Who are the 24 Elders of Revelation?

– posted by meleti

[A tip of the hat to Yehorakam for bringing this understanding to my attention.]

First, is the number 24, literal or symbolic?  Let’s assume it’s symbolic for a moment.  (This is only for the sake of argument as there is no way to know for sure whether the number is literal or not.)  That would allow the 24 elders to represent a group of beings, such as all the angels or the 144,000 taken from the 12 tribes, and the Great Crowd who come out of the great tribulation.

Does it represent all God's angels?  Apparently not, since they are depicted as being together with, but distinct from, the 24 elders.

“. . .And all the angels were standing around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell upon their faces before the throne and worshiped God. . .” (Re 7:11)

We can likewise eliminate the 144,000 since these are depicted standing before [distinct and apart from] the throne, the living creatures, and the 24 elders, singing a new song which no one was able to master.

“And they are singing what seems to be a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders, and no one was able to master that song except the 144,000, who have been bought from the earth.” (Re 14:3)

As for the great crowd, they too are shown to be distinct from the 24 elders, because it is one of the elders that asks John to identify the great crowd, and when he cannot, the elder provides the origin of these ones, referring to them in the third person.

“. . .And in response one of the elders said to me: “These who are dressed in the white robes, who are they and where did they come from?” 14 So right away I said to him: “My lord, you are the one that knows.” And he said to me: “These are the ones that come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Re 7:13, 14)

Another factor that eliminates either the 144,000 or the great crowd from being represented by the 24 elders is that these elders are present during the birth of the kingdom, before the reward to anointed Christians [those making up the 144,000 and the Great Crowd] is paid out.

“. . .And the twenty-four elders who were seated before God upon their thrones fell upon their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying: “We thank you, Jehovah God, the Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and begun ruling as king. 18 But the nations became wrathful, and your own wrath came, and the appointed time for the dead to be judged, and to give [their] reward to your slaves the prophets and to the holy ones . . .” (Re 11:16-18)

What do we know about these elders?  Whether the number is literal or representative is immaterial at this point.  What we can say is that it is finite.  We do know that these occupy thrones, wear crowns and are seated around the throne of God.

“. . .And round about the throne [there are] twenty-four thrones, and upon these thrones [I saw] seated twenty-four elders dressed in white outer garments, and upon their heads golden crowns.” (Re 4:4)

“. . .And the twenty-four elders who were seated before God upon their thrones fell upon their faces and worshiped God,” (Re 11:16)

So these are royal personages.  Kings under God, or we could refer to them as princes.

If we go to the book of Daniel, we read about a similar vision.

“I kept on beholding until there were thrones placed and the Ancient of Days sat down. His clothing was white just like snow, and the hair of his head was like clean wool. His throne was flames of fire; its wheels were a burning fire. 10 There was a stream of fire flowing and going out from before him. There were a thousand thousands that kept ministering to him, and ten thousand times ten thousand that kept standing right before him. The Court took its seat, and there were books that were opened....13 “I kept on beholding in the visions of the night, and, see there! with the clouds of the heavens someone like a son of man happened to be coming; and to the Ancient of Days he gained access, and they brought him up close even before that One. 14 And to him there were given rulership and dignity and kingdom, that the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him. His rulership is an indefinitely lasting rulership that will not pass away, and his kingdom one that will not be brought to ruin.” (Da 7:9-11; 13-14)

Again we see Jehovah, as the Ancient of Days, taking his throne while other thrones are placed.  He holds court.  The court contains God's throne and the other thrones that were placed around him.  Around the court of thrones are one hundred million angels.  Then someone with the appearance of the Son of man [Jesus] appears before God. All rulership is granted to him. This reminds us of the elder’s reassuring words to John at Revelation 5:5 as well as those found at Revelation 11:15-17.

Who occupy the thrones in Daniel’s vision?  Daniel speaks of the archangel Michael who is “one of the foremost princes”.  Evidently, there are angelic princes.  So it fits that these crowned princes would sit on thrones overseeing each one his particular area of authority. They would sit in the heavenly court, around the throne of God.

While we cannot speak with absolute certainly, it does seem that the 24 elders represent positions of authority held by angelic princes (archangels).

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  • Comment by Willy on 2016-11-09 12:58:24

    Every bit of more understanding of the Bible and its book Revelation is very welcome. Thank you Yehorakam and of course Meleti for unveiling a tip of what is going on in the Heavenly Realms.
    Thank you all for your zealous work and love for our Heavenly Father, his Son and us.
    Love to all,

  • Comment by thomas on 2016-11-10 14:10:47

    Interesting idea. Maybe unique. I tried to find the same idea in 10 or 20 old books and commentaries, but couldn't. The 24 elders has always seems puzzling to me.

    • Reply by Meleti Vivlon on 2016-11-10 19:50:03

      You'll find it interesting to know that Stephanos was preparing an article on the same subject without my being aware of it and had come to the same conclusion completely independent of my research.

  • Comment by Yehorakam on 2016-11-10 15:08:15

    Meleti, thank you for an excellent article. Thank you for the “hat tip” but it should be directed to another brother in Christ who we will call George, who mentioned very briefly who the 24 elders were to me a few years ago. It was like he planted a little seed, and in my personal Bible study, the spirit made it grow and opened up my mind to see it as true and to understand it deeper. I merely shared with you what he shared with me.

    I would also like to add that there is another reference to the 24 elders and their judgment regarding rulership over this earth. It is at Revelation 20:4-6. It reads:

    “And I saw thrones, and there were those who sat down on them, and power of judging was given them. Yes, I saw the souls of those executed with the ax for the witness they bore to Jesus and for speaking about God, and those who had worshiped neither the wild beast nor its image and who had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand. And they came to life and ruled as kings with the Christ for a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Happy and holy is anyone having part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no authority, but they will be priests of God and of the Christ, and will rule as kings with him for the thousand years.”

    So, those on thrones rendered judgment at a time when the anointed are dead, killed by the beast for not receiving its mark. The judgment results in them receiving life and receiving the kingdom. Again we see the same event is repeated a third time in scripture, providing a perfect witness to present a clear picture and eliminate any doubt as to when this heavenly court sits to render their judgment. The heavenly court of rulership sits, judgement is rendered…and the result is that the Christ and the anointed begin to rule over the earth.
    We will also notice in the account of Daniel that timing is also indicated. In Revelation 7:1, the angels are holding back the four winds of destruction so that they would not blow on the earth or sea, and therefore no harm would be caused. But in Daniel 7:2, Daniel sees the four winds of the heavens being allowed to stir up the sea. As a result of the winds stirring up the sea, 4 beasts arise at the same time and an extremely great time of trouble starts for all the earth (vs. 5,7,19), but especially the chosen ones enter into a time of great tribulation (vs. 21, 25). This goes against the JW teaching that these beasts came one after another, each one eliminating or succeeding the previous. Of course I could care less what they teach because the scriptures say they rise and exist together after the four winds are released. In fact, according to Daniel 7:11,12, when the fourth beast’s rulership is cut short and it is destroyed due to the Courts decision, the first 3 that arose together with it are still ruling, but their rulerships are then “taken away.” This is just more evidence that this is not a succession or “march of world powers” but rather a rise of four powerful entities. The only beast that truly has importance is the last one that destroys everything in its path, speaks against the Most High and wages a war against the chosen ones. The tribulation is so terrible for the holy ones, vs. 21 says that it was prevailing against them. In other words, it was having success in eliminating the holy ones. But, vs. 22 shows that judgment in their favour comes just at the right time before they are all eliminated. If it were not for the decision of the 24 elders in behalf of the holy ones, they would have been all eliminated….

    …..and that is what Christ meant when he said at Matthew 24:21,22 that “if those days were not cut short, no flesh would be saved…but on account of the chosen ones, those days will be cut short.”

    It brings me so much difficulty for me to disagree with my dear brothers, but my conscience would pain me if I did not respectfully speak up on matters that I feel are very clear in the scriptures. If I recall, the article on “trials and tribulations” seemed to imply that the great tribulation of Matt 24:21 only applied to Jerusalem and that the tribulation of 24:29 started 2000 years ago with the start of the persecution of first anointed Christians and it continues to this day. It said Christians of our day are unlikely to go through some special test that Christians of other times didn't go through. Certainly, the chosen ones before Christ went through terrible tribulations as mentioned in Hebrews 11:35-40. How were the post-Christ holy ones tribulations any greater than the tribulations of pre-Christ holy ones? They weren't. You see, being a chosen one, or of “the seed” in any period of time brings direct and intense hatred from those of Satan’s seed. Christ reminded his followers of that when he said that his true followers were to accept his torture stake. We must be willing to drink the cup he drinks (Mt 20:22,23) and be baptized into his death (Rm 6:3,4). Some might be expelled or lose everything materially for their faith. Those types of things have happened to Christians for 2000 years. Those same type of things happened to pre-Christian chosen ones for thousands of years. That is simply the hatred that has always existed between the two seeds. True, Jesus’ words about a great tribulation had an initial and small fulfilment with Jerusalem. But 1) Jesus words about a great tribulation, 2) along with the words of Daniel 12:1 and, 3) the WAR to be waged against the remaining one of the womans seed in Revelation 12:17 and 13:7, and 4) the WAR to be waged against the holy ones by the beast in Daniel 7 that almost extinguishes them are ALL referring to the one and same event of a larger tribulation that has two aspects. That of first causing terror through massive destruction to force all to accept the mark of the beast, and a final and concentrated attempt to eliminate any existence of the seed on earth. The beast of Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 are the same from two perspectives. Again we see the same event is repeated three times in scripture, providing a perfect witness to present a clear picture. Jesus, Daniel and John’s words about a great tribulation have their major fulfillment in a specific, unrepeated terrible time that would come upon the entire inhabited earth, such a terrible time that it could not be compare to anything previous. In fact Daniel even repeated again that only “your people” who have their names written in the book of life will “escape.” It would threaten the existence of the whole human race (not just the Jew’s little “world”) It would also result in the near extinction of the only remaining ones of the descendant of the woman. The persecution of the first century Christians was also not a “great tribulation,” unprecedented in history that affected the whole world. The numbers of Christians were growing in that period, not diminishing, so there was no beast “prevailing against them.” Their tribulation was that common to the seed that always exits. In fact, Acts 8:1 says that a great persecution arose, but only against the congregation in Jerusalem. When Saul wished to carry that persecution further to Damascus, he was stopped by Jesus (9:1-4). Then 9:31 says that the congregations throughout the whole area entered into a period of peace.

    I made no comments when the article on trials and tribulations came out, because I have a deep respect for Meleti’s good, hard work and I don’t wish to object a lot. I also feel that the holy spirit often corrects us, so we don’t need to go around correcting each other a lot. I also thought that it shouldn’t matter to a true Christian if there will be great tribulation ahead because, when he or she drinks of the cup, he/she knows that it is a commitment to a course that Christ took which may include a very terrible death. So, if he/she thinks the last 2000 years has been a great tribulation, and then gets a big surprise ahead when the beast wages war against him personally and he is slaughtered for his faith, it really shouldn’t be a surprise because he should have known it might happen before he considered partaking of the cup. But, because this fits in right now, I have decided to speak about it.

    I would also like to bring out one other detail with regards to the 24 elders and their decision in Daniel 7. Verse 9 says thrones were placed and the Ancient of Days sat down and the court took its seat to make a judgment. As a result of the judgment, the beast is prevented from destroying all the holy ones, his rulership is ended and we are shown the Son of man, Christ being brought before him to be “given rulership, honor and a kingdom, that the peoples, nations and language groups should all serve even him.” This is the time when Christ is finally given a kingdom that includes authority over all earths inhabitants. What is the timing of Christ being given this kingdom? We know that it is in the time period of the 4 powers, also accompanied by the great tribulation against everyone, but especially the holy ones. If you now read Daniel 7:21,22 it says that while the war against the holy ones was going on and the beast was prevailing and about to eliminate them all, the Ancient of Days came and judgment was rendered in behalf of the holy ones and the appointed time arrived for the holy ones to take possession of the kingdom. Verse 26,27 repeats the exact same thing and adds that the “Court sat, took away his rulership…and the kingdom and the rulership and the grandeur of the kingdoms under all the heavens were given to the people who are the holy ones of the Supreme One. Their kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all rulerships will serve and obey them.” So, in verse 9-14, we see the Ancient of days sits, the court sits, the final beast is eliminated and Christ is given the kingdom. In verse 21-27, it says that the Ancient of days comes, the court sits, the final beast is eliminated, and the holy ones are given the kingdom. These are the exact same event. The Ancient of days and his court do not sit down, make judgment for Christ and give him the kingdom, and then thousands of years later sit down to make judgment for the holy ones and give them the kingdom. This is one event at the end of the great tribulation. The final beast is eliminated and Christ and the anointed are given the kingdom.

    As a side point, Revelation 12:14 says the great crowd of anointed “come out” of the great tribulation. Daniel 12:1 says they will “escape.” These are just two different ways to describe the same event.

    If someone would say that this is my interpretation, I would not feel offended. But I would be little surprised that they think it is an interpretation due to the fact that the truth is so very simple to comprehend and these clear Bible accounts, repeated by three witnesses give a perfect harmonious picture that does not require ‘stretching’ anything or complicated explanations involving an in depth examination of Greek. Yet, perhaps it might not be easy to accept. I also had a hard time accepting almost everything I now believe to be true due to the stretching and complicated explanations I received with the Governing Body’s types and anti-types, making symbolic what was in fact literal, or vice versa. Sadly, sometimes we as humans delight in complicated explanations, not because they are easy to teach, but because they give us the impression that the one explaining has a special and deep knowledge of Bible languages, archaeology, dates and the like, and we are awed by it and give glory to men. I think that’s why the millions of witnesses still sit and marvel at the explanations that aren’t true coming from the Governing Body. They are complicated and they marvel at it, but they can’t explain it well because it is not easily understandable. They also think that the truth is complicated and you need to be a scholar to understand it and so refrain from relying patiently on the spirit, prayer and meditation. The atittude may be: Why work hard and wait years for understanding when a group of scholars will do the work for you and give you an answer before Christ does? I’m no scholar so I’m sure the GB could run circles around me with their deep knowledge, but all they would have is a bunch of circles and I think a straight line is much nicer and simpler. Often we want to be impressed, and if something is really simple we feel unimpressed and a little disappointed. I remember raving about the taste of a vegetable dip a host served me. When I found out is was just ketchup and mayonnaise mixed together, it somehow didn't taste as good anymore. I wanted to hear that it was a more complicated recipe. I feel that sometimes too, the Governing Body gives long explanations because they don’t wish to accept they are wrong on a simple but major truth and a long explanation is necessary to get around the simple truth. Time will tell if one or more of them truly repent of their ways. I certainly hope so. I worry about them.

    If it comes down to my interpretation being labelled as wrong, I can accept there is a chance of that. But we would have to explain why all 4 or 5 Bible passages that have seem to have the same timing, the same elements and the same events and yet they are somehow describing different people at different times and different events. And we would still be left with the one last thing no one can deny….a direct statement from the Bible itself at Revelation 11:15-18. It is not an interpretation of an event. It is not symbolic, cryptic or a prophesy. It is a direct, clear and loud announcement from heaven that an event is taking place. The event is a great change of power announced by the 7th trumpet. The announcement says in part:

    “The kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ….we thank you Jehovah God, the Almighty because you have taken your great power and begun ruling as king.”

    This statement cannot be taken any other way. Christ becomes king over the earth! The prophets and holy ones are then also “rewarded,” by being given life and the kingdom. The 7th trumpet is the last trumpet, and as mentioned in Matthew 24:29-31, the last trumpet falls at the end of the great tribulation and results in the chosen ones being gathered, receiving their reward. This announcement should call loud and clear as to when Christ finally receives the kingdom over this earth.

    As a side note, the GB teaches that this universe shattering 7th trumpet blast announced from heaven was at one of a few tiny conventions that only a few hundred people heard in at one of seven conventions held between 1922 and 1928. What a privilege to have been present for announcement of Christ becoming king. Can you imagine the emotion? It must have been just like being in the bethel dining room on Oct 2, 1914….wait a minute….how could he become King twice!!! Well, maybe if they were 7 conventions, then the 7th convention should have been the seventh trumpet blast, but then that means that Jesus would have become king in 1928. Perhaps they might consider moving the date from October 2, 1914 to the 1928 Detroit convention that announces Christ has become king. No, but wait, they say insist on 1914, so the trumpet blast comes after he became king. Wow, now they’ve changed scripture to make it fit. No, but wait, they then say that the trumpet blasts are actually continuing from 1922 until the great tribulation….lots of circles…. I apologize for the sarcasm as I feel it should be used extremely sparingly fear some could take it as an insult, but for anyone reading this, it should now be evident that you should accept the holy spirit, and IT will teach you all things (Jn 14:26; 15:26; 16:13; 1 Jo 2:27) not the GB. I would not encourage you to put your life in the hands of the governing body, waiting on some special announcement on when to duck into your basement so as to be “saved.” Christ told us the only way to be saved a long time ago. Put your life into the hands of Christ and receive “life” from him even if you have to die to get it.

    Sorry again for disagreeing about different things and for the long comment but my conscience weighs very heavily on me if I continue to remain silent on some of these matters related to the sacred secrets of the Kingdom. I am not an authority on many matters, but I feel I speak the truth on this particular topic. Again, these are my beliefs. For someone else to accept them, they should wait on the HS to convince them if they are true. I hope that despite the length of this comment, there were will be those that can see how the treasure of God’s word paints such a harmonious, simple and thus beautiful picture. Instead of Daniel 7, 12, Matthew 24, Revelation 11,12 and 20 being hard to harmonize or explain, we see that they all describe the very same events, with the very same identities and at the very same time period. Thanks to all these witnesses we can see when the real great tribulation takes place, what it means for all, who the 24 elders are, what they decide upon, when Christ and the holy ones receive the kingdom. Many other questions arise. I am plagued with them too. May we all pray for holy spirit so we can find those answers. True knowledge is becoming more abundant. It was not abundant in the first century. They had lot of information, but didn’t understand the full application of it. Paul made it very clear that they had partial knowledge and were seeing a hazy outline (1 Cor 13:9-12). When that which is complete arrives, we will no longer have partial knowledge, but accurate knowledge…but most importantly love will remain.

    Much love,

    • Reply by Meleti Vivlon on 2016-11-10 20:11:18

      Hi Yehorakam,

      Thank you for adding to our knowledge on this topic. I also appreciate your analysis of Daniel, though I don't fully agree with it. Nevertheless, I would like to point out one thing that I believe is relevant. When you were commenting on Stephanos article, "The Book of Revelation - The Lord's Day", you made this statement.

      So, from your interpretation…”we can come to the conclusion”….and that “also makes sense that”….”in that case.” I don’t mean to be difficult, but we cannot come to any conclusions based on a person’s interpretation. We can only treat them as interpretations. They cannot be transformed into conclusions that are then used even further to establish more conclusions. If the interpretation is wrong, every other conclusion based on it would be wrong. As long as something is an interpretation, it is a belief or opinion. We can talk about it, think about it, muse on them, keep them on the shelf and believe them when we see solid evidence backed up by direct statements in the Bible, or until the holy spirit itself convinces us that it is the truth.

      I see your point on this. We don't want to accept personal interpretation as fact and then proceed on that foundation to establish more conclusions as fact.

      I fear you may be unwittingly guilty of the very thing you are concerned about in others. You say in this comment:

      "and that is what Christ meant when he said at Matthew 24:21,22 that “if those days were not cut short, no flesh would be saved…but on account of the chosen ones, those days will be cut short.”

      I do not see that the contextual evidence of Matthew 24 supports this conclusion. While I acknowledge the possibility you may be right--pending further discussion--at present it is only an opinion and one which you've presented without providing a Scriptural foundation, so you seem to be doing what you felt Stephanos was doing in his dissertation.

  • Comment by Yehorakam on 2016-11-11 19:34:27

    Thank you Meleti. I indeed may be guilty of the same thing. But, when it comes down to it, although I may feel the HS has convinced me of certain things, I would not expect anyone else to accept what I've said as truth. Only the holy spirit could convince them of that, and that would always be the best way. My comments only express my personal convictions.

    Whether Jesus words of a great tribulation have a second fulfillment is not stated in Matthew, so it is indeed a personal conclusion to believe it had another but greater fulfillment. Someone might make the personal conclusion that Jesus' words about signs in the sun moon and stars, and anguish in all the nations, seeing the sign of the son of man was for the first century only. You and I would then say they are stretching it. There will always be differences in opinion and difficulty to establish a consensus because wherever there is a group, each person may be on a different level in their progress and studies. Some may not even have God's spirit at all. My feeling is that In the end, trying to establish a consensus by means of putting it to a group is not what Christ wants. That's why it is my personal preference not to visit the DTT site. A majority decision or a true scholar with the most convincing argument...neither guarantee that the spirit influences the final decision. Jesus said the HS would guide us into the truth. It wasn't going to be a matter of the HS guiding a group to establish true doctrine. It would be the HS guiding each individual anointed Christian into the truth, teaching him/her "all things" as 1 John says. This does not negate the importance of encouraging and sharing our personal convictions with other Christians, but to discover the truth, it should be up to each person to do his own research and come to his own decision under the guidance of the holy spirit. If he does that, he will eventually find himself in unity with others that are being led down the same path.

    George, who I mentioned in my first comment, has often shared his personal conclusions with me. Some I immediately rejected as being his personal conclusions and even hard to believe, only to have the HS lead me against my desire to the same conclusions later, and without George's influence! What an embarrassment! What does it teach me? First, I am sure he has God's spirit. Second, I should not reject what he says if it seems odd, nor immediately believe it if it seems right. So, whether I agree with him or not, I need to dive into God's word on my own and pray and wait for the spirit to lead me to that conclusion. Those prayers get answered quite regularly. There is no comparison to the feeling when it is the HS that convinces you of something. At that point, you have complete conviction on that topic and know that it is true. For that reason, I would wish for the HS to be everyone's teacher and convince them on their own, as it will strengthen their relationship 1000x more with their head, Christ.

    That being said, I will return to my practice of avoiding doctrinal issues. They create debates, and what do we gain by debating with those that might be our spirit anointed brothers and sisters when we know that with time we will be all led to the same conclusions anyways? Satan only wishes to create divisions and debates to establish "truth" only serve his purpose. I think it will be better for me to concentrate on sowing seeds of the Kingdom in my area, and when I can, visit the site to share experiences and comments about Christian life that might serve to build up, encourage and teach lessons.

    Much love,

  • Comment by The Identity of the 24 Elders | Beroean Pickets - Bible Study Forum on 2016-12-04 22:40:44

    […] note: When I published my analysis of the 24 Elders which came from the work of a brother in the Caribbean, Stephanos who lives in Europe called me to […]

  • Comment by Robert-6512 on 2017-03-13 11:39:39

    If the 24 elders are angels in the presence of God, but they are no part of the 144,000, it is another piece of evidence that the 144,000 do not go to heaven. As you know, Meleti, I don't believe anyone goes to heaven. I find it interesting that your article adds further weight to that position.

  • Comment by Zacheus on 2020-10-11 01:38:18

    "While we cannot speak with absolute certainly,"...This is the difference between yourself and the wt. the wt comes up with a 'new' idea and goes to town on it until it is found to be wrong then they have to do the big backtrack or deny they ever said it.

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