Revelation chapter seven is a parenthetical chapter placed between the sixth and seventh seals. This indicates that the events described in this chapter must take place before Jesus returns. We will see that there will be a special people with a special message for these last days.
After the sixth seal described the signs of the sun, moon, and stars, and the terrible shaking of every mountain and island, the question was asked, “For the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” The answer is, only those who receive “the seal of the living God.” Revelation 7:2
Verses 1–3: Four Corners of the Earth
Four angels are “standing on the four corners of the earth.” The expression “four corners of the earth” represents the four different directions of the compass, and hence, represents the world as a whole. See Jeremiah 49:34–39.
These angels are holding back the “four winds of the earth.” Winds in the Scriptures are symbolic of strife, turmoil, and conflict. Four winds represent universal strife brought forth by major powers. See Daniel 7:2, 3, 16, 17. It is likened to a whirlwind that stirs up commotion over a large area. See Isaiah 17:12–14; Jeremiah 25:31–33.
Earth, Sea, and Trees
Angels are holding back “winds” of universal strife that they “should not blow on the earth, nor the sea, nor on any tree.” In the natural world, fierce winds directly affect the earth, the sea, and the trees. It is likely that these three natural entities are used symbolically. The earth represents that which supports man. In this sense, things will not get so bad with the world economies, the social order, and the stability of world governments before God’s people are sealed with the seal of the living God. The sea represents the masses of the world’s population. See Revelation 17:15. In this sense, disasters of various kinds and wars will not get so out of hand that a large percentage of the world’s masses will perish before the work of the gospel is over. And any tree seems to focus on any individual. In this sense, every person will have enough light to make an intelligent decision between the mark of the beast and the seal of God. Satan hopes to stir things up so that individuals will never hear the truth for this time; however, the angels of God will hold back the four winds of strife enough that the message will reach every corner of our world.
In Revelation 16:13, 14, we learn that evil angels will endeavor to lead the entire world to war. The purpose for stirring up such commotion and trouble is that Satan loves human carnage, and he knows that people will get too preoccupied with earthly disasters that they will find no time to be saved.
Protection of God’s people
The purpose for holding back the four winds of strife is to give the people of God time to prepare themselves to receive the seal of the living God. In like manner, the Flood was held back until Noah and his family found safety in the ark. The judgments against Sodom and Gomorrah were delayed until Lot and his family left the city. They were told, “Haste, thee, escape thither; for I cannot do anything till thou come thither.” Genesis 19:22. It wasn’t until the Hebrew people placed the slain lamb’s blood on their door posts that the destroying angel came and passed over the Hebrew homes to slay the first born of the Egyptians. As we can see, angels have quite a resumé for holding back destructive elements until God’s people are spiritually ready.
If it were not for these restraining angels there would be far more devastation in our world due to failed economies, social unrest, political upheavals, natural disasters, and more. If Satan had his way, our world would be overflowing with woe and desolation.
An angel is seen “ascending from the east.” As the sun circles the earth from east to west, so shall God’s people be sealed. God’s people are to be found all around the globe.
The second coming of Christ is depicted as coming from the east. The Bible says, “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” Matthew 24:27. Christ will appear as coming from the east, yet the whole world will see Him come. “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him; and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen.” Revelation 1:7.
The seal of God is a sign of ownership. “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” 2 Timothy 2:19.
We are told that these sealed ones, the 144,000, have the “Father’s name written in their foreheads.” Revelation 14:1. In the Bible, names are representative of a person’s character. Therefore, the 144,000 are not literally sealed on their foreheads, instead they are sealed with the altogether beautiful character of God. Because they have departed from iniquity and have received the righteousness of Christ, they belong to the Father. The sealing takes place because they have gained the victory over sin. God has restored His image in this special group of saints.
The forehead was the place where the high priest wore the golden plate with the inscription, “Holiness to the Lord.” The seal is the sign of a holy character. The sealing is accomplished through the work of the Holy Spirit. See Ephesians 4:30.
We know that a seal is used in connection with laws or legal documents. Webster’s Dictionary defines a seal as “that which authenticates, confirms, makes stable; that which effectually secures.” Does God want to seal us with His law? Paul teaches us that God wants to write His law upon our hearts and minds. See Hebrews 8:10; 10:16. With God’s law in our hearts and minds our lives are stable. It confirms that we belong to Him. Obedience through the Spirit makes our lives effectual witnesses of His grace and kingdom. See 2 Corinthians 3:3.
Jesus was sealed because the law was written in His heart and He delighted to do His Father’s will. See Psalm 40:7, 8. Only those who have the law written on their hearts “know righteousness.” Isaiah 51:7.
In an official seal, you have the name of the lawgiver, his title, and jurisdiction. Which one of God’s laws contains all of these elements? The fourth commandment concerning the seventh-day Sabbath contains them. The lawgiver is the Lord. His territory is the heavens and the earth. And His title is God, the Creator of us all. Therefore, the seventh-day Sabbath is clearly the seal of God, declaring His ownership of us. See Exodus 31:15–17; Ezekiel 20:12, 20. The Sabbath is the outward sign of our separation from sin. See Isaiah 56:2.
The Sabbath is not only the sign of ownership, but also of redemption. As God originally created us in His image, He desires to re-create us in the image of His Son. The Sabbath is the sign of creation and therefore of re-creation. And it is only through a life of continual sanctification in the Spirit that we are re-created in His image.
That Sabbath observance is an important part of the sealing message is evident from Revelation 14:6–14. It teaches us to worship Him who created heaven and earth. Those who worship the Creator receive His seal. Those who reject the Sabbath will in the end receive the mark of the beast. More on this point later.
The angels are holding back the winds of strife that the people of God may be sealed with His law. The Sabbath is the outward sign of their allegiance to God’s authority. Sunday sacredness will be the outward sign of allegiance to the first beast of Revelation 13. This controversy between the Sabbath of the Lord and Sunday legislation is more than a matter of a day. It is all about authority. Who has the authority over your life? Is it Jesus? Or is it man? By our choices, we clearly demonstrate who has the authority in our life.
Verses 4–9: The Sealed Number
John saw the 144,000 in twelve groups of 12,000 each. There is another group, an innumerable group. This would give support to the 144,000 as a literal number.
This great number is written in the Greek as 144 thousand. Why is that? What is does 144 and thousand represent?
The number 144 is 12 x 12. The number twelve is the number of God’s kingdom. There were twelve patriarchs and twelve apostles. The New Jerusalem has twelve gates and twelve foundations. See Revelation 21:12, 14. Therefore the 144,000 are a part of God’s kingdom (12), and a special part of God’s kingdom (12 x 12). What makes them so special? The number 1000 reveals the secret. If 144 is 12 x 12, then 1000 is 10 x 10 x 10. There is only one thing in the whole Bible that is 10 x 10 x 10. It is the Most Holy Place. The 144 thousand are a group of saints that have the Most Holy Place experience.
The Most Holy Place
There were three different areas to the Sanctuary. The Courtyard is where we find the altar of burnt offerings and the laver, representing freedom from guilt. This is where the penitent sinner confessed his sins. The Holy Place, the first compartment of the sanctuary, represents freedom from the known sins we have repented of. Here we find three pieces of furniture: the menorah (lamp stand or seven-branched candlestick), the table of shewbread, and the altar of incense. They respectively represent three key areas of our Christian life: witnessing or shining for Jesus, partaking of His life, and communing with God in prayer. If these three things are present in our daily experience, we will overcome the known sins we confessed in the courtyard. Take away any one of these three things, and we will proportionately lose the power and will to overcome.
The Most Holy Place is the second compartment of the sanctuary and is consider the holiest of all. It had the Ark of the Covenant. Within the ark were the Ten Commandments, Aaron’s rod, and a jar of manna. This most sacred compartment represents overcoming even our hidden sins. Imagine for a moment a Christian mother that knows that she is supposed to have patience with her children. However, she has never read that she is to have temperance as well. Her intemperance caused by her lack of rest, exercise, proper nutrition, and adequate amounts of pure water, makes it harder for her to have patience. Her intemperance is like an undercurrent in her life. She doesn’t see the undercurrent, but it is definitely there, dragging her out to sea.
The 144,000 have that most glorious experience of overcoming known and hidden sins. They are cooperating with God each day in learning more about themselves through shining for Jesus (menorah), partaking of His life (shewbread), communing with God in prayer (incense), keeping His commandments (Ten Commandments), practicing good health habits (manna), and being transparent with God (Aaron’s rod).
The twelve tribes are not representative of literal Jews, but those who have the most holy place experience. After all, there are way more than 144,000 people with a Jewish background that believe Jesus is the Messiah.
The early was begun with predominantly Jewish converts. While the Sanhedrin and the Jewish leaders rejected Jesus as the Messiah, thousands of individual Jews accepted Him. The disciples of Jesus and those that received Him became spiritual Israel. See Galatians 3:29. All who become “new creatures in Christ Jesus” are of the “Israel of God.” See Galatians 6:15, 16. More on this point at the end of the chapter.
As the twelve patriarchs were representative of ancient Israel, so the twelve apostles were representative of the church, made up of both Jews and Gentiles. In Christ, a new Israel emerged with Gentile converts being grafted in. See Romans 11:17–26. The New Jerusalem will have twelve pearly gates with each gate having one of the names of the tribes of Israel written above it. Obviously, not all that enter in are of Hebrew blood. Those who enter these gates will come from every tribe, tongue, and people. Each one of us will find our way through one of these gates. The gate that we will pass through depends upon our experience and personality.
Dan and Ephraim omitted: The tribes of Ephraim and Dan were omitted from the list of the twelve tribes. I am not positive why they were omitted, except that the Ephraimites took a leading role in the apostasy of the ten tribes under Jeroboam. And Dan was described as “a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels so that the rider shall fall backwards.” Genesis 49:17. The former was an idolater, and the latter a backbiter. Obviously, God considers these as two of the most serious sins, and no unrepentant idolater or backbiter will be part of the 144,000.
During the times of ancient Israel, there never were exactly twelve thousand members in each tribe, let alone all the tribes. There are twelve tribes with twelve thousand individuals in each tribe because the 144,000 together will perfectly reflect the image of Jesus to the world. Each tribe represents a particular loveliness of Jesus. In the end, among the 144,000, they will collectively reflect all twelve lovely characteristics of Jesus.
Sealed for a special work
The twelve apostles were selected and trained by Christ for a special service. They were “sifted as wheat” and during the upper room experience they got the victory over every known sin and were sealed for their apostolic mission. See Ephesians 4:30; 2 Corinthians 1:20, 21. The disciples were to go and be witnesses for Christ, to declare to all the world what He had taught and shown them.
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost was the outward evidence of their acceptance and sealing. It was also the evidence that they had departed from all iniquity and that God accepted and acknowledged them as His own.
Receiving the early rain
As soon as the twelve apostles were purified and “sealed for their work” they received the early rain of the Holy Spirit which was the “firstfruits of the Spirit.” Romans 8:23. Then the Holy Spirit was poured out upon all flesh to ripen the gospel grain for the harvest. Under the leadership of the apostles, a great harvest numbering millions of souls was gathered during the first century.
Two harvests in Palestine
There were two principal harvests in Palestine. The first came in the spring of the year between Passover and Pentecost. These seven weeks were known as “the weeks of harvest.” The second and great harvest of the year came in the fall and ended with the Feast of Tabernacles, which was also called “the Feast of Ingathering.”
These two harvests of Palestine are used to represent the two great gospel harvests. There was a great harvest when the Holy Spirit was poured out in apostolic times. We often refer to this as the former rain. Yet the latter rain at the close of the gospel commission will be greater.
In the beginning, there were twelve disciples. In the end, there will be the 144,000 (12 times 12,000). The threefold message of Revelation 14 will enlighten the whole world, and the ingathering of an innumerable harvest will be the result.
The 144,000 and the great multitude
It is evident that Revelation 7 describes two distinct companies. The first is numerable and the second is innumerable. The first is related to the second in the same way that the twelve apostles are related to the multitudes who accepted the gospel in the first century. There were exactly twelve disciples that had an innumerable number of converts. The 144,000, I believe, is an exact number who will have an innumerable number of converts.
Verses 9–13: Praise to God
“Salvation to our God” is a recognition by the numberless multitude that God and the Lamb have redeemed them. “And all the angels stood round about the throne” joined in the adoration and worship of God.
There is a sevenfold doxology of praise to God: “Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might be unto our God forever and ever. Amen.”
The elder asks the question, “What are these which are arrayed in white robes? And whence came they?”
The flow of chapter 7 seems to be as follows:
The description of the 144,000 (Revelation 7:1–8) answers the question, “Who is able to stand?” Revelation 6:17.
Then John sees an innumerable harvest of saints in heaven. Revelation 7:9–12.
Then one of the elders asks, “What are these which are arrayed in white robes? And whence came they?” (7:13). It seems to me that the elder is asking about a specific group among those who are saved. The answer is that they “came out of great tribulation.” Revelation 7:14.
Since all of God’s saints will be wearing white robes, then we are to focus on a special group of God’s people who go through the great time of trouble. The saints in these last days will go through a time of trouble as there has never been. See Daniel 12:1, 2. They will face the wrath of the dragon coming from many directions: spiritualism, Catholicism, and apostate Protestantism. The 144,000 will face great wrath and the worst tribulation of all time—the time of the seven last plagues. It would seem that the elder is looking at the 144,000 in heaven. They are part of the great and innumerable harvest of saints, they will wear white robes, and they are the ones who go through the greatest time of trouble in earth’s history.
Verses 15–17: A Special Group in Heaven
Because of their experience through the seven last plagues, the 144,000 will have special rights in the heavenly temple. They took their stand against the mark of the beast. They endured hunger and the scorching rays of the sun during the plagues. As their reward, they will serve God in His temple day and night.
Yet, the redeemed from all the ages will experience the joys of heaven. They have right to the Holy City. They will build houses and plant vineyards. They will give their testimony to unfallen worlds. Marvelous are the things which God has prepared for His people.
Chapters four through seven have given us a view of God’s judgments against evil. We began with the heavenly court scene in chapters four and five. We were introduced to the four living creatures near the throne of God and the twenty-four elders who were redeemed from among men.
Then we come to the four horsemen of chapter six. If you want to receive eternal life you must be on the white horse. We need purity of doctrine. We need truth because truth alone sanctifies. We also need Jesus to be the rider or rightful ruler in our lives. If you get off the white horse, you will be riding either a red, black, or pale horse. In any case, you will be lost. There is no room for compromise in the judgment. You cannot be judging others unjustly and be saved, for as you judge others you will also be judged. And you certainly cannot be persecuting the followers of Christ and receive eternal salvation. There will be no unrepentant murders in heaven.
God has also shown us in this section that time is short. The signs in the earth, sun, moon, and stars have already been fulfilled. If time is as short as a few years, then the 144,000 are all living saints today. It would seem that everything is in place. Therefore, what is left? God’s people need to prepare themselves to receive the power of the latter rain. When this happens, the gospel will go throughout all the earth, and then the end will come.
In chapter seven we were introduced to the 144,000. They are a sanctified group of God’s people who follow Jesus wherever He goes. All of us should strive to be among them. Let us take a quick walk through the Sanctuary to see how they became a part of the 144,000.
Courtyard: With its altar of burnt offerings, they have confessed every known sin. With the laver of water, they are choosing to be washed by the Word and the workings of the Holy Spirit.
Holy Place: With the menorah, they are daily shining for Jesus. With the table of shewbread, they partake of His altogether beautiful life every day. They know that Jesus lived a perfect life for them. It is their desire to receive that perfect life through the Spirit. With the altar of incense, they are daily in communion with God in prayer.
Most Holy Place: With the Ten Commandments found in the ark of the covenant, they bring their life into perfect harmony with the will of God. With the manna, they feed upon the life of Jesus. In addition, they practice health reform that they may have clearer thoughts and greater insights into His Word. With Aaron’s rod, they are not willing to hide anything from God, but to trust in Him who already knows all things.