Revelation 7:9

‘I looked, and behold,
a great multitude, which no man could number,
out of every nation and of all tribes, peoples, and languages,
standing before the throne and before the Lamb,
dressed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.’

This is a vision of our future, if we’re Christians, amongst a countless international ‘multitude’, enjoying the most awesome worship imaginable, forever! If we could see it now, and look closely enough, we’d spot ourselves in the crowd! It’s good to dwell on such thoughts, as the apostle Paul taught, ‘Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are on the earth’(Colossians 3:2), because ‘our citizenship is in heaven’(Philippians 3:20). Our true identity is ‘a heavenly one’(Hebrews 11:16), where we belong, our eternal home. Keeping our focus there will colour and enrich the journey, encouraging us when struggling on the ‘“narrow”’(Matthew 7:14) path now. One day we’ll gather with this multitude who took that same path, and what a celebration it will be.

The ‘“‘branches of palm’”’(Leviticus 23:40) might simply reflect celebration, but perhaps also recall this annual Jewish festival that celebrated deliverance ‘“‘out of the land of Egypt’”’(Leviticus 23:43). Even more, they likely echo the palm waving during Jesus triumphal entry into ‘Jerusalem’(John 12:12), a foreshadowing of our entry into ‘New Jerusalem’(Revelation 21:2) with Him. The centre of the celebrations will be the same, ‘“our God, who sits on the throne, and… the Lamb”’(Revelation 7:10), and the most glorious and special thing will be Their presence.

Shortly after the Israelites deliverance from Egypt, God’s presence ‘filled the tabernacle’(Exodus 40:35) such that they could not go inside. For this multitude however, ‘“He who sits on the throne will spread his tabernacle over them”’(Revelation 7:15), i.e. we will be in the very presence of God. It will be like living inside that tabernacle or later temple, even ‘the Holy of Holies’(Hebrews 9:3ff.), Jesus having led us there, into ‘heaven itself… the presence of God’(Hebrews 9:24[cf.10:19-23]). The atmosphere will be illuminated by ‘the very glory of God’(Revelation 21:23), and there will be no separate tabernacle or temple, because ‘the Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb, are it’s temple’(Revelation 21:22). The scene almost defies description. There will be ‘a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald to look at… something like a sea of glass, similar to crystal’(Revelation 4:3&6), and the whole place will shine with ‘the glory of God… like a most precious stone, as if it were a jasper stone, clear as crystal…’(Revelation 21:10-11ff.).

Moreover, this won’t just be a place of indescribable glory graced with the presence of God, resounding with heavenly celebration and worship, people crying out ‘with a loud voice’(Revelation 7:10), and angels responding with “Amen!”’(Revelation 7:12)! We will also be fully satisfied with life like never before. We’ll ‘“never be hungry, neither thirsty any more”’(Revelation 7:16), physically or spiritually, because ‘He who sits on the throne… “will give freely to him who is thirsty from the spring of the water of life”’(Revelation 21:5-6) and we’ll live near a riverside boulevard lined with trees ‘of life… yielding… fruit’(Revelation 22:2). Likewise, the only tears will be those of joy, since God Himself will have wiped away ‘“every tear”’(Revelation 7:17&21:4) of any other kind. Even more, we’ll be given fully satisfying roles with which to ‘“serve”’(Revelation 7:15&22:3), without the ‘beat… nor… heat’(Revelation 7:16) of the ‘curse’(Revelation 22:3), which so often sours daily tasks for us now.

However, before anyone feels encouraged and part of this multitude without adequate grounds, note one vital extra detail, they are ‘dressed in white robes’. Crucially, they had ‘“washed their robes, and made them white in the Lamb’s blood”’(Revelation 7:14). It’s what they were crying out about, ‘“Salvation… the Lamb!”’(Revelation 7:10), and as recorded earlier in a song about the Lamb, ‘“you were killed, and bought us for God with your blood, out of every tribe, language, people, and nation”’(Revelation 5:9), i.e. ‘washed… from our sins by his blood’(Revelation 1:5). There’s no other ‘“way”’(John 14:6). It’s the answer to the question at the end of the preceding chapter, ‘“who is able to stand”’(Revelation 6:17) at the judgement, and ultimately in this presence of God, where nothing unclean can ‘enter’(Revelation 21:27)?

Finally, it’s fitting that the annual palm waving celebration mentioned above was also a harvest festival, since this gathering is the harvest at ‘“the end of the age”’(Matthew 28:20) after the great commission to ‘“make disciples of all nations”’(Matthew 28:19) has come to its full fruition. So here they celebrate, and one day we can join in, ‘standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes, with palm branches’.

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