The Four and Twenty Elders of Revelation

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Revelation 4:4 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 4:10 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

Revelation 5:8 And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four [and] twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. 9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.

The Levitical priesthood was divided into twenty-four courses, (1 Chron. 24:1-19; 2 Chron. 8:14) Each course had its chief or governor of the sanctuary. (1 Chron. 24:6,31) This continued down to the time of Christ. (Luke 1:8) When the Saviour ascended to heaven, He led a multitude of captives; (Ephes 4:8 marg.) and when John in vision was shown the first apartment of the heavenly sanctuary, with its seven lamps of fire burning

before the throne of God, he saw four and twenty elders seated upon four and twenty seats, and they worshiped the Lamb, saying, “Thou hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests.” (Rev. 4:4; 5:8-10) In this we see the antitype of the twenty-four courses of priests. The chiefs, or elders, of each course have seats of honor, and they are kings and priests after the order of Melchizedek. The remainder of the multitude Christ took into heaven are not mentioned, but it is reasonable to suppose that they constitute the courses of which the four and twenty elders are the chiefs. {1914 SNH, CIS 80.1}

In this we see the antitype of the twenty-four courses of priests. The chiefs, or elders, of each course have seats of honor, and they are kings and priests after the order of Melchizedek. Thee remainder of the multitude Christ took into heaven are not mentioned, but it is reasonable to suppose that they constitute the courses of which the four and twenty elders are the chiefs.

Only the descendants of Aaron were allowed to serve as priests, (Numbers 3:10) In the type the priest who could not prove his genealogy direct from Aaron, the first high priest, was cast out of the priesthood; (Ezra 2:26) so in the antitype, the Christian who can not prove his direct connection with Christ, the heavenly High Priest, will never become one of the “royal priesthood.” (1 Peter 2:9; Rev. 20:15)

God has provided for the support of all the different orders of the priesthood by the same method. “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” (Ps. 24:1) The silver and the gold and the cattle upon a thousand hills all belong to Him. (Ps. 50:10-12) Man is placed as steward over the Lord’s heritage, and the Lord claims one tenth of everything on the earth as His portion. “All the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s:it is holy unto the Lord.” (Lev. 27:30-33)

Of the tithe the Lord says, “I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.” (Numbers 18:20-24)

The individual who selfishly uses the entire ten portions for himself, not reserving one tenth for the Lord, is guilty of robbing the Lord. “Will Lord Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed Me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed Theme? In tithes and offerings.” (Mal. 3:8-11)

Abraham paid a faithful tithe to Melchizedek; (Gen. 14:17-20) and Jacob promised to pay tithe of all, even if he received only food and raiment. (Gen. 28:20-22) Those who belong to the great household of faith and are children of Abraham, will “do the works of Abraham.” (John 8:39) They will pay a faithful tithe for the support of those who, like the Levitical priests, give their lives for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom upon the earth. Just as the priest lived “of the things of the temple, . . . even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.” (1 Cor 9:9-14)

“Those who were resurrected were of different stature and form….Some of those raised were more noble in appearance and form than others. I was informed that those who lived in the days of Noah and Abraham were more like the angels in form, in comeliness and strength.”

With this in mind I see no reason why the 24 elders should not be those who were resurrected with Christ, and since some of them looked like angels, there is no discrepancy by EGW also using the term “angel” for the one who comforted John.

THERE were two orders of the priesthood, the Melchizedek and the Levitical. The Melchizedek order preceded the Levitical order. In Abraham’s day the priest Melchizedek was king of Salem as well as priest of the Most High God. (Gen.14:17-20) Although there is not much said in the Bible of the Melchizedek order of the priesthood, it was superior to the Levitical order, for Christ was made a priest after the order of Melchizedek. (Heb. 6:20)

The Levitical order extended from the time Israel came out of Egypt until the cross; since that time we have the priesthood of Christ, of which all earthly priests were a type. Christ being a priest after the order of Melchzedek, we are now living under the Melchizedek order of the priesthood. There are many particulars given in regard to the Levitical order; and as all the Levitical priests served “unto the example and shadow of heavenly things,” when we study the Levitical priesthood, we are really studying the priestly work of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. {1905 SNH, SSP 107.1}

The four beasts and the four and twenty elders sing a new song,-a song of Redemption; for they have been raised from the depths of sin to the position of kings and priests unto God. Those now in heaven, look forward to their reign with Christ on the earth made new. When the plan is completed, the few who now minister in heaven, together with the multitudes who come forth at the first resurrection, will reign as kings and priests on the earth. “Thine is the kingdom, Thine is the power, and Thine the glory,” will be the grand chorus when Christ as King of kings receives His everlasting dominion, and the redeemed reign with Him. To the earth renewed, and reflecting again the glory of God as when it first came forth from the hand of its Creator; with the discord all gone, and the music of the spheres rolling in ceaseless pæans through endless space; is the scene which heaven looks forward to in anticipation. {1905 SNH, SSP 107.1}

The four beasts, are the figurative representatives of the church, under the Gospel dispensation. 1. They represent the character of true Christians. They have six wings, each representing the graces of the spirit faith, patience, repentance, humility, hope and love. They are full of eyes, all vigilance and self-examination, studying to know themselves and God. 2. They represent four different chronological periods of the Christian church. The four and twenty elders also represent the ministers of Christ, and the redeemed family. The twenty four courses of the priesthood, under the law, were typical of the Gospel ministry. The elders also were typified by the twelve patriarchs and twelve apostles. {1838 JoL, PSC 136.1}

When the saints sing, “We shall reign on the earth,” 12 they are already kings and priests, and are prostrating themselves before the throne in heaven. They sing of Christ, Thou “hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” This language of the four beasts and the four and twenty elders is what the saints will sing after their final deliverance. This being so, the saints will, after their resurrection, go to heaven, and thus prostrate themselves in adoration before the throne. {1893 JNL, SAIN 61.2}

The question once proposed to John concerning a certain company, has frequently arisen concerning these four and twenty elders: “Who are these? and whence came they?” It will be observed that they are clothed in white raiment, and have on their heads crowns of gold, which are tokens both of a conflict completed and a victory gained. From this we conclude that they were once participants in the Christian warfare, once trod, in common with all saints, this earthly pilgrimage, but have overcome; and for some good purpose, in advance of the great multitude of the redeemed, are wearing their victor crowns in the heavenly world. Indeed, they plainly tell us as much as this in the song of praise which they, in connection with the four living beings, ascribe to the Lamb, in the 9th verse of the following chapter: “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” This song is sung before any of the events in the prophecy of the seven seals transpire; for it is sung to set forth the worthiness of the Lamb to take the book and to open the seals, on the ground of what he had already accomplished, which was their redemption. It is not, therefore, thrown in here by anticipation, having its application in the future; but it expresses an absolute and finished fact in the history of those who sang it. These, then, were a class of redeemed persons, – redeemed from this earth, redeemed as all others must be redeemed, by the precious blood of Christ. {1897 UrS, DAR 415.1}

Do we in any other place read of such a class of redeemed ones? – We think Paul refers to the same company when he writes to the Ephesians thus: “Wherefore he saith, When he [Christ] ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.” The marginal reading is, he led a “multitude of captives.” Eph.4:8. Going back to the events that occurred in connection with the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, we read: “And the graves were opened: and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” Matt.27:52,53. Thus the answer to our question comes back, gathered unmistakably from the sacred page. These are some of those who came out of their graves at the resurrection of Christ, and who were numbered with the illustrious multitude which he led up from the captivity of Death’s dark domain when he ascended in triumph on high. Matthew records their resurrection, Paul their ascension, and John beholds them in heaven, performing the sacred duties which they were raised up to accomplish. {1897 UrS, DAR 415.2}

In this view we are not alone. Wesley speaks as follows concerning the four and twenty elders: “‘Clothed in white raiment.’ This, and their golden crowns, show that they had already finished their course, and taken their places among the citizens of heaven. They are never termed souls, and hence it is probable that they had glorified bodies already. Compare Matt.27:52.” {1897 UrS, DAR 416.1}

The particular attention of the reader is asked to the fact that the four and twenty elders are said to be seated on thrones. Our translation, it is true, reads “seats;” but the Greek is , “thrones;” and so the Revised Version reads: “And round about the throne were four and twenty thrones, and upon the thrones I saw four and twenty elders sitting.” This passage, consequently, throws light on the expression found in Dan.7:9, “I beheld till the thrones were cast down.” These are the same thrones; and, as has been shown in comments upon that passage, the meaning is not that the thrones were overturned, or cast down, in the ordinary sense of that expression, but placed, or established; and the figure is taken from the Eastern custom of casting down, or placing, mats or divans for distinguished guests to sit upon. These four and twenty elders (see on chapter 5) are supposed to be assistants of Christ in his mediatorial work in the sanctuary on high: and when the judgment scene described in Dan.7:9 commenced in the most holy place, their seats, or thrones, would be set, or placed, there, according to the testimony of that passage. {1897 UrS, DAR 416.2}

The Seven Lamps of Fire. – In these lamps of fire we have an appropriate antitype of the golden candlestick of the typical sanctuary, with its seven ever-burning lamps. This candlestick was placed, by divine direction, in the first apartment of the earthly sanctuary. Ex.25:31,32,37; 26:35; 27:20; etc. And now when John tells us that a door was opened in heaven, and in the
The class that stood before the four beasts and the elders, do not belong to them, and never did belong to the church on earth; for the “four beasts and four and twenty elders.” constitute the whole body of the church on earth, see Rev. v. 8. 9. These “were redeemed from the earth,” not through faith in them, nor have they “golden vials full of odors, which are prayers of saints.” 4th verse. “These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins.” They did not sin after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, for he was tempted of the woman, and did e at. “These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.” They have followed him in death up to immortal glory where they sing a song which you nor I, dear reader, can ever learn, for Jesus was their guardian, and took them home. {July 1, 1840 JVHe, HST 49.33}

The four and twenty elders, we conclude, were selected from the multitude of captives, of the good and holy of past ages held captives by death, but raised from the dead at the resurrection of Christ, Matt.xxvii,52,53, and taken up to heaven at his ascension. Eph.iv,8, margin. This multitude were raised for some wise purpose, and they doubtless have an important part to act. And the fact that the four and twenty elders are represented in chap.v,8, as every one of them having golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints, may justify the conclusion that they are assistants in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. {June 24, 1862 JWe, ARSH 28.6}

Wesley, speaking of the four and twenty elders, says: “Clothed in white raiment] This, and their golden crowns, show that they had already finished their course, and taken their places among the citizens of heaven. They are never termed souls, and hence it is probable that they had glorified bodies already. Compare Matt.xxvii,52.” {June 24, 1862 JWe, ARSH 28.8}

The four living creatures, with the four and twenty elders, probably embrace all those who rose with Christ, and ascended up to heaven with him. These resurrected saints were upon the sea of glass. And we see no reason why the sea of glass should not be as literal and tangible as the redeemed beings upon it. This may be the very foundation of the Sanctuary and City, and may even extend as a border round about the City. {June 24, 1862 JWe, ARSH 28.14}

1 Chron. 24:1-31. The common priests of the earthly priesthood were divided into twenty-four courses. This custom was followed to the time of Christ. Luke 1:8. There were twenty-four chief men sometimes called governors of the sanctuary. 1 Chron. 24:4. The twenty-four elders that had been redeemed from the earth (Rev. 5:8-10) could not be allowed to enter the most holy place; hence, the throne as seen by John was in the first apartment of the heavenly sanctuary. D.A. 93. {1919 SNH, BHB 49.1}

Rev. 5:1-10. With Christ in the midst of the throne a service was held by those redeemed from the earth; hence, it must have been in the first apartment. {1919 SNH, BHB 49.2}

Heb. 9:7. The high priest went alone into the second apartment. {1919 SNH, BHB 49.3} Lev. 16:17. There was no man in the tabernacle of the congregation, or first apartment, when the high priest went in to officiate on the day of atonement. {1919 SNH, BHB 49.4}

“When Jesus, as he hung upon the cross, cried out, It is finished, the rocks rent, the earth shook, and some of the graves where shaken open; for when Jesus arose from the dead,… many of the righteous dead came forth as witnesses that he had risen. Those favored, resurrected saints came forth glorified. They were a few chosen and holy ones who had lived in every age from creation, even down to the days of Christ. Those who were resurrected were of different stature and form….Some of those raised were more noble in appearance and form than others. I was informed that those who lived in the days of Noah and Abraham were more like the angels in form, in comeliness and strength.” {Spiritual Gifts Vol. 1 pages 69-70}

This is what Stephen Haskell and pretty much all the other Adventist pioneers taught. The 24 elders were from the group resurrected with Christ who ascended to heaven with Him.

  • When Jesus Rose from the Grave

As Christ arose, He brought from the grave a multitude of captives. The earthquake at His death had rent open their graves, and when He arose, they came forth with Him. They were those who had been co-laborers with God, and who at the cost of their lives had borne testimony to the truth. Now they were to be witnesses for Him who had raised them from the dead.

During His ministry, Jesus had raised the dead to life. He had raised the son of the widow of Nain, and the ruler’s daughter and Lazarus. But these were not clothed with immortality. After they were raised, they were still subject to death. But those who came forth from the grave at Christ’s resurrection were raised to everlasting life. They ascended with Him as trophies of His victory over death and the grave. These, said Christ, are no longer the captives of Satan; I have redeemed them. I have brought them from the grave as the first fruits of My power, to be with Me where I am, nevermore to see death or experience sorrow.

These went into the city, and appeared unto many, declaring, Christ has risen from the dead, and we be risen with Him. Thus was immortalised the sacred truth of the resurrection. The risen saints bore witness to the truth of the words, “Thy dead men shall live, together with My dead body shall they arise.” Their resurrection was an illustration of the fulfilment of the prophecy, “Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.” Isa. 26:19.

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Posted on September 14, 2013, in Revelation and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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