Text: Revelation 7:1-14
Theme: A picture of the church on the brink of the Great Tribulation and then in glory afterwards.
Date: 06/03/2018 File name: Resurrection16.wpd
ID Number: 51
As you know, I took a seven-week hiatus from preaching through “The revelation from Jesus Christ” to look at the post-resurrection sayings of Jesus.
This morning we return to the Book of Revelation.
We ended in Revelation, chapter six and the breaking of the 6th Seal which ushers in a period of world history Christians know as the Great Tribulation.
In his Olivet Discourse Jesus warned his disciples, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” (Matthew 24:21, KJV).
As we reach chapter seven, God is about to visit the earth in wrath, afflicting an apostate and rebellious society with fearsome plagues before the final judgment falls.
It will be such a fearsome judgment that, according to Revelation 6:16 men will cry to the mountains to fall on them to hide them from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb.
In the midst of this apostate society is God’s people; but the wrath of God does not fall on them; they are sealed and thus delivered from His wrath.
What we will not be delivered from is the wrath of the AntiChrist.
When I began preaching through the Book of Revelation I reminded you that I preach and teach differently.
If I were teaching through Revelation, I’d give you all the various-and-sundry interpretations of the book.
But when I’m preaching through Revelation, I’m giving you my convictions of what the text teaches after my own study of the Bible.
I believe that the Church is going to go through the Great Tribulation period.
And I’m cool if you don’t agree with me.
The Book of Revelation is one of those texts where we need to allow some freedom of interpretation.
There is one truth we can all agree on ... Jesus is returning to this Earth in power and glory, and you’d better be spiritually prepared to meet him!
With God’s wrath about to be poured out upon the Earth, John takes a moment to tell us who will not experience that wrath.
This chapter answers the question in 6:17, “Who is able to stand?”
I. THE SEALING OF GOD’S SERVANTS ON EARTH (7:1–8)
1. this chapter contains two pictures: first, the sealing of the 144,000; second, the great multitude worshiping before God’s throne
a. the events described in this chapter do not take place until later in the book, when the Beast comes to power and puts down all that stands in his way
once the seals are broken and the restraints removed, it can only be a matter of time before such wickedness comes to a head
2. here the ultimate, inevitable collision between holiness and iniquity is described
God wants us to know what lies ahead for His people in the terrible period of trial
b. they will go through almost seven years of hell on earth—especially the last 3 ½ years
3. let me take a few moments to interpret the passage for you and then provide some application
A. WHAT JOHN SEES (7:1–3)
“After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree.
2 Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God.
He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: 3 “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.””
(Revelation 7:1–3, NIV84)
1. after this refers to the cataclysmic cosmic chaos that is unleashed with the breaking of the 6th seal in Rev. 6:12-17 which, I believe, signals the beginning of the Great Tribulation that Jesus said was coming
2. the chapter opens with four angels ready to unleash wrath upon the land and the seas, but who are restrained by another angel
a. these angels of the four compass points are pictured as holding back the destructive force of God’s winds of justice, and are ready to unleash that judgment at a moments notice
3. these powerful angels appear nowhere else in Revelation
a. in fact, they are introduced, but never to be heard of again
1) such is the nature of Jewish apocalyptic language
2) scenes are painted for us never to be finished
4. the angel who in a loud voice calls out to restrain the angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea carries with him the seal of the living God
a. the message of these verses is simply that judgment is to be withheld until God’s people are sealed
B. WHAT JOHN HEARS (7:3)
“Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.””
(Revelation 7:3, NIV84)
1. what this seal is we just don’t know, other than it will be some way for the world to know who God’s people are
some New Testament interpreters say this seal is God’s Holy Spirit whom, according to Ephesians 1:13, is God’s seal of promise in the believer’s life
1) however, those about to be sealed, are called servants of God ... they are already believers who already have the Holy Spirit
2) this imagery corresponds to what the Prophet Ezekiel sees in his vision where a "man clothed in linen" was told to "go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it"
a) those so marked are spared the destruction threatening the city (Ezek.
2. just as the wicked will receive the mark of the beast, so God’s righteous will receive the mark of the blessed
a. as we will see, the sealing that God places on the foreheads of his people protects them from the yet-to-be-seen judgments that begin in chapter 8
b. this sealing will be accomplished by the angels of God
1) although the angel who announces the message is alone, he represents a multitude of helpers when he says, “Until we have sealed the servants of our God”
2) God sends forth his angels to seal his people, for his servants belong to him
3. finally, John heard the number of those who were sealed
“Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.
5 From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben 12,000, from the tribe of Gad 12,000, 6 from the tribe of Asher 12,000, from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000, from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000, 7 from the tribe of Simeon 12,000, from the tribe of Levi 12,000, from the tribe of Issachar 12,000, 8 from the tribe of Zebulun 12,000, from the tribe of Joseph 12,000, from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000.”
(Revelation 7:4–8, NIV84)
a. here is one of the most debated passages in the entire Book of Revelation
1) exactly who are these 144,000 believers?
2) the primary debate is whether the 144,000 refers to Israel or the church
b. we read of them again in Revelation 14
“Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.”
(Revelation 14:1, NIV84)
4. here is the typical Baptist interpretation of this group: These are 144,000 Jewish “Billy Graham’s”.
Here’s the scenario: The church is raptured just prior to the Great Tribulation.
During the time when the church is gone, a remnant of 144,000 ethnic Jews is converted (12,000 from each tribe).
These Jewish converts, in turn, evangelize the Gentiles who make up the great multitude in white robes in v. 9.
A lot of godly Baptists hold that understanding.
a. it’s a valid interpretation of the text, and was popularized by Hal Lindsay in his book, The Late Great Planet Earth
I just sincerely believe it’s wrong
C. WHAT DAVID BELIEVES
1. the 144,000 of Revelation 14 represent the entire body of the redeemed throughout the history of the world
2. let me give you a couple of reasons why I believe this
1st, the precision of the number suggests the doctrine taught elsewhere: God's election of a precise number of individuals
1) God knows the exact number of people, Gentiles and Jews, chose for salvation
"I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in."
(Romans 11:25, NIV)
2) He also knows the exact number of believers who will be martyred
"Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.
" (Revelation 6:11, NIV)
b. 2nd, the 144,00 represents Spiritual Israel, and not Ethnic Jews
1) the Apostle Paul deals with this extensively in Romans 9-11
“A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical.
29 No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.
Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.” (Romans 2:28–29, NIV84)
“If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
(Galatians 3:29, NIV84)
2) Spiritual Israel, according to the Book of Romans represents the entire Body of Believers throughout history—both Jews who believe that Jesus is Messiah, and confessing Gentiles who have been grated into the Olive Tree of Israel
c. 3rd, the number 144,000, like all numbers mentioned in the Book of Revelation is highly symbolic
1) 144,000 is 12 x 12 x 1000—12 being the number perfection and of completion for God's people
2) so 144,000 is a symbolic number that expresses a multitude marked by absolute perfection—in other words—Christ’s Church
3. this interpretation makes, I believe, the best sense of the chapter and suggest the relationship between the two groups of people mentioned in chapter seven