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Two Intervening Visions
This entire chapter intervenes between the sixth and seventh seals. Similarly, between the sixth and seventh trumpets, we shall see an even longer intervention (Revelation 10:1 -Revelation 11:14). The last seal will not be opened until it is made clear that divine sovereignty has decreed the salvation and preservation of a great number in Israel (represented by the 144,000) and a great number of Gentiles who will come out of the Tribulation with the blessing of God. The four angels of verse 1 restrain the wind (the strong influences of judgment) from harming the land (Israel), the sea (the nations) or any tree (men generally).
Another angel ascends (v. 2) from the sunrising-prophetic of the manifestation of Christ. In a loud voice he speaks similarly to the words of the four angels, and adds, "till we have sealed the servants of God in their foreheads." God's seal in their foreheads is in contrast to the mark of the beast received by unbelievers inRevelation 13:16-18; Revelation 13:16-18.
144,000 of Israel Sealed
The total number of those sealed is 144,000, twelve thousand from each tribe of Israel (v. 4). Their sealing is a guarantee of their being preserved through the Great Tribulation, preserved not simply as individuals, but as specifically of Israel and therefore with earthly blessing as a nation in view. The tribes are mentioned by name (vv. 5-8), which would have no place if their destination was heaven. While Joseph is spoken of in verse 8, this evidently refers to Ephraim (Joseph's son), for Manasseh (Joseph's other son) also is included.
The tribe of Dan is totally omitted, while Levi (the tribe given no inheritance, but distributed among the other tribes-Numbers 3:12-13) is added. The reason for Dan's omission appears to be indicated in Jacob's prophecy inGenesis 49:16-18; Genesis 49:16-18, which is a prophetic history of the nation of Israel, each tribe indicating a distinct era of time. Dan signifies the time of the Tribulation, and is said to be "a serpent by the way, a viper by the path, that bites the horse's heels so that its rider shall fall backward." This is spiteful satanic activity, and seems to refer to the advent of the False Prophet, the Antichrist with his Satanic doctrine. Apparently, therefore, the Antichrist will come from the tribe of Dan. Thus, the Spirit of God ignores that tribe in this chapter. Yet, Dan eventually will be restored, for Jacob says, "Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel" (Genesis 49:16).
A Multitude of Gentiles
Verse 9 introduces an innumerable multitude from all nations, kindreds, people and tongues. These are Gentiles (not Israel and not the Church). They stand before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes and with palms in their hands. It is plainly an anticipated view. It will not take place at the time of the vision, but after the Tribulation. It is given beforehand to emphasize God's sovereign counsels as being absolute, no matter how dreadful the trial of the Tribulation may be.
Because these stand "before the throne and before the Lamb," some assume that they are in heaven, but there is no intimation either of resurrection or of translation in the passage. Martyrs will be raised and translated to heaven at the end of the Tribulation (Revelation 20:4), but those are not the great multitude of Gentiles seen here in Revelation 7:1-17.
These will be blessed on earth, in the millennial kingdom. They do not have to be in heaven to fully recognize the all-embracing authority of the throne of God and of the Lamb. Israel is given the promise of great blessing in the Millennium as verses 2 to 8 declare, and verses 9 to 17 show that many Gentiles also will be blessed with the true, pure knowledge of the Lord Jesus. This passage therefore appears to describe all the Gentiles who will have been saved by the grace of God during the Tribulation. They cry, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb" (v. 10), but they do not reign with Him as will the raised martyrs (Revelation 20:4) and all the saints in heaven.
In verse 11 we again see all the angels, the 24 elders and the four living creatures standing "around the throne," not simply "before the throne." They rejoice in the salvation of this host of Gentiles who have newly awakened affection toward the Lamb. This provides a new occasion for the angels etc. to announce "Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever" (v. 12). There will be a similar joy over the redeemed of Israel (Revelation 14:3) who are also seen "before the throne," though also on earth.
One of the elders stirs John's interest in these white-robed people, asking him who they are and where they came from (v. 13). John refers the question back to him, for John is willing to take the place of a learner (v. 14). The answer is given him that these have come out of the Great Tribulation: they had passed safely through it. Before the Tribulation all living saints (together with those who have been raised) will have been caught up in the Rapture, so these are the many Gentiles who will be born again during the Tribulation Period. We have seen that Jews are sealed in the first part of this chapter, so only Gentiles are now included. The white robes speak of practical righteousnesses which had proven the reality of their faith during the Tribulation. The robes are washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb: they are purified from the admixture of mere self-righteousness or inconsistent practice. Such purification is possible only by virtue of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus.
Serving God day and night in His temple (v. 15) refers to the earthly temple, for there is no temple in the heavenly city (Revelation 21:22). Yet, it cannot be literally in Israel's millennial temple, for this would be impossible for an innumerable number. It rather speaks of the vital work of the Spirit of God in their hearts that makes them continually God's servants in His temple in a spiritual way. Then it is added, "and He who sits on the throne shall spread His tabernacle over them" (J.N.D.). This further indicates the earthly character of their blessing.
The description is not limited to their millennial blessing, but goes on to eternity since all who are born again will share eventually in what verses 16 and 17 declare-neither hungering or thirsting, nor subjected to excessive heat, and all tears wiped away from their eyes. The Lamb will feed them and lead them to living fountains of waters. All of this shows that the counsels of God stand, no matter how great may be the trial of the Tribulation.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Revelation 7". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20