The messianic judgments, 6:1-16:21

1. The judgment of the seven seals, 6:1-8:5

iv] Interlude, 7:1-17
b) The Lamb is the shepherd


In this passage we read of John's vision of the "great multitude" in heaven. This assembly resides in peace and joy before the throne of God and is made up of all believers - the redeemed of the Lord who have retained their faith through difficult times, a people from every race and nation.


The kingdom is come, and those who have persevered in faith have come through the day of judgment and now stand blessed before the throne of God.


i] Context: See 7:1-8.


ii] Background: See 1:1-8


iii] Structure: The Lamb is the shepherd,:

The worship of the multitude, v9-10;

The celestial host join in worship, v11-12;

Who are these in white robes? v13-14:

"these are they who have come out of the great tribulation;

they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."

The blessing of the multitude, v15-17:

dia touto "therefore"

"they are before the throne of God and serve him."

"he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence."


iv] Interpretation:

The first part of the Interlude in v1-8 describes the sealing of the 144,000. They are marked, presumably with the name of God and of the Lamb, to protect them from the judgment even now falling on the earth. The crucial question concerns the identity of this group. Possibilities include, a symbolic number of believers about to face the day of judgment, a literal number of Jewish believers, a spiritual number representing saved Jews (a spiritual Israel), all believers and thus, the same group as the "great multitude" in v9, or the actual number of special believers (ref., Jehovah's Witnesses); see v1-8.

In the second part of the Interlude we witness the "great multitude that no one could count" standing in the presence of the Ancient of Days. It is likely that they represent God's faithful remnant, risen from the dead ("they have come out of the great tribulation"), approved ("they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb") and blessed ("He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes"). They are the heavenly representatives of the 144,000 on earth who are facing the great tribulation, but in another sense they represent all believers who have held firm to their faith in Christ through the tribulations of life.

John's imagery seems to be a reenactment of the Feast of Tabernacles and is shaped by Zechariah 14:1-21. The "multitude" gathers to celebrate the victory of the Lamb, and to this end they are joined by the heavenly host, v11-12. In a typical apocalyptic discourse the readers questions are answered by a heavenly representative who explains the mystery of the vision. The "multitude" are those who were sealed and therefore have come through the Great Day of the Lord, the day of judgment. In life they faced tribulation, but dead or alive, they have come unscathed through judgment because they "washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb", v13-14. They will now serve God, sheltered in his presence, shepherded by the Lamb, never again to face the privations of life, v15-16, but rather to drink from the "springs of living water", v17.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 7:9

The Lamb is the shepherd, 9-17: "God and the Lamb are praised for making manifest the redemption of the multitude by protecting them through the purifying tribulation", Beale. Aune observes that the tense sequence of this section - aorist, to present and then to future - does not indicate a time sequence, but rather aspect, and thus the author's perspective:

i] The worship of the multitude, v9-10. The multitude of believers praise God and the Lamb for their salvation. As already noted, commentators divide on whether the visions are substantially different, ie. is the "144,000" the same group as "the great multitude"? They are different groups, one on earth the other in heaven, but ultimately the same group. The "multitude" is the great company of believers, the redeemed of the Lord, who have come through the tribulation of the ages. On earth, the gathering clouds of judgment overtake the present order of things, but God's people will be preserved, none will be lost. The perfect number of Israel will be preserved (144,000) and in the last day this remnant of Israel will consist of a staggering number of people from every nation under heaven who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb.

meta tauta "after this" - after these things [i saw and behold there was a great crowd]. Temporal construction indicating a new vision, but not necessarily a sequential set of events.

o}n ..... auton pro. "that " - which [to number] them. This construction, a relative pronoun addressing a resumptive personal pronoun (redundant), is Semitic in form and so both are read together.

ariqmhsai (ariqmew) aor. inf. "[no one could] count" - [no one was being able] to number. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "was being able"; the crowd was too large to count.

ek "from [every nation, tribe, people and language]" - out of, from [every nation and tribes and peoples and tongues]. Expressing source / origin, or serving as a partitive genitive. Note that eqnouV "nation" is singular and is followed by three plurals. This is rather strange. John sometimes does something like this when he is alluding to the OT, possibly the patriarchal promise, cf. Bauckham.

eJstwteV (iJsthmi) perf. part. "standing [before the throne]" - standing [before the throne and before the lamb]. The participle serves as the complement of the object,"a great multitude ..", of the assumed verb "there was", standing in a double nominative construction. To "stand before" often means to "attend upon" as if a servant.

peribeblhmenouV (periballw) acc. perf. part. "they were wearing [white robes]" - having been clothed with [white robes and palm branches in the hands of them]. With "standing", the participle serves as an object complement, but it is accusative rather than nominative. Usually treated as a solecism (a grammatical mistake), but Mathewson suggests it may be serving as the substantival direct object of eidon, cf., Aune. John constantly tests our capacity to classify his participles, often serving as if they were a finite verb.


krazousin (krazw) pres. "they cried out" - they call out. The historic / narrative present tense is durative, so possibly "they keep on crying out."

fwnh/ (h) dat. "with a [loud] voice" - The dative is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of the crying out, as NIV.

legonteV (legw) pres. part. "-" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "they cried out", redundant, cf., legwn 1:17.

tw/ qew/ (oV) dat. "[Salvation belongs] to [our] God" - Dative of interest, advantage / possession. There is no verb, but the phrase "salvation to the God of us" can be translated as a verbal phrase, "we are saved by our God." The genitive pronoun "our" may be treated as a genitive of subordination, "God over us." In the context, this salvation is our coming through the tribulation, scared but safe. God has brought us through life's trials to stand safely before him. As well as victory through tribulation, John may also have in mind "salvation from sin and death", Mounce, so also Caird. In John's schema, the Great Tribulation is Satan's last-ditched confrontation with God, the Lamb and the redeemed, which, in his realized eschatology, is even now being played out in his vision. Yet of course, the now is also not yet such that in the last days between Christ's ascension and return, tribulation, in varying degrees, is the lot for believers. Irrespective of now or not yet, "victory (salvation) belongs to our God", Cassirer, ie., God possesses the power to deliver his people.

tw/ kaqhmenw/ (kaqhmai) dat. pres. part. "who sits" - the one sitting. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "God", as NIV, but possibly serving as a substantive, standing in apposition to "God"; "to our God, the one who sits upon the throne."

epi + dat. "on [the throne]" - on, upon [the throne and]. Spacial.

tw/ arniw/ (on) dat. "to the Lamb" - The dative as for tw/ qew/; interest, advantage / possession.


ii] The celestial host join in worship, v11-12.

oiJ aggeloi (oV) "[all] the angels" - Nominative subject of the verb "stood", the only pluperfect verb in the Revelation. The angelic host is prompted into praise again by the praise of "the great multitude". The image seems to be of the angels surrounding the throne, possibly above and behind.

kuklw/ + gen. "around [the throne]" - [stood] around [the throne and]. Spacial.

twn presbuterwn (oV) gen. "the elders" - "The twenty four elders" sit upon twenty four thrones in concentric circles around the throne of God. Debate rages as to whether they are human, ie. representing the resurrected saints of Israel, old and new, or angelic beings. Their function seems to be that of worship and administration. cf. 4:4, etc.

twn tessarwn zw/wn gen. "the four living creatures" - These four "creatures" are "celestial beings of some sort", Osborne, possibly representing nature. They seem to support the divine throne, and move it as necessary (a kind of Tardis!!!). cf. 5:6, etc.

epesan (piptw) aor. "they fell down" - fell [before the throne]. They lay down and prostrated themselves face down before the throne.

epi + acc. "on [their faces]" - on [the faces of them]. Spacial; "upon, on."

enwpion + gen. "before [the throne]" - Spacial; "before, in front of."

prosekunhsan (proskunew) aor. "worshiped" - [and] they did obeisance.

tw/ qew/ (oV) "God" - to god. Dative of direct object after the proV prefix verb "did obeisance."


legonteV (legw) pres. part. "saying" - Again John introduces speech with the participle "saying"; see legwn 1:17. Here it may be classified as attendant circumstance, expressing action accompanying the verb "did obeisance", "they worshipped and said", or adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of their worship, "they worshipped ..., saying .."

amhn "amen" - may it be so. The angels confirm the worship of the multitude and then go on to give their own tribute to God; "Amen: Praise, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honor, might, and strength", Cassirer.

tw/ qew/ (oV) dat. "be to [our] God" - Dative of interest, advantage / possession. There is again no verb in this sentence, but as a verbal phrase the verb to-be is added for meaning. The attributes are ascribed to God directly, "be to God" / "be ascribed to God", or better, "belong to God."

twn aiwnwn (oV) gen. "[forever] and ever" - into the ages [of the ages]. The genitive is adjectival, partitive. The prepositional phrase eiV, "into ....." is temporal, idiomatic.


iii] Who are these in white robes? v13-14. A discussion now takes place between John and one of the elders that serves to explain the identity of the great multitude. The discussion establishes the link between the multitude of the faithful, v9-10, the martyrs, 6:9-11, and the 144,000 who were sealed, 7:1-8.

kai "then" - and. The conjunction "and" is used here for de indicating a step in the narrative.

ek + gen. "[one] of [the elders]" - This preposition usually expresses source / origin, "from", but here it serves as a partitive genitive; "one of the elders." The adjective ei|V, "one", is best understood as an indefinite pronoun similar to tiV, "a certain one [of the elders]."

legwn (legw) pres. part. "asked" - [answered] saying. Attendant circumstance participle, Semitic idiom: the aorist of the verb to "say / answer" + participle "saying" = spoke / asked / answered and said; cf., legwn 1:17.

moi dat. pro. "me" - to me. Dative of indirect object.

ou|toi ........ tineV pro. "these ..... who [are they]". The pronoun tineV is resumptive; "these [ie., the ones having been clothed with the white robes], who [are they]?" = "who are these dressed in white robes?"

oi peribeblhmenoi (peribally) perf. part. "in [white robes]" - [these] the ones having been clothed with [the robes white]. The participle serves as a substantive, standing in apposition to au{toi, "these".

poqen "where [have they come] from?" - from where [did they come]. Interrogative.


This roundabout question-answer form of communication is typical "for the interrogation of visitors in epic dialogue", Aune. The heavenly dignitary asks John's question for him, as well as answering it.

eirhka (airw) autw/ perf. "I answered" - i have said. The perfect tense "I have said to him" is followed up with the aorist eipen, "he said to me." The change in tense is unexpected. Smalley deals with it by arguing that the perfect is used as an aorist. There is some evidence that the perfect tense was blending into the aorist at this point of time, but it does not affect the intended meaning.

autw/ dat. pro. "-" - to him. Dative of indirect object.

kurie mou "sir" - lord of me. Vocative of address; a respectful address to an important person. The genitive pronoun mou "of me / my", may express subordination, "Lord over me." "Sir" is used given that an English reader may take "Lord" to mean the Lord Jesus.

su oidaV (ouda) "you know" - The personal pronoun su, "you", is emphatic, "it is you who know", Morris. The purpose of the question in v13 is to show that John does not know the meaning of the vision and therefore needs divine interpretation. Therefore, the TEV carries the sense well with "'I don't know, sir, You do,' I answered."

moi dat. pro. "[and he said]" - [and he said] to me. Dative of indirect object.

oiJ ercomenoi pres. part. "they who have come" - [these are] the ones coming. The participle serves as a substantive. The tense of a participle does not always express aspect, but the durative nature of the present tense may be at work here, such that the "comers" have come, are coming and will come, are in the process of coming. Note that an aorist (punctiliar) is used in the question "where did they come from?", v13.

ek + gen. "out of" - Expressing separation, "away from."

thV qliyewV thV megalhV "the great tribulation" - Referring to the eschatological troubles of the last day. As noted above, commentators are divided on whether it refers to a final catastrophic point in history prior to the return of Christ, or the ongoing troubles of the last days - both is more likely.

eplunan (eplunw) aor. "they have washed" - [and] they washed [the robes of them]. The tense is controlled by the main verb "are [the ones coming]", translated "have come." The main verb is translated as past tense since the verb is taken as one of past reference. This serves to counter the wrong impression that the ones who have come through the tribulation are limited to believers from the present and future. John is now told how it is that the redeemed are victorious. They have personally identified with the sacrifice of Jesus and have been purified by it.

en + dat. "in [the blood]" - in, with, by [the blood of the lamb]. Here the preposition takes an instrumental sense; "through the blood of the Lamb", Barclay. The blood, meaning the sacrifice of Jesus, is the instrument by which the cleansing takes place. The blood of Christ makes the great multitude spiritually pure, ie. their robes are white/ brilliant.


iv] The blessings of the victorious redeemed are now listed, v15-17. This poem / hymn depicts "the eternal blessings of God shared by the redeemed; the totality of the faithful from every age", Smalley. It falls into three parts represented by the three verses. First, the hymn describes the eternal relationship of the "multitude" with God; they are with God, they serve God and are protected by him, v15. Second, the hymn depicts the removal of all suffering; no external privation will ever affect the multitude of the faithful again, v16. Note that John's wording reflects Isaiah 49:10. Third, the hymn identifies the agent of all these blessings, namely the Lamb, the Shepherd of Israel; he is the one who guides his people to rich pastures and springs of fresh water, v17, cf., Ps.23.

dia touto "therefore" - because of this. Although dia + acc. is usually causal, this construction is inferential, drawing a logical conclusion; "therefore they stand before the throne of God." "That is why", Barclay.

enwpion + gen. "before [the throne]" - [they are] before [the throne of god]. Spacial. This first blessing describes ease of access to God.

latreuousin (latreuw) pres. "serve" - [and] serve. Present tense being durative, possibly expresses continuous priestly service, "night and day." Mathewson suggests that it is future referencing. Thankfully the NIV properly translates the word as "serve", as do many other translations, eg. TEV, RSV, NEB ("minister"), but sadly the NRSV opts for "worship". The word "worship", meaning adoration, the doing of obeisance , should not be confused with a word meaning to serve, minister. We are privileged to serve the Lord eternally.

autw/ dat. pro. "him" - him [day and night]. Dative of direct object after the verb "to serve." Note that "night" and "day" take a genitive of time.

en + dat. "in [his temple]" - in [the temple, palace of him]. Local, expressing space. There is no temple in the eternal kingdom, 21:22, but there is the realm of God's eternal habitation, call it a temple if you wish!

oJ kaqhmenoV (kaqhmai) pres. part. "he who sits [on the throne]" - [and] the one sitting [upon the throne]. The participle serves as a substantive.

skhnwsei (sknhow) fut. "will spread his tent [over them]" - will tent, tabernacle [over them]. Here we have God's first provision for his people; He will cover, or even dwell over them, and therefore "will shelter them with his presence", possibly even "will live with them and protect them." Note John again uses his favorite preposition, epi, + gen., "the one sitting upon / on the throne", and + acc., "will tent over them."


ou .... oude ..... oude ..... oude "never .... never ... not .... nor" - not ... nor .... neither .... nor. A negated coordinate construction.

eti .... eti adv. "[never] again [will they hunger; never] again [will they thirst]" - [they will not hunger] any more [nor thirst] any more]. Temporal adverb serving to form a temporal clause; "no longer ..", Cassirer. God's second provision for his people is that they will never hunger or thirst again. This image reflects our daily struggle for survival, and harks back to Israel's wilderness journey. The promise is obviously eschatological - the eternal tokens of God's goodness.

oude mh pesh/ (piptw) aor. subj. "[the sun] will not beat [upon them]" - neither not may fall [on them the sun nor any scorching heat]. Subjunctive of emphatic negation. God's third provision for his people. The image of the cooling of the desert-sun's scorching heat, is not overly powerful for someone who can afford an air conditioner. For us it is the end of traffic jams, cues, 9 to 5, aircraft holding patterns, crowds, real estate agents, lawyers, high-rise units, .......


oJti "for" - because. Here introducing a causal clause explaining why the multitude of the faithful are blessed.

to "-" - [the lamb] the one [at middle of the throne]. The article probably serves as a nominalizer, turning the prepositional construction "at middle of the throne" into a substantive which stands in apposition to "the Lamb", but it may also be taken as an adjectivizer turning the prepositional construction into an attributive relative clause limiting lamb; "because the lamb that is seated at the very center of the throne will be their shepherd", Cassirer.

ana "at [the center of the throne]" - at [middle of the throne]. This preposition with meson, "middle", is spacial and takes the sense of "at the middle", "in the midst", "among". The phrase in 5:6 uses the preposition en, "in". The image of the Lamb in/at the middle of the throne is difficult to imagine. Possibly, the throne is at the middle/center, surrounded by concentric circles of living creatures, elders, and the redeemed, with the Lamb either at/beside/on the throne.

poimanei (poimainw) fut. "he will shepherd" - will shepherd, guide as a lead animal [them and will lead them]. This is a common sight for an agricultural people. "He will patiently care for His sheep, guarding them from any further torments such as plagued their earthly sojourn", Thomas.

epi + gen. "to" - The exact sense of John's favorite spacial preposition here is unclear. Usually when followed by a genitive the sense is "on, upon", but "into" seems more likely here..

zwhV (h) gen. "[springs of] living [water]" - [springs, fountains, wells of] living [water]. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "water", although it could limit "springs", "living springs of water." "Living" can range in meaning from "fresh", as against stagnant, to "life-giving". If "life-giving" is implied, in the sense of the description given by Ezekiel of the stream that flow's from the temple, then "enriching" is intended. If "fresh" is implied, in the sense of "pure fresh water", then "refreshing" is intended.

uJdatwn (wr udoV) "of [living] water" - The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / content; "springs full of living water."

exaleiyei (exaleifw) fut. "will wipe away" - [and god] will wipe away [every tear]. In the sense of remove all that causes pain and sorrow, cf. Rev.21:3. "God, himself, will gently wipe away every tear from their eyes", Junkins.

ek + gen. "from [their eyes]" - from [the eyes of them]. Expressing separation; "away from."


Revelation Introduction



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