After these things I looked, and here was an enormous crowd that no one could count, made up of persons from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb dressed in long white robes, and with palm branches in their hands. 10 They were shouting out in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God, to the one seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Go to the source
The fact that anyone at all is saved from the wrath of God begins in his loving heart. If God did not offer mercy before exacting judgment, not one of us would have any hope.
He will give you judgment if you insist on pushing him away, but he prefers to give you his Son to shepherd you to living waters and to wipe away the tears of this life. Which will it be?
From a chronological viewpoint, most scholars think the events described in 7:1–9 occur before the seals were opened in Revelation 6. Greg Beale says simply: “God’s servants must be sealed before the wrathful events of 6:1–8 can be set in motion. Indeed, there would be no apparent purpose for providing believers with a protecting seal if they had already experienced the tribulations of chapter 6.” That argument is persuasive.
When we consider the contents of chapter 7, important questions remain: Who is sealed (7:1–8)? Who constitutes the “enormous crowd” (7:9), which is discussed in 7:9–17? Before getting into the details, I will say that the first half of the chapter (7:1–8) describes Israelite believers on earth when the seals described in Revelation 6 and 8 are first opened. The second half of the chapter (7:9–17) describes believers in heaven who have died in the great tribulation (7:14); they come “from every nation, tribe, people, and language” (7:9).
Questions swirl around the identity of the “one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from all the tribes of the people of Israel” (7:4). Most commentators today take the view expressed by Beale: “It is possible but unlikely that John intended his readership to understand that those sealed were only ethnic Israelites. Instead, this is another example of the ways that Christians are portrayed in the Apocalypse under the OT guise of the true people of God, the true Israel (in agreement with many commentators).” In this view, Israel means “the true Israel,” including Christians.
However, I cannot join the majority view. Every interpreter of Revelation must decide which words are symbolic and which are not, and I cannot place Israel among the symbolic words, particularly when the text goes on to break down the enumeration by tribes. Neither do I take the words God or Christ or church symbolically, to pick some other obvious examples of my literal interpretation.
Though Craig Keener agrees with Beale, I take comfort in his statement supporting a literal view: “This view is far more plausible than most of its opponents are willing to grant and has some factors in its favor, most notably the fact that if one speaks of the end-time Jewish remnant, it is difficult to think of a more explicit way to make this clear than to enumerate the tribes.”
The fact that many people from every nation will come to Christ during the great tribulation is made clear when one of the elders tells John (7:14): “These are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb!”
Revelation 7:10 reminds us that there is no safety in this world except for the deliverance God offers through Christ. That delivers us to safety in heaven. We see in 7:14 that the blood of the Lamb is the only thing that allows us to stand before God and praise him forever!
All roads lead to the throne!
Your life is like a road that you are trusting to lead you to salvation during the Day of the Lord. But, “Salvation belongs to our God, to the one seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (7:10), which means the only way to reach your intended destination is by way of the throne of heaven. All salvation-roads must go to God’s throne, but only those who belong to the Lamb may approach!
No, salvation did not begin with you, and it will not end with you either. The one who will determine what defines your salvation is Jesus (John 14:6): “The Lamb in the middle of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 7:17).
Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.