Monday, January 19, 2009
Revelation 7:1 - 17
The seventh seal is discussed in chapter 8. However, before we get there, God has a parenthesis for us in this chapter. Chapter 7 may be divided into two portions dealing with two groups-verses 1 through 8-the 144,000 Israelites, and verses 9 through 17- the multitudinous Gentiles. This chapter also portrays God as compassionate, merciful, and loving. This is right, for God is love (1 John 4:8). In fact, God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:16,17).It's mankind's wickedness, rebellion, and sin that produce judgment: For the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same (Job 4:8). The judgments already described were unleashed because of the hardness of men's hearts. They rebelled-and continue to rebel-for thousands of years. God, however, is so great that, at this point, He declares a time out. He still loves the human race and longs to save mankind. He desires for men everywhere to open their minds and hearts and come unto Him. The result is this chapter, which deals with the mercy of God in the midst of Tribulation. God, in love, creates a lull before the storm in order to call men to salvation and revival.
The 144,000 Israelites
Verse 1: 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.
The fact that the angels are standing on the four corners of the earth does not signify that the earth is square. God knows the world He made is round: He sitteth upon the circle of the earth (Isaiah 40:22). This statement was in the Bible when Christopher Columbus allegedly was making a fool of himself by claiming, contrary to public opinion, that the world was round. The God who made it and sits upon the circle of it knows it is not square. Therefore, the term the four corners of the earth is but a Bible expression depicting north, south, east, and west-the four points of the compass. The four angels, standing at these four positions administering judgment, are commanded to relent so there might be a time of great revival as the servants of God are sealed in their foreheads.
Verse 2: 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,
Verse 3: Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
The wicked get their seal-666-under the super-deceiver, the great imitator, the Antichrist (chapter 13, verses 17 and 18). The genuine believers receive their seal from the angel of God at this point in time.
Verse 4: 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.
Verse 5: Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand.
Verse 6: Of the tribe of Aser were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Nepthalim were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasses were sealed twelve thousand.
Verse 7: Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand.
Verse 8: Of the tribe of Zabulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.
This group cannot be the Church, for the Church is already in heaven (chapter 4, verse 1). Also, the Church is not Jewish, but is composed of all races, people, and tongues. Again, this group does not picture the Seventh Day Adventists or the Jehovah's Witnesses. Both have claimed this in their theological writings. The Seventh Day Adventists say that the 144,000 are not Englishmen or Americans either, as the advocates of British Israelism teach. They make the Israelites forerunners of the Anglo-Saxons. Come on now, Armstrongites and Garner Ted. Surely you cannot be that foolish! These are Jewish tribes with Jewish names. Do the names Juda, Reuben, Gad, Aser, Nepthalim, Manasses, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Zabulon, Joseph and Benjamin sound British? Had they been named Heathcliff, Sir Winston, or Sherlock Holmes you might have had reason to propose such nonsense. Under the circumstances, however, you had better allow Jews with Jewish names to head up Jewish tribes in a Jewish nation-Israel.Presently the Jews are not certain of their tribal heritage. However, the omniscient, all-knowing God will untangle this condition at the appointed time. Actually, no one today really knows what his stock is. As a result of migrations, most people are a hodgepodge of differing nationalities. Perhaps it is best not to know or trace one's ancestry. We might be embarrassed to discover our roots! One might learn that he is a descendant of Attilla the Hun! Persons planning to study their family tree should beware. They might find some of their relatives hanging by the neck, while the evolutionists find theirs hanging by the tail!
The 144,000 Jewish evangelists are anointed by the Spirit. Joel 2:28,29 describes the situation as these Spirit-filled preachers proclaim the gospel of the kingdom. And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.We need to pause here briefly because there is a great deal of confusion concerning the presence of the Holy Spirit during the Tribulation hour. This has resulted from a faulty understanding and interpretation of 2 Thessalonians 2:7: For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. The term letteth is the Old English word for hinders. The picture being painted here is the rise of the Antichrist. Second Thessalonians 2:6 states: Ye know what withholdeth that [the Antichrist] might be revealed in his time. Then verse seven makes it clear that the Hinderer-the Holy Spirit-continues to hinder the Antichrist's rise until He-the Holy Spirit-is taken out of the way.Here is another reason millions believe in the pre-Tribulation Rapture. Why? The Hinderer lives in the hearts of His people: If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his (Romans 8:9). Also, 1 Corinthians 3:16: Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? Because of this truth, God's Spirit cannot be taken unless those in whom He lives are taken. Hallelujah! One should note, however, that the Spirit's removal only speaks of His restraining power.
Let me prove this assertion: The Holy Spirit is God, the third member of the Trinity. As God, He is omniscient (all knowing), omnipotent (all powerful), and omnipresent (everywhere at all times). Therefore, the Holy Spirit cannot be removed from the earth because He, as God, is in all places constantly. David states in Psalm 139:7-10: Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. Since the Holy Spirit is everywhere at all times, only His restraining influence over sin is removed during the Tribulation hour.Presently Christians are the salt of the earth and the light of the world (see Matthew 5:13-16). The evacuation of Christians, in whose hearts the Holy Spirit lives, is the way-the only way-His restraining influence on sin is removed, ridding the world of salt and light. Christians are God's preservative forces, as well as the dispellers of darkness. Imagine what happens when the Spirit's restraining influence (the Church) is removed via the Rapture. Quite literally, all hell will break loose upon earth. Still, even during this time, His continuing personal presence on earth produces one of the greatest revivals in the history of mankind.The message of the 144,000 centers on the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. This was the emphasis of the Old Testament preachers: To [Jesus] give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins (Acts 10:43).
In addition to preaching the message of the shed blood of Jesus, the 144,000 proclaim the advent of the King: And this gospel [or good news] of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come (Matthew 24:14). This is not the message of His first coming-the Rapture (chapter 4, verse 1) but the Revelation or revealing of Christ as King (chapter 19, verse 16).In order to get a picture of the complete message the kingdom messengers proclaim, one must study the life of John the Baptist. John's message was: (1) Repentance: He said, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 3:2); (2) the blood: again, He saith, behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world (John 1:29). This message of repentance and the blood was to prepare the hearts of the people for the third part of His message-the coming of the King. Though Christ was rejected in the days of John the Baptist, He will be accepted when the 144,000 Jews preach the identical message.At this time a worldwide revival ensues, for one of the elders asks, 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 (chapter 7, verses 13 and 14). Let's study this God-sent, Holy Spirit-empowered revival, step by step.
The Multitudinous Gentiles
Verse 9: 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;
John states: After this. After what? After the 144,000 Jewish evangelists are sealed by the Spirit of God. God's message is always to the Jew first, then to the Gentile. That's why Romans 1:16 declares, I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. Since the Jews have heard, John sees a great multitude standing before the throne which no man could count, from every race and nationality. Their white robes prove that they have trusted in the message of the blood and are clothed in the righteousness of Christ. The waving of the palms in their hands signifies victory. They have overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil. They are joyous because they have survived the first six seals of judgment and their joy leads to praise.
Verse 10: They cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
This multitude recognizes the source of their salvation and victory. They cannot be kept silent. Who can be silent when the grace of God does its mighty work of salvation in one's heart? Immediately the angels join with them in praise to the Father and to the Son.
Verse 11: 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 worshipped God,
Verse 12: Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
What a glorious scene as the angels surrounding the throne and God's people (represented by the elders) fall on their faces in worship, praise, and adoration!
Their sevenfold praise session to God centers around:
Forever and forever! No wonder they say, Amen! Then one of the elders asks a question.
Verse 13: And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?
Verse 14: 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.
This is another proof that the Church is in heaven, not upon earth. Why? John does not recognize this group. He knows the raptured Church in heaven (chapter 4, verse 1), but not the ones on earth in this text. These are Tribulation saints who have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Please hear God once again: These are they which came out of great tribulation. That settles it and explains why John-who recognized the Church in heaven-is in a fog concerning these individuals. They are new brothers and sisters in Christ, though unknown to John. They have been saved in a different period of time-a time when he and the Church were in heaven. The Church was not on earth to make their acquaintance.The next scene is exciting. Each group saved during different dispensations of time has different duties to perform. The Church is the bride of Christ and enjoys the 1,000-year honeymoon upon earth (chapter 20, verse 4). They reign as rulers, kings, and priests (1 Peter 2:9 and Revelation 1:6). The 144,000 serve as bodyguards of the Lamb and His bride (chapter 14, verse 4). The Gentiles saved during the Tribulation will be Temple servants, waiting on Christ and His bride. They serve in the glorious Temple (described in Ezekiel chapters 40 through 48) which is set up immediately after Russia-under the names of Gog, Magog, Meshech, Tubal, and Rosh-is destroyed (Ezekiel 38 and 39). Everything is so near. Russia could march soon, then Antichrist would be smashed and the Lord would return with His bride. At that time the millennial Temple is erected and the Gentiles serve.
Verse 15: 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.
Because God is dwelling among them, the depravations they suffered under the Antichrist are now abolished. Under the reign of the world dictator, there was little food and one had to take the mark of the beast, 666, to obtain sustenance. These believers who refused the number had to eke out an existence day by day. Now, with the Lord in their midst, the picture changes.
Verse 16: They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.
This refers to the scorching effects of the sun during the Tribulation hour: [As] the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire (chapter 16, verse 8). In addition, the word heat refers to the fires of persecution as described in 1 Peter 1:7. Such trials are finished forever.
From this point onward the people of God from all dispensations enjoy the presence of God. Their days of suffering, heartache, and abuse by an ungodly world are finished. Tears are wiped way as every remembrance of past sorrow is obliterated from their minds.
Verse 17: 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.