Glory! Glory!Revelation 7:1-17Theme: Eternity.In this week’s lessons, Dr. Philip Ryken teaches us about our future adornment, employment, and enjoyment.
LessonIn this week’s lessons, we’ll be looking at several verses from the end of Revelation 7. There’s a great deal in this passage. In verse 13 someone posed the following question: “These in white robes – who are they, and where did they come from?” Who are these people? And where did they come from? Those are the questions. The questioner is referring to those who appeared to John in his vision recorded here in Revelation. John had been taken up into heaven where God was revealing to him the secrets of glory, and there John saw an enormous crowd of people gathered from the four corners of the earth.
The people were all dressed in white. They were standing around heaven’s throne waving palm branches and praising God. But who were they? John simply answered, “Sir, you know.” That was a polite way of saying he wasn’t sure who they were or where they had come from. But if John had been thinking clearly, he might have been able to identify this heavenly host. He was given plenty of clues. First was the sheer multitude of them to consider. “After this, I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count…” (v. 9). John had never seen so many people before in his life. They were innumerable.
Another way to identify that great multitude was by their ethnicity. Where were they from? They were from everywhere–from every nation, tribe, people, and language. Yet another clue was what they were doing. John saw them standing before the throne, wearing white robes, holding palm branches. And since palm branches signified royal triumph, apparently they were celebrating some kind of victory. They cried out in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God.” On the basis of these clues, John should have been able to deduce that he was looking at God’s new people in their glorified state.
They could not be counted because – as God had always promised – his people would be as countless as the stars. They came from everywhere because the message of salvation is for everyone. And this multi-national, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic multitude was gathered around God’s throne because they had ascended into glory. What John saw was all of God’s people ransomed, redeemed, and resurrected. In a word, these people were Christians. They were the salvation people, the people saved by grace as they themselves claimed. Their salvation belonged exclusively to their God and not to themselves. They were the people saved for God’s glory, who with the angels fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God.
In this way the voices of men and women were joined by the voices of cherubim and seraphim and together they returned all of the praise, wisdom, thanksgiving, honor, power, and strength back to God, so that all the glory of salvation would resound to his praise forever. And if you ask, “Who are these people?” I tell you that we are these people if we receive the message of salvation.
When John beheld that great multitude standing around God’s throne, he saw us standing there. For everything said of these people is true of everyone who is united to Christ – Jews and Gentiles, Asians and Africans, Europeans and Americans – we come from everywhere. And one day we will gather around God’s throne to praise him for the victory of his salvation. Together we will glorify God for his saving grace, which we receive by faith in Christ, and there with all the company of heaven, we will magnify the Lord saying, “Glory! Glory to God!”
Now I think perhaps John could have figured out who these people were and where they had come from, but when he seemed to hesitate, his questioner decided to help him, and he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (v. 14). The people in this great multitude were the people who had come out of the great tribulation. They had not been saved from suffering, but rather it was through suffering that they had entered into glory.
Who are the people of this great multitude in heaven?
What clues help us to know who they are?