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THE GREAT MULTITUDE
Rev. vii, 9-17.

by Robert Govett

Here are the results of the Second Rapture. Peter at Pentecost cites the signs which are to precede the great and terrible day of the Lord: Acts ii, I 9--2 1. Until they have come, it is the time of the proclamation of forgiveness of sins, and present salvation may go on. But in the sixth seal we have the “wonders in heaven above, and signs on the earth beneath.” “The sun is turned into darkness, and the moon into blood,” as Peter speaks. The elect out of Israel’s tribes are first shown us: Rev. vii, 1-8. They are on earth, and are sealed on the forehead, that they may escape the woes coming on the earth. Then we have the Great Multitude gathered out of all the nations. Who are they? Accepted ones of the Church of Christ are among them. Where are they? Mr. Darby strangely says, ‘they are on earth.’ He gives no proof. Only his theory requires that they should not be the Church, for the twenty-four elders are in heaven already, he says, as representatives of the Church. It is, however, perfectly clear that the Great Multitude is in heaven.

1.  Else they could not be “in front of the throne and of the Lamb.” Wherever this phrase is used, the things or persons so described are in heaven. (1) Grace and peace ... “from the seven Spirits which are before the throne:” i, 4; iv, 5. Is not the Holy Spirit hereby shown to be in heaven? (2) “Before the throne is a sea of glass :“ iv, 6. That is a part of the temple of heaven. (3) The elders worship “before the throne:” ver. 10.  Are not they in heaven? Mr. Darby supposes they are. They are ‘the rapt Church then found in heaven.’ If so, then, this multitude also are in heaven. The temple is in heaven. The throne is the centre of the temple. They stand in front of the throne. Was Israel still in Egypt when they stood before the Presence of the Lord at Sinai? Neither then is this Great Multitude in front of the throne.

2.  This Great Multitude are the priests risen from the dead. For they “serve God day and night in His temple:” ver. 15. Now the flesh could not sustain such continuous service.

3.  Moreover, the temple in which they minister is in heaven. “A door is opened in heaven" iv. 1.  John ascends, and is within the temple, and beholds in its centre the throne. See also xi, 19; xiv, 17; xv, 5; xvi, 17. ‘But I saw no temple,’ says John. No, not in the final state and place, the City of God. But till the millennium is past, the temple abides. Till then, the Great Multitude is keeping “the feast of tabernacles” on high; God himself spreading tent over them : ver. 15. They are “the tabernaclers in heaven,” and therefore they are rejoicing because they are out of the reach of Satan, who in that day is cast into earth: xii, 9. it is because of this deliverance from his power that Satan's king blasphemes them, for he cannot in any other way assail them. “He opened his mouth for blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle-those who are tabernacling in the heaven:” xiii, 6.  (True reading.)

4.  Some, if not all of them, are of the Church. They know the Father and the Son, before whom they stand. This is characteristic of the Church : 1 John. They celebrate the praises of the Father and the Son, ascribing to them their salvation. Salvation and the kingdom are now come to heaven.

5.  As possessed of white robes, they are justified. The Church is washed, as they are, from sins, in the blood of the Lamb.  White robes, to be procured by Christ, were needed by Laodicea. The remnant in the Church of Sardis should walk with Christ in white, as worthy. These then whom Christ robes in white, and leads, are of the Church: ver. 17 ; iii, 4, 5. The knowledge of the blood of the Lamb is characteristic of the Church.

6.  The expression, “the blood of the Lamb,” is only found in this book in connection with the Church: i, 5; v, 9; vii, 14; xii, 11; xxii, 14.*

     * I adopt the preferable reading: “Blessed are they that wash their robes.”

‘But these have all come out of ‘the Great Tribulation.’ And the Great Multitude (some may say) are saints risen and in heaven before the last seal is broken. Now the Great Tribulation does not begin till the first of the woe-trumpets-the fifth: viii, 13. How can these have come out of the Great Tribulation?'

There are two Great Tribulations. For Abraham has two seeds: (1) the seed as the sand of earth, and (2) the seed as the stars of the heaven : Gen. xxii. 17. And God owns the two seeds as His two people. Their history, founded on God’s principles of grace and government, is similar in respect of both, and is presented to as in the covenant of faith made with Abraham and ratified to Christ: Gen. xv, 5, 6, 18; Gal. iii, 1 7.  “Know of a surety, that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them.” These words may apply to Abraham’s heavenly seed, fixed in glory like the stars. While away from their land they are troubled by the seed of the serpent. The time of the Church is throughout one of persecution and trouble: John xvi, 33 ; Acts xiv, 22; Col. i, 24; 2 Tim. iii, 12. This, its characteristic, appears in the Lord’s epistles. None of the Churches are exempt from trouble, but those who have left their standing and are under rebuke by Christ. Two persons are named in the seven epistles as martyrs. All the occurrences of the word “tribulation” in Revelation refer to the Church : i, 9; ii, 9,10, 22.

The trouble of Abraham’s fleshly seed was to last but four hundred years. The trouble of the heavenly seed has lasted near two thousand, and with far greater severity than that endured by Israel in Egypt. But when the sixth seal has been opened, the time of mystery has ceased for the Great Multitude. The history of their deliverance is like that of Israel. The interview between John and our Lord in the first chapter, when He is seen walking amid the golden candlesticks, is like that between Moses and Jehovah at the bush. John, like Moses, is sent with a message to the elders: Ex. iv, 30. But the issue is not like that of Moses’ and Aaron’s embassy: 31. The Church of Christ occupies in grace the standing which was offered to Israel, as the result of their own obedience. To Israel it was promised that, if obedient, they should be priests and kings. Of us it is written, Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and made us kings and priests to God and His Father:” i, 5, 6. The Church has already in baptism passed through the Red Sea. The Lord in the fourth and fifth chapters of Revelation is remembering His covenant with Abraham: Ex. ii, 23-25. And from the throne proceed the active measures whereby the world is judged, and His people are rescued. The sixth seal, whereby earth and heaven are shaken, answers to God’s call to Pharaoh, to let His people go. One of His two people is thereon delivered by power. Their time of trouble is over. The other people has yet to undergo theirs: for their sins are not forgiven. “It is a terrible thing that I will do with thee,” is the chief sentiment of God’s ‘covenant of marvels’ made with Moses: Ex. xxxiv, 10. The throne of Rev. iv, in relation to the Great Multitude, is Sinai, or the Mount of God. It is also the tabernacle completed, and opened by the Moses of the better covenant. He is designated as “the Lamb.” For it is His blood, the blood of the true Passover, which has brought them near. This Lamb of God once slain and bearing the marks thereof is the deliverer out of Egypt; for He is risen, and in resurrection is become the new Moses and Aaron, the leader and high priest of the better people. Rev. vii, 9, gives us the third day” in the morning: (Ex. xix, 16), for with the Lord a thousand years is as one day, and the Great Multitude are sanctified by the better Moses. They have washed their robes, not in water, but in the blood of the Lamb. Thus the commands of the Passover in Egypt, and of the Lord at Sinai, are united. In Egypt the blood was put on the doors; at Sinai the robes were washed in water. Jehovah then descended from heaven to earth. But the heavenly people go up to their God in heaven. The Mount of God under the better covenant is still resonant with voices, thunders, lightenings; and the sixth seal recalls the day of Israel’s unwilling approach to the fiery Mount. Then notice was given, that none should touch the Mount, and the priests were commanded to sanctify them-selves, lest the Lord should burst on them in fire: Ex. xix, 22, 24. But the Great Multitude are God’s rescued ones, “borne on eagle’s wings” above the sky, and “brought unto Himself” in a higher sense than of old. They answer to the seventy-two elders who after the sprinkled blood go up to the presence of God: Ex. xxiv. They are consecrated priests also, of a better order than Aaron’s; for they draw near to the centre of the true Holiest of heaven without fear. This, their superiority, is due to “the blood of the new covenant” in its atoning and consecrating power. The Great Multitude are also like Israel at Sinai, in that they are in tents, keeping the heavenly feast of Tabernacles. For they are still on their journey. They have not yet reached the new heaven and earth, nor are they arrived at “the fountains of life’s waters,” which spring out of the throne of God in the new city, the Holy Jerusalem: xxii. But the perils and troubles of the wilderness encountered by Israel are no more to touch them. “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more, neither shall the sun light on them or any burning. (Greek, cf. Num. xi, 1-3.) For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and lead them to life’s fountains of waters.” They once felt these troubles while on earth, as Paul testifies: 1 Cor. iv, 11; 2 Cor. xi. Some were even put to death by burning. These troubles likewise befall those left on the earth through the judgments sent by the Lord. This Great Assembly was also typed by “the Great Multitude” described by John and the three first Gospels who went up with our Lord to the temple, at His last visit to Jerusalem. The disciples, a very great multitude escorted Jesus with enthusiasm both to the city and the temple. The source of the interest awakened in Jerusalem at His coming was, that He had lately raised Lazarus from the dead. But now the whole assembly consists of those raised from the tomb, and Jesus as Resurrection and Life, leads them. The first multitude shouted, ‘Save now!’ (Hosanna.) But this assembly rejoices over salvation come! Jesus and His attendant people did not take the priest’s place in the temple, but abode in the outer court. But now that the temple is the true one on high into which Jesus has entered, He and they are priests there evermore. That glad throng of yore bore fronds of palm trees, for there was in it some of the joy of Tabernacles, a token of the “rest that remaineth for the people of God,” as shown in the resurrection of the saint, Lazarus. But it was primarily the procession attending Christ as the Lamb of the Passover, and its setting apart for sacrifice, on the tenth day, before its offering on the fourteenth. At that entry into the temple they washed not their robes, but strewed them, such as they were, before the Saviour’s presence as the King. He had then to hunger, thirst, and weep, that we and they might be freed from these troubles. Jesus led that multitude to the temple; but it was garrisoned by Pharisees, elders, and chief priests, who scowled at the intruding crowd and their leader. But now all is changed; the twenty-four elders of heaven lift up their voices in praise of the Lamb, and the angels add their attestations, as did the children of old in the temple. On that occasion, certain Greeks wished to see Jesus, and the notice of their inquiry was borne to our Lord. He thereupon utters his comparison of Himself to a grain of wheat which must die and be buried, ere it can multiply itself. Behold, then, in this vast assembly of the redeemed out of every nation, the proofs of the Saviour’s foresight, the merits of His blood, the reproductive power of His death and resurrection.

The next rapture is that of the two martyred prophets: Rev. xi. Their spirit is that of the law, while their history is like Christ’s. For three years and a half they work miracles, overcoming the enmity which arises against them by slaying their foes. At length they are encountered by one who rises from among the dead; and He prevails against them, when the power of mortal men availed not. Joy bursts forth at their death. They are not allowed burial, but their corpses lie in the street of the city that slew their Lord and ours. For three days and a half they thus lie, till corruption has set in on their ghastly, pale, bruised, discoloured bodies. Then the Spirit of life from God enters them, and they stand up, to the amazement and dismay of those that rejoice over their death. But ere the breathless pause of surprise which chills their persecutors is past, they are called up to the heaven, and like their Lord ascend thither in the cloud. As an earthquake attended the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, so does it wait on their arising. But the latter earthquake, unlike that at the Saviour’s coming forth of the tomb, is the swift messenger of death to millions. Seven thousand of the first-born of the Gentiles, and of the city spiritually called Egypt, ‘men of name’ out of all lands gathered there are cut off; and great is the woe and the consternation. If their resurrection be like that of our Lord in another point of view, “many bodies of saints” will arise with them, and probably ascend with them too.

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