The Multitude Before The Throne
“After this I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, tribes, people and tongues stood before the Throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands, and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sits upon the Throne, and unto the Lamb.”
Revelation 7:9, 10
IT seems as though a dash of wonderment thrilled through his soul and a flame of admiration burst from his tongue, when John exclaims, “After this I beheld, and lo!” He had already seen much. His attention was fixed. His thoughts werestrained. All of a sudden, then, a fresh scene breaks on his view and he betrays his surprise. At what, you say? Evidently he was astonished that the vision was not yet complete. Ah, Brothers and Sisters! In order to understand the deep things of God, we need to be patient in our contemplation. Had John turned away his eyes, relaxed his study, or withdrawn his gaze from the marvelous panorama, he would not have seen the better part of his vision! As a Jew, when he had seen the twelve tribes pass before him, he might have been tempted to say, “It is enough! There is a remnant according to the election of Grace in Israel! Lord, Your servant is content! I would now open my eyes again to earth and forget these mysteries.” This is what many have done practically when they have been looking at a Gospel Truth. They have not been desirous to see it all, though glad enough to see some part of the Truth of God which seemed to suit their prejudice–they have taken their eyes away from the excellent glory before they have seen the whole of the Truth, as though they were afraid of discovering too much, as though they were always glad not to learn anything beyond, for fear it would not square with what they had learned before! John, however, being patient and taught of God, continued to look–and when the august assembly of the 144,000 had passed before him, he saw a far greater multitude of the Gentile race and he heard from them a louder song than he had heard from the chosen multitude before, as they said, “Salvation to our God who sits upon the Throne and unto the Lamb.” Be steadfast, then, you searchers into the Truths of God. Look long! Look earnest! Ask the Lord to let you see as much as you may. Then that petition being granted, comfort yourselves with this reflection, “What you know not now you shall know hereafter.” Some things He will not tell you because you cannot bear them now, but let there be nothing hid from you because your interest flags and you do not wish to see it! Be willing to learn and let your eyes be open to see the whole of the Truth which Jesus would reveal. Turning, then, to the vision described in our text, the first thing in it that we ought to meditate upon is–
- THE GREAT CENTER OF THE HEAVENLY WORLD.
It seems that all the saints and angels that John saw surrounded one common rallying place–the Throne of God and of the Lamb. They were not broken up into groups, some of them considering this subject, and others investigating that. They were not divided into parties, some calling themselves by one name, and some by another. All in one group they stood, though their number was beyond all human count, and every eye was directed to one common object–yes, and every heart went with every eye–and every tongue sounded the same song, and that a song of adoration to the same One who was the center of all!
Does not this teach us that God is the very center of Heaven? We might have guessed this, for He is center of all thenew creation. Even now all those that are born-again live in Him, inheriting all the blessings of eternal life in their union to Christ, and their fellowship with Him. From Him they derive all their light–to Him and upon Him they reflect all the light, again, giving all the glory unto Him from whom they received all the Grace. He who built Heaven, He who supports Heaven, He who chose every inhabitant in Heaven, He who fashioned every inhabitant for Heaven, He whobought every inhabitant of Heaven with His precious blood, He who is the Father of all and the Friend of all, may well be the center of all joy, of all observation, and of all worship in the eternal world!
Note, however, particularly, that the center of the heavenly worship is not God in the act of Creation, but God uponDivine Sovereignty too plainly, we have to encounter the objections of many who pronounce it a hard saying and ask “Who can bear it?” That the Potter shall have power over the clay to do as He wills with each lump, that He should have mercy upon whom He will have mercy, and do as He wills with His own, grates harshly on their ears! I know it is because hearts are hard upon earth, for in that place where every heart is right with God, they are all too glad to let Him sway the scepter. This is the very crown of their song–“The Lord God Omnipotent reigns.” His will is their supreme delight. They understand that His will, despotic as it may seem, and unquestioned by any creature, is a will of mercy, of tenderness, of wisdom, of holiness, and of truth! Therefore, they pay their adorations to Him as King of kings and Lord of lords. This is a peculiar subject of their joy–that God has a Throne, that He sits upon it and that He rules over all things, and all things do His bidding. The central thought of Heaven, then, is Divine Sovereignty.
You will remark that we are told there was also the Lamb upon the Throne–as if to teach us that even in Heaven,the glory of the reigning God, working all things according to the counsels of His will, were a sight all too bright even for those pure spirits, unless they saw side by side with Him the Substitute, the Lamb of God! They see Jesus still under the form of a Sin-Bearer, Jesus represented by the symbolic emblem of a Lamb, a Lamb that had been slain, Jesus the Sufferer, Jesus the Crucified, Jesus who once died for sin and has forever put it away by His blood. Oh, my Brothers and Sisters, how I love these two doctrines as I see them side by side–God, a Sovereign, makes me tremble–Christ, the Lamb, makes me rejoice with trembling! God, a Sovereign, overawes me! I take off my shoes, like Moses at the burning bush, but the Lamb has a voice that bids me draw near and have fellowship even with the God who is a consuming fire!
Oh, how much this ought to be the object of our thoughts on earth, seeing that it is the main object of their thoughts in Heaven! We have often heard statements made by persons of what they mean to do in Heaven. I read in a biography the other day of one who had not told another person certain feelings of his, as he meant to tell them in the other world. Believe me, we shall have something better to do than discourse of trifles in that upper sphere! We may even dismiss that stanza of Dr. Watts–
“And with transporting joy, recount
The labors of our feet.”
It is but a poetic fiction! What are “the labors of our feet” that they should engross our attention? The reigning God will absorb our thoughts! How we can serve Him, the Supreme, will occupy our minds! The Lamb who once upon the Cross was slain, but now upon His Throne does reign–how we can make the universe resound with His praises, how we can fly at His bidding, if He wills, from world to world, and proclaim the matchless story of His love! How we may be able to make known to angels, principalities and powers in the heavenly places the manifold wisdom of God–this, it seems to me, will engross our attention far more than any of the trifling circumstances of time, or any of the occurrences that were connected with our pilgrimage here below! Oh, dear Brothers and Sisters, let us, while we are sojourning on earth, keep God upon the Throne uppermost in our hearts and so school ourselves in heavenly contemplation. Let us keep Christ uppermost with us in our meditations, in our conversations and in our actions. Let us be God’s men! Let us be Christ’s men! God upon the Throne, Christ the Lamb upon the Throne–let this be our central attraction. Let us count it to be our pleasure to live here, as it will be our superlative pleasure to live forever hereafter, as worshippers who do homage before the Throne of God and the Lamb! We have seen the Divine Center, now, let us carefully mark–
II. THE DIVINE CIRCLE–the living throng that surrounded the Throne of God.
They are mentioned as “a multitude that no man can number.” This leads me to remark–although I cannot find words to fitly express the thought–that I will call it the sociality of God. He was God over all, blessed forever, selfexistent, independent, needing no creature to assist Him, or to add to His Glory or His happiness. But He chose to create worlds–how many we can never guess. The revelations of astronomy seem to tell us that He made them as lavishly as men might cast seed when they sow it broadcast over many acres. There they glitter in the expanse of space, and for all we know, every one of them filled with happy beings! We cannot tell. But God would not be alone. He willed not to be alone. He delighted in the habitable parts of the worlds that He chose to make. If you confine your view but to this world, you may discern that He would not be alone. He made this planet. He fitted it up to be the abode of living creatures. The Divine Being has been pleased to create all sorts and forms of beauty and of life–from the tiny animalcule that finds an ocean in a drop of water, up to the leviathan that makes the very deep to boil like a pot and causes the waves thereof to be hoary with his mighty lashings. God was pleased to make the eagle to fly aloft in the heavens and the fish to cut the deep. All these creatures He has fed for many generations. Upon all these He looks with interest and compassion. He hears the young ravens when they cry. What a boundless Creation! If every separate world that He has made has such an amazing catalog of life, what multitudes of creatures now cluster round about the great Eternal One! He dwelt alone, but He chose not to be alone. And now He has built His house and filled His mighty chambers with many mansions into which He has been pleased to put a thousand forms of life. And then He said within Himself, “I will make a creature different from all the rest I have made as yet–it shall be a spirit that can converse with me–intelligent, immortal.” And He created those first-born sons of light. I know not how many they may be, but our Covenant God, Father, Son, and Spirit formed servants suitable for the higher will and loftier behests in the cherubim and seraphim whom He made to be like flames of fire and who cheerfully flash to do His bidding. And then, last of all, He said–and here, the Divine Unity comes into counsel with itself–“Let Us make man after Our own image,” and He made a strange creature, matchless and altogether unique–part of which was taken from the ground and kindred with the soil, which might die if it sinned, but another part of which was immaterial, fitted to tenant any of the spheres in the great universe and should exist forever–a spirit made in the image of God! So He made us and at this day, despite sin which seemed to rob God of all His newborn servants and sons, whom He had created in the loins of Adam, He has a multitude that no man can number, who are nearer to Him than even angels are, associates and friends with Christ, His Son, brought into union with Christ, married to Him. Is it not a marvelous subject if one could dive into it, this social Character of the Divine Being, that He willed not to be alone, that He still continues to constantly surround Himself with ten thousand times ten thousand spirits whom He ordains to bless? Oh, that I might be among them! Does not each one of you say so? Oh, that I might tread the courts of His house! To be but a hired servant within His gates might well content me, but oh, if I might be His son and as His child, might draw near to Him!–how would I bless that glorious Being from whom I sprang and into whose bosom I would leap back again–the source of my life, the sum total of my bliss, my God, my All! Think that thought over another time. I leave it with you.
Another thought rises out of the text. If there shall be in Heaven a multitude surpassing all human arithmetic, out of all nations, and tribes, and peoples, and tongues, how certain the Gospel is to achieve yet a great success. We are alwaysfretting. We are in a great hurry for results. We are impatient of the issue, for we cannot see how the Kingdom of God will come and gladly would we want to hasten the wheels of our Lord’s chariot. Well, but our fears may be put aside and our disquietude may be allayed when we remember that as surely as Jehovah lives, Christ must see of the travail of Hissoul–and He shall see of it in the ultimate salvation of a number out of all nations that are beyond all human count! Patience, my Brothers and Sisters, patience, but diligence! Let us work at the same time that we wait. Let us serve, for the cause is in good hands. The pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in the hands of Christ! He shall not have died in vain! He shall not lose the purchase of His blood! A countless multitude must be saved! As surely as He bought them, so surely will He wash them in the blood which He shed on their behalf! Perhaps the day of the Church’s great growth will come when she returns to something like her primitive mode of warfare. Those who first went out to convert the world were but a handful of men–one room contained them all–yet within a few years there was not a nation upon earth that had not heard the Gospel! Even to the remotest isles the Truth of Jesus had been carried, and who were the men who carried it? Brothers, they were men who never framed a syllogism–men who never embellished a sermon with rhetorical art! For the most part, they were men who spoke only the language of the common people–spoke it, I doubt not, earnestly, but certainly not according to the lordly rhetoric of the schools. They were not men who strove to be intellectual. They were not deep thinkers. They were not profoundly learned. They were men who knew but this one thing–that a Savior had come into the world and that they were intent to tell men about Him! They spoke of this and of this only in burning words with tender feelings and fervent appeals to the conscience. But now-a-days, indeed, we are told that the world is to be converted by logic! That it is to be reasoned out of its sins! That it is to be enlightened by the tapers of human intellectuntil the darkness of Hell shall be scattered! Believe me, we are on the wrong tack if we think this! It is not so! “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts,” and the Spirit works with the simple Gospel, and only with the simple Gospel! When we get back to this conviction and return to this practice, we shall begin to see the countless multitudes flocking first to the Church on earth and afterwards to the Church above. I will ask you, my Brothers and Sisters here who have been converted, how were you saved? How were you converted? Was it by learning? Was it by the flash of some glorious speech of some mighty master of rhetoric? I confess that if I were converted to God–and I trust I was–it was through the ministration of a very simple, humble, uneducated man. I believe the confession of the most of God’s children will be such as gives the glory to the Gospel, and not to the preacher’s skill, art or intellect. If you have received comfort, and if you have received light, these things have come to you by the means of one who could not claim the glory, for he was but an earthen vessel–the excellence of the power was conspicuously of God and not of him! Oh, Spirit of God, bring back Your Church to a belief in the Gospel! Bring back her ministers to preach it once again with the Holy Spirit, and not striving after wit and learning. Then shall we see Your arm made bare, O God, in the eyes of all the people, and the myriads shall be brought to rally round the Throne of God and the Lamb! The Gospel must succeed! It shall succeed! It cannot be prevented from succeeding–a multitude that no man can number must be saved!
Kindly allow me to continue on the same point the Divine circle in Heaven. Notice the variety. “Out of every nationand tribe, and people, and tongue.” How did John know that? I suppose as he looked at them, he could tell where they come from. There is individuality in Heaven, depend upon it! Every seed will have its own body. There will sit down in Heaven not three unknown patriarchs, but Abraham–you will know him! Isaac–you will know him! And Jacob–you will know him! There will be in Heaven not a company of persons, all struck off alike so that you cannot tell who is who, but they will be out of every nation, and tribe, and people, and tongue. I say not that they will speak the language they spoke on earth, but I do say that there will be certain idiosyncrasies and peculiar marks about them that will permit the onlooker to know, as John knew, that they are not all of one nation, but of all nations, tribes, people and tongues. I like this. The very charm of nature is its variety. If all flowers were alike, where were the glorious crown of summer? And if all bodies in the Resurrection world, or even all spirits in the disembodied state could all be precisely one like another, the very beauty of Heaven would be extinct in a degree. No, there they are from different tribes, nations, peoples and tongues–and this betokens individuality and gives us hope that we shall know each other in Heaven even as we are known!
Yet a unity about them, for they all wore white robes, and they all carried palms, and they all sang the same song.There are twelve gates to the New Jerusalem, but they all lead to the same city, and there is the same center. There were twelve foundations, but they were all laid on the one Foundation. So they may be many views and notions of truth that we may hold, but they must all be bottomed on Christ Jesus and founded there. And if they are, we shall all meet in the better land. There is a variety in Heaven, yet there is a unity of experience, and a unity in the gratitude they feel. May you and I be there to help to increase the variety and to certify the unity of the heavenly throng! And now for a few words of running comment on the description given of–
III. THE SACRED COMPANY, THEMSELVES, which will supply us with a third point.
They “stood before the Throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.” That they stood is not meant to teach us that they do not sit or rest in Heaven, for they always rest in Heaven. But they stand–that is to say–they are confirmed, they are established, they are secure. Their feet shall never slide. They stand in no slippery places. They stand before the Throne of God! It is the posture of action–they stand like soldiers ready for the march–like servants who but need to have it said to them, “Go,” and they go. Oh, that we could on earth realize this posture of Heaven! The Lord hold us up that we may stand–may our feet never slide–and oh, that we might stand with loins girt ready for whatever He shall bid us do! Alas, we need often to shake ourselves, for we lie upon the bed of sloth and we are given to slumber. If we would be like those are who see His face, we should always stand and watch, that whatever the Master says to us, we would be ready to obey.
That they stood “ before the Throne” shows that they are in the immediate Presence of God. They are not excludedfrom His Presence, they are not at a distance, but they behold His Glory to peculiar advantage and He is near to them in a remarkably gracious and glorious manner. They stand before the Throne of God. Yes, and this is the charm of Heaven, to dwell in the Presence of God! You have tasted, then, something of what Heaven means, my dear Brothers and Sisters. Sometimes you have been near to Christ and in full fellowship with Him you have sipped of the golden cup from which you shall drink forever! You have tasted of immortal fruit that shall furnish your everlasting food. This is Heaven–forever to behold His face, forever to stand like a courtier in the very court, itself, like a favorite before the Throne–not in the outer courts–not in the court of the Gentiles, but inside the veil, before the Throne, within the glorious mystery, the
sanctum sanctorum, in the Holy of Holies, right where God, Himself, is! There shall we stand forever and forever!
That they were “ clothed with white robes” is not a little significant. Nakedness was revealed to man by sin. Beforethe time when he sinned, he was naked and not ashamed. But then he strove to make himself a dress and the fig leaf was the result. But Christ has come in and clothed us–clothed us completely. The robes spoken of here seem to have covered them from head to foot. They were “clothed with white robes”–not partly clad, but altogether clad in them. Oh, how comely that righteousness of Christ which He has worked for us, and worked in us wherewith we shall be clothed when we stand before the eternal Throne of God! Brothers and Sisters, rejoice to put it on tonight! Rejoice to feel that His blood and righteousness, even now–
“Your beauty are your glorious dress.”
Anticipate the time when you shall be admired of men and of angels, attired in that complete garment. These robes are said to be “white robes”–white to indicate purity–and “they are without fault before the Throne of God.” White–as distinctive of their priestly order, “for they are kings and priests unto God forever and ever.” White–as an emblem oftriumph, for now they are victors over every foe.
But why and how came those robes to be white? Their robes are white because His robes were red–His robes I say.Oh, how the angels gazed with astonishment, and asked with eagerness, as they saw Him come back from Calvary, “Why are Your garments red? Why are You red in Your apparel as one that has trodden the winepress?” And He answered, “I have trodden the winepress alone, and of the people there was none with Me.” Because the Savior bled and dyed His garments with His own blood for us, therefore, filthy as the saints' garments once were, they are now robed in pure immaculate white, whiter than any fuller could make them, glistening like the sun!
Oh, the joy of being there! May it soon come to us! It will! It may come now, while yet we are talking here–
“Soon may the hand be stretched
And dumb the mouth that lisps this faltering strain.”
But if it were so, then sudden death would be sudden glory! Are you sure, each one of you, that it would be so? Would your departure out of this life be your entrance into the eternal life? Would the shutting of these poor eyes be the opening of nobler optics upon a brighter scene? Believer, it would be so with you! Then why are you afraid to die? No, rather, be willing at any time to gather up your feet into the bed and die–your father’s God to meet–where the whiterobed company see His face!
To complete the description, we will only remark that the palms in their hands may refer to their observing thatgreat feast of the Lord, the feast of tabernacles, when the harvest of the earth is complete, when the sabbathism that remains to the people of God is attained and the pleasures which are at God’s right hand forevermore are realized–for so of old it was ordained, as we read in Leviticus–that at this festival the Israelites should take palm branches in their hands and rejoice before the Lord their God. This seems to have been the acme of felicity in their sacred year.
I wish I had the power to describe this glorious circle–those bright ones before the Throne, that you could see them! I think, as I look upon them, that I can see even now the Apostolic band. I mark the goodly fellowship of the Prophets. I think I see the martyrs with their ruby crowns. Do not I see the ministers and confessors of Christ, some of my own kith and kin that have gone before me–the Covenanters who bled in Scotland, and the heroes of Smithfield? There they stand, and listen!–how they sing! None shall excel them in their song of praise. You have a mother there, perhaps–a sister, or a brother, or your grandfather who, years ago “went over to the majority” to sing among that countless multitude. Oh, if I could but have a vision of all that will be there within the next hundred years, would I see myself, and would I see all this company there? Oh, if it were possible, I would gladly translate you all to Heaven at once–from the Tabernacle to the Temple, from this place where we sing His praises at His footstool to the place where we will sing them to His face more sweetly and more loudly by far! Not one of you, oh, not one of you would we have absent! Though, Friend, you may be out of sight, and almost out of hearing, one who has just managed to crowd in among the multitude that throng this house–oh, may you with all the rest of us have a place among His chosen–and may none of you find your name left out when He, for them, shall call! Are you believing in Jesus? If so, you should be there! Are you an unbeliever? If you die as you are, you must be driven from His Presence–you must be destroyed from the glory of His power–all the joy and bliss that make up life must be crushed out of you and you must live banished from Him forever! And now to close. It seems that–
IV. THIS GOODLY COMPANY WHO SURROUNDED THE CENTRAL THRONE OF GOD WERE ENGAGED IN SONG.
They “cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our GOD which sits upon the Throne and unto the Lamb.” I was reading the other day a book containing the life of a very excellent Primitive Methodist minister, and I was greatly amused to find in his diary an allusion to myself. He says, “Went to Stroud to hear Mr. Spurgeon. He is a rank Calvinist, but a good man.” I was pleased to find that I was a good man, and I was equally pleased to find that I was a rank Calvinist! And when I came to review the book I was obliged to say that our Brother was quite correct about my being a rank Calvinist, and we believed that he was one, too, now that he has gone to Heaven! They are all Calvinists there! Every soul of them! They may have been Armenians on earth–thousands and millions of them were–but they are not after they get there, for here is their song, “Salvation unto our God which sits upon the Throne.” That is all my Calvinism. I am sure that is what Calvin preached, what Augustine preached, what Paul preached, what Christ would have us preach! And this is what they sing in Heaven–“Salvation unto our God which sits upon the Throne and unto the Lamb.” They sing in Heaven that it was God that planned salvation, ‘twas God that ordained them to salvation, 'twas God that gavethem salvation, 'twas the Lamb that brought them salvation, 'twas all of God that that salvation was carried on, and all of God that their salvation was ever perfected! They do not, one of them, say, “Stop, now! Salvation unto our God, yes, but still, free will had a hand in it.” Oh, no, no, no! There never was a soul in Heaven that ever thought that! They all feel, when they get there, that although God never violated their free wills, yet He made them willing in the day of His power, and that it was His Free Grace that brought them to come and love the Savior! I am sure, if the verse were given out in Heaven, that we sometimes sing at Communion, they would sing it there–
“‘Twas all of Your Grace we were made to obey,
While others were suffered to go
The road which by nature we chose as our way,
And which leads to the chambers of woe.”
And I think they would sing that other verse that we sing at the Lord’s Table–
“Why was I made to hear Your voice,
And enter while there’s room,
While thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?
‘Twas the same love that spread the feast,
That kindly forced me in,
Else I had still refused to taste,
And perished in my sin.”
This is how they sing in Heaven, then. It is salvation–salvation all of Grace! Salvation of which the glory, from first to last, must all be given to God, and to God alone. They exclude themselves! They give no boasting to themselves. They do not say, “Salvation unto our better nature; salvation to our choicer Grace.” No, no! But all unto the Lord, all unto the Lord from first to last! Well, Brothers and Sisters, some of us will not have to change our note much when we get there, for that has been the burden of our song here! It has been the theme of our ministry from our youth up, “Salvation is of the Lord.” We have learned it somewhere in the same college as that in which Jonah learned that old Calvinistic theology. He had to go into the whale’s belly to learn it, and when he came out, he said, “Salvation is of the Lord.” And we, too, in sharp afflictions, pains, and griefs have had to learn it and have it burned into us! And we never believed it more thoroughly in our lives than we do now, that if a sinner is saved, it is God’s work that saves him–and God must have all the glory of it.
I pray the Lord to convince any poor needy soul that there is salvation in Him–and enable that poor soul now to come and take it–take it by a simple act of faith. You have not got to save yourselves. Christ has saved you. You have but to trust Him and you are saved. There is nothing for you to do–nothing for you to be, but simply to be nothing–and to let Christ be All-in-All to you, to look and live, for–
“There’s life in a look at the Crucified One.”
God grant that you may look, and so be among the countless throng who shall sing His praises forever and ever! Amen.