Saturday, 12 December 2020
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, Revelation 7:9
The servants of God from the children of Israel who were sealed is complete. With that done, John’s attention is drawn to a second scene that occurs between the loosing of the sixth and seventh seals. And so, John begins the description, saying, “After these things.”
This indicates a progression of time, but this does not necessarily mean from our viewpoint or within the stream of redemptive history. Rather, it can simply be from John’s perspective as he watches the scenes appear. What he sees as sequential may be overlapping within the stream of time to us. And this is certainly the case with what he will now describe, saying, “I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number.”
Who are these people and at what point in history do they appear? The answer will be given in the verses ahead, saying that they are martyrs of the tribulation period – the final seven years before Christ’s return.
Because this is so, and because those who were just sealed in the previous vision were sealed during the tribulation, it shows that the events are only sequential as John views them, but they are overlapping within the stream of redemptive history. They are simply a categorical presentation of things that will occur.
Understanding this, John continues by saying that they are “of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues.” Because of this, they are not the same as the 144,000 Jews who were sealed in the first half of the vision. There may be (and indeed surely are) Jews included in the multitude, but the 144,000 are in a different category.
What is certain is that there will be an immense number of people saved out of the tribulation from around the earth, having realized too late for the rapture that Jesus really is who He claimed to be. Now they have proven their faith by being faithful even unto death. This is evident by the words that they are “standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”
They are portrayed in the vision as being in heaven. They have left the earthly behind. John next says that they are “clothed with white robes.” It is the same symbolism that has been seen several times already. The white robes signify the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. Their sins have been covered over, and they stand before God without fault or blemish because of their faith in the Lamb that was slain.
John next says they stand there before the throne “with palm branches in their hands.” The palm in Hebrew is tamar. This comes from an unused root meaning “to be erect.” Thus, the palm is figuratively a symbol of uprightness or righteousness. On Palm Sunday before His crucifixion, John records –
The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out:
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’
The King of Israel!” John 12:12, 13
The palms signify their faith that Jesus was the upright Savior who had come to save His people, and thus He is the King of Israel. But the symbolism goes further. In Leviticus 23, it says –
“Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the Lord for seven days; on the first day there shall be a sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a sabbath-rest. 40 And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. 41 You shall keep it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations. You shall celebrate it in the seventh month. 42 You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, 43 that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 23:39-43
Palms were to be an integral part of the adornment of the booths constructed by the people of Israel during the Feast of Tabernacles. This was a pilgrim feast, one of the three feasts that anticipate the position of a believer in Christ. Each of the types of branches named carries its own significance, but the palm – as noted above – signifies being upright. This is the righteousness of Christ.
To understand the details of the feast (and indeed all of the Feasts of the Lord) in its entirety, it can be read or viewed at the Superior Word website. These people are now living out the more perfect fulfillment of their pilgrim feast for all eternity in the presence of the One who made that possible. This will be made more evident in the verses ahead.
Life application: Analyses of the events of Chapter 7 that try to align them as sequential, and literally occurring between the sixth and seventh seals in the overall chronology of the redemptive narrative, inevitably lead to a hopeless and confused timeline. The events are categorical, but not necessarily chronological. They are being placed at logical points within the narrative to teach essential truth, regardless as to the timeline in which they occur in actual human history. Holding fast to the dispensational model, without mixing the dispensational categories, will alleviate such problems.
Also, the feasts mentioned in the Old Testament – but which are carefully explained in the books of Moses, and in particular Leviticus – are Feasts of the Lord. They are not “Jewish Feasts,” nor are they “Feasts of Israel.” They were given to Israel to live out as typological representations of what the Lord Jesus would accomplish.
These feasts, all eight of them, are fulfilled in Christ. There is no future fulfillment of them. This is important to understand. If Christ Jesus did not fulfill these feasts, then He did not fulfill the law. If He did not fulfill the law, He is not the Messiah. To teach that the “fall feasts” are yet to be fulfilled in Israel is – therefore – heresy.
When reading up on these feasts, if they are called anything but the Feasts of the Lord, or if they are said to have a future fulfillment, you can give up on that analysis and move on. This is important to have sound theology. The feasts anticipate Christ Jesus, and they are fulfilled in His first advent.
To finish, the most important point to remember is that all of Scripture is ultimately about God’s dealings in redemptive history through His Son. It is this that brings all other things into proper focus. Someday, the redeemed of the Lord will stand before Him for all eternity, praising His glory and reveling in what God has done in and through Him. He is the Lamb of God. He is our King. He is JESUS.
Hallelujah and glory to God in the highest! Salvation has come to men in the Person and work of Jesus Christ our Lord. He has fulfilled the law, paid our sin debt, and prevailed over death – all the work of our Messiah who is our King. Praise You, O God, for the glorious work of Jesus Christ Your Son. Amen.