Q. In Revelation 4 there are the 24 elders, who seem to be the raptured church. Then, in chapter 6, there are martyred souls under the altar who are given white robes and told to wait until their fellow servants are martyred on earth as well. And in chapter 7, there is a vast crowd from all nations and provinces before the Lamb, clothed in white with palm branches in hand, who are believers as well, “coming out of the Great Tribulation.” Who are these different groups?
A. I believe the martyrs in Rev. 6:9-11 represent those who will die during the seal judgments just preceding. In Rev. 6:11 they’re called fellow servants and brothers of those yet to be martyred. Those in Rev. 7:9 are another group of casualties from every nation, tribe, people and language who have come out of the Great tribulation.
This is confusing to many because the Great Tribulation doesn’t begin until Rev. 12-13. But the Greek word translated out of refers to both time and place. It means they will have died before the Great Tribulation begins. They can’t be the Church because they didn’t come in the rapture of Rev. 4, and even though they serve God in His temple (Rev. 7:15) they are never called Priests. They are like the final group of martyrs, mentioned in Rev. 20:4, who reign with the Lord but aren’t called Kings. Only the Church is called both Kings and Priests.
All these groups are composed of tribulation believers who will die for their faith during the judgments of Daniel’s 70th Week, after the Church is gone.