The Chosen People of God.
Pause for the Sealing of Israel. v1 - 8.
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."
After witnessing the result of the opening of the sixth seal there is a pause before the seventh is opened. Four angels are sent to hold back the devastating forces of judgement, depicted by the four winds, so that nothing on earth is harmed.
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 our God on their foreheads."
Another angel ascends from the east, the sun rising, having the seal, or signet ring, of the eternal God in his hand. He shouts to the four angels who had been given the authority and power to restrain the winds and withhold them from harming the earth, sea and trees until the people of Israel who remain faithful to God are secured from harm in the midst of the judgements that will follow by setting a seal on their foreheads to show that they are His servants (Rev. 14:1; 22:4). This is not a literal seal, seen by men, but an heavenly one that only God and His heavenly host will see (compare Ex. 28:36 - 38).
4. "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:"
John does not say that he saw the number being sealed or that he counted them but that he heard that it was 144,000.
5, 6, 7, 8. "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."
This number was made up of 12,000 from each of the tribes of Israel. It must be noted that Joseph is mentioned as representing the two half tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim, although Manasseh is referred to separately, whilst Dan is not listed at all. There are two main schools of thought concerning this. One is that Dan is excluded because they were the most idolatrous tribe. Secondly that the entry of Manasseh separately was a copy error that occurred because of the practice of abbreviating, thus Dan was wrongly written as Man: and taken to be Manasseh. Whatever the case may be, the elaborate listing of the tribes and the numbers from each one and the use of the phrase "sons of Israel" clearly indicates that those seen in the vision are literally Israelites and this is not a symbolic reference to the Church. The numbers 144,000 and 12,000, whilst they could be taken literally could equally be symbolic of a specific number. What is certain is that a small percentage of the present population of Israel, a remnant, would be sealed.
The Multitude of the Saved. v9 - 14.
9. "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,"
The sealing of the 144,000 is clearly depicted as taking place on earth. John now looks again to the heavenly scene and sees a vast multitude of people too great for anyone to count, taken from all the races and tribes of earth. Every branch of mankind deriving from Shem, Ham and Japheth, Noah's sons is represented, standing in front of the throne of God and before the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ, dressed in the white robes of righteousness, justification and holiness. The scene is reminiscent of Christ's entry into Jerusalem. They had palm branches in their hands, a symbol of joy and victory. Palm branches were used in the Feast of Tabernacles to celebrate and gives thanks before God for the harvest (Lev. 23:40).
10. "and crying out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!"
They were shouting with a mighty voice, an expression of the greatness of their joy and intense feeling of love "Our salvation is due to our God seated on the throne, and to the Lamb" (A.N.T.)
11, 12. "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 honour and power and might, Be to our God forever and ever. Amen."
Chapter 5:11 referred to a multitude of angels, but here it is "all the angels" together with the elders and the living beasts who fall on their faces before the throne to worship God. Amen! By this they were strongly affirming the truth of what had been uttered by the multitude of the redeemed. They give a sevenfold anthem of praise to the glorious attributes of God. The definite article should be placed in front of each one, thus: the blessing, adoration; the glory, praise and worship; the wisdom, infinite supreme knowledge; the power, ability and abundance; the might, strength are to our God for ever and evermore. Amen.
13. "Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, "Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?"
One of the elders, representative of the Church, as if anticipating a question from John asks "Do you know who these are, clothed in white, and where they come from?" (Living Bible). It is not that the elder expected him to know, but wished to inform him.
14. "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."
John addresses the elder with the respectful title of sir (lord), saying "Sir, you know." John would not take it on himself to reply even if he had an idea. The multitude from all races, colours and tongues were those who had been redeemed by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and came out of the great tribulation triggered by the opening of the five seals. (NOTE. The KJV has "great tribulation" without the definite article. Thus the verse does not refer to one event but to all the events connected with the opening of the five seals. It is not to be confused with the so called Great Tribulation of Daniel 12:1 which concerns the Jewish nation).
Eternal Service and Bliss. v15 -17.
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 dwell among them."
It is because the Lord Jesus Christ gave His life as the sacrifice for sin and they are washed in His blood and clothed in His righteousness that this multitude are able to stand before the throne of God and to serve Him unceasingly day and night. "Day and night" is a figure of speech in this context meaning "continually" since there is no night in heaven. The place of their service is heaven. "His Temple" is not a literal temple for Rev. 21: 22 says "God and the Lamb are the temple": and God shall dwell among them.
16. "They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat;"
The redeemed shall want for nothing in heaven nor will they suffer as they had on earth. This verse encompasses all forms of deprivation including persecution and suffering at the hands of men.
17. "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, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is in the centre of the throne will provide for them as the Good Shepherd, guarding and keeping them (the word "feed" means to "tend as a shepherd"). He shall guide them to the fountains of living waters (Isaiah 49:10) i.e. the eternal life of heavenly joy and bliss. God shall blot out (Isaiah 25:8) all tears; meaning that everything which has given grief, sorrow, heartbreak or disappointment will be erased and swallowed up forever by His presence.
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