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, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also, in front of the throne, there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal." (Revelation 4.4-6a)✞

Circle of Thrones

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 the significant 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. The Torah describes the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, which Moses wrote down. 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 which are representative of the seven spirits of God. "The seven spirits of God" may also be translated as "the sevenfold Spirit." This phrase indicates the presence of the Holy Spirit. The question is, "Who were these twenty-four elders seated on these thrones?" A possible answer might be that they are twelve tribal leaders from the Old Testament and twelve Apostles from the New Testament. They must be humans rather than angels, and the crowns they wear are not kingly crowns but crowns of victory. These elders are victorious in life and death. The thrones and elders may be representatives of all the redeemed people of God from all times, both before Christ's Resurrection and after it. Some scholars try to name the elders individually, but that, to my mind, is a fruitless task! The number "twenty-four" is likely to be symbolic of a complete assembly representing the whole faith community. The number "twelve" makes up multiples of three times four. "Three" is the number for God, and "four" is considered the number for human beings. Thus multiplying to a total of twelve times two indicates the entire Kingdom of God. In the New Jerusalem, the city's gates have the names of the twelve patriarchs inscribed on them, and the twelve Apostles have their names marked on the city's foundation stones. These symbolize both faithful Jews and faithful Gentiles who are now part of God's family in heaven. The twelve patriarchs plus the twelve Apostles of Jesus could be the twenty-four elders seated on thrones around God's great throne. Close your eyes to picture the throne of God, the thrones of the elders, and all the fantastic 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 colors in the spectrum. White represents purity, and wearing crowns of gold upon their heads portrays the elders' victory like kings as the leading twenty-four elders in the courts of heaven. The twenty-four elders may be the twelve leaders of each of the tribes of Israel plus the twelve Apostles in the New Testament, but 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 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 in John of Patmos' own words, "I wept and wept because no one arose who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, 'Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He can open the scroll and its seven seals.'"

Council in Heaven

LightningThere are indications in other places in the Bible of elders in the council in heaven. At the Creation, we read in Genesis 3.22, "the Lord God said, 'The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.'" "One of us" suggests a council of elders speaking with God, or it may be a reference to the Trinity in Heaven or even to a gathering of angels. Isaiah 24.23b fuels this intriguing concept further when the prophet writes, "For the Lord Almighty will reign on Mount Zion and Jerusalem, and before its elders - with great glory."

Production of Glass

Sea of GlassBefore God's throne is a "sea of crystal glass." We can trace glass back to BC 3,500 in Mesopotamia, but it was scarce and precious in the 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 used as jewelry on mummies appeared in Egypt and Mesopotamia. One early view of the cosmos pictures a sea of glass above heaven's dome on which God's throne rests. A sea of glass pictures an awe-inspiring and magnificent scene that highlights both God's beauty and holiness.✞

Sea of Glass

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

Queen of Sheba

SolomonThere is a fascinating tradition of a floor of glass in King Solomon's palace. Solomon, who died in BC c931, was the King of Israel after David, his father. The palace floor was so smooth and 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 quantities of gold, 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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