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An angel sealeth the servants of God in their foreheads, even an innumerable multitude, which stand before the throne, clad in white robes, and with palms in their hands. Their robes were washed in the blood of the Lamb.
Anno Domini 96.
Revelation 7:1. And after these things— The former chapter concluded the first grand period, and the sufferings of the church under the persecution of the Heathen Roman empire. The second grand period of prophesy begins, and is contained in the events which attend the sounding of thetrumpets; an account whereof is givenin the 8th and 9th chapters. In this chapter, it is conceived, that we have an account of a little pause or interval, to describe the state of things, for a short time, between the two periods. After these things, that is, after the prophetic vision which represented the first period, St. John saw, in other visions, what is related in this chapter. This seems a representation of a state of peace and tranquillity throughout the earth, especially in the Roman empire, and of the great number of persons, in every nation, who came in to the profession of Christianity; of the encouraging protection which was given to the Christian church; of thankful acknowledgments for the goodness and power of God, by the whole church, in such eminent instances of favour and protection; and, finally, of the happy state of all the faithful confessors and martyrs, who, after a short time of tribulation for the faith of Christ, andconstancy in his religion, have attained to a state of everlasting rest, in happiness and glory. Thus wisely does this part of prophesy promote the principal design of the whole, to encourage the faith and patience, the hope and constancy of the people of God, under all opposition and suffering. It seems designed to shew, with the certainty of prophetical revelation, that as God directs all things in the world by his providence, so he will direct them to serve the designs of his goodness to his faithful saints; and that the great revolutions of the world shall often be in favour of true religion, and for its protection, and to assure the faithful, that all they suffer for the sake of truth and righteousness, shall soon be rewarded with a state of peace; honour, and happiness. See on ch. Rev 1:1 and the next note.
Revelation 7:2-3. And I saw another angel, &c.— This chapter, says Bishop Newton, contains a description of the state of the church in the time of Constantine; of the peace and protection which it should enjoy under the civil powers; and of the great accession which should be made to it both of Jews and Gentiles. Four angels are ordered by another angel to restrain the four winds from blowing with violence on any part of the world; to shew that these were quiet days, wherein the former wars and persecutions should cease, and peace and tranquillity be restored for a season. Winds are emblems of commotions, and very properly, as they are the natural causes of storms. See Jeremiah 49:36-37. To hold the winds that they should not blow, is a very proper prophetic emblem of a state of peace and tranquillity. Eusebius and Lactantius, who were cotemporary writers, bear their testimony to this completion of the prophesy; and some medals of Constantine are still preserved, having on the reverse,—Beata tranquillitas, "Happy tranquillity." The other angel spoken of in Rev 7:2 seems to have been Christ himself, who is spoken of as a mighty angel (ch. Revelation 10:1.), and the angel of God's presence (Isaiah 63:9.), and is called by way of eminence, his angel that bears his name, and the Angel, or Messenger of the covenant (Exodus 23:20-23.Malachi 3:1; Malachi 3:1.), and who rose as the Sun of righteousness and the Day-spring from on high (Malachi 4:2.Luke 1:78; Luke 1:78.), and came from Judea, the eastern part of the Roman empire. He appeared with an eminent ensign of honour, as having the seal of the Living God upon himself, with power to seal his servants; and spoke with the authority of a God in commanding the other four angels to refrain from executions of judgments, till he had done this important work of sealing. Now, to whom can all this be so properly applied, as to Christ himself? He is the Head and Lord of all the angels, and is in his office-capacity sealed by God the Father (John 6:27.); and he only, together with the Father and the Spirit, knows his sheep (John 10:14. 2 Timothy 2:19.); and so he only, exclusive of all creatures, had a certain knowledge of them, and sufficient power and authority to seal them with his HolySpirit (Eph 1:13). And as in sealing his believing people, he acts in the character of Mediator, and makes use of gospel ministers in that work, he is fitly represented as an angel; and they may be supposed to have been included with himself in a subservient way of operation, when he said, Hurt not the earth, &c. till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
Revelation 7:4. And I heard the number of them which were sealed:— "And hereupon, I heard a declaration of the number of those who were thus sealed by the Holy Ghost: and they who were thus perfectly known to Christ, and sealed by his Spirit, were figuratively expressed by one hundred and forty-four thousand, a large determinate being put for an indeterminate number, as multiplied by twelve, a square root, and then by a thousand, to be an emblem of all the Jews of that age, who were converted to Christianity in its life and power, and built upon Christ, the foundation which was laid in the doctrine of the twelve apostles, and who would make a brave and bold profession of the pure gospel in the Christian church, and who now formed the truly spiritual Israel sprung from Jacob, who, on his having power with God, was called Israel (Genesis 32:28.). From him sprung the heads of the twelve tribes, whose posterity formed the visible churchaccording to God's covenant with Abraham (Genesis 17:7-9.) till the commencement of the Christian dispensation." Perhaps this may also represent the beauty and stability of the Christian church keeping to the apostolical purity of faith and worship.
Revelation 7:5. Of the tribe of Judah, &c.— As the spiritual church of Christ was first formed out of the Jewish church and nation, so here the spiritual Israel is first mentioned; but the twelve tribes are not enumerated here in the same method and order as they are in other places of holy scripture. Judah has the precedence, becausefrom him descended the Messiah; Dan is entirely omitted, and Ephraim is not mentioned, because they were both the principal promoters of idolatry; and therefore Levi is substituted in the room of the one, and Joseph is mentioned instead of the other. The children too of the bond women, and of the free women, are confounded together, there being in Christ Jesus neither bond nor free. Besides some of all the tribes of Israel, there was an innumerable multitude of all nations and tongues, clothed with white robes, and having palms in their hands, Rev 7:9-10 who received and embraced the gospel; and, as Sulpitius Severus remarks, it is wonderful how much the Christian religion prevailedat this time. The historians who have written of this reign, relate how even the most remote and barbarous nations embraced Christianity, Jews as well as Gentiles. One historian in particular affirms, that, at the time when Constantine took possession of Rome, after the death of Maxentius, there were baptized more than twelve thousand Jews and Heathens, besides women and children. (See on Revelation 7:10.) The angels also, Rev 7:11-12 join in the celebration of God upon this occasion; for, if there is joy in the presence of God over one sinner that repenteth, much more may those heavenly spirits rejoice at the conversion of so many multitudes as were brought to God out of the countries and nations who embraced Christianity. One of the elders, after this, (Revelation 7:13-17.) explains to St. John some particulars relating to this inumerable multitudeof all nations. They have palms in their hands, as tokens of victory and triumph over tribulation and persecution: they are arrayedin white robes, as emblems of their sanctity and full acceptance with God, through the merits and death of Christ: they are, like the children of Israel, arrived at their Canaan, or land of rest; and they shall no more suffer hunger, or thirst, or heat, as they did in the wilderness of this world: they are now happily free from all their former troubles and molestations, and their Heathen adversaries shall no more prevail against them. This period we may suppose to have continued, with some little interruption, from the reign of Constantine the Great to the death of Theodosius the Great; that is, about seventy years.
Revelation 7:10. And cried with a loud voice,— "This vision, especially when compared with the former in the 4th and 5th chapters, is to be understood, I conceive, (says Mr. Lowman,) of the church in heaven. As heaven seems to be the proper scene of the vision, so the innumerable company of saints with whom the angels join in the following words, in the presence of God and the Lamb, is most naturally to be understood, I think of those who, having been faithful unto death, had received the crown of immortal life in the state of heavenly happiness. And, I question whether the praises of the church on earth will answer the prophetic description, or the intention of the prophetic spirit, in the great encouragement it designed to give to faithfulness and constancy. To understand itof the heavenly church, appears to me a natural sense of the expressions; a sense proper to the design of the prophesy, as it represents the faithful martyrs and confessors, once so great sufferers on earth, now blessed saints in heaven."
Revelation 7:13. What are these which are arrayed, &c.— "Who, think you, are these excellent persons that appear so gloriously apparelled with glittering spotless robes; and from what condition, and how is it that they attained to all this glory?"
Revelation 7:14. They which came out of great tribulation,— That is, faithful confessors, who had endured in the cause of true religion.
Revelation 7:16. Nor any heat.— That is, nor any burning, or scorching heat,—inconvenient heat.
Revelation 7:17. For the Lamb, &c.— Interpreters are not agreed in the proper meaning of this description. Some understand it of the peaceful and prosperous state of the church on earth; and certainly, in some cases, very strong expressions of prophetic style are to be softened to a sense which will agree to a happy state of the church in this world. But others, who observe the force of these expressions, and how much they agree with the descriptions of the new heavens and new earth, ch. 21 understand it of the happy state of the church for one thousand years, which they also suppose to be a resurrection state of the martyrs. I shall only observe, says Lowman, that as the time of the one thousand years is, according to the order of this prophesy, very distant from the time to which this part of it refers, I can by no means suppose the spirit of prophesy designed that this description should be applied to the state of the millennium; and though the description may be softened to such a sense, as may represent the peaceful and prosperous state of the church under Constantine, yet I think it rather refers to the complete happiness of the martyrs and confessors in heaven. See on Revelation 7:10.
Inferences.—With what kindness, care, and tenderness does God indulge his people, by giving them seasonable respites from the troubles of this evil world! Yea, so great is his favour toward them, that, for their sakes, he mercifully averts public judgments from those nations of the earth that permit them to live in peace and safety; and when, through the corruption of mankind, persecutions and dangerous errors threaten the faithful, he will take effectual care of them; and has a vast many thousands of them here below, who own, honour, and serve him. How should it animate their faith, patience, and courage, under all their tribulations for Christ, to think of the glorious, final, and eternal issue of them to persevering believers. God, in the riches of his grace, will abundantly more than compensate their severest hardships for his sake. Innumerable multitudes of them, from among all nations, shall shine in the brightest robes of purity, righteousness, and glory, being made white by the blood of the Lamb; and they shall triumph, as with palms of victory, joy, and praise in their hands; and shall worship God with un-wearied and uninterrupted pleasure in his heavenly temple above. God himself, as sitting on his throne of glory, will dwell, in the most immediate and delightful manner, among them, to banish all uneasiness far from them; and he, as the original fountain, and Jesus Christ as the purchaser and immediate bestower of all possible blessedness, will refresh and completely satisfy them with the most refined and transporting, substantial, and noble enjoyments, ever fresh and flowing, to the utmost of their enlarged capacities and desires. And O, with what cheerful acclamations in heaven will they disclaim all merit of their own, and ascribe the entire glory of their salvation to the free grace of God through the atoning sacrifice of his Son! And with what harmonious concert will all the holy angels join in celebrating the praises of God's perfections, and of his works of nature, providence, and grace! To whom, together with the Lamb, be ascribed all glory for ever and ever. Amen.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The winds and storms of persecution are now for a while hushed in peace, and the church enjoys undisturbed tranquillity, while ministering angels, at the command of the great Angel of the covenant, who bore the impress of the living God, and seals his believing people with the Holy Spirit of promise, restrain for a while the desolating judgments which had before destroyed the earth.
2nd, The saints, who are here sealed out of the twelve tribes, are the emblems of the faithful saints of God converted to the power of Christianity out of the Jewish church. The tribes of Dan and Ephraim, as ring-leaders in idolatry, are omitted, a brand of just reproach being set upon them for such apostacy from God. Note; God's people are always in some glorious measure sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.
3rdly, We have a glorious scene of the happy state of the church, either during the millennium, as some suppose, or when the faithful shall have finally entered into their eternal rest.
1. They are a great multitude which no man could number; the blessed fruit of the preaching of the gospel over all the world.
2. They stand before the throne and before the Lamb, with holy boldness and sure acceptance, clothed with white robes, the emblems of honour, joy, and purity, and palms in their hands, in token of their glorious victories obtained over all their foes; for all God's faithful saints shall assuredly be finally triumphant over their foes.
3. They lifted up their voices in loud hallelujahs, crying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb; all glory, praise, and adoration be ascribed to Him who has graciously regarded us, and exalted us to such dignity and happiness, mean and miserable as we once were—let it be ascribed to the grace and blood of the Lamb, who gave himself to be slain for our redemption.
4. The angelic hosts stood round about the throne, encompassing the elders and living creatures, and immediately joined in their adorations; and falling on their faces, worshipped God, saying, Amen! Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. The inhabitants of heaven have all one mind and employment, ceaseless in the praises of their common Lord. May we now delight to join their songs, and prepare hereby for the happy service of eternity!
4thly, While St. John, with holy rapture, beheld the heavenly vision, one of the elders questions him, whether he understood what he saw, and knew who these were, and whence they came? With humble acknowledgment of his ignorance, and desire of information, he replied, Sir, thou knowest. The elder thereupon kindly undertook to inform him.
1. These, says he, are they who came out of great tribulation, through various afflictions and the fire of persecution, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb: they owe their exaltation and glory to that precious blood of his, which he permitted to be shed for their sakes. Therefore, being thus redeemed to God by him, and having been enabled to approve their fidelity to their divine Master in the midst of the greatest extremities, they now receive a rich equivalent for all that they have suffered; for they are before the throne of God.
2. He informs him of the distinguished dignity and glory to which these once-suffering saints are admitted. They are admitted to the immediate presence of the Eternal Majesty, and serve him day and night, in his celestial temple, without ceasing: and he that sitteth on the throne, shall dwell among them for ever, as the author and source of their eternal felicity. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more, knowing no more those painful cravings, neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat; no fire of persecution, nor furnace of affliction or temptation, shall there be ever apprehended: for the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne, possessed of all dominion and power, shall feed them with his rich provision, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters, to refresh and comfort their souls, which from his presence shall drink in pleasures as out of a river: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; no sin, no sorrow shall be there, nor one salt tear trickle down their faces; but unutterable and uninterrupted consolations shall be their eternal happy portion. Bring me, dear Lord, to share this blessedness among thy saints in light!
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Revelation 7". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
Eve of Ascension