Revelation 7:9
After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;
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(9) After this I beheld . . .—Better, After these things I saw, and behold! a great multitude which no one was able to number, out of every nation, and (all) tribes, and peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches in their hands. “A great multitude:” We have just had the picture of the sealing of a multitude which could be numbered: now we have the picture of a countless throng. Who are these? Are they the same as the one hundred and forty-four thousand, or are they others? Our answer must be that this vision gives the climax of the previous one. The sealing represented the Passover of the Church: this vision represents its Feast of Tabernacles. The sealing assured us that in the midst of the severe times of testing there would be those who, wearing God’s armour, would come forth unscathed: this vision shows us the fruition of their labour and their rest after conflict. The sealing assured us that God’s hidden ones would be safe in trouble: this tells us that they have come safe out of it—they are those who have come out of the great tribulation (Revelation 7:14). But how can the numbered of the one vision be the same as the numberless of the next? They are numbered in the first vision, as it is one of the assurances of their safety. In that vision the idea of their security in trial and danger is the main one. The servants or God are safe, for they are sealed and numbered; they are among those sheep of Christ whom He calls by name, whose very hairs are numbered; they are those whose reliance is not on self, but on their shepherd; and the sealing is the echo of Christ’s words, “they shall never perish;” they are the servants of God, known by Him and recognised by Him. But in the next vision, the expanding prospects of the Church and her final repose are shown to us. The idea of victory and peace, not so much safety in danger as freedom from it, is set forth; and then countless multitudes are seen; the numbered are found to be numberless; countless as the sand by the sea and as the stars in heaven, they are yet in the reckoning and knowledge of Him who “telleth the number of the stars and calleth them all by their names.” The numbering must not be understood to imply limitation. We have seen that it is a number which symbolises expansive energy and extensive success; it implies the real security and wide-spread growth of the Church of God; it has no limits; it gathers from every nation, and people; it welcomes all; where there is neither Jew, nor Greek, barbarian, Scythian, bond, nor free; its gates are open all night and all day to every quarter of the world—

“From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,

Through gates of pearl stream in the countless host,

Singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Alleluia.”

The multitude are clothed with white robes, and carry palm branches in their hands. It has been thought that these are the emblems of victory; they doubtless are tokens of a triumph: it is the sacred rejoicing of the Israel of God. The imagery is drawn from the Feast of Tabernacles: just as the sealing reminded us of the protecting sign on the lintels of the houses of Israel in Egypt, so do these palm branches and songs of joy recall the ceremonies of the later feast. No imagery would be more natural to the sacred seer, and none more appropriate to his subject. The Feast of Tabernacles commemorated God’s care over them in the wilderness, and their gratitude for the harvest. The people forsook the houses, and dwelt in booths; the streets were full of glad multitudes who carried branches of palm, and olive, and myrtle; everywhere the sounds of rejoicing and singing were heard; “there was very great gladness” (Exodus 23:16; Leviticus 23:43; Nehemiah 8:14-17). The vision here shows us a far greater feast. “The troubles of the wilderness are ended, the harvest-home of the Church is come,” and God tabernacles (Revelation 7:15) among His servants.



Revelation 7:9The Seer is about to disclose the floods of misery which are to fall upon the earth at the sound of the seven trumpets, like avalanches set loose by a noise. But before the crash of their descent comes there is a lull.

He sees angels holding back the winds, like dogs in a leash, lest they should blow, and all destructive agencies are suspended. In the pause before the storm he sees two visions: one, that of the sealing of the servants of God, the pledge that, amidst the world-wide calamities, they shall be secure; and one, this vision of my text, the assurance that beyond the storms there waits a calm region of life and glory. The vision is meant to brace all generations for their trials, great or small, to draw faith and love upwards and forwards, to calm sorrow, to diminish the magnitude of death and the pain of parting, and to breed in us humble desires that, when our time comes, we too may go to join that great multitude.

It can never be inappropriate to look with the eyes of the Seer on that jubilant crowd. So I turn to these words and deal with them in the plainest possible fashion, just taking each clause as it lies, though, for reasons which will appear, modifying the order in which we look at them. I think that, taken together, they tell us all that we can or need know about that future.

I. Note the palm-bearing multitude.

Now the palm, among the Greeks and Romans, was a token of victory. That is usually taken to be the meaning of the emblem here, as it was taken in the well-known hymn -

‘More than conquerors at last.’

But it has been well pointed out that there is no trace of such a use of the palm in Jewish practice, and that all the emblems of this Book of the Revelation move within the circle of Jewish ideas. Therefore, appropriate as the idea of victory may be, it is not, as I take it, the one that is primarily suggested here. Where, then, shall we look for the meaning of the symbol?

Now there was in Jewish practice a very significant use of the palm-branches, for it was the prescription of the ritual law that they should be employed in the Feast of Tabernacles, when the people were bidden to take palm-branches and rejoice before the Lord seven days.’ It is that distinctly Jewish use of the palm branch that is brought before our minds here, and not the heathen one of mere conquest.

So then, if we desire to get the whole significance and force of this emblem of the multitude with the palms in their hands, we have to ask what was the significance of that Jewish festival. Like all other Jewish feasts, it was originally a Nature-festival, applying to a season of the year, and it afterwards came to have associated with it the remembrance of something in the history of the nation which it commemorated. That double aspect, the natural and the historical, are both to be kept in view. Let us take the eldest one first. The palm-bearing multitude before the Throne suggests to us the thought of rejoicing reapers at the close of the harvest. The year’s work is done, the sowing days are over, the reaping days have come. ‘They that gather it shall eat it in the courts of the Lord.’ And so the metaphor of my text opens out into that great thought that the present and the future are closely continuous, and that the latter is the time for realizing, in one’s own experience, the results of the life that we have lived here. To-day is the time of sowing; the multitude with the palms in their hands are the reapers. Brother! what are you sowing? Will it be for you a glad day of festival when you have to reap what you have sown? Are you scattering poisoned seed? Are you sowing weeds, or are you sowing good fruit that shall be found after many days unto praise and honour and glory? Look at your life here as being but setting in motion a whole series of causes of which you are going to have the effects punctually dealt out to you yonder in the time to come. That great multitude reaped what they had sown, and rejoiced in the reaping. Shall I? We are like operators in a telegraph office, touching keys here which make impressions upon ribbons in a land beyond the sea, and when we get there we shall have to read what we have written here. How will you like it, when the ribbon is taken out of the machine and spread before you, and you have to go over it syllable by syllable and translate all the dots and dashes into what they mean? It will be a feast or a day of sadness. But, festival or no, there stands plain and irrefragable the fact that ‘whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap,’ and he will not only have to reap it, but he will have to eat it, and be filled with the fruit of his own doings. That is the first thought.

Turn to the other one. That palm-bearing multitude keeping their Feast of Tabernacles reminds us of the other aspect of the festival in its original intention, which was the commemoration of all that God had done for the people as they passed through the wilderness, and the rejoicing, in their settled abode, over ‘the way by which the Lord their God had led them,’ and over the rest to which He had led them. So the other idea comes out that they who have passed into that great Presence look back on the darkness and the dreariness, on the struggles and the change, on the drought and the desert, on the foes and the fears, and out of them all find occasions for rejoicing and reasons for thankfulness. There can be no personal identity without memory and the memory of sorrows changes into joy when we come to see the whole meaning and trend of the sorrow. The desert was dreary, solitary, dry, and parched as they passed through it. But like some grim mountain-range seen in the transfiguring light of sunrise, and from the far distance, all grimness is changed into beauty, and the long dreary stretch looks, when beheld from afar, one unbroken manifestation of the Divine love and presence. What was grim rock and cold ice when we were near it is clothed with the violets and the purples that remoteness brings, and there shines down upon it the illuminating and interpreting light of the accomplished purpose of God. So the festival is the feast of inheriting consequences, and the feast of remembering the past.

There is one other aspect of this metaphor which I may just mention in a sentence. Later days in Judaism added other features to the original appointments of the Feast of Tabernacles, and amongst them there was one which our Lord Himself used as the occasion of setting forth one aspect of His work. ‘On the last day, that great day of the feast,’ the priests went down from the Temple, and filled their golden vases at the fountain, brought back the water, and poured it forth in the courts of the Temple, chanting the ancient song from the prophet, ‘With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.’ And our Lord in His earthly life used this last day of the feast and its ceremonial as the point of attachment for His revelation of Himself, as He who gave to men the true living water. In like manner, the expansion of my text, which occurs in the subsequent verses, refers, as it would seem, to the festival, and to our Lord’s own use of it, when we read that the ‘Lamb which is in the midst of the Throne shall be their Shepherd, and shall lead them to the fountains of living waters.’

So the emblem of the feast brings to our mind, not only the thought of retribution and of repose, but also the thought of the abundant communication of all supplies for all the desires and thirsts of the dependent and seeking soul. Whatsoever human nature can need there, it receives in its fullness from Jesus Christ. The Rabbis used to say that he who had not seen the joy of the Feast of Tabernacles did not know what joy meant; and I would say that until we, too, stand there, with the palms in our hands, we shall not know of how deep, fervent, calm, perpetual a gladness the human heart is capable.

II. Note their place and attitude.

They stand before the Throne, and before the Lamb. Now it would take me too far away from my present purpose to do more than point, in a sentence, to that remarkable and tremendous juxtaposition of the ‘Throne’ and the ‘Lamb,’ which Lamb is the crucified Christ. What did the man that ventured upon that form of speech, bracketing together the ‘Throne’ of the Divine Majesty and the slain Lamb ‘who is Christ, think about Christ that he should sever Him from all the multitude of men, and unite Him with the solitary God? I only ask. I leave you to answer.

But I turn to the two points - ‘before the Throne and the Lamb,’ and ‘standing’; and these two suggest, as it seems to me, the two thoughts which, though we cannot do much to fill them out, are yet all-sufficient for illumination, for courage, and for hope. These two are the thought of nearness and the thought of service. ‘Before the Throne and the Lamb’ is but a picturesque way of saying ‘to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better.’ I do not enter upon any attempt to expound the manner of such nearness. All that I say is that it is a poor affair if we are to let flesh and sense interpret for us what is meant by ‘near’ and ‘far.’ For even here, and whilst we are entangled with this corporeal existence and our dependence upon the conditions of time and space, we know that there is nearness mediated by sympathy and love which is independent of, which survives and disregards, external separation in space. Every loving heart knows that where the treasure is, there the heart is, and where the heart is, there the man is. And the very same thing that knits us together, though oceans wide between us roll, in its highest form will knit the souls that love Jesus Christ to Him, wherever in space they and He may be. Here we have five senses, five windows, five gates. If our ears were different we should hear sounds, shrill and deep, which now are silence to us. If our eyes were different we should see rays at both ends of the spectrum which now are invisible. The body hides as much as it reveals, and we may humbly believe that when the perfect spirit is clothed with its perfect organ, the spiritual body - that is to say, the body that answers to all the needs of the spirit, and is its fit instrument, then many of those melodies which now pass by us unheard will fill our senses with sweetness, and many of these flashing lustres which now we cannot gather into visual impressions will then blaze before us in the perfect light. We shall be near Him, and to be with Christ, however it is mediated {and we cannot tell how}, is all that you need, for peace, for nobleness, for blessedness, for immortality. Brethren! to have Christ with me here is my strength; to be with Christ yonder is my blessedness. They are ‘before the Throne of God and the Lamb.’ I do not believe that we know much beyond that, and I am sure that we need nothing beyond it, if we rightly understand all that it means.

But I said there was another idea here, and that is implied by the words, they stood before the Throne,’ and is further drawn out in the expansion of my text which follows it as interpretation: ‘Therefore are they before the Throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His Temple.’ What the nature of the service may be it boots not to inquire, only let us remember that the caricature of the Christian heaven which has often been flung at Christian people as a taunt, viz., that it is an eternity of idleness and psalm-singing, has no foundation in Scripture, because the New Testament conception unites the two thoughts of being with Christ and of service for Christ. Remember, for instance, the parable of the pounds and the talents, in which the great law is laid down. ‘Thou hast been faithful over a few things; I will make thee ruler over many things,’ and mark how here ‘these . . . that came out of great tribulation’ are not only in His presence, but active in His service. We have the same blending still more definitely set forth in the last chapter of this book, where we read of ‘those who serve Him, and see His face’; where the two ideas of the life of contemplation and rapt vision, and of the life of active service and joyful employment are welded together as being not only not incompatible, but absolutely necessary for each other’s completeness.

But remember that if there is to be service yonder, here is the exercising ground, where we are to cultivate the capacities and acquire the habitudes which there will find ampler scope and larger field. I do not know what we are here in this world for at all, unless it is to apprentice us for heaven. I do not know that there is anything that a man has to do in this life which is worth doing unless it be as a training for doing something yonder that shall more entirely correspond with his capacities. So what kind of work are you doing, friend? Is it the sort of work that you will be able to carry on when you pass beyond all the trivialities of this life? I beseech you, remember this, that life on earth is a bewilderment and an enigma for which there is no solution, a long piece of irony, unless beyond the grave there lie fields for nobler work for which we are being trained here. And I pray you see to it that your life here on earth is such as to prepare you for the service, day and night, of the heavens. How can I drive that home to your hearts and consciences? I cannot; you must do it for yourselves.

III. Lastly, note their dress.

‘ Clothed with white robes’ - the robe is, of course, in all languages, the character in which, as the result of his deeds, a man drapes himself, that of him which is visible to the world, the ‘habit’ of his spirit, as we say {and the word ‘habit’ means both custom and costume}. ‘White’ is, of course, the heavenly colour; ‘white thrones,’ ‘white horses’ are in this book, and the white is not dead but lustrous, like our Lord’s garments on the Mount of Transfiguration, such white as sunshine smiting a snowfield makes. So, then, the dress, the habit of the spirits is of lustrous purity, or glory, to put it all into one word. But more important than that is this question: How came they by such robes? The expansion of our text, to which I have already referred more than once, and which immediately follows, answers the question. ‘They washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’ ‘They washed’; then there is something for them to do.

‘The blood of the Lamb’ was the means of cleansing; then cleansing was not the result of their own effort. The cleansing is not the mere forgiveness, but includes also the making of the character, pure, white, lustrous. And the blood of the Lamb does that. For Christ by His death has brought to us forgiveness, and Christ by His imparted life brings to each of us, if we will, the cleansing which shall purify us altogether. Only we have something to do. We cannot indeed cleanse ourselves. There is no detergent in any soap factory in the world that will take the stains out of your character, or that will take away the guilt of the past. But Jesus Christ by His death brings forgiveness, and by His life imparted to us, will change the set of a character, and make us gradually pure. He has ‘washed us from our sins in His own blood.’ We have to wash our garments, and make them ‘white in the blood of the Lamb.’ He has brought the means; we have to employ them. If we do, if we not only trust Him for pardon, but accept Him for purifying, and day by day honestly endeavour to secure greater and greater whiteness of garments, our labour will not be in vain. If, and only if, we do that, and see stain after stain gradually fade away from the garment, under our hands, we may humbly hope that when we die there will be one more added to the palm-bearing, white-robed multitude who stand before the Throne and before the Lamb. ‘Blessed are they that wash their robes that they may have right to the Tree of Life,’ and may enter in through the gate into the City.

Revelation 7:9. After this I beheld, and lo, a great multitude — This first refers to the happy and prosperous state of the church at the end of so many grievous persecutions and sufferings: for an innumerable multitude of all nations and tongues embraced the gospel, and are here represented as clothed with white robes, in token of their acceptance with God, and their sanctification through his Holy Spirit. And, as Sulpicius Severus says, it is wonderful how much the Christian religion prevailed at that time. The historians who have written of this reign relate how even the most remote and barbarous nations were converted to the faith, Jews as well as Gentiles. One historian in particular affirms, that at the time when Constantine took possession of Rome, after the death of Maxentius, there were baptized more than twelve thousand Jews and heathen, besides women and children. These converts from the tribes of Israel and from the Gentile nations are here represented as having finished their course, and as standing before the throne in robes of glory, and with palms in their hands as tokens of joy and victory; because if they were sincere converts, brought to possess, as well as profess, the religion of Jesus, and should continue in the faith grounded and settled, and not be moved away from the hope of the gospel, they would certainly be presented before the presence of the divine glory with exceeding joy, and obtain all the felicity here spoken of. Doddridge indeed supposes that only the sealing of these thousands expresses the progress of the gospel under Constantine; and that the innumerable multitude here spoken of were the spirits of good men departed out of this world, and then with God in glory: and especially those who had weathered the difficulties and persecutions with which the church had been tried during the first centuries of Christianity, when the civil power was generally active against it, and when probably many persecutions raged in various parts of the world, whose histories are not come down to us.

7:9-12 The first fruits of Christ having led the way, the Gentiles converted later follow, and ascribe their salvation to God and the Redeemer, with triumph. In acts of religious worship we come nigh to God, and must come by Christ; the throne of God could not be approached by sinners, were it not for a Mediator. They were clothed with the robes of justification, holiness, and victory; and they had palms in their hands, as conquerors used to appear in their triumphs. Such a glorious appearance will the faithful servants of God make at last, when they have fought the good fight of faith, and finished their course. With a loud voice they gave to God and the Lamb the praise of the great salvation. Those who enjoy eternal happiness must and will bless both the Father and the Son; they will do it publicly, and with fervour. We see what is the work of heaven, and we ought to begin it now, to have our hearts much in it, and to long for that world where our praises, as well as our happiness, will be made perfect.After this - Greek," After these things" - Μετὰ ταῦτα Meta tauta: that is, after I saw these things thus represented I had another vision. This would undoubtedly imply, not only that he saw these things after he had seen the sealing of the hundred and forty-four thousand, but that they would occur subsequently to that. But he does not state whether they would immediately occur, or whether other things might not intervene. As a matter of fact, the vision seems to be transferred from earth to heaven - for the multitudes which he saw appeared "before the throne" Revelation 7:9; that is, before the throne of God in heaven. The design seems to be to carry the mind forward quite beyond the storms and tempests of earth - the scenes of woe and sorrow - the clays of error, darkness, declension, and persecution - to that period when the church should be triumphant in heaven. Instead, therefore, of leaving the impression that the hundred and forty-four thousand would be all that would be saved, the eye is directed to an innumerable host, gathered from all ages, all climes, and all people, triumphant in glory. The multitude that John thus saw was not, therefore, I apprehend, the same as the hundred and forty-four thousand, but a far greater number the whole assembled host of the redeemed in heaven, gathered there as vistors, with palmbranches, the symbols of triumph, in their hands. The object of the vision is to cheer those who are desponding in times of religious declension and in seasons of persecution, and when the number of true Christians seems to be small, with the assurance that an immense host shall be redeemed from our world, and be gathered triumphant before the throne.

I beheld - That is, he saw them before the throne. The vision is transferred from earth to heaven; from the contemplation of the scene when desolation seemed to impend over the world, and when comparatively few in number were "sealed" as the servants of God, to the time when the redeemed would be triumphant, and when a host which no man can number would stand before God.

And, lo - Indicating surprise. A vast host burst upon the view. Instead of the comparatively few who were sealed, an innumerable company were presented to his vision, and surprise was the natural effect.

A great multitude - Instead of the comparatively small number on which the attention had been fixed.

Which no man could number - The number was so great that no one could count them, and John, therefore, did not attempt to do it. This is such a statement as one would make who should have a view of all the redeemed in heaven. It would appear to be a number beyond all power of computation. This representation is in strong contrast with a very common opinion that only a few will be saved. The representation in the Bible is, that immense hosts of the human race will be saved; and though vast numbers will be lost, and though at any particular period of the world hitherto it may seem that few have been in the path to life, yet we have every reason to believe that, taking the race at large, and estimating it as a whole, a vast majority of the whole will be brought to heaven. For the true religion is yet to spread all over the world, and perhaps for many, many thousands of years, piety is to be as prevalent as sin has been; and in that long and happy time of the world's history we may hope that the numbers of the saved may surpass all who have been lost in past periods, beyond any power of computation. See the notes on Revelation 20:3-6.

Of all nations - Not only of Jews; not only of the nations which, in the time of the sealing vision, had embraced the gospel, but of all the nations of the earth. This implies two things:

(a) that the gospel would be preached among all nations; and,

(b) that even when it was thus preached to them they would keep up their national characteristics.

There can be no hope of blending all the nations of the earth under one visible sovereignty. They may all be subjected to the spiritual reign of the Redeemer, but still there is no reason to suppose that they will not have their distinct organizations and laws.

And kindreds - φυλῶν phulōn. This word properly refers to those who are descended from a common ancestry, and hence denotes a race, lineage, kindred. It was applied to the tribes of Israel, as derived from the same ancestor, and for the same reason might be applied to a clan, and thence to any division in a nation, or to a nation itself - properly retaining the notion that it was descended from a common ancestor. Here it would seem to refer to a smaller class than a nation - the different clans of which a nation might be composed.

And people - λαῶν laōn. This word refers properly to a people or community as a mass, without reference to its origin or any of its divisions. The former word would be used by one who should look upon a nation as made up of portions of distinct languages, clans, or families; this word would be used by one who should look on such an assembled people as a mere mass of human beings, with no reference to their difference of clanship, origin, or language.

And tongues - Languages. This word would refer also to the inhabitants of the earth, considered with respect to the fact that they speak different languages. The use of particular languages does not designate the precise boundaries of nations - for often many people speaking different languages are united as one nation, and often those who speak the same language constitute distinct nations. The view, therefore, with which one would look upon the dwellers on the earth, in the use of the word "tongues" or "languages," would be, not as divided into nations; not with reference to their lineage or clanship; and not as a mere mass without reference to any distinction, but as divided by speech. The meaning of the whole is, that persons from all parts of the earth, as contemplated in these points of view, would be among the redeemed. Compare the notes on Daniel 3:4; Daniel 4:1.

Stood before the throne - The throne of God. See the notes on Revelation 4:2. The throne is there represented as set up in heaven, and the vision here is a vision of what will occur in heaven. It is designed to carry the thoughts beyond all the scenes of conflict, strife, and persecution on earth, to the time when the church shall be triumphant in glory - when all storms shall have passed by; when all persecutions shall have ceased; when all revolutions shall have occurred; when all the elect - not only the hundred and forty-four thousand of the sealed, but of all nations and times - shall have been gathered in. There was a beautiful propriety in this vision. John saw the tempests stayed, as by the might of angels. He saw a new influence and power that would seal the true servants of God. But those tempests were stayed only for a time, and there were more awful visions in reserve than any which had been exhibited - visions of woe and sorrow, of persecution and of death. It was appropriate, therefore, just at this moment of calm suspense - of delayed judgments - to suffer the mind to rest on the triumphant close of the whole in heaven, when a countless host would be gathered there with palms in their hands, uniting with angels in the worship of God. The mind, by the contemplation of this beautiful vision, would be refreshed and strengthened for the disclosure of the awful scenes which were to occur on the sounding of the trumpets under the seventh seal. The simple idea is, that, amidst the storms and tempests of life - scenes of existing or impending trouble and wrath - it is well to let the eye rest on the scene of the final triumph, when innumerable hosts of the redeemed shall stand before God, and when sorrow shall be known no more.

And before the Lamb - In the midst of the throne - in heaven. See the notes on Revelation 5:6.


9. no man—Greek, "no one."

of all nations—Greek, "OUT OF every nation." The human race is "one nation" by origin, but afterwards separated itself into tribes, peoples, and tongues; hence, the one singular stands first, followed by the three plurals.

kindreds—Greek, "tribes."

people—Greek, "peoples." The "first-fruits unto the Lamb," the 144,000 (Re 14:1-4) of Israel, are followed by a copious harvest of all nations, an election out of the Gentiles, as the 144,000 are an election out of Israel (see on [2693]Re 7:3).

white robes—(See on [2694]Re 6:11; also Re 3:5, 18; 4:4).

palms in … hands—the antitype to Christ's entry into Jerusalem amidst the palm-bearing multitude. This shall be just when He is about to come visibly and take possession of His kingdom. The palm branch is the symbol of joy and triumph. It was used at the feast of tabernacles, on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when they kept feast to God in thanksgiving for the ingathered fruits. The antitype shall be the completed gathering in of the harvest of the elect redeemed here described. Compare Zec 14:16, whence it appears that the earthly feast of tabernacles will be renewed, in commemoration of Israel's preservation in her long wilderness-like sojourn among the nations from which she shall now be delivered, just as the original typical feast was to commemorate her dwelling for forty years in booths or tabernacles in the literal wilderness.

If we inquire who these were, we are told, Revelation 7:14, by the best Interpreter: These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, & c. So that they do not seem to be the one hundred and forty-four thousand mentioned for preservation in and from the evil, Revelation 7:4, but such as had escaped, or were not in or going into tribulation, but come out. The number of the former was determined; it is said of these, it could not be numbered. These were glorified ones, not militant; they

stood before the throne, and the Lamb, clothed with white robes; clothed in the habits of such as amongst the Romans had fought, and conquered, and triumphed; and to this end they are said to have carried

palms, the ensigns of victory,

in their hands.

After this I beheld,.... What follows is a distinct vision from the preceding one, and is not a continuation of that, as if the sealing of the Jewish believers was designed by the former, and the sealing of the Gentiles in this latter; whereas in this vision there is no mention made of sealing, nor was there, or will there be any need of it in the time it refers unto; and which is not the time of the Reformation; nor when the vials began to be poured out upon the seat of the beast; for though there were great numbers converted in many nations, kindreds, people, and tongues, yet not in all; nor do the characters of this great multitude, and the happiness they shall enjoy, seem to suit with persons in a state of mortality and imperfection, Revelation 7:14; wherefore many interpreters understand this vision of the saints in heaven: but it rather respects the millennium state, or thousand years' reign of Christ with his saints on earth, with which all that is here said agrees; compare Revelation 7:14 with Revelation 20:4; and Revelation 7:15 with Revelation 22:3; and Revelation 7:16 with Revelation 21:4. And the design of this vision is to show to John, and every diligent observer, that after the seventh seal is opened, the trumpets are blown, and the vials poured out; during which time there will be a number sealed that will profess Christ; and at the close and winding up of all things, in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, Christ will descend, and all the saints with him; their bodies will be raised, and the living saints changed, and make one general assembly, who are shown to John here, as in Revelation 21:9; to relieve his mind, and support his spirits, in a view of the calamities ushered in by the opening of the seventh seal.

And lo, a great multitude, which no man could number; which design all the elect of God in the new Jerusalem church state, the bride, the Lamb's wife, or the new Jerusalem descending from God out of heaven; these will appear to be a great multitude, not in comparison of the inhabitants that shall have dwelt upon earth, nor of the professors of religion in one shape or another; for, with respect to each of these, they are but a few, a seed, a remnant, a little flock; but as considered in themselves, and so they are many who are ordained to eternal life, whose sins Christ has bore, for whom his blood has been shed, and whom he justifies, and who are called by his grace, and are brought to glory; and who make up such a number as no man can number: God indeed can number them, but not man; for they are a set of particular persons chosen by God, and redeemed by Christ, and who are perfectly and distinctly known by them; their number and names are with them; their names are written in the Lamb's book of life; and God and Christ can, and do call them by their name; and when they were given to Christ, they passed under the rod of him that telleth them; and he will give an exact account of them, of every individual person, another day. But then they are not to be numbered by men; and they will be

of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, and therefore must consist both of Jews and Gentiles; these were not all nations, &c. but "of" all nations, some of all nations; and such God has chosen, Christ has redeemed, and the Spirit calls; God has not chosen all the Jews, but a remnant, according to the election of grace, nor all the Gentiles, but has taken out of them a people for his name; and so Christ has redeemed, by his blood, some out of every kindred, tongue, people, and nation, of Jew and Gentile: and hence the Gospel has been sent into all the world, and to all nations, for the gathering of these persons out of them; and when they are all gathered in, they will all meet together in the new Jerusalem church state, and make up the body here presented to view.

Stood before the throne and before the Lamb; the throne of God, and of the Lamb, will be in the midst of the new Jerusalem church; the tabernacle of God will be with men, and he will dwell, among them; and before the presence of his glory will all the saints be presented; and the Lamb will then present to himself his whole church, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; and they will behold his glory, and see him as he is: and as they are described before by their number, and their descent, so here by their position and situation, and, as follows, by their habit and attire,

clothed with white robes; agreeably to their princely and priestly characters: it was usual for princes and noblemen to be arrayed in vestures of linen, as Joseph was in Pharaoh's court; and the Jewish priests wore garments of linen, in their daily ministry and service; and in the thousand years' reign the saints will appear to be kings and priests, Revelation 5:10; and accordingly will be clothed as such: and this may also be expressive of their entire freedom from sin by the blood of Christ, Revelation 7:14; and their complete justification by his righteousness, which is sometimes compared to white raiment, and is called fine linen, clean, and white; and likewise their spotless purity and holiness, sanctification in them being now perfect, which was before imperfect: and these robes may also design their shining robes of glory and immortality; for they will now be clothed upon with their house from heaven, and will have put off mortality and corruption, and have put on immortality and incorruption, and appear with Christ in glory; for such will be the then state of things:

and palms in their hands; or branches of palm trees, as in John 12:13 as an emblem of their uprightness and faithfulness, which they had shown in the cause of Christ, even unto death, the palm tree being a very upright tree, Jeremiah 10:5; or of their bearing up under a variety of pressures and afflictions, by which they were not cast down and destroyed, but bravely stood up under them, and were now come out of them; the palm tree being of such a nature, as is reported, that the more weight is hung upon it, the higher it rises, and the straighter it grows; see Psalm 92:12; and chiefly as an emblem of victory and triumph over their enemies, as sin, Satan, the world and death, which they had been struggling with, in a state of imperfection, but were now more than conquerors over them; the palm tree is well known to be a token of victory. So Philo the Jew (f) says, the palm tree is , "a symbol of victory". Conquerors used to carry palm tree branches in their hands (g): those who conquered in the combats and plays among the Greeks, used not only to have crowns of palm trees given them, but carried branches of it in their hands (h); as did also the Romans in their triumphs; yea, they sometimes wore "toga palmata", a garment with the figures of palm trees on it, which were interwoven in it (i): and hence here palms are mentioned along with white garments; and some have been tempted to render the words thus, "clothed with white robes", and "palms on their sides"; that is, on the sides of their robes (k). The medal which was struck by Titus Vespasian, at the taking of Jerusalem, had on it a palm tree, and a captive woman sitting under it, with this inscription on it, "Judaea capta", Judea is taken. And when our Lord rode in triumph to Jerusalem, the people met him with branches of palm trees in their hands, and cried, Hosanna to him. So the Jews, at the feast of tabernacles, which they kept in commemoration of their having dwelt in tents in the wilderness, carried "Lulabs", or palm tree branches, in their hands, in token of joy, Leviticus 23:40; and in like manner, these being come out of the wilderness of the world, and the tabernacle of God being among them, express their joy in this way; See Gill on .

(f) Allegor. l. 2. p. 74. (g) A. Gell. Noctes Attic. l. 3. c. 6. Sueton. in Caio, c. 32. (h) Pausan. Arcadica, l. 8. p. 532. Alex. ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 5. c. 8. & l. 6. c. 19. (i) Isidor. Hispalens. Origen. l. 19. c. 24. p. 168. (k) Vid. Lydium de re Militare, l. 6. c. 3. p. 225.

After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, {7} which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, {8} stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;

(7) See Geneva Re 7:4

(8) As priests, kings and glorious conquerors by martyrdom: which is noted by the signs in this verse.

Revelation 7:9. Μετὰ ταῦτα εἰδον, κ.τ.λ. The entire vision, Revelation 7:9-17, follows, of course, upon what precedes, but it is throughout, as to its significance, inseparable from what precedes; against De Wette, who calls the vision proleptical or ideal, because here John[2317] “looks forward from the developments which he beholds in the earthly world, to their blessed fulfilment,”—in connection with which nothing further is to be asked than how the saved enter heaven, whether through death, or otherwise. But even though the vision, as to its contents, be proleptical, nevertheless, wherever it occurs, its meaning and force must be determined by the connection of the entire Apoc.; and this corresponds to the parallelism in which the second vision of ch 7 stands to the first.[2318]

ὌΧΛΟΝ ΠΟΛῪΝ, Κ.Τ.Λ. In contrast with the multitude out of Israel represented by a definite number (Revelation 5:4 sqq.), the great concourse from every people, and all tribes and tongues, appears here as innumerable. The contrast required by the text cannot be explained away by the fact, that, if the one hundred and forty-four thousand be identified with this great multitude, the innumerability becomes relative, with which then it is regarded as harmonizing that John, Revelation 7:4, heard the number of the sealed, because they were innumerable by him:[2319] this expedient, however, is not allowed by the words, Revelation 7:9, Ο͂Ν ἈΡΙΘ. ΑὐΤ. ΟὐΔΕῚς ἨΔ.; cf. with reference to the ὋΝ

, Revelation 7:2. The remark of De Wette also, that Revelation 7:4, by its numerical statement, presents the idea of election with the antithesis of reprobation, while Revelation 7:9 refers only to the attaining of salvation without this antithesis, is inapplicable, because the idea of election lies alike in the text in both passages; since, just as the one hundred and forty-four thousand are out of Israel (ἐκ πασ. φυλ. νἱ. Ἰσρ., ἐκ φυλ. Ἰσυδ, κ.τ.λ.), so the innumerable multitude are out of all nations (ἐκ παντ. ἐθΝ.). The essential distinction is in the fact that the horizon, which in Revelation 7:4 comprised only Israel, now includes absolutely all nations and races, Gentiles and Jews, humanity in its totality. This is stated by the second formula with its four categories, which also comprises all sides in its enumeration.[2320] [See Note LIV., p. 258.] ἙΣΤῶΤΕς

There is no difficulty in the use of the plural with a collective;[2321] but also the irregularity of using the nom. ΕΣΤῶΤΕς, and thus throwing the clause ἙΣΤ.

out of the construction, while the next words, ΠΕΡΙΒΕΒΛΗΜΈΝΟΥς, Κ.Τ.Λ., recur to the original structure of the sentence (ΕἾΔΟΝ ὌΧΛΟΝ ΠΟΛΎΝ), is not inadmissible in the idiom of the Apoc. The standing before the throne of God and of the Lamb[2322] points to the eternal communion with God and the Lamb,[2323] whose heavenly glory and blessed joy are also expressed by white robes,[2324] and palm-branches in the hands of those who have finished their course. There is no foundation for the inference from the φοίνικες of a heavenly feast of tabernacles as the festival of the eternal harvest-home;[2325] but when, also, in Revelation 7:15 (σκηνώσει ἐπʼ αὐτούς), a reference is found to the dwelling in tabernacles, and, in connection with Revelation 7:17 (ἐπὶ ζωῆς πηγὰς ὑδάτων), to the fact that[2326] during the feast of tabernacles, a priest daily drew water from the wells of Siloah in order to sprinkle it beside the altar, something entirely foreign is introduced.[2327] But on the other side, also, the reference to the palm-branches, which the victors in the Grecian games bore with their palm-garlands,[2328] is excessively specific.[2329] It is entirely sufficient, without any more special reference, to regard the palm-branches as a sign of festal joy.[2330]

Κ. ΚΡΆΖΟΥΣΙ ΦΩΝῇ ΜΕΓΑΛῇ. The strength of the cry, besides being peculiar to the heavenly beings,[2331] corresponds to the impulse of their joy and gratitude.[2332]

Ἡ ΣΩΤΗΡΊΑ, Κ.Τ.Λ. They sing praises as those who have become complete participants of salvation; and this they ascribe to their God, who sits upon the throne, as the ultimate author, and the Lamb as the mediator. The ΣΩΤΗΡΊΑ is not victory in general,[2333] but the entire sum of the salvation which the blessed now perfectly possess, since they have been removed from all want, temptation, sin, and death, and have come into the presence of their God.[2334] Improperly, Grot, explains Ἡ ΣΩΤΗΡΊΑ metonymically, viz., “thanks for the salvation received.” The thanksgiving, however, occurs from the fact that the ΣΕΣΩΜΈΝΟΙ ascribe the ΣΩΤΗΡΊΑ given them, to their God as ΣΩΤΉΡ.

[2317] Cf. Revelation 11:15 sqq., Revelation 14:1 sqq., 13, Revelation 15:2 sqq.

[2318] See general remarks on ch. 7.

[2319] Hengstenb.

[2320] Cf. Revelation 5:9.

[2321] Winer, p. 480.

[2322] Cf. Revelation 7:15; Revelation 22:3.

[2323] Grot., who refers this, in general, to the great number of Christians in Syria, remarks on ἐστῶτες, κ.τ.λ.: “i.e., having a mind not sunk to earth, but raised to heaven.”

[2324] Cf. Revelation 6:11.

[2325] Cf. Vitr., Eichh., Heinr., Hengstenb., Böhmer.

[2326] Cf. Winer, Rwb., ii. 9.

[2327] Against Vitr., Hengstenb., etc.

[2328] Pausanias, Arcad., 48: οἱ δὲ ἁγῶνες φοίνικος ἔχουσιν οἱ πολλοὶ στέφανον· εἱς δὲ τὴν δεξίαν ἐστὶ καὶ πανταχοῦ τῷ νικῶντι ἐστι θέμενος φοῖνιξ.; in Wetst.

[2329] Against Ew., etc.

[2330] Cf. John 12:13; 1Ma 13:51.

[2331] Cf. Revelation 7:2.

[2332] Cf. C. a Lap.

[2333] Eichh.

[2334] Cf. Revelation 7:9; Revelation 7:15; Revelation 21:4.


LIV. Revelation 7:9. ὄχλος πολύς

“Where the mercy and love of God are praised, Christians are represented as an innumerable multitude” (De Wette, Gebhardt). Beck, however, urges the distinction from those mentioned in Revelation 7:3-8 : “This appearance forms manifestly a contrast with what precedes. For: 1. The definite one hundred and forty-four thousand is opposed by the innumerable multitude. 2. ἐκ παντὸς ἔθνους is contrasted with ἐκ πἁσῆς φυλῆς υἱῶν Ἰσραήλ. 3. Revelation 7:14. The οἱ ερχόμενοι ἐκ τῆς θλίψεως τῆς μεγάλης must have passed through the great tribulation in contrast with the elect secured therefrom already before its beginning (Revelation 7:2 sqq.). 4. Finally, there is a contrast in the placing of the great multitude in heaven (Revelation 7:9, ἐνώπιον τοῦ θρόνου), while the theatre in the preceding Revelation 7:3 is the earth. Here, then, those appear who have passed through the visitation of judgment, and suffered, although they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb; i.e., they have availed themselves of the cleansing efficacy offered in Christ (Revelation 7:14), for participation in which they were not aroused until by persecution. Cf. 1 Corinthians 3:12-15. Of the death of martyrs, which has been conjectured, nothing is here said. By the side, therefore, of the sealed first-fruits, appear those who have not been purified until by the tribulation. From them proceeds an innumerable multitude of triumphing conquerors.… To the apostolic, Christian, germinal Church, to the elect from the Divine-covenant people, there is added the elect from all humanity. Since, however (Revelation 7:3 sqq.), the people of God itself is distinguished according to tribes, and, from these tribes, the sealed are taken only as a selection, and thus, also, among the tribes (Revelation 7:9. ἔθν. κ. φ. curious and irregular change from singular to plural. ἑστῶτες = erect, confident, triumphant. For the white robes, see on Revelation 6:2 (the number of the martyrs being now completed). Certain religious processions in Asia Minor consisted of boys robed in white and bearing crowns of leafy boughs (Deissm. 368 f.); and in some Asiatic inscriptions νίκη is associated with the palm branch, which in one case is placed alongside of the meta or goal (C. B. P. ii. 496). The carrying of palm-branches was a sign of festal joy in the Greek and Roman (= victory at the games Liv. x. 47, Verg. Aen. ver 109), as well as in the Jewish world (1Ma 13:51; 2Ma 10:7), accompanied by the wearing of wreaths of green leaves. For the robes, see Liv. xxiv. 10: “Hadriae aram in coelo, speciesque hominum circum earn cum candida ueste visas esse”. Here = “scilicet de antichristo triumphales” (Tertullian). For the numberless multitude, see Enoch xxxix. 6, where “the righteous and the elect shall be for ever and ever without number before” the messiah, in the mansions of bliss; white raiment and crowns of palm in Herm. Sim. viii. 2–4.

The Praise of the Great Multitude of the Redeemed, Revelation 7:9-179. of all nations, and kindreds, &c.] Lit. out of every nation, and tribes, and peoples, and tongues.

white robes] Cf. Revelation 3:5, Revelation 6:11.

palms] Opinions differ as to the meaning of this image, whether we are to compare the Pagan use of the palm-branch as a symbol of victory, given e.g. to winners at the public games, or the Israelite custom of bearing branches of palm, as of other sacred trees, at the Feast of Tabernacles: see Leviticus 23:40, and cf. St John 12:13. Although Jewish rather than Gentile imagery is to be expected in this book, the former view seems on the whole more reasonable, as it gives a more obvious and a more appropriate meaning to the symbol.

Revelation 7:9. Μετὰ ταῦτα εἶδον, καὶ ἰδοὺ ὄχλος πολὺςἑστῶτεςπεριβεβλημένους, κ.τ.λ.) A Middle reading:[82] whence some reduce the whole paragraph to the nominative, others to the accusative. The mixture of cases displeases Wolf: which indeed is frequent in this hook. Li this passage is described ὄχλος, a host of the blessed, to which there is a Simultaneum[83] with the sealing previously described, and with the subsequent trumpets, under which the plague does not touch those that are sealed. Into this place this ὄχλος falls, in its own order, after their happy departure from the world. Afterwards more companies of this kind are mentioned: ch. Revelation 14:1, Revelation 15:2, etc. The degrees of happiness are various and very different; but the lowest of them, speaking by comparison, is now above all need of cleansing.—ἐκ παντὸς ἔθνους[84] καὶ φυλῶν καὶ λαῶν καὶ γλωσσῶν) In such an enumeration, the other passages either have the plural number four times, or the singular four times: see notes on ch. Revelation 5:9. In this passage alone the singular is put first, and then the plural three times, and not without reason. This multitude is led forth out of the whole human race. That race is one ἔθνος, all along from its origin: Acts 17:26. But in progress of time, while Adam himself was alive, it was multiplied, and separated itself both into tribes and peoples, and languages.

[82] C and Rec. Text have ὄχλος πολύς: Ah Vulg. Cypr. 272, 310, have ὄχλον πολύν. Ἑστῶτες, Ah Vulg. Cypr.: Ἑστώτων, C: Ἑστὼτας, B. Περιβεβλημένους, ABC:—μένοι, Vulg. and Rec. Text.—E.

[83] See Append. of Technical Terms.—E.

[84] Vulg. has “gentibus;” h Cypr. 272, 310, “tribu, populo, lingua.” But ABC support Beng.—E.

Verse 9. - After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number; after these things, I saw, and behold a great multitude, etc. Here, as in ver. 1, a fresh phase of the vision occurs. indicated by μετὰ ταῦτα, "after these things;" but not, perhaps, commencing (as so many writers think) an entirely new and disconnected vision. It is the immediate prelude to the opening of the seventh seal (see on Revelation 8:1). Revelation 6. recounts the terrors of God's judgments on the wicked, and especially those of the final judgment; but lest the godly should be dismayed and ask, "Who is able to stand" (Revelation 6:17) on that great day? it is revealed that the faithful are first selected and preserved. This occupies the first eight verses of Revelation 7. But all is not yet quite ready for the opening of the seventh and last seal. There is, besides those sealed on the last day, an innumerable company with whom the former are joined in one body; and a glimpse is afforded of their conjoint adoration and of that supreme bliss which is entered upon, but not described, under the seventh seal. The "great multitude which no man could number" includes, therefore, the hundred and forty-four thousand of ver. 4. They have escaped the terror of the final judgment of the world (see ver. 3), but have formerly experienced tribulation (see ver. 14). Of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues; out of every nation and [all] tribes and peoples and tongues. The classification, as in Revelation 5:9, is fourfold, symbolical of completeness in matters of creation (see on Revelation 5:9; 4:6, etc.). Stood before the throne, and before the Lamb; standing before, etc. We are carried back to the description given in Revelation 4:1-4 and Revelation 5:6-11. Clothed with white robes; arrayed in (Revised Version). See on Revelation 4:4 and Revelation 6:2 for white - the emblem of victory and righteousness. And palms in their hands. Φοίνιξ, "palm," occurs in the New Testament only in this place and in John 12:13. Trench states that no symbol of heathen origin is used in the Apocalypse; and he connects the palm-bearing multitude with the celebration of the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. Wordsworth and Hengstenberg take the same view; and there is much to be said in favour of it, though Alford and others connect the image rather with the Greek and Roman sign of victory. In the first place, the word is used by St. John in John 12:13, where doubtless it is connected with the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. Secondly, the use of such an image would more naturally occur to one so familiar with Jewish customs and ritual as the writer of the Apocalypse; and, moreover, the idea commemorated by this feast - that of the enjoyment of rest and plenty, the possession of the promised Canaan after toil and delay - is peculiarly applicable to the condition of those here described. Thirdly, the idea seems carried on in the mind of the writer, and referred to in ver. 15 in the words, "shall spread his tabernacle over them" (see Revised Version). Revelation 7:9Isaw

This vision belongs to heaven, while the sealing took place on earth.

Arrayed (περιβεβλημένοι)

See on Revelation 3:5.


See on Revelation 6:11.

"The ancient scriptures and the new

The mark establish, and this shows it me,

Of all the souls whom God hath made His friends.

Isaiah saith that each one garmented

In His own land shall be with twofold garments,

And his own land is this delightful life.

Thy brother, too, far more explicitly,


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