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The Order of Melchizedek
Identifying the Twenty Four Elders of Revelation Four
By John of AllFaith © 03.02.10 The Twenty Four Elders and Melchizedek Priesthood
4:4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones. On the thrones were twenty-four elders sitting, dressed in white garments, with crowns of gold on their heads.
John the Prophet does not directly identify these elders for us. Students of Bible prophecy fall into three main camps regarding their identity. As most all interpretation is based to some degree on overall or preconceived views (as is only natural) how these elders are understood is generally reflective of the overall view of prophecy held, this includes my understandings of course.
From John's description we know these are holy individuals (shown by their white garments) submitted to the One True God (seated before them on the Ouranos Throne). We know the authority they wield (crowns of gold) is bequeathed to them by HaShem (they are seated before the Throne of God rather than standing, thus showing they are already members of His court rather than new comers or supplicants). On this all seem to agree.
It is also contextually clear that these elders have been summoned by HaShem to serve roles in the events currently unfolding. This supports the previous statements that God allows His servants to have input and involvement in these events. In other words, while He is King HaShem is not a dictator.
Three Main Views
Option 1. The Twelve Houses of Israel and the Twelve Apostles of Y'shua:
This view points out that it is known from Scripture that HaShem has established two sets of twelve elders to oversee the affairs of His people. These elders are the fathers of the twelve houses of Israel and the twelve apostles of Y'shua the Anointed. By the authority granted to these twenty four elders HaShem has governed His people, both Jews and Noahides alike, and advanced the coming of the Kingdom of His Moshiach.
Through these twenty four elders the Way of God was established and has advanced since the days of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (circa 2000-1800 BCE). Jacob (son of Isaac and Rebecca) was the third patriarch of the Jewish people (following Abraham and Isaac). He was renamed Israel by an angel of HaShem and his descendents are known as Israelites and Hebrews (as the Egyptians called them, possibly because of their wanderings. The word Hebrew is the anglicized form of the Hebrew word ibri, which may come from the root word ayin-bet-resh meaning to wander or come from afar. It may also suggest Eberites or descendant of Eber â€“ Genesis 10:21).
Biblically these houses are divided into what the Hebrew language calls shevet or mateh. While the English translation as "tribes" is technically correct, it can be misleading as the word actually refers to these divisions as "staffs" or "rods" through which HaShem leads his people. This meaning supports this interpretation of the elders here by directly referring to their "staffs" or "rods" used by HaShem.
Contrary to common belief, the Twelve Houses of Israel are named after ten of Jacob's twelve sons and two sons of his son Joseph (which Jacob adopted as his own). So it can be argued that there are actually thirteen Houses of Israel (rather than twelve), although others note that the half tribe of Manasseh (Numbers 34:13) maintains the number at twelve. Such matters can be (and are) endlessly debated of course! The sons of Levi (appointed as priests or kohanim) were not given any land but were viewed as a distinct house or division above their brethren, and Joseph's sons Ephraim and Manasseh (and their descendants) are again counted as separate houses (compare Genesis 48:5-6).
Through these twelve houses the Tanakh was revealed and the Jewish people exist until our present day (even though ten of the twelve houses have been "lost"). Our Master Y'shua and all of his apostles arose from the houses of Israel.
Through the twelve Jewish apostles of Y'shua we Noahide Nazarenes have been grafted into the Tree of Israel (Matthew 28:19,20, Romans 11 etc) and are privileged to assist the Chosen People in their great work of advancing the Kingdom.
The Twelve Houses of IsraelReuben (Genesis 29:32): Born in Haran before returning to Canaan
Simeon (Genesis 29:33): Born in Haran before returning to Canaan
Levi (Genesis 29:34): Born in Haran before returning to Canaan
Judah (Genesis 29:35): Born in Haran before returning to Canaan
Dan (Genesis 30:5): Born in Haran before returning to Canaan
Naphtali (Genesis 30:7): Born in Haran before returning to Canaan
Gad (Genesis 30:10): Born in Haran before returning to Canaan
Asher (Genesis 30:12): Born in Haran before returning to Canaan
Issachar (Genesis 30:17): Born in Haran before returning to Canaan
Zebulun (Genesis 30:19): Born in Haran before returning to Canaan
Joseph (Genesis 30:23): Born in Haran before returning to Canaan
Benjamin (Genesis 35:18): Born in Canaan
The Twelve Apostles of Y'shua
* Peter: Original name: Simon bar Jonah, aka Simon bar Jochanan, Cephas, Simon Peter. Author of 1st and 2nd Peter
* Andrew: Former disciples of John the Baptist, brother of Peter
* James, son of Zebedee: Brother of John. One of Y'shua's Bo-aner'ges (sons of thunder)
* Prophet John: Brother of James. Author of Gospel of John, 1st 2nd and 3rd John and the Revelation of Y'shua. One of Y'shua's Bo-aner'ges (sons of thunder)
* Philip: From the Bethsaida of Galilee
* Bartholomew: Son of Talemai; Nathanael or Nathaniel
* Matthew: Tax collector. Also known as Levi. Author of the Gospel According to Matthew
* Thomas: "Doubting Thomas;" Judas Thomas Didymus. Introduced the Gospel to India
* James: James the Less, James the Just (according to Jerome). James of Jerusalem, James Adelphotheos, physical brother of Master Y'shua. Author of The Epistle of James
* Thaddeus: Also known as Jude and sometimes as Lebbaeus
* Simon the Zealot: Perhaps also known as Simeon of Jerusalem
* Judas Iscariot: Who later betrayed Y'shua to the Romans. The name Iscariot likely associates him with the anti-Roman Sicarii "dagger" movement of the Jewish Zealots. According to tradition Judas betrayed the Master to pressure him into take up the mantle of Moshiach and King of Israel. He is also referred to as "Judas, son of Simon." He was replaced as an apostle by Matthias shortly after the Master's resurrection.
Option One Refutation
Ten of the twelve Houses of Israel have been lost to history and today most Jews have no way of identifying with a certain tribe of Israel. According to the text these elders are seated on their thrones but who are they leading seeing as how this information no longer exists? This causes some legitimate question about this view. Also numerically it can be argued that there are thirteen houses of Israel, not twelve.
Likewise, we know that Judas forfeited his position among the Apostles and was replaced. We know that Paul, while not one of the original twelve chosen by Y'shua, wielded tremendous influence in the early assemblies, far more than most of the Twelve (other than possibly James the Just and Peter). Without Paul's New Testament writings many of the doctrines held as sacrosanct would not exist. How could comparatively irrelevant apostles be included in this number while Paul is not, and if Paul is included then who was left out? Other we again have 13 as our number rather than 12 that some believe identifies these elders. The New Testament is clear that Matthias was properly appointed to replace Judas by the Spirit of God. We also know that Y'shua's brother, the Apostle James the Just, held a position of authority far beyond what is suggested in the pages of the Bible. So this causes some legitimate question about this view.
Option 2. The Twenty-four Levites
We do have a specific list of twenty-four elders aside from those of option one. In the twenty-fourth chapter of I Chronicles we see the setting aside of twenty-four elders as follows:
First the explanation of how and why this listing was made is given. From the Authorized King James Version:
1Ch 24:1 Now these are the divisions of the sons of Aaron. The sons of Aaron; Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.
1Ch 24:2 But Nadab and Abihu died before their father, and had no children: therefore Eleazar and Ithamar executed the priest's office.
1Ch 24:3 And David distributed them, both Zadok of the sons of Eleazar, and Ahimelech of the sons of Ithamar, according to their offices in their service.
1Ch 24:4 And there were more chief men found of the sons of Eleazar than of the sons of Ithamar; and thus were they divided. Among the sons of Eleazar there were sixteen chief men of the house of their fathers, and eight among the sons of Ithamar according to the house of their fathers.
1Ch 24:5 Thus were they divided by lot, one sort with another; for the governors of the sanctuary, and governors of the house of God, were of the sons of Eleazar, and of the sons of Ithamar.
1Ch 24:6 And Shemaiah the son of Nethaneel the scribe, one of the Levites, wrote them before the king, and the princes, and Zadok the priest, and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar, and before the chief of the fathers of the priests and Levites: one principal household being taken for Eleazar, and one taken for Ithamar.
David had reigned as king for many years and in our text he is appointing Solomon king (I Chronicles 23:1). Chapter 23 records the divisions of the Levites (those of the House of Levi discussed above). At verse six we find their three divisions: Gershon, Kohath and Merari. Then in Chapter 24 as quoted above we have the twenty-four courses or divisions of the priests.
Option two views these 24 divisions as an eternal priesthood. The earthly priest listed here being figurative of a heavenly priesthood known as the Melchizedek Order (more on this below as I share my views). Here then is this listing:
1Ch 24:7 Now the first lot came forth to Jehoiarib, the second to Jedaiah,
1Ch 24:8 The third to Harim, the fourth to Seorim,
1Ch 24:9 The fifth to Malchijah, the sixth to Mijamin,
1Ch 24:10 The seventh to Hakkoz, the eighth to Abijah,
1Ch 24:11 The ninth to Jeshua, the tenth to Shecaniah,
1Ch 24:12 The eleventh to Eliashib, the twelfth to Jakim,
1Ch 24:13 The thirteenth to Huppah, the fourteenth to Jeshebeab,
1Ch 24:14 The fifteenth to Bilgah, the sixteenth to Immer,
1Ch 24:15 The seventeenth to Hezir, the eighteenth to Aphses,
1Ch 24:16 The nineteenth to Pethahiah, the twentieth to Jehezekel,
1Ch 24:17 The one and twentieth to Jachin, the two and twentieth to Gamul,
1Ch 24:18 The three and twentieth to Delaiah, the four and twentieth to Maaziah.
According to this view by studying the divisions and rites of the Hebrew Sanctuary we can unlock deeper truths into the Heavenly Sanctuary as mentioned previously.
Option Two Refutation
All interpretation must agree with all known scriptures and this view is Biblically refuted:Hebrews 7:5 They indeed of the sons of Levi who receive the priest's office have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the Torah, that is, of their brothers, though these have come out of the body of Abraham, 7:6 but he whose genealogy is not counted from them has accepted tithes from Abraham, and has blessed him who has the promises.
These verses will be discussed below in detail. They are referring to the Order of Melchizedek as being above and separate from the Levitical priesthood.
The view that history is perfectly repeating and is reflected in terms of the Hebrew Sanctuary and the details related to it in the Tanakh has several untenable implications. Among these, as Believer in Y'shua we understand that the sacrificial lamb was offered nearly 2000 years ago. Without a sacrifice to offer most of the work of the priesthood becomes unnecessary. Attempts to perfectly identify every aspect of the earthly Sanctuary and apply it to the End Times fails because the sacrifice has already been made circa 30 CE when the Master announced from his stauros (typically translated as a cross) "it is finished" (John 19:30).
Option 3. Non-Earthly Beings
The third most frequently held view is that the twenty-four elders are not human beings at all. It is theorized that they may be angels of various classes, inhabitants of Ouranos we know nothing of thus far, or perhaps beings from worlds that resisted the wiles of Lucifer and never joined his rebellion. There is no reason to assume our planet is the only inhabited one although this view generally assumes we are the focal point of this case. It is conceivable that these elders are our unseen allies from other worlds. Others believe each person has a guardian angel and say these elders are the guardian angels of those in one of the two above options.
Option Three Refutation
The essential problem with this view is that it is entirely conjure with no biblical support.
The Twenty Four Elders and the Melchizedek Priesthood
There is within the pages of Scripture a holy priesthood referenced other than the Levites (of option 2 above). This priesthood is obviously influential and yet very little is revealed about it in Scripture (although a huge amount of conjecture exists out of it!). I believe these twenty four elders are members of this little understood Melchizedek Priesthood as I will now briefly explain. Here is one of those biblical references:
Psalm 110 (a Psalm by David).
110:1 YHVH says to my lord *, "Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool for your feet."
110:2 YHVH will send forth the rod of your strength out of Zion.
Rule in the midst of your enemies.
110:3 Your people will offer themselves willingly in the day of your power, in holy array.
Out of the womb of the morning, you have the dew of your youth.
110:4 YHVH has sworn, and will not change his mind:
"You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek."
110:5 The Lord ** is at your right hand.
He will crush kings in the day of his wrath.
110:6 He will judge among the nations.
He will heap up dead bodies.
He will crush the ruler of the whole earth.
110:7 He will drink of the brook in the way;
therefore he will lift up his head.
(* 110:1: The KJV has this word as Lord. In the original it is adon (pronounced aw-done). It is from an unused root meaning "to rule" and speaks of a controller (human or divine).
(** 110: 5: This time the word Lord is translated from adonay which revers to the Lord (HaShem) rather that to merely one who wields some degree of power or authority (see previous footnote).
The Melchizedek Priesthood eternally serves the lord who sits at the right hand of HaShem (verse 1). That lord serves HaShem by defeating His enemies and ultimately by establishing His Kingdom. Note verse 2. HaShem sends this lord out to accomplish His Will as a rod (mateh) of strength as discussed above. The Houses or mateh of Israel direct the people of HaShem out of Zion. This lord will will wield the mateh of Israel.
Isaiah 11:1 A shoot will come out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots will bear fruit.
11:2 The Spirit of YHVH will rest on him: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of YHVH.
This is the identity of the twenty four elders of Revelation 4:4. They serve Moshiach as lord as he serves HaShem the Lord.
Who are these people? The priestly class of Melchizedek are human beings. They are chosen from among humans throughout the ages and charged with diverse tasks as needed. Doubtless their numbers have included those mentioned in options one and two above, but are not limited to them. In the majority of cases we can assume these people are not even aware of their services to the Order. They simply serve HaShem according to their abilities. Paul refers to these people as the Hinderers of evil:
II Thessalonians 2:6 Now you know what is hindering him until he [i.e. Rex Mundi] is to be revealed in his own season. 2:7 For the mystery of unrighteousness is already at work. Only who is now hindering will continue to hinder until taken out of the way. 2:8 Then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will annihilate with the breath of his mouth, and will destroy by the manifestation of his coming;
All who hinder inequity and thereby stand against the rising tide of evil that will culminate in the appearance of Rex Mundi are potentially members of this Order.
As with all established Orders however there is a hierarchy. The mysterious entity known as Melchizedek is the sole head of the Order that bears his name. That holy servant of God was the first born of all creation (Colossians 1:15). As Psalm 110 says above (verse 3) he arises out of the womb of the morning of creation, the very dawn of existence. Of him we further read:Hebrews 7:1 For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of God Most High, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 7:2 to whom also Abraham divided a tenth part of all (being first, by interpretation, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace; 7:3 without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God), remains a priest continually. 7:4 Now consider how great this man was, to whom even Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth out of the best spoils. 7:5 They indeed of the sons of Levi who receive the priest's office have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the Torah, that is, of their brothers, though these have come out of the body of Abraham, 7:6 but he whose genealogy is not counted from them has accepted tithes from Abraham, and has blessed him who has the promises.
In option two above it is suggested that the Melchizedek priesthood numbers from the 24 divisions of the Levitical priesthood but here that view is discounted as verse 6 specifically tells us the lineage of this priesthood transcends that of the Levites.
The Four and Twenty Elders must therefore reference the leaders of the Melchizedek Priesthood as the final seven years, the Tribulation, begins. Beyond this their identity does not matter because with one accord they seek only to serve Moshiach as he prepares to act!
Are you preparing?