The Sealed of God – Revelation 7
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At this point in Revelation, a little review is appropriate:
* The writer is the Apostle John, and he is called into the throne room of God where he is given a prophetic vision of the "last days." (Rev. 4)
* He saw in the right hand of God a "scroll" that was "sealed" with seven seals. (Rev. 5:1-2)
* He wept because no one was worthy to take and open the scroll; that is the title deed to the fallen creation. (Rev. 3:3-4)
* But then “the Lion of the tribe of Judah,” “the Root of David,” “the Lamb of God” who had "prevailed to open the scroll and loose its seals," He took the scroll (Rev. 5:5-8) and the heavenly host praised Him:
And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth."
"Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!"
(Rev. 5:9-10, 12)
* After this praise, the Lamb opens the seals releasing the four horsemen of the apocalypse. (Rev. 6:1-8)
These horsemen are symbolic of the Gospel continuing to go forth through the tribulation period (Matt. 24:13) (the white horse).
And the ultimate means that God will use to judge unrepentant sinners on the earth, war (the red horse), famine, lack of resources (the black horse) and death, pestilence that follows war and famine (the pale horse).
These are the first four seals.
* At the opening of the fifth seal, John sees the souls of those martyred for their witness of Christ.
They cry out to God for justice, and are given white robes and told to wait patiently until all of "their brethren who would be killed as they were was complete." (Rev. 6:9-11)
* The opening of the sixth seal ushers in a great earthquake, the sun darkened, the moon seen as blood, stars fall from heaven. (Rev. 6:12-14)
* Then all who remain will hide in the ground and pray to be hidden from "Him who sits on the throne and the wrath of the Lamb." Because they now understand the final day of God's wrath and judgment is upon them.
For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?"
Through all this, God is still merciful and offers forgiveness of sin and eternal life through simple belief in Christ Jesus and repentance of sin! (Jn. 3:16-18, Matt. 4:17, 24:13)
And the seventh seal has not yet been opened.
The best understanding of this passage (opening of the seals) is to see it as an overview of the tribulation period, symbolic and descriptive of the things to come, and yet only preliminary to the actual opening of the scroll after the seventh and final seal is broken. (Rev. 8)
With this understanding, let us hear the next part of John's vision.
After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree.
"After these things I saw..."
* All that was given in his vision to this point, signifying the following events to take place.
"...four angels...holding the four winds..."
* O.T. symbology; God controls the winds and delegates them to angels, using them for blessing or judgment. (Dan. 7:2, Zec. 6:1-6)
"...that the wind should not blow..."
* Here God prevents the winds of judgment from blowing until He has "sealed" (marked) His servants for protection. (Vs. 3) (Rev. 8:7, 9:4)
Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea,
"...another angel...having the seal of the living God."
* A king could delegate his authority to an agent, with his "seal" (signet ring) allowing the agent to carry out his will. (Est. 3:10, 8:8)
...saying, "Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads."
"...sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads."
* All of God's servants are "sealed" in His Holy Spirit until the day of redemption. (Eph. 1:13-14, 4:30, 2 Cor. 1:21-22)
We are sealed from "harm," or God's wrath and judgment poured out on the unbelieving world, as well as sealed unto redemption.
This seal identifies God's servants in contrast to the mark of the wicked, “the mark of the Beast.” (Rev. 16:2, 20:4)
Revelation 13:16-17, 14:9-11
This sealing on our foreheads may not be literal, but refers to our thoughts and the decision we have made for Christ.
This sealing also attests to God's ownership of His "bond servants," and marks us for His protection before releasing judgment. (Gen. 4:15, Ex. 12:23, Eze. 9)
The servants of God will be protected from His wrath during the tribulation, but will still be subject to Satan’s persecution and tribulation.
It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.
The message of these verses is simple:
The judgment of God on the wicked will be withheld until God's people are "sealed!"
They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.
And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed:
The "children of Israel" are God's covenant people:
....who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.
Now the LORD had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
But God was displeased with them for their rejection of Christ the King, their Messiah and has now given the kingdom to others - the church.
This verse is difficult to translate our interpret.
Is it literal or symbolic?
I believe it's symbolic, that it figuratively speaks of the church, both to Gentile and Jewish believers. (Rms. 9-11)
"...those who were sealed."
* Because these "children of Israel" are sealed, believers in Christ, they also receive Christ's protection from God's wrath during the tribulation period.
….His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
(1 Thess. 1:10)
And like the Gentiles, they must still endure Satan's tribulation at the hands of the Antichrist during the "great tribulation."
John's vision is reminiscent of Israel in Egypt. God brought ten plagues on the Egyptians to free His people from bondage. The Egyptians suffered; Israel was protected from the final seven.
The tenth and final plague brought death to every Egyptian first-born male, but the Israelites were protected from the death angel by the lamb's blood sprinkled on their door posts and lintels. (Ex. 12)
This is symbolic of the "Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world" (Jn. 1:29), and that death is "the wages of sin." (Rms. 6:23)
Likewise, the sealed 144,000 children of Israel is a remnant of all Israel, and a remnant of all those saved and sealed by the blood of Christ.
Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: "Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, The remnant will be saved."
Simply, this "remnant" is part of a greater remnant from all of mankind, the church of Christ.
"...of all the tribes..."
* Here is another difficulty with understanding this as literal Israel:
In verses 4-8, this listing of the tribes of Israel is found nowhere else in Scripture.
Compare the Old and New Testament lists of the tribes:
Genesis 49 Revelation 7
The Genesis list is the accepted order by birth of the tribes.
In Revelation's tribal listing, Judah, the tribe or line of Christ is first, not fourth.
The tribe of Dan is omitted.
Manasseh (son of Joseph along with Ephraim) is inserted to bring the number to twelve.
I believe the only satisfactory explanation of this irregular list of tribes in light of the fact that the Apostle John was a Jew from birth and certainly knew the accepted listing from the law (Torah) is this:
John intends for us to understand that it is not literal "Israel," but the true spiritual Israel -
The N. T. clearly speaks of the church as the true, spiritual Israel:
And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also,
For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.
For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,
This interpretation, I believe, makes the most sense of the passage, and shows the relationship between the "sealed children of Israel" (Vs. 7:4) and "a great multitude." (Vs. 7:9)
They represent the same people; the Church. Seen in two stages of church history in the end times.
- The sealed of Israel standing on the threshold of the "great tribulation."
- The great multitude (including sealed Israel) having passed through the "great tribulation," persecuted, martyred but victorious.
In Christ Jesus' own words:
You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But not a hair of your head shall be lost.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
The Innumerable Multitudes
A great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands,
"A great multitude which no one could number..."
* This is the church, too many to be counted!
"...of all nations, tribes, people and tongues..."
* Bible terminology for all mankind.
* "The spiritual Israel," Jew and Gentile alike.
"...clothed with white robes and palm branches in their hands,"
* "White robes" - Given to martyrs for Christ and the righteous acts of the saints. (Rev. 3:4-5, 18)
* "Palm branches" - Used to hail victors in a military triumph.
...and crying out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!"
"...salvation belongs to our God...and to the Lamb!"
* Our salvation, the greatest victory!
Salvation belongs to the LORD. Your blessing is upon Your people. Selah
That's what the palm branches are for --
To hail our victorious King!
All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, Thanksgiving and honor and power and might, Be to our God forever and ever. Amen."
In this vision, John is clearly back in the throne room of God. (Rev. 5:13-14)
Judging by "the multitude, too many to number" we have passed through the Great Tribulation, and are again witnessing the heavenly hosts praising God.
Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, "Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?" And I said to him, "Sir, you know." So he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
"Sir, you know."
* "Sir" - My lord, one in a position of authority, in this case, "one of the elders," the twenty-four elders around God's throne. (Rev. 4:4)
* O. T. language spoken of angels. (Dan. 10:16, Zec. 4:5,13)
"So he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation..."
* The martyrs under the altar, and those like them who would be martyred during the "Great Tribulation" (Vs. 6:9-11), as well as those who overcome.
"At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. (Dan 12:1)
For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened.
He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.
"...washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
* These martyrs never surrendered their faith in Christ, or denied His name, or worshiped the Antichrist.
* “…the blood of the Lamb” is the new Covenant.
Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.
Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them.
"...He who sits on the throne will dwell among them."
Revelation 21:1-5, 22:1-5
They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat;
They shall neither hunger nor thirst, neither heat nor sun shall strike them; For He who has mercy on them will lead them, even by the springs of water He will guide them.
...for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
"...the Lamb...will shepherd them..."
This is the reward for all faithful saints of God!
We are clearly looking into heaven, and our eternal future.
King David, warrior, poet, sweet psalmist of Israel and prophet:
Introduction to Part II Chapter thirteen continues the interlude between the sounding of the seven trumpets and the outpouring of the seven bowl judgments of God's wrath on unrepentant mankind. In chapter fourteen John's vision will show us the time of the end, where...
Introduction Chapter thirteen continues the interlude between the sounding of the seven trumpets and the outpouring of the seven bowl judgments of God's wrath on unrepentant mankind. In chapter fourteen John's vision will show us the time of the end, where God pours...