Revelation: Chapter 7
As seen in the chronology of Revelation, John is viewing these events of this chapter from the perspective of earth.
|1-3a||Judgment being held for a moment|
|3b-8||Sealing 144,000 out of the 12 tribes of Israel|
|9-12||The innumerable multitude before the throne|
|13-17||Identity of the great multitude|
This is a beginning of many passages in Revelation where the angels have a direct role to play in the judgments against the enemies of the Lord. Angels appeared many times with major roles in the visions of Daniel, Daniel 7-12. An example is found in Daniel 7:2-3 where the four winds stirred up the great sea and out came the four beasts. There were associations of angels with national events on earth in Daniel 10:1-21.
In Revelation 7:1, four angels are referenced who are given authority to harm the earth and the sea. They withheld the wind from blowing over the earth, sea and trees, and are shown to be positioned to the north, south, east and west, presumably with Jerusalem as the geographic reference point. A hierarchical order is evidenced among the angels by this fifth angel by his giving orders to the others, and holding the seal of God. The four angels are told by the fifth angel coming from the east, and who had the seal of the living God, to hold back the wind and not hurt the earth until the 144,000 Israelites are sealed. This activity may result in a physical response in the world. With no wind blowing, the earth will suffer by its hydrologic cycle being interrupted. The great multitude, Revelation 7:9, are not sealed, but martyred for the name of Jesus Christ and their testimony. Despite the harshest of times and sufferings, their faith in Christ Jesus was maintained
In Revelation 7:3-4, prior to the commencement of God's judgments upon His enemies in this world, the remnant of Israel who serves God was to be sealed. This is the first of several parenthetic instances in the book of Revelation that break into the flow of God's judgments during the tribulation. Why is this information here? The Lord is showing how He separates His own from those who will suffer His judgment, Ezekiel 9:27, Luke 21:36. The reason for this break is for an angel to identify and mark those for His service during the seven years of tribulation. Where do these believers come from? It is likely they were members in the tribulation churches, Revelation 2-3, Acts 13:1-4. There are two groups in this chapter who are the being identified. The first are individuals from the twelve tribes of Israel, the second is the group of tribulation saints. All this occurs following the opening of the sixth seal and before the opening of the seventh seal.
A similar occurrence segregating the faithful from the unrighteous was during the third conquest of King Nebuchadnezzar against Judah, when God was preparing to judge Jerusalem, as recorded in Ezekiel 9:3-11. Before the final battle against Jerusalem, an angel was sent to mark the foreheads of those who grieved about the detestable things done in the temple of God. This was being done just before the glory of the Lord departed completely from the temple. God's judgment began at the temple and then outward. None were spared because of either age or sex from death. All who were not sealed died, but only those who were sealed lived.
As in Ezekiel's day, an angel at the beginning of the seven years of tribulation was to go out and mark the foreheads of those who were the servants of God. The purpose of the sealing was twofold:
- It identified them as belonging to God
- They were separated from the coming judgments of God against the world
This is also similar to the experience of Israel when God was plaguing Egypt. From the fourth plague on, the land of Goshen (Israel) did not suffer from the plagues, Exodus 8:21-23.
Though it is not explicitly stated here, the tribulation saints are also sealed with the mark of God once they believe on the name of God and the work He did on their behalf for their salvation (the gospel message 1Corinthians 15:1-4). During the church age, all Christians are sealed by the Holy Spirit upon their belief in Christ, Ephesians 1:13-14, and Ephesians 4:30-32. In all cases, the Lord knows those who are His, 2Timothy 2:16-19, and to them he gives eternal life, and no one can snatch them out of His hand or the Father's hand, John 10:25-30.
This was even demonstrated in the Old Testament by God during Korah's rebellion during Israel's exodus, against the law of God, Numbers 16:1-7, 20-24, 31-35. During this rebellion, Korah and his followers were on one side of the camp, and Moses and those who followed him on the other. God's judgment was sudden and complete upon all those who rebelled against the authority of Moses that was endowed upon him by the Lord.
After the rapture of the church the Holy Spirit will not hinder THE Antichrist from assuming his full power from Satan, 2Thessalonians 2:8-9, for many antichrists have been at work since the beginning of the church 2Thessalonians 2:7, 1John 2:18-22. However, the Holy Spirit will continue His work calling out those from the world unto life in Christ as tribulation saints. The rapture of the church will end the age of grace. The age of judgment will follow after the rapture of the church until the battle of Armageddon. Afterwards, the kingdom age will commence with the Lord Jesus Christ having the governments of the world upon His shoulders, Isaiah 9:6-7.
A second reference to 144,000 will occur in a later chapter in Revelation 14:1-3, which may or may not be the same group, Revelation 14:1-3. 12 tribes of Israel are identified in Revelation 7 and 12,000 in each tribe were sealed: Judah, Reuben, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin. The listing of the tribes, their birth order and birth mother are given in the following table. The second table also shows the order that is provided of those to be sealed during the tribulation.
In Revelation 7:5-8, is the listing of all the tribes from whom the 12,000 would be sealed. Variations in the listing of the tribes of Israel have been observed in other passages in scripture, but this listing may have some significance. Judah is listed first, though Reuben was the first born. This is probably a result in the action by Reuben who lost his birth right due to his incestuous relations with his father's concubine Bilhah, Rachel's servant, 1Chronicles 5:1. His birthright was given to Joseph. However, in the psalm by Asaph, the Lord revealed that the Lord rejected Joseph to have the prominence over Israel, and He rejected Joseph's first-born Ephraim. Instead, the Lord chose Judah as the lead tribe, Psalm 78:67-72. Judah is listed first because this was the line through which the Messiah, Jesus Christ, would come, Genesis 49:8-12. The tribes of Dan and Ephraim are the two that are not counted in the 144,000, and in their stead Joseph and Levi are counted.
Though no details are given why Dan and Ephraim are not part of the 12 tribes being listed, it may be inferred from scripture that they are being judged because they lead in Israel's apostasy. Nevertheless, all tribes are represented during the millennial kingdom. The Lord had warned Israel concerning the nations that they were going to destroy in the land of Canaan, and against the idols these nations worshiped. If they fell into the same sin, they would be separated from the tribes of Israel, Deuteronomy 29:18-21.
Early in Israel's history in the Promised Land, the tribe of Dan established idol worship as recorded in Judges 18:28b-31. After invading and conquering the city of Laish, the Danites rebuilt the city for themselves, then setup idols and had the grandson of Moses as a priest for the idols. This situation remained in place all the time the tabernacle of God was in Shiloh.
Later in Israel's' history, when the kingdom became divided into the northern and southern kingdoms. In 1Kings 12:26-32 is recorded the events that lead the northern kingdom into idolatry. In fear of losing his power as king over the northern tribes of Israel, King Jeroboam, who was of the tribe of Ephraim, 1Kings 11:26, 31-33, established two areas of golden calf worship so his people would not need to worship in Jerusalem. One location was in Dan and the other in Bethel. In Hosea 4:17-19, God declared that Ephraim is joined to idols. Again, despite the Dan and Ephraim not being part of the 144,000 in the tribulation, all tribes are represented during the millennial kingdom.
The Lord warned Israel, that if any man, woman, family or tribe followed the abominations of the nations they removed from the land they entered into, God’s anger would be against them, all the curses written in His book would be against them, and the Lord shall blot out their name from under heaven. The Lord would also separate him unto evil out of all the tribes, Deuteronomy 29:16-21. Additionally, in the middle of the tribulation period, after THE Antichrist arises to the heights of his power he will achieve in this world, the Lord sends three angels to warn all mankind of the judgments to come. The first fly's around the world announcing the everlasting gospel, preaching to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people, Revelation 14:6-7. A second angel is sent to announce the fall of Babylon, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, Revelation 14:8. A third angel was sent to warn all peoples that anyone who worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, that person will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out in its full strength. He will also be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb, Revelation 14:9-12.
In Revelation 7:9, John observes a great multitude, which no man could number, from all over the world. They stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands. In Revelation 7:10-12, there is great praise, singing, and worshiping to God who sits on the throne and unto the Lamb. Then the angels, elders and four beasts fell and joined in the worship of God and the Lamb.
In Revelation 6:1-17, with the opening of the first six seals, there is no indication given of the time span between the openings of each seal. As with other chapters of Revelation, it is expected that one is opened immediately after the other. The innumerable multitudes are tribulation saints, converted after the rapture through the missionary work of the 144,000. This is the greatest revival in world history.
The sealed tribes are never numbered with the nations. God ordained that Israel was not to be reckoned with the nations, Numbers 23:9. The great worldwide witness of the 144,000 is similar to the experience the church had on the day of Pentecost when the power of the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples in early New Testament church led by the 12 apostles, Acts 2:1-4. The church grew immediately from that one room in Jerusalem as the Apostles were empowered by the Holy Spirit. The 144,000 Jews are sealed and empowered to spread the gospel around the world and are prolific in spreading the word of God.
In Revelation 6:9-11, the Lord opened the fifth seal. This is when John saw under the altar the souls of the tribulation saints. It was revealed why they were slain and the witness they kept.
- They were slain because of the Word of God
- They were also slain for the testimony they maintained
- Revelation 6:10 - They cry out to God to avenge their blood (the "inhabitants of the earth" equates to those who reject Christ)
- In Revelation 6:11 - Each person was given a white robe
- They were told to wait a little longer until the number of their brethren to be killed has been reached, which will occur at the battle of Armageddon
The innumerable multitude represents another group that came out of the last half of the tribulation, or the "Great Tribulation". These are the numbers that the Lord said to those revealed in the fifth seal to wait for. More is described on these three groups of tribulation Saints elsewhere on this site.
John describes this vast group of people, where:
- No one could count them
- They were from every nation, tribe, people and language
- They stood before the throne and in front of the Lamb
- They were wearing white robes
- They were holding palm branches
- They sang a song giving glory to God and the Lamb, and the angels who surrounded the elders, four creatures and the innumerable multitude joined in the chorus
This innumerable multitude are saints who believed after the sealing of the 144,000, and with the onset of the trumpet judgments. They will be going through the great tribulation that Jesus warned about, Matthew 24:21. This is the greatest revival in world history and many are slain for the Word of God and for their testimony, Revelation 1:9, Revelation 6:9. This event is similar to the experience the Jewish church, the “Little Flock,” Luke 12:32, on the day of Pentecost. That was when the power of the Holy Spirit fell on the apostles and other disciples (Jews), Acts 2:1-4. The church grew immediately from that one room in Jerusalem. The 144,000 Jews are sealed with the seal of the living God, Revelation 7:2, and empowered to spread the Gospel around the world.
As an important aside, the palm branches were associated with the ingathering celebration or the Feast of Tabernacles (on the 15th day of the 7 month for seven days), Leviticus 23:40 also Leviticus 23:33-44, Zechariah 14:16-21, John 12:12-15 and are prominently used by the innumerable multitude before the throne, (other verses on the feast of ingathering - Exodus 23:16, Exodus 34:22, Nehemiah 8:14-16).
The palm tree was associated with the temple worship. King Solomon decorated the walls of the inner court and outer court by carving into the walls the figures of the cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers, 1Kings 6:29. The Lord will also decorate the wall of His millennial temple with carvings of palm trees alternating with cherubim, Ezekiel 41:17-20.
The palm tree and its fruit were used in the Song of Solomon to describe the passion, great love and desire that the king had for the woman who was his love and spouse, Song of Solomon 7:6-9, with the bride breaking in from Song of Solomon 7:9-10. It is not difficult to transpose this episode on King Solomon's life onto the expected relationship the Lord will have for His own, the love, care, and desire for them. A manifestation of His love could be in the form of the decoration of His walls in His millennial temple with representations of His love for them. Everything about the temple worship was about the love relationship between God and His people, and looked forward to that great event of Jesus Christ dying on the cross, being buried for three days, then raising from the dead according to scripture, 1Corinthians 15:1-4. That singular event forever settled the sin question would be covered for those who believe on His name, and confess His name, Hebrews 9:23-28.
In Revelation 7:10-12, the great multitude sing praises to God, "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." There are seven points in the praise of God by the entire heavenly host about the throne in response to the great multitude's praise:
This is heard at the beginning of the tribulation, and is also heard throughout the entire seven-year period. God is sovereign over all His creation, including man and this world. One can only imagine the shouts of joy, and unbridled excitement by the tribulation saints in response to seeing the glory of the Lord, His majesty, and the fulfillment of all the promises made to them.
In Revelation 7:13, an elder asks John to identify who this group was and where they came from. John was not asked to identify the elders in Revelation 4:1-11 and Revelation 5:1-14, since it is inferred that he was familiar with them or was made of their association with the events in the revelation being given him. An example of this is when he with just a few other disciples of Jesus Christ went with Him on the mount of transfiguration, where they recognized the two Old Testament saints, Moses and Elijah, Luke 9:28-33. When they appeared with Jesus on the mount, though they never met them physically, the disciples knew them as they were well aware of their teachings and prophesies. However, John does not recognize the source of this great multitude as there was not context for him to know, since all of these people are far into the future relative to John's day and are identified in the age of judgment, not the age of grace that John was part of.
In Revelation 7:14, the elder reveals to John the identity of the great multitude, attributing to them many characteristics:
- They came out of the great tribulation
- They have washed robes made white by the blood of the Lamb
- They are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple
- They will never hunger or thirst
- They will not suffer heat, a characteristic of the seven years of tribulation (not the global warming scenario being preached by some today, but a Godly heating)
- The Lamb will be their shepherd to care for them God will wipe away every tear from their eyes
This group of tribulation saints will be seen again throughout many of the remaining chapters in Revelation that describe the seven years of tribulation, and will be pointed out then.