Is the Great Crowd on Earth or in Heaven? (Rev 7:15)

The Greek word rendered “temple” (naos) in the phrase “worship him day and night in his temple” in Rev. 7:15 primarily refers to the Holy of Holies and not to the entire temple complex as the JW’s have mistakenly tried to prove.  (See Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon at bottom of this article) Even the New World Translation Reference Bible (1985 Edition) has a footnote rendering the word temple as “divine habitation”.  And, as we know, Jehovah’s “divine habitation” is in heaven and not on the earth.  This same Greek word “naos” is also used in the Septuagint at Psalm 45:15 where we are told that the virgins and her companions are brought into the king’s “palace” for the wedding ceremony.  Once again proving that the Great Crowd is in heaven and not on earth.  Interestingly enough, the Society still holds to the interpretation that the companions refer to the Great Crowd not realizing that they’ve got a contradiction on their hands. [See the Watchtower publication “Revelation: It’s Grand Climax at Hand!”, pg. 277 where we read: “Then the marriage is performed, the heavenly bride being attended on earth by her virgin companions, the great crowd.” (?!)]

The Greek word “naos” refers to the temple building itself although in some contexts it refers more specifically and restrictively to the “Most Holy” as shown in the Greek lexical sources that cited.  Rev. 7:15 is referring to a spiritual class in heaven and not to a fleshly class on earth as the Witnesses teach since entering the “Most Holy” in the antitype implies a change of nature (fleshly to spiritual). Neither the context nor the Greek allow for the JW’s interpretation of an earthly class, especially in light of Psalm 45 where it plainly states that the virgins’ companions (typical of the Great Crowd) follow her into the palace (naos, in the Septuagint).

The Witnesses try to explain away the use of the word “naos” in Rev. 7:15 by saying that it was a synonym of “hieron” which not only refers to the building but also to the courtyard, that is to say, the entire temple complex. They need to try to convince people of this because they teach that the Great Crowd is essentially in the court of the Gentiles which would be outside of the temple. However, the Greek of Rev. 7:15 clearly shows that the Great Crowd is inside the building not in the courtyard because “naos” is more restrictive than “hieron”.

In bringing these lexical points out, we do not mean to imply that in the type the Levites served in the “Most Holy.”  Only the High Priest was allowed to enter there, especially on the Day of Atonement.  We are simply showing that the Great Crowd is a heavenly class instead of an earthly one which is driven home with the translation “divine habitation” (as found in the NWT’s footnotes) since Jehovah’s temple as shown in the Book of Revelation is in heaven and not on earth. One only need to consult all of the occurrences of the word “temple” in the Revelation to see that it is the Greek word “naos” that is used.  Incidentally, the Greek word “hieron” does not occur even once in the entire book of Revelation which is telling in and of itself.

We verified this unique distinction in the meaning of the two Greek words with some Greek brethren.  They both said that they would use the word “naos” when referring to the building itself with the Most Holy and they would “hieron” if they were referring to the entire temple complex (temple, courtyard, etc.).

This same discovery 30 years ago is what caused several JWs to leave Bethel including the Governing Body’s secretary.

Here is the citation from Liddell & Scott.  (Note citation number II which would correspond to the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle and explains why the Greek translators chose to use this particular word in the Septuagint):

νᾱός, ὁ, Dor., Thess., etc. form, Leg.Gort.1.42, IG9(2).517.45 (Larissa, iii B.C.), etc., used also in Trag. (even dialogue) to the exclusion of νεώς, S.El.8, E.Hipp.31, al., exc. A.Pers.810, rare in Att. Prose and Com., Pl.R.394a, Lg.738c, 814b, Arist.EN1174a24, Posidipp. 29.1, more freq. in X., HG2.3.20, An.5.3.9, al., found in Att. Inscrr.from iii B.C., IG22.1314.18, 1315.28, etc., and in Hellenistic and later Gr. (along with νεώς), SIG277 (Priene, iv B.C.), 214 (Phanagoria, iv B.C.), 494.3 (Delph., iii B.C.), LXX 1 Ki.1.9, al. (νεώς only in

A 2 Ma.), UPZ6.22 (ii B.C.), Plb.9.30.2 (νεώς Plb. 10.4.4), etc.; Ion.νηός, always in Hom. and Hdt. (v. infr.), but gen. νε[ώ] IG12(7).1.4 (Amorgos, v B.C.); dat. νειῴ Michel832.38 (Samos, iv B.C.); Att. νεώς (Attic Inscrr. of v-iii B.C. (v. infr.), once in Trag. (v. supr.), freq. in Prose authors and found in Com. (v. infr.)); declension, nom. νεώς X.HG 1.6.1; gen. νεώ IG12.4.9,80.6, Ar.Pl.733, IG22.1524.45, SIG1219.32 (Gambreum, iii B.C.); dat. νεῴ IG12.6.122, 256.4, Antipho6.39, Alex.40.3, IG22.1504.7; acc. νεών ib.12.24.13, al., X.HG6.5.9, Ar. Nu.401, Pl.741, Philem.139, f.l. in E.HF340, later νεώ IG22.212.35 (iv B.C.), al., LXX 2 Ma.6.2, al., D.S.16.58 (v.l. νεών), SIG877A10 (ii/ iii A.D.), v.l. in D.H.4.26, but νεών Aristid.Or.27(16).19 (v.l. νεώ), Ach.Tat.3.6 (v.l. νεώ Bast Epist.Crit.p.176), etc.: pl. nom. νεῴ X. HG6.4.7; acc. νεώς A.Pers.810, Isoc.5.117, Plb.10.4.4; dat. νεῴς IG12.384; on the accent v. Hdn.Gr.1.8: Aeol. ναῦος Alc.9, IG12 (2).60.27 (Mytil.); Spartan ναϝός ib.5(1).1564 (pl., found at Delos, v/iv B.C.):—temple, Il.1.39, al., Pi.O.13.21 (pl.), etc.

II inmost part of a temple, shrine containing the image of the god, Hdt.1.183, 6.19, X.Ap.15, UPZl.c.; ἐν παντὶ ἱερῷ ὅπου ναός ἐστι PGnom.79 (ii A.D.).
III portable shrine carried in processions, Hdt.2.63, D.S.1.15, etc.
IV metaph., of Christians, ν. θεοῦ ἐστε 1 Ep.Cor. 3.16; of the body of Christ, Ev.Jo.2.19,21. [νᾰόν and νᾰῶ Orph.Fr. 32biv (Phaestus, ii B.C.); elsewh. ᾱ.] (Perh. fr. νᾰσ-ϝός, cf. ναίω.)”


Below, “naos” is defined by Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon

22 comments to Is the Great Crowd on Earth or in Heaven? (Rev 7:15)

  • Anonymous

    To Brett;

    Good points! Dan 7:10 shows a number in heaven. Does it sound like a great crowd to you?


  • Bret

    Revelation 7:17 when it states that “God will wipe every tear from their eyes” it parallels Isaiah 25:8 where it states this takes place on earth.
    Likewise Revelation 21:4 parallels Isaiah 25:8 and Rev 21:3 states Gods tent will be with mankind and he will reside with them not “they reside with him” indicating this takes place on earth where death mourning and pain occurs not in heaven..
    So Rev 7:17 when describing the great crowd gives same description as rev 21:4 which is on earth and Isaiah 25:8 which indicates it is on earth!!!
    No reason to conclude the mention of a great crowd at Rev 19:6 is speaking of same group… But of the angels who observe the marriage of the lamb and his bride. Since it would not make since that the great crowd would already be in heaven in place to view the Christ and his union with his bride…

    • Peter K. (admin)

      Bret – Thanks for your contributions. You are supporting your conclusions with scriptures and we love to see that on this website. You made some great points that deserve careful consideration.

      You are making a good point that promises to the Great Crowd are similar to promises that we find for mankind in the coming earthly kingdom. However, these are the same promises made to the anointed (spirit begotten) Church Class (the heavenly 144,000). These promises are for all who ultimately embrace Jesus as their Savior and follow him.

      Fountains of water – Church Jn 4:14; Psa 23:2; 36:9 – Great Crowd Rev 7:16; 21:6
      Sun not strike them – Church Psa 121:6 – Great Crowd Rev 7:16
      Lamb is their Shepherd – Church Psa 23:1; Heb 13:20 – Great Crowd Rev 7:17
      Shall not hunger or thirst – Church Jn 6:35, 51; 1 Cor 11:26 – Great Crowd Rev 7:16
      Cleansed by Jesus blood – Church 1 John 1:7 – Great Crowd Rev 7:14
      Wipe away tears & comfort – Church Matt 5:4, comp Is 25:8 with 1 Cor 15:54 – Great Crowd Rev 21:4

      In many scriptures, a promise is made to one class, but extended to another group as well. For example, the Church is promised that they may partake of the tree of life (Rev 2:7) and so is the mankind (Rev 22:14). The church is promised manna (Rev 2:17) and so is mankind (John 6:48-51). The church shall see God (Matt 5:8) and the angels do always behold God’s face (Matt 18:10)

  • Anonymous

    Bret and Peter;

    Pastor Russell taught the following,Somewhere after R4303 page 3,”Taking the whole number as 40,000 and taking the overcomers to number one-forth of these, and counting the three-fourths as going into the Great Company, it would mean the vacating of 30,000 crowns, and hence, mean opportunity for a similar number to enter in to possess these crowns.”

    So while the Pastor was showing an amount of Great Crowd, he was ahead of his time. For the Great Tribulation is still future and no man knows its number.

    And there is no mention of them dying. Whereas the 144,000 are mentioned as being bought from the earth.

  • Bret

    Jerome stated this great crowd is during the 1000 yr reign of Christ… But the scripture states at Rev 7:14 “they come out of the great tribulation” so no it’s not referring to resurrected ones from all the way back to Adam!
    Matt 24:22 states the tribulation is cut short so that flesh may be saved this large group or great crowd then comes out of the great tribulation, this is the same tribulation Jesus said there has not been and never again be one like it.. GREAT TRIBULATION
    Is it in heaven?? No why not?
    Rev 7:17 states “God will wipe out every tear from there eyes” this is same vision Isaiah prophesied about at Isa 25:8 and there it states this takes place on earth!!!
    Wow even my king James cross reference takes you to Isa 25:8

    • Peter K. (admin)

      Bret – Thanks. Great points about the Great Crowd. Good connection with Matt 24:22 Tribulation. I think their coming out of the Great Tribulation refers to this groups final difficult experience, which cleans us their act so to speak (washes the sinful spots off their robes – Rev 7:14). Later we find the Great Crowd in heaven in Rev 19:1,6. King James reads ” much <4183> people <3793> in heaven,” however the Strong’s #s are the same as Great Multitude in Rev 7:9 and 19:6. They are rejoicing that the marriage of the lamb (Jesus) has come (Rev 19:8) to his bride. This rejoicing multitude parallels the Psalms 45 description of the heavenly marriage with the Great Crowd there called, “the virgins her companions that follow her” (vs 14). There will be many survivors of Armageddon as we see in Ezekiel 38 and Zech 14. Armageddon is not to destroy all the people on earth, but rather the wicked systems to make room for Jehovah’s earthly kingdom.

  • ken

    The Watchtower publication “Revelation: It’s Grand Climax at Hand!”, pg. 277 where we read: “Then the marriage is performed, the heavenly bride being attended on earth by her virgin companions, the great crowd.” (?!)]
    That’s like me saying:”today is the day I’m supposed to go to my bosses wedding in africa but I’ll just stay home(in Wisconsin)and attend…..

  • As of 2013 the population of the earth is about 7 billion people. This number man is able to number.

    Yet, Revelation 7:9 speaks of a Great Crowd “which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes; and there were palm branches in their hands.”

    Well, these could not JUST BE non-anointed Jehovah’s Witnesses because that would mean that their numbers would far exceed what we “can” count: earth’s population of 7 billion.

    It should be noted that Revelation 7:9 tells us that this Great Crowd comes out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues.

    Further, we are told that this Great Crowd stands before the throne and before the Lamb. This “throne” is NOT God’s Kingdom; it is Christs kingdom of 1000 years. They stand before “The Lamb!” This Great Crowd is in Christ definite 1000 kingdom. This makes since and here is why:

    At John 5:28-29 Jesus promised a resurrection of ALL persons from the dead. How many persons is “ALL?” It would be a number “which no man was able to number.”

    This Great Crowd “which no man was able to number” would be persons born since Adam. If Adam caused the “fall” and brought sin and death to us ALL, then it would be Christ who would remove that stain up ALL of us.

    A gigantic error has been made by religious organization in teaching that this Great Crowd would be only non-anointed JWs. The Christ was sent to die for ALL.

    Did he not promise a condemned man paradise? That man was not his follower and he certainly was not a Jehovah’s Witness inside of an organization. (Luke 23:43)

    Did not Jesus “not” condemn an adulterous woman who the Pharisees and Scribes condemned to death by stoning? She was not his follower and she was not a Jehovah’s Witness inside of an organization. She too, will be resurrected into Christs 1000 year kingdom as member of that Great Crowd. (John 8:7-11)

    Did not Jesus ask forgiveness for those who persecuted him and who would put him to death? They will be resurrected into Christ 1000 year kingdom. (Luke 23:24)

    This Great Crowd will be the resurrection back to life of ALL of mankind who has died. The gift from Jehovah in giving His Son to mankind as a sacrifice was a “free gift.” NOTHING is asked from God in return. If what God gave was “conditional” then it would not be a free gift.

    The life Jesus lived and the example he set in loving others, freely forgiving them, and giving up his life for those we might think underdeserving shows this.

    Jesus’ mindset was that he viewed all of mankind (crowds of people) as skinned and thrown about like sheep without a Shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)

    The insistence by religious organization that one MUST associate and enter into them in order to have life is a lie. (Jesus is the life and we attach ourselves to him).

    Even persons who died since Adam have been blessed. Jesus died for them as well and he will call them out of their graves into his kingdom of 1000 years and teach them to where they will have “palm branches in their hands.”

    The religious organizations of men today are blind and selfish. The audacity to teach Christ divided: That he died only for those who would accept him. Did what Adam did affect only those who reject what Adam did? No, it impacts ALL of us. We ALL grow old, get sick and die.

    This Great Crowd is ALL of mankind born of flesh and blood parents since Adam; and that is a lot of people: A number “which no man was able to number.”

    And, I tell you this: Adam will be resurrected. Why? Because he did not perish (go out of existence or Lake of Fire which is the Second Death). Adam DIED. (Gen 2:17 and Gen 5:5) Therefore, since Adam did not “perish”, he will be resurrected.

    • ken

      Very well said Jerome,keep in mind,however,sometimes when the Bible says a number is uncountable means the number isn’t fixed,e.g.,if I said I sent out a bunch of invitations to a house party could it be said I knew how many would show up? No! it would be a situation in which the number of people who’d show up would be impossible to determine.

      • I disagree and – respectfully – this is something I will “Never keep in mind” as it is from men. This is human-generated thinking. We should NEVER imply that what is stated is NOT what God or Christ intended to say.

        If The Most High God gave the revelation to His Son and he, in turn, gave it to an angel and the angel presented it to John to write down what he hears; and it God says (through His Son and through the angel to John) that “I saw, and, look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number,” then that is what it means. No man was able to number.

        As humans we have become accustomed to regurgitating the things uttered by God and Christ to make it appear that they did not mean what they said.

        For example, the 1914 date. Millions of JWs believe the WT teaching about this date. (I once did, too). Yet, Jesus said that date and time establishment is not possible for human and angelic agency – not even himself; but only the Father.

        BUT, human agency says otherwise. It says, we can know; implying that what Jesus stated at Matthew 24:36, Matthew 24:42 and Acts 1:7 is not what he meant. So it boils down to a matter of listening to God and Christ or men.

        In the case of Rev 7:9, I choose to listen to what is stated there. Why? Because God “breathed” it. It would be an unwise thing on my part to listen to humans who create ambiguity and lead others to believe that “it not what God meant.” We must obey God’s command stated at Luke 9:35.

        Additionally, when one says, “The Bible says …” then a red flag goes up. Here is why?

        The mistake many continue to make is: They keep saying “The Bible” says a certain thing. NO! NO! NO! Revelation 7:9 (in fact all of revelation) is NOT “the Bible” stating anything. It is a revelation “by Jesus” that God gave him. So, one should NEVER ascribe to a book “The Bible” what GOD and His Christ states.

        Our minds should be trained to say, “God says, Jesus says, Jesus teaches, I am a student of Christ” rather than saying “The Bible says” or “I am a Bible student.” The Bible is NOT The Word of God, Jesus [the] Christ is. We are to listen to him as our God has directed us to. (Luke 9:35; Revelation 19:13)

        Who has told the world that The Bible is The Word of God? Why is “it” treated as if “it” is “saying” something? Why is “it” mentioned primarily instead of Christ who is The Word of God? Why are those claiming to follow Christ ascribing his words to “The Bible” as if the “Bible” is “saying” them? Christ is NOT dead, he is alive.

        I hope people realize what has been going on for a long time in this regard. I hope people will begin to wake up to see that a “golden calf” that men have stood up called “The Bible” stands in a holy place where it does not belong. It is NOT a holy book. Men are arrogant to give it such a title of holiness. Jesus [the] Christ is the ONLY one who can stand in that holy place as “he” is the holy Word of God. (Mark 1:24)

        Jesus [the] Christ, not a book called by men “The Bible” is who we are to listen to.

        So when you say, “sometimes when the Bible says …” I reject this expression because it is NOT – and should be – “Christ says …”

        I obey my God and He tells us: “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; LISTEN TO HIM.”

        He did not tell you or I or anyone to “Listen to the Bible.” Jesus, who is the ONLY Word of God, does not speak “for the Bible” nor does it speak for him. We should NEVER equate a a book to God’s Son.

        Yet, many have done much worse: They have elevated it above the Christ.

        So when one looks in their minds-eye who do they see there? A book called by men “The Bible” as The Word of God … OR … do the see Jesus [the] Christ as The Word of God.

        Which one are they listening to?

      • Peter K. (admin)

        Ken – Well said.

  • Thenk you all for allowing me to present the Bible view here.
    Above all my thnks go to Jehovah.

    My little contribution about the great Crowd:

    The Great Crowd of Revelation 7 who, what and whereto?
    One can almost feel the anxious struggle of translators as they tried to come to grips with the ambiguities that arise from trying to match text with doctrine.

    Some Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses to be exact, hold that the Kingdom was established in 1914. Not true.
    What really happened at that time of 1914 is simply that the Christ was enthroned at that time to rule amid his enemies and not among his brothers and friends.
    That false 1914 Kingdom establishment doctrine automatically infers that those of Jesus’ brothers already dead have been resurrected and that those remaining on earth in responsible positions in their particular denomination already have a measure of authority to rule over a congregation that has somehow and inexplicably expanded beyond the authorized number revealed in Revelation 7:4 and 14:1. Likewise untrue.

    Between the key sentences:
    Revelation 6:11: they were told to rest a little while longer, until the number was filled also of their fellow slaves and their brothers who were about to be killed as they also had been
    1 Corinthians 15:51-52: dead will be raised up incorruptible, and we shall be changed; (yes those of the anointed dead raised and those still alive at the same time)
    and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17:
    . . .and those who are dead in union with Christ will rise first. 17 Afterward we the living who are surviving will, together* with them, be caught away in clouds to meet the Lord in the air .
    * Or, “at the same time.”

    There is definitely no resurrection by instalments meant here or anywhere for those called to heavenly governance. In fact, Jesus’ Prophecy about the greatest tribulation ever to befall Israel both in duration and intensity, indicated what was to occur at its end:
    29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 And then the sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will beat themselves in lamentation, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send forth his angels with a great trumpet sound, and they will gather his chosen ones together from the four winds, from one extremity of the heavens to their other extremity. (Matthew 24:29-31)

    Yes, gather his chosen ones who have been destined for heavenly governance right from the initial promises Jehovah made to Abraham. They shall all be gathered at once, those already dead and those still left on earth at the time and impossible to number, but comprising a great crowd* who had also washed their robes in the lamb’s blood, as did those that went before, to furnish a guarantee or right of passage for all the anointed to attain to kingship and priesthood in the heavenly city Jerusalem. -Revelation 7:9-17; 22:14.
    * in the context of 1st century global population sizes of around 200 million, a few thousand gathered in one place are indeed a Great Crowd.

    I have provided the foregoing simply to encourage my former friends to pay a little more attention to the Scriptures themselves. As this verse suggest:
    . . .But let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, even as it is written: “That you might be proved righteous in your words and might win when you are being judged.. . . (Romans 3:4).

    That Judgement is solely with reference to those who came out of forgiven Israel at Pentecost 33 CE, to become the multi-ethnic, multi-gender Israel Paul spoke about in Galatians 3:28-29, who will find their permanent place on heavenly MT Zion. Please see:
    Revelation 14:1-4; Hebrews 12:22-23 -the firstborn here being that of Exodus 4:22; 7:4-8; 9-17; 6:9-11.
    Why all this detail?

    Because it takes a lot of detail to make a mess, it will likewise take a measure of the same to sanitize it.
    OK so the Great Crowd are of the anointed, but what about the other sheep of John 10:16?

    Perhaps in another post

  • Ken

    Thank you Peter, Jacqueline and Sharon!

  • ken

    BTW,Peter K., can you recommend a good booklet on understanding the book of Rev. I have the Jw climax book but don’t trust it.

    • Jacqueline

      Ken I have a big book call “Revelation for the end of the gospel age. A helping hand for Bible Students” I think there are more than one out there. After the conv. and the visit of my sons in Oct.4th, I am going on a week trip in my RV, park at a campsite and just read for a whole week. I too just really got into the conversation on the great crowd when Pearl opened it back up. It is reall good. I am trying to read every scripture quoted.

    • Jeff M


      I can hook you up with some Revelation study resources. Send me an email (I think I gave it to you) and I’ll send you a link where you can get them.


  • ken

    Very good Peter K., I know I’ve read this before but this time it’s sinking in!! Thanks!

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