Revelation chapter 7 is a play of two halves. From the events on earth in verses 1 to 8 we move upward and heavenward to the innumerable multitude of martyrs before the throne of the Lamb in verses 9 to 17. We leave the gloom of God's Grace withheld from a fallen and falling world in the first half of Revelation chapter 8 to the Glory of God's grace revealed and all sufficient in the later half of chapter 7. The Lamb is indeed all the Glory in Emmanuel's land!
This "great multitude which no man could number" stands distinct from the 144,000 of the the first half of Revelation chapter 7. This is an international and cosmopolitan company, innumerable in quantity and present in heaven. The 144,000 are numbered, of the 12 tribes of Israel and resident on earth. This vast company have emerged en masse, martyred from the persecution of tribulation days (Revelation 7:14). Undaunted and undiscouraged by the prospect of and reality of martyrdom, they pass through the fire and the flame to gain heaven and home. What motivated this drive? What fed this tenacity? As was asked of Samson in the book of Judges; what was the secret of their strength? Perhaps we have a clue here in verse 9. These martyrs of the tribulation period stand, having grasped finally in their hands the final mention of the biblical 'palm' tree.
The path to their final destination in heaven, was a path paved with palm tress, right the way to the throne of the Lamb. Heaven was no surprise. Heaven was no vague hope. Heaven is home. The fragrance of that place, scented the entire route to glory. The one to whom they went was the one with whom they went. It is the same Lamb, the same Lord who gave them strength for the way, who waited for them at their destination.
Israel redeemed from Egypt needed REFRESHMENT in their wilderness journeys. That refreshment from the 12 wells of Elim was enjoyed in the shade of 70 palm trees (Exodus chapter 15).
Each year the collective consciousness of the nation of Israel would be impressed by the reflection and REMINDER that there presence passing and transient. God had called them out of Egypt for Himself. The character of the nation ought to be that of pilgrims and strangers and so between the two Sabbaths of rest they would rest in booths, under the shade of the palm trees.
The place of REVELATION, a word from the Lord, to guide, direct and inform, came in the days of the Judges from Deborah, under the shadow of the palm tree.
Their RELATIONSHIP with God, centred around the temple of Solomon in 1 Kings 6:29, was surrounded by the image of palm trees.
Finally the REALITY of the presence of Jesus amongst them was marked by the raising of the palm tree (John 12:13).
It is from that constant lifelong taste of heaven, that daily drinking of the living waters of heaven, that feeding in the bread of heaven that strength is given to face whatever persecution and pain and trial this world will throw at them to gain heaven. Heaven for these martyrs is the final step of faith and not the only step of faith.
An excerpt from the audio and video recording of our exposition of Revelation chapter 7. Part of our bible teaching series as we study systematically through the book of Revelation.
Yours by Grace in Christ,
Dr J Stewart Gillespie