Remarks on the Revelation: Part 4

Revelation  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 12
The character of the cry expressed upon the earth under the action of this seal, and the universality of it, is of special importance to us, as connected with the sealing of the remnant from among Israel; for, as the character of the four first seals, when taken in connection with the fifth, shows that no signs, as of God's interfering in open judgment of the world, will precede the rapture of the saints; so this shows that the manifestation of Israel as connected with God follows, and not precedes, our removal; a fact, I believe, of great importance. The cry had been universal from the earth, and therefore had included the nation of Israel; for had any of them been in conscious association with God, the cry would, so far forth, have not been universal. But however God might ere this have been dealing with Israel preparatively, none of them had been brought out into either conscious or recognized relationship with Him. This accordingly follows the sealing of a new witness (naturally more connected with the fortunes of the earth), as God's witness among the Gentiles when He comes in to judge them for their conduct during the proclamation of grace. As I said before, their being of Israel speaks volumes concerning the grace of God, and is a most blessed vindication of the power of His own truth and grace. The sealing of this new witness is evidently connected with the judgments which were coming.
To the panic and cry consequent upon it, God answers by sending four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, and they take their place on the four corners of the earth, to withhold the wind in its passage. They were, however, prohibited hurting anything by another angel, until he should have sealed the servants of God in their foreheads. Some have argued against these twelve tribes being literally of Israel, because Dan is omitted, and Levi inserted. As to the first objection, it does not seem valid, because Simeon is omitted in the blessing of Moses. (Deut. 33) That Dan has a place in the land is evident from Ezek. 48:1-321Now these are the names of the tribes. From the north end to the coast of the way of Hethlon, as one goeth to Hamath, Hazar-enan, the border of Damascus northward, to the coast of Hamath; for these are his sides east and west; a portion for Dan. 2And by the border of Dan, from the east side unto the west side, a portion for Asher. 3And by the border of Asher, from the east side even unto the west side, a portion for Naphtali. 4And by the border of Naphtali, from the east side unto the west side, a portion for Manasseh. 5And by the border of Manasseh, from the east side unto the west side, a portion for Ephraim. 6And by the border of Ephraim, from the east side even unto the west side, a portion for Reuben. 7And by the border of Reuben, from the east side unto the west side, a portion for Judah. 8And by the border of Judah, from the east side unto the west side, shall be the offering which ye shall offer of five and twenty thousand reeds in breadth, and in length as one of the other parts, from the east side unto the west side: and the sanctuary shall be in the midst of it. 9The oblation that ye shall offer unto the Lord shall be of five and twenty thousand in length, and of ten thousand in breadth. 10And for them, even for the priests, shall be this holy oblation; toward the north five and twenty thousand in length, and toward the west ten thousand in breadth, and toward the east ten thousand in breadth, and toward the south five and twenty thousand in length: and the sanctuary of the Lord shall be in the midst thereof. 11It shall be for the priests that are sanctified of the sons of Zadok; which have kept my charge, which went not astray when the children of Israel went astray, as the Levites went astray. 12And this oblation of the land that is offered shall be unto them a thing most holy by the border of the Levites. 13And over against the border of the priests the Levites shall have five and twenty thousand in length, and ten thousand in breadth: all the length shall be five and twenty thousand, and the breadth ten thousand. 14And they shall not sell of it, neither exchange, nor alienate the firstfruits of the land: for it is holy unto the Lord. 15And the five thousand, that are left in the breadth over against the five and twenty thousand, shall be a profane place for the city, for dwelling, and for suburbs: and the city shall be in the midst thereof. 16And these shall be the measures thereof; the north side four thousand and five hundred, and the south side four thousand and five hundred, and on the east side four thousand and five hundred, and the west side four thousand and five hundred. 17And the suburbs of the city shall be toward the north two hundred and fifty, and toward the south two hundred and fifty, and toward the east two hundred and fifty, and toward the west two hundred and fifty. 18And the residue in length over against the oblation of the holy portion shall be ten thousand eastward, and ten thousand westward: and it shall be over against the oblation of the holy portion; and the increase thereof shall be for food unto them that serve the city. 19And they that serve the city shall serve it out of all the tribes of Israel. 20All the oblation shall be five and twenty thousand by five and twenty thousand: ye shall offer the holy oblation foursquare, with the possession of the city. 21And the residue shall be for the prince, on the one side and on the other of the holy oblation, and of the possession of the city, over against the five and twenty thousand of the oblation toward the east border, and westward over against the five and twenty thousand toward the west border, over against the portions for the prince: and it shall be the holy oblation; and the sanctuary of the house shall be in the midst thereof. 22Moreover from the possession of the Levites, and from the possession of the city, being in the midst of that which is the prince's, between the border of Judah and the border of Benjamin, shall be for the prince. 23As for the rest of the tribes, from the east side unto the west side, Benjamin shall have a portion. 24And by the border of Benjamin, from the east side unto the west side, Simeon shall have a portion. 25And by the border of Simeon, from the east side unto the west side, Issachar a portion. 26And by the border of Issachar, from the east side unto the west side, Zebulun a portion. 27And by the border of Zebulun, from the east side unto the west side, Gad a portion. 28And by the border of Gad, at the south side southward, the border shall be even from Tamar unto the waters of strife in Kadesh, and to the river toward the great sea. 29This is the land which ye shall divide by lot unto the tribes of Israel for inheritance, and these are their portions, saith the Lord God. 30And these are the goings out of the city on the north side, four thousand and five hundred measures. 31And the gates of the city shall be after the names of the tribes of Israel: three gates northward; one gate of Reuben, one gate of Judah, one gate of Levi. 32And at the east side four thousand and five hundred: and three gates; and one gate of Joseph, one gate of Benjamin, one gate of Dan. (Ezekiel 48:1‑32). I think any one tracing the mention of the twelve tribes will find, after the division of Joseph into two, that one is generally suppressed—I say this as the result of investigation, be it right or wrong, though I have not space to go into it now. I would add, that the reason for not mentioning Levi in portions of scripture which look at the land as dwelt in by the nation, obviously does not hold good here, where the question is not about the land, but about witness before the nations. These one hundred and forty-four thousand, I conceive, are those referred to in the fifth seal as “to be killed;” they seem to be the witnesses for God, onward to the close of the Book of Revelation, and, suffering with Him even unto death, get their portion in the resurrection-glory and marriage-supper of the Lamb. If any one has well considered the church, as set up under Peter at Jerusalem, with the features distinctive and peculiar to it then, and the church, as under Paul over the whole earth, with the distinctive peculiarities of this state, he will be well able, I think, to understand after God has vindicated His truth and power in a remnant from among the Gentiles, as He seems doing now, that He should do likewise as to the Jews, and this, from its connection with the coming Lordship of Jesus, as well as from the light it sheds backward, would be the important thing. And this remnant of Israel, from the sealing onward, becomes “the saints,” whenever they are spoken of as on earth.
From this company just sealed, the apostle's eye next turns to and rests upon an innumerable multitude of all nations, and kindreds, and tongues, and people, standing before the very throne described in chapters 4 and 5. The notice of this I press as showing it is a scene altogether pre-millennial, for then they shall be upon the throne of Jesus, the bride with Him; and evidently it is not post-millennial, as some have said, for then this throne shall not be, but God be all in all, and they not in heaven, as John sees them, but the new heavens and the new earth their portion. Under the fifth seal white robes were given to them; here they appear habited in them, and, in addition, with palms in their hands. Their cry is now, “Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb;” a cry very different from that of the elders, in chapter 5, or that under the fifth seal, and one which could not have been sung then, because there was no manifestation of judgment; but now three things have marked to their intelligent eyes the nearness, if not presence, of the day of vengeance—namely, the earthquake, the four hurtful angels, and the sealing of the remnant of Israel. But it was this last which especially marked to them the rising up of the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and brought them into the position of witnessing the open display and exercise of the retributive power of God and the Lamb.
The response of the angels, identifying themselves herewith, as they worship God, is immediate, “Amen! Blessing,” &c. Their song, though addressed to God, and not to the Lamb, is in substance much the same as in chapter 5, but the order in the honors paid is inverted, and here they are ascriptions not only as there said to be due. The elders and beasts being present identify the throne with that of chapters 4 and 5—the former, however, now representing those on earth about to be killed from among Israel; for the number from among the Gentiles was closed, and, they were present. Peculiar emphasis and force is given to this scene by what follows: for, as if with the express purpose of sealing the truth home to the thoughts of John, one of the elders asks him who they are who, out of all nations, kindreds, peoples, and tongues, are thus arrayed in white, and whence they come? John declines to answer, and then the elder explains; not, however, resting upon the things by which as on earth they had been known, for that had been noted, “they were of all nations, kindreds,” &c.; but noticing that by which they had been known to heaven, their much tribulation, and use of the blood of the Lamb for cleansing; and than he passes on, after just touching upon these things, to rest upon the fact of their present and complete exemption from all suffering, and realized association, even at that time, with God and the Lamb. And all this while the remnant from Israel is just sealed, and before one single trumpet, or vial of trouble, or sorrow, has been exhibited. The temple mentioned in this verse seems to me pre-millennial, for in the golden city there is no temple—and no sooner have the one thousand years commenced than the city becomes the dwelling-place of all that have suffered with Jesus. The dwelling in the temple of God, and serving Him there day and night, with the Lamb dwelling in the midst of them, I conceive to be the position they hold from the time of the sealing of the remnant of Israel till their next step in glory. As to the blessings common to this their position, and that afterward, as in chapter 21, I need not speak—nor, perhaps, need I say that I believe that the throne in chapters 4 and 5 is now, at this present time, the abode of the Lord.
The four first seals present heaven acting upon the earth in restraint and control: the fifth the state of things in heaven when such a state of things ceases to be: the sixth the state of the earth at the same epoch, first in itself, and then as to God's witness set in contrast with those in beaten. The seventh seals to which we now come, presents the actions of heaven over the earth in retributive power. But ere any of the agents of this can take their place, there is a silence of half an hour in heaven. The seven trumpet-angels take their stand; and He who had been in heaven as the Mediator and High Priest of the heavenly calling appears. The action is, to my mind, simple and clear, for His laying aside of the insignia of priestly intercession in the heavens becomes the signal for the commencement of trial and woe in the place where henceforth His witness is, and whence also, because it is there, His own intercession must arise. The action was in the temple, I judge, as presented in Hebrews, and is the closing up of His services there of that kind. He appears at the altar in. the temple with His censer, receives sweet incense, with which He offers up the prayers of all saints (contrasted, perhaps, with those at the time saints on earth), upon their ascending before God. He fills the censer with coals from the heavenly altar, and casts it down to earth, and the trouble begins. And thus, if I be right, we have proof upon proof, through the whole of this portion, how there is no sign whatever for which we can look as preceding our removal from earth to the presence of the Lord.
(Continued from page 192.)