“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.
Turning his attention from God on the throne, the apostle John now describes these 24 elders.
Some have suggested that the elders are angels, but this has to be rejected since their description is more in keeping with men than angels.
The twenty-four are described as elders, while no angel has ever been described as such. The term is used many times in the Old and New Testament either of leaders in the synagogue, judges or representatives of the people, or as in the New Testament leaders in the church.
The fact that they are clothed in white robes takes us to passages such as this.
“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife [the church] has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” Revelation 19:7-8.
And in the letter to the church of Sardis the Lord said the following.
“He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” Revelation 3:5.
There must be no misunderstanding about the first phrase in the above verse; it does not mean that Christians can become lost:
“He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life…” Revelation 3:5a.
“He who overcomes…” means that these are genuine Christians who have accepted Christ as their Savior; these are the ones who overcome in Scripture.
“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” 1 John 5:4-5.
Those who have their name blotted of the Book of Life are folks who have attended church claiming to be Christians but they were not and died in their sins.
These non-Christians are not necessarily bad people, perhaps just deluded or ignorant of the meaning of the cross of Christ. Others may however have an evil and deceptive heart and wish to deceive and take advantage of Christians.
One must not just assume that everyone who walks into a church claiming to be a Christian actually is one.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” Matthew 7:21.
And what is the will of Jesus’ Father in heaven?
“This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:39-40.
“But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?” Luke 6:46.
The white robes are a result of salvation in Jesus and are shown as such throughout Revelation. These 24 elders were once lost sinners who were redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.
The crowns on their heads, in the Greek, are stephanos, the crown given to those who won at the games; in this case it is the crown of the overcomer, not a diadem the crown of royalty. I do not know of any reference to an angel wearing a crown of any type in Scripture.
The bigger mystery is, why twenty-four, and who are they? The best explanation seems to come from 1 Chronicles 24 where King David appointed 24 elders to represent the entire Levitical priesthood.
In this way he divided the priesthood into 24 segments and each segment was to serve for two weeks a year. In this manner the priests which numbered in the thousands could be represented by the twenty-four in the, soon to be built temple.
Zacharias is an example of how this worked, he was of the division of Abijah, and having been chosen by lot (a roll of the dice so to speak) was in the temple burning incense when he was visited by an angel announcing that he would have a son, John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Christ.
There were so many priests that the burning of incense was permitted only once in a lifetime. It is easy to see how the 24 elders could manage and represent such a large group in an orderly fashion. The account of Zacharias is in Luke 1:5-25 if you wish to look it up.
If this is the case then these twenty-four individuals are representatives of the heavenly priesthood.
“To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Revelation 1:5b-6.
Other possible explanations might be that 12 of them represent Old Testament saints and 12 of them would represent New Testament saints.
In Biblical numerology as per F.W. Grant (1834-1902), the number twelve represents manifest (visible) rule and the number two can mean, among other things and depending on its usage, either competent testimony or witness.
So the number 24, rather than being a random number may mean something like this, the witness of the first twelve leaders is corroborated by the witness of the second twelve.
What are they a witness to? The witness may well be that God is true and righteous in all His dealings throughout the Old Testament history and the New Testament history as well and is worthy of our worship and trust.
It is easy to miss the fact that God is being slandered continually, even as you read this, by Christians too when they blame Him for awful things that come into their lives.
Awful things that often stem from their giving in to their own sin nature, or awful things brought in by the devil when we give him a toe-hold in our lives or even in our country by tolerating evil leaders.
“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.” Isaiah 59:1-2.
Many times it is not blatant sin but the Father’s correction.
“If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:7-11.
These twenty-four elders can testify to God’s righteousness because they lived it.
Another suggestion as to their number and identities may be that it is the twelve patriarchs (sons of Jacob) in the Old Testament and the twelve apostles in the New Testament.
If this is not so, who would you guess it might be? Perhaps it could be Job, he certainly earned it, or could it be Enoch, the seventh generation from Adam (see Genesis 5: 18-24 and Jude 14-15), Joseph, Samuel, Isaiah?
Or in the New Testament, Peter, Timothy, Paul, or some lowly janitor who cleaned the church and lit the furnace on Sunday mornings, all for the love of God and his brothers and sisters in Christ?
Or could it be you? God says there will be rewards in heaven; this example is why He should be taken seriously.
Many Christians sniff and say, “I will be happy just to be there”, and this is true, yet if these rewards are important to God then they should be important to us; even if our imagination is too dull to picture what they may be.
The numerology cited here is taken from, “The Numerical Bible” by F.W.Grant, published by Loizeaux Brothers. Be aware that this is an 8 or 10 volume set of books, so it is not an overnight read.
It should be added that numerology is a good tool in Bible study, but it is not a substitute for diligent study of Scripture. Bible study is a lot like looking for gold, you can find some lying around on the ground, but if you want to get rich you have to dig for it.
“According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become manifest; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” 1 Corinthians 3:10-15.
Revelation 4:4 taken from godisrevealed.com posted on 10-18-16, updated on 5-30-22.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version, copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission, all rights reserved.