Summary: Revelation 7:9-17
A PICTURE OF GOD’S PEOPLE, PART 2
THE GREAT MULTITUDE (Vv. 9-12)
Last week we left off with John hearing the 144,000 from the tribes of Israel being numbered. And so, having heard this, he looks up and expects to see 144,000 people. But instead, he sees something else.
This reminds me of what had happened in the 5th chapter when John was told about the Lion of the tribe of Judah. He looked up, expecting to see a lion, but instead he saw a lamb. Therefore, the only logical explanation is that the lion is also a lamb.
So as I said last week, I don’t think that John is seeing two different groups of people here. I think that the 144,000 represent a great multitude of people, which no on can count, who aren't just the physical descendants of the sons of Jacob. They’re from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues. This is a literal fulfillment of the promise which God gave to Abraham:
Then He took him outside and said, "Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them." And He said to him, "So shall your seed be." (Gen. 15:5).
Yes, a lot of people descended from the physical seed of Abraham. But I think that it’s obvious that God’s promise to Abraham goes much deeper than that. This promise includes all of God’s people as the seed of Abraham.
In verse 9, they’re described as wearing white robes. In the 6th chapter of Revelation, we saw the those who were martyred for their faith wearing white robes as well and we compared that passage with Zechariah’s vision. Remember the filthy garments of Joshua, the high priest, being replaced with a clean, white robes? We saw that Joshua was a symbol of all of God’s people.
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We all wear the same filthy garments. But Jesus died to make us clean before a holy God. When we came to Him, He took away our filthy garments and gave us fresh new robes of righteousness in their place.
Another things we see is that they had palm branches in their hands (v.9). Just like the people of Jerusalem greeted Jesus with palm branches as He entered into the city, so will we one day. Palm branches were also carried by the people during the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles:
"On exactly the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the crops of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the Lord for seven days, with a rest on the first day and a rest on the eighth day.
"Now on the first day you shall take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, PALM BRANCHES and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days." (Lev. 23:39-40).
The Feast of Tabernacles commemorated the Israelites entrance into Canaan after their wilderness wanderings. This was the most festive time of the year and it lasted an entire week. The harvest was over and all of the crops had been gathered. Jews from all over would gather together and offer thanks to the Lord. Each day, everyone would meet at the temple, carrying a palm branch to wave in a spirit of joyful worship.
So that’s what John is seeing, the fulfillment of that feast as the final harvest has taken place. God’s people have been gathered in joyful thanksgiving to worship the Lord.
THE PEOPLE OF THE LAMB (Vv. 13-17)
After hearing this joyous pronouncement, John is questioned by one of the elders. This elder asks John to identify the 144,000…not that the elder didn’t already know because he goes on to answer his own question. But the reason he asks is so that John will ask.
Sometimes our biggest problem isn’t that we don’t know the right answers, it’s that we don’t know the right questions.
Verse 14 tells us that these are the ones who came out of the great tribulation. So what is the "great tribulation?" A lot of people think that it’s a seven year period in the future which will be followed by the second coming of Jesus Christ.
But is that what the Bible teaches? Jesus taught His disciples that they would experience tribulation and they lived over 2,000 years ago.
"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have TRIBULATION, but take courage; I have overcome the world." (Jn. 16:33)
If Jesus wanted His disciples to think that the tribulation wasn’t going to come for hundreds of years, thousands even, then why would’ve He said this. Paul also told the church at Thessalonica that they were already suffering tribulation.