Do the Twenty Four Elders in Revelation 4:4 “Represent” the Church?

In a circle around the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on those thrones were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white clothing and had golden crowns on their heads. (Rev 4:4 NET)

In the fourth chapter of Revelation, we are introduced to a magnificent scene in the throne room of heaven. John witnesses a panoply of brilliant colors beaming from the throne. He also sees twenty-four other thrones with twenty-four elders seated on them.

The identity or function of the 24 elders are not agreed by many. Do they represent a larger group of people? There are about a dozen interpretations on this, most of them being subjective. I want to address one of those theories.

Pretribulationism frequently asserts that the 24 elders represent the raptured church because they were dressed in white and had crowns on their head. But white is a color that simply represents purity, so it is a strained reading to require this to be the raptured church. Further, crowns are not exclusive to believers. Christ has a crown (Rev 14:14). Even angelic-demons is said to wear something like crowns (Rev 9:7). The first seal rider who very well may represent Antichrist, or false christs, has a crown (Rev 6:2).

What is weak about this interpretation is that if the raptured church is suppose to be in heaven at this time, and the focus is on the lamb of God who gave his life for this church, we are given no hint of any great multitude in this scene. Moreover, why should there be a representation of the church by the elders if in fact the reality of the church is present? And suppose the 24 elders do represent, for example, the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 disciples who represent true Israel and the true church respectively, why would that require the rapture to have happened before that scene?

So we should avoid reading a theological premise into an unclear verse or entity. And as it is often sagaciously said about this passage: Our attention should be drawn to the worshipped One, not the worshippers.


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