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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary
Revelation 7

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-17

THE SIXTH SEAL had now been opened, and John does not see the opening of the seventh till Revelation 8:1-13 is reached. Chapter 7 therefore presents us with a parenthetical interlude in which we have recorded Divine activities and their fruits before we see even more serious judgments falling on the earth. True to the order which runs consistently through the Scriptures, we have the Jew first and after that the Gentile.

There is a brief pause in the Divine dealings. The sixth seal had produced what is likened to a “mighty wind,” but now the four winds of the earth are entirely restrained by angelic power. They were not to blow until the servants of God had been sealed in their foreheads—the most prominent part of their persons. These servants of God were found in the twelve tribes of Israel; but Levi coming into the reckoning and also both the tribes that represented Joseph, the number twelve is maintained by the omission of Dan. It has been thought that the way Jacob prophetically referred to Dan in Genesis 49:16-18, may throw some light on this. If the “serpent by the way,” and the “adder in the path,” are an allusion to the antichrist, instigated by Satan, rising out of the tribe of Dan, it may do so.

The numbers cited might of course be literal, but more probably are to be understood symbolically, especially as twelve and the square of twelve occur elsewhere in the book in a symbolic sense. The godly remnant of Israel are to have a place of administrative importance in the coming age, and twelve is the number of administrative completeness.

It is to be noted that at this point in the book angels again come into prominence. The Lord’s parables in Matthew 13:1-58 have told us that they have a large part in the work of selective judgment at the end of the age. They “gather out of His kingdom all things that offend;” they “sever the wicked from among the just.” What we see here is that they seal the just of Israel, so that they may be preserved and carried through. Until such are sealed the winds of judgment may not blow.

John heard the number that were sealed, and that recorded, he tells us the next vision that passed before his eyes. He saw a great multitude that came out of all nations, who appeared as standing before the throne and the Lamb. This was clearly a vision of a great host gathered from the Gentiles, as distinguished from the sealed remnant of Israel, that has just come before us. Another thing also differentiates the two companies. The elect of Israel are sealed, and thus marked for preservation, before the more direct judgments of God begin. The Gentile multitude is arrayed in the white robe of righteousness and holds the palms of victory as having come out of the great tribulation. The one case, therefore, shows that God knows how to secure those already in relation with Him, before the judgment begins: the other shows how God can overrule tribulation, even of the fiercest sort, to reach people not previously in relation with Him, bringing them into relationship with Himself, and carrying them victoriously through the tribulation.

In the vision this Gentile multitude acclaimed God and the Lamb as the Source of their salvation. They did so with a loud voice that all might hear, and it met with an immediate response from the angelic throng. The multitude was before the throne, whereas the angels encircled the throne and also the elders and living creatures, who formed an inner circle. The angels are moved to worship. They add their Amen to the ascription of salvation to God and the Lamb, though they do not themselves experience salvation, and consequently they do not name it in their own ascription of seven-fold praise, as given in verse Revelation 7:12. Though they do not share the salvation, they can see the excellence and glory of God in it. They ascribe honour and power unto eternal ages to Him who has wrought it.

It is remarkable that one of the elders should have raised with John the two questions that would naturally rise in all our minds. Who are these people in their multitudes, and whence did they come? John’s response, “Sir, thou knowest,” was justified in the result. The elder did know, and gave the information. Consistently through the book the elders are characterized by the spirit of worship and by a very full understanding of God and His ways. As representing the glorified saints, this is what we should expect of them, in keeping with the Apostle Paul’s saying, “Now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

The elder’s reply shows that this great company have a special place inasmuch as they have experienced special sorrows and tribulation. The whiteness of their robes was not produced by their own works, or even by their much suffering, but only by their having been washed in the blood of the Lamb; yet they have a recompense which is a suited answer to their sufferings, and for which their suffering had educated and qualified them.

Their place is “before the throne,” a phrase which indicates, we believe, the place they have morally and spiritually: they are put into close touch with God. They have moreover a priestly place since they serve Him day and night in His temple. All the burden and oppression which they have suffered has ceased for ever, and on the contrary the Lamb Himself becomes the Minister of their joy and satisfaction, God having removed for ever anything and everything that causes a tear.

Thus it is a beautiful picture of millennial recompense and blessedness, which will be enjoyed by multitudes called out of the Gentile peoples and carried through the tribulation period. We have not yet reached the millennium in the orderly unfolding of the book, but in this parenthetical chapter we are permitted to have a glimpse of how God will preserve His people in view of it, whether they are Jews or Gentiles.

There will of course be other multitudes, born during the progress of the age to come, also enjoying its blessedness. They will not belong to this company, however, nor share its special nearness, not having had the spiritual training involved in passing through the special tribulation. For us the principle is stated in the words, “If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him” (2 Timothy 2:12). The principle is the same for them, though the exact recompense may be different.

 


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Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Revelation 7:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fbh/revelation-7.html. 1947.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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