THE 24 ELDERS Who are they?
Any search of the internet reveals hundreds of suggestions as to the identity of the 24 elders. Any number of explanations are available. So what does the Bible say about the 24 elders? Do we really know who the 24 elders of Revelation are? It is time to shine a light on this important topic.
What Bible references are there to the 24 elders?
There are 5 verses in the book of Revelation that refer to the 24 elders. In Revelation 4,5,11 & 19 we see what appear to be heavenly scenes with the 24 elders sitting on thrones in the presence of Jehovah God.
Revelation 4:4 “All around the principle throne were 24 thrones, and on these thrones I saw 24 elders dressed in white garments, and on their heads golden crowns.”
Revelation 4:10 “the 24 elders fall down before the One seated on the throne and they worship the One who lives forever and ever, and they took their crowns and cast them before the throne”
Revelation 5:8-10 “When he took the scroll, the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb, and each one had a harp and golden bowls that were full of incense signifying prayers. And they sing a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, for you were slaughtered and with your blood you bought people for God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and you made a kingdom and made them priests to our God, and they are to rule on the earth.”
Revelation 11:16 “And the 24 elders who were seated before God on their thrones fell upon their faces and worshiped God,”
Revelation 19:4 “And the 24 elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne and said: Amen; Hallelujah”
What conclusions can be drawn from the fact that the 24 elders are seen exclusively in the book of Revelation?
The book of Revelation makes a clear statement in the introduction. Revelation 1:1 “A revelation by Jesus Christ, which God gave him, to show his slaves the things determined to take place. And he sent his angel and presented it as signs through the angel to his slave John.”
Clearly Revelation was presented as signs. John was not meant to understand the meaning of the words. He was to write them down and preserve them for future times. Therefore the 24 elders were not understood in John’s day. Revelation is a book that points to the ‘time of the end’ the ‘end times’ when Christ returns. The time leading to the awakening of Christians to the truth of Christ’s message through to the eventual destruction of mans key enemy Satan and the full restoration of human society.
Clearly the 24 elders are linked to the last days period. The first reference to the 24 elders is in Revelation chapter 4 after Jesus has previously assessed the Christian congregations around the earth as being in a weakened state in chapters 2 & 3. The final reference is just prior to Armageddon. Therefore we know that they are definitely linked to pivotal events on earth in the last days period.
What are the 24 elders actively doing in the Revelation references?
This is a key question as it helps to identify who these ones are. Their actions define who they are.
In Revelation chapter 4 after we see them for the first time they are seen calling attention to Jehovah. They express the words “Worthy are you, Jehovah our God, to receive all glory and all honor and all power, because you created all things, and because of your will all things came into existence and you created them.” The 24 elders make the clear and unambiguous statement in the face of a secular society determined to push the theory of evolution to the fore. We were created and we were not the product of evolution. The 24 elders rightfully acknowledge the truth about God.
In Revelation chapter 5 they turn their attention to Christ Jesus and the kingdom. We read that they say, “You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, for you were slaughtered and with your blood you bought people for God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and you made a kingdom and made them priests to our God, and they are to rule on the earth.” The 24 elders make clear and unambiguous statements about the role of Christ as king of the coming kingdom. They acknowledge the central role of Christ in God’s purpose and expose the truth regarding the Kingdom.
In Revelation 11 we see that the world move to a secular society for a short time which creates havoc in world affairs. The 24 elders understand these events and the inevitability of the outcome of this move and explain it to mankind in clear statements of truth. [In fact the 24 elders were the first to clearly explain these upcoming events outlined in the book of Revelation and in the conclusion of the book of Daniel.] They acknowledge the truth regarding Jehovah God. “saying: “We thank you, Jehovah God, the Almighty, the one who is and who has always been, because you exercise your great power and the time has arrived to begin ruling as King.” [i.e. once again over the Earth]
In Revelation 19 as the world moves to a secular society in the precursor to Christs return the 24 elders are seen in unity with the heavens in shouting “Hallelujah!” Or praise Jehovah and shouting “Amen” signifying total agreement with God’s will as it unfolds.
So what role do we see the 24 elders playing here? They are speaking up regarding the truth. Making clear and unambiguous statements regarding God’s will and purpose. Providing spiritual clarity in a troubled world. In the face of a world promoting evolution, forgetting the big issues raised in Eden, sidelining the role of Christ and moving towards a secular society, the 24 elders promote Jehovah, keep the original issues alive, provide clarity on Christs return and acknowledge that the secular moves will be temporary as Jehovah quickly exercises His power.
Are the 24 elders in heaven?
The Bible strictly uses the word elder in connection with people living and working on the earth. Frequently however the Bible will use symbols that suggest something is before the throne of God while being on the earth. This occurs frequently in the prophetic books. Several things that are pictured in Revelation occur before the throne of God and yet are evidently occurring elsewhere. So, the symbolism is designed to show that God has his attention on matters or else that there is a heavenly connection. Therefore the 24 elders being seated apparently in the presence of God is designed to show how God views them and in turn their response shows how they view their position relative to God. Elders are those who work on the earth in the Christian congregation. A small number of these are regarded somewhat differently from the whole which is how they are represented in the book of Revelation.
From the foregoing what can we conclude?
In the first century Christ Jesus promised his apostles that they would be with him in heaven as part of his kingdom. (This is discussed elsewhere in this site) a small number of his followers were promised a heavenly life. Having said this, Christ’s total purpose centers on the fulfillment of the original purpose that mankind finds himself in. The earth is to be filled with righteous perfect happy people who live forever. The earth is to be a perfect home. So at no point does Christ’s approach to the situation interfere with God’s original purpose. He is working at the behest of God, not counter to Jehovah’s purpose.
The book of Revelation finds its primary fulfillment during the time that God’s purpose is reaching the point of Christ return kingdom power. Just a small portion of the book of Revelation looks beyond Christ return. In the first century Christ directed anointed overseers to produce written direction that was given out to the Christian congregation in the first century. Most people would be familiar with men such as Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Jude et cetera. These men took the lead in writing and in caring for the Christian congregation in the first century in the sense that they provided insight in written form into God’s purpose.
There is no indication in the Scriptures that God would change the way that he would do things. If anointed appointed elders in the first century were used to provide written information it should not surprise us that anointed appointed elders would take the lead in the last days. Unfortunately, many such anointed elders find themselves in organizations that are steeped in history and tradition and are to some degree politicized. Despite this these men play a role within these various organizations in providing spiritual instruction at the proper time. These are the men then described in the book of Revelation as the 24 elders who have been both appointed and anointed with God’s spirit. However, despite the fact that they are seen as it were on thrones and wearing crowns we note that unlike other creation that is content to wear a crown the 24 elders cast their crowns before the throne as quoted above. Revelation 4:10 “the 24 elders fall down before the One seated on the throne and they worship the One who lives forever and ever, and they took their crowns and cast them before the throne”
Before the Christian congregation came into existence, God used prophets to provide information to the nation of Israel from time to time. After the Christian congregation began God used a small number of anointed overseers or elders to provide information in the first century. In the modern-day Jehovah uses anointed overseers or elders to provide spiritual information at the proper time.
What happens to the 24 elders?
Using a symbolic number which some people take out of context the Bible shows that those who will rule with Christ in heaven as part of his kingdom is a closed number. The Bible uses the spiritual term 12×12 and arrives at a spiritual figure of 144,000. This play on the number 12 is significant in spiritual terms. There were 12 tribes of Israel, there were 12 apostles and there are 12 apostles pictured in the book of Revelation in connection with the kingdom 12×12 to the power of 1000 or 144,000. In a spiritual sense the Bible is telling us that the number allotted to the kingdom is a small number and we are not expected to take the number literally.
[In a similar sense the Bible uses the number 10 to picture perfection in human terms as in something scores 10 out of 10 or it is perfect or complete. 10 is a perfect picture of human perfection.]
The 24 elders is similarly a play on numbers in that is 12 times two. It is a small number and much smaller than the kingdom. The 24 elders therefore are a small number of anointed overseers who recognize that they have a responsibility to provide spiritual food at the proper time and who allow nothing to stop them from doing just that. It is not a fixed number in the absolute sense but it is a small number.
Unlike the rest of the anointed overseers who have the hope of ruling with Christ in the heavens, this small group of anointed overseers in the last days, while they would qualify to serve in the heaven alongside Christ, cast their crowns before the throne. They are seen on thrones signifying God’s approval, but this is not to signify that they will in fact live in heaven. However, this is not to say that they miss out in any way because they will be given a unique privilege after Armageddon.
In Matthew chapter 24 versus 45 to 47 Jesus explained what would happen after first explaining that his words have to do with his return. In the previous verse Jesus had said in Matthew 24 verse 44 “prove yourselves ready because the son of man is coming at an hour that you will not think to be.” He was speaking of his own return in kingdom power. Following this Jesus explained that he would observe events occurring on the earth with the following words.
Matthew 24 versus 45 to 47.
“Who really is the faithful and prudent servant whom the master appointed over his domestics in order to give them their food at the proper time? Happy is that servant if his master on arriving finds him doing so. I say to you truly, I will appoint him over all my belongings.”
This then is the glorious future of the 24 elders. In God’s due time the kingdom is established in the heavens and those whom Christ selected in the first century and others who may have been chosen later will make up the kingdom. They will rule with the Christ in the heavens. However, those anointed overseers who have taken the lead in providing spiritual food at the proper time and who are recognized for doing such by the returning Christ will be appointed as the faithful and discreet slave and appointed over all Christ belongings. This is an earthy expression and indicates that these men will take the lead in directing affairs on the earth after Armageddon. Thus they cast their crowns before the throne, not in any way wanting to take authority that they recognize rightly belongs to God and nor in any way being disrespectful of God’s arrangement.
So who are the 24 elders?
The 24 elders are anointed overseers on the earth today who share spiritual food at the proper time. While they have been anointed and qualify for life in the heavens alongside Christ they cast their crowns before the throne signifying their willingness to be used by Christ in any capacity. Christ rewards them by giving them the role of the faithful and discreet slave class or a group of people who will direct affairs on the earth after Armageddon both under the direction and also working alongside the kingdom. These men will take the lead in organizing affairs on the earth so that everything takes place decently and by arrangement during the 1000 year reign of Christ, through the resurrection of the dead and onto the final situation when the earth is fully restored to paradise and every human being lives in perfection and happiness with endless life.