April 5, 2008

Who Wears the Crown?

The vision of heavenly worship in Revelation 4 contains a description of twenty-four elders who sit on thrones and then fall before the throne of God and cast their crowns before him (vv. 4, 10). Other than God himself, only the faithful people of God are described as being seated upon thrones (cf. Rev 20:4ff.), and it is likely that the twenty-four elders in chapter 4 are a symbolic representation of the full people of God, twelve representing the tribes of Israel and twelve representing the apostolic foundation of the Christian church. This passage is often interpreted in a woodenly literal way resulting in discussions about the nature of rewards in heaven and whether or not those rewards will be kept or returned to God. Such an interpretation is a distraction from what is really going on here. It is important to remember that Revelation is a vision and that visions generally involve symbolic imagery. So, we must ask, what is the imagery involved in this vision? As already noted, the twenty-four elders represent the full number of the people of God. They are casting their crowns before the throne of God. A crown is a symbol of power and authority. The one who wears a crown is the one who rules. So the image here is one where the people of God are yielding power, authority, and control to God. The image is a powerful one, and it calls upon each of us to examine our lives to see if we have indeed yielded full control to the Triune God. Are we allowing Jesus to truly be Lord in every aspect of our lives? Are we allowing God to be God on his own terms? This is a powerful symbol of what it means to be a Christian, yielded to the Lordship of Christ in every aspect of life with nothing held back.

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