The 144,000 of Israel Sealed
7 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:
12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed,
12,000 from the tribe of Reuben,
12,000 from the tribe of Gad,
12,000 from the tribe of Asher,
12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali,
12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh,
12,000 from the tribe of Simeon,
12,000 from the tribe of Levi,
12,000 from the tribe of Issachar,
12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun,
12,000 from the tribe of Joseph,
12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed.
A Great Multitude from Every Nation
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
“Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Revelation 7 Commentary
by Hank Workman
Revelation 6 ended with the dramatic opening of the 6th seal which brought cosmic disturbances that registered off the charts: a great earthquake, the sun darkening, moon turning red, stars falling from their place and the sky peeling back like a scroll. Sheer terror fell on the people of the earth who fled for safety and begged for death. It would be an easy assessment that John was waiting in anticipation for judgment to follow. Yet what proceeds is something completely different as an interruption takes place, a holy pause.
When the scroll was presented it was revealed they had seals – 7 to be exact. Seals were made as hot wax was poured onto something then typically a ring of authority was pressed down into that wax sealing it shut. The result would be an engraved mark. If anything the mark signified authority; proved it was authentic, and also spoke of ownership.
Remember the story of Cain and Abel? Cain murdered his brother Abel and the consequences were great. But what’s interesting is in verse 15 of Genesis it tells us that God put a mark on Cain to warn anyone who might try to kill him, not to do so – for a seven-fold punishment would fall upon anyone who did. A mark was placed on Cain for protection.
In Ezekiel 9, there was a sealing of sorts that took place prior to coming judgment and destruction. Before that destruction was allowed to fall – God sent a man through the city of Jerusalem to mark people on their foreheads. When the entity went through the city instead of seeing wrath, He saw a loving concern – the people with the mark were protected.
“He said to him, “Walk through the streets of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of all who weep and sigh because of the detestable sins being committed in their city.” 5 Then I heard the Lord say to the other men, “Follow him through the city and kill everyone whose forehead is not marked. Show no mercy; have no pity! 6 Kill them all—old and young, girls and women and little children. But do not touch anyone with the mark. Begin right here at the Temple.” So they began by killing the seventy leaders.”Ezekiel 9:4-6
Here was a mark, placed on the forehead of each person for safety. It is the same location of which the servants of God are sealed. This sealing would protect from the wrath promised. There is great truth here. It is that we’ve been sealed. God has set His stamp upon us.
Today, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit. A seal indicates ownership, protection, authority.
“In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”Ephesians 1:13-14
This is an interesting note to delve into briefly. It is the Gentile Believers that this letter is specifically addressed, assuring them that their share in God’s heritage is full and firm as that from those of Jewish birth. Remember, the book of Acts had account after account as the new church was struggling with this issue — But it was through conversions such as Cornelius, Timothy, Lydia etc… that they were forced to look more differently at all this. Consequently, and as a result of their belief, the Holy Spirit was given to them. And what does Paul say? They were sealed.
By giving believers the Spirit, God seals or stamps them as His own possession.
“But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) 10 And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. 11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.“Romans 8:9-11
Wonderful verses. Wonderful hope. This must give us pause. Let these verses settle deeply upon you. If we do not have the Spirit of Christ living in us – we do not belong to Him. The Spirit of God brings life – eternal life ultimately as this verse proclaims that He will give life to our mortal bodies once we pass. Adding the Ephesians passage – we have been sealed. God’s authority, His ownership is upon us.
Later Paul would write:
“And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.”Ephesians 4:30
Believers are sealed with the Spirit for the day of redemption. The term guarantee used here was a commercial word denoting a pledge, basically, something being paid in full.
Are you drawing the lines here?
People can enter into the enjoyment of everlasting portion which He reserved for them. And this is through the power, sealing, and ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Redemption was already theirs through the sacrifice and death of Christ, but one aspect of that redemption must be realized. On the day of resurrection, whatever that mark may look like, God will redeem his own possession and the evidence of his commitment to do is given in his sealing that possession through the Spirit of Christ. “If we do not have the Spirit of Christ, we do not belong to Him.”
This is imperative as we eventually get further into the book. As we have the Father’s name as our seal – in contrast, the mark of the beast will give those who follow him a seal of his own.
Obviously, bad things happen in the world. And this doesn’t mean bad things won’t happen to His children – our world is broken and sin-riddled. But what hope in this is they will always work together to produce good on our behalf. And we are owned by God and not by this world.
Now back to Revelation 7. What John sees here is a roll call of sorts. There are 12 tribes mentioned. But it is worth noting – and I think we could overlook this – these are not the same 12 tribes listed in the chronicles of the Jewish people. And the order is different too.
Judah is mentioned first. He was not the firstborn, Reuben was and was always mentioned initially. Yet, this is different. Judah was the royal tribe – it was the tribe of David and Solomon and yes, the tribe of Jesus.
The tribe of Dan is excluded. So is Ephraim. However, Joseph is listed along with his eldest son Manasseh. These tribes in the past never change.
This is a curious thing – and honestly, there is so much speculation onto these issues but it is certainly worth noting.
Revelation 7 is famous for the 144,000. Some believe the 144,000 symbolize all Believers. If this is the case, then they are virtually the same group as the great multitude we’ll look at next. There are several passages in the New Testament that speak of the Gentiles and Jews who believe in Jesus making up a new people of God. That’s one line of thinking.
A second consideration is that these are the Messianic Jews. It’s Jewish people today who have come to believe in Jesus as their Savior though from Jewish heritage. Proponents of this thought state the last chapter of the earth’s history will include a remarkably dedicated group of Jewish Believers who bear witness to their faith as Jesus the Messiah.
The third thought is this is an elite group of Believers who are especially devoted to Jesus and receive special status as their reward for their commitment.
I have wrestled with this and will admit I could be wrong with my conclusion. But for me at this juncture, I am leaning more toward these 144,000 being Messianic Jews. These are specific tribes of Israel – they’re Jewish. The great multitude is comprised of people from every tribe, language, and nation. I don’t see them as being the same grouping.
More importantly, if we’re going to take other Scripture that we’ve looked at concerning the sealing of the Holy Spirit upon people, claiming them as God’s own – this makes sense as well. For when these Jews came to believe in Jesus and received the Holy Spirit, remember those who don’t have the Spirit of Christ do not belong to Him, they were marked; they were sealed.
In the scheme of it all – is this important for us to agree on this? Not really. People have differing thoughts and opinions. And that’s okay. What does matter is that in the end – well in the end folks — God wins. That’s what matters. And it matters that we are sealed with the Spirit of Christ.
Suddenly John sees another group standing before the throne and before the Lamb in verses 9-12.
But this brings up another curious question. Let’s look again at verses 13,14
Then one of the twenty-four elders asked me, “Who are these who are clothed in white? Where did they come from?” 14 And I said to him, “Sir, you are the one who knows.” Then he said to me, “These are the ones who died in the great tribulation. They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white.Revelation 7:13-14
Now, jump back to a verse from chapter 6 with the Lamb breaking the 5th seal:
When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of all who had been martyred for the word of God and for being faithful in their testimony. 10 They shouted to the Lord and said, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge the people who belong to this world and avenge our blood for what they have done to us?” 11 Then a white robe was given to each of them. And they were told to rest a little longer until the full number of their brothers and sisters—their fellow servants of Jesus who were to be martyred—had joined them.Revelation 7:9-11
Is this indeed, is this multitude indeed the fellow servants of Jesus who are martyred? Are these the Believers who refused to deny their faith even at the cost of their very lives? If this is indeed the case, we see there will be an innumerable amount of followers who experience martyrdom.
But here’s what stands out within this chapter of Revelation 7: The overarching story of God’s mercy. His wrath is to be poured out, but His mercy saves His people.
It is a striking picture. 4 angels hold back the four winds of the earth representing destructive forces about to be unleashed. It is a lull in the storm.
And they cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!Revelation 7:10 HCSB
This great multitude pictured here in Revelation 7 came from all nations, tribes, and languages proclaiming the redeeming work of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. Salvation comes from Jesus alone. There is no other way. By no other Name can you be saved except through Jesus.
Revelation 7 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
God’s primary motive in our hearts has always been this: transformation.
I think it’s important to understand Revelation in terms of the overall picture instead of as individual narratives. We see a great transformation occur here in Revelation 7 that fits with the theme of this book as a whole. Though at times John hears or expects one thing, there is a transformation that occurs which reveals another. In our experiences, this is definitely consistent with the nature of God.
Take, for instance, the scroll. John hears the call go out to anyone who would be able to open the scroll. When no one responds, he is greatly troubled. However, a transformation occurs when he is told the Lion from the tribe of Judah is worthy to open the seals. Immediately following, we read of another transformation. John looks with his eyes expecting to see a lion and he sees a lamb looking as if it was slain. The entire scene shifts from a primarily Jewish worldview (the Lion from the tribe of Judah and the root of David) to a more universal and true Messianic principle (the slain lamb).
Here in Revelation 7, we read of a similar transformation. The key to the 144,000 lies in the fact that John has again only heard (and not yet seen) the number of those sealed.
And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of IsraelRevelation 7:4 NASB
The listing of the tribes is a transformation of sorts because it is not consistent with the traditional Jewish order and is even missing a few. But immediately following, he sees a great multitude from every tribe, tongue, and nation. Once again, the entire scene shifts from a primarily Jewish worldview to a more universal and true Messianic concept. From John’s perspective, a lion has turned into a lamb and 144,000 Jews have turned into a great multitude from every tribe, tongue, and nation.
God’s primary motive in our hearts has always been this: transformation.
There are lots of great parallels here to compare this to but probably the most obvious is Jesus Himself. The Jews had heard about what the Messiah would be like for years. They even read about Him in Scripture. But when He actually showed up, what they saw was someone different than they had come to expect.
Let’s quickly look back at what John previously saw back in Revelation 6…
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.Revelation 6:9-11 ESV
Here in Revelation 7, we find something very intriguing. It is implied that these are the full number of Christians who have come in and that the number is now complete. Both these passages (in Rev 6 & 7) describe receiving a white robe. It is possible that these are believers who have lived through the tribulation and been faithful to Jesus.
Now let’s jump back to Romans and read of the mystery that Paul spoke of regarding the Jews and their coming Salvation.
There is a secret truth, my friends, which I want you to know, for it will keep you from thinking how wise you are. It is that the stubbornness of the people of Israel is not permanent, but will last only until the complete number of Gentiles comes to God. 26 And this is how all Israel will be saved. As the scripture says, “The Savior will come from Zion and remove all wickedness from the descendants of Jacob. 27 I will make this covenant with them when I take away their sins.”Romans 11:25-27 GNB
Now, look at the prophecy from Zechariah.
“I will fill the descendants of David and the other people of Jerusalem with the spirit of mercy and the spirit of prayer. They will look at the one whom they stabbed to death, and they will mourn for him like those who mourn for an only child. They will mourn bitterly, like those who have lost their first-born son.”Zechariah 12:10 GNB
Paul writes of this mystery; there is a partial hardening that has occurred over the Jewish nation until the full number of Gentiles come in. It is possible Revelation 7 is the fulfillment of this prophecy because in Revelation 7 we read that the great multitude John sees around the throne of the Lamb are most certainly Gentiles. They are said to be from every race, tribe, nation, and tongue.
Then we have Zechariah who writes of a time when the Jews will mourn the fact that they killed their Messiah, Jesus Christ, and this could be the fulfillment of the 144,000 from the 12 tribes. You may agree or disagree, but the fact is there will be some kind of restoration of Israel.
Regardless of how it all fits together, we would benefit from studying the immediate context of this letter. The early church was enduring a tribulation of sorts at the hands of the Romans and the message here is that those who patiently endure will receive special blessings. Let’s look at what those are as we wind down Revelation 7.
“Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. 16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”Revelation 7:15-17 ESV
For those who persist in their faith through the Great Tribulation, they will have the greatest responsibility of the entire created order. They will personally serve the King of King and Lord of Lords day and night in his temple. They will receive the ultimate protection and provision from Him as the beautiful metaphor states: The Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd and he will guide them to springs of living water.
And every tear will be wiped away.