Who will comprise the great multitude of Revelation 7:9? In endeavoring to answer this question, there is much speculation, and all too often people come up with the same false answer. This does not need to be, for the correct answer to this question is clearly revealed to us, so that there can be no need to doubt. Ellen White applies this verse to that time after the earth has been made new, and the ransomed are seen after they are restored to their original homeland, the earth. Read carefully: “The seer of Patmos, looking down through the ages to the time of this restoration of Israel in the earth made new, testified:
“ ‘I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and 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 sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.’ [Revelation 7:9, 10.]” Prophets and Kings, 720, 721. It is plain to see that the Spirit of Prophecy applies the great multitude of Revelation 7:9 to the redeemed of all ages.
“Nearest the throne are those who were once zealous in the cause of Satan. . . . Next are those who perfected Christian characters in the midst of falsehood and infidelity, those who honor 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, . . . before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.’ Revelation 7:9.” The Great Controversy, 665.
We are counseled that in this end time, “many will be martyrs for Christ’s sake in standing in defense of the truth.” Selected Messages, Book 3, 397. Note that nearest to the throne will stand those who were once zealous in the cause of Satan, and next to them will stand the 144,000 and the martyrs, and beyond these are the great multitude of Revelation 7:9.
“Suffering has been the portion of the people of God from the days of the martyr Abel. . . . None will be there who have not, like Moses, chosen to suffer affliction with the people of God. The prophet John saw the multitude of the redeemed, and inquired who they were. The prompt answer came, ‘These are they who came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’ [Revelation 7:14.]” Testimonies, vol. 1, 78.
Please note that the great multitude, as well as the 144,000, had washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. The 144,000 are a numbered group. The large multitude, which no man can number, are the resurrected dead from all the ages, which will include the martyrs.
We now return to the theme of the sealed saints, the 144,000. Ellen White tells us: “The message will be carried not so much by argument as by the deep conviction of the Spirit of God. . . . Notwithstanding the agencies combined against the truth, a large number take their stand upon the Lord’s side.” The Great Controversy, 612.
“Men of faith and prayer will be constrained to go forth with holy zeal, declaring the words which God gives them. . . . By these solemn warnings the people will be stirred. Thousands upon thousands will listen who have never heard words like these. . . .
“Thus light will be brought before thousands who otherwise would know nothing of these truths.” Ibid., 606, 607.
“The Spirit is poured out upon all who will yield to its promptings. . . . Multitudes will receive the faith and join the armies of the Lord.” Evangelism, 700. Oh, what a day that will be!
But what about these new converts? Will they have time to perfect the character developments necessary to meet Jesus and live? The Spirit of Prophecy answers this question. “But now time is almost finished, and what we have been years learning, they will have to learn in a few months.” Early Writings, 67. Remember the divine counsel: “With God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26. Under the persecutions and tribulations of the last days, the eleventh-hour converts will accomplish in their character building in a few months that which it has taken us years to develop. Surely some of these converts will be numbered among the 144,000 and live to see Jesus come in the clouds of heaven.
What is this message the saints will give to the world during the loud cry? It will be a message that will so startle the inhabitants that they will listen. God’s servants will present the Three Angels’ Messages, as recorded in Revelation 14, which Inspiration calls, “The most fearful threatenings ever addressed to mortals.” The Great Controversy, 449.
This will be done, however, in the light of the saving righteousness and love of Christ. “The message of Christ’s righteousness is to sound from one end of the earth to the other to prepare the way of the Lord. This is the glory of God which closes the work of the third angel.” Testimonies, vol. 6, 19.
“As the third angel’s message swells into a loud cry, great power and glory will attend its proclamation. The faces of God’s people will shine with the light of heaven.” Ibid., vol. 7, 17. “Servants of God, with their faces lighted up and shining with holy consecration, will hasten from place to place to proclaim the message from heaven. By thousands of voices, all over the earth, the warning will be given. Miracles will be wrought, the sick will be healed, and signs and wonders will follow the believers. Satan also works with lying wonders, even bringing down fire from heaven in the sight of men. Revelation 13:13.” Maranatha, 20. Thus, the inhabitants of the earth will be brought to take their stand.
Christ Our Righteousness
The 144,000 living saints are described as “first fruits” of the redeemed. The Scripture says, “And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.” Revelation 19:8.
However, the saints will ever be aware that they have no intrinsic righteousness of their own, that their own righteousness is as filthy rags. They know the King of kings furnished the beautiful wedding garments they are wearing. They will declare of themselves, “I have no righteousness of my own, but Christ is my righteousness.” Review and Herald, August 5, 1890.
“One interest will prevail, one subject will swallow up every other,—Christ our righteousness.” Review and Herald, December 23, 1890. “In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth [shall be] excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel. And it shall come to pass, [that he that is] left in Zion, and [he that] remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, [even] every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem.” Isaiah 4:2, 3.
A Perfect Picture
After the last saint is sealed, but not until then, probation will close for the inhabitants of the wicked world. The seven last plagues will fall, after which Jesus will come. Then the great multitude is resurrected. Can you imagine the excitement? For when Jesus comes, the 144,000 will watch the graves of the righteous open, and they will recognize loved ones who are resurrected.
A word picture of this event is given to us by Ellen White: “Then Jesus’ silver trumpet sounded, as He descended on the cloud, wrapped in flames of fire. He gazes on the graves of the sleeping saints, then raising His eyes and hands to heaven, and cries, ‘Awake! Awake! Awake! ye that sleep in the dust, and arise.’ Then there was a mighty earthquake. The graves opened and the dead came up clothed in immortality. The 144,000 shouted ‘Alleluia!’ as they recognized their friends who had been torn from them by death, and in the same moment we are changed and caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air.” Early Writings, 16.
Then it is that the 144,000 and the great multitude of the resurrected dead ascend to heaven together. “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. Says the apostle: ‘We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God; the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed.’ ‘The dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.’ 1 Corinthians 15:51, 52. 1 Thessalonians 4:16−18.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 89. Finally all will be over, and the saints can enjoy and explore their new world.
This brings us to a most beautiful setting, as described by Ellen White in her visit to the New Earth in vision, where she saw the 144,000 and the martyrs for their faith. “Mount Zion was just before us, and on the mount was a glorious temple, and about it were seven other mountains, on which grew roses and lilies. And I saw the little ones climb, or, if they chose, use their little wings and fly, to the top of the mountains and pluck the never-fading flowers. There were all kinds of trees around the temple to beautify the place: the box, the pine, the fir, the oil, the myrtle, the pomegranate, and the fig tree bowed down with the weight of its timely figs—these made the place all over glorious. And as we were about to enter the holy temple, Jesus raised His lovely voice and said, ‘Only the 144,000 enter this place.’ And we shouted, ‘Alleluia.’
“This temple was supported by seven pillars, all of transparent gold, set with pearls most glorious. The wonderful things I saw there I cannot describe. Oh, that I could talk in the language of Canaan, then could I tell a little of the glory of the better world. I saw there tables of stone in which the names of the 144,000 were engraved in letters of gold. After we beheld the glory of the temple, we went out, and Jesus left us and went to the city. Soon we heard His lovely voice saying, ‘Come, My people, you have come out of great tribulation, and have done My will; suffered for Me; come in to the supper, for I will gird Myself, and serve you.’ We shouted, ‘Alleluia! glory!’ and entered the city.” Early Writings, 19.
From this, we learn that the 144,000 are to receive special honor throughout eternity. They are to follow the Lamb wherever He goes. What honor could be greater? She continues, “As we were traveling along we met a company who also were gazing at the glories of the place. I noticed red as a border on their garments. Their crowns were brilliant. Their robes were pure white. As we greeted them I asked Jesus who they were. He said they were martyrs that had been slain for Him. With them was also an innumerable company of little ones. They also had a hem of red on their garments.” Ibid., 18. We learn from this that the martyrs will also receive special honor throughout eternity.
God’s character and government will finally be vindicated. “Satan has declared to his synagogue that man cannot keep the commandments of God. One soul saved would prove that statement false.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 18, 94.
Although we will be perfectly satisfied, everyone with his position and sanction in heaven, still Ellen White admonishes, “Strive to be among the 144,000.” And how do we strive? Of first importance, we must strive to put an end to sin in our lives; to cleanse our souls of every defilement so that we can be prepared to receive the latter rain and the seal of the living God.
Ellen White sums it all up in these words,
“Let us strive with all the power that God has given us to be among the hundred and forty-four thousand.” Review and Herald, March 9, 1905.
For over 60 years Pastor Lawrence Nelson served as an evangelist and minister for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Of that time, he served 13 years as the director of evangelism for youth at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Upon retirement from the General Conference, he continued to pastor, but when, as a result of his stand for truth, he was denied the opportunity to continue his pastorate, he started Keep the Faith Audio Tape Ministry, recording his sermons and making them available to individuals. Before his retirement from this ministry in 2004, over 18,000 audio tapes were being sent around the world each month.