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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Revelation 7

 

 

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Introduction

Revelation 7. This chapter seems to be an interlude in the movement of the drama. It is not easy to see how it fits on to the previous narrative. Some scholars have regarded it as an interpolation. Others have imagined that the writer of the Apocalypse had no sense of unity, and threw the various visions together in a haphazard fashion without any principle of arrangement. The true explanation, however, seems to be as follows: Six seals have already been broken. The seventh seal will bring the final doom. Before "the day of the Lord" breaks, the seal of God is placed upon Christians to protect them against the doom which is to fall upon the rest of the world. At the end of ch. 6 a picture is drawn of the panic and terror which fell upon all ranks of society as the great day approached. The question would naturally arise, How would Christians fare at the crisis? and this chapter gives them an assurance of safety.

The chapter contains two visions: (a) the sealing of the servants of God (Revelation 7:1-8), (b) the bliss of an innumerable multitude. Do these two visions refer to the same or to different people? The usual answer to this question is that the first vision relates to Jewish Christians who belong to "the tribes of the children of Israel," the second to the great mass of Christians belonging to the Gentile world. But many modern scholars hold that this distinction cannot be maintained. In spite of the mention of the twelve tribes they think that the first vision includes all Christians who were alive at the time. Upon this theory the first vision describes "the sealing" which protects them from all the horrors that are to follow from the "breaking of the seventh seal"; the second vision portrays the final bliss of the redeemed in heaven after "the tribulation" is over (see Charles, Studies in the Apocalypse, pp. 133ff.).


Verses 1-8

Revelation 7:1-8. The Sealing of the Hundred and Forty Four Thousand.

Revelation 7:1. Four angels are here represented as holding the winds, which are to bring disaster upon the world, in leash, until the seal of protection has been placed upon the Christians.

Revelation 7:2. The object of the sealing may be to protect against (a) physical dangers, or (b) apostasy, or (c) demoniac activity. Probably all are included, for all may be connected with the breaking of the last seal. Cf. Ezekiel 9:4-6*, where "the mark on the foreheads" protected from death.

Revelation 7:4. 144,000, i.e. 12,000 out of each tribe. The number is evidently symbolical, being "based on the square of twelve," and so denoting completeness. Whether the number represents Jewish Christians or "the spiritual Israel," i.e. the totality of Christians alive at the time, is uncertain.

Revelation 7:5-8. The list of tribes presents some difficulties. (a) The order differs from other arrangements (G. B. Gray, Exp., 1902, pp. 225f., thinks this is due to the disarrangement of the verses; Revelation 7:7-8 originally stood before the last clauses of Revelation 7:5); (b) Dan is omitted, probably because of the traditional belief that Antichrist would spring from his tribe; (c) Judah is placed first because of the belief that the Messiah would arise from his tribe; (d) Manasseh is given in place of Dan, though it is included in Joseph. [This is a strong reason for the view that Manasseh was not in the original list at all; moreover Manasseh is not in his proper place, coming far too high in the list. In other lists Naphtali is combined with Dan, both being sons of Bilhah. It is accordingly very probable that this was the case here, and that Manasseh is due to a scribe's blunder, Dan being misread as Man, and this being regarded as an abbreviation for Manasseh.—A. S. P.]


Verses 9-17

Revelation 7:9-17. The Vision of the Redeemed in Heaven.—A great multitude is contrasted with the 144,000, which is a difficulty for the theory that the two visions refer to the same body of Christians.—arrayed in white robes: cf. Revelation 3:5, Revelation 6:11. Charles thinks that these white robes represent the spiritual bodies which the martyrs receive before the final judgment.

Revelation 7:11. throne, elders, living creatures: Revelation 4:4; Revelation 4:6*. The picture of heaven remains the same in all these chapters.

Revelation 7:12. Cf. the sevenfold doxology in Revelation 5:12.

Revelation 7:14. out of the great tribulation: notice the emphatic article. The reference is not to tribulation in general but "the tribulation," that which is connected with the day of the Lord.

Revelation 7:15. shall serve him: in the ministry of worship.—spread his tabernacle: i.e. the protection of God's overshadowing presence.

Revelation 7:17. unto fountains: "unto life's water-springs" (Scott).

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Revelation 7:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/revelation-7.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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