The Saints of the Tribulation
Hopefully you all remember last week that we talked about the sealing of the 144,000. We looked at three different theories surrounding the identity of the 144,000; and you heard my humble opinion that these were a literal number of Jewish people that will be sealed during the Tribulation. Can anybody remember why I think that this is a literal number of Jewish people? It has to do with verses five through eight. Yes, thank you. I believe the number is literal because it specifically lists how many will come out of each tribe of the Jewish nation. So in summary, last week’s passage dealt with the salvation of a great number of Jews. Tonight’s passage, on the other hand, deals with the salvation of a great number of Gentiles. To see what I’m talking about, please turn in your Bibles to Revelation seven, and we’ll be reading verses nine through seventeen. Again, Revelation 7:9-17.
“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. And cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.’ And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, saying, ‘Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.’ And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, ‘What are these which are arrayed in white robes? And whence came they?’ 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. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple: and He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of water: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.’”
Before we begin, let’s pray to the only One who is worthy of our prayers.
Tonight’s passage breaks down into three neat sections. The first section is the activity of the saints in verses nine and ten. The second section is the praise of the angels in verses eleven and twelve. And the final section is the explanation from the elder in verses thirteen through seventeen.
Let’s look now at the first section. Let’s read verse nine one more time. “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.” Ok, a couple different things to notice about this verse. The first thing is the number of people involved in this multitude. How many people does it say are in this multitude? Yes, a number so big that no man can number. Now, is the number so big that God cannot number it? No, and praise God it’s not! God will not only know the exact number, but He will know the number of hairs on each one of their heads! And you know, I was trying to think of how big of a number it would have to be for me to not know the number, but unfortunately, that number’s not very big! Every Sunday morning, I try to keep an accurate count of how many people are here, but when we hit about thirty-five I start getting really confused; and some of you men that help count out there can attest to how difficult that task is. But thankfully, that does not mean that there’s going to be somewhere between thirty and forty people in Heaven! What we have here is a throng of people so large that it would be foolish to even try to guess. We are talking about millions and millions of people here.
And notice who makes up this multitude. It is the same descriptor that we saw a few weeks ago. It is people from every nation, and kindred, and people, and tongue. And I hope you remember that we talked about how that means that there will be at least one representative from every people group on the planet in the Kingdom of God. And you probably noticed that these people were all wearing white robes. Now I know we’ve talked about this before, but what do their white robes signify? Yes, their innocence before God, because of the blood of the Lamb.
The final thing I want you to notice about verse nine is at the end, where it says that they are holding palm branches in their hands. Does this holding of palm branches ring any bells for anyone here? That’s right, it reminds us of the Triumphal Entry when Jesus came into Jerusalem. In that Triumphal Entry, the people thought that Jesus was coming as a conquering king; but instead, He came to die on the cross. But this time, this massive throng is beginning a true Triumphal Entry; because this time, Jesus is coming back as the conquering King! And can anyone remember what the people said that day as Jesus was riding into Jerusalem? They said, “Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Hosanna is a Hebrew word that basically means, “Please save us!” But notice that this throng does not say “Please save us!”
Notice what the crowd says in verse ten. “And cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.’ They do not say “please save us.” Instead, they say, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne!” When this verse says “salvation to our God,” we have to understand that as “Salvation belongs to our God.” Salvation is from our God. This massive throng is not praying that God will save them. No, they are praising God, because they have already experienced the salvation from our God.
So just to recap verses nine and ten, these verses tell us of a humongous group of people who are having a perfected version of the Triumphal Entry. They are ushering in Jesus, who this time is coming as the conquering King. And instead of asking Jesus to save them, they are praising Him that He already has saved them.
Verses twelve and thirteen tell about the angels’ response to this praise. These two verses read, “And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, saying, ‘Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.’” Hopefully these two verses will jog your memory from something we looked at about a month ago. Back in Revelation 5:11, 12, we have an almost identical praise from a throng of angels. In both of these passages, there is said to be a massive number of angels worshipping around the throne. Also, in both of these passages, the angels pour on seven specific praises to God. In fact, there are only two small differences in the praises offered. In Revelation 5, the Lamb is said to be worthy of riches, while in chapter seven God is said to be worthy of thanksgiving. Also, chapter five says that the Lamb is worthy of strength, while chapter seven says might.
To the extent of my knowledge, I do not know of any significance in the differences in the two passages, because they are both showering on praises to God. In this verse, the word “amen” serves as bookends around the seven praises. Notice that the angels say “amen” before and after their praise of God. Who can remember what the word “amen” means? Thank you. The word means “true!” It is the angels’ way of validating their message by saying that everything they say about God is true.
Look at what happens after the angels finish their praises. Look at verses thirteen and fourteen again. “And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, ‘What are these which are arrayed in white robes? And whence came they?’ 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.” Essentially, one of the twenty-four elders asks John who the identity of this massive crowd is. John correctly turns it around by saying that the elder knows. The elder responds by telling John that these are the saints that came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.
Now, the challenge for us tonight is to try and figure out exactly who this crowd is. What did the elder mean when he said that these were the saints that came out of great tribulation? Well, like so many other things we’ve looked at in Revelation, there are different theories out there. Thankfully, there are only two main theories for this question. The first theory is that this crowd is the same crowd from chapter six, and that they represent all of the martyrs throughout the ages. They are the saints that came out of great tribulation, meaning that they are the saints who went through considerable persecution. That makes sense, doesn’t it? The second theory is that these are the people who will trust in Christ during the period of the Great Tribulation. The Tribulation is the name for the seven-year period of time that these Revelation events will take place. Both theories makes sense, and I’m going to give you the strengths of each of these views.
The strength of the first view is that all of these people are already in Heaven around the throne, so how could they possibly represent the people on earth who trust Christ during the Tribulation? If the theory about this being the group that trusts in Christ during the Tribulation, then that means that this is a sort of flash forward to after these people have died. And since we prefer to understand Revelation chronologically, it is a little uncomfortable to read it out of order.
But the strength of this second theory is that where some of our Bibles say the saints came out of great tribulation, the Greek actually says that they came out of the Great Tribulation. The Greek has the word “the” in there, which implies that this is a specific Tribulation, not just tribulation throughout history. So, what do you think? Do you think this verse is talking about people who have died for Christ, or people who accepted Christ during the Tribulation? Well, I actually think it’s a combination of both! If you remember, in Revelation chapter six, we looked at the fifth seal. The fifth seal was the martyrs around the throne asking Jesus when He was going to avenge their deaths. Jesus said that He would after the rest of the martyrs had died. In other words, there was the promise that many more Christians would die for their faith. I believe that the throng in Revelation chapter seven is the group promised in Revelation chapter six. I believe that this massive throng is a group of people that died for Christ during this period of time. So when verse thirteen says that these are the saints that came out of the Great Tribulation, I understand that to mean people who died for Christ during this period of time.
Does anybody have any questions or comments about what I just talked about?
Ok, let’s finish up the chapter by looking at verses fifteen through seventeen. “Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple: and He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of water: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” Wow! This verse says some amazing things about what this group will receive. First, it says that they will serve God day and night in His temple. While to a non-Christian the thought of serving God for eternity might sound pretty bad; to the Christian it sounds like an amazing privilege! But then look at what is promised. They will no longer have any hunger. They will no longer have any thirst. They will no longer be burned by the sun. Why will they no longer go hungry and no longer go thirsty? Look at what the chapter says next. They won’t go hungry because the Lamb will feed them! They won’t go thirsty because the Lamb will lead them to fountains of living water! Finally, God will wipe away all the tears from their eyes.
This passage is like the ultimate fulfillment of Psalm 23! In Psalm 23, God is said to be our shepherd who will provide for us. While God is truly our Shepherd down here on earth, imagine how much more He will be our Shepherd when He literally gives us our food and gives us living water to drink! Praise God! And while these verses are specifically talking about people who will die during the Tribulation, we must know that these same promises are ours, as well! When we die, whether it be now or during the Tribulation; whether we die from martyrdom, or old age, or disease; we will be translated to the Kingdom of God, where Jesus will be our Good Shepherd. Isn’t that so exciting to know?
The message for us tonight is similar to the message of Sunday morning’s service. For the suffering Christian, we have the sure promise of a home in Heaven on the other end of our suffering. I pray that that is a comforting thought to you tonight. And not only is this meant to be a message of comfort, but it is also meant to be a call to action. If you have trusted in Christ, then your eternity is secure. But if you know people who do not know Jesus Christ, then their future is extremely bleak. I pray that this church will not only look forward to her own future, but that we will do everything in our power to help those who are outside of Christ to see the truth of the Gospel. My prayer is that we at this church will do our part in building up the Kingdom of God, because as we’ve seen in this passage; the future for the Kingdom of God is very, very bright.
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