Bible Study Series: Revealing Jesus in Revelation
Revelation Chapter 7 - Salvation & Graduation in Tribulation
by I Gordon
- The sealing of God's servants - How is this connected to an interesting Old Testament story about a mysterious man with a familiar mark?
- The identity of the 144,000 - Who are they and what is their mission?
- The gospel message hidden in the 12 tribes of Israel - Where is it and have you seen it?
- The result of the 144,000's mission - Who is this great heavenly multitude?
- And finally some washing instructions - How do you get your garments completely white?
So... you get it all on this site... even the odd piece of clothing cleaning advice! : ) Let's go...
- Firstly is to stop the wind. Now holding back the wind doesn't sound too bad does it? We all enjoy a nice calm day don't we? But what would happen if there was no wind? As I have written elsewhere, the wind "brings the rain, disperses the seeds, powers electrical energy, regulates earth's temperature and clears pollution to name a few of its essential benefits. It is critical to the functioning of the planet... Please google 'what would happen if there was no wind?' Part of the answer, according to one scientific website said that 'without the wind earth would be an other-worldly, alien planet with our ecosystems that give oxygen to the planet largely destroyed.' Hmmm, yeah, ok... holding back the wind might be worse than it sounds! Our text says that these four angels have been given power to harm the land and sea. This is likely through the action of stopping the wind though they might have other powers as well. Holding back of the wind, you could say, is the literal and symbolic 'calm before the storm'!
- Put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of God - There is another specific angel that comes from the east to set the seal of the living God upon the foreheads of these servants of God. The east, and specifically the east wind, often speaks of God’s actions in both judgment and deliverance (Ps 48:7, 78:26, Isa 27:8, Jer 18:17, Eze 19:12, Hos, 13:15, Jon 4:8). Here it is a mark for deliverance as it is a seal of ownership and protection. Later in Revelation, Satan will mark his followers in their forehead or right hand (Rev 13:16-18), mimicking (as he always does) what God does here. White Satan's mark ensures the judgement of God, God's mark brings protection from His judgements.
"During the time of the Tribulation, it appears there will be three categories of people:
1. Those who are sealed and protected by God for special ministry (Rev. 7:4-8; 14:1).
2. Those who accept the mark of the beast (Rev. 13:16-18) and are doomed (Rev. 14:9-10). They are not written in the Book of Life.
3. Those who refuse the mark of the beast, many of whom are martyred (Rev. 20:4)."
Tony Garland, A Testimony of Jesus Christ
So to sum up, we are given here a picture of 'the man in linen' (The Lord Jesus) placing the 'Tav' (the sign of the cross), on the forehead of all those that were His, protecting them from judgement. What a great picture this is of what happens to Christians and God's servants in Revelation 7! It is also a great reminder that believers today are sealed by God. His seal today is the Holy Spirit (2Cor 1:22, Eph 1:13, Eph 4:30) and while this seal is not visible to the human eye, it is to the angelic realm. They know who belongs to the Lord and are protected by Him!
- Judah is mentioned first in this list even though Reuben was the first born - This is possibly because of Reuben's sin in Gen 35:22 and Judah's elevation to the kingly tribe in Gen 49:8-10.
- There is no tribe of Dan in this list - This might be because the tribe of Dan was the first tribe to fall into idolatry (Jdg 18:30). The tribe of Dan later became the headquarters for calf worship whereby "Jeroboam made Israel to sin" (1Ki 12:28-30). Though fear not you Dan supporters - this tribe is again mentioned in the list for the Messianic Kingdom in Eze 48:1.
- The tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe, is included in Dan's place.
- Ephraim is also missing - Ephraim was also guilty of idolatry. Hos 4:17 "Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone." Ephraim was also the tribe which led the division of the kingdom in the days of Solomon (1Ki 11:26).
- Joseph takes the place of Ephraim.
But there is something else that is interesting in the different order of these tribes3. This becomes all the more interesting when exploring the meaning of their names...
|Birth Order (mother)||Rev Order / Meaning|
|Reuben (Leah)||Judah Gen 29:35 'Praise the Lord'|
|Simeon (Leah)||Reuben Gen 29:32 'Behold a Son!'|
|Levi (Leah)||Gad Gen 30:11 'Good fortune'|
|Judah (Leah)||Asher Gen 30:13 'Happy & blessed'|
|Dan (Bilhah)||Naphtali Gen 30:8 'Wrestling & struggles'|
|Napthali (Bilhah)||Manasseh Gen 41:51 'Caused me to forget'|
|Gad (Zilpah)||Simeon Gen 29:33 'Heard'|
|Asher (Zilpah)||Levi Gen 29:34 'Joined / associated with him'|
|Issachar (Leah)||Issachar Gen 30:18 'Rewarded'|
|Zebulan (Leah)||Zebulun Gen 30:20 'A dwelling / habitation'|
|Joseph (Rachel)||Joseph Gen 30:24 'Adding'|
|Benjamin (Rachel)||Benjamin Gen 35:18 'The Son of the right hand'|
"Praise the Lord! Behold a Son! (What) good fortune! (I am) happy and blessed! (My) wrestling and struggles, (He) caused me to forget. (He) heard (me). (I am) joined and associated with Him. (I am) rewarded (with) a dwelling and habitation (with Him), adding (to me) the Son of the right hand!"
That is every Christian's story is it not? We have all gone through struggles, we have all wrestled with dark situations. Yet those difficult times from the past fade away when we know God. We come to know that we are joined to Him, we are rewarded in Him and have an everlasting dwelling with Him! Imagine also for a moment the experience of these 144,000 Jewish believers when they come to know Yeshua, Jesus, as their Messiah and Savior. The difficulty they experience will be eclipsed by knowing that they have experienced salvation and found the purpose for living - knowing Yeshua, their Messiah! Think also of what the nation of Israel will experience as a whole when they look to the One they pierced and experience salvation at the end of the Tribulation... They will finally understand their last 2000 years of history as a people. They will understand why they were scattered amongst the nations, why they were persecuted, why they haven't been allowed to find rest... until they found their rest and dwelling in Him! All their past troubles will be forgotten and how blessed they will feel. Truly they will be saying 'praise the Lord!' what 'good fortune' I have experienced and all my past struggles and anguish He has caused me to forget. Praise the Son of His right hand!
Man (is) appointed mortal sorrow; (but) the Blessed God shall come down teaching (that) His death shall bring (the) despairing rest.
That is awesome as well. Praise the Lord Jesus for what He did and I hope you have found this rest!
"This means that in the Great Tribulation the gospel of the Kingdom will be preached through the world. I want to repeat this: the 144,000 witnesses in the Great Tribulation period are going to do in seven years what the church up to the present has not done in over nineteen hundred years. Do not boast about your missionary program. None of us are reaching very many. But, during the Great Tribulation, there will be a great company of people who will be saved."
J. Vernon McGee
So we see the result of their work in our passage - there is a great multitude from every nation, tribe and people standing before the throne. These are predominantly Gentiles from every nation on earth. This is the second group that are able to stand before God. They are now seen standing in Heaven, before the Lamb, and wearing white robes signifying their righteousness in Him. And they cry out praise to the Lord. Before long the angels, elders and living creatures all join in on the praise and worship! How could you not? As a side note, angels play a great role as God's ministers to protect and save believers. We know that they rejoice when sinners are saved (Luke 15:10) and they now rejoice to see these believers overcome and stand before their God!
- Firstly, it is one of the elders that asks John who those in white robes are (Rev 7:13). There is quite a bit of evidence showing that the elders themselves represent the glorified, rewarded Church in Heaven. And they are seen from Revelation chapter 4 onwards, far before any saints go up here in chapter 7. So the two groups are distinct.
- Secondly, the saints seen in heaven in chapter 7 are "the ones who come out of the great tribulation". Renowned Greek Scholar A.T Robertson says this phrase is a 'Present middle participle with the idea of continued repetition. “The martyrs are still arriving from the scene of the great tribulation” (Charles).' In other words, the entrance of these saints into heaven is not a one off or sudden event like the Rapture but is a continual ongoing appearance of saints throughout this period of the Great Tribulation as they are martyred.
- Thirdly, if these who have come out of the Great tribulation are the Church, then the Church has entered into the Great Tribulation. This is a time that Jesus said is worse than any before it or will be again (Matt 24:21). This obviously would contradict Jesus' own promise to the Church to keep them from this time of testing that will come upon the whole world (Rev 3:10). So they can't be the Church.6
And it says that they have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb... and they came out white! That is some impressive and unusual detergent! Not recommended for your front-end loader, but totally recommended for your spiritual cleansing! Now when it speaks of their clothing it pictures their standing before the Lord. The blood of Christ is the ONLY means of getting our garments white. It is the ONLY God-ordained pure cleansing offered. Human effort and endless scrubbing looks, at least outwardly, like it sorts a few spots here and there, but this is only to the untrained eye. And God's eye is not an untrained eye! He sees how deep the contamination of our clothing truly goes. But the blood of Christ washes thoroughly, removing every spot and blemish, making our clothing perfectly clean and white so we can stand before Him in perfect spotless righteousness!
- They have come from the most dramatic and fearful time ever known on earth, to now stepping into the eternal peace of heaven, never to experience fear again.
- They have come from not being able to buy and sell, to having all they will ever want or need.
- They have come from being hungry and thirsty, to never thirsting or suffering hunger ever again.
- They have come from being alone and on the run, to standing in the presence of the Great Shepherd, the Lamb and myriads of heavenly saints and angels.
- They have come from tears, sorrow and heartache on earth, to God wiping away every tear from their eyes in heaven... and for all time.
Always remember that for the believer this life is the worst we will ever experience. For the unbeliever, this is the best they will ever experience. That is both a comforting and sobering thought depending on who you are! But for the believer every challenge, every trial, every difficulty that you face in this life, comes with the permission of God and He allows and uses every difficult time in our lives for our eternal good. Even in this life, there is salvation in tribulation and our lives are always under the watchful and gracious hand of the Good Shepherd.
John MacArthur writes: "Since God's departure removed all protection and gave the people over to destruction, it was necessary for the angelic scribe (Angel of the Lord) to mark for God's preservation the righteous who had been faithful to Him, not unlike blood on the lintel to protect Israel from the Lord's judgment in Egypt (Exo 12:21-30). Those left unmarked were subject to death in Babylon's siege (Eze 9:5). The mark was the indication of God's elect, identified personally by the preincarnate Christ. He was marking the elect (cf. Exo 12:7)."
This 'man dressed in linen' also appeared to Daniel in Dan 10:4-6 which I believe was Jesus based on the similarity with the picture given of Jesus in Revelation 1:12-16. I write about that here; https://jesusplusnothing.com/series/post/Daniel10
Just as a side note it is important to see that after the departure of the Church, symbolically seen in Revelation 4:1-2, the focus in Revelation turns to the Jews and Israel. This again shows that this period of time is not for the Church. God is fulfilling His purposes and plans for that nation. The words 'church' and 'churches' were mentioned 18 times in chapters 1-3 but are not mentioned at all in chapters 4-19 (the tribulation period). Instead we see an emphasis on the tribes of Israel, Jerusalem and the temple once again. That is because this period of time is known as Daniel's 70th week. It is the final 'week' of seven years where God deals with that nation, and the world, to bring about His purposes.
In the order given in Revelation 7:
Gen 29:35 She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, "This time I will praise the LORD." So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children.
Gen 29:32 Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, "It is because the LORD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now."
Gen 30:11 Then Leah said, "What good fortune!" So she named him Gad.
Gen 30:13 Then Leah said, "I am happy, for the daughters will call me blessed." So she called his name Asher.
Gen 30:8 Then Rachel said, "I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won." So she named him Naphtali.
Gen 41:51 Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, "It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father's household."
Gen 29:33 She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, "Because the LORD heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too." So she named him Simeon.
Gen 29:34 Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, "Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons." So he was named Levi.
Gen 30:18 Then Leah said, "God has rewarded me for giving my maidservant to my husband." So she named him Issachar.
Gen 30:20 And Leah said, "God has endowed me with a good endowment; now my husband will dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons." So she called his name Zebulun
Gen 30:24 She named him Joseph, and said, "May the LORD add to me another son."
Gen 35:18 As she breathed her last--for she was dying--she named her son Ben- Oni. But his father named him Benjamin.
Hebrew English Adam Man Seth Appointed Enosh Mortal Kenan Sorrow; Mahalalel The Blessed God Jared Shall come down Enoch Teaching Methuselah His death shall bring Lamech The Despairing Noah Rest, or comfort.
Man (is) appointed mortal sorrow; (but) the Blessed God shall come down teaching (that) His death shall bring (the) despairing rest.
To this we could also add that there is another major and unlikely source for worldwide evangelism during the tribulation as well - angels!
Rev 14:6-7 And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; (7) and he said with a loud voice, "Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters."
Others have said that this is the result of the rapture and often place the rapture at the 6th seal or between the 6th and 7th seals. But this doesn't make sense either:
- You will notice that Revelation 7 has no coming of the Lord, no trumpet, no shout, no command, no open Heaven etc... if this was the rapture it has none of the signs to look for. We are much better to find the rapture pictured in Rev 4:1-2 where John is caught up into heaven (with an open Heaven, the voice & command from the Lord, a trumpet etc) to see 'what must take place after these things'. 'These things' speak of the Churches and the Church age - that is, everything from Rev 4:1 onwards is AFTER the Church age and ties in with the structure/order of Revelation from Jesus in Rev 1:19.
- Also consider that the wrath of God begins with the seals and not the trumpets and or bowls. Each seal and their judgement has only one source - Jesus, in Heaven. He initiates them all and no one else can. In the seals there is death by sword (Rev 6:7-8), famine (Rev 6:5,6,8), wild animals (Rev 6:8) and pestilence and plague (Rev 6:8). This is not new. Look at Ezek 14:21 where the same judgements are are called by the Lord 'my four dreadful judgments'. All of the judgements from chapter 6 onwards are from the hand of the Lord and the Church is not destined for any of it (1 Thes 1:10, 5:9, 2 Pet 2:7-9, Rev 3:10)