After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no one could number, of all nations and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these who,are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said unto me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made 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 sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them nor any heat. For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and For shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”(Rev.7:9-15).
The identification of this special group, a great multitude which no one could number is very crucial to the timing of the Rapture. The traditional view of pretribulationists on this great multitude as exemplified by John F. Walvoord is that Rev.7 does not advance the narrative, but draws attention to two major groups of saints in the tribulation. He describes the opening portion of the chapter as picturing the 144,000 representative of the godly remnant of Israel on earth in the great tribulation. The latter part he describes a great multitude of martyred saints in heaven, those who died as a testimony to their faith from every kindred, tongue and nation. However, it is not recorded any where in their description in considerable details that they are all martyred saints.
In Rev.6, at the breaking of the fifth seal, martyred saints are described. Their martyrdom occurred during the Great Tribulation at the hand of the antiChrist. “And when he had broken the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and the testimony which they held.”(Rev.6:9). They cried out to God for their blood to be avenged on the perpetrators of their martyrdom ” them that dwell on the earth”(Rev.6:10). God answered in the affirmative. They were given white robes and told to “rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.”(Rev.6:11). There is a complement of believers to be martyred. When that number is complete, God amputates the Great Tribulation by the antiMessiah with cosmic disturbances. These martyred saints are given glorified eternal immortal resurrection bodies on the first day of the millennium. “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded(cephalizo) for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had receive his mark upon their foreheads, or in their right hands; and they live and reigned with Christ a thousand years.”(Rev.20:4).
The great multitude which no could number in Rev.7, is a different group from the martyrs under the fifth seal in Rev.6. For the following reasons.
They are so numerous that they cannot be numbered. This is a figure of speech, a hyperbole, an overstatement. It simply means that they are a very great and large number of people. Given some time they could be numbered, but it will be difficult to number them in a short while. This is in marked contrast to the 144,000 that could be easily number in short while.
They are international in scope. They include all nations, kindreds, peoples, and languages or tongues. “After this I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.”(Rev.7:9). In contrast to the fifth seal martyrs, they are simply said to be martyrs. No information was provided on their nationalities. It is most probable they are also international in scope. But that information was not given in the relevant passage of the Scriptures.
The fifth seal saints are said to be martyrs under the altar of the temple in Heaven. There is no biblical evidence this great innumerable multitude are martyrs. A martyr is a saint, a believer in Jesus Christ who is slain for for his faith. For this great multitude to be martyrs, one must postulate that after the Rapture, within the 70th Week of Daniel, in the second half but prior to the cosmic disturbances, a universal multitude of such great magnitude that they could not be enumerated, were saved, baptized, became witnesses for Christ, and were slain for their testimony, appear in Heaven, and are now seen before the throne of God. There is no biblical evidence that such evangelistic success occurred. According to Pretribulation rapturism, the 144,000 have just been sealed. There is no indication that the two witnesses have met with any success in their ministry(Rev.1:3-10). Besides, it is debatable whether the three angelic announcements have been made(Rev.14:6). If these are martyrs, how can one account for this innumerable international and universal multitude of believers after the church is taken away, and God is dealing primarily with Israel according to pretribulationists.
(4) Resurrection Bodies
In Rev.6, the martyrs are souls under the altar. They have not yet received their glorified eternal immortal resurrection bodies. They are souls “under the altar”(Rev.6:9). They are disembodied souls and spirits without glorified eternal immortal resurrection bodies. What the Apostle, John, the revelator saw was their spirit bodies. The soul is internal to the spirit body. It is fluid and invisible even in the spirit realm. The soul is the constellation of the will, intellect and emotion. The spirit body corresponds more or less to the physical body. There is a physical body. There is also a spirit body, and there is a glorified eternal immortal resurrection body(a spiritual body).
In contrast, the great multitude which no man could number in Rev.7, are standing “before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.”(Rev.7:9). They are resurrected saints; they have received their glorified eternal immortal resurrection bodies. They are clothed with immortality.
(5) Appeal For Vengeance
In Rev.6, the souls under the altar appeal to God for vengeance for their blood(Rev.6:9,10). In contrast the great multitude in Rev.7, are proclaiming with a loud voice, “Salvation to our God who sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb.”(Rev.7:10).
In Rev.7, the Apostle John the revelator did not know who this great innumerable multitude were. He did not recognize them. When the elder asked him, “who are these…? “(v.13). His response was, “Sir, thou knowest” v.14). The answer is a clear admission that he did not recognize them. In contrast to Rev.6, John the revelator immediately recognized them as those “slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held” ( Rev.6:9).
The question one would ask would be if this great innumerable multitude with universal representation who suddenly appear in heaven, are not martyrs, who are ? The great innumerable and universal multitude, appearing in heaven, clothed with white robes which signal righteousness, and standing in the presence of God with palms in their hands, signaling justification and triumph, is the raptured church. This event occurs immediately prior to the breaking of the seventh seal which signals the beginning of the outpouring of the wrath of God(Rev.8:1). The church is raptured before the wrath of God begins. “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ(1 Thess.1:5:9).
John is asked two questions concerning this innumerable multitude by the elder: “who are these arrayed in white robes?” , and “From whence do they come?”(Rev.7:13). John did not know the answer to any of the two questions. The elder, the interviewer answered those questions himself. With regards to the question, who are they, he told John they are those who “washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” And for the question, “from whence did they come, he told him, “These are they which came out of the Great Tribulation”(Rev.7:14). It is therefore most probable that the small, and supposedly insignificantly church of the First Century AD have become a Great innumerable multitude.
“And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God”(Rev.7:11).
We see here that a heavenly host was worshipping God in the Throne Room in Heaven in the behalf of this great multitude, but the church is no where to be found, conspicuously absent as it were. If the church have been raptured pretribulationally, one would expect the church to be present amongst the welcoming heavenly host. We conclude therefore that the great innumerable and universal multitude is the raptured church in Heaven. It is the church that entered the 70th week of Daniel, went through the Great Tribulation, some of whom were martyred, emerged triumphant, and were raptured after the cosmic disturbance that terminated the Great Tribulation, but prior to the breaking of the seventh seal which commences the outpouring of the wrath of God upon the living wicked earth-dwellers, adorers, and worshippers of the antiMessiah.
The symmetry, balance, and timing of Rev.7 should not be missed. It is sandwiched between Rev.6:12-17 after the cosmic disturbance which announces the outpouring of the wrath of God, and Rev.7:1-8, which is the sealing of the 144,000, and Rev.8:1, which is the breaking of the seventh, the commencement of the outpouring of the wrath of God. In Rev.8, the wrath of God begins. In Rev.7, the church is raptured. But immediately prior to the rapture of the church, the 144,000 from the twelves tribes of Israel are sealed for protection prior to the outpouring of the wrath of God. God will not leave Himself without a witness and a representation on Earth. If at any point in time there is no divine representation on Earth, then, Satan has become the sovereign lord of the Earth. But that would not be allowed to happen. The 144,000 are sealed for protection to go through the wrath of God in order that the church can be raptured to the Throne Room in Heaven.