The Great Multitude and the Great Tribulation
A verse-by-verse study of Revelation 7:9-17
The term "great tribulation" appears in the New Testament only three times:
Matthew 24:21, "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be."
Greek phrase: estai gar tote qliyiV megalh (estai gar tote thlipsis megale)
Revelation 2:22, "Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds."
Greek phrase: eiV qliyin megalhn (eis thlipsin megalen)
Revelation 7:13-14, "And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
Greek phrase: oi ercomenoi ek thV qliyewV thV megalhV (oi erchomenoi ek tes thlipseos tes megales)
In Matthew 24:21 Jesus refers to the second half of the 70th Week of Daniel as the greatest time of tribulation that the world will ever see, which echoes the words of Daniel 12:1. Jesus is not giving a title ("The Great Tribulation") to the second half of the 70th Week but is simply pointing out that this time will be an unparalleled time of persecution and judgment. To be precise it is the time of "greatest tribulation," and therefore must be a part of the "great and terrible Day of the Lord."
Revelation 2:22 is the second time that the phrase "great tribulation" appears and from it we can perceive an implied promise, which is: Those who do repent will not be cast into great tribulation. In other words, the faithful Church is not destined to experience the "Great Tribulation."
The third appearance of the phrase "great tribulation" is given within the description of the Church in heaven after the opening of the sixth Seal. We know that the midpoint of the 70th Week occurs after the sixth Trumpet (the "second woe," see Rev.11:14), and so the use of the phrase "the great tribulation" before the seventh Seal shows that "The Great Tribulation" includes the entire 70th Week and is synonymous with the "Day of the Lord." The purpose of this study is to show that the Great Multitude is the Church that is rescued and escapes from "The Great Tribulation" just as it begins, and does not experience any of it on the earth.
For the purposes of this view the first five Seals are understood as applying to the Church Age; the Day of the Lord is understood to begin after the opening of the sixth Seal; and the 70th Week of Daniel is understood to begin only after the abyss is opened at the fifth Trumpet. For more evidence in support of these views please refer to the study The Day of the Lord: When, How and Why, and to the book Red Moon Rising: the Rapture and the Timeline of the Apocalypse.
Lastly, this study will show that the Great Multitude of Revelation 7:9-17 is described in terms that fulfill the prophetic aspects of the Feast of Tabernacles for the Church. The Feast of Tabernacles is the Feast that awaits all of the elect at the Finish Line. For the faithful Church the Finish Line is reached at the sound of the "last trump," but for Israel and for the Gentiles that survive the Day of the Lord the Finish Line is reached after the sound of the "great trump" that announces the coming of the Millennial Kingdom. (See The Three Trumpets of God)
"I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."
(1 Corinthians 9:22-27)
"...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,
and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
"After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: "Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!" Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes--who are they, and where did they come from?" I answered, "Sir, you know." 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. 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 spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
9a. After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb." Revelation 5:8-9, "And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song: 'You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.'"
Luke 21:36, "Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man."
*The Feast of Tabernacles was also known as the "Feast of the Nations."
*Chaim Richman: "Of all the sacred seasons that God commanded Israel to observe, the festival of Tabernacles has the strongest implications for the nations of the world... The Talmud (BT Sukkah 55:B) teaches that the seventy bulls that were offered in the Holy Temple served as an atonement for the seventy nations of the world. Truly, as the rabbis observed, “if the nations of the world had only known how much they needed the Temple, they would have surrounded it with armed fortresses to protect it” (Bamidbar Rabbah 1, 3)."
9b. "They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands." Psalm 118:27, "The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar." NIV
Leviticus 23:40, "On the first day you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days." (Feast of Tabernacles - the waving of the Lulab)
10. And they cried out in a loud voice: 'Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.' Psalm 27:1, "The LORD is my light and my salvation-- whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life-- of whom shall I be afraid?"
Psalm 98, "Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The LORD has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations. He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to the house of Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the LORD with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and the blast of the ram's horn-- shout for joy before the LORD, the King. Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy; let them sing before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity."
Psalm 118:14-21, "The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: "The LORD's right hand has done mighty things! The LORD's right hand is lifted high; the LORD's right hand has done mighty things!" I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done. The LORD has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death. Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD. This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter. I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation." NIV
*The "Gates of Heaven" are opened at the "last trump" of Rosh HaShanah and closed at the sound of the "great trump" at the end of the final Yom Kippur ceremony. During this time of judgment on earth the Church will enjoy the blessings of the Feast of Tabernacles in heaven. See also The Three Trumpets of God.
*The cry of "Salvation" in Revelation 9:10 is similar to the Hebrew cry of "Hoshana." The final day of the Feast of Tabernacles was known as "Hoshana Rabba," or the day of "Great Salvation," during which the congregation would circle the sanctuary seven times while holding palm branches in their hands and reciting seven hoshana hymns or psalms.
11-12. All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God saying: 'Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!' Psalm 89:5-8, "The heavens praise your wonders, O LORD, your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones. For who in the skies above can compare with the LORD? Who is like the LORD among the heavenly beings? In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him. O LORD God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O LORD, and your faithfulness surrounds you." 13-14b. Then one of the elders asked me, 'These in white robes--who are they, and where did they come from?' I answered, 'Sir, you know.' And he said, 'These are they who have come out of the great tribulation...'
"ek tes thlipseos tes megales" is more properly read as "out of the tribulation, the great." This is not a generic "tribulation" but "the great tribulation." Believers come "out of" the great tribulation just like Lot and his family were sent "out of the midst of the overthrow" (LXX - ek mesou tes katastrophes) that destroyed Sodom. Lot's family did not experience the catastrophe of Sodom's burning—they escaped it—and in the same way believers will escape the Great Tribulation. The same promise is given in Revelation 3:10 to faithful believers who will be "kept from" (tereso ek) the "hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth."
14b. 'These are they who have come out of the great tribulation...'
The phrase "they who have come" is oi ercomenoi (oi erchomenoi).
Dr. Robert H. Mounce, in his exhaustive commentary, The Book of Revelation (1977, p.173), writes, “The participle should be understood in a general sense to mean ‘such as come’ or perhaps as a more vivid way of saying ‘they that have just come.’ The aorist [tense] of vs. 13 makes unlikely the idea that oi erxomenoi refers to some who are still arriving.”
The Great Multitude is the resurrected and raptured Church that has just been rescued away from the Great Tribulation (also known as the "hour of trial" and the "Day of the Lord") and stands in Heaven before Jesus the Lamb of God in fulfillment of Luke 21:36, John 14:1-3, 1 Thess. 1:10, 1 Thess. 5:9-10, and many more. The Great Multitude escapes the Great Tribulation and does not experience any part of it.
Luke 21:34-36, "Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day [the Day of the Lord] will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape (Gr. ek-phugein "escape out of") all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man."
*See Luke 17:26-30 - As it was in the days of Lot, so shall it be...
Genesis 19:20, "Oh, let me escape (LXX-kata-phugein "escape from under")... and my soul shall live (LXX - zesetai)."
Genesis 19:29, "...God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow..." (LXX - ek mesou tes katastrophes)
1 Thessalonians 5:9-10, "For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live (Gr. zesomen) together with him." (Unbelievers testify of wrath on earth in Rev. 6:16-17, while the Church cries out "Salvation to our God and to the Lamb!" in heaven in Revelation 7:10)
1 Thessalonians 1:10, "...to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead--Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath." (Gr. ercomeneV erchomenes)
*When God's wrath comes (erchomenes) upon the world (1 Thess. 1:10) the Great Multitude will come out of (erchomenoi ek) the world (Rev. 7:14).
Revelation 2:22, "Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds."
Revelation 3:10, "Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from (Gr. ek) the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth."
*In Revelation 2:22 there is a warning to repent or else be cast into "great tribulation." The implication is that those who do repent will not be cast into "great tribulation," which supports the view that the Great Multitude of Revelation 7:9-17 does not endure any portion of the Great Tribulation, but is rescued (1 Thess. 1:10) and escapes (Luke 21:36) from it right as it begins. Revelation 3:10 is essentially an explicit re-statement of the implicit promise of 2:22, and it promises that faithful believers will be kept from the world's "hour of trial."
14c. '...they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Also see 9b. "They were wearing white robes..."
By wearing white robes the Great Multitude is described as having received the promise of Revelation 3:3-5.
Isaiah 1:18, "Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool."
Revelation 3:3-5, "Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels."
15. '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 spread his tent over them.
The Greek text literally says- "shall tabernacle over them." (Gr. skenosei)
Psalm 27:5, "For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion (LXX - skene): in the secret of his tabernacle (LXX - skenes) shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock."
Psalm 118:14-21, "The Lord is my strength and song, and is become my salvation. The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles (LXX - skenais) of the righteous: the right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly. The right hand of the Lord is exalted: the right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly. I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord. The Lord hath chastened me sore: but he hath not given me over unto death. Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the Lord: This gate of the Lord, into which the righteous shall enter. I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation." KJV
*Edward Chumney: "Neilah is the closing or final service of Yom Kippur. It is the Jewish belief that the gates of Heaven are open during the days of repentance to receive our prayers for forgiveness and that they close after the neilah service. (Specifically, they are open on Rosh HaShanah to let the righteous into Heaven and remain open until the neilah service of Yom Kippur.) When the final blast of the shofar (the Shofar HaGadol, the Great Trumpet) is heard at the end of the neilah service, those who have observed the day with sincerity should feel that they have been inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life." p.143
19. (Rosh HaShanah) Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead.
20. (Feast of Tabernacles) Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by. ("chambers" is Heb. חֲדָרֶי chadar, as in "bridal chamber," see Joel 2:16)
21. (Day of Atonement) For behold, the Lord is coming out from his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it, and will no more cover its slain. (ESV)
John 14:1-3, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God ; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." ("rooms" is Gr. monai monai, which is more properly translated as "temporary dwellings")
16-17b. 'Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. Isaiah 49:6-10, "'I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.' This is what the LORD says-- the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel-- to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers: 'Kings will see you and rise up, princes will see and bow down, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.' This is what the LORD says: 'In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, to say to the captives, `Come out,' and to those in darkness, "Be free!" They will feed beside the roads and find pasture on every barren hill. They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat upon them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water." 16a. 'Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. Isaiah 55:1-5, "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander of the peoples. Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations that do not know you will hasten to you, because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor."
John 6:32-35,48-51 "Jesus said to them, 'I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.' 'Sir,' they said, 'from now on give us this bread.' Then Jesus declared, 'I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty... ...I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."
16b. 'The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. Psalm 121:5-8, "The LORD watches over you-- the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm-- he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore." 17a. 'For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd... Psalm 23, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want..."
Psalm 28:7-9, "The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. The LORD is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one. Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever."
Psalm 80:1-3, "Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock; you who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. Awaken your might; come and save us. Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved."
Ezekiel 34:12, "As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep."
Micah 5:3-5, "Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites. He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be their peace."
John 10:14-15, "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me-- just as the Father knows me and I know the Father--and I lay down my life for the sheep." (Jesus spoke these words at the very end of the Feast of Tabernacles. Jesus is the good shepherd, as opposed to the evil shepherd--the Antichrist--who is described in Zechariah 11:16-17.)
Hebrews 13:20-21, "May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."
1 Peter 5:1-4, "To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers--not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away."
17b. '...he will lead them to springs of living water.
The sea of living water in heaven is shown in Revelation 4:6 and 15:2. After the Millennium the heavenly Jerusalem will come down to earth and this tranquil "sea of glass" will then flow from the throne of God the Father as the "river of life" that is described in Revelation 22:1.
During the Millennium there will be a temporary earthly "river of life" patterned after the eternal river of Revelation 22:1. This millennial river is described in Zechariah 14:8 and Ezekiel 47:1-12 and it flows from the Temple in Jerusalem. (After the Millennium there will be no Temple because God the Father and the Lamb will be the Temple, according to Revelation 21:22.)
John 7:37-38, "On the last and greatest day of the Feast [the day of Hoshana Rabba of the Feast of Tabernacles], Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, 'If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.'"
Psalm 36:7-9 (LXX), "How hast thou multiplied thy mercy, O God! So the children of men shall trust in the shelter of thy wings. They shall be fully satisfied with the fatness of thine house; and thou shalt cause them to drink of the full stream of thy delights. For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light we shall see light."
Jeremiah 17:13, "O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water."
17c. 'And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.'
The wiping away of tears is always mentioned in connection with the end of death, and so the Great Multitude must certainly be viewed as the redeemed and living Church that is taken up into heaven through resurrection or rapture just before God's wrath is poured out on the earth.
Isaiah 25:7-9, "On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken. In that day they will say, "Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation."
Revelation 21:3-4, "And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
—Signs in the Heavens: Biblical Prophecy and Astronomy, John A. Abent, 1995 (see especially pages 191-196 and 323-332 for comments on the Feast of Tabernacles)
—The Seven Festivals of the Messiah, Edward Chumney, 1994
—The Fall Feasts of Israel, Mitch and Zhava Glaser, 1987
September 12, 2007
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