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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 7

Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy ScriptureOrchard's Catholic Commentary

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Verses 1-17

(c) VII 1-17 A double vision interposed —The vision of the actual consummation is ’held up’ while (a) the Elect from the Twelve Tribes are sealed with God’s sign; and (b) those from all the rest of the world. Why did John construct the Apoc on this curious plan? His Gospel certainly looks back to Genesis—’In the beginning’: the ’water and the Spirit’: cf. too his use of the ’tree of life’. Does he so look back here too, in his account of the creation of a new heaven and earth? I think it possible that John, building his whole book on a system of 7’s, like the 7 days of the First Creation, saw a distinction in kind between the ’work’ of the first four days, that of the fifth and sixth, and the unique consummatory ’rest’ of the 7th. But why does he throughout insert a double vision between the 6th and 7th of each ’group’? Perhaps simply because here, in ch 7, he wished to allude to the salvation of the elect under the two dispensations, and then, having done this once, liked to preserve the same numerical construction throughout. John sees, therefore, a ’check’ imposed upon the destroying winds till the ’servants of God’ in Israel, and then throughout the world, be signed for exemption upon their foreheads (1:8; 9:17). In Apoc and later Jewish literature angels are held to control the elements. The 4 winds, if let loose, would destroy the earth.

2-3. Therefore an Angel from the sunrise source of light and rescue— forbids this till the Elect be ’sealed’ on their foreheads See Ez 9: an angel marks those exempt from the destruction carried out by 4 others. Cf. the marking of the Israelites’ doorposts in Ex before the passing of the Destroying Angel. Soldiers too and slaves were branded thus as belonging to a legion or a master. ’Seal’ was a very early Christian name for baptism (and confirmation): cf. too 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13, and the caricature, the Mark of the Beast, below. This seal, then, has nothing to do with the Seven Seals: those sealed up the scroll; these stamp a mark on the forehead identifying the person as ’exempt’. 4-8. ’144,000’: this vast figure—100 times 12 times 12— means an enormous multitude: John, like Paul, foresees a great conversion of Israel to Christ. Why is Dan omitted from the list of tribes? Because John distinguishes ’Joseph’, i.e. his own Ephraim, from Manasses, so that one tribe had to be left out to preserve the number 12? Still, why Dan? Because tradition said that’ Antichrist should come from Dan’, so that that tribe was treated as reprobate?

9-12. Then John sees the innumerable host of the Saved from throughout the world: heaven joins in their 7-hold cry of Glory. /par/par15-17 display the present and future beatitude of the Saved, in exquisite form and rhythm. Note the paradoxes—the Blood that washes white (14): the Lamb who is a Shepherd (17). The ountains of living water: cf.John 4:10, etc.; 7:38 ff.; Apoc 21:6, etc. Compare Psalms 22:15, ’shall spread his tent over them’: the word is found only here and John 1:14. ’Day and night’, i.e. always, with unconscious memory of the continuous Temple-worship. But in 21:22, 25; 22:5, no more Temple exists, nor night. The ’great’ tribulation may indeed be the final persecution; or that which endures throughout the Church’s history; or Domitian’s, or all three, according to John’s ’focus’: but with it endures her triumph.

VIII 1 (d). The Seventh Seal —Silence in Heaven ’as though for half an hour’. Not merely because this series of visions ends, and with a ’sabbathrest’, but because the Consummation is ineffable. The vision outstrips words, symbols, and thought itself. One of the most overwhelming ’revelations’ of this Book.

Bibliographical Information
Orchard, Bernard, "Commentary on Revelation 7". Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/boc/revelation-7.html. 1951.
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