We recently received a request about the twenty four elders surrounding the judgment throne in heaven. Below are some statements from the Shepherd’s Rod that make their identity and role in the sanctuary service quite clear. The striking image above comes from a study chart on the seven seals which dramatically depicts the judgment scene in Revelation chapters four and five. For a complete study on the subject of the seven seals wherein this important message of the investigative judgment is found, please download a PDF coming from The Shepherd’s Rod, Vol. 2, pp. 187-221.
Revelation 4:1, 2, 4-6: “After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the spirit; and behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne…. And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings, and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven spirits of God. And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.”
The description of the place is such that it bears evidence of being in the heavenly sanctuary. The same is supported by the Spirit of Prophecy: “As in vision the apostle John was granted a view of the Temple of God in heaven, he beheld there ‘seven lamps of fire burning before the throne.’ He saw an angel ‘having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.’ Here the prophet was permitted to behold the first apartment of the sanctuary in heaven; and he saw there the ‘seven lamps of fire’ and the ‘golden altar’ represented by the golden candlestick and the altar of incense in the sanctuary on earth. Again, ‘the temple of God was opened’, and he looked within the inner vail, upon the holy of holies. Here he beheld ‘the ark of His testament,’ represented by the sacred chest constructed by Moses to contain the law of God.” — “Patriarchs and Prophets,” page 356.
In the earthly sanctuary, the high priest alone was permitted to officiate in the second apartment, within the vail, and it has been understood by some that the throne seen by John could not have been in the most holy, because the twenty-four elders are before the throne. That thought is incorrect, for it would be unreasonable to take the position that God would move His throne from the “holiest of all,” to the “holy place,” rather than for the elders to enter in the most holy before the throne. Furthermore, it is the throne of the Eternal One that makes the second apartment most holy. Therefore, if we take the position Thus, if the elders and the beasts, or creatures were not permitted in the second apartment before the throne, neither would they be permitted in the first apartment before the throne. Taking any other stand than this would be saying that the apartment is holier than the Creator and His throne.” — Shepherd’s Rod book, Vol. 2, pp. 189, 190
The following verse depicts the jury: “And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.” (Revelation 4:4.) The crowns of gold denote their kingly authority to act upon the case. The white robes show that they are men from earth, redeemed by Rev. 4:6.) “And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” (Revelation 5:8, 9.) Note the beasts and elders all sang, saying: “For thou hast redeemed us out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” Thus, the beasts, as well as the elders, are redeemed from the earth.
Again, note that the beasts and elders made a total of twenty-eight. It would be impossible for only twenty-eight persons to be redeemed out of every kindred, tongue, and people, and nation: for if there were only one redeemed out of every nation, the number would run into thousands, instead of twenty-eight. Therefore, it is evident that the “four beasts” are symbols which represent four groups of saints gathered from all ages, and out of every kindred, tongue, people, and nation. In a similar way the world empires after the flood are symbolically represented by beasts. Thus by the beasts are represented those that shall be judged.” — Shepherd’s Rod book, Vol. 2, p. 194, 195
Rev. 11:16-18. “And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, saying, We give Thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because Thou hast taken to Thee Thy great power, and hast reigned. And the nations were angry, and Thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that Thou shouldest give reward unto Thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear Thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.”
As illustrated on the cover page of this tract, the “four and twenty elders” are a part of the judicial tribunal of the investigative judgment in the heavenly sanctuary. (For a more ample explanation of the “elders,” study The Shepherd’s Rod, Vol. 2, pp. 187-221). Accordingly, the words which they speak at the time that the seventh angel begins to sound, reveal that the judicial work of the “Ancient of days” (Dan. 7:9; Rev. 4:3), of the Lamb (Rev. 5:6), of the “ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” of angels (Rev. 5:11), and of the “elders” and the “beasts,” was about finished. Their words reveal also that the time of the resurrection — the time for the saints to receive their reward of eternal life, and for Christ to destroy those who destroy the earth — was come. Clearly, therefore, “the time of the dead, that they should be judged” (Rev. 11:18), is during the millennium, and is the final judgment of the wicked.” — Tract 5, p. 115