11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” 13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”14 I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “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. ~ Revelation 7:11-14
We return to that scene in heaven where two specific groups are being highlighted, the 144,000 Jews and the innumerable host who believed in the Lord Jesus through the witness of the 144,000.
In v.11 we read, "All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God."
This verse begins with the word "all" accentuating the fact that in heaven no one will be distracted from their hearts desire. And, what will be our hearts desire in heaven?, you ask. Our worship of the Lord Jesus Christ. That which we love, we worship. And, that which we worship, we love.
But, the angels did not experience salvation like the others around this throne. Yet, they are worshipping. It makes sense for those whose sins are forgiven to fall down and worship the Lord but for the angels to do so is different. These angels didn't choose the rebellion of Satan and do not even need salvation. Not that any fallen angel can be redeemed. And, these angels are very curious about our salvation, because it is something they can’t explain.
In Ephesians 3, we are reminded that the Lord saved us so that He could make known to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places His manifold wisdom. His saving work the angels can not experience, but they’re fascinated by it, puts God’s power on display. They have never experienced and never will experience salvation, but they love to praise God for it.
So, there is an immense crowd in the presence of God, wearing white robes of righteousness, celebrating God for the salvation He has provided through the cross of His Son. This elicits the praise of all present and this impacts the angels to the point that they marvel and worship God.
In v.12 we read, "saying: Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!"
The content of the angels praise was birthed out of our story with the Lord Jesus. Ad, there are certain things about our story with Him that perhaps we would like to forget, but God forbid that we do that. Our best moments with Him come out of our most horrible moments. It is in these most horrible moments that our understanding of Him is framed up best. The praise of these who came out of the Great Tribulation is the product of the persecution and trouble that they experienced at the hands of wicked men and Satan.
These unworthy sinners who had missed the rapture due to their unbelief, they have been the recipients of God’s marvelous mercy, even after they had rejected Him so many times before. And they’re not second-class citizens in heaven, either. He takes them right to the throne and they mingle with the holy angels. These redeemed sinners, now in heaven, stimulate the praise of heaven. What a mystery!
The word “amen” in v.12, means “let it be.” It is an affirmation, so let it be that blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be given to our God forever and ever. Let it be. Did you notice that these words total in the number seven? These words are seven because the number seven represents the wholeness of God. The choice of all around the throne to give to God blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might brings to completion the plan of God. And, we are at our our best when we are most pleased with God.
In v.13 we read, "Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?"
The scene is worship because that’s the occupation of heavenly beings. They worshiped in Revelation 5, before the seals were opened, before the judgment began. And now they’re worshiping again as the judgment comes to an end. This is a mounting crescendo of praise coming in response to what they once anticipated and now have seen. And they stand on the brink of the seventh seal and the final explosion of judgment that comes in the trumpet judgments and the bowl judgments that are to follow.
So, in v.13, one of the elders representing the church asks this question. He’s not asking for his own information, he knows the answer. He knows who this group is. He’s a heavenly being now, he’s a glorified believer. He has experienced full resurrection and translation and is like the Lord Jesus Christ. He knows even as he is known, this representative of the church. This elder asks this question in order to make sure the Apostle John knows who they are. The point is this: there will be people getting saved during the tribulation.
John responds in v.14 which reads, "I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “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."
So, here we are presented those who have come out of the great tribulation. The Greek word translated "who have come out of," literally means, “who are coming out.” It is a present, continuous, durative participle. It shows a prolonged process, the ones who are coming out. This group keeps accumulating as people keep dying. It therefore doesn’t lend itself to describing the rapture. A rapture is in the moment. In the twinkling of an eye, in a split second, in an instant everybody goes up. This is not that, this is a continual process, prolonged, going on of people coming out over the years from the persecution and the death that is occurring.
The end of v.14 reads, "they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
While the primary emphasis earlier on the white robes is celebration, and joy, there is also the idea of righteousness and purity and here that is the emphasis, these are white robes because they have been washed in the blood of the Lamb. But, blood doesn’t get anything clean, it stains and has to be cleaned. But, here is a precious paradox. His blood doesn’t stain, His blood cleanses every stain. The Bible declares we couldn’t be redeemed by the blood of bulls and goats, but by the blood of Jesus Christ we have been redeemed.
Hunger makes food precious; thirst makes water precious; and poverty makes riches precious. Sin makes the blood of Jesus Christ precious. When the Lord Jesus went to Calvary’s Cross, He willingly traded His flawless life for ours. Our lives were riddled with guilt and shame, and yet the stench and filth of our sins was instantly traded for a robe of purest white. We gained the opportunity to have our names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life by trusting in His shed blood for our eternal redemption.