Revelation: The Culmination of Scripture – 18 (“The 1st Interlude – Salvation belongs to our God”)
We began to look at the first part of the first interlude between the 6th and the 7th seal judgments in Rev.7. We saw that there are two groups of people mentioned in this interlude – there are the 144,000 and secondly there are an uncountable white-robed multitude.
Today we will be looking at the second part of the 1st interlude and we will determine who these multitudes are and what they are doing.
We must also keep reminding ourselves that the images and figures mentioned in Revelation are symbolical images and numbers. As already mentioned earlier, we must also remember that the different occurrences and unfolding of events in Revelation are not always written in chronological order.
In today’s teaching we will see that…
· God is busy redeeming a great multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language.
· The fitting response to God’s gracious redemption by those who are saved, is worship.
· By believing in Christ’s sacrificial redemptive provision on the cross, we will experience tribulation in this life.
· We as believers will experience God’s protection through tribulation, especially spiritual protection, in order to eventually receive eternal salvation.
2. SCRIPTURE READING:
Rev.7:9-17 ~ “9After 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, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” 13Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15“Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. 16They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. 17For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
3. THE CONTEXT (7:9-17):
We are busy looking at the first interlude in Revelation. This interlude has two perspectives. In Rev.7:1-8 we see how God gave instructions for His children to be sealed – to be protected against the judgments that are to follow the moment the four angels let the winds loose (7:1) – they will primarily be protected from the spiritual onslaught during the last days. The other side or perspective of this interlude, is where we will see the same saints busy glorifying God for His protection during the last days and for the victory He gave to them.
4. THE GREAT MULTITUDE (7:9-10):
In contrast to the 144,000 people that John saw in 7:4, we now see in vss.9-10 that he saw a great multitude of people that no one could count and they were from all over the world, in fact, from every culture, from all nations and tribes and people and languages. This is a fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham in Gen.15:5-6 ~ “And he brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ 6 And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”
This innumerable number of people were all standing before the throne of the Lamb. They were all clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands, while crying out with loud voices, saying ~ “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (7:10).
This great multitude of people represent the triumphant church – the saints that survived the tribulation and who were saved from God’s judgement. The fact that these people are coming from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (7:9) not only indicates that God saves people from all over the world and that they are part of one unified church – the bride of Christ, but it is also an expression of the unity between God the Father and God the Son Jesus Christ.
The multitudes are clothed permanently in white robes which symbolises victory and purity ~ “Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels” (Rev.3:4-5 – also see 6:11). It also reminds us of the white robes that the martyrs in 6:11 received when the fifth seal was opened. The white robes symbolise salvation and victory (vs.10), and those who wear them obtained them by… ~ “(washing) their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
They stand before God in the imputed, perfect righteousness of the Lamb (7:14). They have instruments of worship in their hands – these instruments are palm branches of joy, celebration, praise and victory and they are crying out (continually) in a loud voice (see 7:2), “Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Deliverance from sin and victory over Satan are ours because of the Father on the throne and the Son (Lamb) at His side.
5. THE COMPANY OF ANGELS (7:11-12):
In 7:11-12 we see that the angels once more, as in 5:11-14, join in the worship of heaven ~ “Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!’ 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might forever and ever!’ 14 And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ and the elders fell down and worshiped.” Like the elders in 5:14 the angels fell on their faces before the Lord. This scene is holy; this time is sacred. Like the saints in 7:10, they speak not of what God has done but who God is. Sandwiching a sevenfold blessing is the word “Amen.” And in their sevenfold blessing they affirm what the saints have said and then add their own words of adoration, praise, and worship. The word worship is not temporary; it is eternal. It is not for a moment but forever.
6. THE IDENTIFICATION OF THE GREAT MULTITUDE (7:13-14):
In 7:13, one of the elders asks John a leading question and receives a polite response from John ~ “Sir, you know” (7:14). This elder who asked John the question, then answers the question. John is told who the multitudes are – those whom Christ has redeemed from out of the great tribulation.
As we’ve already seen previously, some people view this great tribulation as an especially evil time that immediately precedes the second coming of Christ, with some restricting it to seven or even three-and-a-half years duration, while we as Amillennialists see it as descriptive of the entire time of the church’s pilgrimage, from the resurrection of Jesus to his second advent. Jesus promised that we would have trouble or tribulation in this world ~ “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (Joh.16:33). Paul describes our entrance into the kingdom of God as through many hardships (Acts 14:22); and John sees himself as a companion in the believers’ tribulations (Rev. 1:9). Jesus also tells us, however, to be of good cheer because He has overcome the world (Joh.16:33) and that after the tribulation of these days He would return (Matt.24:29-31; Mark 13:24-27).
The great crowd of the blessed ones are in “white robes.” The Bible has much to say both about white robes and about soiled robes. In the ancient world, this was a very natural picture, for it was forbidden to approach a god with robes which were not clean. The picture was still further intensified by the fact that, often when Christians were baptised, they were dressed in new white robes. These robes were taken to symbolise new life, and to soil them was the symbolic way of expressing failure to be true to the baptismal vows.
Isaiah says in Is.64:6 ~ “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.” In preparation for receiving the commandments from God, Moses orders the people to wash their garments (Ex.19:10,14). The psalmist prays to God to wash him thoroughly from his iniquity, to purge him with hyssop, to wash him until he is whiter than snow (Ps.51:1–7). Here is a picture which is present all through Scripture, of those who have stained their garments with sin and who have been cleansed by the grace of God. It is of the greatest importance to remember that this love of God does not only forgive people their stained garments, it makes them clean – as white as snow.
This passage however, also speaks of “the blood of the Lamb” (7:14). Blood means life, but also death – if there is no blood, there cannot be life. When the New Testament speaks about the blood of Jesus Christ, it means not only his death but his life and death. The “blood of Christ” stands for all that Christ did for us. With that in mind, let us see what the New Testament says about that blood.
It is the blood of Jesus Christ which is cleansing us from all sin (1 Joh.1:7). It is the blood of Jesus Christ which makes atonement for us (Rom.3:24), and it is through His blood that we are justified (Rom.5:9). It is through His blood that we have redemption (Eph.1:7), and we are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ like that of a lamb without blemish and without spot (1 Peter 1:19). It is through His blood that we have peace with God (Col.1:20). His blood purges our conscience from dead works to serve the living God (Hebr.9:14). It is clear therefore, that through the life and death of Jesus Christ, Christians have been given a purity and a victory which they could never achieve for themselves.
7. THE MULTITUDE COMFORTED (7:15-17):
Verse 15 starts off with the word “therefore” and by now we know that when a verse/sentence starts with “therefore,” we must ask “wherefore?” In order for us to answer this question, we must go back to the previous verses (context) and we then see, that because they are washed white, the multitudes can enter God’s holy heaven ~ “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates” (Rev 22:14). And Eph.5:26-27 ~ “…that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” The oldest manuscripts read ~ “…that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.”
The implication of this, is that the multitude may appear before the throne of God. The Greek says that they may be in the presence of God Almighty ~ “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt.5:8). They were accepted by God through the blood of Jesus Christ and because they stood for truth at a time when lies were popular and Satan was in charge. Their white robes and palms symbolise victory: they were true over-comers!
Verse 15 goes on to say that the multitude will serve God in His temple. The expressions “before God” and “in His temple” are connected because we can approach the heavenly King only through priestly mediation; therefore, Christ is at once King and Priest on His throne.
Not only will the saints be in the presence of God in His temple, but they will be in His presence day and night. Because there is no day and night in heaven, the multitudes will therefore serve God in His presence and in the temple for ever – in eternity ~ “And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Rev.22:5).
We also see in 7:17 that God will remove all sources of distress, grief, and pain and therefore the multitude will no longer experience hunger, thirst, or exposure to the elements. The Lamb (Jesus Christ) will be their shepherd. In ancient times, religious and political leaders are often portrayed as either good or bad shepherds, e.g. 2 Sam.5:2 ~ “In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. And the Lord said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel.’” In similar fashion, Christ will be the multitude’s good Shepherd and therefore, He will “wipe away” or remove all sources of distress, grief, and pain ~ “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev.21:40) or Isa.25:8 ~ “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.”
8. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:
In conclusion, we can learn from this passage, that God’s Kingdom consists out of all races, languages and nations – heaven (eternity) will thus have a multicultural character, in fact Christ’s church on earth will and must consist out of all cultures ~ “And they sang a new song, saying, “Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people” (Rev.14:6). The fact that the idea of a multi-cultural church and heaven is repeated at least seven times in Revelation (e.g.: Rev.5:9; 7:9; 10:11; 13:7; 14:6) is an indication of God’s love for all people, but it is also a reminder to us that segregation on grounds of culture and race in the church on earth is not Biblical.
Seeing that we as believers are in the midst of troubling and difficult times – times of tribulation – the end times, we must put a strong emphasis on fellowship and corporate worship, because we do need one another and will need one another in future, but we must always remember that we will conquer by relying upon the finished work of Jesus Christ and by imitating His manner of life.
One last and very important thing that arises from our passage for today, is that of the importance of corporate worship. The “great multitude” in heaven serves God primarily through worship – corporate worship and therefore we must also cultivate an atmosphere and practice of sincere corporate worship in and through our lives and the life of the church.