The Great Multitude
Revelation 7:9-17
r 07c
Text
Comments
.Re 7:9 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;   Multitude Why are they called this? The source of imagery from Abraham's family is helpful in understanding. See note 9a. For a comparison, note 9b.
  Stood before the throne Note 9c.
  White robes ... palms Victory, note 10.
.10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.   Salvation Praise God!
  God ...throne ... Lamb This reminds us that chapter 7 is part of the grand picture of the seal openings. Compare re0402 (God), and re0506 (Lamb), and re0616, (both).
.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.
  In chapters 4 and 5 we found five praise statements that had this form. This would be another in the series. See the table with 4:8. We find another praise statement at the end of chapter 11, verses 16-18. The elders bow and praise God re1116.
.13 ¶ And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?   What are these? The question is to expand what we know about those in white robes. We saw them in verse 1 but there's more. See note.
.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.   Washed their robes An interesting concept. See note a for this verse.
  Tribulation Often misunderstood. See note b. Note c on perfection may also interest you.
.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.   Serve This scene is equivalent to the one in Rev. 20:6 who serve as kings and priests with Christ. They were in the first resurrection at the return of Christ (1Thess. 4:16, 17). Those translated at that time "live" and reign. Rev. 20:4.
  Temple From naos which shows the temple as the dwelling place of God. The multitude are also the souls under the altar in Rev. 6:9-11. See note a for v15.
  Day and night note b.
16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.   Hunger no more See the promise to the returning exiles is4910.
 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.   The Lamb See note.
.
Previous comments table
Next comments table
General navigation bar below

7:9a
The unnumbered multitude

    "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;" (Rev. 7:9).

   Who are these people and how do they differ from the 144,000? Let's examine the source of the symbolism: "And the angel of the LORD found her [Hagar] by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur. And he said, Hagar, Sarai's maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai. And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands. And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction." (Gen. 16: 7-11).

From every tribe
   As you recall, Abraham's wife Sarai (Sara) had not borne him a child and, contrary to God's plan, he took her maid, Hagar and had a son, Ishmael, by her. Isaac was then born to Sarai and there was conflict between the two women. The descendants of Abraham, through Isaac and Isaac's son Jacob (Israel), became the twelve tribes of Israel. The descendants of Ishmael are the Arabs.
   Thus the comparison in Revelation 7 between the tribes of Israel and the great multitude from every tribe that no man can count. When the children of Israel left Egypt, the non-Israelites who accompanied them, were called the "mixed multitude" (Ex. 12:38) perhaps following the idea of the multitude of Ishmael's children.
   We are aware that God's children are not limited to being Jews or Arabs. These two groups however, both descendants of Abraham who was called out of the land of Ur, symbolize all those who respond to the call of God.
    In simple terms, the 144,000 are the generation of righteous before Jesus comes. They pass through the greatest trials yet remain true by choice. The multitude are all the rest of the saved. They are resurrected at Jesus' coming. Then the 144,000, who are living then, join the multitude and together are swept up to meet Him in the air 1th0416f.
    A table illustrates the complex relationship as I see it.

7:9b
Table comparing the 144,000 and the multitude

   For a better understanding, we here compare two groups of saved people seen a number of times in the Scriptures. It is tempting to believe that God had two standards of righteousness. He has only one, His holy character as described in His law. Not everyone, however, has been privileged to understand that light in its fulness and, I believe, all are judged by the light they have lu1248, ps08706. By the purity of character and commitment, God knows what the response of each totally committed soul would be to more light and saves them by the grace of Christ ro0120.

Imperfect understanding
    Sometimes I realize that we "see through a glass darkly" but we also know that "when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." (1 Cor. 13:12, 10). I do believe I understand the basic relationship between the 144,000 and the multitude, but some of the concepts may be oversimplified. It seems that much of what is said about the multitude can be said about the sealed ones. My father believed that the 144,000 were part of the multitude. Others believe that there are two aspects of the same group. My current thought is that both groups go through a time of trouble and so the description of the multitude fits that of the 144,000. No matter how we might understand some of the fine details, we can prepare our own hearts to stand firm and follow the Lamb wherever He goes.
   Because this table summarizes a number of passages, it is well to study them for better understanding.
 
 
Passages That Compare the Two Groups
Those with great understanding
Those with little understanding
Rev. 6:9-11 Fellow servants who would be perfected Souls under the altar
John 10:14-16 go. Sheep who know the good shepherd and are known by Him Other sheep who, when called will hear His voice
Rev. 7 The 144,000 of Israel sealed before the winds blow. (v. 1-8) The victorious multitude of all nations who come out of tribulation and serve in the temple. (v. 9-17)
Rev. 9:4 Trees Pale-green grass
Rev. 14 and 19 The pure 144,000 who follow the Lamb everywhere and who alone can sing the new song. (14:1-5) The avenged multitude who praise God for judgment and punishment of the prostitute, then announce the marriage. (19:1-7)
Rev. 16:5-7 The angel of the waters who had witnessed God's giving the wicked blood to drink. The voice from the altar declaring the judgments of God to be true and righteous.
Rev. 18:1-8 Those preaching the message of the angel of authority and glory. They receive light at a special time for a dark world (Isa. 60:1-3); they receive the latter rain then prophesy (Joel 2). Those identified as "my people" who are called to come out of Babylon.
Rev. 19:7, 10 The wife of Christ who was washed by him (Eph. 5:25-27) cleansed for the sealing. The fellow servants who are brothers to the souls under the altar.
Rev. 20:4, 5 Those who reign with Christ as judges or kings re2005 Those who reign with Christ as priests

 
Identity of the Two Groups
Those with great understanding
Those with little understanding
Source of symbols for Rev. 7 The tribes of Israel, descendants of Abraham who was called out. Those who descended from Abraham through Ishmael (above)
General classes Those with understanding and commitment to all essential truth. Passages such as those at the right often include more than the first verse which is seen in the link code. Those who have not had opportunity to know much about God but who have responded to the influence of the Spirit in living by the light they have had. ro0119, ac1729, ps08706.
Historical representatives The faithful ones living in the very end time the context of Rev. 7 The faithful ones who have passed to their rest before the time of final test, and those who respond to the final call to come out of Babylon.
Historical representatives seen at the coming of the Lord (1 Thess. 4:16, 17) The righteous living at that time The righteous resurrected
Representatives now in heaven (Rev. 4, 5) The 4 living creatures The 24 elders

 

7:9c
They stood before the throne

   "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;" (Rev. 7:9).

   Standing before a throne implies judgment. The palm branches imply victory, so we would see this as the end of a judgment. In fact, it's the same judgment through which the 144,000 sealed ones have passed. This the same judgment for which white robes were awarded in the previous chapter.

7:10
White robes and palm branches

   ". . . a great multitude . . . stood before the throne and before the Lamb clothed with white robes and palm branches in their hands. And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb." (Rev. 7:9, 10)

White robes,  triumphant picture of victory.
    The white robes seen under the fifth seal were given to those who had to wait for the sealing of their fellow servants re0611.
   "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9). We need both forgiveness and cleansing. When we come to Christ, sorry for our sins and with heart yielded to Him. He covers us with the robe of His own righteousness (Isa. 61:10; Luke 15:22), hiding scars from the evil of the past. At the same time he cleanses us. He lifts us above the wretched sin that has degraded us. This is victory which we may see as represented by palm branches. We then walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4). In the verse above, we have quoted a little from the next verse. Righteousness (robes and palm branches) for salvation belongs to the one on the throne and to the Lamb. Whether forgiveness or strength to obey, the glory is all His! What joy to praise Him.
   We saw the judgment set up with the One on the throne and the Lamb in the middle of the throne who was worthy to open the book. Now the judgment is over. The judge is also our attorney, our counselor, and our rich uncle. He makes His people ready.


Previous
Next
Chapter 7 home
Revelation home
Commentary home