Exegetical look into Revelation 7: 4-8

 

  • The number refers to those who are the real, authentic followers of Christ, the righteous who are covered by Christ’s righteousness and thus “saved” from God’s wrath. (Rev. 2:9; 3:9; 21:2, 14). This also may allude to Israel’s restoration as a nation, which occurred in 1948, but this is highly speculative and not supported in the context of the passage. The problem is that passages such as 2 Chron. 36:21, Jer. 24:1-7; 29:10; 32:44; Ezek. 20:34; 36:33-35; 37:15-28; Dan. 9:2; Hosea 3:4-5; Amos 9:14-15; Micah 7:8-11; and Zech. 12:6-8 are read into this passage. These Old Testament passages speak of Israel being restored after the Babylonian captivity, but not necessarily as a nation thousands of years hence.
  • Sealed means that those who are faithful, who accept Christ as Lord and Savior, and who are claimed as His will be protected. The image here is like important documents in ancient times that were folded or rolled, tied with a string, and then wax or clay placed on the seam, and impressed with a signet ring (Rev. 9:4; 14:1; 22:4). Jesus seals us for protection showing that He cares, is in charge, and has ownership over us. His ownership means He possesses us¾not Satan, not the world, and not even our fallen nature and sin. His possession of our soul and life is our great comfort and relief (Gen. 4:15; Ex. 8:28; 9:4; 11:7; 11:18; Isa. 44:5; Rev. 5:6; 9:4; 14:1)! 
  • 144,000 is a symbol, meaning that the numbers are beyond counting or unfathomable to man (Rev. 1:1; 2:20; 22:6). This denotes how Israel returned from the Babylonian captivity to inherit the land (Ezek. 48). This also alludes to us, the Church, who are the inheritors (Rom. 11:1-36; Rev.12). 
  • 12,000. Twelve, like most numbers in Revelation, is not an actual number nor is 12,000 or 144,000; rather it refers to “fullness.” Twelve is also found, in various Jewish sects and in the Dead Sea Scrolls, to mean “the people of God.” Then the “12” is magnified as to 12 multiplied by 12 to mean complete fullness or God’s bountiful provisions and blessings. This is a symbolic Jewish metaphor for being “servants of God,” just as the key phrase previous to this symbolizes. This also means that He is the Provider. The debate over the numbers centers on whether they represent the entirety of saved souls or just those who just are “restored” Jews. Nonetheless, the term “servants of our God” makes it more understandable (Ezek. 9; Matt. 10:30; Rev. 9:4; 14:1-5; 21:8; 22:15).
  • All/Every Tribe. The term, “tribes,” is used for the sake of illustration rather than actually referring that only some will be saved. Rather, it means that God, in His fullness, selects whom He selects for His purpose¾Jews and Gentiles alike. (Ezek. 9:4; Eph. 2:11-22; Rev. 9:4; 14:1).
  • Joseph is listed twice as his sons, “Manasseh and Ephraim.” Levi is omitted as the priestly tribe without land inheritance rights. Joseph has two for His faithfulness while Dan is excluded from the list, perhaps because of their rebellious nature to God and idolatry as well as an Early Church tradition foretelling that the “antichrist” was to come from that tribe. Judah may be listed first before the first-born Reuben, because Christ the Messiah came from the tribe of Judah. The sequence of the tribes has no significance as they are often listed in various ways, depending on who is listing them (Gen. 37:21; Judg. 18:30; 1 Kings 12:29; Ezek. 48:1; John 6:70).

Exegetical look into Revelation 7: 1-3

 

  • Four angels standing does not mean that there are four, literal Angels holding the earth; rather, this is a metaphor for the elements and behavior of nature that God controls and directs (Psalm 148:1-12; Zech. 6:5).
  • Four corners of the earth does not indicate literal corners or that the earth is flat. Even in Jesus’ time, the Greeks believed that the earth was circular—even spherical. (Jewish teaching taught that the earth was a sphere in the book of “Jubilees.”) This meant that there are four directions that we know today as North, South, East, and West.  Or, another view is that the world is divided up in four sections.
  • Holding back the four winds is symbolic for Judgment andor things that may be negative. These are some form of destructive Angels of God, or the wrath of the Lamb-Lion (Ex. 12:11-13, 23, 29-30; 2 Sam. 23:15-18; Jer. 49:36). Also it could mean the start of a “new age.” This passage also conveys some Greek imagery such as “Helios,” who drove the chariot that carried the sun. This passage does not mean that, but a first century Jew or Roman could have comprehended this passage clearly.
  • The seal refers to God putting forth His seal of approval to be His authority and representative andor acting on His behalf. God delegates and uses His angels¾and us! Some see this as the evangelism first of the Roman Empire, then of the rest of the world.
  • Foreheads infers that judgment cannot start until the faithful are marked (protected). The forehead and hands were the only parts of the body in ancient times that were visible to others. This, too, is symbolic; not that God will “rubber stamp” people or we will have a some kind of a visible mark, tattoo, “branding” or a “cross sign” (because the Hebrew letter Taw, looks like an X or cross sign), nor is this some kind of replacement for circumcision. God sees us as important and worth protecting (Ex. 13:9-16; 28:38; Deut. 6:8; 11:18; Isa. 66:19; Ezek. 9:4-6; Gal. 6:17; Rev. 13:16-18)!
  • Servants of our God. This is a key phrase that denotes the meaning of this passage, referring to those whose faith is in God¾the entirety of those who are His, who are saved. God is not limited to number or race as God is a God of equality as demonstrated in Acts and in the letters to the Seven Churches (Rev. 1:1; 6:11).

Revelation 7: 1-8

Introduction 

The 144,000   

In the eye of the storm, the Lamb gives a reprieve; He preserves, assures, and protects His faithful in the midst of the catastrophes and afflictions of life, and tribulations. Imagine the worst calamities you have ever faced, multiply them times a hundred; you are tired, worn out, and pleading to God for amnesty. Suddenly, He gives it to you, seemingly out of nowhere! The storms of tribulation and judgment subside as the winds calm and the seas become quiet and a heavenly shout of “WAIT” is bellowed out to the earth so all can hear and take comfort!

In the midst of Judgment and the chaos that transpires from it (as a result of our petty ways here on earth), Christ gives us a break, a cooling—off period. It is a time to assess who we are and what we are doing, giving us an opportunity to look to Him, and another chance to place our trust in Him that He will carry us through it. Or, we have the choice to stay in our sin, ignore His sealing and His grace, and live our lives as we see fit. Humanity continues to live in sin as a great delay in judgment takes place. The ungodly continue to live as they see fit, ignoring God and enjoying the sins of the world, while the faithful receive their seal, and place in the Kingdom from our Lord.

This passage is not about numbers or who will be saved; it is not about customs or race or some drawn-out nonsensical theory. Rather, it is about God’s love and care, that He spreads His wings over His chicks to protect them. It does not matter what we go through, as long as we remain true and faithful to Him.  After this shows us the succession of John’s visions. It does not denote this as the sequence of events, as Jewish thinking is not necessarily based on a sequential timeline; rather, it is relational. God is not limited to chronology or a particular historical period. These events can come in whatever series or cycle or timing and method that God feels like doing them. He is not limited; only our understanding is limited. This passage itself is not necessarily in sequence, as the preceding passage (if it is the end of the age) may take place before this one, or they may be simultaneous (Rev. 4:1; 6:1-17).

What does it mean to your faith that Jesus preserves, reassures, and protects His faithful? How can this encourage you in times of suffering and distress?