Who are the Four and Twenty Elders?
Around the throne were four and twenty seats. Why the KJV uses the word seats is debatable. The Greek word is thronos. It is the same word that is translated as throne in verse 2. I surmise that the translators used the word seats to make the verse read smoothly and help the reader distinguish these 24 thrones from the throne of God. But the four and twenty seats are thrones. Maybe they are smaller and lower?
I saw four and twenty elders sitting on these thrones. The Greek word elder is presbuteros. This word is usually translated as elders, but also means old man, eldest, someone advanced in life. The apostle Paul instructed Titus to ordain presbuteros in every city (Titus 1:5). Elders in the church rule well and labor in word and doctrine. It carries the idea of possessing maturity and wisdom, someone qualified for the job.
These four and twenty elders are not earthly since they sit on thrones in heaven.
Everyone wants to know the identity of these four and twenty elders. Their identity ranges from “They are representative of the Church” to “They represent Israel” to “They are the twelve apostles and the twelve tribes of Israel” or “The twelve apostles and twelve prophets,” etc. They are neither of those.
What a mess has been made of their identity.
The general rule of interpretation is always to let Scripture interpret Scripture. Is there anywhere in Scripture where we find the answer? Yes, there is.
In the Old Testament, the Tabernacle, the Temple, and the Priests were the example and shadow of heavenly things…the pattern of things in the heavens…figures of the true (See Hebrews 8:5, 9:23,24, read the context).
In 1 Chronicles 28:11-13, King David is turning over to his son Solomon the plans for the building of the Temple. Everything David gave Solomon was “the pattern of all he had by the spirit…of the house of the Lord…Also, for the courses of the priests and the Levites.” The courses were the divisions of the priests who would serve in the Temple.
The division is found in 1 Chronicles 24:1-5, “The sons of Eleazer there were sixteen chief men…and eight among the sons of Ithamar, " Twenty-four.
Since the Temple and all of its elements, including the priests, are a pattern of the things in the heavens, the four and twenty elders are created beings (not angels) in heaven, performing a priestly role before the Throne of God. Their purity is indicated by their clothing of white raiment and their crowns of gold.