Revelation 7:1 opens with these words, 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. This happens to be the first parenthetical chapter of the book. We see it here inserted between the 6th and 7th seals and it contains explanatory material about that which will transpire between the 6th seal and the rest of Daniel’s 70th Week. At the end of chapter 6 there was a question, For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand? [Rev. 6:17 KJV] This chapter answers that question.
Two distinct groups will survive the outpouring of divine wrath during the Great Tribulation: 1) The 144,000 Jewish Evangelists on earth (Vv. 1 – 8), 2) Their converts in Heaven (Vv. 9 – 17). I submit to you that of course there will be a third group that survives the Tribulation, and that group will be the Church, as we will have been caught up to Heaven prior to the beginning of the Tribulation. We will be able to stand, as we will escape all of these things, and will stand before the Son of Man! [See Luke 21:36] Some have said that when John wrote the, “Four corners of the earth” that this proves the inaccuracy and unreliability of the Bible, as science has proven that the earth is round. However, we use this same figure of speech today to refer to all four quadrants of the compass. This phrase simply means that these angels will take up key positions on earth.
Notice that they are, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. “Winds” in biblical typology speaks of the judgment of God [See Jer. 49:36; 51:1, 16]. The first six seals have been opened, and suddenly an eerie quiet settles down upon the earth. Enter a fifth angel. 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. [Rev. 7:2 KJV] There are a couple of thoughts involved here with the idea of the 144,000 being sealed.
First, I submit to you that it pictures the process whereby a builder would seal with wax the lumber he chose before it was shipped across the Aegean Sea. Arriving at the port nearest him, the builder would carry away whichever trees had his seal on them. So, too, the Master Carpenter, Jesus Christ, has chosen us to be the material of His eternal temple. Therefore, He has sealed us with His Spirit. [See Eph. 4:30] Finis Dake in his, Annotated Reference Bible, lists some six reasons why he believed that this seal will be literal. I will share them here for your personal study: 1 – This is plainly stated (Vs.3; 14:1), 2 – It is an object of sight, for direction is given to the first four trumpet angels not to execute their judgments until they are sealed in their foreheads (Vs. 3; 8:7 – 12), 3 – Special direction is given to the 5th and 6th judgment angels not to hurt the 144,00 (9:4), 4 – The mark of the beast is literal (13:16 – 18; 14:9; 20:4), and so this must be (14:1), 5 – It is the Name of God in the forehead (Vs. 3; 14:1), 6 – Literal names will be branded on the overcomers (3:12, 22:4) and this indicates that the Name of God on the 144,000 will also be literal (14:1).
I am not prepared to take a dogmatic position on this seal being literal, I will leave that for the individual student of scripture. Although I do believe that Bro. Dake made some good points on this. Considering the fact that the Bible is an eastern as opposed to western book, eastern customs have to be taken into consideration. It was customary in the east to brand the name of the master on the forehead of a slave. That imagery would match the language here, however there really is no indication that this is an allusion to that custom. In subsequent times, in the Church, it was common for Christians to impress the sign of the Cross on their foreheads. The bottom line is, we are not told whether this is a literal or a figurative mark or seal, so it is really conjecture on our part to say otherwise. I personally lean to this being a figurative reference, speaking of the salvation of the 144,000 at some point, even though we are given no details on this, following the rapture of the Church. If this is the case, that the “sealing” is something that occurs spiritually, then every single believer who presently lives, and who ever has lived, has experienced this “seal.” Concerning this Paul states,
In 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, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. [Eph. 1:13, 14 KJV]
In verses 4 – 9 we are told that a total of 144,000 were sealed. Exactly who are these individuals? Before we answer that, lets consider a couple of groups they are not. First, this group of 144,000 individuals are not part of some 20th Century pseudo-Christian cult. I speak of course of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and The Watchtower Bible & Tract Society (although there have been others). Their particular brand of theology makes the 144,000 represent a group of, perhaps for lack of a better term, of elite members of the Watchtower who are inhabiting Jehovah’s Heavenly Kingdom. The rest of the “witnesses” who are found faithful to the Watchtower’s mission are destined to populate Jehovah’s earthly kingdom, with the rest of of us who do not accept their message, destined to be annihilated. I hate to disappoint my witness friends, but their leadership is not the 144,000.
Secondly, the 144,000 are not made up of a bunch of Gentile, Jewish wannabes. What do I mean by that? I am speaking in this case of what I would refer to as the extreme Hebrew Roots Movement (HRM). This group and their convoluted theology is gaining ground in many sectors of the Christian Church, and frankly that is quite disconcerting. This doctrine in a nutshell says that the Christian Church has strayed from the Truth in forsaking Her Jewish Roots. Rather than calling people back to the Cross, which I believe the Holy Spirit is doing in this hour, the Hebrew Roots Movement is calling people back to Torah observance. The people who are getting involved in this movement basically say that the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit in Hebrew) is suddenly “awakening” them to their “Jewishness” and calling them out of the Christian Church into Messianic fellowships, with many even claiming they have discovered which tribe they are of. Keep in mind that these folks were Gentiles heretofore. Most who get involved in this movement renounce Christianity in exchange for embracing Hebraic Roots. I have personally spoken to people involved in this and have heard the teaching of others who sincerely believe that they are endeavoring to be faithful to Yahweh (God the Father), and their Messiah Yeshuah (Jesus) in a sincere desire to be marked as one of the 144,000. Of course since they are no longer part of the Church, they are not looking for the “Blessed Hope”, but rather the time of “Jacob’s Trouble”. The Hebrew Roots Movement (HRM) is not the 144,000. Who exactly are they?
John wrote, 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. [Rev. 7:4 KJV] What could be clearer than this? There are 12,000 sealed from 12 of the 13 tribes of Israel. They are not Gentiles, they are not the Church, nor are they any group of Jews who have lived at any time prior to the time of this “sealing”. They will come to faith in their true Messiah, Yeshuah/Jesus, at some point after the rapture of the Church it would seem in the first 3 ½ years of the Great Tribulation in the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit described by the Prophet Joel [See Joel 2:28 – 32]. Why are 12,000 from each tribe sealed? We really aren’t told the reason, but we do know some things about the number 12 in the economy of God revealed in the Word of God.
First, 12 is the number of Government. In ancient Israel there were 12 tribes; there were 12 stones gathered from the river Jordan; there were 12 stones in the High Priest’s breastplate; and, in the New Testament, there are 12 Apostles of the Lamb. Their names are engraved on the 12 foundations of the Wall of the New Jerusalem. The names of the 12 tribes are engraved on the 12 gates of the city. The number 12 is mentioned 7 times in the Book of Revelation. The circumference of the city is 12,000 furlongs. This number signifies a completeness of government. Here is something else interesting concerning these tribes.
If one were to count the tribes of Levi, there are actually 13 tribes. Concerning Levi, we know they had no inheritance among the other tribes, as the Lord was their inheritance [See Num. 18:20, 23]. Here in Revelation 7, Joseph takes the place of Ephraim. However if Ephraim is replaced by Joseph in this list and yet the number of tribes remains 12, a tribe must be missing. That tribe is Dan. Why is Dan missing from this list? Some have pointed to Deuteronomy 29:18 – 21, saying that due to Dan going into idolatry, he is forever disinherited. However, ask yourself which of the tribes didn’t go into idolatry? No, I think the explanation is much simpler than all of this. I believe it is because that at the time of the sealing of the 144,000 Jewish remnant, apparently no one from the tribe of Dan had as yet became a servant of the Lord Messiah. We do know that in the coming Millennial Age that the tribe of Dan will have its place among the other tribes [See Ezek. 48:30 – 35; Rev. 21:12].
We dare not leave this most interesting chapter without noting the second group who will “stand” in the tribulation hour. John writes, 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. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshiped God, Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. [Rev. 7:9 – 14 KJV]
This multitude, which John says, “No man could number”, come out of Great Tribulation. This indicates that there will be a massive harvest of souls born into the Kingdom of God during the Great Tribulation. They are won to Christ it seems through the hugely successful ministry of the 144,000 Jewish witnesses. In verses 11, 12 the angelic beings in Heaven sing a song of salvation that is in accord with the scripture that tells us that the angels rejoice over each soul that comes to faith [See Luke 15:10].
Notice verses 16, 17; They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. We are given a glimpse into of the kind of suffering the martyrs of the Tribulation will experience: hunger, sun, and heat, indicating they will probably have to flee from the antichrist’s population centers for safety and live as vagabonds before being killed.
With the 144,000 Jewish remnant sealed, and the Tribulation saints safely in Heaven before the Throne of God; the seventh seal is opened unleashing the more intense and severe trumpet judgments. We will look into that next time. Do plan to join us.