We will continue the study of Revelation chapter 7 here in Part 2, starting with Rev. 7:9.
Now we have the privilege to discuss the second special group and the glorious scene pictured in the second half of Revelation chapter 7. In Rev. 7:9-17 we see a great multitude of saints in heaven, before the throne of God. These verses give us an early look at the glorified, raptured saints before the scroll is opened. These saints will be living on the earth during the first half of Daniel's 70th week, but they will be glorified and raptured from the earth right in the middle of the seven-year period. Instead of being blown away by God's judgments, they will be standing in His presence. Verse 9 pictures them standing before the throne of God.
The great multitude pictured here is limited to believers who will be living on the earth at the time the Lord Jesus Christ returns. They will be able to greatly appreciate the fact that their glorification and rapture means they are being kept out of the hour of great testing that will begin on the earth right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week. For one thing, they won't be living on the earth when the devil, having been cast down to the earth with his angels in the middle of Daniel's 70th week, and having great wrath, will be attacking Christians. And they won't be living on the earth during any part of the super-evil reign of Antichrist that will start right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week. Instead of being attacked by the devil and Antichrist, they will be glorified and reigning (which includes judging) with the Lord Jesus Christ.
All the believers who have ever lived on the earth and have died before the time of Christ's return will be resurrected, glorified, and caught up to the throne of God in the middle of Daniel's 70th week, but those believers are not mentioned in these verses. Revelation 7:14 makes it clear that the great multitude pictured here is limited to those who had just been living on the earth during the days of the short great tribulation. The short great tribulation will take place during the one month period that will start with Antichrist's abomination of desolation and end with the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. (This important point is discussed in detail in my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture"; see #s 4-9 on pages 12-15 for a start.)
We'll start with Rev. 7:9.
(9) After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne [cf. Rev. 7:15] and before the Lamb [cf. Rev. 5:6-10; 7:14, 17], clothed in white robes [The white robes go with the glorified bodies they have just received (cf. Rev. 3:4, 5; 6:11; 7:13, 14; and 19:8, 14).], and palm branches [Compare John 12:13. The palm branches go with the rejoicing before God with praise and thanksgiving. See page 235 of my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture."] were in their hands [[This certainly is an exciting passage for us to consider. Here we see the glorified saints before the throne of God in heaven who have just been raptured from the earth at the sounding of the seventh and last trumpet in the middle of Daniel's 70th week. They have just come home. They will now be able to see God the Father and God the Son (cf., e.g., Matt. 5:8; John 17:24; 1 Cor. 13:12; and 1 John 3:2). (See under Rev. 3:10 in the article on Revelation chapter 3; and on pages 40-42 of "The Mid-Week Rapture"; and see the chapter dealing with Rev. 14:1-5 in that same book, which starts on page 343.)
As I mentioned, I believe this great multitude is limited to those saints who will still be alive on the earth when Christ returns. The key verse that steers me in this direction is Rev. 7:14, which informs us that these people are the ones coming come from/out of the great tribulation. It cannot be said of those saints who will have died before the days of the short great tribulation that they will be coming from/out of the great tribulation. Also, the short great tribulation is not coming against the saints, and I don't expect many saints will die during that brief period.
Those saints who are alive on the earth when Christ returns never will die. They will be transformed and raptured into the heavenly dimension at the sounding of the seventh and last trumpet. I believe all the members of true Israel who will have died before this trumpet sounds, including those members who lived on the earth in the days before the new covenant was ratified in the blood of Christ, will be resurrected and raptured into the heavenly dimension at this same time ((cf., e.g., Dan. 12:2 [The believers from Old Testament days are surely included in the mid-week resurrection pictured in Dan. 12:2, in that context.]; Rev. 12:5 [The believers from Old Testament days are surely included in the mid-week resurrection, glorification, and rapture pictured in Rev. 12:5, since they are part of the woman of Revelation chapter 12, who is a symbol for God's true Israel.]; 1 Thess. 4:14-17 [These verses make it clear that the departed Christians will be resurrected and raptured at the same time as the Christians who are still alive when Christ returns. So too for 1 Cor. 15:50-52. Neither one of these two passages specifically mention the believers from old-covenant days, but it's clear that they are part of God's true Israel."])), but I don't believe those resurrected saints are mentioned in Rev. 7:9-17. (As I mentioned, we can't say that those saints who will have died before the time of the great tribulation will be coming from/out of the great tribulation [Rev. 7:14].) It is to be understood, however, that they will share exactly the same glorious eternal destiny as the ones who are specifically mentioned here.
Why would this passage limit this great multitude to those still alive when Christ comes? It fits the context of Revelation chapter 7, where we pause to consider two special groups of people who will be living on the earth at the time judgment day falls on the earth. They are the ones who will be kept out of the hour of testing of Rev. 3:10 by being raptured from the earth just before that hour of testing begins.]]; (10) and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, 'Salvation to our God who sits on the throne [God the Father], and to the Lamb.' [[Compare Psalm 3:8; Rev. 12:10; and 19:1. The idea is that salvation comes from God, including God the Son (the Lamb). The triune God is the source of their salvation, which they are now experiencing in full measure, including the fact that they have been kept out of the hour of testing (Rev. 3:10), but much more significantly that they have been saved from sin and spiritual death and eternal judgment and that they have just been caught up into the fullness of salvation and eternal glory.]] (11) And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the [twenty four] elders and the four living creatures [cf. Rev. 5:11, 12]; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God [cf. Rev. 4:10; 5:8, 14; 11:16, and 19:4], (12) saying, 'Amen [On "Amen" see under Rev. 3:14; 5:14 in the articles on Revelation chapters 3 and 5.], blessing [The NIV has "Amen! Praise and glory...."] and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.' [See under Rev. 5:12 in the article on Revelation chapter 5.] (13) [These next two verses (7:13, 14) are of key importance. (They're discussed on pages 154, 155 of "The Mid-Week Rapture.")] then one of the [twenty four] elders answered, saying to me, 'These who are clothed in the white robes [Rev. 7:9], who are they, and where have they come from?' [These two questions are answered in the next verse.] (14) I said to him, 'My lord, you know.' [The NIV has "Sir, you know."] And he said to me, 'These are the ones who come out of [from] the great tribulation [[I would translate "These are the ones who come from the great tribulation." "From" is a common translation for the Greek preposition "ek." For example, ek is used in Rev. 7:4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14, and 17, and in each of these verses, except for verse 13, where it is translated "of" and verse 14, where it is translated "out of," the New American Standard Bible translates it "from."
I believe Rev. 9:13-21, which prophesies of very intense warfare where a third of mankind is killed in a short period of time, is the most important cross-reference to understand the short great tribulation of Matt. 24:21, 22; Dan. 12:1. Also see Joel 2:30-32. The short great tribulation will begin about the time of the abomination of desolation (which will take place about a month before the middle of Daniel's 70th week) and will be over before the Lord Jesus returns at the sounding of the seventh and last trumpet, right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week (see Matt. 24:15-31, especially verses 15, 21, 22, and verse 29-31). (See under these verses in my verse-by-verse study of Matthew chapter 24 on my internet site [Google to Karl Kemp Teaching]. For more on the short great tribulation, start with number 8 on page 14 of my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture." The short great tribulation is discussed under Rev. 9:13-21 in the article dealing with Revelation chapters 8 and 9 on this Christian article site.)
It is significant that the words, "These are the ones who come from the great tribulation" answer the question of verse 13, "where have they come from?" This glorified, raptured multitude has just come from the great tribulation in the sense that the great tribulation will have been the last major event on the earth before they are caught up to the throne of God. In fact, the sun and moon will have been darkened at the time of their glorification and rapture, because of all the dust and smoke generated during the warfare of the short great tribulation. I should mention that Rev. 7:14 speaks of THE great tribulation. The definite article (the) is included in the Greek text. We already know about the short great tribulation from Matt. 24:21, 22; Dan.12:1; and other passages.]], and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. [[Compare Rev. 1:5; 3:4, 5, 18; 6:11; 7:9; 19:8, 14; and 22:14, 15. The words "they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" answer the question "who are they" of verse 13. All true Christians "have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." I'll read Rev. 22:14, 15, "Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city [into the city of God's new Jerusalem]. (15) Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices lying." The words of verse 15 mean that the people who are committed to sin will not have access to God's new Jerusalem; they do not mean that sinners will be located just outside new Jerusalem. I'll also read the second half of Rev. 1:5, "To Him [to the Lord Jesus Christ] who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood."
The fact that true Christians are made righteous and holy through the atoning blood/death of the Lamb of God, by grace through faith, through the indwelling Holy Spirit of God, is a dominant theme of the New Testament. See Romans chapters 6 and 8 and 1 Pet. 2:24, for example. I'll read 1 Pet. 2:24. "He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed." The Lamb of God bore our sins with the guilt and the penalties, including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin, so that we could be born again and die to sin and live to righteousness. For more on this super-important topic, see my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin: Full Salvation Through the Atoning Death of the Lord Jesus Christ."]] (15) For this reason [The reason being that they had been purchased for God by the blood of the Lamb (cf. Rev. 5:9) and they have (by grace through faith) washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. They are, therefore, ready to stand before God.], they are before the throne of God [Rev. 7:9]; and they serve Him day and night [on a continual, never-ending basis] in His temple [[Serving God includes being priests of God (cf. Rev. 1:6; 5:10; and 20:6). (These verses show that we will be priests of God throughout the millennial kingdom; this priesthood will probably continue in the eternal state.) Revelation 22:3, which uses the same Greek verb for serve used here in Rev. 7:15, shows that all the members of true Israel will serve Him forever. Those raptured in the middle of Daniel's 70th week will begin to serve Him at that time. (Of course we serve Him now in some ways too.) We won't just serve God as priests. Many verses, including Rev. 22:5, show that we will also reign with Him forever from the time of our glorification. What a destiny!
It's clear that we won't be passive, loafing, or just doing busy/unimportant work. God has important things for each of us to do - forever. That truth applies to our present life on earth too. The foundational element of our relationship with God and of our serving Him will undoubtedly be worship. (Serving is a form of worship too.) We can see this same priority in the ministry of the four living creatures, the twenty-four elders, and the angels pictured in the book of Revelation.]]; and He who sits on the throne [God the Father (cf. Rev. 4:3; 5:1 with 5:7)] will spread His tabernacle over them [I understand these words to speak, in a symbolic way, of the intimate, protective, fully glorious relationship that God will have with the raptured saints. Eventually, apparently by the time the millennial kingdom begins, all the members of true Israel (including those converted after the rapture) will be glorified and begin to experience the things spoken of in Rev. 7:15-17.]. (16) They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; (17) for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes." [Compare Isa. 25:8; 49:10; and Rev. 21:6. Revelation 21:3, 4 have some things in common with Rev. 7:15-17, but I believe Rev. 21:3, 4 speak of God's eternal salvation coming to the elect of the nations (the nations being distinct from true Israel) in the eternal state, after the millennium. (Revelation 21:3, 4 are discussed on pages 340, 341 of my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture," and they are discussed in my verse-by-verse study of Revelation chapters 20-22.)]
May God's will be fully accomplished through this article and His people be edified!