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Lowell Brueckner

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Revelation 7


1. 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.
2. 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,
3. saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”
4. And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:
5. 12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed, 12,000 from the tribe of Reuben, 12,000 from the tribe of Gad,
6. 12,000 from the tribe of Asher, 12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali, 12,000 from the tribe of Issachar,
8. 12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun, 12,000 from the tribe of Joseph, 12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed.

The 144,000 of Israel

John observes from heaven as four angels position themselves at points north, east, south and west on the earth. They are detaining further destruction, while heaven conducts redemptive purposes upon the earth (v.1). To this day, we use the term, “the four corners of the earth”, speaking of the four principle directions. I mentioned in the last chapter that God takes little regard for satisfying the scientific demands of a few critical people, educated far beyond their intelligence. He is concerned with communicating His word to the common man.

The four winds is a term used by the prophets and also by Jesus, in which case He speaks of the gathering of the elect. They seem to indicate different kinds of world-wide movement or turmoil. Angels are involved throughout the book of Revelation over that, which takes place in nature. Here they hold back the wind, in 14:18 there is an angel, which has power over fire, and in 16:5, there is an angel of the waters.

Another angel ascends as the sun from the east with the seal of God (v.2). Seals were often rings on the finger of a ruler, which carried his particular signature, and it was used to authenticate official documents, as we saw in the scroll earlier with seven seals. In this case, as was also common, it is a stamp. Pilate sent the seal of the Roman Empire to stamp the stone that covered the door of the tomb of Jesus, proclaiming Him officially dead. Seals were also used as brands to denote ownership and that is what we have in this chapter. The mark of the beast, mentioned in chapters 13, 14, 16 and 19, will show those, who belong to Antichrist, but these are sealed to show them as God’s possession, in the midst of Antichrist’s kingdom.   

This last angel calls out with a loud voice of authority to the angels of the four winds to continue to hold back judgment upon nature, the earth, sea and trees (v.3). They are the ones, who have been delegated authority for that purpose. The fifth angel will mark 144,000 Jews upon the forehead, 12,000 from each tribe. To be sealed by God is the greatest privilege on earth and it denotes absolute security in Him. All of nature is held back in deference to those, who are marked by God (v.4-8).

It is crucial for us that the apostle distinctly hears the total number from every tribe. The founder of the Jehovah Witnesses, Charles Taze Russell, taught that only these 144,000 constituted a spiritual Israel and would go to heaven. The Jehovah Witnesses join these in chapter 7 with the 144,000 first fruits in chapter 14 and conclude, “It refers to those who will rule in heaven with Christ over a paradise earth, which will be filled with a large and undetermined number of happy people who worship Jehovah God” (Watchtower Society 204 9/1 pp. 30-31, Questions from Readers).

With this clear misconception, along with a multitude of others, the Jehovah Witnesses show that, from their onset, they lacked influence and enlightening from heaven’s Teacher, the Holy Spirit. Any person, given to consistent misinterpretation of Scripture, needs to question whether or not he has the Spirit of God and is truly born again. Paul determined, because of the false teaching concerning the resurrection in Corinth that “some of you have not the knowledge of God {you are… lacking the sense of God’s presence and all true knowledge of Him}” (1 Co.15:34 Amp. Bible).  Through false teaching, cults are identified and the public is warned against an individual or group, outside the protective cover of God and given over to doctrines of demons (1 Ti.4:1). How can we be sure of their error?

The tribes are named, so that each Jew is identified within his particular tribe. If these tribes are not literal Israel, we must be prepared to answer how to interpret the name of each tribe and every member must be able to explain his tribal heritage. There is no key in Scripture concerning this, so that we must conclude that verses 5-8 are totally literal and concern 12,000 Jews from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. Any other interpretation is pure fantasy. This limited number can be contrasted with the innumerable multitude that no one can number in verse 9. This first group can be numbered and the number is literally 144,000, constituted from the 12 tribes of Israel, 12,000 from each tribe. God knows each one of His people and heaven has lost no records!

We need to take a closer look at these tribes, each of which is mentioned by name. First comes Judah, the tribe of Christ. We notice that Manasseh, the elder, yet less prominent, son of Joseph is named, and then, towards the end, Joseph himself is named. It may be that this is the dominant tribe of Ephraim, which is sometimes identified in the Old Testament as Joseph. The priestly tribe of Levi is included, whereas it did not inherit a portion of territory in Israel, so that normally we should have here a total of 13 tribes. Therefore, one is eliminated and that is the tribe of Dan. I offer no answer to these distinctions. Some suggest that it is because Dan and Ephraim were leaders among Israel in the sin of idolatry.  One thing of which I am sure: Just as the Lord, by His wisdom and sovereignty, chose seven churches from those of Asia Minor, so He also chose 12 tribes best suited to fulfill His eternal purposes.  

Immediately following the list of the 12 tribes of Israel John sees an innumerable multitude which come out of the Great Tribulation. We will have more to say of this later, but now, I want to go back to Matthew 24, where Jesus taught His disciples about the last days. We want to try to place the chronology and mission of these Jews.

We followed the perfect symmetry between that discourse on the Mount of Olives and the first five broken seals. The fifth seal of martyrdom continues through Matthew 24:10 and then, Jesus describes the constant and general deception and lack of natural affection in the world, and concludes in verse 13 by mentioning the salvation of those, who endure faithfully to the end. I often comment that it does not mean that endurance saves, but that salvation endures!

Then in verse 14, we learn of the success of the gospel and the final fulfillment of the commission given by Christ. In the end, every nation in the entire world will be evangelized. The place, where this occurs in Matthew 24, joined with the 144,000 Jews and the innumerable multitude in Revelation 7, help us to understand more about what is happening.  I repeat that Jesus mentions the end in Matthew 24:13 and in Revelation 7:14, we read of coming out of the Great Tribulation, therefore the timing is to be during the Great Tribulation.
The great multitude follows the sealing of the 144,000 Jews, therefore they must be connected. Along with Matthew 24:14, it strongly suggests that the sealed, protected and chosen Jews are evangelizing the nations through the Great Tribulation and that evangelization is a huge success, to say the least. An innumerable multitude is saved!

9.  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,
10, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
11. 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,
12. saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
13. Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?”
14.  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.
15. “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
16. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat.
17. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

An innumerable multitude

Now we will study this multitude, beyond human ability to count. It is necessary to precisely pinpoint the time, in which they are converted. We have the answer in verse 14 and the original Greek makes it perfectly clear. It states: “the tribulation, the great one”. It is surely the time that Christ pointed to in this same time frame in Matthew 24:15-21. He introduced it with an event, which He called “the abomination of desolation” quoting the prophet Daniel. He said that those, who read this prophecy, should understand what He means. Daniel clearly defines it.

Daniel makes reference to it in 9:27, 11:31 and 12:11. Without going into great depth on these passages, let me reiterate what takes place. The Antichrist makes a covenant with the Jews for a seven-year period, which involves the rebuilding of the temple and the reinstatement of the sacrificial practices. In the exact middle of that period, he reveals himself as the egotistical madman that he is, stops the sacrifices and places himself in the temple, as the object of worship.

There will be 3½ years of extreme affliction upon the earth and Jesus’ words mark the beginning of the time: “For then shall be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be” (Mt.24:21). Daniel also defined the time with similar words: “There shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time” (Dn.12:1). Nothing before or afterward can be compared to this time. I see no way to misinterpret their words or the time of Revelation 7.

This darkest of times will also be unprecedented by world-wide evangelistic success, in fact, intense revival, which is impossible to measure (v.9). God is the God of redemption, even in the midst of judgment! Habaccuc prayed to the God of justice and goodness: “In wrath remember mercy” (Hab.3:2). The blood of the Lamb still avails in the Great Tribulation to redeem men from every nation, tribe, people and language. Their robes are washed and palm branches of praise are in their hands, as in the time of the Feast of Tabernacles (Lv.23:40) and in the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem (Jn.12:13).

They are rejoicing, making heaven ring with their praise. I see no quiet, meditative reflection in heaven. If the heart has been thoroughly illuminated, as to the reality of eternal life in the ambiance of heaven, who can restrain himself? Heaven will put no limit on the expression of the redeemed. To the degree that our souls can sense the effect of the gospel upon our lives, to that extent will we “cry out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” Are you ready to participate in heavenly praise? (v.10)

John Wesley calculated the number of angels in chapter 5 as over 200 million, but here, just as there is no limit to the number of saints, so there is no limit to the angels. The text states all the angels, the 24 elders and the four living creatures joined and confirmed with an amen the ecstasy of the ransomed choir of saints (v.11). They give blessing, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honor, power and might to God, prostrate in worship before the throne (v.12).  

These are a special people that John could not identify. He would have recognized them, if they were from the normal church age, but he could offer no opinion concerning them. He humbly waited to be taught by the elder (v.13). He identified them with a special classification of tribulation saints, but they have come into the Kingdom of God, as all the rest of the saints in the Old and New Testament and throughout the church age. There is only one Redeemer and His blood can make the vilest sinner, in the vilest of times, as white as snow. In this way they are able to stand in the Holy of Holies before the throne (v.14).

“Therefore!” Only by these means do they have access to that awesome position. It occurred to me recently that the curtain between the two compartments of the temple, not only separated the holy from the mundane and vile, but it also separated the Holy of Holies from the holy place. The priests could minister in the holy place, but there was no place for them, or for any mere man, in the Holy of Holies. The practical holiness that a believer might obtain in this life will never qualify him for the holiest of all. Only the blood of the absolutely Perfect One can avail for us. “Because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord’” (1 Co.1:30-31). We stand there, according to His merits.

They will not hunger or thirst anymore and scorching heat will not strike them. Biblical principle brings us to understand that this is not due principally to atmospheric conditions nor geological positions, but to a Person… “He will shelter them with his presence” (v.15-16). A hymn states, Where Jesus is, tis heaven there. We are eternally safe, under the everlasting arms. “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust” (Ps.91:1-2).

The Lord is my Shepherd throughout eternity. Heaven is safe and eternally secure because of His presence. Trust in the Lord, therefore faith in the Lord, will endure throughout eternity, along with hope and love. We will not be independent, even in heaven’s ambiance, for we have been created to depend upon Him. He will guide us to living water and He is our joy, who wipes every tear from our eyes (v.17). Because of Him, there is no sorrow in heaven, but “you make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps.16:11).


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