What does Revelation 4:4 mean?
ESV: Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads.
NIV: Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads.
NASB: 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.
CSB: Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones sat twenty-four elders dressed in white clothes, with golden crowns on their heads.
NLT: Twenty-four thrones surrounded him, and twenty-four elders sat on them. They were all clothed in white and had gold crowns on their heads.
KJV: 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.
NKJV: 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.
Verse Commentary:
Continuing his vision of heaven, John saw twenty-four elders seated on twenty-four thrones. The identities of these twenty-four elders are unknown; some speculate they may be the twelve patriarchs of Israel and the twelve apostles. The term "elders" is from the Greek presbyteros, which also appears in Matthew 26:57, referring to men that governed Israel. It also appears in Acts 20:17 for the overseers of the church at Ephesus. In 1 Peter 5:1 the apostle Peter referred to himself as an elder. King Solomon divided the Levitical priests into twenty-four orders, with each one taking its turn in performing priestly duties in the temple. John the Baptist's father was a priest who took his turn at the temple (Luke 1:5–11).

Based on this context, the twenty-four elders in heaven may be a select group of believers. Or they may represent all the redeemed of all ages. The apostle John reports that he saw the twenty-four elders in heaven with white garments, representing holiness, and with crowns, depicting victory and approval from Jesus at His judgment seat (1 Corinthians 9:24–27; 2 Timothy 4:8; James 1:12.)
Verse Context:
Revelation 4:1–6 describes the apostle John's experience of being in the Spirit and being transported to heaven. There, he sees the radiance of God described as precious jewels. Further, he sees twenty-four other thrones, occupied by twenty-four elders. He also witnesses seven burning torches and a sea of glass in front of God's throne. Near the throne are four creatures that ascribe threefold holiness to God.
Chapter Summary:
John reports in the opening verse of Revelation 4 that he saw a door open in heaven and heard a voice beckoning him to come up to heaven. From heaven's vantage point John would witness future events. Upon his arrival in heaven, John saw God. He was sitting on a throne surrounded by twenty-four other thrones. A sea of glass lay in front of God's throne, and four living creatures were beside the throne. When the living creatures ascribed honor and praise to God, the elders who occupied the twenty-four thrones fell down and worshiped God. They cast their crowns before Him and praised Him.
Chapter Context:
Chapter 3 concluded the description of ''the things that are'' (Revelation 1:19). Chapter 4 begins the final section of Revelation, regarding ''the things that are to take place after this'' (Revelation 1:19). Chapter 1 describes the appearance of Jesus to John on the island of Patmos, at which time He commanded John to write to seven churches in Asia Minor. Chapters 2 and 3 provide us with the contents of Jesus' letters. Whereas chapters 1–3 relate events on earth, chapters 4 and 5 describe what John saw in heaven. Because the word ''church'' does not appear in this ''after this'' section of Revelation, we may assume the church does not experience the judgments described in chapters 6 and beyond.
Book Summary:
The word ''revelation'' means ''an unveiling or disclosure.'' This writing unveils future events such as the rapture, three series of judgments that will fall on the earth during the tribulation, the emergence of the Antichrist, the persecution of Israel and her amazing revival, as well as Jesus' second coming with His saints to the earth, the judgment of Satan and his followers, and finally, the eternal state. This content, combined with the original Greek term apokalypsis, is why we now refer to an end-of-the-world scenario as ''an apocalypse.''
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