Tribulation Martyrs or Saints
The Great Multitude in White Robes

After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

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, saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”

Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

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. Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Rev. 7:9-17)

There are differing opinions as to who this multitude is. By their white robes and their declaration as to the Author of their salvation, everyone agrees that they’re believers from Earth.

But the facts that John, the disciple most closely associated with the Church, didn’t recognize them, their arrival in Heaven follows the Rapture by three chapters, and their destiny is that of servants in the Temple and not co-regents of the Universe, mean they are post rapture believers and not part of the Church. They’ve been caught up in the destruction on Earth during the first half of the 70th Week and have paid the ultimate price for their new-found faith.

They’re called Tribulation martyrs or Tribulation saints, but technically that’s not accurate either, because the Great Tribulation hasn’t begun yet. We’re still in the first half of the 70th week.

How do we know that? The Greek word translated “out of” in the phrase “these are they who have come out of the Great Tribulation” is the same word that’s translated “from” in Rev 3:10 where the Lord promised deliverance for the Church. Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth. According to The Strong’s Concordance it’s a primary preposition denoting origin. It means “from, or out of, the place, time, or cause” of a specified event.

So, like the Church, these saints have been removed from the place, the time, and the cause of the Great Tribulation. They didn’t come to faith in time for the Rapture so they won’t share in the Church’s unique destiny and blessing. But most likely being finally persuaded to faith by the Church’s disappearance, they’ll be martyred early in the 70th week, and so will escape the worst of it. Later on the living will envy the dead so much that they’ll long for death, but death will elude them. (Rev. 9:6)

These saints will have a privileged existence in eternity, always in the presence of the Lord. They’ll serve Him day and night in His Temple and will never want for anything. The Lord will spread His tent over them, meaning that He’ll be personally responsible for their welfare. They’ll neither hunger nor thirst, and the Lord will remove every regret from their minds, wiping every tear from their eyes.

But neither will they ever sit on a throne at the side of their Beloved, examples for all the Universe to see of the incomparable riches of God’s grace, expressed in His kindness to the Church, His work of art (Ephes. 2:6-10). They’ll never share in His inheritance nor be counted among the most favored group in all of Creation. When push came to shove they needed one final incontrovertible sign that it was right to believe. Lacking the faith to accept what they could not see, they required evidence. That evidence came to them in the form of the Rapture of the Church, when those who believed by faith alone disappeared before their very eyes. Too late, they finally believed.

As the Lord said to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

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