John responds to the
elder with a reply of respect, ‘My lord,’ which back in those days was a
typical greeting to someone who is of a superior position. The elder has a golden crown on his
head. John yields to that position, a
position that could have only come from God.
On the earth, people have
a tendency to crown themselves. In
heaven, God does all of the promotion and giving of honors.
These people, of whom
they are referring, are the believers who have been martyred in the
Tribulation. But this is referenced to a
particular portion of the Tribulation, that is
identified as the ‘Great Tribulation.’
Jesus Himself coined and
identified this phrase and segment of history, as the last half of the seven
year period, the last three and a half years, of what we generally call the whole
Tribulation, Matt. 24:21.
It might be well to note
that the Tribulation will last seven years in length, Matt 24:13-22; Mark
13:14-20; Dan 9:27). The last half will
be forty-two months or 1,260 days, or three and a half years, Rev. 11:2-3.
The first half of the Tribulation, is called Satan’s failed utopia, by virtue of
the white horse vision which fails as it is followed by the red horse, the
black horse and the pale horse.
Recall our study wherein
we discovered that one-fourth of the world’s population will die during this
time. Not much of a utopia!
But after the sixth and
during the seventh seal, the great tribulation will occur. From the beginning of the Tribulation, people
will die. That death rate will continue
to increase as matters get progressively worse.
By the mid-point of the Tribulation,
the death rate will increase dramatically and continue to grow at an even
faster rate. And even during these times
of extreme hardships, people will be believing in
Christ at an extremely fast rate, as well.
The verb, ‘which came out
of,’ or ‘erchomai,’ is a reference to an ongoing
process over time. This process of
people dying and going to heaven will occur all through the seven years. It is not a one time
event, as the Rapture is a single event.
These folks are not yet
glorified by virtue of their lack of crowns and linens, as the elders are
described with having.
They are not referred to
as the Church as the seven churches are references in the first couple of
They are not referred to
as ones coming out of a single event.
But they were referred to
as a distinct group coming out of the last half of the Tribulation. And as we already know, they number into huge
We have already seen that
the elders are believers who are already in heaven, already cleansed, and
already glorified. The elders are not
counted among these martyred believers.
The elders came to heaven out of the Rapture, which will occur
immediately before the Tribulation will begin.
And since all believers
are raptured, leaving only unbelievers behind on the
earth, then this passage as well as others, indicates
that there will be huge numbers of people who will believe in Christ, during
the Tribulation. Both
in its beginning, and especially during the last half.
Washing their robes and
making them white in the blood of the lamb, is a figure of speech, referring to
the salvation work of Christ on the Cross.
Christ died, that all men might be saved, and for all who believe in
Christ, salvation is secured forever.
These people will believe in Christ, while they are alive on the earth.
Soiled garments in scripture
symbolize the defilement of sin, Isa 64:6; Zech 3:3, and salvation is often
pictured as a washing or cleansing away, making white, removing sin, Rev 22:14;
Ps 51:7; Isa 1:18; Titus 3:5. Together this
is a reference to atonement or salvation through faith in Christ, because of
His work on the Cross.
These are believers who
will die in great numbers during the last and most extreme half of the
So, from this we know
that the Rapture is not in view here (it has already occurred prior to this),
the elders and these dressed in white have a distinctively different dress
The elder spoke of those
who were in white robes as ‘they,’ not us or we. So they are a distinctively different group
from the elders.
These dressed in white
will come out of the last half of the Tribulation, whereas we saw others in the
fifth seal who will die due to the failed utopia efforts of humanity in the first
half of the tribulation. They likewise
were not grouped with the elders.
Huge numbers will believe
in Christ during the entire period of the Tribulation. There will be large numbers of evangelists
from the onset of the Tribulation, especially those out of Israel, by which
people will come to believe in Christ.
End of study