Saturday, 21 January 2017 21:50

49. Who are these dressed in white robes? And from where did they come? * Revelation 7:13-17

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13  And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, Who are these who are arrayed in white robes? and from where did they come?

14  And I said unto him, Sir, you know. And he said to me, These are they who came out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

15  Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sits on the throne shall dwell among them.

16  They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun strike them, nor any heat.

17  For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.

 

*** Who are they? ***: In the vision, when John looked to see who the 144,000 were, he saw a great multitude. A group that no man could number. No one could number them because it was up to God to make that determination, not up to men. He saw that they were all dressed in white (Revelation 7:9). John was approached by one of the elders, who asked two questions. John had not fully comprehended all he was seeing in a way that he could give them an answer. Who is the great multitude? And where did they come from? (Revelation 7:13). The elder provided a clear answer: “These are they who came out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:14). An important expression here in this phrase is “came out of the great tribulation”. In Greek, the expression is erchomenoi ek. Erchomenoi means “come, go”. Ek means “from out, out from among, from, suggesting from the interior outwards”. While the 144,000 were ready to go into battle, the great multitude is coming out of the great tribulation. The vision seems to be portraying the same group of people in different points of the spiritual journey leading to victory over sin. Verses 14-17 tell us 7 important things about the great multitude:

1 - They are the ones who came out of the great tribulation (verse 14)
2 - They have washed their robes in the blood of Jesus, which is what makes their robes white (verse 14)
3 - They serve God in His temple, day and night (verse 15)
4 - God dwells among them (verse 15)
5 - They will have no more tribulation (verse 16)
6 - The Lamb will feed them and give them living water (verse 17)
7 - God will wipe away their tears (verse 17)

The identification of the great multitude is the ultimate answer to the question raised by the saints under the altar, who had to wait until their number was made complete (Revelation 6:11/Fifth Seal/study #42). Just like the saints under the altar, the great multitude received white robes. The people in the great multitude were “their fellow servants also and their brethren”, who were made complete.

*** The great tribulation ***: The elder told John that the great multitude are the saved people who are coming out of the great tribulation. The concept of 'the great tribulation' was not new to the Jewish people, and it is not just found in the New Testament. We can read about this time in the Old Testament as well, in Daniel 12:1: “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which stands for the children of your people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time your people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.” At the time of the end, the faithful people will have to go through a very difficult period. Jesus had promised the Philadelphians that He would keep them from going through such hour (Revelation 3:10). Jesus also talked about the great tribulation before His second coming, and said it would be a time “such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” (Matthew 24:21-22). We can read more about this difficult time in Revelation 13:11-17 and Revelation 15-18. Very similarly to the story of Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel’s 3 friends (Daniel 3), the end time world powers will force people to make a decision about who they want to serve: those who chose not to worship the image of the beast should be killed. But the people who decide to worship the image will make themselves vulnerable to the Seven Last Plagues. The final conflict has cosmic repercussion. This conflict is the tribulation John’s vision shows the great multitude coming out of. We must not miss the main point of this text, which is not the great tribulation itself, or how terrible it will be. The main point is that those on God’s side will come out of it. They will be victorious They will win not because of their own efforts, or their own strength. Victory comes because Jesus will lead them to it, through His divine and redeeming power.

*** Washing the robes in the Blood makes them white ***: The second characteristic of this group of people is that they have washed their garments in the blood of Jesus. His blood is what makes their robes white. Jesus had promised the few faithful people in Sardis, those who had not defiled their garments: that they would walk with Him dressed in white (Revelation 3:4). In study #23, we talked about how God has been clothing people throughout history since Adam and Eve. From the moment they disconnected from the Trinity, Adam and Eve lost the special outfit God had made them, out of the eternal fabric of His glory. A person's character reflects where their heart is, and what things are actually important to them. The blameless character we develop while on Earth is the only thing we will be able to take with us after we are physically transformed in the blink of an eye when Jesus comes (1 Corinthians 15:53-54; Matthew 6:19-21). That blameless character is our outfit. As Revelation 7:14 suggests, it is not the efforts we put into the act of washing, scrubbing and wringing that makes the outfit white. We are not capable of making our own garments white, no matter how hard we work at it. We are only called to bring our robe to the vessel containing the solution that can permanently remove sin stains and make it blameless: the blood of Jesus. The blood of the lamb displayed at the door frame right before the exodus, is what saved those who believed in God’s instructions. Belief, obedience and trust, expressed by that blood on the door, saved the literal Israel from the last plague, and allowed the people to be delivered from the Egyptians. For the end-time Israel, Christ’s sacrifice is the only way to salvation (Romans 5:9-10). He replaces our shortcomings with His perfection, and that perfection is what He presents to His Father.

*** They serve God continuously ***: To the church in Philadelphia, Jesus promised He would make the one who overcomes “a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out” (Revelation 3:12). A pillar is a structural permanent fixture. In a similar way, the great multitude will serve God in His temple, day and night. That seems only natural, since the people of God are made priests and kingdoms (Exodus 19:5-6; 1 Peter 2:9; Ephesians 2:19; Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:10; Revelation 20:6). God’s people will have a purpose, not only after the tribulation, but also throughout eternity. They will perform priestly and royal duties, as they work very closely with God. We may not know exactly what the specifics for this work are, but we can be sure the work will be very important. God is the center and reference point for all creation throughout the universe, and the redeemed will be serving there, in the temple of God, continuously.

*** God will dwell among the redeemed ***: The Greek word for “dwell” is skēnōsei, which means to live or pitch in a tent, to dwell in an intimate communion with God, to spread His tabernacle. Here we see a parallel with the ancient Israel. While they were in the wilderness, the presence of God was made known as a cloud by day and column of fire by night (Exodus 13:21). God promised to be the shelter for His people. He would be their God, and they would be His people (Ezekiel 37:27). God’s Tabernacle was a place sanctified by His glory, where He would come to talk to His people (Exodus 29:42-43). He promised the Israelites: “And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them: I am the LORD their God.” (Exodus 29:45-46). The promise made to ancient Israel continues and is reinforced to the spiritual Israel.

*** No more tribulation ***: Revelation 7:16 has 3 main elements of suffering: hunger, thirst, and scorching heat. The text is clear about the temporary nature of this tribulation. The ones who overcome, and come out of the tribulation, will no longer have to go through it again. Literal and spiritual hunger, thirst, and heat will cease. The words of the prophet Isaiah about the restoration of Israel come to mind: “They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun strike them: for he that has mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them.” (Isaiah 49:10). In the words of the psalmist: “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not lack. He makes me to lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul: he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies: you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” (Psalm 23).

*** Living water and bread ***: Psalm 23 is a good segway to Revelation 7:17. It said God would “prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies”, and that He would lead “me beside the still waters”. To the Church of Ephesus, Jesus promised the overcomer would eat from the Tree of Life (Revelation 2:7). One time, Jesus said to a woman at a well: “But whosoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:14). Jesus also said to some Jewish men who were not understanding the divine nature of Christ: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51).

*** No more tears ***: Once again, a text from Isaiah matches this section of Revelation: “He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD has spoken it.” (Isaiah 25:8). Also, this is exactly what Revelation 21:3-4 says: “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” The fact that God is now dwelling with His people, is the guarantee that His protection over the great multitude is eternal. They will no longer have to experience pain, sorrow, or death. God Himself will wipe away the tears from their eyes. All suffering will end.

*** Overview ***: The great multitude are the people of God who came out of the battle against evil. This battle has been in place since it started in Heaven (Revelation 12:7-9), and has been going on in this planet since Adam and Eve listened to the Serpent instead of obeying God’s commands. In the end, all those who have fought this battle, and kept their hearts open to the Savior, will stand victorious before the throne of God. They will continue to serve God, just as they did before, but now, they will wear white robes of blameless character and will be powered by the glory and righteousness of God. They are God’s people, and God is everything to them. He is their spiritual food and shelter. The time of trouble will be over when Christ comes to rescue His people. And pain, suffering, and death will be a thing of the past. God’s touch is personal, to the point that He will take time to remove the last bit of sadness from the face of His children. With all this in mind, we must not focus on how hard the tribulation will be, but on God, who will save us from it.

   
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