By J.R. Miller
"After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands."
Some people have the impression that very few will be saved, that the lost will far outnumber the redeemed. The Bible, however, gives no such impression. On the other hand, its representations are that immense numbers of the race will be saved. There are no lamentations in Scripture about empty mansions, or small choruses, or thin ranks in the final gathering in heaven. There is no intimation that the Father's house will not be filled, that the prepared places will not have occupants. Christ's redemption will not prove a failure; there are repeated indications that it will be a glorious success. In every generation there are millions who have confessed Christ, and doubtless there are always great numbers of true disciples on the earth of whom none know but God. As Christianity spreads over the world we may confidently hope that the number of the saved will be increased every year. There is no doubt, therefore, that the company of the redeemed at last will incalculably surpass the number of the lost.
John's picture, therefore, is suggestive. The multitude was one that no man could number. Then it was gathered out of all nations and tribes and tongues; this shows that the gospel is to reach all the world, and that every land shall have its quota in the great host of the redeemed at the last.
The posture of this vast company was one of high honor, as well as of great privilege. Whatever heaven may be, it seems clear that the redeemed shall be near to God and to Jesus. Elsewhere in the Scriptures we learn the same thing. The redeemed shall see Christ as He is; His servants shall serve Him and they shall see His face. The Bible everywhere represents the redeemed as dwelling in the very presence of God in heaven. They shall live always where they can have constant communion with Him, and where they can enjoy forever the blessedness of His love.
Another thought, suggested in this picture, is in the attitude of the redeemed. They stand before the Lamb. This probably indicates readiness for service. Heaven is not to be a place of idle rest--but the saved will have work to do. These powers of ours are not being trained so carefully here, to be folded up and laid away in idleness through all eternity! We are to be as the angels in heaven, and they are engaged perpetually in service before God's throne. What our work will be we, cannot tell--but we may be sure it will be suited to our enlarged capacities and powers in the heavenly life. Probably we have a hint of the work of the redeemed, in the coming to earth of Moses and Elijah at the time of Christ's transfiguration, to minister to Him and cheer Him in His way of sorrow. May it not be that in the eternal ages, all the redeemed shall be similarly employed in carrying blessings to other spheres'?
"After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands! And they cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" Revelation 7:9-10.
Here we have a glimpse of the redeemed in heaven. For one thing, their white robes indicate purity. There will be no sin in heaven. Before entering the gate, every stain will be washed away in the blood of the Lamb, and the saved will be made perfectly whole. We groan here on earth, under the humiliation of our faults and blemishes, our many infirmities and imperfections, and our corrupt hearts, which keep our lives always blotched and stained. We never can get clear of this burden of sin, in our present life. The holiest saint can never have a perfectly white robe on this earth.
But here we have a glimpse of a day coming, in which all who reach heaven shall be entirely free, and free forever, from every stain of sin! The garments of the redeemed shall be white, without one spot! Our hearts shall be thoroughly cleansed. They shall leave behind them all corruption, and shall never again have a sinful thought or feeling or desire--but seeing Christ as He is--they shall be like Him forever!
The white robes indicate not only purity--but glory! On the transfiguration mount, we see two heavenly inhabitants on a mission to earth, and we are told that they appeared in glory--in glorified forms. They were saints in their everyday heavenly dress. Here on earth, our bodies are dull, and their beauty is marred by sin; but the spiritual body will be glorious, like Christ's.
The palm branches in the hands of the redeemed, probably indicate joy and rejoicing. Heaven will be a place of great happiness and of blessed triumph. There will be no tears there, and no defeat, no failure. Those who have been always sick here--will be well there; and those who have failed here in all their earthly life--will be among the victors there.
The occupation of the redeemed in heaven will be praise. Their praise will be for salvation. They will never forget in their blessedness, that they owe it all to God's mercy, and Christ's atoning sacrifice on their behalf. They will always remember what they were by nature, and how they were redeemed and lifted up to glory--at a great cost. "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect!" 1 Peter 1:18-19
We should notice here, also, that Jesus is worshiped along with the Father in heaven. Some people tell us that Jesus was only a good man; but would all the redeemed in heaven worship a mere man?
We have a glimpse of the redeemed in heaven. "All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God." Throngs of angels mingled with them. The angels were not redeemed by Christ, as men have been, for they never sinned nor fell, and therefore they needed no redemption. Yet they are deeply interested in the salvation of sinners, and help God's saints in their earthly struggles and dangers. They are ministering spirits, who on earth minister to the heirs of salvation. They are bright, holy creatures, and it will be great joy to meet in glory, these friends that we have never seen--but who have seen us, and have done so many beautiful things for us.
Note well the question and answer of the thirteenth and fourteenth verses: "These in white robes--who are they, and where did they come from?" "These are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb!" They are not those who have lived in palaces, and have never known pain or trial. Heaven's people are those who have had much suffering on the earth. Some of them had to pass through martyr fires; some of them had to endure sore persecutions; some suffered poverty and sickness; some were wronged and oppressed; some had trial and mocking and imprisonment and cruel scourging.
The way to heaven is not always an easy way! "Through many tribulations, we must enter into He kingdom." But here we see how the saints passed through all this tribulation and are not ruined by it. It does not leave them crushed and broken. They stand beyond it all--glorious! There is an antidote to all these tribulations: washing in the blood of the Lamb removes all the scars and marks of pain and sorrow!
There will not be a want of any kind in heaven, that is unsupplied. The ills of earth are past forever, when we reach that glorious country. In this present world, life at the best is one of hunger and thirst. Even if the bodily needs are all met, there are mental and spiritual cravings that never can be supplied here. But in heaven all these desires shall be fully satisfied. Our minds shall hunger no more, because we shall know even as we are known. Our soul's cravings shall all be met, for in God we shall have all that we need.
"The One seated on the throne will shelter them: no longer will they hunger; no longer will they thirst; no longer will the sun strike them, or any heat. Because the Lamb who is at the center of the throne will shepherd them; He will guide them to springs of living waters, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes!" Revelation 7:15-17
Jesus will be our Shepherd in heaven, just as He was on earth. He called Himself the Good Shepherd, and we know that He is a faithful shepherd to His sheep in this world. He seeks the wandering and the lost, and bears them back to the fold. He feeds and leads and shelters and defends all His flock with loving care. He gave His life for the sheep--dying to save them!
Here we see Him continuing the same tender care in the heavenly life! He will never have to give His life again for the sheep in that new home. He will never have to defend them from danger, for there will be neither enemy nor danger there. He will never have to bring back any wandering or lost ones, for there none will wander away, nor be lost. He will be with them as their continual companion and friend. He will be their guide, leading them from joy to joy, from blessing to blessing--to the trees where heavenly fruits grow, and to the fountains of the waters of life!