The Twenty-Four Elders

Revelation 4:4-5
The End Times

In my last post, we began our journey into the heavenly visions that Yochanan recorded beginning in Revelation 4.  In this post, we continue to examine Yochanan’s vision of the Twenty-Four Elders.

4 Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and on the thrones sat twenty-four elders dressed in white clothing and wearing gold crowns on their heads. 5 From the throne came forth lightnings, voices and thunderings; and before the throne were seven flaming torches, which are the sevenfold Spirit of God.” ~ Revelation 4:4-5 (CJB)

Most interpreters consider the Twenty-Four Elders represent all of God’s people glorified: the twelve Patriarchs of the tribes of Judah and the twelve Apostles, signifying the union of God’s people in the Tanakh and Brit Hadashah.  (Personally, this is what I accept as the proper interpretation.)  Others see the elders as heavenly counterparts of the earthly church.  Still other Bible students regard them, like the living creatures in the following verses, as a distinct class of heavenly beings rather than redeemed human beings, because in the doxologies that follow they seem to be separate from, rather than a part of, the multitudes of redeemed saints.  This latter view is thought to be least likely, as elders always represent humans everywhere else in the Bible.

Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and on the thrones sat twenty-four elders dressed in white clothing and wearing gold crowns on their heads. The reference to thrones would better translated as stately seats as suggested by Strong’s because these thrones are subordinate to God’s Throne.

They have crowns that are given for reward of faithful service.  The occupants are dressed in white clothing and they have gold crowns on their heads.  G. E. Jones writes:

John said these elders had crowns of gold on their heads. The saints of God will not receive their crowns until Jesus comes. In writing to the elders of the church Peter said to them, “and when the chief shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” See 22 Peter 5:1-4. When nearing the end of his life the Apostle Paul said, “I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing (II Tim. 4:7-8).

God’s reward for our faithfulness will no doubt be presented at the Judgment Seat of Yeshua. The following is a list of the various crowns mentioned in the Bible.

  1. An imperishable wreath or an incorruptible crown, which has been referred to as a victor’s crown (1 Cor. 9:25-27).
  2. The crown of life, which is the martyr’s crown (Rev. 2:10).
  3. The crown of glory, which seems to be for preachers (1 Peter 5:2-4).
  4. The crown of righteousness for those who love His appearing (2 Timothy 4:8).
  5. The crown of boasting (or rejoicing) reserved for the soul-winners (1 Thess. 2:19-20).

From the throne came forth lightnings, voices and thunderings; and before the throne were seven flaming torches, which are the sevenfold Spirit of God.  Roy B. Hilton cites:

The throne of grace is about to become a throne of judgment, for these symbols are used in connection with judgment as can be seen in Revelation 8:5; 10:3; 11:19; 16:18. The lightning, thundering, and voices are but the prelude to the approaching storm.

Again in Revelation 1:4; 3:1, we find mention of “the seven spirits of God,” and in chapter 5, verse 6, they are spoken of as “seven eyes.” All of these are descriptive images of the all-seeing, all-knowing, ever-present Spirit of God. The judgment about to fall will not be based on hear-say.

Special Comparative Note on Chapter 4:4-5 [1]

Historicist Approach:

Historicist interpreters appear fairly divided on this passage.  Adam Clarke likens the Twenty-Four Elders to the smaller Sanhedrin in Jerusalem which was comprised of twenty-three elders.  Barnes speaks for many when he recognizes in the twenty-four the Church triumphant-redeemed-saved-as rendering praise and honor to God.

Preterist Approach:

Preterist interpreters seem to be divided as well not identifying the Twenty-Four Elders as representing any particular group other than to carry forward the story that John is writing.  They do associate the lighting, thunder and voice to Moshe’s experience with God on Mount Sinai when he received God’s law.

Futurist Approach:

Futurist interpreters also seem to be divided as well not identifying the Twenty-Four Elders.  Henry Morris suggests they represent the Yeshua’s ancestors from Adam to Pharez as recorded in Genesis 5 and 11.  Ladd and Mounce identify the elders as angels.  The majority of dispensationalists identify the elders as New Testament saints who were raptured into heaven.

Idealist Approach:

Idealist interpreters appear to be more unified.  The Twenty-Four Elders are celestial representatives of all the redeemed, glorified and enthroned, who worship continuously.  Their robes symbolize purity and their crowns victory and joy.  The number twenty-four is also reminiscent of the twenty-four divisions of the priesthood (see 1 Chronicles 24) to attend to the duties in Temple.

In my next post, we will conclude our examination of Revelation Chapter 4.

Click here for PDF version.

[1] Material in this section is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg

2 thoughts on “The Twenty-Four Elders

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s