Summary: God is angry with the sinfulness of the world, and is about to rain down mass destruction on the earth. Using part of Jonathan Edwards sermon, "Sinners in the hands of an Angry God".
Jonathan Edwards 1703-1758, preached a sermon on July 8, 1741 titled Sinners in the hands of an angry God. He spoke of the wrath of God upon those who were living constantly in sin, Edwards opening verse was Deuteronomy 32:35. It reads: “Vengeance is Mine, and recompense; Their foot shall slip in due time; For the day of their calamity is at hand, And the things to come hasten upon them.” The implication of that particular verse is that the people are walking on slippery ground, they are subject to destruction at every turn, even just not looking at what they are doing can cause them to slip and fall.
Edwards goes on to say: “That the reason why they are not fallen already and do not fall now is only that God's appointed time is not come. For it is said, that when that due time, or appointed time comes, their foot shall slide. Then they shall be left to fall, as they are inclined by their own weight. God will not hold them up in these slippery places any longer, but will let them go; and then, at that very instant, they shall fall into destruction; as he that stands on such slippery declining ground, on the edge of a pit, he cannot stand alone, when he is let go he immediately falls and is lost.”
Revelation 7:9-17 is preceded by the opening of 7 seals, these lead us into the beginning of the destruction to follow. Chapter 7 is a respite if you will between the destruction of the sixth seal, which is death to ¼ of all who dwell upon the earth and the seventh seal which is the destruction of 1/3 of the water both fresh and salt, and the death of 1/3 of all fish as the water is poison for them and for men who drink of the rivers. The the third of the sun and of the moon and of the stars are destroyed. That is found in Chapter 8.
Returning to Chapter 7, the verses we read today, 9-17 are preceded by a sealing or branding of 144,000 of the men of Israel who believe that Jesus is the Messiah. They are to be sealed and will then go out into the world to witness for the gospel wherever they are sent by God. They will not be killed by the enemies of God for they are sealed by God for protection against the forces of darkness.
In verse 9 we see a great multitude of people from all nations, all tribes, they are standing in front of the throne and the Lamb is seated on that throne. They are crying out before the Lord, in celebration of their salvation which came from the grace of God, by the acts of Jesus on the cross at Calvary and the resurrection from the dead. Then the angels and the elders all begin to join in to worship God.
Then John is asked do you know who these are? John of course must say no, but you know. The elder then tells John who they are. These are those who were saved, and were killed in the tribulation period for their faith. They are as near as any can ever hope to be before the throne of grace. They have a place of service before God himself, they are in fellowship directly with God, they will never thirst, nor hunger, they will not suffer, for their security is secured and their presence in this place means that Christ himself will shepherd them and lead them to the waters of life. They will enjoy all things for God will even wipe away their tears.
What a picture that is for those of us who are personally acquainted with Jesus the Rock of our Salvation. We could of course leave it right here and just give the benediction and go home, unfortunately it is not that easy.
First of all, the question has to be asked, how did all these people come to be before the throne of grace, worshiping and praising God. That would be just fine, everybody lives happily ever after, but.....
Let me return to the reality of Jonathan Edwards sermon. He is talking about Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. As we read the scriptures we find that Israel, a people who had everything, they were the chosen people of God all that was required of them was to following the commandments of God and all would be sweetness and light. But they did not do so, they worshiped other gods, like Ba'al, Ishtar and others, they did not make disciples as they were told to do, but rather ignored God and chased after the things of the world around them. The history of the people of Israel is replete with sin and punishment, read the book of Judges and you will see that it does not mince words when talking about sin and its consequences.