Question: "Who are the multitude of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues in Revelation 7:9?"
Answer: From the beginning, God’s plan of salvation has always involved a massive global strategy. The Lord told Abraham that his people would be “beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore” (Genesis 22:17, NLT) and that in them “all nations on earth will be blessed” (verse 18). In Revelation 7:9, the apostle John sees “a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Revelation 7:9–10, NKJV).
John describes an immense gathering of people standing in front of the Lamb’s throne in heaven, wearing white robes and joyously celebrating with palm branches as they worship God in a loud voice. Who are these multiethnic, culturally diverse, multilingual people of every nation, tribe, and language? The answer is given in Revelation 7:14: “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Scripture leaves no room for doubt: these are the ones saved through faith in Jesus Christ during the Great Tribulation.
John 3:16 tells us that God loved the whole world so much that He sent His only Son—the Lamb of God—to save people who believed in Him from all around the globe. Jesus told His disciples, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone” (Mark 16:15, NLT). Christ was slain as the sacrificial Lamb of God to redeem people from “every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (see Revelation 5:9, NKJV). Before we received Christ as Lord and Savior, we were stained crimson by sin (Isaiah 1:18). It is “the blood of Jesus” shed on the cross that “purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). We are redeemed by “the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18–19). Our redemption is only possible by the blood of the Lamb (see Hebrews 9:11–28).
Revelation 7 provides a possible connection between the numberless multitude from all nations, tribes, and tongues (verses 9–14) and the 144,000 sealed servants of God (verses 1–8). The 144,000 are from the tribes of Israel, while the multitude is from every tribe and nation. John sees the 144,000 on earth (verses 1–3) and the numberless multitude in heaven (verse 9). It seems that the mission of the 144,000 will be to evangelize the post-rapture world and proclaim the gospel during the tribulation. As a result of their ministry, millions—the “great multitude . . . from every nation, tribe, people and language” (Revelation 7:9)—will come to faith in Christ.
This redeemed multitude from all nations, tribes, and tongues are those who will forever worship “before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence” (Revelation 7:15). Jesus describes these worshipers as victorious overcomers whom He will “make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name” (Revelation 3:12). They will live in God’s constant protection and presence (Revelation 21:3).
This vast crowd from all nations, tribes, and tongues suffered famine, thirst, extreme deprivation, and persecution during the Great Tribulation (Revelation 6:5–6; 13:16–17). Since its earliest days, the church of Jesus Christ has suffered oppression and mistreatment, but nothing as terrible as experienced by those believers saved in the last half (3.5 years) of the tribulation period (Matthew 24:21; Daniel 12:1; Jeremiah 30:7). During that time, the beast or Antichrist will have authority to unleash terror on “every tribe and people and language and nation” (see Revelation 13:1–10; see also Revelation 16:1—18:24).
This multitude from all nations, tribes, and tongues is a great throng of faithful believers worshiping the Lamb of God on His heavenly throne. These citizens of heaven will “eat from the tree of life” (Revelation 2:7) and enjoy “springs of living water” (Revelation 21:6). “They will never again be hungry or thirsty; they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun. For the Lamb on the throne will be their Shepherd. He will lead them to springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:16–17, NLT).