Apr 142018

Revelation 7:1-8

The 144,000 of Israel Sealed

1 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree.

  • Who are the 4 angels? Are they the 4 horsemen who were sent out?
  • Note that they stand at the 4 winds of the earth. Four is the number of the earth and it seems to be what God is using to judge.
  • The 4 winds of heaven – we see this in Daniel 7:2 and Jeremiah 49:36.
  • The use of “four winds” and “four corners of the earth” are metaphorical devices used to show the totality of judgment that God will send on a rebellious world.

Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea,

  • Jesus is coming from the east – the rising of the sun. This is messianic language we see in Ezekiel 43:1-2 and also Zechariah 9
  • Check out the Palm Sunday reference as Jesus comes to Jerusalem from the Bethany in the east. Both a fulfillment of Advent and Holy Week.
  • Remember the question from Rev 6:17 – “for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” – the answer is here in chapter 7 – the Christians can stand – those who have been sealed – sealing of their baptism. The baptism delivers this sealing in the name of the triune God.
  • 2 Cor 1:21-22 – “And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us,and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”
  • We know that we have the Holy Spirit in baptism Acts 2:38-39; Matt 28:19; Titus 3:4-6.
  • In the midst of all this turmoil, while it looks like the world is going to hell in a hand basket – here is the refuge we have – in our baptism. Here we have a Sabbath rest in our salvation. This is very comforting for the Christian.
  • When it looks like all is lost and all we have is despair – take heart, we have the seal.

saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”

  • Now this is the kicker as dispensationalist say that Revelation is written in chronological order – which is very important to their system. But John shows us that the judgment on the earth is not to begin until the Church is sealed.
  • But wait – didn’t we see the earth get destroyed in chapter six? Welcome to the world of apocalyptic writing. You are supposed to recognize certain “anomalies” like this and understand John’s purpose in writing the way he does and in organizing his thoughts the way he does. The events John describes are real but he rarely – if ever –records events in chronological order.
  • In fact, as we progress through the coming judgments of trumpets and bowls, take notice of how often the world is destroyed in judgment.

And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:

  • Who is sealed? These numbers have always been confusing, but we are not Jehovah’s Witnesses so we do not take them literally.
  • This is the complete, complete people of God – 12 OT tribes = the complete people of OT and 12 Apostles = the complete people of the NT.
  • Multiplied by God’s number of completeness, 10 (the 10 commandments, the 10 plagues) – but in Trinity 10x10x10 = 1,000
  • 12×12 = 144 x 1,000 = 144,000
  • Another odd note is that the dimensions of the New Jerusalem according to Rev 21:17 = 144 cubits – it may not relate but something to use at a party.

12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed, 12,000 from the tribe of Reuben,
12,000 from the tribe of Gad,

  • We need to evaluate if this listing, which is different is trying to make a point in Revelation that we do not see elsewhere?
  • Dan is missing – replaced by Manasseh, the first born of Joseph. (Jewish tradition has it that Dan fell away.)
  • Why is Judah listed first instead of the actual first born Reuben?
  • Judah precedes Reuben because the leader of the new Israel is none other than the Lamb – see Rev 5:5 and Gen 49:10

12,000 from the tribe of Asher, 12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali, 12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh,

  • The tribes are the description of all God’s people of all time in all places. A synonym = the Church. James 1:1 uses this language – “To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion”. Does anyone make the case that the book of James is to national Israel?
  • Gal 6:16 “And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.”
  • Gal 3:29 – “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”
  • 1 Peter 2 uses this kind of language.

12,000 from the tribe of Simeon, 12,000 from the tribe of Levi, 12,000 from the tribe of Issachar,

  • All who believe in Jesus are of these 12 tribes. The OT believers, the NT believers – the whole enchilada.

12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun, 12,000 from the tribe of Joseph, 12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed.

  • Dan No – Manasseh Yes – Ephraim No – Joseph Yes
  • There are no less than nineteen different listings of the twelve tribes of Israel in the Old Testament and the one listed here in Revelation 7 is not identical with any of them. This is especially remarkable in light of Ezekiel 48, where an eschatological listing of the tribes is given.


  4 Responses to “The Weekend Word”

  1. “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”

    One thing that would have provided comfort to the 7 churches listed in Chapters 2 and 3 is that God his holding back final judgment until the complete number of the saints are sealed.

    The numbering of the tribes would remind students of the OT of a census taken of able bodied men for war. From this the church on earth is often referred to as the Church Militant.

    Thank you, MLD, for another installment of your concise, clear and competent exposition of Revelation.

  2. I’m thinking, going by your bullet points, that this passage puts the Amil perspective on shaky ground. How many of your comments here are “This doesn’t mean what it says”?

  3. Josh, can you be more specific? I believe the Bible always expresses what it means.

  4. I think the issue with those who want a literal ethnic, national Israel to be seen here is that they do not let scripture interpret the scripture for the ‘meaning’.
    We saw in Revelation 5, the one speaking in the vision describe Jesus as the Lion of the tribe of Judah (v5) – but when John looked at what was described he saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain (v6).

    It is the same here – John hears the angel describe the great crowd as “And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:…” but then he turns to see what was described – (and this is scripture interpreting scripture – who this 144,000 is) – “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” (v9)

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