by Sam E. Stone
The apostle John’s vision of things to come continues, moving through the opening of six out of seven seals. As each seal is opened, new pictures of judgment are shown. An interlude occurs between the opening of the sixth and seventh seals (Revelation 7:1-17). Selected verses from this section are the focus of our study today. We see Christians join in thankful worship while the judgments of these seals take place. The first readers of John’s prophecy found here the comfort and reassurance they needed to face a hostile government and an ungodly world. Revelation 7, verses 1-3 shows the angels protecting God’s people even as they prepare to bring his judgment on the earth.
The Saved/Revelation 7:9-10
In verses 4-8 (not in our printed text), John learns the number of those sealed—”144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.” This is obviously a symbolic number indicating perfection (12 X 12 X 1,000). Some interpret this number to include only the Jews, but it seems more likely to represent both the Gentile and Jewish Christians living during this time of tribulation. The 12 tribes would be seen then in a spiritual rather than literal sense.
In addition to those believers living on earth, innumerable others are already in the presence of God in glory. They are from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. At this point the gospel has been offered to every people group in every nation around the world (Matthew 24:14). They are wearing white robes, symbolizing purity. They are also holding palm branches in their hands—a sign of joy and triumph (see John 12:13). Salvation belongs to our God. Those in Heaven know they have been saved by God’s grace. As the Lamb of God, Jesus was sacrificed to make possible our redemption. He is worthy of all praise.
The Shepherd/Revelation 7:11-17
Continuing the adoration described in chapters 4 and 5, all the angels . . . the elders and the four living creatures . . . worshiped God. Now their attention is also focused on the multitude in white robes. Praise is the hallmark of Heaven. The affirmation Amen is repeated as they speak, signifying their agreement with the words of the multitude (v. 10). Seven elements of worship are noted—praise, glory, wisdom, thanks, honor, power, and strength (see Revelation 5:12).
One of the elders from around God’s throne asked John, “Those in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” These robes had been given to the saints by the Lord (6:11). John replied simply, “Sir, you know.” The apostle humbly acknowledged his ignorance, even as he asked for information.
The elder replied that these have come out of the great tribulation. Before Jesus’ return to earth, the church will face increased hostility. The people dressed in white have overcome. Their robes have been made white in the blood of the Lamb. The blood of Jesus has cleansing power (Colossians 1:20; Hebrews 9:14; 1 John1:7). “They are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple,” the elder added. Just as God dwelt in the tabernacle in the wilderness (Leviticus 26:11-13), now in Heaven he has fellowship with his people around the throne. God protects them from all evil.
Never again will they hunger. Human appetites are no longer of concern. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For people who had lived in the desert for years, these words would be especially welcome. Whatever may have challenged the believer’s life in the past, it is no longer a threat. As the old song says, “All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.”
The Lamb . . . will be their shepherd. The one who gave his life as the sacrificial lamb for our sins will then shepherd us. Jesus is the good shepherd (John 10:11; Psalm 23:1). He has always been the source of living water (John 4:13, 14), and he will continue to be through all eternity (Revelation 21:6). God will wipe away every tear from their eye. This pictures a parent gently wiping away the tears of a dearly loved child. The Lord will remove every vestige of earth’s sorrow for all of his children one day.
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.