Rev 7:15                               A Great Multitude                                        7/17/2005      ßà   

  • A Vision in Heaven (Rev 7:9-17, Gen 22:17, Gal 3:29)

 

 

 

#1.       Out of All Nations (Rev 7:9, Mat 28:19-20, Rom 10:17)

 

 

 

  • Those Who Washed Their Robes (Rev 7:13-14)

 

 

 

  • Out of Great Tribulation (Rev 7:14, Mat 24:21, Phil 1:29, Rom 8:17)

 

 

 

  • Are There Two Different Groups of Saints? (Rev 7:15)

 

 

 

#2.       The Blessed State of This Great Multitude (Rev 7:15)

 

 

 

  • They Shall Lack Nothing (Rev 7:16, Psalm 37:4)

 

 

 

#3.       For the Lamb Shall Feed Them (Rev 7:17, 1Cor 15:27-28)

 

 

 

  • A Little Persecution Quickly Passes Away (Rom 8:17-18, Isa 43:2, 2Cor 1:4, Rom 11:33)

 

Please open your Bibles to the Revelation of Jesus Christ, Rev 7:9 (2X). Last week we saw that the 144,000 servants of God were sealed on their foreheads. This number 144,000 is only symbolic of all the saints on this earth at any given time. God gave John that vision, but that vision was on this earth. In the passage today God gave John a vision in heaven. In this vision John saw “A Great Multitude”, and therefore the title of this sermon is called, A Great Multitude (2X). What did John see? It was:

  • A Vision in Heaven (Rev 7:9-17, Gen 22:17, Gal 3:29)

And here we see a throng without number. When we read the words, “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number”, then the words “After this” indicate that this was not a continuation of the vision in the previous paragraph, but that this was a new vision. A vision in heaven:

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;

Re 7:10-11  And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.             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,

Re 7:12-13  Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.          And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?

Re 7:14  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.

Re 7:15-16  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.                   They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.

Re 7:17  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.

 Please turn in your Bibles to Gen 22:17 (2X). When God says in Rev 7:9, “a multitude which no man could number, it does not mean that this number was infinite, or that it was not a definite number. As you know that is not possible, because only a remnant of this earth’s population will be saved, and this earth contains a definite number of people. But what it means is that the throng that John beheld was so great, so immense, that the very attempt to count them seemed folly and impossible. God uses this expression like when He says to Abraham that “He will multiply his seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is on the seashore”. For example we can read here this glorious promise of God to Abraham in Gen 22:17, “That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies”. God says, “Look up at the stars”. With the naked eye man can see about 5000 to 10,000 stars. Obviously, God did not mean that. But with a telescope we can see that there are many more. The total number of stars in our Milky Way has been estimated by astronomers to be between 30 to 40 billion stars. Obviously, that is also not what God meant, because that is more than all the people who have ever lived on this earth. And so you see that God never intended us to apply His words in a literal sense, but in a symbolic sense. Please turn again to the prophecy of Rev 7:9 (2X). Also God did not mean to say that there are exactly as many stars in the Milky Way as there are grains of sand that is on the seashore. That is ridiculous. God also did not mean to say that the number of Christians is a secretive number, like you may have heard on the radio. That is also ridiculous. But the meaning of God’s words to Abraham is that the number of his seed will be so large that it seems folly for any man even to attempt to count them. So it is with this great multitude which John beheld. It is so immense that the very attempt to number them seems foolishness. This number cannot refer to the physical children of Israel, because there are not that many. This number also cannot refer to the spiritual Israel on this earth, since their number is within our reach, and their number may be expressed in the definite number of 144,000, even though it is meant only in a symbolic way. But here, in this vision in heaven, we see for the first time the fulfillment of that glorious promise to Abraham, for John beholds a numberless multitude. Here in this vision in Heaven we see all the believers, all the saints that have ever lived standing before the throne of God. All these are called Abraham’s seed, because we read in Gal 3:29, “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”. Moreover, we see that this great multitude was drawn:

#1.       Out of All Nations (Rev 7:9, Mat 28:19-20, Rom 10:17)

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;

Please turn in your Bibles to the Gospel according to Matthew, Mat 28:19 (2X). The Lord has His people among all the nations of the earth. And there is no reason why we should not take these words literally. But this truth has an important corollary Since God’s chosen people are hidden in all the nations of the earth, the church, or better WE have the mandate to preach the Gospel to all nations and people and tongues. And this is in full agreement with what the Lord Jesus said in Mat 28:19 (2X),

Mat 28:19-20  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:       Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Make disciples out of all nations” is the command from the Lord Jesus. Since therefore these elect must be called by the Word of the Gospel that Word must be preached to all nations without distinction. God gave us a little insight in how His grace is applied to each one of His elect. God says in Rom 10:17, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”. You see, the salvation by grace through faith occurs through the hearing of the Gospel to those whom God intended to save. Please turn again to the prophecy of Revelation, Rev 7:9 (2X). And so, all these passages give us an added insight into the individuality of each person in this great multitude. It shows that national and tribal characteristics shall be plainly visible and represented in the numberless multitude. It is the Lord’s will that the human race should develop into many tribes and nations. Not one nation forms the organism of the human race all by itself, but all together form that organism. And therefore the beauty of that organism shines forth in the combination of all the characteristics of each and every nation together. Therefore also the Jews are included in this great multitude. Nowhere in the Word of God do we read about a separate Jewish multitude. Therefore it is a glorious harmony of all nations, each with its peculiar characteristics, but all having the same characteristic in that they are all of Christ, and they are all in glory. And so this vision applies to a time in the future, when all of God’s elect will have been saved and brought into God’s holy Heaven. And then we see that they all are arrayed in white robes, and having palms in their hands. You mean palms? Entire palm trees? Yes indeed! There is no other way the Greek word in this place can be translated. And thus it means that in the new creation we will have new bodies, but those bodies do not resemble at all the bodies that we have on earth. We will have no trouble holding entire palm trees in our hands. And that they are arrayed in white robes indicates that they are purified of sin and of all the effects of sin. John stands amazed at the sight of this great multitude, and he is wondering about their identity. And one of the elders who stands around the throne asks John if he knows who they are. John does not know. And the elder says, They are:

  • Those Who Washed Their Robes (Rev 7:13-14)

Re 7:13 ¶  And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?

Re 7:14  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.

They themselves washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. This is what the Greek text says. You understand that it does not mean that they have saved themselves. This cannot be. The people of God do not save themselves, and they do not obtain forgiveness of their sins by their own efforts, and they are not delivered from corruption through their own efforts, for salvation belongs to the Lord. Christ washed them in His own redeeming blood. But what then do we understand it to mean that they themselves washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb? Let us remember that through the Holy Spirit we receive the power of faith; and through that power of faith we consciously cling to Christ, we are rooted in Him, we draw from Him all that we need, all the blessings of salvation. Through faith we become active in the process of our sanctification. Through faith we appropriate Christ and all His benefits. Through faith we consciously go to the blood of Christ to ask forgiveness for our sins, which means to wash our robes. All these benefits we obtain through prayer, through studying the Bible, through worship of Christ in the Spirit, and through doing those things that are pleasing in His sight. And all this is the normal Christian life. And if you do not recognize this active side of your Christian life, then perhaps you should worry whether you truly have been saved. But if we have received this power of faith, then we are represented there among this great multitude, who have thus washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. There they stand, pure and holy, having gained the victory in the battle of faith. And let us remember where they stand. They stand before the throne of God and of the Lamb. They stand in the place where the glory of Almighty God and of the Lamb shines forth. They stand where the 24 elders worship and where all the new creation, with the mighty angels, praises the name of the God of their salvation. It is the new perfected Kingdom of glory. And we also must remember their origin, where they came from. This great multitude have all come:

  • Out of Great Tribulation (Rev 7:14, Mat 24:21, Phil 1:29, Rom 8:17)

Re 7:14  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.

Actually the Greek text says, “Out of the great tribulation”. To understand this fully we must remember the general purpose of this prophecy of Revelation. God gives us pictures of events, which are under the control of Christ, and which must lead to the completion of the Kingdom of God. These events cover the entire NT era. Nevertheless, they will increase in intensity and in number as the time draws near that the Lord shall return to establish the Kingdom of glory forever. This also applies to the great tribulation. In the narrowest sense of the word, this phrase calls to mind the period of the Final Tribulation immediately before the 2nd coming of Christ. There is no doubt that there shall be a period of great tribulation for the people of God, such as has never been before. But the nature of this great tribulation we must leave for another time. Nevertheless, we must not conceive of this great tribulation as standing by itself. It is only the climax, the ultimate manifestation of the worldly power, which always was filled with bitter hatred against Christ and against His church in the world. And therefore, this great tribulation is in the process of formation all the time throughout the entire NT era. In a wider sense of the word, this tribulation spoken of in Rev 7:14 includes those minor persecutions to which the people of God have already been subjected. There was persecution during the Roman emperors, and there was persecution immediately before as well as during the time of the Reformation. All these were just minor in comparison to the last and great final tribulation. And this is not my opinion, but these are the words of the Lord Jesus when He said in Mat 24:21, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be”. But the King James translators conveyed the message of Rev 7:14 correctly, because in the broadest sense of the word we should include in this term all the tribulations of God’s people throughout the ages. In principle, all the people of God are always enduring great tribulation. That is a given. God says in Phil 1:29, “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake”. God says in Rom 8:17, “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint–heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together”. The reason for this is that the power of Antichrist was already in the world at the time of John, and he has been in the world ever since. That power of Antichrist is always filled with enmity against God and His Christ and against the people of God , and he is always out to destroy the Kingdom of Christ. Therefore the children of God have always a battle to fight, if they are faithful. It is the battle against sin inside, and against the power of evil outside. And always the words of the Lord Jesus are true, when He said that we must take up our cross, deny ourselves, and follow Him in the path of tribulation, if we would be His disciples.

  • Are There Two Different Groups of Saints? (Rev 7:15)

Now we have to face another question: What is the relation between the 144,000 who were sealed and those who are in the great multitude? The answer is that those two groups are not two different classes of people, but in principle they are the same. How do we know this? First of all we know that the great tribulation is one of the main ideas in both groups of people. In fact, this is the reason why both groups of people are brought up. The purpose of both visions in chapter 7 is to reveal to the church their precarious position in the world, and nevertheless to assure the church their safety over against that great tribulation. The only difference is that the 144,000 are still facing that tribulation, whereas the great multitude has already passed through it. One group is in the midst of tribulation, and the other group is pictured as having already experienced it and have overcome. In the first vision they are upon the earth; in the second vision they are already in glory. But it is the same group of people.

Secondly, how can we explain the difference in number of the two groups? The answer is that the 144,000 is the symbolic number of God’s elect as they are in the world at any given time. But the great multitude without number represents the people of God of all the centuries added together. At the time of John the 144,000 existed as representing all the faithful who lived at that time. During the persecution under the Roman Empire the 144,000 were there. During the time of the Reformation the 144,000 were there. And today we also have the 144,000 present. There may be fewer faithful now than there have ever been, but their number is symbolically given as 144,000. And thus we should remember that the 144,000 are all the elect existing in the world at any moment in time. In every generation there are the complete number of God’s elect on earth, as symbolized by the number 144,000. But the great multitude without number represents all these one hundred forty four thousands added together from every generation. The Lord Jesus Christ gathers His church from the beginning of time until the end of the world. The 144,000 are called “the church militant”, whereas the great multitude is called “the church triumphant”. At the end of time all the church triumphant shall be brought together before the throne of God and before the Lamb. Who then are these people? They are the people of God from all the centuries and nations, and tribes, and people, and tongues, gathered together in the new economy of things in the new creation. And if you now ask, What is

#2.       The Blessed State of This Great Multitude? (Rev 7:15)

Or why was it necessary that also this vision was revealed at this time, and what is the purpose of it? Then we must place ourselves for a moment before the important question: What is the state of these people, and what is their present condition, and what is the comfort implied in it for the people of God in the world? And then we read in the text of Rev 7:15,

Re 7:15  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.

What is the big deal that they are before the throne of God? It means that they shall serve Him in His temple. And where is His temple? It is the place where God dwells. It is the souls of all His saints. It is the sanctuary of His holiness, where He is worshipped and served in the true sense of the word, in spirit and in truth. In the OT the temple in Jerusalem was only a type or a picture of the true temple in heaven. The idea of that temple was that since sin came into the world, God’s temple was no longer found everywhere, as it was in the beginning before the fall. In the beginning, before the fall, all creation was His temple. But through the fall sin changed everything. In the OT time God dwelled typically among His people in a definite, limited place, to the exclusion of the rest of creation. That was the meaning of the temple in Jerusalem. In the NT time the idea of a definite place is removed, and since the Holy Spirit was poured out, God now dwells in His people and makes His dwelling place in their souls. He tabernacles among them and within them. However, He still does not dwell in all creation. His temple in the NT time is the church of the living God in Christ Jesus our Lord. And by the word “church” we mean all those individuals who have been truly saved, the communion of the saints, excluding those in the visible church who are still unsaved. Every congregation has those unsaved individuals. Even Jesus had one of them. But Christ dwells within His people, in the spiritual sense of the word. But this is not the end, and this is not the ideal situation. The ideal has been reached when all the world and all creation has again become the temple of the living God, and God not only dwells with and within His people, but He spreads His tabernacle over them. This is the picture of Rev 7:15. In that new economy God’s temple shall again be all creation, heaven and earth. And wherever the redeemed in eternity shall turn, they shall see their God and be aware of His presence. And thus God shall widen His tabernacle, His temple. And in Him and in His presence we shall be in the literal sense of the word. Secondly, we read something about the personal condition of these saints in the numberless multitude. They shall be perfectly delivered from all the effects of sin. In other words:

  • They Shall Lack Nothing (Rev 7:16, Psalm 37:4)

We read in Rev 7:16, “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat”. Rather than understanding these words literally, we should take them symbolically, and try to understand the message conveyed therein. This verse implies that the saints shall lack nothing, absolutely nothing. Hunger and thirst, therefore, are here taken as the symbols of all need and want. You noticed, it does not say that we shall have no more desires and no more needs; them we shall have, even in glory. But there shall no more be any vain desire, and there shall be no more any need that is not immediately and completely fulfilled. And thus we see the glorious contrast there is between the saints in the great multitude and the same saints as they existed throughout the ages of the world. These people came out of great tribulation. Often they were in suffering. Often they were in want, physically and spiritually. Often their soul thirsted after the living God. Often they were in trouble and in affliction. Often they were the despised, the hated and the persecuted in the world. They were chased all over the world, homeless, breadless, miserable. They were shut up in tiny cells, behind prison bars. They were brought to the scaffold. They were burnt alive at the stake. They were poor, naked, hungry, despised. There was no one in the whole world, it seems, who took pity on them. But look at the contrasts: now they suffer no more want. They do not lack anything. And they dwell in the temple of God without fear and without any unfulfilled desire. They now serve Him perfectly and have perfect fellowship with Him, according to the desire of their heart. Is it not beautiful how God describes the desires of our heart in Psalm 37:4, “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart” (2X). What does this verse say? If you delight yourself primarily in a son, or a daughter, or a spouse, or any other creature, if that is where all your attention and delight goes, sooner or later you will be disappointed and probably sooner than later. But if we delight ourselves in the Lord, we shall never be disappointed. And how do we delight ourselves in the Lord? Read this Book, the Bible, and find how delightful the Lord is in all His mercy and grace toward us. And then He will give us desires in our heart, desires that will please Him, and then He will fill those desires. That is how God operates in the hearts of those He delights in. Likewise here in Rev 7:16, this is how God operates on the saints in glory, the saints who stand here as the great multitude. All that causes trouble and pain shall have been removed and the pain shall have been removed from their memory. In body and in soul they shall be in perfect harmony with all creation around them. And all together they shall be in harmonious relation to the Lord God Almighty in Christ Jesus our Lord. And the reason for all this is expressed in the words of the last verse in this chapter:

#3.       For the Lamb Shall Feed Them (Rev 7:17, 1Cor 15:27-28)

Re 7:17  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.

Is this not a glorious and fabulous verse in the highest sense of the word? Does not this fulfill all the desires of our hearts, even in the present world? God shows us here a little glimpse of the everlasting bliss we shall have in the life hereafter. Please turn in your Bibles to the First Epistle to the Corinthian Church, 1Cor 15:27 (2X). We often forget, perhaps, that Christ will be our Head and our All, even in eternity. He is not a Savior who will serve only in this present dispensation and then He will leave us as soon as we are perfectly redeemed. O NO! Christ is now our Head in the absolute sense of the word, and He is our Lord and our King. He now sits at the right hand of God and rules over us in perfection. The time indeed shall come when He will deliver His Kingdom, deliver it to the Father, and He Himself shall also be subject to God. For example we read in 1Cor 15:27,

1Co 15:27  For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.

1Co 15:28  And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

What this means is that Christ shall occupy the place of our Head and our King under God as the 2nd Adam, and that forevermore. And thus in eternity we shall be organically one with Christ. Also then we shall have our all in Him, and our life we shall draw forevermore from Him and through Him from God. Also then He shall be the fountain of our life through which we shall draw the living water of eternal life from the Lord our God. That is the meaning of the words that “He shall lead us unto living fountains of waters”, of the water of life. And there shall be no more suffering and no more want. And why not? Because the Lord Jesus Christ shall be forevermore be with us, and shall give us forevermore the true life, the abundant, perfect, eternal life, life without the taste of death in it, life of everlasting satisfaction and glory. And this is how we understand the meaning of Rev Chapter 7. The first part of it concerning the 144,000, which we saw last week, contained for us the comfort that the Lord keeps us in the midst of tribulation, and that we shall not be harmed no matter how high the billows of affliction may go over our heads. For we are sealed, and the Lord through His Spirit keeps us and always gives us strength according to the intensity of the tribulation. But the 2nd part of this chapter, concerning the great multitude, which we have seen today, pictures before our eyes what will be the outcome of the tribulation, in order to inspire us with confidence and with courage, and to cause us not to be afraid of the tribulation of the present time, or of the near future. The outcome is glorious and great. The glory which is pictured to us here is so great, so beautiful, and so abundant, that for it we are willing to give our all, our life and our possessions. And if that is what we hold before our eyes, in the strength of our Lord Jesus Christ, we can well afford to suffer a little persecution and a little pain for a little while. For it quickly passes away, and then we will be in everlasting glory. Then our dear Lord Jesus Christ will be forevermore with us and in Him, through Him, our God and our Father shall have perfect communion with us. Then we shall serve Him “day and night”, as an expression of “without interruption”. This then is the little glimpse that God allowed us to see of that everlasting bliss, that we have grasped by faith. This then is to our comfort when we are persecuted in this world. For:

  • A Little Persecution Quickly Passes Away (Rom 8:17-18, Isa 43:2, 2Cor 1:4, Rom 11:33)

Please turn in your Bibles to the Epistle to the Romans, Rom 8:17-18 (2X). Perhaps you remember that we have already looked at verse 17 half an hour ago. Verse 17 goes as follows, “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint–heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together”. The subject matter is the suffering, or persecution, we must endure here on this earth. And then God continues this thought with the words of verse 18, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us”. Can you see how beautiful this ties in with Rev 7:17? Each one of us has to determine within himself if he or she is a child of God. But if we are children of God, then we shall look into the future with confidence, and with courage, and always with the hope of our future glory before our eyes. For a moment we might fear the suffering that is coming, but by the grace and strength of the Lord Jesus Christ we will overcome. Did we not read in Isa 43:2, “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee”. Certainly this does not mean that we will be immune to suffering. But it means that spiritually we will remain safe and secure in the hands of Christ, and we shall not fall away to renounce our faith in Him, even if we would be threatened to be burned at the stake. The history of all the saints who were burned at the stake proves it. They did not renounce their faith. Please turn in your Bibles to the 2nd Epistle to the Corinthians, 2Cor 1:4 (2X). Most of us do not face the prospect of being burned at the stake. Instead we will endure some minor suffering. And here God gives us a little insight in the purpose why we personally had to suffer one thing or another. The purpose is so that we can comfort others who must go through the same kind of suffering. God says in 2Cor 1:4, “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God”. In the previous verse God is called “The God of all comfort”. Verse 4 says that God comforts us in all our tribulation, and when we have overcome we are able to comfort them which are troubled in any way by something they have to endure. God made us able to function as such a counselor. For example, we were grieved by the passing away of Annie Rollema. But when we have passed through that grieving process, we now can comfort those who are faced with the death of someone they love. The wisdom of God can only be understood after we have gone through the experiences God gave us. And then from a great distance in time we can understand a little what God has done, and we understand a little how high His ways are above our ways. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Rom 11:33).

AMEN.                 Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.