Who are they, and from where have they come?
In the text of Rev 7:9-17, as John was witness to a great multitude of people standing before throne of God, an elder asked John “"These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and from where have they come?" (V 3).
1. Who are they-–these who inhabit heaven? These are people who have been saved eternally and who were saved from the horrors of an eternal hell fire.
Now, in the Scriptures, saved people are called Christians individually. The disciples of Christ were called Christians (Ac 11:26). Preachers of the N.T. tried to persuade people to become Christians (Ac 26:28); and yes, people sometimes suffer as Christians (1 Pet 4:16).
Again in the Scriptures, saved people are called "the church" collectively. When people are saved, the Lord adds them to His church (Ac 2:47). In N.T. times “the church” was ravaged by persecution (Ac 8:3). The church at Ephesus had elders (Ac 20:17). Christ is the head of the church (Eph 5:23). So the Scriptures call the saved people, individually “Christians” and collectively, the church (both in a local and in a universal sense).
In contrast, men have called the saved by several designations. 1. The world calls the saved people "strange" and evil (1 Pet 4:3-4). People of the world find evil in the good that the saved people do (1 Pet 3:15). Again, in the world, the faithful Christian zealous for the cause of Christ is sometimes called a trouble maker. Recall that the wicked king Ahab called Elijah the prophet a trouble maker (1 Kings 18:17). Paul and Silas were charged with making trouble in Philippi (Ac 16:19-20). Again, some called the church "a sect;" but Paul called it the kingdom of God (Ac 28:22-23). Even today, as we speak about the saved, Christians, the church, the body of Christ, and the kingdom of God; people (even religious people) think we are talking about a sect! That is a grave error.
Who are these people? They are (1) a great (numberless) multitude! (Rev 7:9). The promise made to Abraham was of a seed too numerous to count. Many religious people read of the number 144,00 in Rev 7:4 and they make the number a literal count. Their mistake is misunderstanding the numerology of the book. The number 144,000 (12x12x1000) is a complete number. It must not be taken literally; but to represent the complete multitude. The real host of heaven is innumerable “which no one could count!” Peter describes the entrance into heaven as a thing abundantly supplied (2 Pet 1:10-11).
Who are they? They are (2) a host from all nations (& not limited by social considerations). They are from every nation, tribe, people and tongue (Rev 7:9). There are no boundaries or limitations by place on earth, or social considerations like nationality, race, sex or age. The promise made to Abraham was that “in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed” (Gen 18:18). The prophet prophesied the same (Jer 27:7; Isa 66:18). Even the Lord’s great commission covered “all the nations” (Mt 28:18-20). That commission was literally fulfilled during the lifetimes of the Apostles (Col 1:23). This also fits with the fact that Christ died on the cross for people of every tribe (Rev 5:9).
Who are they (these people around God’s throne? And what they are doing (Rev 7:10-12, 15)? They are (3) a people praising God because of salvation. Back in Rev 6:14 we see in a figure the end of time. There the question is “who are those who have been able to stand?” (Rev 6:17). In our text, we read the answer. These are the saved people around God’s throne praising God because of eternal salvation. These are the ones who were standing in the faith of Jesus! They stood on earth so they are eternally saved. These have the victory in Jesus (Eph 6:10-13).
Who are they?” These are (4) the saved people: blessed of God! (Rev 7:15-17). God provides all the blessings of eternal life. Nothing bad is present in heaven: no hunger, thirst, or oppression of excessive heat. What is present is the Lamb (their shepherd); the springs (fountains) of the water of life. There, God wipes away every tear.
In the great judgment scene of Matt 25, those not saved are “accursed ones” (v 41, 46) whereas there are those who are saved eternally are “blessed of My Father” (v46). These are the truly blessed of God –the eternally saved! Men call them strange, trouble makers, evil and refer to the church as a sect; but they are the saved in heaven... and God calls them blessed.
The second question is “From where did they come?” Yes, these are people from every nation; but that does not explain their presence around the throne of God. The answer is that these are people who are clothed in white robes (Rev 7:9). These are the pure, the redeemed, the forgiven. They have palm branches in their hands: these are those who made peace with God. How did they come to be clothed in white? They have “washed their robes” (Rev 7:13-14). From were did they come They came from the washing of their robes and making them white in the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. It is the blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses us from our sins (Rev 1:5)! They came from contact with the blood when they were baptized. Their sins were washed away by baptism (Ac 22:16). The one who shed His blood, Jesus Christ taught it (Mk 16:16). They came from making their robes white by being baptized into Christ in order to have the remission of their sins.
Yes, they obeyed the gospel; but there is one other thing that they did to be saved eternally. They came out of the great tribulation (Rev 7:14). They lived through the trials and temptations of life and they endured. They stood in the battles against sin and they were victorious. They remained faithful to the Lord even unto the end. None of the perils of life were able to keep them from endurance (Rom 8:35-39). These eternally saved people not only were washed by the blood of Christ in baptism; but they also continued to walk in the light of Jesus Christ until their lives were over (1 Jn 1:7-9). Brothers and sisters, your righteousness in life, your faithfulness to your Lord is as essential to life eternal as your baptism was to begin with. Would you be washed in the blood? And will you continue to walk in the light?