THE GREAT MULTITUDE
It is commonly believed by most church members that the Great Multitude of Revelation Seven are the dead from all the ages—the conglomeration of the saints from Adam up to the second return of Christ. By now you know the Rod’s position: That the Great Multitude of Revelation seven are the saints who will be gathered by the 144,000 from the world during the loud cry or the time of the mark of the beast, and that they like the 144,000 will be translated without tasting death.
First Necessitates a Second
The 144,000 are called the “first fruits.”(Revelation 14:4). We know that they are the “living saints.” They will be “translated from among the living” having never tasted death. Therefore, we know that they cannot be the same as the “first fruits” mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:20, because they are the first fruits of those that “slept.” So, again, the 144,000 are the first fruits of the “living” not the resurrected.
But if you have first fruits of the living, there must be second fruits of the living! It is true that the Bible does not specifically mention the term “second fruits,” but that is what they are! One necessitates another as how the “first resurrection” (Revelation 20:5) necessitates a second one; yet the Bible does not use the term second resurrection! The Bible mentions a second death (Revelation 20:14), but does not refer to a first death in those terms. Therefore, there must be two groups of living saints—one from the church, the other from the world.
What about the dead or resurrected group? Christ and those who came up with Him from the grave represent the first fruits of those that slept or died. (1 Corinthians 15:20). So there must be a second group of resurrected saints. One necessitates another! The answer is found in 1 Corinthians 15:23—first those at Christ’s resurrection, then those at His second coming.
They Live Through the End Time Events
Notice that in Revelation 7: 9 -17, the Great Multitude live through all the end time events including the up-coming time of trouble (the “great tribulation”—verse 14) and the fourth plague (verse 16). The fourth plague is the blight of the sun and heat which scorches men with “great heat.” (Revelation 16:8). If they live through all of these events (especially the plagues) without harm, they certainly must be living saints who will be translated without seeing death.
They Are Classified Differently from All the Other Saints
“Nearest the throne,” Ellen White wrote: “are those who were once zealous in the cause of Satan, but, who, plucked as brands from the burning, have followed their Savior with deep, intense devotion. Next are those who perfected Christian characters in the midst of falsehood and infidelity, those who honored the law of God when the Christian world declared it void., and the millions, of all ages, who were martyred for their faith. And beyond is the great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues. . .”
Here is a list of all the saints from the beginning of time to the very end. Notice that the great Multitude is classified differently from all other saints. Inspiration wrote, “and beyond.” That is, they do not include the martyrs, or any of the other class of saints. Surely, if they were the resurrected saints from the beginning of time they would include the martyrs!
They Will Be Gathered Before Jesus Returns
“The message of the renewing power of God’s grace,” Inspiration declared, “will be carried to every country and clime, until the truth shall belt the world. Of the number of them that shall be sealed will be those who have come from every nation and kindred and tongue and people. From every country will be gathered men and women who will stand before the throne of God and before the Lamb. . “.[then Revelation 7:10 is quoted].
This inspired comment makes it plain that the Great Multitude will be (future tense) gathered during the last proclamation of the gospel— which, of course, is before the second coming. So how can they be the resurrected at Christ’s return?
Type and Antitype
You may have observed that any true doctrine is modeled somewhere in biblical history. We often refer to this modeling as type and antitype. The type is past and serves as a mold for the present or future. So, does the Great Multitude have a type? Oh yes. But to gain the full picture, we need to look at the 144,000 as well so we can glean more of the lesson.
We know that the 144,000 will not taste death—they will be translated from among the living, as we saw earlier. The type for them has to be the ancient prophet, Elijah. Why? Because he represented those, who like him, will be translated without tasting death. This is confirmed in the book, Prophets and Kings:
“Elijah was a type of the saints who will be living on the earth at the time of the second advent of Christ and who will be “changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump,” without tasting death.”
The only group that fits is the 144,000. Not only because like Elijah they will not taste death, but because they too are said to be Israelites ( 1 Kings 17:1; Revelation 7:4), and will wear long mantles in heaven like Elijah did. (1 Kings 19:19). “Here on the sea of glass,” says Ellen White, “the 144,000 stood in a perfect square. . . .And they were all clothed with glorious white mantles from their shoulders to their feet.” Type meets antitype.
But there was another person who was taken to heaven without tasting death. That’s right, Enoch. So Enoch must also be a type. Ellen White confirms this: “As Enoch was translated to heaven before the destruction of the world by water, so the living righteous will be translated from the earth before its destruction by fire.”
Since Elijah is the type of the 144,000, Enoch would have to be the type of some other class of saints. You will remember that Enoch was not an Israelite because he came before Jacob and the twelve tribes. Here is another point to consider; also found in the book, Early Writings. “Then I was taken to a world which had seven moons,” says the servant of the Lord, “There I saw good old Enoch, who had been translated. On his right arm he bore a glorious palm, and on each leaf was written ‘victory’”
We notice how perfectly Enoch typifies the Great Multitude. In Revelation 7:9, the Great multitude are said to have palms, and to have been gathered from all nations. Furthermore, they were not specifically stated to be Israelites as with the 144,000. Type meets antitype. The Great Multitude will not taste death, and therefore could not be resurrected saints.
Seen in Heaven, But On Earth
Because Revelation 7:9 tells us that the Great Multitude was standing before the throne, most naturally conclude that they are in heaven literally after Jesus’ second advent. However, as strange as this may sound, they are seen in heaven but are actually on the earth before the second advent.
Before balking the idea, consider what John the Revelator said about the background of this scene:
And all the angels stood around about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshiped God . . . .And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, what are these [the Great Multitude] which are arrayed in white robes? And whence came they? (Revelation 7:11, 13).
You may remember that Revelation chapters four and five, the basis for chapter seven, speak about a judgment scene where there are symbolic beasts, elders, angels and the throne of the Father, before whom Jesus the Lamb stands as our intercessor. The point is, that as long as these persons are still in the sanctuary probation has not yet closed. In other words, the very fact that the “four beasts” and the “elders” are standing before the throne of God, is clear evidence that the investigative judgment is still in progress, probation has not yet closed, and the seven last plagues have not yet been poured out!
And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God. And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever. And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled. Revelation 15:1, 7,8.
So no one can be in the temple while the plagues are poured out, yet the Great Multitude was seen in heaven before the throne in the temple with the beasts and the elders. In other words, it is during probationary time—before the plagues are poured out—before Jesus’ return. It could not be during the thousand years because the saints are never represented as beasts and elders during the millennium. Whenever beasts and elders are used it is always in the context of the investigative judgment which is during probationary time. Therefore, the Great Multitude are alive during probationary time—before the seven last plagues are poured out!
But you ask? How could they be seen in heaven and on earth at the same time? The answer is, to John they were presented as being in heaven, but in reality, the Great Multitude was on earth.
It is a common phenomenon in Revelation. John saw the red dragon of Revelation 12:3,4 (the Devil) in heaven. He saw the woman (the church) in heaven (Revelation 12:1). Revelation 14 represents the church as angels flying in heaven, yet all these entities are on earth! Even Sister White had the same experience on at least one occasion.
I saw a throne, and on it sat the Father and the Son. . . . Before the throne I saw the Advent people–the church and the world. . . .Now this praying company was in this mortal state, on the earth, yet represented to me as bowed before the throne. I never had the idea that these individuals were actually in the New Jerusalem.
In closing this section, we wish to remind the reader of Isaiah 66: 15 -20, which we covered in section 7. There you will remember that the 144,000 will escape the slaughter or judgment in the church and immediately afterward go out and bring in a great number from all nations. Thus, from every angle, the same truth is revealed.
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