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REVELATION OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE - Chapter 7 - Verse 9

Verse 9. After this. Gr., "After these things"—meta tauta: that is, after I saw these things thus represented, I had another vision. This would undoubtedly imply, not only that he saw these things after he had seen the sealing of the hundred and forty-four thousand, but that they would occur subsequently to that. But he does not state whether they would immediately occur, or whether other things might not intervene. As a matter of fact, the vision seems to be transferred from earth to heaven—for the multitudes which he saw appeared "before the throne," (Re 7:9) that is, before the throne of God in heaven. The design seems to be to carry the mind forward quite beyond the storms and tempests of earth—the scenes of woe and sorrow—the days of error, darkness, declension, and persecution into that period when the church should be triumphant in heaven. Instead, therefore, of leaving the impression that the hundred and forty-four thousand would be all that would be saved, the eye is directed to an innumerable host, gathered from all ages, all climes, and all people, triumphant in glory. The multitude that John thus saw was not, therefore, I apprehend, the same as the hundred and forty- four thousand, but a far greater number—the whole assembled host of the redeemed in heaven, gathered there as victors, with palm-branches, the symbols of triumph, in their hands. The object of the vision is to cheer those who are desponding in times of religious declension and in seasons of persecution, and when the number of true Christians seems to be small, with the assurance that an immense host shall be redeemed from our world, and be gathered triumphant before the throne.

I beheld. That is, he saw them before the throne. The vision is transferred from earth to heaven; from the contemplation of the scene when desolation seemed to impend over the world, and when comparatively few in number were "sealed" as the servants of God, to the time when the redeemed would be triumphant, and when a host which no man can number would stand before God.

And, lo. Indicating surprise. A vast host burst upon the view. Instead of the comparatively few who were sealed, an innumerable company were presented to his vision, and surprise was the natural effect.

A great multitude. Instead of the comparatively small number on which the attention had been fixed.

Which no man could number. The number was so great that no one could count them, and John, therefore, did not attempt to do it. This is such a statement as one would make who should have a view of all the redeemed in heaven. It would appear to be a number beyond all power of computation. This representation is in strong contrast with a very common opinion that only a few will be saved. The representation in the Bible is, that immense hosts of the human race will be saved; and though vast numbers will be lost, and though at any particular period of the world hitherto it may seem that few have been in the path to life, yet we have every reason to believe that, taking the race at large, and estimating it as a whole, a vast majority of the whole will be brought to heaven. For the true religion is yet to spread all over the world, and perhaps for many, many thousands of years, piety is to be as prevalent as sin has been; and in that long and happy time of the world's history we may hope that the numbers of the saved may surpass all who have been lost in past periods, beyond any power of computation. See Barnes "Re 20:3"

and through verse 6.

Of all nations. Not only of Jews; not only of the nations which in the time of the sealing vision had embraced the gospel, but of all the nations of the earth. This implies two things:

(a) that the gospel would be preached among all nations; and

(b) that even when it was thus preached to them they would keep up their national characteristics. There can be no hope of blending all the nations of the earth under one visible sovereignty. They may all be subjected to the spiritual reign of the Redeemer, but still there is no reason to suppose that they will not have their distinct organizations and laws.

And kindredsfulwn This word properly refers to those who are descended from a common ancestry, and hence denotes a race, lineage, kindred. It was applied to the tribes of Israel, as derived from the same ancestor, and for the same reason might be applied to a clan, and thence to any division in a nation, or to a nation itself—properly retaining the notion that it was descended from a common ancestor. Here it would seem to refer to a smaller class than a nation—the different clans of which a nation might be composed.

And peoplelawn. This word refers properly to a people or community as a mass, without reference to its origin or any of its divisions. The former word would be used by one who should look upon a nation as made up of portions of distinct languages, clans, or families; this word would be used by one who should look on such an assembled people as a mere mass of human beings, with no reference to their difference of clanship, origin, or language.

And tongues. Languages. This word would refer also to the inhabitants of the earth, considered with respect to the fact that they speak different languages. The use of particular languages does not designate the precise boundaries of nations—for often many people speaking different languages are united as one nation, and often those who speak the same language constitute distinct nations. The view, therefore, with which one would look upon the dwellers on the earth, in the use of the word tongues or languages, would be, not as divided into nations; not with reference to their lineage or clanship; and not as a mere mass without reference to any distinction, but as divided by speech. The meaning of the whole is, that persons from all parts of the earth, as contemplated in these points of view, would be among the redeemed. Compare See Barnes "Da 3:4"; See Barnes "Da 4:1".

 

Stood before the throne. The throne of God.

 See Barnes on "Re 4:2".

The throne is there represented as set up in heaven, and the vision here is a vision of what will occur in heaven. It is designed to carry the thoughts beyond all the scenes of conflict, strife, and persecution on earth, to the time when the church shall be triumphant in glory—when all storms shall have passed by; when all persecutions shall have ceased; when all revolutions shall have occurred; when all the elect—not only the hundred and forty-four thousand of the sealed, but of all nations and times—shall have been gathered in. There was a beautiful propriety in this vision. John saw the tempests stayed, as by the might of angels. He saw a new influence and power that would seal the true servants of God. But those tempests were stayed only for a time, and there were more awful visions in reserve than any which had been exhibited revisions of woe and sorrow, of persecution and of death. It was appropriate, therefore, just at this moment of calm suspense—of delayed judgments—to suffer the mind to rest on the triumphant close of the whole in heaven, when a countless host would be gathered there with palms in their hands, uniting with angels in the worship of God. The mind, by the contemplation of this beautiful vision, would be refreshed and strengthened for the disclosure of the awful scenes which were to occur on the sounding of the trumpets under the seventh seal. The simple idea is, that, amidst the storms and tempests of life—scenes of existing or impending trouble and wrath—it is well to let the eye rest on the scene of the final triumph, when innumerable hosts of the redeemed shall stand before God, and when sorrow shall be known no more.

And before the Lamb. In the midst of the throne—in heaven. See Barnes on "Re 5:6"

 

Clothed with white robes. The emblems of innocence or righteousness, uniformly represented as the raiment of the inhabitants of heaven. See Barnes on "Re 3:4"; See Barnes "Re 6:11".

 

And palms in their hands. Emblems of victory. Branches of the palm-tree were carried by the victors in the athletic contests of Greece and Rome, and in triumphal processions. See Barnes on "Mt 21:8".

The palm-tree—straight, elevated, majestic—was an appropriate emblem of triumph. The portion of it which was borne in victory was the long leaf which shoots out from the top Of the tree. See Eschenberg, Manual of Class. Lit. p. 243, and Le 23:40: "And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm-trees," etc. So in the Saviour's triumphal entry into Jerusalem, (Joh 12:12-13) "On the next day much people—took branches of palm-trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna."

{a} "nations" Re 5:9; Ro 11:25

{b} "clothed" Re 6:11

{c} "palms" Le 23:40

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