Center for Biblical Theology and Eschatology
Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions About Christianity, Answered Honestly!

Who Are The 24 Elders of Revelation

by Tony Warren

"And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold." -Revelation 4:4

In Revelation chapter four we read of twenty-four elders who sit upon four and twenty thrones and are clothed in white garments before the Lord. One of the more frequently asked questions is, "Who are the twenty-four elders?" There are many theories as to the identity of the twenty-four elders of Revelation 4:4, but most of them have no sound basis in scripture. This F.A.Q. paper will be a brief study of this question from the underpinning of Scripture in hopes of clearing up some of the mystery of the four and twenty elders that has long puzzled many Christians.

The word translated "elder" in the Old Testament is [zaqen] and in the New Testament [presbuteros], and both mean an older or senior persons. Sometimes it is translated "ancients" pointing to age for the same reason. Elder is usually used in Scripture as a designation of leaders/rulers (1st Timothy 5:17) or representative heads of a tribe/family or nation. Those who lead or rule are identified with being elders because older generally means wiser. This is where we also get the biblical convention that we should "respect our elders," though this principle of submission (Hebrews 13:17; 1st Peter 5:5) to elder leadership has suffered greatly in modern times. Nevertheless, the Scriptures often assign this title elder to heads of families (Patriarchs) or tribes, or to the rulers who led and taught the people of Israel. e.g.

Deuteronomy 31:9

  • "And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and unto all the elders of Israel."

Note that the law of God was delivered to the "priests and elders" because these were the leaders of Israel to whom were given the task of teaching the Lord's people. It's not coincidence that the law of God was given to both the priests who bore the ark of the Covenant of God, and to the elders who bore rule over God's people. I believe that the designation in Revelation of the Elders being in number twenty-four points to them being the ruling priesthood (Exodus 19:5-6; Revelation 1:5-6; Revelation 5:9-10) of Israel who brought the law. This number 24 I believe is twofold.

Number One:

It is done as a designation of both Old and New Testaments rulers of Israel characterized by the twelve tribes or families of Israel in the old, and by the Twelve Apostles of Israel in the New. Twenty-four collectively makes up the whole household of God. This multiple of the metaphor of twelve illustrates the whole of Israel, representing the family of God. For example in the Old Testament story of the twelve brothers, the sons of Jacob were the progenitors of the twelve families of Israel. Or the twelve stars of the woman in Revelation Chapter twelve, or of the twelve Legions or companies of messengers Christ says He could pray the Father send to Defend Him (Matthew 26:53), etc., etc. This is also illustrated in its multiples by two (2x12 = 24) or multiples by twelve (12x12=144), or in multiples by thousands (144X1000=144,000. The number one thousand signifying fullness (as demonstrated in the thousand year reign in Revelation 20:3). These number metaphors can be seen culminating in the 144,000 of all the families of Israel that were sealed (Revelation 7:3-4).

Revelation 21:15-17

  • "And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof.
  • And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.
  • And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel."

The 144,000 cubits of the wall of this building was according to the measure of a man that is of the messenger. This city's spiritual makeup is revealed to be of the Saints. In other words, when this Holy City is measured, that 144,00 cubit measure of a man, is the measure of the messenger [aggelos] of God. This city is made up of God's holy Messengers. Again the number metaphor of one hundred and forty-four is pointing us back to God's people as the building material of this Holy city. So these multiples of twelve referencing the body of believers have a solid foundation in the Holy Scripture.

This vivid example of New Jerusalem as a "representation" of the whole body of believers is characterized by twelve (old and New Testament saints) in a collective twenty-four, and is visualized in the building material of gates and foundations of this Spiritual City:

Revelation 21:12-14

  • "And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:
  • On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates.
  • And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb."

Clearly both the designation of twelve for the old and twelve for the New Testament messengers, make up the 24 names on the gates and foundations of Holy City. The names of twelve tribes and twelve apostles (collectively 24) encompass all the redeemed of the earth to make up the building of this house.

Number Two:

I believe the number twenty-four refers us back to the number designated as the Priests of Israel, as assigned under inspiration of God by Aaron.

1st Chronicles 24:18-19

  • "The three and twentieth to Delaiah, the four and twentieth to Maaziah.
  • These were the orderings of them in their service to come into the house of the LORD, according to their manner, under Aaron their father, as the LORD God of Israel had commanded him."

Twenty-four was the number of the Priestly orders inspired by God (1st Chronicles) as representative of the whole collective priesthood. I believe that these 24 Priestly courses or orders are a token pointing to the culmination of the whole redemptive and sealed Priesthood of the whole house of Israel. This is also why God says that all believers are now Kings and Priests unto God, signifying their rule as elders, and their Priesthood to minister to God's people.

Revelation 20:5

  • "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years."

The first resurrection, or [protos anastasis], was when we were first resurrected from the dead to new life with Christ Jesus. That "undeniably" was our first and only resurrection/regeneration from the dead wherein we shall never die again. Which makes it very literally impossible to be resurrected from the dead a second time. Which means of necessity, we live and reign with Christ right now.

Acts 26:23

  • "That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles."

Those words translated "first that should rise from the dead" are [protos anastasis], the exact same words translated First Resurrection in Revelation chapter twenty. This reveals that "this" is the first resurrection, and it was at that time that we were made his kings (rulers) and Priests. When we are saved we are regenerated and that is when we are translated into heavenly places, seated on thrones, and forever reign with Him. But don't take my word for it, because Scripture makes it plain that there is no mistaking the chronology of our first resurrection.

Revelation 1:5-6

  • "And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
  • And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."

Revelation twenty speaks of "this" resurrection, which is the foundation of our regeneration in Him, wherein we were given both rule/judgment (Revelation 20:4) and priesthood. The twenty-four elders reigning/ruling as kings and priests on thrones around God are revelatory characterizations of us.

The twenty-four elders of Revelation are representative characters of both the Old and New Testament and are characterized as elders because they have been given judgment, and they have rule, and they sit as kings upon twenty-four thrones signifying their appointment as Priests of Israel. I believe that the very language of them clothed in white robes also points to their having been cleansed by Christ for that very purpose.

Revelation 4:4

  • "And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold."

The word translated "seats" in this passage is the exact same word that is translated "throne" in the same context. So here we have these twenty-four rulers who are living and reigning as kings on thrones before the throne of God, and they are clothed in white raiment. The very same white raiment or [leukos himation] that God uses to symbolize those who have been redeemed from bondage to sin. e.g.:

Revelation 3:18

  • "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see."

This is the white raiment or robe (John 19:2 and 19:5) that is to signifies the righteousness of Christ. It is only because of that garment that they reign as kings and priests before the throne of God. This is the confirmation of the declaration that we are already given our resurrection, stewardship, and reign as kings and Priests unto God. They are dressed in white garments to signify that Christ has washed them clean from their sins in His work on the cross. We saw this illustrated in the very first chapter of this revelatory book.

Revelation 1:5-6

  • "And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
  • And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."

This verse for all intents and purposes already explained who these are that were seated on thrones, crowned with gold because they are Kings, numbered as twenty-four because they are the Priests of Israel, and dressed in white raiment because they are clothed in the robe of Christ's righteousness (Isaiah 61:10). They represent the redeemed of the earth in Christ. Indeed, the explanation in chapter five tells us as plainly as can be told as it says that the twenty-four elders sing the new song, which is a very particular, exclusive, and distinctive song. Listen carefully to what the twenty-four elders sing:

Revelation 5:9-10

  • "And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;
  • And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.

The Twenty-four elders sing that Christ was slain and had redeemed "them by His blood" from out of every people (Revelation 7:9) and nation, making them unto God "Kings and Priests." This is why they are all dressed in white as a token that they have all been washed clean in Christ's blood. This is the song of the believer's redemption in Zion (Psalms 137:3) and made an integral part of the Holy City New Jerusalem. The only place of true peace and safety for the children of Israel. The song the twenty-four elders sing reveals not only their origin from out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, but their need to be redeemed by God. Those are God's words, meaning that these words are "His" interpretation of these twenty-four elders, from whence they came, and how they are counted righteous. He says that the song they sing no one could learn "except" the hundred forty and four thousand (Revelation 14:3), which were those redeemed from the earth. When we allow God's word to interpret God's word, Revelation chapter seven tells us these were "all" the families or tribes of the House of Israel that were sealed (Revelation 7:4). These are "all" the children of the families of God that are secured/sealed. There is no "other" Israel to be sealed, all that are to be sealed are among this symbolic 144,000. All of us who were regenerated and made part of the house of Israel (Ephesians 2:11-13), had to first be sealed (Ephesians 4:30)) as a member of God's family by the Spirit of Christ before the Lord would loose His judgment on earth. All of us who were redeemed from the earth have eternal security "because" of that sealing.

Note that after John sees that all of the families of Israel were sealed, the next thing John saw was this great multitude that no man could number. What he saw was the revelation of the whole house of Israel as a great people of all nations, and kindreds, and tongues. They were standing before the throne clothed in white robes declaring Salvation to their God (Revelation 7:9-10) that sits on the Throne. Or more properly understood they were saying their salvation or deliverance must be ascribed solely to God (Salvation to God). It does not (and indeed cannot) mean that they desired that God might have salvation. Rather, they are praising God in declaring that "their" salvation is attributed to Him. This again is the new song that no one but these redeemed and sealed of Israel could sing. They come from all nations of the world and they owe their redemption and salvation from death wholly to their God. As indeed the revelation of the mystery of the Gentiles being included in the house of Israel was prophesied, but sealed from man's understanding from the beginning.

Psalms 96:1-3

  • "O sing unto the LORD a new song: sing unto the LORD, all the earth.
  • Sing unto the LORD, bless his name; shew forth his salvation from day to day.
  • Declare his glory among the heathen, his wonders among all people."

This imagery reveals the whole story that this is the whole house of Israel, this is the 144,000 that had to be sealed, this is the twenty-four elders or rulers who reign on thrones, and this is the great multitude from all nations that no man could number. Because they are all characterizations of the fullness of the redeemed house of God. God's servants indeed declare His glory among the Heathen because the church has gone out to all the earth and we are redeemed out of every nation. Collectively we make up the whole Israel of God, otherwise known as the body of Christ (Hosea 11:1,   Matthew 2:15), and we are those ruling elders seated upon thrones around our God. All Spirit filled members of Christ's body are spiritually Israel, Spiritually ruling elders, Spiritually reigning kings and ministering priests (1st Peter 2:9); Revelation 1:5-67) unto God. Indeed, as recorded of old of God's people Israel, we are collectively a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6). We see clearly that these twenty-four elders do not represent supernatural angels, as the word elder in Scripture is never applied to supernatural angels. Nor are the elders representative of purebred Jews of the Old Testament as this cannot be validated by Scripture. They are the whole body of redeemed believers who are ministers for the perfecting of saints, the work of the ministry, and the edifying of the body of Christ. With these truths in mind, we can begin to understand why they were all seated on thrones around the throne of God. He is the King of kings, and that is why they had crowns [stephanos] of Gold which is a token of their royalty as kings and illustrative of their victory in Christ. All those who have have peace with God have overcome (John 16:33) the world in Christ Jesus and are given gold crowns that "signify" that they have obtained the victory (Romans 8:37) to reign with Him in heavenly places. It is also why the Scriptures said they all wore white raiment. All this is no more than a continuation of the glorious portrait that God paints all throughout the Scriptures in the mystery of our being raised up in Christ as kings and priests to reign with Him in His Spiritual Kingdom.

Ephesians 2:4-6

  • "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
  • Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
  • And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus."

We have already had part in the first resurrection from the dead, and we already have been quickened or made alive together with Christ to sit on thrones in His Kingdom. This portrait of Revelation chapter four of the twenty-four elders is of us who truly sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. We have been "raised up" together to live and reign as kings and priests in that kingdom in Christ Jesus. In the Spirit of Christ we have already been regenerated (Matthew 19:28) and given judgment (Matthew 20:3-4) and sit to reign on thrones in heavenly places. This is what has already been done for those of us who have been born again from the dead. And because of this we have an advocate who takes our pleading, appeals, prayers, and petitions, directly to the throne of God in the Spirit of Christ we have been blessed with. This is the spiritual nature of regeneration, as is our reigning with Him as kings and priests around the Throne. We are dressed in white "only" because of His cleansing our garments of filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6-7) that we might have an Spiritual advocate making intercession on our behalf in heaven.

Romans 8:26-27

  • "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
  • And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God."

There are many amazing portraits of the universal church in the book of Revelation, and the four and twenty elders reigning on thrones with the Lord is just one of them. Elders are "representative" heads or rulers of the church. We have seen this in the Biblical patterning of inductive reasoning when we base our conclusions solely on what is within the Bible, rather than deducing it from extra-biblical sources. This is interpreting Scripture by Scripture. When we use the interpretive skill set of starting with Sola Scriptura, using solely the Bible as the interpretive source, it yields fascinating insights and verdicts of the God authored identity of the Twenty-Four Elders. It reveals that they are spiritual church, characters "representing" the whole redeemed rulers of God's house.

Acts 14:23

  • "And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed."

Just as in these instances the elders were "representative" heads or leaders of the church, so are the twenty-four elders "representing" us in the portrait of them ruling and seated on thrones giving glory to God. Indeed, when we look at the twenty-four elders, we should see ourselves represented there among God's chosen of all ages. Because in Christ Jesus, we are characterized as already having been translated there, living there, and reigning with Him, having been redeemed out of darkness and delivered to His marvelous light.

Colossians 1:12-13

  • "Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:
  • Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:"

God has translated or transferred us into Christ's heavenly kingdom, and in spirit we live and reign there with Him. Transferred as concerning our state of being and principality, but also according to the regeneration we have a new nature and are transformed as to position and character. We are a new creation (2nd Corinthians 5:17)in Christ where we are no more ruled by the power of this world, but made rulers ourselves. We are no longer of the world, but translated into the kingdom of heaven and given judgment of the word through the Spirit. So grateful for our redemption, as elders (1st Timothy 5:17) we are worthy because though we could not overcome, Christ has prevailed (Revelation 5:5) to open the book/revelation and redeem us to God. Thus it is us who sing praises to God for having loosed us from the power of darkness fulfilling His promise/covenant of salvation.

I believe that the Scriptures illustrate that the twenty-four elders are relating to the redeemed children of the earth, as the twelve tribes, as the twelve apostles, and as the twenty-four cources or orders of priests designated for the service of God. All of these point to the whole household of God who are made stewards, rulers, and ministers. My prayer is that in this brief study you might begin to see that we have been regenerated in the Spirit of Christ so that we might believe in our living and reigning right now as Kings and Priests (Revelation 5:10) with our Lord in heavenly places. That we are the chosen few who have learned the song of thanksgiving for the merciful redemption that only God could give. A precious song that comes with regeneration and is in the heart of the 144,000 of the tribes or families of the house of Israel. A song "to God" (Revelation 7:10) of salvation.

Psalms 144:9-10

  • "I will sing a new song unto thee, O God: upon a psaltery and an instrument of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee.
  • It is he that giveth salvation unto kings: who delivereth David his servant from the hurtful sword."

We all sing the new song of deliverance in salvation to God, a spiritual song of praise to Him for the unmerited grace that He has bestowed upon those of us who are unworthy of it. Indeed as the Psalmist declares, He has given salvation unto kings and delivered His servants from the sword. Glory to God in the highest as we all cry with a loud voice, "Salvation to our God which sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb." Because our salvation is indeed attributed to the Lord God of creation. These twenty-four elders "represent" all those who are regenerated from the dead in the spirit of Christ who now possess judgment as governing overseers (elders) and messengers (not angels) of the word of God.

    May the Lord endow you with humility and richly bless you with an understanding of the most glorious revelation of His word. May He make His face to shine upon His servants and teach us of thy statutes.



printer Print Page

Copyright ©2020 Tony Warren
For other studies free for the Receiving, Visit our web Site
The Mountain Retreat! http://www.mountainretreatorg.net/
Please feel free to duplicate, print, archive, display or distribute this publication in any format, provided the copyright notice remains intact, there are no changes made and you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. This publication can be distributed only in its original form, unedited, and without cost.

Created 07/25/20 / Last Modified 07/29/20
The Mountain Retreat / twarren10@aol.com

[ Top | Eschatology | Bible Studies | Classics | Articles | Other Articles | Sermons | Apologetics | F.A.Q. | Forum ]