After this I beheld
What follows is a distinct vision from the preceding one, and is not a continuation of that, as if the sealing of the Jewish believers was designed by the former, and the sealing of the Gentiles in this latter; whereas in this vision there is no mention made of sealing, nor was there, or will there be any need of it in the time it refers unto; and which is not the time of the Reformation; nor when the vials began to be poured out upon the seat of the beast; for though there were great numbers converted in many nations, kindreds, people, and tongues, yet not in all; nor do the characters of this great multitude, and the happiness they shall enjoy, seem to suit with persons in a state of mortality and imperfection, ( Revelation 7:14-17 ) ; wherefore many interpreters understand this vision of the saints in heaven: but it rather respects the millennium state, or thousand years' reign of Christ with his saints on earth, with which all that is here said agrees; compare ( Revelation 7:14 ) with ( Revelation 20:4 ) ; and ( Revelation 7:15 ) with ( Revelation 22:3 ) ; and ( Revelation 7:16 Revelation 7:17 ) with ( Revelation 21:4 Revelation 21:6 ) . And the design of this vision is to show to John, and every diligent observer, that after the seventh seal is opened, the trumpets are blown, and the vials poured out; during which time there will be a number sealed that will profess Christ; and at the close and winding up of all things, in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, Christ will descend, and all the saints with him; their bodies will be raised, and the living saints changed, and make one general assembly, who are shown to John here, as in ( Revelation 21:9 Revelation 21:10 ) ; to relieve his mind, and support his spirits, in a view of the calamities ushered in by the opening of the seventh seal.
And lo, a great multitude, which no man could number;
which design all the elect of God in the new Jerusalem church state, the bride, the Lamb's wife, or the new Jerusalem descending from God out of heaven; these will appear to be a great multitude, not in comparison of the inhabitants that shall have dwelt upon earth, nor of the professors of religion in one shape or another; for, with respect to each of these, they are but a few, a seed, a remnant, a little flock; but as considered in themselves, and so they are many who are ordained to eternal life, whose sins Christ has bore, for whom his blood has been shed, and whom he justifies, and who are called by his grace, and are brought to glory; and who make up such a number as no man can number: God indeed can number them, but not man; for they are a set of particular persons chosen by God, and redeemed by Christ, and who are perfectly and distinctly known by them; their number and names are with them; their names are written in the Lamb's book of life; and God and Christ can, and do call them by their name; and when they were given to Christ, they passed under the rod of him that telleth them; and he will give an exact account of them, of every individual person, another day. But then they are not to be numbered by men; and they will be
of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues,
and therefore must consist both of Jews and Gentiles; these were not all nations, &c. but "of" all nations, some of all nations; and such God has chosen, Christ has redeemed, and the Spirit calls; God has not chosen all the Jews, but a remnant, according to the election of grace, nor all the Gentiles, but has taken out of them a people for his name; and so Christ has redeemed, by his blood, some out of every kindred, tongue, people, and nation, of Jew and Gentile: and hence the Gospel has been sent into all the world, and to all nations, for the gathering of these persons out of them; and when they are all gathered in, they will all meet together in the new Jerusalem church state, and make up the body here presented to view.
Stood before the throne and before the Lamb;
the throne of God, and of the Lamb, will be in the midst of the new Jerusalem church; the tabernacle of God will be with men, and he will dwell, among them; and before the presence of his glory will all the saints be presented; and the Lamb will then present to himself his whole church, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; and they will behold his glory, and see him as he is: and as they are described before by their number, and their descent, so here by their position and situation, and, as follows, by their habit and attire,
clothed with white robes;
agreeably to their princely and priestly characters: it was usual for princes and noblemen to be arrayed in vestures of linen, as Joseph was in Pharaoh's court; and the Jewish priests wore garments of linen, in their daily ministry and service; and in the thousand years' reign the saints will appear to be kings and priests, ( Revelation 5:10 ) ( 20:6 ) ; and accordingly will be clothed as such: and this may also be expressive of their entire freedom from sin by the blood of Christ, ( Revelation 7:14 ) ; and their complete justification by his righteousness, which is sometimes compared to white raiment, and is called fine linen, clean, and white; and likewise their spotless purity and holiness, sanctification in them being now perfect, which was before imperfect: and these robes may also design their shining robes of glory and immortality; for they will now be clothed upon with their house from heaven, and will have put off mortality and corruption, and have put on immortality and incorruption, and appear with Christ in glory; for such will be the then state of things:
and palms in their hands;
or branches of palm trees, as in ( John 12:13 ) as an emblem of their uprightness and faithfulness, which they had shown in the cause of Christ, even unto death, the palm tree being a very upright tree, ( Jeremiah 10:5 ) ( Song of Solomon 7:7 ) ; or of their bearing up under a variety of pressures and afflictions, by which they were not cast down and destroyed, but bravely stood up under them, and were now come out of them; the palm tree being of such a nature, as is reported, that the more weight is hung upon it, the higher it rises, and the straighter it grows; see ( Psalms 92:12 ) ; and chiefly as an emblem of victory and triumph over their enemies, as sin, Satan, the world and death, which they had been struggling with, in a state of imperfection, but were now more than conquerors over them; the palm tree is well known to be a token of victory. So Philo the Jew F6 says, the palm tree is (sumbolon nikhv) , "a symbol of victory". Conquerors used to carry palm tree branches in their hands F7: those who conquered in the combats and plays among the Greeks, used not only to have crowns of palm trees given them, but carried branches of it in their hands F8; as did also the Romans in their triumphs; yea, they sometimes wore "toga palmata", a garment with the figures of palm trees on it, which were interwoven in it F9: and hence here palms are mentioned along with white garments; and some have been tempted to render the words thus, "clothed with white robes", and "palms on their sides"; that is, on the sides of their robes F11. The medal which was struck by Titus Vespasian, at the taking of Jerusalem, had on it a palm tree, and a captive woman sitting under it, with this inscription on it, "Judaea capta", Judea is taken. And when our Lord rode in triumph to Jerusalem, the people met him with branches of palm trees in their hands, and cried, Hosanna to him. So the Jews, at the feast of tabernacles, which they kept in commemoration of their having dwelt in tents in the wilderness, carried "Lulabs", or palm tree branches, in their hands, in token of joy, ( Leviticus 23:40 ) ; and in like manner, these being come out of the wilderness of the world, and the tabernacle of God being among them, express their joy in this way; (See Gill on 12:13).
F6 Allegor. l. 2. p. 74.
F7 A. Gell. Noctes Attic. l. 3. c. 6. Sueton. in Caio, c. 32.
F8 Pausan. Arcadica, l. 8. p. 532. Alex. ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 5. c. 8. & l. 6. c. 19.
F9 Isidor. Hispalens. Origen. l. 19. c. 24. p. 168.
F11 Vid. Lydium de re Militare, l. 6. c. 3. p. 225.