"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… (10) The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created." -- Revelation 4:4, 10, 11
Let’s take a glimpse, just a glimpse, within the veil. Without the evil of vain curiosity or speculation, but with faith, hope, and expectation, I want us to look into some of those things which concern our eternal estate in the glory of heaven.
I realize that we know very little about heaven and the eternal bliss of God’s elect there. We know that there is a place of eternal bliss in the presence of God and the holy angels where the people of God shall dwell when time is no more. We know that heaven is a place of happiness, bliss, glory, peace, and love, a place of perfect righteousness and truth, where neither sin nor sinners can enter. Beyond these things, we know little. The Holy Spirit has saved up the details of the next world, refusing to reveal them until we get there. “As it is written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Cor. 2:9). We do not know where heaven is. We do not know what our heavenly bodies will be like. We do not know what the events of eternity will be.
We know much about what will not be in heaven. There will be no sickness, no sorrow, no sin. There will be no darkness, no disappointment, no death. There will be no corruption, no care, no crying. There will be no trials, no temptations, no tears. But we really know very little about what there will be in heaven. For now ignorance is best for us. If we knew more about our heavenly inheritance, we would most likely neglect our earthly responsibilities. If all the glory of heaven were revealed our feeble hearts and minds could not now contain it. If we knew more of the future we would probably neglect the present; and that must not be.
However, there are some things plainly revealed about the believer’s eternal inheritance in heaven. And those things that are revealed are revealed for our present encouragement, enjoyment, and consolation. The text that heads this chapter speaks of the people of God before the throne, in the presence of our great and glorious Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The “four and twenty elders” represent the whole company of the redeemed in heaven. They are representatives of the whole church of Christ, the whole company of God’s elect. They represent all of those who were chosen of God, redeemed by Christ, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, and glorified in the resurrection. These twenty-four elders bear the characteristics of all the saints in their glorified state. They reveal seven things about our eternal bliss in heaven. They tell us seven things which are true of all the people of God in the eternal glory.
According to the revelation given in Holy Scripture, all the people of God shall have crowns of gold on their heads in the beginning of heaven’s glory.
There are five separate and distinct crowns promised to believers, which the Lord God shall give to his saints. Paul speaks of an incorruptible crown that shall be the reward of perseverance (1 Cor. 9:24-27). Like runners in a race, the believer must press on, persevering unto the end. He that finishes the race wins the prize. There is no reward to those who quit and fall by the wayside (Phil. 3:13-14; Heb. 12:1-3).
A crown of life is promised as the reward of faithfulness to the Lord (Rev. 2:10; James 1:12). Those whose trials destroy their faith never really had any true faith. They shall perish. But those who are faithful in their trials prove that their faith is genuine. They shall have the crown of life.
When he was about to leave this world, Paul encouraged himself and found great solace in anticipating that crown of righteousness, which is the reward of those who love Christ at his appearing (2 Tim. 4:6-8). He had every reason to expect it upon his arrival in glory. He tells us, by divine inspiration, that this crown of righteousness is a crown “which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." All who are born of God love Christ and love his appearing (1 John 4:19; 1 Cor. 16:22; Tit. 2:11-14). The Holy Spirit assures us in 2 Timothy 4:8 that all who love Christ and love his appearing shall receive the crown of righteousness.
There is a crown of rejoicing awaiting the Lord’s servants (his people), which is the reward of those who seek the salvation of God’s elect (1 Thess. 2:19-20). “Children’s children are the crown of old men” (Pro. 17:6). When our Lord Jesus Christ comes in his glory to gather his elect from the four corners of the earth, and he presents them all to his Father, saying, “Behold, I and the children which God hath given me” (Heb. 2:13), as he rejoices in the salvation of his elect and the fullness of his body (Eph. 1:23), the church, so will we. Paul did not glory and rejoice in the fact that he was the instrument of God used to accomplish the conversion of his elect in Thessalonica (Compare 1 Cor. 3:7). Rather, he gloried and rejoiced in the salvation of God’s elect, because the salvation of God’s elect is the glory and joy of Christ.”
The Scriptures also speak of a crown of glory that is the reward of the believer’s union with Christ (1 Pet. 5:4). When Christ comes, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. He said, “The glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17:22).
These five crowns are spoken of distinctly in the New Testament: the incorruptible crown, the crown of life, the crown of righteousness, the crown of rejoicing, and the crown of glory. What are these crowns? Isaiah 28:5 indicates what is clearly the teaching of the entire Volume of Inspiration in this matter. – These five crowns are one crown, and that one crown is the Lord Jesus Christ himself! It is written, “In that day shall the Lord of hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of his people.”
Christ is the prize we seek. Christ is the crown we shall wear. Christ is the reward of his people. What more could we need or desire? Christ is heaven. If we have Christ, we have all. We can want no more! He is our Glory. He is our Joy. He is our Righteousness. He is our Life. He is our Incorruptible Crown. In heaven’s eternal glory, “Christ is all!”
The vision given in Revelation 4 shows all the saints in heaven as kings and priests unto God. They all are crowned as such; and all their crowns are the same: -- “crowns of gold.” That doctrine that teaches that there are degrees of reward in heaven, degrees of glory, and degrees of happiness among the redeemed is totally without foundation in Holy Scripture. It is nowhere written or implied in the Word of God!
Upon the very surface of things, such doctrine is apparently false. It promises a reward of debt. It promotes pride and self-righteousness. It says that some things are earned by human works as wages that God is obliged to pay. It makes our acceptance and joy in heaven dependent upon our own works, not upon the grace of God. It gives man honor, praise, and glory. Let this heresy be rooted out and dashed to pieces once and for all!
The notion that there will be degrees of reward in heaven runs contrary to everything that is most plainly revealed in the gospel (1 Cor. 4:7). Our salvation and acceptance before God is a matter of pure, free grace (Eph. 2:8-9). All the blessings of God were given to all of God’s elect in Christ before the world began (Eph. 1:3; 2 Tim. 1:9). God never accepts, much less rewards, anything but perfection and our perfection is in Christ. - Perfection requires a perfect reward; and in Christ all the redeemed are perfect (Col. 2:10). Our Lord plainly states that our reward shall not be based upon the merits of our service, but upon the purpose of his grace (Matt. 20:1-16).
The Lord God alone shall have the praise of heaven. When we have done the very best that we could do, it is infinitely less than we should have done. We are all unprofitable servants. Would any sane human being really want God to reward him according to his personal merits? Who can stand before Him? - “He that hath clean hands and a pure heart.”
We do not serve our God being motivated by a desire for gain. We serve the Lord our God being motivated by love and gratitude (2 Cor. 5:14). God will never reward greed!
The bliss, the glory, the happiness, and the reward of God’s elect in heaven shall be equal to all and full in all God’s elect. All are equally loved of God. All are equally redeemed by the blood of Christ. All are equally righteous in Christ. All are equally heirs to the covenant of grace and the promises of God (Eph. 2:11-13).
Who shall wear these crowns of gold? - All the true people of God. Not one of God’s elect shall be robbed of any heavenly blessing or privilege.
We see the twenty-four elders around the throne with crowns on their heads. God’s elect in heaven, those who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ out of every tribe and tongue and nation in the world, are wearing crowns of pure gold. But how did they get those beautiful crowns of glory?
They got their crowns by the grace of God (Eph. 1:3). They got their crowns by hereditary descent (Rom. 8:16-17). There are none in heaven but the sons of God; and the sons of God shall have their rightful inheritance. They got their crowns by sovereign predestination (Eph. 1:11-12). They got their crowns by rightful claim. These crowns were purchased for them by the blood of Christ. They were earned for them by the obedience of Christ in the establishing of perfect righteousness. The saints in heaven have been made worthy of these crowns by the imputed righteousness of Christ (Col. 1:12; Eph. 5:25-27). Christ himself has already claimed them in the name of all his people (Heb. 6:20).
Children of God, rejoice, laugh in the face of your trials and troubles here. Soon you shall wear a crown! God will see to it.
"The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created" (Rev. 4:10-11).
No sooner shall the Lord God place the crowns on our heads than we will willingly, gladly take them off our heads, bow before the feet of our God and Savior, and cast them down at the foot of the throne of his sovereign majesty and grace, saying, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake” (Psa. 115:1). Why? Because Christ alone is worthy of honor, praise, and glory. He chose us. He redeemed us. He called us. He has preserved us. He shall bring us to glory.
We will cast our crowns before his throne, because we will have a solemn reverence for him. We shall see him as he is, and we will say, “That no flesh should glory in his presence.” “He that glorieth , let him glory in the Lord.” We will cast our crowns before his throne, because we will be filled with a deep sense of sincere humility. Each will know then, far better than now, and each will gladly confess, “I am nothing. I have done nothing (Matt. 25:34-40). I deserve nothing.”
We will cast our crowns before his throne, because we will have a deep sense of gratitude to him. We will acknowledge then perfectly what we know now. --“By the grace of God I am what I am.” In short, we will cast our crowns before his throne, because we will love him intensely.
In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing, as I cast down the glittering crown from my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now.
Do you have such a hope and expectation as this? Do you expect to enter heaven by the grace of God through the blood of Christ and be crowned with everlasting glory? Are you anxious to cast your crown at the feet of Christ? Begin now to do so. Give the Lord the praise and honor due unto his name. Worship him with reverence. Humble yourself before him. Show your gratitude to Christ by your zeal for his glory. Show your love to Christ by your self-sacrificing, self-denying service and devotion to him. Soon, perhaps very soon, we will meet around the throne of our Redeemer, where we shall cast our crowns at his feet and say, -- “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and blessing.”