International Sunday School LessonStudy Notes
Lesson Text: Revelation 7:9-17Lesson Title: Thankful Worship
Perhaps you are one of countless numbers of people who enjoy great events of celebration such as birthdays, anniversaries, the beginning of a new year, or other special occasions. No matter how exciting our earthly celebrations are, no earthly celebration comes even close to the scene in Revelation 7. While there are events of celebration in Scripture such as Jacob receiving word that Joseph was alive and the joy of the father at the return of his prodigal son, Revelation 7 is perhaps the most exalted vision and time of celebration in the Bible. Those who have suffered persecution and tribulation are given the honor of joining the elders, angels, and four living creatures who worship before the throne. As you read Revelation 7:9-17, notice the astounding diversity and unity of this multitude. Here we find representatives of all the nations, tribes, peoples, and languages joined in praise, no longer separated by prejudice, fear, and other social and sinful barriers.
This glorious scene in Revelation 7 shows God’s plan of redemption accomplished which results in thankful worship by those who have been saved. In the Garden of Eden, God promised “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). This promise is the foundation of the worship recorded in Revelation 7. We also see in our text the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham that through his descendants all nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:1-3; Galatians 3:8).
Beginning with Revelation 6 and continuing all the way to chapter 19, the Apostle John is permitted to view the Tribulation Period. Within these chapters is a series of three judgments: the seals (chapter 6), the trumpets (chapters 8-9), and the bowls (chapter 16). Between the record of each judgment is a chapter or chapters providing information about each judgment. Our lesson text, Revelation 7:9-17, is a section describing a multitude of people from all nations of the world who will be saved during the coming time of tribulation. While the tribulation period will be a time of judgment, it will also be a time of unprecedented redemption (Isaiah 11:10; Matthew 24:14; Revelation 6:9-10)
The Multitude Seen in Heaven (Revelation 7:9-10)
Revelation 7 opens with the phrase, “And after these things I saw,” indicating that John was about to receive a new vision (Revelation 7:1). This vision is an interlude between the sixth and seventh seals and provides details surrounding the sealing of Jewish believers, as well as the salvation and slaughter of Gentile believers mentioned in the fifth seal in Revelation 6:9-11. “After this I beheld…” indicates this is the second vision John has received in this chapter. John saw “a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues…” These words describe people from every culture, descent, race, and language (Revelation 5:9).
Who is this multitude of people? They are not the 144,000 mentioned in verse 4-8. The 144,000 are 12,000 people from each of the 12 tribes of Israel, exclusively Jewish. Some cults, such as the Jehovah Witnesses, (followers of Charles T. Russell) say the “multitude” is them. Jehovah Witnesses no longer teach that they are the 144,000, but they teach the 144,000 are part of them. Jehovah Witnesses teach that within the ranks of the Jehovah Witnesses is an anointed remnant and they make up the 144,000. Jehovah Witnesses are not the 144,000 in verses 4-8, and they are not the “multitude” in verse 9. Actually, Jehovah Witnesses deny the deity of Christ and no one can be saved who denies the deity of Jesus Christ (1 John 2:22; 2 John 7).
The “multitude” is a mixture of Jewish and Gentile believers that were saved during the Tribulation. That answers the age old question, “Will there be people saved after the church is raptured?” The answer is yes! The “multitude” is defined in verse 14 of our text, “…And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation.” The “multitude” is seen by John as they “stood before the throne, and before the Lamb.” This is a position of victory. John had previously seen this “multitude” under the altar praying for divine vengeance (Revelation 6:9-10). But now that are standing triumphant “before the throne and before the Lamb” which of course is Jesus Christ.
The “multitude” is “clothed with white robes” and they are holding “palms in their hands.” The “white robes” are symbolic of the righteousness and holiness of God. The “palm” branches in their hands are symbolic of peace, joy, and celebration. Palm branches were used by Jews in the Old Testament to celebrate God’s provision during their wilderness wandering and during feast days (Leviticus 23:40; Nehemiah 8:15-17). Palm branches in the hands of these redeemed saints are appropriate symbols of salvation and victory from the world, Satan, sin, death, and the wrath of God. All they needed to survive they had found in Jesus Christ and His redeeming grace.
The phrase “cried with a loud voice” means these believers continually cried, non-stop, praising the Father and the Son for the great salvation they had experienced. All the redeemed in heaven cry out in joyful worship (Revelation 5:12; 11:12, 15; 12:10; 14:7; 16:1; 19:1; 21:3). Their worship and praise is “to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.” They worship the One responsible for their salvation. They identify God as “our God,” claiming, as do all the redeemed, God as their own. Salvation is about relationship. Their mention of “the Lamb” connects their deliverance from sin through the blood of the Lamb slain for their salvation.
The Heavenly Host in Heaven (Revelation 7:11-12)
The praise of the “multitude” prompted “all the angels…round about the throne” to “fall before the throne on their faces, and worship God.” Although the angels do not experience salvation, they desire to know about it (1 Peter 1:12) and they witness God rejoicing over one sinner that repenteth (Luke 15:10). The “elders and the four beasts” were also witnessed by John as they joined in the worship of God. The “elders” in this text is viewed as representatives of the raptured church. The “four beasts” are some type of exalted order of angels. Both the “elders” and the “four beast” appear frequently in Revelation (Revelation 5:6, 8, 11, 14; 14:3; 19:4).
The angels, elders, and four beasts offer up a verbal sevenfold doxology of praise. Not a member of this heavenly host is silent. They shout, “blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.” The phrase, “for ever and ever” indicates that this praise is not temporary, but will continue throughout all eternity. Ceaseless worship is what John was seeing!
The Identification of Those in Heaven (Revelation 7:13-14)
Evidently, John is more than a casual observer to the activities in heaven. “And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?” In other words, John informed one of the “elders” that he could not identify the “multitude.” You may think it strange that John with all the spiritual help he had could not identify this group of people. However, John was taken into the time of Great Tribulation, of which he had little or no understanding. The number of people he saw was vast, making discernment almost impossible. So, when John was asked to identify this group, he couldn’t.
“And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest” is both a confession of ignorance on John’s part and a request for further information and revelation. “Sir” is the Greek word kurios which means “Lord.” John’s calling the elder “Sir” or “Lord” does not mean John was ascribing deity to the elder. John was using the word kurios in the common manner as a title of great respect as translated in the King James, “Sir.”
The elders reply to John was that “these are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” This “great tribulation” is obviously a reference to the period of time Jesus spoke about in Matthew 24:21. This “multitude” lived in this period, was saved during this period, and have now come out of this period through death by natural causes and martyrdom. “Came out” is not a reference to the rapture of the church but to those redeemed during the Tribulation Period who lived through a process of time and events and finally made it to heaven through death.
As in verse 9, the “white robes” symbolize their celebration of victory in God’s righteousness. “Washed their robes…in the blood of the Lamb” means the defilement of their sin was all removed when they were saved. Normally one cannot make anything “white” with “blood.” Spiritual purity is the thought in these words. The only way sin can be washed away is through the precious blood of Jesus Christ through His death and sacrifice (Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:18-21). Christ’s substitutionary death atoned for every sinner who has, is, or will be saved, today, tomorrow, and even in the Tribulation Period (Leviticus 17:14; Revelation 1:5).
The Picture of the Martyred Saints (Revelation 7:15-17)
The Tribulation saints are pictured in these verses as standing “before the throne of God” and “serving him day and night in his temple.” The type of service they offer is not indicated, but he word “serve” means “to perform worshipful service.” “Serve” is from latreuo, a word often used to describe priestly service (Luke 2:37; Hebrews 8:5; 13:10). These martyred saints were rendering a spiritual service of worship. The Apostle Paul uses the same word for “service” in Romans 12:1, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” Worshipful service is characterized by conscious intelligent thinking. This is characteristic of the martyred saints in John’s vision here in Revelation 7. They are worshipping based on the knowledge of God’s mercy to them in the midst of judgment. Habakkuk prayed, “O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2). God had certainly shown mercy to these martyred saints during the wrath of the Tribulation. And their worship shows knowledge of that mercy. What a great indictment their worship is to the mindless, shallow, and emotionally saturated worship of our day. What John witnessed in heaven had nothing to do with his heart fluttering or his feet tapping to the tune of gospel song. Worship is the presentation of our entire self too the Lord and before the Lord in humble gratitude and thanksgiving for His redeeming grace. Certainly that involves our emotions. But never at the exclusion of our mind!
“He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them” is a beautiful picture of God’s protection as he “dwells” or tabernacles His presence over these persecuted believers. This is directly in contrast to what these martyred saints had experienced during the Tribulation. They are now in the immediate presence of God, the most secure place on earth.
“They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.” Earthly difficulties are replaced with heavenly delights. That which they were forced to endure during the Tribulation will be eliminated (Matthew 25:42-43). “The Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them” magnifies the shepherding aspect of Jesus Christ. They will be “fed” by Christ and He will “lead them unto living fountains of waters.” These martyred saints in heaven will be taken care of by the One who can supply all their spiritual needs (Philippians 4:19). Past sorrows will be replaced with heavenly joys as indicated in the words, “…and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” The “tears” wiped away in this text are “tears” shed on earth by the saints who suffered during the Tribulation. The wiping away of the tears reminds us again of how tenderly and lovingly these martyred saints will be treated in the presence of God.
Many people will give in to the lies of the Antichrist and be deceived from the truth of the gospel. Multitudes are lost today and according to Scripture, millions more will reject the Son of God during the coming Tribulation. On the other hand, one of the greatest responses to the gospel will take place in the future. Many Jews will be saved and Gentiles will also come to saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. But for those who confess Christ during the Tribulation, their struggles and persecution will be immense. Revelation 7 will be a great comfort to those who are saved and live during the Tribulation. The onslaughts of Satan will be replaced by the mercy and tender care of the Shepherd of their souls, Jesus Christ. What a picture of God’s grace and mercy even in the midst of His wrath and judgment.
The thankful worship scene in Revelation 7 comes from every language, culture, nation, and race. We can only imagine what that kind of worship will be like. What is your worship like? Are you thankful that God has chosen you to be one of His children out of the mass of humanity, many of whom have already eternally rejected Jesus Christ? Are you thankful for the promise that as God’s child in this dispensation of grace you will never experience the wrath of God (1 Thessalonians 5:9)? Worship Him and praise Him today for His great redemptive plan! Offer unto Him thankful worship!
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