The Time of the End
A Study About the Book of Revelation
Arlen L. Chitwood
Crowns Cast Before God’s Throne
After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice that 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.”
Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.
And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald.
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 . . . . (Revelation 4:1-4, 10).
(Chapters 7 and 8 in this book will deal with material in Revelation chapters four and five [Chapter 7 with material in Revelation chapter 4 and Chapters 8 and 9 with material in Revelation chapter 5]. Properly understanding certain things in both Revelation chapters four and five, within context [following that which is seen in Revelation chapters 1-3 but preceding that which is dealt with in Revelation chapters 6ff], is crucial to a proper understanding of the book of Revelation as a whole. The importance of this cannot be overemphasized.)
Immediately following events seen in chapters two and three, attention is again called to that which is previously seen in chapter one — John being removed from Man’s Day and placed in the Lord’s Day (cf. 1:10; 4:1, 2a). Scripture in its structure has a way of repeating things at times in order to provide a base for supplying additional details on a subject. And repeating that which is seen in chapter one at this later time in the book, in chapter four (following events seen in chapters 1b-3), would have to do with Scripture providing additional details relating to the Church following events surrounding the judgment seat.
In chapter one — immediately after John had been removed from Man’s Day and placed in the Lord’s Day, along with being moved forward in time — John was shown the complete Church in Christ’s presence, with Christ presented in His future judicial role, not in His present high priestly role. And since this is clearly a judicial scene following the rapture, that which is dealt with in these verses can only refer to one thing. These verses in chapter one can only refer to:
1) The complete Church, all Christians throughout the dispensation (shown by the number of the churches [seven, showing the completeness of that which is in view]), being removed from the earth at the end of the dispensation (shown by John’s removal).
2) The complete Church appearing in Christ’s presence to be judged (shown by Christ appearing as Judge, with the seven lampstands [the seven churches] appearing in His presence).
Then, simply continuing from chapter one, the central subject of the subsequent two chapters has been established. This central subject, continuing into chapters two and three, clearly has to do with Christians before the judgment seat. But the manner in which the churches are set forth in these two chapters — beginning with Ephesus that had left its “first love” (2:4) and ending with Laodicea that is described as “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (3:17) — it is also evident that a history of the Church throughout the dispensation is shown in these chapters as well.
And, with these things in mind, the Spirit of God leading John to begin chapter four at the same point as is seen in chapter one would not only provide a base for additional revelation surrounding Christians following the judgment seat, but it would also provide a means for setting forth the same thing clearly taught in a number of other places in Scripture — the removal of the complete Church at the end of the dispensation.
That is, viewing chapters two and three from a historical perspective (depicting a history of the Church throughout the dispensation), chapter four, beginning at the same point as seen in chapter one, shows the removal of the complete Church at the end of the dispensation. And this is something that can be seen in a clearer respect in chapter four than it can in chapter one because, from a historical perspective, the complete dispensation is seen immediately preceding, in chapters two and three. Then, the removal of the Church at this point in time would also show the removal of the Church before the beginning of the Tribulation (seen beginning in chapter six). And this, as well, would be in complete accord with that which is seen elsewhere in Scripture.
The Heavenly Scene
Immediately after attention has been called to the same event seen in Revelation 1:10 (in Revelation 4:1, 2a), John, rather than seeing a judicial 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).
(The significance of attention called to a rainbow encircling God’s throne at this point in the book can be seen in the first mention of a rainbow in Scripture [Genesis 9:13-17]. The rainbow appeared in Genesis following the completion of God’s judgment [the Flood], and the same thing is seen in Revelation 4:3 relative to the completion of the judgment of Christians in chapters 1b-3.)
At this point in the book, events pertaining to the dispensation in which the Spirit spent 2,000 years searching for a bride for God’s Son are complete (chapters 2, 3, viewed from a historical perspective). As well, events surrounding the judgment seat are also complete (chapters 1b-3, viewed from the manner in which chapters 2, 3 are introduced in chapter 1b). And, because of the reason for the dispensation and the judgment seat, and because of the point toward which all Scripture moves, the logical place where one would expect activity to now be centered at this point in the book would be concerning bringing about the realization of that which is stated in Hebrews 2:5:
For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels.
And events having to do with bringing to pass that which is stated in this verse is exactly what can be found in Revelation chapters four and five.
In the latter part of Revelation 4:2, immediately following the repetition from chapter one concerning the removal of the Church (vv. 1, 2a), 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 were 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, relinquish their crowns to the One who originally placed them in regal positions, 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 the actions of the mighty angel in chapter ten and events surrounding Christ’s return in chapter nineteen (ref. Chapters 19, 31 in this book), the action of these twenty-four elders would have to be considered. The action of these angels in Revelation chapter four 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 (chapters 5ff).
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 rulership over the earth at this point in the book, following the judgment of Christians. And angels will continue ruling until Christ and His co-heirs (forming His bride) take the kingdom, following Christ’s return to the earth.
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 the Messianic Era 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 ruling angels followed Satan and fell with him, with the other two-thirds refusing to follow him (cf. Isaiah 14:12-14; Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:3, 4).
(Note the way Revelation 12:4a is worded: “His [the dragon’s, Satan’s] tail drew a third of the stars of heaven [referring to angels (cf. Job. 38:7; Revelation 1:20)] and threw them to the earth . . . .” This “third,” after millennia of time and separation [separation of one-third from the other two-thirds], is still recognized at this future time as only part of a larger group, only part of all the angels originally ruling with Satan.)
And though the angels not following Satan didn’t continue ruling with him, they could not immediately relinquish their appointed positions. Rather, they had to retain their positions for a time, remaining crowned.
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 of Satan and Christ.
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, both before and after his fall [Revelation 19:11-20:6].)
This same established principle must prevail relative to both the angels refusing to follow Satan in his attempt to exalt his throne and those who did follow him. This entire contingent of angels (both fallen and unfallen) 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.
This entire scenario of events, as it pertains to the government of the earth, is introduced in Revelation chapter four. It is introduced immediately following events surrounding the judgment seat when, for the first time in the history of the earth, those who are to ascend the throne with God’s Son will have been called out of the larger body of Christians and revealed. Those shown worthy to take the crowns worn by Satan and his angels up to this point in time will now be on the scene, ready to ascend the throne. And for the first time in the history of the earth, angels can now relinquish their crowns.
This is the first order of activity seen in the book of Revelation occurring immediately following issues and determinations at the judgment seat. And so it should be, for, according to Romans 8:19-23, the entire creation (as it pertains to the earth, both the material creation and redeemed man) presently groans and travails, waiting for “the revealing [KJV: ‘manifestation’] of the sons of God” (a new order of sons — taken from among redeemed man, not angels).
Revelation chapter four is the point in the book where this revealing of a new order of sons has its beginning. It begins here by the relinquishment of crowns (for those comprising this new order of sons will have been revealed), making possible a later full manifestation of regal activity by man at the time of Christ’s return.
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 (cf. Hebrews 2:5). Angels alone will possess crowns in relation to the government of the earth at this time (as they do during the present 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 render the pronouns in v. 10 as “them” and “they” [ref. ASV, NASB, NIV, Wuest, Weymouth], giving rise to the thought that the pronoun “us” in v. 9 is probably a scribal insertion, being spurious [ref. Alford, Lenski].
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.
Aside from the preceding, it would make absolutely no sense whatsoever to understand these twenty-four elders as referring to a segment of redeemed man. Man couldn’t possibly be crowned at the time of events in Revelation 4, 5, else he would be crowned before Christ is crowned [note that Christ is to wear the crown that Satan presently wears, which Satan will still be wearing at this time]. Also, man is to wear the crown he receives, not relinquish it before God’s throne as seen being done by the twenty-four elders.)
And at this point in the book, by the action of the twenty-four elders casting their crowns before God’s throne, the way will be opened for God to transfer the scepter from the hands of angels to the hands of man.
In this respect, these crowns cast before God’s throne can only have to do with the government of the earth. And, at this point in the book, crowns can be worn by angels alone. The Son will not yet have taken the kingdom, though the Father is about to take the sceptre from Satan’s hand and place it in His Son’s hand (cf. Daniel 7:13, 14; Luke 19:12, 15; Revelation 11:15; 19:11ff).
These crowns are relinquished to God (cast before God’s throne) — with a view to man ruling in the kingdom — so that God can appoint those who had previously been shown qualified through decisions and determinations at the judgment seat [chapters 1b-3] to positions of power and authority with His Son; and those whom the Father appoints will wear these crowns in His Son’s kingdom.
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 remove those represented by these elders from the positions in which He originally placed them and assign other individuals to positions in the kingdom, in their stead (Matthew 20:20-23).
The transfer of the government of the earth, from the hands of angels into 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 — both angels who did not follow Satan and those who did follow him.
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.
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 to replace Satan (Christ) 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 in a position 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 also 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 of 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[a similar thought is set forth by the crown resting on Antichrist’s head at the beginning of the Tribulation in Revelation 6:2, referred to by the use of the word stephanos (ref. Chapter 13 in this book)]. . 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 power at this time [though the fact that they were seated on thrones and crowned portends regal power at some point in time [in past time, as shown by their present positions and subsequent actions]. 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 regal power at the time, with Satan about to be overthrown.
The crowns [diadems] on Christ’s head in Revelation 19:12 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 are undoubtedly reserved for those forming the bride [whom the Father will previously have appointed to various positions of power and authority with His Son]; and the Son will give these crowns to His co-heirs 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.)
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 original 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, 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 (cf. Colossians 1:16-20).
(For additional and other type information on the twenty-four elders in Revelation chapter four, refer to the author’s book, So Great Salvation [Revised Edition], Chapter 2, “Because of the Angels.”)