Twenty-Four Elders
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24. Twenty-Four Elders
Revelation 4.4-6a

"Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder. In front of the throne blazed seven lamps. These are the seven spirits of God. Also, in front of the throne, there was what looked like a crystal clear sea of glass." (Revelation 4.4-6a)✞

Throne Circle

Twenty-Four ThronesAround God's central throne are a circle of twenty-four thrones occupied by elders. From the throne, "lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder" evoke fear and terror at events in heaven. In the Old Testament account of the giving of the Law or "the Torah" on Mount Sinai, lightning and thunder accompany the Ten Commandments' presentation to Moses. Exodus 19.16 informs us, "On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled."

Sevenfold Spirit

There are seven lamps in Revelation which represent the seven spirits of God. "The seven spirits of God" may also be translated as "the sevenfold Spirit." This phrase indicates the Holy Spirit's presence. The question is, "Who are these twenty-four elders seated on thrones?" A possible answer might be that they are twelve tribal leaders from the Old Testament and twelve Apostles from the New Testament. They are humans rather than angels, and the crowns they wear are not kingly crowns but victory crowns. These elders are victorious in life and death. The thrones and elders may represent all God's redeemed people from all ages, both before Christ's Resurrection and after it. Some scholars try to name the elders individually. The number "twenty-four" likely represents the whole faith community. "Twelve" makes up multiples of three times four. "Three" is God's number, and "four" is the human beings' number. Thus multiplying to a total of twelve times two indicates God's entire Kingdom. In New Jerusalem, the city's gates bear the twelve patriarchs' names, and the city's foundation stones show the twelve Apostles. These symbolize both faithful Jews and Gentiles part of God's heavenly family. The twelve patriarchs plus the twelve Apostles could be the twenty-four elders around God's great throne. Close your eyes to picture God's throne, the elders' thrones, and all the dazzling colors and images that surround it.

Twenty Four Elders

Twenty-Four EldersThe twenty-four elders dressed in white robes have gold crowns on their heads. Revelation's "twenty-four elders" in heaven may be representative heads of cities, families, or nations seen "dressed white" or literally "glowing white." White is a "color without hue" or a mixture of all the spectrum colors. White represents purity, and wearing golden crowns upon their heads portrays the elders' victory like kings as the leading twenty-four elders in heaven's courts. The twenty-four elders may be the twelve leaders of each of Israel's tribes plus the twelve New Testament Apostles. We do not know if this is a correct interpretation or not. The twenty-four elders cast their crowns before God's throne and worship and praise continuously at the supreme government's seat. They bring the people's prayers to God, and one even encourages John of Patmos when he is sad. Revelation 5.4-5 explains, "I wept and wept because no one worthy enough arose to open the scroll or look inside. Then one elder said to me, 'Do not weep! See, the Lion of Judah's tribe, David's Root, has triumphed. He can open the scroll and its seven seals.'"

Heaven's Council

LightningThere are other Bible book indications of elders in heaven's council. At the Creation, Genesis 3.22 says, "the Lord God said, 'The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.'" "Like one of us" suggests an elders' council speaking with God, or a reference to the Trinity or even an angels' gathering. Isaiah 24.23b fuels the intriguing concept of an elder's council further where the prophet writes, "For the Lord Almighty will reign on Mount Zion and Jerusalem, and before its elders with great glory."

Glass Production

Glass SeaBefore God's throne is a "crystal glass sea." We can trace glass back to BC 3,500 in Mesopotamia, but it was scarce and precious in Old and New Testament times. The crystal-clear glass was virtually impossible to find. In ancient times, it was poured in the molten state into molds to make rudimentary window panes and then polished by hand until shiny. Artisans made glass into jewelry and even tableware. Glass beads from BC 3,000 appeared as jewelry on Egyptian and Mesopotamian mummies. One early cosmos concept pictures a glass sea above heaven's dome on which God's throne rests. A glass sea is an awe-inspiring and magnificent environment that highlights God's beauty and holiness.✞

Glass Sea

Sunset SeasArtisans blew large crown glass bubbles, cut them, and pressed them flat into rectangular sheets. The glass sea described in Revelation looked like a crystal, and this may be an image adapted from Ezekiel of the smooth Aegean sunset sea. Ezekiel 1.22 describes it, "Spread out above the living creatures' heads was what looked something like a vault, sparkling like crystal, and awesome." Revelation 15.2 says, "a fiery glowing glass sea."

Queen of Sheba

SolomonThere is a fascinating tradition of a glass floor in King Solomon's palace. Solomon, who reigned BC c961-922, was Israel's King after David, his father. The smooth palace floor was so shiny that the visiting Queen of Sheba thought it was water and picked up her skirts to walk across it! She was very wealthy and had come to Jerusalem to meet King Solomon. 1 Kings 10.2 describes her, "Arriving at Jerusalem with a very great caravan — with camels carrying spices, large gold quantities, and precious stones — she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind." Solomon's God-given wisdom was renowned even in faraway lands.

"Twenty-Four Elders"
by Ron Meacock © 2021

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