Now we come to this great multitude which has stirred up so much controversy among students of prophecy. “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; 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, 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? 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. 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. 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.” Let us remember how it is that we are interpreting this text. This is not a description of events that have already past. It is not an allegory of the church triumphant. This is a real multitude that is described in reference to space and time; in a real chronological order of events yet to come and standing before a real throne. So the question of our controversy is when? When did this multitude first appear before the throne? We have already seen that the term “great tribulation” is immaterial to the controversy. When it comes to the chronology the Great tribulation has not yet occurred and therefore this means that they were taken out before the Great Tribulation or the term great tribulation is meant only to describe the tribulation common to all Christians. This multitude was removed from the judgment that was about to come from the throne upon this earth. That leaves us with two options when it comes the rapture debate; either they were taken out before the first seal or after the sixth seal. The simple truth is this: we do not know which one it is. They are saved from wrath and both would fit that description. I believe I have good reason to hope to be part of the heavenly scene described in the fourth and fifth chapter; and so does every single Christian in this age. That hope has already been described in the earlier chapters and I will not here re-iterate. Another issue is this: are these those who are saved before or after the rapture; do they represent those saved during the first six seals or do they represent all saints? I believe there is no reason to limit this multitude. To say that the latter multitude represents a vast un-countable multitude that is saved during the 70th week (through the preaching of the 144,000 missionaries and who have had no clear presentation of the gospel before the rapture) is to read into the text something that is not there and to give some false hope that they will have opportunity to be saved if they reject Christ today. The only reason men believe that this multitude is limited is because of the media and not because of any statement inherent to the text.
So let us go beyond the rapture controversy and see the wonder if this reality which is in store for this multitude. They are seen as being safe before the throne as the judgment was ready to be released. This represents believers that are spared from wrath. There is no mention of the time which they are removed only the fact that they have been removed. First, we see the reality of this great number. “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….” There is a grand reality here for this number and a grand hope for all of us who hope to be part of this number. We notice first their number. They are a multitude which cannot be numbered by any man. The seed of Abraham was promised by God to be greater than the sand of the seas and the challenge to Abraham was to count the stars; so would his seed be. And the Bible declares that we are of that number: “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham” (Gal. 3:7). This number is so vast that none are left out. Spurgeon would deal with people who worried about election and whether or not God intended to save them. His answer to those who had that fear was to say that heaven belongs to a multitude that no man can number; can you think of a reason why you should not be included there. There is no superficial limit to heaven. There are many mansions there. I believe with all my heart that there will be more people in heaven than there will be in hell. God is a great Savior and He will save many. Christ came to be a ransom for many.
Not only do we glory over the reality of the number, we also glory over the universality of this multitude. The number of the earth is four and this multitude is described in four dimensions. God so loved the world our Lord declared. This number comes from all nations of men; every nation of Ham, every nation of Japheth, and every nation Shem; every nation mentioned in the history books, every nation mentioned in Scriptures, and every nation named on our modern map will have someone there. That is an encouragement for us to take the gospel to all nations. The missionary rightly said that we can never take the gospel to the wrong address. All kindred will be represented there. Kindred are people who are related by birth or marriage. This means that every family on earth will be represented there. There will be some in your family and some in the family down the street. No family name will ever die but will be represented in heaven. That is an encouragement for us to go to our friends and neighbors and tell them about the Lord. All people will also be represented there. The term people are synonymous with community. Every city and every town will have people that are there. There is no city on the map that it cannot be said that God has people there. Lastly, all tongues that have ever been spoken will be spoken there. Due to the sin of man, God scattered man by confounded their language and God will be honored by those very same languages in heaven. A microcosm of this was seen at Pentecost. How foolish it is for people to say that God is bigoted or to complain that the way of the cross is too narrow. Every religion in the world limits those who can be saved; Hindus limit the saved to the Brahman, the cults to the enlightened and initiated, the Buddhist to those who by strength of mind can discipline their bodies, the Muslim to those who can read and understand Arabic, etc. There are no boundaries to Christ. Faith in Christ Jesus is the most inclusive faith in the entire world and the proof of that will be found in heaven.
Further, we glory over the place in which they are found. They are found standing. They are standing in victory. Having done all they stand (Eph. 6). They are standing before the throne of God. Moses cried out to see God in all of His glory but God would only show him His hinder parts. These people are going to see God. They are going to stand before Him. They are going to behold Him in all of His glory. They are entering an eternal fellowship with the Father. Christ has done for this company what He had promised. He brought them to God (John 14:6, I Pet. 3:18). They are also standing before the Lamb. The Lamb which made the earth to tremble and hide in the caves of the earth in the last chapter is here receiving in love this multitude. In the backdrop of the wrath of the Lamb we see His love. This Lamb that had been slain is here seen as receiving this multitude. Christ promised “that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3). This is the fulfillment of that promise. The reality for this multitude is that they are received of the Father and of the Son into their eternal abode.
Further, we glory over the reality of their appearance. They stood before the throne of the Father and before the Lamb clothed with white robes. They stood there perfectly righteous. Notice that they did not stand before God in righteousness that belonged to them for they were clothed with it. It was external to them for it belonged to another. It was the righteousness of the Lamb. Also they did not obtain this righteousness by their own effort for they were clothed in that they were clothed by another. It was God that imputed that righteousness to them. There is finality to this as well. They stood there clothed, in the past tense. “For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life” (II Cor. 5:4). Praise God for the finality of their purity. This is the moment we long for. They are free from every spot of sin. They are free from the very presence of evil. This is a grand reality indeed.
Lastly, we glory over their posture. They stood there in white before the throne with palms in their hand. This could be used to describe their permanence in heaven. “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon” (Ps. 92:12). Or maybe it is meant to describe the coming feast of tabernacles. The Old Testament feasts offer us a prophetic time line for us. The Passover represents Calvary. The day of Pentecost represents the present age in which the Holy Spirit is ministering the gospel. The Day of Atonement represents the second coming; which occurs in the feast of tabernacles. It is said that during this time the Israelites were to take palms. “And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days” (Lev. 23:40). This answers to the second coming: “And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles” (Zech. 14:16). Jamieson et al stated this: “The palm branch is the symbol of joy and triumph. It was used at the feast of tabernacles, on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when they kept feast to God in thanksgiving for the ingathered fruits. The antitype shall be the completed gathering in of the harvest of the elect redeemed here described.” But, I think the palms in the hands of this multitude are meant to show us any even greater picture of reality. They stood ready to worship the Lamb and the Father. The significance of this multitude being seen at this point of time is that there is a ceremony about to occur. Christ is getting ready to come to the earth and all of the saved are there to begin the ceremony. We remember that when Christ first came it said that the multitude of that day in Jerusalem “Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.” That was the time that He came humbled to them riding upon an ass. Now there is a great train made up of a multitude that no man can number that are breaking out the palms for our Lord. He is getting ready to mount the horse and ride triumphantly to this earth. He is headed to Jerusalem again; this time He is not going to die but to reign for 1,000 years. I did not get to witness the Hosanna’s that were first sung before Calvary but I believe I will get to be there for the Hosanna’s that will yet be sung. This indeed is a grand reality for this multitude and a grand hope for all of us.
Having seen the reality of this number, we go on to see the worship of this number. “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, Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God forever and ever. Amen.” We have now entered into the sacredness of worship. We have reached the apex of our purpose in these words. We were created to know and worship God. We were created for worship. One day you and I will be part of this worship and we wait with great anticipation. There are five aspects to this worship that we note.
First, we see that there is great passion in their worship. It says that they cried with a loud voice. Remember that this is a commencement ceremony for the returning King. We are His bride. This is, or rather will be, a very emotional time for the bride as they celebrate the ascension of their husband to the millennial throne. These are not tears of sorrow but tears of joy that run down our faces. They are not only crying but they are crying with a loud voice. Their tears of joy were accompanied with shouts of joy. This jubilation was not without specific content. Often religious worship services are void of content but this worship service is full of content. “Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.” Jamieson et al explained that this means, “”THE salvation”; all the praise of our salvation be ascribed to our God. At the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem, the type, similarly “salvation” is the cry of the palm-bearing multitudes.” This is the moment when we get to sing Hosanna to our King. The moment that the multitude in Jerusalem missed we will get to partake in. These people are crying and shouting aloud that God is their salvation. The Hosanna’s that were sung 2,000 years ago were directly related to the jubilation prophesied in the 118th Psalm which looked forward to the glorious reign of Christ. “The Lord is my strength and song, and is become my salvation…. I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation…. Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD: we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD” (Ps. 118:14, 21, 26 – It is no accident that that great chapter is the exact middle of our Bible all hope looks toward that moment). There is deep doctrinal content in the worship here presented to the Lord. We will have great passion for the truth of God’s Word in that worship. This jubilation will be directed to God alone. We will sing our Hosanna’s to the one that sat upon the throne. The God who sent Christ to be our Salvation will there be worshipped. This worship will be directed toward the Lamb as well who is equal with God who is our all in all; our justification, our sanctification, and our glorification. It was He that came in the name of the Lord. It as He that the builders rejected, who, in the marvelous work of God, became the head of the corner.
Secondly, this worship will affect all the beings of heaven. We see that in the eleventh verse. The words that were cried out by this great company were a spectacle to all in heaven. It drew the attention of all of the angels. There was not one single angel of God that was absent and was not in awe over this event. This must have been a great company for there is no known number of the spirits and ministers God. There are ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands and thousands of angels created by God but they will all be there. The angels here are brought to attention by this celebration for it says that they stood. They also seemed to draw close to the matter for they stood around the throne. Heaven knew that something exciting was going on. The elders were there and the four beasts were there. The angels surrounded them all. There was something about the salvation that the company was singing about that the angels desired to hear about and learn about. We remember the simple fact that Peter told us that “the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls… which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently …. The angels desire to look into” (I Pet. 1:9-12). There was definitely something special about this celebration.
Thirdly, this worship was done with humility. Our text says that they “fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God….” In the face of God’s glory they saw God as high and lifted up. The natural response of the glory of God is for those who see it to seek to take a lower place. No head is to be higher than the king’s head so the true worshippers of God seek the lowest place. And they worshipped God in spirit and truth. They were given opportunity at this time to give worship to God upon their faces. True purpose for their lives is here found.
Fourthly, they worshipped with certainty. There was no uncertainty in their worship. Their worship began and ended with a declaration of certainty. They cried aloud, “Amen.” And when they had said all they added another Amen to their cry. This describes them worshipping in truth. To say Amen is to say that something is true and something is certain. It adds our full ascent to the truth and faithfulness of what is said or done. They were certain of who God was. They were certain of the person of Christ. They were certain of His soon millennial reign. They were certain of their place with Him and they were certain of the fact that He deserved the honor which they gave unto Him. There was no sense of doubt in their worship and thus we see the joy with which they rendered it.
Lastly, they worshipped Christ and the Father in totality. They attributed to Him all that they had had. They were saying to God: “Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever.” We see again the seven fold praise of their worship. All blessing flowed from God and should be rendered back to God. All glory is His and all that we possess we give to Him. All wisdom is of God and to Him our wisdom is to submit. All our thanks should be rendered to Him. All our honor should be be placed at His feet. All the power that we possess both spiritually and physically is too small of a gift for His majesty. From this point until forever is realized all these things belong to God and Him alone.
Next, we see the identity of this number. “And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? 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.” There is a twofold question asked of John by one of the elders here. The first part of the question simply asks who these people are that are gathered around the throne dressed in robes of white? The second part of the question is where did this multitude come from? The elder, as all elders should, means to teach John something by these questions. John immediately confessed his ignorance and places his ears at the mouth of the elder to instruct him. The order of the questions is inverted in the answer. The elder first told John where they came from and then he told them who they were. He stated that these are those who came out of Great tribulation. The question of whether they had just been removed after the sixth seal or had been there the whole time since chapter four is not answered and we can only speculate. We know this for sure. The period of history yet to come known as the great tribulation has not yet come so this phrase either means that they were taken out prior to that period coming or it means that they were taken out of the great tribulation common to all saints; “that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). We can be sure of this: this company has been taken out of the world where they had tribulation and are now with Christ who has overcome the world (John 16:33). There are no longer in a place of trials and temptations and tribulations. They are no longer in a place where they are hated and abused and killed. They are now in a place of safety with their Lord Jesus Christ.
That answers the question of where they came from and now the elder answers the question of who they are. The description is simply this; they are those who “have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Let us stop quarrelling over questions that have no clear answers and about times and seasons. That is a description of all men who are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ. Christ described those that are saved as those who have been washed (John 13:10) and Paul did the same (I Cor. 6:11). John has already stated as much in this very book when he sang: “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood… (Rev. 1:5). They are dressed in white which is the righteousness of the saints. They are dressed in the garments of salvation: “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels” (Isa. 61:10). And this was all done through the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ: “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb. 9:14). No! This company is you and me regardless of question of the rapture or any other prophetic event in the time table of God. This description belongs to all saints of God and therefore we rejoice in the fact that we know that we will be a part of it and the blessings that follow in our text.
Lastly, we see the glory of this number. “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 anymore; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. 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.” This therefore is a glorious therefore. We have seen in the identity of this multitude that it takes in all that are saved of every nation, family, community, and language. There are not any of us that are left out. Being thus saved by the blood of Jesus Christ we have the conclusion the therefore that follows. This is then the natural conclusion for us all. Let us glory together in each aspect of this glory.
First, we have gained the abiding presence of God. Our text says that “they are before the throne of God.” That is their place now; their permanent place. Because they are washed by the blood they have such a place. Jesus came to ring us to God (I Peter 3:18, Heb. 7:25, John 14:6). There He shall be our God and rule over us from His throne and there we shall be His people. Christ loved His church and gave Himself for it that he might cleanse it and that it might be presented to Himself without spot and without wrinkle (Eph. 5:25-27). Here is that presentation. We have been ushered here into the abiding presence of God.
Secondly, this company has not only gained the abiding presence of God but we have gained an abiding purpose before God. Our text says that this company served Him day and night. Heaven is not going to be a place for laziness but a place for labor. We were created to work and to serve. Adam was placed in the garden to dress the garden. It is in our heart from God to do things with our hands that serve purpose. “There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labor. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God” (Ecc. 2:24). We rejoice in labor or service. I remember hearing a story of Jews who served in a Nazi bomb factory in the Second World War. They bore the beatings and the starvations because they daily had a purpose. When they lost their place of service and were made to spend their days in futility they began one by one to take their own lives. Brethren, you and I will have a place of service in heaven. We will have meaning and purpose as we serve the Creator of all things and the Savior of the world. Heaven will be a place of meaning. We were created for God’s pleasure and we will spend an eternity doing His good pleasure. God will have meaning and purpose for us in eternity. As the priests of old would serve constantly even on the Sabbath, so will we spend our eternal rest with joy in eternal service and worship to our God. We will serve day and night. That is we will constantly be fulfilling our purpose before our God.
Thirdly, we will not only find the presence of God and purpose before God, we shall also find an abiding fellowship with God. Our text goes on to say “he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.” God when He first created man came down to walk with Him in the cool of the day in the garden. He purposed to walk with men and fellowship with men. Throughout history God has made Himself known to men; He met with men on Sinai, on Carmel, and in the Incarnation. God has showed us in history His desire to dwell among men. It is said of the Son of God that His delights were with the sons of men (Prov. 8). The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. But alas, we await the day which we will be brought into the eternal fellowship. Here God not only allows mankind into His presence but also He moves from His throne in fellowship. In heaven we will commune with God. We will get to know Him and we will have an eternity to do so.
Fourthly, we go beyond our interaction with God to see our provision from God. We see our full deliverance from need. The following blessing of provision were promised as a result of the incarnation of Christ as they are seen inour text to be the direct result of His work: “That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places. They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them. And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted” (Isa 49:9-11). In this life we surely experience the truth that the Lord is our Shepherd and we not experienced want. God in the riches of His grace has supplied all our needs. But, the provision of heaven is even greater. The believer will be brought into a place where they “shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore….” We will have no appetite which shall be left unfulfilled. In this life we like the apostle Paul will experience thirst and hungering often. “Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place…” (I Cor. 4:11 see also II Cor. 11:27). The Psalmist stated that he would know satisfaction when we awoke in the likeness of the Lord (Ps. 17). Heaven will be the fullest fulfillment of the promise of Christ to believers: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matt. 5:6). Christ again promised, “he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).
Fifthly, we shall see our full deliverance from the bondage of corruption; for this is the meaning of the promise of our text that “neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat….” The sun beats down daily on this earth; it ages our bodies and corrupts our riches. The promise to the people of God is that “LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore” (Ps. 121: 5-8). The heat will no longer make us faint and the sun will no longer corrupt us. We will escape the passing of time and the curse of decay. We will no longer experience the pressure of time. The sun that beat upon the head of Jonah that made him wish for death will never touch us again. We will have a full deliverance from the bondage of corruption.
Sixthly, we will find the full provision of love. Christ is the eternal servant of God. We will serve Him out of our love and we will experience His love in His service toward us. Our text shows us the marvelous love of our husband. “For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters….” Here is the love of our husband, our Shepherd, our Lord. He will be the one that satisfies our hunger and our thirst. He shall feed us with the hidden manna and He will bring us to the living fountains of water. We remember that God himself is described us the living water (Jer. 2:13, 17:13, John 7:38). This can only mean that Christ will make us to feed and drink from the divinity of God. What a blessing it will be to be forever led of Christ to meet our greatest fulfillments.
Lastly, we shall find a full end of sorrow. “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” We will never sorrow again. We will find all comfort in the presence of God and in the leadership of Christ. I like the word “all” in our text. There is no category of sorrow that will remain. The sorrow of bereavement will be gone. The sorrow of tribulation will be gone. There will be no more tears for our sin or failures. There will be no more tears for our unmet disappointments. All things that have caused the tears to flow in this life will there be taken away. This is the conclusion for all who are washed in the blood of Christ. It is the fate for all who are part of this number that cannot be numbered out of every nation, community, family, and language. I know that I will be there. I pray that all sitting here tonight will know the same.