TWENTY-FOUR ELDERS – 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. (Revelation 4:4, 5a)
Who They Are – The rainbow was around the throne vertically, while these Heavenly beings surround the throne horizontally. They appear to be the king’s court,(1) and are somewhat reminiscent of the Jewish Sanhedrin that sat in a semicircle with the high priest in the middle.(2) As a symbolic number, twenty-four occurs only in this book and only for these elders (Revelation 4:4, 10; 5:8; 11:16; 19:4). We do not really know why there are twenty-four. Perhaps it is two elders for each tribe? Or could it refer to the twelve tribes (law and Judaism) and the twelve apostles (grace and Christianity)? It might represent the twenty-four divisions of the priesthood (1 Chronicles 24:1–19), or some angelic rank (Colossians 1:16) of which we know nothing.(3) Of the various interpretations, the twenty-four elders are most commonly taken to represent the saints of the old and of the new Covenant, represented by the twelve tribes and the twelve apostles.(4)
How They Are Dressed – The white robes and golden crowns are expressive of perfect righteousness. The crowns likely represent their kingly authority(5) derived from Jesus Christ who is, after all, the King of kings.
Flashes, Rumblings & Peals – Variously interpreted as God’s might, His judgment, His power over nature, and His indignation against the wicked.(6) Modern culture does not like to think of God as a God of wrath and judgment. They prefer to look at the rainbow around the throne and ignore the lightning and thunder proceeding out of the throne. But these are indications of a coming storm and are a reminder of God’s awesome power. These storm signals will be repeated during the time of judgment, always proceeding from the throne and temple of God (Revelation 8:5; 11:19; 16:18). God is preparing His throne for the coming judgment.(7)
Up Next – Seven-Fold Spirit.
- Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 582). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
- Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Re 4:4). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Re 4:4). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.
- Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 2, p. 478). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
- Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Moore, E., Craven, E. R., & Woods, J. H. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Revelation (p. 152). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
- Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 2, pp. 479–480). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
- Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 583). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.