And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them:

  1. Group 1: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus
  2. Group 2: and for the word of God
  3. Group 3: and which had not worshiped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands
  4. Group 4: and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. The word “them” is followed by a colon which usually means more than two items are going to be listed.

Group 1: Those given authority to judge the 24 elders Rev 4:3 .

Group 2: The phrase 'witness of Jesus' is used another time in Revelation 17:6

I could see that she was drunk—drunk with the blood of God’s holy people who were witnesses for Jesus. [NLT]

Is this the group of martyrs referenced to come in Revelation 6:9?

Group 3: The phrase word of God is used in Revelation 6:9, where the saints are identified under the Altar. They were told more martyrs were to come. So we can maybe look at these two groups 2 and 3 actually being one group coming to heaven at different times through the tribulation.

Group 4: The phrase those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name is used in Revelation 15:3 where we see saints standing on a sea of glass. All of these groups of people referenced through Revelation now standing ready to reign with Christ for 1000 years.

Is there 3 or 4 different groups of people?

  • Jesus Christ is described by John's other writings as the incarnation of God's Word. Also, the reason for their martyrdom was their unwillingness to worship anything other than the true God, and His divine Word. As such, I fail to see why the last three groups should necessarily be distinct.
    – Lucian
    Commented Jun 25, 2020 at 17:13
  • In this study which I have written, I lead students to discover different people groups identified through Bible and then what each group’s role will be during the millennial time period. Through this study I have identified Jews sitting under the Altar (Rev 6:9), 144,000 Jews (Rev 14:3) and the Jews with harps before God’s throne (Rev 15:2). I felt as if this verse was addressing three groups and thank you for confirming this for me. I now use the prophecy of Daniel 12:1-3 to these groups (for they are all Jews) bringing them back to life to occupy Israel during the Millennial time period.
    – Karen Raye
    Commented Jun 25, 2020 at 21:14
  • @KarenRaye If they are Jews, why does the text not identify them as such ? Jews are specifically mentioned in Revelation 2:9 and Revelation 3:9 : then why not be specific here, also (if they are, as you say 'Jews'). ? Perhaps you would like to fully answer your own question below ?
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jun 26, 2020 at 3:21
  • To much for comments see Answer below
    – Karen Raye
    Commented Jun 26, 2020 at 21:32

2 Answers 2


Rev 20:4 is the culmination of several anticipatory prophecies in Scripture that all point to this moment. Here is a sample:

  • 1 Cor 6: 2, 3 - Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? … Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!
  • Matt 19:28 - Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
  • Luke 22:30 - so that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
  • Dan 7:22 - until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given to the holy ones of the Most High
  • Rev 6:11 - Then each of them was given a white robe and told to rest a little while longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers, were killed, just as they had been killed. [This answer is given to the question (very literally), "How long are you not judging?"] Such martyrs will be raised in Rev 20.
  • Rev 13:11-16 - defines the apostate people who refuse to worship God but instead worship the beast and his image and receive the mark on the forehead or hand.
  • Lastly, we should recall that in the Bible, the throne is a symbol of government or "reigning" or judging as all three were essentially synonymous to the ancients.

Therefore, I would translate Rev 20:4 as a chiasm as follows (with some interpretive words in italics):

And I saw thrones and they that sat on them and judgement was given to them. [They were occupied by:]

  • the souls of those having been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God
  • and [those] who did not worship the beast nor the image of it and did not receive the mark on the forehead nor on the hand of them

they came to life and reigned with Christ 1000 years.

Thus, I see two groups here but both reign/judge. The two groups are the martyrs and the faithful witnesses for God, despite the beast and his image.

The first group are simply the martyrs, who are martyrs precisely because they are faithful to God as revealed in His word which they share via their testimony.

The second group is also faithful (but not martyred) despite the threats of the beats and its image and thus did not receive the mark of the beast. This group is described in other places such as Rev 15:2. [By contrast with this faithful group, the wicked who do receive the mark are recipients of the seven last bowl-plagues in Rev 16.]

Therefore, I do not see how these two groups can be subdivided further.

Observe the comments by Ellicott on Rev 20:4 -

And I saw thrones, and they sat . . . There is a prominence given to the thrones, because the thought of the reign of the saints is uppermost in the mind of the seer. The thrones are seen, and those who sat on them. It has been asked, “By whom are the thrones occupied?” The answer is supplied in the latter part of the verse. Those who are in the latter part said to reign with Christ are clearly those who sit upon the thrones which first caught the prophet’s eye; these are all the real servants of God. They appear before the seer in two great classes:—First, the martyrs who have been faithful unto death; for he speaks first of seeing the souls of those who have been beheaded (strictly, “slain with the axe,” but clearly the special class of beheaded martyrs is to be taken as representing all), because of the testimony of Jesus, and because of the word of God. The number of the martyrs is now complete (comp. Revelation 6:11); these form the first class mentioned. Secondly, those who have been faithful in life occupy these thrones. The prophet sees these, even whosoever did not worship (during life) the wild beast, nor yet his image, and did not receive the mark (comp. Revelation 13:10) on their forehead and upon their hand.

  • Thank you. I see I must address the 144,000 separately. I had caught Luke 22:30 and Matthew 19:28 but not 1 Cor 6:2,3. Dan 7:22 and Dan 12:1-3 are both being fulfilled by Rev 20. And thank you so much for your translation. I did not catch this was a description of those sitting on the throne. Thank you.
    – Karen Raye
    Commented Jun 25, 2020 at 23:22

In response to Request by Nigel J above..

Revelation 15:2
And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God.

This group of saints are in heaven because they did not worship the beast or his image nor take the mark. Notice also, these folks are standing on a sea of glass holding harps in their hands. God has given these saints harps, which leads me to think they are Jews. Why?

Well, as I see it, the harp was used continuously through the Bible by the Jewish people. It was used by David to sooth Saul (1 Samuel 16:18), played during celebrations (Nehemiah 12:27), assigned to the Levite choir (1 Chronicles 15:16), used in worship to praise God (Psalm 43:4), and even used in battle (Isaiah 30:32). Lastly, the 144,000 who were chosen from the tribes of Israel, were heard singing and playing harps (Revelation 14:3).

Revelation 15:3
They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying:….

This verse provides another clue identifying the group as Jewish, since they are singing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb. Moses had two songs that he sang, the first was in Exodus 15, but the song referred to here is the one at the end of Moses’ life (Deuteronomy 31:30-32:43) -- specifically the last two verses.

When reading this song, it appears as if Moses is predicting Israel’s future all the way to the end, including their time of judgment during the tribulation. In the previous chapter, Revelation 14:14-20, two great harvests are depicted in which there is blood flowing to the horse’s bridle, which would only make sense to the Jewish people. Why would Gentiles have been singing a song of Moses?

The other song, the Song of the Lamb, seems to indicate the Jews have finally accepted Jesus Christ as their Messiah and have chosen to worship him.

  • I agree : these are the true Israel of God. But he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh Romans 2:28. Thus these seen in vision are the spiritual Israel, the true worshipers : neither jew nor gentile, neither male nor female, neither bond nor free - one Body, one Bride.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jun 26, 2020 at 23:42

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.