Who Are They?

The 24 Elders before the throne of God.
Art by Pat Marvenko Smith,
Click on the image to go to her gallery.

A study by Gavin Finley MD - 2010


When John reports that he was "in the Spirit on the Lord's Day". What does this mean? Many Bible teachers affirm that John was merely saying he was having a religious reverie on a Sunday. But is this what really happened?

A plain reading of the text clearly indicates that when he was on the Island of Patmos John had visions of eternal things beyond space and time. He entered into a spiritual transport in God to find himself standing right in the middle of the heavenly court proceedings attendant to the climax of this age. As in a time machine John found himself suddenly transported into the heavenly proceedings of the Day of the Lord, in realms of eternity beyond this Newtonian space-time continuum. John was inside the Day of the Lord, entering into a vortex, a worm hole, and saw the heavens roll back as a scroll and Newtonian space-time unzipped to reveal Messiah revealed as the Ancient of Days, sitting and presiding over unfolding end-time events from His throne in the heavens.

The Book of Revelation is an unveiling of Messiah. We do not know what this will look like. Christ will be revealed to all as He comes down from the eternal realms, breaking right on through the fabric of this fallen cosmos. John got to take a peek at all this. He was taken right into the middle of it. Then after seeing all these wonders he came back out of the vision, opened his eyes and found himself back on Patmos. This matter of John being transported to an eternal realm beyond earthly Newtonian space-time is extremely important.

What did John see? He saw 24 elders. Pre-Trib Bible teachers tell us that the 24 elders in chapter 4 are the Church. Not only that, just because this vision is recounted early in the book of Revelation they force the text into pre-tribulational time niche. Why? How can they justify such assertions? Such notions are completely unfounded. There is not one scaric of scriptural evidence for them to make such wild and woolly claims.

Dear saints. Let the Holy Scriptures stand. The 24 elders are the 24 elders, period.
As these Bible teachers themselves are fond of saying,

"When the first sense makes good sense,
seek no other sense,
lest you find yourself speaking nonsense."
To say these 24 elders are the Church is precisely that;
It is sheer nonsense.

The 24 elders are what the Bible says they are. They are elders, human elders. Angels don't grow old. There are no elder angels. So the 24 elders are 24 men who have lived as men on earth. They must have lived out their lives before God and served him in a special way in times past. The Bible does not tell us precisely who these 24 elders are. The dominionist church would probably like them to be 12 present day dominionist preachers, or perhaps 12 self proclaimed "apostles" of the "five-fold ministry" currently riding herd on the Western church.

For what it is worth, here is an opinion on this matter of the 24 elders. And it is just that, an opinion. If we look at Revelation 21 we see the New Jerusalem descending from heaven. We see that it has 12 foundations. These 12 foundations represent the 12 apostles The Holy City also has 12 gates representing the 12 tribes and 12 patriarchs of Israel. I believe these offer some valuable clues as we seek to look into this matter of the 24 elders.

As we search out the identity of these 12 elders we note the number 12 is represented in Holy Scripture in association with the government of God. So we might well suspect that these 24 elders are in fact two sets of 12 men. All 24 of them would have had great importance in the unfolding of God's plans and purposes here below.

Here is something for us to consider. Is it possible that 12 of the 24 were key witnesses to what God was doing early on in the Old Covenant? And might the other 12 be key witnesses to what God was doing in the New Covenant?

2 x 12 = 24
Do we see this dual witness of God on earth in Holy Scripture? Indeed we do.
Two sets of 12 men might well relate to the two witnesses we see showcased repeatedly throughout the Bible.


"Candles at the Wall" by Jewish artist Eizen.
Click HERE to go to the Israeli Poster Center.

The two witnesses are showcased in the two Shabbat candles.
And two candles are presented on our dining tables in Christendom.
The theme of 'two witnesses' is seen in both Old and New Testaments.

If we look at Zechariah 4 we see the two olive trees. One olive tree represents the Kingdom and the other the High Priesthood. Both combine to drip the oil of God's dual anointing through Messiah, (a word which means "the anointed One"). The Psalmist declared this concerning Messiah; "You are Priest forever, after the Order of Melchizedek." See Psalm 110:2. Melchizedek was both King and High Priest. So here in Christ we have the double anointing for both righteous rule and faithful priestly ministry here on earth. God's righteous Rule is set forth under the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. And the Throne of David is the seat of God's Law. His throne and His Kingdom is now in the hearts of men. In a time to come His throne will be established here on earth and Messiah will rule from the New Jerusalem over this entire earth for a thousand years. The other olive tree relates to God's High Priestly ministry of mercy and grace on the earth which is carried forth in the Gospel of Jesus Christ/Yeshua Hamashiach. So this dual anointing is a key to the 24 elders as two groups of 12 men. 12 are from Israel as a family and a nation and 12 are from greater Israel as an "ekklesia" - "called out people"/Congregation/Assembly/Church. Both Moses and the Apostle Peter saw these two anointed offices cross-linked and embracing one another not as a royal nation and a holy priesthood as we might expect but rather as a "royal priesthood and a holy nation".

The  Commonwealth  of  Israel

Two olive trees supply the oil for the menorah.
which is the true emblem of Israel. The dual
anointing of Messiah, our High Priest and the
King of Salem is in the Order of Melchizedek.
This wonderful image shown above is from
the Jewish Cervera Bible. (Spain circa 1299).

The 12 foundation stones John tells us are the 12 Apostles. These are men who knew and walked with Jesus personally. Judas, of course, was not included. I believe the Biblical account in Acts reveals that Judas was replaced not by Matthias but by the Apostle Paul. Paul certainly had a personal encounter with Jesus. He challenged Paul by striking him blind and saying, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting ME?" So I believe that 12 of the 24 elders are the 12 Apostles.

And where might we find the other 12? The other 12, I believe, are the 12 patriarchs of the 12 tribes of Israel. They are not the 12 we see listed in the Old Testament listings in Genesis and Deuteronomy but rather the patriachs of the 12 tribes we see listed in Revelation chapter 7.

And I heard the number of those who were sealed.
One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed:

5 of the tribe of Judah twelve thousand were sealed;[a]
of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand were sealed;
of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand were sealed;
6 of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand were sealed;
of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand were sealed;
of the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand were sealed;
7 of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand were sealed;
of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand were sealed;
of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand were sealed;
8 of the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand were sealed;
of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand were sealed;
of the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand were sealed.

Notice that Dan and Ephraim are not present in this final listing. But Joseph and Levi are. The 12 tribes mentioned here represent the final rendering of the 12 tribes of Israel as they emerge out of this age. So it is reasonable to suppose that the patriarchs of the 12 tribes listed here in Revelation 7 have eternal roles in the New Heaven and New earth and make up 12 of the 24 elders.

Some more devotional articles on apocalyptic Biblical themes for the enquiring Christian.