The Great Multitude – Rev 7:9-17

In Revelation 7, the progression of thought is from Israel to a great multitude. First, we see Israel being sealed. Then, we find a new scene being introduced: an innumerable amount of people with white robes. As we’ve discussed back in Revelation 3:5, the white robes seem to be an illustration of resurrection. Of course, we see that the white robes are “the righteous acts of the saints” in Rev 19:8, if we grant that the fine linen given to the Bride is the same as these white robes. Notice, though, that the context of these white robes is never displayed as obtaining them before the coming of Christ. In chapter 6 we saw the martyrs crying out (fifth seal), and they were given white robes. This is placed just before the return of Christ – most likely the resurrection that Paul addresses in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, where the dead will rise first.

After these things I looked and behold a great multitude, which no one was able to number, out of every nation and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and the Lamb, having been clothed with white robes, and palm branches in their hands. And crying with a loud voice saying, “Salvation to our God sitting on the throne and to the Lamb!” And all the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and they all fell before the throne upon their faces and worshiped God saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength to our God to the ages of the ages! Amen.”

This great multitude is μετα – after and with. It is after the sealing in progression of vision, but this multitude is to be understood as “with” the 144,000. They are only distinguished by symbolism, namely, what the 144,000 represent. These two groups are united. The one represents the first fruits of “all Israel”, and the other represents all who came out of the Great Tribulation (verse 14). We can see in Romans 11 and Ephesians 2:12-16 this concept of the two coming together.

Having palm branches signifies the Feast of Tabernacles. The apostle John uses the language of the feasts quite regularly, focusing in upon their messianic and prophetic significance. He points out Jesus as our Passover Lamb (dying at the exact moment the lambs were being slain), our first fruits (resurrecting three days later, on the day after the Sabbath), Christ is our sacrifice of atonement and our scapegoat (the significance being that he not only made atonement for us, but also for the whole world – just like the Day of Atonement was for the sins of the whole nation of Israel), Jesus returns at the Last Trump (signifying the Feast of Trumpets), and finally we see here with the metaphor of the Millennial Kingdom that the multitude wave palm branches.

When we go to Leviticus 23:40, we find the command to wave these branches. The disciples used this as a metaphor for both the triumphal entry (John 12:13) and the second coming (as seen here). The idea of the Feast of Tabernacles is that God has “tabernacled” with us. We see this language in the Gospel of John, at the very beginning in 1:14. He has “tabernacled” with us. Yet, there is still a future expectation of His return, which also is quite emphasized in John’s Gospel. It is to that return that we believe God to actually dwell with us.

Leviticus 26:11-12 gives the promise that God will actually dwell among His people and walk in their midst. How is it that God will actually walk in the midst of His people? There is the obvious connotation to get us back to Genesis, in the Garden of Eden, where God walked in the cool of the day. However, even with God walking in the Garden, the question is posed, “How can a God who is spirit walk upon the earth?” The answer is found in Isaiah 9:6. We read that a child will be born, which implies humanity. Yet, one of the names of this child is “Mighty God.” You don’t give a mere human being the title of “Mighty God”. That title is for HaShem alone. So, we find this implicit. Unto us a child will be born – human – and he will be called Might God – incarnation. The Feast of Tabernacles has been fulfilled. Here it is that Jesus has returned and God walks in our midst. God Himself is in our midst.

Compare the praise given by this multitude to the praise found later in Rev 12:10 and 19:1. It is derived from Psalm 3:8. Interesting that on the Feast of Tabernacles, on the last and greatest day, the crowd would chant hosanna (God save us!) louder and louder as the high priest poured out living water and wine down the isle of the sanctuary. We find later in Rev 22:1, we read of a river of life flowing from the throne of God – more Tabernacles language. Here the cry of “God save us” is no longer heard. Now the praise is unto the God who has saved.

And one of the elders answered saying to me, “Who are these having been clothed with white robes, and from where do they come?” And I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are those coming out of the Great Tribulation, and they washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Because of this, ‘they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple, and the One sitting on the throne will tabernacle over them. They will not hunger any more, neither will they thirst anymore, nor shall the sun fall upon them, nor any scorching heat, because the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them, and he will lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’

We can compare this question of who this multitude is with the question Joshua asks in Joshua 9:8. Jonah 1:8 also holds a similar way of posing the question, when the sailors ask Jonah to tell them about himself.

John calls the angel – this elder – his Lord (κυριε). See Genesis 19:2, Daniel 10:16, Zechariah 1:9, and in addressing a man, Gen 23:6, 31:35, and John 12:21. Compare this statement to Ezekiel 37:3.

The “great tribulation” seems to recall Daniel 12:1, Matthew 24:29, and Mark 13:19, where we read of “unequalled distress”. Only here in all of Scripture is it called “the Great Tribulation”, to be distinct from all other tribulation mentioned in 1:9. “Ye shall have tribulation”, but this one is something altogether different. This one is unequalled from any other time in history, and therefore cannot be placed in the past (what event do we dare to say is “unequalled”, and by what right do we claim there will not be a greater in the future?).

The statement “in the blood of the Lamb” should probably be “through the blood”. Compare 12:11. See also 1 John 1:7, Romans 3:25, 5:9, Hebrews 9:14, 1 Peter 1:2, Exodus 19:10, 14, Isaiah 1:8, and 1 Corinthians 6:11.

This final and glorious three-verse explanation has much reference to both the Feast of Tabernacles and the book of Isaiah. For this service day and night see Philippians 3:3, Acts 24:7, Romans 9:4, and 12:1. This goes back to Revelation 4 – the throne room being the Holy of Holies. The eternal service unto God is one of servanthood, which is ruling. This cannot be New Jerusalem. There has to be an intermediate stage between the end of the age and New Jerusalem, where the Christ will reign and we will reign with Him. This kind of service cannot happen at the New Jerusalem, because in 21:22, we read that there is no more night in the New Jerusalem. There absolutely must be some sort of segueing between this age and that age – found in the Millennial Kingdom.

The “tabernacling over”, or “spreading a tent over” comes from Isaiah 4:5-6 and 30:22. It represents a chuppa, which is signifying marriage. Examine Isaiah 62:4-5 for this marriage of God unto the Land and His people. This denotes marriage as well as protection. Once again, this language of tabernacle goes back to the completion of the Feast of Tabernacles.

Compare verse 16 with Isaiah 49:10. Also se Psalm 121:6. For thirst, see John 4:14, and see Rev 7:17 – “He will lead them to springs…” All of this once again goes back to the Feast of Tabernacles, not only because the final day has the pouring out of the living water, but because throughout the week they are teaching and learning of how salvation and living water are paralleled, and how God is the one who brings us to streams of living water, and how God’s Spirit is likened to Living Water. While all of this is being taught, the people are living in “booths” (tabernacles) to remember what it was like to come out of Egypt and live in tents. It is a reminder of the old tent, which we can see in 2 Corinthians 5:1-4 is our natural bodies we currently preside in. God dwelt among us in a tabernacle as well, but that kind of dwelling could never be the expected glory that was promised. We, with the Israelites, look forward to a day when God will dwell upon the earth in unadulterated splendor, and we will be clothed in new bodies – incorruptible – to see Him face-to-face and yet live.

Compare Revelation 7:17 with Ezekiel 34:23-24, John 10:11, 14, Hebrews 13:20, 1 Peter 2:25, Isaiah 40:11, and Psalm 23:1, 3. “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” – see Isaiah 25:8.

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2 thoughts on “The Great Multitude – Rev 7:9-17

  1. Hello again TJustincomer,

    I thought that I would also put my two cents in regarding the “Great Multitude”. But instead of responding to what you have written, I decided to just list my understand regarding this group which no man can count and the 144,000.

    First of all, I would like to point out that, from chapter 1 through the very last word of chapter 3 the word “Ekklesia” translated as “Church” is found thoughout those chapters. To the contrary, the word “Hagios” translated as “Saints” is nowhere to be found within those first three chapters. Likewise, from chapter 4 on, the word Hagios/saints appears throughout the rest of the narrative and we never see the word Ekklesia/church listed ever again until outside of the narrative in chapt.22:16 and mentioned as the Bride in 19:7. In the gospels, both the words church and saints are used interchangeably, but here in Revelation it appears that God is making a distintction between these two groups. Keeping that in mind …..

    In Rev.7 we are first intoduced to a group numbering 144,000 who are sealed out of Israel. I will leave off with them for now and expound on the next group.

    ==========================================================
    “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”

    “Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

    I answered, “Sir, you are the one who knows.”

    And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
    ==========================================================

    The fact that it is said that this group is from every nation, tribe, people and language first demonstrates that they are gentile believers. Also, the very fact that they are being introduced tells us that this group is not the church, for earlier John was told to write letters to the seven churches. It would therefore make no sense for John and the readers to be reintroduced to the church after the fact. Furthermore, John was asked who this group is and his response is that he didn’t know, which would also demonstrate that they are not the church. The elder then goes on to give John the answer to the question, that they are those who have come out of the great tribulation. And the fact that they are referred to as saints throughout Revelation makes them the great tribulation saints (GTS), ergo, not the church. Furthermore, it would not be in God’s nature to build his church and then send the living church through his wrath.

    Another reason why the GTS cannot be representing the church is because, we as individual believers belonging to the church are not appointed to suffer wrath (1 Thes.5:9), which means that we will not even be exposed to the seals, trumpets and bowl judgments, which make up the wrath of God. In contrast the GTS, though believers in Christ who are not the church, will have become believers after the resurrection and catching away and therefore will be exposed to the beast, his mark, the false prophet and all of the judgments that will be taking place on earth. We know from Rev.7:16 that the GTS are exposed to God’s wrath from the following:

    “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat.”

    In the verse above, the mention of them never hungering again would be reminiscent of the third seal famine, that they will never thirst again would be reminiscent of the third trumpet where a third of the waters are made bitter, as well as when God turns the ocean and fresh waters into literal blood at bowls 2 and 3, and where the mention of the sun or any scorching heat will no longer beat down on them, would be reminiscent of the fourth bowl judgment, where the inhabitants of the earth are scortched with intense heat from sun. The GTS is the same group that are in view in the following Scripture:

    “And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” (Rev.20:4-6)

    What can be deduced from the Scripture above is that, those who are beheaded and then resurrected do not include people from all walks of history, but only those saints who will be living during the time of the beast, who are said to resist him, his mark and his image, which will result in their being killed.

    The obvious absence of the word church throughout the narrative from chapter 4 on would demonstrate that the church is gone before God’s wrath begins. For there are many places within Scripture from chapter 4 on where the word church could easily replace the word saint, but we never see that. That the word church is used over an over again throughout chapter 1 & 3 and then is never used again is meant to get our attention. It’s one of God’s many clues.

    The 144,000:

    One of the most common errors that I see regarding the interpretation of this group is that the number 144,000 is spiritualized to represent an unknown amount. My response to that is, God has made every effort to convey to the reader that the number is exactly 144,000. Regarding this group John says:

    “I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel”

    After he reveals their number, he then gives us a break-down of that 144,000 citing 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes listed. A good rule of thumb is that when Scripture goes into detail on any given biblical subject, then the literal is what meant. A good example of this are those who allegorize the New Jerusalem, so that it is no longer a real city, regardless of the great details listed in chapters 21 & 22. And of course expositors do the same thing with the thousand years of Satan’s binding and Christ’s thousand year reign, which are synonymous and that even though the thousand years is mentioned six times.

    The 144,000 are a specific group who are the first fruits to God that come out of the nation Israel, ergo, gives birth to. Many will and do disagree with what I am about to say, but the Male child is a collective name for the 144,000. The 144,000 are sealed in chapter 7, then they being referred to as the Male child, are caught up to God and to his throne before the dragon/Satan can devour them. This takes place at the middle of Daniel’s last seven. In chapter 14, we see the same 144,000 with Jesus after they will have been caught up. I would also like to point out that regarding these 144,000 it is said regarding them that “These are those who did not defile themselves with women” demonstrating that they are all males, ergo, Male child.

    Who is the woman that gives birth to the Maile child?

    “A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.” (Rev.12:1-2)

    Just like with most symbolism found in Scripture, God always provides the literal meaning behind the symboles elsewhere in Scripture, as can be garnered from the following:

    ===================================================
    “Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”

    When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” (Gen.37:9-10)

    ===================================================

    The woman in Revlation 12 is said to be clothed with the sun, with the moon under feet and is wearing a crown of twelve stars on her head. Joseph’s dream is meant to give us the answer to who the woman is by identifying the meaning of the sun, moon and stars, which Jacob gives us.

    Jacob = Sun

    Wive(s) = Moon

    Twelve stars = Jacobs son’s (Twelve tribes of Israel)

    Therefore, the woman as a whole represents the nation Israel who gives birth to the Male child, which will be those first fruits, the 144,000 who are sealed from the twelve tribes of Israel. There are marny who teach that Jesus is the Male child, but the fact is Jesus does fit the criteria. Let’s do a comparison between Jesus and the Male child.

    It is stated that the dragon/Satan is standing before the woman (Israel) to devour her child the moment she gives birth. The woman gives birth to a Male child and it is “caught up” to God and to his throne before the dragon/Satan can devour/kill it. Is this what happeneed to Jesus? No! In keeping with the theme of the Scripture, Jesus was crucified/devoured. He then resurrected and later ascended to the right hand of God the Father. The Male child is caught up to God alive. In fact, though it is not mentioned, I believe that the Male child is changed in a moment and caught up just like the living church will have been. The woman (Israel) who gives birth to the Male child flees out into the desert to that place prepared for her by God as shown in Mt.24:15-21, Rev.12:6,14. Her fleeing is synonymous with the setting up of the abomination in the holy place which causes the desolation of the woman. Since Satan couldn’t get her child, he goes after the woman by sending water like a flood which is figurative for sending an army after the woman, but God protects her and she is cared for out in the desert for that last 3 1/2 unitl the Lord returns to end the age.

    Anyways, that is my take regarding these issues. My apologies for the length

    Yours in Christ!

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    1. I personally think that the pre-trib rapture idea is anathema, and that it only goes to show our arrogance. Tribulation is not the same as wrath. Tribulation is what the world does to the saints, and not what God does to the world. This is why Jesus tells His disciples that ‘you shall have tribulation’ (Jn 16:33). John even attests to that he was undergoing tribulation while he was writing (Rev 1:9). What distinguishes John’s tribulation from ‘the great tribulation’ is the magnanimity. Jesus spoke of a time ‘unparalleled’, which comes directly from Daniel 12:1. 1 Thessalonians is Paul’s exegesis of Jesus’ words in Matthew 24-25, as attested to that he follows the exact same pattern. The same wording is used in Jesus’ coming in the clouds and the Church’s rapture, then, just as Jesus does, Paul explains that the day shall come like a thief. Paul is speaking of the exact same event that Jesus is speaking of, which necessitates the Church to be here during the tribulation. We are not appointed to wrath, yes, just like Israel didn’t endure the plagues in Exodus.
      While it is true that we don’t see the Greek ecclesia, I can’t agree that this means the saints are not the church. For example, in Rev 12:6 when the woman (Israel) is fleeing into the wilderness, it says that THEY shall take care of her for 1,260 days. Who are the ‘they’? It cannot be the 144,000, for the manchild according to you has already been caught up and raptured away. So who takes care of the woman? It can’t be the very people who desire her ruin. No, God has prepared a people who shall take her in, that people being the Church of Jesus Christ, and any idea that will scoff that destiny is antichrist in nature. This is what has been revealed through the prophets of the Old Testament, what the apostles taught, and most importantly what Christ Himself had declared. Just because the language is not clear-cut doesn’t then conclude that the church is not present. The wise of Daniel 11:33-35, 12:3 are taken up as being the church in Philippians 2:15. Micah 5:3 speaks of Israel being cast off temporarily until the time of her brothers (the Church, Rom 11:25) return to join the Israelites.

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