The Multitude No One Could Number

Revelation 7:9-17

vs. 9a After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb… .

I. God gathers the sealed believers of each generation together in heaven after they die. 

None is lost of those who were sealed. “The two visions depict the same body, under widely different conditions.

“In vss. 4-8 the  true Israelites (John 1:17, Rom. 2:29, Gal. 6:16) of a single generation are marshaled under the banners of their several tribes for the campaign which is yet before them.

“In vss. 9-17 all the generations of the faithful appear in their countless numbers, no longer needing the safeguard of the Divine Seal, but triumphant at rest” (See Swete, below).

Census for War

Image of census in Numbers from The Torah.com

The Two Groups Compared — In the previous section, the 144,000 were carefully numbered to show that God knows his own and accounts for each one in every generation. Here, however, the emphasis is upon the vastness of the group from all generations. John heard the other group enumerated. This group could not be so easily counted. It stresses the fact that the redeemed will be a vast throng.

9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude … standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

II. When the saints arrive before the throne, all is well. vs. 9b-10

The saints standing before the throne speaks of sharing in the blessings of the Lamb. To stand before the throne and the Lamb means to have fellowship with, to render service to, and to share in the honor of the Lamb. The countless multitude is clothed with white, flowing robes. The flowing robes indicate festivity, blessedness; their whiteness symbolizes righteousness, holiness (cf. 7:14) (see Hendriksen, p. 112 below). 

John uses the perfect tense of the participles in this verse. They had stood in the past and were still there in the present. They had been clothed in white robes in the past and were still clothed in the present scene. What encouragement this ought to bring to us! Have you been in the background and perhaps overlooked in the past here on earth? Not so in heaven!

dirt-grave-man-used-shovel-to-throw-empty-39475814

Funeral customs have been changed over the years to reduce anguish of relatives. (1) Once the entire congregation witnessed the lowering of the body into the grave; (2) Later the coffin was kept above the grave, but dirt was thrown onto the coffin. 

Personal Experience

In my first church many years ago now, I conducted a difficult funeral. I won’t go into details since they are not pertinent. We had the service at the funeral home, and then proceeded to the cemetery for the interment.

I read Scripture appropriate to the resurrection of believers in the future. Then came the words of committal — “In as much as it has pleased Almighty God to take out of this world, the soul of  _______, we commit ____ body to the ground… .” I didn’t get to finish the sentence immediately. A relative shrieked out in anguish. I went on — “in sure and certain hope of the resurrection … unto eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

From that moment on, I have never used that wording at a committal. I was a Presbyterian then and I could get away with altering Prayer Book words. Instead I fused two Westminster Shorter Catechism answers with the above committal to read — 

In as much as it has pleased Almighty God to take out of this world, the soul of _______, we commit ____ body to the the Lord knowing that … the souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection. At that great resurrection, believers being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment, and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity. (see Book of Common Prayer (1928); Westminster Shorter Catechism, Questions 37 & 38, below).

Let me add, I have never had a shriek again at a graveside! There is the hope of resurrection for all the sealed of God!

Palms and white robes

III. What the multitude carries and what they wear show victory has been achieved.

The multitude held Palm Branches. Palm branches were used in the feasts as a sign of joy and victory. Swete’s comment on the vision of vs. 9ff. is worth noting —

“The scene of vii. 9 ff. anticipates the final condition of redeemed humanity. Like the Transfiguration before the Passion, it prepares the Seer to face the evil which is to come” (See, Johnson, p. 100).

This view of the Church Triumphant gathered before the throne of God encourages us to endure and triumph over evil in our time.

The multitude wears White Robes. The white robes are given to the saint as he or she arrives in heaven after death. White speaks of righteousness — the righteousness of Christ. 

In the next post we will apply the teaching of this chapter to the comfort and encouragement of God’s people in trial and persecution.

Notes

Book of Common Prayer. (1928). “The Order for The Burial of the Dead.” Accessed 6 April 2020 from https://www.bcponline.org/ 

Hendriksen, Wm. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Johnson, A. F. (1996). Revelation (Expositor’s Bible Commentary series). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing Co.

Swete, H. B. (1906). The Apocalypse of St John. London, UK: Macmillan and Co.

Westminster Shorter Catechism. (1648). Questions 38 & 39. General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Accessed 6 April 2020 from https://www.apuritansmind.com/westminster-standards/shorter-catechism/

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

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