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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 7

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

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Verses 1-17

In chapter four of the book of Revelation, we were taken into the heavenly scene where John beholds the throne of God, the cherubim about the throne as they worship God and the twenty-four elders as they respond to that worship.

In chapter five, we see the scroll with seven seals within the right hand of Him who sits upon the throne, the scroll being the title deed to the earth. An angel proclaiming who was worthy to take the scroll and loose the seals. We recognize that no man is worthy, no man can redeem the earth. And John in the prospect of the earth going unredeemed begins to sob until the elder said, "Don't weep. Behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed to take the scroll and to loose the seals."

So we see Jesus as He steps forth and takes the scroll. And we hear the reaction, first of all, the redeemed, the church, who sing of their redemption through His blood and His worthiness to take the book and loose the seals. And then we hear the angels, one hundred million strong, plus millions of millions as they join in the chorus of worthiness to the Lamb and to Him who sits upon the throne.

Then in chapter six, we see as He begins to loose the seals of this scroll. And as He looses the seals of the scroll, we see the corresponding judgments that take place upon the earth. The first seal bringing forth the antichrist, the white horse and his rider. The second seal bringing forth wars, desolations. The third bringing famine, and the fourth bringing death. And we see that in the first four seals, the four horsemen of the apocalypse, as they are often called, one quarter of the earth's population being destroyed.

The fifth seal introduces us to a multitude of people under the altar of God who are saved out of the Great Tribulation. They are asking God how long before God avenges upon those of the earth who had slain them, brings His vengeance upon them. And they are told that they are to wait a short season until their number be complete and they are given white robes, and thus, comforted.

In the sixth seal we see a cataclysmic, catastrophic kind of judgment upon the earth described in the book of Joel, described in Isaiah, described by Jesus, as they talk about the stars falling from heaven, the islands being moved, the surface of the earth being changed in a geographical sense as this great cataclysm takes place.

Now we come to chapter seven, and before the seventh seal is opened, we have now here a little parenthetical kind of a side exposition as John sees these four angels holding back the winds of the earth that they should not blow on the earth nor the sea, nor any tree.

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. Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads ( Revelation 7:1-3 ).

Now we know that during the Great Tribulation or during the seven-year period, of which three and a half years would be designated the Great Tribulation. Now during the first three and a half years of this period, when the antichrist is setting up his power, his kingdom, that God has two witness, which we will be introduced to in the eleventh chapter, who bear witness for forty-two months or three and a half years. During the time of their witness, they shut up the heavens that it rained not during the time that they are witnessing. This lack of rain, of course, will probably be one of the instruments that will perpetrate the great famine that we have in the third seal. It could be that the holding back of the winds by these four angels is that which causes the rain to cease.

You see, we have our hydraulic cycle where the ocean waters are evaporated into the atmosphere and then carried by the winds over the lands. Whereas the clouds begin to cool, the gases condense and form into rain that fall to the earth; and thus, the earth is watered in this hydraulic cycle. It is a beautiful engineering plan of God to water the earth. But if the winds were held back, then the water that would evaporate into the atmosphere would not be carried over the earth and would probably start being sustained within the atmosphere itself, again causing some very interesting atmospheric kind of phenomena, as the water would again be suspended in a greater concentration in the atmosphere.

Here are four angels standing in the four corners of the earth. And the word "corners" is probably a poor translation. The Greek word is translated in the present time into quadrants. And we talked about the four quadrants of the earth, which is the north, east, south and west. So you have your north wind, east wind, south wind and west winds, the four quadrants of the earth.

People who are always looking to find fault with something in the Bible, and they say the Bible was reflecting the superstition or the intelligence of the day, because they say the four corners of the earth. So evidently John believed that the earth was flat, and thus you have the four corners and he was guilty of the flatter theory. Thus, you can't rely on the Bible because it does have fallacies, such as the four corners of the earth.

Well I saw a sign that said the Marines were in the four corners of the earth, so you can't trust the defense department, because they don't realize that the earth is round. They think that it has corners.

No. The idea is the quadrants; north, east, south and west. But interestingly enough, the physicists and all now declare that there really are four corners on the earth. The earth isn't actually round. The poles are flattened somewhat to make the bulge at the equator. So, the earth is more of an elliptical shape, but the bulge actually creates about four corners of the earth. And that is one of the latest declarations of those men who study such things.

But it is talking about the four quadrants, four winds; the north, east, south and west winds. And it is interesting to me that these angels, and they must be very fascinating creatures, have the power to hold back the winds that they blow not. Here they are holding back the winds, but they are told by this other angel who ascends from the east, having the seal of the living God, crying with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, saying, "Don't hurt them until we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads."

And I heard the number of those which were sealed: and there were one hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel ( Revelation 7:4 ).

Now that is very plain isn't it? How many are sealed? One hundred and forty-four thousand. Who are they? Of all of the tribes of Israel. What could be plainer than that?

Now a lot of people have trouble with the book of Revelation, because they say, "Well, you can't understand it." You see the one hundred and forty-four thousand doesn't really mean one hundred and forty-four thousand. It is a symbolic number of twelve times twelve thousand. And twelve being the number of human government. And they start getting into it further and further and further, so it means that one man is going to rule one month during the thousand years of the kingdom age, and all kinds of weird speculations.

And of course, the Jehovah Witnesses think that they are the one hundred and forty-four thousand. And Herbert W. Armstrong in his plain truth of the World Tomorrow says, "No, we are the one hundred and forty-four thousand." And if you will double and triple tithe to the church of God, you can become one of the hundred and forty-four thousand, the inner circle. And when the precise time comes we will send you a telegram that you can flee to this wilderness where we have prepared survival for the one hundred and forty-four thousand.

So, they are trying to be the one hundred and forty-four thousand, as the Jehovah witnesses are trying to be the one hundred and forty-four thousand, and many other groups have tried to take this identity upon themselves. But obviously in doing so you have to disregard the text itself and you have to start reading into the text, and say, "Well, God didn't mean what He said. That is all symbolic language in a spiritual sense, and we are spiritual Israel, and I'm of the spiritual tribe of Aser or Benjamin or whatever." Just to keep this kind of speculation from taking place the Lord then lists the twelve tribes.

Now, you are familiar with the fact that there are actually thirteen tribes, are you not? You remember when Jacob came to Joseph in Egypt, having thought he was dead for many years, now discovering him to be alive and one of the leaders of Egypt, Jacob, this elderly man came down to Joseph and when Joseph came to his father Jacob he brought his two sons Ephraim and Mannaseh. And Jacob said unto Joseph, "These two sons are mine. Whatever sons you have born after these can be yours, but these two sons are mine." And he claimed the two sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Mannaseh. So Ephraim and Manneseh both became tribes in Israel.

So, the tribe of Joseph is divided into two, the tribe of Ephraim and Mannaseh. So the Levitical tribe became the thirteenth tribe, but was usually not numbered among the tribes. For instance, in the division of the land there was no portion for Levi, because the Lord was their portion. So, the land was apportioned into twelve sections, one for each of the tribes. And Ephraim and Mannaseh both received their allotments.

Now as a rule, you don't read of the tribe of Joseph because it was divided into two tribes. Here we find the tribe of Joseph and the tribe of Mannaseh. So when it refers to the tribe of Joseph, no doubt it is the tribe of Ephraim, because Mannaseh is also listed as being sealed, the twelve thousand here in the seventh chapter.

So the interesting thing is that the tribe of Levi is also listed here, but the tribe of Dan is thus omitted. Dan was the first of the tribes to go into idolatry. If you go into the tel of Dan in northern Israel today, they have excavated quite a large area of pagan worship, as the tribe of Dan was the leader in idolatry, the first tribe to go into idolatry. And it could be that that is the reason why God has not sealed them from some of the things that are going to transpire during the Great Tribulation period. You will find as we move along in the book that the one hundred and forty-four thousand that are sealed are protected divinely by God from many of the judgments that are going to come upon the earth.

So twelve thousand of each tribe, the tribe of Judah being listed first because Rueben lost his birthright. Because of going into his father's concubine he lost his birthright and it was given over to Judah. And to Judah was given the scepter that Judah should be the reigning tribe. And of course we know that David came from the tribe of Judah and then Jesus later, who was that branch out of Judah the stem of Jesse that would arise, the branch of Jesse that should come out of Judah, the Lion of the tribe of Judah. So the tribe of Judah listed first and then Reuben who was the oldest son but lost his ranking, and of Gad and each of the sons the twelve thousand and after this, verse nine.

So that is the one hundred and forty-four thousand. They are sealed now. Later on we will come across them again as we see them protected from various judgments that are coming.

After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all the nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, they were standing before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And they cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb ( Revelation 7:9-10 ).

Now interesting they are clothed with white robes and palms in their hands and what is their cry? Salvation.

Now we remember another crowd with palms in their hands and their cry was the same. Hosanna means salvation, or "save now" literally. They were crying salvation unto the Lord. So there is a lot of similarities between this crowd and that crowd on the road from Bethany to Jerusalem on the day that Jesus made His descent from the Mount of Olives on a donkey and the disciples were waving palm branches and the multitudes there were saying, "Hosanna, Hosanna: Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord." Salvation, salvation, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.

So here is a crowd now in heaven, a great number of them; however, these are from all over the world, from all of the various races, ethnic groups. Their cry is the same, "salvation to our God, which sits upon the throne and unto the Lamb".

And all of the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell before the throne on their faces, and worshiped God, Saying, So be it: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen ( Revelation 7:11-12 ).

Now when the church sings its song of redemption, verse nine of chapter five, they sang the new song saying, "thou art worthy." The angels respond to that song in worship saying, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive the power and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing." Here are the same things with a couple of differences. To the churches' song they refer to riches, for interestingly enough, the Lord considers us as His treasure. Paul prayed for the Ephesians that they might receive a Spirit of wisdom and understanding. That they might know what is His riches in the saints, or you might know how much God values you.

You remember the parable of Jesus concerning the kingdom of heaven was likened to a man going through the field and discovering a treasure and who, for the joy thereof, went out and sold everything so he could buy the field and have the treasure ( Matthew 13:44 ). "Now the field", Jesus said, "is the world", and He was the one that gave everything. He gave His life to purchase the world in order that He might obtain the treasure. "So if you only knew", Paul said, "how highly the Lord treasures or values you". And Peter writing says, "We are His peculiar treasure." Well it is peculiar to me that God would take such value in me, that God would treasure me, but we are His inheritance.

So when the church declares its song, we are His inheritance, His riches. When this group sings, thanksgiving is substituted for riches, and so that is the difference in the response to the two groups. As the angels respond to the second group, the response is not of riches, but of thanksgiving. Interesting little difference here. They are different groups.

We do not see the church here in chapter seven, but we see those who were in chapter six under the fifth seal who were martyred during the Great Tribulation for their testimony. Who were crying for vengeance on those who dwelt upon the earth, who were given white robes and told to wait for a short season until their full number be complete. They were saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, before we can enter into the heavenly scene." The Lord gave them white robes and said, "Wait until your full number is complete and you can come in."

Now we see their number is completed and we see them entering into the heavenly scene. And this is really taking us on out to the end. In chapter seven, as we have this little vignette, it is one that now takes us out and shows us the whole picture and then we will come back to the seals again as we get to chapter eight. So this is just a little side view, a side journey and a view of this little segment here on out to the end.

So the angels respond to their song of salvation, worshipping God and ascribing to God the blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power and might unto our God for ever and ever. So be it.

Now, one of the elders asked John a rhetorical question, saying,

What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and where did they come from? ( Revelation 7:13 )

Who are they, John, and where did they come from? And it was a rhetorical type of a question that was designed to open the door for an answer. It wasn't really looking to John for an answer, but it was just designed to open the door to give the answer to John.

And I said unto him, John said, Sir, [kurios, often translated lord] thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are 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 ( Revelation 7:14-15 ).

Now we find that ultimately these are to receive all the rights and the privileges of God's redeemed people, the church. At the present time, they were not allowed to come into the scene in chapter six, the fifth seal. Now that they come in, they come in, in a serving capacity, serving Him in His temple day and night. Where as the church is reigning with Him and the promise to the church is that they would reign with Him. "Unto Him that loved us and purchased us with His blood, we shall reign with Him." These are serving Him there in the temple of God and He that sits upon the throne shall dwell among them.

Now they came up out of the Great Tribulation, which means that they were no doubt martyred during this tribulation period. And we will read where when the antichrist takes over, he is going to bring in a new economic system which requires everyone receiving a mark, and no one being able to buy or sell without that mark. However, anyone who takes the mark will be consigned to a hopeless eternal future, no hope for salvation for anyone who takes the mark of the beast. So they have power, though, to put to death those that refuse to take the mark. Of course not being able to buy or sell, you can probably starve to death quite easily. So, a great number of people will be saved after the church is raptured.

Now there is an indication that those that will be saved after the rapture are those who had never heard the Gospel before. That indication comes from Paul in writing to the Thessalonians, his second epistle, talking about the coming of the antichrist, he declared, "that because they did not want to believe the truth, God gave them over to deception that they would believe the lie" ( 2 Thessalonians 2:11 ). So those that have consciously and willingly rejected the truth that is in Jesus Christ, when the antichrist comes, will bring a strong delusion and God will allow them to be deluded, because they did not want to keep the truth.

But there are perhaps two billion people on the earth today who have never heard the message of salvation through Jesus Christ. During this period of time, the message of salvation will be declared by the hundred and forty-four thousand that have been sealed; it will also be declared by angels flying through the midst of heaven. And among the two billion people who have never heard the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ, there will be many who will receive the witness and the message of the one hundred and forty-four thousand and of the angels and will be saved, martyred, and brought into the heavenly scene. A great number that no man could count, we are told from all over the world, from all of the nations, kindreds and people and tongues.

So, an interesting group in heaven. John did not recognize them. Had they been the church and the elders said, "Who are these? Where did they come from?" John would have said, "Well, that is the church. I know them. I am a part of that group." But he did not recognize them, because they are a saved multitude that are not the church. Thus to John, it is a mystery, but the mystery is explained by the elder. They came up out of the Great Tribulation. They were martyred during the Great Tribulation period, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.


They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more ( Revelation 7:16 );

As we proceed on into the further judgments of God that are going to come upon the earth, we find that the fresh water supplies are going to be polluted, so that men will have a real scarcity of water. Not only if it doesn't rain for three and a half years, that is going to deplete the water also. Imagine what would happen even here in Southern California if there were three years without water. It wouldn't take long to use up our supplies. There will be a great famine with no rain, the droughts. The crops will fail, but they will hunger no more. They have gone through hunger in the time of tribulation upon the earth. They have gone through thirst.

neither shall the sun light on them ( Revelation 7:16 ),

God is going to give power to the sun to scorch men who dwell upon the earth.

For the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto the living fountains of water: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes ( Revelation 7:17 ).

Now, the little side vignette is over and we come back to the scroll with the seven seals, the title deed to the earth that Jesus is opening to prove His right to redeem.


Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Revelation 7". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/revelation-7.html. 2014.
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