II. THE THRONE
A. Revelation 4:2
"Immediately I was in spirit; and behold, there was a throne set in heaven, and upon the throne there was One sitting."
John’s spirit was raptured, not his body. "Behold, there was a throne set in heaven." The throne is the center of this book; it is also the center of everything. Hence, the throne which is seen first is the place out from which all the following events come forth. This throne differs from the throne mentioned in the epistles. Hebrews 4 touches upon the aspect of God’s grace—the throne of grace. Revelation 4:2 touches upon the aspect of God’s righteousness—the throne of judgment. "And upon the throne there was One sitting." This One is God.
B. Revelation 4:3
"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."
"Jasper" is best translated as "diamond." Of all physical matter, a diamond resembles the color of light the most. No one can break it. Everyone treasures it. Its structure is the result of the transformation of coal. Its light is like the light of the gospel, which brings people from darkness into the realm of light.
"Sardius" is the most perfect red and signifies God’s redemption because blood is red. The significance of these two items is their colors. One signifies the light of the gospel; the other signifies the redemption accomplished by God through the Lord Jesus.
"And there was a rainbow around the throne like an emerald in appearance." The rainbow ordinarily seen on earth is shaped like an arc, but the rainbow here surrounds the throne. The rainbow is the sign of God’s covenant with Noah. From this we can see that God is a covenant-making God (Gen. 9:12-16) as well as a covenant-keeping God. God is going to execute His judgment soon; nevertheless, He continues to keep His covenant and remember His promises and grace. "Emerald" green is a grass green; it is the basic color of the earth. This means that during God’s judgment, He has grace and remembrance toward the earth. After the earth has passed through judgment, the color green still remains (Gen. 8:11).
III. THE TWENTY-FOUR ELDERS
"And around the throne there were twenty-four thrones, and upon the thrones twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and upon their heads golden crowns."
The common interpretation of Bible expositors is that the twenty-four elders refer to the entire glorified church, but their assertion does not have sufficient proof. Recently, some quoted Revelation 4:4 and said that these elders have thrones and, therefore, are kings. They also said that in 5:8 the elders have harps and bowls full of incense and, therefore, are also priests. Furthermore, 1 Peter 2:9 says that the believers are a royal priesthood. Since these twenty-four elders are kings and priests, Bible expositors reason that these elders represent the glorified church.
According to this kind of interpretation, however, the whole church would be raptured all at once and would not have to pass through the tribulation. Is not this against the spirit of this book? Then how about Revelation 3:10? There are still another ten major reasons that are sufficient to prove that the twenty-four elders are not the glorified church.
(1) The term elder is not the same as the term church. If the elders here refer to the church, would not that make the whole church elders? According to historical fact, God first selected the angels (Isa. 14:12; Ezek. 28:11-19); second, the Jews (Gen. 12:1-3); and third, the church (the church was established in Acts 2). The church cannot be considered as the elders, and neither can the Jews. (Ephesians 1:4 speaks of selection according to God’s eternal purpose. The chosen angels in 1 Timothy 5:21, however, are another matter.)
(2) The number of the elders is not the number of the church. The number of the church is seven, or at least a multiple of seven. If the elders are the church, their number should be either seven or a multiple of seven. The number twenty-four is neither the number seven nor its multiple.
(3) The church cannot receive the throne and the crown before the Lord Jesus does. The One who sits on the throne in Revelation 4:2 is the Father God (the Lamb in 5:6 is standing). First, in 4:4 there is "the throne," and then there is the word "sitting." In the original text, "sitting" is the same word as "the throne"; therefore, it should also be translated "throne." These twenty-four elders who sit on the thrones also wear golden crowns. If we say that they are the church, why is it that the church sits, but the Lamb stands? In 5:6 the church is already crowned; hence, why does the Lord Jesus have to wait until chapter twenty to be King? How can the church receive glory sooner than the Lord? Besides, after Revelation 19:4 we cannot find any trace of the twenty-four elders. If we say that these elders represent the church, where has this glorious church gone?
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 16: Study on Revelation, Chapter 4, by Watchman Nee)