Revelation 7.

PARENTHETIC VISIONS OF GRACE.

VISIONS OF TWO SEPARATE COMPANIES.

There are two separate visions contained in this chapter. The first concerns Israel (vv. 1- 8); the second refers to the Gentile (vv. 9-17). There can be no question as to the parenthetic character of both. The contents of our chapter form no part of events under the Seals. There is no historical sequence. In the previous chapter we had the opening of the first six Seals in succession; then in Revelation 8 the Lamb opens the seventh or last Seal. Thus between the sixth and seventh, yet forming no part of either, a deeply interesting episode of blessing to Israel and to the Gentiles is introduced. The course of judgment is suspended and the veil drawn aside that we may witness the heart of our God. It is not all judgment in those dark and evil days. It must not be supposed, however, that the salvation of these respective companies from amongst Israel and the Gentiles necessarily takes place between the sixth and seventh Seals, much less their public place and blessing. The chapter is without dates. The sealing of Israel is in view of their millennial position, but when the sealing took place we are not informed. The vision of the saved Gentile multitude after coming out of the great tribulation regards them in full millennial blessing on earth, for it is an earthly scene (vv. 16, 17). But when the testimony of God reached them and saved them we are not told. Immediately after the translation of the heavenly saints (1 Thess. 4:15-17) God will work in grace amongst His ancient people and amongst the Gentiles at large outside the apostate part of the world. This testimony will be continued for several years, probably during the whole, and it may be longer, of the 70th week of Daniel, a period of seven years. Here we have in vision the results of that testimony. The revelation of these companies is a refreshing sight. Coming as it does after the power of the enemy has been let loose against the saints of God (Rev. 6:9-11) and before the infliction of yet severer judgments (Rev. 8, 16) it triumphantly proves that nothing can thwart the purposes of God nor hinder the working of His Spirit on the earth. How good of God to give us this interesting parenthetic chapter!

JUDGMENT RESTRAINED.

Rev. 7:1. — “And after this I saw four angels standing upon the four corners of the earth, holding fast the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow upon the earth, nor upon any tree.” The phrase after this, repeated in verse 9, marks a new commencement. It introduces the Israelitish section of our chapter, as also the vision of the Gentile palm-bearing multitude. The intentional employment of the phrase and its repetition should have preserved certain interpreters from confusing the two companies. They are separate and distinct both in nationality and in blessing. The one is from among Israel, the other from among the Gentiles. The millennial earth is the scene where both are displayed. But it is essential to the understanding of the chapter to bear in mind that the time of the vision and the time when the companies come into their appointed public blessing are very different.

1 — “Four angels standing upon the four corners of the earth, holding fast the four winds of the earth.” The banished Seer here views the earth as a vast extended plain, bounded by the four main points of the compass, north, south, east, and west. At these respective corners an angel stands so as to have full control over the destructive forces of evil. The threefold repetition of the numeral “four” marks the completeness and the universality of the action. We see no reason for limiting the term “earth” here to the Roman world. The winds are not to blow till an ideal number of Israel is sealed (vv. 3, 4). Now the two houses of Israel, Ephraim and Judah, are embraced in this work. Jehovah “shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth” (Isa. 11:11, 12). Thus both the Prophet and the Seer refer to the full extent of the inhabited earth, and not to the territorial limits of the Roman world, whether past or future. Clearly, too, verse 9 refers to the result of a divine testimony amongst the Gentiles far exceeding the extent of the empire in any period of its history. The earth here must be understood in its largest sense.

The four restraining angels,* the unseen, yet real, spiritual powers, are here seen controlling the forces and instruments of evil. “the four winds of the earth.”**

{*Wordsworth, in his “Lectures on the Apocalypse,” p.120, attempts to show that the “four angels standing upon the four corners of the earth” are the same as those “bound at the great river Euphrates” (Rev. 9:14). But the world-wide position of the former compared with the circumscribed sphere of the latter would forbid such interpretation. Besides, the actions and time essentially differ. Wordsworth is one of the most fanciful and uncertain of interpreters.

** Political and other troubles are expressed in the term “winds of the earth” (Dan. 7:2; Job 1:19; Jer. 49:36). “Winds of the Heaven” and “winds of the earth” are to be distinguished. The former expression points to the providential agencies employed by God to execute His purposes; whereas the latter denote attention to the guilty sphere of these judgments and calamities, i.e., the earth. We may also observe that the first mention of the “earth” in the text is unrestricted in its application. The second mention of the word limits it to the civilised portion of the globe in contrast to the “sea” the uncivilised part (see also Rev. 10:2).}

l. — “Holding fast” with a firm grip, implying that the winds were struggling to get loose. How irresistible the grasp of Omnipotence on the powers and forces of evil. They are effectually bridled till the plans of God are ripe and ready for action.

The situation is one of intense interest. We are about to enter into yet deeper sorrows. The climax of judgment so far was under the sixth Seal when all government, political, social, supreme, and subordinate, utterly collapsed, and a scene of universal terror ensued. But deeper woes are looming. All were not slain in the martyrdom under the fifth Seal (Rev. 6:9-11), nor will coming and severer judgments hinder a universal testimony for God, as the consolatory visions of this chapter conclusively prove. Hence the universal calamities and troubles, indicated by the expression “winds of the earth,” are for a season held in check till God takes measures for the preservation of a complete number of His people Israel and of an innumerable company of Gentiles.

1. — “That no wind might blow upon the earth,” the scene of settled government (Rev. 10:2; Ps. 46:2): “nor upon the sea,” nations and peoples in anarchy and confusion (Dan. 7:2, 3; Isa. 57:20); “nor upon any tree,” the might and pride of earth (Dan. 4:10, 22; Ezek. 31:3-9, 14-18). The reason of the cessation of judgment is stated in precise terms: “until we shall have sealed the bondmen of our God upon their foreheads” (v. 3).

THE SEALING ANGEL AND HIS CRY.

Rev. 7:2, 3. — “And I saw another angel ascending from (the*) sun-rising, having (the*) seal of (the*) living God; and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it had been given to hurt the earth and the sea, saying, Hurt not the earth, nor the sea, nor the trees, until we shall have sealed the bondmen of our God upon their foreheads.” Judgment attributed to the winds in verse one is here ascribed to the angels. By the former are symbolised the agencies of political and other evils; by the latter are to be understood the spiritual powers which direct and govern these agencies of evil, the instruments of judgment in verse one; the powers which wield them in verse two.

{* The absence of the article (bracketed by J.N.D. in his “New Testament,” and inserted in italics by W.K. in his valuable “Lectures on the Book of Revelation”) marks the respective actions before which it is omitted as characteristic.}

“Another angel,” not one of the four, and certainly not Christ,* as some have strangely supposed. The sentence “until we shall have sealed” would be derogatory to the pre-eminent dignity of Christ; so also the concluding words of the angel’s cry, “the bondmen of our God.” The language and spirit of John 20:17, “I ascend unto MY Father and your Father; and to MY God and your God,” is maintained throughout the New Testament. We never meet with the terms “our God” and “our Father” as signifying Christ and believers.

{*The angel-priest of Rev. 8:3-5, and the strong angel of Rev. 10:1-6, 8-10, seem undoubtedly to refer to Christ. The terms used and actions described in both Scriptures could not truthfully be applied to any created being, however exalted.}

The angel referred to in our text is evidently a distinguished spiritual being having an exalted mission on hand. He ascends from the east or sun-rising, “having (the) Seal of (the) living God.”* The sealing angel ascending from the sun-rising for the preservation and blessing of Israel seems a herald of the Messiah, Who as the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings (Mal. 4:2), and shine upon the land and people with undimmed splendour. The firstfruits of national blessing is predicated of the angel; the harvest awaits the revelation of Christ from Heaven.

{* Sealing in the present dispensation is no outward mark as here. It is the Holy Ghost given by God to indwell the believer (2 Cor. 1:21, 22; Eph. 1:13). God (not Christ) seals; the Holy Ghost Himself, a Person is the Seal.}

“The seal of the living God” implies immunity from death, and the seal upon the forehead intimates public, open acknowledgment that those who are sealed belong to God. What the seal is we are not informed.

“The bondmen of our God.” Such is the title applied to the sealed of Israel. They had maintained the testimony of God through trial and difficulty; their course had been marked by conflict and service; hence the appropriateness of the title “bondmen.”

The sealing is not alone the work of the angel; others are associated in the happy service of preserving from judgment a complete number of Israel, “until we shall have sealed.” There is a dignity of action here neither found in the sealing recorded by the prophet of the captivity (Ezek. 9:4) nor in that of Judah on Mount Zion (Rev. 14:1). The angel ascending from the sun-rising is in keeping with the exalted mission on hand. His is no ordinary service, and hence the surrounding circumstances bespeak the greatness of the work.

“He cried with a loud voice” to the angels of judgment, “Hurt not the earth, nor the sea, nor the trees.” The imperative summons is obeyed, and saved Israel is sealed for millennial blessing.

THE NUMBER OF THE SEALED.

The Gentile company (v. 9) is not numbered. The Israelitish company, on the contrary, is carefully reckoned, and the result stated, not in round numbers, but in precise terms as a hundred and forty and four thousand. Twelve thousand out of each of the twelve tribes of Israel. The numbers, whether singly (12) or multiplied (144) denote a complete and definite number. Twelve is the signature of Israel, and is largely employed in Jewish connection. Earthly administration, rule, government, seem to be the moral value of this numeral.* The number of the sealed is of course symbolic, and simply denotes that God has appropriated a certain, complete, yet limited number of Israel for Himself.

{*The twelve hours of the day, twelve hours of the night, direct us to the sun and moon as the ruling and governing powers of day and night. There were twelve tribes of Israel and twelve apostles in relation to the future government of Israel (Matt. 19:28). Twelve gates in the holy Jerusalem (Rev. 21:12). Israel was represented in the twelve precious stones on the breastplate of the high priest and in the twelve loaves of show bread on the holy table (Ex. 28; Lev. 24). Rule on the earth is the predominant factor in the use and value of this numeral.}

PECULIARITIES

In the enumeration of the tribes throughout Scripture, of which there are about eighteen, the full representative number twelve is always given; but as Jacob had thirteen sons,* one or other is always omitted. Levi is more generally omitted than any other. In the apocalyptic enumeration Dan and Ephraim are omitted. Both these tribes were remarkable as being connected with idolatry in Israel, the probable reason for the blotting out of their names here (Deut. 29:18-21). But in the end grace triumphs, and Dan is named first in the future distribution of the land amongst the tribes (Ezek. 48:2), but, while first named, it is the farthest removed from the temple, being situated in the extreme north. In our English version there are three tribes named in each verse, but in reality the arrangement of the tribes, as of the apostles, (Matt. 10:2-4) is in pairs. First, Judah and Reuben, the fourth and first sons of Leah, the former the royal tribe, the latter the representative of the nation (Gen. 49:3). Second, Gad and Asher, the two sons of Zilpah, associated in the prophetic blessings of the last days (Gen. 49:19, 20). Third, Naphtali and Manasseh, linked in the enumeration of Ezekiel 48:4. Fourth, Simeon and Levi, the second and third sons of Leah, associated in the prophetic enumeration (Gen. 49:5-7), also in the Lord’s revelation of Himself to saved Israel (Zech. 12:13). Fifth, Issachar and Zebulun, the fifth and sixth sons of Leah, both are associated in the prophetic (Gen. 49) and in the territorial (Ezek. 48) enumerations of the tribes. Sixth,** Joseph and Benjamin, the two sons of Rachel, the beloved wife of the patriarch.

{*Counting the two sons of Joseph instead of the father as Jacob’s.

**We have Joseph, not Ephraim; the father instead of the son. But Ephraim in blessing takes precedence of his elder brother Manasseh, and again grace shines (Gen. 48:8-20).}

It is to be noted that in the Revised Version and other critical helps the word “sealed” is omitted in naming each of the tribes save the first and last. Thus, “out of (the) tribe of Judah twelve thousand sealed” (v. 8), and “out of (the) tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand sealed” (v. 8). The tribes of Judah and Benjamin respectively open and close the enumeration. The characteristics of these tribes (Gen. 49:8-12, 27) both centre in Christ.

THREE COMPANIES OF MILLENNIAL SAINTS.

The two companies of Israel and the Gentiles were beheld by the Seer in separate visions. The elect company from the twelve tribes (vv. 4-8) is not only distinct from their Gentile associates (vv. 9-17), but is equally distinct from the 144,000 from amongst Judah who emerge out of the horrors of the coming hour of trial standing on Mount Zion (Rev. 14). There are two Jewish companies of equal number — the hundred and forty-four thousand of all Israel (Rev. 7), and the hundred and forty-four thousand of Judah only (Rev. 14). The palm-bearing Gentile multitude must not be confounded either with the Church or with Israel. The innumerable multitude here beheld in vision is the fruit of an extensive work of grace begun immediately or soon after the translation of the heavenly saints (1 Thess. 4), and continued during the future prophetic week of seven years (Matt. 24:14). This world-wide testimony actively carried on between the Translation and the Appearing will be signally owned of God. Thus ample time under the good and controlling hand of God is afforded for the mighty work of grace, which in extensive results remind us of the palmy days of Pentecost.

We may also note another interesting distinction between the two companies of millennial saints in our chapter. The elect of Israel are beheld before they enter into “the time of Jacob’s trouble,” whereas the Gentile saved multitude are here witnessed after having come out of “the great tribulation.”

THE SAVED GENTILE MULTITUDE AND THEIR CRY.

 We have already remarked that the white-robed, palm-bearing multitude come out of the great tribulation, and while their blessing is strictly millennial in character and time, they must not be confounded with another class of Gentiles who will be saved at the commencement of the millennial era after the close of the tribulation; hence the special position and characteristic blessings of the “innumerable multitude” here referred to. Both the position and blessing are in beautiful keeping with the previous trial, out of which they have emerged, and in which many of their brethren, Jewish and Gentile, were slain. “Out of every nation, and tribes, and peoples, and tongues.” We have already met with this fourfold distribution of the race (Rev. 5:9). It is a technical formula expressing universality (see also Rev. 11:9).

This vast multitude beyond all counting, and in this respect in marked contrast to the more limited and exactly defined number of Israel, is witnessed by the Seer “standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palm branches in their hands.” These saints are on earth. “Standing before the throne and before the Lamb” is, of course, a position of exalted dignity, but the thrones of the heavenly saints are “around” the throne of God (Rev. 4:4) and of the Lamb (Rev. 5:6). Moreover, they are seated on them (see also Rev. 20:4). It is not said that these earthly saints have thrones and crowns; the heavenly ones have both. In these and other respects the heavenly company of the redeemed occupy a higher and more exalted position of dignity than the “innumerable multitude” who on earth stand before the throne — a designation of moral force.

Rev. 7:9. — “Clothed with white robes.” They had maintained the rights and claims of God against a rebellious and apostate world amidst circumstances, too, of unparalleled sorrow and affliction (Mark 13:19). Now God remembers and rewards their faithfulness, they are “clothed with white robes,” robes of righteousness (see Rev. 19:8). “Palm branches” express the joy of complete deliverance (Lev. 23:40; John 12:13). God had brought them safely through their awful period of appointed affliction termed “the great tribulation” (Rev. 7:14, R.V.), and now they triumph in the triumph of their God. The palm is the only tree named in the construction of the millennial temple (Ezek. 40; 41); is also named chiefly in connection with the Feast of Tabernacles, the last and closing joyous feast of Israel (Lev. 23:40). The white-robed multitude is the only company in the Revelation said to have palms; the word occurs but once in the Apocalypse.

Rev. 7:10. — “They cry with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God Who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb.” Their struggles and trials are over. The throne before which they stand is now and for ever their strength and security. The countless multitudes of these redeemed ones break out in one loud and united cry. What is the burden of this intense and thrilling cry? Salvation in its most comprehensive sense is ascribed to God and to the Lamb. Not a member of that redeemed host is silent. “They cry with a loud voice.” Sovereign grace has done its mighty work. It has gathered out of all lands and tongues a Gentile host beyond all human computation — each and all once “dead in sins” — and placed them saved and blest before God’s throne. How fitting then that the triumph of divine grace should be grandly celebrated and traced to the source — God in divine sovereignty, and to the Lamb, the expression of His love and grace.

THE ANSWER OF THE ANGELIC HOST.

Rev. 7:11, 12. — “And all the angels stood around the throne, and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell before the throne upon their faces and worshipped God, saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and strength to our God, to the ages of ages. Amen.” We have two distinct heavenly scenes in which the throne is the central figure here, and in chapter 5:11, 12. In both scenes the angels form the outer circle around the throne. In these beatific visions we have the doxology of the angelic host in a sevenfold ascription of worship. In the former scene (Rev. 5:11, 12) the Lamb is the object of praise; in the latter vision (Rev. 7:11, 12) God is the object of adoration. The position of the angels in both scenes is around the throne, while the elders and living creatures form inner circles. The order in which these last, i.e., the elders and living ones, are presented differs in the two scenes. In the earlier one the elders form the innermost circle; in the later the living creatures are nearest the throne. The difference is easily accounted for. In the former the Lamb is in immediate view and the redeemed in Heaven (the elders) naturally gather around Him; whereas in the latter vision, God sitting on His throne, the symbol of universal sovereignty, would account for the near place of the living creatures who represent the executive authority of the throne. The Gentile crowd on earth had ascribed salvation to “our God,” but He is also the God of angels; hence they, too, in their place in the heavens say “our God.” To the cry of the exultant redeemed the angels, which are as countless as the redeemed host on earth, in whom they are so deeply interested, fall down and worship, saying, Amen. How profound their worship may be gathered somewhat from their position, they fell down upon “their faces.” The cry of the multitude is answered by the angels’ “Amen.” The terms in the angelic doxology differ in their order from that contained in chapter 5. There the last two terms, “glory and blessing,” are the first named in our chapter. There “riches,” here instead is “thanksgiving.”*

{*W. Kelly, F. B. Hooper, Bishop Ellicott, and others in their respective works on the Apocalypse read verse 12 with the definite article before each noun, thus: “The blessing, and the glory, and the wisdom, and the thanksgiving, and the honour, and the power, and the strength.” Says an able writer: “The force of the article is to express each quality in its highest degree and excellence.”}

The two redeemed companies on earth in our chapter are the elect of Israel and the white-robed multitude of Gentiles. The companies in Heaven are the angels, the elders, and the living creatures. Neither of the last two take part in the celebration of praise. This is confined to the Gentile crowd on earth, and to the angels in Heaven. The special object of the whole passage (vv. 9-17) is the relation of the palm-bearing multitude to God and to the Lamb. This really is the burden of their cry, which the angels fully own by adding their “Amen.”* The relation of the elders and living ones to God is disclosed in chapters 4 and 5, and hence in those portions their worship is appropriately introduced, not here.

{*The first “Amen” is the answer to the cry of the saved multitude. The second “Amen” is a confirmation of the truth of their own praise.}

THE ELDER’S QUESTION AND ANSWER.

Rev. 7:13-17. — “And one of the elders answered, saying to me, These who are clothed with white robes, who are they, and whence came they? And I said to him, My Lord, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they who come out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple, and He that sits upon the throne shall spread His tabernacle over them. They shall not hunger any more, neither shall they thirst any more, nor shall the sun at all fall on them, nor any burning heat; because the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall shepherd them, and shall lead them to fountains of waters of life, and God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes.” The Seer stood in silent wonder. He heard the exulting cry of the redeemed host and beheld their joy, but he did not personally participate in either. “One of the elders answered,” not the spoken, but the unspoken inquiry of the heart of the Seer. The elders are characterised by the most elevated character of worship and intelligence in the mind and ways of God. They themselves were redeemed from earth, and hence it was fitting that one of them, and not a sinless celestial being, should be the interpreter to John, and through him to us, of the origin and history of this remarkable company for the first time beheld by the Seer. John was not unacquainted with the heavenly service of the elders. In a previous vision (Rev. 5:4, 5) one of them had comforted and instructed him. Hence the two questions put to John exactly expressed what he wanted to know: “These who are clothed with white robes, who are they? and whence came they?”

It is not without significance that attention is called three times to their “white robes” (vv. 9, 13, 14). Their public acceptance by God, their recognition by Him in perfect purity of character and ways, are witnessed in those robes of purest white.*

{*An old Scotch divine remarks on this passage: “The word translated robes properly signifies a marriage robe; and as both this word and the one translated white have the article prefixed it gives a peculiar force and beauty to the expression. The allusion is to a marriage garment of the richest and most splendid appearance. To take in the full idiom of the expression it would require to be rendered thus: ‘Who are these clothed in the richest marriage robes, in robes of the purest white?’”}

THE GREAT TRIBULATION.

Rev. 7:14. — “These are they who come out of the great tribulation.” Our venerable Authorised Version is at fault here. It reads: “These are they which came out of great tribulation.” But the Revised Version and other versions give undoubtedly the Spirit’s meaning, “come,” not “came,” and “the tribulation,” not “tribulation” simply. It is not the record of a past act, but they “come out.” It is regarded as a characteristically present action. “The tribulation” points to a definite prophetic period, and not simply to tribulation in general in which all saints share. “The great tribulation”* cannot be the general troubles which afflict God’s people in all ages. The insertion of the definite article marks its speciality. The Neronian** and other pagan and papal persecutions have been variously referred to as “the great tribulation” by the historical school of expositors. More frequently still the expression is thought to refer to the general troubles of life. But every interpretation of the Apocalypse which has history and not God’s Word as its basis is necessarily confusing and uncertain. The force and import of the term must be sought for in Scripture and not in the records of human history. The interpretation of the Word, as also its application to the conscience, is the sole prerogative of the Holy Ghost Who inspired it.

{*“Out of the tribulation, the great one.” — Alford.

**“The Early Days of Christianity.” p. 448. — Dean Farrar.}

“The great tribulation” is yet future. It pre-supposes the Jewish nation restored to Palestine in unbelief to serve Gentile political ends, and brought there by the active intervention of a great maritime power (Isa. 18). The duration of the coming hour of trial, which in its intensity will exceed all past and subsequent sorrows endured on earth (Mark 13:19), is limited to the second half of Daniel’s prophetic week of seven years (Dan. 9:27 with Matt. 24:15), or, speaking more correctly, to 1260 days, i.e., 42 months of 30 days each* (Rev. 11:3; 13:5). Satan cast out of Heaven into the earth is the instigator of this unparalleled outburst of fury and hatred against God’s witnesses, Jewish and Gentile (Rev. 12:7-17). Satan’s chief persecuting ministers will be “the beast,” i.e., the revived imperial power of Rome in the person of its head, the “little horn” (Dan. 7:7, 21; Rev. 13. l-8); the Anti-Christ, only so termed in John’s epistles, the ally and confederate of the beast (Rev. 13:11-17); and the king of the north, or the Assyrian (Dan. 8, 11; Isa. 10:24-34).** The two former will be the active agents in persecuting the saints; the latter will be politically hostile to the restored Jewish commonwealth, but Jewish saints will also have to suffer as part and parcel of the nation. “The great tribulation,” then, embraces Gentiles as well as Jews. Apostate Christendom is the wide sphere which will come under the direct judgment of Christ in the coming day, nor will the sword be sheathed till the heathen, too, feel the stroke (1 Peter 4:17). But while the tribulation will embrace Jews and Gentiles, the former will suffer most severely (Jer. 30:7). The Gentile company of our text comes out of the great tribulation. They have been preserved while Christendom, and Judea especially, have been bathed in the blood of God’s saints.***

{*“The tribulation ends before the coming of Christ to reign (Matt. 24:29); and I believe it will virtually close by the pouring out of the vials (Rev. 16). Writhing under these inflictions, neither the beast nor his myrmidons will be in a condition to persecute any longer. So it seems to me.

“The 1260 days of persecution (Rev. 11:3), or 42 months, counting 30 days to a month, will end before the three and a half years are concluded. They fall short of this last period by 17 days, or more exactly 17½ days. Till the 42 months end the beast’s power is unchallengeable (Rev. 13:5). The seventh trumpet sounds, and the mystery of God is then finished. He will henceforth deal directly with the apostates, as the vials describe. It will be mystery as to that no longer.

“The days will be shortened, as the duration of the beast’s power will be curtailed by the above mentioned days that will remain of the three and a half years of the week (Dan. 9:27). Shortening or lengthening of days, not a day, refers to a period of time, and not to a natural day of twenty-four hours.

“The clue to me of a deal of all this is the difference between 1260 days and three and a half years. The former can by no possibility be made to equal the latter. At the end of the latter the Lord comes to reign. At the end of the former the trumpet sounds; and the balance of days between the 1260 days and the three and a half years leaves room for the outpouring of the vials.” — “Truth for the Last Days,” No. 4, p. 163, C.E.S. See also article, “The Celebrated Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks.”

**See article “The Chief Actors in the Coming Crisis.”

*** The location of the saved Gentile company, when the testimony of God reached their consciences, must not be confined to the territorial limits of Christendom. The largeness of the scene in verse 9 intimates a breadth which probably covers the whole Gentile world. Rejecters of God’s grace — grace now fully and freely preached — are in the time of the tribulation given up to judicial dealing (2 Thess. 2:10-12), and are punished with everlasting destruction at the Appearing of Christ (2 Thess. 1:6-9). Hence these apostates are precluded from any share in the work of grace — widely and rapidly carried out (length of time uncertain) between the Translation and the Appearing.}

Their mystical robes derive their whiteness solely from the blood of Christ.

Next we have the standing or position of the Gentile throng. “Therefore are they before the throne of God.” It is the shed blood of Christ which alone entitles anyone to stand before the throne. “This grace wherein we stand “ (Rom. 5:2) is ground common to all saints. The demonstrative pronoun points not to grace in general, but to that special grace of God witnessed in the death and resurrection of the Lord.

14. — “Have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God.” Washing robes is one of those expressions peculiar to the Apocalypse. Whatever may have been the special testimony addressed to these Gentiles,* evidently the blood of the Lamb was its grand and distinguishing feature. Their mystic robes could alone be made white in the blood. The ground on which they stood before the throne of God is one common to all saints in time and eternity. The blood of the Lamb, shed in divine purpose from the foundation of the world, is the only but adequate basis of appearing before the throne of God. “Therefore,” or on this account, “are they before the throne,” i.e., because of the blood. The blood constituted these sinners saints; the tribulation made them sufferers.

{*We do not read of any testimony borne by them.}

Rev. 7:15. — “Serve Him day and night in His temple.” We have had the historical origin of this innumerable redeemed company (v. 9); victorious too, and ascribing salvation to God and to the Lamb (vv. 9, 10). Then attention is called to the fact that they emerge out of the great tribulation, while, not their sufferings, but the blood of the Lamb gives them divine fitness to appear before the throne of God. Next we have their unceasing service, they “serve Him day and night in His temple.” Another proof is here furnished that these saints are on earth, not in Heaven, for, says the Seer in a subsequent vision, “I saw no temple therein.” Jerusalem on earth will have its temple, one of vast proportions, in which Jews and Gentiles will worship and serve in millennial days (Ezek. 40-44; Isa. 56:5-7). They are here viewed as a vast worshipping company, priests to God.*

{*“They are not only as Israel in the courts, or the nations in the world; they have a priest’s place in the world’s temple. The millennial multitudes are worshippers — these priests. As Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, even in the temple itself they have always access to the throne.” — “Synopsis of the Books of the Bible,” vol. 5, p. 603, Morrish ed.}

15. — “He that sits upon the throne shall spread His tabernacle over them.” The Authorised Version reads, “shall dwell among them;” a poor and utterly inadequate rendering of the divine thought here expressed. God spread His tabernacle over the tent of meeting of old, which thus became the centre and rest of the thousands of Israel. It covered them in the desert. Two millions and a half of people, the typically redeemed host of Jehovah, were sheltered from scorching suns and winter’s blasts by the huge canopy which God spread over them. It was the nation’s glory and defence. The marginal reference in the Authorised Version, rightly so, directs us to Isaiah 4:5, 6: “Jehovah will create over every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and over her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flame of fire by night; for over all the glory (shall be) a canopy. And there shall be a booth (or tabernacle) for a shadow in the day time from the heat, and for a refuge and for a covert from storm and from rain.” In the eternal state the tabernacle of God is with men (Rev. 21:3); in millennial times God’s tabernacle will be over them (Rev. 7:15, R.V.). What a sense of security the white-robed multitude will enjoy as they bask under the glorious overspread canopy, each member of the countless throng equally sheltered, equally protected! God’s tabernacle spread over them, and the throne in all its strength and majesty for them!

The special millennial blessings of the redeemed Gentiles are next presented, negatively and positively, and suited exactly to the new order of things under the personal sway of Christ. In the enumeration of these earthly blessings one cannot fail to see how transcendently superior are those enjoyed by the saints in Heaven. Glory with Christ in the heavens, and blessing under Christ on the millennial earth define the difference. “They shall not hunger any more, neither shall they thirst any more, nor shall the sun at all fall on them, nor any burning heat.” The reference to millennial days is undoubted (see Isa. 49:10). In these emphatic negatives* the saved Gentile multitude is assured that the privations of life, hunger and thirst, and persecution and tribulation, sun and burning heat, shall never again be their sad lot. There shall be no recurrence of past evils.

{*“ ‘No more,’ or ‘never,’ is a mode of negation so often repeated in the Apocalypse (cp. Rev. 18:22, 23) that it is somewhat peculiar to this book in respect to frequency.” — “A Commentary on the Apocalypse,” p. 561. — Moses Stuart.}

Rev. 7:17. — “Because the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall shepherd them, and shall lead them to fountains of waters of life; and God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes.” The Lamb “in the midst of the throne,”* exercising its power and expressing in Himself its majesty, will graciously provide for every need. Not angelic and providential care as now (Heb. 1:14), but the shepherd grace of the Lamb will then be in exercise — tending, caring, preserving, and guiding each and all of the redeemed Gentile multitude. He “shall lead them to fountains of waters of life,” not to channels or springs merely, but to the sources of life. The fulness and joy of earthly blessing shall be theirs, the Lamb Himself being their guide to these fountains or sources of unalloyed delight (see Isa. 12:3).

{*See remarks on Rev. 5:6.}

The closing words are unequalled in their combined depth and tenderness: “And God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes,” not the Lamb, be it observed, but God, against Whom they and we have sinned, shall Himself remove the causes and occasions of sorrow. If He wipes away every tear they shall never weep again. “Everlasting consolation” is the happy and assured portion of all His people, heavenly and earthly. The words in our text are verbally repeated in Revelation 21:4. There the eternal state is in view; here the millennial condition is in question. Both passages apply to saved people on earth, not to those in Heaven.