For JW's the issue has NEVER been who THE Faithful and Wise Servant (F&DS) was. That is just misdirection and sleight of hand. It is plain from the context that this was obviously a rhetorical question meant for self introspection. It definitely was not meant to be an idol erected in honor of a few sinful men in NYC; as if our job is to sort through all men and find the few, the strong, the brave that we are to follow for salvation. No, that is an abomination. Only identification with Jesus saves a person. All other associations for salvation is IDOLATRY.
However, the question of who the blood-washed multitude is, .....that's something worthy of consideration. What they are not:
1. They are not un-atoned for tribulation survivors who must work for their salvation and who also reject the emblems at the Lord's supper. Why? Because they are "washed in the blood" covenant of the Lamb. Matthew 26: 27&28 makes it clear that the only access to the blood that washes us clean is through the New Covenant. Eph. 1:7 says the same thing. Avoiding personal judgment is only through the blood, and no other.
2. They are not the ones left over in the earth to repopulate it during the Millennium Reign. That is yet a different group, because the blood-washed multitude is seen in heaven.
3. They are not part of the church. The church is already in heaven when they are seen.
I found this sermon from 1962 that addresses this subject. I have shortened it a bit. BTW, Clarence Larkin basically said the same thing decades earlier:
The Blood-Washed Multitude
by, Dr. W. A. Criswell
After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palm branches in their hands;
And they cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God who sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four cherubim, and fell down before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,
Saying, Amen: The blessing, and the glory, and the wisdom, and the thanksgiving, and the honor, and the power, and the might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, Who are these who are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?
And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. I do not. And he said to me, These are they who have come out of the great tribulation, who are coming out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple: and He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.
For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
The seventh chapter has two very distinct visions in it, introduced by the same and identical words. In the English version, you have it translated, chapter 7, verse 1, “And after these things I saw” [Revelation 7:1], and then verse 9, “After this I beheld…” [Revelation 7:9]. But the Greek words are identical: Meta tauta eidon, meta tauta eidon, “After these things I saw…” Now the first vision was the sealing of one hundred forty-four thousand elect out of the tribes of the children of Israel; twelve thousand from the tribe of Judah, twelve thousand from the tribe of Reuben, twelve thousand from the tribe of Gad, and so through twelve elect tribes of the children of Israel; twelve thousand elect, selected, chosen, set apart, and sealed. ...
Then the second vision is a vision of a Gentile host out of every tribe, and kindred, and tongue, and language, and nation, standing before God, and before the Lamb [Revelation 7:9-17]. This second vision, the great multitude of Gentiles who have come into the faith, who have been saved by the blood of the Crucified One, well, who are they? Who are they?
When the elder asked John, “Do you know who these are, and do you know where they came from?” evidently the elder was doing no other thing than voicing John’s astonishment and amazement as he looked upon them. For, John replied, the seer replied, “Sir, I do not know. I do not know. I never saw them before. I never dreamed of their presence. I don’t recognize a face in that vast group. I don’t understand. I don’t know.” Now, I say in his perplexity you have a very definite suggestion as to who these are, even before the elder identifies them. For you see, all through this book we have identified the glorified and raptured church with the elders; those four and twenty elders represent God’s redeemed, God’s sainted.
And at the end of chapter 3, when the church is mentioned no more, not referred to, not seen until the Lord comes again in chapter 19 at the end of the conclusion of the great denouement of history, immediately, at the end of chapter 3, when John himself is raptured up to heaven, there he sees the throne of God and the enthroned elders[Revelation 4:1-4]. And all through this book we have identified those elders as being the glorified, enraptured, immortalized, resurrected church of God, the blood-bought church of Jesus Christ. And there they are, and John sees them before the throne, seated in the presence of God, gold crowned, robed, glorified; that is His raptured church.
Now, in the presence of those elders —and they’re mentioned here in this passage, this vision we’ve just read—in the presence of those elders there is this other great multitude out of the Gentile nations of the earth, out of the kindreds, and the people, and the tongues, and the tribes. There they stand before God, and before the Lamb, and before those elders [Revelation 7:9-11]. And that was the perplexity of John [Revelation 7:13-14]. For the church and the people in God’s redeemed church are already there, resurrected, raptured, taken up into heaven, and John sees them and then this group beside.
Now had this great multitude been those redeemed in His church, John would have expected it, he would have looked for it; and there were many in that group, as you, whom you could have recognized. But the perplexity of John lay in the fact that here is the church, already raptured, already redeemed, already glorified, already resurrected, already in heaven, and beside them, represented in these elders, are these multitudes beside. And John couldn’t understand. “Where did these come from? And who are they? I do not recognize a one of them” — the great multitude beside.
Then you have one of the redeemed himself representing God’s sainted church people, then you have one of the redeemed himself, one of the elders, said, “You know who these are? These are they who are coming, erchomenoi thlipsis,” present tense,
These are they who are coming out of he thlipsis, he megale, the tribulation, the great. These are they who are coming out of the great tribulation. And in turning, and in repentance, and in confession, and in faith, and in looking to Jesus have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Out of the trial in the earth, out of the sorrow in the earth, out of the judgments in the earth, these are they who turn, who believe, who repented, who confessed, and who are coming out of the great blood bath, the great tribulation in the earth.
Isn’t that a remarkable thing? And who would have ever have dreamed of it? And who would ever have thought of it? And who would ever have known it? And that was the amazement and the astonishment and the perplexity of John: “I never dreamed of this group. This group is not the church of the firstborn; this great multitude, this is the congregation of the after-born.” This is God’s blood-bought, tribulation saints that nobody in the earth would ever have known would exist had it not been for the special revelation of Jesus Christ. And John looks upon them in amazement and in astonishment.
... The prophet Daniel saw in a vision those saints of tribulation [Daniel 12:1-2]. And Peter uses the same kind of an idea and word of Daniel as he speaks of that salvation and those that are saved in that last season. These are tribulation saints.
....Now, I think they are in heaven. There they stand before the throne of God; and I have marked seven times in this brief passage it is mentioned “they stand before the throne of God” [Revelation 7:9-11,15,17]. Well, so many interpreters say they’re down here in this earth; this great multitude are down here in this earth. Well, there is a sense in which they are down here in this earth—but not when John sees them; for John is in heaven, and up there in heaven he sees first the throne of God, then the elders, then the cherubim, then the serried ranks of the angels [Revelation 4:4-10]. And it is in that same place, the throne of God, the elders, the four cherubim, and the serried ranks of the angels, it’s that same place that he sees the great multitude coming, coming, coming [Revelation 7:9-11].
Now, this great multitude was in the earth but only in the sense that they were sinful people. They were lost sinners, and they were left behind in the rapture of God’s church out of the earth [Revelation 4:1-11]. These are among those that were left behind [Revelation 7:13-14]. For when the Lord comes, this earth shall be given mostly to infidelity and unbelief. “Yea,” said our Lord, “When the Son of Man cometh, will He find faith in the earth” [Luke 18:8]: “Two shall be in a field; one taken and the other left [Luke 17:36]. Two shall be asleep in a bed; one shall be taken and the other left [Luke 17:34]. Two shall be grinding at a mill; one shall be taken and the other left” [Luke 17:35]. And out of these that were left behind when God’s church was taken away, out of these that are left behind, these are they who have turned in repentance and in faith in the gospel of the Son of God and have been saved in those dark and tragic days of the great tribulation [Revelation 7:9-17]. They have changed.
Whereas once they philosophized about the truth, now they accept the gospel of Jesus as the reality of God itself. Whereas once they were given to unbelief and to rejection, now they open their hearts to the gospel of the Son of God. Whereas once they were naked, now they are clothed. Whereas once they were sinners, now they are holy. Whereas once they turned aside from the saving message of Christ, now in repentance and faith they look to Jesus. These are converts who have been changed, and John sees them as they come out of the great tribulation, and he sees them as they stand before God in heaven. I would suppose they’re martyred in the blood of the earth, and under the awful aegis of the beast and the false prophet and the terrible days when this world is given to riot and to sin, these are God’s people who are coming out of it, apparently out of martyrdom, giving their lives for Jesus. And John sees them in glory, as they come up before the throne of God. “These are they who are coming out of the great tribulation” [Revelation 7:14].
You notice they’re not sealed. They’re not sealed. The one hundred forty-four thousand were sealed for protection that they might continue in their ministry [Revelation 7:2-4]. These are not sealed. The reason is very obvious: they don’t need the seal of God anymore, they don’t need the protection of God anymore down here in this earth; they are before the Lord in heaven [Revelation 7:9]. And there do they worship Him. Oh, what an incomparable thing to say about anybody! He is in heaven. These are in heaven. They’re in the presence of the Almighty on His throne. They’re in the presence of the Lamb who loved us and gave Himself for us [Ephesians 5:2; Galatians 2:20]. They’re in the presence of the gold crowned elders. They’re in the presence of the angelic hosts, in serried ranks, glory upon glory. They’re where God is worshipped purely, beautifully, day and night, forever and ever. They are in heaven [Revelation 7:9-17]. A Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom is far beyond a Dives living in his most luxurious sumptuousness [Luke 16:19-26]. These are in heaven.
Now, for the moment that remains, I want you to look at the description of them as it is here in the Book. Now first of all, three times it is said that they are “clothed in white robes” [Revelation 7:9, 13, 14], and that’s one of the most beautiful references in the Bible. The peculiar thing about John is that he invents this phrase of washing robes, washing robes, washing robes; and three times he refers to that in this passage. And it is a magnificent picture. Tas stolas, tas leukas. You women who have a beautiful stole, s-t-o-l-e, that’s the Greek word exactly “stole.” These white robes, Tas stolas, tas leukas, you know if you were to translate that in the imagery of it it’d be this: the stole in the Greek world was the beautiful outer garment that was worn for distinction and dignity, and it was peculiarly and especially a marriage garment. And if you were to translate that you’d say, “These who are dressed in the richest marriage garments of purest white, dazzling white, the garments of dignity, the garments of glory, the garments of beauty.” Oh, what they must look like, what they must look like.
Now, they are “made white in the blood of the Lamb” [Revelation 7:14]. Let me tell you something, which is the Lord’s honest truth: the Apocalypse is the most Jewish Hebraistic book in the New Testament; but it is also the most Christian. It is sum up the law, and the prophets, and the martyrs, and the apostles, and things past, and things to come, and the old creation, and the new creation, but every syllable of its glory and of its power and of its blessedness is grounded upon the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Now look at it here in the text: “These are they coming out of the great tribulation, who washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Dia touton,” you have it translated, “Therefore are they before the throne of God” [Revelation 7:15]. A better translation of dia touton would be, “On this ground,” or, “on this account,” or “by reason of this, on account of the blood of Jesus, on account of the sacrifice of the Son of God, on account of the glory of His cross, on account of what He has washed out of our souls, the stain of sin, in His own blood, on this account are they before the throne of God.” Oh, what a marvelous thing! It is of Jesus: “Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, unto Him be glory and power and dominion world without end, forever and ever” [Revelation 1:5-6]—on this account, therefore, on the basis of the atonement and the sacrifice of the Son of God.
All right, look at them again: and he sees them not only dressed in those white robes, but with palm branches in their hands [Revelation 7:9]. Now that is an Old Testament figure of the Feast of the Tabernacles[Leviticus 23:33-43; Deuteronomy 16:13-17]. You can read of it in the Book of Nehemiah; and there is a sentence there, “And they were all filled with great gladness” [Nehemiah 8:17]. The palm branches, living in booths, it was a memorial of the deliverance of God out of the slavery of Egypt, and in Nehemiah a recognition that God had delivered them again out of the bondage of Babylon, and here a glory to God who has delivered us out of sin and death and the judgments of this flesh—with palm branches in their hands, glory to the Lord [Revelation 7:9]. And then, these remarkable passages like this: “And He that sitteth on the throne, the Lord,” now you have it translated here, “shall dwell among them” [Revelation 7:15]. That is the weakest translation that I could imagine. You’d have to study to translate it that weak. Now I want to show you what that word means there. The Greek word for “tent,” “tabernacle” is skene, and the Greek word for “tabernacling, tenting” is skénoó. Now, that’s the word that he used here: “And God shall skénoó” Epi autou; epi—upon, autous—them, or “over them”; “And the Lord God will be the shekinah glory tabernacling over them” [Revelation 7:15].
The imagery again, as all the Revelation, is get out of the Old Testament, when the Lord brought His pilgrims out of Egypt: over them was a glory, over them was a shield, over them was the protecting presence of God. And when you looked at it in the daytime it looked like a cloud; when you looked at it in the nighttime, it looked like a blazing fire; God’s protecting care over His children [Exodus 13:21]. And that’s the imagery here; and that’s what John says here, “And the shekinah glory and the presence of God shall overshadow them, shall bless them and keep them” [Revelation 7:15].
...Let me make one other sentence before I leave. This is in keeping with the interpretation of the text. As being a king is greater than being a servant, as wearing a crown of gold is greater than waving a palm branch, as being seated on a throne is greater than standing before it, so is the opportunity we have today in this day of grace: beside the sorrow and the tribulation out of which these martyrs come, when the day of grace had been taken away, oh, the infinite opportunity and privilege we have now, we have now, to belong to the body of Christ, to be a member of the bride of the Son of God, to reign with Him, what an infinite glory to come to Jesus now!