A CAREFUL EVALUATION OF HOW THE BIBLE DESCRIBE THE 24 ELDERS
Almost everything on earth started in heaven. Presently on earth, every nation has a ruler and some set of people who are in authority with them. We have the president, senators, the house of Reps, etc in a democratic government structure. So, what makes you think that God wouldn’t rule his kingdom with some executives? Before Jesus commenced his work properly, he chose disciples that would work with him. Every leader has people around who work with them and any wise leader would sometimes seek advice from people. This is a complete different view about what you’ve read somewhere about the 24 elders.
Many scholars think that the 24 Elders are glorified humans that shall seat on a throne of authority and would rule all nations with God. Well, I think that is a misinterpretation of what is actually written in the Bible or what John meant. The way I see it is that maybe those scholars want humans to be in such position, or maybe since Jesus promised rulership to his followers on the last day some scholars just assume that humans should occupy the position of the 24 Elders.
The question we should ask ourselves is, “Who really are the 24 Elders?”. Well, we will answer this question to ourselves after reading this article because it is boldly written in the Bible who they are.
The 24 Elders appear in the following passages in Revelation (KJV):
Now, let us go through each of the passages above.
This passage precedes with an introduction in the following verses:
1. 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. 2. And immediately, I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. 3. And he that sat was to look like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. 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.
This is clearly an introduction of the throne of God if you read further; you will see the introduction of the Seven Spirits of God, Cherubim and Seraphim (the living beasts).
Then verses 10-11 precedes with verse 9.
9. And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth forever and ever.* 10. The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,* 11. 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. …
That is, after the introduction of how the throne of God looks like, the above event (worship) usually take place. This introduction could be an opening to the future (or an existing) setting of the throne of God according to these passages. The 24 elders were already seated and had on their heads crowns of gold, which suggests they were already in existence in the presence of God. Then the ‘worship’ that follows, suggests that around the throne of God there are living creatures that worship him. In the worship here, the beasts, which were the closest creatures to God, worshipped Him first before the elders. This also suggests that the beasts were already in existence before the Revelation.
Let us proceed to the next passage.
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.
This passage precedes with a book that no one was worthy or able to open. Then an elder spoke to John. This particular incidence suggests that the elders were present when John saw the Revelation. Naturally, a future being cannot travel back in time and speak with someone in the past (God made it so and He is not the Author of confusion). Chapter 1 to 3 of Revelation is the main introduction to John’s ‘Revelation’. In Chapters 1,2 and 3, the Lord first appeared and spoke to John, then a voice (unknown) spoke to him in chapter 4 and then in chapter 5 an elder spoke to him (you can see the hierarchical order here). These were already existing living beings, present as at the time John saw these things. In some passages, you will see that angels also spoke to John, which suggests that they were all present with John.
6. 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 Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.* 7. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne.* 8. 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 the saints.
Now, this is where many people are confused. Let us read verses 9-11 & 14.
9. 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; 10. And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. 11. 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 and thousands. … 14. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped Him that liveth for ever and ever.
Now, you may think that the lyrics of the new song should be for humans and that the lamb did not redeem the heavenly beings to God (you may be right). It is boldly written in verse 8 that they (the living beasts and elders) had harps and golden vials full of odours, which were the prayers of the saints. The song that followed is a song (new song) that accompanied the prayers of the saints interpreted by the beasts and elders so that John would understand what was happening (or what was going to happen). If you read the whole book of Revelation, you will discover that John used terms and things he was familiar with to describe what he saw in order for readers to understand what he meant. Glance through the numbering of the beings he saw in verse 11, he could have said trillions or billions of angels. You can also see that in a church setting, after the priest we have the elders, likewise in heaven. If someone would say that the elders were glorified saints because of the above song then we can as well add to it that some people would become the four living beasts around the throne of God.
11. 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. 12. Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God forever and ever. Amen. 13. And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, what are these which are arrayed in white robes? And whence came they?* 14. 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 white in the blood of the lamb. …
This place clearly state that the elders were involved in revealing and interpreting the Revelation to John. Now, this passage preceded with verses 1-10 which told us about a certain number of people who appeared before the throne of God, clothed in white robes, etc. and one of the elders explained that scenario to John in verses 11-17.
And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God.
This happened when the seventh angel sounded a trumpet. In the passages that follow, you will see the words of the elders, praising God. It rather explains the role of the elders; that they worship God for every good thing done by God or for the manifest of the glory of God.
And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia.*
This particular event happened after a triumphant victory over sin in verse 2. Let’s take a look:
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.*
The presence of the 24 elders in heaven somehow aligns with Genesis 1:26 where God said, “Let us make man in our image”. The 24 elders are actually in the image of God, they are featherless, clothed in white, have crowns on their heads, sit on thrones, required to glorify God, etc. 99.9% of the appearances of the elders in Revelation said that they fell down and worshipped God (what does that tell you?). Some people may think that the word “ELDER” is not referred to angels because they do not age, believe me, this was the best way John could describe them (because it was John who named them ‘elders’). God himself is an elder, a father, a grandfather, a great grandfather, etc. (name him as you like) who do not age.
You can see that the elders are creatures of heaven and never creatures that once lived on earth. Some scholars don’t believe that God can crown the elders and that the crown on the heads of the elders meant something else. God is light and he surrounds himself with light, that the elders are clothed in white doesn’t make them glorified humans.
We believe that everyone will be rewarded at the end and the Bible confirms that, but when it comes to the elders, they were already in existence even before the fall of Lucifer and other angels. The above passages suggest that the primary purpose of the closest creatures to God, which are the beasts and elders, are to glorify God continually for his marvellous love and goodness towards His creation, which you can see in the Revelation.
I believe your question about the 24 Elders is answered, but either way, if you find it hard to accept this answer, you can roll with others who believe the elders to be glorified humans.