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Living in the Last Days

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“The 144,000 and the Innumerable”

Revelation 7:1-17 “And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel. Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Aser were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Nepthalim were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasses were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Simeon we…”

I. Intro

The opening of the sixth seal resulted in catastrophic destruction on earth and all mankind hiding in fear. However, before the seventh seal is opened, God shows He is still a God of mercy, even in the time of judgment. His mercy reveals itself in the form of a break in the judgments beginning with the sealing of the 144,000. This is the first of the major parenthetical sections of Revelation where the general chronological flow of the book is interrupted by topical sections which explain major events and characters of the book. The grace of God is offered to the inhabitants of the Tribulation. The message of Judgment is interrupted by an offer of the mercy of God. Between the sixth and seventh seals, two significant events are described: the sealing of 144,000 of Israel in Rev. 7:1-8, and the salvation of a great multitude of all nations in Rev. 7:9-17. While we are not told explicity in Scripture that the 144,000 Jews are God’s special witnesses, and that the Gentile host is saved through their ministry, this appears to be a logical deduction; otherwise, why are they associated in this chapter? The parallel with Matthew 24:14 also indicates that the 144,000 will witness for the Lord during the Tribulation.

II. The Sealing of the 144,000

Just when total destruction of the earth seems certain, John sees four angels standing on the four corners of the earth. Some skeptics see John’s reference to the four corners of the earth as the primitive belief that the earth is flat. However, the phrase refers to the four basic points on a compass (north, south, east, and west.) The four angels hold back the four winds of the earth, which refers to the judgments (the Great Tribulation) taking place on earth. Hebrews 1:14 “ Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” Next, John sees another angel ascending from the east, who has the seal of the Living God. In ancient times, a king used his signet ring to press into the wax on a scroll or letter. This was his seal to protect the letter’s content from unauthorized opening or fraud. God places His own seal on His children, identifying them as His and protecting them. This is explained in 2 Corinthians 1:22 “ Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” The fifth angel calls with a loud voice to the four angels who have been given power to hurt the earth and the sea. This angel instructs the four other angels to withhold judgment on the earth until he has finished sealing God’s servants on their foreheads. This means many will become believers during the Great Tribulation. They apparently come to faith after witnessing the Rapture of the Church. In verse 4, John gives the number of those sealed as 144,000. They are identifyed as being from all the tribes of the children of Israel. These 144,000 Jews from the twelve tribes should be taken literally because John goes into great detail to reveal exactly who they are in verses 5-8. As Christians, we must never forget the Jews are a special people to God because of His covenant with Abraham. When the church is raptured from the earth, God will again work through Jews. Chapter seven of Revelation is the Day of Pentecost for Jews. It appears the 144,000 Jews will preach the Gospel to the whole world during what Jesus called the Great Tribulation. Matthew 24:21 “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” However, it will be the most horrible time ever to be a Christian, much less an evangalist like these 144,000. Jesus was a Jew; all twelve disciples were Jews; all but two books in the NT were written by Jews. Luke, a Gentile, wrote Luke and Acts. God is not finished with the Jews; He has another divine mission for them during the Great Tribulation. It will take a special kind of believer during that time, and Jews are perfect for this divine assignment. When Jews decide to do something, they are almost impossible to stop- as Israel’s existence proves today. Some find it difficult to take the 144,000-12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel-literally. They believe these are “spiritual Israel,” their title for the church. It is true Jews have lost their tribal identity. Not one Jew in the world knows which tribe he or she comes from. However, we must reamember that before the destruction of the Jewish temple in 70 A.D., the Jews had the most intricate, accurate genealogical records the world has ever known. For example, the first chapter of Matthew contains an amazing detailed genealogy of Christ. For the time being, Israel has lost its tribal identity, as far as this world is concerned. Yet, God still knows everything, including the genealogy of every Jew. For example, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves Him. How does Peter respond when Jesus asks him the third time? John 21:17 “He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.”

III. The Innumerable Multitude

John looks and sees a great multitude which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palms in their hands. Who is this great multitude? Verse 14 tells us, they are the ones saved during the Great Tribulation. It is probable this multitude was saved through the evangelistic efforts of the 144,000 Jews during the Great Tribulation. The redeemed multitude cries out with a loud voice: Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. Also, all the angels standing around the throne, as well as the elders and four living creatures, fall on their faces before the throne and worship God. They say, or sing seven words of praise: blessing, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honour, power, and might belong to God forever and ever. Amen. This is because He has given salvation to all the redeemed. This scene is an example of the words of Jesus in Luke 15:10 “Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” Anticipating John’s question, one of the elders asks him, “What are these which are arrayed in white robes? And whence came they?” John responds, “Sir, thou knowest.” The elder then tells John these have come out of the Great Tribulation. This clearly distinguishes them from those redeemed throughout history; therefore, the great multitude is not the entire church. He also tells John, they have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. The robes represent the believers garments of salvation. White symbolizes purity and holiness, which can only be given to people who accept the blood of the Lamb as the only sacrifice for their sin. This innumerable multitude will serve God day and night in His temple. The word translated ‘serve’ (latreuo) [lat-re-yoo-o] means to serve in worship and refers to priestly service. They will serve Him day and night, which describes continous service because there is no night in Heaven. Therefore, this indicates believers will not be floating around on clouds playing harps for all eternity, as some pictures indicate, but will be performing important duties. John continues, “And he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.” The word translated ‘dwell’ (skenoo) [skay-no-o] means “tabernacle.” Therefore, the Greek reads, “He will spread his tabernacle over them.” These believers will have suffered terrible persecution at the hands of the Antichrist and his followers. But now, they are in God’s prescence, sheltered from their former terrors. Psalms 91:1 “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” The redeemed multitude will hunger no more, neither thirst anymore. The abscence of hunger and thirst in heaven seems to contrast with the extreme hunger and thirst on earth experienced by those saved during the Great Tribulation. The phrase ‘neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat’ implies there must have been suffering on Earth from extreme light and heat. However, for all eternity, the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them. The word translated ‘feed them’ (poimaino) [poy-mi-no] refers to a sheperd feeding his sheep. It is a beautiful picture of pastoral care. It is a fulfillment of the wonderful promise of Jesus in John 10:14 “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.”

IV. Conclusion

John closes this chapter with this wonderful promise: He shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. In Heaven, there will be no more sadness, pain, sorrow, or suffering. In the midst of the horrible judgments of the Great Tribulations on earth, there is great news revealed through the 144,000 and the innumerable multitude. In Scripture, a seal indicates ownership and protection. Today, God’s people are sealed by the Holy Spirit. Eph. 1:13-14 “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” This is God’s guarentee that we are saved and safe, and that one day, He will take us to Heaven. The 144,000 Jews will receive the Father’s name as their seal, in contrast to the ‘mark of the beast’ that the Antichrist will give those that follow him. The number 144,000 is significant because it signifies perfection and completeness. There is no doubt who the multitude is, because an elder explains it to John. They are the Gentiles who get saved during the Great Tribulation. While today, it is relatively easy to profess Christ, this will not be the case especially during the second half of the Tribulation. Then, unless a person wears the mark of the beast, they will not be able to buy or sell anything; this would leave them without life’s bare essentials.
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