By Rev. Bill Lee-Warner & Rev. Charles Cooper
There are 175 references to “elders” in the Bible. One hundred and sixteen of those references are in the O.T. leaving fifty-nine in the N.T. The vast majority of the references in both testaments refer to the elders of Israel, the elders of the congregation of Israel. In other words, the leaders of the people.
In the N.T., the gospels and Acts have a similar meaning. Beginning with Acts 11:30 and jumping to 1 Timothy 5:17, the primary usage of the term refers to the leaders of a local church. In the book of Revelation there are eleven references, each of which refer to the twenty-four elders that surround the throne of God.
Much speculation has arisen as to who these twenty-four elders are:
(1) a leader from each of the 12 tribes of Israel plus each of the 12 apostles,
(2) twenty-four godly men from throughout biblical history and,
(3) a special class of angels.
The best identification seems to be that the twenty-four elders are a special group of beings that are always in view when the throne of God is in view. What they do, other than worship God, we do not know. Why they are there, we do not know. Who they are, we are never told, other than that they are elders and from common usage throughout the Bible, they function in some capacity as spiritual leaders.
Perhaps we should leave their identification as it is given in the Scripture: unidentified.