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The Palm-bearing Multitude

The Palm-bearing Multitude

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Published by GLENN DALE PEASE
BY ALEXANDER MACLAREN


*. . . Lo, a great multitude . . . stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.'— Rev. tH. 9.
BY ALEXANDER MACLAREN


*. . . Lo, a great multitude . . . stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.'— Rev. tH. 9.

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on May 15, 2014
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THE PALM-BEARIG MULTITUDE BY ALEXADER MACLARE*. . . Lo, a great multitude . . . stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.'— Rev. tH. 9. The Seer is about to disclose the floods of misery which are to fall upon the earth at the sound of the seven trumpets, like avalanches set loose by a noise. But before the crash of their descent comes there is a lull. 332 REVELATIO [oh. vii. He sees angels holding back the winds, like dogs in a leash, lest they should blow, and all destructive agencies are suspended. In the pause before the storm he sees two visions : one, that of the sealing of the servants of God, the pledge that, amidst the world-wide calamities, they shall be secure ; and one, this vision of my text, the assurance that beyond the storms there waits a calm region of life and glory. The vision is meant to brace all generations for their trials, great or small, to draw faith and love upwards and forwards, to calm sorrow, to diminish the magnitude of death and the pain of parting, and to breed in us humble desires that, when our time comes, we too may go to join that great multitude. It can never be inappropriate to look with the eyes of the Seer on that jubilant crowd. So I turn to these words and deal with them in the plainest possible fashion, just taking each clause as it lies, though, for reasons which will appear, modifying the order in which we look at them. I think that, taken together, they tell us all that we can or need know about that
 
future. I. ote the palm-bearing multitude. ow the palm, among the Greeks and Romans, was a token of victory. That is usually taken to be the meaning of the emblem here, as it was taken in the well-known hymn — ' More than conquerors at last.* But it has been well pointed out that there is no trace of such a use of the palm in Jewish practice, and that all the emblems of this Book of the Revelation move within the circle of Jewish ideas. Therefore, appro- priate as the idea of victory may be, it is not, as I take V.9] PALM-BEARIG MULTITUDE 338 it, the one that is primarily suggested here. Where, then, shall we look for the meaning of the symbol ? ow there was in Jewish practice a very significant use of the palm-branches, for it was the prescription of the ritual law that they should be employed in the Feast of Tabernacles, when the people were bidden to take palm-branches and • rejoice before the Lord seven days.' It is that distinctly Jewish use of the palm- branch that is brought before our minds here, and not the heathen one of mere conquest. So then, if we desire to get the whole significance and force of this emblem of the multitude with the palms in their hands, we have to ask what was the significance of that Jewish festival. Like all other Jewish feasts, it was originally a ature-festival, applying to a season of the year, and it afterwards came to have associated with it the remembrance of
 
something in the history of the nation which it com- memorated. That double aspect, the natural and the historical, are both to be kept in view. Let us take the eldest one first. The palm-bearing multitude before the Throne suggests to us the thought of rejoicing reapers at the close of the harvest. The year's work is done, the sowing days are over, the reaping days have come. ' They that gather it shall eat it in the courts of the Lord.' And so the metaphor of my text opens out into that great thought that the present and the future are closely continuous, and that the latter is the time for realising, in one's own experience, the results of the life that we have lived here. To-day is the time of sowing ; the multitude with the palms in their hands are the reapers. Brother! what are you sowing? Will it be for you a glad day of festival when you have to reap what you have sown ? Are you scattering 334 REVELATIO [ch. vii. poisoned seed? Are you sowing weeds, or are you sowing good fruit that shall be found after many days unto praise and honour and glory? Look at your life here as being but setting in motion a whole series of causes of which you are going to have the effects  j)unctually dealt out to you yonder in the time to come. That great multitude reaped what they had sown, and rejoiced in the reaping. Shall I? We are like operators in a telegraph office, touching keys here which make impressions upon ribbons in a land beyond the sea, and when we get there we shall have to read what we have written here. How will you like it, when the ribbon is taken out of the machine and spread before you, and you have to go over it syllable by syllable and translate all the dots and dashes into what they mean ? It will be a feast or a day of sadness. But, festival or no, there stands plain and irrefragable the fact that ' whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he

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