The Roman Praetorian Guard were the bodyguards of the Emperors. Their job was to protect the Emperor but there are examples of them actually killing them! By the time of Paranoid Domitian he had reduced their number and their power.
John sees around the throne what may appear to be a Heavenly Guard. But nothing is further from the truth. For this group of 24 elders (some say representing the 12 tribes and the 12 apostles, but who knows really?) don’t appear to be much good as bodyguards as they fall down in worship before the throne.
The Christians of Asia Minor, Western Turkey, John’s people, knew more than anyone else the price for not bowing down and deifying the Emperor, Caesar Domitian.
Domitian (81-96 AD) was one of the most evil of Emperors and he demanded to be known as ‘lord and god’. In fact he ordered that anyone who did not worship the ancient gods and the modern ones (namely, him) would be murdered straight away, no questions asked. The Christians were actually called ‘atheists’ if they refused to worship these gods. Can you imagine what it was like for these followers of Jesus who faced the dilemma of getting a job but having to bow down before one of the Emperors thrones? They had to feed their family. But they could only buy from the market if they also declared the Emperor ‘Worthy’.
John is looking into the throne room and …
“Whenever the living creatures give glory, honour and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” (Revelation 4 v 9-11)
There is only One who is worthy and it is not the Emperor.
The problem for the followers of Jesus was not that they couldn’t call their God worthy but they had to equally call Domitian worthy also.
The problem still exists today. It is not the denial of Jesus that is the challenge but the deifying of other things to stand equal to the time and energy that we give them. It is perfectly possible to claim to be a follower of Jesus, attend church and declare ‘He is worthy’ and yet at the same time carry other gods also that are worshipped in various ways.
Only God is worthy!