Session 9

 Revelation Study – Session 9


I want to begin this session by briefly reviewing what we have covered chapter by chapter in our study to this point:

  • Chapter 1 – Saw that the book is a revelation (apokalupsis – away from/to cover or hide) given by Jesus about things which must shortly take place...written by John the Apostle to seven churches in Asia Minor while John was exiled on Patmos...encountered first vision in book at end of chapter which is a startling vision of Christ, Himself, highlighting fact that He is the author of this book...
  • Chapters 2 & 3 – Introduced one by one to the seven churches that were the original recipients of Revelation...
  • Chapter 4 - A wonderful vision of God on His throne, holding out a book securely sealed with seven seals.  My conviction is the book represents the coming judgments of God on His enemies and enemies of His people.
  • Chapter 5 - Chapter 5, which is continuation of vision in chapter 4, introduces us to the Redeeming Lamb, the only One worthy to reveal the contents of the book I of God’s judgments.  This chapter closes with the Redeeming Lamb (Jesus Christ) taking the sealed book (representing God’s workings in history) from the outstretched hand of the Reigning God.  This scene stands behind the remainder of the Apocalypse.
  • Chapter 6 – The first six seals are opened one by one and fantastic scenes are revealed.  As the Lamb opens the sealed book, scene after amazing scene flashes before John’s eyes.  Unifying message – assurance and victory of those in Jesus Christ.

o   6:1-8 (Seals 1-4) - Reveals the means (instruments) of God’s judgment on Rome an others

o   6:9-11 (Seal 5) - Reveals the reason for God’s judgment

o   6:12-17 (Seal 6) – Reveals a description of God’s judgment


            In chapter 6 it is revealed that such things as war, famine, disease, and natural disaster are used by God as judgments on His enemies and the enemies of His people.  But that raises a difficult question.  If such things are instruments of God’s judgment, how is it that Christians are also caught up in them?  How can they be instruments of God’s judgment if they fall on both the wicked and the righteous?

            That’s not a difficult issue for those who believe that the church was raptured out of the world at the beginning of chapter 4.  Those who hold that view interpret everything in Revelation from chapter 4 on as referring to the 7 year period between the second coming of Jesus at the event often referred to as the rapture of the church from the world and the third coming of Jesus which occurs at the end of the 7 year tribulation period.  In that system the church is not in the world during the events described in this part of Revelation.

            But for those who take the position that Jesus is only going to come back once, not twice, (which has been the position of major Christian scholars for at least the first 1900 years of Christian history) and that the church stays in the world until the end of the age, the question of what happens to God’s people during these judgments must be addressed.  And I believe that chapter 7, which is an interlude between the opening of the 6th and 7th seals, specifically addresses that question.


            Want you notice first structure of chapter 7.  Has two distinct parts to it...two separate visions.  First vision, in 7:1-8, introduced by the phrase “after this.”  Second vision, in 7:9-17, introduced by the phrase “after these things...”  This entire chapter is the answer to the question posed at the end of chapter 6.  At the end of chapter 6 the question is asked, “The great day of their wrath (God on His throne in heaven and the Lamb of God) has come and who can stand before it?”  The answer is, “Only those true servants of God who are divinely sealed!”


Vision in 7:1-8 – Reminder that God protects His people in times of judgment

This vision seems to be roughly based on a similar vision Zechariah 6:1-8.



         “four angels standing at the four corners of the earth” – Euphemism meaning the whole part left out...


         “holding back the four winds” – In OT the wind is often portrayed as an instrument of God’s judgment...Jeremiah 4:11-12 – “In that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem, ‘A scorching wind from the bare heights in the wilderness in the direction of the daughter of My people—not to winnow, and not to cleanse, a wind too strong for this—will come at My command; now I will also pronounce judgments against them.”


         “another angel ascending from the rising sun” – Probably a symbol of the light of God coming to a dark world...light and darkness play prominent themes in the writings of John in the NT...


         “having the seal of the living God” – In the 1st century the seal was the mark of ownership...often people used a signet ring to seal or mark items that  belonged to them...wasn’t uncommon to mark slaves with the name of their master...there are some things we can know for sure about this sealing....

·         It was placed on the foreheads of the servants of God (7:3)

·         It was for the purpose of protection (cf. Rev. 9:4)

·         It was the name of God (cf. Rev. 14:1)


“the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand ... from every tribe of the sons of Israel”


INTERPRETATION OF THE VISION – Basically need to explore two questions

         What is meant by 144,000?

·         Some interpret this as a literal number.  That is the precise number of the people who receive the seal being described here.  Runs contrary to how numbers are used in apocalyptic literature.  Not designed to be taken literally.  Symbolize something.

·         Most interpreters, regardless of their approach to Revelation, take 144,000 in symbolic sense.  It is the number of organized religion (12 ... tribes of Israel ... apostles) squared multiplied by the number for fullness or completeness (10) to the third that sense represents a fully completed religious group...


Who are these 144,000 sealed people? (How you answer this question will depend largely on your approach to Revelation.  While many different views have been put forth, most of them can be reduced to two broad, conflicting ideas.)

·         Those who view this section of Revelation taking place during a tribulation period after the church has been raptured from the earth see the 144,000 as representing Jewish people who become Christians during the tribulation period.  Hal Lindsey, whose book The Late Great Planet Earth played key role in popularizing one particular view of end time events says that the 144,000 are Jews who had been witnessed to by Christians prior to the rapture.  After rapture came to faith in Christ and became evangelist who win much of the world to Christ as represented by the great multitude in the second vision of this chapter.  I see several problems with that view in addition to the problem with the rapture which we’ve already discussed in detail:

o    Why would God seal only Jewish Christians for protection and not Gentiles?  Certainly if some Jews came to Christ after the rapture some Gentiles would have as well.

o    Why would John distinguish between Jewish and Gentile Christians here when he does not make that distinction anywhere else in Revelation?

o    Why does Revelation 22:4 indicate that indicate that all Christians are sealed with the name of God on their foreheads?

·         Those who take the position that the church is still on earth during the period described in this chapter view the 144,000 as referring to the new Israel, the church, God’s people in the world.  The NT clearly portrays the church, made up of both Jews and Gentiles, as being the true, spiritual Israel.

o    Galatians 3:29 – “...if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise...”

o    Romans 2:28-29 – “He is not a real Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical.  He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal.”

o    I Peter 2 – Phrases like “...royal priesthood...holy nation...God’s own people...” which were once used only of Israel reapplied to the church...

It seems to me this vision is way of saying that all of God’s people, Jew and Gentile, are sealed by or protected by God in times of judgment...beautiful thought in that...during times of judgment God’s people in the world are under His protection...not that God delivers us from difficult times; He walks with us through such times...while we may have to endure what others endure, in Jesus we have the ability to be victorious in such times...that what Romans 8:28 means!!...


Vision in 7:9-14 – Reminder that no matter what we are called upon to endure in this world, ultimately for God’s people everything is going to be alright.


            Said moment ago that some interpreters, especially those who take the dispensational, pre-millennial approach to Revelation view “the great multitude” in this vision as Gentiles who come to faith in Christ during the tribulation as a result of the ministry of the Jewish converts.  They say the setting of this second vision is on earth, just as was the first vision.


            However, it seems to me the scene in vv.9-17 has shifted from earth to heaven.  Even a cursory reading of the text bears that out.

                  “before the throne and the Lamb” (v.9)

                  “all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and                            around the four living creatures...”

                  “...fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God...”


            The description of this great multitude in important:

“from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues”  - Stresses the universality of the is open to all...

“before the throne and the Lamb” – Stresses the closeness to God and Christ

“clothed in white robes” – Stresses both purity and victory

“palm branches were in their hands” – Stresses joy (triumphal entry)


            In my opinion the 144,000 in vv.1-9 represent the redeemed of God on earth at any particular point in history and the great multitude in vv.9-17 represent all the redeemed of God in heaven at the end of the age.  Thus, the chapter is saying whether in this world or the next, God’s people are safe and protected by Him!


            The most difficult part of this vision is interpreting the phrase “the great tribulation” in v.14.  Two basic ways to interpret phrase:

·         Most popular way today is to view “the great tribulation” as a 7 year period of time just prior to the end of the world as we know it.  Most say church removed from world prior to...others say in middle...some say stay in world...(As I’ve mentioned several times in this study it is difficult to reconcile the fact that God’s pattern has not been to remove His people from trouble but to walk with them through it with the idea that in the end God is going to pull the church from the world just when things get the most difficult.)

·         Others say “the great tribulation” is used in much the same way the phrase “these last days” is used in the NT...reference to that entire period of time from the first coming to the second coming of Christ...during that time God’s people are like aliens and strangers in this world...this world is not our true home and does not accept or understand those who are truly committed to God...I think it is noteworthy that in 1:9 John describes himself to his readers as a “fellow partaker in the tribulation...”  Dr. John Newport, The Lion and the Lamb includes an excellent article on biblical teachings about tribulation...points out Bible speaks of:

o   A type of tribulation which is inseparable from the Christian life in the world (“In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33)

o   A more intense tribulation which will come on the final generation of Christians (“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.” – Matthew 24:21)


·         My view is that a tribulation period began when Christ ascended back to heaven ...during Christian history it has varied in intensity...but at every stage it has been present...however, the tribulation will greatly intensify for all Christians immediately prior to The Lord’s return...the church—the spiritual Israel, the true people of God-- will be led by and protected by God during that period of intense, great tribulation...



            Late 1940’s/early 1950’s study conducted of 31,000 P.O.W. 8000 of whom died in captivity...died even though had sufficient food and shelter for survival...many simply gave up hope, became apathetic and listless, stopped eating and drinking, stared off into space, and eventually died...Dr. Harold Wolff, who reported the study, wrote:  “Hope, like faith and a purpose in life, is medicinal.  This is not merely a statement of belief but a conclusion proved by meticulously controlled scientific experiment.”

            Revelation 7 is a great chapter of hope!  In two amazing visions the apostle reminds God’s people that we have hope for this life and the life to come.

  • In this life we live under God’s protection...we are safe and sealed in Him as judgment rains down all around us...God delivers us not from but through tribulation...
  • In the next life we will have perfect peace, joy, and victory...our needs will be fully supplied...our sorrows will be healed...our tears will be dried...

What a precious hope we have in Jesus!!