This can get rather lengthy, as we see in ALL our study of Revelation. So I will focus on the difference between the elders and the multitude.
We see in 4:1 there was a portal opened in Heaven! And a voice like a trumpet spoke to John. Then he was in Heaven, he saw a throne like jasper and sardine and an emerald rainbow all around it. Wow! All around the throne were 24 more thrones. The 24 elders were seated on these thrones. There are 4 beasts in this story too, but that’s a WHOLE other study. Let’s take a look at the elder’s description and how it differs from the multitude.
1) Seated on the thrones, 4:4 , indicating their work is done
2) Wearing white robes, made righteous by Yeshua’s Blood
3) Wearing Crowns of gold, indicating royalty
4) Cast their crowns before the Throne, 4:10
5) Each having a harp and golden vial of incense, which are prayers of the saints 5:8
6) ‘Has redeemed us out of every kindred, tongue, people and nation.’ 5:9
7) Has made us Kings and Priests to reign on the Earth 5:10
So we see 7 distinctions which lead me to believe these are the respresentation of the raptured church, the Bride of Christ, US… who love His appearing!
They are in Heaven from chapter 4 on. They are seated indicating a ‘finished work’, and wearing white robes indicating righteousness ( “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
2 Corinthians 5:21 KJV ) Who else is made righteous?
Who else is given crowns? ( Crown of Life Jas 1:12, Rev 2:10 ) ( Crown of Righteousness 2 Tim 4:8 ) ( Crown of Glory, 1 Pet 5:4 ) ( Crown incorruptable, 1 Cor 9:25 ) ( Crown of Rejoicing, 1 Thes 2:19 ) Who else casts them down?
Who else has He redeemed by His Blood to this point? And from all peoples?
And finally, who else are made Kings and Priests, to rule on the Earth?
It is clear that the 24 elders are US who seek Yeshua with all our hearts, AND we are in Heaven before the great tribulation. I also believe it is a literal number, that also represents the Bride as a whole. Like most numbers, they have a literal as well as allegorical meaning. ( see 7 angels, 144 thousand, 70 weeks, etc.
The great multitude are another group, a different group, that come out of the great tribulation. Read this passage, it explains it all…
“After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
Revelation 7:9-14 KJV
The elders were in Heaven, the angels surrounded The Throne, and the 24 elders, and the 4 beasts. One of the ELDERS asked, ‘who are THESE people, and where did they come from?’
So, clearly they were a different group. They are still in Heaven after the 7th angel sounded. 11:16. Still in Heaven when the 144,000 Jews sang a new song before the Throne, and the elders and beasts. 14:3. And still in Heaven when He is about to wrap things up and return to rule. 19:4. I believe we are the bride too, and included in the armies that follow Him on white horses. That’s another study. It’s gonna be fun, people! I can’t wait!
And don’t forget to name your white horse!