Q: The organization teaches that the 24 elders of Revelation represent the anointed ones in heaven who are already resurrected. Since the Society has identified who the Great Crowd is, then they use it to say that that shows Christ started his presence in 1914. What is your understanding of that scripture [Rev. 4:4, 10]? Thank you.

A: Do "resurrected anointed ones" communicate "divine truths today" to the Watchtower Society's governing body? That seems like a strange claim to make, but that is indeed what is presented in the January 1, 2007 Watchtower, study article, "The First Resurrection" ―Now Under Way!

The article says the following on pages 27-28:

   "Can we say more precisely when the first resurrection begins? An interesting clue is found at Revelation 7:9-15, where the apostle John describes his vision of "a great crowd, which no man was able to number." The identity of that great crowd is revealed to John by one of the 24 elders, and these elders represent the 144,000 joint heirs with Christ in their heavenly glory. (Luke 22:28-30; Revelation 4:4) John himself had a heavenly hope; but since he was still a man on earth when the elder spoke to him, in the vision John must represent anointed ones on earth who have not yet received their heavenly reward.
   11 What, then, can we deduce from the fact that one of the 24 elders identifies the great crowd to John? It seems that resurrected ones of the 24 elders group may be involved in the communicating of divine truths today. Why is that important? Because the correct identity of the great crowd was revealed to God's anointed servants on earth in 1935. If one of the 24 elders was used to convey that important truth, he would have had to be resurrected to heaven by 1935 at the latest. That would indicate that the first resurrection began sometime between 1914 and 1935. Can we be more precise?
   12 At this point, it may be helpful to consider what might be viewed as a Bible parallel. Jesus Christ was anointed as the future King of God's Kingdom in the fall of 29 C.E. Three and a half years later, in the spring of 33 C.E., he was resurrected as a mighty spirit person. Could it, then, be reasoned that since Jesus was enthroned in the fall of 1914, the resurrection of his faithful anointed followers began three and a half years later, in the spring of 1918? That is an interesting possibility. Although this cannot be directly confirmed in the Bible, it is not out of harmony with other scriptures that indicate that the first resurrection got under way soon after Christ's presence began." (Bold mine)

The speculation that "resurrected ones of the 24 elders group may be involved in the communicating of divine truths today" rests, first of all, on the assumption that the 24 elders of Revelation "represent the 144,000 joint heirs with Christ in their heavenly glory." What leads them to that conclusion? In the revelation to John, the 24 elders are shown as being seated upon twenty-four thrones, which are round about Jehovah's throne, and they are "dressed in white outer garments, and upon their heads golden crowns." (Rev. 4:4)

According to the book, Revelation Its Grand Climax At Hand!, this is how these 24 elders are identified:

   Who are these elders? They are none other than anointed ones of the Christian congregation, resurrected and occupying the heavenly position Jehovah promised them. How do we know that?  
   First of all, they are wearing crowns. The Bible speaks of anointed Christians as gaining ‘an incorruptible crown’ and attaining to an endless life—immortality. (1 Corinthians 9:25; 15:53,54) But since these 24 elders are sitting on thrones, the golden crowns in this context represent royal authority. (Compare Revelation 6:2; 14:14.) This supports the conclusion that the 24 elders portray Jesus’ anointed footstep followers in their heavenly position, for Jesus made a covenant with them to sit on thrones in his Kingdom. (Luke 22:28-30) Only Jesus and these 24 elders—not even the angels—are described as ruling in heaven in Jehovah’s presence. ―re chap. 14 p. 77 pars. 8-9 The Magnificence of Jehovah’s Celestial Throne (Bold mine)


But does the wearing of crowns and sitting on thrones necessarily identify the 24 elders as portraying "Jesus' anointed footstep followers in their heavenly position," who are "described as ruling in heaven in Jehovah's presence?" We must remember that the revelation that John received was presented in signs or symbolism. (Rev. 1:1) In what context or setting does the Bible use a crown in other places? (see Footnote)

According to Insight on the Scriptures, a crown was "a headgear, simple or ornate, worn by persons of distinction, such as kings, queens, other rulers, priests, and individuals to be specially honored or rewarded. After the Flood, crowns came to be used as symbols of authority, dignity, power, honor, and reward." Insight on the Scriptures goes on to point out that Jesus Christ, who had been made “a little lower than angels,” was “crowned with glory and honor [as a heavenly spirit creature exalted far above the angels] for having suffered death.” (Heb. 2:7,9) (Bold mine) —it-1 p. 553-54 Crown.

A crown can be a symbol representing, not only "royal authority," but also a place of special honor or distinction, an exalted position, setting someone apart as favored. Thus the Bible speaks of wisdom as a crown of beauty glorifying the one having acquired it; and a capable wife as being a crown to her husband. (Prov. 4:7-9; 12:4) The Bible speaks of "an angelic creature of high rank having special duties, distinguished from the order of seraphs." These distinguished angelic creatures are known as cherubs, and they "are intimately associated with the glorious personage of Jehovah and constantly attendant upon him." Under the heading of "Cherubs," Insight on the Scriptures notes:

"Representative figures of cherubs were included in the furnishings of the tabernacle set up in the wilderness. Rising above each end of the Ark’s cover were two cherubs of hammered gold. They were facing each other and bowing toward the cover in an attitude of worship. Each had two wings that spread upward and screened over the cover in a guarding and protecting manner. (Ex 25:10-21; 37:7-9) Also, the inner covering of tent cloths for the tabernacle and the curtain dividing the Holy from the Most Holy had embroidered cherub figures.—Ex 26:1, 31; 36:8, 35.

"The apostle Paul describes them as “glorious cherubs overshadowing the propitiatory cover.” (Heb 9:5) These cherubs were associated with the presence of Jehovah: “And I will present myself to you there and speak with you from above the cover, from between the two cherubs that are upon the ark of the testimony.” (Ex 25:22; Nu 7:89) Hence, Jehovah was said to be “sitting upon [or, between] the cherubs.” —it-1 p. 431-32 Cherubs. (Bold mine)

In John's revelation the 24 elders are seen sitting in the presence of Jehovah, "round about [his] throne," in the same way the cherubs are seen "associated with the presence of Jehovah," having been prominently represented in the furnishings of the tabernacle in the wilderness, and on the Ark of the testimony's cover which was situated in the Most Holy compartment, where Jehovah presented himself to the high priest from between the two cherubs.

Cherubs could also properly be said as sitting on thrones, for the same publication goes on to say regarding a throne (see Footnote):

Figurative Usage: “Throne” figuratively signifies a seat of ruling authority (1 Kings 2:12; 16:11) or the kingly authority and sovereignty itself (Ge 41:40; 1 Chron. 17:14; Ps 89:44); a reigning government or royal administration (2 Sa 14:9); sovereign control over a territory (2 Sa 3:10); and a position of honor (1 Sa 2:7, 8; 2 Kings 25:28). . .

Jehovah, whom even “the heaven of the heavens” cannot contain, does not have to sit on a literal throne or chair. (1Ki 8:27) He does, however, picture his royal authority and sovereignty by the symbol of a throne. . . Besides his kingly identity with the royal line of Judah, Jehovah was enthroned in Israel in another sense as well. As Jeremiah expressed it: “There is the glorious throne on high from the start; it is the place of our sanctuary.” (Jer 17:12) Jehovah was spoken of as “sitting upon the cherubs” that were on the propitiatory cover of the ark of the testimony in the sanctuary. (Ex 25:22; 1 Sa 4:4) —it-2 p. 1097-98 Throne. (Bold mine)

Since Jehovah is sitting upon his "throne," and is also said to be "sitting upon the cherubs," or "between" them, it can be argued that those seated on thrones are God's exalted cherubs. (compare Ezek. 10:20)

Also, please consider: The 24 elders "fall down before the One seated upon the throne and worship the One that lives forever and ever, and they cast their crowns before the throne, saying: 'You are worthy, Jehovah, even our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created.'" (Rev. 4:9-11) The twenty four elders are present at the time the Lamb receives the scroll from the One seated upon the throne, the seal of which he alone is worthy of opening. (Rev. 5:1-8)

John goes on to hear "a voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders, and the number of them was myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: 'The Lamb that was slaughtered is worthy to receive the power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.' (Rev. 5:1-14) Look at that! The twenty four elders are present in heaven and rejoice at the time the Lamb receives the kingdom. (Rev. 5:11-14) How is that possible if they picture the resurrected anointed ones? Are we to believe that some of the anointed are resurrected to heaven even before Jesus receives the kingdom? (See Daniel 7:15,16)

Another thing: If the 24 elders represent Jesus' anointed footstep followers in their heavenly positions, are they already wearing crowns, supposedly since before 1935? Did their rule as kings with the Christ for "the thousand years" already start decades ago? (Rev. 20:6) That clearly contradicts what Paul says on the subject, namely, neither those who have died, nor the ones who survive to the presence of the Lord, will precede any of the others; but they will all of them together, at the same time, be taken up to be with the Lord. (1 Thess. 4:15-17)

Also, if these resurrected anointed ones have been wearing their crowns since before 1935, why would they now want to cast their crowns before God's throne? Especially at the time that the Lamb receives his! Is it not more reasonable to conclude that those who cast their crowns before the throne are the ones who hold a lofty position of honor before Jehovah, such as the cherubs, but they now recognize and humbly yield to the superior position of the bride of the Lamb, the "holy ones of the Supreme One," who are about to "take possession of the kingdom for time indefinite upon times indefinite"? (Rev. 5:9,10; 14:1,4; 19:6-8; Dan. 7:18,27; 1 Cor. 6:3) They, like Jesus himself, will receive immortality, something that none of God's other spirit creatures possesses. (1 Cor. 15:51-54; 1 Tim. 6:16)

And another thing: If the 24 elders portray "Jesus' anointed footstep followers in their heavenly position" (already having been resurrected), then who are "the elders" in front of whom the entire hundred and forty-four thousand are "singing as if a new song"? (Rev. 14:3) But someone may point out that the twenty-four elders are "dressed in white outer garments," just like the Lamb's wife. (Rev. 19:8) To be arrayed in "bright, clean, fine linen" does not necessarily mean it refers to faithful anointed ones, for even "the seven angels with the seven plagues" are "clothed in clean, bright linen." (Rev. 3:5; 15:6; Dan. 10:5; 12:6,7)

The Bible does not definitely identify the twenty-four elders for us, but we are given a clue in what it says about them:

"And when [the Lamb] took the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, having each one a harp and golden bowls that were full of incense, and the [incense] means the prayers of the holy ones. And they sing a new song, saying: 'You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, because you were slaughtered and with your blood you bought persons for God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, 10 and you made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over the earth.'” (Rev. 5:8-10)

The apostle John sees the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders holding golden bowls full of incense, which means "the prayers of the holy ones (God's holy people, NCV)." The fact that all 28 (4+24) of them are shown to hold bowls which are filled with the prayers of God's holy ones may well indicate that they (the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders) are used by Jehovah to act on behalf of the prayers of his holy ones, who are "to rule as kings over the earth." This is also in harmony with Psalms 34:6,7: "This afflicted one called, and Jehovah himself heard. And out of all his distresses He saved him. The angel of Jehovah is camping all around those fearing him, and he rescues them." Clearly, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders are not holding golden bowls that contain their own prayers, are they? This obviously excludes them from being among the holy ones who are "to be a kingdom and priests to our God." (Psalms 34:15, 18,19; 39:12; 56:8; Luke 12:32; 1 Peter 2:9)

The Watchtower bases its "interesting possibility" that resurrected anointed ones in heaven are communicating with their living brothers on earth on the opinion that Jesus was enthroned as king in heaven in 1914, and has been "present" ever since (his parousia). This, along with their explanation in connection with Jesus' ministry in the first century which they consider to be a "Bible parallel," leads them to the conclusion that "the resurrection of his faithful anointed followers began three and a half years later in the spring of 1918." But, according to Jesus' own words, the signs that he gave his disciples regarding the conclusion of the system of things, prove that he is not yet present, and neither is God's kingdom. He said that the signs would indicate that he and the kingdom are near, not here. Check it for yourselves. (Matt. 24:32,33; Luke 21:29-31)

If Jesus has not yet arrived, then neither have any of his dead anointed disciples been resurrected. As already touched on briefly above, the apostle Paul explains that those "who survive to the presence of the Lord shall in no way precede those who have fallen asleep in death;" and neither will "those who are dead in union with Christ" precede the living. "Together," all of them at the same time, they will "be caught away in clouds to meet the Lord in the air." (see 1 Thess. 4:14-17; For further information regarding 1914 click on this letter on this site.)
Although the Scriptures indicate that there will be some holy ones still alive at the time Jesus returns, the vast majority of them have fallen asleep in death. If the resurrection has not yet occurred, then clearly they are still dead. Therefore, identifying the 24 elders with resurrected anointed ones presents a troubling prospect: Who is the governing body of Jehovah's witnesses really communicating with when they say that they are in communication and receiving "divine truths today" from persons who are known to have died? Is that not unlike what people of other religions do when praying to their Saints, expecting help from these?

Please note what a Watchtower article said in connection with communicating with the dead:

"Innumerable cases have been reported of communications supposedly received from the spirit realm. What really is their origin? The Bible warns us that “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is therefore a simple thing for his agents to masquerade as agents of good.” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15, The New English Bible) Yes, to deceive and mislead people more easily, the demons (rebellious angels) have communicated with the living, sometimes pretending to be helpful.
     The apostle Paul gives further warning of this campaign of deception: “Some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to misleading inspired utterances and teachings of demons.” (1 Timothy 4:1) So any response attributed to the dead may well be from the demons who masquerade as “agents of good” and promote a religious lie, enslaving people to superstitions that lead them away from the truth of God’s Word.
     Confirming that the dead cannot say anything, do anything, or feel anything, Psalm 146:3, 4 states: 'Do not put your trust in nobles, nor in the son of earthling man, to whom no salvation belongs. His spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground; in that day his thoughts do perish.'" —w94 10/15 pp. 5-6 What Is the Condition of the Dead? (Bold mine)

When it comes to inquiring of the dead, Jehovah's law to his people Israel was very clear: "There should not be found in you. . . anyone who inquires of the dead. For everybody doing these things is something detestable to Jehovah." (Deut. 18:10,11)

After Jehovah had rejected his anointed king Saul for rebellion and presumptuousness, he cut off any further communication with him. “Although Saul would inquire of Jehovah, Jehovah never answered him, either by dreams or by the Urim or by the prophets.” Thus, in a time of great distress, Saul found it necessary to inquire of the already deceased anointed prophet Samuel, with the help of "a mistress of spirit mediumship." "Samuel" appeared and communicated a message to Saul. But, although resembling him, it was not dead Samuel. Saul was deceived by "a god coming up out of the earth," which the witch of En-dor had summoned. And it definitely was not from Jehovah. (1 Sam. 28:5-20)

We should also keep in mind that the Society is not the first to teach that the resurrection has already occurred, for the apostle Paul wrote: "Keep reminding them of these things, charging them before God as witness, not to fight about words, a thing of no usefulness at all because it overturns those listening. 15 Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God, a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright. 16 But shun empty speeches that violate what is holy; for they will advance to more and more ungodliness, 17 and their word will spread like gangrene. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of that number. 18 These very [men] have deviated from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already occurred; and they are subverting the faith of some. 19 For all that, the solid foundation of God stays standing, having this seal: 'Jehovah knows those who belong to him,' and: 'Let everyone naming the name of Jehovah renounce unrighteousness.'” (2 Tim. 2:14-19)

Because the members of the governing body, as the "man of lawlessness" within God's temple, have refused to listen to Jehovah, Jehovah in turn "lets an operation of error go to them, that they may get to believing the lie, in order that they all may be judged because they did not believe the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness." (2 Thess. 2:3-4, 11-12) They have built their doctrines on the foundation of Rutherford's teachings, in which they have put their faith; while undermining the truth of God's word. Yet Paul assures as that "the solid foundation of God stays standing." Those who belong to Jehovah (and he knows them) will continue to listen to what he says in his word, the Bible, and that is where they put their faith.



Scriptural use of "crown"
(according to Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 1, page 553):

Wisdom and understanding are a crown of beauty that exalts and glorifies the person possessing them (Prov. 4:5-9)
"A capable wife is a crown to her [husband]" because her good conduct brings honor to him. (Prov. 12:4)
"Gray-headedness is a crown of beauty when it is found in the way of righteousness." (Prov.16:31)
"The symbolic woman Zion was to become 'a crown of beauty' in Jehovah’s hand, possibly denoting that she was the product of his workmanship being held up in the hand, as it were, so that others could view her with admiration."  (Isaiah 62:1-3)
Paul rejoiced in the congregation of Thessalonica, which resulted from his ministry, as a "crown of exultation," it being one of the uppermost causes of joy for him. (1 Thes. 2:19,20) Also, to the Philippian congregation he wrote: "Consequently, my brothers beloved and longed for, my joy and crown..." (Phil. 4:1)
All who remain faithful to Jehovah will receive "the crown of life." (James 1:12)

Scriptural use of "throne" (according to Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 2, page 1097):

The Hebrew term kis·se’′ basically means “seat” (1Sa 4:13), “chair” (2 Kings 4:10), or a seat of special importance such as a “throne” (1 Kings 22:10). Its application is not limited to the seats of ruling monarchs (1 Kings 2:19; Ne 3:7; Esther 3:1; Eze 26:16), nor does it strictly refer to a seat with a high back and armrests. . .The Greek term thro′nos generally refers to a high stool, with back, arms, and a footstool.

Figurative Usage:
“Throne” figuratively signifies a seat of ruling authority (1 Kings 2:12; 16:11)
the kingly authority and sovereignty itself (Ge 41:40; 1Ch 17:14; Ps 89:44);

a reigning government or royal administration (2Sa 14:9);
sovereign control over a territory (2Sa 3:10);

and a position of honor (1Sa 2:7, 8; 2 Kings 25:28).