Who Are These?
7:9 After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.
7:10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
7:11 And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,
7:12 singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
7:13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?”
7:14 I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
7:15 For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.
7:16 They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat;
7:17 for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
- Today is All Saints Day. A time for remembering loved ones and also the promise of eternity. Today is also a call to action, not just a nostalgic look backward focusing on the ones we love and have lost physically. This is a call to press forward towards a future where there is no more hunger or thirst or suffering and where those who have mourned are comforted. Envision this hope as we look at this morning’s scripture from Rev. 7.
- The passage comes after vs. 4-8 describe how a select number, 144,000 servants of God, 12 from each tribe of Israel, have been identified with a seal on their foreheads, a mark of God’s protection. But then, John looks again and there was a great multitude that no one could count that had materialized praising God too. Then the elder says, “Who are these?” Perhaps he was asking, ‘who let them in’? Perhaps this was his way of prompting John to consider that the whole earth is included in the promise of salvation and God’s grace.
- Who ARE these? The imagery here suggests that it was not a piece of cake to be among those around the throne and the Lamb. It came with some effort and struggle, even suffering. They are those who have come through the great ordeal. They are those who held fast to their faith in Jesus as Lord despite the oppression and even martyrdom of the early Christian church by the Roman Empire.
- Maybe the ordeal referred or refers to some specific global event in the past or one that will happen in the future. Or maybe it refers to any number of things we read about in the paper or experience every day in our daily lives. The things that frighten or sadden us, the things that drive us to our knees in prayer: our own illness or that of someone we love, abuse or exploitation, the trials of poverty, hunger or food insecurity, homelessness, the fear of being alone, lonely and isolated, racism and bigotry, financial challenges—having too little or too much (will I outlive my money, or how will I account to God for what I’ve done with the money with which I have been blessed), and on All Saints Day, we remember the loss of loved ones and we think about how it has been an ordeal to reconcile their loss in our hearts. So many different issues and combination of them unique to all of us. Maybe it is all of these that add up to the “great ordeal” that the elder refers to in vs. 14.
- The elder goes on to say not only did these come through the ordeal—they washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Blood in the Bible usually means life and cleansing, typically involving some sort of sacrifice. The multitude described here, are the ones who intentionally cleansed themselves in the blood of Christ—this mystical act that leads to life everlasting. Essentially, they “put on Christ” and lived as he would have lived.
- These are the ones who cared for us, the ones who loved us who are no longer with us. On All Saints Day, they are the ones we remember. These are the ones who left an example for us to follow as they persevered through whatever was their own GREAT ORDEAL.
- Now it is our turn. Let’s do some washing. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get our hands wet- caring about the people and things that Jesus cared about. Don’t simply roll up to the drive-through car wash and expect everything to be done automatically. Exert some effort, like Jesus and for his sake.
- So who are these? They are the ones we remember. And one day may they also be us.