Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. –Revelation 7:16, 17
Revelation 7:16, 17 “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat on them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Revelation 6 describes for us with very vivid imagery the judgment of mankind, the destruction of the earth, and the terror of mankind. The chapter ends describing the wrath of the Lamb and the question, “For the day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” That day, with all of its woes, is more fully described in Revelation 8 when the Lamb who sits on the throne opens the seventh seal. Between the opening of the sixth and seventh seals, however, there is an interlude that is meant to bring comfort to God’s people.
A Great Conflict
Revelation 6 ended in a most terrifying way. It described the panic of the wicked and the terror that struck their hearts. They cried out for the mountains to fall on them and the rocks to cover them so that they might hide from the wrath of the Lamb. The great day of judgment and the return of Jesus Christ are upon us, and the people cry out concerning that day, “Who will be able to stand?”
In fact, we wonder if we will be able to stand in that day. Fear wells up in our hearts that we, too, shall be consumed in that great day right along with the wicked of the world. After all, we are no better than they are. Filled with doubt, we wonder if we are really in Christ or just Christian by name only. Shall we enter into that glorious kingdom that Christ has prepared for those who confess His name and obey Him? Will He confess us before the Father, or will we be left outside the gate with the Lord of Hosts saying to us, “Depart from Me; I never knew you.”
Before the Holy Spirit inspires John to describe more fully the woes of the judgment period in connection with the opening of the seventh seal, He comforts the hearts of believers in this beautiful seventh chapter. Here our ever-gracious God gives us a glimpse of the end. He assures us that none who believe, none who confess Jesus as their Savior, none who call on the Lamb and acknowledge His sacrifice as their sole ground of salvation will be destroyed.
From every nation and tribe, among all people and every language, God’s elect people will one day stand before the throne of God. Notice that the Elder says nothing about the multitude being rich or poor, being kings or servants, as he did in the previous chapter concerning those who are under the wrath of the Lamb. Status was important to those who were mentioned in the previous chapter. That is what they lived for. Their whole life was their position in this world. It determined who they were.
Certainly there will be great men and women among the saints who are saved—heroes of faith as listed in Hebrews 11. There will also be many whose names we have never heard—old and young alike. There will be men who lived to be in their 900s, like Adam, Seth, Methuselah, and Noah; and babies who were just born. But status and age are not important. There is one thing that all of the elect have in common: they are clothed in white robes; they have been washed in the blood of the Lamb.
The one qualification for heaven has nothing to do with your status here on earth. It is not your wealth, power, upbringing, or membership to a particular church. The qualification for membership in the heavenly kingdom is that you have been washed by the blood of the Lamb who sits on the throne and that you are clothed in His righteousness. The goal of every parent for their children should not be that they become kings or generals, or that they have good jobs and good educations. The goal of every parent should be that their children know Christ and Him crucified. Our values are not to come from temporal things; we must seek that which comes from above.
The Bible tells us all about the great antithesis—the battle between good and evil. It began with man’s defeat in Genesis 3 when man rebelled against God. The very first man we read about who made a sacrifice to Jehovah was killed by his brother. From there, our track record never improved.
Yet the Bible does not end with the defeat of the human race. Instead it tells us about the Messiah who came to save us from our sins. While the kings of the earth may call for the mountains to fall on them, those washed in the blood of Jesus Christ sing out, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb” (v. 10). The victory has been won! Christ has come and won the victory over evil. How necessary for the Christian to keep ever before him the great victory that Christ has won for him on the cross. We are to keep in mind that new heaven and that new earth toward which we are hastening. How quickly we can be removed from this world. How quickly we may face the judgment. That should not surprise the Christian. “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27–28). How certain we must be that we are counted among those to whom the Master says, “He that endures to the end shall be saved.”
The great battle of the tribulation is unfolding before us. It will not get easier. To comfort His people going through the time of tribulation, God reveals to John the 144,000 sealed ones. This number is not to be taken literally as some do, claiming it to be the number of Jews who will be converted in the last days—12,000 from each tribe. If it were so, one would be compelled to ask why Levi is mentioned when Dan is not. Why would Joseph be mentioned but not Ephraim? Nor are we to think, as some do, that there are 144,000 saints in some upper chamber of heaven with a greater reward than the rest of the saints.
The number 144,000 is the square of 12 multiplied by one thousand. It is a typical, large, and perfect number in apocalyptic literature. It represents the spiritual Israel, the true children of Abraham. It means that throughout the world God has His people. It is a large number. It is a certain number. And it is a complete number. When the very last one of God’s elect is born, Christ will come again.
Not one of God’s elect will be forgotten; not one will be left behind. From the oldest to the youngest, God knows His elect. Whether there is a lingering illness or a sudden accident, whether in the Emergency Room or at home in bed, whether through torture and persecution or in one’s sleep late at night, whether you can still recognize your spouse and children or your mind is completely gone, not one of God’s elect will be missing from that complete number chosen by God already before the foundation of the world. All of those that are sealed into Christ’s sacrifice will be preserved even through those fearful times when so many others will fall away. The love of others may grow cold, but the love that the elect have for Christ will remain. Greater still is the love that Christ has for them. The love of the Lamb, who is their shepherd, will carry them into the glory that awaits them.
In Revelation 7 the saints of God are no longer under the altar praying for divine vengeance as they were when the fifth seal was opened. Here they stand triumphantly before the throne of God. They give an answer to the question asked by those who desire the mountains to fall on them: “Who then shall stand?” It is a multitude without number that will stand.
Even though the multitude may be without number, the Lamb knows each one by name. He knows every trial they have faced, every hardship they have endured. He knows because He has led them through those trials and hardships for, lo and behold, the Lamb who sits on the throne is their Shepherd. He leads His sheep into green pastures beside still waters; He restores their souls and guides them in the paths of righteousness.
The Lamb as Leader
Revelation 7 also says, “He who sits on the throne shall spread His tabernacle over them” (v. 15). The reference is to the Old Testament Israelites as they came out of Egypt. In Egypt the Israelites faced hardships, persecution, trials, and tribulations, but the Lord delivered them out of them all with His mighty arm. Once they were out of their slavery and bondage, the Lord placed His glory on them—He spread His tent over them. During the daytime it looked like a cloud; in the night it was a pillar of fire. Day or night, the presence of the Lord was visible to anyone who looked.
The great God on the throne does the very same for all who call on His name. In heaven, He will tabernacle with His children. There will be no hunger, no thirst, no tears, for God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes. His love and protection will be cast over His elect. How comforting it is to be reassured of the ultimate triumph of God’s saving grace. How it should motivate us to praise God for the greatness of His redemptive plan.
Look at the things we talk about here on earth compared to the things they sing about in heaven. We talk about wars and rumors of wars, worries and frustrations, aches and pains. In heaven they sing about the honor, glory, and majesty that are due the Lamb. We talk about the latest fashions and styles; they speak of the white robes given to them—robes washed in the blood of the Lamb. We talk about success, money, power, and fame. They talk about being sanctified through tribulation. We should focus on those very same things—that which is above—and glory in the salvation that has been granted us through the blood of Jesus Christ. How blessed we are that we may know the Lamb and be a part His fold.
Rev. Wybren H. Oord is the co-pastor of the Trinity United Reformed Church in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, and the editor of The Outlook.