- Revelation 7 gives us a picture of believers just before God’s final judgment(s) in verses 1-8, and after the judgment(s) are completed in verses 9-17.
- Chapter 7 reminds us that God is in the saving business from start to finish. It has major implications on the doctrines of eternal security and election (see verses 3-4).
- Chapter 7 reminds us that everyone that is sealed by God will, no doubt, receive the promise of eternal life.
More than once in Revelation an interlude halts the flow of an unfolding series. The events of chapter 7 fall between the breaking of the sixth and seventh seals. The events of chapter 10 and most of 11 fall between the blowing of the sixth and seventh trumpets. If Revelation was intended as a strict chronological composition, this would be distressing, but this is a literary masterpiece that communicates through sight and sound, so the interludes heighten our anticipation. We will be very anxious to find out what happens when the seventh seal is broken and the seventh trumpet is blown. – Kendell H. Easley, Revelation, vol. 12, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 124.
- Chapter 7 gives us a glimpse of what heaven will be like for those who trust in Jesus.
7 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree.
- “After this” – meaning after the 6th seal was opened.
- John’s vision continues from a high heavenly viewpoint, so much so that he can see “four angels standing at the four corners of the earth”.
- “the four winds of the earth” – most likely a reference to ‘judgment winds’. See Jeremiah 4.
11 At that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem, “A hot wind from the bare heights in the desert toward the daughter of my people, not to winnow or cleanse, 12 a wind too full for this comes for me. Now it is I who speak in judgment upon them.”13 Behold, he comes up like clouds; his chariots like the whirlwind; his horses are swifter than eagles-woe to us, for we are ruined! – Jeremiah 4.11-13
- “earth or sea or against any tree” – John paints the picture of complete judgment.
2 Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea,
- “from the rising of the sun” – a picture of mercy and compassion.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. – Lam. 3.22-23
- “seal of the living God” – not to be confused with the seals originally mentioned in chapter 5. These seals are seals of protection. In ancient times, a royal representative which carried official documents sealed with a royal seal were given rights of safe passage. Here, protection from the 4 winds of judgment is implied. Paul tells us in Ephesians that believers are sealed with the Holy Spirit himself, which guarantees our ‘passage’ to eternity. As believers we are under the Father’s kingly protection. (We should not understand the two passages as references to the same thing, but I share this to reiterate that God protects those who belong to Him.
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. – Eph. 1.13,14
3 saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”
- “on their foreheads” – most likely best to understand this as symbolic and in position to those who we will later see have received the mark of the beast (Rev. 13.16). In other words, each person, believer or unbeliever could be clearly known. Even in today’s culture, we see clear dividing lines between those with a biblical worldview and others becoming more distinctive.
- APP: Although scripture is clear concerning the fact that believers will often go through trials, persecutions, temptations, etc. They will never encounter the wrath of God. That was absorbed by Jesus on the cross.
4 And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:
- “144,000” – What scholars suggest is that the number was chosen, not literally referring to 144,000 specific individuals, but because of it’s mathematical precision. It is a “number easily factorable into smaller numbers: twelve squared times ten cubed. The precision of the number suggests the doctrine taught elsewhere: God’s election of a precise number of individuals. He knows the exact number of Gentiles chosen for salvation (Rom. 11:25); he knows the exact number elected to martyrdom (Rev. 6:11). Thus, we would expect him to predetermine the exact number elected for this special sealing.” – Kendell H. Easley, Revelation, vol. 12, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 125.
- Believers in John’s day would’ve understood this to be a large number of believers.
- “Basically there are two views about this host. These sealed individuals are either direct descendants of the patriarch Jacob from the Book of Genesis or else they are end-time Christians regardless of ethnic background.” – Kendell H. Easley, Revelation, vol. 12, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 126.
5 12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed,
12,000 from the tribe of Reuben,
12,000 from the tribe of Gad,
6 12,000 from the tribe of Asher,
12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali,
12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh,
7 12,000 from the tribe of Simeon,
12,000 from the tribe of Levi,
12,000 from the tribe of Issachar,
8 12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun,
12,000 from the tribe of Joseph,
12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed.
- This list is actually 11 tribes of Israel, with one tribe, Manasseh, being a grandson of Jacob.
- Also, in the OT, Jacob is often not mentioned, but is replaced by his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.
- The sons are not listed by any type of order.
- The tribe of Dan is completely missing.
- This is the only list where the exact number is identical from each tribe.
- The above reasons cause many to conclude the 144,000 not to be a literal number. That the number, in fact, does not refer to actual Jews, but to believers (Gal. 4.31, 4.28, 6.16, Rom. 4, Rev. 14.1-5)
6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. – Rom. 9.6-8
- It is suggested that John is seeking to draw a parallel between the experience of Israel in the book of Exodus and believers (at the end times). Those who experienced the exodus experienced 10 plagues in Egypt, and suffered affliction under Pharaoh, but also experienced the protection of God during that time. Likewise, believers will experience a time of judgment on earth, but also be under God’s divine protection. This also fits with the parallel concepts of sealing here and marking the doorposts in the exodus account.
9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,
- “a great multitude” – the group of 144,000 John heard about earlier, he now sees. Same group, different perspective. Although we have previously established that God knows them all by name, John says “a great multitude” to establish that the group is extremely large.
- “every nation…tribe…people…language” – multicultural, multiethnic. The gospel is for everyone.
- “standing…white robes…palm branches” – John paints a picture of a victorious, righteous, party.
10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
- The first words spoken by redeemed people in heaven.
- This is a praise of complete salvation. God gets complete credit for saving, the redeemed bring nothing to the table.
11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,
- Those mentioned in chapter 5, praising the Lamb.
- In heaven, angel and redeemed will join together to worship.
12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
- In chapter 5, the angels praise Jesus for: power, wealth, wisdom, strength, honor, glory, and praise
- Here they praise God for: praise, glory, wisdom, thanks, honor, power, and strength.
13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?”
- A rhetorical question, meant to draw John’s attention into more detail, answering who and where.
14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
- Where? from the great tribulation.
- Who? the redeemed.
- “the ones coming” – meaning they are coming presently, not all of these are to be understood as martyrs, those some most likely are.
- “washed their robes and made them white” – a picture of complete righteousness via the blood of Christ.
15 “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 shelter them with his presence.
- The remaining verses highlight some of the blessings of the redeemed in eternity.
- “before the throne” – the separation caused by sin has been cancelled through Christ.
- “serve him day and night” – redemption will result in eternal service/worship. We will forever be a part of God’s worship team. It will have no end.
- “will shelter them with his presence” – He will dwell (tabernacle) with them.
16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat.
- “hunger no more, neither thirst anymore” – complete provision, we shall not want.
- “sun shall not strike them” – perhaps a reference to God’s judgment, mentioned later in 16.8.
17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
- Why and how is this accomplished? Because believers will be in the presence of Jesus.
- Ironically the lamb, becomes a shepherd. Think Psalm 23.
- “wipe away every tear” – God’s people will no longer experience death, grief, 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.- Kendell H. Easley, Revelation, vol. 12, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 132.