Who or What is the “Great Crowd”?

Below are the verses in the Bible that deal specifically with the Great Crowd, Revelation 7:9-17. These are from the 21st Century Version of the Christian Scriptures. The words in blue indicate phrases alluding to verses in the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament. The location of these sources follow the blue letters. Read these verses carefully and several times and ask yourself, “Who is this Great Crowd?”

RV7:9 After these things I saw, and, look! a Large Crowd which no one could number. Out of all ‘nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues’. [Daniel 7:14] They stood in sight of the Throne and in sight of the Lamb [Isaiah 53:7] enwrapped with white robes. There were palm branches in their hands. [Leviticus 23:40, 43; John 12:13] RV7:10 They cried with a great voice, saying: “’Salvation belongs to our God’! [Psalm 3:8] To the One sitting upon the Throne [Isaiah 6:1] and to the Lamb.” [Isaiah 53:7] RV7:11 And all the angels stood to encircle the Throne. The Presbyters and the 4 Living Creatures fell upon their faces in sight of the Throne. They worshipped The God, saying: RV7:12 “Amen! The blessing and the glory and the wisdom and the thanksgiving and the honor and the power and the strength to our God into the Ages of the Ages. “Amen!” RV7:13 And one of the Presbyters answered me, saying: “These enwrapped with white robes, who are they, and where to they come from?” RV7:14 I immediately said to him: “My lord, you must know.” The Presbyter said to me: “These are the ones who come out of the Great Oppression. [Daniel 12:1; Matthew 24:21] ‘They washed and whitened their robes in the blood of’ the Lamb. [Genesis 49:11; Isaiah 53:7] RV7:15 Because of this blood they are in sight of the Throne of The God. In the Divine Habitat of The God ‘they render sacred service to Him day and night’. The One sitting on the Throne [Isaiah 6:1] will tent over them. RV7:16 ‘They will not hunger or thirst anymore. The sun’s heat will no longer burn them. [Isaiah 49:10] RV7:17 Because the Lamb [Isaiah 53:7] in the middle of the Throne will shepherd and guide them to fountains of waters of life. [Isaiah 49:10] ‘The God will wipe out every tear from their eyes’.” [Isaiah 25:8] [NCMM]

There are several views on the identity of the Great Crowd of Revelation 7:9. Some view it as the sum total of the Gentile members of the Christian Church. Others see it as all the Church. A small minority understand the Great Crowd to be a secondary group of Christians who did not attain to heavenly life and thus survive Armageddon to live forever on earth in God’s New World.

What does a close examination prove? Mainly we here focus on whether the Great Crowd is a group seen in heaven or on earth? Are they spiritual Jews or are they spiritual Gentiles? Below are given over a dozen reasons why this Great Crowd [literally “large crowd”] describes a heavenly group of Christians from among the spiritual new “Israel of God.”

Our account begins with John’s words, “after these things.” This does not necessarily argue for an entirely new vision. It may very well be a continuation of the tally of the 144,000. For John now saw he “saw” this Great Crowd. What John only heard before he now sees. He heard the roll call of the 144,000 - a group “out of all the tribes of Israel” -- and now he sees the results. Remember where John is when he sees this -- heaven. [Revelation 4;1, 2]

John says he now sees “a large crowd.” The Greek is ochlos polys [much] and not megalen [great]. The same term is used in the Gospels for crowds of several thousands. (John 12:12, 13) Note the “great crowd” of Luke 19:37, 38 is one of “disciples.” The only other occurrence of the term is at Revelation 19:1, 6 where it is heavenly.

John says no one was able to number or count this Great Crowd. Either the crowd is big enough so as to be difficult to count by a mere glance, such as a literal throng of 144,000. Or, it is an unknown figure and not yet numbered as the events have not been completed.

Now we examine the near dozen characteristics of this Great Crowd which prove they are heavenly and of spiritual Israel.

1. Out of All Nations

Note a similar phrase at Revelation 5:9 in relation to the Saints who will rule the earth. They are also said to be out of this global source. A similar phrase occurs in the LXX at Daniel 7:14. It may appear at first that this is a Gentile group as opposed to tribes of Israel. But one only needs to ask: “Where is Israel when it is scattered among all the nations?” Isaiah 11:12 and Matthew 24:31 answer this question. Though being spiritual Jews they are of all nationalities and ethnic backgrounds. Note in Revelation 9:4 that there are only two groups among mankind during the blowing of the seven trumpets: the unsealed harmed and the unharmed sealed.

Some who argue that though the Great Crowd are out of all nations, the 144,000 are only out of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. However, this same group believes Revelation 5:9, 10 speaks of all the 144,000 who are there describes as being “out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” [NWT] This is the same language used of the Great Crowd. The language would argue the 144,000 are the same as the Great Crowd.

2. Standing Before the Throne

In Greek this is literally “in sight of the throne.” This whole expression occurs 10 times (Revelation 1:4; 3:5; 4:5, 6; 5:8; 7:11, 15; 8:3; 9:3; 11:4, 16; 12:10; 14:3; 19:12; 20:12) and with the exception of Revelation 20:12 always means heaven. With regard to this latter occurrence, it is “a” throne, likely that of Messiah who is the judge. Since a throne has no sight, it must be the Large Crowd who can see the Throne as they are in heaven.

It is true that the Greek ENOPION is used in contexts where those “before God” are on earth. However, here it does not say “before God” but rather “before the Throne” or “insight of the throne.” In all the other ten occurrences of this full expression IT ALWAYS MEANS HEAVEN.

3. Dressed in White Robes

This Great Crowd is describes as being dressed in “white robes.” The Greek STOLE is generally used of kings and priests. (Matthew 12:38; 16:5; Luke 20:46; Revelation 6:11) Though the word is used of the Prodigal Son most interpreters understand this son to represent those repentant persons who return to the Father’s household, that is the Church. Both Strong and Thayers hold the view that the STOLE indicates persons who are royal or priestly. Thus, these are kings and priests like those at Revelation 5:9, 10.

4. THEY HAVE PALM BRANCHES

Since they are from “all the tribes of Israel” it does not surprise us that they appear as Jewish celebrants at the Feast of Booths. There is much of John 12:12, 13 here: a large crowd of disciples that go out to meet the Lord when he comes for the Jerusalem’s judgment on the Temple.

5. THE GREAT CROWD SINGS OUT

This Great Crowd singing a heavenly anthem is seen again at Revelation 19:1, 6 where the description is similar to that here: After these things I heard a great voice as of a Large Crowd in heaven, saying: “Alleluia! [Psalm 104:35] The salvation, the Glory, the Power of our God! … And I heard a voice of a Large Crowd, and it was like the sound of thunderous waters, [Daniel 10:6] saying: “Alleluia! For our Lord has reigned. [Psalm 93:1]” This Great Crowd is highly associated with the marriage of the Lamb and the sound of their singing is the same as the 144,000 at Revelation 14:2.

6. ANTHEM THEME

Both the anthem in Revelation 7 is the same as that in Revelation 19 - salvation. The language is possibly drawn from several sources such as Psalm 3:8. The word “salvation” in Hebrew is ha·yeshu·`ah'. [ = Jesus] A similar hymn to that of Revelation 19:1. It sounds like the same group of Revelation 15:2 - the Saints in heaven.

We cannot fail to note at this point that angels and others are seen in heaven “before the throne” just as the Great Crowd. [Compare also Revelation 4:10; 5:11, 14.]

7. THE ANSWER TO IDENTITY OF THE GREAT CROWD

This is the only part of the vision in heaven where the actual question of the identity of the Great Crowd is mentioned - and answered. No question was asked by John so it may have the sense of “responded” either to the logical flow or a look on John’s face.

Why does John not inquire about the 144,000? Unless he understands the Large Crowd and the 144,000 to be the same? Where is John when he sees the Large Crowd? In heaven. John is asked who this Great Crowd is and he reluctantly defers to the celestial presbyter.

The heavenly elder answers giving a direct identification of the Great Crowd. This represents the answer to the identity of the Large Crowd seen before God’s Throne. It is a clear allusion to Daniel 12:1 where these are Daniel’s “people who are written in the Book” (later called the Holy People at Daniel 12:7) who “escape” (or, are rescued) out of the Great Oppression.” The Nazarene also quotes Daniel 12:1 at Matthew 24:21 (Mark 13:19) in which the Elect are “saved.” Is it fair to conclude that the Large Crowd is the same as “(Daniel’s) your people” -- spiritual Jews -- and the “chosen ones” of the Nazarene?

These are said to “come out of the Great Oppression.” The whole phrase is tes thlipseos tes megales and virtually identical to that of Daniel 12:1 LXX. The Greek thlipseos is rooted in “pressure” and thus “oppression” is closer than tribulation. It is often used of persecution. (Matthew 24:9; 2 Thessalonians 1:6) Relief from oppression will come when the Lord is revealed from heaven. (2 Thessalonians 1.7) The Great Oppression is three and a half years long and is a reign of persecution against the Saints alive at that moment just before the Return of Christ. (Revelation 11:2; 12:17; 13:5, 7; Daniel 12:1, 7) Some incorrectly view the “great tribulation” as against the world, that is some kind of global Armageddon, when it is really an oppression against the Saints. (Daniel 7:21, 25)

8. ROBES WASHED IN THE LAMB’S BLOOD

A conflate based on Genesis 49:11 and Isaiah 53:7. The same phrase occurs only one other time at Revelation 22:14 and are those who enter the Holy City New Jerusalem. No one else is ever identified as such. The Great Crowd are described as among those who enter the New Jerusalem.

9. IN HIS TEMPLE

The Great Crowd are described as being “in His temple.” In Greek the whole phrase is en to nao autou [in his Temple] and occurs exactly so at Revelation 11:19 where it is the “ark” seen “in heaven.” Compare the phrase in the LXX at 1 Samuel 3:3 and 2 Chronicles 4:7; also Luke 1:21. The word group NAOS (15x) is always heaven. (Revelation 3:12; 7:15; 11:1, 2, 19; 14:15, 17; 15:5, 6, 8; 16:1, 17; 21:22) Any argument to place the Large Crowd in the “courtyard” does not work as Revelation 11:2 makes it clear that such is “outside the Temple.”

10. DAY AND NIGHT WORSHIP

The around the clock worship of the Great Crowd suggests they are priests. This is something not to be overlooked, it is a phrase often used of Jewish priests in worship. (Luke 1:74; 2:37; 1 Corinthians 9:17; He 8.5; 9.1, 6, 9, 14; 12.28; 13.10) It may be worship in general. (Acts 24:14; 26:7; 27:23; Romans 1:9; 12:1; Philippians 3:3; 2 John 3) It is the 144 cherubs who serve as silent sentinels within the tabernacle of Moses as they look from their positions on the tapestry.

11. GOD SPREADS HIS TENT OVER THEM

The Greek skenoseI means “dwell” and may infer “protect” by dwelling with someone. There is a slight difference here, skenosei ep and the skene ...mep’ at Revelation 21:3. One refers to God’s protection while the other refers to God’s dwelling with the same. Dictionary of New Testament Theology suggests: “Rev. 7:15 pictures one of the elders before God’s throne informing John that God would ‘encamp’ (skenosei) over those who had come out of the great tribulation; he would ‘shelter them with his presence,’ (RSV) dwell with them continuously within his temple.” (Volume 3, page 813)

12. NO MORE HUNGER

The Great Crowd are said to hunger no more. Of course, it may be the same kind of hunger as that of Matthew 5:6, but why would this be mentioned if this is not the same group of Saints who endure the economic pressure of Revelation 13:9, 10, 16, 17? Compare this hunger and thirst with that in the parable of Matthew 25:31-46, in the context of the Great Oppression in Revelation 13:9, 10, 16, 17. [Compare Daniel 7:21, 22, 25 with Revelation 11:2, 3; 12:14, 17; 13:5-7.]

13. THE LAMB WILL GUIDE THEM

The whole phrase in these two verses is a direct quote from LXX at Isaiah 49:10: “They shall not hunger, neither shall they thirst; neither shall the heat nor the sun smite them ... and by fountains shall he lead them.” Paul quotes Isaiah 49:8 himself and applies it to the Gentile Saints [or, anointed] in Corinth. (2 Corinthians 6:2) Paul quotes it before a synagogue in Acts 13:47 when he applies Isaiah 49:6 to Israel and the Gentiles Christians of his time. The context of Isaiah 49:8-12 includes an inference to sheep other than Israel and thus “other sheep” (John 10:16), or Gentile Saints. These applications by Paul of Isaiah 49 is proof enough that the Large Crowd are Saints with a heavenly destiny.

14. NO MORE TEARS

The phrase is straight from Isaiah 25:8 LXX. The “tears” are those of the Saints [or, anointed]. This verse is also quoted by Paul at 1 Corinthians 15:54 and applied to the attainment of immortality in the heavenly resurrection. The tears caused by the Great Oppression are wiped out instantly by the Rapture. (1 Corinthians 15:50-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9) The parallel at Revelation 21:3 also likely applies to covenant Israel, those Saints who enter the New Jerusalem. [See the notes on Revelation 21:3.]

Comparing Revelation 7:15-17 with Revelation 21:1-4

Some argue that the “mankind” of Revelation 21:1-4 are those on earth and, therefore, those of Revelation 7:15-17 also will live on earth. Below is given the verses in Revelation 21:1-4 from the 21st Century Version of the Christian Scriptures. Note in blue the many phrases that are borrowed from the Hebrew Bible. These prove that those being described are not persons who live on earth but citizens of the heavenly New Jerusalem.

RV21:1 And then I saw a New Heaven and a New Earth [Isaiah 65:17] for the first heaven and the first earth went off. And the sea is no more. RV21:2 Then I saw the Holy City New Jerusalem [Isaiah 52:1] descending down out of Heaven from The God. It was prepared like a bride adorned [Isaiah 61:10] for her husband. [2 Corinthians 11:2] RV21:3 I heard a great voice out of the Throne, saying: “The Tent of The God is with the men. [Leviticus 26:11] He will tent with them. They will be His Peoples and The God will be with them. [[Leviticus 26:11; Ezekiel 37:27] RV21:4 He will wipe out every tear from their eyes. [Isaiah 25:8] Death will be no more. [Isaiah 25:8 Nor mourning, outcry, or pain will be any more. [Isaiah 65:17] The former things passed away. [Isaiah 65:17] [NCMM]

The phrase “new heaven and new earth” is straight out of Isaiah 65:17 and Isaiah 66:22. Peter also quotes Isaiah at 2 Peter 3:13. In Isaiah the context is a newly created Jerusalem, thus a New Jerusalem. The City is highly associated with God’s People, the Israel of God, as one would expect.

As discussed in 2 Peter 3:10, 12 these “first heavens and earth” likely is a reference to that demonic “heaven” which appeared after the deluge along with the “earth” of mankind that developed. (Ephesians 6:12) Literally in Greek they “went off.” This is variously rendered: KJV: passed away; KNX: vanished. When did this happen? In the Day of Jehovah according to Peter, likely the same as the Day of the Lord Jesus upon his Return prior to the 1,000 Years. Both the Satanic heavens which have ruled the earth are gone as well as that Devilish structure which obtained on earth. [Compare Revelation 11:15-17.] The earth, along with its atmospheric heavens, is to endure forever (Ecclesiastes 1:4; Psalm 78:69; 104:5; 119:90) as are the stellar heavens. (Psalm 72:5, 7; 89:37; 136:8, 9)

The center or focus of this part of Revelation 21:1-4 is the “holy city.” The designation occurs 16 times: Revelation 3:12; 14:20; 20:9; 21:2, 10, 14, 15, 16, 18, 21, 23; 22:3, 14, 19. The images echo Isaiah chapters 51, 65. Of course, if the Great Crowd are “in His Temple” then they are also in His holy city.

The Tent of God is said to be with “men.” It need not read “mankind” as though these were people on earth. This whole section is a compound paraphrase, or conflate, from several sources which all deal with the Saints. Leviticus 26:12: ‘I will walk among you and be your God and you will be my People (quoted in 2 Corinthians 6:16). Ezekiel 37:26-28: ‘I will establish my sanctuary in the midst of them [Israel] forever. And my tabernacle shall be among them [Israel] and I will be to them [Israel] a God and they will be my people [Israel].’ (quoted in 2 Corinthians 6:16) Jeremiah 31:33: “Then I will be their God and they shall be my People [Israel].’ (quoted in Hebrews 8:10) [Compare Zechariah 13:9.] All of these sources apply to Israel in a covenant relationship with God and not to mankind in general. Therefore, the context of Revelation 21:3 must have the Saints in mind.

The word “tears” indicates a reference to Isaiah 25:8. Whose “tears” are these? Judging from Isaiah 25:8 they are those of “my People Israel” and applied by Paul to the Saints [or, anointed]. (1 Corinthians 15:54)

The mention of “death” and the related phrase regarding tears is a paraphrase from Isaiah 25:9 which has been alluded to in Revelation 7:17. In Isaiah the context is “Israel” and Paul quotes this in application to those who gain immortality in the heavenly kingdom at 1 Corinthians 15:54. It must have reference to “death” among those Saints [or, anointed] within the City of God, New Jerusalem. Second Death still has authority over the “nations” alive on the New Earth during the 1,000 Years. (Revelation 20:6) If Isaiah 65:17-20 applies to this period, then: ‘Neither an old man who shall not complete his time and the sinner who dies at a hundred years shall also be accursed.’ “Death” is still effective among men and is not destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:24-26) until after the 1,000 Years. (Revelation 20:12-14)

In conclusion, Revelation 21:1-4 cannot be used as a parallel passage to prove the Great Crowd are Christians living on earth as opposed to the 144,000 in heaven. The 144,000 and the Great Crowd are the same and refer to the Saints [or, anointed] who are alive when the Great Oppression occurs and thereafter rescued at the Parousia of the Messiah. [For details see notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000 in Biblical Articles dealing with the identity of the 144,000 and Great Crowd.]

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Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller

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