"The Day of the Lord"
THE GREAT MULTITUDE AND THE SEVENTH SEAL
We now come to the second Vision "in Heaven." It contains a yet further answer to the question of 6:17: "Who shall be able to stand" in the judgment? while it commences the second pair of Visions: viz., the opening of the seventh Seal "in heaven," and the consequent sounding of the six Trumpets "on earth."
The Structure of the Vision, as a whole, is as follows:
Each of these four larger members may be expanded; and we give the expansions in order, with translation, as before.
The Great Multitude.
7:9. After these things] the expression marks a separation from what has gone before, and introduces the second distinct Vision "in heaven."
I saw, and lo, a great multitude, which no one was able to number, out of every nation, and of all tribes and peoples, and tongues (Gen. 10:5, 20, 31. Dan. 3:4, 5; 4:1; 6:25), standing before the throne, and before the Lamb, arrayed with white robes, and palm branches in their hands;] The definite number of Israelites (7:1-8) stands in marked contrast to this innumerable company of Gentiles. We say Gentiles, because this Vision carries us on to the end, as the preceding Vision of the sealing carried us back to the beginning. We are, here, beyond Matt. 24., and even 25. Two distinct companies are named, first "Jews," then "Gentiles." Thus both are marked off from "the church of God," which is now composed of both Jews and Gentiles. The twelve tribes of 7:4-8 are distinct from people out of "all tribes." That they are distinct from "the church of God" is further shown, in that they are "standing" in the position of servants (and not seated); and are "before the throne" (not upon it). True, they share the same salvation, and by the same precious merits of the blood of the Lamb. But as "star differeth from star in glory" (1 Cor. 15:41), so do these differ in their position, dignity, and honour. They are saved, but for what? and for which one of the "many mansions"? They are seen "in heaven," but not until after the Great Tribulation through which and out of which they will have been brought.
Not only will this elect remnant of Israel survive "through" the Tribulation, but a countless multitude from all the Gentile nations will be saved "out" of it.
Constantly do we find Gentile blessing consequent upon Israel's blessing. First, God deals with Israel, and then with mankind in general. This stated in many passages: e.g., Ps. 67:1:
The same fact is stated in verse 7:
Again in Ps. 98:3, we read:
So in Isa. 49:6, Jehovah says to Messiah:
So Isa. 52:9, 10:
The palm-branches speak not merely of victory, as with the heathen, but of the Feast of Tabernacles (see Lev. 23:39-43). It was not a feast for the wilderness, but for the time "when ye be come into the Land." (Lev. 23:10). And yet it was never kept in the Land by all Israel. Not until the return from Babylon was it kept (See Neh. 8:16, 17). Then "all the people shouted with a great shout" (Ezra 3:11, 12; 2 Chron. 20:19. So here, in like manner it will be again kept.
b. 7:10. Their utterance.
10. And they cry* with a loud voice, saying
They ascribe their salvation and their deliverance from the Tribulation which they had passed through, to God. A paraphrase would be, "Praise for our salvation be to our God," etc. The church calls God "my Father" ("Abba," Rom. 8:15), but the Sealing Angel speaks of Him as "our God" (ch. 7:3). The assembled angels say "our God" (ch. 7:12), and this great multitude say "our God" (ch. 7:10).
a., 7:11, 12-, All the angels, etc., and b., Their utterance.
7:11. And all the angels were standing* around the throne, and around the Elders and the four Zoa, and they fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, (12) saying,
Such is the sevenfold ascription of the heavenly host standing around the throne, the elders and the Zoa. It is similar to that in chap. 5:12, but the order of the words is different, and thanksgiving is here put instead of "riches." There the ascription was to the Lamb. Here it is to "our God."
We next have the explanation of the Vision; and the Question which one of the Elders put to John shows that we should have a like spirit of holy enquiry. It is not mere abstract wonder that God looks for in us now, but a reverential interest in what He has revealed in the Visions of this book.
The following is the Structure of B., chap. 7:13, 14:
TRANSLATION of B, 7:13, 14.
7:13. And one of the Elders answered saying (i.e., by the Figure, Idiom "asked me, saying") unto me,
"These who are arrayed in white
(14) and I said, my* lord, thou knowest. And he said to me,
"These are they who come out of the Great Tribulation, and they
Not "in the blood"; nothing under the Law was ever washed "in blood," nothing can be made white "washed in" blood. It is through a forced literal meaning of the preposition (...) (en) which has led to this false notion. This preposition constantly means by, or through: and is translated "by" 142 times and "through" 37 times. (See Matt. 9:34; 5:34, 35. Gal. 3:11; 2 Tim. 2:10). In this very book (5:9) it is rendered "by." So here and in 1:5 this must be the meaning. This is the standing of "works"; and not our standing in "grace," as in the present dispensation. We are "washed, justified, and sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor. 6:11). These have washed their own robes, and made them white. This is followed by the consequence:
15. "For this cause are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he who sitteth upon the throne shall spread his tabernacle over them.]
This is exactly what we read in Isa. 4:5, 6.
They perform priestly service day and night, and fulfil the duties of "servants," for they "serve before the throne." Other Old Testament passages referred to here are Lev. 26:11. Ezek. 37:27.
And then, alluding to the privations and trials they have undergone, we have further earthly blessings:
16. "They shall not hunger any more, nor yet thirst any more; neither shall the sun in any wise fall upon them; no, nor any burning heat. (17) Because the Lamb that is in the midst of the Throne shall tend them (as a shepherd), and shall lead them unto the fountains of the waters of life:* and God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes"] Thus ends the Elder's description of the great multitude and their ultimate blessings. The blessings of the Church are heavenly. We have the same blessing prophesied in Isa. 49:8-10; 25:8; and 65:19. Jer. 31:16. Thus are Israel's blessings extended to Gentiles. The fulfilment is seen in Rev. 21:3, 4; 22:1 and Ezek. 47.