Innumerable Servants of God

Next, John sees the sealed servants of God as an innumerable multitude from all nations standing before the Lamb

In chapter 7, the “servants of God” are sealed, then portrayed with two different images - The “twelve tribes of Israel” assembled for travel, and the “innumerable multitude standing” before the “Lamb.” The imagery is drawn from the story of ancient Israel in the wilderness sojourning from Egypt to the Promised Land.

John “hears” the number of the sealed servants – arithmos - 12,000 men from each of the “twelve tribes of Israel.” Then, he “sees” a multitude so vast that no one can number it (arithmeō) - (Revelation 7:9-12).

The Greek term rendered “number” provides a verbal link between what he hears and what he sees. Just as the roaring “lion of Judah” became a “slain Lamb,” the numerically defined group of males from the “tribes of Israel” became an innumerable multitude of men from every “tribe” and nation.

The sacrificial Lamb fulfills his messianic role by redeeming men “from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” Likewise, John sees a multitude of men “from every nation, tribe and people and tongue,” a verbal link to his earlier vision of the “slain Lamb” - The same group of redeemed men and women is in view - (Revelation 5:9-10, Revelation 7:9).

The members of this group are “arrayed in white robes.” The same term was applied to the martyrs “underneath the altar” in the fifth seal when they were issued “white robes” and told to wait until the full number of their “fellow servants” was assembled. The “white robes” link the two groups.

Palm branches” are reminiscent of the annual Feast of Tabernacles at the time of the harvest and the ingathering of the “fruits of the land” - (Leviticus 23:39-40).

Previously, John saw “many angels about the Throne and the Living Creatures and the elders.” They proclaimed the Lamb worthy “to receive the power, riches, wisdom, might, honor, glory and blessing.” Now, he sees “all the angels standing about the throne and the elders and the four Living Creatures…” ascribing blessing, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honor, power and might to God.

In both visions, seven honorific qualities are ascribed to the individual who is being adored. The verbal links are deliberate. The earlier vision pictured the overcoming “Lamb.” The vision of the sealed servants presents the redeemed that follow the “Lamb” from the wilderness to the Promised Land.

From every nation and tribe and people and tongue.” The reference to the international scope of the multitude alludes to key messianic prophecies from the Hebrew Bible.

The “obedience of the nations” was promised to the future “lion of Judah,” and to the king who would sit on the throne of David. Now, the promises are being fulfilled as the “innumerable” men from every nation appear before the Lamb - (Genesis 49:9-10, Psalm 2:7-9, Daniel 7:13-14).

The multitude is “standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” This is in contrast with the sixth seal opening when men from every level of society attempt to hide from the impending “wrath.”

On the “Day of the Lord,” no one will be able to “stand” before the “Lamb” and the Throne. However, an innumerable group of men is found “standing” before the “Lamb,” and in celebration rather than dread. How is this possible?

INTERPRETATION


In chapter 5, one of the “elders” points to the “Lamb” as the one who is the “lion of the tribe of Judah.” Likewise, at the end of chapter 7, an “elder” provides John with the interpretation of the sealed company. Two questions are answered - Who are these men and women? From where did they come? - (Revelation 7:13-17).

The group is comprised of men from every nation who have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” When the fifth seal was opened, the martyrs “under the altar” were told to wait until the full number of witnesses was gathered. That promise is fulfilled as the innumerable multitude exits the “great tribulation.”

“Who is able to stand?” The question left hanging at the end of the sixth seal is answered - The men “standing” before the “Lamb” are enabled to do so by the “blood of the Lamb.” Rather than attempt to hide in caves and under rocks, they stand “day and night” offering worship before the Throne.

The 144,000 “servants of God” from the tribes of Israel were sealed before the first four seal openings.  The scene now shifts to the other side of the “great tribulation” - The “innumerable multitude” from every nation and “tribe” is exiting the “tribulation” and standing before the “Lamb.”

The term “great tribulation” alludes to a passage in Daniel that is applied several times in Revelation - (Daniel 12:1-3). This term occurs five times in the book, almost always applied to saints. “Tribulation” is what the followers of the “Lamb” endure because of their testimony. It is not identical to “wrath” - (Revelation 1:9, 2:9-10, 2:22, 7:14).

Washing robes to “make them white” alludes to another passage in Daniel. The “time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, up to that time” was to refine God’s people - (Daniel 12:9-10).

In Daniel, the vision was “sealed” shut until the “time of the end,” a vision that included a time of horrific “tribulation,” a resurrection, and the purification of the saints. In Revelation, the scroll is unsealed by the “Lamb” - The “time of the end” foretold by Daniel arrived in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus.

In the interpretation, the saints have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” In so doing, they emulate the Lamb by becoming “faithful witnesses,” a process that continues “up to the time of the end” - (Revelation 1:5, 3:21, 7:14, 12:11).

THE MULTITUDE


The multitude “renders divine service (latreuô) day and night in his sanctuary.” The Greek verb latreuo and its noun form, latreia, are commonly used in the Septuagint version of the Hebrew Bible for ritual services performed by the priests in the Tabernacle. Its usage stresses the priestly role of the saints - (Revelation 1:5-6, 5:10, 20:6).

The “white robes” or stolé correspond to the priestly vestments worn by the Levitical priests in the Tabernacle. However, every member of this group regardless of ethnicity is arrayed as a priest - (Exodus 28:2-4, 29:5, Leviticus 8:30).

The picture echoes the new covenant promises found in Ezekiel, and they are quoted more fully in chapter 21 in the vision of New Jerusalem - (Ezekiel 37:21-28):

  • (Revelation 21:3-4) – “And I heard a loud voice out of the throne, saying — Lo! the tent of God is with men, and he will tabernacle with them, and they shall be his peoples and he shall be God with them; And he will wipe away every tear out of their eyes, — and death shall be no more, and grief and outcry and pain shall be no more.

God “will spread his tent over” the victorious saints, and they will neither hunger nor thirst ever again. This can only refer to the resurrection life in the New Creation. The same language occurs again in the portrait of New Jerusalem - (Isaiah 49:10-12, Revelation 22:1-5).

The image of Israel assembled for the journey to Canaan is transformed into a vast gathering of men from every nation who “stand” in victory before the “Lamb” in New Jerusalem.

The completed assembly of “royal priests” stands at the ready, sealed by God. Every man who has “washed his priestly robes in the blood of the Lamb” is well able to stand before the “Lamb” and the Throne.

While the imagery changes from scene to scene, the same group remains in view, and it includes the seven churches of Asia. The triumphant picture echoes the promises made to the seven churches of Asia. Everyone who overcomes will “eat of the tree of life,” be “arrayed in white robes,” become a “pillar in God’s temple,” and “sit down with him on his throne, just as he overcame and sat down on his Father’s throne.”


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