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Bible Commentaries

Gann's Commentary on the Bible

Revelation 7

Verse 1

Chapter 7 - The First Interlude (Who Shall Be Able To Stand)

The restraining of the Four Winds, v.1

The Sealing of the Servants of God, vv. 2-3

The 144,000, v. 4-8

The Innumerable Multitude, vv. 9-17

- - - - -

7:1–17 Three interludes occur in chs 6–16 (7:1–17; 10:1–11:14; 12:1–14:20)

In this first interlude before the seventh seal is broken, two visions communicate how God protects his people from the coming wrath upon the wicked.

Revelation 7:1 Answers the question to the last verse of ch 6, "Who shall be able to stand?" [ The answer: "those who have the seal of God"]

And after these things . . = After the opening of the sixth seal. The phrase “after this” (Gr. meta touto) indicates that what follows is a new vision (cf. Revelation 4:1).

holding the four winds . . Holding back, or keeping under control. Zechariah 6:1-8; Daniel 7:12 ;

four winds . . The four opposite direction on the compass, N-S-E-W cf. Jeremiah 49:36; Zechariah 6:1-5;

four winds . . Since the horsemen of Zechariah are called “winds” (or “spirits”) in Zechariah 6:5, this image may refer to the four horsemen from Revelation 6:1-8. - FSB

cf. four winds of Zechariah = 4 chariots = four horsemen = God’s avenging spirits - Jeremiah 49:36; Jeremiah 23:19; Jeremiah 4:11-12.

not blow . . Whether this is natural wind or the activities of the four horsemen, destruction and judgment are implied. - FSB

Revelation 7:1-3 -- Preservation from harm is the message.

Verse 2

another angel . . Distinct from those mentioned in v. 1.

the east . . = "sunrising"

the seal . . = like an ink stamp to mark a letter, etc., at authentic or with authority.

the seal . . Revelation 6:17 closed with the question "Who can stand?” The answer is, those “sealed” (Revelation 7:4) with the seal of the living God (cf. Ezekiel 9:4-6). Therefore John sees four angels charged to hold back those winds of judgment until all of God’s servants have received his seal.

“The seal of the living God” evokes a picture of a royal signet ring by which kings authenticated documents or marked ownership of an item (see note on John 6:27).

This seal is the name of the Lamb and of God (Revelation 14:1), a gift promised to all who conquer by faith (Revelation 3:12).

It is antithetical to the mark of the beast (Revelation 13:16) and symbolizes God’s ownership and protection of his people. Circumcision functioned as such a seal under the old covenant (Romans 4:11), and God’s Holy Spirit seals God’s people as his property under the new (Ephesians 1:13-14). ESVSB

to whom it was granted . . (given permission) . . This Greek term is passive; their authority came from someone else—God.

to damage the earth and the sea . . Verse 1 and 7:3 adds “trees” to the list of wrath recipients.

Verse 3

sealed . . 1 Aorist active subjunctive = by a single act. A mark of identity. Ezekiel 9:1-6 God’s people are marked. 2 Timothy 2:19

sealed the servants . . The angel and his helpers ("we") mark those who are already servants of God.

seal . . “Seal” often refers to a signet ring used to press its image into wax melted on a document. The resulting imprint implied authenticity and ownership and protected the contents (cf. Revelation 9:4; Ezekiel 9:3-4). In this case, the mark is the name of God (Revelation 14:1). - MSB

on the foreheads . . Reminiscent of Ezekiel 9:4 and contrasts with the mark of the beast, Revelation 13:16. God’s name, indicating his ownership, is written on believers’ foreheads in Revelation 14:1; Revelation 22:4.

until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads . . This is an allusion to Ezekiel 9:4, Ezekiel 9:6 (cf. Revelation 9:4; Revelation 14:1). The opposite of this sealing is Satan’s sealing, the mark of the beast (cf. Revelation 13:16-17; Revelation 14:9, Revelation 14:11; Revelation 16:2; Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:4). - Utley

Verse 4

heard the number . . The numbering of Revelation 7:4-8 resembles military censuses from the ot; compare Numbers 1:3, Numbers 1:18; Numbers 26:2.

Verses 4–8 may echo the census in Num 1–2, numbering Israel’s military force, though the tribe of Levi was excluded (Numbers 1:49). In this interpretation, John hears the census of God’s end-time army warring against spiritual foes through faithful witness (cf. Revelation 12:11). - NIVZSB

sealed by God . . perfect passive participle. God’s people are marked.

Revelation 14:1-4

Who are the 144,000? (Not J.W.’s see Revelation 14:3-4 )

1. Literal or figurative? Why understand the number is figurative:

a. Strange that it is an even number of 12,000 from each tribe since some tribes were larger.

b. There are all men.

c. They are all un-married (virgins).

one hundred and forty-four thousand . . This same mysterious group is mentioned in Revelation 14:1 and Revelation 14:3. There has been much discussion about this number and who it represents. This number is symbolic, not literal, for the following reasons: (1) the number itself is a round number and all the tribes have an equal number; (2) the number is a multiple of twelve which is the biblical number of organization (or possible the people of God) and ten, which is the biblical number of completion; (3) chapter 7 is in apocalyptic language; and (4) the list of the tribes of Israel is slightly altered (Dan is omitted, and Ephraim is replaced by Joseph) so a Jew would know that it was not meant to be taken literally. - Utley

The NT often describes the Church in terms which were used of Israel (cf. Romans 2:28-29; Romans 4:11; Romans 9:6; Romans 9:8; Galatians 3:29; Galatians 6:16; Philippians 3:3) and particularly in the book of the Revelation where in Revelation 1:6 the Church is addressed by a title used of Israel in Exodus 19:4-6 (cf. 1 Peter 2:5, 1 Peter 2:9). In the books of James (cf. James 1:1) and I Peter (cf. 1 Peter 1:1) the Church is also described as the “Diaspora,” the name for scattered Jews who were not living in Palestine. - Utley

Who were they? (1) Probably refer symbolicly to the Jewish converts to Christ, Revelation 12:11; (2) Ogden believers they stand for all the faithful OT Jews. (3) that it is the believing Jewish remnant (cf. Rom. 9–11); or (4) that it is a title for the NT Church. (5) The 144,000 that John hears in vs. 4-8, may be the same ones he sees in v. 9-12. They were the redeemed by the blood of the lamb Revelation 12:11;

from every tribe of the sons of Israel . . The list begins appropriately with Judah (the royal tribe of Jesus) but substitutes Manasseh (one of the two tribes of Joseph) for Dan. The tribe of Dan fell into idolatry (Judges 18:14-31; 1 Kings 12:25-30). Ephraim, the other son of Joseph which became a tribe, is not added to the list.

of all the tribes of the children of Israel . . It is one of the most controverted of the minor questions of interpretation of this Book, whether Israel is here to be understood in the literal or the spiritual sense.

This vision of a certain number of Israelites, and the next of an innumerable multitude of all nations, are certainly correlative to each other: and the most obvious way of understanding them is, that among God’s elect there will be many faithful Israelites, and yet few comparatively to the number of faithful Gentiles.

Others however understand these 144,000, and the innumerable multitude of v. 9, to represent the same persons regarded in two different aspects.

To God they are all His own people, all duly numbered and organized and marshalled as His army, and everyone known to Him by name: on the other hand, from a human point of view they belong to all nations, and. are too many to be counted. - CBSC

out of . . = ek

children . . Romans 9:8

continue in Revelation 7:5

Verse 5

Where are the 144,000? On earth.

Who were those? Those marked for escape. ***

The entire church - James 1:1 (Jewish church) Old Testament saints.

7:5–6 Judah . . Jacob’s fourth son (Genesis 35:23) but here listed first as the tribe of Israel’s king (Revelation 5:5; Genesis 49:8-10).

Reuben . . Jacob’s first son, like Judah, a son of Leah.

Gad … Asher … Naphtali. Sons from the servants Bilhah and Zilpah appear ahead of the other sons of Leah and Rachel. Manasseh. Joseph’s firstborn, replacing Dan, a tribe notorious for idolatry (Judges 18:29-30; 1 Kings 12:29-30; Amos 8:14). - NIVZSB

from the tribe of Judah . . The list of tribes in v. 5 does not agree with any of the twenty-plus lists found in the OT. It especially does not agree with Ezekiel 48:2-7, which lists the eschatological people of God.

Dan is omitted, Judah is listed first, Ephraim is left out, but Joseph is listed in its place and Levi is included with the other tribes. Any Jew would recognize that this list is irregular and meant to be taken symbolically. - Utley

Verse 6

* See note on Revelation 7:5

Verse 7

* See note on Revelation 7:5

Levi is included.

Dan is omitted (Ephraim, omitted as Ephraim but = Joseph in vs. 8 )

Manasseh and Joseph included.

Verse 8

* See note on Revelation 7:5

Verse 9

One paragraph = vs. 9-12

After these things . . 7:9–17 The interlude’s second vision shows heaven with an innumerable crowd rejoicing because they are secure in Christ and all tears and sorrows have ended.

After these things I looked . . John hears the number in Revelation 7:4, whereas he sees the multitude in Revelation 7:9. He may be attempting to portray the surprising fulfillment of God’s redemptive plan, just as he heard about a lion and saw a lamb in Revelation 5:5-6. - FSB

After this I looked . . In Revelation 5:5-6, John hears OT Messianic promises (Lion of Judah, Root of David) and then sees a surprising NT fulfillment (slain Lamb); likewise here John’s vision reinterprets nationalistic expectation with God’s promise to multiply Abraham’s descendants and bless all nations in him (Genesis 22:18; Genesis 26:4). - NIVSB

to great to count . . fulfilling God’s promises to Abraham (Genesis 15:5; Genesis 17:4-5; Romans 4:16-24; Galatians 3:29) - NLTSB

a great multitude . . As in Revelation 5:4-5, where John first heard an OT title (the Lion of Judah) and then saw its NT fulfillment (the Lamb slain), so here John hears (Revelation 7:4) the names of the sealed sons of Israel and then sees the NT fulfillment: a countless multitude from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages (cf. Revelation 5:9), whom God has rescued from wrath through the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:14). - ESVSB

What race are these people? A four-fold description: nations, kindreds, people, tongues = completeness of the rest of the world = i.e. gentiles.

standing before the throne . . They stand there in heaven worshipping the Savior.

white robes . . = note their clothing, remember Revelation 6:11 They wear the white robes of victorious martyrs (Revelation 6:11; see note on Revelation 2:17).

white robes . . Symbolize cleansing from defilement (v. 14; cf. Daniel 12:10) as well as purity and end-time victory (Revelation 3:4-5) - NIVZSB

palms . . = triumphal entry - Recall the Feast of Tabernacles - Leviticus 23:40-43; John 12:13 ;

with palm branches . . Indicative of victory in royal and military processions, as demonstrated by its connection with white robes and salvation or victory in Revelation 7:10. Compare Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (e.g., Mark 11:8-10). - FSB

Viewpoint one: The 144,000 were the first-fruits, Jewish believers saved through Christ (Revelation 14:4). The multitude from all nations were Gentile Christians; Acts 14:1; Acts 18:4; Acts 19:10; Acts 19:17; Acts 20:21; 1 Corinthians 1:22; 1 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 1:24;

Viewpoint two: The 144,00 John hear being sealed was spiritual Israel redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, then when John looked closely he seems they are a great multitude from every nation. Revelation 7:14 and represent the full number of martyrs.

The great multitude mentioned in this verse is obviously different from the one hundred forty-four thousand which are mentioned in v. 4. As the first group came from different tribes of Israel, this group comes from every tribe of the earth. It seems that these two groups represent the same group of people in two different senses. If vv. 1–8 refer to believing Jews, then v. 9 refers to the people of God of all people groups (cf. Revelation 5:9; Revelation 11:9; Revelation 13:7; Revelation 14:6; Revelation 17:15).

However, the fact that they are said to have come out of the great tribulation (Revelation 7:14 [John participated in this tribulation also Revelation 1:9] ) and were standing before the throne (cf. v. 9) and they have white robes (cf. Revelation 6:11) may identify them as the complete number of martyrs (cf. Revelation 6:11; Revelation 17:6; Revelation 18:24; Revelation 19:2; Revelation 20:4). - Utley

Verse 10

crying with a loud voice . .

Salvation to our God . . The word “salvation” has the article, according to Hebrew usage, as, e.g. Psalms 3:8 [Heb. 9], where the article may denote either “the promised salvation” or the salvation in all its fulness including victory. We must remember that “salvation” is in the Bible a positive conception—net only being saved from some evil, but being placed in a state of positive blessedness: and these words will thus be a confession that such blessedness not only is of God, but belongs by right to God. - CBSC

salvation . . The crowd praises God and the Lamb. See Revelation 12:10; Revelation 19:1.

salvation . . The Old Testament sense of "victory" Revelation 12:10 ; Revelation 19:1 ;

Salvation belongs to our God . . Salvation is the theme of their worship, and they recognize that it comes solely from Him. - MSB

and to the Lamb . . Notice that the Messiah is blessed in the same way as YHWH. This stresses the divine essence of the Son.

7:10–12 When the multitude extols God and the Lamb for salvation, angels and living creatures fall down and break out in a sevenfold doxology, almost replicating the sevenfold praise of the Lamb (Revelation 5:12) - ESVSB

Verse 11

7:10–12 When the multitude extols God and the Lamb for salvation, angels and living creatures fall down and break out in a sevenfold doxology, almost replicating the sevenfold praise of the Lamb (Revelation 5:12) - ESVSB

all the angels . . The angels participate in the same worship activity and posture as the 24 elders in Revelation 4:10 and Revelation 5:14.

All the host of heaven worship God.

7:11–12 The angels, elders, and four living beings all prostrated themselves before God and responded together in a sevenfold (i.e., comprehensive) doxology to recognize God’s eternal nature. The doxology is preceded and followed by Amen—a powerful affirmation of God’s victory. - NLTSB

Verse 12

Seven blessings or praises.

all the angels . . The angels participate in the same activity and posture as the 24 elders in Revelation 4:10 and Revelation 5:14. - FSB

angels, elders, and four living beings . . all prostrated themselves before God and responded together in a sevenfold (i.e., comprehensive) doxology to recognize God’s eternal nature. NLTSB

Amen . . a powerful affirmation of God’s victory.

praise . . A sevenfold song of praise to God.

blessing, and glory &c. . . The seven words of praise have each the conjunction and article ( καὶ ἡ ) : see on Revelation 5:12-13.

Verse 13

One Paragraph vs. 13-17

one of the elders . . See on Revelation 5:5. There is no signifiance in which one. We have similarly “one (no matter which) of the seven Angels” in Revelation 17:1, Revelation 21:9, who come to speak to John.

answered saying . . addressed me -- Asking, asked me . . "Do you know?" Asking a Question that he might teach.

What are these? . . The questions are asked by the elder that he may teach. “These” refer to the vast multitude described in verse 9 - PNT

Occasionally in prophetic visions a dialogue takes place involving one of the characters in the vision and the person receiving it (cf. Jeremiah 1:11, Jeremiah 1:13; Amos 7:8; Amos 8:2; Zechariah 4:2, Zechariah 4:5). Here one of the elders asked John a question anticipating the question that was in John’s mind. This led to a clarification of the identity of the multitude in this vision (cf. Revelation 5:5; Joshua 9:8; Jonah 1:8). - Constable

these ..in white robes . . Speaking of those in white robes (vv. Revelation 7:9, Revelation 7:13).

Verse 14

Sir . . = "kurie" = Lord, -- John shows respect and reverence. The structure recalls Ezekiel 37:3 ; Daniel 10:16, Daniel 10:17; Zechariah 4:5, Zechariah 4:13.

came out . . = Present participle "who are coming" John sees it as it is happening.

tribulation . . = NASB has the article "the tribulation." Matthew 24:21 ; Matthew 24:29 ; John was in this tribulation with his fellow Christians, Revelation 1:9.

Jesus foretold of the "tribulations" (times of persecution, hardships, troubles) that would soon come upon his disciples before the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Matthew 24:21; Matthew 10:17; Mark 13:9;

We begin to see Jesus’ prophecy come to pass in the persecution of the church. Acts 8:1, Acts 5:41; Acts 6:12; Acts 12:1-3 ; Acts 22:20; Revelation 1:9; Revelation 2:9-10; Revelation 2:13; Revelation 3:9-10; etc.

washed . . = 1st Aorist Act. Ind. - a single act, not a process. Baptism or persecution? 1 Corinthians 6:11 ; Revelation 1:5 ; Isaiah 1:18 ; Revelation 3:4 ; Ephesians 5:25-26 ;

made them white in the blood . . A paradox something like that of Revelation 6:16 fin. For the image, cf. perhaps Revelation 1:5 (but see note there); certainly Revelation 22:14 (true text), and probably 1 John 1:7. Hebrews 9:14, which is sometimes quoted, is less closely parallel: there the image seems to be taken from ritual rather than physical cleansing. - CBSC

“In modern thought, making anything white by washing it in blood is paradoxical and even shocking, but it was not so with John and those with an OT background. To them such washing denoted spiritual purity. Not just any blood would accomplish the cleansing. The blood of martyrs shed for the Lamb’s sake would not even do it. It had to be the blood of the Lamb’s great sacrifice to produce the whiteness (Revelation 1:5; Revelation 5:9; cf. Romans 3:25; Romans 5:9; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:20; Hebrews 9:14; 1 Peter 1:2, 1 Peter 1:19; 1 John 1:7) . . .” (Thomas, Revelation 1–7, p. 498. The en (“in”) has instrumental force here; Christ’s blood is what made their robes white. Contrast Revelation 12:11 where dia (“because of”) expresses the means of victory, namely, His blood and their faithfulness.)

Verse 15

Therefore ... (Because of this) . . Refers to their having washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. - FSB

before the throne . . This indicates being in God’s presence—the great hope to which all of Revelation points (see Revelation 21:3-5). The themes in Revelation 7:16-17 are repeated in Revelation 21:3-5. - FSB

... as we have similar language about the most favoured Angels, Matthew 18:10; Luke 1:19. - CBSC

serve . . = "latreuo" = "to render religious service or homage, to worship"

they serve Him day and night . . In the OT this referred to Levitical priests (cf. Psalms 134:1; 1 Chronicles 9:33). The access to God and the service of God has been expanded to (1) persecuted believers and (2) all believers. There is no longer a Jewish elite priesthood! - Utley

temple . . = Since there is no temple in heaven as the final resting place of man (Revelation 21:22) it seems all the references to the temple in Revelation may be to the church? Parallel to Revelation 3:12; Hebrews 9:8-9 (tabernacle); 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 "ye" plural, another reference to the church; 2 Corinthians 6:16 .

temple . . God’s Temple symbolizes his presence (also Revelation 11:19; cp. Revelation 21:22). - NLTSB

in his temple . . as portrayed by the throne room in John’s visions.

dwell among them . . = "spread his tent" John 1:14. A glorious picture of the church (cf Revelation 21:1 ff).

dwell among them . . The preferred reading is that He “will spread His tent over them.” - MSB

Verse 16

they will hunger no more, nor thirst anymore . . Verse 16 is an allusion to Isaiah 49:10. It is repeated often in the Gospels (cf. Matthew 5:6; John 4:14; John 6:35; John 7:37). - Utley

hunger, thirst, etc. . . -- Jesus is the bread and water, John 4:14 ; For us now the Revelation 22:17 "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." Matthew 5:6; John 4:14; John 6:35; John 7:37-38

If the temple (Revelation 7:15) is here the church, then the bread and water are reference to the spiritual food which is now provided for the saints saying it is ample and complete. - cf. Ephesians 1:3; Judges 1:3;

The language is in fulfillment of Isaiah 49:10 -- where the O.T. prophet if speaking the same figurative language of God’s spiritual blessing in the promised messianic age, that is, the Christian age.

John 7:37 ; Revelation 22:14 ; Matthew 5:6 ; John 4:6-14

hunger no more, neither thirst anymore . . As priests, they serve God in his temple, in which he will shelter them from sun and scorching heat (cf. Isaiah 49:10), spreading his tent over them and “dwelling” with them (cf. Ezekiel 37:27; John 1:14). - ESVSB

Never … hunger … thirst . . Alludes to Isaiah 49:10; fulfilled in Revelation 21:6; Revelation 22:2. - NIVZSB

nor will the sun beat down on them; nor any heat . . This is an allusion to the shade provided by the shekinah cloud of glory during the 38 year wilderness wandering period (cf. Psalms 121:5-7). - Utley

sun light . . Priests serving in the temple wee out of the sun, nothing bad happens to them, cf. Psalms 121:6; Isaiah 49:10; a Jewish idiom.

Verse 17

the Lamb ... shall lead . . We have again the solemn paradox, that the Lamb is Shepherd (of course we are reminded of St John 10, but we ought to remember Ps. 23 as well, and its many O. T. imitations, including Isaiah 40:11 in all of which the Shepherd is the Lord God of Israel), and the men are His flock—cf. Ezekiel 34:31, Ezekiel 36:37-38. - CBSC

Lamb . . Christ’s designation as the Shepherd of God’s people (cp. Psalms 23:1; Matthew 15:24; John 10:3, John 10:11, John 10:14; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25) means that he protects and provides for the sheep, bringing hope and salvation to his people (see Ezekiel 34:11-16, Ezekiel 34:23-24). - NLTSB

shepherd ... shall feed them . . An allusion from Ezekiel 34:23 (in this passage the Messiah is referred to as "David.")

Religious and political leaders are often portrayed as either good or bad shepherds in the Bible (e.g., 2 Samuel 5:2; John 10:11-18;

(In the Bible, leaders are often described with the shepherd motif (e.g., 1 Chronicles 11:2; Psalms 78:70-71; Isaiah 44:28). The patriarchs of Genesis (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), Moses, Saul, and David are all described in this way. The motif also is used in Psalms and in the Prophets, including Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Micah, Nahum, and Zechariah. Jesus employs this imagery in the Gospel of John (John 10:11-18), and NT authors refer to him in similar terms (e.g., Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25; 1 Peter 5:4). - -FSB

and will guide them to springs of the water of life . . For desert people water has always been a symbol of abundance and life. This is an allusion to Isaiah 25:8, which is repeated at the close of the book in Revelation 21:6; Revelation 22:1. - Utley

fountains of waters . . they find refreshment in springs of living water (Psalms 23:1-2), tasting the promised joys of the new Jerusalem even before its final descent from heaven (Revelation 22:1), - ESVSB

Wipe away all tears . . A feast alluded to in Isaiah 25:6-9; and pictures metaphorically the blessings in the Christian or Messianic age. (cf. Revelation 21:4.)

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Bibliographical Information
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on Revelation 7". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gbc/revelation-7.html. 2021.