Section: Chapter Six - The First Six Seals
SEVEN - DELIVERANCE
After this I saw (2) four angels standing at the four corners of the
earth, holding back (3) the four winds of the earth, (4) so that no
wind should blow on the earth or on the sea or on any tree.
1. After this I saw = a
popular formula used by John to introduce a new unit of material.
It indicates a new sequence, but not necessarily a new time factor.
In sequence, the fact that the sixth seal renders the earth absent
of all light demands a temporary darkness.
There is no justification
on the part of those who attempt to assign a permanent end to sun,
moon, and stars at the sixth seal. Only by ignoring textual details
and/or maximizing textual similarities with regards to seal six, trumpet
four and bowl four can one make a case against a limited cessation
of light during the sixth seal. The use of the sun to scorch men on
the earth at the fourth bowl judgment demands that whatever happens
at the sixth seals, it is limited in duration.
2. Four angels = we are
not told who these angles are. We are told that they are positioned
at the four corners of the earth. The significance of their position
is seen in the fact that they control the whole earth.
3. The four winds of the
earth = refers to the directions North, South, East and West (Eze
37:9; Jer 49:36 and Dan 7:2; 8:8 and 11:4).
4. So that = indicates
the purpose of the restraining angels. They are holding back the wind.
We are not told why the wind needs to be restrained, but the implication
is danger. That is, these winds will cause great destruction on the
earth once let lose. By implication, only those divinely protected
will be safe from the blowing wind.
And I saw another angel ascending
(1) from the rising of the sun, having (2) the seal of the living God;
and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was
granted (3) to harm the earth and the sea, saying, "Do not harm
the earth or the sea or the trees, until (4) we have sealed (5) the
bond-servants of our God on their foreheads."
1. From the rising of the
sun = is a figure of speech that means the East.
2. The seal of the living
God = is not explicitly defined at this point. Neither are we told
what the sealing is for. Later in the book, we will see that God divinely
protects Israel by giving her seclusion in a special place from the
wrath of Satan/Antichrist. However, those sealed by the angelic beings
will not be secluded. This marks a distinction between the wrath of
God and the wrath of man. Seclusion will not be a defense against
the wrath of God.
3. To harm = this Greek
verb means "to hurt or harm, with the implication of doing something
which is wrong or undeserved (Louw & Nida, § 20:25). This
is an appropriate verb to use at this point. The earth, sea and trees
will very much receive undeserved wrath. Nature, locked in
a perpetual fallen state since Adams sin (Rom 8:18-22), finally
begins her journey to rebirth. Like Christ, she must suffer before
ultimate freedom comes.
4. We have sealed = "we"
implies multiple angles are involved in the sealing process. Given
the number to be sealed, this is understandable. The context clearly
indicates what will be done. Each person will receive a special mark
on his or her forehead, which will clearly identify said person as
Gods property. The context also demonstrates what the purpose
of the mark or brand is. Some argue that the seal is salvation, but
there is no evidence of this claim. Those who take this position are
reading into this passage ideas taken from the writings of the apostle
Paul (Eph 1:13). In context, the sealing is to prevent harm. It is
a sealing of protection. Revelation 9:4 explicitly declares that those
who have the seal of God are protected from the fallout of the fifth
5. The bond-servants =
the context will eventually designate the bond-servants explicitly.
However, it is strange that this term is used to designate the 144,
000 Jews. Strange because this term in the New Testament is usually
used to refer to believers. However, clearly the folk who are sealed
are not believers. The primary argument against the notion that the
sealed are believers is the fact that only a limited number are sealed.
Only by spiritualizing the number 144, 000 can one argue that
this number refers to the whole Church. Slave or bond-servant
is used here in the true sense of ownership. God owns, claims, and
seals His property. Such a view is not inconsistent with the long
held biblical notion that Israel is Gods unique people.
And (1) I heard the number
of those who were sealed, (2) one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed
from (3) every tribe of the sons of (4) Israel: from Judah, twelve thousand
were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben
Benjamin, twelve thousand were sealed.
1. I heard = is an important
textual detail. Many would suspect John of making up this material
if it were not clear that he got this information from a direct source.
As with everything else in the book, this information is given by
a voice, which is not defined explicitly!
2. One hundred and forty-four
thousand = this number has received great consideration. Speculations
abound. It is sad that commentators do not take this number literally.
To denominate the number by 12, 000 adds to the literal nature of
this figure. We are not told why 12, 000 are chosen, but that twelve
thousand are chosen is clear.
There is no textual basis
to support those who claim that the 144, 000 are any entity other
than physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. To spiritualize
the 144, 000 into a Christian group violates the plain sense of the
text. John gives the reader every detail necessary to correctly identify
this group. The critical phrase "from every tribe of the sons
of Israel" should settle any debate about their identity. This
phrase always refers to physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and
Jacob. Out of six hundred and thirty-five occurrences of this phrase
throughout the Scriptures, Revelation 7:4 would be the only exception.
There is no compelling reason to spiritualize away the literal sense.
Every tribe of the sons of Israel has solid biblical support
as a referent of Jews only.
3. Every = would seem to
suggest that all twelve sons of Jacob are intended here. However,
Manasseh is included and Dan is left out. Manassehs inclusion
and Dans exclusion are interesting. Who is included or excluded
from a list of Jacobs sons is determined by the authors
A biological list of Jacobs
sons would include Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulun, Issachar,
Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph, and Benjamin. A land grant list
would include Reuben, Simeon, Judah, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad,
Asher, Naphtali, and Benjamin. Joseph and Levi would be excluded and
Manasseh and Ephraim would be included reflecting that Joseph received
the double portion of his fathers inheritance. A blessing/curse
list would include or exclude those not affected by it. In the case
of Moses blessings list of Deuteronomy 33, Simeon is not included.
A change in the list of
Jacobs sons occurs after Genesis 49. There, Jacob stripped Reuben
of his rights as first-born. The right of the first-born to receive
a double portion of the fathers inheritance passed to Joseph.
The reason Reuben lost it is that he defiled Jacob by sleeping with
Bilhah, Jacobs concubine. This is how Ephraim and Manasseh received
land grants from Joshua. Judah prevailed over his brothers and from
him came the leader (king) of Israel (1 Chr 5:1-2).
It is clear that the list
of Revelation 7 is not based on the land grant, which would exclude
Joseph and Levi. The list is not based on physical lineage, for Manasseh
is not the biological child of Jacob, but is adopted. Like the list
of those blessed by Moses in Deuteronomy 33, this list is based on
blessings/curses. As Simeon was left out of that list, Dan is left
out of this list. Dan is left out of the list because he is not blessed.
The purpose of the sealing is to prevent harm to those sealed. The
fact that no members of the tribe of Dan receive this special protection
is at first surprising. However, the selection of only twelve thousand
from each tribe indicates that only a few of the larger group receives
this special protection. That not a single Danite receives this special
protection indicates an unfavorable attitude towards him. Some have
suggested that Dans idolatry is the reason for his exclusion
at this point. There is no explicit biblical basis to be dogmatic
Joseph can substitute for
either Ephraim, Manasseh or both and in the Revelation list he is
a substitute for Ephraim (Eze 37:16-19). The name Ephraim became synonymous
with sin. Joseph is a substitute for Ephraim for two reasons. First,
the name Ephraim became a substitute for Israel (the ten northern
tribes) during the time of the prophets. Since that time, the name
had an unfavorable connotationwillful rebellion. Second, the
name Ephraim represents the 10 northern tribes and therefore was not
fitting in the Revelation list, which is focusing on individual tribes.
4. Israel = refers to the
father of the twelve tribes. It is amazing how many commentators attempt
to argue that this is a reference to the church. Yet, the context
screams against such a conclusion. For John to list out twelve historical
sons of Jacob from which twelve thousand individuals are protected
and yet be so misunderstood is mind numbing! There is but one passage
in the whole Bible where the term Israel is disputedGalatians
6:16. Given the hundreds of other clear passage, Galatians 6:16 should
be interpreted in light of them. Israel always stands for a historical
place; a man named Jacob or his physical descendants. There is not
one clear biblical passage that uses the term Israel for spiritual
descendants of Abraham. Therefore, the one hundred and forty-four
thousand protected individuals are a divinely chosen remnant, physical
descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
With Johns depiction of Gods mercy to a divinely chosen
remnant of Israel, the second major series of visions are finished.
(1) After these things I
looked, and behold, (2) a great multitude, (3) which no one could count,
(4) from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, (5) standing
(6) before the throne and before the Lamb, (7) clothed in white robes,
and (8) palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud
voice, saying, (9) "Salvation to our God who sits on the throne
and to the Lamb."
1. After these things =
this is the second occurrence of this phrase in the Revelation to
mark the beginning of a new vision sequence. How much time elapses
between these two visions is not known. This vision sequence begins
at Revelation 7:9 and will continue through Revelation 15:4.
2. A great multitude =
the Greek literally says a much or many group or
multitude. We would say "a huge crowd."
3. Which no one could count
= this phrase is obviously a figure of speech. It is not intended
to be taken literally. Logic requires this conclusion. If the language
is forced to be literal, then John has lied. A man could certainly
number the multitude given the time and cooperation of those to be
counted. The author is emphasizing the vast number of individuals
that compose this group. The contrast between the specific number
of sealed Jews and the unlimited nature of the great multitude should
not be missed. This is the first important contrastive point that
we should glean from this text.
4. From every nation and
all tribes and peoples and tongues = points out the second important
contrastive point to be gleaned from this text. This innumerable multitude
is Gentile and Jew in composition. This innumerable multitude represents
a universal gathering unlike the 144, 000 who are specifically identified
5. Standing = is a perfect
participle. This is very important because it indicates that the universally
innumerable multitude is one group. In other words, they are not assembling,
but have assembled. John sees the finished product. The importance
of this point will become evident later.
6. Before the throne and
before the Lamb = gives us the location of the standing universally
innumerable multitude. This is the third important contrastive point
John gives us. Unlike the earth bound 144, 000, this group is in heaven.
7. Clothed in white robes
= signals a change in the status of these earthly beings who are in
heaven in contrast to martyrs of the fifth seal. These individuals
have bodies and are clothed. The fifth seal martyrs did not have bodies
and were given robes to be worn later.
8. Palm branches in their
hands = immediately reminds of us of the Lords entrance into
Jerusalem days before His death. The palm frond is an ancient symbol
of victory. That these individuals are no doubt waving them before
God the Father and God the Son suggests a celebration is taking place.
John 12:13 records a similar event. The multitude waved palm fronds
before the Lord as He rode into Jerusalem. They said, "Hosanna!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord (God the Father),
even the King of Israel."
Hosanna is an Aramaic
transliteration that means possibly, "save, I pray." That
it was a term of supplication is without debate--a call to God for
salvation. Yet, the universally innumerable multitude is not asking
for salvation. They are praising God for salvation completed.
9. Salvation = is a strange
term to associate with God the Father and God the Son. However, the
universally innumerable multitude is not indicating Gods need
for salvation, rather, they are stating a fact: salvation or victory
belongs to God. Their experience bears this out. God the Father and
God the Son are both recognized as the source of deliverance for the
universally innumerable multitude.
And (1) all the angels were
standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living
creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped
God, saying, (2) "Amen, (3) blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving
and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen."
1. All the angels were
standing around the throne = indicates that the universally innumerable
multitude has joined the "adorers of God" in heaven. In
the fashion of a "round," first the universally innumerable
multitude offers words of adoration. Then, "all the angels"
follow. Closer yet to the throne of God, the elders and the closest
group of allthe four living creatures join the heavenly praise
2. Amen = concludes the
praise statement of the universally innumerable multitude. Then follows
the praise statement of the angels, the elders and the four living
and might = is a unique sevenfold doxological predicate. This is another
example of the authors heavy use of the number seven to indicate
the perfected nature of the end-time events.
And (1) one of the elders
answered, saying to me, "These who are clothed in the white robes,
(2) who are they, and from where have they come?"
1. One of the elders answered
= argues against any attempt to identify the twenty-four elders with
the church as some pretribulationists attempt to do. The elders are
not a monolith. They act as individuals as well as a group.
2. Who are they, and from
where have they come? = indicates two important questions. First,
the identity of the group is questioned. The second issue concerns
their point of origination. These two questions will be answered in
reverse order beginning in verse 14b. This is typical NT methodology.
In Matthew 24:3, two questions are asked and Matthew 24:4-31 records
the Lords answer in reverse order, i.e. the last question is
And I said to him, "My
lord, you know." And he said to me, (1) "These are the ones
who come out of the great tribulation, and (2) they have washed their
robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
1. These are the ones who
come out of the great tribulation = is full of interpretive insights.
First, the elder is answering the second question asked in verse 13b,
"from where have they come?" In English, a "where"
question usually anticipates a specific location. However, a specific
place is not given but a specific time is indicated. The great
tribulation has one parallel in ScriptureMatthew 24:21.
In that specific passage, the definite article the is not used.
As one of the original recipients of the Olivet Discourse (Mark 13:3),
John, the apostle, heard Jesus use this very specific term. Therefore,
his use reflects previous knowledge. The great tribulation
is not a place, but a specific time. This is reflected in the translation
of NASB, which states, "For those days will be a time of
(Mark 13:19)." This is in harmony with Daniel
12:1, which also calls this period "a time of distress."
This universally innumerable multitude will arrive in heaven during
the period of the great tribulation.
Out of suggests
that this universally innumerable multitude come out of the midst
of the great tribulation. The phrase, the ones who come translates
a Greek substantival participle. In the context, the universally innumerable
multitude is composed of "the ones who come." The participle
in and of itself does not speak to issue of the timing of their arrival.
However, this group is not in the process of coming one by one, but
they come as a group. This is supported by the following statement.
2. They have washed their
robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb = answers the second
question posted in verse 13b above. The fact that the Lord states
that overcomers "shall be clothed in white garments (Rev 3:5),"
and that the Laodiceans should purchase "white garments, that
the shame [of their] nakedness may not be revealed
limits the interpretation of Revelation 7:14b. The fact that every
member of the universally innumerable multitude has "washed and
made white" his robes removes any possibility that martyrdom
is the action described here. While some members of the universally
innumerable multitude did die the death of a martyr, this cannot be
said for the entire group. Yet, every single member "washed and
made white" his or her robe.
The fact that both the
"washing" and the "making white" are described
as past tense forces the participle "the ones who come"
to be past tense as well. The Greek language works this way. This
supports our conclusion that the universally innumerable multitude
arrives in heaven as a group and not as individuals over a period
Blood will not make anything
white. Therefore, we know this is a figure of speech. The literal
blood of Jesus is not intended here. Rather, the blood of Jesus is
a metaphor for his life. Equally, literal white robes are not intended
here either. Literally, the atoning death of Jesus has secured the
eternal life of the universally innumerable multitude. These people
are saved by the life of Jesus Christ.
(1) For this reason, they
are (2) before the throne of God; and (3) they serve Him day and night
in His temple; and He who sits on the throne (4) shall spread His tabernacle
1. For this reason = explains
why the universally innumerable multitude is before the throne of
God. The reason they can stand before the throne of God is because
of their salvation, which they owe to the Lamb.
2. Before the throne of
God = refers to God the Father.
3. They serve Him day and
night in His temple = focuses on two issues. Day and night
refers to the unceasing nature of praise and worship in heaven. The
universally innumerable multitude joins in the eternal activity of
the adorers of heaven. His temple refers to Gods dwelling
place in heaven.
4. Shall spread His tabernacle
over them = refers to Gods presence among the universally innumerable
(1) They shall hunger no
more, neither thirst any more; (2) neither shall the sun beat down on
them, nor any heat; (3) for the Lamb in the center of the throne shall
be their shepherd, and shall guide them to springs of (4) the water
of life; and (5) God shall wipe every tear from their eyes."
1. They shall hunger
thirst any more = indicates the removal of physical discomforts. This
is a clear sign of their resurrection.
2. Neither shall the sun
beat down on them, nor any heat = indicates the removal of environmental
3. For = indicates the
reason for the removal of physical and environmental discomforts.
The Lamb shepherds and guides the universally innumerable multitude.
4. Water of life = stands
for the abundant life of glorified people. There will be no needs.
5. God will wipe every
tear from their eyes = indicates the removal of all emotional discomforts.
Section: Chapter Eight - Seventh Seal Events [Trumpet Judgments 1-4]