What does Revelation 7: 1-8 mean to us now?

 

Remember, the context is also about worship and church leadership. Jesus is the ONE who is qualified and able to judge and, by his grace, to give us a reprieve. It is amazing of all the convoluted theories on this number that ignore Jewish customs, apocalyptic metaphors, and of course, the context and Old Testament that tell us the meaning. Many commentators see this passage as just pertaining to actual Jewish tribes or a group of Jewish believers who convert during the period of tribulation.

We are not told exactly who and what these 144,000 are. Possibly, it is because it is not important, as the reason and purpose of pointing to Christ and showing us opportunities to get our priorities in line with His are far greater. We can either honor His name by living lives worthy to be in Him, or we can reject His offer of salvation and reconciliation and do as we want; and we can “want” ourselves all the way from judgment to hell. The bottom line meaning is that God keeps His promises to individuals and to people groups, as He here confirms.

The point of this passage tells us that God is at work even when all seems lost¾and then it gets even worse! God is still there, even in tribulations, no matter how short or great His love and grace are carrying us through it! The purpose that John has in mind, and what God calls us to in the context of this passage, is the obvious: Beware! Judgment is coming! And now, here is some grace. Here is a quiet time so you can assess where your priorities and direction in life will be, but there is not much time.

Questions to Ponder:

  1. How would you feel if you were going through the worst calamities you have ever faced, and suddenly you got a reprieve? How do you think Christians would react if in the midst of dire tribulations there came a heavenly shout of “WAIT?” How would the rest of the world react? What about you?
  1. Why do the ungodly continue to live as they see fit, ignoring God, and enjoying the sins of the world? How will they feel when the faithful receive their seal and place in the Kingdom from our Lord?
  1. Can you trust God in how He judges? How are you impatient when things do not go your way? How can you more fully understand His grace, and trust in His love?
  1. What can you do to trust Him more and not have need to fear these events that one day will come about in their fruition?
  1. What kind of a respite do you think you need from Christ? What are you going to do about it? Do you need a quiet time so you can assess where your priorities and direction in life should and will be? How can you do this? When will you do this?

 © 2006 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries http://www.intothyword.org

The Four Main Views of Revelation 7: 1-8

 

The Preterist view: They see this passage as happening during the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., and God as minimizing the evil to the Church during the carnage. Accordingly, to early church historians, all the Christians escaped, many to “Pella,” and no one was killed. God identified His faithful, provided for them, and they escaped harm before the fall of Jerusalem. A similar occurrence happened in 586 B.C. when the Romans invaded, and the faithful Jews were protected, which was predicted by Ezekiel in chapter nine. God “marked” His people and protected them as He did at the Passover with the blood on the doorposts (Mal. 3:2; Eph. 1:13). They see the 144,000 as God’s faithful Jews, who acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah and are saved, even though most of the other Jews were apostate and the reason for the conquest and judgment by way of the Romans. Others see the 144,000 as the actual faithful Jews who escaped the fall of Jerusalem.

The Futurist view: They see this passage as literal, as four literal Angels and four literal corners, even though the earth is a sphere. Some see this as four “quarters” or sections of the earth. They also derive from this passage that Angels are in control of the elements and nature. They also see this passage as not a reprieve but an extra narrative of what is going on during the opening of the sixth seal, since they believe there are no Christians present as they all have been raptured before this period. Their debates center on whether people can be saved after the rapture or not. Others in this camp see the first part of this passage as just a stylistic interlude as with chapter 10. They see the 144,000 as a select number of Jews who are faithful and receive salvation during the tribulation, and have no bearing on the Church. They see the “sealing” as God preserving those Jews who evangelize and bring Israel to repentance (Zech. 12; Matt. 24:14; Rom. 11:26-32). Dan is not mentioned as they see the antichrist coming from Dan (Gen. 49:17; Jer. 8:16).  Some who are “post—tribulationists” see God protecting His faithful during the Tribulation.

The Idealist view: They see the “winds” in the passage as symbolic for the four horsemen in the previous chapter, and site Zechariah 6:5. Others see this taking place before the opening of the seals, and still others see it as God’s grace protecting His faithful. They see the 144,000 as symbolic of the camp groupings during the Exodus (Num. 31:4-5). They also see no distinction between Jews and Christians. They see God protecting the Church during His judgments, but they will still suffer the results of the wars and catastrophes.

The Historicist view: They see this passage as a pause of His judgments as God protects His faithful before the angels continue their destructive mission. Others have said this refers to God protecting the Seven Churches from invaders; still others see this as the period of Constantine when Christianity became accepted, and peace and prosperity reigned for the Church until the Barbarians took over Rome and the Church fell to the Dark Ages. The general idea is that God cares, has a plan, is in control, is concerned for His faithful, and will protect us. They see the 144,000 as symbolic for the entire professing Church, as “God’s Israel.”  Others see this as Constantine’s conversion; others see it as God protecting the seven churches from the invaders. Some see this as a select number of Jews who are faithful and who receive election in Christ.

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?

What does Revelation 2: 18-29 mean to me?

It is amazing how patient and longsuffering our Lord is!
He accommodates us to the point of giving us time to realize our wayward ways and giving us room to make mistakes, yet, still calls us back into His arms of love and care. Even to this evil person who was manipulating His children and causing them to sin heinously, God was giving time and grace. But, she is the one who refused to heed His Lordship and precepts. Such sin will pile up and compound, leaving us disillusioned and empty; then, if we still refuse to repent, all we will have is chastisement, and then, judgment. God is not calling us to repent to smite us, but to better us; He wants the best for us just as a good parent wants the best for his or her child. He does not want us to sin, because it destroys us and causes others to do so, too. It is like watching people you love do something really stupid like use drugs; you know it will harm them, but they refuse your counsel and treatment programs, and thus, end up destroying their lives, the lives of their children and friends, and then dying as a result. We do not say, I told you so; rather, we weep for them, as God weeps for us when we mess up. Try not to be the person for whom others and God weep; rather, take responsibility and initiative and be the person who builds his or her church and life on His Word and authority.

Questions to ponder:

1. In this church, if a Christian refused to participate in a guild (that also practiced cultism, sin, and godlessness) he was cut off from any social or economic participation in the city, and not even allowed to buy and sell food or support himself and his family. What would you have done, and why?

2. What does it mean that Jesus is the One who is to be in charge of your church? How does your leadership honor this fact? How should they honor Christ as Lord over the Church?

3. How do you feel that Jesus is looking at the way you are leading and governing His church? What gets in the way of good self-examination or accountability to see if you are doing it His way, the world’s way, or your way?

4. What happens when a church decides to weaken His Word for what they believe would be tolerated and received better so as to attract more people? (There is nothing wrong with using methods and programs to attract people, this is good. The wrong comes when we compromise His Word and Truth.) How does this defy Him as LORD?

5. What does it take for a church’s leadership, perhaps your church, to realize that Jesus holds us responsible to take the faith He gives us and personally grow it, and further, to lead with faithfulness and in truth, His Truth?

6. What would your church look like if the leadership took more responsibility and initiative to build the church and their lives on His Word and authority?

© 2006 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org

Exegetical look into Revelation 2: 24-29

This church had the same problem as did Pergamos with compromising as well as rationalizing their actions as OK. They sought both sin and Christ, not caring or realizing that the two cannot co-exist. We are called to overcome; and when we do, because we are capable of overcoming with His empowerment, we will be blessed and powerfully used for Christ’s glory.

· Her teaching…Satan’s so-called deep secrets possibly refers to an early Gnostic teaching, that says that for us to defeat evil, we have to physically fight with Satan and steal back a secret word of knowledge that unlocks a higher level of being. And, also to defeat evil, we have to experience evil deeply. This is a very twisted mindset (Acts 15:28-29)!

· I will not impose any other burden on you. We do not need to add works to our faith for salvation; rather, we are called to be faithful in response to what He has done for us.

· Hold on…I will give authority is a quote from various Psalms that teaches the promise God gives us, the promise of a Messiah Who was fulfilled in Christ, and that He is in control. This also refers to putting on God’s armor so we can fight temptations and flee from evil; we evade the lusts of our heart and world by running from it, not toward it (Eph. 6:11-18; James. 3:15, 17; 4:4, 7-10)!

· Until I come refers to God’s impeding judgment to this church, not necessarily to His “second coming.” This is used to argue a position that Christ has already come, the “Full Preterist” view. However, it more likely means you will not bear the judgment, as “when I come” refers to the judgment of chastisement, not final judgment. This is also a commendation to those who remained faithful and were not drawn to the lure of Jezebel.

· I will give authority over the nations, a quote from Psalm 2:8-9, refers that we partake in His authority and rule as His representatives and holders of His promise. This also means that Jesus is Sovereign and greater than any nation, government, power, or authority (Matt. 25:21-23; Luke 19:17; 1 Cor. 15:41; Col. 1).

· Morning star referred to the planet Venus, and was a depiction in Judaism meaning the advent of dawn or a new day or age. This is also a name for Jesus‘ first coming, messiahship, and, in this passage, His radiance and glory. It also alludes to the kingship of Israel and refers to His Second Coming. The pagans believed that people’s lives were ruled by the stars. This testifies that Jesus is the Ruler, not the stars. Jesus is giving Himself to us (Num. 24:17; Psalm 84:11; Mal. 4:2; 2 Peter 1:12-21; Rev. 2:28; 22:16; 22:16)!

· He will rule them refers to being a caring shepherd, and at the same time, God’s strength, authority, and right to rule (Rev. 12:5; 19:15).

Exegetical look into Revelation 2: 18-23

· Thyatira, which is now modern Akhisar, then hosted a major Apollo cult. (Apollo was a son of Zeus and eventually took Zeus’ place as the supreme Roman god.) This was a city known for its rich economy, prosperity, and its trade guilds, including a rich Bronze Guild, hence Jesus’ play on words. These guilds were similar to unions today, but with a cult-like theme. Thus, this city valued wealth above all things. The Christians were being pressured to join a guild, which was a tight-knit group, a “commune” almost, that worshiped pagan idols and participated in the pagan festivals. If a Christian refused to participate in a guild, he was cut off from any social or economic participation in the city, and not even allowed to buy and sell food or support himself and his family—a shadow of one of the roles of the anti-Christ (Rev. 13:17). Such isolation would make it a great temptation to indulge or compromise and allow false teachers to come in and mislead people, which is just what had happened. They had a small, inconsequential Jewish community. Lydia, who was a dealer in purple cloth, was from Thyatira (Acts 16:14).

· Like blazing fire refers to God’s Sovereignty, strength, and ability and right to judge, and indicated that if they did not repent, they would be judged. (See Rev. 1:14 study and Isaiah 63:1-4; Dan. 10:6 Rev. 14:19).

· Burnished bronze is a refined alloy of bronze, copper, and zinc.

· Your love and faith…service and perseverance. God honors such things, but we always have to be aware of our weaknesses and things that may cause us to compromise or slip in our faith. In contrast, the Church of Ephesus did not tolerate false teaching, but they were not loving toward God and one another, while this church tolerated false teaching, yet exercised love and faithfulness.

· You are now doing more than you did at first. For the most part, many people in this church were fearful and serving the Lord. There may have been a splinter group of people engaged in these sins, but no discipline or censor was taking place.

· I have this against you. They were tolerating paganism and even participating in it, thus compromising their faith to external social pressures and internal false teachings. This led to credibility problems with non-Christians and gave God a bad reputation (1 Cor. 2:10; 2 Cor. 5:20).

· Jezebel refers to an influential person who was teaching and causing people to sin by “seducing” them in order to cause them to compromise their faith and indulge in fornication. This person was mimicking the appalling character of Jezebel in the O.T. who was the most wicked woman depicted in the Bible. Jezebel personifies evil, greed, manipulation, and opposition to God without fear of Him or consequences. She was a harlot to God, as in betraying Him with occult practices and monstrous evil. She also led the false prophets who fought against God’s ways while saying they were God’s representatives and falsely claiming His authority, as she led the people into idolatry and sin (1 Kings 16:29; 31;19:1-2 to 21:24; 2 Kings 9:22; 30-37; Neh. 6:14; Ezek. 13:17-19).

· Prophetess. This was a female who declared or interpreted oracles from dreams or visions, either from God or from self delusions.

· Bed of suffering, as opposed to a bed of fornication. Sickness can be caused by sin as a form of punishment (1 Cor. 11:29-30).

· Commit adultery means betraying God, as to say, Jesus is my Savior, but I do not need to trust in Him, and I do not need to obey His precepts and morals. I am saved by Christ alone, by faith alone. However, I will not it allow to touch my daily life. I can do as I see fit (Judges 17:6; James 2: 14-26). This is called antinomianism in theology, meaning anti-law. It is an unbiblical belief that denies the righteousness of God and sees our grace as allowing total freedom in all that we do or can do, and using it as a license to sin. Thus, we do not need to be obedient to God, His precepts, civil law, or any moral standards, nor do we need to bear fruit. God says this is evil as it portrays evil as being good (Rom. 6:1-2; 14-15; 13:8, 10; Gal. 5:14; 6:2; Gal. 5:22-25; Jude 4).

· Suffer intensely/tribulations. Some commentators mistake this phrase’s meaning, as it says “they will suffer,” as pertaining to the great tribulation. The two are unrelated because the word meanings and context do not correspond.

· Unless they repent. God gives us ample provision and time to turn from our evil and wayward ways to His True Word, His best Way (Jer. 23:22-23).

· Strike her children. “Children” refers to her followers, not literal kin, as Jezebel was a spiritual mother to spiritual corruption (Psalm 7:9; Pr 24:12; Isa. 57:3-8; Jer. 11:20; 17:10).

· I am he who searches hearts and minds refers to God’s omnipotence and omniscience. Hearts denotes the center of our rational thoughts; minds, in the Greek, literally means “kidneys,” and denotes our will and trust in Him.

· Repay each of you refers to judgment that is based on how we lead our lives with responsibility (Matt. 16:27; Rom. 2:6; Rev 18:6; 20:12-13; 22:12).

Busyness to God does not always denote faithfulness to God!

Revelation 2: 18-29

Introduction

“The Church of Thyatira”

Jesus again makes His point that He is the One who is to be in charge of the church. He is looking at the way we are leading and governing our church, and if we are doing it His way, the world’s way, or our way. He sees us when we do it right, acting on faith, and in His Spirit and Truth, and He also sees us when we mess up. He doesn’t want us to stray from doing His Church right, because there is no other person, trend, or guide (other than His Word and instruction) that is to direct His Church. It is not our church; it is His Church. He does not want us to lead others astray, be apathetic and do little, chase a fad that is wrong and destructive, teach what is in error, weaken His Word by substituting what we believe would be tolerated and received better, nor does He want us to defy Him, as He is LORD.

This church at Thyatira was struggling to improve and seeking to be better in how they ran His Church. They were seeking to be faithful and diligent, yet, this church had a faction that was defying Him in a big way by allowing debauchery and heinous sin in the midst of His Bride, His Church! On one hand, they were being faithful in their faith. On the other, they were sinning by committing adultery with one another and with God.

Jesus is warning them and us to come around to Him and His ways or suffer the consequences! We have to realize that Jesus holds us responsible for taking the faith He gives us and growing it. Then, we who are in leadership roles have further responsibility to lead with faithfulness and in truth—His Truth. He wants us to hold His Truth from His Word and Spirit tightly in our minds and hearts so it flows through our bodies, and how we are in Christ becomes how we are to others. He will reward us greatly for our faithfulness in the management of His Church and He will chastise and judge us if we are not faithful. If you can’t take that responsibility, then do not be in leadership, because we will all be held to account for what we do! And, others could suffer because of our pride and wayward ways.

This church at Thyatira seems to be doing good and being healthy as Jesus praises them for their authenticity and staying close to Him as they held on through tough persecution. But, this church was being very hypocritical, saying one thing while doing another. Perhaps, it was the various factions or the hypocrisy in “saying” faith, yet at the same time participating in sin with sexual promiscuity and engaging in pagan traditions and idol worship. Perhaps, some of the people were engaged in being faithful while sleeping around and justifying it, as some Christians still do today. Others could have been pure and faithful while allowing the sin to go unnoticed, either by not caring or by being afraid to confront and do something about it. Then, there were people like this Jezebel, who personifies evil, purposely leading people into sin without care for virtue, reprisal, consequences, or God’s call.