H^2, chaps. vii.9 -- 6.
The Great Multitude and the Seventh Seal.
We now come to the second Vision |in Heaven.| It contains a yet further answer to the question of vi.17: |Who shall be able to stand| in the judgment? while it commences the second pair of Visions: viz., the opening of the seventh Seal |in heaven,| and the consequent sounding of the six Trumpets |on earth.|
The Structure of the Vision, as a whole, is as follows: --
H^2. vii.9 -- 6. The Second Vision in Heaven.
The Great Multitude and the Seventh Seal.
H^2 A vii.9-12. The Heavenly Voices and utterances. B 13, 14. The Great Multitude. Whence they came. B 15-17. The Great Multitude. Where they are.
A vii.1-6. The Heavenly Silence and Activities (Seventh Seal).
Each of these four larger members may be expanded; and we give the expansions in order, with translation, as before.
A. vii.9-12. The Heavenly Voices and Utterances.
A a 9. The great multitude.
b 10. Their utterance. |Salvation to our God.|
a 11, 12-. All the angels.
b -12. Their utterance. |Blessing and
TRANSLATION OF |a|, vii.9.
The Great Multitude.
vii.9. After these things] the expression marks a separation from what has gone before, and introduces the second distinct Vision |in heaven.|
I saw, and lo, a great multitude, which no one was able to number, out of every nation, and of all tribes and peoples, and tongues (Gen. x.5, 20, 31. Dan. iii.4, 5; iv.1; vi.25), standing before the throne, and before the Lamb, arrayed with white robes, and palm branches in their hands;] The definite number of Israelites (vii.1-8) stands in marked contrast to this innumerable company of Gentiles. We say Gentiles, because this Vision carries us on to the end, as the preceding Vision of the sealing carried us back to the beginning. We are, here, beyond Matt. xxiv., and even xxv. Two distinct companies are named, first |Jews,| then |Gentiles.| Thus both are marked off from |the church of God,| which is now composed of both Jews and Gentiles. The twelve tribes of vii.4-8 are distinct from people out of |all tribes.| That they are distinct from |the church of God| is further shown, in that they are |standing| in the position of servants (and not seated); and are |before the throne| (not upon it). True, they share the same salvation, and by the same precious merits of the blood of the Lamb. But as |star differeth from star in glory| (1 Cor. xv.41), so do these differ in their position, dignity, and honour. They are saved, but for what? and for which one of the |many mansions|? They are seen |in heaven,| but not until after the Great Tribulation through which and out of which they will have been brought.
Not only will this elect remnant of Israel survive |through| the Tribulation, but a countless multitude from all the Gentile nations will be saved |out| of it.
Constantly do we find Gentile blessing consequent upon Israel's blessing. First, God deals with Israel, and then with mankind in general. This stated in many passages: e.g., Ps. lxvii.1:
|God be merciful to us, and bless us;
And cause his face to shine upon us:
That thy way may be known upon earth,
Thy saving health among all nations.|
The same fact is stated in verse 7:
|God shall bless us.
And all the ends of the earth shall fear him.|
Again in Ps. xcviii.3, we read:
He hath remembered his mercy,
And his truth toward the house of Israel:
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.|
So in Isa. xlix.6, Jehovah says to Messiah:
|It is a light thing
That thou shouldest be my servant,
To raise up the tribes of Jacob,
And to restore the preserved of Israel;
I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles,
That thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.
So Isa. lii.9, 10:
|Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem. For the Lord hath comforted his people.
He hath redeemed Jerusalem.
The Lord hath made bare his holy arm
In the eyes of all the nations,
And all the ends of the earth shall see
The salvation of our God.|
The palm-branches speak not merely of victory, as with the heathen, but of the Feast of Tabernacles (see Lev. xxiii.39-43). It was not a feast for the wilderness, but for the time |when ye be come into the Land.| (Lev. xxiii.10). And yet it was never kept in the Land by all Israel. Not until the return from Babylon was it kept (See Neh. viii.16, 17). Then |all the people shouted with a great shout| (Ezra iii.11, 12.2 Chron. xx.19. So here, in like manner it will be again kept.
b., vii.10. Their utterance.
10. And they cry with a loud voice, saying
|Salvation to our God
That sitteth upon the Throne,
And to the Lamb.|
They ascribe their salvation and their deliverance from the Tribulation which they had passed through, to God. A paraphrase would be, |Praise for our salvation be to our God,| etc. The church calls God |my Father| (|Abba,| Rom. viii.15), but the Sealing Angel speaks of Him as |our God| (ch. vii.3). The assembled angels say |our God| (ch. vii.12), and this great multitude say |our God| (ch. vii.10).
a., vii.11, 12-, All the angels, etc., and b., Their utterance.
vii.11. And all the angels were standing around the throne, and around the Elders and the four Zoa, and they fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, (12) saying,
Blessing, and glory, and wisdom,
and thanksgiving, and honour, and
power, and might, be unto our
God, for ever and ever.
Such is the sevenfold ascription of the heavenly host standing around the throne, the elders and the Zoa. It is similar to that in chap. v.12, but the order of the words is different, and thanksgiving is here put instead of |riches.| There the ascription was to the Lamb. Here it is to |our God.|
We next have the explanation of the Vision; and the Question which one of the Elders put to John shows that we should have a like spirit of holy enquiry. It is not mere abstract wonder that God looks for in us now, but a reverential interest in what He has revealed in the Visions of this book.
The following is the Structure of B., chap. vii.13, 14: B. vii.13, 14. The Great Multitude: Whence they came.
B c vii.13-. The Elder.
d f -13-. Persons
g -13-. Place
e 14-. John.
c -14-. The Elder.
d g -14-. State
f -14. Persons
TRANSLATION of B, vii.13, 14.
vii.13. And one of the Elders answered saying (i.e., by the Figure, Idiom |asked me, saying|) unto me,
|These who are arrayed in white
robes, Who are they? and Whence came they?
(14) and I said, my lord, thou knowest. And he said to me, |These are they who come out of the Great Tribulation, and they
washed their robes, and made them white through the blood of the Lamb]
Not |in the blood|; nothing under the Law was ever washed |in blood,| nothing can be made white |washed in| blood. It is through a forced literal meaning of the preposition (...) (en) which has led to this false notion. This preposition constantly means by, or through: and is translated |by| 142 times and |through| 37 times. (See Matt. ix.34; v.34, 35. Gal. iii.11.2 Tim. ii.10). In this very book (v.9) it is rendered |by.| So here and in i.5 this must be the meaning. This is the standing of |works|; and not our standing in |grace,| as in the present dispensation. We are |washed, justified, and sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God| (1 Cor. vi.11). These have washed their own robes, and made them white. This is followed by the consequence: --
B. vii.15-17. The great multitude: Where they are.
B h i 15-. The Multitude. Position before the throne j -15. God upon the throne.
h i 16. The multitude. Their Blessing.
j 17. God. The Lamb the Blesser.
15. |For this cause are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he who sitteth upon the throne shall spread his tabernacle over them.] This is exactly what we read in Isa. iv.5, 6.
|And the Lord will create
Upon every dwelling place of Mount Zion,
And upon her assemblies,
A cloud and smoke by day,
And the shining of a flaming fire by night;
For above all the glory shall be a covering (marg., Heb. (...) (chuppah), the marriage canopy, for the marriage of the Lamb will have come)
And there shall be a tabernacle
For a shadow in the day time from the heat
And a place of refuge, and for a covert
From storm and from rain.|
They perform priestly service day and night, and fulfil the duties of |servants,| for they |serve before the throne.| Other Old Testament passages referred to here are Lev. xxvi.11. Ezek. xxxvii.27.
And then, alluding to the privations and trials they have undergone, we have further earthly blessings: --
h. vii.16, 17. The Blessing and the Blesser.
The Blessing: Negative
h k 16-. No hunger.
l -16-. No thirst.
m -16. No suffering.
The Blesser: Positive
h k 17-. Hunger satisfied.
l -17-. Thirst assuaged.
m -17. Sorrow banished.
16. |They shall not hunger any more, nor yet thirst any more; neither shall the sun in any wise fall upon them; no, nor any burning heat. (17) Because the Lamb that is in the midst of the Throne shall tend them (as a shepherd), and shall lead them unto the fountains of the waters of life: and God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes|] Thus ends the Elder's description of the great multitude and their ultimate blessings. The blessings of the Church are heavenly. We have the same blessing prophesied in Isa. xlix.8-10; xxv.8; and lxv.19. Jer. xxxi.16. Thus are Israel's blessings extended to Gentiles. The fulfilment is seen in Rev. xxi.3, 4; xxii. i. and Ezek. xlvii.
The Seventh Seal (viii.1-6).
From the Structure of this Second Vision |in Heaven| we saw that this last great member A (viii.1-6) is set in contrast and corresponds with A (vii.9-12), the Heavenly voices and utterances.
We have shown that the six Seals cover not only the whole period of the Great Tribulation, but that the sixth bring us right up to the great day of wrath; co-terminous, apparently, with chap. xi.17, 18 (the seventh Trumpet), and chap. xx. (the final Judgment).
But that, whereas the seventh Trumpet expands into the seven Vials -- which are consecutive -- the sixth Seal is followed by silence in heaven, as though to break off all continuity, and to show us that we have to go back and learn how the details of the judgments of the Seals are to be filled in.
The following is the Structure of viii.1-6, describing the close of this second Vision |in Heaven|:
A. viii.1-6. The Heavenly Silence and Activities. (The Seventh Seal.)
A n p 1. Silence in heaven.
q 2. The 7 angels and the 7 Trumpets.
o r 3. Another angel with
censer and prayers.
s 4. Result. Smoke
ascended up to heaven.
o r 5-. The angel with censer
s -5-. Result. Fire
descended to the earth.
A n p -5. Sounds on the earth.
q 6. The 7 angels and the 7 Trumpets.
The breaking of the seventh Seal, instead of producing one single result, as the other six had done is closed by this |silence,| which seemed to John to last half an hour; after which, John is shown how the prayers of the saints under the fifth Seal are presented (verses 3, 4), and answered (verse 5), by the commencement of a series of judgments ushered in by the sounding of seven Trumpets. But we will first give the translation of viii.1-6.
viii.1. And when he opened the seventh seal, there was (i.e., became, came on, or followed) silence in heaven about half an hour.] At the sounding of the seventh Trumpet there are |great voices in heaven| (xi.5). And at the pouring out of the seventh Vial, a great voice came out of the throne (xvi.17).
But this |silence| means more than that. It marks very solemnly the pause between the prayer and the answer, which shall turn the prayer into praise. On earth, the cry of the saints has been incessant. They |cry day and night.| In heaven the cry is now about to be answered, and there is a solemn pause -- the silence of expectation.
The Heb. (...) (dumeyyah) silence (fem. adj.), which occurs four times, exactly expresses the position.
(1) |O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; And in the night season, there is no silence to me. But thou art holy,
O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel| (Psa. xxii.2, 3 (3, 4).
(2) |I was dumb with silence (Psa. xxxix.2 (3)). (3) |Truly my soul is silence toward God:
From him cometh my salvation| (Psa. lxii.1 (2)).
(4) |There shall be silence before thee,
And praise, O God, in Zion.
O thou that hearest prayer,
Unto thee shall all flesh come| (Psa. lxv.1 (2) RV. marg.).
In all these four passages the word denotes a period of waiting between the offering of the prayer, and the giving of the answer which shall call forth praise. The adverb in Lam. iii.26 exactly expresses it: |It is good when one doth wait even in silence for the salvation of Jehovah.|
That goodness is here seen, for the prayers offered on earth are, during this period of silence, formally presented before God, and the answer is formally announced in the preparation of the seven angels to sound their Trumpets and declare war against Satan and all his hosts. This is what is now seen by John.
2. and I saw the seven angels] i.e., at the expiration of the half-hour. Not merely seven angels, but THE seven, because well known, and before referred to as |the seven spirits which are before the throne| (i.4; iii.1; iv.5; v.6), for |he maketh his angels spirits| (Heb. i.7).
At the breaking of the seventh Seal there is silence. This shows that here we have a pause with a view of a return, to fill up details. While in the other two (the Trumpets and Vials) we have continuous and consecutive and consequent action arising from the seventh Trumpet.
who stand in the presence of God;] In chap. iv.5, they are the called THE seven spirits of God (So. iii.1) for it is said of the angels: He |maketh His angels spirits| (Heb. i.14). The word (...) (pneumata) spirits, is used of any spiritual being. In chap. v.6 also we again read of |THE seven spirits sent forth into all the earth.|
There seems to be no doubt but that all these passages relate to the same seven |Presence-Angels.|
In Dan. iv.13 (10), 17 (14), 23 (20), they are called (...) (irin) watchers (Greek, (...) (egregoroi), lxx. Lam. iv.14). This term is from Ps. ciii.20, i.e., those who watch and wait for the Divine commands. That GABRIEL is one of these is clear from Luke i.19. MICHAEL may be another.
and there was given unto them seven trumpets.] By whom they were given is not stated. But they were given by direction from the Throne; the action of which is now renewed, though it is changed. The Lamb opened the Seals, but Angels sound the Trumpets. The Seals were opened in secret; the Trumpets publicly proclaim war. (See Num. x.9. Judges vi.34; iii.27; vii.8, 16, 18.1 Sam. xiii.3. Jer. iv.5. Job xxxix.25. Rev. xiv.14). They notify also the presence of the great and terrible day of the Lord. See Zeph. i.14-16.
3. And another angel came and took his stand at the altar, having a golden censer;] We are not told who this other angel was, and therefore it is simple speculation to assert, as many do, that he was the Lord Jesus Himself. The golden censer belonged to the Holy Place (Heb. ix.4), and it was the golden altar on which the incense was offered.
And there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar that was before the throne. (4) And the smoke of the incense went up before God, with the prayers of the saints, out of the hand of the angel.] We have here a Vision of events in Heaven, from which we learn that Heaven is a place of great and grand realities; the dwelling-place of God, in which Heavenly worship is carried on. The Tabernacle on earth and its worship; and afterward the Temple with its ordinances, were only copies of the realities in heaven; |figures of the true,| and |patterns of things in the heavens.| |Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the Tabernacle: for, see, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount| (Heb. viii.5; ix.23, 24). In like manner was David admonished, when he received the plan and pattern of the Temple |in writing| from God (1 Chron. xxviii.11-13, 19).
The prayers of the martyred saints were over, but the cry of their blood from the ground is voiced in words (vi.10). These prayers are the living saints, the people of the book; the 144,000, and the great multitude before they are taken out of the great Tribulation, who |cry day and night unto Him| (Luke xviii.7). We have specimens of these prayers, given (proleptically) in the Psalms:
|Give them according to their deeds,
And according to the wickedness of their endeavours: Give them after the work of their hands;
Render to them their desert| (Psa. xxviii.4).
|Do unto them as unto the Midianites;
As to Sisera, as to Jabin, at the brook of Kishon| (Ps. lxxxiii.9).
And the very Psalm which likens prayer to incense, also contains similar prayers (Ps. cxli.1, 2, 7, 10).
|Lord, I cry unto thee:
Make hast unto me:
Give ear unto my voice, when I cry unto thee.
Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense;
And the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice... Our bones are scattered at the grave's mouth,
As when one cutteth and cleaveth wood upon the earth... Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
Whilst that I withal escape (marg. Heb. pass over).
The Golden altar |is before the throne.| So it was in the earthly copy of the heavenly pattern. It was |before the vail that is by the ark of the testimony, before the mercy-seat that is over the testimony| (Ex. xxx.6; xl.5, 26).
5. And the angel took the censer, and filled it from the fire of the altar (Lev. xvi.12), and he cast the fire unto the earth: and there were thunderings, and voices, and lightnings, and an earthquake.] We have a similar scene in Ezek. x.2, &c., where the fire is taken from between the cherubim under the throne, and scattered over the city of Jerusalem in token of its destruction. So here: that on which the fire falls is to be consumed and destroyed. This is the answer to the prayers which had been so solemnly offered. In other places |fire| is mentioned as one of the judgments which He will send on the earth. (see Ezek. xxxix.6; xxxviii.22. Hos. viii.14. Amos i.4, 7, 10, 12; ii.5). Compare Deut. xxxii.22.
This very scene is prophesied in similar words in Ps. xviii.4, 6-8: |The floods of ungodly (marg., Belial) men made me afraid... In my distress I called upon the Lord,
And cried unto my God:
He heard my voice out of his Temple,
And my cry came before him, even into his ears.
Then the earth shook and trembled;
The foundations also of the hills moved
And were shaken, because he was wroth,
There went up a smoke out of (marg., by) his nostrils, And fire out of his mouth devoured:
Coals were kindled by it.|
The fulfilment of the next verse, which speaks of this actual descent, is deferred here by the description of other events which are also to take place.
6. And the seven angels who had the seven Trumpets made themselves ready that they might sound them.] The prohibition of vii.1 is now about to be removed. Twice the sevenfold enunciation is given, and the reproach of Ps. lxxix.11, 12 is about to be rewarded |sevenfold,| in answer to the prayers which had been offered.
This heavenly vision is a vision showing what will one day literally take place. If they are Symbols, they are symbols of solemn realities. If they are Figures, they are figures, not of speech, but of facts. Just as the judgments of God at the time of the Exodus were real and literal; and the announcements of them were literally fulfilled, so will these be. For they are exactly what is foretold. |According to the days of thy coming out of the land of Egypt will I show him marvellous things| (Mic. vii.15).
Indeed, we are distinctly told that the physical marvels of that day shall be |like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt| (Is. xi.15, 16).
We are even told in Jer. xxiii.7, 8 that the coming judgments (for which preparation is now made, Rev. viii.1-6) shall exceed those which God performed in Egypt, and the covenant of marvels we must once more quote as being conclusive on this point:
|Behold I make a covenant: before all thy people I WILL DO MARVELS, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among which thou art shall see the work of the Lord: for it is a TERRIBLE THING that I will do with thee| (Ex. xxxiv.10, and compare Deut. xxviii.10).