Who are the servants of the Lord referenced in Revelations 7 and 22, and are they the only ones that have God’s name written on their foreheads?
First let’s address Revelation 7:15. This passage definitely speaks about the believers who have died in the Great Tribulation. The timing of their appearance, however, is during the first part of the tribulation. They appear first in Revelation 6, when many of them have died, but not all of them, and they cry out –
“How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
He answers that they should rest a while longer, until the rest of their fellow servants who were to be killed as they had been was completed. They’re asking how long because, so far, God has simply disrupted life on earth, He has not judged it severely.
9 When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; 10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.
In Revelation 7, the passage referenced in the question, we see them again, and this time the number of them to be killed during the tribulation has been completed, and they aren’t asking how long, because they’ve been witnessing God’s fierce judgment falling upon the earth. Now they cry out
“Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; 10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying,
“Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12saying,
“Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
13 Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?” 14 I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. 16 They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; 17 for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”
So these people, in the early part of John’s progressive vision in the book of Revelation, are all of the martyred saints from the tribulation, which is still going on at this point in the vision. And they are promised the full benefits of heaven, in sharp contrast to what the Anti-Christ and Satan delivered to them—suffering and death.
Now let’s address Revelation 22.
- after the tribulation
- after the millennial kingdom
- after Satan is loosed one final time on earth
- after Satan is defeated by Jesus again
- after Satan is thrown into the Lake of Fire
- after the resurrection of the remaining dead, all of whom are unbelievers
- after the Great White Throne judgment of the damned
- after the New Heaven and New Earth
- after the New Jerusalem
22 Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, 2 in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; 4 they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. 5 And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.
So then, His bond-servants refers to everyone who believed, including Old Testament believers, New Testament believers, Tribulation believers and Millennial Kingdom believers. All of us.
To understand this we need the context of Revelation 22:3-4, which is in Revelation 21. Verses 5-8 explains exactly who is there in chapter 22.
5 And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” 6 Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. 7 He who overcomes will inherit these things,and I will be his God and he will be My son.8 But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
Those in Revelation 22 are those who overcome. Everyone who overcomes will enter that rest and dwell with God Most High and live in the New Jerusalem, and partake of the Tree of Life.
God’s Name Written on Believers
Further, it is not only the tribulation saints who will have God’s name written on their foreheads and forever be with the Lord in Heaven, even in the context of the revelation given to the Apostle John. If we look at the seven letters from Jesus to the seven churches, in each case it is to the one who overcomes that the promises of eternal life are assured, including the writing of God’s name. These members are assured of this even though they had not and would not themselves go through the tribulation. Also, this same John the Apostle explained in his first epistle exactly who is meant by “he who overcomes”— it is everyone who believes in Jesus.
1 John 5:5
Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
The Spirit declares that whoever believes in the gospel of Jesus Christ is indeed one who overcomes the world, thereby establishing how to understand references to overcoming and overcomers in the scripture.
This is often referenced in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. In each case it contains a promise from God to true believers in Jesus.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’
Here the overcomers are granted to eat of the Tree of Life that will be located in the New Jerusalem as described in Revelation 22.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.’
Here the overcomers will be protected from the second death, which is described in:
Revelation 21:8 “The cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
Revelation 20:6 “Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.”
Here the believers, who are the overcomers, are promised not to experience the second death, and—
Revelation 20:14,15 “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
Here the believers are assured by exclusion, in this case. If anyone’s name was NOT found written in the book of life, he was cast into hell, aka the lake of fire. Therefore those whose names ARE found in the book of life, believers and overcomers, will not be sent to hell, but have eternal life in the presence and pleasure of God.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’
Here the overcomers are provided with some hidden manna and a white stone with a name written on it, which no one knows but the one who receives it. Together they refer to the very intimate nature of eternal life, the especially personal nature of it whereby we receive hidden manna to sustain us, and a stone with a name that only God and the holder knows, like a special token of God’s personal connection to and love for us.
He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations;
Here the overcomers are given authority to rule with Him over the nations in the Millennial Kingdom, and to do so with His authority and power, as described in Revelation 20 –
“Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”
He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.
Here the overcomers are clothed in white garments, their names left in the book of life, and they are confessed by Jesus to all of Heaven as described in Revelation 19:8 –
“And to her (the bride of the Lamb) it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”
And their names will not be erased from the book of life as described in Revelation 20:15 –
15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.
Here the overcomers are made into pillars in the temple of God, His name is written on us, the name of the City of God is written on us, and our new name is written on us.
Again the very personal nature of our relationship, and a living passport to the City of God as described in Revelation 21:22-27 –
22 I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 25 In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; 26and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; 27and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
Here the overcomers are granted to sit with Jesus on His throne in the Millennial Kingdom as described in Revelation 20:4
4 I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
So, Revelation 22 definitely refers to all believers across all of time, as it is after the millennial kingdom, and after the final judgment of the unbelievers, after the new heavens and earth are revealed, and when we all shall abide forever in His presence.
3 There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; 4 they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. 5 And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.