The Great Multitude - Revelation 7: 9-17


Samuel F. Hurnard.


In the seventh chapter of Revelation, from verse 9 to the end, we have the second Supplementary Vision.  It is a literary gem.  Better still, it gives us an exquisite glimpse of heaven, and we know that heaven is true and that we can place the fullest reliance upon God's word.  This is one of the foursquare verses which indicates its world-wide application.  The great multitude is gathered from "all nations, and tribes, and people, and tongues."


The white robes that they have washed mark them as overcomers, while the palms they carry are in token of rejoicing.  John 12: 13 and Luke 19: 37-38 give an illustration.  The multitude cry "Salvation to our God ... and unto the Lamb."  Salvation carries with it the thought of complete deliverance and perfect health.  The Psalmist could sing, "The Lord is become my salvation."


The host of angels stood around as enraptured spectators of this great scene.  They ascribe a sevenfold eulogy to God for what He is and for what He has accomplished.


But one of the elders put a question to John, inviting inquiry.  He learns that these are faithful ones, who have come out of the great tribulation.  They have endured, even unto death.  The Holy Spirit draws a veil over the sad and pitiful story of the dread time, leading on in thought and vision to the "nevertheless afterward" which follows the chastening which the Lord permits His children to endure and which works for them "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."


Well for us is it if we can truly say, "As for God, His way is perfect."  "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing has happened unto you; but rejoice inasmuch as you are partakers of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory shall be revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy" (1 Peter 4:12-13).


Coming events cast their shadows before.  It would seem as though this poor world had already entered the warning penumbra shadow of the Tribulation eclipse.  Among those who dominate Russia today, we see fighting against God and persecuting those who remain faithful to Him.  That the 20th century should witness such inhuman cruelties seems indeed strange, till we remember the words of prophecy - that men should be fierce and without natural affection and blasphemers.


The condition of Russia pictures, up to a point, the condition of the whole world as it will be under the great tribulation.  Only then iniquity will go a step further and demand worship of the Antichrist.  In Russia, we are assured that the number of evangelical Christians has vastly increased during these years of trial.  So we learn from this passage and others what it will be during the great tribulation period.  The world will then experience the greatest spiritual revival that it has ever known.  The volume of persistent prayer for revival will then meet with a mighty answer.  For we read of "a great multitude, which no man could number" which represents the fruitage of this ingathering.  It was a multitude that had individually been faithful unto death.  They had suffered hunger, thirst, and exposure as well, probably, as direct persecution.  Our Lord's promise about giving "a cup of cold water" will be most applicable.


In chapter 13 of the Revelation, we shall read about the great boycott that will make it hard to obtain food.  What long drawn out wasting and privation and sorrow it will be for the despised and hated worshipers of God.  "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you; and you shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. ... But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. ... For then shall be great tribulation. such as was not seen since the beginning of the world to this time, no nor ever shall be" (Matthew 24: 9,13,21).  These are our Lord's words.  But He also said, "Watch therefore and pray always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass and to stand before the Son of man" (Luke 21:36).


What a marvellous contrast is afforded by this heavenly picture!  After being wanderers and outcasts on the earth, destitute and afflicted, starved and tortured, they have now passed over, "they shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more, neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes" (Revelation 7:16-17).


Or in the words of Isaiah, "As one whom his mother comforts, so will I comfort you" (Isa. 66: 13).  With what delight and ministries of love will the Lord Jesus care for those who have suffered for His sake!


"Light after darkness, gain after loss,

Strength after weakness, crown after cross,

 Sweet after bitter, hope after fears,

Home after wandering, praise after tears.

joy after sorrow, calm after blast,

Rest after weariness, sweet rest at last.

After long agony, rapture of bliss,

Right was the pathway leading to this."


An illustration of the great and sudden contrast that they experience is seen in the case of the dying thief, though he suffered justly for his misdeeds.  To his cry of penitence and faith, "Lord, remember me," came the sublime assurance from the parched lips of his Saviour, "Today You shall be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23: 43).


The close association of the tribulation saints with "the throne" should be noticed.  In verse 9, they are seen "standing before the throne."  In verse10, they ascribe salvation to "God who sits on the throne."  In verse 11, "And all the angels were standing around the throne."  Verse 15 tells us that because of their faithfulness under trial "They are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple, and He that sits on the throne shall dwell among them."  In verse 17, "the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall feed them."


These verses may be compared with the promise to the overcomers in Laodicea: "To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my throne" (Revelation 3:21).


Is it possible that we get here an indication of the future of many in Laodicea?  We cannot be sure, but it is worth noting.  Those who opened the door to Christ, He would come and sup with (on earth) and they should sup with Him (in heaven).  Like the foolish virgins, their lamps were going out, and they needed to anoint their eyes with the eye-salve of the Holy Spirit, that they might see.  Laodicea was an apostate church filled with self-glory.  But there is hope for the individual, and the Lord counsels him to "buy of me gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich" (3: 18).  What can this mean but the faithful endurance of persecution?


For such use of this expression see Isaiah 48:10 and Zechariah 13:9: "I will bring ... through the fire ... and will try them as gold is tried," and Job 23:10: "When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold."


It seems probable that they will not be ready when the first call is given and the first-fruits ingathered.  They will not be watching nor praying, and will not be "counted worthy to escape all these things (the tribulation times) that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man" (Luke 21: 36).  So they will be left.  And from among them many professing Christians in the federated churches and in every land, suddenly confronted with the choice of open worship of "the Beast" or loyalty to Christ, will take the above quoted advice given them in 3:18 and stand for Him even unto death in those days of fiery trial and become overcomers "because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony" (Revelation 12: 11) and will be found in this "great multitude before the throne."


Whether this suggestion is correct or not, this vision teaches that the time of trouble and persecution will be one when very many, all over the world, make a brave and loyal confession of Christ before men.  Should it not be a comforting thought to the weary missionary and the lonely worker, that perhaps many who appear to give little, if any, heed to the Gospel, may be among the faithful witnesses to Christ in this coming time when swift and irrevocable choice must be made!


There has been much prayer for Revival, and people have wondered at the comparatively small response.  Here and there the working of the Holy Spirit has been seen, but the church of Christ still waits for the sweeping ingathering of souls, the world over, for which prayer has been made.  It would not be surprising if the full answer is given in Tribulation times, though no doubt local showers of blessing will be experienced before.


One of the remarkable facts about prayer is that no Spirit-inspired petition goes unanswered.  It seems as though God reserves the prayers of His people till the time comes to give the response.  Our apparently unanswered prayers are not lost, but await God's time.  Throughout the Christian era, the church has prayed "Your kingdom come, Your will be done, as in heaven, so on earth."  It is a great petition - and it has waited long but when the time comes what a stupendous Miracle the answer will be!  "The kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ" (Revelation 11:15) will be fulfilled.



Samuel F. Hurnard, taken from Revelation: The Book With A Blessing.  As far as we are aware, this book is presently out of print.


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