Rob Dalrymple, «These Are the Ones», Vol. 86 (2005) 396-406
The thematic features relating to John’s depiction of the righteous in the
intercalations of Rev 11,3-13 and 7,1-17 as well as how these features might
affect our understanding of Revelation 7,1-17 are examined. Four foci pertaining
to the righteous are explicitly present in the account of the Two Witnesses (11,3-
13). All four foci, also, materialize in the description of the 144,000 (7,1-8) and
the Great Multitude (7,9-17). However, when we examine Rev 7,1-8, we find that
John only incorporates the first two of the four foci (Divine Protection and
Witnesses) while in the account of 7,9-17, only the latter two appear (Enduring
Persecution and Vindication of the Righteous). If, however, we read Rev 7,1-17
as the account of one group, then the thematic parallels with the intercalation of
Rev 11,3-13 are retained.
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404 Rob Dalrymple
c) Focus #3: Enduring Persecution
That the righteous are depicted as suffering persecution, even to the
point of death, is reasonably evident within 7,9-17. The clearest indication
resides in the angelic declaration about the great multitude: â€œthese are the
ones who come out of the great tribulationâ€ (7,14). The expression, â€œthe great
tribulationâ€ likely refers to Dan 12,1 (46). The Danielic context incorporates a
time of persecution and suffering among the righteous (47). The use of
â€œtribulationâ€ in Revelation corresponds to the context of persecution (48).
Furthermore, a comparison of Matt 24,21 and the only other use of
â€œtribulationâ€ with the adjective â€œgreatâ€ in the NT, confirms this conclusion.
For, in Matthewâ€™s account, the expression occurs in the context of
widespread and unparalleled distress. Thus, Caird concludes: â€œIt is not their
salvation that the martyrs are celebrating, but their triumphal passage through
Furthermore, many affirm that those dressed in white robes in Revelation
7,14 are specifically martyrs. Walvoord adds that â€œThe wonderful blessing of
the martyred saints in the presence of the Lord is spelled out in these versesâ€
(50). Morris, however, dissents from this position. He claims: â€œAgainst this,
there is no indication in the narrative such as we get elsewhere, e.g. the
reference to those â€˜slain because of their testimony for Jesusâ€™ (6,9)â€ (51).
Morris, however, fails to account for the association of white robes with the
souls of the martyrs under the altar in 6,9-11. It appears that, by this verbal
association with an earlier passage, John conveys the same considerations for
the great multitude without an explicit statement. Such a conclusion may be
present for the reader by this strong association (52).
In addition, there is some evidence that behind each of the passages there
are allusions to Daniel 7. In his remarks on the death and resurrection of the
Two Witnesses in Revelation 11, Beale notes:
Dan. 7,21 is a prophecy of a final kingdom on earth that will persecute
and defeat Godâ€™s people. Afterward, the persecutors themselves will
be judged and the saints will inherit the kingdom of the world (so Dan.
7,22-27). In particular, Dan. 7,22 says that God â€˜gave judgment to the
saints,â€™ which is a suitable anticipated, prophetic answer to the saintsâ€™
prayer for judgment of the oppressors in Rev. 6,10-11. John sees this
prophecy as fulfilled in the worldâ€™s persecution of the church at the
end of history (53).
(46) BEALE, Revelation, 433.
(47) Cf. Dan 11,30-39, 44; 12,10.
(48) Cf. 1,9; 2,9, 10, 22.
(49) CAIRD, Revelation, 100. See also, CHARLES, Revelation, 209-14.
(50) WALVOORD, Revelation, 148.
(51) MORRIS, Revelation, 113-14.
(52) Therefore the assertion by Beasley-Murray that â€œIt is a puzzling feature to the
present writer that the majority of commentators on the Revelation in this century identify
the great multitude with the martyrs. Of this there is not a hintâ€, is an overstatement
(BEASLEY-MURRAY, Revelation, 145).
(53) BEALE, Revelation, 588.