Sunday, December 15, 2013

Thoughts on Revelation 7

Sealing of the 144,000 from the Ottheinrich Bible.
The 144,000 of Israel Sealed

After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, saying, "Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads." And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel: 12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed, 12,000 from the tribe of Reuben, 12,000 from the tribe of Gad, 12,000 from the tribe of Asher, 12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali, 12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh, 12,000 from the tribe of Simeon, 12,000 from the tribe of Levi, 12,000 from the tribe of Issachar, 12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun, 12,000 from the tribe of Joseph, 12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed.

A Great Multitude from Every Nation

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice,"Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!"  And 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, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen." Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, "Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?" I said to him, "Sir, you know." And he said to me, "These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 7:1-14).

The four angels prepare to harm the land, sea, trees but are told to wait by the angel from the east. This angel was bearing the seal of the Living God. His order to restrain the other angels should give Christians comfort. Nothing will take place without God sealing his servants. This doesn't mean that Christians will necessarily avoid the coming tribulations, but it does mean that, no matter what terrible things take place, we who believe have been sealed and identified as belonging to God. No one can remove us from his hand.

144,000 are sealed - 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. This doesn't mean that only 144,000 people will enter paradise as some non-Christian cults teach. It does, at first reading seem to suggest some limit on those to be saved. That is, however, until you read the next section.

John describes "a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language" standing, dressed in white, before Jesus' throne. Rather than showing that God limits salvation, the figure of the 144,000 assures us that all of those who are God's Elect, whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life, will be saved and not one person will be lost or forgotten.

1000 is a number that reflects completeness, or sufficiency (10x10x10 - 10, the number of completeness multiplied by three, the representative of the Trinity). 12 calls to mind the human Church - both God's Old Testament people (the 12 tribes of Israel) and God's New Testament people (the 12 apostles). God is showing John that, even through the terrible tribulations that will precede the end of all things, all those people to whom God has granted repentance and faith will assuredly receive the gift of eternal life they have been promised, and will be gathered together with Christ and live and reign with him forever.