THE BOOK OF REVELATION, Chapter 7
[This is an excerpt from my book, Mankind’s Final 7 Years Before Christ Returns: A verse-by-verse explanation of the book of Revelation]
7 And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.
“After these things” indicates a break in scene. It is unclear if the angels are causing the cataclysmic events of the sixth seal to cease. But it does appear they are postponing the seven trumpets, and it is evident that this event occurs between the sixth seal and the seventh. (See also- Daniel 7:1-12)
“The four corners of the earth”- this is where we get our modern expression of “the four corners of the globe”. John did not, as we do not, believe that the earth is flat. The phrase refers to encompassing the whole earth (see also- Isaiah 11:12).
2 And 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 given to hurt the earth and the sea,
3 Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
This is not a literal seal, placed on the foreheads, but is more of a proclamation of protection. This should not be confused with the seal placed on us, by the Holy Spirit, when we become Christians (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22).
Some believe that this seal is to protect the saints from the Antichrist, but that is not the case. We see clearly here that the harm, from which they are protected, comes from God-appointed nature rather than man. Moreover, the tribulation will have ended at this point in time, and the rapture will occur sometime between this point and the seven bowls of wrath (see our discussion in Revelation 6:17). Specifically, they are to be protected from the seven trumpet judgments which will soon occur. (See also- Isaiah 26:20-21)
4 And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.
5 Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand.
6 Of the tribe of Aser were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Nephthalim were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasses were sealed twelve thousand.
7 Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand.
8 Of the tribe of Zabulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.
This 144,000 is clearly referring to Jews. There is nothing, in scripture, to suggest this is an allegory for some limited group of Christians. The 144,000 does, however, also include Christians. Romans 11:11-24 says that we are a wild olive tree grafted onto the natural olive tree. The church did not replace Israel, but is nourished by the natural root. Also, Romans 11:25-32 says that at the “fullness of gentiles” all Israel will be saved. We are a package deal. If you don’t like it, deal with it. Israel is God’s chosen people. They are the true vine, we are the wild vine that has been grafted in (Romans 11:11-24).
This is not a literal 144,000. The number 12 represents completeness, so 12,000 from each of 12 tribes signifies that God will not miss a single person (See also- Isaiah 11:10-12; Ezekiel 34:1-24; 37:15-28; Deuteronomy 30:1-5; Hosea 2:16-23; Jeremiah 23:3-6).
Only through ignorance, and blatant disregard for scripture, can a person reason that God will select an exact 12,000 from each tribe. At the time Revelation was written, the greatest majority of Israelites were from the tribe of Judah, hence the word “Jews”. Ten of the tribes had been carried off in captivity, with only remnants remaining, and Benjamin, the smallest tribe, had almost been wiped out at one time. Add to that, centuries of intermarriage. Today, individual tribes are basically non-existent.
The tribe of Dan, and the half tribe of Ephraim, are not listed. There are many views as to why this is the case. One view is that this is due to their sin of accommodating idol worship set up by Jeroboam, the first king of the ten northern tribes (1 Kings 12:25-30). Another view is that the Antichrist will come from the tribe of Dan (see Genesis 49:17).
Some believe the 144,000 are a literal number of super-evangelists who will lead millions of “left-behind” Christians to Christ in the last days. In Revelation 9:4, however, we shall see that, near the end of the trumpet judgments, there is still not a single follower of God, on earth, besides this group.
9 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 palms in their hands;
The phrase “after this” represents another break in the scene. This scene shifts from the believers still on earth, to those in heaven. We shall see, in verse 14, that this multitude came out of the Great Tribulation.
Note that they had palm branches in their hands. Is this symbolic, or are there palm trees in heaven? I have no problem with either view.
10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
11 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,
12 Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?
14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of Great Tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
The multitude, standing before the throne, does not contain every Christian who ever died, but only those who were martyred in the Great Tribulation. The tribulation begins after the opening of the fourth seal, and it ends after the sixth seal.
Those who view Revelations as being entirely literal, must have an incredibly sick imagination to think of millions of people washing robes in some giant pool of blood. No, this just symbolizes that the death of Jesus is the atonement for our sins (1 John 1:7; Hebrews 13:12; 1 Peter 1:18-19).
15 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.
16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.
17 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 shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
Because they came out of the Great Tribulation, it is their privilege to stand before the throne. This is the special blessing mentioned in Revelation 14:13. Contrary to the pre-tribulation rapture view, these are not second-class Christians who “missed the boat”, lost the promises of God, and thus had to endure martyrdom as punishment. It was their privilege to die for their testimony of Christ and to receive what Hebrews 11 calls a “better resurrection”. As 1 Corinthians 15:55 says “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”
In fact, no one else is ever mentioned, in the Bible, as residing in heaven with God. All the scriptures which mention us being with Jesus, are referring either to His earthly reign in the millennium, or to the time afterward in the new heavens and new earth. Also, when Jesus spoke to the thief on the cross, He said they would soon meet in paradise, not heaven. Paradise was believed to be a holding place for the righteous awaiting judgment day.