“And I saw” (Καὶ εἶδον). Here again John repeats the phrase “and I saw” reminding his readers that what follows is still describing his vision and we should interpret it as such. This verse is a progression from John’s vision of Satan to his vision of the reigning saints.
“thrones and seated upon them” (θρόνους καὶ ἐκάθισαν ἐπ᾽ αὐτοὺς). There is much debate over how to interpret the “thrones” and who is sitting upon them; however with the wider context of Revelation and the OT background in view, some certainty can be achieved. We must first recognized that every time the word throne is used in Revelation it refers to heavenly thrones, with two exceptions – 13:2 and 16:10 where it refers to the throne of the dragon and of the beast. Yet even in these two exceptions the thrones are spiritual, not physical. Therefore, to begin this verse with the assumption that John is describing a physical, earthly reign of the saints runs counter to the first piece of evidence.
The only other times thrones are mentioned in the plural are 4:4 and 11:16, both of which refer to the thrones of the elders – angelic beings who represent the saints. It may be that this is why John left the “they” unidentified, because he had already specified the occupants of the thrones earlier. This interpretation is confirmed by John’s allusion to Daniel 7:9-10 which speaks of the Ancient of days sitting with His heavenly court to pass judgement.
“and judgment was given for them” (καὶ κρίμα ἐδόθη αὐτοῖς). If this phrase is an allusion to Daniel 7:22, where Daniel speaks of the ancient of days coming and passing judgment in favor of the saints, then the antecedent to αὐτοῖς is the unspecified third person plural subject of ἐκάθισαν, the saints are in view sitting on the thrones not just the twenty-four elders (although the two are closely related), and we should translate αὐτοῖς as a dative of advantage, “for them.” However, if we view this phrase as a parallel to 2:26 (“to him I will give authority over the nations”) we would translate the phrase, “and authority to judge was given to them,” taking the dative as a simple direct object. We think that given John’s reliance on Daniel 7 throughout the book and within this very verse, the first option is most likely and John is describing saints sitting on the thrones. This is confirmed by the fact that it is the resurrected martyrs who are said to reign with Christ in verses 4 and 6, and that the promise Christ gives to the church in Laodicea is that the one who conquers will sit with Him on His throne (3:21). John’s change of the LXX’s active ἔδωκε to the passive ἐδόθη is not an issue, as clearly God is the subject for only He can give authority to judge or pass judgment in favor of the one sitting on the thrones.
“and the souls of those who had been beheaded on account of the testimony about Jesus and on account of the word of God” (καὶ τὰς ψυχὰς τῶν πεπελεκισμένων διὰ τὴν μαρτυρίαν Ἰησοῦ καὶ διὰ τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ). This continues the vision that began at the beginning of the verse, with τὰς ψυχὰς functioning as another direct object of εἶδον. Scholars differ over whether John is describing a new group or continuing his description of the ones sitting on the thrones. Some light can be shed on this question seeing it as an allusion to 6:9, where all the saints are symbolically portrayed as martyrs underneath the throne. The allusion to 6:9 is clear,
|Revelation 6:9||Revelation 20:4|
διὰ τὴν μαρτυρίαν ἣν εἶχον
διὰ τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ
|Καὶ εἶδον… |
διὰ τὴν μαρτυρίαν Ἰησοῦ
διὰ τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ
That 6:9 is a symbolic picture of all the deceased saints can be seen not only from the use of “overcoming” language throughout Revelation to refer to saints generally (see esp. 21:7), but also from the fact that the white robes given to the martyrs in 6:9 is a reference back to the promise Christ gave in 3:5 to all Christians who overcome. This reference back to 6:9 further supports the amillennial position that the scene described in 2:4 is heavenly and not earthly, since the group John sees is the same group which he saw in 6:9.
“and those who had not worshiped the beast nor its image and did not receive the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand” (καὶ οἵτινες οὐ προσεκύνησαν τὸ θηρίον οὐδὲ τὴν εἰκόνα αὐτοῦ καὶ οὐκ ἔλαβον τὸ χάραγμα ἐπὶ τὸ μέτωπον καὶ ἐπὶ τὴν χεῖρα αὐτῶν). There is some ambiguity as to whether this clause introduces another group or continues the description of the martyrs. It is most likely a continuation because of the close linkage between the actions attributed to this group – not worshiping the beasts or its image, nor receiving its mark – martyrdom (13:15-16). The problem for this view is that the relative pronoun οἵτινες is masculine nominative, but the proposed antecedent τὰς ψυχὰς is accusative feminine. It could be that οἵτινες is attracted to the gender of participle following τὰς ψυχὰς which is masculine, or more likely this is just a construction ad sensum. Furthermore, if a new group is in view, John says nothing about their death and so the following vision of resurrection would make no sense in connection to this group. The “image” and “mark” of the beast is a reference to 13:14-17 where the second beast deceives those who dwell on the earth into worshiping the image of the beast and kills all those who do not comply and forces everyone to receive a mark in order to engage in economic activity.
 Beale, “Revelation,” p. 1146.
 Aune, David E. Revelation 17-22. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998, p. 1084.
 Beale, NICGT, p. 390.
 Op. cit., p. 269-272.
 For a reformed, amillennial critique of Kline’s view, see: White, R. Fowler. “Death and the First Resurrection: A Response to Meredith G. Kline.” Evangelical Theological Society. Lantham, MD, April 3, 1992.
 Osborne, p. 706.
 Deere, 65.