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What Does the Bible Say About..The 24 Elders?

The person who asked this question did not include an e-mail address to which to answer. I am posting it in the hope that he reads his answer here.

Who are the 24 elders around the throne that John describes in Revelations?


Anybody who tells you that they know the answer to your question is somebody you should immediately reject. Nobody can know with certainty who the 24 elders represented. There are many theories about who they stood for. Some may be rejected because the interpretation puts the scene in our future, while the Revelation is mostly or entirely in our past.

One of the most reasonable theories is that they represent the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles. The only thing I have wrong with this is that the vision is to one of the apostles. It is unlikely, therefore, that he is witness and part of the scene. Another plausible variation on that is that the elders represent the twelve tribes of Israel and the prophets (the minor prophets being the scroll of the twelve).

Yet another possibility is that the number twelve implies completeness and he is talking about the nation of Israel and the church of Christ. That would mean that the elders did not each represent any one person or group.

The one thing about which I can be reasonably certain is that the original readers of the Revelation understood what John was writing about. We have lost, over 1900 years, the details of many of the symbols in the book. In any case, what is important is not who they were but what they did. The worshipped God. Whoever they represented, we need to worship God, just as they did.