Summary: The elders are identified and their ministry is unfolded from the Revelation
The Twenty Four Elders
This section of “The People of the Apocalypse” focuses upon the first group of people described in the prophetic section of the book of the Revelation:
“I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment: and they had on their heads crowns of gold.” (Revelation 4:4)
This group of heavenly elders has been somewhat of a mystery to Bible commentators over the years. There are at least thirteen different interpretations given for their identity, so we cannot be dogmatic concerning just who they are or what they represent.
They are an important heavenly group during the time of the end being mentioned twelve different times in the Revelation. Their importance is shown by their position “round about the throne” (Revelation 4:4) having access to God, located in close proximity to the Lord of the universe.
Although they are not mentioned in any other book of the Bible, they do serve as worship leaders in heaven for they are repeatedly seen falling down before the throne “and cast their crowns before the throne” (Revelation 4:10) causing some to identify them with the Church.
There is nothing in the Bible text to support this theory, for the Church saints are still on earth at this time having been promised to be “delivered from the wrath to come” (I Thessalonians 1:10, 5:10) which has not yet begun. The word “wrath” does not appear in the book of the Revelation until “the great day of His wrath is come” (Revelation 6:17) indicating that God’s wrath is just about to begin at that point in the chronological unfolding of the book.
The identity of the twenty-four elders may be rooted in the Old
Testament for the Revelation is full of Old Testament parallels, and:
1. Twenty-four is the number of courses of Old Testament priests. (I Chronicles 24:1-24)
2. Their vocation was to minister in the presence of God. (Exodus 40:15)
4. There were elders of the priests. (II Kings 19:2)
5. They receive [white] robes of righteousness/garments of salvation. (Isaiah 61:10)
This same earthly group of old could well be represented here in the heavens. It is the interpretation containing the most Biblical parallels thereby providing a possible identity based upon the Word of God and not human speculation. Their leading in the worship of God appears at key points in the unfolding of the Revelation.
They are the first to be seen in heaven after God Himself is described (Revelation 4:4). As this same scene continues to unfold they are mentioned again:
“The four and twenty elders fall down before Him that sat on the throne, and worship Him that lives for ever and ever and cast their crowns before the throne saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power for Thou hast created all things and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Revelation 4:10)
In Revelation 5:5 one of them consoles the Apostle John saying:
“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.”
This elder has the privilege of heralding the entrance of the Lord Jesus Christ as His title “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” is only mentioned this one time in all of Scripture. Then they appear again as a group:
“And I beheld, and 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 the earth.” (Revelation 5:6)
Their importance is emphasized here, for they are present at the introduction and coronation of the central figure of the Revelation and all of Scripture itself, the Lamb of God, the King of glory, the Lord Jesus Christ. They are involved in heavenly praise and worship when the Lamb takes the book [seven-sealed scroll] from the right hand of God the Father:
“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 odors, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song.” (Revelation 5:8, 9)
The next time they appear they are part of the heavenly chorus which includes “many angels round about the throne and beasts and the elders” (Revelation 5:11, 12) once again proclaiming the worthiness of the Lamb and giving Him praise.
The last time they are mentioned in this opening heavenly throne room scene which encompasses chapter four and five, their now familiar action of full worship to the God of heaven is repeated: