The “Great Crowd” Renders Sacred Service Where?
“For this cause are they before the throne of God and are rendering divine service unto him day and night in his sanctuary.”—Rev. 7:15, Rotherham’s “The Emphasised Bible.”
1. What is the case of “the crowd” in general with regard to the religions of the world?
RELIGION is on the decline. Correspondingly, attendance at “divine service” in church buildings, cathedrals and temples is declining. This is notably true in lands that make up what is called Christendom. Infidels, skeptics, agnostics, atheists and the antireligious are increasing. No efforts at a religious revival will recover them. That is the case with what may be called “the crowd” in general.
2. In what “crowd” are we interested, as foreseen in a vision to the old man exiled to the Isle of Patmos by the Roman government?
2 However, we are interested in a special crowd, a “great crowd” foreseen by an old man exiled to the island of Patmos by the government of the Roman Empire. After seeing a vision of 144,000 spiritual Israelites, he writes, saying: “After these things I saw, and behold! a great crowd, which no one could have numbered, out of every nation, and of all tribes, and peoples, and languages, standing before the throne, and in the presence of the Lamb, invested with white robes, and palm-branches in their hands; and they cry with a loud voice, saying, ‘The salvation be ascribed to that God of ours who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’”—Rev. 7:9, 10, The Emphatic Diaglott, by Benjamin Wilson.
3. Why are those of that “great crowd” seen standing properly dressed, and why is it widely thought that they are in heaven?
3 What an honored position this “great crowd” is said to occupy, and what a dignified appearance they are said to have! Even in modern times it is proper for one to stand when in the presence of a monarch who is seated on his throne. But here those of that “great crowd” are seen standing before the throne of God himself. Also, in order to suit the occasion, they are clothed with spotless white robes. Are they seen standing in some out-of-doors gathering? No, for Revelation 7:15 (ED) says that “they . . . publicly serve him day and night in his temple [na·osʹ in the Greek original text].” Well, now, does this mean that those making up this “great crowd” finally go to heaven where the God is to whom they ascribe their “salvation”? The answer generally given is Yes! Why? Because it is said to be “in his temple” (ED), or, “in his sanctuary” (Rotherham), that they render to him public service or “divine service.”
4. Around what original Greek word does the question revolve, and in what connection was it used in John 2:19-21?
4 However, does that view fit all the detailed facts set out in the last book of the Bible, Revelation? Also, as regards those who today consider themselves part of that “great crowd” that is now being formed, do they expect to go to heaven and become spirit creatures like angels? Do they even want to go to heaven? They will tell you No! and they do not consider themselves to be begotten by God’s spirit to such a heavenly hope. The question revolves around that original Greek word that is variously translated as “tent,” “temple” and “sanctuary.” For example, in the Bible account of where Jesus Christ drove the money changers and merchantmen out of Herod’s temple, the original Greek word used is na·osʹ. There we read: “Jesus answered, ‘Destroy this sanctuary [na·osʹ], and in three days I will raise it up’. The Jews replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this sanctuary [na·osʹ]: are you going to raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the sanctuary [na·osʹ] that was his body.” (John 2:19-21, The Jerusalem Bible) By “sanctuary,” what did those Jews mean?
5. (a) What structure could the Jews not have meant when saying it took 46 years to build it? (b) To what must the word na·osʹ in the Greek Septuagint rendering of Isaiah 66:6 apply?
5 Certainly not the inner sanctuary that contained the vestibule, the Holy and the Most Holy compartments. They meant the temple structure as a whole, including its courtyards, in one of which the money changers and merchantmen were doing business. Herod’s temple as a whole was destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E. Unlike Solomon’s earlier temple that was destroyed in 607 B.C.E., Herod’s temple was never rebuilt. Concerning the temple in Jerusalem, Isaiah 66:6 says, with prophetic significance: “That roar from the city, that uproar in the temple [na·osʹ in the Greek Septuagint translation], is the sound of the LORD dealing retribution to his foes.” (The New English Bible) “Hark! an uproar from the city, Hark! it cometh from the temple [na·osʹ], Hark! the LORD rendereth recompense to His enemies.” (The Jewish Publication Society of America) Very plainly the temple, sanctuary, or na·osʹ, does not mean just the inner sanctuary, but the entire temple area with all its structures.
6. On Passover night of 33 C.E., what false witness did Jews give respecting Jesus and the na·osʹ of Jerusalem?
6 On Passover night, Nisan 14, of 33 C.E., certain Jews bore witness before the chief priests and the Sanhedrin, but if these witnesses lived to the year 70 C.E. they had it proved to them that their testimony against Jesus Christ that fateful night was false. They testified: “We heard him say, ‘I will throw down this temple [na·osʹ] that was made with hands and in three days I will build another not made with hands.’ “ (Mark 14:58) Their having Jesus killed did not save their temple from being thrown down completely in 70 C.E.
7. (a) How did the Jews ridicule the impaled Jesus on Calvary? (b) Where did Judas the betrayer finally throw the bribe money?
7 Later, on that same day, when the hostile Jews saw this Jesus impaled on the stake outside Jerusalem, they may have felt that he had been foiled in carrying out what they wrongly thought he had said. “So the passersby began to speak abusively of him, wagging their heads and saying: ‘O you would-be thrower-down of the temple [na·osʹ] and builder of it in three days, save yourself! If you are a son of God, come down off the torture stake!’” (Matt. 27:39, 40; Mark 15:29, 30) But before the impalement of Jesus the disciple who had betrayed him to his bloodthirsty enemies for 30 pieces of silver tried to absolve himself. This was Judas Iscariot, one of the 12 apostles. He tried to return the bribe money, but the bribers refused to take it back. Unable to clear himself in this way, what did the betrayer do? Matthew 27:5 reports: “Judas threw the money into the sanctuary [na·osʹ] and left them; then he went off and hanged himself.” (Good News Bible; The Jerusalem Bible; Young’s Literal Translation of the Holy Bible) Why did other modern Bible versions translate na·osʹ as “temple”?
8. Why, evidently, did many Bible translators use the word “temple” here instead of “sanctuary”?
8 Evidently because they recognized that the Greek word here did not mean the inner sanctuary with its porch, Holy and Most Holy, into which the high priest brought the blood of the sacrifices on the annual Atonement Day. It meant the temple with all its courts.
9. (a) So, does the “great crowd” need to be in heaven in order to serve God in his na·osʹ? (b) According to Revelation 3:12, may na·osʹ have a limited meaning?
9 Thus the “great crowd” may be said to be in the “temple,” or na·osʹ, of God and yet not be in heaven as spirit creatures with the 144,000 spiritual Israelites who make up the “little flock” of God. (Rev. 7:1-9, 15; Luke 12:32) Na·osʹ may also have a limited sense, for Jesus Christ addressed the first-century congregation in Philadelphia, Asia Minor, and said: “As for the one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple [na·osʹ] of my God; he will be secure, and will go out no more; and I will write my God’s Name on him, and he will be a citizen in the city of my God—the New Jerusalem, coming down from heaven from my God; and he will have my new Name inscribed upon him.”—Rev. 3:12, The Living Bible.
10. In what ways does Revelation 7:9-17 show that the “great crowd” fails to be in the congregation in that limited na·osʹ?
10 Such an inscription upon the members of the “great crowd” is not even mentioned in Revelation 7:9-17, neither are they said to be made ‘pillars’ in God’s temple. Those who are made symbolic ‘pillars’ are the 144,000 spiritual Israelites of 12 tribes.
11, 12. (a) In what way does the numbered group of spiritual Israelites differ from the “great crowd” as to names? (b) According to Revelation 14:1-5, how does the name of the city that comes down from God befit the 144,000?
11 Unlike the numberless “great crowd,” this numbered group of spiritual Israelites have the name of Jesus and the name of his Father written upon them. They also have written upon them the name of the city of God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from God. Just as Mount Zion was associated with ancient Jerusalem, so a spiritual Mount Zion is associated with this New Jerusalem that is heavenly. In agreement with this, the apostle John had a second vision of the 144,000 spiritual Israelites, and in making a record of this he wrote:
12 “Look! the Lamb [Jesus Christ] standing upon the Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand having his name and the name of his Father written on their foreheads. . . . And they are singing as if a new song before the throne . . . and no one was able to master that song but the hundred and forty-four thousand, who have been bought from the earth. . . . These were bought from among mankind as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.”—Rev. 14:1-5.
13. (a) Are those of the “great crowd” like the 144,000 in standing upon the heavenly Mount Zion? (b) Are they “bought from among mankind as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb”?
13 Do those descriptive details fit also the international “great crowd” of Revelation 7:9-17? No, for nowhere are they said to stand upon the heavenly Mount Zion. (Heb. 12:22) They are excluded from the original singers of the “new song.” They are not said to be “bought from the earth,” “bought from among mankind as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.” Consequently, those of the “great crowd” expect to remain on earth forever and to share in bringing it to a Paradise state. They do not belong to the company of 144,000 “bought” ones that began to be formed on the day of Pentecost of 33 C.E., the day on which the Jewish high priest presented the “firstfruits” of the wheat harvest at the temple in Jerusalem. On that day the Greater High Priest, Jesus Christ, paid the purchase price to God in heaven by means of his shed blood, and God used him as the channel through whom to pour out the holy spirit that same day upon the 120 waiting disciples and later upon about 3,000 Jews and Jewish proselytes who repented and got baptized that day.—Acts, chapter 2; Joel 2:28, 29; Heb. 4:15, 16.
THE “SEAL OF THE LIVING GOD” DIFFERENTIATES
14. Though both the 144,000 and the “great crowd” are brought into a saved condition, how does a seal make a difference between them?
14 One noteworthy thing that differentiates the 144,000 “bought” ones from the white-robed “great crowd” is what is called the “seal of the living God.” Revelation, chapter 7, which deals with both the 144,000 spiritual Israelites and the “great crowd,” shows that only the 144,000 are marked “in their foreheads” with that “seal” as being “the slaves of our God.” This indicates that there is a difference also in their appointed stations in God’s final arrangements, as regards heaven and earth. This remains true although all are brought into a saved condition, because those of the “great crowd,” as well as the 144,000, accept Jesus Christ as being “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29, 36; 1 John 2:1, 2) In this way those of the “great crowd . . . have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Rev. 7:9, 14) This entitles them to worship Jehovah in his spiritual temple, which was typified or foreshadowed by the whole temple structure in ancient Jerusalem.—John 4:21-24.
15. The time for making what cry for protection is approaching, and what harmful windstorm is still being held up, and why?
15 The time is approaching when people in general will say, in effect, to the long-entrenched lofty organizations of earthly society: “Fall over us and hide us from the face of the One seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, because the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Rev. 6:16, 17) A storm is about to break. This is indicated by the next words of the vision: “After this I [the apostle John] saw four angels standing upon the four corners of the earth, holding tight the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow upon the earth or upon the sea or upon any tree. And I saw another angel [a fifth] ascending from the sunrising, having a seal of the living God; and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying: ‘Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until after we have sealed the slaves of our God in their foreheads.’”—Rev. 7:1-4.
16. Why is it that the “great crowd,” although not sealed, are not harmed by the windstorm that is let loose in expression of the wrath of the Lamb?
16 None of the “great crowd” are reported as being sealed with that “seal of the living God,” only the 144,000 “slaves of our God.” Why, then, is it that none of the “great crowd” are harmed by that turbulent twister that results from the release of the “four winds” let loose from the four corners of the earth? Also, how is it that those of the unsealed “great crowd” do not feel the “wrath of the Lamb” after the sealing of the 144,000 is finished? Ah! it is because “they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Rev. 7:14) They now accept the benefits of his ransom sacrifice and seek cleansing from their sins by being washed in his sin-atoning blood. For their protection they do not look to deep-rooted imposing institutions of puny men, but look to Jehovah God and his Lamblike Son Jesus Christ. So they gratefully cry out: “Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.”—Rev. 7:9, 10.
17. With respect to the issue over Universal Domination, to whom is the “great crowd” loyal, and where is it rendering sacred service, and to whom?
17 Down to the settlement of the all-important issue of Universal Domination they are loyal to Jehovah’s kingdom by Christ the Lamb. “That is why they are before the throne of God; and they are rendering him sacred service [la·treuʹein, Greek verb] day and night in his temple [na·osʹ].” (Rev. 7:15) There they are associated with the surviving remnant of the 144,000 sealed “slaves of our God.”
“OUT OF THE GREAT TRIBULATION”
18. Out of what are those of the “great crowd” said to come, and what question arises about it?
18 Included in the “salvation” that the “great crowd” experience is their coming out of what is prophesied in Revelation 7:14: “These are the ones that come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Word for word, the original Greek text reads: “Out of the tribulation the great.” (Kingdom Interlinear Translation) So, now, what is this “great tribulation”? Instead of the word “tribulation,” other Bible translations read: “affliction,”a “distress,”b “persecution,”c “oppression,”d and “ordeal.”e But many other translations read “tribulation.”
19, 20. (a) What is the meaning of the Latin word from which “tribulation” is drawn? (b) What does Robertson’s commentary say about this word at Revelation 7:14, and how does Jesus’ prophecy use the word?
19 The Greek word thus variously translated is thlipʹsis. It denotes a bad experience. The English word “tribulation” comes from the Latin tribulum, which means “threshing board (sledge).”
20 On the expression “the great tribulation” as used in Revelation 7:14, Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament (Volume VI, pages 352, 353) comments: “Apparently some great crisis is contemplated (Matt. 13:19ff.; Mt 24:21; Mark 13:19), though the whole series may be in mind and so may anticipate final judgment.” Matthew 24:21 refers first of all to ancient Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 C.E. and reads: “For then there will be great tribulation [thlipʹsis] such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.” Mark 13:19 reads: “For those days will be days of a tribulation [thlipʹsis] such as has not occurred from the beginning of the creation which God created until that time, and will not occur again.” This tribulation was to be part of the “sign when all these things are destined to come to a conclusion.” (Mark 13:4) “All these things” would include the completion of the sealing of the 144,000 spiritual Israelites.—Rev. 7:1-8.
21. What is the vital Greek word used in the Septuagint Version rendering of Daniel 12:1, and who is Michael?
21 The Greek Septuagint Version of the Hebrew Scriptures uses the word thlipʹsis when referring to the same event at Daniel 12:1 and says: “And at that time Michael, the great prince who hath been over the children of thy people, will stand up, and there will be a time of tribulation [thlipʹsis]—a tribulation [thlipʹsis] such as hath not been since there was a nation on the earth even to this time.” (The Septuagint Bible, by Charles Thomson; The Septuagint Version, published by Samuel Bagster and Sons Limited) According to Revelation 12:7, Michael corresponds with the glorified Jesus Christ.
22. Is the “tribulation” an expression of God’s displeasure with the “great crowd,” and what does their coming out of it mean?
22 From all the foregoing it can be seen that the “great tribulation” is not an expression of God’s wrath or displeasure against the “great crowd,” for the purpose of disciplining them and purifying them from their connections with this wicked system of things. The foretold “great tribulation” is the world trouble, the final “tribulation” upon this doomed world. It is the symbolic windstorm that was held back by the four angels at the four corners of the earth until the final ones of the 144,000 spiritual Israelites are sealed as the “bought” property of Jehovah God, the untransferable “slaves of our God.” The coming of the “great crowd” out of that “great tribulation” means that they survive it.
23. The surviving “great crowd” will form the beginning of what new thing, and with what prospects ahead?
23 What a delightful privilege it will then be for the saved “great crowd” to continue “rendering [God] sacred service day and night in his temple,” in the earthly courtyards of his great temple arrangement! The “new heavens” will have been established over them, and they will be the beginning of the “new earth” in which righteousness is to dwell endlessly. (2 Pet. 3:13) A new Paradise will begin blossoming upon the cleansed earth, and there will not be in it any Devil to try tempting them to turn to unrighteousness of any kind. Happy, indeed, is the prospect that is set before the “great crowd” that will survive the “war of the great day of God the Almighty” at Har–Magedon!—Rev. 16:13-16.
a The Emphatic Diaglott.
b The Bible in Living English; The New Testament in Modern Speech.
c An American Translation; Good News Bible; The Jerusalem Bible.
d Phillips’ The New Testament in Modern English.
e The New English Bible.
[Box on page 15]
The Greek word na·osʹ refers often to the inner sanctuary representing heaven itself
● BUT it was the entire temple (na·osʹ) that had been 46 years in the building
● It was the entire temple (na·osʹ) that was destroyed as a judgment from God
● It was from the courts of the outer temple (na·osʹ) that Jesus drove the money changers
● It was in the outer temple (na·osʹ) that Judas threw back the 30 pieces of silver
● HENCE it is consistent that the “great crowd” serve God in the earthly court of the spiritual temple
[Box on page 18]
The anointed 144,000 alone are—
● made pillars in the temple of God
● a “little flock” of exact number
● written upon with the name of the Father, the Lamb and New Jerusalem
● standing upon heavenly Mount Zion
● “bought from the earth . . . from among mankind”
● “a firstfruits to God and to the Lamb”
● marked with the “seal of the living God”
[Box on page 19]
The “great crowd” are privileged to—
● flee the doomed organizations of earthly society
● find salvation through the Lamb’s ransom
● stand approved before the throne of God
● render God sacred service in his spiritual temple
● survive the final “tribulation” on this condemned world
● become the foundation of a clean “new earth” society
● share eternally in the Paradise earth
[Pictures on page 17]
Jehovah’s Temple Arrangement
“GREAT CROWD” WITH PALM BRANCHES
ALTAR WITH PRIESTS SERVING