Revelation 7:13
And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?
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(13) And one of the elders answered, saying unto me.—The seer had asked no question, but the elder answers the wondering thoughts and questionings which fill his mind. Perhaps this scene was in Dante’s mind when he described himself in Paradise:

Silent was I, yet desire

Was painted in my looks; and thus I spake

My wish more earnestly than language could.”

—Paradiso, iv. 10-12.

The elder asks the question which he knows St. John would fain ask. These who are clothed in white robes, who are they, and whence came they? The question brings the white robes into prominence. Is it, as has been suggested, that the wonder of the seer is excited more by the emblem of holiness and innocence than anything else? He recognises the multitudes as men and women out of every nation and tribe of sinful humanity, and he sees them clothed in the garb of holiness. Who are these countless throngs of holy ones?

Revelation 7:13-17. And one of the elders, &c. — What is here related, to Revelation 7:17, might have immediately followed the tenth verse; but that the praise of the angels, which was given at the same time with that of the great multitude, came in between: answered — That is, he answered St. John’s desire to know, not to any words the apostle spoke. Or, in order to give him a more exact information concerning the persons who were clothed in the white robes of purity, honour, and dignity, one of the elders led him on by a question to ask of him a fuller account of them. What are these which are arrayed in white robes? — And make such a splendid appearance; and whence came, or come, they? And, believing the question to be asked in order to quicken my attention to what he had to tell me concerning them, I said, Sir, thou knowest — Though I do not. And he said, &c. — These persons, whom you behold appearing in their state of honour and happiness, are they which came — Or come, as οι ερχομενοι rather signifies; out of great tribulation — They were very lately in a state of great affliction and suffering, for the sake of their faith and constancy; but, having kept the faith, they have received the blessings which Christ obtained by his blood for his church and faithful people. Yet these could not be all martyrs, for the martyrs could not be such a multitude as no man could number. But as all the angels appear here, so probably did all the souls of the righteous, who had lived from the beginning of the world. All these may be said, more or less, to come out of great tribulation,, of various kinds, wisely and graciously allotted by God to all his children; and have washed their robes — From all guilt; and made them white — In all purity and holiness; in, or by, the blood of the Lamb — Through which alone we obtain remission of sins, and the influences of the sanctifying Spirit, so that they are advanced to the state of glory and happiness in which you see them. Therefore — Because they came out of great affliction, and have washed their robes in Christ’s blood; are they before the throne of God — It seems even nearer than the angels; and serve him, day and night — Speaking after the manner of men; that is, continually; in his temple — In heaven; and he that sitteth on the throve shall dwell among them Σκηνωσει επ αυτους, shall have his tent over them: shall spread his glory over them as a covering. They shall hunger no more — They shall be no more subject to any of their former infirmities, wants, or afflictions; neither shall the sun light on them, &c. — None of the natural or common evils of the world below shall reach them any more. For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shall feed them — With eternal peace and joy, so that they shall hunger no more; and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters — The comforts of the Holy Spirit, so that they shall thirst no more; neither shall they grieve any more, for God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes — Every sorrow, with every cause of sorrow, shall be fully taken away for ever.

7:13-17 Faithful Christians deserve our notice and respect; we should mark the upright. Those who would gain knowledge, must not be ashamed to seek instruction from any who can give it. The way to heaven is through many tribulations; but tribulation, how great soever, shall not separate us from the love of God. Tribulation makes heaven more welcome and more glorious. It is not the blood of the martyrs, but the blood of the Lamb, that can wash away sin, and make the soul pure and clean in the sight of God; other blood stains, this is the only blood that makes the robes of the saints white and clean. They are happy in their employment; heaven is a state of service, though not of suffering; it is a state of rest, but not of sloth; it isa praising, delightful rest. They have had sorrows, and shed many tears on account of sin and affliction; but God himself, with his own gracious hand, will wipe those tears away. He deals with them as a tender father. This should support the Christian under all his troubles. As all the redeemed owe their happiness wholly to sovereign mercy; so the work and worship of God their Saviour is their element; his presence and favour complete their happiness, nor can they conceive of any other joy. To Him may all his people come; from him they receive every needed grace; and to him let them offer all praise and glory.And one of the elders - See the notes on Revelation 4:4. That is, as there understood, one of the representatives of the church before the throne.

Answered - The word "answer," with us, means "to reply to something which has been said." In the Bible, however, the word is not infrequently used in the beginning of a speech, where nothing has been said - as if it were a reply to something that might be said on the subject; or to something that is passing through the mind of another; or to something in the case under consideration which suggests an inquiry. Compare Isaiah 65:24; Daniel 2:26; Acts 5:8. Thus it is used here. John was looking on the host, and reflecting on the state of things; and to the train of thought passing through his mind the angel answered by an inquiry as to a part of that host. Prof. Stuart renders it accosted me.

What are these which are arrayed in white robes? - Who are these? The object evidently is to bring the case of these persons more particularly into view. The vast host with branches of palm had attracted the attention of John, but it was the object of the speaker to turn his thoughts to a particular part of the host - the martyrs who stood among them. He would seem, therefore, to have turned to a particular portion of the immense multitude of the redeemed, and by an emphasis on the word these - "Who are these" - to have fixed the eye upon them. All those who are before the throne are represented as clothed in white robes Revelation 7:9, but the eye might be directed to a particular part of them as grouped together, and as having something special in their position or appearance. There was a propriety in thus directing the mind of John to the martyrs as triumphing in heaven in a time when the churches were suffering persecution, and in view of the vision which he had had of times of darkness and calamity coming upon the world at the opening of the sixth seal. Beyond all the scenes of sorrow and grief, he was permitted to see the martyrs triumphing in heaven.

Arrayed in white robes - See the notes on Revelation 7:9.

And whence came they? - The object is to fix the attention more distinctly on what is said of them, that they came up out of great tribulation.

13. answered—namely, to my thoughts; spoke, asking the question which might have been expected to arise in John's mind from what has gone before. One of the twenty-four elders, representing the Old and New Testament ministry, appropriately acts as interpreter of this vision of the glorified Church.

What, &c.—Greek order, "These which are arrayed in white robes, WHO are they?"

Not that he did not know, but to try whether John knew, or rather to set John upon inquiring.

And one of the elders answered, saying unto me,.... This elder was not the Apostle Peter, as some Popish interpreters have thought; and still less Pope Silvester, who lived in the times of Constantine; be is much more likely, according to others, to be Constantine himself, the first of the elders, or the chief magistrate when the church sprung out of its troubles, and enjoyed rest and peace; though some have thought of the prophet Isaiah, since many things said by this elder are to be found in his prophecy; compare Revelation 7:14; with Isaiah 1:18; but it is needless to inquire who the particular person was; it is enough to say, that he was one of the four and twenty elders about the throne, one that belonged to the church, perhaps the same as in Revelation 5:5; who, in a visionary way, is represented as accosting John upon the above sight. The word "answered" is a common Hebraism of the New Testament, which is often used when nothing goes before, to which a return is made; and only signifies here, that the elder opened his month, began to speak, and called to John, and said as follows:

what are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? This he said, not as being ignorant of them, or of the reason of their being clothed in this manner, nor of the place and state from whence they came, as appears by the account afterwards given of them by him; but to stir up John to take more notice of them, as being a body of men that were worthy of observation and contemplation, and were worth his while to consider well who they were, and from whence they came; and also to try him whether he knew them or not, and to bring him to a confession of his ignorance; and that he might have an opportunity of giving him some hints about them, which might be useful to him, and to the churches, and for the explanation of this vision, and other parts of this prophecy.

{10} And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?

(10) A passage over to the explanation of the vision, which the angel enquires of John to stir him up in this verse and John in the form of speech, both acknowledges his own ignorance, attributing knowledge to the angel, and also in a humble manner requests the explanation of the vision.

Revelation 7:13-17. The second half of the vision contains an express interpretation of the first half, Revelation 7:9 sqq.

That it is one of the elders, who gives this interpretation,[2338] corresponds with the idea of these elders as the representatives of the Church,[2339] whose innumerable multitude appears here in glory.[2340]

ἈΠΕΚΡΊΘΗ designates, like עָנָה,[2341] the speech uttered when an occasion is given,[2342] which, however, cannot be limited to a definite question. Here the ἈΠΟΚΡΊΝΕΣΘΑΙ may be referred[2343] to the (unexpressed) desire of John to learn something further concerning the multitude beheld in Revelation 7:9; but even without accepting any such unexpressed question of John, the simple reference of the fact of the vision, Revelation 7:9 sqq., as the occasion for the declaration of the elders, is sufficient. The form of a dialogue,[2344] with its dramatic vividness, serves to emphasize the point under consideration; for, by asking what he intends to explain,[2345] the elder brings John to the answer which comprises the acknowledgment of his own ignorance, and the expression of the wish for an explanation. Thus, then the explanation, awaited with expectancy, follows in Revelation 7:14 sqq.

ΤΊΝΕς ΕἸΣῚΝ ΚΑῚ ΠΌΘΕΝ ἯΛΘΟΝ. The elder presents the two points concerning which one unacquainted would naturally ask first.[2346] Both questions also have their answer in Revelation 7:14, of course not in an external sense as though they had to do with names, station, country, etc., but so that the inner nature of the appearance is explained.

The address κύριε μου, which everywhere expresses real homage,—even where the ΜΟΥ, which makes the reference still more earnest, is lacking,[2347]—has in John’s mouth complete justification, because he stands before a heavenly being, whose superiority he acknowledges in the matter immediately under consideration by the ΣῪ ΟἿΔΑς. By this John does not say, “I, indeed, know it too, but you know it better,”[2348] but, “I do not know it, yet it may be heard from you, as you know it.”[2349]

ΟἹ-G0- ἘΡΧΌΜΕΝΟΙ-G0-. Incorrectly, Ew. i.: “who have just come hither;” Ebrard, etc., “those having come.” The present is to be retained,[2350] as it alone corresponds to the idea of the entire vision;[2351] for it is not individuals, as possibly martyrs,[2352] who are introduced, but to the seer there is given in anticipation a view of all faithful believers, as they are thus shown to him as those who, after the great tribulation of the last day shall be finished, shall stand before the throne of God and of the Lamb, Revelation 7:9 sqq. The explanation of the elder (in which the present ἐρχόμενοι, the aor. ἜΠΛΥΝΑΝ, ἘΛΕΎΚΑΝΑΝ (Revelation 7:14), again the present ΕἸΣῚΝ, ΛΑΤΡΕΎΟΥΣΙΝ, and, finally, the future ΣΚΗΝΏΣΕΙ

(Revelation 7:15-17), must, in like manner, be observed) is intelligible in its form of expression only by regarding the reality as not yet coinciding with what has been beheld. The vision displays that host as they are already before God’s throne, and are serving him (εἰσὶν, λατρεύουσιν, Revelation 7:15, pres.); they are those who (in their earthly life) have washed (ἔπλυναν, ἐλεύκαναν, Revelation 7:14, aor.) their robes in the blood of the Lamb. From the same standpoint, the pres. ἘΡΧΌΜΕΝΟΙ yields the idea, that they come before the eyes of the gazing prophet, and assemble before the throne of God. For it appears more suitable to one contemplating the standpoint of the vision in all the other points up to Revelation 7:15 a (ἐν τ. Ν. ΑὐΤ.), to hold fast, also, to the pres. ἘΡΧΌΜΕΝΟΙ, than[2353] to regard this ἘΡΧΌΜΕΝΟΙ in the sense of a future, and to find the allusion in the fact that that multitude was actually still upon earth, and is only still to come. Particularly opposed to this is the combination with the aor. Κ. ἜΠΛΥΝΑΝ. But from Revelation 7:15 b (καὶ ὁ καθήμ., κ.τ.λ.), the elder speaks not from the standpoint of the vision, but of reality. To that entire multitude, which is already presented to John in the vision as in final glory, there yet belongs first, since they are, in reality, still upon earth, the great hope of which the elder speaks: Ὁ ΚΑΘ. ἘΠῚ Τ. ΘΡ. ΣΚΗΝΏΣΕΙ ἘΠʼ ΑὐΤ., Οὐ ΠΕΙΝΆΣΟΥΣΙΝ, Κ.Τ.Λ. It is throughout sufficient that the explanatory address maintains in the beginning the standpoint of the vision, and that it is not until the close that the proper situation of affairs is opened.

ἘΚ Τῆς ΘΛΊΨΕΩς Τῆς ΜΕΓΆΛΗς. Not only because of the definite article, and the discriminating predicate Τ. ΜΕΓΆΛΗς, but also because of the reference of the entire vision from Revelation 7:9, it is impossible to understand “the great tribulation” very generally “of all trouble and labor on earth:”[2354] on the contrary, the eschatological reference is necessary whereby the ΘΛῚΨΙς, announced by the Lord in Matthew 24:21, and also prophesied by John, which is to be expected after Revelation 6:17, and therefore in the seventh seal, the immediate preparatory signs of which, also, are described already in Revelation 6:12-17, is meant.[2355] The entire vision (ver 9 sqq.) thus places before the eyes the fact, that, like the sealed of Israel (Revelation 7:1 sqq.), the innumerable multitude of all believers out of all nations shall nevertheless remain faithful in that great tribulation, and therefore shall attain to heavenly glory.


. Concerning the relation expressed by the aor., see on ΟἹ ἘΡΧΌΜΕΝΟΙ. On the subject itself, Beda remarks, “He does not speak of the martyrs alone: they are washed in their own blood.” Thus he has already[2356] correctly recognized the idea at once obvious, which elsewhere is marked by the expression Τ. ἈΡΝΊΟΥ,[2357] that the whiteness of the robes has been produced by the (atoning and redeeming) blood of Christ as the Lamb of God.[2358] But the idea recognized, in general, by Beda, of the cleansing power of martyrdom, has been introduced into the text not only by expositors like N. de Lyra, who regards the blood of the Lamb as the blood of martyrs, “because it is the blood of his members,” but even by Ew. i., manifestly because of his erroneous reference of Revelation 7:9 sqq. to martyrs, as he remarks, “by the blood of Christ, i.e., the death which they endured because of Christ’s doctrine, and having followed in this the example of Christ,” etc. It is, in other respects, contrary to the nature of the figures, when Hengstenb. tries to distinguish the washing from the making white, and refers the former to the forgiveness of sins, and the latter to sanctification; such a washing, however, is designated whereby the robes are made white. The delicate feature of correct ethics is also here to be noted, which lies in the fact that they who (in their earthly life) have washed their garments white in the blood of the Lamb appear in the future life attired in white clothing.[2359] What follows also Revelation 7:15, in its connection with ΔΙᾺ ΤΟῦΤΟ, depends upon the fundamental view which has been explained: those hosts could not stand before God’s throne, beneath the protection of his shadow, if, through the temptation of the great tribulation, they had not carried unsoiled the garments which had been made white in the blood of the Lamb.

Concerning the tenses, the present (ΕἸΣῚΝ, ΛΑΤΡΕΎΟΥΣΙΝ, Revelation 7:15 a) and the future (σκηνώσει, κ.τ.λ., Revelation 7:15 b–17), see on οἱ ἐρχόμενοι (Revelation 7:14). To refer the entire discourse (Revelation 7:15-17) to earthly circumstances,[2360] is so manifestly contrary to the tenor of the words, that the entire conception of ch. 7, which introduces such absurdities, contradicts itself.

ΕἸΣΙΝ ἘΝΏΠΙΟΝ ΤΟῦ ΘΡΌΝΟΥ Τ. Θ. Already, the fact that they are there is blessedness. Cf. Revelation 4:4, Revelation 21:3, Revelation 22:4; John 17:24; 1 John 3:2; Php 1:23; 1 Corinthians 13:12. ΚΙᾺ ΛΑΤΡΕΎΟΥΣΙΝ, Κ.Τ.Λ. Cf. Revelation 4:8 sqq., Revelation 5:8 sqq., Revelation 22:3. It is the glory of the priestly service in heaven; hence, ἘΝ Τῷ ΝΑῷ ΑὐΤΟῦ.[2361]

ἡμέρας καὶ νυκτάς. “Speaking after our custom, eternity is nevertheless meant.”[2362]

καὶ ὁ καθήμενος

σκηνώσει ἐπʼ αὐτούς. In accord with Leviticus 26:11, Isaiah 4:5, Ezekiel 37:27,[2363] here[2364] the eternal, immediate, personal presence of God enthroned in his glory, and the holiness and blessedness of believers perfected therein, are described, viz., the shechinah of God over them, but no more, as in an earthly covering, by pillars of smoke and fire, but in its heavenly immediateness, so that the σκηνοῦν of the enthroned One harmonizes with the εἷναι ἐνώπιον τοῦ θρόνου τ. θ. of the blessed. The further description also of heavenly freedom from pain (Revelation 7:16), and eternal refreshment and consolation (Revelation 7:17; cf. Revelation 21:4Revelation 7:13. “And one of the elders addressed me, saying”; for similar openings of a dialogue, see Jeremiah 1:11, Zechariah 4:2. Perhaps, like Dante (Parad. iv. 10–12), John although silent showed desire painted on his face. The form of inquiry resembles Homer’s τίς πόθεν εἶς ἀνδρῶν; πόθι τοι πόλις or Vergil’s qui genus? unde domo?, more closely still the similar sentences which recur in Hermas. See throughout, Zechariah 4:1; Zechariah 4:6, and Asc. Isa. ix. 25, 26 (and I said to the angel “For whom are these robes and thrones and crowns reserved?” And he said to me: “They shall be missed by many who believe the words of him of whom I told thee [i.e., Antichrist]”; also 11:40, uos autem uigilate in sancto spiritu ut recipiatis stolam uestram et thronos et coronas gloriae in caelo iacentes). It is the origin and character, not the number, of the company which interests the prophet.

13. one of the elders] See on Revelation 5:5. We have similarly “one (no matter which) of the seven Angels” in Revelation 17:1, Revelation 21:9.

Verse 13. - And one of the elders answered. The elder speaks because he is typical of the Church, concerning which the exposition which he delivers is to be made (see on Revelation 4:4). Where an explanation is made of visions which refer to the Church, the active part is taken by the elders, while angels introduce visions of which the signification is unexplained (cf. Revelation 5:2; Revelation 7:1, 2; Revelation 8; Revelation 10:1, 3, etc.; and Revelation 5:5). Saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? The elder questions that he may teach (Bede). Revelation 7:13Answered

In the sense of taking up speech in connection with some given occasion, as Matthew 11:25. See also on John 2:18.

What are these, etc.

The Rev., properly, follows the Greek order, which places first "These which are arrayed in the white robes, who are they?" emphatic and indicating the natural order of the thought as it presents itself to the inquirer. For what, render who, as Rev.

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