Search Bible Outlines and commentaries




Marvin Rosenthal: Nowhere in the considerable description of this group (Rev. 7:9-17) is it ever said they are martyred.  In the previous chapter, a group of martyrs is seen.  Their martyrdom occurred with the opening of the fifth seal, at the beginning of the Great Tribulation (6;9). . .  These martyrs are to be resurrected and given bodies on the first day of the Millennium (Rev. 20:4).

This great multitude in chapter 7 is clearly a different group from those described in chapter 6. The contrasting and additional truth is significant.

First, they are so numerous that John is told no man could number them.  This is in marked and direct contrast to the immediately previous group who are said to number 144,000; therefore, this has to be a tremendously large number.  Further, this great multitude of chapter 7 is international in scope, representing all nations, kindreds, peoples, and tongues (v. 9).  Those mentioned after the fifth seal are clearly said to be martyrs.  This new group is seen after the opening of the sixth seal, of necessity only a short time later.  If they are also martyrs, then one must postulate that a universal multitude, of such great magnitude that they could not be numbered, were saved, became witnesses (for that is what a martyr is), were slain, and are now seen before the throne of God – all of this in a very brief time span (probably a matter of months and during the sixth seal when men are fleeing to the caves and dens to escape the impending wrath of God). . .

Second, the martyrs in Revelation 6 are souls under the altar asking God to avenge their blood (Rev. 6:9-10).  The great multitude in Revelation 7, in contrast, are before the throne proclaiming with a loud voice, “Salvation to our God who sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb” (Rev. 7:10).

Third, in Revelation 6 the multitude is said to be souls “under the altar” (Rev. 6:9).  In Revelation 7 the multitude is said to be standing “before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands” (Rev. 7:9).  The former group are souls – the latter group have bodies.

Fourth, in Revelation 6 John immediately recognizes the martyrs as those who “were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held” (v. 9).  In Revelation 7 it is clear that John does not recognize who this great multitude is.  To the question directly proposed to John, “Who are these . . .?” (v. 13), he gives this response: “Sir, thou knowest” (v. 14), a clear admission that he did not recognize them.

If this great multitude – which suddenly appears in heaven, which no man can number, and which has universal representation – are not martyrs, who are they?

This great multitude, innumerable, universal, and suddenly appearing in heaven with white robes (purified) and palm branches (triumphant), is the raptured church.  This event occurs immediately prior to the opening of the seventh seal and the outpouring of the Day of the Lord wrath (Rev. 8:1): “For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation [this is precisely what the multitude was proclaiming] by our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:9). . .

This great multitude represents the true church which goes into the seventieth week of Daniel They are raptured at the end of the Great Tribulation but before the Day of the Lord begins.  They are raptured before God’s wrath is poured out but are not exempt from the ultimate rebellion of unregenerate men.

The symmetry, balance, and timing of Revelation 7 should not be missed.  With chapter 8, the Day of the Lord will begin.  Therefore, in chapter 7 the church is raptured.  But immediately prior to the Rapture of the church, the 144,000 Jews are sealed.  It is almost like a baton being passed between runners.  The 144,000 must be sealed for protection to go through the Day of the Lord before the church can be caught up to the throne in heaven.  God will not leave Himself without a people on the earth.

[Ed: Those who hold to a Pre-trib Rapture position must identify this group as believers who were saved during the Great Tribulation (because all other believers would have already been raptured) and then subsequently martyred and resurrected (because they cannot have a rapture occurring between the sixth and seventh seals.  However, this group is described as distinct from those resurrected martyrs described in the fifth seal.]

Buist Fanning: John describes this scene (v. 9d–e) in terms that connect it back to the grounding vision for all of chapters 6–16, the vision of God and the Lamb in the heavenly throne room (chs. 4–5). The innumerable multitude is “standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (v. 9d; cf. 4:2; 5:6; 6:17), no longer facing tribulation but now in the very presence of the Lord God (4:10–11) and of the Lamb who redeemed them (5:9), joined by God’s angelic court in worshiping him (4:4, 6; 5:8, 11; 7:11). Christ’s sacrifice has made them pure from sin, as symbolized by their “white robes” (v. 9e; cf. v. 14).  The “palm branches in their hands” represent their festive celebration before God as they cry out in praise to him.


A.  (:9-10) Raptured Saints Surround God’s Throne in Worship and Praise

  1. (:9)  Praise Participants = Great Multitude of Raptured Saints

a.  Timeframe for the Appearance of the Great Multitude

After these things I looked,

Sola Scriptura: this is the second occurrence of this phrase in the Revelation to mark the beginning of a new vision sequence.  How much time elapses between these two visions is not known.  This vision sequence begins at Revelation 7:9 and will continue through Revelation 15:4.

b.  Composition of the Great Multitude

and behold, a great multitude, which no one could count,

 from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues,

Gordon Fee: the reality that what constitutes God’s people now goes far beyond Israel is one of John’s repeated concerns throughout this narrative.

c.  Location of the Great Multitude

1)  “standing before the throne

2)  “and before the Lamb,

d.  Accessories of the Great Multitude

1)  White Robes

clothed in white robes,

2)  Palm Branches

and palm branches were in their hands;

Sola Scriptura: immediately reminds us of the Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem days before His death.  The palm frond is an ancient symbol of victory.  That these individuals are no doubt waving them before God the Father and God the Son suggests a celebration is taking place.  John 12:13 records a similar event.  The multitude waved palm fronds before the Lord as He rode into Jerusalem.  They said, “Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord (God the Father), even the King of Israel.”

John MacArthur: The saints also held palm branches … in their hands. Palm branches are associated in Scripture with celebration, deliverance, and joy. They were especially prominent during the Feast of Tabernacles, the Old Testament commemorative celebration of God’s provision for Israel during their wilderness wandering (Lev. 23:40), being employed in the construction of the booths the people lived in during that feast (Neh. 8:15–17). During Jesus’ triumphal entry the joyous crowd waved palm branches as they welcomed Him into Jerusalem, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel” (John 12:13). The palm branches in the hands of these redeemed saints are a fitting celebrative symbol of the unequaled provision of salvation from the world, Satan, Antichrist, sin, death, and hell provided for them by the Lord Jesus Christ.

  1. (:10)  Praise Anthem

and they cry out with a loud voice, saying,

‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’

Gordon Fee: this “great multitude” cried out in a loud voice (the redeemed will be a truly noisy lot!), and the content of their shout brings the reader back to the reality noted at the beginning in 1:4–6, that the Father and Son share all of the divine privileges that historically had belonged to the One God of Israel. Also, as in 1:5, the emphasis on their shared equality has primarily to do with human “salvation.” Thus their song at this point is singular and is directed altogether toward the one thing the great multitude have in common.

B.  (:11-12) Heavenly Angels Surround God’s Throne in Worship and Praise

  1. (:11)  Praise Participants = Heavenly Angels

a.  Observers of the Angels’ Worship

And all the angels were standing around the throne

and around the elders and the four living creatures;

John MacArthur: That the angels joined the spirits of heavenly saints in praising God is not surprising, since they were created for the purpose of worshiping and serving Him (Ps. 103:20; Col. 1:16).

b.  Posture of the Angels’ Worship

and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,

  1. (:12)  Praise Anthem

saying, ‘Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.’

Buist Fanning: What they express is a sevenfold ascription of sterling attributes (symbolizing perfection in virtue; as also in 5:12) for which God deserves praise (v. 12). These are bracketed at the beginning and end by the strong affirmation “amen, let it be so,” but the first affirms what was said by others in v. 10 (as in 5:14; 19:4; 22:20), while the last “amen” reinforces what the angelic host themselves declare in v. 12 (as in 1:6, 7). As discussed in 4:9 and 5:12, such an ascription of attributes is an honorific recitation of perfections that the person possesses. The speakers do not bestow these qualities but declare and celebrate his possession and display of such worthy traits. Even the mention of items like “blessing” (εὐλογία) and “thanks” (εὐχαριστία) used in conjunction with the other traits do not denote simply the creature’s offering of blessing or thanks to God. Instead it acknowledges that God is “praiseworthy” and “deserving of gratitude” for benefits he has bestowed. As in 5:12, the composite impression of the sevenfold list is valuable to note, but the individual qualities nevertheless carry their own importance.

William Barclay:

  1. They ascribe blessing to God; and God’s creation must always be offering blessing to him for his goodness in creation and in redemption and in providence to all that he has created. As a great saint put it: ‘You have made us and we are yours; you have redeemed us and we are doubly yours.’
  2. They ascribe glory to God. God is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords; therefore, to him must be given glory. God is love; but that love must never be cheaply sentimentalized; we must never forget the majesty of God.
  3. They ascribe wisdom to God. God is the source of all truth, the giver of all knowledge. If people seek wisdom, they can find it by only two paths – by intellectual searching and by waiting upon God – and the one is as important as the other.
  4. They offer thanksgiving to God. God is the giver of salvation and the constant provider of grace; he is the Creator of the world and the constant sustainer of all that is in it. It was the cry of the psalmist: ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits’ (Psalm 103:2). In King Lear, Shakespeare said that it was sharper than a serpent’s tooth to have a thankless child. We must see to it that we are never guilty of the ugliest and the most graceless of sins, that of ingratitude.
  5. They ascribe honour to God. God is to be worshipped. It may be that sometimes we come to think of him as someone to be used; but we ought not to forget the claims of worship, so that we not only ask things from him but also offer ourselves and all we have to him.
  6. They ascribe power to God. God’s power never grows less; and the wonder is that it is used in love for us. God works his purposes out throughout the ages, and in the end his kingdom will come.
  7. They ascribe strength to God. The problem of life is to find strength for its tasks, responsibilities and demands. Every Christian can say: ‘I will go in the strength of the Lord.’

Daniel Akin: And in their sevenfold blessing they affirm what the saints have said and then add their own words of adoration, praise, and worship:

  1. blessing (eulogia)—a good word, a praise
  2. glory (doxa)—honor derived from one’s character and a good reputation; it is the radiance or outshining of the divine person
  3. wisdom (sophia)—divine knowledge and perspective on all things, especially in the outworking of God’s plan of salvation
  4. thanksgiving (eucharistia)—we get our word eucharist from it
  5. honor (time)—esteem; public and deserved recognition (see 4:11; 5:12-13)
  6. power (dunamis)—God’s omnipotence; His ability to act as He wills
  7. strength (ischus)—often related to God’s mighty acts in salvation history


A.  (:13-14) Identity of Great Multitude of Raptured Saints

  1. (:13)  Question of Identity

And one of the elders answered, saying to me, ‘These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and from where have they come?’

  1. (:14a)  Question Deferred

And I said to him, ‘My lord, you know.’

  1. (:14b)  Question Answered

a.  Raptured Saints at the End of the Great Tribulation

And he said to me,

‘These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation,’

Sola Scriptura: Out of suggests that this universally innumerable multitude come out of the midst of the great tribulation.  The phrase, the ones who come translates a Greek substantival participle.  In the context, the universally innumerable multitude is composed of “the ones who come.”  The participle in and of itself does not speak to the issue of the timing of their arrival.  However, this group is not in the process of coming one by one, but they come as a group.

Buist Fanning: Some understand this to denote a single act of deliverance [Ed: i.e. Rapture] in which Christians are taken to heaven before the worst outpourings of judgment.  This approach takes “the great tribulation” (coextensive also with “wrath” and “the day of the Lord”) to designate only the cataclysmic judgments that come later in the (seven-year) tribulation or at the very end just prior to Christ’s second coming to earth in severe judgment (Rev 19:10–21).  [Ed: That would be my view.  Fanning takes a different view: “various ‘exits’ from the earthly scene due to repeated individual deaths (whether by martyrdom or natural death) during the entire seven-year period of great suffering and persecution of God’s people.”]

Daniel Akin: I am in basic agreement with Mounce:

The use of the definite article in the phrase “the great tribulation” indicated that the angel is referring primarily to that final series of woes which will immediately precede the end. It is the hour of trial that is to come upon the whole world (3:10). It is not “the awesome totality of tribulation which from century to century has been the experience of the people of God” nor does it correspond to “the entire history of the church—past, present, and future.” It is that specific period of distress and cruel persecution which will take place prior to the return of Christ. Prophesied by Daniel (12:1) and reflected on the screen of history at the fall of Jerusalem (Mark 13:19 and parallels), it finds its fulfillment in that final persecution which supplies the full complement of Christian martyrs (6:11).

b.  Purified Saints by the Blood of the Lamb

and they have washed their robes

and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

William Barclay: This passage speaks of the blood of the Lamb. The New Testament has much to say about the blood of Jesus Christ. We must be careful to give this phrase its full meaning. To us, blood indicates death; and certainly the blood of Jesus Christ speaks of his death. But, to the Jews, the blood stood for the life. That was why orthodox Jews never would – and still will not – eat anything which had blood in it (Genesis 9:4). The blood is the life, and the life belongs to God; and the blood must always be sacrificed to him. The identification of blood and life is not unnatural. When a person’s blood ebbs away, so does life. When the New Testament speaks about the blood of Jesus Christ, it means not only his death but his life and death. The blood of Christ stands for all Christ did for us and means for us in his life and in his death. With that in our minds, let us see what the New Testament says about that blood.

It is the blood of Jesus Christ which is cleansing us from all sin (1 John 1:7). It is the blood of Jesus Christ which makes atonement for us (Romans 3:24), and it is through his blood that we are justified (Romans 5:9). It is through his blood that we have redemption (Ephesians 1:7), and we are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ like that of a lamb without blemish and without spot (1 Peter 1:19). It is through his blood that we have peace with God (Colossians 1:20). His blood purges our conscience from dead works to serve the living God (Hebrews 9:14).

There are four ideas here, the first being the main idea from which the others spring.

(1)  The main idea is based on sacrifice. Sacrifice is essentially something designed to restore a lost relationship with God. God gives human beings his law; human beings break that law; that breach of the law interrupts the relationship between God and his people; and sacrifice is designed to atone for the breach and to restore the lost relationship. The great work of Jesus Christ in his life and in his death is to restore the lost relationship between God and his people.

(2)  This work of Christ has something to do with the past. It wins for men and women forgiveness for past sins and liberates them from their slavery to sin.

(3)  This work of Christ has something to do with the present. It gives people here and now, upon earth, in spite of failure and of sin, a new and intimate relationship with God, in which fear has gone and in which love is the bond.

(4)  This work of Christ has something to do with the future. It frees people from the power of evil and enables them to live a new life in the time to come.

B.  (:15-17) Activity of Great Multitude of Raptured Saints under Pastoral Protection

  1. (:15a)  Praise and Worship Continually before God’s Throne

a.  Worship Before God’s Throne

For this reason, they are before the throne of God;

b.  Worship Continually

and they serve Him day and night in His temple;

John MacArthur: The location of that service is in His temple (cf. 11:19; 14:15, 17; 15:5–8; 16:1, 17). There is currently a temple in heaven, and there will be one on earth during the millennial kingdom of Christ on earth (cf. Ezek. 40–48). In the eternal state, however, there will no longer be a need for a temple, “for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Rev. 21:22). The heavenly temple currently is the holy domain where God’s presence dwells outside the fallen universe, but that will be unnecessary in the new heavens and new earth where sin has been forever done away with. There will no longer be a temple building, because God will occupy all places, and all believers everywhere throughout the eternal state will continue to worship and serve Him forever.

  1. (:15b)  Protective Presence Providing Security

and He who sits on the throne shall spread His tabernacle over them.

Daniel Akin: He Gives Us His Presence

Literally, “He will spread His tent [tabernacle] over them.” This calls to mind the tabernacle in the wilderness (Exod 26–30), the pillar of cloud and of fire (Exod 13:21-22), the shekinah glory of God’s radiant presence in the midst of His people (Exod 40:34-38), and the incarnation of the Son (John 1:14). God is with them, right there in their midst. Never again will they feel forsaken; never again will they be tortured and tormented. They will enjoy the supreme presence and protection of the Lord God Himself forever and ever.

Grant Osborne: This is a fantastic image that brings together several key biblical themes. It is the omnipotent enthroned God (see 7:9, 11, 15a above) who will “tabernacle” over them. The idea of God “tabernacling” over his people brings up all the imagery of the Shekinah in the OT. Both the Hebrew (שָׁכַן, šākan) and Greek terms (σκηνόω) derive from the basic term meaning “tent” and thus mean to “dwell.” The tabernacle was a “tent,” and in Exod. 25:8 God said, “Then let them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.” This idea of God “dwelling” among his people became the basis for the concept of “Shekinah” (from Hebrew שָׁכַן, cf. Exod. 29:45; Lev. 26:11–12; Deut. 12:5, 11; Zech. 2:10; 8:3). The two main symbols for this were the “pillar of cloud” by day and the “pillar of fire” by night as “the LORD went ahead of them . . . to guide them on their way” (Exod. 13:21) in the wilderness. These signified the glory of God dwelling among his people for guidance and protection. After the construction of the tabernacle and then the temple, God dwelt in the Holy of Holies at the midpoint between the cherubim on the ark (1 Sam. 4:4), and indeed a cloud descended on both the tabernacle (Exod. 40:34–38) and the temple (1 Kings 8:10–13), and “the glory of Yahweh filled the temple” (2 Chron. 7:1–3).

  1. (:16-17)  Pastoral Shepherding

a.  (:16)  Protection

They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;

neither shall the sun beat down on them, nor any heat;

Gordon Fee: John follows the preceding imagery of divine protection with language of divine provision, in this case borrowing to the point of citing much of Isaiah 49:10. This passage belongs to the “Servant of Yahweh” songs in Isaiah 40–53, where the prophet speaks of the Lord’s Servant in language reflecting the theme of the New Exodus.

b.  (:17a)  Provision / Guidance

for the Lamb in the center of the throne shall be their shepherd,

and shall guide them to springs of the water of life;

Kendell Easley: What a strange and wonderful picture: the Lamb who is also a Shepherd. Three other times in Revelation the verb for shepherding appears, but the picture is of Christ subduing the nations with his iron rod-scepter (2:27; 12:5; 19:15). Here is the only mention in Revelation of Jesus as gentle Shepherd-Pastor of his flock. Other New Testament texts develop this theme beautifully (John 10:14; Heb. 13:20; 1 Pet. 2:25).

c.  (:17b)  Peace – Removal of All Suffering

and God shall wipe every tear from their eyes.

Kendell Easley: In summary the first three of these blessings mean that the redeemed will be in the direct presence of God. The next four describe an end to the negative effects of sin. The final three blessings focus on the eternal joys of the redeemed.

John Walvoord: The point is that the grief and tears of the past, speaking of their trials in the tribulation, will be over when they get to heaven. The saints in glory will be occupied with the beauty and wonder of heaven and the worship of the Savior. They will not have time for repentance of that which can no longer be changed. Instead, God will wipe away all tears resulting from their suffering on earth.

Gordon Fee: At the end of the scene John then adds, And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, thereby both echoing Isaiah 25:8 and anticipating the final eschatological scene of chapters 21 and 22. This, of course, is striking imagery indicating that all reasons for human sorrow will be banished forever. Thus the picture ends on the double notes of eternal refreshment (“springs of living water”) and eternal peace and rest (no more tears).

J. Hampton Keathley, III: Here there is perfect sufficiency and perfect satisfaction. All the elements which can bring pain, suffering and sadness are absent like the sinful nature, the hostile world system, and the attacks of Satan. In addition, they will experience all that is needed for relief, joy and satisfaction. Namely, the Lamb Himself who will shepherd, guide and wipe away the tears, every single one with the understanding and comfort which He alone can give.