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Who are the twenty-four elders?

Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads...And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. Revelation 4:4, 8

John has a vision of heaven and sees twenty-four elders on thrones with crowns of gold on their head.  These are highly respected individuals who received commendation for what they did in life.

The twenty-four elders could be:
  • The leaders/sons of the 12 tribes + 12 apostles
  • 24 special humans/pastors who did noteworthy things, the V.I.P. section
  • 24 angels
  • 24 divisions of Israelite priesthood (1 Chronicles 24)
  • A figurative representation of all people or all leaders – Old and New Testament believers represented by the witness of these twelve tribes and twelve apostles.
The Greek word for elder is presbus which means elderly, senior, older in reference to a person.
 
Elders are found starting in Numbers and Leviticus as wise, respected men who made important decisions.  The Holy Spirit rested on them and they prophesied.  Elders appear throughout the OT as trusted leaders and into the NT as leaders of the church
 
The twenty-four elders could represent the respected leaders from the OT and NT who have gone before us.  They represent respected human authority who praises God from a respected place of honor.