A Great Multitude

GREAT MULTITUDEAfter this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” (Revelation 7:9-12)

Every Nation – The Greek literally means out of every nation. Humanity is one nation by origin. Afterwards it was divided into a multitude of tribes, peoples, and tongues. In the text, the one nation (singular) stands first, followed by the three tribes, peoples, languages (plural).(1)

Tribe – We are divided by tribe – those who are descended from a common ancestry denoted by race, lineage or kindred.

People – We are divided by people groups – community as a mass, without reference to its origin or any of its divisions.

Language – We are divided by language – the inhabitants of the earth were dispersed when God confounded their speech following the building of the tower of Babel.

Taken as a whole, the meaning is that persons from all parts of the earth, as contemplated in these “three degrees of separation” or division, will be among the redeemed.”(2)

No One Could Count – The Greek is innumerable, meaning that the crowd was so huge that there were too many to count. It could also represent a number so great that it could be pictured as the sands of the sea (or stars in the sky) in number.(3)

White Robes and Palm Branches – White robes were considered appropriate attire for worship of God in the temple and were also used for the worship of other “gods” in Asia Minor.(4) Making robes white with the Lamb’s blood (Revelation 7:14) is symbolic rather than literal. Sacrificial blood was used to purify the utensils used in worship in the Old Testament.(5) Palm branches were used on occasions of festivity (Leviticus 23:40, Nehemiah 8:15). They were regarded as tokens of joy and triumph. Kings and conquerors were welcomed by having palm branches strewn before them and waved in the air. Thus, they were waved before the Messiah on His entry into Jerusalem (John 12:13). Conquerors in Grecian games returned to their homes triumphantly waving palm branches in their hands. In the New Jerusalem, John sees the triumphant followers of the Messiah “holding palm branches in their hands,”(6) a scene he witnessed once before.

Before the Throne and the Lamb – John gives a beautiful description of these people.

Accepted – First, they were accepted, for they stood before God’s throne and the Lamb. One does not approach the throne unless the scepter is extended. No doubt they had been rejected on earth for they stood for truth at a time when lies were popular and Satan was in charge. Their white robes and palms symbolize victory – they were true overcomers!

Joyful – Second, they were joyful. The Jews also used palm branches at their Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:40–43), which was a special time of national rejoicing. Here they sing praises to the Father and to the Lamb; and their worship was joined by all those who surrounded the throne.

Rewarded – Third, they were rewarded. They had the privilege of being before God’s throne and of serving Him. When God’s people get to heaven, there will certainly be work to do. We shall be able to serve Him perfectly. The Lamb will shepherd us and satisfy us with every good thing (see Isaiah 49:10; Revelation 21:4).(7)

Up Next – The multitude is identified.

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References

  1. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  2. Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Moore, E., Craven, E. R., & Woods, J. H. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Revelation (p. 190). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  3. Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Re 7:9–12). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  4. Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Re 7:9–12). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  5. Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Re 7:13–14). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  6. Freeman, J. M., & Chadwick, H. J. (1998). Manners & customs of the Bible (pp. 551–552). North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers.
  7. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 591). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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