They will hunger no more, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; 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. (7:16–17)
This comforting promise of further provision is drawn from and almost identical to the words of Isaiah 49:10. As they experienced the horrors of the Tribulation, these sufferers of the Great Tribulation had endured hunger, thirst, and scorching heat as the sun beat down on them, a phenomenon which will occur in the Tribulation (16:9). But all the tormenting physical and spiritual elements of earthly life they will experience no longer, but rather will enjoy eternal satisfaction, for the Lamb in the center of the throne (cf. 5:6) will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes. The picture of God as the Shepherd of His people is one of the most beloved and common in the Old Testament (cf. Pss. 23; 80:1; Isa. 40:11; Ezek. 34:23), and Jesus is depicted as the Shepherd of His people in the New Testament (John 10:11ff.; Heb. 13:20; 1 Pet. 2:25; 5:4). Interestingly, the other three uses of poimainō (shepherd) in Revelation (2:27; 12:5; 19:15; “rule” or “shepherd” in all three cases) reveal Christ in a destroying mode, crushing sinners with a rod of iron, as in Psalm 2:9. The Great Shepherd will guide His flock to springs of the water of life (cf. 21:6; 22:1, 17). He will also wipe every tear from their eyes (cf. 21:4; Isa. 25:8), for in heaven there will be no pain, sorrow, or suffering to cause them.
In this age when Christianity is under siege on all sides, seemingly losing its grip on divine truth and apparently headed for defeat, it is comforting to be reassured of the ultimate triumph of God’s saving grace. In the midst of an even worse situation in the future before Christ’s return, God will redeem His people. That thought should bring present-day believers great comfort, and motivate all to praise God for the greatness of His redemptive plan. And ultimately, in the eternal state, all these promises will come true for all believers.
16 The condition described here contrasts to the earthly experience of those who suffered much for their faith (cf. Heb 11:37–38). For them, starvation, thirst, and the burning desert are forever past. There may be allusion here to Isaiah 49:10, which places the time of relief from such distresses in the days of Messiah’s kingdom. There may also be an allusion to what the four horsemen bring (6:1–8; cf. Mt 24:7).
17 We now have a beautiful pastoral figure—that of the Lamb shepherding his people (cf. Jn 10:1–8; Heb 13:20; 1 Pe 2:25). It is not through some perfect environment but through the presence and continual ministry of the Lamb that their sufferings are forever assuaged. Whereas on earth their enemies may have tormented them, now the Lamb guides them: “He will lead [hodēgēsei, GK 3842—the same verb used of the Holy Spirit in Jn 16:13] them to springs of living water.” In contrast to the burning thirst experienced in their tribulation, now they will enjoy the refreshing waters of life. Thus in the future life the saints will not know stagnation, boredom, or satiation (Ps 23:1–3; Jer 2:13; Eze 47:1–12; Zec 14:8).
Finally, even the sorrowful memory of the pain and suffering of the former days will be mercifully removed by the Father: “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (cf. 21:4). Tribulation produces tears. Like a tenderhearted, devoted mother, God will wipe each tear from their eyes with the eternal consolation of glory itself. Never again will they cry out because of pain or suffering. Only through the resurrection can all this become real (Isa 25:8; 1 Co 15:54).
7:15–17 / The vision’s concluding hymn celebrates a true Israel’s return from its worldly exile and into the promised land of eternal life, when God will wipe away every tear from their eyes (cf. 21:4) and when the Lamb … will be their shepherd. Then he will lead them into God’s shalom where never again will they thirst, because the Lamb will lead them to springs of living water (cf. 22:1–2). God will spread his tent over them, so that the sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. And in that future day of consummation, eschatological Israel will realize the slain Lamb’s work that transformed them into priests to serve God (cf. 5:10)—to serve him day and night in his temple. On that future day, the worship of God will not take place in an actual building—a literal temple—but in a relationship with the “Lord God Almighty and the Lamb” (cf. 21:22).
The hymn resounds with biblical themes, especially of the “promised land” that appears especially good to returning exiles (Mounce, Revelation, p. 175). It is a doxology of promise fulfilled, the concerns of theodicy are answered. Believers suffer in a fallen world, perhaps even more so now that the world has been judged by God through the slain Lamb. Suffering believers have a certain confidence in an exalted Lamb, however, that God’s justice will prevail in the end, when their living conditions will be reversed for the good.
7:15–17. The elder’s answer to John continues with a wonderful poetic statement of ten eternal blessings enjoyed by this redeemed multitude. Most are described in fuller detail in another part of Revelation.
They are before the throne of God. The throne of God is the central focus of Revelation 4. In Revelation 3:21, all overcomers are promised a place with Christ on his throne.
And serve him day and night in his temple. The main reason humans have been redeemed is to serve (Greek latreuó, “worship”) him. To be part of the temple of God forever was promised to the overcomers of Revelation 3:12. Revelation 21:22, however, has no temple, for God and the Lamb are themselves the temple. Similarly, Revelation 21:25 has no night, so the phrase “day and night” here means “without end.”
And he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. The verb spread his tent is a form of the Greek noun traditionally translated “tabernacle” (the holy tent of the Israelites during their early days as a nation). After the Israelites had gone through their times of plagues and tribulation, God promised to dwell among them through the tabernacle (Acts 7:11; Lev. 26:1–13). Revelation 21:3 describes the complete heavenly fulfillment of this promise.
Never again will they hunger. These redeemed people were not spared the ill effects of famine (6:5–6) nor of the pain that resulted because they refused the beast’s mark (13:16–17). Their hunger will be satisfied as they eat from the Tree of Life, promised to all overcomers (2:7; 22:14).
Never again will they thirst. This parallels the promise concerning not hungering. Most of us cannot imagine the agony of literally dying of thirst. Many of these people had done so. In Revelation 21:6 Christ pledges, “To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.“Revelation 22:1–2 describes this river in some detail.
The sun will not beat upon them. The people hostile to God will be “seared by the intense heat” of the sun when the fourth bowl is poured out (16:8). Wicked humans, however, may also force believers out into the literal sun with disastrous effects. One of the striking promises concerning the heavenly city is that “the city does not need the sun” (21:23).
Nor any scorching heat. Different kinds of heat, other than the sun, scorch—for instance, fire and lightning. In our time, we know about the destructive heat of sophisticated weapons of warfare. Believers have never been immune to such. Many through the centuries were burned at the stake. In the blessed state of protection this can never happen again.
The Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd. What a strange and wonderful picture: the Lamb who is also shepherd. Three other times in Revelation the verb for shepherding appears, but the picture is of Christ subduing the nations with his iron rod-scepter (2:27; 12:5; 19:15). Here is the only mention in Revelation of Jesus as gentle Shepherd-Pastor of his flock. Other New Testament texts develop this theme beautifully (John 10:14; Heb. 13:20; 1 Pet. 2:25).
He will lead them to springs of living water. A chief responsibility of shepherds is to find adequate watering. This had been applied symbolically as early as the much loved Psalm 23. Christ sees it as his personal duty to lead his people to the place where their thirst may be quenched eternally—both their physical thirst and their spiritual thirst (Rev. 21:6).
God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. This great promise is found in the Bible only here and in Revelation 21:4. There the removal of tears symbolizes that God’s people will never again experience death, mourning, or pain.
In summary the first three of these blessings mean that the redeemed will be in the direct presence of God. The next four describe an end to the negative effects of sin. The final three blessings focus on the eternal joys of the redeemed. With this encouraging statement of blessing waiting in heaven, we are ready to move on to think about what is yet to be on earth.
MAIN IDEA REVIEW: All those whom God marks as his own people will without fail one day enter his presence victorious forever.
16. And they will neither hunger nor thirst anymore neither will the sun beat down on them nor any scorching heat.”
- “Therefore, they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple.” This report of heavenly bliss is repeated in the last chapter of Revelation, “And the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will serve him” (22:3). The scene is similarly described in 21:3–4, where a voice from the throne calls attention to God dwelling with his people to be their God; he cares for them by having removed from them death, grief, sorrow, and pain. The clause “before the throne of God” implies that the saints have direct access to the one who occupies that throne. Their relation to God is the same as it was in the Garden of Eden when God walked and talked with Adam and Eve.
Especially significant is the continuous service God’s people render in his presence. The word temple refers not to the structure of a building but rather to the Holy of Holies, which is the place where God dwells. Some commentators see a conflict in this verse with Revelation 21:22, which reads that the new Jerusalem has no temple. But John explains that “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple,” which means that because of the pervading presence of God and the Lamb the new Jerusalem is itself a sanctuary. Hence, being in the presence of God before his throne and serving him ceaselessly can be compared to the role of the high priest. Once a year the high priest entered God’s sacred presence momentarily on the Day of Atonement, but the saints dwell in God’s presence not for a few minutes but forever. They do not sprinkle the blood of a bull and a goat to be cleansed from sin, for they are sinless. And no longer do they petition God for remission of sin, for they are cleansed. Thus they serve him continually by praising and thanking him (22:3). The saints in heaven know no division of day and night; John remarks, “And there will be no night there” (22:5).
- “And he who is seated on the throne will spread his tent over them.” This sentence seems to be a poetic description of God protecting his people. The one seated on the throne is the phrase used to describe God, and the clause he will spread his tent over them is significant theologically. Here is the divine promise that God grants his people security with his personal presence. This is a teaching that permeates Scripture from Leviticus to Revelation: God’s desire to dwell with his people and to have them acknowledge him as their God. Notice the repeated wording of this desire in the following passages:
- “I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people” (Lev. 26:11–12).
- “I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant.… I will put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people” (Ezek. 37:26–27).
- “I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem; they will be my people, and I will be faithful and righteous to them as their God” (Zech. 8:8).
- “And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look, the tabernacle of God is with people, and he will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God’ ” (Rev. 21:2–3).
This is covenant language that expresses God’s desire for intimate communion with his people by dwelling with them in the same sanctuary. In the Garden of Eden God had fellowship with Adam and Eve. While sin disrupted this relationship, Christ Jesus restored it through his mediatorial work. The complete fulfillment comes at the renewal of God’s creation.
17. “Because the Lamb at the center of the throne will shepherd them, and he will lead them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
John’s mind is fixed on the Old Testament Scriptures, particularly a passage that speaks of the restoration of God’s people. “They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat upon them. He who has Compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water” (Isa. 49:10; compare 4:5–6). God’s people knew the deprivation of food and water when they had to travel through the deserts that bordered their land.
This Old Testament passage refers to the return from Babylonian captivity to the land of Israel. God told his people that they would be neither hungry nor thirsty. He would supply them with the basic necessities of life to still their hunger and quench their thirst at oases. There he would shield them from the heat of the sun and the scorching wind of the desert.
Further, this passage, taken from a chapter that depicts the Servant of the Lord, that is, the Messiah, predicts the restoration of Israel (Isa. 49). The Messiah will sustain God’s people with spiritual and material blessings in this life and in the life to come. Here is a description of sustenance and solace for all the saints who put their trust in God. Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matt. 5:6).
- “Because the Lamb at the center of the throne will shepherd them.” The Lamb of God who was slain to redeem his people stands at the center, near the midpoint, of God’s throne. He is between God, seated on the throne, and the four living beings. No being is closer to God himself than the Lamb, who is now given the role of Shepherd. This role change, like so many in the Apocalypse, should be understood symbolically. Peter meditates on the concept of the sacrificial Lamb when he quotes Isaiah 53:9, “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth” (1 Pet. 2:22). Then he notes that the Lamb’s wounds healed his readers. “For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Pet. 2:25).
During his earthly ministry, Jesus revealed himself as the Shepherd of his people He called himself the Good Shepherd and instructed Peter to shepherd his sheep (John 10:11, 14; 21:16). And in turn Peter calls Jesus the Chief Shepherd, while he and fellow elders serve him as shepherds of God’s flock (1 Pet. 5:1–4). These portrayals are taken from agricultural Israel. So David composed Psalm 23 and the prophet Ezekiel transmitted the word of God to his people, “I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd” (Ezek. 34:23). Jesus the Good Shepherd protects his sheep from danger and from harm, leads them to green pastures, and finds streams of refreshing water for them.
- “And he will lead them to springs of living water.” The Lamb who is now the Shepherd leads the sheep to springs of living water. The imagery is a clear reminder of the Samaritan woman who asked Jesus for living water so that she would no longer be thirsty and have to keep coming back to Jacob’s well (John 4:15). Water symbolizes eternal life (Isa. 55:1; John 7:38, 39). Near the end of the Apocalypse, Jesus refers to himself as the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. Then he offers to all those who are thirsty to drink freely from the spring of water of life (21:6; 22:17).
- “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” If there is one text in Scripture that comforts the saints, it is this verse. Here we meet the infinite tenderness of our God, who is able to remove from our eyes every tear caused by suffering, death, and sorrow. John again quotes from the Old Testament, where God is saying to his people that he will swallow up death forever and will wipe away the tears from all faces (Isa. 25:8; see Jer. 31:16). And in John’s vision of the new Jerusalem, God dwells with his people and as their God will wipe every tear from their eyes. “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:4). This is eternal bliss that can be portrayed only in pictures borrowed from this earthly scene—God bending down as a parent to wipe tears from the faces of his children.
The last line in this verse is a picture of joy and happiness, of deliverance from sin and guilt, of salvation full and free. It is a scene of life in the fullest sense of the word—to be forever in the presence of our covenant God, who dwells in the midst of the glorified saints. It is Paradise restored.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1999). Revelation 1–11 (pp. 233–234). Chicago: Moody Press.
 Johnson, A. F. (2006). Revelation. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 667). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Wall, R. W. (2011). Revelation (pp. 120–121). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Easley, K. H. (1998). Revelation (Vol. 12, pp. 131–132). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
 Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Vol. 20, pp. 258–262). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.