The Book of Revelation talks about several things that have been the subject of various interpretations throughout Christian history. One main thing that has been mentioned is the 24 elders surrounding the throne and worship. Are they angels, prophets, apostles, or is the number symbolic? Who exactly are these 24 elders mentioned in Revelation?
The twenty-four elders are representative of the Church. This is because of three things: where the elders are sitting, their dress code, and what they carry. Revelation 4:4 states, “Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads.”
The 24 Elders Are Sitting On Thrones
This scripture points out that the 24 elders are sitting on thrones. It can’t be angels because the Bible doesn’t promise the angels will sit on the throne next to God. However, the Bible does say that the angels stood around the throne and elders (Revelation 7:11).
Besides, the word “elder” is mentioned over 100 times in the scriptures, and in biblical theology, it means a man of advanced age who had an office of leadership over the people of God. It can also mean men who shepherd and oversee a group of believers. Angels didn’t have leadership positions in the Church. That role was for people chosen by God.
Besides, the throne is a seat of power and authority. In the Bible, we are told that we shall reign with Christ and sit with Him in heaven (2 Timothy 2:12, Revelation 20: 4-6, Ephesians 2:6). In context to the sitting position, the elders are the 24 church leaders. But not just any church elder can sit on the throne; only those who were victorious from trial and deemed worthy by God (Revelations 3:10-21)
The 24 Elders Are Dressed In White
Revelation 3 also points to those who have passed trials wearing crowns and white clothes. In the Bible, white cloth symbolizes being covered in Christ’s righteousness (being saved or born again). Believers are also promised the crown of life (James 1:12, Revelation 2:10). In the Bible, people of noble blood and high priests wore crowns.
A crown symbolizes royalty but also points to believers who have persevered in faith through temptation and persecution. The scripture further tells believers to hold to the truth of God’s word faithfully and patiently endure the trials they face to ensure their crown is not taken away (Revelation 3:11). In fact, 1 Corinthians 9:24–26 NIV points out that believers get a crown that will last forever.
To sum it up, the crown of life is an honor that Jesus bestows upon those who endure the trials and temptations of this life and those who are faithful to death. It’s not bestowed on angels. Besides, humans and not angels can be born again and covered in Christ’s righteousness. With these two points, we can conclude that the church representatives/elders wearing white clothes and a gold crown are the 24 men mentioned in Revelation.
The Elders Were Carrying Golden Bowls
Revelation 5:8 further elaborates on who the 24 men were: “And the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.”
This scripture tells us that the 24 men were holding golden bowls containing the prayers of God’s people. In the Bible, the duties of the elders or priests included being spiritual overseers and shepherding the Church of God (Acts 20:28).
Since preachers can act as human intercessors and bring the needs of people into the Presence of God, then the 24 men in Revelation may symbolize the leaders of the Church. The idea that they are church leaders who, through prayers, brought the needs of believers to God the Father is further proved by the 24 men holding prayers of God’s people.
A Combination of Tribes and Apostles
Another belief is that the 24 elders are made of 12 disciples and the 12 tribes of Israel. That means the total number of elders is obtained from both times of the Old and New Testaments. The 12 tribes descended from the sons of Jacob (Gen 49:28), while Jesus chose the disciples except for Matthias, who was appointed after Jesus’ ascension to replace Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:12-26). Besides, the apostles were promised seats on the throne next to Jesus Matthew 19:28, Luke 22:28-30).
In addition, it is possible that some of the saints or prophets from the Old Testament would be assigned powerful roles in the Kingdom. In fact, the Bible points out that the Kingdom shall be given to the saints of the Highest, and they shall judge the world (Daniel 7: 27, 1 Corinthians 6:2). So the 24 elders in Revelation may be comprised of representatives from the 12 tribes of Jacob and 12 apostles.
What Is The Significance Of 24 In Relation To The Elders In Revelation?
Twenty-four elders can also be looked at symbolically. The number 24 has been mentioned several times in the Bible. The recurrence of the number 24 in both 1 Chronicles 24 and 25 may symbolize completeness. In addition, the 24 elders can be interpreted as representatives of the Church.
The number 12 represents the twelve tribes of Israel, and another set of 12 represents the twelve apostles of Jesus. Together, they symbolize the unity of God’s people from both the Old and New Testaments. This unity emphasizes that believers will be in the same Kingdom regardless of historical context.
Based on the evidence provided above, it’s clear that there are different opinions on who the 24 elders mentioned in Revelation are. The 24 elders may be representatives of the Church. It’s also possible that they are God-chosen people from Old and New Statement. This might include the apostles and prophets. Whichever the case may be, the number 24 is very symbolic as it denotes unity or completeness.