Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Saints of God around God's throne

Revelation 4:4 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.

As we continue our tour of Heaven, we once again are observing the activity around the throne of God.  One of the marks of God's way of revealing truth in scripture is through what is termed "progressive revelation".  Simply put, God will reveal a truth or concept in general, and then bring that truth into sharper focus as one proceeds into the scriptures.  In today's blog we want to understand this important truth of God's people and their place in the Heavenly reality described by the Apostle John here in Revelation. 

How to begin identifying God's people around his Throne
The people in the above passage are given a title - the 24 elders.  Much ink has been spilt over who or what they represent in this chapter.  A combination of two views has helped me understand the place and role these 24 elders serve in the decidedly God-centered reality of Heaven.  Today we will attempt to identify them, since they provide the basis for understanding the role and activities of God's saints in Heaven - both now and into eternity.

God's people will serve Him around the throne
Unlike the popular ideas we have today of people floating on clouds in Heaven, doing absolutely nothing, the Bible portrays Heaven as a place of activity and excitement.  Identifying who the 24 elders are in Revelation 4 helps us to understand what believers can look forward to in Heaven.

As a Jewish writer, the Apostle John would had been very familiar with the writings of the Old Testament.  1 Chronicles 27 records the number of priests that served in the temple - the place of worship of the God of the Bible - during the reign of King David.  In that chapter, we discover that 24 sets of one thousand priests took their turn, performing their duties in the temple.  Many commentators through the history of the church have made the connection between that historical event and to what John is referring to here.  Christians in 1 Peter 2 are described as a "royal priesthood" and a "kingdom of priests".  So without a doubt, it would appear that these 24 elders provide a picture of the saints of God gathered around the throne.

The saints of God retain their individual, as well as corporate identies
But there is also a second view point which I believe also is valid enough in helping identify these 24 elders.  Many have taught that twelve of them are in reference to the twelve sons of Jacob - who were the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel in the Old Testament.  The remaining twelve might very well be the twelve apostles of Christ in the New Testament.  Scripture certainly confirms this idea.  Jesus discusses about the time when many will come and share at a table of a feast along with Abraham in the coming Kingdom.  Certainly the scripture throughout pictures the saints of God seated at a table with the Messiah in the coming age.  Thus what we have are 24 literal men who also represent what the saints of all ages will be doing around the throne. 

Having identified who the 24 elders most likely are, we will aim in tomorrow's blog to look a little more closely at what God's people can expect to be doing as they enjoy the glory of their God and King both before them and shining through them.