The 12 Apostles & the 24 Elders


“What is the significance of the 12 apostles judging the 12 tribes of Israel from the 24 elders who are sitting on the thrones in the temple of God in the third heaven as described in Revelation 4?”


My understanding is that when “the kingdom of heaven” is established on the earth and in connection with it the 12 apostles receive what the Lord speaks of in Matthew 19:28, that they at that time will be the “restored judges” that God promised Israel, for example, in Isaiah 1:26. “In the regeneration” of that time, to which the Lord refers, both Israel and the earth will be generated again, having gone through the Lord’s day of purging wrath and destructive judgments, which destroy the effects of the implementation of Satan’s plan of evil on the earth and in Israel.

The earth, for example as described in Isaiah 11 and 65, being regenerated will no longer have the effects of the curse brought on it in connection with the implementation of the plan of evil. And the same will be true of Israel.

In particular, as is set forth in Isaiah 1:21–23, “the faithful city” that “was full of judgment” before Satan’s policy of evil against Israel successfully turned it into “an harlot”; along with the “righteousness” that “lodged” in it before the policy of evil successfully produced “princes” that were “rebellious, and companions of thieves,” and God’s “adversaries” and His “enemies”; both will be judged in the Lord’s day and purged of what the policy of evil has produced. And just as Isaiah 1:26 says. God will “restore” Jerusalem’s “judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning.” In view of this, once again, my understanding is that the 12 apostles will be the restored judges. They will form the highest level of government in and over Israel, being the princes of the tribes. And as such they will be ruling and governing directly under the Lord Himself and for Him when it comes to administrating and overseeing all of the things that will be going on in Israel, as God sets forth to His nation the implementation of His plan for them as His righteous nation on the earth, through which the earth will be blessed by them. Undoubtedly all of the Lord’s directives, charges, and the like, will be given to the 12 and then through them to the members of the individual tribes over which they will rule.

Hence, in a loose sense, the 12 will be functioning sort of like the Lord’s cabinet, in that they will be concerned most especially with the Lord’s governmental rule and the administrative affairs of His kingdom in Israel and on the earth. I put it this way to differentiate between their “judging” function from that of those 24 elders referred to in Revelation 4.

In connection with appreciating the role of the 24 elders, first of all let’s identify both the “four beasts” and the “four and twenty elders” spoken of in Revelation 4 for who they are.

The “four beasts” are readily identifiable from their description in Revelation 4:6–8. They bear the same basic type of description as the “four living creatures” that Ezekiel describes in Ezekiel 1–11, which he identifies as the Cherubims. They, therefore, are of the angelic order and are the attendants, custodians, and conveyors of the throne of God. And as such they are also especially entrusted with constantly generating and manifesting the environment of absolute Holiness that naturally belongs to God. This they do by their attendance at God’s throne, by their unique appearance, as well as by their actions.

The “four and twenty elders” are also directly associated with the throne of God, as is evident from what John sees and describes in Revelation 4–5. However, they are not “in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne” as the Cherubims are. They do occupy seats that are “round about the throne,” but obviously at a more distant position. My present understanding is that these “four and twenty elders” are also of the angelic order and that they are the “governors of the sanctuary and governors of the house of God” in the third heaven, after which David patterned the twenty four courses of the Priests when God gave to him the pattern for the temple that Solomon would build. (I Chronicles 23–29) Just as the tabernacle given to Moses was patterned after heavenly things, (and hence had counterparts to things in “the true tabernacle which the Lord pitched”), so is it with the temple design, structure, and order, that God gave to David. Only the temple design was more detailed with regards to the pattern of God’s sanctuary and house in the third heaven.

As I said, my understanding is that the “four and twenty elders” with their seats “round about the throne” of God are the “governors of the sanctuary and governors of the house of God” in the third heaven, which the twenty four courses of the Priesthood established by David are the counterparts to, or emulate, on the earth. As such, I am persuaded that these “four and twenty elders” function as representatives for Israel before the throne of God in His house in the third heaven. In particular they intercede for Israel before the throne of God, representing them (that is those of believing Israel in particular; the remnant of Israel) and presenting God with their praise, prayers, and acknowledgments, in accordance with the outworking of God’s program and dealings with Israel on the earth.

Because their role is one of functioning as the representatives of Israel before the throne of God in His house in the third heaven, John sees the activity that he describes in Revelation 5:8–10. It is interesting to note that when the elders sing the “new song” spoken about in verses 9–10, they do this first of all having fallen down before the Lamb after He took the book and is therefore ready to begin to have His day of judgment. But they also do this having their “harps” with them as well as “golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.” I take the “new song” that they sing, therefore, to be directly connected not only with the “new song” spoken about in the Psalms in connection with the Lord having His day and reigning on the earth, but also directly connected with the “prayers of saints” that they are seen to be presenting to God in behalf of the saints. These are the prayers of the remnant that would be intelligently expressing their understanding and appreciation for the fact that the Lord was now ready to have His day, and for the things that will be transpiring during it. Hence, the “us” and “we” in the song pertains to the “saints” that the “four and twenty elders” are seen to be representing, and not to themselves.

Keith R Blades

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