The Great Multitude in Heaven: Page 1 of 4 (series: Lessons on Revelation)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

After this I beheld . . . a great multitude stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.

After this I beheld . . . a great multitude stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.

Commentary on the Book of Revelation

By: Tom Lowe Date: 12/10/2015

Lesson: III.B.7.b: The Great Multitude in Heaven (Revelation 7:9-17)

Revelation 7:9-17 (KJV)

9 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;
10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
11 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,
12 Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?
14 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.
15 Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.
16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.
17 For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.

We learned from the first eight verses that there will be souls saved during the tribulation, and that the first contingent will be (144,000) Jews. Here we meet another great multitude, but they are Gentiles, “of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues” (v. 9). This sequence follows God’s plan, namely, “to the Jew first” (Romans 1:16), and then to the Gentile. This redeemed company, then, is neither Israel nor the Church. During this time of Gentile salvation, the Church is with the Lord, having been caught away by Him. She is seen “sitting” around the throne (4:4); these “stood before the throne, and before the Lamb” (v. 9). The number in this throng is beyond counting, as far as man is concerned. The exact number is known to God alone “. . . The Lord knows those who are his, . . .” (2 Timothy 2:19). They are the Gentile converts won to the Messiah as the result of Israel’s restoration, and of whom the Prophet Isaiah wrote (Isaiah 49:10-12; 16:1-3). This throng heard the good news of the gospel of the kingdom for the first time through the 144,000 redeemed children of Israel. It is significant that this group, the 144,000, is only announced, not actually seen.

This “great multitude” of Revelation 7:9-17 are the “sheep nations” of whom Christ spoke in Matthew 25:31-40. The 144,000 witnessing Israelites will be persecuted for their testimony. They will be hungry, thirsty, lonely, in need of clothing, and cast into prison. But those Gentiles who believe their message will stand with them and minister to them so that it is to them Jesus will say, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me” (Matthew 25:40). This throng will be preserved through the tribulation, not kept out of it as the Church will be— “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth” (Revelation 3:10). I know of no place else in Scripture where these are mentioned. They are an elect Gentile remnant in addition to the elect of the Church and of Israel.

9 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;

Here we have the beginning of the vision of the future blessedness of the martyrs. There are five features of this blessedness, but first I should point out that the “great multitude” has come out of the great tribulation predicted in Daniel— “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered” (Daniel 12:1—they are those who have been martyred during the great tribulation period

and those Christian Jews who have come through the tribulation without being martyred; all of God’s faithful followers throughout the generations. No true believer needs to worry about his or her final destination. God includes and protects each one, and all are guaranteed eternal life in His presence. Now, let’s look at those five features:
(1) There is encouragement. There is coming upon the faithful a time of terror such as the world has never seen; and John is telling them that, if they can endure until the end, the glory will be worth all the suffering. He is informing them of how infinitely worthwhile it is in the long run to accept everything involved in the martyrdom which faithfulness must undergo. Every one of them, it seems, pays the price of martyrdom for their faith, yet they thank God for their salvation. They leave life through the terrifying gates of the most horrible deaths that Satan can devise. Beheading, beaten to death, hanging, torture, scalpel, fire, etc. are their means of exodus. But it is all over now! They are saved! They thank God for His grace.
(2) The number of the martyrs is beyond all counting. He may have in mind, the promise that God made to Abraham that his descendents would one day be as numerous as the stars in the heavens (Genesis 15:5), and as the sand of the seashore (Genesis 32:12); at the last, the number of the true Israel (not the nation Israel, but born again believers) will be beyond counting. Someone is sure to say, “You mean to tell me that men couldn’t count that crowd?” What it says is that no one man could number these—and it doesn’t say anything about a computer. It says that no one man could number this crowd because it is such a large crowd. I wouldn’t dare to venture any guess whatsoever, but the size of this multitude is obviously astonishing. It is not a one-man job to number them.
The innumerable host is pictured as martyrs, but this does not mean that nonmartyrs are not there.
(3) John uses a phrase of which he is very fond. He says that God’s faithful ones will come from “all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues,” (5:9; 11:9; 13:7; 14:6; 17: 15) to become one people, the one flock of Jesus Christ. Any evangelist would feel his heart on fire to bring the message of Christ to this assorted crowd of people. Here is the promise that the day will come when all this motley crowd of many nations and many tongues will become the one flock of the Lord Jesus Christ.
(4) It is in victory that the faithful finally arrived in the presence of God and of the Lamb (i.e., God the Son). This is the same group mentioned in 6:9: “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained” (Revelation 6:9). Now that their number is complete, they no longer remain “under the alter” but stand in the “presence of God.” They do not appear, weary, battered and warn, but victorious. The white robes are the sign of victory; a Roman general celebrated his triumph clothed in white. The “white robes” symbolize the righteousness of Christ in which they are clothed. We cannot stand before God in our own righteousness because our own righteousness is like filthy rags, and I do not think you are going to wear filthy rags in the presence of God. The Palm branch is also a sign of victory. Palm branches were used on such occasions. They are celebrating the triumph of having been brought through that awful period of tribulation. This is a picturesque way of telling us that they are both victorious and virtuous. Together these facts add up to a resounding defeat of the devil at the hands of these magnificent martyrs of the faith, who were faithful until the end. So when it is all over, they are seen standing, highly exalted by God, and in a place near His throne. To be permitted to stand before His throne as do His redeemed ones is an honor not to be taken lightly. It is a privilege afforded to none but His own willing subjects. It means that they share in the honor of the Lamb.
The Lord Jesus said in the Olivet Discourse, speaking of this same period, “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13). Did they endure to the end because they gritted their teeth, clinched their fists, and pulled themselves up by their bootstraps? No, they didn’t do that at all—they were sealed by the Holy Spirit.
(5) (The fifth feature belongs with verse 10)

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