Revelation 7:14
And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
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(14) And I said unto him . . .—The form in which the answer of the seer is given shows how completely the elder had anticipated his thoughts; for he describes his reply as instantaneous. And I have said, My Lord—the language is that of reverent regard, but not of worship (see Revelation 19:10; Revelation 22:8-9)—thou knowesti.e., it is for thee to tell me: thy knowledge and thy view-point is higher than mine; thou knowest: it is thine to speak, and mine to hearken.

And he said to me . . .—Read, And he said to me, These are they who come (the present tense is used: these are those coming) out of the great tribulation. They are those who come, not all at once, but gradually. The saints of God are continually passing into the unseen world, and taking their place among the spirits of just men made perfect. They come out of the great tribulation. Are we to limit the expression to the special and peculiar afflictions of the last great trial? There is no doubt about the emphasis which the definite article (unfortunately, ignored in our English version) gives: it is the great tribulation; but while there may yet be in store for the Church of Christ trials so great that they may be called, in comparison with those which went before, the great tribulation, it yet seems out of harmony with the spirit of the Apocalypse and the complexion of this vision to limit the phrase to some special season of trial. Is not the great tribulation the tribulation which those must encounter who are on the side of Christ and righteousness, and refuse to receive the mark of worldliness and sin on their heart, conscience, and life? In all ages it is true that we must through much tribulation enter the Kingdom of God; and the vision here is surely not of those who will come safe out of some particular trials, but of the great multitude from every age and every race who waged war against sin, and who, in the midst of that protracted conflict, endured the great tribulation which is to continue until Christ’s return. And they washed (not “have washed,” for the washing was done during their earthly life) their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. The imagery is to be found in the Gospel and in the Epistle (John 13:8-11; and 1John 1:7); its use here and in Revelation 1:5 (if the reading washed is to be preferred to loosed) points to a common authorship: the emblem of the blood which washes white, or cleanses, is not used with such distinctness elsewhere in the New Testament. It is, in St. John’s lips, but a following out of the twice-repeated words which he quotes from John the Baptist at the opening of the Gospel, when he proclaimed Christ to be “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” In that Lamb of God those who came out of great tribulation found the forgiveness and the spiritual power which gave them confidence and hope in the midst of life’s war and life’s weariness; for the man who knows that he is forgiven and that he is being helped to holiness is the man who thinks no fiery trial strange, but rejoices in the knowledge that his salvation is of God.

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 I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest - The word "sir" in this place - κύριέ kurie, "lord" - is a form of respectful address, such as would be used when speaking to a superior, Genesis 43:20; Matthew 13:27; Matthew 21:30; Matthew 27:63; John 4:11, John 4:15, John 4:19, John 4:49; John 5:7; John 12:21; John 20:15. The simple meaning of the phrase "thou knowest" is, that he who had asked the question must be better informed than he to whom he had proposed it. It is, on the part of John, a modest confession that he did not know, or could not be presumed to know, and at the same time the respectful utterance of an opinion that he who addressed this question to him must be in possession of this knowledge.

And he said unto me - Not offended with the reply, and ready, as he had evidently intended to do, to give him the information which he needed.

These are they which came out of great tribulation - The word rendered "tribulation" - θλίψις thlipsis - is a word of general character, meaning "affliction," though perhaps there is here an allusion to persecution. The sense, however, would be better expressed by the phrase great trials. The object seems to have been to set before the mind of the apostle a view of those who had suffered much, and who by their sufferings had been sanctified and prepared for heaven, in order to encourage those who might be yet called to suffer.

And have washed their robes - To wit, in the blood of the Lamb.

And made them white in the blood of the Lamb - There is some incongruity in saying that they had made them white in the blood of the Lamb; and the meaning therefore must be, that they had cleansed or purified them in that blood. Under the ancient ritual, various things about the sanctuary were cleansed from ceremonial defilement by the sprinkling of blood on them - the blood of sacrifice. In accordance with that usage, the blood of the Lamb - of the Lord Jesus - is said to cleanse and purify. John sees a great company with white robes. The means by which it is said they became white or pure is the blood of the Lamb. It is not said that they were made white as the result of their sufferings or their afflictions but by the blood of the Lamb. The course of thought here is such that it would be natural to suppose that, if at any time the great deeds or the sufferings of the saints could contribute to the fact that they will wear white robes in heaven, this is an occasion on which there might be such a reference.

But there is no allusion to that. It is not by their own sufferings and trials, their persecutions and sorrows, that they are made holy, but by the blood of the Lamb that had been shed for sinners. This reference to the blood of the Lamb is one of the incidental proofs that occur so frequently in the Scriptures of the reality of the atonement. It could be only in allusion to that, and with an implied belief in that, that the blood of the Lamb could be referred to as cleansing the robes of the saints in heaven. If he sheds his blood merely as other people have done; if he died only as a martyr, what propriety would there have been in referring to his blood more than to the blood of any other martyr? And what influence could the blood of any martyr have in cleansing the robes of the saints in heaven? The fact is, that if that were all, such language would be unmeaning. It is never used except in connection with the blood of Christ; and the language of the Bible everywhere is such as would be employed on the supposition that he shed his blood to make expiation for sin, and on no other supposition. On the general meaning of the language used here, and the sentiment expressed, see the Hebrews 9:14 note and 1 John 1:7 note.

14. Sir—Greek, "Lord." B, C, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic versions, and Cyprian read, "My Lord." A omits "My," as English Version.

thou knowest—taken from Eze 37:3. Comparatively ignorant ourselves of divine things, it is well for us to look upward for divinely communicated knowledge.

came—rather as Greek, "come"; implying that they are just come.

great tribulation—Greek, "THE great tribulation"; "the tribulation, the great one," namely, the tribulation to which the martyrs were exposed under the fifth seal, the same which Christ foretells as about to precede His coming (Mt 24:21, great tribulation), and followed by the same signs as the sixth seal (Mt 24:29, 30), compare Da 12:1; including also retrospectively all the tribulation which the saints of all ages have had to pass through. Thus this seventh chapter is a recapitulation of the vision of the six seals, Re 6:1-17, to fill up the outline there given in that part of it which affects the faithful of that day. There, however, their number was waiting to be completed, but here it is completed, and they are seen taken out of the earth before the judgments on the Antichristian apostasy; with their Lord, they, and all His faithful witnesses and disciples of past ages, wait for His coming and their coming to be glorified and reign together with Him. Meanwhile, in contrast with their previous sufferings, they are exempt from the hunger, thirst, and scorching heats of their life on earth (Re 7:16), and are fed and refreshed by the Lamb of God Himself (Re 7:17; 14:1-4, 13); an earnest of their future perfect blessedness in both body and soul united (Re 21:4-6; 22:1-5).

washed … robes … white in the blood of … Lamb—(Re 1:5; Isa 1:18; Heb 9:14; 1Jo 1:7; compare Isa 61:10; Zec 3:3-5). Faith applies to the heart the purifying blood; once for all for justification, continually throughout the life for sanctification.

John confessing his own ignorance, applies himself to this elder for instruction, who tells him: These were the souls of them that came out of great sufferings and persecution; but he addeth, that they were such as were washed in the blood of Christ. Suffering will not bring us to heaven without having our souls washed with the blood of Christ.

And I said unto him, sir, thou knowest,.... John replies in a very humble, modest, and respectful manner, to the elder, calling him "sir", according to the usage of the eastern people; and it is observable, that this word is much used in his Gospel, and more than in any other book; see John 4:11. Some copies, and the Complutensian edition, read, "my Lord"; and so do the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Arabic versions. John confesses his ignorance, and ascribes knowledge to the elder, and desires information of him; for the sense is, that the elder knew who they were, and from whence they came, but he did not, and therefore desires that he would inform him; and so the Arabic version renders it, "and my Lord, thou art more learned"; that is, than I am, and therefore instruct me, as he accordingly did;

and he said to me, these are they which came out of great tribulation: seeing this company designs all the elect of God, that ever were, are, or shall be in the world; "the great tribulation", out of which they came, is not to be restrained to any particular time of trouble, but includes all that has been, is, or shall be; as all the afflictions of the saints under the Old Testament; from righteous Abel to Zechariah; and all the troubles of the people of God in the times of the Maccabees, Hebrews 11:35; all the persecutions of the Christians by the Jews, at the first publication of the Gospel; and the persecutions under the Roman emperors, both Pagan and Arian; and the cruelties and barbarities of the Romish antichrist, during the whole time of the apostasy; and particularly the last struggle of the beast, which will be the hour of temptation, that will come upon all the world; and in general all the afflictions, reproaches, persecutions, and many tribulations of all the saints, and every member of Christ in this world, who in the new Jerusalem church state will be come out of them; which supposes them to have been in them, and yet were not overwhelmed by them, and lost in them; but, by divine support and assistance, waded through them, and were now quite clear of them, and never more to be annoyed with them; see Revelation 21:4.

And have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb; not in the blood of bulls and goats, which could not take away sin; nor in their own blood, their sufferings for Christ, on which they did not depend, knowing there is no comparison between them, and the glory revealed in them; nor in any works of righteousness done by them, which are imperfect and filthy, and need washing; but in the blood of Christ, which cleanseth from all sin. The "robes" which they washed in his blood may either design themselves, their consciences, which this blood purges from dead works; or their outward conversation garments, which have their spots, and need continual washing; or else the robe of righteousness, and garments of salvation, or their justification, which is by the blood of Christ, Romans 5:9. The act of washing from sin, by the blood of Christ, is sometimes ascribed to Christ himself, as in Revelation 1:5; but here to the saints, and designs the concern which faith has in the blood of Christ, which deals with it for justification, peace, and pardon, for the removing of sin from the conscience, and for cleansing from all impurity, both of flesh and Spirit: and the effect of this is, that their robes were "made white"; that is, that they were freed from all sin, were without fault before the throne, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. This shows that these persons had no trust in themselves, or dependence on their own merits, and works of righteousness, but wholly trusted to, and depended on the blood and righteousness of Christ; which is the only way to come out of tribulation, and enter the kingdom.

And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, {11} These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

(11) The explanation of the vision, in which the angel tells first the acts of the saints, that is, their sufferings and work of faith in Christ Jesus, in this verse. Secondly their glory: both present, which consists in two things, that they minister to God, and that God protects them Re 7:15 and to come, in their perfect deliverance from all annoyances Re 7:16 and in participation of all good things which the memory of past hurts shall never be able to diminish Re 7:17. The cause efficient and which contains all these things is only one, the Lamb of God, the Lord, the Mediator, and the Saviour Christ Jesus.

Revelation 7:14. κύριέ μου (“Sir”) the respectful address of an inferior to his superior in age or station, the πρεσβύτεροι being conceived as angelic beings (as in Daniel 10:17; Daniel 10:19; Daniel 10:4 Ezra 4:3, etc.)—“Thou knowest” (and I fain would know also). The great distress is plainly the period of persecution and martyrdom (Revelation 6:11) predicted (e.g., Matthew 24:21, from Daniel 12:1) to herald the final catastrophe. It is still expected by Hermas (Vis. ii. 2. 7, iv. 2. 5, 3. 6); but he less religiously attributes the white garments (i.e., purity of soul) to the virtues. As the crisis with its outcome ol faith and loyalty in all nations (Revelation 7:9) is to be world-wide, this passage seems to imply, altnougn in a characteristically vague and incidental fashion (cf. Revelation 5:9, Revelation 14:6, etc.), the idea of Mark 8:10. But the situation of the Apocalypse is so acute, that mission operations are at a standstill. Instead of the gospel invading and pervading the pagan world, the latter has closed in upon the churches with threatening power, and in the brief interval before the end practically nothing can be looked for except the preservation of the faithful. Those who come out of the great distress” are further described as having washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb; which portrays their character and conduct and at the same time explains the secret of their triumphant endurance. “Mehr gedacht als geschaut ist das Bild” (J. Weiss). The great thing is not to emerge from trial, but to emerge from it with unstained faith and conscience. And this is possible, not to man’s unaided efforts, but to the sacrificial power of Christ, the experience of which forms the last line of defence in the struggle. The confessors and martyrs owed their moral purity to what they obtained through the sacrifice of Jesus. But moral purity became in this case something more intense (as the context and the emphatic language of this verse imply) than the normal Christian experience of forgiveness and holiness. By a turn of thought which is developed later by Ignatius and Tertullian (Scorp. xii. sordes quidem baptismate abluuntur, maculae uero martyrio candidantur), it is suggested that in their martyrdom (cf. Daniel 12:10) these saints were able to make the redeeming power of Jesus peculiarly their own; the nature of their cruel sufferings identified them especially with their Lord. It is noticeable that the mystic union of the individual Christian with Christ mainly comes forward ward in the Apocalypse (cf. Revelation 14:13) when the martyrs and confessors are mentioned, as if the writer held that such an experience alone could yield the deepest consciousness of communion with One who was conceived essentially as a Lamb who had been slain, a faithful witness, etc. (cf. Titius, 216, 217). On the high respect for martyrs, of which this forms an early trace, see Weinel, 142–144. At the same time it is to the blood of the Lamb, not to their own blood, that they owe their bliss and triumph; redemption, not martyrdom, is the essential basis of their deliverance. People might be redeemed without becoming martyrs; as, for example, either recreant Christians or those who happened to die a natural death. But no one could be a martyr without having the strength of redemption behind him.

14. Sir] Read, My lord: cf. Daniel 10:16-17; Zechariah 4:5; Zechariah 4:13. In the latter place we have, as here, the heavenly interlocutor apparently assuming that the Seer ought to understand the vision without explanation.

thou knowest] Cf. Ezekiel 37:3.

which came] More accurately, which come.

great tribulation] Should be, the great tribulation: the article is strongly emphasised. It probably means, “the great tribulation foretold by the Lord,” St Matthew 24:21 : cf. Daniel 12:1. For a similar use of the art. cf. ch. Revelation 1:7, “the clouds.”

made them white in the blood] A paradox something like that of Revelation 6:16 fin. For the image, cf. perhaps Revelation 1:5 (but see note there); certainly Revelation 22:14 (true text), and probably St John 1 John 1:7. Hebrews 9:14, which is sometimes quoted, is less closely parallel: there the image seems to be taken from ritual rather than physical cleansing.

Verse 14. - And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest; and I say unto him, My lord (Revised Version). The expression denotes the utmost respect and reverence, which afterwards induce the seer to worship the angel (see Revelation 19:10; Revelation 22:8). The structure of this part of the vision recalls Ezekiel 37:3, "And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest" (cf. Zechariah 4:2, 4, 5; John 12:21). And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation; which come out of the great tribulation (Revised Version). The repeated article is especially emphatic. The question arises What is "the great tribulation" referred to? Probably all the tribulation which has been passed through by the redeemed, all that which pertained to the life though which they have passed. This tribulation is now completed and past, and is therefore referred to as "the great tribulation." "These are they which have passed through the great tribulation of their life on earth." This is the view taken by Alford. Dusterdieck refers the expression to the last great trial of the saints before the coming of the Lord. Some point to particular persecutions as the reference intended, and others consider that "the last great trial to be expected under the seventh seal" is meant. And have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb; and they washed, etc. That is, during their past life, while they were experiencing the great tribulation, they washed their robes (cf. Revelation 3:4, 5, where those who have "not defiled their garments" and those "that overcome" are to be clothed in white). Those that overcome and are undefiled, therefore, are those who have washed themselves in the blood of the Lamb, through which only their victory is possible or effective. Arethas, Bede, De Lyra, consider that the robes are washed of those who have endured martyrdom, and that they are washed in the blood of the Lamb, because it is the blood of his members. Revelation 7:14I said (εἴρηκα)

Lit., I have said. Rev., renders by the present, I say. See on cried, John 1:15.

Sir (κύριε)

Add μου my, and render, as Rev., my Lord. An address of reverence as to a heavenly being. See on Matthew 21:3.

Which came (οἱ ἐρχόμενοι)

The present participle. Hence, as Rev., which come.

Out of great tribulation (ἐκ τῆς θλίψεως τῆς μεγάλης)

Lit., out of the tribulation, the great (tribulation). Rev., properly, gives the force of the article, "the great." See on Matthew 13:21.

Have washed (ἔπλυναν)

The aorist tense. Rev., correctly, they washed. Only here and Luke 5:2, on which see note. For the New Testament words for washing, see on Acts 16:33.

Made them white

Compare Isaiah 1:18; Psalm 51:7; Mark 9:3. Milligan remarks that robes are the expression of character, and compares the word habit used of dress.

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