Revelation Chapter 7, Part 1
by Karl Kemp
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This article was taken in part from the internet version of my paper titled "A Verse-by-Verse Study of Revelation Chapters 1-10," which was taken from the paper by that title, which was published in July, 1999. I was able to use bold, italics, underlining, and footnotes in the original paper and the version on my internet site. Sometimes I will use double brackets [[ ]] and (( )) to make them more obvious. All quotations from the Bible were taken from the New American Standard Bible, 1995 edition, unless otherwise noted. Are you aware that you can click on my name beside any of my articles on this Christian article site and see a listing of all my articles on this site (so too for any author)?
Every verse of the book of Revelation is discussed in papers on my internet site, except for Rev. 11:1-14:5, which are discussed in a verse-by-verse manner in my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture." For a condensed version, see my paper titled "Twenty-Four Articles on the Mid-Week Rapture" that is available on my internet site. Those twenty-four articles are available individually on this Christian article site: "The Mid-Week Rapture, Part 1," and so on. Those twenty-four articles serve as a good introduction for my book and for the mid-week rapture viewpoint (that Christ will return and the rapture will take place right in the middle of the seven-year period that is sometimes called Daniel's 70th week). I'll supplement this article with excerpts from article #s18, 19 of "Twenty-Four Articles on the Mid-Week Rapture."
The first half of this chapter (Rev. 7:1-8) was discussed in a rather thorough manner in my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture" (see pages 176-179, including the endnotes). This present discussion contains much information, but I will not repeat all that was said there. The references to my book are noted below, under the specific verses.
HOW REVELATION CHAPTER 7 FITS WITH THE SEVEN SEALS OF THE BOOK OF REVELATION, AND HOW IT FITS THE SCHEME OF THE BOOK OF REVELATION: Revelation chapter 7 is an interlude (parenthetical insert) between the breaking of the sixth seal (Rev. 6:12-17) and the breaking of the seventh seal (Rev. 8:1). (In a similar way, Rev. 10:1-11 and 11:1-13 are two interludes between the sounding of the sixth trumpet [Rev. 9:13-21] and the sounding of the seventh trumpet [Rev. 11:15].) In Revelation chapter 7, before the seventh seal has been broken and the all-important scroll can be opened, we pause to look at two special groups of people. Both groups are part of God's true Israel. These two groups have something else in common: Both groups will be living on the earth during the first half of Daniel's 70th week when the first six trumpets will be sounding. I'll explain the difference(s) between the two groups as we continue.
In Rev. 7:9-17 we see a great multitude of saints (members of true Israel) in heaven, before the throne of God. Their state at the time the day of wrath begins is in total contrast with the state of those pictured in Rev. 6:15, 16. They have just been raptured from the earth in the middle of Daniel's 70th week, at the sounding of the seventh and last trumpet of the book of Revelation. These saints will, by virtue of the rapture, be kept from/out of the very difficult days that will come to pass for the saints (those who will not become Christians until after the rapture) living on the earth throughout the second half of Daniel's 70th week (see Rev. 3:10).
These raptured saints won't be living on the earth when the devil, having been cast down to the earth with his angels in the middle of Daniel's 70th week and having great wrath, intensely persecutes the people of God (e.g., Rev. 12:7-13:18). They won't be on the earth for any part of the three and one-half year super-evil reign of Antichrist; he won't begin his super-evil reign until just after the rapture. And they won't be living on the earth when God pours out His seven bowls of wrath.
These saints, who (in common with all true Christians) have been sealed by the blood of Christ and by the Holy Spirit, will know God's protective care as they live on the earth during the first half of Daniel's 70th week (in the days before the rapture). They will be protected during the time of the sounding of the first six trumpets. The judgments of those trumpets are not coming against God's people. During the fifth trumpet, for example, the (demonic) locusts will not be permitted to touch those sealed by God (Rev. 9:4). I didn't say, however, that there won't be any martyrs during the first half of Daniel's 70th week. We know, for example, that the two prophets will be martyred at the end of that period. Most generations of Christians have known some martyrs. But dying as a martyr in the will of God (by His grace) is victory, not defeat.
Revelation 7:1-8 also deal with elect members of God's true Israel, but the difference is that those pictured in these verses will not be converted to Christ in time to be taken in the rapture. They will need a special seal to protect them as they live on the earth in the days before they become Christians, during the first half of Daniel's 70th week - especially during the days of the sounding of the sixth trumpet. It's important that these people remain alive to receive Christ Jesus when/after He comes (cf. Dan. 12:1). Although it seems clear that many Gentiles will become Christians (and part of true Israel) after the rapture, the spotlight in Rev. 7:1-8 is on the elect sons of Israel (Jews) who will eventually become Christians. Many prophecies speak of the end-time conversion and salvation of the literal sons of Israel, but it's not until the book of Revelation that we learn that they won't be converted until after the rapture.
Revelation chapter 7 answers the question asked in the last verse of chapter 6, "for the great day of their wrath [the wrath of God the Father and the wrath of the Lamb (God the Son)] has come, and WHO IS ABLE TO STAND?" All the members of true Israel will be able to stand before God (instead of being removed by judgment). Apparently we should see a connection between the question of Rev. 6:17 and the fact that the multitude of Rev. 7:9 are seen "STANDING before the throne [of God]," and the fact that those "STANDING on the sea of glass [before God]" (Rev. 15:2) are the ones who were sealed in Rev. 7:1-8. It's also true, though beyond the scope of Revelation chapter 7, that the elect remnant of the nations (who are distinct from true Israel) will be left standing (by God's mercy) when His end-time judgments are over (cf. Rev. 15:3, 4; 20:3; 21:3, 4, and 21:24-22:3).
We'll start with Rev. 7:1.
"After this I saw four angels [Compare Rev. 7:2. These are good angels, angels faithful to God.] standing at the four corners of the earth [[I'll quote what Craig S. Keener said here ("Bible Background Commentary" [Inter-Varsity Press, 1993], page 782), " 'Four corners' of the earth was meant figuratively, even in ancient times. A few people thought that the world was spherical [which it is], but most people viewed it as [flat and] circular; 'four corners' was nevertheless conventional speech, as was the idea of four winds from the four directions of heaven...."]], holding back the four winds of the earth, so that no wind would blow on the earth or on the sea or on any tree. [[The message behind this oversimplified picture of a flat earth with four corners (as in Isa. 11:12; Rev. 20:8) is that the four winds (cf. Jer. 49:36; Dan. 7:2; and Matt. 24:31) are under the control of God and will not be permitted to blow - bringing judgments (cf. Rev. 7:2, 3; 8:6-11) - until He has sealed His bondservants on their foreheads for protection. In this context the judgments of the seven trumpets of the book of Revelation are in view. The trumpets are announced right after the scroll is opened (Rev. 8:1, 2, and 6).
I understand the events of the first five trumpets to be in the category of warning judgments, warnings of the imminent coming of the day of judgment. With the sixth trumpet, however, even though it will sound a month before judgment day officially begins, the judgment will be very intense for those directly involved (very much including the nation of Israel), and it can be considered part of the day of judgment. The earth and the sea are mentioned in Rev. 7:2; the earth, the sea, and the trees are mentioned in 7:3.]] (2) And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun [After I finish the limited comments I had in the original article under Rev. 7:1-3, I'll include a lengthy section to give more details on the identity of this "angel" and on the sealing of Rev. 7:1-8 which he/He accomplishes.], having the seal of the living God [On "the living God," cf., e.g., Matt. 16:16]; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels [cf. Rev. 7:1] to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, (3) saying, 'Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.' [[Regarding a seal/mark/name on the forehead, compare Ezek. 9:4, 6; Rev. 9:4; 14:1 (this verse refers to all the members of true Israel who will be glorified in the middle of Daniel's 70th week, including all who will have died before that time, apparently including all the believers from Old Testament days; it's not limited to those who will be living on the earth at the time of the rapture; Rev. 7:9-17 are limited to those who will be living on the earth at the time of the rapture, as we'll discuss below); and Rev. 22:4 (this verse refers to true Israel in its fullness, including those converted after the rapture). Contrast the mark/name on the forehead of Rev. 13:16; 14:9; and 20:4.
On this very important sealing, see on Rev. 7:1-8 on pages 176-179 of my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture." (Many details are included in the lengthy section that follows this paragraph.) In that discussion I mentioned that the sealing of Rev. 7:1-8 probably builds on the sealing by the man clothed in linen of Ezek. 9:1-11. Ezekiel 9:1-10:8 are discussed on pages 173, 174 of my book. As noted in "The Mid-Week Rapture," I favor the view that the angel/Angel of Rev. 7:2, 3 is the Lord Jesus Christ. For the full discussion regarding why I favor this viewpoint, see pages 165-179 of my book. "We" of Rev. 7:3 undoubtedly includes angels under the direction of the angel/Angel who had the seal.
MORE DETAILS ON THE INTERPRETATION OF REV. 7:1-3. (Most of this information was taken from Article #18 of my paper titled, "Twenty-Four Articles on The Mid-Week Rapture.") I won't get into all the details here (see my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture" for more details), but I assume that this sealing builds on the sealing of the righteous remnant of Israel by the "man dressed in linen" in Ezekiel chapter 9. We discussed the "man dressed in linen" in some detail when we discussed Daniel chapter 12. (Daniel chapter 12 is discussed verse-by-verse in some detail in "The Mid-Week Rapture.")
As I mentioned, I believe the "man dressed in linen" is God the Son, who often appears in the Old Testament as the Angel (or Messenger) of Yahweh. In Ezekiel chapter 9, Yahweh instructed the man dressed in linen to "go through the midst of the city, even through the midst of Jerusalem, and PUT A MARK ON THE FOREHEADS of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst." At the same time, Yahweh called for judgment to fall on all the people in Jerusalem who had not been sealed for protection. That judgment came through the Babylonians, who destroyed the city of Jerusalem and the temple in 587/586 BC.
As the mark on the forehead of Ezekiel chapter 9 protected the elect remnant of Israel during the days of the destruction of Jerusalem, so the sealing of Rev. 7:1-8 will protect the elect remnant of Israel during the days of the sounding of the trumpets. This sealing will apparently take place before the first trumpet sounds.
I'll read Rev. 9:4, which prophesies of locusts (apparently demonic locusts) that will attack mankind under the fifth trumpet. "They [the locusts] were told not to hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads." Those sealed on their foreheads in Rev. 7:1-8 will be protected from the locusts, even though they will not yet have become Christians. What about the true Christians who will be living on the earth at that time? We won't need a special seal, because we have already been sealed by God through the atoning blood of the Lamb and by the Holy Spirit (see Eph. 1:13; 4:30; and Rev. 14:1, for example).
I mentioned that I assume that this sealing builds on the sealing of the man dressed in linen of Ezekiel chapter 9, and that I believe the man dressed in linen was God the Son. I won't get into the details here, but I should mention, without being dogmatic at all, that I favor the viewpoint that the "angel" here in Rev. 7:2 also represents the Lord Jesus Christ. It seems that the same Person does the sealing in both passages, and how appropriate it is for God the Son to seal His people. I discuss this viewpoint in substantial detail (covering many pages) in my book. I am not saying, of course, that the Lord Jesus is a created angel, but He is a messenger of God the Father, and He frequently appeared in the Old Testament as the Angel (or Messenger) of Yahweh (God the Father). The Hebrew and Greek nouns translated angel can also be translated messenger.
I agree that it would be quite unusual to refer to the Lord Jesus Christ as "another angel," but I think the other considerations are weighty enough that I have to favor this viewpoint. The case for this viewpoint is greatly strengthened if the Lord Jesus Christ is also called "another angel" in Revelation chapter 8 and "another strong angel" in Revelation chapter 10, which I believe is the case. Quite a few commentators believe the Lord Jesus Christ is the One being spoken of in chapters 8 and 10.
I'll comment briefly on the words, "And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun" of Rev. 7:2. The NIV has, "Then I saw another angel coming up from the east," and the KJV has, "And I saw another angel ascending from the east." Apparently we are to picture this angel rising out of the east, as the sun rises out of the east. The rising of this "sun" apparently pictures the return of the light of God in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, as it begins to return to Israel in the end times (see, for example, Mal. 4:2; Matt. 17:2; Luke 1:78, 79; Eph. 5:14; and Rev. 1:16; and 10:1).
It is important that we don't allow any confusion regarding the identity of this angel/Angel to affect our understanding of these verses. God will make sure that this totally effective sealing will take place, whether this angel/Angel is the Lord Jesus Christ, or not. I didn't mention this viewpoint to stir up controversy. We don't need any more controversy. I mention this viewpoint because I believe the evidence is very strong for this viewpoint, and that we ought to at least consider the possibility that God intended that we see the Lord Jesus Christ in these verses. His presence certainly brings some extra glory to these verses.]] (4) And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel: (5) From the tribe of Judah, twelve thousand were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand, from the tribe of Gad twelve thousand, (6) from the tribe of Asher twelve thousand, from the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand, from the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand, (7) from the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand, from the tribe of Levi twelve thousand, from the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand, (8) from the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand, from the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand, from the tribe of Benjamin, twelve thousand were sealed. [[On the numbers "twelve thousand" and "one hundred and forty-four thousand," I agree with the majority that these are symbolic numbers of completeness (discussed as we continue). There are a few peculiarities in the listing of the twelve tribes of Israel here, but I doubt that there is any major significance. There are many differences in the various listings of the twelve tribes in the Bible, including the omission of the names of various tribes. For one thing, when the tribe of Levi is included, as it is here, there are thirteen tribes, because both of the sons of Joseph (one of the twelve sons of Jacob/Israel) became tribes of Israel. The tribe of Levi was different in that it wasn't allotted a tract of land in the holy land; the priests and Levites came from this tribe.
It's obvious why the tribe of Judah was listed first (e.g., Rev. 5:5). The tribe of Dan isn't listed. Rather than mention the reasons that have been suggested for the omission of the name of this tribe, I'll just mention that Dan was mentioned in the end-time-oriented listing of Ezekiel chapter 48. It's unusual that Joseph, the father of Ephraim and Manasseh, was listed along with Manasseh. It's possible that there was a conscious effort to omit listing Ephraim (and Dan), but I doubt it. Ephraim, by the way, was also listed in Ezekiel chapter 48.
MORE DETAILS ON THE INTERPRETATION OF REV. 7:4-8. (Most of this information was taken from Article #18 of my paper titled, "Twenty-Four Articles on The Mid-Week Rapture.") These verses list twelve tribes of Israel and say that 12,000 will be sealed from each tribe. The total number is 144,000. I agree with the widespread viewpoint that these are symbolic numbers of completeness. The actual numbers will be much higher than a literal 144,000. I'll quote part of a sentence from Henry Alford, who was a Christian scholar writing in the 1800s who was well acquainted with the earlier Christian writings; this quotation will surprise some people, "No one that I am aware of has taken it literally."
Many Christians in our day do take the number literally. As I mentioned, the people being sealed for protection here are the elect of God who will become Christians after the rapture. This multitude will center in the end-time elect remnant of the people of Israel, but many Gentiles will also become Christians (and part of God's true Israel) after the rapture, and I assume they are included here too.
Symbolic numbers are frequently used in the book of Revelation. Seven, the number for perfection, is often used. Revelation 5:6, for example, speaks of "a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth." The "seven horns" speak of Christ's perfect (complete) authority and dominion. The "seven eyes" speak of His perfect (complete) knowledge. The "seven Spirits of God" refer to the Holy Spirit (see Rev. 1:4, 5; 3:1; and 4:5).
The number twelve, and multiples of twelve, are sometimes used in the book of Revelation to denote completeness. (For one thing, there were twelve tribes of Israel, twelve apostles, and there were twelve months.) I believe the 12,000 stadia of Rev. 21:16 and the 144 cubits of Rev. 21:17 are in this category and are not to be taken as literal dimensions. (See my paper on my internet site that deals with Revelation chapters 20-22 for the details.)
More relevant to our consideration of the 144,000 of Rev. 7:4 is the mention of 144,000 in Rev. 14:1. I believe the 144,000 of Rev. 14:1 is a symbolic number of completeness and that that glorious multitude embraces all the raptured saints; they will be glorified and raptured at the time of Christís return, right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week. That multitude will include all the true Christians who have lived from the beginning of Christianity to the time of Christís return. I believe it will also include all the believers from Old Testament days, who will also be resurrected, glorified, and raptured at the time of Christ's return. From the time of the rapture, this gigantic multitude (who are all part of God's true Israel) will be with the Lord Jesus Christ, and they will be reigning with Him in a never-ending reign.
So, the 144,000 of Revelation 7 is to be distinguished from the 144,000 of Rev. 14:1. Both multitudes are part of God's true Israel, and taken together they represent the totality of God's true Israel. The difference is that the 144,000 of Revelation 7 will not be converted until after the rapture. The 144,000 of Revelation 7 can undoubtedly be equated with "the rest of her [true Israel's] offspring [or, seed]" of Rev. 12:17. The woman of Revelation chapter 12 is God's true Israel.]]
We will continue with this verse-by-verse study of Revelation chapter 7 in Part 2, starting with Rev. 7:9.
© Copyright by Karl Kemp
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