Welcome to a Revelation of Jesus. In the last three videos we have been studying the judgment of the people who will be alive at the Second Coming of Christ. This video is about the great multitude, another special group of people who are alive when Christ returns.
So far we looked at “the kings of the earth…” and their cohorts who will resist and reject Jesus and persecute His followers. When they realize that they have been fighting against Jesus they will hide in terror.
We also looked at the 144,000 who “are sealed on their foreheads” (Revelation 7:3). We saw in Revelation 14 that “they are virgins” (Revelation 14:4), which means that they are not a part of the harlot churches that Revelation 17 portrays as Babylon. We also saw that “they are before the throne”, “They follow the Lamb wherever He goes” (Revelation 14:3,4), and they are “coming out of the Great Tribulation” (Revelation 7:14). Even though they will be in the midst of the fearful chaos of the Great Tribulation they will be so united with Jesus that it will be as if they are already in heaven before the throne.
As we continue in chapter 7 we see that there is one more group of people alive when Christ returns. “[John] 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, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9,10).
Who are the great multitude?
Some commentators teach that they are all the people who have ever been saved from the time of creation until the end. However, in verse 13 the angel specifically says “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation” (Revelation 7:14). A literal translation from the original Greek reads “the tribulation the great”, in other words, a specific great tribulation, not the general tribulation that has plagued this planet during the entire reign of sin.
The great tribulation that is specifically mentioned in the Bible is predicted in Daniel 12:1, “There shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered” (Daniel 12:1). Jesus used nearly identical language in Matthew 24: “Then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21). This is the tribulation that occurs just before Jesus comes, the same tribulation that the great multitude come out of.
Other commentators consider the great multitude to be the same as the 144,000. They assert that John first heard a symbolic number and then saw the actual multitude of people: “[John] heard the number of those who were sealed, One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel” (Revelation 7:4).
After listing the tribes they were sealed from, “[John] looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues” (Revelation 7:9).
Although there are a few instances in which John uses the literary device of introducing something orally and then displaying it visually, that doesn’t seem to be the case here. The description of the 144,000 emphasizes limitation: they are only 144,000, they are virgins, and they are exclusively from the 12 tribes of Israel.
The description of the great multitude on the other hand emphasizes inclusion: they cannot be numbered and are from all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues.
Although the 144,000 and the Great Multitude are not the same, they are closely related.
Both groups are alive during the great tribulation and will be a part of God’s eternal kingdom. What, then, is the difference between the two groups? We are going to take what may seem like a convoluted path to get to the answer to this question. But so that you can have a preview of where this is going, we will find that the 144,000, empowered by the Holy Spirit, help the Great multitude escape from Babylon.
There are several places in Revelation where the 144,000 and the Great Multitude are paired together, and although it is not always obvious at first glance, we will use links of symbols, language, and description to identify their presence.
The first and most obvious link to the 144,000 is Revelation 14:1-5 where they are explicitly mentioned: “[John] looked and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads” (Revelation 14:1). We have already looked at this passage when we studied the characteristics of the 144,000, but the question for now is, where is the Great Multitude in this passage?
As usual, we need a link from what we know to find what we are looking for. Going back to Revelation 7, “[John] looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues” (Revelation 7:9). This verse tells us where the Great Multitude come from.
Now back to Revelation 14: “[John] saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” (Revelation 14:6). Here we see powerful end-time preaching of the gospel, and it is directed to the very nations, tribes, tongues, and people that the Great Multitude come out of.
Remember from chapter 7 that the Great Multitude “are coming out of the Great Tribulation” (Revelation 7:14). Their coming out is a process that begins with hearing the truth about God, and this is what the “angel flying in the midst of heaven” [is preaching] “to those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 14:6). The Great Multitude from “every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” are those who respond to the preaching.
There are actually three angels who preach powerful messages to the world in this passage.
What is the relationship between the three angels and the 144,000? In order to find out let’s take a detour and see how the Bible and specifically the Book of Revelation use the word angel. The most basic meaning of the Greek word aggelos is messenger, one who is sent. This word often refers to the heavenly spirits that serve God. In video 23 we saw that the same word can refer to evil angels who have followed Satan, such as “the angel of the bottomless pit” (Revelation 9:11).
Revelation also uses angels to symbolize human messengers. For example, The messages to the Seven Churches are addressed to “the angels of the seven churches” (Revelation 1:20). Most commentators agree that Jesus was not giving the messages to heavenly angels, but rather to the spiritual leaders of the churches.
In Revelation 14 John saw three angels with powerful messages to “every nation, tribe, tongue, and people”. Are these three angels heavenly messengers or do they symbolize God’s faithful servants on earth?
Jesus Himself gave the definitive answer. He told His disciples, “Go ye therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Jesus never hinted that He would eventually give up on his disciples to get the gospel out to the world and let angels take over. On the contrary, the last thing Jesus said to His disciples before he returned to heaven was “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
So when we see the 3 angels “flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue and people” (Revelation 14:6) we shouldn’t imagine that there will be 3 literal heavenly angels flying around and shouting the gospel to people on earth.
These angels are symbolic of the people who go into the world to share the gospel. The obvious conclusion is that the three angels and the 144,000 are both symbolic of the people who preach “the everlasting gospel… to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people. The Great Multitude are those who will respond to their message.
In later videos we will go into the details of the messages of the three angels, but for now, we will look at just one of them to get another link. Notice the message of the second angel: “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication” (Revelation 14:8).
Now let’s look at Revelation 18. There we see the same message, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen” (Revelation 18:2). We learned in Revelation 14 that this message is preached by the 144,000 to people from every “nation, tribe tongue, and people” and those who respond will become the great Multitude. Let’s look at the context of Revelation 18 and find these two groups.
In the previous chapter the final manifestation of Babylon is pictured as a harlot with the name on her forehead, “Babylon…mother of harlots” (Revelation 17:5). The harlot and her daughters symbolize the confederation of apostate churches that are in alliance with “the scarlet beast,” which symbolizes the confederation of nations that set up the mark of the beast. This alliance presents itself as the true followers of Jesus.
But God unmasks this deception. “[John] saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority” (Revelation 18:1). As in chapter 14, this angel symbolizes God’s faithful messengers empowered by the latter rain of the Holy Spirit. “The earth was illuminated with his glory. And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, ‘Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen” (Revelation 18:1,2). This mighty angel has the same message as the second angel in Revelation 14. This implies that the mighty angel also symbolizes the 144,000.
Now notice the critical core of their message: “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons… all the nations have drunk of the wine of her fornication… ‘Come out of her my people, lest you share in her sins and lest you receive of her plagues” (Revelation 18:2-4).
In this incredible passage the mighty angel, who symbolizes the 144,000, exposes the corruption and satanic nature of Babylon. But then he speaks to those who are in Babylon: “Come out of her, my people” (Revelation 18:4).
God’s people are in Babylon! These are people who have been deceived; as Revelation 17 puts it, “the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication” (Revelation 17:2).
Perhaps they were a part of churches that were more of a religious club than serious followers of Jesus. During the chaos of the Great Tribulation some of these churches will become the final manifestation of Babylon. They will use political alliances to coerce and persecute those that they think are blocking God’s blessings by refusing to accept the mark of the beast.
But within these churches are a multitude of people who have had a personal relationship with Jesus despite the apostasy of their organizations. Because they are sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit, they will hear the messages of the 144,000 to come out of Babylon and will heed the invitation. They will unite with the 144,000 and will join in the effort to reach those who are still in Babylon.
Now we can look at a link that we haven’t considered yet. Going back to chapter 14, consider how the first angel, who symbolizes the 144,000, starts his message: “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come” (Revelation 14:7).
Keep track of the key phrase “fear God and give glory to Him” as we look at Revelation chapter 11. The context is the sixth trumpet which takes place during the Great Tribulation. As a result of a mighty symbolic earthquake, a symbolic 7000 people will be symbolically killed.
But “The rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven” (Revelation 11:14).
Here we see a direct response to the first angel’s message “fear God and give glory to Him”: “The rest were afraid and gave glory to God”. The King James translation accurately points out an important detail: “The remnant were affrighted and gave glory to the God of heaven”.We will study the remnant in later videos, but a simple description would be that the remnant are those who remain faithful to God despite danger, trials, and persecution.
Everything we see in this link indicates that in this passage the “remnant [who are] afraid and give glory to God” are the Great Multitude who “are coming out of the Great Tribulation” (Revelation 7:14). That brings up the question: where in this passage are the 144,000 who give the invitation to “fear God and give glory to Him”?
Going back in the chapter we find some messengers: “[God] will give power to [His] two witnesses, and they will prophesy” (Revelation 11:3). In later videos we will see that the two witnesses are modeled after the apostles that Jesus sent out two by two, repeating His words and performing His deeds.
All through history, His witnesses have continued this work, but in the time of the end there will be an unprecedented movement of God’s witnesses to take the Bible story to every corner of the world. “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).
As the passage continues, we see images from the Old Testament that show that the two witnesses, through the power of the Holy Spirit, will lead God’s people who have ended up in apostasy or captivity back to Him. There is a reference to Zerubbabel who brought the captives back from Babylon.
There is a link to Elijah in the days of Ahab and Jezebel who turned the people from Baal back to God. And there is an allusion to the plagues of Egypt when God through Moses delivered Israel from Egyptian slavery.
There are a lot of details that we will study in later videos, but the imagery is consistent: God’s people are in captivity, imprisoned by the chains of deception, but God uses his faithful messengers to show them the way to freedom. This theme mirrors the theme of the three angels’ messages in Revelation 14 and the mighty angel’s message in Revelation 18, suggesting that the Two Witnesses symbolize the 144,000, who will help the Great Multitude come out of Babylon.
The message of the first angel, “Fear God and give glory to Him” (Revelation 14:7) gives us one last link to a view of the Great Multitude. In Revelation chapter 15 “[John] saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark” (Revelation 15:2).
The context is just before the 7 last plagues and the close of probation. Those on the sea of glass are pictured “having harps of God” singing the victory “song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb” (Revelation 15:3) In their song they proclaim, “Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name?” (Revelation 15:4) As we saw in chapter 11, this is a direct response to the message of the first angel, “Fear God and give glory to Him” This identifies the people standing on the sea of glass as the Great Multitude.
In all of the other scenes that we have studied we have seen a link or symbol for both the 144,000 and the Great Multitude, and this scene is no exception. In chapter 14 John saw the Lamb with the 144,000. Then he heard “harpists playing their harps. [The 144,000] sang as it were a new song before the throne…and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand” (Revelation 14:2,3).
Back to chapter 15, we see that those on the sea of glass “have harps of God” (Revelation 15:2). These two passages are the only ones in Revelation that mention harps. They also “sing the song of Moses…and the song of the Lamb” (Revelation 15:3), just as the 144,000 in Revelation 14 sing their new song.
Summarizing the key points of this scene, we see in the response of those on the sea of glass, “who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name” a link to the great multitude. And we see in the harps and the song that they sing a link to the 144,000. But even though there are links to both groups, we only see one group of people on the sea of glass.
Here, in the final moments of the Great Tribulation, as probation is closing and the 7 last plagues are about to fall, the 144,000 and the Great Multitude will be united.
When the Great Multitude hears the call and comes out of Babylon, they will not be some kind of second-class citizens in the kingdom. The 144,000 are not some kind of eternal privileged class; they have all been redeemed by the sacrifice of Jesus and will stand together on the sea of glass, celebrating the victory of the Lamb that they get to be a part of.
We have now finished our study of the sixth seal. There are three groups who will be alive when Jesus comes: “The kings of the earth and their allies who reject Jesus, the 144,000 who are His faithful witnesses, and the Great Multitude who escape from Babylon and become a part of God’s eternal kingdom.
I don’t know how it looks to you, but to me it seems like we are getting close to the end; we are already seeing the beginning of events that will bring on the Great Tribulation. We all need to ask ourselves, which group will I be in?
Now, in this lukewarm Laodicean period of the church, Jesus is putting together a team. Personally, I want to be a part of the 144,000. I want to be all in for Jesus, to receive the latter rain of the Holy Spirit, and to be a part of God’s great and final mission to rescue the Great Multitude from Babylon. I hope that you will be too.
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And to find out in advance where this is all going, you can order the book A Revelation of Jesus by David Lackey, available from online bookstores.
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