Arlen L. Chitwood
Crowns before the Throne
After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things that must take place after this [after these things].”
And immediately I was [I became] in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.
Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads.
the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:
“You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.” (Revelation 4:1, 2, 4, 10, 11)
Immediately following events surrounding the judgment seat, attention is again called to that previously seen in Revelation 1:10 — John being removed from Man’s Day and placed in the Lord’s Day, depicting the Church being removed from Man’s Day and placed in the Lord’s Day. And calling attention to the same event again at this point in the book would show the dispensational nature of the removal of the Church — a removal occurring at the end of the dispensation (at the end of chapter three, viewing chapters two and three within a historical framework, depicting a history of the Church throughout the dispensation).
But, with events surrounding the judgment seat already having been dealt with (in chapters 1-3), John is now shown subsequent events. In this chapter, John is shown events that will occur immediately following those surrounding the judgment seat and the revelation of the bride; and these subsequent events will occur preceding the beginning of the Tribulation (6:1ff).
The Heavenly Scene
Immediately after attention has been called to the same event seen in Revelation 1:10 (Revelation 4:1, 2a), John, rather than seeing a judgmental scene (as in chapter 1), now sees a rainbow encircled throne, with God seated on the throne (vv. 2b, 3). And surrounding this throne, John sees twenty-four other thrones and twenty-four crowned “elders” seated on these thrones (v. 4).
Then John begins to describe various things about God’s throne, which he both sees and hears — “lightnings,” “thunderings,” and “voices” coming out of the throne, and “lamps of fire burning before the throne” (v. 5). And “in the midst of the throne, and around the throne” John sees four living creatures who “do not rest day or night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come”; and these living creatures “give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever” (vv. 6-9).
Then the scene returns to the twenty-four elders, who rise from their thrones, fall down before God, worship Him, cast their crowns before His throne, and express adoration to the One worthy “to receive glory and honor and power” (vv. 10, 11).
If an apex is to be found in the book of Revelation, aside from Christ’s return in chapter nineteen, the action of these twenty-four elders would have to be considered. Their action — relinquishing their crowns to the One who originally placed them in the positions that they occupy — is significant beyond degree in relation to the central message of this book.
Crowns, Regality, Government
“Crowns” have to do with regality, and the government of the earth is in view throughout the book of Revelation. At this point in the book, the judgment of Christians, with a view to regality, will have just occurred; and, with a view to this same regality, Christ, following this, is seen as the One about to redeem the forfeited inheritance by taking the seven-sealed scroll from God’s right hand and breaking the seals (chapter 5).
Angels have ruled over the earth since time immemorial — since that time when God established the government of the earth in the beginning. Angels will still be exercising this same rule over the earth following the judgment of Christians, at this point in the book. And angels will continue ruling until Christ and His co-heirs (forming His bride) take the kingdom, following Christ’s return to the earth (Hebrews 2:5).
Accordingly, neither Christ nor Christians will receive the crowns that they are to wear during the Messianic Era until after Christ returns to the earth at the end of the Tribulation. The crown that Christ will wear during this time is presently being worn by Satan, as he continues to exercise power over the earth. And the crowns that Christians will wear in that day are presently being worn by two segments of angels — the angels presently ruling with Satan, and the angels who refused to follow Satan when he sought to exalt his throne.
When Satan sought to exalt his throne — following his being placed over the earth, with a large contingent of angels ruling the earth with him — only one-third of these angels followed Satan in his defiance of God’s supreme authority, with the other two-thirds refusing to follow him (cf. Isaiah 14:12-14; Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:3, 4). And though the angels who did not follow Satan did not continue ruling with him, they could not immediately relinquish their appointed positions. Rather, they had to retain their positions, remaining crowned, for a time.
A principle of biblical government necessitates that an incumbent ruler retain his crown until the one replacing him is not only on the scene but ready to ascend the throne. Only then can an incumbent ruler relinquish his crown.
(For example, note the account of Saul and David, forming a type. Saul, though disqualified, retained his crown and continued to reign until David was not only present but ready to ascend the throne. Then, Saul’s crown was taken, given to David, and David [along with certain faithful men] ascended the throne and reigned in the stead of Saul and those who had ruled with him [1, 2 Samuel].
And it will be exactly the same in the antitype. Satan, though disqualified, will retain his crown and continue to reign until Christ is not only present but ready to ascend the throne. Then, Satan’s crown will be taken, given to Christ, and Christ [along with certain faithful individuals] will ascend the throne and reign in the stead of Satan and those who had ruled with him [Revelation 19:11-20:6].)
This same established principle must prevail relative to the angels refusing to follow Satan in his attempt to exalt his throne. They must retain their crowns until those who are to replace them, those who are to wear these crowns, are not only on the scene but ready to ascend the throne.
These relinquished crowns though will be worn only after Christ returns to the earth at the end of the Tribulation, overthrows Satan and his angels, and forcibly takes their crowns. Only then will Christ be in possession of all the crowns that He and His bride are destined to wear as they ascend the throne and rule the earth.
Thus, with the introduction of crowns cast before God’s throne in Revelation 4:10, 11, only one group of individuals could possibly be in view (if one remains within context and keeps in mind the earth’s government in both history and prophecy). These twenty-four elders can only represent angelic rulers. Angels alone will possess crowns in relation to the government of the earth at this time.
(Some Bible students, on the basis of the pronouns used in Revelation 5:9, 10 — “us” and “we” [KJV] — have understood the twenty-four elders to represent redeemed men, not angels. However, the majority of the better Greek manuscripts omit the pronoun in v. 9 and render the pronouns in v. 10 as “them” and “they” [ref. ASV, NASB, NIV, Wuest, Weymouth].
But the matter is really not left to manuscript evidence alone. That the pronouns “them” and “they” are correct is evident from the context. Note that the song in vv. 9, 10 is apparently sung not only by the “twenty-four elders” but also by the “four living creatures” as well. Then, other angels join them in vv. 11ff, with all of the angels together voicing additional, related statements.)
And at this point in the book, through the action of the twenty-four elders casting their crowns before God’s throne, the way will be opened for God to transfer the government of the earth from the hands of angels to the hands of man.
(These crowns are cast before God’s throne [cf. 4:1-4; 5:1-7] because the Father alone is the One who places and/or removes rulers in His kingdom [Daniel 4:17-37; 5:18-21]. He alone is the One who placed those represented by the twenty-four elders in the positions that they occupied; and He alone is the One who will place individuals in particular positions in the kingdom of Christ [Matthew 20:20-23].
These crowns cast before God’s throne, as previously seen, can only have to do with the government of the earth. And, at this point in the book, they can be worn by angels alone. The Son will not yet have taken the kingdom, though the Father will have previously delivered it into His hands [cf. Daniel 7:13, 14; Luke 19:15; Revelation 11:15; 19:11ff]. These crowns are relinquished to God — with a view to man ruling in the kingdom — so that God can appoint those who had previously been shown qualified at events surrounding the judgment seat [chapters 1-3] to positions of power and authority; and those whom God appoints will wear these crowns in Christ’s kingdom.)
The transfer of the government of the earth, from the hands of angels to the hands of man, in reality, is what the first nineteen chapters of the book of Revelation are about; and, as well, this is what the whole of Scripture preceding these nineteen chapters is also about. In this respect, these twenty-four elders casting their crowns before God’s throne forms a key event that one must grasp if he would properly understand the book of Revelation and Scripture as a whole.
Christ and His bride, in that coming day, will rule the earth in the stead of Satan and his angels. And, in the process of ruling in this manner, they will wear all the crowns worn by Satan and his angels prior to his fall.
Action of the Elders
Thus, that which is depicted through the action of the twenty-four elders in Revelation 4:10, 11 is contextually self-explanatory. This has to do with the government of the earth, it occurs at a time following events surrounding the judgment seat but preceding Christ breaking the seals of the seven-sealed scroll, and it occurs at a time when Satan’s reign is about to be brought to a close.
(Note a parallel between the position and reaction of the ten elders in Ruth 4:9-12 and the twenty-four elders in Revelation 5:8-12 as it pertains to the redemption of the inheritance in both the type and the antitype, which will help to further clarify matters in the book of Revelation. And this may also shed light upon why this particular group of angels is referred to in the book of Revelation through the use of the word “elders” — seemingly to further complete the type, identifying these individuals in the corresponding antitype in the same manner as seen in the type.
The word for “elder” used in the Hebrew text of the book of Ruth is zaqen, and the word used in the Greek text of the book of Revelation is presbuteros. One word is a corresponding word for the other in these two languages, with “elder” being a good English translation of either. The translators of the Septuagint [Greek translation of the Old Testament] used the word presbuteros to translate zaqen in Ruth chapter four.
Both groups of elders are seen as witnesses to that being done; both groups recognize the rights of the individuals [Boaz, Christ] to act in the capacity of Redeemer; both groups recognize that fame, wealth, and honor and/or power is connected with this redemption; and both groups recognize that a wife has been/will be purchased through this redemptive process [in the antitype, it is those to whom attention is called in Revelation 5:9, 10, revealed as the wife of the Lamb in Revelation 19:7-9, who will reign with the Son as consort queen].)
After events in Revelation chapters one through three have come to pass, for the first time in man’s history, the person (the bride) who is to rule with the One who will replace Satan (Christ) and who will have been made known and shown forth. And events in the fourth chapter reflect that fact.
Only one thing could possibly be in view at this point in the book, for the bride will not only have been made known but will be ready for events surrounding the transfer of power to begin. The twenty-four elders casting their crowns before God’s throne can only depict the angels who did not go along with Satan in his rebellion relinquishing their crowns, with a view to those comprising the bride wearing these crowns during the Messianic Era.
But the crowns worn by Satan and those angels presently ruling with him are another matter. These crowns will have to be taken from Satan and his angels by force when Christ returns to overthrow Gentile world power at the end of the Tribulation (a power exercised during Man’s Day under Satan and his angels [Daniel 10:13-20]).
(The fact that angels represented by the twenty-four elders are not presently ruling with Satan can be shown not only by their present position — in God’s presence, in heaven — but by the Greek word that is used for the type of crown that they are seen wearing.
There are two words in the Greek text for “crown” — stephanos and diadema. Comparing Scripture with Scripture, with regality in view, one major distinction stands out concerning how these two words are used. Diadema refers to the type crown worn by a monarch, one presently exercising regal power. Stephanos, on the other hand, is used in an opposite sense. It is used to show someone crowned but not presently exercising regal power.
For example, the crown seen on Christ’s head in Revelation 14:14, preceding His reign, is referred to by the word stephanos in the Greek text. A crown on Christ’s head at this time could only anticipate His impending reign. Then, when Christ returns to the earth to take the kingdom, He will have many crowns upon His head; and the Greek text uses diadema rather than stephanos to refer to these crowns, for Christ will be returning as “King of kings, and Lord of lords” [Revelation 19:12, 16].
The twenty-four elders in chapter four cast crowns referred to as stephanos before the throne, indicating that, though crowned, these elders were not exercising regal positions. And the many crowns that Christ will have on His head at the time of His return are undoubtedly these same crowns (Revelation 19:12). But, anticipating that day when Christ reigns, the book of Revelation uses the word diadema to refer to these crowns, for Christ will be exercising a regal position, with Satan about to be overthrown.
The crowns on Christ’s head at this time though will not be worn by Christ when He rules the earth, for He is to wear the crown presently worn by Satan [the incumbent ruler] in that day. Rather, these crowns will be given to those forming the bride [whom the Father will previously have appointed to various positions of power and authority with His Son]; and this will occur following that time when the remainder of the crowns having to do with the earth’s government are forcibly taken from Satan and his angels.
Refer to the author’s books, Judgment Seat of Christ, chapter 12 [reprint edition], and Esther, Appendix, for additional details concerning the use of the words stephanos and diadema in the New Testament)
The identity of the twenty-four elders is shown not only by their actions and the place in which this occurs in the book but also by their number. Comparing Revelation chapters four and twelve (4:4, 10, 11; 12:3, 4), it appears evident that the government of the earth — originally established by God prior to Satan’s fall — was representatively shown by three sets of twelve, thirty-six crowned rulers. “Three” is the number of divine perfection, and “twelve” is the number of governmental perfection.
Those angels who did not follow Satan in his attempt to exalt his throne would be represented by the twenty-four elders — two sets of twelve, showing two-thirds of the original contingent of angels ruling with Satan. And the angels who did go along with Satan, presently ruling with him, would be represented by a third set of twelve, showing the other one-third of the original contingent of angels ruling with Satan (Revelation 12:3, 4).
In this respect, these three representative sets of twelve would show divine perfection in the earth’s government. And also in this respect, this same perfection in the structure of the earth’s government has not existed since Satan’s attempt to exalt his throne.
But, this structured perfection will one day again exist in the earth’s government. When Christ and His bride ascend the throne together, crowns worn by those represented by all three sets of twelve will be brought together again. Then, divine perfection will once again exist in the government of the one province in God’s universe where imperfection has existed for millennia.
(Note Christ’s statement in Matthew 26:53 in the preceding respect, in the light of conditions that existed at that time [and continue to exist today]. Christ, immediately preceding His crucifixion said,
Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?
With the One destined to replace Satan as the earth’s ruler being crucified, and the incumbent ruler’s power represented by only one set of twelve at that time [a representative group, signifying a much larger group — a group that could be viewed as twelve legions, with “legion” used in the sense of an indefinitely large number, as “myriad”], the reference to “twelve legions of angels” by Christ could only have reflected on existing conditions. That is, Satan commanded twelve legions of angels at this time [thirty-six legions prior to his fall], and Christ called attention to the fact that if He and His Father wanted to change the course of events that were about to occur, the Father could place more than twelve legions of angels under His Son’s command [a greater number than existed under the incumbent ruler’s command].
However, this was not the time for that to occur. Matters would be put on hold for two millennia, during which time the events surrounding Calvary would be brought to pass; and, following these events, an entirely new dispensation would be brought into existence, during which time the Spirit would be sent into the world to call out a bride for God’s Son. Only after the Spirit had completed His work in this respect could that which is seen in Revelation 12:4, 7ff occur — Michael and his angels going forth to fight against Satan and his angels, resulting in Satan and his angels being cast out of the heavens, making way for Christ and His co-heirs to occupy this heavenly realm.
Then, following revealed accompanying events, that seen in Revelation 11:15 could then occur:
And the seventh angel sounded; and there followed great voices in heaven, and they said, “The kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ: and He shall reign forever and ever.” [ASV]
The Complete Old Testament Word Picture Depicting the Rapture
The complete Old Testament word picture pertaining to the removal of Christians at the end of the present dispensation, commonly called “the rapture,” encompasses a number of types. It begins with the account of “Enoch” being removed from the earth preceding the Flood (Genesis 5-8) and progresses from that point through other types such as the accounts of “Lot and his family” (Lot, his wife, and his two virgin daughters) being removed from Sodom preceding the destruction of the cities of the plain (Genesis 18, 19), “Rebekah” being removed from Mesopotamia following the search for and procurement of the bride for Isaac but preceding Abraham’s remarriage (Genesis 24, 25), and “Ruth” appearing on Boaz’s threshing floor, followed by the redemption of the inheritance (Ruth 3, 4). Each type presents a different facet of the matter, showing a different part of the complete Old Testament word picture, with the complete picture being seen only through viewing all of the types on the subject together, comparing Scripture with Scripture in this respect.
In the type dealing with Enoch in Genesis chapter five, the genealogy in this chapter moves through ten generations — from Adam to Noah. Within this genealogy, Enoch was the seventh from Adam, and Noah the tenth. “Seven” and “ten” are two of several numbers used in Scripture to show completeness, with each showing a different aspect of completeness. “Seven” shows the completeness of that which is in view, and “ten” shows numerical completeness. In each case, at the completion of each of the two sets of generations — seven generations extending to Enoch, and ten generations extending to Noah — divine intervention into the affairs of man is seen.
At a terminal point in the first set of generations, a man was removed from the earth alive; then, at a terminal point in the second set of generations, a man (along with his family) passed safely through a time of destruction, with the remainder of the world perishing during this time.
That to which this introductory, overall type points (the antitype) is simple and easy to see, though this type only presents particular facets of the complete picture. “Enoch” being removed from the earth preceding the Flood typifies Christians being removed from the earth preceding the coming Tribulation; and “Noah” passing safely through the Flood typifies Israel passing safely through the coming Tribulation, with Gentile world power, in the end, destroyed (cf. Luke 17:26, 27, 30).
The things seen in Genesis 5-8 form a foundational type upon which all subsequent Scripture dealing with the subject must rest (similar to Genesis 1:1-2:3 forming a foundational framework upon which all subsequent Scripture rests). And, in complete accord with that established in this foundational type, the things foreshadowed by events in the type will occur in the antitype when matters have been brought to completion relative to both the Church and Israel.
The Church at this time, typified by “Enoch,” the seventh from Adam, will be removed; and Israel at this time, typified by “Noah,” the tenth from Adam, will pass safely through the worldwide destruction that will follow the Church’s removal. At a future time, God will intervene in the affairs of man once again, supernaturally bringing matters foreshadowed by events in this type to pass.
This is the first part of the picture presented in Scripture. Then, from here, to complete the picture, an individual has to move to subsequent types dealing with the subject. Each subsequent type presents a different facet of the picture and further adds to that which, in the end, sets forth a complete word picture, given to shed light upon and help explain the antitype.
Lot and his family were removed prior to the destruction of the cities of the plain in Genesis 18, 19; and in Genesis 24, Rebekah was removed following a successful search for a bride for Isaac (a search and removal that followed Sarah’s death [chapter 23] but preceded Abraham again taking a wife [chapter 25]).
The first type clearly reveals Christians being removed prior to the destruction of Gentile world power (cf. Luke 17:28-30), and the second type clearly reveals Christians being removed prior to God’s restoration of Israel (cf. Romans 11:25, 26).
Some students of the Word, going no farther than this in the types — working from an incomplete word picture — have concluded that the Church is destined to pass through most or all of the Tribulation. They look upon the future destruction depicted by the Flood and the destruction of the cities of the plain as foreshadowing a destruction occurring at or near the end of the Tribulation. And, understanding matters in this respect, they look upon Enoch’s removal preceding the Flood and Lot and his family’s removal preceding the destruction of the cities of the plain as typifying Christians being removed at or near the end of the Tribulation, preceding a destruction occurring at this time. Then, the antitype of Rebekah’s removal preceding God’s restoration of Israel in Genesis 24, 25 would be understood in a similar sense, for God will not actually restore Israel until the Tribulation has run its course.
However, when the typology from the book of Ruth is added to the word picture — showing Ruth appearing on Boaz’s threshing floor prior to the redemption of the inheritance — viewing this type in the light of the antitype (1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:10; Revelation 1:10ff), additional light is cast upon particularly the timing of events shown by the previous types. And this additional light — a vital and necessary part of the complete word picture — will show, beyond question, that any interpretative ideology that uses the previous types to teach that the Church will go through any part of the Tribulation is erroneous.
The type in the book of Ruth and the antitype in the book of Revelation clearly show exactly the same chronology — the Church appearing on Christ’s threshing floor (at His judgment seat) prior to the redemption of the inheritance (a redemption that, in the book of Revelation, can only have to do with all of the judgments occurring throughout the seven-year Tribulation, not with just those occurring at or near the end).
And it should go without saying that harmony must exist in the chronology of events seen in the types in the books of Genesis and Ruth. The chronology of events seen in these types must be in complete agreement with one another, along with that seen in the antitype in the New Testament — an agreement that will show the Church being removed preceding any part of the Tribulation, necessitating the whole of the Tribulation being in view through the destruction depicted by events during both Noah’s and Lot’s day. In this respect, Enoch’s and Lot’s removal, preceding respective destructions during their day, foreshadows the removal of Christians preceding the coming Tribulation.
And, along with the preceding, viewing matters from the standpoint of the complete word picture, along with the antitype, this removal must be seen as one that will include all Christians, faithful and unfaithful alike (e.g., not only those having walked with God, as Enoch, but also those having involved themselves in the affairs of the world, as Lot).
Scripture plainly states,
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
Knowing therefore, the terror of the Lord [Where? Note the context. This terror occurs at the judgment seat (cf. Hebrews 10:30, 31)], we persuade men . . . . (2 Corinthians 5:10, 11a).
The division of Christians relative to matters surrounding faithfulness or unfaithfulness, according to Scripture, occurs at the judgment seat following the removal of Christians from the earth, not by a supposed selective resurrection and/or rapture (a companion erroneous teaching pertaining to Christians going through the Tribulation [not all Christians in this case, but many]). And it is plain from the chronology of events set forth in the type in the book of Ruth and in the antitype in the book of Revelation (the same chronology is seen in both) that events surrounding the judgment seat must occur at the end of the present dispensation, preceding the Tribulation.
(For details pertaining to different things stated in the preceding several paragraphs, refer to chapters 8, 9 of this book. Also, see the author’s book, Judgment Seat of Christ.)
Thus, a complete word picture on the one hand and that which the word picture foreshadows on the other hand is the way in which God has structured His Word; and through this structure, God has revealed all the numerous things that He would have man know about His plans and purposes.
Accordingly, to arrive at a proper understanding of the things that have been revealed, man must study the word after the fashion in which it has been structured. He must set the complete word picture from the Old Testament alongside the antitype in the New Testament and run all the checks and balances, comparing Scripture with Scripture, in order to find out what the Scriptures themselves teach.
That which man may have to say about anything within the whole of the matter — either about the things that God has revealed or the way in which He has revealed them — is of no moment. Only that which Scripture has to say is of any moment whatsoever, and that which Scripture has to say is of infinite moment.