Who are these "Elders" and what do they represent? They are not a heavenly and unfallen order of beings, like the angels or "Living Creatures" that surround the Throne, they are the representatives of redeemed mankind. The name Elder is never applied to angels, neither do angels have "crowns" and sit on "thrones." Only redeemed MEN are promised "Thrones" and Crowns." Matt. 19:28. Rev. 3:21. Rev. 20:4. Rev. 2.10. 1. Pet. 5:2-4. 2. Tim. 4:8. These "Elders" then must be representatives of the Old and New Testament Saints, that have been redeemed by the BLOOD OF CHRIST. This will be made more clear as we consider their position, dress, and song.
They are seated on "thrones," not ordinary seats, and remind us of Daniel's Vision of the Judgment.
"I beheld till THRONES were placed and ONE that was ANCIENT OF DAYS did sit; His raiment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like pure wool; His Throne was fiery flames, the wheels thereof burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him, thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and 10,000 times 10,000 stood before Him; the JUDGMENT was set, and the 'Books' were opened." Dan. 7:9-10 R. V.
This is Daniel's foreview of the
"JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST."
While the "Thrones" were placed (ready for those who should be found worthy to occupy them) they were as yet unoccupied. Their occupancy awaited the outcome of the Judgment. Now as the "Thrones" that John saw were occupied by crowned Elders. Then those Elders must have passed the "fiery test" of the Judgment of Reward (2. Cor. 5:10, 1. Cor. 3:11-15), and received their crowns. Those Crowns are five in number. The "Incorruptible Crown." 1. Cor. 9:25-27. The "Crown of Life." Rev. 2:10. The "Crown of Glory." 1. Pet. 5:2-4. The "Crown of Righteousness." 2. Tim. 4:8. The "Crown of Rejoicing." 1. Thess. 2:19-20. See the Chart--"Judgment of Reward."
That these "Elders" were REDEEMED MEN is further evidenced by the "Song" they sung.
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The Judgment of ''Reward''
Now this could not be said of angels, or any other created heavenly beings, for they have not been redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb, nor are they to be "Kings" and "Priests" on the earth.
While the "Elders" sit on Thrones and wear Crowns, they are not dressed in royal robes but in "white raiment," the garment of a Priest. They are the members of a "ROYAL PRIESTHOOD." 1. Pet. 2:9. That the time has not yet come for them to reign is clear, for they are engaged in Priestly duties, having "Golden Vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints," in their hands. Rev. 5:8. These saints are not the saints of the Church, but the Jewish saints on earth during the "Tribulation Period," whose prayers are so beautifully prewritten in the Psalms.
That the "Elders" will be given the right of Judgment is clear. Writing to the Corinthians Paul says--"Do ye not know that the Saints shall JUDGE THE WORLD. . . . Know ye not that We shall JUDGE ANGELS." (The Fallen Angels.) 1. Cor. 6:2-3. The time when this right of Judgment is conferred on the "Elders" (Saints) is given by John as after the binding of Satan, and just before the Millennium--"I saw THRONES, and they (the First Resurrection Saints--THE ELDERS) sat upon them, and JUDGMENT was given unto them." Rev. 20:4.
The word "Elder" in the majority of places where it is used in the Scriptures means the representative head of a city, family, tribe or nation, so the "Four and Twenty Elders" are representative of the redeemed human race. But why 24 Elders? Twenty-four is the number of the Priestly Courses as given in 1. Chron. 24:1-19. When David distributed the Priests into "Courses" he found there were 24 Heads of the Priestly families, and these 24 Heads he made representative of the WHOLE PRIESTHOOD. As the "Elders" are representative of both the Old and New Testament Saints, and the Old Testament Saints are represented by the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and the New Testament Saints' by the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb, they together make up 24 representative characters. This distinction is clearly brought out in the description of the New Jerusalem, where the 12 Foundation Stones are named after the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb, and the 12 Gates after the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Rev. 21:10-14.
While the Four and Twenty Elders are representative of the Old and New Testament Saints, they do not, as a whole, represent the Church, for the Church is composed only of New Testament Saints. The Old Testament saints are merely the Friends of the Bridegroom. But the fact that the New Testament Saints, as represented by the Twelve Apostles, are required to make up the 24 representative characters (Elders), is additional evidence that the Rapture of the Church takes place before the Tribulation.