Revelation 7

Revelation 7  •  13 min. read  •  grade level: 7
“AND after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads." (Verses 1-3. Compare Mark 13:2727And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven. (Mark 13:27).) We have seen in chapter 6, under the sixth seal, the awful catastrophe that will characterize the end of the present age, during the running out of the close of Daniel's seventieth week. At the commencement of chapter 8 we get the opening of the seventh seal, the last. And from thence onward, till the end of chapter 18, we find details of the ways and judgments of God during the last half-week. Chapter 7 comes in as a parenthesis. God in grace draws the curtain aside, and shows us, before unfolding the awful judgments of that period, that He will preserve a measured number from among the tribes of His ancient people Israel, and also a great multitude of Gentiles. They are brought through the judgments into blessing on earth, during the thousand years reign of Christ. Many have thought that these two companies are further presentations of the church of God. But Israelites lose their nationality when they come into the church. In the church, Jew and Gentile are members of one and the same body. (Eph. 3:5, 65Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; 6That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: (Ephesians 3:5‑6).) All who compose it are a new creation in Christ, and distinctions such as Jew and Gentile cease. Having put on the new man, there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. (Col. 3:10, 1110And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: 11Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:10‑11).) The church's position is heavenly; those of chapter 7 are blessed on the earth.
Our chapter tells us that after these things, i.e., after that which we have dwelt upon in chapter 6, John saw four angels. They were standing on the four corners of the earth. We must beware of "the letter" in such an allusion as this. We take the four corners to refer to the four cardinal points. These angels hold back the four winds of the earth, that it should neither blow on the earth, or the sea, or any tree. The reason is given in the verses following. Now Satan is the prince of the power of the air, and we get instances in scripture where he raises the wind for destruction. (See Job 1:1919And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. (Job 1:19), for example.) It appears, however, here that God by angelic instrumentality restrains for the moment the destructive power of the wind. It is in angel hands, and to be held back. Neither the earth, which we are inclined to look at figuratively as setting forth the sphere of the world which hitherto has been ordered and stable; nor the sea, the sphere which is in an unsettled,, disturbed, and revolutionary condition; nor any tree, individuals who stand out in prominence among men, were to be blown upon. A fifth angel explains why. He ascends from the east, or the sun rising. This is significant. That which is about to be done is in view of the day when Christ as the Sun of righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings. (Mal. 4:22But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. (Malachi 4:2).) He holds the seal of the living God in His hand. Christians are sealed with the Holy Ghost for the day of redemption and glory. (Eph. 1:1313In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, (Ephesians 1:13).) Here it is the seal of the living God. Those who are sealed with this seal are sealed that they may be preserved during the coming judgments, and to live long life on the earth. (Isa. 65:22; 66:2222They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. (Isaiah 65:22)
22For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain. (Isaiah 66:22)
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In Ezek. 9:1-111He cried also in mine ears with a loud voice, saying, Cause them that have charge over the city to draw near, even every man with his destroying weapon in his hand. 2And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer's inkhorn by his side: and they went in, and stood beside the brazen altar. 3And the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, whereupon he was, to the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed with linen, which had the writer's inkhorn by his side; 4And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. 5And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: 6Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house. 7And he said unto them, Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain: go ye forth. And they went forth, and slew in the city. 8And it came to pass, while they were slaying them, and I was left, that I fell upon my face, and cried, and said, Ah Lord God! wilt thou destroy all the residue of Israel in thy pouring out of thy fury upon Jerusalem? 9Then said he unto me, The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood, and the city full of perverseness: for they say, The Lord hath forsaken the earth, and the Lord seeth not. 10And as for me also, mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity, but I will recompense their way upon their head. 11And, behold, the man clothed with linen, which had the inkhorn by his side, reported the matter, saying, I have done as thou hast commanded me. (Ezekiel 9:1‑11), as six men who had charge over the city of Jerusalem were called, on account of its wickedness, to draw near, each with their slaughter weapon in their hand, one of their number, clothed with linen, and with a writer's inkhorn by his side, was commissioned to go through the midst, and to set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sighed and cried for all the abominations that were done in the midst. The others were then told to go through the city and smite without mercy, for the iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah was exceeding great. But the man clothed with linen, who had the inkhorn by his side, reported the matter, saying, I have done as thou hast commanded me.
Here, the angel with the seal cries with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given (in the just ways and judgment of God) to hurt the earth and the sea, saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have seated the servants of our God in their foreheads. It is blessed to remark how all through scripture mercy rejoices against judgment. The figure of a seal upon the forehead would manifestly distinguish these spared ones from the ungodly around.
“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.) It is deeply precious and interesting to see John, the beloved servant of the Lord, who pillowed his head upon his Master's bosom when upon the earth, taken here into His deep secrets. Jesus Christ makes known first to John, and then through him to His servants, things which must shortly come to pass. (Rev. 1:11The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: (Revelation 1:1).) Twelve thousand of all the tribes of Israel are sealed, commencing with Judah and closing with Benjamin. We read, "our Lord sprang out of Judah." Benjamin, which adjoins Judah, formed part of that kingdom, when the ten tribes were divided from the two after the death of Solomon. ( 1 Kings 12.) Twelve is the number in scripture which sets forth administrative completeness in relation to the earth. The twelve here is multiplied by thousands. A measured number of each tribe is sealed to be preserved of God through the pending judgments. The whole one hundred and forty four thousand are the aggregate of the nation, which God will establish and bless in the promised land. The Deliverer shall come out of Zion, and turn away ungodliness from Jacob, and so all Israel shall be saved. (Rom, 11:26.) They shall all know the Lord from the least to the greatest. (Heb. 8:10, 1110For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: 11And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. (Hebrews 8:10‑11).) Israel shall then blossom and bud, and bring forth fruit. (Isa. 27:66He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit. (Isaiah 27:6).)
It is to be noticed that Dan is omitted among the tribes, and Manasses, the firstborn of Joseph, supplies his place. Some have thought that the antichrist would come of the tribe of Dan. We are far more inclined to think that none but a Jew of Judah could impose himself upon the nation, seeing especially their jealousy in relation to genealogies. And it is further remarkable that when the tribes are called to divide the inheritance by lot in Ezek. 48, the first tribe mentioned is Dan; Ephraim and Manasseh are mentioned instead of Joseph; and Levi gets his portion within the confines of the holy oblation. We are not prepared to offer any suggestion as to Dan. But there are interesting scriptures to be weighed in relation to Joseph in Deut. 21:1717But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his. (Deuteronomy 21:17) and 1 Chron. 5:1, 21Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel, (for he was the firstborn; but, forasmuch as he defiled his father's bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel: and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright. 2For Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler; but the birthright was Joseph's:) (1 Chronicles 5:1‑2).
“After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb." (Verses 9, 10.) No student of scripture surely can fail to be interested in this great multitude of blest ones. Clearly they are Gentiles. They form such a vast company, that though God knows everyone, no man can number them. They are not whole nations, etc., themselves, but of or out of them. There is not a nation, tribe, people or tongue upon the whole of this wide globe, but God will have some out of them for Himself. They are not viewed as the heavenly saints (or elders) seated on thrones, but simply standing before the throne, and before the Lamb. They are clothed in white raiment,(showing their purity and fitness to stand). The ground of it we shall see a little lower down. "And palms [or palm branches] in their hands." Palm branches would be out of character in connection with a heavenly company. It gives one clear indication among others, that this company is an earthly one. When Israel shall keep the feast of tabernacles in the land, taking branches of palm trees, etc. (Lev. 23:4040And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. (Leviticus 23:40)), these Gentiles will be in association with them. They do not sing like the heavenly saints, but cry in a loud voice, with one tongue as it were, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. They ascribe their salvation which they enjoy to the One on the throne, recognizing Jehovah Elohim Shaddai as their God, and to the Lamb, the One who went into death for them.
Their salvation is a joy to the angelic hosts. All the angels stand round about the throne, and the elders and the living creatures. (Notice here that the elders are mentioned first.) And they all prostrate themselves upon their faces before God, adding their whole-hearted Amen to God's mercy to this vast innumerable company of saved ones, and ascribing blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might (or strength) unto our God, to the age of ages. And again they say Amen. He is the God of angels as well as of men.
“And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What [or who] are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest." It is remarkable that an elder puts this double question to John, Who are they, and where do they come from? But these white-robed multitudes are strangers to him. He neither knows them, nor whence they came. Hence, he replies, Sir, thou knowest. The elders, as we have already remarked, have the knowledge of God and of His ways. And in this vision the elder knows who this company is, and can tell John about them. John was assured that he knew. First, he tells the prophet that, "These are they which came out [or, come out] of [the] great tribulation." The definite article "the" is in the original, and it is of all-importance here. When Jacob's trouble is spoken of it is called "great tribulation," without the article. It is a question of the severity of the trial. But when the great tribulation is mentioned it is a question of the universal extent of trial. This company of Gentiles saved out of all nations, etc., passes through the tribulation that comes upon all parts of the world. "They come out of it," and enjoy God's salvation on earth in the kingdom, or age to come. "And have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." This gives the key to understanding the meaning of the raiment they wear in the vision. It is "white." The language employed in relation to their washing differs somewhat from that of Rev. 1:55And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, (Revelation 1:5). There it says, "and washed us." Here it is "washed their robes." But it is the same precious blood of God's Lamb. Without its shedding there is neither remission of sins nor fitness to stand before God. (Heb. 9:2222And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. (Hebrews 9:22); Eph. 2:1313But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13).)
“Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them [or, spread His tabernacle over them]. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat." (Verses 15, 16.) They are viewed not as elders seated on thrones round the central throne of God, but as before it. Having come out of the trial, and washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb, therefore they occupy this position of favor, and are privileged to serve Him day and night in His temple. This temple service is clearly on earth. They are privileged to serve day and night. In the heavenly sphere, when it is a question of the service of His servants, we read that "there is no night there." (Rev. 22:3-53And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: 4And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. 5And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 22:3‑5).) Presumably it will be the temple, which the Man whose Name is called the Branch shall build when the kingdom shall be established in His hand, of which we have a detailed description in Ezek. 40-44 We find in Isa. 56:77Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people. (Isaiah 56:7), that the house of the Lord shall be also a house of prayer for all people. And in Zech. 14:1616And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. (Zechariah 14:16) we are told that "it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.”
"And he that sitteth on the throne shall spread! his tabernacle over them," not dwell among them. This is the force 'of the original. There is a remarkable passage in Isa. 4:55And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence. (Isaiah 4:5), 6, in relation to mount Zion, which will be the earthly center of the Lord's kingdom, which seems to connect itself with that which we find here. This company, being associated with Israel in connection with the service in the temple, will apparently share with them other privileges and blessings. "Upon all the glory shall be a defense" (or, a covering). (Isa. 4:55And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence. (Isaiah 4:5).) "And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow," etc. It would be well for our readers to consider the whole passage. He will tabernacle over Jerusalem, and He will tabernacle over this innumerable company of Rev. 7 Verse 13 shows that during the terrible tribulation out of which they had come, they had suffered from the lack of the necessaries of life, and had been exposed without a proper shelter, for there is the precious promise that they shall neither hunger nor thirst any more, neither should they be 'any more exposed to the fierce rays of the sun, nor any burning heat. In that glorious day, the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne, and for whose name they had suffered, will more than make up to them the loss they had suffered during the short period of trial. He Himself will feed (or shepherd) them, caring for their every need. He Himself will lead them to the very sources, the fountains of water of life, where once the forces of death were so strong. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, in that day when man and all creation shall rejoice in Him. No wonder that they cry as one with a loud voice, "Salvation to our God... and unto the Lamb.”