SUSTAINING THE OVERCOMERS
From Revelation 4 through 20 we have seven cases which portray this heavenly Priest ministering the divine element into His lovers and seekers. While these middle chapters mainly deal with His rulership, these cases are concerned not with that but rather with His sustaining ministry to the overcomers.
(1) The Great Multitude
Chapter seven is an insertion between the sixth and seventh seals. While the Lord Jesus as the Lamb is opening the seals, that is, administering God’s universal government, two instances are inserted. The first is the sealing of the one hundred forty-four thousand of Israel (vv. 2-8); the second is the innumerable multitude before the throne (vv. 9-17).
In the first instance, Christ as “another Angel” restrains the damaging angels so that those of the twelve tribes of Israel may be sealed. This restraint is by His rulership.
The second instance, in contrast, is the result of His heavenly ministry. “Behold, a great multitude which no one could number, out of every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches in their hands. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God Who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb” (vv. 9-10). This multitude, one of the elders explains, is made up of those “who come out of the great tribulation and 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 upon the throne shall spread His tabernacle over them. They shall not hunger anymore, neither shall they thirst anymore, neither shall the sun beat upon them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the midst of the throne shall shepherd them and shall guide them to springs of waters of life; and God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes” (vv. 14-17).
The robe indicates that these ones have been washed and justified by God. Its whiteness shows that they are not in darkness but have been approved and accepted by God. We know they are overcomers because they carry palm branches, meaning that they have overcome all that they have encountered in the long, hot desert.
How could this great multitude be so approved by God and so overcoming? It is by Christ’s heavenly ministry. To the world and to the Jews He is the Ruler of the kings, but to this great multitude the Lamb is the Shepherd. He shepherds and guides them to springs of waters of life; that is, He brings them to God Himself. These dear ones who love God and seek Christ at any cost gain the supply of living water, which is God Himself. This living water sustains them so that they overcome every obstacle.
The time covered in Revelation 7:9-17, speaking in a general way, begins from the Lord’s ascension, or at the latest after the seventh seal, and continues to eternity. There is a long span of time. A good number have been sustained by the Lord to overcome all obstacles and to come to the springs of the waters of life.
Many among us can testify that in their background in religion there was no living water to refresh them. Some of you were brought up in Judaism. You would surely say that you found the Jewish religion a desert with no supply of living water. Those of you who were in Catholicism were day by day eating dry straw, with never a cup of living water. Many of you were formerly in Protestantism and can testify of the dryness. Our intention in saying this is not to criticize; we are simply speaking the truth.
Hallelujah for the day the Lord brought us to the church! To the church where there is a fountain which is God Himself, the source of living water! Day and night this water flows, too much for us to contain it all! It is when we are full of this thirst-quenching water that we can easily overcome whatever comes across our path. By the living water out of this spring we overcome all things.
The Lamb who today is in the heavens is the One who is shepherding us. He exercises His rulership over the universe, over the nations, and over the Jews. But us who are His seekers He leads to the very God, to the springs of waters of life. That is why we enjoy singing:
Drinking at the Fountain that never runs dry,
Drinking at the Fountain of life am I;
Finding joy and pleasure In abounding measure,
I am drinking at the Fountain of life.
We can surely testify that here we have found a never ending, sure supply! In this drink we find joy and pleasure in abounding measure! What a fountain the Lamb has brought us to by His heavenly ministry!
(The Mending Ministry of John, Chapter 16, by Witness Lee)