“16 They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; 17 for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 7:16-17
Previously, we discovered in the interlude between the sixth and seventh seal judgments, that the apostle John received two visions of God’s great mercy involving the salvation and sealing of 144,000 Jews on the earth (7:1-8) and the salvation of an innumerable group of Gentiles and Jews who are taken to heaven (7:9-12). The question John answers in today’s lesson is who are all these people standing before the throne of God and where are they from?
“Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, ‘Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?’” (Revelation 7:13). “One of the” twenty-four “elders” asked about the identity and origin of this innumerable group of people “arrayed in white robes” before God’s throne so John and his readers would not be left wondering about their identity. This elder asked John a question anticipating the question that was in John’s mind. 1
Is it not significant that if the twenty-four elders represent the church (and they do), these described here are a different group of the saved? 2
When John indicated that he did not know the answer the elder himself answered the question as to who this multitude was and where they were from. “And I said to him, ‘Sir, you know.’ So he said to me, ‘These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:14). This elder disclosed the identity of this innumerable group of people to John saying they came “out of the great tribulation.”
“Jesus coined the term ‘the great tribulation’ (Matthew 24:15, 21), and identified it as the second half of Daniel’s seventieth week (Matthew 24:15-22; Mark 13:14-20; cf. Daniel 9:27).” 3
This innumerable multitude in heaven had “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” when they believed in Jesus for everlasting life (Revelation 1:5; cf. John 3:16; I Corinthians 6:11; Titus 3:4-7). This suggests the 144,000 Jewish evangelists will lead many Jews and Gentiles to trust Christ as their Savior during the last half of the Tribulation period. God wants everyone to know that even amid terrible judgment, He offers abundant mercy and opportunity for forgiveness as well as abundant opportunity for turning from evil. Of course, that opportunity will end at Christ’s Second Coming. Yet for the moment, men and women cannot claim God kept them from getting right with Him through faith in Jesus Christ. 4.
That these are not Christians from the Church Age is clear from the following contrasts:
– Christians from the Church Age are kept from the great tribulation wrath via the Rapture of the church (Revelation 4:1-5:14; I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-5:11), whereas these believers came out “of the great tribulation” (Revelation 7:14).
– Christians from the Church Age wear white “robes” (himátion) which are an outer cloak worn over under-garments (Revelation 4:4), 5 whereas these believers wore “robes” (stolḗ) which are long flowing robes worn by upper classes (7:14). 6
– Christians from the Church Age wear “crowns” (Revelation 4:4), but these believers do not (7:9-17).
– Christians from the Church Age carry “harps” and “bowls” (Revelation 5:8), but these believers carry “palm branches” (Revelation 7:9b).
The multitude in Revelation 7:9-17 “are Tribulation believers who, because of their conversion to Christ, will suffer earthly affliction, disaster, tears, pain, anguish, grief, sorrow, and tragedy. This great multitude will fully understand the meaning of Paul’s words, ‘I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.’” (Romans 8:18).” 7
John describes their eternal glory in verses 15-17. “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them.” (Revelation 7:15). Because these believers died in the Tribulation they are now in heaven “before the throne of God” where they continually “serve Him day and night in His temple” as believer-priests with direct access to His presence (“He who sits on the throne will dwell among them”). “They will have unimpeded access to God (cf. Heb 4:16; 10:19-22) and will enjoy the security of God’s sheltering presence.” 8
The word “dwell” (skēnōsei) is related to the Greek word for “tabernacle” or “tent.” On earth these believers will live during the Tribulation period which will be the worst period of suffering and satanic oppression people have ever known. But in the kingdom of Christ, they will never fear since God will “pitch His tent” over them and they will be under His continual protection. A tent is a place where one eats, is cool, finds rest, and is sheltered from the sun. 9
As a result, “16 They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; 17 for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:16-17). These Tribulation believers shall no longer “hunger” nor “thirst” nor suffer from sunburn or heat exhaustion because “the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to fountains of the waters of life” which will provide a richer and fuller experience of eternal life. Like a good Shepherd, Jesus “will wipe away every tear from their eyes” that was shed because of their sufferings on earth.
The presence of these Tribulation believers in this vision reminds us that no matter what type of suffering we endure on the earth, the eternal glory that awaits us in heaven will eclipse whatever we faced on earth. “The glory God has prepared for us far exceeds in worth and value the temporary deprivations that sufferings entail (cf. 2 Cor 4:17).” 10
This vision also challenges us not to focus exclusively on our sufferings because that would tempt us to lose heart. For believers, the glory ahead is not only greater than our present suffering. It is so much greater that we will look back on our earthly existence from the joys of eternity, and our only response will be, “Suffering? What suffering?” 11
Finally, John’s vision brings us back to the Lamb of God, Who takes center stage in God’s throne room in heaven. Both Church Age believers (represented by the twenty-four elders – 4:1-4; 7:11) and Tribulation believers (7:14) will be there because of the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, all believers in Christ whether they be from the Old Testament, Church Age, Tribulation, or Millennial Kingdom, will be with Jesus in eternity because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Their faith in Christ alone apart from any good works is credited to them for righteousness (cf. Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:1-25; Galatians 3:5-14; Revelation 1:5; 12:11). Jesus laid down His life as the Good Shepherd for all people – past, present, and future (I Timothy 2:3-6). Therefore, all people are savable, but only those who believe in Him will experience this eternal glory described in these verses (John 3:36).
Prayer: Gracious Father in heaven, we praise You for this incredible vision of the innumerable multitude of believing Jews and Gentiles from the great tribulation who will be gathered around Your throne in heaven with Church Age believers because of their faith in the Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. No longer will they experience unprecedented suffering on earth. Instead, they will enjoy unspeakable glory in heaven that is the opposite of their experience on the earth. Father, we are eternally grateful that You do not desire that any perish in the lake of fire, but that all would be saved through faith in Christ alone. Help us to look beyond our own painful experiences on earth to the eternal glory that awaits us in heaven in Your presence. In the midst of Your throne will be our Good Shepherd in Whose presence we will be forever fulfilled, safe, and secure. To Him be all the glory both now and forever. In the majestic name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 101.
2. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 164.
3. Constable, pg. 101.
4. Adapted from Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2385.
5. Joseph Henry Thayer, The New Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon fo the New Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1981), pg. 2438; cf. ; cf. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 475.
6. Thayer, pg. 4750.
7. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 167-168.
8. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition
(Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1527.
10. Zane C. Hodges; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 804.
11. Evans, pp. 1940-1941.