The Multitude Identified

MULTITUDE IDENTIFIEDThen one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Revelation 7:13-14)

Who Are They – Jewish teachers sometimes asked questions they knew their disciples would not be able to answer. The disciples would respond by asking the teacher for the answer. This is the same teaching technique that is being employed here. Jewish apocalyptic literature often included angelic guides who asked the mortal observer rhetorical questions to guide them to the answer.(1)

Those Who Came Out of Great Tribulation – “The great tribulation” refers to Daniel 12:1, the period of great suffering that God’s people were to experience before the end of the age.(2) It is unlikely that coming “out of the great tribulation” means that this multitude exited the earth before the hour of Tribulation (i.e., Raptured saints). Rather, they likely experienced the Tribulations of this evil age. In John’s vision, they are in Heaven enjoying the presence of God.(3) This leaves little doubt as to who this multitude is. They are Gentiles (and Jews) who put their faith in Christ during the Tribulation (i.e., Tribulation saints).

Today, in many parts of the world, it is relatively easy to confess Christ. This will not be the case during the Tribulation, at least not during the second half of it. During that period-of-time, unless persons wear the “mark of the beast,” signifying their allegiance to him, they will not be able to buy or sell even life’s bare necessities. Revelation 7:16 indicates that they suffered hunger (see Revelation 13:17), thirst (see Revelation 16:4), and lack of shelter.(4)

Why This Group in Tribulation: Grace in Wrath – That such a large group (“a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language”) is saved during the Tribulation should make it abundantly clear that God’s love and unwillingness that any should perish is at work even in the time of His great wrath. Today, God’s tender love reaches down amid the conflicts and suffering of a fallen world with the continuing promise of personal a relationship through Christ.(5) Yet people still ask, as people have always asked, where is God in all of this? This will likely be more pronounced during the Tribulation. Could it be that one of the purposes of the Great Tribulation is to reach down and save the multitudes who would respond no other way?(6)

See Figure 14.4. We have seen this illustration before, but it bears repeating. Especially to world that has grown cynical and so skeptical of God’s goodness and His motives. Even in the days of wrath, only the continued hardness of a person’s heart can keep God’s love out.

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Up Next – Fate of the Multitude.

Question of the Day – What do you think, could one of the great purposes of the Great Tribulation be to reach the great multitude?  Post your comments.

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References

  1. Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Re 7:13–14). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  2. Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Re 7:13–14). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  3. Sloan, R. B. (1998). The Revelation. In D. S. Dockery (Ed.), Holman concise Bible commentary (p. 673). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
  4. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, pp. 590–591). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  5. Richards, L., & Richards, L. O. (1987). The teacher’s commentary (pp. 1079–1080). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  6. Richards, L., & Richards, L. O. (1987). The teacher’s commentary (p. 1080). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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