This is the first painting of the Chapel series painted by John Cobb. The Elder is Reverend Hartness who was a Presbyterian pastor (hence, “Elder”) John met in a nursing home. He is dressed in a white jumpsuit, bearing a halo, and sitting on a bench. A bit of reflection will remind us of the biblical description of the 24 elders around the throne of God. 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. Nowhere in Scripture do angels ever rule or sit on thrones. These ruling elders are most likely representative of the Church (perhaps referring to the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve disciples of Christ). The fact that they sit on thrones indicates that they reign with Christ. And it is the Church that is repeatedly said to rule and reign with Christ (Revelation 2:26-27, 5:10, 20:4; Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30).
So The Elder does not just represent an honor or reward of an individual godly pastor, for there is also another man, another elder, seated beside him. Only the right half of this elder is seen, but the image suggests a group and the larger idea of “good government”—the godly rule of the twenty-four elders.