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Revelation 7:13–17

“One of the elders addressed me, saying, ‘Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?’ I said to him, ‘Sir, you know.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb’ ” (vv. 13–14).

John sees an innumerable multitude of believers from every tribe and tongue worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ (Rev. 7:9–12), but more must be said about their identity. Thus, in Revelation 7:13–15, the company of worshipers is further described. This happens through a interchange in which one of the twenty-four elders asks John to tell him who these worshipers are. John responds that the elder knows, and then the elder goes on to tell John explicitly about the great multitude. Before we look at the elder’s description, let us note that this kind of question and answer session is relatively common in Jewish literature of the time. In fact, the device goes as far back in Jewish history to at least the prophet Ezekiel in sixth century BC. Ezekiel 37 features the Lord asking the prophet a question that He already knows the answer to, which Ezekiel acknowledges. Similarly, in Revelation 7:13–15, the elder asks a question of John but does not really expect an answer. He knows who the multitude is.

The innumerable multitude of verses 9–17 consists of believers from every tribe and tongue, but these are believers who have come through the “great tribulation” and have washed their clothes white in the blood of the Lamb (v. 14). This multitude, in fact, consists of those who have been persecuted for their faith. Daniel 12:1 predicts a period of great trouble for God’s people before the final judgment, so this is likely what is in view here. Before the consummation of all things, there must be a period of suffering, and those who come through it without abandoning their trust in God through Christ make up the worshiping multitude. This is the church triumphant, the believers who have remained true to Jesus and have passed on to glory. Most likely, individuals who have been martyred for their faith are particularly in view here, but all those who die in faith, even if they have not been killed for trusting in Jesus, will participate in this multitude.

Again in the book of Revelation, we have assurance that God will not overlook our suffering for the sake of Christ. We may have to die in order to stay faithful to Jesus, but those who persevere will be clothed with robes washed in the blood of Christ. They will be vindicated before the whole world on judgment day as the true people of God. Moreover, they will lack nothing. Any deprivation suffered for the sake of Jesus in this world will be more than made up for in the world to come (Rev. 7:15–17).

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

In this world we must endure much pain and sadness. We may even lose everything for Christ. But it will all be worth it. Do we really believe this? So often, we find ourselves becoming too attached to our possessions, fearing their loss. Yet while we should enjoy the good gifts that God gives us in this world, we must hold on to them loosely lest they become idols. Remembering that the best is yet to come for us will help us do just that.

For Further Study
  • Isaiah 60
  • Luke 9:23–25
  • John 4:1–14
  • Revelation 12:7–11

The Great Multitude

Opening the Seventh Seal

Keep Reading Covenant Theology

From the October 2020 Issue
Oct 2020 Issue