The Twenty-Four Elders of Revelation Listed By Name

The specific names of each of the twenty-four elders of Revelation[1] are as follows:

  1. Judah                             13. Peter
  2. Reuben                          14. Andrew
  3. Gad                                15. James
  4. Asher                             16. John
  5. Naphtali                        17. Philip
  6. Manasseh                     18. Bartholomew
  7. Simeon                          19. Matthew
  8. Levi                                20. Thomas
  9. Issachar                         21. James the son of Alphaeus
  10. Zebulun                         22. Simon the Zealot
  11. Joseph                            23. Thaddeus
  12. Benjamin                       24. Matthias or Paul

This list is simply the combination of the Hebrew patriarchs (Rev. 7:5-8) and the The Twelve (Matt. 10:2-4).  The number twelve is often used in the Bible to signify perfection of governance.  Examples include twelve months in a year, twelve hours in a day (John 11:9), the twelve pillars erected at Mt. Sinai and the Promised Land (Ex. 24:4; Jos. 1:4-9), twelve Hebrews selected to conduct the census (Num. 1:2-16), twelve legions of angels (Matt. 26:53) and twelve types of fruit on the Trees of Life (Rev. 22:2).  Investigate more examples in Gen. 49:28; 1 Kgs. 7:25; Num. 7:10-83, 13:1-15; Luke 2:41; Matt. 10:2-4; Rev. 7:4; 21:12; and 21:16-17.

Israel’s Biblical government is based upon the twelve sons of Jacob making up the twelve tribes (Gen. 49:28).  The church (i.e. the Body of Christ) was first organized around twelve apostles (Acts 1-2; Eph. 2:19-20).  Therefore the twelve that represent the government of Israel plus the twelve that represent the government of the Church equals twenty-four elders.

There exists differing lists of the twelve patriarchs over the twelve tribes in Scripture.  Therefore, the list found in Revelation 7:5-8 is preferred as it represents the final and presumably purified version.

Naturally, Judas is not on this list as he went to Hell (Acts 1:25).  Matthias was chosen by the rest of The Twelve to replace Judas (Acts 1:26).  Matthias is unique in that he was the only member of The Twelve not directly chosen by Jesus.  However, Paul was directly chosen by Jesus to be His apostle (Acts 9:1-31; 26:12-18; Rom. 1:1).  It is for this reason that it is surmised by many that Paul was the actual replacement for Judas.  A conclusion is not affirmed here but the possibility needs to be acknowledged.

In addition to this thesis that does well in surviving Occam’s razor, the book of Revelation provides sufficient evidence in interpreting itself on this matter.  In the description of the New Jerusalem the reader learns that there are twelve gates with twelve angels on the city.  The twelve angels have names written on them after the twelve tribes of the sons (i.e. patriarchs) of Israel (Rev. 21:12).  The wall of the New Jerusalem has twelve foundation stones and on them are the twelve names of the apostles of the Lamb (Rev. 21:14).  These two groups of twelve names make up the total government of the people of God.

The primary argument among some Biblical literalists[2] is that the twenty-four elders represent the Body of Christ only.  This is because they are said to have crowns (Rev. 4:4; 4:10).  For reasons that cannot be covered here the crowns are often (and rightly) understood to be awards presented at the Judgment Seat of Christ (or bema seat) (2 Cor. 5:10).  Therefore, it is argued that only those baptized into the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit are to be at this judgment and receive awards.

As strong as this view is it does not necessitate that Hebrew patriarchs will not also at some point be given crowns.  For the crowns likely signify place in the kingdom (Matt. 25:21; Rev. 3:11-12; 3:21).  And it is clear that some Old Testament saints will have powerful offices in the kingdom.  For example, Jacob will see nations bow before him (Gen. 27:29), David will be a king once again and an under-shepherd to Messiah (Jer. 30:9; Hos. 3:5; Is. 55:3-4; Ez. 34:23-24; 37:24), the Judges of Israel will resume their roles (Is. 1:26), etc.

A notable objection with this list is that it would result in John seeing himself in Heaven.  However, John was taken up to Heaven to see things that were yet future (Rev. 4:1).  Given that the future John in Heaven would have a glorified body (Phil. 3:21), the earlier version of John would likely not have even recognized him.  As incredible as it may seem, John may have even interacted with his future self (Rev. 5:5).

This theory as to the identities of the twenty-four elders is derived from the plainest Biblical evidence available.  Its strength is that it requires the least amount of complexity in answering a difficult problem satisfactorily.

Let the reader note that this author is not affirming the names on this list as certain truth.  The only way this could be done is if Scripture actually provided the names and directly linked them with the elders.  Also, the treatment here is hardly meant to be exhaustive.  The post is intended as a starting point for more research and consideration.  Ultimately, this is simply a theory that happens to fit the facts.

[1]The twenty-four elders are referenced in chapters four, five and nineteen.

[2] Arguments from other camps are of no interest here in that they do not approach Scripture utilizing a normative hermeneutic.  This article is only considering the matter, “in house.”

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