The Christ in Prophecy Journal

Who Are the 24 Elders of Revelation 4?

24 Elders

When the Apostle John was caught up to Heaven, he revealed that God’s throne does not stand alone. Rather, it is situated at the center of a circle of lesser thrones.

He wrote, “Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads” (Revelation 4:4). John, calling himself the Elder, had met the 24 Elders, and in doing so, presented a great mystery. Just who are the 24 Elders?

The first impulse is to identify the 24 Elders as angels, particularly a special elevated class of angels. Such a conclusion is problematic, though. The ancient origins of angels could have certainly earned them the title Elder, but then this would have been the only time in the Bible where angels are called elders.

If not angels, could the 24 Elders be members of humanity? And, if so, which humans? Some theorize that the 24 Elders could be comprised of the 12 sons of Jacob, Israel’s tribal patriarchs, plus the 12 Apostles, with the two groups representing God’s Old and New Covenants. That configuration has a certain logic to it. But, as the last living Apostle, John’s seat should have remained vacant, yet he still counted 24 Elders present.

If not a Patriarch-Apostle combo, what about the 24 Elders being comprised of still another group of men, ones unknown to us? I leave out women only because women were not allowed to serve as elders in the Early Church, and so John would never have recognized a woman with the title of Elder.

I believe in solving this mystery we would be getting warmer if referring to these unknown men as representatives of the Church due to how John described the rewards these men hold, rewards promised only to the raptured Church.

After believers in Christ are raptured up to Heaven, the Bible explains we will undergo the Judgment of the Just. It’s a form of graduation ceremony where we will be rewarded for the good deeds the Holy Spirit performed through our lives.

Some of the rewards Christ will bestow upon the faithful will be immaterial, available to all no matter what the result of the Judgment of the Just. For example, those saved will live forever with their Creator in a loving relationship on the New Earth.

But there will also be rewards that will relate to levels of position, as gloried believers will be granted different degrees of ruling authority during Christ’s millennial reign (Luke 19:11-27). Some of the rewards will be so wonderful that, as the Apostle Paul exclaimed, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Other rewards will be material in nature, such as special white robes that demonstrate the purity and holiness of “the righteous acts of the saints” (Revelation 6:11; 19:8). And, the Bible describes five different crowns, called in the Greek stephanos, which will be bestowed on Christians for meritorious spiritual achievements.

Notice, too, that John described the Elders as casting their crowns in worship before the One on the throne while singing a “new song.” They sang, “You have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10). Their song reveals the origins of the 24 Elders as coming from all the peoples of the world.

Their song certainly proves the 24 Elders are not angels, for these elders needed to be redeemed by Christ’s shed blood, and there is no redemption for angels. Also, angels are never portrayed as wearing crowns.

The 24 Elders had been missing in Isaiah and Jeremiah’s visits to Heaven centuries earlier, showing the Elders had not even been born or given their thrones yet. Once finally in Heaven, the Elders had been given white robes, indicating their newfound purity, and they were also granted ruling authority over the earth. These rewards were promised explicitly to the Church (Revelation 1:6). Therefore, what John was witnessing with the 24 Elders could only be the Church Age saints. I’ll go even further, one of them could even be you!

During King David’s time, 24 elders had been appointed to divide the priesthood into 24 courses with each elder serving two weeks at a time in the Temple. The huge number of priests required a rotation in order to allow all of them their time to fulfill their priestly duties. Skip ahead to Jesus’ promise that those who “overcome” (meaning those who are saved), will get the chance “to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Revelation 3:21).

Could it be that these overcomers, in order to get their turn, will be granted a rotational seat upon the heavenly throne? If so, that means you’ll be the one wearing a pure white robe. You’ll be the one wearing a golden crown. You’ll be the one casting your crown in an eternal act of joyous worship towards your Savior who sits upon the very seat over all authority. You may be, at least for a time, one of the 24 Elders!

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Nathan Jones

Nathan Jones

As the Internet Evangelist at Lamb & Lion Ministries, Nathan reaches out to the nearly three billion plus people accessible over the Internet with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

28 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • I am totally shocked! For the first time, I disagree with you about something. I still think the 24 are 12 from the OT and 12 from the NT. Don’t forget, John was looking at something in the future and he could very well have seen himself there. We also know that John was a pretty modest fellow. He loved to speak of himself in the third person instead of first person so it should not be surprising that he would not speak of himself in this event.

  • Hi Nathan,
    Thanks for your compelling article. I have always thought of the 24 elders as the Apostles and 12 OT saints. The song in Rev 5 speaks to the priesthood of believers, not the position of elder before the Throne of God. It’s fascinating and wonderful to think that we are going to heaven in the first place, but to worship and serve Him will be a great joy! God bless you and thanks for your ministry

  • Hi Nathan, my mentor, Ray Stedman wrestled for years about the identity of the elders. He said,

    “Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders[or ancients]. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. (Revelation 4:4 NIV)

    There has been much debate as to who these twenty-four elders represent. Many commentators take them to be redeemed saints, both of the Old and New Testaments; twelve elders of Israel and twelve apostles. I have to tell you that for many years I held that view myself. I have changed my view because, for one thing, I have always been troubled by the fact that if these are the twelve patriarchs and the twelve apostles, then John was one of them for he was one of the twelve apostles. Is he seeing himself seated there? It does not make sense, does it? They were viewed as saints because they wore white robes and they have victors’ crowns upon their heads. This has suggested to many that they have conquered evil and so wear crowns, and their robes have been washed in the blood of the Lamb. But there are other reasons for crowns and robes as we shall see in a moment.

    I have now come to see that this group is probably what Daniel and other Old Testament prophets saw when they looked into heaven. In the fourth chapter of Daniel the prophet is called before King Nebuchadnezzar to interpret a dream of the King; a dream of a great tree which is cut down and only the stump remains. Daniel’s interpretation was that the tree was Nebuchadnezzar himself and it meant his crown would be taken away from him for a period of seven years, he would lose his mind and be turned out to eat grass like a horse or a cow for the seven years. Then his throne and his authority would be restored to him. When Daniel tells the king this he puts it in this way.”

    https://www.raystedman.org/new-testament/revelation/supreme-headquarters

  • Hi Nathan, You mention the 24 elders were missing during Isaiah and Jeremiah’s visits to heaven, but we must remember that they experienced heaven before Christ went to the cross. Until then all who died went to the paradise side of Hades or Sheol (in Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16)), so there would have been no thrones or empty thrones for Isaiah and Jeremiah to see on their visits to heaven. John’s rapture was after Jesus took those who were with him in Paradise to Heaven when He rose from the dead. Thus, it is possible that the elders may be a combination of Old and early New testament saints – if the seats were all filled when John saw them as Scripture indicates they were. Old testament examples might include people like Enoch and Noah from before the flood, and like Joseph, Caleb, Elisha, Daniel, Zechariah, Mordechai and King Josiah from after the flood. New testament examples could include Steven, Barnabas, Paul and some of the early Apostles who were martyred. I didn’t include Abraham, Jacob, Moses, King David, and Elijah on the list of elders because they appear to have significant roles to play in heaven and in the new earth. It should be noted that Moses and Elijah may still have roles to play as the two witnesses before the end of this age, so were likely not among the elders John witnessed. Just my thoughts. Blessings, Jim Dodge

  • As I read through your article, particularly near the end I started to discern your conclusion and tears welled up within me, why because I have no expectation other than getting to Heaven to be with Christ and my family ( Church Saints) as I consider myself not worthy but for Christ’s blood.

    Thanks Nathan for a well written and considered article.

  • You said in your article:
    “Some theorize that the 24 Elders could be comprised of the 12 sons of Jacob, Israel’s tribal patriarchs, plus the 12 Apostles, with the two groups representing God’s Old and New Covenants. That configuration has a certain logic to it. But, as the last living Apostle, John’s seat should have remained vacant, yet he still counted 24 Elders present.”

    I don’t know who the elders will be, but because John was looking on a future event in heaven I see no reason his seat would be vacant if he were one of the elders. Why would that not be the case?

  • Dear Brother

    We won’t be taking turns even if we were overcomers.

    While I think half of the 24 will be the 12 Apostles including Paul the real 12th apostle.

    It is hard to think the other 12 will not be from the pre birth of Jesus era. I have thoughts about who they might be but I will keep that to myself Since this half is harder.

  • I personally have believed in a pre rapture of the church, as the church is not mentioned passed chapter 4 in Revelations. This article reinforces this theory. Also God as in Noah’s time saved His people from Judgement as the flood, flooded the earth. Again in Sodom and Gomorrah God saved Lot and his family from perishing. And I know He will not let his chosen ones perish in the coming rapture.

  • Nathan Jones does some of the best expositions! and I always look forward to his messages – especially appreciated the unpacking on the 24 Elders of REv
    Thank you!!

      • I think there are going to be many rewards in heaven for being true believers and doing the Lord’s work here on earth. We should remember that God’s Kingdom will be filled with so many different ways to serve him. Its really exciting and rewarding to see that heaven will be filled with love, happiness, and real meaning!

  • Respectfully, misapplication of Scriptures. 1 Cor. 2:9 must be read in the context of versus 9 THROUGH 13. Verse 9 cannot be used to tell people what heaven will be like, no one knows. Those versus are relating directly to the Holy Spirit IN the believer. Yes, God’s Throne Room Rev. 4 is most excitedly glorious and the 24 Elders do represent the Church. Please take time to read, meditate, and pray upon these things.
    And Chronicles 7:14 is EXCLUSIVELY for Israel, no one else. We must understand that there are no promises related to land other than to the Jews. Not the church and certainly not the U.S.A.
    In Christ, Ben Powell
    Spokane, WA

    • Does it not bother you to tell somebody what to do in an area which he has studied for years, I have to admit I would not be so cavalier. After all you can disagree but surely not in such a way that you are telling an expert he should go back to the drawing board? Perhaps I am of the generation who would not dream of speaking to people who know so much more than I in that way.

  • Oh my goodness…the Lord revealed this to me as well, years ago! In pure frustration I came home after being bombarded by a family member on being wrong to believe in a pre trib rapture( this happened for many years)This family member is pre wrath after reading the pre wrath rapture. Which I did try to read. God would not allow it! He kept this great lie away in many different ways. He guarded my heart and soul! I sat in my living room and cried. How could my Lord who loves me so much cause me to go through unbelievable horror. I was scared, really scared. I asked Him to teach me his truth. I wanted no preacher, no man, or woman’s interpretation. I wanted Him, my Father to teach me. I opened my bible to Revelations. I studied and prayed and took my time. The holy spirit revealed Revelation 5:9-10 was the answer I needed. It is the truth! I am redeemed by his blood because I believe in him. I know this song by heart. I sing it to him already. The seals have yet to be broken, and I am singing a new song there, with him, before him. I have never ever believed the other rapture interpretations. My heart is settled on this matter because the Lord revealed it to me.
    Thank you Sir for another incredible, beautiful article!
    Your ministry is precious to me
    In Jesus
    Marla

  • Thank you for this article, I have often wondered who the 24 elders could be.
    Very thought provoking that it could be a rotational position. I am so blessed by your continual sound Biblical teaching.

  • I have always loved this passage of Scripture, and experience a lot of joy just contemplating these “Elders” throwing down their Crowns. They are so excited — eternally excited — to be eternally in the presence of the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. To me, it’s a term for the collective leadership of believers who are privileged to express their excitement and joy this way. They are “elders.” To me, that’s the key term representing the most vibrant believers in the Body of Christ. It’s a symbol of a state of soul more than specific individuals or specific numbers. I don’t put much emphasis on the number “24.” It’s a small but significant body of the faithful who are always there at the throne of grace expressing excited loyalty and love for Christ. It’s a joy that never ends in which all souls in heaven participate.

  • As others have said, since John was looking into the future, he could have seen himself included in the count and didn’t mention it, especially since he didn’t identify any of the others either. Whether John recognized them or not, evidently God didn’t think their identities are important for us to know. There’s no way to know for sure who they will be, but evidently there’s no possibility for me to be one, since I am a woman and appointed to remain an excluded second-class saint throughout eternity. Just kidding. 🙂 Maranatha.

  • What a glorious thought and certainly meat for thought. However bearing in mind how many millions make up the Bride of Christ I am hoping I will never be one of them. I prefer being a supporter in the background thank you!
    There is one thing I can guarantee though not one of them will be singing: “Mare’s eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy, kids’ll eat ivy too wouldn’t you?” (David will understand as he is of the generation!)

  • Outstanding article Nathan and an interesting thought. Elder duty throughout eternity worshipping and praising our God. Time will tell. Blessings to you and your family..

  • Dear Brother, I tried to guess who the 24 elders were for years until I discovered their names are all given in 1Chron.24. The Old Testament saints were raised with Christ when He took Paradise to heaven Matt 27:52-53 & Eph 4:8-10. They are now worshipping around the throne. They are the “spirits of just men made perfect” Heb.12:23.
    In OT times Gentiles who were saved left their nation and joined Israel and became “strangers in Israel” – there were 153,600 in Solomon’s time 2Chron 2:17 They came from “far countries” 2Chron.6:32 because the God of Israel was the only living God. Also all the saved from the period Adam to Moses were from “every tribe and kindred and nation”. They had crowns and therefore had received their rewards for service. They worship BEFORE the throne but the Church is the Bride of Christ and we SHARE the throne with Christ!!! Rev.3:21.
    John didn’t see the Bride in Revelation until she comes WITH Christ in Rev.ch 19 after the wedding when she has received her rewards. The 4 Living Creatures lead the worship of the Angels and the 24 Elders of Israel lead the worship of all the resurrected redeemed from OT times. The Church is unique and will judge angels 1Cor.6:3 as we reign WITH Christ on His Throne. Halleluiah! In the eternal state The New Jerusalem is the abode of the BRIDE – redeemed Israel are around the New jerusalem – their names are on the gates and the Gentiles saved in the Millennium and pre Moses will occupy the New earth and bring their glory and honour into the city. The throne that is shared by the Bride and the Lamb is in the city Rev.22:3 which is “as a Brides adorned for her husband” Rev.21:2

  • Nathan, I would like to know what a fine young man, and a fine young pastor thinks about the fake sun simulators in the skies all over the world? Also what do you think about prophecy and Project Blue Beam and the soon coming of the false flag enormous alien (demonic) invasion they have been planning for centuries?

  • John is one of the 24 Elders . Revelation is a book of the future things to come . So in the future he will be there . He is there now . Can you see what I’m saying . Thank for your time . Charley

  • Thank you Nathan for your scholarship. The biblical evidence appears strong for the 24 elders representing the church; and kudos for expressing that the church will be ruling and reigning with Christ in the Millenial Kingdom (1 Cor.6:2-3; Rev.1:5-6)! Jim Dodge (comments) makes a great point…the OT saints died wiith the guilt of Adam’s sin until the “last Adam” arrived to pay the penalty (Rom.5). The OT saints rested in the “bosom of Abraham” until the passover crucifixion. Dr. John Walvoord taught that Ecclesiology influences Eschatology. Embracing the fulfillment of the Feast of Pentecost as the “birth” of the Church as the “Body/Bride of Christ ” is essential to rightly understanding safe and sound Doctrine. Thank you again for your Ministry for His Glory.

  • Hi Nathan,
    I won’t rehash all of the articles but I see no reason why one should discount your thought about the church being the twenty-four elders for Revelation 5:10 clearly states that we, the church was raised up to be a Kingdom and Priest to our God, and reign on earth. The priesthood did serve in a rotational fashion. Good thought.

  • Praise the Lord Jesus Christ for you Brother Nathan. Thank you for explaining who the 24 elders are. I am doing Bible study at church with young people and it has helped me to explain them the chapter. Lord Jesus richly bless you and your family. Thank you.

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