Between the 6th and 7th seals there's a pause where two
important events take place, one on Earth and the other in Heaven. Both involve
the disposition of a group of God's people, but neither one is the Church. It won't be seen or heard from as a group
again until the end of chapter 17.
After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners
of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from
blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. Then I saw another angel
coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a
loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the
sea: "Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on
the foreheads of the servants of our God." Then I heard the number of
those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel. From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed,
from the tribe of Reuben 12,000, from the tribe of Gad 12,000, from the tribe
of Asher 12,000, from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000, from the tribe of Manasseh
12,000, from the tribe of Simeon 12,000, from the tribe of Levi 12,000, from
the tribe of Issachar 12,000, from the tribe of Zebulun
12,000, from the tribe of Joseph 12,000, from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000. (Rev. 7:1-8)
The multiple use of the number four here emphasizes that the
Creation is in focus, because by the end of the fourth Day of Creation light
had been separated from darkness, the atmosphere had been formed, the land had
been separated from the water, vegetation had begun to grow and with the
addition of the sun moon and stars, day had been distinguished from night. As
of Day Four the Creation was now complete and ready to support habitation, and
so the number four is the number of Creation.
But the judgment upon the Creation will be delayed until one
other event takes place. This is the
commissioning of the 144,000 Jews who many believe will evangelize the world
during Daniel's 70th week. Carrying the seal of God on their
foreheads protects them from the coming judgments. In Ezekiel 9:4 we
read of a similar case where before the City of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians,
angels went through out, searching for and sealing the faithful to protect them
from the destruction. Here the Lord
again delays the coming judgments until His faithful can be sealed.
After Jacob adopted Joseph's sons Ephraim and Manasseh, there were fourteen
names to choose from in naming the tribes of Israel. But the Bible never lists
more than 12 at a time, so sometimes the mix is different. The Levites received
no land and never went to war, so they're often omitted. Joseph was also left out when Ephraim and
Manasseh were included, since each of them received half of his tribe as an
inheritance. But in this listing Levi
and Joseph are included while Dan and Ephraim are not.
Most scholars believe that Dan was omitted because it was through the tribe
of Dan that idolatry was introduced into the land after Solomon died. (1
Kings 12:28-30) Jacob had prophesied in Genesis 49:17 that Dan
will be a serpent by the roadside, a viper along the path,
that bites the horse's heels so that its rider tumbles backward
hinting that Dan would be responsible for Israel's fall back into
idolatry. There's a tradition that Dan
was a ringleader in the kidnapping and sale of Joseph into slavery, and another
one that the anti-Christ will come from the tribe of Dan. For these or other reasons, no one from the
tribe of Dan is sealed. But God is
merciful, and at the beginning of the Kingdom Age when the land is
re-distributed, Dan receives the first share. (Ezekiel 48:1)
Although Ephraim is not mentioned by name, his people are included since
they make up the group called Joseph here.
Remember, the tribe of Joseph was divided between Ephraim and
Manasseh. By naming Joseph and Manasseh
to the list the people from both halves of Joseph's tribe are sealed without
mentioning Ephraim's name. 1 Kings
12:28-30 also tells us that a golden calf was set up in Bethel,
in the land of Ephraim, in addition to the one in Dan.
The Lord hates idolatry.
Efforts to spiritualize this passage into a group symbolic of all believers
are a woefully inadequate attempt by replacement theology advocates to deprive Israel of its
End Times role in God's redemptive plan.
The passage is simply too clear to justify allegorizing. And those who say the list can't be accurate
because 10 tribes disappeared in 721 BC when the Northern
Kingdom was scattered would do well to read 2 Chronicles 11:16.
Those from every tribe of Israel
who set their hearts on seeking the LORD, the God of Israel,
followed the Levites to Jerusalem
to offer sacrifices to the LORD, the God of their fathers. Josephus
reported that this caused a substantial increase in Jerusalem's population. God has always maintained a faithful
remnant of His people.
The Great Multitude in White Robes
After this I looked and there before me was a great
multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and
language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were
wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they
cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the
throne, and to the Lamb."
All the angels were standing around the throne and around
the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before
the throne and worshiped God, saying: "Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom
and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our
God for ever and ever. Amen!"
Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes—who are they,
and where did they come from?"
I answered, "Sir, you know."
And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great
tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of
the Lamb. Therefore, "they are before the throne of God and serve him day
and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent
over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun
will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For
the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them
to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their
eyes." (Rev. 7:9-17)
There are differing opinions as to who this multitude is. By their white
robes and their declaration as to the Author of their salvation, everyone
agrees that they're believers from Earth.
But the facts that John, the disciple most closely associated with the
Church, didn't recognize them, their arrival in Heaven follows the Rapture by
three chapters, and their destiny is that of servants in the Temple and not
co-regents of the Universe, mean they are post rapture believers and not part
of the Church. They've been caught up in
the destruction on Earth during the first half of the 70th Week and
have paid the ultimate price for their new-found faith.
They're called Tribulation martyrs or Tribulation saints, but technically
that's not accurate either, because the Great Tribulation hasn't begun
yet. We're still in the first half of
the 70th week.
How do we know that? The Greek word translated "out of" in the
phrase "these are they who have come out of the Great Tribulation" is
the same word that's translated "from" in Rev 3:10 in the
Lord's promise of deliverance for the Church. Since you have kept my command
to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going
to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth. According
to The Strong's Concordance it's a primary preposition denoting origin. It means "from, or out of, the place,
time, or cause" of a specified event.
So, like the Church, these saints been removed from the place, the time, and
the cause of the Great Tribulation. They
didn't come to faith in time for the Rapture so they won't share in the
Church's unique destiny and blessing.
But most likely being finally persuaded to faith by the Church's
disappearance, they'll be martyred early in the 70th week, and so
will escape the worst of it. Later on
the living will envy the dead so much that they'll long for death, but death
will elude them. (Rev. 9:6)
These saints will have a privileged existence in eternity, always in the
presence of the Lord. They'll serve Him
day and night in His Temple and will never want for anything. The Lord will spread His tent over them,
meaning that He'll be personally responsible for their welfare. They'll neither hunger nor thirst,
and the Lord will remove every regret from their minds, wiping every
tear from their eyes.
But neither will they ever sit on a throne at the side of their Beloved,
examples for all the Universe to see of the
incomparable riches of God's grace, expressed in His kindness to the Church,
His work of art (Ephes. 2:6-10).
They'll never share in His inheritance nor be counted among the most
favored group in all of Creation. When push came to shove they needed one final
incontrovertible sign that it was right to believe. Lacking the faith to accept what they could
not see, they required evidence. That
evidence came to them in the form of the Rapture of the Church, when those who
believed by faith alone disappeared before their very eyes. Too late, they
As the Lord said to Thomas, "Because you have seen me, you have
believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
With the coming seventh seal, the Trumpet judgments are introduced. This second cycle of judgments will complete
the first half of Daniel's 70th week and set the stage for the
introduction of the anti-Christ and the Great Tribulation.