Meditation Mondays: Revelation 7:9-17: The Great Multitude
9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, Thanksgiving and honor and power and might, Be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” 13 Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?” 14 And I said to him, “Sir, you know.”
So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. 16 They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; 17 for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
In today's passage, we have John after hearing the number 144,000 turns and looks and sees a 'great multitude which no one can number (Rev. 7:9). In my last post, I spoke of how the symbolic number 144,000 could represent God's elect from Israel that he spared in the siege on Jerusalem in AD 70, now I think we are seeing what follows from God's preservation of his elect. Jewish Christians are the 'first fruits' (Rev. 14:4). God's elect from every nation follows- spiritual Israel.
So, there is a spiritual Israel remanent that God preserved from physical Israel (symbolically the 144,000) and God has continued to expand spiritual Israel into a great multitude from every nation without number (Gen. 15:5; Gal. 3:8).
Now, we see that this multitude is clothed in white robes which symbolizes righteousness, and holding palm branches which symbolizes victory. In verse 14, one of the elders tells John that this multitude consists of those who came out of the great tribulation and this is where interpreting this passage gets tricky because the vision includes people from all tribes, tongues, and nations and that is not who was present at the destruction of the Temple- what I think is the "great tribulation".
However, if we harmonize where we are in our study with where we've been I think we can gain some clarity. John wrote to these persecuted churches to strengthen and encourage them to persevere and to face the upcoming persecution and sufferings with God-centered hope, courage, and optimism. It could have been easy for these churches (made up of Jews and Gentiles) to feel isolated, alone, when compared to their earthly enemies. But God gives John a vision and John, in turn, shares this vision with these churches. He tells them of God's perspective. From their vantage point, things are dire and they are few in number. God in turn is saying Israel is bigger than the nation Israel, you are a vast innumerable multitude. They may seem defeated, God says they will 'wave the palm branches'- they will be victorious. It is helpful to think that God is not constrained by time. He is outside of time. He is the I Am, the self-sufficient God and He is telling the persecuted church (who expected persecution by the way!) that there is a large majority that makes up His elect. That is another way of saying "For God so loved the world..." (John 3:16 emphasis mine).
One commentator says it this way: "As God saw them, they were not scattered, isolated groups of poor persecuted individuals accused as criminals by a merciless, demonic power-State; they were, rather, a vast throng of conquerors, who had washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, standing before God's Throne and robed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ."
One final note- it would be beneficial to read through some of the Old Testament quotes in this section and pay attention to how it was used in Isaiah (4:5-6; 25:8; 49:10) and how John is applying it in Revelation.
Today reflect on the words of Paul: "As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”[Quote from Psalm 44] Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." (Romans 8:36-37)
 David Chilton, The Days of Vengeance, 220