If the above is so, then we have an "end time", heavenly revelation of God's throne being surrounded by 144,000 spiritual beings, apart from the ever present "four living creatures" and the "angelic realm", that have been purchased from among earthly men, as first fruits to God and to the lamb.

Are these newly spirited then, given the fact that they have crowns on their heads, to rule with Jesus from what would presumably be the "New Heavens" over the, soon to be, "New Earth", pre and subsequently post the bowl judgements??

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    We are not told se we do not know.
    – Dottard
    Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 10:46
  • @Olde English. My minor attempt to help to identify Elders is that Revelation was intended to be read aloud, and so should have made sense to the audience of the time. These days it's a forensic task, hence many and various hypotheses. One method is eliminate those it cannot be. Rev 5:9-10 might be read, script variance willing, that Elders do not think themselves as redeemed by the shed blood of Christ. So, very weakly, perhaps not man? Interesting question +1.
    – user59096
    Commented Oct 27, 2023 at 11:00

1 Answer 1


Verses 4 to 8 set fourth four things, give four descriptions, and show each one an aspect of fourfold positions relative to God's throne in heaven. The key principle here is that everything in this world, and that which is to come, depends on its relation to the throne.

The elect chosen in Christ from before the foundation of the world are seated in glory because of their relation to the throne. Here is the one, the only source of blessing, of happiness and of peace. Those in heaven are depicted as being in unending transports of delight in worship, thanksgiving and praise of he who sits on the throne. Round about it are twenty-four thrones with an elder in white raiment and a gold crown on their head, on each throne. The key question is, who are these elders, and who do they symbolise? Here is one interpretation:

"Hence the elders, who attained their dignity by submission, in turn require that submission from those under them. The saints who render the obedience of faith are thus represented by the elders. Whether in Israel, or in the ecclesia, the principle is the same. Whether the circumcision, who under the patriarchs walked in the steps of the faith of their father Abraham; or the uncircumcision, who, in the obedience of faith had their conversation subject to the apostles' doctrine under the rule of the elders: here is one people of common obedience under the elders of the twelve patriarchs and those of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

So that at once the elders embodied their own subjection to the fathers and the apostles who gave them their authority by the laying on of hands; just as they personified those who 'obey them that have the rule over them', upon whom in turn they themselves have laid on hands, whether in circumcision or by baptism. Hence the four and twenty elders represent the chosen covenant people of God from both old and new testaments in their entirety.

Twelve being the number of the covenant, and that number being doubled to make four and twenty - twelve times two - yet being called 'elders', and neither patriarchs nor apostles, then, under that authority from God Almighty, they sum up in both covenants the entire number of those who submit to the rule of faith which God has established under the authority vested in those set over them. For it is this that they are called - elders - and not apostles nor patriarchs." The Revelation of Jesus Christ, pp. 93-94 John Metcalfe

Bear in mind that this interpretation sticks firmly to numbers in the visions of the Revelation as being symbolic, not literal. Anyone thinking the number 144,000 is literal, will therefore make no sense of this particular interpretation.

Likewise, the Revelation says, to begin with, the 144,000 are still on the Earth as humans while a vast multitude that no man can number are already standing around God's throne in heaven adoring him, attributing their salvation from great tribulation to him (ch. 7 vss. 3-15). It is not until ch. 14 that the 144,000 are seen to be in heaven, with the Lamb of God, who is standing. Their unique role is having a song to sing that no others can sing, but the living creatures and the elders are still there (vss. 1-3). But nowhere does it speak of any of that heavenly assembly leading others in that heavenly assembly. They all take a turn, as it were, in heavenly worship, in an organised manner (as one would expect in heaven) and at times they join together so that the sound and beauty of worship is greater than anything we could ever imagine here on Earth.

This enquiry will only be furthered once those key differences between chapters 7 and 14 have been worked out, for that has a direct bearing on timing of events.

  • I appreciate the further revelation from John Metcalfe, although unlike the revelations given with regard to my previous Q. I can't entirely agree with his final paragraph, or indeed your own summary here. The 144,000 may indeed not be literal, although I tend to think that it may well be, but that is not necessarily important. Fortunately, it just so happens that I have already addressed the key differences between chapters 7 and 14, see my own Q. and A here: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/49220/… -tbc.. Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 18:10
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    ... needless to say, I tend to believe that the term "elders" only refers to 24 in number. And, with all due respect, contrary to JM, we may indeed be talking about the 12 patriarchs, along with the 12 apostles, leaders per se, assuredly, after the ancient Jewish priesthood, which was divided into 24 divisions - see 1 Corinthians 24:4,5 - although now, in the book of Revelation, we have to be talking spiritual Israel, as opposed to literal Israel. Gentiles are included after all. Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 18:31

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