What do the numbers in the Book of Revelation mean?

Purpose

There are some strange numbers in Revelation. For example:

    • God has seven Spirits (Rev 4:5).
    • Exactly 12,000 people from each of the 12 tribes of Israel are sealed by God (Rev 7:3-4).
    • When Christ returns, the blood will flow for a distance of 1,600 furlongs (Rev 14:20 – YLT).
    • The wall of the New Jerusalem is 144 cubits high (Rev 21:17 – NIV).
    • The New Jerusalem itself is a square – 12,000 furlongs (1500 miles) in length and in width (Rev 21:16 YLT).

The purpose of this article is to explain the meanings of these numbers. It shows that all numbers in Revelation are symbols. In other words, for example, God does not literally have seven Spirits. Rather, the number seven says something qualitatively about God’s Spirit. In the same way, God’s people are not literally 144,000 in number. That number says something qualitatively about the end-time remnant.

The Number 4

John “saw FOUR angels standing
at the FOUR corners of the earth,
holding back the FOUR winds
of the earth
” (Rev 7:1).

During the Millennium,
Satan will be released from his prison,
and will come out to deceive the nations
which are in the FOUR corners of the earth

(Rev 20:7-8).

The earth does not literally have 4 corners and there are not literally 4 winds. The number 4 signifies THE WHOLE WORLD. This may be confirmed as follows:

Four words to describe All People

The number 4 is often hidden in phrases that use four related words to describe ALL the people of the world. For example, Revelation 5:9 could have read:

You have … purchased for God with Your blood men
from every
NATION.”

But it is expanded to read:

You have … purchased for God with Your blood men
from
every TRIBE and TONGUE and PEOPLE and NATION.

The following are further instances where four words are used while one word might have been sufficient:

    • Every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues” (Rev 7:9);
    • Many peoples and nations and tongues and kings” (Rev 10:11);
    • The peoples and tribes and tongues and nations” (Rev 11:9);
    • Every tribe and people and tongue and nation” (Rev 13:7);
    • Every nation and tribe and tongue and people” (Rev 14:6);
    • Peoples and nations and tongues and kings” (Rev 17:15);

These seven instances use only the following five concepts but in different permutations:

        • Nations
        • Tribes
        • Peoples
        • Tongues
        • Kings

The fact that all seven of these instances use exactly four words while one word might have been sufficient confirms the significance of the number four. And since all seven instances describe ALL the people of the world indicates that the number four signifies THE WHOLE WORLD.

All Creation

The meaning of the number four can also be seen in that creation is sometimes described as consisting of four parts:

1) “Worship Him who made the HEAVEN and the EARTH and SEA and springs of WATERS” (Rev 14:7).

2) “Every created thing which is in HEAVEN and on the EARTH and UNDER THE EARTH and on the SEA” (Rev 5:13)

Conclusions

1) Since the number four symbolizes the whole earth, and since the “four living creatures (are) full of eyes in front and behind” (Rev 4:6), they symbolize awareness of EVERYTHING that happens on earth.

2) 1600 is equal to 4x4x100. In other words, it is the superlative form of 4, just like 144,000 (12x12x1000) is the superlative form of 12. Therefore, since the number 4 symbolizes the whole earth, the blood that will flow out of the wine press for a distance of 1,600 furlongs (Rev 14:20 YLT) means that people will die all over the world.

3) The first four trumpets attack the four elements of creation as described in Revelation 14:7; the earth, the sea, the waters, and the heavenly bodies (Rev 8:7-12). In other words, they attack the whole world.

4) The same applies to the first four plagues. They also attack the earth, the sea, the waters, and the heavenly bodies (Rev 16:2-8).

The Number 12

The number 12 appears more than a hundred times in the Scriptures and consistently represents the people of God. For example:

12 in the Old Testament

Since Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs (Acts 7:8), Israel consisted of twelve tribes (Gen 35:22; 49:28). The lists of the tribes in the Old Testament differ, but there are always 12 in the list. Since the number 12 was regarded as important, there were:

      • Twelve spies of Israel (Deut 1:23),
      • Twelve stones of the Jordan River (Josh 4:2-9),
      • Twelve cities of the Levites (Josh 21:40),
      • Twelve governors for Solomon (1 Kings 4:7),
      • Twelve bronze oxen that held up the bronze sea in Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 7:44; 2 Chr 4:2-4; Jer 52:20),
      • Twelve lions in front of Solomon’s throne (1 Kings 10:18-20; 2 Chr 9:17-19),
      • Elijah’s twelve stones (1 Kings 18:31), and
      • Twenty-four courses of priests, each with twelve trained musicians (1 Chr 25:1-31).

12 in the New Testament

Similarly, Jesus chose exactly 12 disciples; not 11 or 13.

Judas fell away, leaving only 11 disciples, but Revelation still refers to “the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Rev 21:14).

12 in Revelation

The number 12 also symbolizes God’s people also in Revelation. For example:

1) The pure woman has a crown of “twelve stars” (Rev 12:1). She first gave birth to Christ (Rev 12:5) but, after Christ had ascended to heaven (Rev 12:5), she also had other “children” (Rev 12:17). She, therefore, represents God’s people both before and after Christ. For a further discussion, see – Who are the woman, the dragon, and the child?

2) “The New Jerusalem,” which is another symbol for “the bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Rev 21:9-10), has 12 gates with the names of the 12 tribes of Israel written on them (Rev 21:12), meaning that only Israelites may enter. But it also has 12 foundations with the names of the 12 apostles written on them (Rev 21:14), meaning that this city is built on the foundation of the message of the New Testament. This also means that Revelation merges the church into Israel.

3) In the original language, the height (or width) of the wall of the city is 144 = 12 x 12 cubits (Rev 21:17 YLT).

In conclusion, in both the Old and New Testaments, the number 12 symbolizes God’s people.

The 144,000 Israelites

Since the number 144,000 equals 12x12x1000, it is derived from the number 12. Since 12 symbolizes God’s people, the number 144,000 symbolizes something more specific about God’s people.

Another article (See – Who are the 144000?) shows that the 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel (144,000 in total) are using Old Testament military language as a symbol. In other words, the doubling of 12 (12×12) in the number 144,000 symbolizes the perfection of the end-time remnant of God’s people; prepared for spiritual battle.

No lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless” (Rev 14:1, 5).

They “have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste” (Rev 14:4), meaning that they were not defiled by Babylon, the mother of harlots, or by her harlot daughters (Rev 17:5). They will be pure in their worship of God.

Jerusalem’s Wall

The other symbol in Revelation that employs the number 144 is the wall of the New Jerusalem, which “was 144 cubits thick” (Rev 21:17; NIV or YLT). In ancient times, the wall of a city was the most important defense for the people of that city. Both this huge wall and the 144,000 sons of Israel in Revelation 7:4 use military strength to symbolize something about God’s people:

The 144,000 Israelites symbolize that God’s end-time army will not surrender. They will be willing to die for their testimony (Rev 12:11).

The huge wall of the New Jerusalem symbolizes the spiritual strength of God’s eternal people: Never again will anybody be able to tempt them to sin.

The 24 Elders

In Revelation, there are 24 elders in God’s throne room (e.g., Rev 4:4); comparable to the 24 names written on the New Jerusalem.

Since the number 24 is equal to 12 + 12, the root number for the 24 elders is 12. And since the number 12 symbolizes the PEOPLE OF GOD, the number 24 symbolizes some aspect of God’s people.

The number 24 could be drawn from the fact that the Old Testament priests were organized into 24 divisions, each of which served consecutively in the temple for a week at a time (1 Chr 24:1-19). In Revelation 5:8, “the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding … golden bowls full of incense.” The incense seems to imply that they function as priests. So, associating the elders with the 24 divisions of the Israelite priesthood is certainly possible.

Specifically, another article has concluded that the 24 elders are human representatives of God’s people in God’s throne room. They sit on thrones, meaning that they rule the world under “Him who sits on the throne” (Rev 4:9).

The Number 7

Seven is the most prominent number in Revelation (e.g., seven churches, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven bowls, seven heads of the beast, etc.). This number is mentioned 56 times in Revelation.

The number seven is derived from the seven days of the week. Similar to the days of the week, many of the sevens in Revelation imply a sequence of events, namely, the second follows after the first—the third after the second, and so forth, with the seventh being the last or the end (e.g., the seven seals). In that respect, the number seven in Revelation is different from the other numbers in Revelation.

The number seven, therefore, has to do with time and should be understood as the completion or perfection of time. Just like the number 4 means EVERYWHERE, the number 7 means ALWAYS.

Seven Spirits

One of the sevens in Revelation is God’s seven Spirits (Rev 3:1; 4:5; 5:6). This number must be interpreted symbolically. God does not literally have seven Spirits.

Since the number seven symbolizes ALWAYS, and due to the connection between the Spirits and the seven lamps in the temple (Rev 4:5) that were ALWAYS burning, the seven Spirits of God can be understood to mean that God’s Spirit is ALWAYS with us.

The Seven Heads

There are three beasts in Revelation that have seven heads and ten horns each (Rev 12:3; 13:1; 17:3). Although these beasts represent different things, they all have the same seven heads and ten horns. The seven heads of the beast are the seven phases of the beast, covering all time.

The Number 2

Similar to the number 4, the number 2 is often hidden in phrases that mention two related things, for example:

John, who testified to the WORD OF GOD and to the TESTIMONY OF JESUS CHRIST, even to all that he saw” (Rev 1:1).

The WORD OF GOD and … the TESTIMONY OF JESUS” (Rev 1:2);

I, John … was on the island called Patmos because of the WORD OF GOD and the TESTIMONY OF JESUS” (Rev 1:9).

Those who had been slain because of the WORD OF GOD,
and because of the TESTIMONY which they had maintained
” (Rev 6:9).

Her children, who keep the COMMANDMENTS OF GOD and … the TESTIMONY OF JESUS CHRIST” (Rev 12:17);

The saints who keep the COMMANDMENTS OF GOD and their FAITH IN JESUS” (Rev 14:12);

Those who had been beheaded because of their TESTIMONY OF JESUS CHRIST and … the WORD OF GOD” (Rev 20:4).

These seven verses, therefore, refer to only four related concepts:

    • The word of God,
    • The testimony of Jesus,
    • The commandments of God, and
    • Faith in Jesus.

These seven instances combine these four concepts differently but always list only two of the four concepts, indicating the significance of the number two. Since these seven verses always describe God’s people, the number 2 symbolizes God’s people. This symbolism is probably based on the Old Testament principle that at least two witnesses are required to confirm evidence (e.g., 2 Cor 13:1; 1 Tim 5:19).

The following are further examples of the number 2:

1) The two witnesses (Rev 11:3);

2) The strong angel’s two “feet like pillars of fire,” which He placed on the sea and on the land; The sea and the land symbolize the people of the world (cf. Rev 13:1, 11). The angel’s fiery feet are another symbol of the fire that flows out of the mouth of the two witnesses (Rev 11:5).

3) Revelation 13 mentions the dragon, the beast, and the beast from the earth (Rev 13:1-2, 11) but later Revelation identifies the beast from the earth as the “the false prophet” (Rev 16:13; 19:20; 20:10). The beast from the earth has “two horns like a lamb” (Rev 13:11). In name, it is a Christian organization. But “he spoke as a dragon” (Rev 13:11). For that reason, it is “the false prophet” (Rev 16:13).


Summary

This article analyses the meanings of the numbers 2, 4, 7, and 12 in the book of Revelation.

The Number 4

The number 4 signifies THE WHOLE WORLD. For example:

1) John “saw FOUR angels standing
at the FOUR corners of the earth,
holding back the FOUR winds
of the earth
” (Rev 7:1; cf. Rev 20:7-8).

2) The number 4 is often hidden in phrases that use four related words to describe ALL the people of the world, for example, “men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev 5:9; cf. Rev 7:9; 10:11; 11:9; 13:7; 14:6; 17:15). Since all seven these instances describe ALL the people of the world, this confirms that the number four signifies THE WHOLE WORLD.

3) Creation is also sometimes described as consisting of four parts (Rev 5:13; 14:7).

In conclusion, since 1,600 is equal to 4x4x100, it is the superlative form of 4, just like 144,000 (12x12x1000) is the superlative form of 12. Therefore, since the number 4 symbolizes the whole earth, the blood that will flow out of the wine press for a distance of 1,600 furlongs (Rev 14:20 YLT) means that people will die all over the world.

The Number 12

The number 12 appears more than a hundred times in the Scriptures and consistently represents the people of God. For example, the lists of the tribes in the Old Testament differ, but there are always 12 in the list. In the New Testament, Jesus chose exactly 12 disciples; not 11 or 13. The number 12 also symbolizes God’s people also in Revelation. For example:

1) The pure woman, representing God’s people both before and after Christ, has a crown of “twelve stars” (Rev 12:1).

2) “The New Jerusalem,” which is another symbol for “the bride, the wife of the Lamb,” has 12 gates, the names of the 12 tribes of Israel, 12 foundations, and the names of the 12 apostles (Rev 21:9-10, 12, 14). And its wall is 12 x 12 cubits high (Rev 21:17 YLT).

The number 144,000, therefore, which is equal to 12x12x1000, is derived from the number 12 and symbolizes the perfection of the end-time remnant of God’s people; prepared for spiritual battle.

The Number 7

The number seven is different from the other numbers in Revelation because it implies a sequence of events. The number seven, therefore, has to do with time and should be understood as the completion or perfection of time. While the number 4 means EVERYWHERE, the number 7 means ALWAYS. Consequently, God’s seven Spirits (Rev 3:1; 4:5; 5:6) symbolize that God’s Spirit is ALWAYS with us. And the seven heads of the beast (Rev 12:3; 13:1; 17:3) are the seven phases of the beast, covering all time.

The Number 2

Similar to the number 4, the number 2 is often hidden in phrases that mention two related things, such as “the WORD OF GOD and to the TESTIMONY OF JESUS CHRIST” (Rev 1:1; cf. Rev 1:2, 9; 6:9; 12:17; 14:12; 20:4). All seven these instances describe God’s people. The number 2, therefore, symbolizes God’s people. We see this number also in the two witnesses (Rev 11:3). Similarly, the two horns of the lamblike beast indicate that this beast symbolizes an organization that is Christian in name. But “he spoke as a dragon” (Rev 13:11), which is Satan (Rev 12:9). For that reason, it is “the false prophet” (Rev 16:13).

Even some of the most learned people do not understand the symbolic nature of numbers. For example, the NASB converts the 12,000 furlongs (Rev 21:16) into 1,500 miles. This destroys the symbolism, which is dangerous, for John has warned, “if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life” (Rev 22:19).

– End of Summary – 


Other Articles

The 24 elders in God’s throne room are humans from all ages.

This is an article in the series on the vision of the book with the seven seals (Rev 4:1-8:1). The first part of the article is a summary.

Summary

In Revelation 4, 24 elders sit on 24 thrones all around God’s throne (Rev 4:4). Since thrones symbolize authority, it means that they share in God’s rule of this world. The purpose of this article is to identify them.

The elders are people.

For the following reasons, the 24 elders are people; rather than angels:

1) The title “elder”

Elder” is a familiar Biblical title for the leaders of God’s people. Angels are never called elders.

2) Sit on Thrones

They sit on thrones and Revelation promises that THOSE WHO OVERCOME will sit on thrones (Rev 3:21; 20:4). Angels are never depicted as sitting on thrones.

3) White Garments

The 24 elders are “clothed in white garments” (Rev 4:4) and Revelation promises white garments only to God’s people (Rev 3:4-5; 3:18; 6:11; 7:9; 7:14).

4) Victory Crowns

On their heads, the 24 elders have victory crowns (Greek: stephanois) as opposed to the royal crowns (Greek: diadêma) worn by rulers. Stephanos is best known today as the crown received by the winner in the Olympic games. In Revelation, the stephanos is the reward for OVERCOMERS (Rev 2:10; 3:11) and symbolizes eternal life (Rev 2:10; cf. 2 Tim 4:8). Therefore, the pure woman also has a stephanos on her head (Rev 12:1). Nowhere do angels wear crowns of any kind.

5) The Number 24

In the book of Revelation, numbers are symbolic. Since the number 24 is equal to 12 + 12, the root number for the 24 elders is 12, and the number 12 is associated with the PEOPLE OF GOD, implying that they represent God’s people. For example:

      • The pure woman has “twelve stars” on her head (Rev 12:1).
      • The New Jerusalem,” which is another symbol for “the bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Rev 21:9-10), has 12 gates, and 12 foundation stones, and on them are written the names of the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles (Rev 21:12, 14).

From both Israel and the Church

It is further proposed that the 12+12=24 elders represent the people of God from BOTH the times of the Old and New Testaments because Revelation merges Old Testament Israel and the Church into a single entity. We see this in the following:

1) The New Jerusalem—the eternal home of God’s people in the new heavens and new earth—has written on it “the names of the twelve tribes … of Israel” as well as the “names of the twelve apostles” on its “twelve foundation stones” (Rev 21:12, 14).

2) The “seven lampstands“—an ornament in the Jewish temple—become a symbol for the church of God (Rev 1:20).

3) The overcomers sing the song of Moses AND OF the Lamb; combining the main figures of the Old and New Testaments (Rev 15:3).

4) At first, the woman of Revelation 12 is pregnant; expecting Christ (Rev 12:1-5). Here, she represents God’s Old Testament people. However, after Christ was “caught up to God and to His throne” (Rev 12:5) she continues to exist and to be persecuted by the dragon (Rev 12:6, 12:14). Now, she represents the church. Therefore, she represents God’s people from both dispensations.

5) Lastly, Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, becomes a symbol for the bride of Christ (Rev 21:2; cf. 19:7; 21:27).

Similarly, Jesus said to His disciples:

In the new world,
when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne,
you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones,
judging the twelve tribes of Israel
” (Matt 19:28).

In other words, the twelve disciples became the leaders of the twelve tribes of Israel.

It is proposed that the 24 elders, similar to the 24 names that are written on the New Jerusalem, are not 24 literal people, but symbolize the leaders of God’s people from both the times of the Old and New Testaments:

Those who have insight will shine brightly
like the brightness of the expanse of heaven,
and those who lead the many to righteousness,
like the stars forever and ever” (Dan 12:3).

Conclusion

It is wonderful to think that human beings, that love God with their whole heart and their fellow human beings like themselves, are, in the control room of the universe, in charge of the affairs of this world.

– End of Summary – 

This is the end of the summary. If you would like to skip the detailed discussion below, the next article in this series is – Worship sounds and songs in God’s throne room. Alternatively, see the list of the articles in the series on the sealed book.


The elders are people.

Around the throne (of God) were twenty-four thrones;
and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting,
clothed in white garments,
and golden crowns on their heads
” (Rev 4:4).

Since thrones symbolize authority, this means that the 24 elders share in God’s rule.

Revelation sometimes explains what different things mean (e.g., Rev 5:5; 7:13) but it never explains WHO the elders are. So, we have to examine the available evidence and make the most appropriate judgment.

There are two major views. Some see the 24 elders as a special class of angels, much like the four living creatures. The other view is that they are representatives of redeemed humanity.

There are several problems with the angel-view:

      • Angels are never called elders.
      • Neither are they ever depicted as sitting on thrones.
      • Nowhere do angels wear crowns of any kind.

But “elder” is a familiar term for the leaders of God’s people and God’s people are promised to sit on thrones and to receive victory crowns, as discussed below. This provides strong evidence that the 24 elders are human beings:

Sit on Thrones

Revelation tends to embed an outline of the next vision in the climax of the previous vision. As discussed elsewhere, Revelation 3:21 is the climax of the messages to the seven churches and also provides an outline of the next four chapters. It, therefore, helps to explain Revelation 4. It reads:

To him who overcomes,
I will give the right to sit with me on my throne,
just as I overcame and
sat down with my Father on his throne
” (NIV).

In other words, it promises that those who overcome will sit on thrones (cf. Rev 20:4). This implies that the 24 elders, sitting on thrones around God’s throne, are overcomers.

White Garments

The 24 elders are “clothed in white garments” (Rev 4:4). Revelation consistently relates white robes to the people of God on earth during the Christian era:

      • White garments are promised to the overcomers in Sardis (Rev 3:4-5).
      • Laodicea is invited to “buy” white garments (Rev 3:18).
      • The martyrs of the fifth seal receive white “robes” (Rev 6:11).
      • The great multitude is “clothed in white robes” (Rev 7:9) for they “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev 7:14).

A related passage is, that during the seven last plagues, every Christian will be warned to keep “his clothes” (Rev 16:15).

Golden Crowns

The 24 elders wear golden victory crowns (Greek: stephanois) as opposed to the royal crowns (Greek: diadêma) of rulers.

In the ancient world, the stephanos was not an emblem of royal authority but a symbol of victory or a reward for exceptional conduct, for instance, the crown that goes to the winning general. It was often a wreath made of foliage. It is best known today as the crown received by the winner in the Olympic games.

In Revelation, the stephanos is always worn by God’s people:

The locusts of Revelation 9:7 also wear golden victory crowns. This supports the interpretation that the trumpets generally and the locusts specifically are God’s messengers to the world. For example, the two prophets “have the power … to strike the earth with every plague” (Rev 11:6). Therefore, “these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth” (cf. Rev 11:10).

Elsewhere in the New Testament, the stephanos is also associated with God’s people:

      • The word stephanos is also used for the crown of thorns that Jesus wore on the cross (Matt 27:29; Mark 15:17; John 19:2 and 5).
      • Paul anticipates a stephanos crown on the day when Jesus returns (2 Tim 4:8). Here, as in Revelation 2:10, it seems to represent eternal life.

In conclusion, in Revelation, and also in the New Testament more broadly, the “stephanos” crown is a reward of the overcomer and associated with eternal life. This supports the conclusion that the 24 elders, who also have stephanois on their heads, are the overcomers and, therefore, people.

The Number 24

The number 24 could be drawn from the fact that the Old Testament priests were organized into 24 divisions, each of which served consecutively in the temple for a week at a time (1 Chr 24:1-19). In Revelation 5:8, “the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding … golden bowls full of incense.” The incense implies that they function as priests. So, associating the elders with the 24 divisions of the Israelite priesthood is certainly possible.

But it is more likely that the number 24 arises from a doubling of the number 12, which is the number symbolizing God’s people. In the book of Revelation, numbers often have a symbolic role:

      • The number 4 signifies the whole earth (e.g. Rev 7:1; 10:11).
      • The number 7 signifies completeness in time (seven churches, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven bowls, etc.). For example, the seven Spirits of God signify that God’s Spirit will ALWAYS be with us.
      • The number 12 is associated with the people of God, for example:
          • The pure woman has “twelve stars” on her head (Rev 12:1).
          • The New Jerusalem,” which is another symbol for “the bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Rev 21:9-10), has 12 gates and 12 foundation stones, and on them are written the names of the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles (Rev 21:12, 14). Furthermore, in the Greek, the height of the walls of the city is 144 = 12 x 12 cubits (Rev 21:17).
          • The number 144000 (Rev 7:4-8) is also derived from the number 12, being equal to 12 x 12 x 1000. (See – Who are the 144000?)

In conclusion, since 24 is equal to 12 + 12, the root number for the 24 elders is 12, which is the number symbolizing God’s people, implying that they represent God’s people.

The evidence that the 24 elders are people, therefore, includes:

    • The title “elders,”
    • The thrones on which they sit,
    • Their white garments and gold crowns, and
    • The number 24.

For a further discussion, see – What do the numbers in the Book of Revelation mean?

From both Israel and the Church

The names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel” as well as the “names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” are written on the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:12, 14). The New Jerusalem, therefore, is the eternal home of the totality of Israel; symbolically, twelve each from the times of the Old and the New Testaments. This is one example of how Revelation merges Old Testament Israel and the Church. The following are further examples:

1) The “seven lampstands“—an ornament in the Jewish temple—become a symbol for the church of God (Rev 1:20).

2) The overcomers sing the song of Moses and of the Lamb; combining the main figures of the Old and New Testaments (Rev 15:3).

3) At first, the woman of Revelation 12 is pregnant; expecting Christ (Rev 12:1-5). Here, she represents God’s Old Testament people. However, after Christ was “caught up to God and to His throne” (Rev 12:5) she continues to exist and to be persecuted by the dragon (Rev 12:6, 12:14). Hence, this “woman” represents God’s people from both dispensations.

4) Lastly, as discussed, Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel, becomes a symbol for the bride of Christ (Rev 21:2; cf. 19:7; 21:27).

Jesus similarly said to His disciples:

In the new world,
when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne,
you who have followed me
will also sit on twelve thrones,
judging the twelve tribes of Israel

(Matt 19:28, ESV, see also Luke 22:30).

In other words, the twelve disciples become the leaders of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Since it was concluded above that the 24 elders represent God’s people, and since the number 24 is equal to 12+12, and since Revelation merges God’s people from before and after Christ, it is proposed that the 24 elders represent God’s people from BOTH the time before AND after Christ.

The names of the 12 tribes of Israel and the names of the 12 apostles written on the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:12, 14) are not the names of specific individuals. It would not, for example, include the name, Judas Iscariot. And the list of tribes in Revelation 7:4-8 excludes Dan and Ephraim and includes both Joseph and his son Manasseh. It is proposed that the 24 elders, similar to the 24 names that are written on the New Jerusalem, are not 24 literal people, but symbolize the leaders of God’s people from both the times of the Old and New Testaments:

Those who have insight will shine brightly
like the brightness of the expanse of heaven,
and those who lead the many to righteousness,
like the stars forever and ever” (Dan 12:3).

How did they get there?

Another article concludes that Revelation 5 describes what happens in heaven when Jesus arrives after His ascension. Since Revelation 4 describes the time BEFORE Revelation 5, if the 24 elders represent redeemed humanity, at what point did they enter into heavenly places? My response is that we should not interpret the vision too literally.

Another possible approach is that evidence in the New Testament suggests that the elders can be associated with events that occurred at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. At the moment that Jesus died:

The earth shook and the rocks split.
The tombs broke open and the bodies
of many holy people who had died
were raised to life
” (Matt 27:51-53, NIV).

Their existence was noticed as they wandered through Jerusalem’s streets after His resurrection (Matt 27:53). It is unlikely that these resurrected saints remained on earth afterward because their witness would have been powerful and widely noticed but none of that is reported in the Bible. Neither would they have died again. Paul gave us a small clue.

When He ascended on high,
He led captive a host of captives
” (Eph 4:8).

This might mean that, at His ascension, Jesus was accompanied by those who were raised from death at the time of His crucifixion. They might be among the 24 elders around the throne of God.

But then the question may arise, why are they seen in the heavenly throne room (Rev 4:4) BEFORE Jesus Himself appears there (Rev 5:5)?

The CrossJesus ascended 40 days after His crucifixion (Acts 1:3). Revelation 5:6 implies that Christ arrived in the heavenly court AFTER the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost, which was 50 days after the cross. So, these resurrected saints could have arrived in God’s throne room at least 10 days before the great event of Revelation 5.

But, as I indicated, this is all too literally interpreted for my taste. Furthermore:

1) The people who ascended with Jesus all lived in the old dispensation while it was concluded above that the 24 elders are from both dispensations.

2) It was also already concluded that Revelation 4 provides a TIMELESS description of God’s throne room; not a specific event.

Conclusions

It is wonderful to think that human beings, that love God with their whole heart and their fellow human beings like themselves, reign with God and take part in the activities of the control room of the universe.

Final Conclusions

    • The 24 elders in God’s throne room are people; not angels.
    • The number 12 is associated with God’s people.
    • The 24 elders represent God’s people from all dispensations.
    • Revelation merges the church into the Jewish symbols of the Old Testament.
    • God appoints human beings to reign over the creation under Him.

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