John saw an innumerable multitude of men and women from every nation standing before the Lamb and the Throne – Revelation 7:9-12.
The saints have been “sealed” before the unleashing of the “four winds of the earth.” Next, they were assembled for the coming sojourn and John “heard” their “number,” 144,000 “males” from the “twelve tribes of Israel.” Now, he will “see” the assembly of the saints as it arrives at its destination, a multitude so vast that “no man could number them.”
In this chapter, the same group is presented with two different images; first, the tribes of Israel assembled and “numbered”; second, the innumerable multitude of men and women from “every nation” standing before the “Lamb.”
- (Revelation 7:9-12) – “After these things, I saw, and behold, a great multitude that no man could number from every nation and tribe and peoples and tongue, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, arrayed in white robes and palm branches in their hands. And they are crying out with a loud voice, saying: Salvation to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb! And all the angels were standing round about the throne and the elders and the four living creatures; and they prostrated before the throne upon their faces and rendered homage to God, saying: Amen! The blessing and the glory and the wisdom and the thanksgiving and the honor and the power and might be to our God unto the ages of ages. Amen!”
Previously, John “heard” the number or arithmos of the men of Israel; here, he “sees” the vast multitude that no one can number (arithmeō). The term “number” links what he heard to what he now sees. Just as the roaring “lion of Judah” became the “slain Lamb,” so the numerically limited group from the “tribes of Israel” is transformed into the innumerable multitude of men from every “tribe” and nation.
In chapter 5, the “Lamb” fulfilled his messianic role by redeeming men and women “from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” The same description is now applied to the “innumerable multitude,” a verbal link between the two passages – (Revelation 5:9-10).
The multitude was arrayed “in white robes,” using the same term for the “white robes” provided for the martyrs “underneath the altar” when the fifth seal was opened. The martyrs were told to “rest” until the full number of their fellow martyrs had been assembled. The term “white robes” links the “innumerable multitude” to the martyrs under the altar – (Revelation 6:9-11).
The image of “palm-branches” echoes the annual Feast of Tabernacles, the time of great joy and celebration at the ingathering of the “fruits of the land” – (Leviticus 23:39-40).
Previously, John saw “angels, the four living creatures and the elders” proclaiming the “Lamb” worthy “to receive power, wisdom, might, honor, glory, and blessing.” The same heavenly groups now ascribe the very same honors to the “Lamb,” only with the voices of the “innumerable multitude” added to the chorus.
“From every nation and tribe and people and tongue.” The reference alludes to key messianic prophecies from the Old Testament. The “obedience of the nations” was promised to the “lion of Judah,” the king who would reign from Zion. In the present vision, we see these promises fulfilled as the “innumerable multitude” from every nation appears before the “throne and the Lamb”:
- (Genesis 49:9-10) – “A lion’s whelp is Judah… The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the commander’s staff from between his feet, until he comes in as Shiloh, and his be the obedience of the peoples.”
- (Psalm 2:7-9) – “I will tell of the decree: Yahweh said to me: You are my son. This day have I begotten you. Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance.”
- (Daniel 7:13-14) – “With the clouds of the heavens, one like a son of man was coming, and unto the Ancient of days he approached, and before him, they brought him near; and to him were given dominion and dignity and kingship that all peoples, races, and tongues should render service to him.”
The multitude was “standing before the Lamb.” This is in sharp contrast to the sixth seal opening when men from every level of society attempted to hide from the approaching “wrath of the Lamb.” On that day, no one was able to “stand” before the “Lamb” and the one who was “sitting on the throne.”
But this vast “innumerable multitude” from every nation that no one can number is envisioned “standing” before the “throne” and the “Lamb,” and in high festival rather than dread. But how is this possible, and who or what enabled this vast congregation “to stand” before the “Lamb”?