The Great Multitude

By: Dr. Renald Showers; ©2006
Some claim that the great multitude from every tongue, tribe and nation whom John sees in Heaven are the Church. Dr. Showers explains why he disagrees with that notion.


The Great Multitude

In the second half of Revelation 7, John said that he saw a great multitude up in Heaven. We read in Revelation 7:9ff,

After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude which no man 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 sits 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 honor and power and might be unto our God forever and ever. Amen.” And one of the elders answered saying unto me, “What are these which are arrayed in white robes and whence came they?” And I said unto him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are they which came out of great tribulation [the Greek says literally “out of the great tribulation] and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

Some claim that this great multitude from every tongue, tribe and nation who obviously are up in Heaven—John sees them there—are the Church which has just been raptured out of the world to Heaven as one body in between the breaking of the sixth seal and the breaking of the seventh seal.

And some would say, “See, the sixth seal is the forewarning that The Day of the Lord is about to begin but then after the breaking of the sixth seal the Church is removed from the earth by Rapture and then with the breaking of the seventh seal you have The Day of the Lord beginning with God’s wrath starting to be poured out upon planet Earth.”

So is this “the great multitude” the Church? It really can’t be. Let me explain to you why we would say that. Please note that the Apostle John clearly stated that all these people who make up this great multitude came out of the great tribulation. In other words, every one of these persons was living here on the earth during at least part of the future Great Tribulation and then come out of that to Heaven.

If this is the Church, then you’re forced to conclude this would be a partial Rapture of the Church or a part of the Church being raptured out of the world. Only that part of the Church which would be alive on the earth during the Great Tribulation of the second half of the 70th week of Daniel 9. Where would be all the rest of the Church that has lived and died in the centuries preceding the Great Tribulation and who as a result of dying in preceding time will never be here on the earth during the Great Tribulation and therefore do not come out of the Great Tribulation?

When you look at the Rapture passages, it clearly indicates that all the Church is raptured together at the same time as one group, not those from one period of time at one point and those from another point of time at another point.

In light of that, if this is the Church, this is a partial Rapture of the Church but that goes completely contrary to the clear teaching of the Rapture passages in the Bible. In addition, when one of the 24 elders said to John, “These are they which came out of the great Tribulation,” the verb translated “came” is in the Greek present tense. The normal significance of the present tense—unless the context indicates other­wise, which it doesn’t do here—the normal significance of the Greek present tense is continuous action.

So in essence, the elder is saying to John, “These are they who are coming out continuously, one after another, from the Great Tribulation to Heaven.” How? Through death, through martyrdom, or through natural death. Interestingly, Dr. A. T. Robertson who has been regarded as the foremost Greek scholar of America in the twentieth century, talking about the significance of the present tense of this exact verb here in Revelation 7:14 says it’s indicating continuous action. And again, what it’s stating is, these saints are coming out of the Great Tribulation one by one by one by one as they’re experiencing death, either through martyrdom or natural death throughout the course of the second half of the Great Tribulation.

By contrast, the Rapture passages indicate that the Church is not raptured one person and then another person and then another person, but the Church is raptured in one lump sum, one group, at the same time caught up from the earth to meet the Lord Jesus in the air and taken to the Father’s house in Heaven to live in the man­sions there that Jesus is preparing for His Church right now.

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