Nazarene Apocalypse ©2000

“THESE DRESSED IN WHITE ROBES, WHO ARE THEY,AND WHERE DO THEY COME FROM?”

The Sixth Seal Continued: Revelation 7:9-17 and the Large Crowd.

#209. Having heard the number of those sealed as 144,000, John is now given a description of a Large Crowd. This method of hearing the number and then seeing such described is similar to a later vision John has of 200,000,000 horsemen in chapter nine, verses 13-19, he first hears the number and then he sees the 200,000,000 riders. (verses 16, 17). This is just as he experienced in chapter seven: he hears the number 144,000, and then he sees their description in the Large Crowd.

#210. As with the 144,000, there has been many different views of this Large Crowd in chapter seven, verses 9-17. Some view it as the whole Church in heaven. Others feel it is only the Gentile members of the Church. One group views this Great Multitude as a secondary class of Christians who do not go to heaven but survive Armageddon to live on earth forever. As charming as this idea of “millions now living will never die” actually is, we are more concerned with the actual identity of this Large Crowd. Who are they?

#211. This question is raised by the celestial presbyter in Revelation 7:14, ‘These enwrapped in white robes, who are they and from where do they come?’ The answer is given by the presbyter himself: ‘These are the ones coming out of the Great Oppression.’ John would have no difficulty in identifying the Large Crowd now, for this phrase “Great Oppression” is exactly the one used by the Nazarene himself in Matthew 24:21. The word for “oppression” is thlipsis in Greek and is the exact word used in Daniel 12:1: ‘And at that time Michael,406 the Great Prince, shall stand up407 ... and there will be a time408 of tribulation (thlipseos), such a tribulation (thlipsis) as has not been from the time there was a nation409 on earth until that time: at that time thy People shall be delivered410, even every one that is written411 in the Book.’ (LXX) Is it being fair to say that the Celestial Presbyter clearly quotes the Nazarene at Matthew 24.21 and Daniel 12:1? Is it fair to suggest that the Large Crowd is the same as the Nazarene’s “chosen ones” (or, the Elect) and Daniel’s “People”? Is it fair to compare the “Book” in which Daniel’s People are inscribed is the same as ‘sealing’ the 144,000? (Luke 10:20; 2 Timothy 2:19; Revelation 17:8)
406 MICHAEL. Compare Jude 9; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; Revelation 12:7.
407 STAND UP. The Hebrew may be rendered “appear.” Compare the JPS version.
408 TIME. The exact time is given first in Daniel 7:25 where the Small Power “oppresses” the Saints for “a time, times, and half a time.” This is repeated in Daniel 12:7 when the prophet asks “how long?” evidently with the “time” of verse 1 in mind. The Nazarene alludes to this in Luke 21:24 and this text is paraphrased at Revelation 11:2 giving the time as “42 months.”
409 NATION. The JPS renders this, “since the Nation came into being” evidently referring to Israel.
410 DELIVERED. JPS renders this “rescued.”
411 WRITTEN. This Hebrew word is kathab and is also rendered “enrolled” or “appointed” or “registered.” It has all the ring to it as the “seal” of Revelation 7:3, 4. Isaiah 44:5 reads: ‘Another shall mark (kathab) his arm “of the LORD’S (or, Yahweh).” And adopt the name of “Israel.”’ This has all the elements of Revelation 7:3, 4 and Revelation 14:1. Compare BDBG Hebrew Lexicon, page 506. In the LXX Isaiah 44:5 uses epigrapsei and has all the sound of Luke 10:20; 2 Timothy 2:19; Revelation 7:4; 14:1.

#212. Those few who view the Large Crowd as a secondary “earthly class” spend most o their commentary space in trying to prove this group is not heavenly. However, a close review of Revelation 7:9-17 will produce about a dozen phrases which would identify the Large Crowd with Israel or locate them in heaven. Take a look at some of these.

(1) A Large Crowd. (Revelation 7:9)

#213. This Greek phrase, ochlos polys (not, megalen or “great”), is the same term used in the Gospels to refer to crowds of several thousands. (Matthew 14:21; 15:38; 16:9; Mark 6:44; 8:9, 19; Luke 9:14; John 6:10) There is an interesting use of ochlos polys in the account of the Nazarene’s disciples412 going out to meet him with palm branches in language similar to Revelation 7:9, 10. (John 12:12, 13)
412 DISCIPLES. These are identified as “disciples” in Luke 19.40 and therefore potential Nazarene Saints.

(2) Out of all nations. (Revelation 7:9)

#214. Note a similar phrase at Revelation 5:9 in relation to the End-time Saints who will rule the earth. The Nazarene describes the gathering of the Saints in this manner, ‘And the Son of Man will send off his angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together his Elect from the four winds, from one extreme of heaven to its over extreme.’ (Matthew 24:31) These words of Jesus are borrowed from Isaiah 11:10-12: ‘In that day ... (Messiah) will arise to rule the nations ... And he shall raise a Sign for the nations, and he shall gather the Lost Ones of Israel, and he will gather together the scattered of Judah from the four corners of the earth.’ (LXX) Here the gathered ones are from Israel dispersed among all the nations, thus a Large Crowd “out of all nations.” (Revelation 7:4)

(3) Standing before the Throne. (Revelation 7:9, 15)

#215. This is literally “in sight of the throne” from the Greek enopion tou thronou. This phrase occurs 10 times413 in the Apocalypse and is always heaven. An example is found in Revelation 7.11 where the angels and the Celestial Presbyters are “standing before the Throne.” If these are in heaven, then the Large Crowd is also in heaven.
413 10 TIMES. (Revelation 1:4; 3:5; 4:5, 6; 5:8; 7:11, 15; 8:3; 9:3; 11:4; 11:16; 12:10; 14:3; 19:12; 20:12) There is one exception to the phrase “before the throne” as a location in heaven, Revelation 20:12; however, here it is a different “throne,” that of the Messiah, the Judge of mankind. (John 5:22)

(4) Palm Branches.

#216. There is much of John 12:12, 13 here when the Nazarene’s disciples, a large crowd, go out to meet him at his entrance into Jerusalem. There is also a clear allusion to the Jewish Festival of Ingathering (or, Booths, Tabernacles). (Note Leviticus 23:34, 42, 43; Re 14:4, 5; Zechariah 14:16) This would make the Large Crowd spiritual Jews and not Gentiles.

(5) Salvation! (Revelation 7:10)

#217. This salvation hymn is very similar to that of the “great crowd” (okhlou pollou) seen in heaven at Revelation 19:1, 6 (okhlou pollou) in language like that of Revelation 14:2’s 144,000. The only other reference to a Large Crowd in the Apocalypse is in heaven.

(6) White robes. (Revelation 7:9, 14)

#218. These robes are “washed white in the blood of the Lamb.” This phrase occurs only one other time in the Apocalypse (Revelation 22:14) and is limited to those who enter the New Jerusalem. The garment is called the Greek stole (stolas) and this is usually associated with kings and priests. (See Thayer’s and Strong’s)

(6) Worship day and night. (Revelation 7:15)

#219. This phrase is often related to that service by priests or Jews in worship in the Temple. (Compare Luke 1:74; 2:37; 1 Corinthians 9:17; Hebrews 8:5; 9:1, 6, 9, 14; 12:28; 13:10) It is also used of Jewish worship in general. (Acts 24:14; 26:7; 27:23; Romans 1:9; 12:1; Philippians 3:3; 2 John 3) In this regard we have noted the 144 cherubs within the Mosaic Tabernacle and thus a group who do indeed serve God day and night in His Temple.

(7) In His Temple. (Revelation 7:15)

#220. The Large Crowd are pictured in the Temple of God. In Greek this is en to nao autou. This exact phrase occurs at Revelation 11:19 as well as in the LXX 1 Samuel 3:3 and 2 Chronicles 4:7; also Luke 1:21 in the Christian Bible. These all deal with the inner shrine of the Temple Sanctuary. The Greek for “temple” (literally, “divine habitation” or “a god’s shrine”) is nao, naos, naon. This word group occurs 15 times414 in the Apocalypse and is always heaven.
414 OCCURRENCES OF “TEMPLE.” Revelation 3:12; 7:15; 11:1, 2, 19; 14:15, 17; 15:5, 6, 8; 16:1, 17; 21:22)

(8) God’s ‘tenting’ with.

#221. This is a phrase similar to Revelation 21:3 and on this verse note that the term is used often of God’s covenant relationship with Israel. (Ezekiel 37:26-28) DNTT, Vol 3, page 813: “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 with them in his presence’ (RSV), dwell with them continuously within his temple.” The whole thought seems to speak of heaven as the location of the Large Crowd.

(9) Hunger, thirst, heat and shepherding guidance. (Revelation 7:16, 17)

#222. This is a compound paraphrase of the 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 of waters shall he lead them.’ (Bagster) Paul quotes Isaiah 49:8 and applies it to the Saints at 2 Corinthians 6:2. The context of Isaiah 48:8-12 includes ‘sheep’ other than those of Israel: those who come from “afar.” (Compare Ephesians 2:13, 17) The thought is very much that of John 10:16’s “other sheep.” Paul’s use of this portion argues strongly that the Large Crowd is a heaven-bound group of the End-time Saints.

(10) Tears wiped out. (Revelation 7:17)

#223. This phrase is straight from Isaiah 25:8 LXX and the context here deals with the tears of Israel. Isaiah 25:8 is a verse Paul quotes and applies at 1 Corinthians 15:54 to the attainment of immortality. It clearly applies to the End-time Saints.

#224. Having identified this Large Crowd as a heavenly group of End-time Saints who survive the Great Oppression, let us examine a couple more points about the 144,000-Saints.

The 144,000-Saints return for Armageddon.

#225. The 144,000-Saints (along with all their fellow members of the Glorified Church) now return with their Lord for the destruction of Babylon the Great and the war of Armageddon. This is shown in Revelation 17:14: ‘These ten kings will war with the Lamb but the Lamb will conquer them, also those with him: those called, chosen and faithful.’ The 144,000-Saints would be included among this group of “called, chosen, and faithful.”

#226. Now the events described in Apocalypse chapters 17 to 19 can unfold, with the 144,000-Saints safely within God’s Tent. A victorious battle now occurs which sees the Great City Babylon going up in smoking flames and all the kings of the earth gathered for Armageddon. However, let us now return to our discussion of the Apocalypse and its final Seventh Seal.

Nazarene Commentary 2000

Mark Heber Miller

2000 All Rights Reserved