Janet Smith – 10-8-2017 ©gardenministries.org
Author’s note: fresh revelation from the Word of God is both individual and corporate in its scope of responsibility. Jesus tells us in John 10:27 that “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” Jesus tells us to know His voice and listen to His voice and then we will understand the times and know how to follow Him. But learning what is His voice and what is not His voice isn’t always clear cut. And furthermore, when it comes to listening to His voice and receiving prophetic revelation, we often sense an incompleteness. The Bible validates this prophetic incompleteness but promises that one day, we will transition into a completeness that puts away the past incompleteness.1 Corinthians 13:8-10, “Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.”
Embracing this state of incompleteness should not stop us from seeking fresh prophetic revelation but should cause us to eagerly pursue prophecy in a “Berean-like” manner (1 Cor. 14:1; Acts 17:11). Ultimately, we can trust that the love of God reveals the Truth of His nature and the Truth of God reveals His loving nature. We can and will always know Him by His fruit.
The purpose and premise of this article is to present and discuss why it is important to know who the 24 elders of Revelation 4:4 are. It is the view of this author that the 24 elders described in Revelation 4 and 5 are not the raptured human church, as many teach, but that the 24 elders are non-human, heavenly beings who serve as counterparts to human overcomers. By counterpart, we are saying that the 24 elders represent a company of holy beings that hold a position and perform a function that corresponds with and is directly linked to their human overcoming counterparts. This article is specifically addressing the relationship between the 24 elders and those overcomers who respond to Christ’s exhortations to the 7 churches in Revelation 2 and 3.
As counterparts to human overcomers, this non-human company of 24 elders appear to be directly linked to the eternal reward(s) that their human overcomer and bridal counterparts on earth attain. We see this in the white clothes and the crowns that the 24 elders wear and the thrones they sit upon. The 24 elders express their intimate awareness and appreciation of Christ’s victorious and extravagant love as they continually cast their crowns at the feet of the worthy Lamb of God (Revelation 4:9-11, Philippians 2:9-11). The extravagance of the 24 elders’ perfect submission to the Godhead is beautiful.
Knowing who the 24 elders are is a distinction that is connected to a major end-time time-line distinction. Because Revelation 4:4 describes the 24 elders as being in heaven and that Revelation 4:4 happens before the seals (Revelation 6), the trumpets (Revelation 8, 9, and 11), and the bowls (Revelation 15, 16) occur, then many Bible teachers conclude that the church has been “raptured” at the point of Revelation 4 and is not on earth for the 3 ½ years of the Great tribulation.
Those who hold a Pre-Tribulation Rapture view also note that the church is raptured before the seals, trumpets, and bowls because the church is mentioned 16 times in Revelation chapters 1-3 but not at all beyond that point. But what if the church is no longer mentioned after Revelation 3 because the church age is ending and the kingdom age is beginning? What if after Revelation 3 the age of being a kingdom of priests unto God (in the order of Melchizedek) has begun? (Revelation 1:5-6, 5:10)
Just because there is mystery about who the 24 elders are and about who Melchizedek is doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t pursue the unveiling of these mysteries. It just means that we need to pursue the answer through revelation of scripture and be led by the Holy Spirit. We cannot just make mental deductive decisions to gain new spiritual understanding of hidden things.
We need the Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation to come and unveil His mystery. If we make mental deductions from scripture and use them to form possibilities, we still need the Spirit of Prophecy to unveil and confirm the fullness of that which is considered a mystery. Paul was led by the Holy Spirit to unveil mysteries (Romans 16:25-26; Ephesians 3:1-4, 1 Corinthians 2;7). Daniel 2:28 tells us that it is God Who reveals mysteries: However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days. This was your dream and the visions in your mind while on your bed.
This article deals with these two yet-to-be-revealed Biblical mysteries:
1.) the mystery of who the 24 elders are.
2.) the mystery of who Melchizedek is.
If the 24 elders are not the human-born raptured church, then the Pre-Tribulation view associated with this conclusion has done us a great disservice by under-preparing those who hold this view. That is only one reason why it is important to prophetically seek revelation about the identity of the 24 elders. Because the mystery has not yet been apostolically revealed doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t explore scriptural possibilities.
The author of this article believes that the 24 elders represent a heavenly company of likeness to human beings but not sameness. As heavenly counterparts to human beings, the elders have a human-looking form that figuratively speaks to their direct relationship and connection to humans. [This writer has had a clear, interactive vision of what she believes were several of these elders. In the vision, the elders appeared majestic and human-looking.] They are not from the angelic order but are of a separate class of created holy beings who make up a governing council that is submitted to the eternal, triune Godhead’s Council.
The 24 elders function in powerful governing and advising roles and form council directives in heavenly courtrooms as they sit or stand within direct proximity to the throne of God. These directives are then mainly executed by the angelic realm who are deployed as ministers to the saints. It is possible that the elders also conduct kingdom business on earth as well and may hint to who Melchizedek is. That is something to pray about and ask the Lord to prophetically reveal in the days to come.
Having one or more elders assigned as a counterpart to a human overcomer is definitely an upgrade for the overcomer! This upgrade equips the end-time overcomer to function on a whole new and unprecedented level during the worst and best times in all of human history—the last days!
The author of this article is not the first to view the 24 elders as “counterparts” to the earthly church. Halley’s Bible Handbook 2007 mentions the “counterpart” view as one of a few different existing views of the 24 elders of Revelation 4:4: “Most interpreters consider the 24 elders to represent all of God’s people glorified…Others see the elders as heavenly counterparts of the earthly church. Still other Bible students regard them, like the living creatures … as a distinct class of heavenly beings rather than redeemed human beings, because in the doxologies that follow [i.e. in the heavenly scenes of praise-filled worship such as in Revelation 5 and 19] they [the 24 elders] seem to be separate from, rather than a part of, the multitudes of redeemed saints.”
The white clothes and victor’s crown that the elders wear, along with the thrones they sit upon, and the kingly-priestly “harp and bowl” roles within which they function, all speak to having “shared” rewards for helping the overcomers reach full Ephesians 4:13 sonship maturity and stature in Christ Jesus. What does the Bible say about heaven-and-earth counterpart, shared-reward relationships? The most significant one is that Jesus Himself is the bride’s great reward. He joins Himself to her as His eternal co-heir! We see an example of an elder-human counterpart relationship link in Revelation 5:8 when we are told that the fragrant praises and prayers of the saints are personally held in a bowl by each one of the elders. “When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” This speaks to a direct and intimate association between the 24 elders and the priesthood of praying saints.
We also see an example of an angelic-human counterpart relationship in Revelation 2 and 3. All seven churches have 7 angels directly linked to their particular church. The relationship link is so complete that some interpreters say the “angel” or “messenger” may be a human agent of that church. Perhaps the counterpart relationship is so complete that the distinction is hard to make. And why does John accidentally start to worship the powerful angel in Revelation 19:10? Is there a resounding Christ-likeness upon a vessel that can cause the viewer to think they are seeing Christ? A human vessel filled to the fullness of Christ may shine forth His testimony and radiantly reflect His likeness, but just like the elders who throw themselves down before the throne and worship Jesus, those humans who are so filled with Christ will always point to Jesus as their Source and direct all worship to Him—and Him alone!
Speaking of Revelation 19, we see in this chapter that a vast throng in heaven is greatly rejoicing that God has justly judged the harlot (v.2). The vast multitude is also rejoicing that the bride has made herself ready and that the wedding of the Lamb has finally come (v.7)! Why this passage is interesting when exploring the identity of the 24 elders is the particular distinction they and the 4 living creatures get within this vast throng. Out of all the possible millions or more gathered who are greatly rejoicing, Revelation 19:4 singles out the 24 elders and the 4 living creatures and their response as unique among a vast number gathered, vs. 4 says, The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures threw themselves to the ground and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne, saying: “Amen! Hallelujah!”
The question to ask is: if the 24 elders are the raptured church, or bride who, in Revelation 19:7, is declared ready to marry Jesus, then why aren’t the 24 elders (in Revelation 19:4) called “the bride” who throws herself down to the ground and worships God? Why are they still called the 24 elders in verse 4? And while we’re at it, let’s look at some more nuances of what scripture tells us about the 24-Elders and consider how viewing the 24-elders as a governing council of heavenly counterparts to human-born overcomers may fit within God’s eternal purposes and our eschatological interpretations of the last days.
Scriptural examples of an overcomer human receiving help, perhaps from a counterpart elder can be found in Revelation 5:1-6 I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals. 2 And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it. 4 Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it; 5 and one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.” 6 Then I saw a lamb standing in the middle of the throne, the four living creatures, and the elders.
In this scripture, we see John (who also symbolizes the end-time bride), being encouraged by one of the 24 elders. From his heavenly perspective, the elder’s insight and counsel dramatically comforts John who is being shown the desperate human need for God’s Remedy to open the book that wraps up the end of the age. It is an elder who comes to the comfort and aid of John’s anguish and who points John to the answer: Jesus—the Lion of the Tribe of Judah and the Lamb of God!
This article and its author submit to the reader to discern and confirm for themselves as to the substance of the following revelation:
The following are 5 conceptual areas about who the 24-elders are:
1. A heavenly governing council fully submitted to the triune Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
2. A large group of powerful, created beings who help their human counterpart(s) overcome and who share in their human counterpart(s) eternal rewards.
3. Human-like but not human-same counterparts who reside in heaven and who have interaction with and who interact on behalf of certain humans.
4. Possibly represented in Genesis 14 and Hebrews 5,6,7 and are linked to the kingly high priest Melchizedek character who is considered to be far “greater” in comparison to one of humanity’s greatest, namely Abraham. “Without a beginning of days, mother, or father,” this created kingly high priest has a very mysterious lack of genealogy, something one might expect from non-humans.
5. Somehow assigned and joined to the last-days overcomers to help bring the overcoming bride of Jesus Christ into her state of fully matured, Romans 8:19 sonship identity.
To further expound upon 1-5 above:
1. Governing Council in full submission to the Godhead: the direct proximity of the 24 Elders to the Godhead reveals their position of authority and speaks to their role as a governing council. God upon His throne is surrounded by these 24 Elders and their thrones (Revelation 4:4; 5:6).
2. Shared rewards and corresponding heavenly functions with human counterparts: the thrones that the 24 elders are seated upon symbolize heavenly authority from the place of rest, their white robes symbolize the fullness of Christ now reflected in their garments, their victor’s crowns symbolize the completion of the overcoming process and kingly authority, and their songs and words of praise symbolize the functions of a priestly ministry. These are symbols of shared rewards. The rewards of their human overcomers are represented in heaven through these heavenly counterparts.
3. Human-like but not human-same counterparts: the joining of heaven and earth will see heaven’s created beings come into direct relationship with their earthly counterparts for the sake of governing together during the last days and into the millennium. The Malachi 4:5 principle applies here. The spirit and power of Elijah comes and activates heavenly relationships on earth and goes out to prepare the bride for the coming of the LORD. This joining of heaven-and-earth, or heaven-on-earth also emanates a protective barrier of glory under which Cities and Areas of Refuge function while the LORD’s judgments are poured out elsewhere. Selah.
4. Represented in the Genesis 14 and Hebrews 5, 6, 7 king-priest Melchizedek character: Just as human-born Jesus overcame and became the first-born Son of God in the order of the Melchizedek priesthood, so human “sons of God/bride of Christ,” who have fully matured and are fully transformed into Christ’s likeness through His Word, are becoming priests unto God in the order of Melchizedek. The 24 elders reveal the heavenly representation of this while the Romans 8:19 manifested peacemaker human sons of God reveal earth’s governing representation of this priestly order.
5. Elders receive assignments and are joined to the last-days overcomers: these elders have access to the Isaiah 22:22 keys of David and through the delegated authority of the Lamb, they are assigned to help the last-days overcomers as priestly gates who open and close spiritual doors for supernatural exchanges with these “heavenly keys” until the fullness of time is completed. Once the Romans 8:19 sons of God are fully revealed in Christ’s likeness, they will manifest Jesus in His fullness as peacemakers to the earth during its worst hours of human history. The elders have a direct counterpart role with these transfigured, peacemaker humans during this time. Having an elder assigned to a human overcomer provides a significant upgrade in their overcoming process as they prepare to marry Jesus.
As we transition from church age to kingdom age, the overcoming bride of Jesus Christ must learn how to govern. We will need to learn how to govern with the councils of heaven. Many scriptures point us to the government of God that is coming to earth. We need to unpack these scriptures and learn from all those whom God has equipped to teach us.
Matthew 6:10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Revelation 21:1-3 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had ceased to exist, and the sea existed no more. 2 And I saw the holy city – the new Jerusalem – descending out of heaven from God, made ready like a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: “Look! The residence of God is among human beings. He will live among them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them.