The plot thickens in the seventh chapter. A superficial reading could be confusing and discouraging. Winds and angels, numbers and multitudes, marks and seals, loud voices and worship songs are all combined to describe cosmic history in a few words. Hang in there, go slowly and grasp the metaphors and symbols to understand and enjoy. Remember, we have anointed minds and blessed understanding. Instead of groping for a clear picture, relax and “hear” the still, small voice of your Father and His kind words of encouragement. He is very aware of your current position in His Word and He will enlighten to your mind and communicate to your heart.
It was a common belief amongst the Jews that angels control the earth. They believed the earth to be square and flat. The winds from north, south, east and west were good, but winds blowing diagonally across the earth were bad. They knew the angel of fire as mentioned in Revelation 14:18 and the angel of waters as in Revelation 16:5. They also believed that angels could hold back judgment, but only on a command from God.
The Sirocco was known as an especially dreadful wind. It was a whirlwind that withered vegetation and destroyed the harvest. (Zechariah 6:1-5, Nahum 1:3,4, Psalm 18:15, Isaiah 40:7,24, 66:15)
Psalm (83:13) declares that God will destroy his enemies as stubble before the wind. Other scriptures talk about the destruction of fertility by the wind. [Jeremiah 23:19, 30:23. Hosea 13:15]
We might know more about the weather patterns, but we should always appreciate that God is in control.
The control of the angels holds the winds and blocks harm until salvation is sealed over the godly. The winds are symbolic of evil forces. The east was always regarded as the source of blessing; the rising of the sun. The sun symbolizes the giving of light and life. God promises life and light within strife and adversity.
We serve the living God, in contrast to idols made by human hands, more than enough against the overwhelming evil forces. [Isaiah 44:9-17, 2 Kings 18: 17-37]
We are privileged to carry the seal or mark of the living God, so that we are protected from evil. We read about the man clothed in linen, with a scribe’s writing case at his side who marks the foreheads of the faithful in Ezekiel 9: 1-7.
In ancient times the king’s seal was very significant. The king wore a signet ring to authenticate documents and property. It was an undisputed authoritative representation of the King’s command and trust. [Genesis 41:42 – Joseph, Esther 3:10,8:2]
The lion’s den was sealed (Daniel 6:17) as was Jesus’ tomb. (Matthew 27:66). It indicated a source of possession for merchants and vineyards.
To the early church the seal was baptism. In the early church people were always baptized wearing white clothes. [Zechariah 3:4]
Our baptism is sealed with the Holy Spirit. It is the full package of salvation and protection from evil in this world.
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, (Ephesians 1:13, NIV)
We are sealed from God’s wrath, not from tribulation and death. We are not exempt from distress on earth, but safely brought through. We are the testimony to the world. The church is the warning, the assurance and the promise – all at the same time. We live and walk side by side with the unbeliever, but plugged into the Source of life, to live as an example of a life of excellence within the brokenness and strife.
The 144 000 is a symbol of completeness. The military division of the camp of Israel was 1000, thus 10x10x10, which is a perfect cube. The number 144 is 12×12, which includes the elders – the tribes and the apostles. It is the symbol of the faithful remnant of the Old and the New Testaments. It is the complete spiritual Israel. [Galatians 6:16, Revelation 14:1-5]
The number is inclusive and not limited. It depicts multiplication.
Not all Jews belong to Israel, according to Romans 9:6-8:
It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7 Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 8 In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.
We are Abraham’s offspring in Christ. [Galatians 3:29, 6:16]
The tribes mentioned in Revelation 7 are in no particular order. Judah is first as the source of Jesus. Dan is omitted because of idolatry and judgment (Genesis 49:17) and regarded as the enemy (Jeremiah 8:16). Manasseh (Joseph’s son) is in this list.
Verses 9 -17 talk about the blessed state of the redeemed in heaven. It is the church triumphant, with the great cloud of witnesses.
(Hebrews 12:1) The number of the martyrs is too great to count. Israel blesses every nation on earth. [Genesis 15:5, 32:12] It is a great multitude from many nations and many tongues.
They will have palms and white robes, illustrating their victory and jubilation, filled with praise and worship for the Source of Salvation. A sevenfold ascription of adoration flows in praise:
Blessing, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honour, power, might and everlasting.
Power can be described by 4 words in Greek:
- koach – capacity, ability
- exousia – authority, right to act
- dunamis – might, great force
- kratos – effective power shown in reigning
All the words used are in the present participle tense, expressing continuous and repeated action. Worship is not a once-for-all. Tribulation is taking place throughout the church age and still the church is triumphant.
The great tribulation is an acceleration and intensification of troublesome times climaxing in the second coming of Jesus.
Only through the Blood can we be made righteous and therefore white meaning cleansed from sin. The blood covers the sacrifice for the past (forgiveness of sins), the present (peace and salvation through faith) and the future (guaranteed glory with Christ). Ancient mysticism involved the blood of sacrificial animals to wash over a person.
They are sheltered by the presence of God. He will spread His tabernacle over them. The promise of His presence is open to all; also women and the gentiles. The shechinah was His visible presence like a tent. The Temple in the time of Jesus separated the places for the gentiles and the women. It explains Jesus’ anger and His highly controversial cleansing. (Matthew 21:12)
The Lamb is the shepherd – a well-known image in the ancient world. [Psalm 23, Isaiah 25:8 Ezekiel 34:24] He will care for His sheep with fountains of the water of life – no lack, no thirst. [Isaiah 55]
These verses are full of encouragement and hope fulfilled into the best possible scenario – victory in spite of tribulation. Their weeping is comforted. They will shout of triumph as in the days of Jericho.
Deliverance is not escape, but conquest.
God brings them triumphantly through trouble. Life is not easy, but life is great. This is the true Christian hope: not to be saved from trouble and distress, but to endure and to be guaranteed the glory of reward – Jude 24.
Their hunger and thirst for righteousness, will be filled. [Matthew 5]
Jesus is the Bread of Life. In Him there is no hunger or thirst. [John 6:35]
…but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)
They will neither hunger nor thirst,
nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them.
He who has compassion on them will guide them
and lead them beside springs of water. (Isaiah 49:10)
The divine shepherd.
This is a precious picture in any age; but it was more meaningful in Palestine than it can ever be to those who live in cities. Judaea was like a narrow plateau with dangerous country on either side. It was only a very few miles across, with on one side the grim cliffs and ravines leading down to the Dead Sea and on the other the drop to the wild country of the Shephelah. There were no fences or walls and the shepherd had to be ever on the watch for straying sheep. George Adam Smith describes the eastern shepherd. “With us sheep are often left to themselves; I do not remember to have seen in the East a flock without a shepherd. In such a landscape as Judaea, where a day’s pasture is thinly scattered over an unfenced track, covered with delusive paths, still frequented by wild beasts, and rolling into the desert, the man and his character are indispensable. On some high moor, across which at night hyenas howl, when you met him sleepless, far-sighted, weather-beaten, armed, leaning on his staff, and looking out over his scattered sheep, every one on his heart, you understand why the shepherd of Judaea sprang to the front in his people’s history; why they gave his name to their king, and made him the symbol of Providence; why Christ took him as the type of self-sacrifice.”
Here we have the two great functions of the Divine Shepherd. He leads to fountains of living waters. As the psalmist had it: “He leads me beside still waters” (Psalms 23:2). “With thee is the fountain of life” (Psalms 36:9). Without water the flock would perish; and in Palestine the wells were few and far between. That the Divine Shepherd leads to wells of water is the symbol that he gives us the things without which life cannot survive.
He wipes the tear from every eye. As he nourishes our bodies so he also comforts our hearts; without the presence and the comfort of God the sorrows of life would be unbearable, and without the strength of God there are times in life when we could never go on.
The Divine Shepherd gives us nourishment for our bodies and comfort for our hearts. With Jesus Christ as Shepherd nothing can happen to us, which we cannot bear.
[Quoted from William Barclay – Daily Study Bible – Revelation – http://www.studylight.org]