Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Revelation 7:4

And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Israel;   Righteous;   Seal;   Vision;   Scofield Reference Index - Israel;   The Topic Concordance - Seals;   Servants;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Seals;  
Dictionaries:
Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Order;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Number;   Ring;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Number Systems and Number Symbolism;   Revelation, the Book of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Revelation, Book of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Apocalypse;   Election;   Israel;   Numbers;   Parousia;   Seal ;   Tribe ;   Tribes ;   Type;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Children;   Dan;   Genealogies;   Sealing;   Son;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Church;   Tribes;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Print;   Revelation of John:;   Seal;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Eschatology;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

I heard the number of them which were sealed - In the number of 144,000 are included all the Jews converted to Christianity; 12,000 out of each of the twelve tribes: but this must be only a certain for an uncertain number; for it is not to be supposed that just 12,000 were converted out of each of the twelve tribes.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Revelation 7:4". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/revelation-7.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

And I heard the number of them which were sealed - He does not say where he heard that, or by whom it was communicated to him, or when it was done. The material point is, that he heard it; he did not see it done. Either by the angel, or by some direct communication from God, he was told of the number that would be sealed, and of the distribution of the whole number into twelve equal parts, represented by the tribes of the children of Israel.

And there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel - In regard to this number, the first and the main question is, whether it is meant that this was to be the literal number, or whether it was symbolical; and, if the latter, of what it is a symbol:

I. As to the first of these inquiries, there does not appear to be any good reason for doubt. The fair interpretation seems to require that it should be understood as symbolical, or as designed not to be literally taken; for:

(a)the whole scene is symbolical - the winds, the angels, the sealing.

(b)It cannot be supposed that this number will include all who will be sealed and saved. In whatever way this is interpreted, and whatever we may suppose it to refer to, we cannot but suppose that more than this number will be saved.

(c)The number is too exact and artificial to suppose that it is literal. It is inconceivable that exactly the same number - precisely twelve thousand - should be selected from each tribe of the children of Israel.

(d)If literal, it is necessary to suppose that this refers to the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. But on every supposition this is absurd. Ten of their tribes had been long before carried away, and the distinction of the tribes was lost, no more to be recovered, and the Hebrew people never have been, since the time of John, in circumstances to which the description here could be applicable. These considerations make it clear that the description here is symbolical. But,

II. Of what is it symbolical? Is it of a large number, or of a small number? Is it of those who would be saved from among the Jews, or of all who would be saved in the Christian church - represented as the “tribes of the children of Israel?” To these inquiries we may answer:

(1) that the representation seems to be rather that of a comparatively small number than a large one, for these reasons:

(a) The number of itself is not large.

(b) The number is not large as compared with those who must have constituted the tribes here referred to - the number twelve thousand, for example, as compared with the whole number of the tribe of Judah, of the tribe of Reuben, etc.

(c) It would seem from the language that there would be some selection from a much greater number. Thus, not all in the tribes were scaled, but those who were sealed were “of all the tribes” - ἐκ πάσης φυλῆς ek pasēs phulēsthat is, out of these tribes. So in the specification in each tribe - ἐκ φυλῆς Ἰούδα, Ρουβὴν ek phulēs IoudaRoubēnetc. Some out of the tribe, to wit, twelve thousand, were sealed, It is not said of the twelve thousand of the tribes of Judah, Reuben, etc., that they constituted the tribe, but that they were sealed out of the tribe, as a part of it preserved and saved. “When the preposition ἐκ ekor “out of,” stands after any such verb as sealed, between a definite numeral and a noun of multitude in the genitive, sound criticism requires, doubtless, that the numeral should be thus construed as signifying, not the whole, but a part taken out” (Elliott, i. 237). Compare Exodus 32:28; Numbers 1:21; 1 Samuel 4:10. The phrase, then, would properly denote those taken out of some other and greater number - as a portion of a tribe, and not the whole tribe. If the reference here is to the church, it would seem to denote that a portion only of that church would be sealed.

(d) For the same reason the idea would seem to be, that comparatively a small portion is referred to - as twelve thousand would be comparatively a small part of one of the tribes of Israel; and if this refers to the church, we should expect to find its fulfillment in a state of things in which the largest proportion would not be scaled; that is, in a corrupt state of the church in which there would be many professors of religion, but comparatively few who had real piety.

(2) to the other inquiry - whether this refers to those who would be sealed and saved among the Jews, or to those in the Christian church - we may answer:

(a) that there are strong reasons for supposing the latter to be the correct opinion. Long before the time of John all these distinctions of tribe were abolished. The ten tribes had been carried away and scattered in distant lands, never more to be restored; and it cannot be supposed that there was any such literal selection from the twelve tribes as is here spoken of, or any such designation of twelve thousand from each. There was no occasion - either when Jerusalem was destroyed, or at any ether time - on which there were such transactions as are here referred to occurring in reference to the children of Israel.

(b) The language is such as a Christian, who had been by birth and education a Hebrew, would naturally use if he wished to designate the church. Compare the notes on James 1:1. Accustomed to speak of the people of God as “the twelve tribes of Israel,” nothing was more natural than to transfer this language to the church of the Redeemer, and to speak of it in that figurative manner. Accordingly, from the necessity of the case, the language is universally understood to have reference to the Christian church. Even Prof. Stuart, who supposes that the reference is to the siege and destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, interprets it of the preservation of Christians, and their flight to Pella, beyond Jordan. Thus interpreted, moreover, it accords with the entire symbolical character of the representation.

(c) The reference to the particular tribes may be a designed allusion to the Christian church as it would be divided into denominations, or known by different names; and the fact that a certain portion would be sealed from every tribe would not be an unfit representation of the fact that a portion of all the various churches or denominations would be sealed and saved. That is, salvation would be confined to no one church or denomination, but among them all there would be found true servants of God. It would be improper to suppose that the division into tribes among the children of Israel was designed to be a type of the sects and denominations in the Christian church, and yet the fact of such a division may not improperly be employed as an illustration of that; for the whole church is made up not of any one denomination alone, but of all who hold the truth combined, as the people of God in ancient times consisted not solely of any one tribe, however large and powerful, but of all combined. Thus understood, the symbol would point to a time when there would be various denominations in the church, and yet with the idea that true friends of God would be found among them all.

(d) Perhaps nothing can be argued from the fact that exactly twelve thousand were selected from each of the tribes. In language so figurative and symbolical as this, it could not be maintained that this proves that the santo definite number would be taken from each denomination of Christians. Perhaps all that can be fairly inferred is, that there would be no partiality or preference for one more than another; that there would be no favoritism on account of the tribe or denomination to which anyone belonged; but that the seal would be impressed on all, of any denomination, who had the true spirit of religion. No one would receive the token of the divine favor because he was of the tribe of Judah or Reuben; no one because he belonged to any particular denomination of Christians. Large numbers from every branch of the church would be sealed; none would be sealed because he belonged to one form of external organization rather than to another; none would be excluded because he belonged to any one tribe, if he had the spirit and held the sentiments which made it proper to recognize him as a servant of God. These views seem to me to express the true sense of this passage. No one can seriously maintain that the writer meant to refer literally to the Jewish people; and if he referred to the Christian church, it seems to be to some selection that would be made out of the whole church, in which there would be no favoritism or partiality, and to the fact that, in regard to them, there would be some something which, in the midst of abounding corruption or impending danger, would designate them as the chosen people of God, and would furnish evidence that they would be safe.

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Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Revelation 7:4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/revelation-7.html. 1870.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

And I heard the number of them that were sealed, a hundred and forty and four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the children of Israel:

Of the tribe of Judah were sealed twelve thousand;

Of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand;

Of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand;

Of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand;

Of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand;

Of the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand;

Of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand;

Of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand;

Of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand;

Of the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand;

Of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand;

Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.

Who are these 144,000? They are the saved of earth, servants of God just mentioned by the angel, particularly the Christians of all ages until the end of time. This meaning alone could have had any comfort at all for the suffering saints who first received this prophecy. The idea that John here comforted the Christians who were in the throes of a great tribulation brought upon them by the fleshly Jews who had murdered the Messiah and hindered the truth all over the world, with a vision of such a vast company of saved and redeemed Jews (literally) is absolutely preposterous. See chapter introduction, above, under (1).

Theories which would read these 144,000 as, "the total number of the martyrs that must be completed before the prayers of those in heaven (Revelation 6:11) could be answered,"[30] are equally preposterous and are founded upon an inadequate conception of God who simply cannot be properly viewed as approving any specified number of martyrs. It is not martyrs that God desires, but Christians. Furthermore, the sealed here are not called martyrs.

The theory that these 144,000 are literal Jews from racial Israel is attractive to some, and was ably advocated by Seiss:

When God says "children of Israel," I do not understand him to mean any but people of Jewish blood, be they Christians or not. And when he speaks of the twelve sons of Jacob, and gives the names of the tribes, it is impossible for me to believe that he means Gentiles in any sense or degree, whether they be believers or not.[31]

The blindness of this view is identical with that of the Pharisees who claimed to be sons of Abraham (and, literally, they were); but Jesus said, "If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham" (John 8:39). John's .calling the church the twelve tribes of Israel came directly from the lips of Jesus (Matthew 19:28); and therefore "fleshly Israel," called by Jesus himself "the children of the devil" (John 8:44), simply cannot fit into this passage in any way. That our interpretation entails come difficulty is freely admitted. Smith called this, "a passage of unusual difficulty";[32] but the difficulty of trying to make the tribes of literal Israel fit the meaning here is far more difficult.

The 144,000 ... This is a number made up of 12 10:12 10:1,000. Earlier in Revelation we had a number made up of 12 + 12, that of the "four and twenty elders" (Revelation 4:4); but here the "twelve" is multiplied by itself, and then again by a thousand, indicating completeness and perfection in the ultimate degree. What is meant? "That not one of those who are worthy shall be overlooked or forgotten."[33] It also carries the thought that the natural universe, the powers of evil, and the ravages of time shall not interfere with God's plans until all are accomplished. Therefore, the 144,000 are a symbol of the total number of the redeemed, a definite number, unknown to us, but surely known by God. It is the same as "the innumerable company" of Revelation 7:9.

Twelve tribes ... Why are they listed? First, the number "twelve" is a sacred number. There were twelve tribes of Israel, twelve apostles, twelve foundations of the eternal city, twelve gates, twelve angels at the gates, twelve manner of fruits on the tree of life, twelve seasons in the year when the fruits were yielded, and twelve stars in the crown of the glorious woman arrayed with the sun! Are these literally the twelve sons of Jacob? How could they be? The ten northern tribes had already been lost for centuries when John wrote. Dan is not mentioned here, nor is Ephraim; but Joseph which includes both Ephraim and Manasseh is listed. As Beckwith said, "Nineteen different arrangements of these names are found in the Old Testament, with none of which does this list agree."[34] If these are understood as literal tribes, it would mean that exactly the same number would be saved from each one; and what kind of a straitjacket is that? It would also have to mean that none will be saved from the tribe of Dan. Thus we are driven to the conclusion reached by Roberts: "The 144,000 must represent the whole church of the New Testament as spiritual Israel."[35] No satisfactory explanation of this irregular list has ever been offered, unless it is this, "John intends to say that the twelve tribes of Israel are not literal Israel, but the true spiritual Israel, which is the church."[36] Foy E. Wallace, Jr., also agreed that, "They signify the whole faithful church, the total number of the redeemed."[37] Regarding the question of why, then, should John have broken the 144,000 into twelve tribes, Bruce thought he did so in order, "to emphasize that the church is the true Israel of God, and that the number represents the sum total of the faithful."[38] "The reference to the twelve tribes is therefore accommodative, as in James 1:1."[39] Besides all this, to bring racial considerations into the interpretation of this prophecy "seriously complicates the book of Revelation by bringing in racial considerations that no longer exist."[40]

Bruce, Caird, and others apply the sealing of the 144,000 to martyrs only, but there is no way we could agree with this. (See discussion in the chapter introduction.) The placement of Judah at the head of the list of twelve tribes was thought by McDowell to be due to the fact that Christ was of the tribe of Judah;[41] but since all Christians, being "in Christ" would thus belong to that tribe, it would have to imply that only twelve thousand could be saved from the tribe of Judah, including all the Christians who ever lived! These, and many other considerations, demand a spiritual interpretation of these twelve tribes.

Still another question regards the purpose of the sealing, whether it was to exempt the sealed from tribulation, or to preserve the saved safely through tribulation. Since there is not a line in the New Testament, nor in the experience of any Christian through out history, of any exemption of the Lord's people from tribulation, the conclusion is mandatory that the safety of the soul through tribulation is meant. See more on this in the chapter introduction under (3). As McGuiggan said:

Does this sealing assure saints of physical preservation? No! In the Old Testament vision of Ezekiel 9, we read of others who were sealed, but many of them died. Both Lindsay and Walvoord say that this means the 144,000 are physically preserved; but it did not mean that in Ezekiel; then why should it mean that here? Where is the proof?[42]

[30] Martin Rist, op. cit., p. 419.

[31] J. A. Seiss, The Apocalypse Lectures on the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1900), pp. 405,406.

[32] Wilbur M. Smith, Wycliffe Bible Commentary, New Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), p. 1070.

[33] A. Plummer, op. cit., p. 207.

[34] Isbon T. Beckwith, op. cit., p. 542.

[35] J. W. Roberts, op. cit., p. 71.

[36] George Eldon Ladd, op. cit., p. 114.

[37] Foy E. Wallace, Jr. The Book of Revelation (Nashville: Foy E. Wallace, Jr., Publications, 1966), p. 100.

[38] F. F. Bruce, A New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969), p. 645.

[39] E. M. Zerr, Bible Commentary, Vol. 6 (Marion, Indiana: Cogdill Foundation, 1954), p. 311.

[40] Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977), p. 168.

[41] Edward A. McDowell, The Meaning and Message of the Book of Revelation (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1951), p. 97.

[42] Jim McGuiggan, op. cit., p. 112.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Revelation 7:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/revelation-7.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And I heard the number of them which were sealed,.... And therefore could be sure of the exact number, which did not depend upon his sight, and telling them, in which some mistake might have been made, but he heard the number expressed:

and there were sealed an hundred and forty, and four thousand: which is a square number arising from twelve, the square root of it, being just twelve times twelve thousand; and may denote their being the true and genuine offspring of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, holding their doctrine, and being built on their foundation; see Revelation 21:14; and these were

of all the tribes of the children of Israel; not that these were all Jews in a literal sense, for the time of their conversion in great numbers is not yet come. Dr. Goodwin thinks these sealed ones design the believers of the Greek and Armenian churches, and his reasons are not despicable; but this is to limit and restrain them to a particular part of the church of Christ; whereas they take in all the saints within this long tract of time, even all that are the true Israel of God, who are Jews inwardly, of what nation, kindred, tongue, and people soever; and is a certain and determinate number for an uncertain and indeterminate one; and only intends a large number of persons known to God and Christ; see the Apocrypha:

"Arise up and stand, behold the number of those that be sealed in the feast of the Lord;' (2 Esdras 2:38)

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Revelation 7:4". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/revelation-7.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

And I heard the number of them which were sealed: [and there were] sealed 5 an hundred [and] forty [and] four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.

(5) That is, of the Jews a number certain in itself before God, and such as may be numbered of us: for which cause also the same is here set down as certain. But of the elect who are Gentiles, the number indeed is in itself certain with God, but of us not possibly to be numbered, as God, (Genesis 15:5). This is spoken with respect, when a certain number is put for one uncertain. Compare with (Revelation 7:9).
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Bibliographical Information
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Revelation 7:4". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/revelation-7.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Twelve is the number of the tribes, and appropriate to the Church: three by four: three, the divine number, multiplied by four, the number for world-wide extension. Twelve by twelve implies fixity and completeness, which is taken a thousandfold in 144,000. A thousand implies the world perfectly pervaded by the divine; for it is ten, the world number, raised to the power of three, the number of God.

of all the tribes — literally, “out of every tribe”; not 144,000 of each tribe, but the aggregate of the twelve thousand from every tribe.

childrenGreek,sons of Israel.” Revelation 3:12; Revelation 21:12, are no objection, as Alford thinks, to the literal Israel being meant; for, in consummated glory, still the Church will be that “built on the foundation of the (Twelve) apostles (Israelites), Jesus Christ (an Israelite) being the chief corner-stone.” Gentile believers shall have the name of Jerusalem written on them, in that they shall share the citizenship antitypical to that of the literal Jerusalem.

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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Revelation 7:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/revelation-7.html. 1871-8.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

The number of the sealed (τον αριτμον των εσπραγισμενωνton arithmon tōn esphragismenōn). Accusative case object of ηκουσαēkousa and genitive of the perfect passive articular participle of σπραγιζωsphragizō He did not see the sealing or count them himself, but only heard.

A hundred and forty and four thousand (εκατον τεσσερακοντα τεσσαρες χιλιαδεςhekaton tesserakonta tessares chiliades). Symbolical, of course, and not meant to be a complete number of the sealed (or saved) even in that generation, let alone for all time. The number connotes perfection (Alford), 12x12x1000= a hundred and forty-four thousands (χιλιαδεςchiliades Revelation 5:11). Nominative absolute, not agreeing in case either with αριτμονarithmon (accusative) or εσπραγισμενωνesphragismenōn (genitive). So as to the case of εσπραγισμενοιesphragismenoi of every tribe of the children of Israel (εκ πασης πυλης υιων Ισραηλek pāsēs phulēs huiōn Israēl). There are two opposite views here, one taking the sealed as referring only to Jews (either actual Jews as a remnant or just Jewish Christians), the other including Gentiles as well as Jewish Christians, that is the true Israel as in Revelation 2:9; Revelation 3:9. and like Paul in Galatians and Romans. This is the more probable view and it takes the twelve tribes in a spiritual sense. But in either view there remains the difficulty about names of the tribes. The list is not geographical, since Levi is included, but Dan is omitted and Manasseh put in his place, though he as the son of Joseph is included in Joseph. Irenaeus suggested that Antichrist was expected to come from the tribe of Dan and hence the omission here. There are various lists of the tribes in the O.T. (Genesis 35:22.; Genesis 46:8.; Gen 49; Exodus 1:1.; Numbers 1:2; Numbers 13:4; Numbers 26:34; Deuteronomy 27:11.; Deuteronomy 33:6.; Josh 13-22; Judges 5; 1 Chron 2-8; 1 Chronicles 12:24.; 1 Chronicles 27:16.; Ezek 48) and given in various orders. In 1 Chronicles 7:12 both Dan and Zebulon are omitted. Joseph is given here in place of Ephraim. The distribution is equal (12,000) to each tribe.

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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
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Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Revelation 7:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/revelation-7.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

An hundred and forty and four thousand

Not literally, but the number symbolical of fixedness and full completion (12 x 12). The interpretations, as usual, vary greatly, dividing generally into two great classes: one holding that only Jews are meant, the other including the whole number of the elect both Jew and Gentile. Of the former class some regard the sealed as representing Jewish believers chosen out of the literal Israel. Others add to this the idea of these as forming the nucleus of glorified humanity to which the Gentiles are joined. Others again regard them as Jews reserved by God until Antichrist comes, to maintain in the bosom of their nation a true belief in Jehovah and His law, like the seven thousand in the days of Elijah.

The interpretation of the latter class seems entitled to the greater weight. According to the Apocalyptic usage, Jewish terms are “christianized and heightened in their meaning, and the word “Israel” is to be understood of all Christians, the blessed company of all faithful people, the true Israel of God.” See Romans 2:28, Romans 2:29; Romans 9:6, Romans 9:7; Galatians 6:16; Philippians 3:3. The city of God, which includes all believers, is designated by the Jewish name, New Jerusalem. In Revelation 7:3, the sealed are designated generally as the servants of God. In chapter 14 the one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed are mentioned after the description of the enemies of Christ, who have reference to the whole Church of Christ; and the mention of the sealed is followed by the world-wide harvest and vintage of the earth. The one hundred and forty-four thousand in chapter 14, have the Father's name written in their foreheads; and in Revelation 22:4, all the inhabitants of the New Jerusalem are so marked. In Revelation 21:12, the twelve tribes include all believers. The mark of Satan which is in the forehead, is set upon all his servants without distinction of race. See Revelation 13:16, Revelation 13:17; Revelation 14:9; Revelation 16:2; Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:4. The plagues threaten both Jews and Gentiles, as the sealing protects all.

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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 7:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/revelation-7.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.

Of the children of Israel — To these will afterwards be joined a multitude out of all nations. But it may be observed, this is not the number of all the Israelites who are saved from Abraham or Moses to the end of all things; but only of those who were secured from the plagues which were then ready to fall on the earth. It seems as if this book had, in many places, a special view to the people of Israel.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Revelation 7:4". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/revelation-7.html. 1765.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

4.] And I heard the number of the sealed, an hundred and forty-four thousand sealed (the number is symbolical of fixedness and full completion, 12 × 12, taken a thousand fold. No one that I am aware of has taken it literally, and supposed that just this particular number and no more is imported. The import for us is that the Lord knoweth and sealeth His own: that the fulness of their number shall be accomplished and not one shall fail: and, from what follows, that the least as well as the greatest of the portions of his Church, shall furnish its quota to this blessed company: see more below) from every tribe (i. e. from the sum of the tribes; from every tribe, all being taken together. This is evident from what follows. For this accumulative sense of πᾶς with an anarthrous substantive, see reff. and Winer, edn. 6, § 18. 4) of the sons of Israel (this has been variously understood. By many, and even by the most recent Commentator, Düsterdieck, these sealed ones are taken to represent Jewish believers: the chosen out of the actual children of Israel. I need hardly say that such an interpretation seems to me to be quite inconsistent with the usage of this book. Our rule in such cases must be, to interpret a term, where it may possibly be ambiguous, by the use of the same term, if we can discover any, in a place or places where it is clear and unmistakeable. Now in the description of the heavenly Jerusalem, ch. Revelation 21:9 ff., we have the names τῶν δώδεκα φυλῶν υἱῶν ἰσραήλ inscribed on its 12 gates. Can there be any doubt as to the import of those names in that place? Is it not that the city thus inscribed is the dwelling-place of the Israel of God? Or are the upholders of the literal sense here prepared to carry it out there, and to regard these inscribed names as importing that none but the literal descendants of Israel dwelt within? (For observe that such an inference could not be escaped by the fact of the names of the 12 Apostles being inscribed on its foundations: those being individual names, the others collective.) It seems certain, by this expression being again used there “totidem verbis,” that the Apostle must here, as there, have intended Israel to be taken not as the Jewish nation, but as the Israel of God. Again, we have a striking indication furnished in ch. Revelation 3:12, who these children of Israel are, and to what city they belong:— νικῶνγράψω ἐπʼ αὐτὸν τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ θεοῦ μου, καὶ τὸ ὄνομα τῆς πόλεως τοῦ θεοῦ μου τῆς καινῆς ἱερουσαλὴμ ἡ καταβαίνουσα ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἀπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ μου, καὶ τὸ ὄνομά μου τὸ καινόν. These words serve to bind together the sealing here, and the vision of the new Jerusalem in ch. 21. Nor is it any valid objection to this view that the persons calling themselves Jews in ch. Revelation 2:9, Revelation 3:9, have been taken to be actual Jews. There is a wide difference in the circumstances there, as there is also in the appellation itself): out of the tribe of Judah, twelve thousand sealed, &c. &c. The points to be noticed in this enumeration are, 1) that with the exception of Judah being placed first, the order of the tribes does not seem to follow any assignable principle. It may indeed be not without reason, that Reuben, the eldest, next follows Judah, and Benjamin the youngest is placed last, with Joseph his own brother: but beyond this all is uncertainty: as any one will find, who attempts to apply to the order any imaginable rule of arrangement. So far has been generally confessed. “Nullus servatur ordo, quia omnes in Christo pares,” says Grotius. 2) That the tribe of Dan is omitted. This is accounted for by the fathers and ancient interpreters, from the idea (founded on Genesis 49:17) that antichrist was to arise from this tribe. So Areth(99) in Catena,— ἡ τοῦ δὰν φυλὴ τῆς σωτηρίας ἐκβέβληται, ἅτε μαιεύουσα τὸν ἀντίχριστον, καὶ ὑπʼ αὐτοῦ συγκροτουμένη, καὶ τούτῳ προσανέχουσα, καὶ καύχημα τοῦτον προβαλλομένη καὶ κλέος ἀκλέες καὶ ὀλέθριον: by most Commentators, from the fact, that this tribe was the first to fall into idolatry, see Judges 18; by others (Grot., Ewald, De W., Ebrard, Düsterd., al.), from the fact that this tribe had been long ago as good as extinct. Grot. quotes for this a Jewish tradition,—“jam olim ea tribus ad unam familiam Hussim reciderat, ut aiunt Hebræi, quæ ipsa familia bellis interiisse videtur ante Esdræ tempora.” Accordingly we find in 1 Chronicles 4 ff. where all Israel are reckoned by genealogies, that this tribe is omitted altogether. This latter seems the more probable account here, seeing that in order to the number 12 being kept, some one of the smaller tribes must be omitted. In Deuteronomy 33, Simeon is omitted. 3) That instead of Ephraim, Joseph is mentioned. We have a somewhat similar instance in Numbers 13:11, with this difference, that there it is “of the tribe of Joseph, namely of the tribe of Manasseh.” The substitution here has been accounted for by the “untheocratic” recollections connected with the name Ephraim (so e. g. Düsterd.). But this may well be questioned. In the prophecy of Hosea, where the name so frequently occurs, it designates Israel repentant, as well as Israel backsliding; cf. especially Hosea 14:4-8, the recollection of which would admirably fit the spirit of this present passage. I should rather suppose that some practice had arisen which the Apostle adopts, of calling the tribe of Ephraim by this name. 4) That the tribe of Levi is included among the rest, hardly appears to depend on the reason assigned by Bengel, al., that the Levitical ceremonies being now at an end, all are alike priests and have access to God: for in some O. T. catalogues, even where territorial division is in question, Levi is not omitted: the cities of the priests being mentioned under the head of this tribe. Cf. 1 Chronicles 6.

It yet remains to enquire, before passing on to the second vision in this episode, what is the import and intent of the sealing here mentioned. It has been the general view, that it was to exempt those sealed from the judgments which were to come on the unbelieving. And it can hardly be denied, that this view receives strong support from Scripture analogy, e. g. that of Exodus 12 and Ezekiel 9, especially the latter, where the exempted ones are marked, as here, on their foreheads. It is also borne out by our ch. Revelation 9:4, where these sealed ones are by implication exempted from the plague of the locusts from the pit. It is again hardly possible to weigh fairly the language used in this place itself, without coming to the same conclusion. The four angels are commanded not to begin their work of destruction, until the sealing has taken place. For what imaginable reason could such a prohibition be uttered, unless those who were to be sealed were to be marked out for some purpose connected with that work? And for what purpose could they be thus marked out, if not for exemption? The objection brought against this view by Düsterd., that so far from being exempt from trials, the saints in glory have come out of great tribulation, is grounded on the mistake of not distinguishing between the trials of the people of God and the judgments on the unbelieving world. In the latter, the saints have no part, as neither had the children of Israel in the plagues of Egypt. And indeed the very symbolism here used, in which the elect are pointed out under the names of the 12 tribes, serves to remind us of this ancient exemption. At the same time, exemption from the coming plagues is not the only object of the sealing. It serves a positive as well as a negative purpose. It appropriates to God those upon whom it has passed. For the seal contains His own Name, cf. ch. Revelation 3:12, Revelation 14:1. And thus they are not only gathered out of the world, but declared to be ready to be gathered into the city of God. And thus the way is prepared for the next vision in the episode.

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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Revelation 7:4". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/revelation-7.html. 1863-1878.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

4 And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.

Ver. 4. A hundred forty and four thousand] A competent company. Not so many as the locusts, Revelation 9:3, and yet more than most thought they had been.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Revelation 7:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/revelation-7.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

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.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Revelation 7:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/revelation-7.html. 1801-1803.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

Observe here, 1. That the true church is represented in this book by the name of the Jews, and the false church by the Gentiles; so that the tribes of the children of Israel is to be understood the whole universal church of sincere and serious Christians, all that profess and practice the faith of Abraham, and so are his spiritual seed.

Note, 2. That these hundred forty and four thousand are particularly mentioned, Revelation 14:1 as the pure virgin church, distinguished from the adulterers; this number then comprehends all such as during Antichrist's tyranny should be kept from his delusions, of whatsoever nation they be; all that adhere to Christ against Antichrist are sealed, to preserve them from that defection wherein others would be involved.

Note, 3. The great care which Almighty God takes in a time of general apostasy, to preserve a number in all his churches from that fatal mischief, that the Catholic church may not fail: God has a number sealed: and such as are sealed shall by preserved.

Note, 4. That thought the number of God's sealed ones be great in inself, one hundred and forty-four thousand, yet how small is it in comparison of the not sealed.

Note, 5. That as God had a number out of all nations, ranks, and conditions of men, in and throughout the whole world.

Note, 6. That the tribe of Dan is here left out; the reasons assigned for it are various; because, say some, Antichrist was to come of that tribe: but it doth not any where appear that ever Almighty God punished a people before they committed sin.

Others with more reason conceive it was the great idolatry which this tribe fell into, and continued in until the captivity, Judges 18:30 Amos 8:14, yet we must not suppose that none of this tribe were saved, because here not mentioned; for we find Samson of this tribe, and reckoned among those worthies, whose names are recorded, By faith Samson, Hebrews 11:32-34.

Note, 7. That Levi, or the Levites, who had no inheritance in the earthly Canaan, but were dispersed and scattered throughout all the tribes, that they might teach the people the law of the Lord, and so could not be numbered there; yet, says the learned and pious Dr. Hammond, in Christ their portion was as good as the rest, and therefore were not omitted here. Behold here a consideration which administers much comfort to us the ministers of the gospel: though many of us have no earthly possessions, and some cut short of outward comforts, yet our title to the heavenly inheritance is good, and we shall not miss of it as the reward of our faithfulness.

Note lastly, That although Levi had the charge of all the tribes, and had the peculiar favour above all the rest to stand before God, and administer to him in holy things, yet no more are sealed of this than of the other tribes; all were teachers, but all were not sealed; all are not saved that are of the holy calling, and who may be instrumental to save others. It was a solemn speech of an ancient father, Non temere dico, sed ut affectus sum, ac ut animo sentio: Revere puto sacerdotes non multos esse qui salvi fient, et sacerdotes non multos esse qui salvi fient, et plures esse qui pereunt. With it agrees St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 9:27.

Fearing, lest having preached to others, he himself should become a cast-away.

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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Revelation 7:4". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wbc/revelation-7.html. 1700-1703.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Revelation 7:4. ἰσραὴλ) Israel in the strict sense is denoted. For this book pronounces literally respecting Israel many things, which some take in a figurative sense. Israelism, as H. More terms it, Book i., Synops. proph., cap. 4, ought not to be too much extended. Lampe rightly says, that the Jews ought to be sought for in the Apocalypse, more than most interpreters have found them. Medit. anecd. in Apoc., p. 261.

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Revelation 7:4". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/revelation-7.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Ver. 4-8. For the understanding of these five verses several things are to be noted.

1. That the whole number is one hundred and forty-four thousand, which is the product of twelve, as the original number, (setting aside the ciphers), for twelve times twelve make one hundred and forty-four. The number of one hundred and forty-four, Revelation 21:17, was the measure of the wall of the new Jerusalem. Twelve, which is the root of this number one hundred and forty-four, seemeth to be God’s number, and used in Scripture about one hundred and forty-four times, and almost generally in things belonging to the church; which had twelve patriarchs, twelve tribes under the Old Testament, twelves apostles (as its head) under the New Testament: and the new Jerusalem from heaven, Revelation 21:12, is said to have twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; Revelation 7:14, the wall had twelve foundations; the length of it, Revelation 7:16, twelve thousand furlongs.

2. That we must not by one hundred and forty-four thousand understand a certain, but an uncertain number, which yet was very great.

3. That by the tribes of Israel mentioned here, are to be understood the several gospel churches of the Gentiles, who are now God’s Israel ingrafted into the true olive.

4. That the tribe of Dan is here left out, and Ephraim is not named, though included in Joseph. Of the tribe of Dan there were none sealed. Dan was a great ringleader to idolatry, so was Ephraim; see Jude 17:1-18:31; and at Dan it was that Jeroboam set up his calves. Levi is put in instead of Dan, and Joseph instead of Ephraim, by which means here are yet twelve tribes; which teacheth us this: That Christians, if idolaters, must not look for any special protection or favour from God in a day of evil.

5. These tribes are not set in order, according to their birthright.

Juda was Leah’s fourth son, Genesis 29:35, put first, because Christ descended from him.

Reuben, her eldest son, is put next, giving place only to the Messiah’s tribe.

Gad, Jacob’s son by Zilpah, Genesis 30:11, is put next.

Aser, Jacob’s son by Zilpah, in the fourth place, Genesis 30:13.

Nepthalim is put next, who was Jacob’s son by Bilhah, Rachel’s maid, Genesis 30:8.

Manasses is put next, who was Joseph’s son.

Simeon, Jacob’s second son by Leah, Genesis 29:33, is put in the seventh place.

Levi, Leah’s third son, Genesis 29:34, in the eighth place.

Issachar, Leah’s fifth son, Genesis 30:18, is put in the ninth place.

Zabulon, Leah’s sixth son, is put in the tenth place, Genesis 30:20.

Joseph is put in the eleventh place, for Ephraim his son.

Benjamin, Rachel’s second son, is put in the last place.

If there be any mystery in this order, differing from all other scriptures where there is a mention made of the twelve patriarchs, it is probable that Mr. Mede hath hit upon it, in regard of the, good or ill deserts of these tribes, some of which are mentioned by him; all may be learned from the history of the Jews recorded in holy writ. Hence we may learn, that the summary sense of all these verses is this: That although within that period of time which is signified under the seventh seal, there should be great persecutions of the church, yet God would preserve unto himself a great number in all his churches, which should not apostatize, and who in the persecutions should not be hurt; so as his church should not fail, though the archers should shoot sore at it; for though men raged, yet it was by God’s permission; and his angels overruled it, who should take notice of those numbers that he had sealed, and marked in their foreheads.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Revelation 7:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/revelation-7.html. 1685.

Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

сто сорок четыре тысячи Миссионерский корпус спасенных евреев, которые помогают спасению многих евреев и иноверцев во время скорби (ст. 9–17). Они будут первыми жителями нового спасенного Израиля (ст. 4, Зах. 12:10). В итоге Израиль будет нацией-свидетельницей, которой он отказался быть в ветхозаветное время (см. пояснение к Рим. 11:25-27).

всех колен сынов Израилевых Согласно Своему выбору, Бог запечатлевает 12 000 от каждого из 12 колен, обещая им защиту, пока они будут выполнять порученную миссию.

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MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on Revelation 7:4". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mac/revelation-7.html.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

A hundred and forty and four thousand; a definite is here put for an indefinite, but very large number, who had embraced the gospel and were made partakers of divine grace, and thus were sealed by the Holy Spirit to the day of redemption.

Of all the tribes of the children of Israel; Israel is here "the Israel of God," including all, whether Jews or Gentiles, who are Abraham’s children in a spiritual sense. In the enumeration of the twelve tribes that follows, Dan is omitted, and Joseph is reckoned once in Manasses and again for Ephraim. None are secure from coming wrath, except those who are born of God, who manifest the fruits of his Spirit, and are thus distinguished as belonging to him.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Revelation 7:4". "Family Bible New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/revelation-7.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘And I heard the number of those who were sealed, a hundred and forty four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the people of Israel.’

That this is made up of twelve times twelve thousand comes out in that there are twelve thousand of each tribe. The number twelve in Revelation is used of the twelve stars on the crown of the woman waiting to bear her man child (Revelation 12:1), who, as we shall see, represents the true Israel, the twelve stars representing the patriarchs of the twelve tribes.

The only other use in Revelation is of the new Jerusalem where the number twelve abounds (chapter 21). The twelve gates bear the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel (Revelation 21:12), the twelve foundations bear the names of the twelve apostles (Revelation 21:14), the city is 12,000 x 12,000 x 12,000 furlongs (Revelation 21:16), the walls are one hundred and forty four cubits (12 x 12), there are twelve jewels (representing the twelve stones in the High Priest’s breastplate), which make up the foundations and thus represent the twelve apostles, and the gates are twelve pearls. (There are twelve fruits on the tree of life for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:2) but these represent the twelve months of the year). Twelve is therefore the number connected with the redeemed church of Christ, for it is they who are built on the foundations of the apostles (Ephesians 2:20), including both Old and New Testament saints. The added ‘thousand’ indicates a large and complete number.

There is divided opinion on whether the one hundred and forty four thousand represent the whole church of God or the faithful remnant of Israel. However, the omission of the tribe of Dan makes too literal an interpretation impossible, in view of the fact that numbers are given. It is hardly conceivable that God would exclude all Danites if He was referring to a literal Israel. If they are included while not mentioned then the number 144,000 would clearly not be correct. So whatever view we take the interpretation cannot be literal.

Furthermore the Apostles clearly saw the church as the true continuation of Israel. In Ephesians 2 Paul tells the Gentile Christians that they were previously ‘alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise’ (Revelation 2:12). Thus in the past they had not belonged to the twelve tribes. But then he tells them that they are now ‘made nigh by the blood of Christ’ (Revelation 2:13), Who has ‘made both one and broken down the wall of partition --- creating in Himself of two one new man’ Revelation 2:14-15). Now therefore, through Christ, they have been made members of the commonwealth of Israel, and inherit the promises. So they are ‘no longer strangers and sojourners, but fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God, being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets’ (Revelation 2:19-20). Thus they have entered the ‘new’ renewed Israel. They are part of the ‘new nation’ (Matthew 21:43).

So as with people in the Old Testament who were regularly adopted into the twelve tribes of Israel (e.g. the mixed multitude - Exodus 12:38, compare Exodus 12:48), Gentile Christians too are seen as so incorporated. That is why he can call the church ‘the Israel of God’, made up of Jews and ex-Gentiles, having declared circumcision and uncircumcision as unimportant because there is a new creation (Galatians 6:15-16). In context ‘The Israel of God’ can only mean that new creation, the church of Christ, otherwise he is being inconsistent.

The point behind both of these passages is that all Christians become, by adoption, members of the twelve tribes. There would be no point in mentioning circumcision if he was not thinking of incorporation into the twelve tribes. The importance of circumcision was that to the Jews it made the difference between those who became genuine proselytes, and thus members of the twelve tribes, and those who remained as ‘God-fearers’, loosely attached but not accepted as full Jews. That is why Paul argues that Christians have been circumcised in heart (Romans 2:26; Romans 2:29; Romans 4:12; Philippians 3:3; Colossians 2:11).

Again in Romans he points out to the Gentiles that there is a remnant of Israel which is faithful to God and they are the true Israel (Romans 11:5). The remainder have been cast off (Romans 10:27, 29; Romans 11:15; Romans 11:17; Romans 11:20). Then he describes the Christian Gentiles as ‘grafted in among them’ becoming ‘partakers with them of the root of the fatness of the olive tree’ (Romans 11:17). They are thus now part of the same tree so it is clear that he regards them as now being part of the faithful remnant of Israel. This is again declared quite clearly in Galatians. For ‘those who are of faith, the same are the sons of Abraham’ (Galatians 3:7).

The privilege of being a ‘son of Abraham’ is that one is adopted into the twelve tribes of Israel. It is they who proudly called themselves ‘the sons of Abraham’ (John 8:39; John 8:53). That is why in the one man in Christ Jesus there can be neither Jew nor Gentile (Galatians 3:28). For ‘if you are Abraham’s seed, you are heirs according to the promise’ (Galatians 3:29). To be Abraham’s ‘seed’ within the promise is to be a member of the twelve tribes. The reference to ‘seed’ is decisive.

That is why Paul can say, ‘he is not a Jew who is one outwardly --- he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and the circumcision is that of the heart’ (Romans 2:28-29 compare Romans 2:26). In the light of these passages it cannot really be doubted that the early church saw the converted Gentile as becoming members of the twelve tribes of Israel. They are ‘the seed of Abraham’, ‘sons of Abraham’, spiritually circumcised, grafted in to the true Israel, fellow-citizens with the saints in the commonwealth of Israel, the Israel of God. What further evidence do we need?

When James writes to ‘the twelve tribes which are of the dispersion’ (James 1:1) (Jews living away from Palestine were seen as dispersed around the world and were therefore thought of as ‘the dispersion’) there is not a single hint that he is writing other than to all in the churches. He sees the whole church as having become members of the twelve tribes, as the true dispersion, and indeed refers to their ‘assembly’ with the same word used for synagogue (James 2:2). But he can also call them ‘the church’ (James 5:14).

There is not even the slightest hint in the remainder of the epistle that he has just one section of the church in mind. In view of the importance of the subject, had he not been speaking of the whole church he must surely have commented on the attitude of Jewish Christians to Christian Gentiles, especially in the light of the ethical content of his letter, but there is not even a whisper of it. He speaks as though to the whole church.

Peter also writes to ‘the elect’ and calls them ‘sojourners of the dispersion’ and when he speaks of ‘Gentiles’ is clearly assuming that those under that heading are not Christians (1 Peter 2:12; 1 Peter 4:3). So it is apparent he too sees all Christians as members of the twelve tribes (as above ‘the dispersion’ means the twelve tribes scattered around the world). Good numbers of Gentiles were becoming members of the Jewish faith at that time, and on being circumcised were accepted by the Jews as members of the twelve tribes (as proselytes). In the same way the apostles, who were all Jews and also saw the pure in Israel as God’s chosen people, saw the converted Gentiles as being incorporated into the new Israel.

Today we may not think in these terms but it is apparent that to the early church to become a Christian was to become a member of the twelve tribes of Israel. That is why there was such a furore over whether circumcision, the covenant sign of the Jew, was necessary for Christians. It was precisely because they were seen as entering the twelve tribes that many saw it as required. Paul’s argument against it is never that Christians do not become members of the twelve tribes (as we have seen he argues that they do) but that what matters is spiritual circumcision, ‘the circumcision of Christ’, not physical circumcision. Thus early on Christians unquestionably saw themselves as the true twelve tribes of Israel.

This receives confirmation from the fact that the seven churches (the universal church) is seen in terms of the seven lampstands in chapter 1. The sevenfold lampstand in the Tabernacle and Temple represented Israel. In the seven lampstands the churches are seen as the true Israel.

Given that fact it is clear that reference here to the hundred and forty four thousand is to Christians. But it is equally clear that the numbers are not to be taken literally. There is no example anywhere else in Scripture where God selects people on such an exact basis (the seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:18) were also a round number based on seven as the number of divine perfection and completeness). The reason for the seemingly exact figures is in order to demonstrate that God has His people numbered and that not one is missing (compare Numbers 31:48-49). The message of these verses is that in the face of persecution to come, and of God’s judgments against men, God knows and remembers His own.

It is noticeable that this description of the twelve tribes is a little artificial in another respect. While Judah is placed first as the tribe from which Christ came, Dan is omitted, and Manasseh is included as well as Joseph, although Manasseh was the son of Joseph. Thus the omission of Dan is deliberate, and Ephraim, Joseph’s other son, is included under Joseph’s name. (This artificiality confirms that the tribes are not to be taken literally). The exclusion of Dan is presumably because he is a tool of the Serpent (Genesis 49:17), and the exclusion of the two names is because of their specific connection with idolatry.

In Deuteronomy 29:17-20 the warning was given that God would ‘blot out his name from under heaven’, when speaking of those who gave themselves up to idolatrous worship and belief, and as we have seen idolatry and uncleanness were central in the warnings to the seven churches. Thus the exclusion of the names of Ephraim and Dan are a further warning against such things.

The names of both Ephraim and Dan are specifically connected with idolatry in such a way as to make them distinctive. Hosea declared, ‘Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone, their drink is become sour, they commit whoredom continually’ (Hosea 4:17-18). This is distinctly reminiscent of the sins condemned in the seven churches. It is true that Ephraim here means the whole of Israel, as often, but John saw the connection with idolatry and whoredom as besmirching thenameof Ephraim (Ephraimites are included under Joseph, it is the name that is excluded).

As for Dan, it was a man of the tribe of Dan who ‘blasphemed the Name’ (Leviticus 24:11), it was Dan that was first to set up a graven image (Judges 18:30) and Dan was the only tribe mentioned as being the site of one of the calves of gold set up by Jeroboam, as Amos stresses (Amos 8:14; 1 Kings 12:29-30; 2 Kings 10:29). Amos directly connects the name of Dan with ‘the sin of Samaria’. Thus Dan is closely connected with blasphemy and idolatry. And to cap it all ‘Dan will be a serpent in the way, and adder in the path’ (Genesis 49:17). He is the tool of the Serpent. Typologically he is the Judas of the twelve. How could he not be excluded? It is also voices in Dan and Ephraim which declare the evil coming on Jerusalem (Jeremiah 4:15), closely connecting the two.

That what is excluded is the name of Ephraim and not its people (they are included in Joseph) is significant. Thus the message of these omissions is that those who partake in idolatry and sexual misbehaviour will be excluded from the new Israel (compare the warnings to the churches, especially Thyatira). The exclusion of Dan is to warn us that those who are not genuine will be excluded.

So in the face of the future activity of God against the world He provides His people with protection, and marks them off as distinctive from those who bear the mark of the Beast. God protects His true people. There is no reason for seeing these people as representing other than the church of the current age. The fact is that we are continually liable to persecution, and while not all God’s judgments have yet been visited on the world, we have experienced sufficient to know that we are not excluded. In John’s day it was telling the church that God had sealed them, so that while they must be ready for the persecution to come, they need not fear the coming judgments of God that he will now reveal, for they are under His protection.

The New Testament tells us that all God’s true people are sealed by God. Abraham received circumcision as a seal of ‘the righteousness of (springing from) faith’ (Romans 4:11), but circumcision is replaced in the New Testament by the ‘seal of the Spirit’ (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:30). It is clear that Paul therefore sees all God’s people as being ‘sealed’ by God in their enjoyment of the indwelling Holy Spirit and this would suggest that John’s description here is a dramatic representation of that fact. His people have been open to spiritual attack from earliest New Testament days (and before) and it is not conceivable that they have not enjoyed God’s seal of protection on them. Thus the seal here in Revelation may refer to the sealing (or if someone considers it future, a re-sealing) with the Holy Spirit of promise. The whole idea behind the scene is in order to stress that all God’s people have been specially sealed.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Revelation 7:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/revelation-7.html. 2013.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

The specific references to Israel and the names of the12Israelite tribes strongly suggest that the nation of Israel is in view rather than the church. [Note: For a discussion of the accuracy of the number144,000, see Christopher R. Smith, "The Tribes of Revelation 7 and the Literary Competence of John the Seer," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society38:2 (June1995):213-18.] Most posttribulationists and amillennialists believe the144,000 are members of "spiritual Israel," a title of theirs for the church. [Note: E.g, Mounce, p168; Morris, p175; Beasley-Murray, p140; Ladd, p114-16; Swete, p99; and Beale, p413.] Gundry called them ""orthodox" [though unconverted] Jews who will resist the seduction of the Antichrist." [Note: Gundry, p82.] He believed God will supernaturally keep them from dying during the Tribulation. He also believed they will accept Jesus Christ when He returns at the Second Coming, and they will populate the millennial kingdom. The problem with this view is that these witnesses appear to be believers in Jesus Christ. Many interpreters take the number144,000 as symbolic of all God"s servants in the Tribulation. [Note: E.g, Johnson, pp463,481; and Ladd, p117.]

"Though admittedly ingenious, the case for symbolism is exegetically weak. The principal reason for the view is a predisposition to make the144,000 into a group representative of the church with which no possible numerical connection exists. No justification can be found for understanding the simple statement of fact in Revelation 7:4 as a figure of speech. It is a definite number in contrast with the indefinite number of Revelation 7:9. If it is taken symbolically, no number in the book can be taken literally." [Note: Thomas, Revelation 1-7, p474.]

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 7:4". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/revelation-7.html. 2012.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

I heard the number of them that were sealed. By these determinate numbers need only be understood a great number of Jews converted and saved, though much greater was the number of the saved taken from among the Gentiles of all nations, of which it is said, I saw a great multitude, which no man could number, &c. (Witham) --- The number of one hundred and forty-four thousand is not to be taken in a literal and strict sense, but to express in general terms the great number of the elect; for it appears that the tribe of Dan, which certainly must have produced some elect, is not mentioned, and the tribe of Joseph is put in lieu of that of Ephraim: so that if it be supposed that these numbers must be taken literally, the tribe of Joseph would have produced a double number to that of any other tribe, since Manasses was his son, and the tribe of Dan would have produced none. (Ven. Bede)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Revelation 7:4". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/revelation-7.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

them which were = the.

an hundred, &c. See App-197.

children. App-108.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Revelation 7:4". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/revelation-7.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel. Twelve is the number of the tribes, appropriate to the Church: three by four: three, the divine, multiplied by four, the number for worldwide extension. Twelve by twelve, fixity and completeness: taken a thousandfold in 144,000. A thousand implies the world perfectly pervaded by the divine; for it is ten, the world number, raised to the power of three, the number of God.

Of all the tribes - `out of every tribe:' not 144,000 of each, but the aggregate of the 12,000 from every tribe.

Children - `sons of Israel.' Revelation 3:12; Revelation 21:12, are no objection to the literal Israel being meant; for, in consummated glory, still the Church will be that "built on the foundation of the (Twelve) apostles (Israelites), Jesus Christ (an Israelite) being the chief cornerstone." Gentile believers shall have the name Jerusalem written on them, as having the heavenly citizenship antitypical to the literal Jerusalem.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Revelation 7:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/revelation-7.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(4) And I heard the number of them . . . Translate, And I heard the number of the sealed: there were a hundred and forty and four thousand sealed out of every tribe of the sons of Israel. There are two or three questions which these verses suggest. What are we to understand by the number twelve thousand from each tribe? Who are these who are drawn from the tribes of Israel? Why is there a change of the order and name of the tribes? It may help us to clearer thoughts to take the second of these questions first. (1) Who are these one hundred and forty-four thousand? An answer to this has been partly anticipated in our previous comments; but perhaps a fuller consideration is needed. Some have thought that the sealed ones must be Jewish Christians: i.e., they are disposed to take the twelve tribes literally. The scope of the previous verses seems decisive against this view. The time of judgment and trial is drawing near; we have seen the tokens of the coming storm in the opening of the sixth seal; our wish is to know the lot of the saints of God; this chapter answers this wish: they are safe, having the seal of God. Now, to limit the answer to the Israelitish Christians is to break in abruptly upon the general flow of thought with a bold literalism. The sealed ones are explained to be the servants of God; the description which follows proclaims them to be the “Israel of God.” It would be a strange leap away from the subject to introduce a sudden limitation of thought. Nor is there any necessity for doing so. Israelitish and Jewish names are freely adopted by the sacred writers, and used in a spiritual sense without any explanation of such usage; and the Apostle most emphatically laid down the principle that “he is not a Jew which is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh, but he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit and not in the letter” (Romans 2:28-29); and the principle he applies by affirming that in Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek” (Galatians 3:28). The Christian Church absorbs the Jewish, inherits her privileges, and adopts, with wider and nobler meaning, her phraseology. She has her Jerusalem, but it is a heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:22): a Jerusalem from above (Galatians 4:26): a new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2; see Revelation 3:12); and to that Jerusalem of God the true Israel of God, the chosen generation and royal priesthood of every age, turn the eye of faith. It is needless to say that this view does not rob, as it has been said, the Jew of God’s promises; it only intensifies those promises by showing the growth of that Church in which the Jew may yet find the truest consummation of his holiest and highest hopes, and into which God is yet able to graft them in again (Romans 11:23; Romans 11:25-26), and in which he may yet play a part loftier than men dream of. (2) How are we to understand the numbers? As we cannot adopt the literal interpretation of the tribes of Israel, still less can we admit a literal interpretation of the numbers here mentioned; but they are not on this ground to be looked upon as meaningless numbers: there is an appropriate symbolism in the numbers of the Apocalypse. Twelve is used as the number of those who in every age have been called out to witness for some truth which the world needed. Thus the twelve tribes of Israel were the appointed witnesses of a pure theology and a pure morality in the days of idolatry and license; and later, the twelve Apostles became the inheritors of a similar, though higher, spiritual work in the world. The number twelve, then, stands for a world-witness of divine truth; and the fruits of this world-witness is a wide and sustained success: the twelve multiplied by the twelve a thousand-fold—“the native and not degenerate progeny of the Apostles apostolically multiplied” (Mede, quoted by Dr. Currey). The skeleton organisation is twelve, the college of the Apostles; the one hundred and forty-four thousand represent the growth into full numbers of the choice ones of God. (3) Does the change in the order and names of the tribes symbolise anything? The alterations are not without significance. They are briefly these: The tribe of Dan is omitted, and the name of Ephraim does not appear, but the number is made up to twelve by two representatives of Joseph: Manasseh, who stands sixth in order, and Joseph (superseding the name, but representing the tribe of Ephraim), who is placed eleventh on the list. The number twelve is maintained to show that in all changes God’s purposes stand. The omission of one tribe and the changed name of another are designed to show that in the Church, as in Israel, the most splendid opportunities may be lost. Dan, once a tribe, and not an insignificant tribe, which had reared its heroes, gradually lapsed into idolatry and immorality, dwindled in numbers and importance, and at length disappeared, and as a tribe became extinct. Its omission in this list is a silent but emphatic comment on the sacred warnings: “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” “Begin not to say we have Abraham to our father: God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” Similarly, Ephraim, as has been suggested by a thoughtful writer, who exalted himself in Israel, is now lost in the greater name of Joseph. (Comp. Hosea 13:1; Hosea 10:11; Luke 18:14.) The order of the names is altered. Reuben no longer stands first: Judah has taken the firstborn’s place; and Levi, though named, does not occupy the third, the place of his birthright, but the eighth place. Here, again, the changes have their teachings. The unstable Reuben, with all his splendid advantages—the firstborn, the excellency of dignity and the excellency of power—failed to hold his own among his brethren; the fatal instability of his character accompanied his history, and weakened his otherwise pre-eminent powers; yet weak and erring, the type of the brilliant and vacillating, he is not an outcast altogether, but finds place, and high place, among the servants of God. Judah, lion-like, resolute, and strong, wins the foremost place; from him springs the true Ruler, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, to unfold the counsels of God, and to rule the world with a righteous sceptre. Levi’s subordinate position is thought to be due to the fact that the Mosaic ritual and Levitical priesthood are at an end. This may be so; the changes are the result of the actual history of the tribes, and illustrate how in the Christian Church, as in the Jewish, privileges may be lost, opportunities seized or cast away, offices and functions used for a time, and then laid aside when their work is accomplished; but in all and through all changes, God’s unchanging purpose runs onward to its certain close. The grouping of the tribes is, as has been pointed out, in the order of closest kinship: “We find not one violent separation of those who are naturally united, where both are truly members of the Israel of God” (Rev. C. H. Waller, Names on Gates of Pearl).

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Revelation 7:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/revelation-7.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.
I heard
9:16
an
14:1,3; Genesis 15:5; Romans 9:27; 11:5,6
all
Ezekiel 47:13; 48:19,31; Zechariah 9:1; Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30; Acts 26:7; James 1:1
Reciprocal: Genesis 28:14 - thy seed;  Genesis 35:22 - Now the sons;  Genesis 49:28 - every one;  Exodus 1:1 - GeneralExodus 28:21 - according to the twelve;  Numbers 1:5 - Elizur;  Numbers 1:17 - GeneralNumbers 1:46 - GeneralNumbers 26:55 - by lot;  1 Kings 18:31 - twelve stones;  2 Chronicles 11:3 - to all Israel;  Ezra 6:17 - according to;  Psalm 115:14 - Lord;  Ezekiel 36:38 - the waste;  Luke 14:22 - and yet;  Acts 3:26 - first;  Ephesians 1:10 - he;  Ephesians 3:15 - the whole;  Revelation 9:4 - which;  Revelation 21:12 - and names;  Revelation 21:17 - an

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Revelation 7:4". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/revelation-7.html.

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

The number of those who were sealed is given in exact and equal figures, which makes us know that it is all another expression of figurative speech and that the meaning is that great numbers of true Christians had won the stamp of approval from the Lord. Tribes of the children of Israel, it is known that after the conversion of Cornelius in the first t"our years of the Gospel, the Gentiles furnished many converts to Christ. Hence there were many of those who were perse- cuted as well as of the Jews. The reference to the twelve tribes is therefore accommodative, similar to the instance in James 1:1.

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Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Revelation 7:4". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/znt/revelation-7.html. 1952.

Hanserd Knollys' Commentary on Revelation

Revelation 7:4

Revelation 7:4 And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.

These

hundred and forty and four thousand

sealed ones were the seed of Abraham, Israelites indeed, the children of Abraham by faith, { Galatians 3:7; Galatians 3:26; Galatians 3:28-29; Revelation 14:1-5, etc} that Isaiah, a certain number known unto God and Christ, put for an indefinite number, not known unto any but God the Father, Word and Holy Spirit. { Revelation 7:9}

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Knollys, Hanserd. "Commentary on Revelation 7:4". "Hanserd Knollys' Commentary on Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hkc/revelation-7.html.

Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Revelation 7:4. And I heard the number of those who were sealed, an hundred and forty and four thousand, that were sealed out of all the tribes of the children of Israel. The act of sealing is not expressly reported to have been brought to a close, but the Seer passes on abruptly to what presupposes it to have been actually finished. The "I heard" is particularly to be noted. Zllig: "The number is too great for the Seer to have ascertained it by his own reckoning, and yet it must be a quite definite number. Hence he aptly feigns (!) that he heard it announced." The "I heard" here coincides with "the great multitude, which no one could number," in Revelation 7:9, and disproves the opinion of those who, because a determinate number is mentioned here, while there the (relative) innumerableness is spoken of, would conclude that in the latter passage a different company is meant.

That the number 144,000 has not a statistical, but a purely theological value, is evident from the way it is made up. A great multitude of believers, that no one can number, could not be more appropriately indicated than by this number. Twelve is the signature of the church (see my Commentary on Balaam, p. 72), and as such is often used in this book itself—comp. ch. Revelation 12:1, where the woman, who represents the church, has a crown of twelve stars, Revelation 21:12, where the city has twelve gates, Revelation 21:14, where the walls of the city have twelve foundations, Revelation 21:16-17, the four and twenty elders. In its simplest and most elementary form, this number presents itself in the twelve patriarchs and the twelve apostles, the two sources of the stream of the church. The idea of" the great multitude" of believers is expressed thus: the fundamental number is multiplied by itself, as in Revelation 21:17, and then by thousands, as in Revelation 21:16. While Bengel is here at great pains to rescue the definite number, because with the recognition of the truth here light falls also upon other numbers of the Revelation—those numbers, which lie at the bottom of his castle in the air, his apocalyptic chronology

Bossuet clearly perceived the right view, and distinctly announced it. He says, "This passage alone ought to make it manifest, how greatly they deceive themselves, who would always apprehend an exact and definite number in the numbers of the Apocalypse. For, can it be imagined, that there was precisely in each tribe twelve thousand elect, neither more nor less, to make up this total number of 144,000? It is not by such minutiae, nor with such scrupulous littleness of spirit, that the sacred oracles should be explained. It is necessary to understand in the numbers of the Apocalypse a certain mystical reason, to which the Holy Spirit seeks to draw our attention. The mystery, which we are to learn here, is, that the number twelve, sacred in the synagogue and in the church, because of the twelve patriarchs and the twelve apostles, is multiplied by itself, in order to make twelve thousand in each tribe, and twelve times twelve thousand in all the tribes together, that we might perceive the faith of patriarchs and of apostles multiplied in their successors; and in the solidity of a number so perfectly square, the eternal immutability of the truth of God and of his apostles." If the number is rightly understood, all such questions, as whether the 144,000 are so many individual souls, or whether so many men belong to them, fall entirely into abeyance.

The same 144,000, whose preservation amid the plagues that were to come upon the earth is here represented, meet us again in ch. Revelation 14:1; Revelation 14:3, in their state of heavenly glory; substantially also here in the same state, in Revelation 7:9, ss., only that the number is not expressly repeated. Both the preservation and the glory are at the same time pledged to the true members of the church, and besides these a third, citizenship in the New Jerusalem.

The sealed are out of all the tribes of the children of Israel. It is no contradiction to this, that Dan is not named in the following enumeration; the omission merely shows, that according to the Seer's point of view Dan was excluded from the number of the tribes of Israel. But this very omission of the tribe of Dan is a proof that the Seer spake of the tribes of the children of Israel, not in a Jewish, but in an Israelitish-Christian sense. In the sacred books of the Old Testament the wicked appear, in spite of their fleshly descent from Jacob, as cut off from their people. But, on the other hand, native heathens, under certain restrictions, were on account of their faith naturalized in Israel; and the prophets announced, that one day these restrictions were to be abolished, and the naturalization of believing heathen, going hand in hand with the exclusion of the false seed, shall proceed with great rapidity. So, for example, Isaiah in Isaiah 56:6-7, and Ezekiel in Ezekiel 47:22-23, "And it shall come to pass, that ye shall divide it (the land) by lot for an inheritance among you, and to the strangers that sojourn among you, who shall beget children among you; and they shall be unto you as born in the country among the children of Israel; they shall have inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel. And it shall come to pass, that in what tribe the stranger sojourneth, there shall ye give him his inheritance, saith the Lord God." Michaelis: "The distinction of races which existed under the Old Covenant shall be abolished;" see also Hvernick on the passage. Now that Israel and his tribes are mentioned here in this sense, that the Christian church is what is meant by them, as being the legitimate continuation of ancient Israel, not only appears from the omission already referred to of the tribe of Dan, and from the equality of the numbers in the small and the great tribes, but will also be still farther proved at ch. 11 from the effacing there of all tribe-distinctions. Those who with Bengel hold stiffly to the point, that Israel is here spoken of in the natural sense, entangle themselves in the difficulty, that the Jewish Christians, to whom by their view the promise exclusively belongs, cannot possibly be separated from the others. Bengel himself says: "With the Jews, who for so long a period have assumed, whether willingly or by constraint, the Christian name, circumcision has been renounced, and the multitudes of their descendants have become intermingled with the heathen, so that it is impossible for us to know who among us may have derived our descent from Jews or heathen; as, on the other hand, a Jew does not know whether he may not have partly sprung from a proselyte." Besides, the following argument is irresistible: the plagues, against which the sealing brings security, pass over the whole earth, threaten alike all who, according to Re 59-10, have been redeemed by the blood of Christ out of every kindred and tongue, people and nation, and made kings and priests to their God; not a word being said as to any separate division of Jewish Christians. But how unlikely is it that the Seer should have obtained consolation only for a part of those that were in danger! What should fill all with anxiety required to be met with consolation for all; and so, according to Revelation 7:3, the servants of God generally must be sealed. To understand by these simply the Jewish Christians, is the greatest arbitrariness. Bengel says: "As certainly as the tribe of Judah is that from which the victorious Lion, the Lamb, sprung (ch Revelation 5:5), so certainly are all the tribes here to be literally understood." But the question is not whether literally or non-literally; but whether with the inclusion or the exclusion of the adopted children, who through faith have become incorporated? And the former has on its side the analogy among Israel of the excision of the false seed, the entire omission of Dan, and the circumstance that in the rest it is not the whole tribes that are sealed, but only a limited number out of each. Besides, though the tribes were to be understood literally, the enumeration of tilt particular tribes could still have only an ideal import. They serve merely to embody the thought that the preservation shall extend alike to all parts of the church. This results simply from the consideration that at the time the Apocalypse was composed, the distinction of tribes had already in great part vanished, then from the omission of one whole tribe, which could never have taken place if a real numbering had been meant, further from the absolute equality of the numbers obtained from the small and the great alike, &c.

Ewald admits that it is not Jewish Christians specially who are spoken of, but the whole Christian church; in the transference, however, of the name of Israel to Christians, he conceives he finds a proof of the Judaizing disposition of the author. But if a fault were really to be discovered in this, it must necessarily be a quite common one (Ewald would ascribe it to the author of the Revelation in contrast to Paul and John); since the Saviour himself took the lead in designating his church by the name of Israel, Matthew 19:28, and chose his apostles with a respect to the number of the tribes of Israel; comp. the introductory investigations to ch. 11. The name arose out of a consideration of the continuity of the church, which doubtless cannot but look very strange to an age that has been so much accustomed to tear asunder the Old and New Testaments from each other.

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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Revelation 7:4". Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/heg/revelation-7.html.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

4.And I heard the number—Omitting the element of time, the present verse assumes the sealing as all done and the number reported. The whole number, not including the great multitude of Revelation 7:9; but the number of the sealed of all the tribes of’ Israel is alone given.

A hundred and forty and four thousand—A decisive instance of an exact for an inexact number, and decisive proof that there are symbol-numbers as well as symbol-objects. The basis is the symbol tribal-number, twelve; it is squared and multiplied by the cube of the number of universality, ten. It is, therefore, the churchly number, raised by multiplication of itself to a seemly magnitude, with the decimal symbolizing the inclusion of an immense whole. See notes on Revelation 9:16; Revelation 11:13; Revelation 20:4.

 

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Revelation 7:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/revelation-7.html. 1874-1909.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Revelation 7:4. After a pause, in which the sealing is supposed to have taken place, the writer hears that the number of the sealed is the stereotyped 144,000, twelve thousand from each of the twelve tribes of Israel (a “thousand” being the primitive subdivision of a clan or tribe, like the English shire into “hundreds”). The enumeration of these tribes (Revelation 7:5-8) contains two peculiarities, (a) the substitution of Joseph for Ephraim, a variation to which we have no clue, and (b) the omission of Dan. The latter reflects the growing disrepute into which Dan fell; it either stands last (e.g. in [912].; Joshua 19:40 f.; Judges 1:34) or drops out entirely, while it is curiously connected in the Talmud as already in Test. XII. Patr. (Daniel 5)’ with Beliar, and in Irenæus (5:30, 32) as in Hippolytus (de Antichr. 5, 6) with the origin of Antichrist. This sinister reputation (cf. A.C. 171–174, Selwyn 200–204, Erbes 77 f.), current long before Irenæus’ day, rested on the haggadic interpretation of passages like Genesis 49:17; Deuteronomy 33:22; and Jeremiah 8:16. Andreas, commenting on Revelation 16:12, thinks that Antichrist will probably come from Persia, .

[912] Codex Porphyrianus (sæc. ix.), at St. Petersburg, collated by Tischendorf. Its text is deficient for chap. Revelation 2:13-16.

 

 

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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Revelation 7:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/revelation-7.html. 1897-1910.

The Bible Study New Testament

4. And I was told the number. John does not see the number, he hears it! 144,000. Numbers have symbolic meanings [this was especially true with the ancient peoples]. This number (144,000)is formed by multiplying 3(the Trinity) by 4(the total Creation, because the redeemed come from the “four corners” of the world), which makes 12. This number (12)becomes the symbol of the Father acting through the Son in the Spirit to set men free from their sins (3×4 = 12). To show God’s people in both the Old and New Testaments, we multiply 12times 12(12 Tribes: 12 Apostles)to get 144. Then to emphasize that it is the total number of God’s people, not just a small part, we multiply 144by 1, 000! [1,000 = 10 × 10 × 10 symbolic of perfect completeness.] This number 144,000represents the total Church Militant in both the Old and New Testaments [all those who do in fact belong to God]. The Church Militant is the messianic community of believers, at work in this world (First Seal). [The Redeemed in the Old Testament are included in this number, although not actually part of the church which Jesus built. However, they will share in the promise (Hebrews 11:39-40).]

 

 

 

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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Revelation 7:4". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/revelation-7.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.