A Great Crowd Before Jehovah’s Throne
1. (a) Before either pre-Christian servants of God or the 144,000 receive their reward, what must they experience? (b) What will be possible for “a great crowd” who are living at this time?
FAITHFUL servants of God from Abel to John the Baptizer put the doing of God’s will first in their lives. Yet, they all died, waiting for their resurrection to life on earth in God’s new world. The 144,000, who will rule with Christ in God’s heavenly Kingdom, must also die before they can receive their reward. However, Revelation 7:9 shows that in these last days, there would be “a great crowd” out of all nations who would not experience death but would have the prospect of living forever on earth. Are you among them?
Identifying the Great Crowd
2. What led up to a clear understanding of the identity of the great crowd of Revelation 7:9?
2 In 1923, Jehovah’s servants discerned that “the sheep” of Jesus’ parable found at Matthew 25:31-46 and the “other sheep” to which he referred as recorded at John 10:16 are people who would have the opportunity to live forever on earth. In 1931 those described at Ezekiel 9:1-11 as being marked in their foreheads were also seen to be those with the earthly hope. Then in 1935 it was learned that the great crowd form part of the other sheep class Jesus spoke about. Today, this favored great crowd numbers in the millions.
3. Why does the expression “standing before the throne” not refer to a heavenly class?
3 At Revelation 7:9, the great crowd is not seen as being in heaven. Their “standing before the throne” of God does not require them to be in heaven. They are simply in the sight of God. (Psalm 11:4) The fact that the great crowd, “which no man was able to number,” is not a heavenly class is shown by comparing its unspecified number with what is written at Revelation 7:4-8 and Revelation 14:1-4. There the number taken from the earth to heaven is revealed to be 144,000.
4. (a) What is “the great tribulation” that the great crowd survive? (b) As stated at Revelation 7:11, 12, who observe the great crowd and share with them in worship?
4 Revelation 7:14 says of the great crowd: “These are the ones that come out of the great tribulation.” They survive the worst trouble ever experienced in human history. (Matthew 24:21) When they thankfully attribute their salvation to God and to Christ, then all faithful creatures in heaven will unite with them in saying: “Amen! The blessing and the glory and the wisdom and the thanksgiving and the honor and the power and the strength be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”—Revelation 7:11, 12.
5. How can we determine what is required to be part of the great crowd?
5 The preservation of the great crowd through the great tribulation takes place in harmony with Jehovah’s righteous standards. The identifying traits of those who will be delivered are clearly discussed in the Bible. Thus, it is possible for lovers of righteousness to act now with a view to proving worthy of survival. What must these ones do?
6. Why can the great crowd properly be likened to sheep?
6 Sheep are mild-tempered and submissive. So when Jesus said that he had other sheep who were not of the heavenly class, he meant people who not only would want to live forever on earth but also would be submissive to his teachings. “My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me,” he said. (John 10:16, 27) These are people who really listen to and obediently do what Jesus says, becoming his disciples.
7. What qualities do the followers of Jesus need to develop?
7 What other qualities would each of these followers of Jesus need to develop? God’s Word answers: “You should put away the old personality which conforms to your former course of conduct and . . . should put on the new personality which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.” (Ephesians 4:22-24) They develop qualities that enhance the unity of God’s servants—“love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.”—Galatians 5:22, 23.
8. What will the great crowd face as they support the remnant?
8 The great crowd support the small number of those with heavenly hopes, who take the lead in the preaching work. (Matthew 24:14; 25:40) The other sheep give this support, although they know that they will face opposition because at the beginning of these last days, Christ Jesus and his angels cast Satan and his demons out of heaven. This meant “woe for the earth . . . because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.” (Revelation 12:7-12) Thus, Satan intensifies opposition to God’s servants as this system’s end draws near.
9. How successful are God’s servants in preaching the good news, and why?
9 In spite of vicious persecution, the preaching work continues to advance. From only a few thousand Kingdom preachers at the end of World War I, there are now millions, for Jehovah promised: “Any weapon whatever that will be formed against you will have no success.” (Isaiah 54:17) Even a member of the Jewish high court recognized that a work of God could not be defeated. He told the Pharisees in the first century regarding the disciples: “Let them alone; (because, if this scheme or this work is from men, it will be overthrown; but if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them;) otherwise, you may perhaps be found fighters actually against God.”—Acts 5:38, 39.
10. (a) What does “the mark” on those of the great crowd mean? (b) How do God’s servants obey the “voice out of heaven”?
10 Those of the great crowd are pictured as being marked for survival. (Ezekiel 9:4-6) “The mark” is the evidence that they are dedicated to Jehovah, baptized as disciples of Jesus, and involved in cultivating a Christlike personality. They obey the “voice out of heaven” that says regarding Satan’s worldwide empire of false religion: “Get out of her, my people, if you do not want to share with her in her sins, and if you do not want to receive part of her plagues.”—Revelation 18:1-5.
11. In what important way do those of the great crowd demonstrate that they are Jehovah’s servants?
11 Also, Jesus told his followers: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) In contrast, members of this world’s religions kill other members in war, often just because they are of different nationalities! God’s Word states: “The children of God and the children of the Devil are evident by this fact: Everyone who does not carry on righteousness does not originate with God, neither does he who does not love his brother. . . . We should have love for one another; not like Cain, who originated with the wicked one and slaughtered his brother.”—1 John 3:10-12.
12. At the great tribulation, how will Jehovah deal with religious ‘trees’ that produce worthless fruitage?
12 Jesus declared: “Every good tree produces fine fruit, but every rotten tree produces worthless fruit; a good tree cannot bear worthless fruit, neither can a rotten tree produce fine fruit. Every tree not producing fine fruit gets cut down and thrown into the fire. Really, then, by their fruits you will recognize those men.” (Matthew 7:17-20) The fruitage produced by this world’s religions identifies them as rotten ‘trees,’ soon to be destroyed by Jehovah at the great tribulation.—Revelation 17:16.
13. How do the great crowd demonstrate that they are unitedly “standing before the throne” of Jehovah?
13 Revelation 7:9-15 draws attention to factors that lead to the preservation of the great crowd. They are shown unitedly “standing before the throne” of Jehovah, upholding his universal sovereignty. They have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,” showing that they recognize the sin-atoning sacrifice of Jesus. (John 1:29) They have dedicated themselves to God and have symbolized this by water immersion. So they enjoy a clean standing before God, pictured by the white robes, and render him “sacred service day and night.” Are there ways you can bring your life more fully into line with what is here described?
14. What are some of the unique benefits that come to Jehovah’s servants even now?
14 Likely you have observed the unique benefits that even now come to those serving Jehovah. As an example, when you learned about Jehovah’s righteous purposes, you understood that there was a bright hope for the future. So now you have a real purpose in life—to serve the true God with the joyful prospect of eternal life on a paradise earth. Yes, the King Jesus Christ “will guide [the great crowd] to fountains of waters of life.”—Revelation 7:17.
15. How are Jehovah’s Witnesses benefited by holding to Bible principles regarding political and moral matters?
15 A marvelous benefit enjoyed by the great crowd is the love, unity, and harmony found among Jehovah’s servants earth wide. Since we all feed on the same spiritual food, we all obey the same laws and principles found in God’s Word. That is why we are not divided by political or national ideologies. Too, we maintain the high moral standards that God requires of his people. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) Thus, rather than experiencing the strife, disunity, and immorality prevalent in the world, Jehovah’s people enjoy what can be called a spiritual paradise. Note how this is described at Isaiah 65:13, 14.
16. Despite problems common to life, those of the great crowd have what hope?
16 No, Jehovah’s human servants are not perfect. And they are affected by problems common to life in this world, such as falling on hard times or becoming innocent victims in the wars of the nations. They also face sickness, suffering, and death. But they have faith that in the new world, God “will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore.”—Revelation 21:4.
17. Regardless of what may happen to us now, what marvelous future is in store for those who worship the true God?
17 Even if you lose your life now because of old age, sickness, an accident, or persecution, Jehovah will resurrect you to life in Paradise. (Acts 24:15) Then you will continue to enjoy a spiritual feast during the Millennial Reign of Christ. Your love of God will deepen as you see his purposes come to glorious realization. And the physical blessings that Jehovah will then provide will further deepen your love for him. (Isaiah 25:6-9) What a marvelous future is in store for God’s people!
• With what extraordinary event does the Bible associate the great crowd?
• If we really want to be included in that divinely favored great crowd, what must we do now?
• How important to you are the blessings that the great crowd now enjoys and will yet enjoy in God’s new world?
[Picture on page 123]
Millions of the great crowd unitedly worship the true God