Revelation Explained

This site contains my personal views on Revelation. I will be teaching through the book verse by verse. My teachings will be from a conservative evangelical background.

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Monday, November 21, 2005

Twenty Four Elders

"And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold." (Revelation 4:4 - King James Version)

Verse four describes twenty four individuals sitting on twenty four thrones. There are two main opinions on who these twenty four beings are. Some say that they are men; others that they are angels. We will consider these two views.

In order for these to be men, it would seem that they have already been judged, since they have thrones and crowns. When will the redeemed be judged? This judgment has been called the Judgment Seat of Christ. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." (II Corinthians 5:10 - King James Version)

According to Matthew 16:27, Mark 8:38 and II Timothy 4:1, the Judgment Seat of Christ will occur at His second coming. This vision of John's was a revealing of things that will occur during the Tribulation. Chapter six begins the unveiling of these events.

For these to be men, the rapture must be pre-tribulation, which is questionable, and the Judgment Seat of Christ must occur immediately after the rapture, which is the first phase of the second coming, not after Christ actually returns to establish His earthly kingdom which does not occur until Revelation chapter nineteen.

Another problem with these twenty four elders being men is the location of their thrones: heaven. Will men have thrones in heaven?

The Bible teaches that we will rule with Christ during His thousand year reign. It also says that we will judge angels (I Corinthians 6:2,3). However, the thousand year reign will be upon the earth and then we will inhabit the new earth and the new Jerusalem. I do not believe that men will seat upon thrones in heaven.

One of the difficulties in determining who these are is a matter of textual criticism. In the King James Version, Revelation chapter five verse ten has the twenty four elders saying, “And hast made us unto God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” The same verse in the New American Standard reads, “And Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”

The issue of what is the correct reading for verse and the one before it is somewhat complex. If the King James is correct then these are men. If the New American Standard is correct then these are angels. This is one of the very rare cases where a textual problem effects the interpretation of a passage of Scripture.

One argument used against the twenty four elders being angels can be summed up by two questions: Do any angels have thrones? Do any angels have crowns? I consider this two sides of the same coin. A throne and a crown both represent authority. If some angels have one, then the argument against them having the other becomes weak.

Colossians chapter one verse sixteen is generally believed to list different orders of angels. In Daniel chapter ten verse thirteen, the archangel Michael is called, “one of the chief princes.” Now, in my mind, princes sit on thrones and have crowns.

It seems to me that the correct interpretation is that the twenty four elders are angels. These angels form the cabinet of God's kingdom. They are here in God's throne room awaiting His orders; they are ready to execute the plan of God.


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