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Bible Studies in the Book of Revelation Study 11

Revelation 7    The Multitudes

After opening the sixth seal, there is an interlude in the visions recorded before the opening of the seventh seal. We need to remember that Revelation is not a single story with linear events following each other; it is a series of visions that John experiences. At the end of ch 6 we see the world demolished and the wicked swept up in the wrath of God. So the chapter 7 opens with four angels holding back on the winds of destruction. In Zechariah 6 reference is made to four spirits, the word for spirits and winds, in Hebrew, are the same. [ruach] So we have a strong suggestion that the four destroying winds of ch 7 are the four horsemen of ch 6. John is seeing the scene before the destruction. In this vision John sees two separate things, firstly 144,000 people with a seal on their forehead and then secondly; a great multitude in white robes. These visions of the two groups are one of the most controversial passages in the whole Book.

Look at the contrasts:

 One crowd is numbered

 The other cannot be numbered

 One crowd is on earth

 The other is in heaven

 One is made up of Jews from the twelve tribes

 The other from every nation

The 144,000: It has been suggested these are a remnant from Israel as the number appears as 12,000 from each of the Tribes. But consider this, the list is unique; Judah is listed first, whereas Reuben was the first-born, Dan is not listed and Joseph is included with one of his sons; Manasseh but not Ephraim. Note, Joseph is often left out of the tribal lists, but here he is listed with only one of his sons. If these verses are taken alongside other scriptures, cf Galatians 4.31, the Gentile Christians were identified as children of the free woman, Sarah and not of the slave woman, Hagar. Paul concludes that Gentiles are ‘children of promise’, and in Gal 6.16, he refers to them as ‘Israel of God.’ Here in ch 7; the number is called, ‘servants of our God’, in ch 14; there is no mention of Israelite identity, they are followers of the Lamb. There are many other scripture references to the Christians being the true Israel, the true circumcision and the children of Abraham. So we can conclude that these verses display the promise of God of a special protection on his servants. They will be protected when the final judgment comes to the earth. It can be seen that there are different uses for numbers in the Bible. Some are exact, others are to give an impression, and the term ‘thousand’ is often used in the Bible to represent a very large number. Could we have two views of the same group but from different perspectives, initially on earth and then in heaven? They are preserved on earth and glorified in heaven! There also remains the view that they are a remnant of the scattered tribes of Israel, the tribes that were spread over the various part of the Assyrian Empire when they were taken into exile. This would mean there are two different groups of people.

Look at the text in more detail, v3 we are told that these are on earth and sealed, a sign of ownership. Cf. ch 13, where the markings are either the ‘mark of the beast’ or the mark of Christ. The message of the Book is that you are either in one camp or the other; there is no neutral place. To be sealed by Christ is absolute protection and you are secure whatever happens.

The scene changes in v9 to heaven, from the earth where the people of God are marked and protected, to the throne-room of heaven, where we see a great crowd again. The sealed are in heaven standing before the throne and glorifying the Lord, who has redeemed them. In v9 we see they are an international crowd, from all nations, people and languages. The curse of Babel has been reversed; there is a single song and it’s assumed one language. They are the result of faithful servants of God who took the gospel to the ends of the earth; their reward is to see a crowd from all places of the earth. In their hands were palm branches, symbols of joy and triumph. [Read about the triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday] The crowd are excited and burst into praise, a real praise that does not end or diminish. It is infectious and the elders, the four creatures and the angels joined in the praise, v12.

Further, in v13-14, we see they are a rescued people, they are come from great tribulation, Jesus promises in John 16.33 that ‘you will have great trouble [tribulation]’ as an ordinary occurrence of living on earth. These have come through it and out of it, troubles are for a season, they will end and you can praise the Lord for keeping his promise. But not only are they rescued, they are also redeemed and justified, the white shining robes represent the righteousness of Christ covering them, no-one can appear before and be accepted by God, unless he declares us righteous and justified.

Finally in v15-17, we see that they are protected, a perfect state, so look at the provision: [Look at Isaiah 49.10 and 25.8]

  • Before the throne of God and serving Him
  • He shelters them in his presence and covers them
  • Never hunger and never thirst
  • Protected from the destructive power of the sun’s rays
  • Shepherded by the Lamb to the living springs

In v17, we see the ultimate position of the child of God. What a situation, you may arrive in heaven in a distressed state on leaving the earth, but there is a wonderful transformation, the suffering of this life is removed, our failures are forgotten, sin and death are not there. After a life where heartache and problems may have dogged us, we find God wipes away every tear; the walk is now with him beside the springs of living water. Remember that living water promised to the woman at Sychar’s well by Jesus. The people of God are secure and sealed by the Holy Spirit today while here on earth, this gives us strength to live for Jesus, but the future is a state of glorious position and a perfect place that is beyond our imagination.


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