After this I beheld, and, see, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds…
After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, etc. There is one book, and only one, that presents to us humanity in heaven, and that is the Bible. This passage gives us a vision of unnumbered multitudes of men who once traversed this earthly scene of sin and sorrow, now in the bright world of the good. Of this human population in heaven four things are suggested.
I. ITS NUMBERS ARE TOO GREAT FOR CALCULATION. "After this I beheld, and, lo, [those things I saw, and behold] a great multitude, which no man could number." The vastness of the population may be looked upon in four aspects. Here is:
1. A reproof to all sectarianism. Religious sects, which, alas! abound, even in Christendom, and which are a calumny on the gospel, nourish in the minds of their votaries the idea that heaven will be peopled mainly, if not entirely, by those within their own pale. Genuine religion knows nothing of sects. Men went to heaven by millions before churches or chapels existed.
2. An encouragement to all Christly work. The best men on earth are the men employed in a Christly spirit to make men Christly. They find the opposition so strong, the wicked so numerous, and their efforts apparently so unsuccessful, that they often lose heart. But let them realize that the human population of heaven, even in the days of John, was so vast that no arithmetic could calculate; that population has been increasing from that date to this, and will increase in future ages so that it may be that no human being will be found in the universe without a Christly heart. Hell is only a little cloud upon the azure of immensity, and that cloud may one day be blotted out; it is only one discordant note in the harmonies of God's great empire, and that note will ultimately be hushed in eternal silence.
3. A response to all philanthropic desires. In every human soul, I presume, there is an instinctive desire for the well being of the race. True, this Divine instinct, like all others, is not only universally perverted, but dormant and submerged in depraved passions; but it is there, and awaits a resurrection. Here is the response to such an instinct.
4. An attestation of benevolent Creatorship. There is atheology popular, even in England in these days, which propounds the belief that the millions of mankind are doomed to bondage and blackness and darkness forever. Such a damnable doctrine reveals the Creator as malevolent, and spreads a gloom of ghastly horror over all created things. No; love is the fontal source of all things.
II. ITS VARIETY INCLUDES ALL THE RACES OF MANKIND. "Of all nations [out of every nation], and kindreds [of all tribes], and people, and tongues." All the men of this earth have their own little theatres of life and action. They are divided by space, by time, by physical relationship, by culture, by national distinctions, and thus become barbarians one to another. Now, from all these scenes and departments of life the human population in heaven is made up. The human population in heaven is not known as Britons, or Frenchmen, or Germans, etc., nor as those of noble or ignoble blood, nor as those speaking this language or that, but as one grand confederation and brotherhood, in which all distinctions are lost. Learn here:
1. That our highest aim should be to become true men. We should struggle out of social castes, religious denominationalisms, and national distinctions, and become true men, for these men alone populate heaven.
2. That our highest love should be for men. Not love for lords or ladies, or nobles, or even for sages and poets, nor even for country, but for men; reverence man everywhere, in whatever land we find him, in whatever condition; respect him because he is a man. A true man is the grandeur creature under the heavens. Let us all become such, and respect such, and such only.
III. ITS GLORIOUSNESS TRANSCENDS ALL DESCRIPTION. "Stood [standing] before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with [arrayed in] white robes, and palms in their hands." Mark:
1. Their position. "Stood [standing] before the throne." This is an emblematic description of the highest dignity. Moral goodness, and that alone, is Divine dignity. The Divine throne is not material, it is spiritual; it is perfect moral excellence.
2. Their attire. "Clothed with [arrayed in] white robes." Life everywhere has its robes, its forms; robes which it makes for itself, which grow out of itself as foliage out of the vital sap. Souls have their robes, and holy souls have robes white with purity. All their manifestations are pure.
3. Their blessed rest. "Palms in their hands." The palms, Archbishop Trench considers, represents here not emblems of victory, but are emblems of rest.
IV. ITS ENGAGEMENTS ARE RAPTUROUS IN DEVOTION. "And cried [they cry] with a loud [great] voice, saying, Salvation to [unto] our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb," etc. No doubt the engagements of this vast human population in heaven are very varied, according to their personal idiosyncrasies, capacities, and proclivities. But in every department there is worship, the Supreme is adored - adored not formally or perfunctorily, but earnestly; they cry with a loud voice, "Salvation!" Restoration from their former earthly condition is the master theme. Ah! what is included in this salvation? It is restoration from ignorance to true knowledge, from impurity to holiness, from bondage to soul liberty, from selfishness to benevolence, from materialism to genuine spirituality, from the reign of wrong to the reign of right. This is the supreme theme of the saved in all worlds and forever, and ascribed to God and none other in heaven or earth. - D.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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;
WEB: After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no man could number, out of every nation and of all tribes, peoples, and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.