(9) After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, (10) and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
This is a beautiful conclusion to the redemption of the 144,000 during the national judgment against the Jews! They were faithful to their Lord and Christ throughout the troubling times. It was a challenge to remain faithful (Matthew 24:10; Hebrews 10:25), but Jesus promised them: “the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13). Later, Peter preached to Jerusalem on Pentecost, and quoting from the prophecy of Joel, said “the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:20-21). Clearly it was a terrible time and difficult to endure, but God responds accordingly to this trouble with great motivation to endure till the end of those days; this is the message of Revelation, Hebrews, Peter’s epistles, and others. This scene, beginning in verse nine, is a glimpse into the lovely victor after the endurance of trouble.
“A great multitude that no one could number.” This a stunning vision of the saints who came through the judgment pictured at the opening of the sixth seal. They were numbered at 144,000 and yet they are a “great multitude that no one could number.” This points out, once again, that 144,000 is a symbolic number for this great multitude. It argues that, while God has counted his elect and knows each one (even the number of hairs on their heads), they are innumerable to all others! Counted yet uncountable. Numbered yet innumerable.
“Standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” It is an easy mistake to assume that these saints are dead, because they are seen before the throne of God. However, we can be serving before the throne of God while still being restrained in the flesh on earth. The kingdom of Christ extends to both heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18; Hebrews 12:22-24; Galatians 4:26; Revelation 21:2). The Lord has all authority now! We who are his servants are before his throne now! This is what Paul explained to the church in Ephesus: “even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:5-6). Did you see that? Paul said that we are already sitting with Christ in the heavenly places! The writer of Hebrews makes a similar point: “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:19-22). We can enter the Holy of Holies today! We can confidently enter the throne room of God, even while being confined to this earth in the flesh. There is indication in the following verses of Revelation seven that this is a vision of the saints who were still living on the earth after the judgment of the Jewish nation in the first century. They made it through the days of vengeance (Luke 21:20-22) and are now enjoying times of refreshing (Acts 3:19-21).
“Clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.” They are clean, cleared of all sin. We will find out later that they have clean garments because they had washed them in the blood of Christ (v.14). The palm branches represent victory after they have endured the tribulation of those days (v. 14). Palm branches were well known in the first century to be a symbol of victory. Even the Roman coin that was minted soon after the destruction of Jerusalem shows a Roman soldier standing proud and a crying woman (representing Judea), between them is a palm tree representing the victory of the Romans, and inscribed in Latin is “Judea Captured.”