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Revelation 7:9-17, The Multitude in White Robes

Pastor of Iglesia Conexiones, a baptist church in Jessup, MD. B.A. in Bible, B.S. English Ed., M.S. in Educational Leadership.

[Note to the reader: in order to reflect new insights, I have updated this article on November 29, 2021.]

Traits of the Multitude (7:9-10)

A multitude stands before God's throne and before the Lamb. These are the characteristics of this multitude:

  • There are so many people, no one can number them.
  • They are from all nations.
  • They are from all tribes.
  • They are from all peoples.
  • They are from all languages.
  • They are clothed in white robes.
  • They are holding palm branches in their hands.
  • They are ascribing salvation to God and the Lamb.

The Angels Respond (7:11-12)

All the angels are standing around God's throne, the four living creatures, and the twenty-four elders; and they fall on their faces and worship God, ascribing to Him (a) blessing, (b) glory, (c) wisdom, (d) thanksgiving, (e) honor, (f) power, and (g) might.

The Elder Explains the Multitude (7:13-17)

Their Identity

One of the twenty-four elders asked John two rhetorical questions about the multitude: (1) who are they? (2) where do they come from? John doesn't know, but he is sure the elder knows.

The elder answers his own questions, showing that he knows who the multitude is and where it comes from.

According to him, the multitude has come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes white with the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, they are before God's throne and serve Him in his temple.

Their Bliss

The elder describes the happy state of the multitude:

What God will do for them:

  • They are before God's throne
  • They serve God in His temple day and night
  • God will dwell among them
  • God will wipe away their tears (this seems to imply that they will be comforted from everything that caused them to cry, and they will not suffer anymore). Note that this is a reference to Isaiah 25:8.

What the Lamb in the midst of the throne will do for them:

  • They will not suffer hunger anymore.
  • They will not suffer thirst anymore.
  • They will not be affected by the sun anymore.
  • They will not be affected by heat anymore.
  • The Lamb will be their shepherd. Note that this is a fulfillment of Ezekiel 34:23.
  • The Lamb will guide them to springs of living water (Compare to Psalm 23:2).

Interpreting the Multitude

The great multitude in white robes contrasts with the martyrs in Revelation 6:9-11, who died for their faith during the great tribulation, and therefore cry under the altar for justice and vengeance. Unlike those martyrs, the great multitude in white robes both survived the great tribulation and kept the faith through the tribulation (compare with Revelation 2:11). Now, they find themselves in heaven, before God and the Lamb.

The great multitude in white robes also stands in contrast to the one hundred and forty-four thousand: the one hundred and forty-four thousand are Jews, but the great multitude in white robes are gentiles from every nation.

Moreover, this great muiltitude is praising God and the Lord Jesus Christ, ascribing salvation to them (Revelation 7:10). Why,? Because they have been saved (delievered) by God.

Finally, it is also important to note that the people in this multitude are holding palm branches, which were used by another multitude to welcome Jesus (John 12:13).

How Did the Multitude Get to Heaven?

Immidiately after the great tribulation in Revelation 6:9-11, the sun and the moon will become dark (Revelation 6:12-14) and the Lord Jesus Christ returns (Revelation 6:15-17). All this corresponds to Matthew 24:29-30.

Like the one hundred and forty-four thousand Jews who were sealed to be preserved from the harm that the Lord's return and wrath will cause upon the earth, the sea, and the trees (Revelation 7:1-8), the multitude in white robes appears to have been also preserved from this same harm, and now they are standing in heaven before God.

In the Bible, there are only three ways in which people transition from Earth to Heaven:

  1. By God taken their bodies from Earth to Heaven (Enoch was taken up, Elijah ascended in a whirlwind, Jesus was taken in a cloud)
  2. By death (Abraham died, but then was with Lazarus in Paradise; Moses died, but then he was present in the transfiguration)
  3. Or by vision (Paul was probably taken to the third heaven in a vision; in Revelation 4, John was taken to heaven in a vision)

Clearly, the multitude in white robes did not die during the tribulation. Clearly, within John's vision of the multitude, the multitude are not experiencing a collective vision. Therefore, the multitude was literally taken from Earth to Heaven, as were Enoch, Elijah, and Jesus. This event corresponds to the gathering of the elect in Matthew 24:31 (which is a post-tribulational rapture).


© 2020 Marcelo Carcach

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