Scripture: Revelation, chapters 5-9
Revelation 7:9-17 (NASB):
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all the tribes, peoples, and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen, blessing, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honor, power, and might belong to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
Then one of the elders responded, saying to me, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “My lord, you know.”
And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason they are before the throne of God, and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. They will no longer hunger nor thirst, nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”
Salvation Belongs to Our God
When I read this passage this morning, I was first drawn to the song of those who were gathered before the throne: Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb. That immediately brought to mind a song entitled “Salvation Belongs to Our God” (Adrian Howard and Pat Turner, Restoration Music 1985). Every time I read this passage, I think of that song! My guess is that this is just the say that these words are sung around the throne!
But as I read on, several other thoughts jumped out at me. First, the elder asks John who the singers are – not the other way around. That makes me think that this point is important; the elder did not just assume that John knew, or wait to see if John asked him. Instead, he emphasized the identity of the singers. So who are they? These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t really believe there will be a pre-tribulation rapture. It’s not a strong belief; I just think it’s inconsistent with Jesus’ teaching on trouble and persecution to think that all believers will be taken away before “the big one” happens. This passage reinforces that belief. This group of singers, who come out of the great tribulation, will be a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all the tribes, peoples, and languages. In my opinion, that’s not consistent with a tribulation period where all of the Christians are taken away before it begins.
The other thing that stands out to me is what the elder says about these people: He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. That reminds us that the word tabernacle refers to a tent. We think of God’s tabernacle primarily in connection with the wilderness wanderings of the Israelites. The tabernacle was God’s dwelling among His people. We also see the concept of “tabernacle” in connection with God is in John chapter 1. John 1:14 literally says that the Word became flesh and “tabernacled” among us. Here, in Revelation, we see that fulfilled: He will spread His tabernacle over them.
What a powerful image of God’s care and provision for His people! While this passage uses that image to refer specifically to the ones who come out of the great tribulation, we can anticipate that when we are dwelling with God in His eternal kingdom, we too will be covered by His tabernacle. And that reminds us that no matter what we face now, God is in control. And in the end, Revelation tells us, God wins!
Father, thank You for reminding us of Your care and protection for Your people. No matter what difficulties we may face, we know that You are at work for our good. Thank you, too, for the salvation that belongs to You! May we always praise and thank You for Your salvation, Your protection and Your provision. Blessing, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honor, power, and might belong to You forever and ever. Amen.