A Testimony of Jesus Christ (Revelation)

Revelation 7:9

After these things
“The connecting link, after these things, is chronological and also shows a cause and effect relationship between the first and second parts of Revelation seven. Thus, by means of the 144,000 Jews, God will accomplish the second purpose of the Great Tribulation, that of bringing about a worldwide revival.”1 See A Worldwide Revival.

behold
The sight which John saw was remarkable—both in its global scope and quantity. After having written the seven letters to the Seven Churches of Asia , which evidence lack of zeal and the penetration of worldliness into the churches, perhaps John was surprised by the large number who eventually respond to the gospel despite the inadequacies which attend those entrusted with the Great Commission (Mtt. Mat. 28:18-20; Mark Mark 16:15-16; Luke Luke 24:47; John John 17:18; Acts Acts 1:8; Acts 10:42).

a great multitude which no one could number
Here is a second group who will survive the time of God’s wrath—the faithful who come out of the Great Tribulation (Rev. Rev. 7:14+). Like the saints under the fifth seal (Rev. Rev. 6:9-11+), the majority of these probably die for their faith. But their death—at the hands of the harlot and later, the beast—will be their ultimate victory as overcomers (Rev. Rev. 2:10+, Rev. 2:13+; Rev. 12:11+). They have successfully applied the teaching of Jesus: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mtt. Mat. 10:28). This innumerable company of believers (cf. Rev. Rev. 7:14+) indicates an innumerable company of people who come to faith in Christ during the time of the end. See How are People Saved in the Tribulation?

of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues
A fourfold designation emphasizing the global origin of this group. See Four: the Entire World, the Earth. That the 144,000 of Revelation Rev. 7:4+ cannot be symbolic of believers in general is seen by this verse. The 144,000 were from “all the tribes of the children of Israel” [emphasis added] whereas these are from all . . . tribes. Both OT and NT indicate that multitudes of non-Jews will join with the believing Jewish remnant in seeking the Lamb (Isa. Isa. 11:10; Luke Luke 2:32; Rom. Rom. 3:29-30; Rom. 9:24). Like the multitude in Revelation Rev. 5:9+, these too are redeemed, but at a later date. These come out of the Great Tribulation. These have come from all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues. Evidently, by this time, the gospel message has indeed been preached “in all the world as a witness to all nations” so that shortly “the end will come” (Mtt. Mat. 24:14).2 If the scene shown John includes future saints which have yet to die in the judgments or persecution about to come, then they will have heard the preaching of the divinely commissioned angel “having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” (Rev. Rev. 14:6+). See commentary on Revelation 7:14. See Jacob’s Trouble and the Great Tribulation.

stood before the throne
The same throne introduced in chapter 4 (Rev. Rev. 4:2+). This multitude is in heaven, not on earth.

and before the Lamb
The Lamb is still in heaven in the midst of opening the seven seals. The rider on the white horse (Rev. Rev. 6:2+) cannot be the Lamb. See commentary on Revelation 5:6 and Revelation 6:2.

clothed in white robes
Like the martyrs of the fifth seal (Rev. Rev. 6:9-11+), they will be clothed in white (Rev. Rev. 6:11+). Like those martyrs, they have not yet been resurrected.

Does the fact that they were clothed in white robes and held palms in their hands require the conclusion that they are resurrected with literal, physical resurrection bodies (cf. Luke Luke 24:36-43)? . . . when Christ broke the fifth seal, John saw under the altar in heaven the souls of saints who had been slain for the Word of God during the 70th week (Rev. Rev. 6:9-11+). Since they had been slain, they were without physical bodies, and yet they were given white robes to wear (Rev. Rev. 6:11+). Thus, in Revelation the wearing of a white robe did not require a resurrection body. Even bodiless souls could wear such a robe. . . . when the rich man of Luke Luke 16:1 died, his body was buried (Luke Luke 16:22), and his soul went to hell (Luke Luke 16:23). Even though his soul was without its body, Jesus ascribed eyes (Luke Luke 16:23) and a tongue (Luke Luke 16:24) to his bodiless soul. . . . In spite of the fact that angels do not have physical bodies by nature, the Bible ascribes wings, faces, feet, and hands to them (Isa. Isa. 6:2, Isa. 6:6; Rev. Rev. 10:1-2+, Rev. 10:5+, Rev. 10:8+, Rev. 10:10+) and portrays them wearing clothing (Mtt. Mat. 28:2-3; Mark Mark 16:5; Acts Acts 1:10; Rev. Rev. 15:6+). . . . Although the Bible ascribes such things as hands, feet, faces, tongues, and the wearing of clothing to human, angelic, and divine beings, it does not mean that those beings have literal, physical bodies such as resurrected people have. . . . the fact that the great multitude of Revelation Rev. 7:1+ were clothed in white robes and held palms in their hands does not require the conclusion that they are resurrected with literal, physical resurrection bodies.3

See commentary on Revelation 1:5, Revelation 3:4, and Revelation 3:18.

palm branches
During the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkoth), the children of Israel were to “take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days” (Lev. Lev. 23:40). The boughs were used in the construction of makeshift dwellings (booths, tabernacles ) reminiscent of the time of wilderness wandering (Lev. Lev. 23:43). In the Millennial Kingdom, all the nations will go up to Jerusalem each year to keep this feast (Zec. Zec. 14:16) which will commemorate not only the wilderness wandering under Moses, but the wilderness of Israel’s dispersion among the nations after having rejected her Messiah.

Compare Zec. Zec. 14:16, whence it appears that the earthly feast of tabernacles will be renewed, in commemoration of Israel’s preservation in her long wilderness-like sojourn among the nations from which she shall now be delivered, just as the original typical feast was to commemorate her dwelling for forty years in booths or tabernacles in the literal wilderness.4

The waving of palm branches became a symbol of national liberation and blessing and attended the First Coming of the King to Jerusalem (John John 12:13).5 Here, they wave palm branches in anticipation of his return to Jerusalem in the events ahead.6

Notes

1 Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, rev ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 179-180.

2 Henry Morris, The Revelation Record (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1983), Rev. 7:9.

3 Renald E. Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come (Bellmawr, NJ: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1995), 248.

4 A. R. Fausset, “The Revelation of St. John the Divine,” in Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, 1877), Rev. 7:9.

5 Regarding John John 12:13: “From about two centuries earlier, the waving of palm branches had become a national, if not nationalistic, symbol, which signaled the fervent hope that a messianic liberator was arriving on the scene.”—John MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), John 12:13.

6 Fausset, “The Revelation of St. John the Divine,” Rev. 7:9.

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