on Revelation 4 :4
Four and twenty elders - Perhaps this is in reference to the smaller Sanhedrin at Jerusalem, which was composed of twenty-three elders; or to the princes of the twenty-four courses of the Jewish priests which ministered at the tabernacle and the temple, at first appointed by David.
Clothed in white raiment - The garments of the priests.
On their heads crowns of gold - An emblem of their dignity. The Jewish writers represent human souls as being created first; and before they enter the body, each is taken by an angel into paradise, where it sees the righteous sitting in glory with crowns upon their heads. Rab. Tanchum, fol. 39, 4.
on Revelation 4 :4
And round about the throne were four and twenty seats - Or rather, "thrones" - θρόνοι thronoi - the same word being used as what is rendered "throne" - θρόνος thronos. The word, indeed, properly denotes a seat, but it came to be employed to denote particularly the seat on which a monarch sat, and is properly translated thus in Revelation 4:2-3. So it is rendered in Matthew 5:34; Matthew 19:28; Matthew 23:22; Matthew 25:31; Luke 1:32; and uniformly elsewhere in the New Testament (53 places in all), except in Luke 1:52; Revelation 2:13; Revelation 4:4; Revelation 11:16; Revelation 16:10, where it is rendered "seat and seats." It should have been rendered "thrones" here, and is so translated by Prof. Stuart. Coverdale and Tyndale render the word "seat" in each place in Revelation 4:2-5. It was undoubtedly the design of the writer to represent those who sat on those seats as, in some sense, kings - for they have on their heads crowns of gold - and that idea should have been retained in the translation of this word.
And upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting - Very various opinions have been entertained in respect to those who thus appeared sitting around the throne, and to the question why the number twenty-four is mentioned. Instead of examining those opinions at length, it will be better to present, in a summary manner, what seems to be probable in regard to the intended reference. The following points, then, would appear to embrace all that can be known on this subject:
(1) These elders have a regal character, or are of a kingly order. This is apparent:
(a) because they are represented as sitting on "thrones," and
(b) because they have on their heads "crowns of gold."
(2) they are emblematic. They are designed to symbolize or represent some class of persons. This is clear:
(a) because it cannot be supposed that so small a number would compose the whole of those who are in fact around the throne of God, and,
(b) because there are other symbols there designed to represent something pertaining to the homage rendered to God, as the four living creatures and the angels, and this supposition is necessary in order to complete the symmetry and harmony of the representation.
(3) they are human beings, and are designed to have some relation to the race of man, and somehow to connect the human race with the worship of heaven. The four living creatures have another design; the angels Revelation 5:1-14 have another; but these are manifestly of our race - persons from this world before the throne.
(4) they are designed in some way to be symbolic of the church as redeemed. Thus, they say Revelation 5:9, "Thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood."
(5) they are designed to represent the whole church in every land and every age of the world. Thus, they say Revelation 5:9, "Thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation." This shows, further, that the whole representation is emblematic; for otherwise in so small a number - twenty-four - there could not be a representation out of every nation.
(6) they represent the church triumphant - the church victorious. Thus, they have crowns on their heads; they have harps in their hands Revelation 5:8; they say that they are "kings and priests," and that they will "reign on the earth," Revelation 5:10.
(7) the design, therefore, is to represent the church triumphant - redeemed - saved - as rendering praise and honor to God; as uniting with the hosts of heaven in adoring him for his perfections and for the wonders of his grace; As representatives of the church, they are admitted near to him; they encircle his throne; they appear victorious over every foe; and they come, in unison with the living creatures, and the angels, and the whole universe Revelation 5:13, to ascribe power and dominion to God.
(8) as to the reason why the number "twenty-four" is mentioned, perhaps nothing certain can be determined. Ezekiel, in his vision Ezekiel 8:16; Ezekiel 11:1, saw twenty-five men between the porch and the altar, with their backs toward the temple, and their faces toward the earth - supposed to be representations of the twenty-four "courses" into which the body of priests was divided 1 Chronicles 24:3-19, with the high priest among them, making up the number twenty-five. It is possible that John in this vision may have designed to refer to the church considered as a priesthood (compare the notes on 1 Peter 2:9), and to have alluded to the fact that the priesthood under the Jewish economy was divided into twenty-four courses, each with a presiding officer, and who was a representative of that portion of the priesthood over which he presided. If so, then the ideas which enter into the representation are these:
on Revelation 4 :4
4:4 And round about the throne - In a circle, are four and twenty thrones, and on the thrones four and twenty elders - The most holy of all the former ages, Isa 24:23; Heb 12:1; representing the whole body of the saints. Sitting - In general; but falling down when they worship. Clothed in white raiment - This and their golden crowns show, that they had already finished their course and taken their place among the citizens of heaven. They are never termed souls, and hence it is probable that they had glorified bodies already. Compare Matt 27:52.