Definition: Elder—Twenty-four representatives of rewarded Church Age believers. In Revelation 4:4, after Jesus raptures the Church, twenty-four elders sit on thrones arranged around God’s throne in heaven. These elders are saints from the Church Age, dressed in white because they washed their robes in Jesus’ blood (they believed in His Name), and these overcomers wore gold crowns.
The Timeframe of this Vision
Revelation is written in chronological order. In Revelation chapters two and three, Jesus addressed the churches present during this Church Age. But after chapter three, the Church Age has ended, and the Church has been raptured to heaven.
Introduction to the Elders
“Twenty-four thrones were around the (God’s) throne. And I saw twenty-four elders sitting on the thrones, clothed in white garments. They had crowns of gold on their heads” (Revelation 4:4).
The Location of this Vision
Because the Apostle John, the author of Revelation, is a member of the Church, his location has also changed. He had previously viewed this vision from the earth, but in the first verse of chapter four, he’s called from his earthly location to heaven. This change of setting for John, who belongs to the Church, corresponds with the view that the rapture of the Church happens after the Church Age and before the coming seven-year tribulation.
The Background for this Vision
John is a member of the Church, and these elders are also. So, they’re now present in heaven. They’re also rewarded with and wearing gold crowns.
After the Church is raptured, the members appear before Jesus at the Bema Seat judgment, not to determine their salvation, but to determine their rewards for their service. Since these elders are already rewarded, the Bema judgment has already occurred.
Jesus promised the overcomers of the Church Age crowns, white garments, and ruling authority—even that they would sit with Him on His Throne (Revelation 2 and 3)!
The Worship in this Vision
These elders don’t keep their crowns and wear them for their glory. Instead, they cast them before God’s throne to honor Him:
“The twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and worship Him, who lives forever and ever. Then they cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You have created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created” (Revelation 4:10-11).
The timeline that leads to the vision of the elders is:
- The Church is on earth during the Church Age in Revelation chapters two and three.
- Then Jesus raptures the Church and returns with them to heaven.
- After they arrive, Jesus judges the Church at the Bema Seat judgment.
- Next, the vision shows us the twenty-four elders crowned and sitting on thrones before God in heaven.
The Judge in this Vision
A thorough search of heaven and earth is made, and Jesus is the only one found who qualifies to open the seals of judgment. The next event will be Jesus opening the seals of judgments that pour out God’s wrath on an unbelieving world. These tribulation judgments will last seven years.
The Song in this Vision
“When He (Jesus) had taken the scroll … the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb (Jesus), each one having … the prayers of saints. And they sang a new song, saying: “…You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests unto our God; and we shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:8-10).”
The elders worship Jesus for taking the scroll to begin God’s righteous judgment. In the Bible, someone or some group can only ‘sing a song’ if they’ve personally experienced what the lyrics say. The only group of people who can sing the song lyrics in this passage is the members of the Church, i.e., those who’ve believed in Jesus’ Name between Pentecost and the rapture:
- Jesus was slain for the Church when He died on the cross for their sins.
- Jesus’ blood redeemed each member of the Church.
- Jesus redeemed believers from every people group.
- Jesus made each member of the Church a king and priest, and they will reign with Him.
So, no others qualify to sing this song:
- Angels don’t qualify because they have no plan of redemption.
- Jews who aren’t part of the Church don’t qualify.
- Old Testament saints, neither Jews nor Gentiles, qualify to sing this song.
These lyrics are only true of members of the Church.
These twenty-four elders are members of the Church who’ve been raptured to heaven and rewarded with gold crowns at Jesus’ Bema Seat. They don’t keep their crowns to glorify themselves but worship God by casting their crowns before His throne and praising Him for His coming judgment on sin. They sing the Song of the Church, revealing that Jesus redeemed them with His precious blood from every people group.
“The twenty-four elders fell down and worshipped Him who lives forever and ever” (Revelation 5:14).