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Tuesday: The Great Multitude — 21 Comments

  1. The question concluding today’s lesson refers to those who have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:14, NKJV) as being “covered with the righteousness of Christ, a gift of faith”.

    Unfortunately, the idea that the righteousness of Christ is a covering is frequently misunderstood. Many people essentially believe that it is something mystical/magical that we are given to ‘wear’ so that God doesn’t see what we are really like underneath.

    But as the Ellen White quote correctly identifies, the ‘robe’ of Christ’s righteousness is a symbol representing “perfected Christian character(s)” via honouring “the law of God”.

    And this is where it gets tricky. Satan has so misportrayed this concept that many people immediately see PERFECTIONISM and ‘run a million miles’.

    So, what is the truth?

    Real (abundant, Jn 10:10) life is only possible when we live connected to the Source of life (Jn 1:3,4; Acts 17:28) AND we live in harmony with the laws that promote and sustain life (Rom 8:2). And each and every one of those laws is characterised by self-renouncing love - a principle that promotes perpetual and therefore eternal life (again, in connection with the life energy given by God, the Source of all life).

    Now, this is a necessity for life and therefore it needs to become our way of life - that is, it needs to become characteristic of the way we live: it needs to become our character.

    Now, there are three things that it is vital to understand about this Christlike character:
    * it is an essential necessity for those who want to live abundant life
    * it is something that we must develop - it is not something that can simply be given to us to merely ‘put on’ as an outer covering
    * developing it is not something we can do in and of ourselves, for apart from being constantly connected to Jesus/God/Holy Spirit, we can do nothing (Jn 15:5).

    Just as living is the byproduct of an ongoing connection involving us in union with God (Jn 15:5, Acts 17:28), so too is the development of our character. God, via the activity of the indwelling Holy Spirit, prompts, guides and gives us the energy to be able to choose and implement the Christlike option in every situation throughout our day IF we choose to take that option and actually put it into action. Thus, developing a Christlike character is a cooperative partnership with God.

    Satan does not want Christian’s to know this or to be involved in being part of it. Therefore he has deceptively misrepresented it as ‘works’ and ‘perfectionism’.

    It is not the fact that we work to develop our character that makes it ‘works’. It is the underlying motive that is either sound or problematic. If I am trying to develop a Christlike character in order to get God to owe me salvation, that is problematic. But if I am motivated to develop a Christlike character because I realise it is necessary for abundant life, that is healthy.

    And as for the concept of developing a “perfected” character, biblically the concept translated “perfect” (eg Matt 5:48) refers to the process of growing and developing to greater and greater maturity and completeness - sticking with the process of growing and maturing. This is what Ellen White also means by the use of this term in today’s quote in the lesson.

    So, whenever you read of white garments, remember that this refers to collaboratively developing a Christlike character. This is not ‘works’ or ‘perfectionism’. It is simply the reality that is necessary to enable abundant life to exist.

    • Hi Phil, to me washing our robes is not the same as covering our sins. Having our sins washed away is not covering sin but removing sin. In Zacheriah 3 Joshua's filthy clothes are removed before the clean clothes are out on him.

      • You are correct William.

        The washing metaphor is not a problem.

        It is the common (mis)understanding of the covering metaphor that is misleading.

    • "Perfectionism" seems to be the idea of this perfection being self-generated, feeling flawless, and letting others know about it.

      True holiness is the result of being meek and lowly of heart, leaning wholly on Jesus while denying self, taking up one's own cross(personal warfare against sin) and following Jesus. It is asking for and receiving by faith the gift of the Holy Spirit through repentance that is genuine(sin is wholly forsaken) as the heart is then transformed by "the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost"(Rom 12:1,2, Titus 3:5). Only the Creator can "create...a clean heart and renew a right spirit..." in those who trust Him wholly with their salvation(Ps 51:10).

      The first 4 beatitudes describe this process, and the last 4 reveal the results of being sanctified as a result of first being justified, all by faith.

    • "If I am trying to develop a Christlike character in order to get God to owe me salvation, that is problematic. But if I am motivated to develop a Christlike character because I realise it is necessary for abundant life, that is healthy."

      I don't see how either of these are "self-renouncing." Instead, they both appear to be "what's in it for me," which is in direct opposition to self-renouncing. In my Sabbath School class last week, we (almost all) agreed that the love of Christ compels us (2 Corinthians 5:14) to serve and glorify Him, no matter "what's in it for me."

      • Thanks for your feedback Sieg.

        I understand what you are saying and appreciate the invitation to clarify. If my second scenario that I mentioned were primarily motivated because I want abundant life exclusively for myself so to speak, then you would be correct.

        I totally agree with your sabbath school class that it is the love of Christ that compels us - that His self-renouncing love awakens self-renouncing love within us. And it is upon this motivation that my second scenario is based.

        I am motivated by self-renouncing love to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt 6:33) - part of which is the conviction/realisation that the Kingdom of God is the only way that life works (contrary to Satan's suggestion that it is otherwise). And because of that experiential and cognitive conviction, I am also motivated to live in the manner that alone enables abundant life to be a reality. It is in this context that I realise that development of a Christlike character is simply a necessity for abundant life. It is in living an abundant life that I dwell within the Kingdom of God and it is in dwelling within the Kingdom of God that I live an abundant life (a reciprocal phenomenon). Both the Kingdom of God and abundant life are exclusively based upon and characterised by self-renouncing love rather than a 'what's in it for me'/#metoo motivation.

        Thanks for the opportunity to clarify further what I had written. Does this better explain things?

        • Thanks Phil for the clarification on which we stand in harmony. Our nature and earthly life is characterized by self-seeking and it is only by the power of God that this selfishness gets turned around... where we seek no other goal but to glorify God and His perfect gift of Jesus... to the most unworthy of all... me.

  2. After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Rev 7:9,19

    I wonder if the great multitude is those people who have lived to the best light available to them who have just discovered that they are among the saved? Some may be hearing about salvation for the first time. It appears as though the great multitude have a different experience to the 144,000. I am not pushing this idea, just airing the thought as something to think about.

    • Yes, this group includes those having this 11th hour experience, they too will have washed their robes. We are told that many at the end will learn in days what some learned in a life-time. Look at the thief on the cross, who in those brief hours demonstrated a faith that is rare to find.

      The latter rain ripens the whole harvest. This is the work of the Holy Spirit with great power(Rev 18:1-4).

  3. To me, keep the faith is a process of keeping a relationship with Jesus. There is no other way. Without this, we fail! I still need to learn much more about His love, but He has kept me around with the love of a super father. I can only thank Him.

  4. In Revelation 7 both the 144,000 and 'great multitude' seem to be groups who are alive at the Second Coming.
    144,000 are "sealed" to saved them from the plagues just before the Second Coming
    The Great Multitude have come out of the "Great Tribulation" which happens just before the Second Coming

    The Great Multitude - "Therefore they are before the throne of God, and they serve Him day and night in His temple."
    144,000 - "These are those who follow the Lamb wherever He goes"

    The Great Multitude are in "white robes"
    144,000 are "virgins, without guile or blemish"

    Mat_24:21 for then shall be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world to this time; no, nor ever shall be.
    Great Multitude
    Rev_7:14 And I said to him, Sir, you know. And he said to me, These are the ones who came out of the great tribulation and have washed their robes, and have whitened them in the blood of the Lamb. Rev 7:15 Therefore they are before the throne of God, and they serve Him day and night in His temple. And He sitting on the throne will dwell among them.
    Rev 14:1-5 And I looked, and lo, the Lamb stood on Mount Zion. And with Him were a hundred and forty-four thousands, having His Father's name written in their foreheads. 3 And they sang as it were a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. And no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousands who were redeemed from the earth. 4 These are those who were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are those who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, as a first fruit to God and to the Lamb. 5 And in their mouth was found no guile, for they were without blemish before the throne of God.
    (must be symbolic - the 144,000 cannot be the only ones "redeemed")

    There are either two groups or two representations of one group. These people are alive at the Second Coming and I believe they are symbolic of all the saved since the beginning of the earth.

    I believe they are one group because of the literary strategy used by John: I heard - I saw.
    He uses it in Rev 1, he heard the great voice and turned and saw Jesus among the lampstands
    In Rev 5 he was told "Behold the Lion" and he turned and saw the Lamb
    and because of the similarities in their description.

    • Spot on sister!

      Revelation 7:1-8: John “HEARS”
      The Church Militant
      1. “I heard” (verse 4)
      2. “the number” (verse 4)
      3. “one hundred and forty four thousand” (verse 4)
      4. “of the sons of Israel” (verse 4)
      5. “out of every tribe” (verse 4)
      6. “sealed” (verse 4)

      Revelation 7:9-17: John “SEES”
      The Church Triumphant
      1. “I looked” (verse 9)
      2. “no man could number” (verse 9)
      3. “a great multitude” (verse 9)
      4. “from every nation (verse 9)
      5. “from all tribes and peoples and tongues” (verse 9)
      6. “clothed in white robes” (verse 9)

  5. I have come to see this in two different ways. First, there is one question asked in Rev 6:17, so we would expect one answer. So the 2-part answer could refer to this one group who is able to stand before the glory of Christ returning with great power, which terrorizes the wicked. John first hears the number, then sees those that were numbered. Together, both views gives a complete understanding of those able to stand, telling us why they can stand, their origin, character, and faith.

    The 2nd way I could view this is that the view of this group includes those who will be raised on that day that come from every age, beginning with “righteous Abel”, and all who have died trusting in the promised Redeemer. Yes, the souls “under the altar” of Rev 6:9.

    I lean mostly toward the first view, since the time of the question is just before the dead are raised, as Jesus is approaching the earth, when the wicked are reacting to the terrible sight(to them) in horror and amazement. This speaks directly to the living(both the lost and the saved in that hour), and the great need to prepare for that day. Shouldn't this preparation be our highest priority each and every day? The dead can do nothing further to prepare, but the living must be choosing each day whom they will serve(Josh 24:15). Keep in mind the events that are taking place at this very time, with the wicked about to kill the righteous who serve God in the face of a death decree. As far as the wicked are concerned, the dead have nothing to fear and they wish to join them as they seek to hide from the glory of Christ.

    How terrible to be burden with guilt on that day, when Jesus has offered eternal life so freely!

  6. I grew up with the concept of a 'different experience'. They were the extraordinary and the ordinary followers of Christ. I'd try and find a way I could be eligible for the huge multitude.
    There ARE those who live extraordinary lives for God, I thought. They give their lives and often have no earthly pleasures. Then there are those who live ordinary lives for God. They never experience persecution, nor martyrdom, however, they support the cause of God with their faithful service in so many other ways. There are those who with humble devotion take care of the sick and dying, spend their livelihood in caring ways to help the poor, educate the needy, and so many other ways. Think of the ordinary mother and father who raise their children in the fear of the Lord. As I am looking at my list I am thinking...there really aren't any 'ordinary' lives. They are all extraordinary, just in different ways.

  7. Tuesday's section of the lesson points out that "...we could understand 'the great multitude' as reference to all the redeemed who have suffered for their faith down through the ages." The author then quoted a statement from The Great Controversy, p. 665, which shows that the great multitude and the redeemed throughout history could not be the same. The statement clearly shows that there will be several different groups in heaven:
    1. Those nearest the throne
    2. Those who perfected Christian characters in midst of falsehood and infidelity
    3. Those who honour the law of God
    4. Those who were martyred for their faith
    5. Then beyond all of these groups was the great multitude which no one could.
    The Great multitude and the redeemed throughout the ages cannot be the same. The statement from The Great Controversy sets the great multitude apart from all the saved saints.

    • I think I hear you saying that the great multitude is not saved. I can't reconcile that with them being there (presumably) worshiping God/Christ, or with the fact that they are wearing white robes. Maybe I'm not understanding your point.

    • The point is my friend the great multitude will be saved but they are not the redeemed of all people throughout history. They are separate groups in heaven after the coming of Jesus. This never originated with me.It is from the Spirit of Prophecy. Read it Tuesday's section of the lesson, lesson # 6 and The Great Controversy, p. 665.

      • Perhaps we need to step back; look at the question(Rev 6:17) and the answers(Rev 7) and see how WE might also be able to stand before Christ in white robes. Isn't this the whole point of Rev 7?

  8. Obviously, the 144k and the great multitude refer to the same group and will be found before the throne of God.

  9. My simple position is that the 144,000 are those who will be alive at the Close of Probation and through the "Big" Time of Trouble and the Seven Last Plagues until the Second Coming. Just like the author of the lesson admitted, many Seventh-day Adventist theologians maintain the view that the "Great Multitude" of Rev. 7 is "another representation" of the 144,000. And that is correct! A careful analysis of the Ellen White quote brought forward as supporting the erroneous position of the author(s) of the lesson will even show that that quote says nothing about the "Great Multitude" being the "redeemed of all ages."


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