The 24 Elders

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In a nutshell, I don’t believe the 24 elders in scripture can be definitively identified. However this page is my attempt to bring together the scriptures that do speak of them and some thoughts on what the scriptures are saying in order to put the information before you so you can decide for yourself. In the scheme of things, their identities are not really all that important to understand, but it is always good to at least try to understand what the Bible presents to us because in the details we often discover some amazing things that strengthen our faith.

Revelation 4
After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. 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. And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, LORD God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, 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, 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 5
And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne. And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. 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. And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.

Revelation 7:9-17
After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.

Revelation 11:15-19
And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, We give thee thanks, O LORD God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth. And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.

Revelation 14:1-5
And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.

Revelation 19:1-5
And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. And again they said, Alleluia And her smoke rose up for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia. And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great.

The above are the scriptures that we have describing the 24 elders. I can’t say that I know their identities as this isn’t laid out in detail from the above passages, but is it possible that they are who was resurrected with Christ after the crucifixion?

Matthew 27:50-53
Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.

It seems evident from this next passage however, that it won’t be until the harpazo that all the just will be resurrected, including those who have died in faith before. This means that Matthew 27:52-53 must not have been a resurrection to the immortal bodies, but a resurrection from sleep in their mortal bodies.

Hebrews 11:32-40
And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions. Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. [Resurrected bodies as Yeshua now has.]

1 Corinthians 15:16-24
For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.

So to me then it would seem that those resurrected at the crucifixion were not resurrected into their immortal bodies because Christ is the firstfruits of the resurrection and His resurrection wasn’t until three days later. Furthermore, it isn’t until the harpazo that the rest of the bride of Christ receive their immortal resurrected bodies and up until that point none of the dead in Christ will precede that event.

Are the 24 elders human?

Revelation 5:6-10
And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne. And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. 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.

Is this just a new song they are singing on behalf of the saints whose prayers they are holding? Or by singing this song are they placing themselves as redeemed humans as well? It seems that both the four beasts and the 24 elders are singing this new song and the beasts aren’t human, so is it just that the song is written from the perspective of the human saints, but sung by the 24 elders and four beasts? Or are the four beasts and 24 elders singing the song because they are included in the redeemed through Christ’s blood?

I recently received an e-mail regarding this point from John Accomando who pointed out that the “us” in blue above is only used in the Byzantine manuscripts and not the earlier Alexandrian manuscripts. Verse 10 states “And hast made THEM unto our God kings and priests: and THEY shall reign on the earth.” This is how it actually reads in both the Alexandrian AND Byzantine manuscripts, so it actually makes the Alexandrian reading of verse 9 more likely.

It seems most likely since the four beasts are included in the singing of this song, that they are singing it on behalf of whom it was written for/by, those human saints whose prayers are being held by them all. I don’t think this proves the 24 elders are human because they are singing the same song along with the four beasts, who are clearly not human. Therefore, if they’re both singing it and the four beasts are clearly not “out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation,” then there’s no solid foundation that the 24 elders aren’t singing on behalf of humans like the four beasts. If not beasts then I would label them as angels if this is the case.


1whowaits:

  • The scripture does not say the elders are men, it is possible they could be angels.
  • The elders do not receive crowns, they already have them.
  • The elders sit on 24 thrones not 12 thrones.
  • The elders are not judging Israel on 12 thrones, Israel is still on earth.
  • No description is given of the elders ‘overcoming’ anything.
  • The elders have white garments but so do angels- Matthew 28:1-6.

Many make an assumption that the elders are saints or Christians which we cannot prove to be true.

There is an alternate explanation of who the elders are, which also cannot be proven. The Sanhedrin, the court on earth, is believed to be patterned after the court in heaven. The court on earth is divided into 3 parts and consists of the priests, the ELDERS, and the scribes and teachers of the law. The high priest presides.

It would appear that the throne room scene in Revelation 4 is also presented in Daniel 7 and it is stated that the ‘court’ will set. It is therefore possible the scene we see in Revelation 4 is of the court in heaven. The court in heaven would then consist of the 4 living creatures that call to worship (the priests), the elders (the elders), and the angels surrounding the throne (scribes or those who carry the message). And God is presiding over the court. The elders would then be angelic beings and not men. This would be a more plausible explanation of the use of the term ‘elders’ for these beings. Compared to all the angels present in this scene, men would not appear to merit the name ‘elder.’


1whowaits:

Does the presence of a crown indicate that the crowned being is always a raptured saint?

Revelation 14:14
I looked and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like a son of man with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Then another angel came out of the temple...

The one with the sickle and a gold crown is assumed to be Jesus since the term ‘a son of man’ is used. But the passage continues with ‘then another angel’ leaving the possibility open that the one with the crown is an angel.

The relevant point is that whoever the one with the crown is, Jesus or an angel, that person is not a raptured saint. Since someone other than raptured saints can wear the crown, saying the elders have to be raptured saints because they are wearing crowns is a assumption not backed up by scripture. Clearly someone other than the saints will wear crowns in heaven, and we are not told anywhere the limits of who possesses a crown and who does not.

This is also akin to saying the elders must be raptured saints because they wear white garments. This is disproved by Matthew 28- ‘an angel of the Lord came down form heaven and going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.’ Angels clearly wear white garments so the argument based on clothing fails.

Again the point is that the argument that one can know who the elders are based on their wearing crowns or their wearing white clothes is baseless, you are making assumptions you cannot prove.

But while I cannot prove who the elders are, I believe scripture clearly proves who the elders are not.

The scene in Revelation 4 and Revelation 5 occurs at the beginning of the sequence of events described in Revelation There is some debate if this scene occurs at the beginning of the 70th week or at the middle of the 70th week and the beginning of the great tribulation. While the exact time that this scene occurs is not completely clear, it is completely clear that Revelation 4 and Revelation 5 are not describing the last day, the day of the Lord, the day of Christ’s return. That day is described later in Revelation 16, Revelation 19 and Revelation 20.

But Jesus clearly states in John 6:39, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Jesus clearly states that He will raise Christians up on the last day. The scene in Revelation 4 and Revelation 5 clearly does not occur on the last day. Therefore the elders clearly cannot be raptured saints because Jesus has not yet raised Christians, it is not the last day, the harpazo has not happened as described directly from Jesus himself.

And this statement by Jesus is reinforced in Daniel 12, Matthew 24 and John 11:24- ‘Martha answered, I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.

While I cannot say for sure whether the elders are indeed angels or men, the weight of scripture goes against the elders being raptured saints.


Final Trumpet:

The other thing that has to be noted is that the elders are sitting around the throne of God, not the throne of Christ. Actually, when John sees the heavenly scene, Jesus is not even there. He does not appear until after the seven sealed scroll is presented. I believe these elders are part of an angelic representation of the earthen Levitical priesthood ordained by God. More appropriately, the Levitical priesthood and temple services would have been representative of what we see in Revelation. David Lowe gives a really good explanation of this in his book Earthquake Resurrection.