Back to the Word of the Week
The Nature of Authority - The Book of Revelation
Week 2, 2017
Last week we addressed the symbolism in the Lord’s throne, as spoken of in Revelation 4:1-3. This week we will cover
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.
This council of twenty-four elders has been the subject of much speculation by theologians and Bible teachers. Some consider them to be the elders of the two covenants, twelve from each. Perhaps, but we do know that they are authorities in heaven as they sit on thrones, and they have crowns on their heads.
Possibly the most important reason these elders are part of “the Revelation of Jesus Christ” is that the subordinate leadership under a leader reflects the superior. Those who attain to this level of leadership, possibly the highest attained by men, would be one of the highest reflections of the Lord’s leadership. For this reason, we should glean all we can from what is told to us about them.
That these twenty-four elders are clothed in white speaks of their purity. That they are “clothed” speaks of how this purity is imputed to them by the cross of Jesus. The same is available to all of us. We can be just as pure if the cross of Jesus is our righteousness. This does not mean that we do not seek to walk in purity and refrain from sin and the lusts of the flesh, but we do this because we love the Lord. We always want to do what is pleasing in His sight, not for our own righteousness. Even so, we are warned in:
“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality,
“idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions,
“envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Most fall to one or more of these occasionally, and sometimes often. In the war against our old nature, we lose some battles. Yet it is those who “practice these things,” who have given themselves over to them, who will not inherit the kingdom of God. That is how serious we must take this war against the carnal nature, and we must resolve that we will win it. Even so, as James wrote, “We all stumble in many ways” (see James 3:2). So our righteousness is never measured by how well we do, but by our trust in the cross of Jesus.
For this reason, any Christian who trusts in the cross of Jesus for their righteousness is clothed in white, just like these elders. We demonstrate this by following Paul’s teaching in:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.
Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.
Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.
These elders have crowns of gold, which in Scripture usually speaks of the divine nature. So this denotes that their authority was godly, or Christ-like. We demonstrate this if we “live by the Spirit,” as noted above. This begins by “not being boastful,” or “challenging one another,” or “envying one another.” How much of our conversation is boasting—an attempt to make ourselves look bigger or better? Godly authority does not do that. Neither does it challenge others. If we have a different opinion we share it with grace, not by simply attacking the position of another. Neither do we do anything out of envy.
If one is caught in any trespass, we seek to restore them in a spirit of gentleness—as we should when correcting anyone else’s children, but how much more those of the King? When Jesus saw our sin and corruption, He did not condemn us. Rather, He laid down His life to save us. Such is the nature of all godly authority.
Then we fulfill the law of Christ by bearing each other’s burdens. As the Lord taught, the whole law is fulfilled by loving God and loving one another. Is our authority fueled by love?
There is more that can be said about godly authority than we can cover here, but we do know it is not like “the authority of the Gentiles.” These use authority to dominate others, but godly authority is exercised in the nature of Christ, who did not come to be served but to serve. Godly authority is for the purpose of helping others, not using them. This help begins with redemption. Although there will never be another sacrifice for sin, as this was wholly accomplished by the cross of Jesus, we do “take up our crosses daily.” We lay down our own lives, or selfish interests, to serve others as the Lord did.
next week 3