[Rev. 7:9] ¶ After these things I looked, and here was an enormous crowd that no one could count, made up of persons from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb dressed in long white robes, and with palm branches in their hands. [Rev. 7:10] They were shouting out in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God, to the one seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” [Rev. 7:11] ¶ And all the angels stood there in a circle around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they threw themselves down with their faces to the ground before the throne and worshiped God, [Rev. 7:12] saying, “Amen! Praise and glory, and wisdom and thanksgiving, and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” [Rev. 7:13] ¶ Then one of the elders asked me, “These dressed in long white robes—who are they and where have they come from?” [Rev. 7:14] So I said to him, “My lord, you know the answer.” Then he said to me, “These are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb! [Rev. 7:15] For this reason they are before the throne of God, and they serve him day and night in his temple, and the one seated on the throne will shelter them. [Rev. 7:16] They will never go hungry or be thirsty again, and the sun will not beat down on them, nor any burning heat, [Rev. 7:17] because the Lamb in the middle of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Even today it may look like the Church will soon falter and wither, but John sees that it shall instead be comprised of people from every nation, tribe and language! It is no mere institution these spiritual refugees have joined – it is to Christ! He had become their food to quell their hunger. He had become their drink to quench their thirst. He had become their shelter to cover, protect, and secure them. And ultimately He would wipe away every tear from their eyes! But more than this is depicted here in a little expression too easily missed. They will be enjoying the full sanctuary of Christ while holding “palm branches”. It was ancient Israel’s greatest victory against all natural odds that saw the walls of Jericho (the “city of palm trees”) come crashing down as the Hebrews marched around them waving “palm branches”. Forever after this, palm branches became the symbol of divinely-aided victory to God’s people. The were boldly embossed on the Temple walls to remind Israel that with God’s help victory was theirs. John reports that in the end, faithful followers of Christ will be holding palm branches!
Today, we should continue to serve Christ (especially in Missions activities) with both passion and a Biblically informed confidence. William Carey was someone who did just this. His counsel to us is- “Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God!”