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Notes on the Book of Revelation: Chapter 7, Part 2

Posted by lehunt on March 6, 2017

Third vision- with the opening of the fifth seal, the souls of the martyrs under the altar cry out and receive white robes; with the sixth seal, stars fall from the sky, and naked peoples of the earth // Larry Hunt Bible Commentary

(15th century manuscript)
Third vision- with the opening of the fifth seal, the souls of the martyrs under the altar cry out and receive white robes; with the sixth seal, stars fall from the sky, and naked peoples of the earth.

v. 9: Johnson believes this great multitude represents the Gentile Christians as opposed to the Jewish Christians, who he believes are represented by the 144,000.  This is a reasonable conclusion on one level since this great multitude is from “every nation” and the 144,000 were so overtly drawn from the tribes of Israel.  However, I do not think Johnson is correct.  I think this great multitude and the 144,000 represent the same thing: all the Christian martyrs (Jews and Gentiles) who “come out of the great ordeal” (7:14).  Here are my reasons:

1)  I believe the great multitude includes both Jews and Gentiles because its people are described by the elder as “they who have come out of the great ordeal,” not as “the Gentile Christians who have come out of the great ordeal.”  Besides, the 144,000 are described as “the servants of our God” (7:3) rather than “the Jewish servants of our God.”[5]

2) I believe the great multitude is made entirely of martyrs because the elder says that they have “come out of the great ordeal” and “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (7:14).  An ordeal is a time of trial and suffering, a time that is likely to produce a number of martyrs.  This is called “the great ordeal,” and in the context of Revelation, this seems like a reference to the 3 ½ years during which Beast I “is allowed to make war on the saints” (13:7).  As for the white robes, it is true that all Christians (not just martyrs) are made pure by the blood of the Lamb (and could, therefore, be described metaphorically as wearing white robes), but I think that the white robes of these Christians in this great multitude allude to the white robe of 6:11, the robe given to the martyrs.

Thus, I believe the first vision (7:1-8) describes the sealing of all Christians (Jews and Gentiles) who will be martyred during the reign of Beast I.  This same group is represented in the next vision (7:9-17) to assure John (and us) that they would, in fact, be saved and honored.

One argument against this theory might point out that the group of 144,000 could be counted, whereas “no one could count” the great multitude, but this can be easily answered.  Saying that no one could count the multitude is merely a way of communicating the vastness of the multitude rather than a literal statement of fact.  The number, however large, must be finite since it represents a finite group (i.e., “those who come out of the great ordeal”)  of humanity, which is itself a finite group.  At the very least, God himself could count it, but I suspect others could too if they wanted to badly enough.

v. 13: I wonder why the elder asks John this.  Perhaps he is testing John or inviting him to ask the question himself.

v. 14: This great multitude does not depict all the redeemed humans who ever lived.  According to the elder, it only depicts those who will be martyred during the 3 ½ years of the reign of Beast I on earth, i.e., those who “come through the great ordeal.”

As I try to understand these visions, it is a little disconcerting to notice that John himself does not understand the vision until it is explained by the elder.  Oh well.…


 

[5] Remember Romans 2:28-29.

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2 Responses to “Notes on the Book of Revelation: Chapter 7, Part 2”

  1. I like a lot about this, including your concluding acknowledgment. Disconcerting indeed! 🙂

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