“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.”
Revelation‬ ‭4:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

John’s vision expands, as though he was seeing through a lens with an increasing field of view. And he sees thrones and people sat on them. The scene’s detail is such that he can count the number of thrones. And he notices that each of the people who were sitting on the thrones – he calls them elders – were wearing white with gold crowns on their heads. The fact that he could identify them as being elders in the church must have meant he had some extra-visionary revelation, something that allowed him to identify them. So we must ask ourselves why were they there, was there anything significant about the number twenty four, and why were they dressed that way.

The easy answer is – we don’t know. But there are perhaps a few hints. Taking the crown first, the Apostle Paul said we would receive a crown of righteousness one day. In 2 Timothy 4:8 we read, “in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing”. James takes up the same theme in James 1:12, referring to a crown of life. There are also several Old Testament references to crowns. So we shouldn’t be puzzled if we receive a crown when we get to Heaven. And it will be a presentation to us from Jesus Himself (think about receiving an honour from the British Queen, a knighthood or something – it will be an infinitely greater occasion than that!). 

And then we have the white clothes. References to white garments appear throughout the Book of Revelation, so I think white is the colour (is white a colour?) that will be almost ubiquitous in Heaven. It signifies purity, and is the opposite to the devil’s favourite – a black darkness. Jesus promised the church in Sardis clothes of white if they overcame what was holding them back in their faith. The words of Jesus in Revelation 3:5, “He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments…”. Another enigmatic Scripture that comes to mind is from Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.” 1 John 1:7 reads, “But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin”. When we repent of our sins and believe in faith that Jesus shed His blood for us, then our sins are washed away and we are left white and pure. 

So why were there twenty four elders and why were they sitting on thrones surrounding God’s throne? We don’t really know for sure, though theologians over the centuries have tried to come up with a few theories. But I’m wondering if the “24” refers to the universality and inclusiveness of the Gospel. God’s grace extends both to the twelve tribes of Israel and to everyone else, non-Jews represented by the second twelve. 1 Corinthians 12:13-14 reads, “For we were all baptised by one Spirit so as to form one body – whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. And so the body is not made up of one part but of many”. 

So to today’s pilgrims, this glimpse into Heaven showing the twenty four elders, and reveals the importance of perseverance, because there awaits for each one of us a personalised reward, and an eternity close to God’s throne. We won’t all be elders I’m sure but there will be a role for each one of us, as eternity plays out in boundless lives of purity. 

Dear Lord. Thank You once again for this glimpse inside Heaven, Please help us to keep our final goal, our final home, firmly in our sights. Amen.

Clothed in White

“Yet there are some in the church in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes with evil. They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine. “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.“”
Revelation‬ ‭3:4-6‬ ‭NLT

What comes to our minds when we read about being clothed in white? The image of a TV evangelist perhaps, a man wearing a white suit. Another image is of a beautiful bride wearing an expensive creation of white lace and finery. White is a symbol of purity. And if we want to be counted among the “victorious” then we had better get used to the idea that we will be clothed in white, and it will be a garment whiter than any man-made product. The popular image is that a white garment will be some form of gown; Jesus is mostly portrayed in artist impressions as wearing a shoulder to ground loose-fitting robe. In Mark 9:3, we read, “Jesus’ appearance was transformed, and his clothes became dazzling white, far whiter than any earthly bleach could ever make them“. There will be something about the whiteness of our garments that will surpass anything we can imagine today. In his book The Great Divorce, C S Lewis describes the inhabitants of Heaven as being the solid bright people, exuding a dazzlingly white purity contrasting with the wispy dark and evil wraiths that were the ghosts on a day trip from hell.

But however we imagine what our Heavenly clothes will be like, of one thing we will be sure – they will be white. That is, of course, assuming that we don’t sully them with dirt that has stuck there through our contact with an evil world. It seems from these verses that the inhabitants of Sardis were already wearing their white Heavenly clothes, because Jesus warned them not to get them dirty. And in a sense we too are wearing our garments of white. Thankfully there is a process there for laundering. Our humanity sadly acts like a “dirt magnet”, our worldly behaviour soiling our white garments far too often. And only repentance and forgiveness, with washing in the blood of Jesus, will restore their whiteness – Isaiah 1:18 reads, ““Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool”“. Only Jesus can restore the whiteness of our garments.

We also read that Jesus will never erase our names, the names of the victorious, from His Book of Life. What is this Book? It contains the names of everyone destined for Heaven. And we really do need our names to be there. The implication from today’s verses is that perhaps the names of some can be erased from it. Some people believe that once written in the Book of Life, the name can never be erased, regardless of subsequent behaviour, because it’s written in spiritually indelible ink. Others believe that those who fall away from the faith, who allow their clothes to be soiled by evil, and who reject God, will find that their names will disappear. But whichever viewpoint we believe, we really do need our names to be written in this Book of Life. Personally, the thought that a person can come to faith in God, confessing their sins and obtaining His forgiveness, with their names recorded in the Book, only to then live their lives in a sinful way, turning their back on God, but still expect their names to remain in the Book, is a somewhat bizarre assumption. But that’s just my opinion.

Jesus said He will never rub out the names of His victorious ones, removing them from His Book of Life. And more, He said that He will announce them publicly in the vaults of Heaven. Before God and the angels. I can imagine the scene. A doorway into Heaven opens up with Jesus waiting there, ready to announce my name. A hush descends on Heaven as God and the angels all wait to see who this is, who is about to come through the door. And Jesus, beaming away, His arm around my shoulder, announces my name before the gathered assembly. He then declares that I am His, an overcomer, victorious and with my name recorded in His Book. Wearing spotless, dazzlingly-white clothes. Is that a scene too far-fetched and too good to be true? Perhaps. But if the angels have a party every time someone is saved, then can we imagine what it must be like when that saved person finally reaches Heaven? We read in Luke 15:10, “In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents“. 

So, fellow pilgrims, we must learn from the church in Sardis. Once again we have found a church where some are faithfully following Jesus, but others have fallen away, still going through the motions but the connection with their wonderful Heavenly Father has been lost. We too must be careful we fall into the right camp, wherever we worship. And we must be careful to keep our Heavenly clothes clean and white.

Dear Lord. We are so grateful for Your encouragement in our daily walks with You. Please help us to stay close to Your cross, worthy servants of the Living God. Amen.