Times of Tribulation (Revelation 6-11) >Seven Seals >6th seal >The multitude
Last lesson, you will recall, we looked at visions which occurred at the breaking of the 5th and 6th seals on the book that the Lamb was opening. In this lesson we come to chapter 7, which is an extra vision for the 6th seal.
That 6th seal having been broken, John saw a brief but awful vision of the day of God’s wrath. Now, in chapter 7, he sees a supplementary vision as a counterpoint, a lovely vision of the multitude of those saved from God’s wrath.
¶“1After seeing these things, I saw four angels. They stood at the four corners of the earth. They held back the earth’s four winds —so that no wind could blow on the earth, or the sea, or on any tree. 2Then I saw yet another angel rising from the east. This angel has the seal of God. He cried out loud to the four angels. Now those angels were granted power to harm the earth and the sea. But the other angel 3cried, 'Do not yet harm the earth, the sea, and the trees. Wait till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads'” (Revelation 7:1-3).
After this The words "After this I saw..." (Revelation 7:1) means only that John is seeing a new vision following the awful vision of the day of wrath.
That does not mean that the events in this new vision are later than, or follow, the events depicted in the previous vision. In fact, this new vision in chapter 7 begins with the holding back of the day of wrath.
Seal Before wrath and destruction is allowed, the "seal of the living God" must be placed on the foreheads of all God’s bondservants (Revelation 7:2-3).
What does this seal represent? Paul wrote to the Ephesians (one of the seven churches of Asia), "In [Christ] you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, having also believed, you were sealed in him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory" (Ephesians 1:13-14).
The seal in the vision represents the gift of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us and identifies us as God’s people.
sunrise The angel carrying the seal was "ascending from the rising of the sun" (Revelation 7:2). This indicates that the seal of God is being brought to the whole earth.
The seal is offered to all who hear, believe, and obey the gospel, and the gospel is to be preached in all the world (Mark 16:15-16).
¶“4I heard the number of those who were sealed. The number was 144,000, of all the tribes of the sons of Israel 5—Judah, Reuben, Gad, 6Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, 7Simeon, Levi, Issachar, 8Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin. Twelve thousand were sealed of each tribe” (Revelation 7:4-8).
Tribes John records the multitude of the saved as twelve tribes, each bearing the name of one of Jacob's sons, each tribe equally numbering 12,000, in all 144,000.
By the way, these 144,000 were all male virgins (Revelation 14:4).
The names of the territories historically apportioned to the tribes do not match exactly with the names of the twelve sons of Jacob. That's because the sons of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) gained separate territories, whilst the Levites had no single territory as such, but were allotted various towns throughout the territories.
Israel John describes those who were sealed as "the sons of Israel" (Revelation 7:4).
Israel was the new name given to Jacob (Genesis 32:27-28). Israel was also the name of the kingdom established by David and Solomon in the promised land. Jerusalem was its capital.
John’s vision of the sealed, as an idealized 144,000 sons of Israel, is a symbol of Christ’s kingdom (Colossians 1:12-14).
The gospel calls the body of the saved, Christ’s kingdom, "the Israel of God" (Galatians 6:15-16, Romans 9:6) and "the heavenly Jerusalem" (Hebrews 12:22, Revelation 3:12).
Great multitude The next vision lifts the portrayal of Christ’s kingdom from 144,000 on earth to a vast uncountable multitude in heaven.
This multitude in heaven is not a different one from the 144,000, just a less idealised and more realistic portrayal of the number of the saved (Revelation 7:9-17).
¶“9In the next vision I saw a multitude numbering so many that no one could count them. There were people of all nations, tribes, and tongues. They all stood, clothed in white, before the throne and before the Lamb. They held palm fronds in their hands. 10They all cried with loud voices, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!' ” (Revelation 7:9-10).
¶“11All the angels stood around the throne. So did the elders, and the four living creatures, who fell face down before the throne, worshiping God. 12They said, 'Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honour, power and strength, to our God for ever and ever, amen!' ” (Revelation 7:11-12).
¶“13Then one of the elders spoke to me. He asked me, 'Who are these people clothed in white robes? Where did they come from?' 14I said to him, 'My lord, you know.' So he told me, 'They are the people who come out of great troubles. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15That's why they are standing before the throne of God, and why they serve him day and night in his temple. And he who sits on the throne will dwell among them. 16They will not hunger or thirst anymore. Neither sun nor burning heat shall fall upon them. For the Lamb, who is at the center of the throne, he will shepherd them. He will lead them to fountains of living waters. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.' ” (Revelation 7:13-17).
Some say that the kingdom of Christ is divided into two groups, the 144,000 elite who will be in heaven, and the great multitude who will live on a transformed renovated earth. You will notice, however that, compared to the visions, these folk have the two groups in the wrong place. In the visions, the 144,000 were on earth and the innumerable multitude were in heaven around the throne of God.
White robes The white robes have already been mentioned in earlier visions (Revelation 3:4-5, 6:11). You will recall what we said in our last lesson: A salient fact about these robes is that the wearers have "washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Revelation 7:9, 13-14).
Without Jesus, our robes (our righteousness) would be "like filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6). They would be stained scarlet and crimson with sin. However the blood of Jesus has wondrously washed them as white as wool or snow (Isaiah 1:18).
Palm branches These symbolize joy and celebration (Leviticus 23:40). In heaven "God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes" (Revelation 7:17). Sorrow will give way to happiness.
Salvation "Salvation to our God" (Revelation 7:10) means that our salvation is attributable to God alone. "Salvation belongs to God" (Psalms 3:8). Salvation is God’s prerogative and his alone.
Waters "The water of life" (Revelation 7:17) is a symbol for eternal life (John 4:9-14, Revelation 21:6).