Revelation 7:9-17 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” 13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have 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 shelter them with his presence. 16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
As John looked on the unfolding scenes before him he must have been literally shocked by the wrath of the Lamb. Six seals have been opened. With the sixth came an awesome earthquake followed by the atmosphere being filled with smoke. All of this demonstrates the wrath of God against sin. God’s wrath means that he intensely hates all sin. For those religionists who think of “gentle Jesus meek and mild” they are in for a real awakening.
Before the opening of the seventh seal John saw a multitude that no one could number. First, he saw 12 groups of 12,000 making a total of 144,000 that were sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel. I choose not to try to interpret this group of people sealed as the servants of God because their listing of tribes of Israel is different from what we find in the book of Genesis. I’m sure there’s some kind of significance but as of now I have not been comfortable with any of the explanations I have heard.
So we will look at the multitude that I believe are more interesting because they are representative of most people on earth. As the great multitude was revealed in the eyes of John the elder turned to John and said, “Who are these…?”
The opening of the sixth seal had led to a revealing of the wrath of God and of the Lamb. Usually, the wrath of God is purported to be an Old Testament concept that should be out of the New Testament. Well, it’s true that…
God was provoked to wrath in the wilderness. Moses recorded the event in Deuteronomy 9:7-8. Remember and do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the Lord. 8 Even at Horeb you provoked the Lord to wrath, and the Lord was so angry with you that he was ready to destroy you.
The people of Israel repeatedly rebelled against God during the Exodus from Egypt and the crossing of the wilderness. Even at the base of the mountain where God revealed himself to Moses, and issued the law in the form of the 10 Commandments, they rebelled against God and deserved his wrath. Had it not been for the intervention of Moses it seems that God would have destroyed them in the wilderness.
They needed a mediator to stand between them and God. Moses was that mediator. He quickly reminded God that it was necessary for God to bring these people through the wilderness to prove that he did not bring them out of Egypt just to kill them. Moses was a type of Christ! Just as Moses stood between God and Israel Jesus stands between God and his chosen people in the church today. Thank God that he made arrangements for us. Paul told Timothy about it! There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 2:5)
God’s wrath is not limited to the Old Testament. There are many passages in the New Testament that teach this truth. Let’s begin with Romans 1:18. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
Here in the beginning of the letter to the Romans, Paul extensively shows how human nature rebelled against God. And, contrary to most people’s beliefs, all people everywhere know enough about God to turn to him. Instead, they become futile in their thinking. Their foolish hearts were darkened. They think they are wise but instead they have become fools in giving up the glory of God for images made by human hands. The consequence of their rebellion is that God “gave them up” to the natural result of their sin.
God allowed mankind to descend into chaotic evil and all kinds of unrighteousness. As a result, they have no excuse. Oh, by the way, this is not just a past record but a continuing process! No one today has any excuse for their rebellion against God. God is very patient and his kindness is meant to lead us to repentance but instead…
Hardhearted mankind stores up wrath. Let’s read a little further down. Romans 2:4-5 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
The hardness of man’s heart causes the wrath of God to be accumulated. If it is not entirely released in our lifetime it will certainly be released in the age to come. Revelation, throughout, reveals the wrath of God being released on mankind. We have already seen that under the altar before the throne are the prayers of the saints asking to be avenged.
I have often thought of the wonder that we have in heaven an inheritance that is kept for us. Peter tells us, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:3-5) What a tremendous blessing this is that we have an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven where it is perfectly safe. But we need to remember that there is also a storing up of God’s wrath against all those who rebel against him. His patience allows an accumulation of unsatisfied wrath.
The psalmist struggled with the appearance of the ungodly escaping from any evil consequences. He held his tongue until he understood. In order to understand he entered into the sanctuary of God and saw their end. He could see that they were going to fall to ruin and be destroyed in a moment. (Psalm 73:18) Just as God has a treasure for his people stored up in heaven he also has an accumulation of wrath stored up that will come in his time and his way. Mankind has caused this accumulation of wrath and it will be released in God’s time.
The hard heartedness of mankind includes…
Earthly passions that draw God’s wrath. Colossians 3:5-8 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.
The evil earthly passions are like a metal pole extended into the sky that draws lightning. These things: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness are attracting the wrath of God.
This is a drawn-out description of the shortened statement, “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Without a doubt, as Job’s friend Eliphaz said, “we are all born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.”
That horrible truth, “all have sinned” puts us all in serious trouble! Without a doubt we were born in iniquity and conceived in sin. We have all come short of God’s glory. We are born separate from God and as soon as we possibly could we began to accumulate our own “sin debt”. The horror of that is that “the wages of sin is death,…” (Romans 6:23) Meaning that we all deserve death and hell…
However, we have an advocate. Job had said that he wanted someone to stand between him and God and be his advocate. Praise God, we have one. 1 John 2:1-2 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
John, yes the same one who wrote the Revelation, in his first little book assured his readers that we all have sinned. In fact, he says that any denial of our sin calls God a liar. (1 John 1:10) But, when we sin — and we will — God the father has already arranged that Jesus Christ the righteous is our advocate.
The great multitude that could not be counted will be seen in heaven because of the advocacy of Jesus on their behalf. You see…
Jesus’ sacrifice turned aside God’s wrath. Let’s look at the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 3:24b-26. Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
The word “propitiation” means, “a sacrifice that bears the wrath of God against sin and thereby turns God’s wrath into favor: “This was to show God’s righteousness because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins” (Rom. 3:25). Paul realizes that if Christ had not come to pay the penalty for sins, God could not be shown to be righteous. Because he had passed over sins and not punished them in the past, people could rightly accuse God of unrighteousness, the assumption being that a God who does not punish sins is not a righteous God. Therefore, when God sent Christ to die and pay the penalty for our sins, he showed how he could still be righteous—he had stored up the punishment due to previous sins (those of Old Testament saints) and then, in perfect righteousness, he gave that penalty to Jesus on the cross.” Grudem’s Systematic Theology, P. 515-6
And consequently redeemed a great multitude. Let’s return to Revelation 7:9-10. After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Praise God, there is going to be a great multitude in heaven. In fact, it has been 2000 years since that great multitude began to be accumulated. When those that have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ are added to all of those who were obedient to God in the Old Testament there is an uncounted number. Sometimes we think there are very few who truly believe. We become like Elijah in the Old Testament. He found himself facing the evil queen — Jezebel and saw no one standing with him so he ran away into the wilderness because he felt all alone. God met him in the wilderness and among the things he showed him was that he had, at that time, 7000 who had not bowed their knees to Baal! We should be encouraged that God has people we do not yet know about who put their faith in him.
The believers found in the seven churches of Asia must have been very encouraged by the book of Revelation. As they struggled to get the gospel out into their world in the midst of the beginnings of persecution and Satanic opposition they now can see that God is the ultimate Victor. A long time ago Isaac Watts said it best, “Jesus shall reign where’er the sun dose his successive journeys run; his kingdom spread from shore to shore, till moons shall wax and wane no more. To him shall endless prayer be made, and endless praises crown his head; his name like sweet perfume shall rise with every morning sacrifice.” Are you part of his kingdom? If you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised from the dead, you will be saved.” Let today be your day!
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.