SYNOPSIS: John now sees an innumerable multitude from all nations standing before the Lamb and the Throne. – Revelation 7:9-12.
In Chapter 7, the same group of saints is portrayed with two different images – The tribes of Israel assembled for travel, and an Innumerable multitude standing before the Lamb and the One Who Sits on the Throne. In this next vision, the imagery continues to be drawn from the story of ancient Israel in the Wilderness during its sojourn from Egypt to the Promised Land.
- (Revelation 7:9-12) – “After these things, I saw, and 1o! a great multitude,—which, to number it! no one was able,—of every nation, and [of all] tribes, and peoples, and tongues; standing before the throne, and before the Lamb; arrayed in white robes, and palm-branches in their hands;— and they cry out with a loud voice, saying—Salvation unto our God who sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb! And all the messengers were standing round about the throne and the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell down before the throne upon their faces, and rendered homage unto God, saying—Amen! The blessing, and the glory, and the wisdom, and the thanksgiving, and the honour, and the power, and the might,—be unto our God, unto the ages of ages. [Amen]!”
John first “heard” the number of the sealed, or the arithmos, 12,000 men from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Now he “sees” a vast multitude that no one can number (arithmeō). “Number” links what he heard to what he now sees. Just as the roaring “lion of Judah” became a “slain Lamb,” so, now, a numerically defined group of Israelites from the “tribes of Israel” become an innumerable multitude of men and women from every “tribe” and nation.
The sacrificial Lamb fulfills his messianic role by redeeming men and women “from every tribe and tongue and people and nation”. Now John sees a vast multitude of men and women “from every nation, tribe and people and tongue”, a clear verbal link to his earlier vision of the “slain Lamb”:
- (Revelation 5:9-10) – “And they sing a new song, saying—Worthy art thou, to take the scroll and to open the seals thereof; because thou wast slain, and didst redeem unto God by thy blood [men] out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, And didst make them unto our God a kingdom and priests,—and they reign on the earth.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
- (Revelation 7:9) – “After these things, I saw, and 1o! a great multitude,—which, to number it! no one was able,—of every nation, and [of all] tribes, and peoples, and tongues; standing before the throne, and before the Lamb” – (The Emphasized Bible).
The members of the multitude are “arrayed in white robes.” What the “white robes” signify or how the group obtained them is not stated at this point. The same term was applied previously to the martyrs “underneath the altar” in the fifth seal – They were issued “white robes” and told to wait until the full number of their “fellow servants” was assembled. The “white robes” link the two groups. They are of the same kind, if not identical.
“Palm-branches” are reminiscent of the annual Feast of Tabernacles, a time of great joy and celebration at the time of the harvest and the ingathering of the “fruits of the land”:
- (Leviticus 23:39-40) – “Howbeit on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruits of the land, ye shall keep the feast of Jehovah seven days: on the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest. And ye shall take you on the first day the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm-trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before Jehovah your God seven days.”
In Chapter 5, John saw “many angels about the Throne and the Living Creatures and the elders,” all of whom proclaimed the Lamb worthy “to receive the power, riches, wisdom, might, honor, glory and blessing.” So now, also, “all the angels standing about the throne and the elders and the four Living Creatures…” ascribe blessing, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honor, power and might to our God. The narrative is now back before the Throne at the center of the Cosmos, only, a new group has been added to the mix – The “innumerable multitude” from every nation.
In both Chapter 5 and here, seven honorific qualities are ascribed to the One Who is being adored. The verbal links are deliberate; Chapter 5 pictures the overcoming Lamb; Chapter 7 presents the multitude of redeemed men and women that follows him out of the Wilderness to the Promised Land of plenty.
“From every nation and tribe and people and tongue.” The reference to the international scope of the multitude alludes to key messianic prophecies from the Old Testament. The “obedience of the nations” was promised to the future “lion of Judah” and the Davidic king. The promises are now fulfilled as the “innumerable multitude” of men and women from every tribe and nation appear before the Throne and the Lamb:
- (Genesis 49:9-10) – “A lion’s whelp is Judah, From the prey, my son hast thou come up! He hath stooped—hath crouched As a lion—or as a lioness, Who shall rouse him? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, Nor the commanders staff a from between his feet,—Until that he come in as a Shiloh, And his be the obedience of the peoples.”
- (Psalm 2:7-9) – “I will tell of the decree: Yahweh said unto me, Thou art my son; This day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I will give thee the nations for thine inheritance, And the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
- (Daniel 7:13-14) – “I continued looking in the visions of the night, when lo! 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; 14 and, unto him, were given dominion and dignity and kingship, that all peoples, races and tongues, unto him, should do service,—his dominion, was an age-abiding dominion, which should not pass away, and, his kingdom, that which should not be destroyed.”
This vast multitude of men and women is “standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” This is in contrast with the sixth seal opening when men from every level of society attempted to hide from the impending “wrath.” On the Day of the Lord, no one is able to “stand” before the Lamb or the Throne, yet, now, a vast multitude that no one can number is observed “standing” before the Throne and Lamb, and, in celebration, not dread. How is this possible? Who is able “to stand?”
The Lamb has prepared his priestly kingdom to march to the Promised Land. All tribes, sections, and members now move together. The completed assembly stands numbered, “sealed,” and, thus, prepared for any eventuality.