Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Revelation 4:4

Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads.
New American Standard Version
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Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Colors;   Crown;   Elder;   Heaven;   Throne;   Vision;   Scofield Reference Index - Elders;   Thompson Chain Reference - Adorning;   Church;   Clothing;   Raiment, White;   White;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Cherub;   Throne;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Color, Symbolic Meaning of;   Elder;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Encampment;   Number;   Throne;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Number Systems and Number Symbolism;   Revelation, the Book of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Crown;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Colours;   Games;   Gold ;   Head;   Immortality;   Parousia;   Throne ;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Courses;   Crown;   Elders;   Standard;   Throne;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Cherub;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Raiment;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Cherubim (1);   Crown;   Gold;   Isaiah;   Luke, the Evangelist;   Presbyter;   Revelation of John:;   Seat;   Seraphim;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Crown;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Four and twenty elders - Perhaps this is in reference to the smaller Sanhedrin at Jerusalem, which was composed of twenty-three elders; or to the princes of the twenty-four courses of the Jewish priests which ministered at the tabernacle and the temple, at first appointed by David.

Clothed in white raiment - The garments of the priests.

On their heads crowns of gold - An emblem of their dignity. The Jewish writers represent human souls as being created first; and before they enter the body, each is taken by an angel into paradise, where it sees the righteous sitting in glory with crowns upon their heads. Rab. Tanchum, fol. 39, 4.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/revelation-4.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

And round about the throne were four and twenty seats - Or rather, “thrones” - θρόνοι thronoi- the same word being used as what is rendered “throne” - θρόνος thronosThe word, indeed, properly denotes a seat, but it came to be employed to denote particularly the seat on which a monarch sat, and is properly translated thus in Revelation 4:2-3. So it is rendered in Matthew 5:34; Matthew 19:28; Matthew 23:22; Matthew 25:31; Luke 1:32; and uniformly elsewhere in the New Testament (53 places in all), except in Luke 1:52; Revelation 2:13; Revelation 4:4; Revelation 11:16; Revelation 16:10, where it is rendered “seat and seats.” It should have been rendered “thrones” here, and is so translated by Prof. Stuart. Coverdale and Tyndale render the word “seat” in each place in Revelation 4:2-5. It was undoubtedly the design of the writer to represent those who sat on those seats as, in some sense, kings - for they have on their heads crowns of gold - and that idea should have been retained in the translation of this word.

And upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting - Very various opinions have been entertained in respect to those who thus appeared sitting around the throne, and to the question why the number twenty-four is mentioned. Instead of examining those opinions at length, it will be better to present, in a summary manner, what seems to be probable in regard to the intended reference. The following points, then, would appear to embrace all that can be known on this subject:

(1)These elders have a regal character, or are of a kingly order. This is apparent:

(a) because they are represented as sitting on “thrones,” and

(b) because they have on their heads “crowns of gold.”

(2)they are emblematic. They are designed to symbolize or represent some class of persons. This is clear:

(a) because it cannot be supposed that so small a number would compose the whole of those who are in fact around the throne of God, and,

(b) because there are other symbols there designed to represent something pertaining to the homage rendered to God, as the four living creatures and the angels, and this supposition is necessary in order to complete the symmetry and harmony of the representation.

(3)they are human beings, and are designed to have some relation to the race of man, and somehow to connect the human race with the worship of heaven. The four living creatures have another design; the angels Revelation 5:1-14 have another; but these are manifestly of our race - persons from this world before the throne.

(4)they are designed in some way to be symbolic of the church as redeemed. Thus, they say Revelation 5:9, “Thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood.”

(5)they are designed to represent the whole church in every land and every age of the world. Thus, they say Revelation 5:9, “Thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” This shows, further, that the whole representation is emblematic; for otherwise in so small a number - twenty-four - there could not be a representation out of every nation.

(6)they represent the church triumphant - the church victorious. Thus, they have crowns on their heads; they have harps in their hands Revelation 5:8; they say that they are “kings and priests,” and that they will “reign on the earth,” Revelation 5:10.

(7)the design, therefore, is to represent the church triumphant - redeemed - saved - as rendering praise and honor to God; as uniting with the hosts of heaven in adoring him for his perfections and for the wonders of his grace; As representatives of the church, they are admitted near to him; they encircle his throne; they appear victorious over every foe; and they come, in unison with the living creatures, and the angels, and the whole universe Revelation 5:13, to ascribe power and dominion to God.

(8)as to the reason why the number “twenty-four” is mentioned, perhaps nothing certain can be determined. Ezekiel, in his vision Ezekiel 8:16; Ezekiel 11:1, saw twenty-five men between the porch and the altar, with their backs toward the temple, and their faces toward the earth - supposed to be representations of the twenty-four “courses” into which the body of priests was divided 1 Peter 2:9), and to have alluded to the fact that the priesthood under the Jewish economy was divided into twenty-four courses, each with a presiding officer, and who was a representative of that portion of the priesthood over which he presided. If so, then the ideas which enter into the representation are these:

(a) That the whole church may be represented as a priesthood, or a community of priests - an idea which frequently occurs in the New Testament.

(b) That the church, as such a community of priests, is employed in the praise and worship of God - an idea, also, which finds abundant countenance in the New Testament.

(c) That, in a series of visions having a designed reference to the church, it was natural to introduce some symbol or emblem representing the church, and representing the fact that this is its office and employment. And,

(d) that this would be well expressed by an allusion derived from the ancient dispensation - the division of the priesthood into classes, over each one of which there presided an individual who might be considered as the representative of his class.

It is to be observed, indeed, that in one respect they are represented as” kings,” but still this does not forbid the supposition that there might have been intermingled also another idea, that they were also “priests.” Thus, the two ideas are blended by these same elders in Revelation 5:10; “And hath made us unto our God kings and priests.” Thus understood, the vision is designed to denote the fact that the representatives of the church, ultimately to be triumphant, are properly engaged in ascribing praise to God. The word “elders” here seems to be used in the sense of aged and venerable men, rather than as denoting office. They were such as by their age were qualified to preside over the different divisions of the priesthood.

Clothed in white raiment - Emblem of purity, and appropriate, therefore, to the representatives of the sanctified church. Compare Revelation 3:4; Revelation 6:11; Revelation 7:9.

And they had on their heads crowns of gold - Emblematic of the fact that they sustained a kingly office. There was blended in the representation the idea that they were both “kings and priests.” Thus, the idea is expressed by Peter 1 Peter 2:9, “a royal priesthood” - βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα basileion hierateumaf0.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/revelation-4.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Revelation 4:4

Upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting.

The elders before the throne

I. The state and enjoyments of the spirits before the throne.

1. Mark, first, that the saints in heaven are represented as “elders,” which we take to refer not merely to the office of the eldership as it is exercised among us, but rather to the fulness of growth of believers before the throne. The elders in the Church are those who by reason of years have had their senses exercised; they are not the saplings of the forest, but the well-rooted trees; they are not the blades of corn up-springing, but the full corn in the ear awaiting the reaper’s sickle. As to the number--twenty-four. I think, as there were twenty-four courses of Levites, who were porters at the gate of the temple, and twenty-four courses of priests who offered sacrifice, so the number twenty-four is made use of to show that the service of God in His temple is complete, that every part of the Divine service will be taken up, and around that altar which smokes before God eternally there shall be a full complement of those who shall bow before Him, and do Him homage.

2. These elders are said to be around the throne. We suppose, as near as we can catch the thought of John, sitting in a semi-circle, as the Jewish Sanhedrin did around the Prince of Israel. “There is an equality among the saints.” There shall not be some near the centre, and others far away on the verge of the wide circumference; but they shall all be near to Christ, all equally His favourites and His friends.

3. The elders are “clothed in white raiment.” In this they are an example to us. Perfection we must not hope to see here; but oh, we must aim after it.

4. These elders exercised a priesthood. Indeed, their being clothed in white garments, while it is an emblem of their purity, also represents them as being priests unto God. “Thou hast made us unto our God kings and priests.” They exercise the office of priesthood, as you perceive, by the double offering of prayer and praise. Let us look up to them as the priests of God, and then ask ourselves, are we celebrating His worship too?

5. They had on their heads crowns of gold. Now let us imitate them in this. “Oh!” say you, “but I cannot wear a crown as they do.” Nevertheless, you are a king; for they who are Christ’s are kings. Reign over thy sins. Reign over thy passions. Be as a king in the midst of all that would lead thee astray. In the world at large act a king’s part. Let your Liberality of spirit be right royal. Let your actions never be mean, sneaking, cowardly, dastardly

II. The occupation and spirit of these glorified ones, as they should be imitated by us below. Notice their occupation.

1. First of all it is one of humility. “They fall down before Him” (verse 10). The more holy, the more humble.

2. But as they fall before the throne in humility, you will note that they express their gratitude. It is said they cast their crowns before the throne. They know where they got them from, and they know to whom to ascribe the praise.

3. These elders spent their time in joyous song. “Thou art worthy to take the book.”

4. These saints not only offered praise, but prayer.

5. I must not forget, however, here, that these elders before the throne were ready not only for prayer and praise, but for all kinds of service. You remember there was one of them, when John wept, who said, “Weep not.” Then there was another of the elders who said to John, for his instruction, “Who are these?” etc. Now those before the throne are willing to comfort the weeper or to instruct the ignorant. Let us do the same I and may it be ours to wipe the tear from many an eye, to chase the darkness of ignorance from many a young heart. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Revelation 4:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/revelation-4.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

And round about the throne were four and twenty thrones: and upon the thrones I saw four and twenty elders sitting, arrayed in white garments; and on their heads crowns of gold.

There are almost as many explanations of this as there are commentators. Who are these elders? They have been variously identified as symbolical of: (1) the "raptured" church which allegedly had already happened;[27] (2) the twenty-four star gods of the Babylonian pantheon;[28] (3) in the Targum the elders are interpreted as leaders of the Jewish people; (4) the twenty-four priestly orders enumerated in 1 Chronicles 24:4ff;[29] (5) a special order of angels, an interpretation rejected by Lenski on the grounds that angels are nowhere symbolized in Revelation;[30] (6) an order of angel princes called thrones in Colossians 1:16;[31] etc. The interpretation received here is stated thus by Carpenter:

They are described as twenty-four in number; they are the twelve tribes of Israel doubled, to signify the union of the Gentile with the Jewish church; they are two sets of twelve, to represent the New Testament and Old Testament; they are the twelve patriarchs conjoined with the twelve apostles - These interpretations (alleged by many) are all different forms of the same thought, that the twenty- four elders represent the complete church of God in the past and in the future, in the Jewish and Gentile worlds; and, as such, the true spiritual successors, as priests to God, of those twenty-four courses (1 Chronicles 26:1ff).[32]

The great majority of the commentators we have consulted on this question, including Barnes, Earle, Hinds, Scott, and Wallace, accept the view advanced in the quotation above. Some have objected to it on the grounds of what they call "difficulties" in such an interpretation; and others merely avoid trying to answer the question: "One really needs no theory of their presence. They are heavenly creatures and are part of the heavenly scene."[33] The views of Lenski are of particular interest. He objected to our interpretation on the grounds that "elders are not representative of the church."[34] He referred them to "the ministry of the Word," which he believed to be the reality symbolized by the twenty-four elders. It appears to us, however, that this is a distinction without a difference. Since the church is entrusted with the ministry of the word of God in this entire dispensation, his interpretation still refers it to the church.

There are, however, more considerable objections to this interpretation which have given some scholars hesitancy in accepting it. Some of these are: (1) one of the elders performs an angelic function in Revelation 7:13-14, and is addressed by John as "Sir." If the twelve apostles were typified, John himself must have been included; (2) they seem to be grouped apart from the redeemed in Revelation 19:4; (3) these elders appear to be participating in the executive function of the throne of God itself; etc. It must be admitted that such things reflect against the interpretation we have chosen; but we simply set aside such alleged "inconsistencies" on the grounds that similar "inconsistencies" may be leveled against any interpretation. For example, how could human figures represent supernatural beings? There are compelling reasons that underlie the fact of the majority of scholars, especially the older ones, adopting the view presented here. They are:

(1) The number twenty-four cannot be interpreted at all, apart from the view here. (2) The very word "presbyters" connects with nothing else in heaven or on earth except the Jewish and Christian dispensations. (3) The elders' having crowns suggests Matthew 19:28. (4) They say that they reign on the earth (Revelation 5:10). (5) The KJV in Revelation 5:9 identifies them with the redeemed of earth; and despite this verse's having been changed in subsequent versions, Seiss emphatically insists that the KJV is correct, since "the Sinaiticus manuscript contains it."[35]

[27] Ibid.

[28] G. B. Caird, op. cit., p. 63.

[29] G. R. Beasley-Murray, op. cit., p. 114.

[30] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 181.

[31] F. F. Bruce, A New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969), p. 642.

[32] W. Boyd Carpenter, Ellicott's Bible Commentary, Vol. VIII (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959), p. 552.

[33] J. W. Roberts, op. cit., p. 54.

[34] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 178.

[35] J. A. Seiss, The Apocalypse Lectures on the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1900), p. 104.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
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Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/revelation-4.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And round about the throne were four and twenty seats,.... In a semicircular form, as the rainbow also was; the thrones in the above form, came to both ends, or sides of it; just as when the sanhedrim, or great court of judicature among the Jews sayF13Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 4. sect. 3. & Maimon. Hilchot Sanhedrin, c. 1. sect. 3. , the "Nasi", or prince, sat in the uppermost seat, at his right hand was "Ab beth din", or the father or the sanhedrim, and at his left hand a doctor or wise man, and all the rest of the members sat in a semicircular form upon seats before them, so that they could see them all; and to this the allusion might be thought to be, did their numbers agree, but in the great sanhedrim there were seventy one, and the lesser twenty three, which last comes very near the number here;

and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting; by whom are not meant the twenty four books of the Old Testament, as some of the ancients thought, and also some of the modern writers, as Lord Napier and others; for the things said of them are such as cannot be applied to inanimate things, such as sitting on seats, being clothed with white raiment, having golden crowns on their heads, falling down before the throne, and worshipping him that sat on it; and besides, in Revelation 5:8, they are said to be redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, out of very kindred, tongue, people, and nation; for which last reason, angels also cannot be designed, and who, moreover, in the place referred to, are manifestly distinguished from these elders; nor are they to be understood as to the representatives of the Jewish church, or of the Jewish and Christian church together, as triumphant in heaven; and so be signified by the twelve patriarchs and twelve apostles, which together make up twenty four; but rather the members of the Gospel church state, throughout the whole of it, in every succession and period of time, are here meant; and are expressed by the number "twenty four", in allusion to the twenty four courses of the priests, into which they were divided by David, 1 Chronicles 24:1, and to the twenty four stations of the Levites, who in turn attended the service of the temple daily, and represented the whole body of the people of Israel, in putting their hands upon the sacrifices, and praying for them; of which See Gill on Luke 1:5; add to this, that in twenty four places the priests and Levites kept watch in the templeF14Misn. Middot, c. 1. sect. 1. ; so these twenty four elders before the throne of God, in his temple, represent the whole Israel of God, all the members of the Gospel church state, from the first to the last of it: and they are styled "elders", not on account of office, as pastors of the churches are called, but because of their senile gravity, prudence, and knowledge; they having a greater degree of spiritual knowledge of the manifold wisdom of God than the Jewish church, which was in a state of infancy, and under tutors and governors, had; but the Gospel church is in a state of manhood, and no longer under a schoolmaster, and so fitly expressed by "elders"; and these are represented as "sitting" on their seats, not only to hear the word of God, but as judging in cases that come before them, respecting the admission or exclusion of members, the laying on or taking off of censures, &c. and these, their seats being around and near unto the throne, denote their nearness to God, and their communion with him, in his house and ordinances, and his dwelling in the midst of them.

Clothed in white raiment; in the pure and spotless robe of Christ's righteousness, which is comparable to fine linen, clean and white; and is the righteousness of the saints in common, of every true member of Christ's body.

And they had on their heads crowns of gold; being made by Christ kings, as well as priests, unto God; for so these four and twenty elders are said to be, in Revelation 5:10; and they now reign as kings over sin, Satan, and the world, and have a kingdom of grace which shall never be removed; and they shall reign with Christ on earth a thousand years, and then reign with him to all eternity in heaven. It is a common saying with the JewsF15Zohar in Numb. fol. 106. 3. & Raya Mehimna in ib. fol. 96. 3. T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 17. 1. Abot R. Nathan, fol. 1. 3. Caphtor, fol. 82. 2. & 86. 2. & 108. 2. & Nishmat Chayim, fol. 30. 2. ,

"that there is no eating and drinking in the world to come, but the righteous are "sitting", ועטרותיהם בראשהים, "and their crowns upon their heads".'

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/revelation-4.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

5 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.

(5) By the company attending about him in that, as that most high Judge, he is accompanied with the most honourable attendance of prophets and apostles both of the old and new Church, whom Christ has made to be priests and kings; (Revelation 1:6), (Revelation 5:10).
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These files are public domain.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/revelation-4.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

seats — rather as the Greek is translated in this very verse, “thrones,” of course lower and smaller than the grand central throne. So Revelation 16:10, “the seat (rather, throne) of the beasts,” in hellish parody of God‘s throne.

four and twenty eldersGreek,the four and twenty (or as one oldest manuscript, ‹twenty-four‘) elders”: the well-known elders [Alford]. But Tregelles translates, “Upon the twenty-four thrones (I saw: omitted in two oldest manuscripts) elders sitting”: which is more probable, as the twenty-four elders were not mentioned before, whereas the twenty-four thrones were. They are not angels, for they have white robes and crowns of victory, implying a conflict and endurance, “Thou hast redeemed us”: they represent the Heads of the Old and New Testament churches respectively, the Twelve Patriarchs (compare Revelation 7:5-8, not in their personal, but in their representative character), and Twelve Apostles. So in Revelation 15:3, “the song of Moses, and of the Lamb,” the double constituents of the Church are implied, the Old Testament and the New Testament. “Elders” is the very term for the ministry both of the Old and New Testament, the Jewish and the catholic Gentile Church. The tabernacle was a “pattern” of the heavenly antitype; the holy place, a figure of HEAVEN ITSELF. Thus Jehovah‘s throne is represented by the mercy seat in the holiest, the Shekinah-cloud over it. “The seven lamps of fire before the throne” (Revelation 4:5) are antitypical to the seven-branched candlestick also in the holiest, emblem of the manifold Spirit of God: “the sea of glass” (Revelation 4:6) corresponds to the molten sea before the sanctuary, wherein the priests washed themselves before entering on their holy service; so introduced here in connection with the redeemed “priests unto God” (compare Note, see on Revelation 15:2). The “four living creatures” (Revelation 4:6, Revelation 4:7) answer to the cherubim over the mercy seat. So the twenty-four throned and crowned elders are typified by the twenty-four chiefs of the twenty-four courses of priests, “Governors of the sanctuary, and governors of God” (1 Chronicles 24:5; 1 Chronicles 25:1-31).

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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/revelation-4.html. 1871-8.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Round about the throne (κυκλοτεν του τρονουkuklothen tou thronou). Here as a preposition with the genitive, though only adverb in Revelation 4:8 (only N.T. examples save Textus Rec. in Revelation 5:11).

Four and twenty thrones (τρονοι εικοσι τεσσαρεςthronoi eikosi tessares). So P Q, but Aleph A have accusative τρονουςthronous (supply ειδονeidon from Revelation 4:1) and τεσσαρεςtessares (late accusative in ες̇es). This further circle of thrones beyond the great throne.

I saw four and twenty elders (εικοσι τεσσαρας πρεσβυτερουςeikosi tessaras presbuterous). No ειδονeidon in the text, but the accusative case calls for it. Twenty-four as a symbolic number occurs only in this book and only for these elders (Revelation 4:4, Revelation 4:10; Revelation 5:8; Revelation 11:16; Revelation 19:4). We do not really know why this number is chosen, perhaps two elders for each tribe, perhaps the twelve tribes and the twelve apostles (Judaism and Christianity), perhaps the twenty-four courses of the sons of Aaron (1 Chron 24:1-19), perhaps some angelic rank (Colossians 1:16) of which we know nothing. Cf. Ephesians 2:6.

Sitting (κατημενουςkathēmenous). Upon their thrones.

Arrayed (περιβεβλημενουςperibeblēmenous). Perfect passive participle of περιβαλλωperiballō (to throw around).

In white garments (ιματιοις λευκοιςhimatiois leukois). Locative case here as in Revelation 3:5 (with ενen), though accusative in Revelation 7:9, Revelation 7:13.

Crowns of gold (στεπανους χρυσουςstephanous chrusous). Accusative case again like πρεσβυτερουςpresbuterous after ειδονeidon (Revelation 4:1), not ιδουidou In Revelation 19:14 εχωνechōn (having) is added. John uses διαδημαdiadēma (diadem) for the kingly crown in Revelation 12:3; Revelation 13:1; Revelation 19:12, but it is not certain that the old distinction between διαδεμdiadem as the kingly crown and στεπανοςstephanos as the victor‘s wreath is always observed in late Greek.

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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/revelation-4.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

Throne ( θρόνου )

A seat or chair. In Homer, an armchair with high back and footstool. Cushions were laid upon the seat, and over both seat and back carpets were spread. A royal throne. Used of the oracular seat of the priestess of Apollo. Apollo, in the “Eumenides” of Aeschylus, says: “Never, when I sat in the diviner's seat ( μαντικοῖσιν ἐν θρόνοις ) did I speak aught else than Zeus the father of the Olympians bade me” (616-618). Plato uses it of a teacher's seat. “I saw Hippias the Elean sitting in the opposite portico in a chair ( ἐν θρόνῳ ). Others were seated round him on benches ( ἐπὶ βάθρων ),” questioning him, “and he ex cathedreâ ( ἐν θρόνῳ καθήμενος , lit., sitting in the chair ) was determining their several questions to them, and discoursing of them” (“Protagoras,” 315). Also used of a judge's bench, and a bishop's seat.

Seats ( θρόνοι )

Rev., rightly, thrones. The word is the same as the last.

I saw

Omit.

Elders ( πρεσβυτέρους )

See on Acts 14:23. The twenty-four elders are usually taken to represent the one Church of Christ, as at once the Church of the old and of the new Covenant, figured by the twelve patriarchs and the twelve apostles.

“Then saw I people, as behind their leaders,

Coming behind them, garmented in white,

And such a whiteness never was on earth

… ..

Under so fair a heaven as I describe

The four and twenty-elders, two by two,

Came on incoronate with flower-de-luce.”

Dante, “Purgatorio,” xxix., 64-84.

Clothed ( περιβεβλημένους )

Rev., arrayed. Better, as indicating a more solemn investiture. See on Revelation 3:5.

They had

Omit.

Crowns ( στεφάνους )

See on 1 Peter 5:4; see on James 1:12. Στέφανος with the epithet golden is found only in Revelation. Compare Revelation 9:7; Revelation 14:14. The natural inference from this epithet and from the fact that the symbolism of Revelation is Hebrew, and that the Jews had the greatest detestation of the Greek games, would be that στέφανος is here used of the royal crown, especially since the Church is here represented as triumphant- a kingdom and priests. On the other hand, in the three passages of Revelation where John evidently refers to the kingly crown, he uses διάδημα (Revelation 12:3; Revelation 13:1; compare Revelation 17:9, Revelation 17:10; Revelation 19:12). Trench (“Synonyms of the New Testament”) claims that the crown in this passage is the crown, not of kinghood, but of glory and immortality. The golden crown ( στέφανος ) of the Son of Man (Revelation 14:14) is the conqueror's crown.

It must be frankly admitted, however, that the somewhat doubtful meaning here, and such passages of the Septuagint as 2 Samuel 12:30; 1 Chronicles 20:2; Psalm 20:3; Ezekiel 21:26; Zechariah 6:11, Zechariah 6:14, give some warrant for the remark of Professor Thayer (“New Testament Lexicon”) that it is doubtful whether the distinction between στέφανος and διάδημα (the victor's wreath and the kingly crown ) was strictly observed in Hellenistic Greek. The crown of thorns ( στέφανος ) placed on our Lord's head, was indeed woven, but it was the caricature of a royal crown.

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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/revelation-4.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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.

And round about the throne — In a circle, are four and twenty thrones, and on the thrones four and twenty elders - The most holy of all the former ages, Isaiah 24:23; Hebrews 12:1; representing the whole body of the saints.

Sitting — In general; but falling down when they worship.

Clothed in white raiment — This and their golden crowns show, that they had already finished their course and taken their place among the citizens of heaven. They are never termed souls, and hence it is probable that they had glorified bodies already. Compare Matthew 27:52.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/revelation-4.html. 1765.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

Elders; officers.--Crowns of gold; indicating very exalted rank and station.

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Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ain/revelation-4.html. 1878.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

4.] The assessors of the enthroned One. The construction with ἰδού, partly in the nom., partly in the accus., still continues. And round the throne twenty-four thrones (i. e. evidently smaller thrones, and probably lower than ὁ θρόνος), and upon the twenty-four thrones elders sitting (the accus., either after εἶδον understood, or more likely loosely placed with the nominatives after ἰδού), clothed in white garments, and on their heads golden crowns (these 24 elders are not angels, as maintained by Rinck and Hofmann (Weiss. u. Erfüll. p. 325 f.), as is shewn (not by ch. Revelation 5:9, as generally argued,—even by Elliott, vol. i. p. 81 f.: see text there: but) by their white robes and crowns, the rewards of endurance, ch. Revelation 3:5, Revelation 2:10,—but representatives of the Church, as generally understood. But if so, what sort of representatives, and why 24 in number? This has been variously answered. The usual understanding has been that of our earliest Commentator, Victorinus; who says, “Sunt autem viginti quatuor, patres: duodecim Apostoli, totidem Patriarchæ.” And this is in all probability right in the main: the key to the interpretation being the analogy with the sayings of our Lord to the Apostles, Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30. That those sayings do not regard the same session as this, is no argument against the inference from analogy. Joachim brings against this view that the twelve patriarchs were not personally holy men, and never are held up as distinguished in the Old Testament. But this obviously is no valid objection. It is not the personal characters, but the symbolical, that are here in question. It might be said with equal justice that the number of the actual Apostles is not definitely twelve. It is no small confirmation of the view, that in ch. Revelation 15:3, we find the double idea of the church, as made up of Old Testament and New Testament saints, plainly revealed to St. John; for he heard the victorious saints sing the song of Moses, and the song of the Lamb. See also ch. Revelation 21:12; Revelation 21:14, where the twelve gates of the New Jerusalem are inscribed with the names of the twelve tribes, and its twelve foundations with those of the twelve Apostles. Various other interpretations have been: that of Lyra, “designantur universæ cathedrales ecclesiæ: quæ licet sint multæ, tamen sub tali numero designantur propter concordantiam novi Testamenti ad vetus, in quo legitur, 1 Paralip. xxv., quod sanctus David volens augmentare cultum divinum, statuit viginti quatuor sacerdotes templo per hebdomadas successive ministrantes, in sacra enim scriptura frequenter ponitur determinatus numerus pro indeterminato:” that of Alcas., Calov., Vitringa, Zeger, Ewald, al., who explain the number similarly by the 24 courses of priests and their heads,—the objection to which is, that these elders are not priests, their occupation in ch. Revelation 5:8 being simply connected with their representative character:—that of Grot., that the number is that of the presiding elders of the Jerusalem church (a pure assumption): that of Joachim, Heinrichs, Bleek, De Wette, that the number 12, that of the tribes of Israel, is doubled, to signify the accession of the Gentiles to the church: that of Primasius and Ansbert, that the doubling is “propter geminum Testamentum, quin et in veteri et in novo eadem formatur Ecclesia.” Besides these, there have been many fanciful reasons, deduced from numerical considerations: as e. g. that of Arethas in Catena, that 21 is 3 × 7, the combination of the number of perfection with that of the Holy Trinity, and then 3 is added; &c. &c.).

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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/revelation-4.html. 1863-1878.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

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.

Ver. 4. And round about] The saints are round about God, Psalms 76:11, a people near unto him, Psalms 148:14.

Four and twenty elders] A full senate, a stately amphitheatre of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven, clothed as priests, crowned as kings and conquerors.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/revelation-4.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Revelation 4:4. Seats: Thrones: and so wherever it occurs. The four and twenty elders may be considered as representatives of the church, paying homage at the throne in the name of the rest.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/revelation-4.html. 1801-1803.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

St. John having described Almighty God as sitting upon his throne in the former verse, here he declares whom he saw about the throne as assessors with him, namely, Four and twenty elders; by which some understand the patriarchs and apostles, as representatives of the Jewish and Christian church; others understand hereby the whole body of private Christians, a certain number being put for an uncertain, who are represented,

1. As round the throne, to denote their nearness unto God, and their communion with him.

2. As sitting, to signify their state of rest and ease, and to denote their settled and secure condition of happiness which they now enjoy.

3. As clothed in white raiment, to represent their priestly dignity, that they were all priests unto God; as also their celestial purity and glory.

4. As having on their heads crowns of gold; this kingly dignity implying, that as kings they do and shall reign with Christ for ever and ever, who having loved them and washed them from their sins, in his blood, has made them kings and priests unto God.

5. They are called elders, to signify their great wisdom and experience; such as with patriarchs and apostles have done the greatest services to God on earth, shall share with him in the highest dignity and honour in heaven, sitting nearer the throne than others: St. John saw the elders not only near the throne, but sitting round about it.

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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wbc/revelation-4.html. 1700-1703.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Revelation 4:4. The twenty-four elders whom John sees sitting(1720) on the twenty-four thrones standing about the throne of God(1721) are, in like manner, the heavenly representatives of the entire people of God; as, in Isaiah 24:23, the elders are regarded the earthly heads and representatives of the entire Church.(1722) For, that these twenty-four elders are human, and not a “selection of the entire host of heaven,”(1723) nor angels,(1724) is decided by their designation, that which is ascribed to them (white robes and crowns), and the entire mode of their employment.(1725) They are neither the “bishops” or “prefects of the entire church,”(1726) nor priests,(1727) nor “the entire assembly of ministers of the word,”(1728) nor “all true rectors and faithful pastors of the N. T. Church,”(1729) nor Christian martyrs;(1730) but simply the representatives of the entire congregation of all believers, to whom, as to these elders, belong the holiness and glory indicated by the white robes,(1731) and the royal dominion by the thrones and crowns.(1732) The number twenty-four is not derived from the orders of priests, 1 Corinthians 16,(1733) for the question here is in no respect concerning priests; and still less(1734) is it to be regarded as a type of the elders of the church at Jerusalem, for the idea that this church had just twenty-four elders is without any foundation. All those expositors are in the right way who, proceeding from the number twelve, attempt to indicate a doubling of it. As now, undoubtedly, the simple as well as the doubled twelve(1735) has particular reference to the twelve tribes of the O. T. Church, the twenty-four elders cannot be twelve apostles and twelve martyrs;(1736) but also the explanation that from each of the twelve tribes two representatives are regarded as standing, one on the right, the other on the left of the throne of God,(1737) is of itself unimportant and arbitrary. It is possible(1738) only to regard the twofold twelve, either the representatives of the O. and the N. T. Church,(1739) or the representatives of the Church gathered not only from the Jews, but also from the Gentiles.(1740) Against the latter, Hengstenb. and Ebrard incorrectly say that the mode of view in the Apoc. is not conformable to that of the entire N. T.; for also in Revelation 7:9 sqq., those saved from the heathen are distinguished from those from the twelve tribes (Revelation 7:4 sqq.), and that, too, without detriment to the view according to which the heathen are added to Israel. Yet the former explanation of the twelve representatives of the churches of the O. and N. T. is to be preferred, because this in itself, and according to intimations like Revelation 15:3 (the song of Moses and the Lamb), is more immediate, and because, by this mode of statement, the twenty-four elders appearing in personal definitiveness can the more appropriately represent the O. and N. T. Churches. To wit, not “the twelve tribes,” as De Wette inconsistently explains, but the twelve personal heads of the Church of the O. T., composed of twelve tribes, i.e., the twelve patriarchs, are comprised in thought together with the twelve apostles, the N. T. antitypes to the patriarchs(1741) [See Note XLII., p. 202.] The objections made against the holiness of the twelve patriarchs(1742) are in no way pertinent,—as they could also be urged against the apostles,—because the patriarchs come into consideration not according to their own conduct or individual worth, but as the favored chiefs of the tribes of the O. T. people.

NOTES BY THE AMERICAN EDITOR

XLII. Revelation 4:4. εἴκοσι τέσσαρας πρεσβυτέρους

Gebhardt, however (p. 48), urges against this view advocated by Düsterdieck, “the fact, that, on the gates of the New Jerusalem, the names of the twelve tribes—the names of the patriarchs—are written; and, on its foundations, the names of the twelve apostles (Revelation 21:12; Revelation 21:14); but neither on the gates, nor on the foundation, do we find the two associated. It is entirely foreign to the thoughts of the seer, to conceive of the two side by side with each other. They are the same, but one as the type, the other the fulfilment. The song of Moses and the Lamb (Revelation 15:3), which is quoted in favor of this interpretation, is neither a double song, nor is it sung by O. and N. T. believers; it is one, and ascends from the lips of conquerors in the Christian life.” He argues that the elders are not concrete realities, “but, as the living creatures are a symbolical representation of the animated creation of God in general, according to its ideal, so are the elders a symbolical representation of the people of God, according to their ideal, or, in other words, of redeemed humanity.” Luthardt: “Not possibly the twelve patriarchs and the twelve apostles, or, in general, the representatives of the Church; for they are distinguished from believers, Revelation 5:10 (according to the correct reading), Revelation 7:9 sqq., 14, Revelation 11:16 sqq.; and the glorified as yet wear no crowns, but are expecting only the time of dominion (Revelation 2:10 to Revelation 6:9); but it is the heavenly council, composed of representatives of the people of God in heaven.”

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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/revelation-4.html. 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Revelation 4:4. θρόνοι(58)καὶ εἰκοσιτέσσαρας πρεσβυτέρους καὶ στεφάνους χρυσοῦς) See App. Crit., Ed. ii. The 1st edition of Erasmus is correct: for John is accustomed to mix the cases: ch. Revelation 1:16, Revelation 18:12-13, etc.— τοὺς) The article with the force of a relative. There are 24 thrones, and 24 elders; and each of the elders has his separate throne. I wish that he had weighed the force of this article, who in a recent cabalistic work multiplied the thrones, and those seated upon them. The elders (comp. πρεσβύτεροι, Hebrews 11:2), and they 24 in number, appear to be so many individuals, the most excellent of the human race; for instance, Adam, Seth, Enos, Kenan, Mahalaleel, Jered, Henoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah, Shem, Arphaxad, Selah, Eber, Peleg, Regu, Serug, Nahor, Terah, Abram, Isaac, Jacob, Abel, Japhet (Melchisedech, Job).

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/revelation-4.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Some think (and not improbably) that here is an allusion to the twenty-four courses of the priests and Levites, established by God for his service in the sanctuary and temple of old, 1 Chronicles 24:18 25:31; and that these twenty-four elders either typified the whole church under the New Testament, the number of the tribes of Israel (which made up the church under the Old Testament) being doubled to show the increase of the church’s territories under the gospel, or the heads of the church, either under the Old Testament or New, there being twelve patriarchs and twelve apostles. They are represented

sitting, to denote their state of rest and ease; and

clothed in white raiment, to denote their purity and holiness, or being clothed with Christ’s righteousness; and having

crowns of gold on their heads, to denote that state of dignity and glory to which God had advanced them.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/revelation-4.html. 1685.

Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

двадцать четыре старца И то, что они правят совместно с Христом, и их белые одежды (19:7, 8), и их золотые венцы (2:10) – все говорит о том, что эти 24 являются представителями спасенных (ст. 9– 11; 5:5-14; 7:11-17; 11:16-18; 14:3; 19:4). Вопрос в том, каких спасенных? Не из Израиля, так как народ еще не спасен, не прославлен и не увенчан. Это еще придет в конце времен. Их воскрешение и слава придут в конце 7-летней скорби (ср. Дан. 12:1-3). Святые, пришедшие от великой скорби, еще не спасены (7:9, 10). Только одна группа будет совершенной и прославленной в тот момент – Церковь. Здесь старцы представляют Церковь, которая поет песнь искупления (5:8-10). Они – победители, имеющие свои венцы и живущие в приготовленном для них месте, куда они пришли с Иисусом (ср. Ин. 14:1-4).

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MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mac/revelation-4.html.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Four and twenty elders; the representatives of God’s people under the Old and New Testament dispensations, twelve for each, answering to the twelve tribes of Israel, and the twelve apostles of Christ.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". "Family Bible New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/revelation-4.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘And round about the throne were twenty four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and on their heads crowns of gold.’

These thrones might tie in with Daniel’s description in Daniel 7, although Daniel only mentions them in passing. They are an indication that this is a particularly important occasion. All Heaven is participating in what is to happen. The description of ‘elders’ shows the respect in which these figures were held. Their authority is depicted by the fact that they alone sit on thrones. Compare Revelation 20:4 where thrones are given to those who sit in judgment. The elders are probably the ones referred to as ‘thrones’ in Colossians 1:16

In all ancient societies (e.g. Genesis 50:7; Numbers 22:7) older men were looked on as wise and to be respected. But the term elder was also an official one used of those who were given special overall authority, who were usually older men, but not necessarily so. In Exodus 24:1 Moses is assisted by seventy ‘elders’, and later every city had its own ruling body of ‘elders’. The influence of ‘the elders’ continued in the appointment of Saul and throughout the Monarchy, as representing the people (1 Samuel 8:4 on; 2 Samuel 5:3; 1 Kings 8:1; 1 Kings 8:3; 1 Kings 20:7; 1 Kings 21:8; 2 Kings 10:1; 2 Kings 19:2; 2 Kings 23:1). Ezekiel had dealings with them in the captivity (Ezekiel 8:1; Ezekiel 14:1; Ezekiel 20:1). There were also ‘elders of the priests’ (Isaiah 37:2; Jeremiah 19:1).

In the time of Jesus ‘the elders’ were a respected group, separate from the priesthood and the Pharisees (Matthew 26:3), men of influence, heads of important lay families who were represented on the Sanhedrin, and who were seen as the people’s representatives (see Luke 19:47).

In the church the elders were a ruling body who looked after church affairs (Acts 11:30; Acts 14:23; Acts 15:2 and often; 1 Timothy 5:17; Titus 1:5; James 5:14; 1 Peter 5:1). Peter himself claims to be an elder (1 Peter 5:1) as does John (2 John 1:1; 3 John 1:1). Thus elders were figures of authority and maturity who ruled over affairs on behalf of others and represented the people, or the priests, or the church or whoever had selected them.

But who are these elders? They are figures of royal authority in Heaven, but they continually cast their crowns down before the throne showing their total submission to God (Revelation 4:10). Thus they recognise the total rightness of His judgments and His position. They are clothed with white clothing emphasising their purity and righteousness. The crowns of gold on their heads represent their royal authority under God. They are the only beings who wear crowns in the presence of God.

The number twenty four links them with the courses of priesthood established by David under divine inspiration (1 Chronicles 24:3-5; 1 Chronicles 24:7-19 with 1 Chronicles 28:11-13; 1 Chronicles 28:19). That there were ‘elders of the priests’ is confirmed in Isaiah 37:2; Jeremiah 19:1 - where they are distinguished from the elders of the people. The fact that they have a priestly role is confirmed by the fact that they sing praise to God (they are the only ones described as singing) (Revelation 5:9) and have golden bowls full of incense which are the prayers of God’s people (‘saints’ in the New Testament is the name given to God’s people as a whole. See Acts 9:13; Acts 9:32; Acts 9:41; Acts 26:10; Romans 1:7; Romans 8:27; Romans 12:13; Romans 15:25-26; Romans 15:31; Romans 16:2; Romans 16:15; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Corinthians 6:1-2; 1 Corinthians 14:33 and often throughout Paul’s letters; the regular introductions to Paul’s letters; Hebrews 6:10; Hebrews 13:24).

The twenty four elders continually worship God (Revelation 4:10) and sing of what He has done for His people, who parallel on earth what these represent in Heaven (Revelation 5:9-10). Thus they are a royal priesthood who in Heaven represent God’s people on earth. They wear crowns because they represent those who are a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), those who will one day share the throne of Christ.

On earth Israel were intended to be a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6), indicating that they had a ministry to the nations to minister for them and seek to bring them to God. Apart from their sacrificial duties one of the responsibilities of the priests was to teach the Law (Leviticus 10:11; Ezra 7:10; Malachi 2:7). This task then became the church’s whom Peter declared to be a holy priesthood, and indeed a royal priesthood, who were to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Christ Jesus (1 Peter 2:5; 1 Peter 2:9). Thus they too are a kingdom of priests (Revelation 1:6).

So while in the number ‘twenty four’ we may secondarily see a connection between the twenty four elders and the twelve tribes of Israel, headed by their patriarchs, combined with the twelve apostles (Revelation 21:12-14 - but notice that the two sets of twelve are distinguished there, not combined), it is not the main idea. The main stress is on the fact that the elders are a heavenly royal priesthood, although as with the church, they are interceding and worshipping priests, not sacrificing priests, for they recognise that the one sacrifice has been made once for all (Revelation 5:9). In that sense they represent the church of Christ and the saints of the Old Testament before God (for Old Testament ‘saints’ see 1 Samuel 2:9; 2 Chronicles 6:41; Psalms 16:3; Psalms 30:4 and often; Proverbs 2:8; Daniel 7:18-27; Matthew 27:52).

The popular view that theyarethe church is based on hope (and a doubtful text in AV), rather than exegesis. This is evident from the fact that:

· The elders refer to the church in the third person (Revelation 5:9-10). (This later changed to the first person ‘us’ in later manuscripts, as reflected in AV, because of the erroneous application to the church).

· An individual elder speaks to John (Revelation 5:5; Revelation 7:13). They are thus seen as individuals. But it is noteworthy that when the church is to be spoken of it is an elder and not an angel who speaks (Revelation 7:13).

· The majority of the church is still on earth.

· The resurrection has not yet taken place, therefore the righteous are still in ‘conscious soul sleep’ and not resurrected in Heaven (Revelation 5:9-11). While this is conscious bliss it is never shown in Scripture to be ‘bodily’.

But the eldersarerepresentatives of the church before God, and the fact that the highest beings in Heaven apart from the Godhead (the only ones to have thrones and crowns) are seen as acting on behalf of the church, and bringing them and their prayers to attention before God, was intended to act as an encouragement to the church on earth in the time of tribulation to come.

As each church has its angel who watches over it and represents it before the Father, as demonstrated by the angels of the seven churches (and as angels represent and watch over little children who believe in Christ - Matthew 18:10), so the church of Old and New Testament believers are watched over by the twenty four elders, whose specific task concerns the universal church. But they too are servants of God and must not therefore be venerated directly (Revelation 19:10; Revelation 22:9).

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/revelation-4.html. 2013.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

John saw24thrones surrounding the main throne in what is obviously a subordinate relationship. The throne is a place of rule. Evidently these elders will have positions of authority under God.

The identity of the24elders (Gr. presbyteros) is difficult to determine. There have been two basic views: men and angels. If they are human beings, they may be representatives of Israel, the church, or both groups. [Note: Smith, A Revelation . . ., p104; Walvoord, The Revelation . . ., pp106-7; Alford, 4:596; J. D. Pentecost, Things to Come, pp207-9; John F. McGahey, "The Identity of the Twenty-Four Elders," (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1954); Ironside, p82; Barclay, The Revelation . . ., 1:19-25; Tenney, pp189-90; Swete, p69; Stanton, pp200-4; David J. MacLeod, "The Adoration of God the Creator: An Exposition of Revelation 4," Bibliotheca Sacra164:654 (April-June2007):207.] If angels, they could be angelic representatives of either of the Old Testament priestly orders (cf. 1 Chronicles 24:4-5; 1 Chronicles 25:9-13), or angelic representatives of the faithful of all ages, or a special group or class of angels. [Note: Thomas, Revelation 1-7, p348; Bullinger, p219; Lange, p152; James Moffatt, "The Revelation of St. John the Divine," in The Expositor"s Greek Testament, 5:378; Beckwith, pp498-99; John Phillips, Exploring Revelation, p103; Alexander Reese, The Approaching Advent of Christ, p92; Ladd, p75; Beasley-Murray, p114; Beale, p322. See Aune, pp287-92, for a helpful summary of the views.]

I think the24elders are either12human leaders of Israel and12human leaders of the church or a special group of24angelic leaders who represent the12patriarchs of Israel and the12apostles of the church. All that John wrote about them fits angels, and some of what he wrote could fit some men. Their song of praise seems to set them apart from those purchased by Christ"s blood ( Revelation 5:9-10). However, "elder" is a term used nowhere else in the Bible to describe angels. Their number may relate to the24priestly orders in Israel that worshipped and served the Lord ( 1 Chronicles 23:6; 1 Chronicles 24:7-18). They evidently serve God by executing His will in the universe, but they do so in rank under the four living beings of Revelation 4:6. Perhaps the four living creatures represent the general creation and the24elders represent the elect of God"s special creation. [Note: Beale, p322.]

White apparel is the characteristic dress of angels (cf. Matthew 28:3; Mark 16:5; John 20:12; Acts 1:10). These elders wore crowns (Gr. stephanous). This Greek word often refers to a victor"s crown ( Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:11), but John also used it to describe a crown that represents authority ( Revelation 6:2; Revelation 9:7; Revelation 12:1; Revelation 14:14).

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/revelation-4.html. 2012.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Revelation 4:4. In the next part of the description we are told that there were round about the throne twenty-four thrones, and upon the thrones twenty-four elders. It is important to observe the word ‘thrones’ (not as in the Authorised Version, ‘seats’) here used by St. John, for there can be no doubt that it is deliberately chosen in order to bring out the fact that the glorified Church of Christ is placed in no lower position than that of the Saviour’s and the Father’s throne (comp. Revelation 3:21). These twenty-four thrones were like the rainbow ‘round about the throne.’ It may be a question whether they were within or without the circle of the rainbow. Chap. Revelation 3:21 seems to determine against the latter. But perhaps we are even to
think of them as set in the very circle of the rainbow in order to denote standing in the covenant of grace. The thrones were occupied by twenty-four elders; and, as these unquestionably represent the one Church of Christ in its triumphing condition in heaven, the number must be taken from some idea which presented itself to the mind of the Seer as a suitable expression for the
whole Church of God. The twenty-four divisions of the sons of Aaron, described in 1 Chronicles 24, might have suggested it, the only difficulty being that this classification of the priest hood belongs to the time of the Temple rather than of the Tabernacle. It seems better, therefore, to have recourse to the doubling of the number twelve, so that the whole number twenty-four may represent the Church in her double aspect as at once the Church of the Old Covenant and of the New. We have already met with this principle of doubling, although in a somewhat different form; and there does not appear to be anything unnatural in resorting to it now. The twenty-four elders, thus embodying the conception of the Church of Christ in her perfected condition, have three characteristics. (1) They are sitting, the attitude of rest and honour. (2) They are clothed in white garments, the robes of perfect purity, the robes of priests. (3) They have on their heads golden crowns, those of chaps. Revelation 2:10, Revelation 3:11, and Revelation 14:14, in which last passage the same ‘golden crown’ is assigned to the Son of man. Like Him, they are not only priests but kings. At chap. Revelation 6:11 the ‘white robe’ alone, without the golden crown, is given to the souls under the altar; but the reason is obvious. These souls are waiting. Here the time of waiting is past. The Church is before us in her triumphing condition.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/revelation-4.html. 1879-90.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

About the throne were four and twenty seats, or lesser thrones, twenty-four seniors or senators upon them, representing the illustrious saints both of the Old and New Testament, clothed in white garments, in token of their innocence, and crowns of gold, signifying the glory of the heavenly inhabitants. (Witham) --- These four and twenty elders sitting around the throne of God, represent the judgment which the Almighty was about to pass upon the enemies of his Church. Thus in Daniel, when he was about to pronounce sentence against Antiochus Epiphanes, "thrones were placed, and the ancient of days sat,...the judgment sat, and the books were opened." (Daniel vii. 9, 10.) They represent kings and priests who attend on the Sovereign Judge. It appears as if God intended to designate by the number the ancient patriarchs and the twelve apostles, who judge with the Lord, and condemn the injustice of their persecutors. (Calmet)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/revelation-4.html. 1859.

Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books

The exact identity of the twenty-four elders is unknown. They wear white, the color for purity and holiness, and have golden crowns on their heads, which may symbolize the victory Christ has given them. Since there were twelve tribes of Israel, it may be these represent the leaders of God"s people redeemed in physical and spiritual Israel.

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Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". "Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ghc/revelation-4.html. 2014.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

four and twenty. See App-10and App-197.

seats = thrones, as Revelation 4:2. See Revelation 1:4.

saw. The texts omit.

elders. Greek. presbuteros. These are evidently heavenly beings, "a pattern" after which David arranged his twenty-four courses of the sons of Aaron (1 Chronicles 24:3-5).

they had. The texts omit.

crowns of gold. The only other wearer is the Son of Man (Revelation 14:14), a fact which proves the exalted station of these "elders".

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/revelation-4.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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.

Seats - rather, 'thrones;' of course lower than the grand central throne. So Revelation 16:10, 'the throne of the beast,' in hellish parody of God's throne.

Four and twenty elders. B, 'the (well-known) twenty and four (or, 'Aleph (') A, "twenty-four") elders' (Alford). But Tregelles, 'upon the 24 thrones (I saw: omitted in A B, Vulgate) elders sitting:' more probable, as the 24 elders were not mentioned before, whereas the 24 thrones were. Not angels, for they have white robes and crowns of victory, implying a conflict and endurance - "Thou hast redeemed us" (Revelation 5:9); but the Heads of the Old and New Testament churches-the Twelve Patriarchs (cf. Revelation 7:5-8), not in their personal, but their representative character, and Twelve Apostles. So Revelation 15:3, "the song of Moses and of the Lamb:" the double constituents of the Church, the Old and the New Testament. "Elders" is the term for the ministry, both of the Old and New Testament, the Jewish and the universal Church. The tabernacle was a "pattern" of the heavenly antitype (Hebrews 8:5; Hebrews 9:24); the Holy Place a figure of HEAVEN. Yahweh's throne is represented by the mercy-seat with the Shechinah cloud over it. 'The seven lamps of fire before the throne' (Revelation 4:5) are antitypical to the seven-branched candlestick before the Holiest Place-emblem of the manifold Spirit of God. 'The sea of glass' (Revelation 4:6) corresponds to the molten sea before the sanctuary, wherein the priests washed before entering on holy service: so here in connection with the redeemed "priests unto God" (note, Revelation 15:2). The 'four living creatures' (Revelation 4:6-7) answer to the cherubim over the mercy-seat. So the 24 throned and crowned elders are typified by the chiefs of the 24 courses of priests, 'governors of the sanctuary, and governors of God' (1 Chronicles 24:5; 1 Chronicles 25:31).

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/revelation-4.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(4)And round about the throne were four and twenty seats (or, thrones), and upon the seats (or, thrones) I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.—Perhaps the wish to give its due pre-eminence to the thought of Him who sat on the throne caused our translators to describe the elders as sitting on seats; but the same word throne is used of both, and those who are now seated on thrones are called (Revelation 5:10) kings and priests. In the similar vision in Ezekiel no human beings are seen; their appearance here is significant. They are the representatives of Christ’s Church and people, of those whom Christ calls His friends, and who are admitted to know what their Lord doeth (John 15:15). Various reasons have been suggested why they should be described as twenty-four in number; they are the twelve tribes doubled, to signify the union of the Gentile with the Jewish Church; they are the two sets of twelve, to represent the two Testaments; they are the twelve Patriarchs cojoined with the twelve Apostles. It will be seen that these were all different forms of the same thought, that the twenty-four elders represent the complete Church of God in the past and in the future, in the Jewish and Gentile worlds; and as such the true spiritual successors, as priests to God, of those twenty-four courses (1 Chronicles 24:1-19) arranged by David, and which some have thought gave rise to the use of the number twenty-four in this passage. It is the great united Church. The same thought is touched upon in the double song of Moses and the Lamb (Revelation 15:3), and in the gates and foundations of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:12; Revelation 21:14).

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/revelation-4.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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.
were four
11:16; 20:4; Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30
four and twenty
10; 5:8,14; 7:11; 19:4
clothed
3:4,5; 6:11; 7:9,13,14; 19:14
crowns
2:10; 9:7; Esther 8:15; Psalms 21:3; 2 Timothy 4:8
Reciprocal: 2 Chronicles 23:11 - put upon;  Isaiah 61:10 - for;  Ezekiel 16:11 - and a;  Ezekiel 44:17 - they shall;  Zechariah 3:5 - fair;  1 Corinthians 9:25 - but;  1 Timothy 5:1 - an elder;  2 Timothy 2:5 - is he;  Revelation 3:11 - thy;  Revelation 4:8 - which;  Revelation 5:5 - one;  Revelation 5:6 - in the midst of the throne;  Revelation 5:11 - the throne;  Revelation 7:15 - are;  Revelation 13:6 - and them

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/revelation-4.html.

Walter Scott's Commentary on Revelation

THE ROYAL AUTHORITY OF THE REDEEMED.

Revelation 4 : . — "And round the throne twenty-four thrones,and on the thrones twenty-four elders sitting, clothed with white garments; and on their heads golden crowns." The thrones and crowns point to a royal company of redeemed and glorified saints in Heaven, clearly not before, but after, the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:23). Spirits sitting, clothed and crowned, is an incongruous thought, and one entirely foreign to Scripture.Grouped round the vast throne in Heaven are twenty-four thrones of which the authority and stability are derived from, and sustained by, the measureless throne of the Eternal. "Seats," as in the Authorised Version, is a feeble and inadequate thought. The word "throne" is connected with a royal personage; "seat" with a private person.

These twenty-four elders, or chiefs, represent the general body of the redeemed then in Heaven. They play an important part in the scenes recorded and visions beheld from chapter 4 to chapter 19, where in verse four the last notice of them is recorded.{*"Elders" as a term occurs twelve times. The varied actions and services in which they take part show clearly enough that they are the representatives of the redeemed and risen saints. They are enthroned; fall down and worship; one of them comforts the weeping Seer and interprets the mind of Heaven; they have harps and vials of incense; they sing (never said of angels); are the nearest company to the throne and to the Lamb; intelligently explain as to the redeemed on earth; celebrate the millennial and eternal triumph of God; and add their "amen" and "hallelujah" to the judgment of the whore — the corruptress of the earth. The passages where the word is found are as follows; Revelation 4:4; Revelation 4:10; Revelation 5:5-6; Revelation 5:8; Revelation 5:11; Revelation 5:14; Revelation 7:11; Revelation 7:13; Revelation 11:16; Revelation 14:3; Revelation 19:4.} The elders are a distinct company from the beasts or living creatures, and from the angels. In Revelation 5:1-14 the action of the elders, as distinguished from that of angels, makes it impossible to regard them as one and the same; verse 11 distinguishes by title the three companies. The elders sing (v. 9), the angels say (v. 12).The angels are never numbered (Hebrews 12:22), the elders are. Six times the representative number "twenty-four" occurs. Angels are not said to be crowned, the elders are. The choral praise of Heaven, in harp and song, seems the peculiar function of the elders. Heavenly intelligence, especially in themes and subjects connected with redemption, is ascribed to the elders and not to angels. By the elders we understand, therefore, the innumerable company of the redeemed saints, raised and changed, and caught up to meet Christ in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Theircrowns and thrones betoken their royal dignity; the harp and song their joy in worship, while their robes and vials point to priestly character and action. But why "twenty-four?" The significance of the numeral must be sought for in the first book of Chronicles 24, 25. David divided the priesthood into twenty-four orders or courses, each course serving in turn (Luke 1:1-80; Luke 5:1-39; Luke 8:1-56; Luke 9:1-62). The respective elders or chiefs of these courses would represent the whole of the Levitical priesthood. There would thus be twenty-four chief priests and one high priest.{*Josephus, the Jewish historian, informs us that his family was "of the first course of the four and twenty" — no mean order. Some understand the twenty-four to represent the governmental number "twelve," thus signifying the sum of Old Testament saints as one body, and the sum of New Testament saints as another body of believers — thus the two twelves. We deem it unwarrantable to break up the symbol in this manner. We are satisfied however that the reference in the "twenty-four" is to 1 Chronicles 24:1-31; 1 Chronicles 25:1-31.} Their varied service corresponded to that of the elders in Heaven, for the temple (no less than the tabernacle) in structure,vessels, and services was framed according to things in the heavens. God's people are termed "an holy priesthood" (1 Peter 2:5) and "a royal priesthood" (v. 9), and in both characters they are here seen in action.

The white garments indicate the purity and priestly character of the elders. "On their heads golden crowns " bespeak their royal dignity. Every redeemed and risen saint will be crowned; this is in no wise a distinctive crown peculiar to some, but intimates royal dignity and authority common to all the heavenly saints.

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Scott, Walter. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". "Walter Scott's Commentary on Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/sor/revelation-4.html.

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

God has had two organic systems of religion in the world, the Mosaic and the Christian. The former was arranged under twelve tribes (with their heads) and the latter is administered under twelve apostles ( Matthew 19:28). The four and twenty elders represent the two systems of religion. Clothed in white raimcnt signfies a life of righteousness. because all men who live righteously before God, whether they were in the days of the Mosaic system or in those of the Christian, will be permitted to surround the throne in heaven as victors over the world. These elders are in the vision to represent all the saved under the two systems.

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Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/znt/revelation-4.html. 1952.

Hanserd Knollys' Commentary on Revelation

Revelation 4:4

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.

" four and twenty seats"

The four and twenty seats upon which John saw four and twenty elders sitting round about the throne, do signify the ministry of Christ in his church, who had the care and charge of the flock, to feed them, { Acts 20:28} and who have the rule over the members of the church, { Hebrews 13:7-17} to govern them by the laws of the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, they did sit upon seats (or thrones) being governors in the church of God, according to Christ's institution. { Ephesians 4:11-13; 1 Corinthians 12:28; 1 Corinthians 4:1-6}

Clothed in white raiment, and they had on their heads crowns of gold

Hereby is signified, first, their holiness or sanctification, called the righteousness of the saints, { Revelation 19:7-8} their garments of salvation, and robe of righteousness, { Isaiah 61:10} their raiment is made white in the blood of Christ, wherein they washed their robes, as they did { Revelation 7:14-15} therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his Temple; that Isaiah, his church. Secondly, their honour or dignity of eldership; the elders that rule well are worthy of double honour; { 1 Timothy 5:17; Revelation 4:10-11} whereof Christ hath the pre-eminence, as in all other things. { Colossians 1:18}

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Knollys, Hanserd. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". "Hanserd Knollys' Commentary on Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hkc/revelation-4.html.

D.S. Clark's Commentary on Revelation

V:4. Here are twenty-four seats and twenty-four elders in white garments and wearing crowns of gold. Who are they? Well, we see that they offer intelligent worship, they explain certain things to John, they are personal beings, but not angels. Since they sing: "Thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood," we conclude they are saints, or representatives of those saved by Christ"s blood. This is a vision to comfort those who might find themselves faced with sudden prospective sainthood. We think these visions had a definite reference to the people to whom they were addressed and to the conditions in which they lived and especially in view of the circumstances they were soon to face.

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Harold Norris' Commentary on the Book of Revelation

Verse4.

"The four and twenty elders"--The number12and its multiples in this book always indicates THE CHURCH. Twenty four is the totality of the leaders of the church of the Old and the New Testaments (The12tribes of Israel and the12Apostles; see, 14). This council in heaven is concerned with the fortunes of the church on earth. There is comfort and encouragement in the realisation that the affairs and struggles of the church on earth are known in heaven. The24elders are "SEATED" for they represent the church TRIUMPHANT. "The great church triumphant shall be the church AT REST." "Clad in WHITE GARMENTS, WITH GOLDEN CROWNS UPON THEIR HEADS." The white garments (of PURITY and CONQUEST) and crowns mark them as the church triumphant since Christ promises this to the church militant as its reward in210,3:5.

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Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Revelation 4:4. And round about the throne four and twenty thrones; and sitting on the thrones four and twenty elders, clothed with white garments, and on their heads golden crowns. Bengel: "Here now we have a description of those who are about the Lord. We must here represent to ourselves not a half, but an entirely circular ring. Beside the chief throne, then, four and twenty other thrones with so many elders are appropriately added; but elsewhere the four beasts are nearer than the four and twenty elders, and both nearer than the many angels, ch. Revelation 5:11." The elders sit round about the throne, within the span of the rainbow. They are mentioned before the fuller description of the throne and of the cherubim, to indicate that the whole assembly has respect to the affairs of the church. Where the representatives of this sit in judgment with God, there only a favourable decision for them can be expected. The beasts are inseparable from the throne itself, which rests upon them; they are not merely round the throne, but also under the throne, according to ch. 6.

That the elders are representatives of the church, there can be no question; is quite plain from ch. Revelation 5:8-10, where they hold in their hands golden vials full of incense, which are the prayers of saints, and sing a new song and say, "Thou art worthy to take the book and to open its seals, for thou wert slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of all kindreds and tongues and peoples and nations"—a passage which shews that we cannot think of angels. That the four and twenty come into consideration as the double twelve, is rendered probable alone by ch. Revelation 7:4, ss., where the twelve appears as the signature of the church generally, and according to which the twelve tribes of Israel are perpetuated in the church of the New Testament. Now, if we should seek for each of these tribes a double head, in accordance with the two oeconomies, there will very naturally present themselves the twelve patriarchs and the twelve apostles. The same four and twenty we find again in ch. 21. At the gates of the New Jerusalem there stand, according to Revelation 21:12, twelve angels, to which it is added, "and names written, which are the twelve tribes of the children of Israel," the ideal representatives of the twelve tribes, the shadowy forms, as it were, of the twelve patriarchs. On the twelve foundations of the walls are the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. We meet with the first twelve also in ch. Revelation 12:1 : the woman, the church, has before the birth of Christ a crown of twelve rulers. The second twelve, the twelve apostles, who were manifestly chosen by Christ as the New Testament counterpart to the twelve patriarchs, we obtain from the undeniable reference of Christ to the declaration of our Lord in Matthew, Matthew 19:28, comp. Luke 22:30, "Then shall ye also sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel;" and from Revelation 20:4, where a still more manifest reference to these passages is found, "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given to them." The right view was given by Bossuet, "It is the totality of the saints of the Old and the New Testament, who are here represented by their chiefs and their leaders. Those of the Old appeared in the twelve patriarchs, and those of the new in the twelve apostles. The same totality of saints is represented afterwards in the twelve gates of the holy city, on which were written the names of the twelve tribes; and in the twelve foundations of that city, on which were written the names of the twelve apostles, Revelation 21:12; Revelation 21:14. In a word, one sees in these twenty-four elders the whole church represented in its leaders." If the apostles formed the one-half of the heavenly senate of the church, the Apocalypse can only have been composed at the close of the apostolic age. According to the common supposition, the number four and twenty here must allude to the four and twenty classes of priests formed by David: the elders must be as it were the family-heads of the heavenly priesthood. But in addition to the separation this would make of the passage from ch. Revelation 12:1, and Revelation 21:12; Revelation 21:14, and the want of any other point of connection in the book, there are strong reasons against the supposition. It is in itself not probable, that the author of the Apocalypse would refer to that purely human arrangement, which never received any special divine sanction. The remark of Züllig, that "the book hardly ever alludes to anything not biblical," has a wide application. Farther, although the elders were also priests, yet, appearing as they do here in a judicial scene, in the introduction to the seven seals, which God, in fellowship with his high council, suspends over the world for the good of his church, they are not employed in their proper character, but in a kingly capacity. To this latter points also the sitting on thrones, the bearing of golden crowns, and, as is clear from subsequent statements, the being clothed with white garments, which have been falsely regarded as a mark of the priestly character. In this connection also, where a sitting in judgment is the matter in question, the name elder designates only the governing character, the civic dignity; the elders correspond to the princes, who stood nearest to the throne of the earthly king in Israel, comp. Ezekiel 8:11. Another conjecture, that the twelve number was doubled with respect to the admission of the heathen, must be wrong even on this account, that without any sure foundation it has proceeded from a doubtful suggestion, and runs counter, besides, to a fundamental view of the New Testament, and in particular of the Apocalypse, according to which believers from heathenism do not constitute a second party to those from Israel, but that there is only one Israel, which perpetuates itself in the Christian church, and into which believing heathens were inserted—comp. on ch. Revelation 7:4. Here, therefore, a modern representation has been violently pressed on Scripture.

There are two original passages in the Old Testament for the form of representation here adopted. First, Isaiah 24:23, "And the sun blushes and the moon is ashamed, for the Lord reigns, the Lord of hosts, upon Mount Zion, and at Jerusalem, and before his elders (to whom he will impart of his own glory) is honour." The elders appear there as the ideal representatives of the church in the time of salvation. The difference which Ewald was the first to suggest, that in Isaiah the elders appear on earth, here in heaven, is of little moment. For here also the abode of the elders is only provisionally in heaven. Then, Daniel 7:9-10. There, around the throne of the Ancient of days thrones are placed, the judgment sits, and the books are opened. Commonly it is the angels, who are thought of as being there the assessors of the divine judgment. So still Hävernick, "The great throne of God is surrounded by a multitude of elevated seats for the higher servants of God, the hosts of the elect ones that are round about him, Isaiah 6, Job 1, Revelation 4." But everywhere else the angels appear as servants in accordance with their name, and their designation as" ministering spirits sent forth to minister," in Hebrews 1:14; but never as judges. The passages, Daniel 4:10, Daniel 4:14, to which Maldanat has referred, must not be compared, for they belong to the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, who intermingled his heathenish modes of thought with what was given of God. In Daniel's explanation nothing is said of the angels.[Note: Ode, de angelis, c 735: Hunc errorem correxisse videtur, Daniel 5:21, ubi illud non vocatur decrctum vigilum, sed Excelsi, sc. Eei.]The right view, that the representatives of the covenant people, as assessors in the judgment held upon the ungodly world, is the idea represented, was recognised even by the ancient Jews.[Note: Tanchumma, fol. 52: Rabbini nostri dicunt: quid hoc est: sellae positae sum? Res pondetur: tempore futuro Deus S. B. sedebit, et angeli dabunt sellas magnatibus Israelis, et illi sedent. Et Deus S. B. sedet cum senioribus tanquam אב בית דין, priuceps senatus, et judicabunt gentiles.]That the crowns are crowns of kings, is plain, especially from Revelation 4:10, where they cast their crowns before the throne—the kings humble themselves before the King of kings—and also from the connection with the thrones; comp. Matthew 19:28, where the apostles sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. So also as an insigne of royal dignity the crowns occur in ch. Revelation 6:2, Revelation 9:7, Revelation 14:14; comp. Matthew 27:29, John 19:12. White in the Revelation, as in Scripture generally, is the colour of bright splendour, the symbolical shadow of glory. One might Say with perfect truth: white is like holy, but holy only in the sense of Scripture, not that of the current doctrinal theology. We are not to think of simple white, but of a glittering white—the white of light and snow; comp. Matthew 17:2, "And he was transfigured before them, and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light;" Mark 9:3, "And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them;" Luke 9:29, "And as he prayed the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistening," λευκὸς ἐξαστράπτων. Besides, Matthew 28:3, Luke 24:4, Acts 1:10, comp. with Acts 10:30. In the Apocalypse, see ch. Revelation 1:14, "His head and his hair were white as white wool, as snow," and the interchange between white and glittering in ch. Revelation 19:8, and Revelation 15:6, comp. with Revelation 19:14. As the symbolical representation of glory, white is the predominant colour in the manifestation of Christ, Revelation 1:14, Revelation 6:2, Revelation 19:11, the colour of the throne of God, Revelation 20:11, of the angels as the holy ones in the scriptural sense, the exalted and the glorious. We must further take into account the colour of the righteous, especially of the perfect, who shine forth in the splendour of their virtues, Revelation 3:18, Revelation 19:8, Revelation 7:14, and of the glory of God imparted to them, in imitation of that which was imaged forth at the glorification of Christ, and in fulfilment of the saying of Christ, "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of the Father," comp. Revelation 3:4-5. In the passage before us, it is best to regard both as united, as also in Revelation 7:9. The connection, however, with the thrones and crowns shews that at all events the latter, which are ascribed only to the perfectly righteous, and do not at all belong to persons in this life, decidedly predominates. As the colour of innocence white is never used in Scripture. The purified high-priest receives, in Zechariah 3, instead of his filthy garments, not white but clean ones. In ch. Revelation 7:14 of this book a distinction is made between washing and making white. The four and twenty elders appear also in ch. Revelation 11:16, as co-regents with God: "the four and twenty elders who sit before God on their thrones." ‘But they are invested with this dignity as the representatives and the highest concentration of the whole church of believers. For of this, as a whole, it is said in ch. Revelation 3:21, "He that overcomes will I give to sit with me in my throne, as I have overcome, and have sitten down with my Father in his throne." And in ch. Revelation 2:26, "He that overcomes and keeps my works to the end, to him will I give power over the heathen, . . as I have received of my Father." Where there has come to be a hearty concurrence of will with that of the Sovereign Ruler, there one is received into the partnership of his government of the world, his judgments, his victories. It is the precious privilege of the Christian, that nothing comes to pass which he does not will, every thing that he does will—that he triumphs in God over all hostile powers, and with him rides upon the high places of the earth, and sees the whole world lying under his feet.

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Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/heg/revelation-4.html.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

4.Round about the throne—Forming a full circle, at such distance from the throne as to make an area in the midst.

SeatsThrones: the same Greek word as for the throne just mentioned. For these elders are kings, with both thrones and crowns of gold—royal elders, “kings and priests.” Their lesser thrones surround the greater throne, as in fealty to the great King.

Four and twenty—The twice twelve of the Old Testament and the New Testament Church, the patriarchal and apostolic twelve. See our note on symbolic numbers, at close of Luke 6. Says Bossuet, (quoted by Hengstenberg,) “It is the totality of the saints of the Old and New Testament Church who are here represented by their chiefs and elders. The same totality of saints is represented in the twelve gates of the holy city, on which were written the names of the twelve tribes, and in the foundation of that city, on which were written the names of the twelve apostles, Revelation 21:12; Revelation 21:14. In a word, one sees in these twenty-four elders the whole Church in its leaders.” And as throned and crowned, they represent the Church of all ages, both militant and triumphant. The delightful import of the symbol is, that the Church is very nigh and very dear to God in his administration of the governments of the world.

Crowns—The crown proper of the New Testament ( , from , to wreathe or weave a garland or chaplet) was originally used for honour to a victor or ruler, and adopted as an ensign of royalty.

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Different was the diadem, (from , around, and , to bind,) which was originally a tie around the heads of oriental monarchs, and, being far more imperial, was adopted by the Emperor Diocletian and his successor as matter of regal pride. The Greek for diadem is used in only three passages in the New Testament, namely, Revelation 12:3, of the dragon; Revelation 13:1, of the beast; and Revelation 19:12, of the Messiah.

 

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/revelation-4.html. 1874-1909.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Revelation 4:4. This verse breaks the continuous description of 3 and 5; it is evidently an original touch of the writer introduced into the more or less traditional scenery of the eternal court where “all the sanctities of heaven stood thick as stars” (cf.Revelation 5:11). The conception of twenty-four royally (Revelation 1:6) enthroned as divine assessors, with all the insignia of state, reaches back in part to a post-exilic apocalypse (Isaiah 24:23, ), in part to the historic gerousia. But their attire (golden crowns, white robes) and functions are royal rather than judicial or sacerdotal. They are heavenly beings, angelic figures corresponding to the of Colossians 1:16 (cf.Isaiah 63:9 ). The significance of the doubled 12 has been found in the twelve patriarchs or tribes + the twelve apostles (Andr., Areth., Vict., Alford, Weiss, etc.), in Jewish and Gentile Christianity (Bleek, de Wette, Weizsäcker, Swete), or in the twenty-four classes of the post-exilic priests with their “elders” (Schürer, H. J. P. i. 216 f., so from Vitringa to Ewald, Hilg., Renan, Spitta, Wellh., Erbes, Briggs). But the notion of the church as a fusion or combination of the old and the new covenants is alien to primitive Christianity, and the “elders’ are not the ideal or celestial representatives of the church at all. They pertain to the heavenly court, as in the traditional mise-en-scène of the later Judaism, which had appropriated this and other imaginative suggestions of the heavenly court (Schrader,3 pp. 454 f.), or, judicial council from the Babylonian, astro-theology, where were ranged four-and-twenty stars, half to the north, and half to the south, of which the visible are reckoned as belonging to the living, the invisible to the dead, (Diod. Sic. 2:31, quoted by Gunkel in S. C. 302–308, who rightly finds in the same soil roots of other symbols in this passage, such as the four and the seven ). In Slav. En. iv. 1. immediately after “the very great sea” in the first heaven is mentioned (cf.Revelation 4:6), Enoch is shown “the elders and the rulers of the orders of the stars;” so in Judicium Petri, , twelve on the right hand of God and twelve on the left, as in Acta Perpet. The twenty-four star-deities of the Babylonian heaven had thus become adoring and subordinate angelic beings (cf. , Revelation 4:11) in the apocalyptic world of the later Judaism, and our author retains this Oriental trait, together with the seven torches, the halo, etc., in order to body forth poetically his conception of the divine majesty (so, after Gunkel, Jeremias, and Bousset, Bruston, J. Weiss, Scott, Forbes, Porter). A partial anticipation of this feature, as well as of some others, in the Apocalypse occurs not only in the “sacred council” of Doushara, the Nabatean deity (cf. Cook’s North Semit. Inscr., pp. 221 f., 443 f.), but in Egyptian mythology, as, e.g., in the following inscription from the tomb of Unas (5th dynasty, 3500 B.C.) “His place is at the side of God, in the most holy place; he himself becomes divine (neter), and an angel of God; he himself is triumphant. He sits on the great throne by the side of God [Revelation 3:21]. He is clothed with the finest raiment of those who sit on the throne of living right and truth. He hungers not, nor thirsts, nor is sad, for he eats daily the bread of Ra, and drinks what He drinks daily, and his bread also is that which is spoken of by Seb, and that which comes forth from the mouth of the gods [Revelation 7:16-17; Revelation 21:4]. Not only does he eat and drink of their food, but he wears the apparel they wear—the white linen and sandals, and he is clothed in white ’ and these great and never-failing gods give unto him of the Tree of Life [Revelation 2:7] of which they themselves do eat, that he likewise may live.”

 

 

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Bibliographical Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/revelation-4.html. 1897-1910.