In the previous chapter, John was given an overview of the major events that will take place in the Last Days through the opening of the First Six Seals of the Scroll with Seven Seals. Before being shown the opening of the Seventh Seal, John was shown the people of God who will live through these events.
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. 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: “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.” Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel. Rev. 7:1-4
The 144,000 from all the Tribes of Israel is a literal description of the descendants of Jacob who will be sealed before the plagues on the land, and the sea, and the tress begin. No other group of people, including the church, is ever described as the “Tribes of Israel”. (See: Matt. 19:28, Lk. 22:30, Acts 26:7, James 1:1).
The purposes of the seal that will be placed on the 144,000 will be to identify them from the Inhabitants of the Earth before the plagues on the land, the sea, and the trees begin. As we will read in later chapters, the purpose of the plagues on the land, and the sea, and the trees will be to warn the Inhabitants of the Earth before the Wrath of God is poured out.
From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed, 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 12,000. Rev. 7:5-8
In the above account, the Revelation gives a breakdown by tribe of those who will be sealed. The sealing of the 144,000 from all the Tribes of Israel will notbe dependent upon the 144,000 being able to prove their ancestry. Instead, the Seal of God will be placed by the angels, who will identify the 144,000 from all the Tribes of Israel. In this way, the 144,000 will be set apart from the Inhabitants of the Earth before the plagues on the land, and the sea, and the trees begin.
In reference to the above list, it is frequently asked if the use of the number 144,000 is literal or symbolic. This question comes from the observation of how the number 12 is used repeatedly in the Scriptures, in such cases as the 12 apostles, the 12 tribes of Israel, and the 24 elders, and is said to represent government. Although these examples do reveal a symbolic pattern in the Scriptures, they also reveal the literal number of people being described, i.e., there are 12 literal apostles, 12 literal tribes of Israel, and 24 literalelders. Accordingly, the number 12 and its multipliers should be viewed as literal numbers that have symbolic importance. Likewise, the number 144,000 has symbolic meaning but is also theliteralnumber of God’s people who will be sealed.
The use of a number that is both literal and symbolic, such as 144,000, can also be seen in the story of Gideon, whose army was reduced down to just 300 men (Judg. 7:4-7), and in the events of Elijah, who along with 7,000 others, did not bow his knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:18). As with the number 144,00, the numbers 300 and 7,000 come from two of the most spiritually significant numbers in the Bible, 3 and 7. Accordingly, the numbers 300, 7000, and 144,000 each have spiritual meaning but they also describe the literal number of men set apart by God.
In addition to the 144,000 from all the Tribes of Israel, John was next shown a great multitude that no one could count.
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 before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” Rev. 7:9-13
In these passages the great multitude before the throne is said to come from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which is a description of the body of Christ. The white robes worn by the worshipers signifies their righteousness. Next, John is given the identity of the great multitude.
Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
In the above account, the word that is translated as tribulation is the Greek word thlipsis (SEC 2347),* which means affliction. This same word is also translated in our modern Bibles as distress, troubles, suffering or persecution, etc.By itself, this word can refer to any affliction that Believers experience for their faith, but, in these , the word tribulation is preceded by the word great to describe the time when God’s people will be killed in numbers so great that they cannot be counted. When we read that the martyrs of the Great Tribulation will come from every nation, tribe, people and language, it tells us that the Great Tribulation will be a world-wide event that will affect all nations and peoples.
This chapter ends with a description of the blessings that will follow the martyrs of the Great Tribulation, who will serve the Lamb day and night in his temple.
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. ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’” Rev. 7:15-17
From this and the previous chapters, we are given the three groups of people who will be present on earth when the events of the Seven Seals begin as follows 1.) The Inhabitants of the Earth, which is a description of the unrepentant among mankind, 2.) The 144,000 From all the Tribes of Israel, who will be sealed, and 3.) The followers of Christ from every nation, including those who will be martyred in the Great Tribulation.
Summary of Events of the First Six Seals
1.) During the Last Days, the world will experience wars, famines, and plagues, which will increase in frequency and destruction the closer we get to the end as described in the events of the First Four Seals.
2.) In addition to wars, famines, and plagues, during the Last Days, God’s people will suffer increasing persecution and martyrdom. These martyrs of Christ will eventually be gathered before the Throne of God where they will cry out for judgment and revenge as described in the events of the Fifth Seal.
3.) When the Martyrs in Heaven, who have been killed since the time of Christ, pray for judgment and revenge, they will be told that they must wait until the full number of their brothers and sisters were killed just as they had been.
4.) Following the prayer of the Martyrs in Heaven, the 144,000 from all the Tribes of Israel will be sealed, and Four Angels will be given the power to harm the land, the sea, and the trees. The purposes of the Plagues on the Land, the Sea, and the Trees will be to test the Inhabitants of the Earth before the Prayer of the Martyrs in Heaven for judgment and revenge is answered and the Wrath of God is poured out.
5.) Rather than repenting for the blood of the martyrs that was shed by past generations, the Inhabitants of the Earth will respond to God’s testing by hardening their hearts and attacking God’s people in the events of the Great Tribulation.
6.) When the full number of God’s servants are killed in the Great Tribulation, the Inhabitants of the Earth will become guilty for all the blood of all the martyrs who have been killed since the time of Christ, and the condition given to the Martyrs in Heaven concerning their brothers and sisters who would be killed will have been fulfilled. Accordingly, following the Great Tribulation, the Wrath of God will be poured out on the Inhabitants of the Earth as described in the events of the Sixth Seal.
Order of Events of the Last Days
1. Wars, Rumors of Wars, Earthquakes, and Famines (Seals 1-4)
2. The Martyrs Pray for Judgment and Revenge (5th. Seal)
3. The Great Tribulation
4. The Great Earthquake and Severe Hailstorm (6th. Seal)
5. To be Announced (7th. Seal)
*The numbers in ( )’s are from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance (SEC)