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Worthy is the Lamb: Signed, Sealed, and Delivered

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A picture of the church on the brink of the Great Tribulation and then in glory afterwards.

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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
b. 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
a. 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
a. 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. 9:4,6)
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
b. 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
a. 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
a. they are the same group of people—the Church—merely seen at two stages of end-time history
1) the 144,000 represents the Church standing on the threshold of the Great Tribulation
2) the great multitude represents the Church having passed through this time of tribulation ... martyred but victorious
4. the church is sealed that it may be protected from the plagues which express God’s wrath poured out upon the Antichrist and his followers
ILLUS. In God’s redemptive history we’ve seen this kind of thing before. When God was preparing to deliver His people from bondage in Egypt, He visited the Egyptians with a series of ten plagues to try to bend the stubborn Pharaoh before the divine will. Israel found herself in the midst of Egypt, but God protected Israel from the plagues which afflicted the Egyptians.
““ ‘But on that day I will deal differently with the land of Goshen, where my people live; no swarms of flies will be there, so that you will know that I, the LORD, am in this land. 23 I will make a distinction between my people and your people. This miraculous sign will occur tomorrow.’ ”” (Exodus 8:22–23, NIV84)
a. God stipulates that He will put a division between the people of Egypt and His own people
1) interestingly, the word for division literally means a redemption
2) God is going to deal redemptively with His people, the Hebrews
b. in the plagues that God pours out on Egypt and the saving of His people from these plagues, we have a portrait of God’s judgment and redemption
1) the plagues God poured out on Egypt were His judgments against a wicked people who defied Him
2) these plagues were the wrath of God being revealed against those who denied and rejected Him
3) these reasons are the same reasons for the plagues that God will pour out upon the Earth at the end of days—they are His judgments against a wicked and defiant people who reject Him
5. I believe we will see the same redemptive pattern at the end of days as God’s people are protected from God’s wrath, but the rebellious nations will not be
a. verses such as Romans 5:9 and 1 Thessalonians 1:10 promise that those who trust in Christ shall not come under the wrath of God, we shall not come under His holy judgment
b. God’s redemption saves His people from His wrath and judgment, just as it did for His people living in the land of Egypt
6 from the The Sealing of God’s Servants on Earth let’s look at ...

II. THE SALVATION OF GOD’S SAINTS IN HEAVEN

“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”” (Revelation 7:9–10, NIV84)

A. WHAT JOHN SEES

1. the Church is pictured a second time from an entirely different perspective
a. in verses 1-8 the first multitude is pictured as standing on the threshold of the great tribulation
1) in the chapters ahead we will witness the wrath of God poured out on a rebellious world, and the rise of a world leader simply called “the Beast”
2) all the combined apocalyptic movies Hollywood has ever made will not do justice to the world-shaking events that will take place
3) and God’s people will be right in the middle of it—supernaturally protected from God’s wrath, but not immune to the wrath of the Beast
4) it will be a time Jesus described to his disciples as great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again (Matt. 24:21)
a) he goes on to say, “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.” (Matthew 24:22, NIV84)
2. here, in verses 9-10 the second multitude pictured is seen after the tribulation is over
a. John sees a great multitude
1) it’s a multitude that no one could count
2) it’s a multitude that includes believers from every nation, tribe, people and language
a) God’s grace is not stingy
b) God’s grace not prejudicial
b. John sees a great multitude ... standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb
1) these are worshipers
2) in the chapters ahead we will also see the fall of Babylon, and a Rider on a white horse who name if Faithful and True coming in power and glory to claim his kingdom and his people
3) the Beast and his false prophet, and all who have allied themselves to them will be slain
4) a thousand year millennial kingdom will be established followed by a new heaven and a new earth and a new Jerusalem
c. the multitude of chapter seven are saved and in the Kingdom

B. WHAT JOHN HEARS

1. John hears their doxology ... they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb

III. APPLICATION

1. both Old and New Testaments picture the coming of the Lord in final judgment
2. the theology behind the great tribulation is the age-long conflict between God and Satan
a. we witness that conflict in our Lord’s ministry through his conflict with Satan and demonic powers
3. through his incarnation and earthly mission, our Lord had rendered a decisive defeat to the devil that men may e delivered from darkness and brought into the Kingdom of our Christ
a. but while delivered from the spiritual power of Satan, the church is not spared form tribulation and persecution which expresses the fierce hatted of Satan for the people of God
1) in fact, tribulation and persecution is the normal expectation of the church in the world
2) the great tribulation will be but a concentration of the same satanic hostility which the church has experienced throughout her existence
4. when God brings universal judgment on the world, He will punish all unfaithful authorities beginning in the heavenly realm
a. the Day of the Lord will affect not only the earth and its people but also Satan and his hosts
“On that day the LORD will punish the host of heaven, in heaven, and the kings of the earth, on the earth. 22 They will be gathered together as prisoners in a pit; they will be shut up in a prison, and after many days they will be punished.” (Isaiah 24:21–22, ESV)
b. the phrase host of heaven refers to spiritual forces, not residing upon this earth but on high who have influenced the rulers on this earth to turn against God and to transgress His laws
1) these are the spiritual forces that the Apostle Paul refers to in Eph. 6:12
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12, NIV)
5. in addition to the host on high the kings upon the earth are to feel the judgment
a. the kings of the earth have waged war against the Lord
“The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.’ Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed.” (Acts 4:26–27, NIV)
b. and in that great battle the Bible refers to as Armageddon, the kings of the earth will attempt one last coup de’ tat against our Lord
“They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.” (Revelation 17:14, NIV)
3. the promise in both Old and New Testaments is that, in the end, God wins!
If you are a follower of Jesus, you should not be afraid. As Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” If you are not a follower of Jesus, you should be greatly distressed. You are in grave and eternal danger. The time to repent and come to Christ is now.
If you are a servant of Jesus you should warn people of the danger they are in. “if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others;” (2 Peter 2:5, NIV).
If you are a servant of Jesus you ought to be living righteous lives, “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” (2 Peter 3:11–13, NIV)
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