THE 24 ELDERS
Are the 24 elders angels? Are they representative
(symbolic) of a
group of people who will be there in the future or
are they present there, right NOW as John is given a
view of the heavenly realm?
First, it is necessary to realize that the things John sees in all the
visions are symbolic. The personages and events are real but not seen
as they actually are or will occur.
He sees a SYMBOL for Jesus but it is not ACTUALLY Jesus in the vision.
The description is purely symbolic for Jesus does not actually have a
sword coming out of His mouth, etc.
Accordingly, I suggest that the 24 elders are likewise SYMBOLIC of something
that is ACTUALLY in heaven, but portrayed only in a symbolic manner.
I don’t think that designating the 24 elders as angels
is a good choice.
What IS ACTUALLY in heaven at the time of John’s vision?
1. There is the Father and the Son:
A. The Father: Mt. 5.16; Heb. 12.23
B. The Son: Heb. 1.3; Heb. 12.24
2. We have a multitude of angels:
With different forms, ranks and functions.
The 4 living creatures of John's vision should be
seen as SYMBOLS of a different rank among the
angels. (Perhaps they correspond with the seraphim
of Isaiah 6:4 and the cherubim of Ezekiel.)
For details see
5. We have the multitude of Old Testament believers,
described as the spirits of just men made perfect,
who now live in heaven. Heb. 12.23
6. And we have all church age believers who had died
by the time of Johns vision. 2 Cor. 5.8;
Now John, in the Spirit (that is in vision format) is taken
to heaven and sees what is present there and sees what is present
on the earth. But what he sees are SYMBOLS of what is actually there and
not the actual beings.
So John sees in order of appearance:
1. A personage sitting on a throne: Rev. 4:2
2. 24 elders: Rev. 4:4
3. 7 lamps to represent the 7 Spirits of God. Rev. 4:5
4. 4 living creatures: Rev. 4:6-8
5. A strong angel: Rev. 5:2
6. A lamb: Rev. 5:6
7. An innumerable host of angels singing: Rev. 5:11
8. What’s left? How about the Old Testament saints and
the dead in Christ saints?
And why not view these two groups together since they
are now both covered by the blood of Jesus and share in the new Jerusalem,
which is also in heaven at Hebrews 12.22?
And is it not interesting that when the new
Jerusalem is described at Revelation 21.10-14, we have 12 gates
for the 12 tribes of Israel and 12 foundation stones for the 12
apostles of the lamb. I suggest that this number, 24, is a symbolic
number combining both OT and church believers.
See Topic: Saints in Heaven
I see the 24 elders as a "representative" group.
Twelve and twelve probably represents both groups of
saints who would be in heaven at the time of John’s
vision. So, of course he does not see EVERY single dead believer
from the Old Testament and the church age. He sees a group of 24
that is symbolic for all those believers.
Then John sees a symbol that refers to the church on the earth:
Rev. 5.9-10. He sees the golden bowls filled with incense, and
apparently is told that they represent "The prayers of the saints."
And the song the elders sing is ABOUT the saints who are
from every tribe, tongue, people and nation,
and are a kingdom of priests (Rev. 1.6).
The present activity of the church on earth is as a
priestly nation. 1 Pet. 2.9
These also WILL (future) reign upon the earth.
It should be clear that the believers who are later seen in
heaven at Revelation 7.9-17, are there in direct fulfillment of Mat. 24.31 and
1 Thes. 4.14f.
The description of the saints seen in heaven at
chapter 7 does not mitigate against the identification
of the elders as "saints" because what is seen at
Revelation 7 is part of the vision or MOVIE that John
is watching, and not part of the immediate scene.
IN just the same way, JOHN can see the
BUT he is not there as part of the group.
Now concerning the description of the 24 elders:
1. They are presbuteros, or “old men”: This indicates
authority or rank. It also indicates that they represent
PEOPLE and not a different class of angels.
2. The crowns need not refer to rewards, as they are
symbolic of both the authority and the rank of believers in
3. The crowns could also refer to the fact that these
are overcomers by faith in the Messiah, which is pertinent to both
Old Testament and church age saints.
4. “Sitting on the thrones” is another symbol which
indicates association with the One on the throne, and is not a
fulfillment of the "throne" promises, for those promises are not
fulfilled until the
5. The white robes need not indicate the raptured
church, for all creatures associated with God are dressed
in white. And as saints even without resurrection body,
they would be dressed in white.
At Revelation 7.9 we have the elect of Matthew 24.31, in white robes.
Notice the martyrs of Revelation 6.9-11 who are in
heaven without a resurrection body and they have white robes.
Also notice that the angels at Revelation 15.6,
have garments that are clean and bright, and at
Revelation 19:14, white and clean. By the way, the armies that
follow Jesus are angels, not believers.
6. Regarding the song of the 24 elders and the
discrepancy concerning the pronoun. It is no issue.
1. If the 24 are symbolic of the Old Testament saints plus dead New
Testament saints, the pronoun "us" is quite pertinent,
for they all
come under the work of Jesus.
2. And if we go with the better mss. reading and use
"them", then, it is probable that the elders are referring
to a DIFFERENT group, which would be the church on the
earth at that time, identified as “from every tribe,
tongue, people and nation.”
It is perfectly consistent with all revelation that
"the 24 elders" are a SYMBOLIC group that represents the
MYRIAD of believers from all previous history, who are
in heaven at the time of John’s vision.