"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. And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle." (Revelation 4:4-7)
The identity of the elders remains a mystery; however, their robes and their crowns are conspicuous. Each is clothed with the pure, white robe of Christ's righteousness (Revelation 3:5, 18, 19:14, Ephesians 5:25-27, I Peter 2:24, II Corinthians 5:21). If salvation is solely by grace through faith in Christ's blood, the white robes cannot primarily represent anything but the merit of the Savior. Good works are a manifestation of salvation, but they are not the agent of it. The Christian's eternal security resides in the reality of Jesus' flawless righteousness which is imparted to the believer upon the moment of repentant faith (Genesis 15:6, Romans 4).
Each elder also wore a crown of gold. The New Testament presents five different crowns which may be earned by the saint. These crowns are the fruit of, not the means of, salvation. The Crown of Rejoicing is connected to winning souls through the presentation of the gospel (I Thessalonians 2:19). The Crown of Righteousness is linked to the saint's faithful fulfillment of the ministry to which God has called him or her (II Timothy 4:8). The Crown of Life portrays the rewards of those who are faithful through the various temptations and testings which might befall them (James 1:12, Revelation 2:10). The Crown of Glory is the reward of the church leader who has faithfully and humbly carried out the labors of his position (I Peter 5:4); and lastly, the Crown of Victory (incorruptible crown) illustrates the reward of those who are willing to subject their flesh to the higher calling of God's holy will (I Corinthians 9:24-27). Everything about these elders points the reader back to the grace of Jesus Christ and the eternal rewards connected to His service.
At this juncture, it does the reader well to stop and take note that none of these crowns would be possible were it not for the fact that Jesus was willing to wear the Crown of Thorns; and these crowns of eternal reward cannot be obtained apart from first accepting both the human reproach and the godly hope connected to Christ's thorny crown (Luke 9:23).
The lightnings and thunderings of God's holiness characterize His throne and call to mind the scene of Daniel 7:9-10.
I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him... .
Once again, God's complete Spirit is presented. Only this time, He is illustrated by seven burning lamps. This fire calls to mind the omnipresent nature of God's Spirit. "The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good (Proverbs 15:3)." The Lord's Holy Spirit will soon be presented as being one with the Lamb, thus picturing the cohesive nature of the God-head (Revelation 5:6). By God's grace, this is the same Spirit Who regenerates (Titus 3:5) and fills the believer (Ephesians 5:18). He is also given abundantly to the saint (Titus 3:6), and He is able to take the feeble child of God and to bring him before the very presence of this fearful throne through His work of intercession (Hebrews 4:16, 10:22, Romans 8:26-27).
A sea of glass surrounded this majestic throne - a sea which would soon be filled with the souls of Christ's redeemed (Revelation 7:9, 13-14).
It is difficult to say exactly what the various faces of the four beasts represent; however, the following are possibilities: Christ is King (lion), Christ is Man (man), Christ is the Sacrifice (ox), Christ is God (eagle). They seem to be similar in nature to the seraphim of Isaiah 6:2 and the cherubim of Ezekiel 1:10, 18-20, 10:1. Both the seraphim and cherubim guarded the holiness of God, and such seems to be the duty of these creatures here as their multiple eyes keep watch in every possible direction.