Provisions For The Redeemed, 7:1-17
The last series of symbols pictured the destruction of the enemies of Christ.
The next series will carry a similar idea.
The question which would naturally arise is, " What becomes of Christ's saints while
this destructive work is in progress?
Do they escape or are they subject to this destructive force?"
For this reason, the parenthesis is introduced to show that God has provided for their protection.
The forces of destruction are symbolized as being held in restraint until the saints are sealed
for eternal glory and protection.
In this vision, John saw four angels standing one at each of the four corners of the earth.
They are holding back the four winds which symbolize divine retribution.
As John looks, he sees another angel come out of the light of the rising sun,
the direction from which light comes to a dark world.
This angel carries the seal, branding iron of the living God, and cries with a great voice,
one that could be heard everywhere, to the four angels to hold back the divine retribution
until he has placed God's possessive and protective seal upon the foreheads of God's true people.
John does not see the sealing take place, but he hears the announcement of the
number " a hundred and forty- four thousand, sealed out of every tribe
of the children of Israel."
He also hears that the one hundred and forty-four thousand was made up of twelve thousand
from each of the twelve tribes of Israel.
All scholars appear to recognize that this sealing is a symbol of protection.
Up to this point the scholars agree.
When an attempt is made to identify the two groups mentioned in this chapter,
there is wide disagreement.
Revelation is written in symbolical language, and it is never becoming to be dogmatic
when dealing with symbols.
It is best to review the different opinions, the evidences, and draw whatever conclusions
appear to be best supported.
First, there is a theory that the one hundred forty four thousand represent Jewish Christians,
and the great host which no man could number represents Gentile Christians.
At first glance this seems a natural choice
Dana refers to the first group as the remnant of Israel and the second as the redeemed of the nations.
Of course, " 12" is the symbolical number for organized religion.
It is the perfect number for this idea.
One hundred and forty four thousand is a great multiple of twelve and is meant
to convey the idea of an immense throng.
The second theory is that the symbolism here used does not divide the redeemed into Jews and Gentiles.
There are other theories which you could study, but the conclusion from this preponderance
of evidence is plain.
The vision of the sealing does not applied to Jewish Christians, alone, but to all Christians.
When the judgments of God are abroad in the world, all the servants of the Lord are sealed for protection.
The two visions must represent the same group under different circumstances.
The one hundred and forty four thousand of the first consolatory vision represent
not Jewish Christians only, but the whole body of believers.
The sealing symbolizes their God-given protection under the judgments that are to fall upon the world.
The number " 12," a sacred number of religious significance, is first multiplied
by itself and then by a thousand, the number used to signify completeness.
The resultant one hundred and forty four thousand is used to represent absolute completeness;
not one member of the true body of believers is lost.
They must learn something which affects them more closely than the spectacular portents of chapter 6.
Conquest, war, famine, and pestilence had been seen as threatening.
Four angels hold back the four winds, which are alternative symbols with the four horsemen,
from their grim mission.
They are held back until God's people may be sealed safely from the threatening destruction.
Before the crisis, good and evil must be discriminated; the righteous are immune
from this destruction which hunts down the wicked.
The seal is God's mark of protection and ownership.
It identifies them with His worship.
It places them beyond harm.
Thus, this first group represents the true believers on earth where the storms of divine judgment
break over the world.
They're not taken out of the world, but they are sealed.
They are kept in the hollow of God's hand.
For them all things work together to a good end.
" After these things," the sealing of the protected saints on the earth,
John saw a vision of greater joy and encouragement.
He saw a great host beyond the ability of man to number.
They were " out of every nation, and from all tribes, and peoples, and tongues."
They were before the throne and before the Lamb dividing their praise between
the God " who sitteth on the throne" and " the Lamb."
They were dressed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands.
This group is not sealed for protection because it has already passed beyond the need of protection.
They were already out of the world and in the presence of God.
They have been victorious in trial.
This is symbolized in the white robes they wear.
They are joyous.
This is symbolized in the use of the palm branches.
Palm branches were used on many occasions in that day, all of which were occasions for rejoicing.
In all likelihood its use is a reflection of the use of palms in the Feast of Tabernacles.
They were carried at the Feast of Tabernacles and used in constructing the shelters required
for that occasion on housetops and streets.
The Feast of tabernacles was a feast of joy.
It was joy at deliverance and preservation and assurance for the future.
So here they are used in the same way.
The song is one of praise which attributes salvation -- deliverance -- to God on the throne and to the Lamb.
Here they recognize the source of their victory.
The angels around the throne join in the praise of God for what He has done.
This next paragraph is one that we as Christians should want remember because it gives us
a message that tells us about our passing.
One of the Elders, seeing John's interest and perplexity, asked him,
" Who are these that are arrayed in white robes, whence do they come?"
John confesses his own ignorance at that point, but he also expresses his belief that the elder
can enlighten him.
He is then told, " These are they are coming out of the great tribulation,
and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
For this reason, their victorious emergence from the distress upon the world,
they are before the throne of God, not down on earth, and they serve Him continuously.
And God gives them perfect fellowship and protection and fulfills all their needs.
The redeeming Lamb has become their providing Shepherd.
He shall guide them to fountains of water of life, and God shall remove all grief from them.
Altogether this presents a glowing picture of the saints after they have been through
the distress threatened in the first part of the chapter.
It is glorious to see them as they are coming (present participle) through the distress
victoriously and joyously to render their praise to God and Christ as the source of delivery.
Remember, that John is seeing them as they are ascending from earth into heaven.
John is seeing them ascend into heaven just as Jesus did when He left this earth
and ascended into heaven.
The great thing is not just to emerge from trial, but to emerge from it with unstained faith and conscience.
This is possible only through the power of Christ's sacrifice for us.
The strength of redemption was behind their victory over persecution.
This is the reason they claim no credit for victory, but attribute it all to God and the Lamb.
Now, review the relation in which the two divisions of the chapter stand.
The persons preferred to are the same.
Their positions in the two divisions differ.
In one they are sealed and safe as judgment rains down upon the earth.
They are under God's protection and are delivered, not from it, but through it.
In the second division, they are seen after they have come through the difficulties.
They possess peace, joy, victory.
Every want is supplied, and every sorrow healed; and every tear wiped away.
They were sealed on earth.
They wear victorious robes and carry joyous palm branches as they worshiped around
the throne of God in heaven.
The two visions together give the most complete victory of the security of God's people
before the judgments pictured in chapters 6 and 8.
" Who is able to stand?"
Here is the answer.