Revelation 7:1-8

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

April 23, 1997

Introduction

The book of Revelation, as we've seen, is divided up into three parts (Rev.1:19):

The first part was chapter 1, the things John saw, a vision of Jesus Christ.

The second part was chapters 2&3, where John was told to write the "things that are", describing what we call the "church age", the present times we're currently in.

The third part, chapters 4-22, was where John was told to write the things which shall take place "after these things", the events that are still in the future, which shall take place after the current church age.

In this third part, John was taken up into heaven, where he saw the things going on around God's throne.

He saw Jesus Christ come and take a seven-sealed scroll from God the Father, and begin to open the scroll, beginning the process of redeeming the earth back to God.

Jesus would open a seal, unroll the scroll a little bit, and something would take place on the earth.

With this scroll, we see the beginning of what we know as the seven year Tribulation period upon earth.

We've seen Jesus open up six seals and seen things on earth like the entrance of the anti-christ, war, famine, death, and great earthquakes and signs in the sky.

We're now about to take a brief break from the seals, and won't pick up the seventh seal until chapter eight.

This seems to be a pattern in the book, where six things happen, then there's a break, then the seventh happens.

7:1-8 The 144,000

:1 I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth

Some look at this and say that the Bible is antiquated and pushing the idea of a flat earth.

But we still use the expression, the "four corners of the earth", and we don't hold to a flat earth.

It's simply referring to the four points on a compass, north, south, east, and west.

:1 holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth

holding - krateo - literally, "having power over the four winds"

winds - anemos - wind, a violent agitation and stream of air; a very strong tempestuous wind

These angels are asked to keep the winds quiet while a special operation takes place, the sealing of the 144,000.

:2 ascending from the east

literally, "ascending from the rising of the sun"

It has been suggested that this could be a fulfillment of a prophecy:

(Mal 4:1-3 KJV) For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. {2} But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. {3} And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts.

The prophet seems to be talking about a time of great trouble, like the tribulation period.

But to those who fear God, this "sun" of righteousness will rise with healing, and allow them to "go forth" to tread down the wicked.

Interesting.

:2 having the seal of the living God:

Seal - sphragis - a seal; the seal placed upon books; a signet ring; the inscription or impression made by a seal.

From "Living Water" (Chuck Smith, pg.72)

In the days of Paul, the city of Ephesus was one of the major seaports of Asia. Most of the goods coming from the east to be sold in the west came through the port of Ephesus. It was the merchandising center of the world. Great caravans would come from the east bringing their wares. Merchants from Rome would gather in Ephesus to purchase these articles and pack them for shipping to Puteoli, the great port city of Rome. From there they would be distributed throughout the empire. The goods would be stamped with a wax seal and then imprinted with a signet ring bearing a unique mark of ownership. Then the cargo would be loaded on the ships and sent to Rome.

When the merchandise arrive at Puteoli, servants of the merchantmen used the seals to identify their master's goods as they were unloaded. The seal was the mark of ownership.

Lesson:

We have a seal too.

Concerning the believers in Ephesus, Paul wrote,

Eph 1:13 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,

Eph 4:30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

We have God's mark of ownership on us, the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit says to all in the realm of the spirit that we belong to God, all others "hands off".

Illustration

Kind of like the bumper sticker that says, "You toucha my truck, I breaka you face!"

We have no reason to believe that anything different is happening to these servants of God.

God is having an angel put God's "seal" on their foreheads, a mark to the world that they belong to God.

Perhaps this is the moment when these 144,000 servants are saved, when they come to believe in their Messiah.

It may be a visible mark, but it's more likely one that's visible only in the realm of the spirit, where John is.

I believe it is the same seal that we have, the Holy Spirit.

In contrast, there will be another form of "seal" in the time of the tribulation. It is another "mark" of ownership:

There will be a "false prophet" who will cause another mark -

(Rev 13:16-18 KJV) And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: {17} And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. {18} Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.

mark - charagma - a stamp, an imprinted mark

Not the same word as "seal", but very similar in idea.

:3 Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees

So these four angels are to keep the winds quiet.

The implication is that when they let go of the "winds", there will be some kind of harm to the earth, sea, and trees.

We will see these four angels at work in chapter eight, using their "wind" to blow the first four of seven trumpets.

Look at the things that are harmed when they blow their horns:

1st trumpet - trees and grass burnt (Rev.8:7)

2nd trumpet - sea hurt (Rev. 8:8)

3rd trumpet - earth, rivers, and springs polluted (Rev. 8:10)

4th trumpet - sun, moon, stars darkened (Rev.8:12)

Note:

It's interesting to see the parallels between the seven seals and the seven trumpets.

With the seven seals, the first four seals were set apart, being the "four horsemen" of the apocalypse.

Here we see that the first four trumpeters are also separate from the others, being the four angels with the four winds.

:3 till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads

These angels are to keep their horns quiet until the work of sealing these servants is finished.

This is very much like something that God had done before.

The prophet Ezekiel had a ministry during the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian army.

He prophesied to the people who were already in Babylon, about the events that were happening back in Jerusalem.

He had a fascinating vision about what was going on in the realm of the spirit during the destruction of the city.

(Ezek 9:1-7 KJV) He cried also in mine ears with a loud voice, saying, Cause them that have charge over the city to draw near, even every man with his destroying weapon in his hand. {2} And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer's inkhorn by his side: and they went in, and stood beside the brazen altar. {3} And the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, whereupon he was, to the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed with linen, which had the writer's inkhorn by his side; {4} And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. {5} And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: {6} Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house. {7} And he said unto them, Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain: go ye forth. And they went forth, and slew in the city.

We see many of the same things as in Revelation:

Promised destruction.

Marking those who believe, those who "sigh" over the abominations going on.

Safety for those who are marked.

Lesson:

What do you sigh at?

Are you "sighing" at the things going on in the world?

Are you bothered by the evil around us?

Or are you a part of it?

I don't think that we're going to be around when this sealing of the 144,000 takes place.

But even if I'm wrong, and we're around, as you will see, there's not much chance that we're part of this group, because they are Jewish men.

But the principle still stands.

Are you grieved at the world?

Or a part of it?

Illustration

I used to wince every time preachers would talk about things like TV or movies.

I didn't like it because I liked to watch "Dallas", and I didn't see very much wrong with it.

We got to a point in our lives as a family where we just got too busy to see much TV anymore.

And now, every once in a while when I turn on a network show, I can't believe the filth and junk that's on!

Is it because TV has gotten so bad? Is it because I haven't watched it that much lately? Maybe a little of both.

But the point is, the world is going downhill quite fast, and if you are too caught up in the world, it just might take you with it.

:4 here were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel

an hundred and forty and four thousand

Some have tried to make this number mean something, running it through all kinds of symbolic hoops.

I can tell you very simply what it means:

There are twelve tribes, and twelve thousand are picked from each tribe.

12 x 12,000 = 144,000

Who are they?

Lots of people through history have tried to identify themselves with this group.

The most famous to us these days are the Jehovah's Witnesses.

They ran into difficulty, however, when the group grew beyond 144,000. They did not know what to do with the leftovers, so they started another category of 144,000. They taught there was an earthly band of 144,000 and a heavenly band, and if you believed their doctrines in the early decades of this century you could belong to the heavenly band. But now, again, they have a problem because they number more than 288,000 today, so they have created still a third band called "the servant band." If you join the Jehovah's Witnesses today you must come in at the servant level.

Gosh, you should have joined in the early days!

For a while, the World Wide Church of God, founded by Herbert W. Armstrong, claimed that they were going to be this group.

For a while, they said that "if you will double and triple tithe to the church of God you can become one of the one hundred and forty-four thousand, the inner circle, and when the precise time comes we will send you a telegram that you can flee to this wilderness where we have prepared survival for the one hundred and forty-four thousand."

Praise the Lord, this group has been changing their doctrine, and are coming out of cultic darkness, and beginning to hold to the truths of Scripture.

There are many mainline Christian churches today who try to identify these 144,000 as the church, instead of Israel.

The problem with all these people who want to be part of the 144,000 is, which tribe are they from?

The Scripture is being VERY SPECIFIC here, that these are Jews, they are even from specific tribes.

If a Jehovah's witness wants to claim to be part of the 144,000, ask him which tribe he's from.

What do they do?

They are called "servants of our God" (vs.3).

They will be preaching the gospel during the Tribulation.

Jesus talks about them in His description of the tribulation:

(Mat 24:11-14 KJV) And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. {12} And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. {13} But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. {14} And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

In another interesting passage Jesus is giving His twelve disciples instructions about their ministry:

(Mat 10:5-8 KJV) These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: {6} But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. {7} And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. {8} Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.

Yet later on in the passage, Jesus seems to kind of jump into the future:

(Mat 10:21-23 KJV) And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. {22} And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. {23} But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.

Could it be that these 144,000 will pick up where the disciples left off, witnessing to Israel until the time when Jesus returns? Interesting idea.

We'll see the fruit of their ministry in the next part of Revelation 7, next week.

At what is thought to be midway through the tribulation, these 144,000 will be in heaven:

(Rev 14:1-5 KJV) And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads. {2} And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: {3} And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. {4} These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. {5} And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.

Lesson:

Preach the gospel

We don't have to be part of the 144,000 to tell people about Jesus and His love.

We have the same seal, the Holy Spirit on our lives.

We have the same Savior, the Lamb of God.

We have the same message, that Jesus can save us from our sins, if we only trust Him.

:5 Of the tribe of Juda

If you look closely, you will find that there are indeed twelve tribes listed.

But if you look again, there's some oddities in the tribes that are listed.

What's up?

In actuality, there are more than 12 tribes, and if you only list 12, you will inevitably leave one tribe out.

Originally, Jacob had twelve sons:

Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtli, Joseph, and Benjamin.

But when Jacob was giving out blessings, he gave a "double portion" to his favorite son, his beloved Joseph.

He did this by making Joseph's sons, Ephraim and Manasseh on the same level as his own sons, and Joseph's name is often only their by implication, through his sons Ephraim and Manasseh.

This made in effect thirteen tribes.

When Israel came into the Promised Land, God decided that He wanted the tribe of Levi to be His own possession, made them the priestly tribe, and took them out of the line up, leaving twelve tribes to divide up the land.

The typical list of twelve tribes in the Old Testament include Ephraim and Manasseh (and not Joseph) as separate tribes, and Levi is not part of the list, being the tribe of the priests.

But if you examine the list here, you see that Levi is back in the line up, Joseph is in the line up, Ephraim isn't listed specifically, and Dan is missing altogether.

Actually, Ephraim isn't quite missing, since it is a part of Joseph.

What happened to Dan?

There are a couple of possibilities, but nothing definite.

One suggestion is that this might have something to do with the tribe of Dan's reputation towards idolatry.

(Judg 18:30 KJV) And the children of Dan set up the graven image: and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land.

Being the northern most tribe, it was also often one of the first tribes to be attacked, and one of the first tribes to fall during times of invasion.

Another suggestion has been made in regard to Jacob's prophecy over Dan:

(Gen 49:16-18 KJV) Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. {17} Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward. {18} I have waited for thy salvation, O LORD.

A very interesting idea has been proposed, and apparently even held by some Jewish Rabbi's (according to Chuck Missler), that the antichrist will come from the tribe of Dan.

Reread the passage in Genesis with that idea in mind. Interesting.

Keep in mind, no matter what, the tribe of Dan may be down, but not out.

When Jesus returns, the tribe of Dan will receive a portion of the land once again.

(Ezek 48:2 KJV) And by the border of Dan, from the east side unto the west side, a portion for Asher.

Note:

Another idea has been proposed, that instead of speaking of actual lineage, the tribes could be speaking of location.

Each tribe was assigned a part of the land when Joshua conquered it.

It has been suggested that maybe this is talking about people coming from each area of Israel.

In that case, with Dan missing, it would mean that the northern most part of Israel would be missing, since Dan was traditionally the farthest point north in Israel.

The problem with this idea would be that the Levites did not have a specific area, but were scattered throughout the land, given space in cities.

Yet it is interesting to note that among Orthodox Jews, there are those who can still trace their lineage to the tribe of Levi.

The name "Cohen" is Hebrew for "priest", and many claim to be descendants of Aaron.