Sermon 3


Ekkehardt Mueller, ThD, DMin, is a retired associate director of the Biblical Research Institute at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, MD, USA.

Revelation 7:14

How do we do our laundry? Typically, we use clean water and some detergent. We would not attempt to use engine oil, grape juice, hot chocolate, or blood to get the laundry clean. The use of these liquids would be disastrous.

Revelation 7:14 is a wonderful and yet paradoxical text. After one of the twenty-four elders around God’s throne asked John, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come” (Rev 7:13),1 John answered, “My lord, you know.” The elder responded, “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” (Rev 7:14, NAU).


Our text is part of the vision of the seven seals (Rev 4:1–8:1), which allows us to look into the heavenly world that describes earthly developments from the first century AD to God’s future kingdom of glory. Revelation 7 answ

Revelation 7:9–17 looks at the time after the parousia. The people of God have come out of the great tribulation and now worship and serve God in the heavenly sanctuary, experiencing peace, satisfaction, comfort, and joy. Wearing the white robes of conquerors, they praise God the Father and Jesus Christ for their redemption. But how did salvation come about?ers the question of who will be able to stand at Christ’s second coming (6:17).


A. They Have Washed Their Clothes and Made Them White in the Blood of the Lamb

Those who are saved have washed their robes in blood. The detergent is the blood of the Lamb (Rev 7:14).

(1) According to Scripture, clothes got dirty—by diseases (Lev 13:6; 14:8–9), carcasses (Lev 11:25), and sacrificial animals (Lev 16:26). Washing was necessary. Israel at Mount Sinai had to wash their clothes before their divine encounter (Exod 19:10). In the Old Testament such clothes were real garments; in Revelation they are symbolic robes. Revelation 7:14 assumes that we are sinners, needing cleansing and liberation from sin.

(2) Making clothes white describes the same process as washing does. But the whitening highlights not only the concept of purity, but also victory. No wonder that the people of God walk with Jesus dressed in white (Rev 3:4–5), that the martyrs are given white robes (6:11), and that the great multitude appears in white attire (19:9).

(3) But how can blood be used as a cleaning agent, and how can a lamb be a shepherd (Rev 7:17)? It is a paradox. True believers are already saved here, but are not yet fully saved. The paradox here describes salvation as an ironic victory.

(4) Revelation 1:5 states that Jesus “has freed us from our sins by his blood.” Because “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb 9:22), the divine Lord became a human being and died on the cross to provide forgiveness (1 John 1:7), freedom from the enslavement of sin, and eternal life. Salvation through death! It also implies that we cannot save ourselves but depend on the merits of Jesus to stand “before God in the spotless robes of Christ’s . . . righteousness.”2

(5) While Revelation 1:5 emphasizes Jesus’ initiative, Revelation 7:14 indicates that it is also our responsibility to wash our clothes. However, neither can we save ourselves and make ourselves stand before God’s throne (7:15) nor can we contribute to our salvation. It is still Jesus who saves, independent of human works. But we must accept the divine gift.

(6) Those whose robes are washed, belong to God, and participate in Jesus’ victory, having been separated from sin and Satan. They have prayed with David (Ps 51:1–7) and rely on the divine promise given already to Isaiah (Isa 1:18). Nevertheless, salvation is a paradox and a miracle in many ways.

B. The Parallel Text in Revelation 22:14

A parallel text is found in Revelation 22:14 according to important manuscript witnesses:3 “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.” While other people’s lives end in eternal death (Rev 22:15), the believers enjoy eternal life.

The symbolic washing of their robes in the blood of the Lamb will have tremendously positive results. However, there is one important difference between Revelation 7:14 and 22:14. In Revelation 7:14 the meaning is a once-for-all washing: “they washed their robes.” According to Revelation 22:14, believers “are washing their robes,” which obviously refers to repeated washings. Both aspects are important. There is an initial and basic washing of our robes quite likely associated with baptism: Jesus provides those, who ask Him, with His merits, forgiveness, and eternal life.

There is also the continual washing of our robes: Those who have experienced Jesus’ marvelous gift will follow Him in love and obedience. They allow His character to be developed in them, repenting of their sins that still may occur and renewing their covenant with Him by daily committing their lives to Him.

C. Summary

So, the washing in Jesus’ blood points to justification and sanctification, our faith in Christ and our faithfulness to Him, our assurance through Him, and our witness of Him.


Revelation 7:14 provides three insights for us:

A. The Issue of the Paradox

The first has to do with the paradox of salvation. Why does God speak in such a paradox? Paradoxes catch attention and help us remember. In addition, this specific paradox was foreshadowed by the Old Testament sacrificial system, in which an innocent creature died for a guilty person to provide forgiveness. Furthermore, washing dirty clothes in Jesus’ blood is to show us: what is impossible for humans is possible by God.

B. It Is All about Jesus

The text focuses on Jesus more than on believers. Only He can save and transform us. That the focus is on Jesus is evident in the context. The four living beings and the twenty-four elders before the throne sing, “Worthy are You . . . for You were slain and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth” (Rev 5:9–10, NAU). The millions of angels sing, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (5:12, NAU). And the great multitude does not mention their troubles or achievements but cries out, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (7:10, NAU).

C. It Is About Us Making a Decision

Finally, the text calls us to a decision. Will we wash our robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb? Will we continue to wash them to maintain eternal life in the presence of God? I would invite us to make or renew such a decision.


The redeemed “have washed their robes . . . in the blood of the Lamb.” So, do not forget: What is impossible with us is possible with God—our salvation. It is all about Jesus who died for us to grant us everlasting life. It is also about our decision for Jesus and life with Him.


1 All biblical quotations are from the ESV, unless otherwise indicated.

2 Ellen G. White, Faith and Works (Nashville, TN: Southern Publishing, 1979), 106.

3 While some manuscripts speak about the “washing in blood, others talk about “doing His commandments.” The one used here seems to be preferable.


Ekkehardt Mueller, ThD, DMin, is a retired associate director of the Biblical Research Institute at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, MD, USA.

Ekkehardt Mueller, ThD, DMin, is a retired associate director of the Biblical Research Institute at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, MD, USA.