Thursday, October 16, 2008

Revelation 7, A Pause to Seal the 144,000

In this chapter, John sees four mighty angels virtually hold back the winds of judgment long enough for God to set His seal of protection upon 144,000 select men of Israel.

v.1 "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.

In the wake of the chaos of the vision recorded in last chapter, John now beholds four angels standing at the "four corners of the earth holding the four winds of the earth". This might imply that these angels are standing at the four points of the compass—north, east, south, and west. But what does John mean by “holding the four winds?"

Some see it as a restraining of literal winds, and thereby a form of intensifying the earlier judgments. But the Bible also uses the word "wind" as a symbol of divine judgment (see Jer.49:36; 51:1; II Sam.22:11). I tend to accept this latter explanation, and thereby believe that God isn’t using these angels to alter the weather, but to bring a pause to the judgments long enough for Him to seal His servants.

v.2-3 "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, saying, 'Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of God on their foreheads'."

Then John sees another angel that ascends from the east carrying with him "the seal of the living God” to write the name of God on the foreheads of His servants (Rev.14:1) as protection against the destructive forces of the judgments yet to come (Rev.9:4). Interestingly, a similar event is recorded in the book of Ezekiel wherein a man, not unlike this angel from the east, was used in a similar fashion by God to seal the righteous throughout Jerusalem as a means of protecting them against an impending judgment of death (check—Ezekiel 9).

v.4-8 "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: of the tribe of Judah twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand were sealed."

In other words, twelve thousand Jews from each of the twelve tribes of Israel, or one hundred and forty-four thousand total, are sealed. Later we'll discover that all one hundred and forty-four thousand are male Jews characterized as virgins (see--Rev.14:1-5).

It should be noted that the tribe of Dan—one of the original tribes of Israel (Gen.49:16)—is omitted, and the tribe of Manasseh, the son of Joseph, but not one of the original twelve tribes (Gen.48:1), is put in its place. It's unclear why Dan is excommunicated in the Tribulation, though we do know from Scripture that Dan does have a part in the millennium Kingdom (Ezekiel 48). One suggestion is that it’s because Dan was the first tribe to fall into idolatry in the promised land of Canaan (Judges 18:30-31). Another thought is that it might hint that Antichrist himself is a Jew of the tribe of Dan. I don’t know.

One more point. Skeptics have long held to a theory that some of the tribes of Israel were “lost” following their Assyrian captivity. Obviously, they are not lost to God, however, and when the time is ready, He can and will find them.

v.9-17 "After these things I looked, and behold, 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, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!' And all the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, saying, 'Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.' 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 great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 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. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.' "

This passage seems to be a leap forward in time.

In the previous passage, John watched one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed in preparation for tribulation service, whereas here he sees a great multitude worshiping in heaven that have come out of great tribulation. Why does John record one group sealed prior to the great tribulation and then suddenly a second group clearly having endured the great tribulation? I believe it’s because the two groups are indelibly linked. Whereas, the earlier group was designated to preach the gospel during the tribulation, this second group represents those who will hear the preaching, and are saved because of it.

These tribulation saints are adorned in white robes to signify the righteousness of Christ and waving palm branches as a symbol of victory. Moreover, considering the great suffering which these saints must endure in the tribulation, it’s fitting that they get the assurance that Christ will eternally dwell among them; that they shall neither hunger nor thirst anymore, nor be stroke by the sun or any heat; and that God wipe away every tear from their eyes.

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