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In the Book of Revelation we read:

Revelation 4:9-11: "And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, 10the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11'Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created'" (emphasis added).

What is the significance of "casting crowns" before the throne of God? Was this something common in ancient near-eastern history as a symbol of reverence?

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First we should notice that these "crowns" in Rev 4:10 are στέφανος which might be more accurately rendered "chaplet" = a headdress in the form of a wreath made of leaves, flowers or twigs woven into a ring and worn to signify victory (especially for victors of the Olympic games).

The same "crown" is also called:

  • The crown of life, Rev 2:10, James 1:12
  • A crown of righteousness, 2 Tim 4:8
  • A golden crown, Rev 4:4

Thus, when the 24 elders fall down and worship God and throw their golden chaplets of life toward God, it appears to be an act signifying the source of the victory that the chaplet represents. That God has given the victory, 1 Cor 15:57 -

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Note the comments of Barnes:

And cast their crowns before the throne - They are described as "crowned" Revelation 4:4, that is, as triumphant, and as kings (compare Revelation 5:10), and they are here represented as casting their crowns at his feet, in token that they owe their triumph to Him. To his providential dealings, to his wise and merciful government, they owe it that they are crowned at all; and there is, therefore, a propriety that they should acknowledge this in a proper manner by placing their crowns at his feet.

Similarly, Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

  1. fall—immediately. Greek, "shall fall down": implying that this ascription of praise shall be repeated onward to eternity. So also, "shall worship … shall cast their crowns," namely, in acknowledgment that all the merit of their crowns (not kingly diadems, but the crowns of conquerors) is due to Him.
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The reason the saints will cast their crowns at Jesus feet is to demonstrate their own recognition of how unworthy they are to wear them. Only Jesus is worthy, and to Jesus they wish to ascribe all glory and honor. They are too humble to accept to themselves the glory and honor that rightfully belongs to Christ.

This is why they proclaim Jesus' worthiness, saying not a word about their own.

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, (Revelation 4:10, KJV)

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 4:11, KJV)

Naturally, their crowns are still theirs, for God chooses to honor them; yet Christ understands and is honored by their humble acknowledgment of Him.

We see in the next chapter a reiteration of Jesus' worthiness.

And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? (Revelation 5:2, KJV)

And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. (Revelation 5:3, KJV)

And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. (Revelation 5:4, KJV)

And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. (Revelation 5:5, KJV)

Jesus alone is worthy, and in praise and thankfulness to Him and in acknowledgment of Him, the saints cast the symbols of their own victory at Jesus' feet.

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Of significance is the fact that in this heavenly throne-room we do not yet see the Lamb (the glorified Christ) standing in the midst of it. That scene is unveiled in chapter 5, where he alone can take the seven-sealed book out of the hand of the one sitting on that throne, resulting in all those before the throne worshiping him who sits on the throne, and the Lamb (Rev. 5:7-13). But in chapter 4 the focus is on "the one who created all things". He is proclaimed to be thrice Holy, Lord God Almighty, "which was, and is, and is to come" (4:8).

This is significant. Chapter 4 depicts the throne of glory. It is not the throne of judgment. That appears in Rev. 20:11-12. This is the throne of the Majesty in the heavens. And the worship given him depicts his absolute and sovereign right to rule heaven and earth. As this exposition on the Book of the Revelation states:

It is a view of the Creator... so that we are in the context in which the rights and claims of the Creator to the Creation are seen never to have been relinquished. The vision shows in allegorical and mystical form that the Creator asserts his rights to the Creation...

"The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof"; crown rights are claimed; the Maker's rights, absolute rights, the ownership rights of Almighty God, pertains to all Creation and absolute creature worship, throughout every ticking second, every passing minute, every chimed hour, every falling month, every recorded year, and every historical era, ever since the beginning of the world to the end of time." (The Revelation of Jesus Christ" p 108-109 & 113, John Metcalfe)

That is what the never-ending adoration of the living creatures and the twenty-four crowned elders is all about. The living creatures "rest not day or night" in giving glory to the Almighty, and whenever they give glory, the twenty-four elders respond with their praise (4:8). Therefore, the twenty-four elders have a continuous round of declaring praise and casting their crowns before God, which seems to indicate replacing the crowns on their heads in order to again declare God's praise and cast their crowns down as the living creatures follow on with giving God more glory. It matters not if secular kings had subordinate kings, princes or rulers cast their crowns before him after being conquered. There is no parallel here in heaven with those whom God has elevated to his throne-room, crowning them himself. Back to heaven; here's another note:

"They adore three holies in this one God, the Holy Father, the Holy Son, and the Holy Spirit; and these are one infinitely holy and eternal Being, who sits upon the throne and who lives for ever and ever...

The acts of adoration - They fell down before him that sat on the throne; they discovered the most profound humility, reverence, and godly fear. They cast their crowns before the throne; they gave God the glory of the holiness wherewith he had crowned their souls on earth and the honour and happiness with which he crowns them in heaven. They owe all their graces and all their glories to him, and acknowledge that his crown is infinitely more glorious than theirs, and that it is their glory to be glorifying God...

Observe - They do not say, 'We give thee glory, and honour and power'... but they say, Thou art worthy to receive glory. In this they tacitly acknowledge that God is exalted far above all blessing and praise. He was worthy to receive glory, but they were not worthy to praise, nor able to do it according to his infinite excellences...

He is the final cause of all things: For thy pleasure they are and were created. It was his will and pleasure to create all things; he was not put upon it by the will of another; there is no such thing as a subordinate creator that acts under and by the will and power of another; and, if there were, he ought not to be worshipped. As God made all things at his pleasure, so he made them for his pleasure, to deal with them as he pleases and to glorify himself by them one way or other... 'The Lord hath made all things for himself' Prov. 16:4. Now if these be true and sufficient grounds for religious worship, as they are proper to God alone, Christ must needs be God, one with the Father and Spirit, and be worshipped as such; for we find the same causality ascribed to him. Col. 1:16,17, 'All things were created by him and for him, and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.' (Matthew Henry's Commentary, p 1988, first column)

This leads us into chapter 5, where the glorified Christ alone can unseal God's sealed book, which causes all heaven to worship him who sits on the throne, and the Lamb at the center of that throne. And, as the seven-fold Spirit of God surrounds that throne of glory (4:5), Father, Son and Holy Spirit are being worshipped without ceasing; the thrice holy, Almighty, Sovereign Lord.

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