Now we see what takes place as a result of the preaching ministry of the 144,000. Remember that John is in heaven, and he sees all these things from an eternal point of view. As we have already discussed, there is no chronological sequence, no time limitation, no past, and no future in the heavenly orientation. From our earthly standpoint John sees events that are taking place at the close of the seven-year week. He seems to see ahead to the end of the seven-year period, witnessing a great multitude, too great to be counted, that has come through the Great Tribulation. They are not only Jews, but come from every tribe, people, and language. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. And they have palm branches in their hands (v. 9).
When was the last time a crowd of people stood with palm branches in their hands, giving praise to Jesus as their King? Palm Sunday of course; that is the day Jesus rode on the back of a donkey, down a mountainside and into the city of Jerusalem. In this vision of John, there is a clear prophetic link between the events of Revelation 7 and the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Israel was given the opportunity to receive her King – but tragically, the leaders of Israel rejected Him. But a day will come when Jesus is welcomed by a vast, innumerable throng of both Jews and Gentiles, people from across the planet. They will welcome and worship their King with palm branches, just as the throngs that lined the streets of Jerusalem did 2000 years ago – only this time, the King will not be rejected and crucified. Moreover, this event will be intimately associated with the final restoration of Israel.
The white-robed multitude in heaven is occupied in the praise of God for their salvation (v. 10). The word ‘salvation’ in verse 10 literally means ‘rescue’. But often in the Old Testament the word seems to mean ‘the victory through which rescue is won’. So it seems to be here. The church above is centered on the sovereign grace of God and the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross! This is what Christians should be excited about now as well, while still suffering the trials of earth. Not only does the church give praise to God for salvation, but the angelic host gathered around responds with their own adoration (vv. 11-12). How unbelievably great will be the joyful adoration of the heavenly host when all the redeemed stand before their God! If you can see yourself in this throng – and you can through faith in Jesus Christ – doesn’t the hope of glory strengthen you for the trials of your life?
As so often happens in Revelation, John’s vision becomes more animated as one of the worshiping elders turns to ask him a question to ensure that he got the point (vv. 13-14). At first, John’s vision was intended to show the suffering Christians of earth who they are as the glorified church of Christ. Now the elder wants to make clear how the church got there, highlighting the great deliverance achieved through Jesus.
The elder makes two points for John and his readers to emphasize. First, the church arrives in heaven, having come “out of the great tribulation” (v. 14). Christians on earth should realize that trials and persecutions are likely to occur and that we will be saved only by persevering in faith against all opposition. The elder’s second point directs us to the Lamb: “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (v. 14). The saints in heaven did not save themselves. It was not by their own prowess that they conquered through tribulation. With clarity that belongs to those already in heaven, the elder ascribes the salvation of believers to the cleansing power of Christ’s blood.
John’s vision has given us a glorious perspective on the heavenly reality that corresponds to the suffering church on earth. Yet even these saints in heaven have a future. John has shown the heavenly destiny of believers and has learned of their deliverance through Christ’s blood. He now concludes the chapter, and this entire cycle of visions that began in Revelation 4, with a spectacular description of the eternal destination to which this great multitude of Christ’s people are headed. For those who have trusted in Christ the vision of our future destination is the most uplifting source of encouragement, enabling us to endure the trials and tribulations of this life with joy and hope in service to Christ. If you have not turned to Christ, the blessings awaiting His people urge you to consider the future that you will never know unless your sins are washed clean through faith in His blood.
First, John hears of the shelter that God provides with His own glorious presence (v. 15). The saints are admitted before the throne of the holy God because their sins have been washed clean and they are justified in Christ. Worshiping in God’s sanctuary, they have immediate access to the glory of His presence. They are now, as Paul put it, “filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19). On His part, God receives the church as His own dearly beloved children. The Sovereign Creator spreads His presence over them like a tent, so that they dwell in Him forever. As a kingdom of priests, the believers fulfill the purpose for which they were made and then were redeemed in the unending adoration of a God whom they more fully know as eternity stretched on forever.
Second, John is told of the blessing that attends Christ’s people in the shelter of God’s love (v. 16). Here is the bliss of the salvation rest to which Christ’s people now journey in the wilderness of a sinful world. On earth, believers are subjected to every kind of deprivation and hardship, but the promise is held before us that our struggle will not be in vain. In the age to come, there is no hardship, trial, or loss, but only the gain of fullness and joy. David anticipated this bounty in the closing words of Psalm 23 (Ps. 23:5-6).
Psalm 23 connects with the third feature of our eternal destination: Christ’s eternal shepherding (v. 17). All through this vision, believers have stood before God on His throne and the Lamb. In eternity, just as God makes His presence a tent for us, the Lamb shepherds us to the fullest experience of eternal life, guiding us “to springs of living water.” “Come,” he summons, “everyone who thirsts, come to the waters…, that your soul may live (Isa. 55:1-3).
Revelation 7:9-17 Study Questions:
Who makes up the great multitude that John sees (v. 9), and how does this crowd seem to differ from those described in verses 4-8?
How does this passage help us understand how God is involved in our lives in the midst of great suffering or difficulty?
What is the response of the multitude to what God and the Lamb have done for them (vv. 14-15)?
What does it mean that God will “shelter” those gathered around Him “with his presence” (v. 15)?
At this point, John glimpses the further future, the vision of the New Jerusalem itself (Rev. 21). In a wonderful role reversal the Lamb will turn into a Shepherd, assuming the royal role of John 10 (the “good shepherd”) and indeed the divine role of Psalm 23. This Lamb-turned-Shepherd guides the flock of His people to springs of living water (v. 17). What does this symbolize?
When in your life have you experienced God as Lamb or God as Shepherd?