Because the visions constitute a pause in the chronological progression represented by the opening of the seals, they have been called a parenthesis between the sixth and seventh seals, but there is some objection to this because the visions are an integral part of the book’s movement. . . . The natural meaning of the text places the sealing and the vision as a whole just after the sixth seal. Revelation 7+ is an interlude between the sixth and seventh seals. . . . The description is provided to answer the questions of Rev. 6:17+ by way of showing that some will survive and even prosper spiritually under the blessing of God during earth’s terrors. . . . The evidence is sufficient for placing this sealing just before the midpoint of the seven-year Tribulation, at the end of the period called “the beginning of birth pains.” Though the meta touto indicates a change of vision, this does not mean there is no relationship to the sixth seal.3In any case, what transpires in this chapter is an interlude of sorts which is not tied explicitly to any seal, but inferred as being between the sixth and seventh seals. The scene now shifts from the judgments themselves to the people of God, both Jewish and otherwise, who attend this time of wrath upon the earth:
The great day of God’s wrath has come, but the action is interrupted . . . the author introduces an intermezzo between the sixth and seventh members of the series. A change comes over the spirit of his dream. . . . it is a consoling rhapsody or rapture designed to relieve the tension by lifting the eyes of the faithful over the foam and rocks of the rapids on which they were tossing to the calm sunlit pool of bliss which awaited them beyond. They get this glimpse before the seventh seal is opened with its fresh cycle of horrors.4
Chapter 7 comes as a parenthesis between the sixth and seventh seals—a stylistic feature repeated in the trumpet sequence (Rev. 10:1+-11:13+) but not with the bowls (cf. Rev. 16:12-21+). It is not intended to take the reader back to a time before the Four Horsemen are released in order to parallel the trumpets with the seals. It contrasts the security and blessedness which await the faithful with the panic of a pagan world fleeing from judgment. . . . Chapter 7+ also serves as a dramatic interlude. It delays for a brief moment the disclosure of that which is to take place with the seventh and final seal is removed from the scroll of destiny.5four angels
“That no wind might blow upon the earth”—the scene of settled government (Rev. 10:2+; Ps. 46:2); “nor upon the sea”—nations and peoples in anarchy and confusion (Dan. 7:2-3+; Isa. 57:20); “nor upon any tree”—the might and pride of the earth (Dan. 4:10+, 22+; Eze. 31:3-9, 14-18).10
These symbols are easy to interpret. The earth is Israel; the sea, the Gentiles; the trees, as we know from the famous parable in the ninth chapter of the book of Judges, refer to those in authority.11While it is true that each of these entities carries a symbolic meaning in other passages (cf. especially Rev. 13:1+; 17:15+), it is best to understand their use here as literal because of the related passages which follow. The locusts are commanded “not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads” (Rev. 9:4+). The passage concerning the locusts differentiates men from real vegetation (“any green thing”). When trees are destroyed, so too is the green grass (Rev. 8:7+). When the sea becomes blood, living creatures and ships are affected (Rev. 8:9+; 16:3+). If the sea represents the nations here (as it does in Rev. 13:1+ and 17:15+), then what is meant by the living creatures and the ships which ply its waters? Also, when men, cities, or authorities are the recipients of judgments which follow, they are specifically denoted as such (Rev. 9:4-5+, 18+, 20+; 11:13+; 16:2+, 9+; 18:14-19+; 19:19+).
Chapter 7 forms a parenthetical section between the sixth (Rev. 6:12-17+) and seventh (Rev. 8:1+) seals to answer that question, introducing two groups who will survive the fury of divine judgment. The first, those described in Rev. 7:1-8+, are the Jewish evangelists who will be preserved on earth. They will survive the holocaust of divine wrath unleashed by the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments. God will also protect them from the murderous efforts of Antichrist and his henchmen to wipe out believers in the true God. Having survived the wars, famine, unprecedented natural disasters, disease, rampant, unchecked sinfulness, and savage persecution of the Tribulation, they will enter the Millennial Kingdom alive. The second group to escape divine fury (Rev. 7:9-17+) are those who will be martyred and thereby ushered into the blissful rest of heaven, where they will be preserved.14The third group which survives, although not mentioned in this chapter, are those who come to faith during the Tribulation and manage to stay alive until the Second Coming. These will enter the Millennial Kingdom and form its initial populace (Mat. 25:31-40).of the living God
As blood was put upon the door of the houses of Israel in Egypt so that the angel of death would pass over these houses and strike only those which were not marked, so the seal of God is put upon the forehead of His own so that the angels of judgment, passing through the world, will know those who are God’s.19As Master Imitator, Satan, through the beast, will mark those who are his, who are thereafter unredeemable (Rev. 14:9-10+). “Are we told that God, by His angel, will ‘seal’ His servants in their foreheads (Rev. 7:3+), so also we read that Satan, by his angels, will set a mark in the foreheads of his devotees (Rev. 13:16+).”20 During the time of the Tribulation, it appears there will be three categories of people:
The best analysis of the seal is that it protects against the disasters that the four winds will bring to the earth (Beckwith; Caird). The context of Rev. 7:1-3+ is in preparation for the judgments of the seventh seal that includes the seven trumpets. Thus the sealing must refer to these judgments. The command “do not hurt” implies that after the sealing is finished, the judgments that are next in the divine program (i.e., Revelation 8+) will come (Smith).22Seiss suggests that in order to stand in the midst of this time of unparalleled judgment and tribulation, those who are sealed will require a special measure of spiritual enablement:
We may, therefore, conceive of this sealing of the 144,000 as a special and extraordinary impartation of the Holy Ghost; which again connects this vision with particular Old Testament promises. By the mouth of Joel, the Lord said to Israel: “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.” This was indeed a general promise, but with it was coupled another, which is not so general, but particular to Israel: “And your sons and your daughters [O Jews] shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions, and also upon the servants and upon the handmaidens in those days will I pour out my Spirit.” Peter tells us that this began to be fulfilled in the miracle of Pentecost; but the fulfilment did not end there. There are also particulars in this passage which were not fulfilled upon the primitive Church—particulars which refer to the judgment times, and connect directly to the scenes to which this sealing of the 144,000 is related. “Wonders in heaven and earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke,” are spoken of; and the turning of the sun into darkness, and the moon into blood; . . . In this we distinctly recognize the occurrences under the red horseman of the second seal, the physical prodigies of the sixth seal, and the exact manifestations under the first and fifth trumpets.23One hundred and forty-four thousand
The name “Christ” appears seven times and the name “Jesus” fourteen times. “The Lamb” is used of Christ twenty-eight times, seven bringing the Lamb and God together. The 7 x 4 appearances of this title underscore the universal scope of the Lamb’s complete victory. . . . Twelve is the number of God’s people, which is squared to indicate completeness and multiplied by one thousand to connote vastness.24
Twelve is the number of the tribes, and appropriate to the Church: three by four: three, the divine number, multiplied by four, the number for world-wide extension. Twelve by twelve implies fixity and completeness, which is taken a thousandfold in 144,000. A thousand implies the world perfectly pervaded by the divine; for it is ten, the world number, raised to the power of three, the number of God. [emphasis added]25No matter how specific God’s Word may be concerning the identification of this group of persons, the interpreters refuse to follow the text where it leads. This is because they have theological biases which go against recognizing the obvious Jewish nature of this passage. (As we saw earlier, the Jewish nature of this book was recognized by many and led to opposition to its acceptance into the canon.)
Many are so morbidly prejudiced against everything Jewish, that it is concluded in advance, that anything merciful, referring to the Israelitish race, must needs be understood some other way than as the words are written. Though all the prophets were Jews, and Jesus was a Jew, and the writer of this Apocalypse was a Jew, and all the Apostles were Jews, and salvation itself is of the Jews, and the Jews as a distinct people are everywhere spoken of as destined to continue to the world’s end, it is regarded as the next thing to apostasy from the faith, to apply anything hopeful, that God has said, to this particular race. . . . No wonder, therefore, that they cannot find a consistent interpretation of a vision of grace which is predicated of Jacob’s literal seed, in contradistinction from all others.26Bullinger, an authority on figures of speech, holds that this number is not symbolic of some other group than the Jews, but intentionally definite:
Alford says of this number, “No one I am aware of has taken it literally!” Very likely: but we are thankful to be an exception to the rule, and to believe what God says. There is such a thing as Figures of Speech, but, we ask, what Figure is used here? What is its name? The truth is that there is here no Figure whatever; but it is the simple statement of fact: a definite number in contrast with the indefinite number in this very chapter (Rev. 7:9+). If the total number is not exact, then all the items which go to make it up are indefinite also. If the number is symbolical, then what number in the Book may we take as literal? . . . We prefer to believe God. And, believing Him, we conclude that He had reserved 7,000 in the days of Ahab (1K. 19:18; Rom. 11:4), so He will reserve 144,000 in the Great Tribulation.27As is often the case within Scripture, when the plain sense of Scripture is rejected, a foothold is provided for aberrant teachings frequented by cults, in this case the Jehovah’s Witnesses:
The Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that the 144,000 is the body of spirit-begotten believers who have a “heavenly hope” (Rom. 8:24. Eph. 4:4. Col. 1:5. Heb. 7:19. 1Pe. 1:3. 1Jn. 3:3). All other believers can have only an “earthly hope” (Job 14:7. Jer. 31:17. Acts 26:6). Once the Watchtower organization had more than 144,000 adherents, the teaching was developed that the “great multitude” mentioned later in the chapter (Rev. 7:9+) referred to those Christians who had only an earthly hope. Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that members of the “great multitude” who have only an earthly hope do not need to be born again. . . . If the claim of Jehovah’s Witnesses that the heavenly hope is limited to 144,000 has any validity, the significance of that hope for anyone today is purely historical, for since this number was reached within five years of Pentecost, no person alive today could possibly lay claim to be one of that fixed number, not even the leaders of the Watchtower in Brooklyn, New York.28However, the verses which follow make it clear that the sealed are Jews. This is in accordance with what is said later concerning the 144,000—that they are firstfruits,
These sealed Jews are those who come to faith in Jesus as Messiah during the Tribulation period. They are further described as “first fruits unto God and to the Lamb” (Rev. 14:4+), indicating that they compose the first stage of a final harvest of Jewish souls to be gathered later at the Lord’s coming in glory. . . . These comprise the “remnant” of Jews “who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 12:17+b).29See commentary on Revelation 14:1.of all the tribes of the children of Israel
Few Scriptures have suffered more at the hands of Gentile Christians than this. Notwithstanding the fact that it concerns “all the tribes of the children of Israel,” and that the twelve tribes are named separately, popular interpretation insists on taking them as meaning the Church of God. Any system of interpretation which has this for its foundation may be judged and condemned at the outset as not only useless, but mischievous. Such a system has been described by Hooker as one “which changeth the meaning of words as alchemy doth, or would do, the substance of metals, making anything what it listeth; and bringeth, in the end, all truth to nothing.”31The unwillingness to accept the Jewishness of what is described here is evident from many commentators who refuse to take the passage at face value:
The number scarcely refers only to Jewish Christians; rather it stands for all the members of the Church, the true Israel.32
If [the number is] literal, it is necessary to suppose that this refers to the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. But on every supposition this is absurd. Ten of their tribes had been long before carried away, and the distinction of the tribes was lost, no more to be recovered, and the Hebrew people never have been, since the time of John, in circumstances to which the description here could be applicable. These considerations make it clear that the description here is symbolical. [emphasis added]33
Walvoord accepts this passage as proving that the twelve tribes are still in existence. This interpretation seriously complicates the book of Revelation by bringing in racial distinctions which no longer exist in the NT purview. It disregards the historical fact that ten of the twelve tribes disappeared in Assyria and the remaining two list their separate identity when Jerusalem fell in A.D. 70. . . . The number is obviously symbolic. [emphasis added]34Mounce asserts that taking the passage literally “seriously complicates” the book of Revelation and asserts that racial distinctions . . . no longer exist in the NT purview. This would have come as a surprise to the apostle Paul who continued to describe himself as a Jew long after his conversion (Acts 21:39-22:3), said the same of Peter (Gal. 2:14-16), and spent almost three full chapters of Romans explaining to believers that God is not through with the Jewish nation (Rom. 9, 10, 11). At the close of this most important section of Scripture, Paul makes a statement which directly contradicts Mounce:
For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.” Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Rom. 11:25-29) [emphasis added]Elements of this short, but very important passage, reveal:
This passage also teaches that the so-called “ten lost tribes” were, in fact, never lost (cf. Rev. 21:12+; Matt. 19:28; Luke 22:30; Jas. 1:1). Instead, representatives from the ten northern tribes filtered south and intermingled with the two southern tribes (cf. 2Chr. 30:1-11; 34:1-9) and thus were preserved.37Ladd, in his desire to avoid the plain teaching of the text, believes this list of the twelve tribes is unlike any other in the OT:
These twelve tribes cannot be literal Israel, because they are not the twelve tribes of OT Israel. The list here appears nowhere else in the Bible. It has three irregularities: it names Judah first, thus ignoring the OT order of the tribes; it omits Dan with no explanation (see Eze. 48:1); it mentions Joseph instead of Ephraim. Perhaps John meant by this irregular listing of the twelve tribes to designate the Israel that is not the literal Israel. . . . The twelve tribes were irregularly listed to show that true Israel is not literal Israel, but the Church.38Here we meet again with Replacement Theology—the unbiblical idea that the Church is “Israel,” something nowhere stated in Scripture. To be sure, believers are called the spiritual seed of Abraham (Rom. 4:12-18; Gal. 3:7-8, 29), but if Scripture is any indication, there is an important distinction between the spiritual seed of Abraham and the physical seed of Jacob. For nowhere in all of Holy Writ—not once—is the Church denoted by the word “Israel.”39 Those who confuse the Church with Israel are just one step behind many of the cults, such as The Worldwide Church of God or British Israelism, who want to oust Israel from her promises and substitute themselves instead. (For more on these movements, see Ten Tribes Lost?) The Church already has her own promises so why should we try to steal Israel’s too? Besides, the spiritual restoration of the Jews is attended with great blessings: “For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (Rom. 11:15).The irregularities which Ladd sees as so significant are found in other listings of the tribes. Concerning the omission of tribes, we could cite the omission of Dan from the extensive tribal genealogies of 1 Chronicles 2:10. “In the enumerations of the tribes throughout Scripture, of which there are about eighteen, the full representative number twelve is always given, but as Jacob had thirteen sons [counting the two sons of Joseph instead of the father as Jacob’s] one or other is always omitted.”40 This rotation and omission of tribal names is not unusual, as Ladd would have us believe, but is typical. “It should be noted that there is no standard way of listing the twelve tribes. There are at least nineteen different ways of listing them in the Old Testament, none of which agree with the list given here.”41
A careful examination of the dozen places in the Bible where all the twelve tribes are mentioned will reveal some very beautiful truths. Jacob had twelve sons who were the fathers of the twelve tribes. Joseph and two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, whose names later were added to the list of the tribes. This gives us fourteen names out of which twelve are selected, but not always the same twelve, in presenting the truths concerning Israel. Levi, the priestly tribe, had no military duties to perform and was not given a portion of the land when the tribes entered Palestine. The portion of Levi was to be the Lord Himself (Deu. 18:1-2; Jos. 13:14). In order to fill His place both in military affairs and in the land, a new tribe had to be found so Joseph was replaced by his two sons. Leaving out the name of Levi and that of Joseph, twelve names remained.42Concerning Judah being listed first, the camp of Judah led the procession of the tribes on the march (Num. 10:14). Rather than seeking to understand why this list omits Dan and Ephraim, Ladd merely asserts that their omission means that the phrase “children of Israel” must denote the Church. But this runs roughshod over hermeneutical principles because these 144,000 from the tribes of Israel are contrasted with “a great multitude . . . of all . . . tribes” (Rev. 7:9+). These are different groups: one is denoted by twelve specific tribal names and is only 144,000 in size. The other comes from all tribes (and nations, peoples, and tongues) and is innumerable.43 As to why Dan and Ephraim are omitted from the list, there seems to be a ready explanation. God promises that any person or tribe which practices idolatry will be set apart for adversity:
So that there may not be among you man or woman or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations [e.g., idolatry], and that there may not be among you a root bearing bitterness or wormwood; and so it may not happen, when he hears the words of this curse, that he blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall have peace, even though I follow the dictates of my heart’ -as though the drunkard could be included with the sober. The LORD would not spare him; for then the anger of the LORD and His jealousy would burn against that man, and every curse that is written in this book would settle on him, and the LORD would blot out his name from under heaven. And the LORD would separate him from all the tribes of Israel for adversity, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this Book of the Law. (Deu. 29:18-21) [emphasis added]When the tribe of Dan migrated north from their original location, they persuaded a renegade Levite in Ephraim to join them, along with his graven image. After overthrowing Laish and renaming the town Dan, they set up the carved image and a priesthood attended it (Jdg. 18:19-30). Thereafter, the town of Dan became a center for worship of one of the golden calves which Jeroboam promoted as an alternative to worship at Jerusalem during the divided kingdom (1K. 12:28-30; 2K. 10:29).
The Lord’s estimation of Dan and his idolatry can be seen in the decreasing role of the tribe in scriptural history. In the twenty different listings of the tribes, Dan is generally far down and often is the last in the list. Consider, for example, the order of march in the wilderness: “And the standard of the camp of the children of Dan set forward, which was over the rear guard of all the camps throughout their hosts; and over its host was Ahiezer, the son of Ammishaddai” (Num. 10:25). [See Camp of Israel.] Dan was the last tribe to receive its inheritance in the Promised Land (Jos. 19:47-49). Most striking is the total omission of Dan from the extensive tribal genealogies of 1 Chronicles 2:10! These scriptural facts should be remembered when facing the often-asked question of why Dan is omitted in the 144,000 Jews sealed in the Tribulation period (Rev. 7:4-8+). Evidently this is due to the problem of idolatry which plagued this tribe throughout its history.44Also, when Deborah and Barak led Israel to war in the time of the judges, the tribes sent men to fight, but not Dan. Dan’s failure to participate is remarked upon in Scripture: “Why did Dan remain on ships?” (Jdg. 5:17).Ephraim also was involved with idolatry:
Interestingly, Jeroboam’s idols were placed in the tribes of Dan and Ephraim (i.e., Bethel, 1K. 12:29). Thus, in the Revelation 7+ listing, Dan was replaced by Levi (Rev. 7:7+) and Ephraim was replaced by his father Joseph (Rev. 7:8+), while his brother Manasseh was included to complete the twelve (Rev. 7:6+).45
The tribes of Dan and Ephraim are omitted from the list which follows, being replaced by Levi and Joseph. The reason for Ephraim’s omission is suggested by Hos. 4:17. For possible reasons for Dan’s omission see the related texts . . . (Lev. 24:10-16. Deu. 29:18-21. Jdg. 18:2-31. 1K. 12:26-33). Dan and Ephraim are included in Ezekiel’s prophecy of their inheritance in the eternal earthly kingdom of Christ (Eze. 48:1-6, 32), demonstrating God’s faithfulness to his covenant and promise (Lev. 26:44. Mal. 3:6. Rom. 11:29. 15:8).46Although Dan is omitted here, this should not be taken as an indication that the tribe of Dan will perish due to lack of protection during the Tribulation. “In the end grace triumphs and Dan is named first in the future distribution of land amongst the tribes (Eze. 48:2), but while being first mentioned, it is the furthest removed from the temple, being situated in the extreme north.”47 Some understand the omission of Dan as an indication that the Antichrist will arise from Dan:48
He who shall come claiming the kingdom for himself, and shall terrify those men of whom we have been speaking, having a name containing the aforesaid number , is truly the abomination of desolation. This, too, the apostle affirms: “When they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction shall come upon them.” And Jeremiah does not merely point out his sudden coming, but he even indicates the tribe from which he shall come, where he says, “We shall hear the voice of his swift horses from Dan; the whole earth shall be moved by the voice of the neighing of his galloping horses: he shall also come and devour the earth, and the fulness thereof, the city also, and they that dwell therein.” [Jer. 8:16] This, too, is the reason that this tribe is not reckoned in the Apocalypse along with those which are saved.—Irenaeus, Against Heresies, v.xxx.ii49Yet, in our discussion of The Beast we identify reasons which indicate a Gentile origin for the Antichrist. See the discussion of whether the Beast will be Jewish or Gentile?There is also the possibility that the omission of Dan and Ephraim are not as significant as many think, perhaps mainly motivated to maintain symmetry.50 The sealed are said to be “servants of God” (Rev. 7:3+) and “follow the Lamb wherever He goes” perhaps indicating a unique dedication and obedience to God in the midst of the Tribulation on earth (Rev. 7:3+; 14:4-5+). Their ministry is probably evangelistic in nature. Isaiah described a worldwide Jewish mission to the Gentiles. The context is immediately before the gathering of the Jews for the millennial age:51
I will set a sign among them; and those among them who escape I will send to the nations: to Tarshish and Pul and Lud, who draw the bow, and Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands afar off who have not heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles. Then they shall bring all your brethren for an offering to the LORD out of all nations, on horses and in chariots and in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem, says the LORD, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the LORD. (Isa. 66:19-20) [emphasis added]It seems conclusive that these are to be used in evangelism. First, what else could be the purpose of a divinely-protected group in the midst of this time period but to share the truth of the gospel and save even more from doom? Second, their appearance is grammatically linked with the innumerable believers which John subsequently sees (Rev. 7:9-17+).
In the future, God will graciously grant Israel a second opportunity to be His witness nation, and at that time they will not fail. Led by the 144,000 evangelists (Rev. 7:1-8+), Israel will be a light to the nations during the darkest hour of earth’s history.52
There is a decided advantage in using Jews to conduct a worldwide revival in the short timer period of 3 1/2 years. . . The modern missionary, . . . must spend approximately six years [4 years of Bible, 2 of target language] before he is fully equipped to present the gospel in a language that is not his own. . . . All of this world’s major languages, and a great number of the world’s minor languages, are spoken by Jews somewhere. . . . with a large segment of American Jewry being the exception, most Jews receive a good and basic understanding of the Old Testament text. . . . These Jews will already speak the languages needed. They will already have a basic knowledge of the Old Testament text. . . they could begin to preach the gospel in a very short period of time.53
Our Lord says that the gospel of the kingdom is to be preached in all the world for a witness before the end shall come (Mat. 24:14). In view of all the teaching of the Word of God on this subject, it is undoubtedly the gospel of the kingdom which is the added special message of the 144,000. Of course, they present Jesus as the Saviour. Many look to Him and are saved. But they also preach the gospel of the kingdom presenting Jesus as Messiah. They are the sealed witnesses, the 144,000 like Paul who go out with all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, having the prophecies of Joel fulfilled in themselves, as the first faint occurrences at Pentecost cannot possibly be the complete fulfillment which comes to full fruition in the last days.54Along with many Gentiles who will come to faith during this troublesome time, these 144,000 Jewish believers are the initial means by which the Deliverer will begin to turn ungodliness from the Jewish nation (Rom. 11:25-26). The setting apart of a specific group from among the Jews also provides evidence that the Church Age has come to a close:
As long as the church is on the earth there are none saved to a special Jewish relationship. All who are saved are saved to a position in the body of Christ as indicated in Colossians 1:26-29; 3:11; Ephesians 2:14-22; 3:1-7. During the seventieth week the church must be absent, for out of the saved remnant in Israel God seals 144,000 Jews, 12,000 from each tribe, according to Revelation 7:4+. The fact that God is again dealing with Israel on this national relationship, setting them apart to national identities, and sending them as special representatives to the nations in place of the witness of the church, indicates that the church must no longer be on earth.55
In our English version there are three tribes named in each verse, but in reality the arrangement of the tribes as of the apostles (Mat. 10:2-4) is in pairs: first, Judah and Reuben—the fourth and first sons of Leah—the former the royal tribe, the latter the representative of the nation (Gen. 49:3); second, Gad and Asher—the two sons of Zilpah—associated in the prophetic blessings in the last days (Gen. 49:19-20); third, Naphtali and Manasseh linked in the enumeration of Eze. 48:4; fourth, Simeon and Levi—the second and third sons of Leah—associated in the prophetic enumeration (Gen. 49:5-7), also in the Lord’s revelation of Himself to saved Israel (Zec. 12:13); fifth, Issachar and Zabulon [sic]—the fifth and sixth sons of Leah, both are associated in the prophetic (Gen. 49), and in the territorial (Eze. 48) enumerations of the tribes; sixth, Joseph and Benjamin—the two sons of Rachel, the beloved wife of the patriarch.56
Does the fact that they were clothed in white robes and held palms in their hands require the conclusion that they are resurrected with literal, physical resurrection bodies (cf. Luke 24:36-43)? . . . when Christ broke the fifth seal, John saw under the altar in heaven the souls of saints who had been slain for the Word of God during the 70th week (Rev. 6:9-11+). Since they had been slain, they were without physical bodies, and yet they were given white robes to wear (Rev. 6:11+). Thus, in Revelation the wearing of a white robe did not require a resurrection body. Even bodiless souls could wear such a robe. . . . when the rich man of Luke 16 died, his body was buried (Luke 16:22), and his soul went to hell (Luke 16:23). Even though his soul was without its body, Jesus ascribed eyes (Luke 16:23) and a tongue (Luke 16:24) to his bodiless soul. . . . In spite of the fact that angels do not have physical bodies by nature, the Bible ascribes wings, faces, feet, and hands to them (Isa. 6:2, 6; Rev. 10:1-2+, 5+, 8+, 10+) and portrays them wearing clothing (Mat. 28:2-3; Mark 16:5; Acts 1:10; Rev. 15:6+). . . . Although the Bible ascribes such things as hands, feet, faces, tongues, and the wearing of clothing to human, angelic, and divine beings, it does not mean that those beings have literal, physical bodies such as resurrected people have. . . . the fact that the great multitude of Revelation 7+ were clothed in white robes and held palms in their hands does not require the conclusion that they are resurrected with literal, physical resurrection bodies.60See commentary on Revelation 1:5, Revelation 3:4, and Revelation 3:18.palm branches
Compare Zec. 14:16, whence it appears that the earthly feast of tabernacles will be renewed, in commemoration of Israel’s preservation in her long wilderness-like sojourn among the nations from which she shall now be delivered, just as the original typical feast was to commemorate her dwelling for forty years in booths or tabernacles in the literal wilderness.61The waving of palm branches became a symbol of national liberation and blessing and attended the First Coming of the King to Jerusalem (John 12:13).62 Here, they wave palm branches in anticipation of his return to Jerusalem in the events ahead.63
As their calling and service differ from ours, so does their destiny. We, as the bride with the Bridegroom, sit upon the throne to rule and reign with the Lord of Glory. Our destiny is said to be that of rulers and judges. We are to be kings and priests (1Cor. 6:2-3; 1Pe. 2:9; Rev. 1:6+). The 144,000 are to be the glorious bodyguard, the retinue of the Lamb, following Him whithersoever He goeth (Rev. 14:4+). The destiny of the Gentile multitude, however, is that of temple servants.77dwell among them
“He that sits upon the throne shall spread his tabernacle over them.” The A.V. reads, “shall dwell among them”; a poor and utterly inadequate rendering of the divine thought herein expressed. God spread His tabernacle over the tent of meeting of old, which thus became the centre and rest of the thousands of Israel. It covered them in the desert. Two millions and a half people—the typically redeemed host of Jehovah—were sheltered from scorching suns and winters’ blasts, by the huge canopy which God spread over them; it was the nation’s glory and defense.79His dwelling presence is directly tied to the promises which follow that the “sun shall not strike them, nor any heat.” “His dwelling among them is to be understood as a secondary truth, besides what is expressed, namely, His being their covert.”80
When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purged the blood of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning, then the LORD will create above every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and above her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night. For over all the glory there will be a covering. And there will be a tabernacle for shade in the daytime from the heat, for a place of refuge, and for a shelter from storm and rain. (Isa. 4:4-6) [emphasis added]
Converts during the tribulation will have to face fierce and bestial persecution at the hands of their fellow-men, and also have to endure the natural tribulations which God will unleash on all mankind as a consequence of the sins of the human race. Yes, it will be possible to be saved during the tribulation, but it is infinitely better and imminently sensible to accept Jesus Christ as one’s Savior now, before the tribulation. [emphasis added]83
1 The NU text has Μετὰ τοῦτο [Meta touto] , After this (singular).
2 “This ministry of the 144,000 is something that occurs throughout the entire first half and not merely after the sixth seal judgment. In fact, it is going on during the Seal judgments, and it is the means by which the fifth seal saints come to Messiah. The passage begins with After this, which is not chronological, but merely the next vision John sees.”—Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, rev ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 222.
3 Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1992), Rev. 7:1.
4 James Moffatt, “Revelation of St. John the Divine,” in W. Robertson Nicoll, ed., The Expositor’s Greek Testament, vol. 5 (New York, NY: George H. Doran Company, n.d.), Rev. 7:1.
5 Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977), Rev. 7:1.
6 Thomas, Revelation 1-7, Rev. 7:1.
7 “We use the same expression today without in any way denying that the earth is a sphere, so must allow Revelation the same latitude and not see its thought as ‘primitive’!”—Monty S. Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John (Dallas, TX: 3E Ministries, 1987), Rev. 7:1.
8 “Since nowhere in Revelation do we read of the four winds actually blowing, they may be taken as representing the earthly catastrophes that occur under the trumpets and bowls.”—Alan F. Johnson, Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), Rev. 7:1-3.
9 Albrecht Durer (1471 - 1528). Image courtesy of the Connecticut College Wetmore Print Collection.
10 Walter Scott, Exposition of The Revelation (London, England: Pickering & Inglis, n.d.), 155.
11 Donald Grey Barnhouse, Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971), 143.
12 Frederick William Danker and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 796.
13 Thomas, Revelation 1-7, Rev. 7:2.
14 John MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), Rev. 7:1.
15 Concerning lifeless idols: Deu. 4:28; 2K. 19:18; Ps. 115:4; 135:15; Isa. 37:19; 41:25; 44:9; 45:20; 46:7; Jer. 2:28; 10:5, 8, 15; 16:20; Dan. 5:23+; Acts 19:26; Rev. 9:20+.
16 Concerning the Living God: Ex. 3:6; Deu. 5:26; Jos. 3:10; 1S. 17:26, 36; 2K. 19:4, 16; Ps. 42:2; 84:2; Isa. 37:4, 17; Jer. 10:10; 23:36; Dan. 6:20+, 6:26+; Hos. 1:10; Mat. 16:16; 22:32; 26:63; John 6:69; Acts 14:15; Rom. 9:26; 2Cor. 3:3; 6:16; 1Ti. 3:15; 4:10; 6:17; Heb. 3:12; 9:14; 10:31; 12:22; Rev. 7:2+.
17 Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 515.
18 At Rev. 14:1+, in contrast to the TR text, MT and NU texts indicate that the names of both the Father and the Son are written.
19 Barnhouse, Revelation, 144.
20 Arthur Walkington Pink, The Antichrist (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1999, 1923), s.v. “The Antichrist will be the Son of Satan.”
21 Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 796.
22 Thomas, Revelation 1-7, Rev. 7:3.
23 J. A. Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), 166.
24 Gregory K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), 61.
25 A. R. Fausset, “The Revelation of St. John the Divine,” in Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, 1877), Rev. 7:4.
26 Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 161.
27 E. W. Bullinger, Commentary On Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1984, 1935), 282.
28 Jerome Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1992), Rev. 7:4.
29 William Varner, Jacob’s Dozen: A Prophetic Look at the Tribes of Israel (Bellmawr, NJ: Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1987), 103.
30 Scott, Exposition of The Revelation, 153.
31 Bullinger, Commentary On Revelation, 278.
32 Raymond Edward Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland Edmund Murphy, eds., The Jerome Biblical Commentary (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1996, c1968), Rev. 7:4.
33 Albert Barns, Notes on the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1884-85), Rev. 7:4.
34 Mounce, The Book of Revelation, 168.
35 Fausset, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, Rev. 7:1.
36 “Scripture speaks of three categories of persons its contents concern: the Jews, the Gentiles, and the church of God (1Cor. 10:32). What is stated in Rev. 7:4+ pertains to Israel—it cannot pertain to any other group. The names of the tribes of Israel are nowhere in Scripture ever applied to the Gentiles or the church of God. Even among those who (mistakenly) believe the term ‘Israel’ can denote the Church, some recognize the overwhelming evidence in this passage against taking ‘Israel’ as the Church: “It is clear that, though ‘Israel’ may elsewhere designate the spiritual Israel, ‘the elect (Church) on earth’ [Alford], here, where the names of the tribes one by one are specified, these names cannot have any but the literal meaning.”35 ”—Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, Rev. 7:4.
37 MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Rev. 7:4.
38 G. E. Ladd, “Revelation, Book of,” in Geoffrey W. Bromiley, ed., International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979, 1915), 4:175.
39 The “Israel of God” of Gal. 6:16 being no exception. “As Peter Richardson observes: ‘Strong confirmation of this position [i.e., that “Israel” refers to the Jews in the NT] comes from the total absence of an identification of the church with Israel until A.D. 160; and also from the total absence, even then, of the term “Israel of God” to characterize the church.’ ”—Johnson, Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Rev. 7:1-3. In every instance, the word “Israel” refers to those who are of the physical seed of Jacob. See [Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 1989), 684-690].
40 Scott, Exposition of The Revelation, 157.
41 MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Rev. 7:4.
42 Barnhouse, Revelation, 148.
43 “The Gentile company (verse 9) is not numbered. The Israelitish company, on the contrary, is carefully reckoned and the result stated, not in round numbers, but in precise terms.”—Scott, Exposition of The Revelation, 157.
44 Varner, Jacob’s Dozen: A Prophetic Look at the Tribes of Israel, 60.
45 Ibid., 103.
46 Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, Rev. 7:4.
47 Scott, Exposition of The Revelation, 158.
48 Mills suggests that Dan will be key in leading Israel toward the Antichrist in the time of the end: “Dan has a traditional history of idolatry (Lev. 24:11; Jdg. 18:30-31; 1K. 12:28-29), and in the end times it will be no different: Dan will not recognize her Messiah, but will lead Israel in its firm covenant with the Pseudo-christ.”—Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John, Revelation 7:4. As interesting as this theory might be, it requires the tribe of Dan to act in concert as a tribe which seems unlikely given the lack of human ability to determine the boundaries of the tribe within the Jewish population. Of course, the possibility exists that some form of genetic tracking, along with genetic material recovered from a known Danite, could provide the key to unlock human knowledge of the boundaries of the tribe. As we discuss elsewhere, God knows which are the offspring of each son of Jacob. See Ten Tribes Lost?.
49 Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. I (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), s.v. “ECF 220.127.116.11.5.31.”
50 “A great deal of speculation and guesswork has developed as a result [of the omission of the tribe of Dan], mainly the idea that the Antichrist will come out of this tribe. . . . Others claim that the False Prophet will arise out of the Tribe of Dan and that is why that tribe is left out. But this too, is pure speculation. There is nothing in the context to suggest either of these suppositions. The text itself does not state the reason why the Tribe of Dan is left out. The actual reason is simply to maintain the symmetry of twelve.”—Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, 222-223.
51 Unger takes this evangelistic work as occurring during the millennial age rather than in preparation for it: “The LORD will dispatch those of the Jews who escape the judgments of the Tribulation to the nations to evangelize the Gentiles of the Kingdom.”—Merrill F. Unger, Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002), Isa. 66:19b. It would seem that “those among them who “escape” could refer to the sealed Jews of the Diaspora during the Tribulation period itself.”
52 MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Rev. 7:9.
53 Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, 178-179.
54 Barnhouse, Revelation, 151.
55 J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1958), 214.
56 Scott, Exposition of The Revelation, 158.
57 Barnhouse, Revelation, 145.
58 Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, 179-180.
59 Henry Morris, The Revelation Record (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1983), Rev. 7:9.
60 Renald E. Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come (Bellmawr, NJ: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1995), 248.
61 Fausset, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, Rev. 7:9.
62 Regarding John 12:13: “From about two centuries earlier, the waving of palm branches had become a national, if not nationalistic, symbol, which signaled the fervent hope that a messianic liberator was arriving on the scene.”—MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, John 12:13.
63 Fausset, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, Rev. 7:9.
64 Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg, and Neva F. Miller, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), 416.
65 “The word [salvation] frequently carries the meaning of ‘victory’ in classical Greek and in the LXX (Caird).”—Thomas, Revelation 1-7, Rev. 7:10.
66 Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 801.
67 Concerning salvation by faith: Hab. 2:4; Luke 7:42, 50; Acts 13:39; Rom. 1:17; 3:20, 28; 4:2-6; 5:1, 16-18; Gal. 2:16, 21; 3:11, 24; 5:4; 6:15; Eph. 2:8-10; 2Ti. 1:9; Tit. 3:5; Heb. 10:38; Rev. 7:10+.
68 Concerning worship of Jesus: Mat. 2:2; 8:2; 9:18; 14:33; 15:25; 28:9, 17; Mat. 20:20; Mark 5:6; Luke 24:52; John 5:18, 23; John 9:38; 20:28; Acts 7:59 cf. Ps. 31:5; Php. 2:9; Heb. 1:6; Rev. 5:13+; Rev. 7:10+.
69 Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 716.
70 Moffatt, Revelation of St. John the Divine, 399.
71 A. T. Robertson, Robertson’s Word Pictures in Six Volumes (Escondido, CA: Ephesians Four Group, 2003), Rev. 7:14.
72 MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Rev. 7:14.
73 Scott, Exposition of The Revelation, 163.
75 Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 472.
76 Fausset, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, Rev. 7:15.
77 Barnhouse, Revelation, 153.
78 Friberg, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, 350.
79 Scott, Exposition of The Revelation, 165.
80 Fausset, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, Rev. 7:15.
81 Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John, Rev. 7:16.
82 He Who is the Living Water thirsted in dying (John 19:28): “He who began His ministry by hungering (Mat. 4:3), ended it by thirsting (John 19:28). He who was the Rock whence Israel in the desert was refreshed (1Cor. 10:4), and He who turned the water into wine (John 2:1-25), now thirsts.”—Graham W. Scroggie, A Guide to the Gospels (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1995, 1948), 587.
83 Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John, Rev. 7:17.