book, the Book of the Revelation, and chapter 4.  Revelation chapter 4:

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 hither, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter.

And 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 to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone:  and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.

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.

[Revelation 4:1-4]

Then, the ninth to the finish of the chapter:

And when those cherubim give glory and honor and thanks to Him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,

The four and twenty elders fall down before Him that sat on the throne, and worship Him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power:  for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.

[Revelation 4:9-11]

This introduces us to our subject this morning:  The Four and Twenty Elders.

The fourth chapter opens with the vision of the thronos, the throne set in heaven [Revelation 4:2], and as the seer looked upon it, round the throne were twenty-four thronoi, thrones, lesser thrones [Revelation 4:4].  In this authorized King James Version, that word “thrones” is translated “seats.”  It’s better to translate it throne just as John wrote it.  In the center of heaven he saw the throne of deity [Revelation 4:2], and around that great, omnipotent, conspicuous, central throne, he saw twenty-four lesser thrones.  And on those twenty-four lesser thrones he saw seated twenty-four elders [Revelation 4:4].  Who are they?

They are not spirits.  It is incongruous to us, as it is impossible in Scripture, to conceive of spirits being clothed and crowned and enthroned.  You just don’t have that kind of a conception either in your mind or in the Word of God.  So they are not spirits.

They are not angels.  In the Book, they are designated as in a different order from angels.  For example, in Revelation 5:11:  “I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the cherubim and the elders.”  They are not angels.  Angels are never numbered, as in Hebrews 12:22, “An innumerable company of angels,” and as here in the fifth chapter, “He heard the voice of myriads upon myriads,” translated here “ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” [Revelation 5:11].  Angels are never numbered.  They are innumerable.  But these elders are numbered.  They are twenty-four [Revelation 4:4].

Angels are never crowned.  These elders are crowned [Revelation 4:4].  There are two Greek words for crowned: stephanos—your word “Stephen” comes from it—stephanos, and diadēma.  The crown of the victor, of the overcomer, like the winner of a race, is a stephanos, a garland of victory.  The diadem of course is the crown of the potentate.  Now these twenty-four elders are crowned with a victor’s crown, stephanos [Revelation 4:4], and an angel is never crowned to begin with, much less as though they had overcome any great trial and temptation.  And if we can accept the Textus Receptus, which is the basis of the translation of the King James Version, these twenty-four elders are redeemed [Revelation 5:8-9].  They are sinful men who have been saved, for they sing, “Thou wast slain,” speaking of the Lamb of God, “and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests:  and we shall reign upon the earth” [Revelation 5:9-10].

Then who are those twenty-four elders?  If they are not spirits and if they are not angels or if they are not an angelic order, then who are they?  The twenty-four elders are the redeemed, the saints of God out of humanity [Revelation 5:8-9].  They are of the royalty of heaven.  They are seated on those thrones [Revelation 4:4].  They’re not standing up waiting upon God, but they are the Lord God Almighty’s counselors.  The Lord promised to the twelve disciples, the twelve apostles, that they should be seated upon thrones [Matthew 19:28].  And God has promised to us who trust in Him that we shall sit with Him on His throne [Revelation 3:21].  These are the redeemed of humanity [Revelation 5:8-9], God’s sainted children who are enthroned as His counselors and friends.  They are the victors from this race of this world, and they are crowned with the victor’s crown [Revelation 4:4].  And they are redeemed out of every nation, and tongue, and tribe, and family under God’s sun [Revelation 5:8-9].

Now they are numbered twenty-four [Revelation 4:4, 5:8-9; Genesis 35:23-26]; that is, they represent all of God’s redeemed family: twelve for the patriarchs of Israel [Genesis 35:23-26], and twelve for the apostles of the Lamb [Matthew 10:2-4].  Twenty-four, twice twelve: the redeemed saints of the old covenant and the redeemed saints of the new covenant [Revelation 5:9-10].  You see that same conception in the building up of the New Jerusalem.  The foundations of the city are the twelve apostles, and the twelve gates of the city have written upon them the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel [Revelation 21:12]; the great holy city of God, the twelve gates named for the twelve tribes [Revelation 21:12], and the twelve foundations named for the twelve apostles [Revelation 21:14]; the twenty-four, representing the redeemed of humanity [Revelation 4:4, 5:8-9].

A part of those Old Testament saints are already resurrected.  When the Lord God was raised from the dead, there appeared after His resurrection some of the Old Testament saints to those who knew and loved them and recognized them in the city of Jerusalem [Matthew 27:52-53].  Some of those Old Testament saints are already resurrected.  Some of them are already translated, such as Enoch [Genesis 5:24] and such as Elijah [2 Kings 2:11].  And all of them are with the Lord in heaven, as Moses spake to the Lord Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration [Luke 9:28-31].

And when we look upon the redeemed of glory, we look upon both the Old Testament and the New Testament saints.  “For thou art come,” said the author of the Hebrews:

For thou art come unto Mount Zion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem; and to an innumerable company of angels,

And to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven; and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.

[Hebrews 12: 22-23]

That number twenty-four, the twenty-four elders, that number twenty-four is taken from 1 Chronicles 24 [1 Chronicles 24:1-18] and 25 [1 Chronicles 25:1-31], where all of the Levitical priesthood is included in the twenty-four courses.  And in 1 Peter second chapter, verse 5, we are called a “holy priesthood” [1 Peter 2:5].  And in that same chapter, verse 9, we are called a “royal priesthood” [1 Peter 2:9].

So those twenty-four elders represent the redeemed family of God [Revelation 4:4, 5:8-9].  All of us are included.  There are a certain number of God’s family that are going to be saved.  It has a definite arithmetical numeration [Romans 11:25].  There are a certain number of people that are in the Lamb’s Book of Life [Revelation 13:8].  And that number twenty-four represents the whole course of the redemptive priesthood of our Lord [Revelation 4:4, 5:8-9].

Now they are in heaven [Revelation 4:1-4].  When we come to the fourth chapter of the Revelation, we enter in an altogether different world.  In the first part of the Revelation, the Lord Christ is walking among His lampstands.  He is seen among His churches [Revelation 1:12-13, 2:1].  But beginning at chapter 4, there is seen a throne set in heaven, and the Lamb of God is there [Revelation 4:1-2].  Heretofore in the Revelation, up until [chapter 4], we have had God’s churches down here in this earth, in the trial and all of the weary pilgrimage of this terrestrial globe [Revelation 2:1 – 3:22].  But beginning at chapter 4, the scene of God’s people is in heaven [Revelation 4:1].  So the translation has been; the rapture has been; the resurrection has been; God’s church and God’s people are no longer in the earth [1 Thessalonians 4:14-17], but beginning at chapter 4, God’s family, and God’s church, and God’s redeemed are in heaven [Revelation 4:1-2], and they look down upon these things that are coming to pass in these days of the great and terrible and awesome tribulation [Daniel 12:1].  Those elders are referred to twelve times in the Book of the Revelation, always up there in heaven looking down upon this earth, and they are there before these things transpire in the earth.  Those [twenty-four] elders are there representing God’s redeemed family [Revelation 5:8-9].  They are there, and they follow the story of the Lamb and the book.

And when the book is opened, they rejoice and sing praises to God [Revelation 5:6-10].  That is in Revelation chapters 4 and 5 [Revelation 4:1-5:14].  In the seventh chapter of the Book of the Revelation, the elders are there watching the great accession to glory of those who are coming out of the great tribulation [Revelation 7:13-14].  In chapter 11 of the Revelation, they are there when the seventh angel sounds the trumpet and when the kingdoms of the world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ.  And they worship and praise Him who reigneth forever and ever [Revelation 11:15-17].

In Revelation chapter 14, they are in their places when the one hundred forty-four thousand come near the Lord upon Mount Zion [Revelation 14:1-3].  And in Revelation 19 they are there watching the fall of great Babylon, and they rejoice over God’s conquest of His enemies in the earth [Revelation 19:1-5].  So these people, these redeemed, the church and the family of God, they have been resurrected.  They have been snatched away; the old English word “raptured.”  They’ve been translated [1 Thessalonians 4:14-17], and now they follow the events with closest, closest interest upon all of these things that are to come to pass in the earth.

Now I’m going to speak of what happens to the church in heaven.  When God’s people are raptured; when they’re raised from the dead and immortalized; when all of us who remain and are alive at the coming of the Lord [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]; when we are changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye [1 Corinthians 15:51-52]; when God has taken us up into heaven, then what for us, and what for His people, and what for His church?

There are two things, two great events, that are going to come to pass after God’s people are taken up with the Lord into heaven [1 Thessalonians 4:17].  The first event is this: we are all going to stand at the bēma of Christ.  That will be the first thing; 2 Corinthians 5:10: “For we must all appear at the bēma of Christ”; it is translated “judgment seat.”  It is not a judgment seat in the sense that God is going to decide whether we’re lost or saved, whether our names are in the Lamb’s Book of Life or not, whether we’re going to hell or to heaven.  All of that is settled right here, right in front of this pulpit, right down there as we come face to face with Jesus.  The great judgment as to whether a man is saved or lost is in this world, it’s in your heart, it’s in your soul, and it is settled right here [John 3:16-18].

And if we are judged to be lost, it is because we have refused the overtures of the grace of God and choose to be damned [Ephesians 2:8; 2 Peter 3:9].  If we are saved, that judgment is settled here in this life [Acts 16:30-31; Romans 8:1].  We choose, we will to accept Jesus as our Savior, and we are born again in that time, in that hour, and in this life [Romans 10:9-13].  That judgment is already past for the Christian.  When he accepted Jesus, the judgment of God upon his sins fell upon our Lord [Isaiah 53:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21], upon the cross [Matthew 27:32-50], and for His sake, for the blood’s sake, for the wounds’ sake, for the Lord’s sake [Ephesians 4:32], our sins are forgiven in Christ Jesus [1 John 1:7, 9, 2:12].

But this bēma to which all of God’s children shall appear in heaven [2 Corinthians 5:10], is the kind of a thing as is built for a judge.  The word bēma actually means “step” and referred to the raised step upon which a judge took his stand as he crowned the victor.  All of God’s people, the redeemed family of the Lord, we shall appear before the bēma of Christ, and there we shall receive all of our rewards.  That’s spoken of in the fourteenth chapter of the Book of Romans [Romans 14:10].  It is spoken of in that passage I referred to in 2 Corinthians 5:10, and it is meticulously delineated in 1 Corinthians in the third chapter.  We shall all stand before the Lord Jesus Christ to receive the reward of the things done in our bodies, whether they be good or whether they be bad.  “And every man’s work shall be tried by fire, for the day,” the scrutinizing eye of God, “shall reveal it,” shall manifest it [1 Corinthians 3:11-15].

And if we have built of gold and silver and precious stones, if our works have been worthy, we shall receive a reward [1 Corinthians 3:12, 14].  But if we have been building of wood and hay and stubble, our works shall be lost, though we ourselves shall be saved as though by fire, though by the skin of our teeth; as if a man had run out of his house naked, unclothed, nothing at all, everything burned, but he himself saved [1 Corinthians 3:12-13, 15].  So it shall be at the bēma of Christ [2 Corinthians 5:10].  God has a book, and in that book He writes down the works of His people [Matthew 10:42; Hebrews 6:10], and when we stand at that judgment day before Jesus, the Lord will give us the reward of the works of our lives.

Now that bēma, that judgment seat of Christ, comes to pass at the resurrection, at the translation, at the rapture, when God’s people are taken up into heaven [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17].  Reward is always associated with resurrection and with the return of our Christ.  For example, in Luke 14:14, our Lord says, “Be good to these poor and do not try to do things by which other people recompense you: but if you do these things for those that cannot return it to you, thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just” [Luke 14:12-14].  Not now, not in this life, not at death, but “thy recompense shall be at the resurrection of the just” [Luke 14:14].

Now that is always a concomitant, a corollary, connected with the return of our Lord.  For example, Paul will say in the last chapter of the last letter that he wrote:

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown, a stephanos, a crown, a victor’s garland of righteousness, which the Lord shall give me—

When?

at that Day; and not to me only, but also unto all them that love His appearing.”

[2 Timothy 4:7-8]

 

Not at death, but at the appearing of our Lord.  That is always the sentiment and the presentation in the Word of God.  Take another passage, such as in Revelation 22:12: “Behold, behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give to every one as his work shall be.”  So our rewards are not given to us when we die.  Our rewards are given to us at the resurrection [Romans 2:5-10], at the coming of Jesus when we appear before the bēma, the judgment seat of Christ [2 Corinthians 5:10].

Now could I just pause to tell you the plain, simple reason why that is true?  Don’t have this in my sermon.  This is just a little extra for which I will charge you nothing at all.  This is free.  This is philosophizing.  This is metaphysizing.  There’s no such word.  This is just rationalization.  This is just discussion.  Why is it that your reward has to be like God’s Book says it is?  It cannot be given to you when you die.  It has to be given to you at the end of the age when Jesus comes again and we are taken up into glory [1 Thessalonians 4:14-17].  Why is it that it’s at the end of life?  Why is it that it’s at the end of the age, it’s at the end of human history, and not now?  Why?  Well, for the very simple reason that a man doesn’t die when he dies.  You keep on.  Yes, you do.  I see some of you here this morning in whose lives, and in whose faces, and in whose very tone of voice, and the way you walk, and the gesture of your hand, I see your parents in you, and your parents have been dead and been in glory for years and years.  And yet you talk like them, and you speak like them, and you think like them.  They are still living in you.

And the shadow of your life and the influence of your life goes on, and on, and on, and on after we are dead.  And at the great end time, I cannot do it, but Almighty God, at the great end time, Almighty God will take the skein of the influence of your life, and He will unravel it and He will follow it through all of the years and all of the ages.  And if your influence has been bad, that will be unraveled, and if your influence has been good, that will be unraveled.  And it becomes your reward at the end; couldn’t be now, but at the end.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to win somebody to Jesus, and that somebody won somebody else to Jesus, and that somebody won somebody else to Jesus, and it just kept on going through the years?  Think of the reward of a man like the apostle Paul.  Think of the reward of a man like the sainted disciple John.  Think of the reward of these great men of God, like Spurgeon.  Think of the reward of Dr. Truett.  Oh, oh!  Think of how much God shall gather up when He unravels all the skeins of life and gives them what they have wrought in life and beyond death.

And wouldn’t you hate to be an infidel, like Tom Paine and Voltaire?  And wouldn’t you hate to be men who sold liquor, who broke up homes, and who orphaned children?  And wouldn’t you hate to be men who sowed seeds of hatred and enmity?  And can you imagine the awful reward of these men who have declared war and who have destroyed whole families, and nations, and people?  Oh, oh, oh!  Lord, save us, and deliver us, and help our lives to be beautiful and good.  And upon whomsoever our shadow may fall, that God shall bless it and sanctify it in His name.

That’s why you receive your reward at the end of the age, just as it says in the Bible.  We shall stand before the bēma, the judgment seat of Christ [2 Corinthians 5:10].  That’s the first thing.  That’s the first great event.

Now the second great event for the church, for the people of God, when we come to be in His presence in glory, the second great event is this: it is the marriage and the marriage supper of the Lamb.  In the nineteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation:

Let us be glad and rejoice . . . for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready.

And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: and the fine linen is the righteousnesses, the good deeds, the works, of the saints.

And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.  And he said unto me, These are the true sayings of God.

[Revelation 19:7-9]

Now I need an hour for this, but next Sunday I want to keep on going.  I have bogged down.  I’ve been months now in this first three verses of the fourth chapter of the Revelation [Revelation 4:1-3], and so we’re just going on.  Now I’m going to sum up here just as rapidly as I can, and you listen to me real carefully.  I’m going to try to sum up now this marriage and the marriage supper of the Lamb; the second great, marvelous event that is going to come to pass when we go up to be with Jesus in glory.

All right, first:  “The marriage is come; His wife hath made herself ready.  And she, and it was given to her, it was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white:  for the fine linen is the righteousnesses of the saints” [Revelation 19:7-8].  Now, that is the bēma of the Lord Jesus.  When we stand before Him, the Lord is going to give us the rewards of our deeds [2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Corinthians 3:11-15].  And these dikaiomata, plural, the God kind of righteousness, is when we’re saved [Romans 4:3-5], and we’re washed in the blood of the Lamb [Revelation 1:5; 1 John 1:7].  These “righteousnesses,” plural, are the rewards for our deeds [Revelation 19:8]. And the Lord bedecks us, and the Lord rewards us, and the Lord glorifies us in these beautiful garments that He shall give us as He prepares His bride for the marriage [Revelation 19:8].  Oh, that we had hours on this!

That scarlet whore, that false church arrayed in all kinds of glorious colors, well, you can go look at her today; got gold chains, got all kinds of flowing robes, just like it says here in the Book of the Revelation [Revelation 17:4].  But His bride is dressed in what?  Dressed in pure white [Revelation 19:8].

You know, I just can’t help but mention this.  When I was in Hong Kong, Dr. Lam, a very, very, very wealthy Chinese merchantman who heads our Baptist school work over there, does it for nothing, a layman, he had a Chinese feast for me in his home.  And I want to describe that woman to you, Mrs. Lam.  When I went there I just never saw anything like that.  She had on a white, pure white, silk Chinese dress; you know how they’re made, with the collar here and down flowing.  And it was dazzling white all the way.  And right here where that little Chinese band of a collar comes together, she had the most beautiful green jade pin, and right in it, a beautiful, scintillating diamond.  And that was the only piece of color, was that beautiful green jade pin right there with that diamond in it, and that beautiful white, white dress.  And as I looked at her, I thought, “Why in the world don’t all women dress like that?”  And so I asked a woman one time about it, and she said, “Simply because I don’t have the money to buy that expensive jade pin with the big diamond in the middle of it.”  Oh, it was effective and beautiful!

That’s God’s bride as He prepares her at the bēma of Christ.  Now “the marriage of the Lamb, aothen”—I wish the Bible describes it, but it doesn’t.  When we come to the time of our Lord’s return in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation [Revelation 19:11-16], the wedding has already taken place, and it is never described.  It’s just referred to.  The wife is made ready [Revelation 19:7-8].  All of these old bad things in our lives are going to be taken away, and we’re going to be purified and sanctified, and we’re going to be given these beautiful bridal gowns.  She’s ready.

And then—now look, for this is the conclusion of my sermon on the four and twenty elders [Revelation 4:4, 5:8-9].  Now this is your pastor’s interpretation, and everybody has his own.  Now this is mine.  The last time the four and twenty elders in that term are referred to is in the nineteenth chapter of the Revelation and verse 4; the four and twenty elders [Revelation 19:4].  They first appear, the four and twenty elders, in the fourth chapter of the Revelation when they are seen in heaven at the resurrection [Revelation 4:4, 10-11], at the rapture, at the redemption of God’s people; they’re up there in heaven in chapter 4 of the Revelation.  Now the last time they are referred to is in chapter 19, at this passage that I’m referring to, at the marriage of the Lamb, and then at the coming of Christ with His saints [Revelation 19:4-16].  Now what I think happens is this.  At the nineteenth chapter of the Revelation, at the close of that time and on the eve of Christ’s coming into the world, at that time, at the marriage of the Lamb [Revelation 19:7-9], each one of these orders in heaven take their place in the economy of God and in their relationship to the Lamb, and the elders divide.

One half of those twenty-four elders represent us.  They are we, the church, the bride of Christ, and the other half of those elders represent the guests, the Old Testament saints at the marriage supper of the Lamb [Revelation 19:9].  For the passage makes a very clear and distinct delineation between the bride of Christ and the guests at the marriage supper of the Lamb [Revelation 19:7, 9].

Now the bride of Christ is His church.  That’s the reason I had you read that passage in Ephesians 5 [Ephesians 5:22-32].  The bride of Christ is His church [Ephesians 5:25; Revelation 19:7-8], those who have been saved in this age of grace, between Pentecost [Acts 2:1-4], and the rapture, the taking up of God’s people into heaven [1 Thessalonians 4:15-17].  They are peculiarly and particularly loved, the bride of Christ, His church, His body [Ephesians 1:22-23, 5:25].  They are married to the Lamb [Revelation 19:7-8].  Now, the guests are those who are invited to the marriage supper [Revelation 19:9].  In no sense is Israel or a remnant of Israel the bride.  The bride is His church, His people [Revelation 19:7-8].  Now there are common blessings for all believers, but there are peculiar and particular blessings for His church, His people [Ephesians 1:3-23].

John said, the Baptist, John said, “He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice:  this my joy therefore is fulfilled” [John 3:29].  And Jesus said, “Of those who are born of women, none is greater than John the Baptist; but the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” [Matthew 11:11].  That is, John died, John was martyred before the church was formed, and he belonged to the old dispensation [Matthew 14:1-11].  So He says the least of us who are in the church, a bride of Christ, is greater than the greatest of the Old Testament saints born of woman [Matthew 11:11].

Now lest you might think that God had forgotten to remember them especially, He said to the seer, “Write,” and that’s always a mark of importance, “Write, write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb [Revelation 19:9].  Blessed are these guests.”  The blessedness of the bride is that she is married to the Lamb [Revelation 19:7].  And the blessedness of the guests who are invited is especially written of God in the book [Revelation 19:9].

And I can imagine them.  John the Baptist, maybe he will be the chief guest, John the Baptist.  “Of those born of woman, none greater than John” [Matthew 11:11]; he doesn’t belong to the church.  He’s not a member of the body of Christ.  He’s not a part of the bride [Revelation 19:7-8].  We are that.  But as the guests come in, maybe the most honored and the greatest will be John the Baptist [Revelation 19:9, 29, 19:7].

“Rejoicing,” He says, “in the Bridegroom’s voice” [John 3:29], and looking upon the bride of Christ, His church [Revelation 19:7-8].  And then will come in the guests: “Abraham, who rejoiced to see His day, and he saw it and was glad” [John 8:56], and there he rejoices at the marriage supper of the Lamb, and Isaiah comes, and David, the guests at the marriage supper of the Lamb [Revelation 19:9].  Oh, what things, what amazing things does God write in His Book!

Now we’re going to sing one stanza, one stanza; somebody give his heart to Jesus [Romans 10:9-10], somebody put his life with us in the fellowship of the church, or a family, on the first note of the first stanza, you come and stand by me, while we stand and while we sing.

THE FOUR AND TWENTY ELDERS

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Revelation 4:1-11

2-11-62

I.          Introduction

A.  Vision opens with a throne set in heaven – central, conspicuous, exalted

1.  Thronos – “throne”, the exalted throne of the Lord God Almighty

B. In wide circle around central thronewere 24 lesser thrones, on which were seated 24 elders

1.  Thronoi – “thrones”, translated here “seats”

II.         Seated on these thrones, the four and twenty elders

A. They are not spirits – clothed, crowned and seated

B.  They are not angels – do not belong to an angelic order

1. They are listed separately from angels (Revelation 5:11)

2. Angels are never numbered (Hebrews 12:22)

3. Angels are never crowned

4.  These sing “thou hast redeemed us” – they were redeemed sinners (Revelation 5:9)

C. They are the resurrected, redeemed of mankind – God’s saints

1. Seated on thrones as God’s royal counselors and co-laborers

2. Wear the victor’s crown

3. Human beings redeemed out of every tribe, people, nation(Revelation 5:9)

4. 24 in number – the 12 patriarchs of Israel and the 12 apostles of the Lamb

a. In the New Jerusalem – 12 gates are the names of the 12 tribes, the 12 foundations are the 12 apostles(Revelation 21:12, 14)

b. Some of these Old Testament saints have already been raised from the dead or have been translated – both presented together(Matthew 27:52-53, Hebrews 12:12-13)

5.  24 in number – descriptive symbol of the all-inclusiveness of God’s people

a. Levitical priesthood divided into 24 courses – God’s people a holy and a royal priesthood(1 Chronicles 24, 25, 1 Peter 2:5, 9)

III.        The translated, raptured church in heaven

A.  At Revelation 4, the whole situation changes

1.  Not the Lord in the midst of the lampstands on earth, but the throne set up in heaven

2. Not the church in the history of the world, but the saints in heaven

3.  Church not seen on earth again until accompanying the Lord out of heaven in Revelation 19

B. Resurrected, translated, they are in heaven when these events of the tribulation take place

1.  Watch the Lamb take the sealed book to open it(Revelation 4, 5)

2.  In their place in heaven when the accession of the multitude out of the great tribulation come in(Revelation 7:11, 13)

3.  In their places at the sound of the last trumpet(Revelation 11:16)

4. In their places when 144,000 gathered unto the Lord(Revelation 14:3)

5. They are spectators of the judgment upon the great Babylon, singing hallelujah as they see it fall(Revelation 19:4)

IV.       God’s redeemed in heaven – two events for the church following the rapture

A.  All stand before the bema, the judgment seat of Christ(2 Corinthians 5:10,1 Corinthians 3:9-15)

1. Reward is associated with the resurrection and return of our Lord(Luke 14:12-14, 2 Timothy 4:7-8, Revelation 22:12)

B.  The marriage of the Lamb(Revelation 19:7-9)

1. We shall pass from the bema with the rewards into the presence of the Lamb as His bride

2. Marriage supper – guests are invited

a. The 24 elders the mystic representation of the redeemed – divide, the 12 representing church are married to the Lamb, the 12 representing the saints of the old dispensation are the guests (Revelation 19:9, Luke 7:28, John 3:29, 8:56)