Who are the twenty four elders in Revelation?
Traditionally they are the symbolic representation of 12 tribes of Israel and 12 Apostles representing the entire church from Adam to the end of the world is very easy to ascribe to. Besides the winged creatures are often thought as angels so all the more reason to consider the 24 elders (a name given to church members) as symbolic of humans, not angels.
For anyone open to the Catholic interpretation, the following is offered.
Many non-Catholic as well as Catholic scholars have noticed that the whole structure of Revelation is a big Passover liturgy where Christ, the Priest King, the firstborn Son and the Lamb looking as though it's been slain conducts and celebrates the heavenly liturgy. And the earthly liturgy is meant to be a reflection in that, a participation in that, and the early Church took it for granted.
In Chapter 4, verse 8 of Revelation we read:
8 Each of the four figures had six wings, with eyes everywhere looking outwards and inwards; day and night they cried unceasingly, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who ever was, and is, and is still to come. 9 And as often as these figures gave glory and honour and blessing to him who sat on the throne, who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fell down in worship before him who sat on the throne, who lives for ever and ever, and threw down their crowns before the throne, crying out,3 11 Thou, our Lord God, claimest as thy due glory and honour and power; by thee all things were created; nothing ever was, nothing was ever created, but in obedience to thy will.
Catholic theology understands the number of the elders (24) to be both the 12 tribes of Israel, as well as the 12 Apostles. The 12 tribes are symbolic of all of God’s children in the Old Testament, or before Christ. It obviously follows that the 12 Apostles represent all of God’s elect until the end of the world. This is a perfect example of how St. John uses numeric signs and symbols throughout his Apocalypse.
The footnote entry for Revelation 4:8 in the New American Version (Catholic bible) is as follows:
[4:1–11] The seer now describes a vision of the heavenly court in worship of God enthroned. He reverently avoids naming or describing God but pictures twenty-four elders in priestly and regal attire (Rev 4:4) and God’s throne and its surroundings made of precious gems and other symbols that traditionally express the majesty of God (Rev 4:5–6). Universal creation is represented by the four living creatures (Rev 4:6–7). Along with the twenty-four elders, they praise God unceasingly in humble adoration (Rev 4:8–11).
Twenty-four elders: these represent the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles; cf. Rev 21:12–14.
In his General Audience of Jan. 12, 2005, Pope Saint John Paul II the Great preaches a sermon entitled By the Blood of the Lamb. He begins his edifying exposition of this perennial Catholic doctrine by commenting on how the 24 elders represent the worship of God’s chosen people:
1.The hymn that has just resounded ideally comes down from heaven. In fact, the Book of Revelation that presents it links the first part (cf. 11: 17-18) to the "twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God" (11: 16), and in the second strophe (cf. 12: 10-12) to "a loud voice in heaven" (12: 10). We are thus involved in a grandiose portrayal of the divine court where God and the Lamb, that is, Christ, surrounded by the "Council of the Crown", judge human history in good and in evil but also reveal history's ultimate end of salvation and glory. The role of the Canticles that spangle the Book of Revelation is to illustrate the topic of the divine lordship that controls the often bewildering flow of human events.
2.In this regard, the first passage of our Canticle is significant. It is set on the lips of the 24 elders who seem to symbolize God's Chosen People in their two historical phases, the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 Apostles of the Church. Now, the almighty and eternal Lord God "has taken [his] great power and begun to reign" (11: 17). His entry into history does not only aim to curb the violent reactions of rebels (cf. Ps 2: 1, 5), but above all to exalt and reward the just. These are defined with a series of words used to describe the spiritual features of Christians. They are "servants" who comply faithfully with the divine law; they are "prophets", endowed with the revealed word that interprets and judges history; they are "saints", consecrated to God, who revere his name, that is, they are ready to adore him and to do his will. Among them there are "small and great", an expression dear to the author of the Book of Revelation (cf. 13: 16; 19: 5, 18; 20: 12) which he uses to designate the People of God in its unity and variety.
Other interpretations do exist. Some hold that the Twenty-Four Elders are angels.
Revelation 4:4 declares, “Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads.” The book of Revelation nowhere specifically identifies who the twenty-four elders are. However, they are most likely representative of the Church. It is unlikely that they are angelic beings, as some suggest. The fact that they sit on thrones indicates that they reign with Christ. Nowhere in Scripture do angels ever rule or sit on thrones. The Church, however, is repeatedly said to rule and reign with Christ (Revelation 2:26-27, 5:10, 20:4; Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30).
In addition, the Greek word translated here as “elders” is never used to refer to angels, only to men, particularly to men of a certain age who are mature and able to rule the Church. The word elder would be inappropriate to refer to angels, who do not age. Their mode of dress would also indicate these are men. While angels do appear in white, white garments are more commonly found on believers, symbolizing Christ’s righteousness imputed to us at salvation (Revelation 3:5,18; 19:8).
The golden crowns worn by the elders also indicate these are men, not angels. Crowns are never promised to angels, nor are angels ever seen wearing them. The word translated “crown” here refers to the victor’s crown, worn by those who have successfully competed and won the victory, as Christ promised (Revelation 2:10; 2 Timothy 4:8; James 1:12).
Some people believe these twenty-four elders represent Israel, but at the time of this vision, Israel as a whole nation had not yet been redeemed. The elders cannot represent tribulation saints for the same reason—not all had yet been converted at the time of John’s vision. The most likely option is that the elders represent the raptured Church which sings songs of redemption (Revelation 5:8-10). They wear the crowns of victory and have gone to the place prepared for them by their Redeemer (John 14:1-4). - "Who are the twenty-four (24) elders in Revelation?"
The Coptic Orthodox commemorates the twenty-four Elders of Revelation on Hator 24 (Coptic Liturgical Calendar): The Commemoration of the Twenty-Four Priests.
On this day, we commemorate the twenty-four incorporeal priests of the Most High, who are sitting around His throne. They are exalted above all the saints and the spiritual hosts. Because of their closeness to God, they intercede on behalf of the human race and offer the prayers of the saints as incense, in the golden censers in their hands, before the Glorious and Blessed Lord.
The fathers of the church arranged this feast to commemorate them.
Their intercession be for us and Glory be to our God forever. Amen.
In the end, one can say that no one answer is the absolute perfect response to this question.