Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Why I Believe In A Pre-Tribulation Rapture Pt. 1 - The 24 Elders

In chapter 4 of Revelation, John is taken in spirit to heaven where, among other things, he sees 24 thrones circling the throne of God.  On these thrones sit 24 elders.  They are each in white robes and have crowns upon their heads.     

Let's quickly refresh our memory by reading this short portion of scripture:  

After these things 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, saying, Come up here, and I will show you what must occur after these things. 2And immediately I became in spirit. And behold, a throne was set in Heaven, and One sat upon the throne. 3And He who sat there looked like a jasper stone and a sardius. And a rainbow was around the throne, looking like an emerald.

4And around the throne I saw twenty-four thrones. And on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white clothing. And they had crowns of gold on their heads. 5And out of the throne came lightnings and thunderings and voices. And seven lamps of fire were burning in front of the throne, which are the seven spirits of God.

6And a sea of glass was in front of the throne, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind. 7And the first living creature was like a lion, and the second living creature like a calf, and the third living creature had the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like a flying eagle. 8And each one of the four living creatures had six wings about him, and within being full of eyes. And they had no rest day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God, the Almighty, who was and is and is to come.

9And whenever the living creatures gave glory and honor and thanks to Him who sat on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10the twenty-four elders fell down before the One sitting on the throne. And they worshiped Him who lives for ever and ever, and threw their crowns before the throne, saying, 11O Lord, You are worthy to receive glory and honor and power, because You created all things, and for Your will they are and were created.  (Rev. Ch. 4 MKJV)

This part of John’s vision is significant for the following reasons:

Although we cannot positively identify who these 24 elders are, what we can be sure of is that they have already been given their robes and have received their crowns; something that happens AFTER the rapture of the bride of Christ.

Another very important point often overlooked by many is that in all the descriptions of the throne of God in the OT, never is there any mention of these 24 thrones or 24 elders.  Why?  Because they did not exist at that point in time.  The church has not been raptured, so the thrones and elders are absent from the throne room of God in the OT accounts of the throne of God.

These 24 elders cannot be heavenly beings, since there is no record of heavenly beings receiving any type of crown. 

Here are the words of Dr. H.A. Ironside that I found very helpful:

But now the fourth verse brings before us a sight never beheld in heaven on any previous occasion: twenty-four thrones (not merely “seats”) surrounding the central throne, and upon them twenty-four elders seated with victors’ crowns (not diadems) upon their heads, and clothed in priestly robes of purest white. Who are these favored ones gathered around the glorious central Being? I do not think we need be in any doubt as to their identity, if we compare Scripture with Scripture and distrust our own imagination, which can but lead us astray.

In I Chronicles, chapter 24, we read of something very similar; and again I would remind you that many of John’s first readers were Hebrews, thoroughly familiar with the Old Testament. Can we question for a moment that every Jewish believer would instantly remember the twenty-four elders appointed by King David to represent the entire Levitical priesthood? He divided the priests into twenty-four courses, each course to serve for two weeks at a time in the temple which Solomon was to build. The same arrangement was in force when our Lord’s forerunner was announced.  Zacharias was “of the course of Abiah,” the eighth in order (Luke 1:5).  The priests were many thousands in number; they could not all come together at one time, but when the twenty-four elders met in the temple precincts in Jerusalem, the whole priestly house was represented. And this is the explanation, I submit, of the symbol here. The elders in heaven represent the whole heavenly priesthood – that is, all the redeemed who have died in the past, or who shall be living at the Lord’s return. In vision they were seen – not as a multitudinous host of millions of saved worshipers, but just twenty-four elders, symbolizing the entire company. The church of the present age and Old Testament saints are alike included. All are priests. All worship. There were twelve patriarchs in Israel, and twelve apostles introducing the new dispensation. The two together would give the complete four and twenty.

Then, observe further: these persons are not angels. They are redeemed men who have overcome in the conflict with Satan and the world, for they wear victors’ wreaths upon their brows. Angels are never said to be “crowned,” nor have they known redemption.

There are two kinds of crowns mentioned in this book:
- The victor’s crown (Stephanos)
- The ruler’s crown (Diadem)

The former is the word here used. It refers to the wreath, of laurel or of pine, bound about the brow of the victor in the Greek games; it is the same word so often used in the New Testament when reward for service is the theme.

And now, note carefully: no saints will ever be crowned until the apostle Paul receives that crown of righteousness which the Lord revealed to him as his reward. In II Timothy 4:8, he says: “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love (or, have loved) His appearing.”

The expression “at that day” refers to the day of Christ, when He shall come for His own, and they will all be manifested before His judgment-seat. He says: “Behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be” (Revelation 22:12).

Surely it follows then that no rewards are given out till He returns for His saints. Therefore there can be no crowned elders in heaven till after the rapture… I trust it is clear to all that the elders are the heavenly saints, surrounding the Lord in glory, God the Son sitting on the central throne.

So if we take Revelation in chronological order, the Rapture takes place before the Tribulation and the outpouring of God's wrath.

You can read parts two and three of this series by clicking on one of the articles below:

Why I Believe In A Pre-Tribulation Rapture Pt. 2 - Noah, Lot and Rabbit Holes

Why I Believe In A Pre-Tribulation Rapture Pt. 3 - The Slow Motion Replay

Repent and be forgiven! Believe and be saved!

Acknowledgements:  Image -


  1. There was a resurrection of some the saved, the first fruits, at the resurrection of Jesus. See Matthew 27:52

    1. That wasn't a resurrection. They were not reunited with their physical body, which would then need to be changed to an incorruptible and immortal body.