Many of the chapters in Revelation 6-19 are parenthetical and do not follow chronologically. Also the scenes described go back and forth between heaven and the earth. Chapter seven is one of the parenthetical chapters. It could be that the calling out of the 144,000 Jews (the first fruits of God – Rev. 14:4) may have occurred just after the Rapture and just before the Tribulation began or before the Great Tribulation began (the last 3 ½ years) due to this statement: "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 (bond servants, slaves) of our God." Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel." (vv.1-4) This seal by God means they will not die in the Tribulation and Rev. 14:1, another parenthetical chapter, shows this to be true. These 144,000 will be like 144,000 Saint Pauls (see Rev. 14:1-5) preaching the gospel all over the world. (Rev. 7:9 and Matt. 24:14) Note the contrast in Rev. 13:16 and 14:9-10 to these sealed by God on the forehead and those marked by the beast (the Antichrist) on the forehead.
God now returns to the Jews as His primary human instrument for salvation (Gen. 12:1-3; Rom. 11:29) and follows the pattern to the Jew first and then the Gentiles (Rom. 1:16). There has always been a remnant of believing Jews from Jacob until today and more Jews have come to Christ in the last century than the first 19 centuries of the church. And the one third remaining alive at the end of the Tribulation will all receive Messiah Jesus. (Zech 12:10; 13:9; Matt. 23:39; Rom. 11:26) Romans 11 says that the Jews' blindness was both partial (11:5) and temporary (11:25-26). And God has no problem knowing which Jews belong to which tribe. (And there are no "lost tribes" as some say, e.g., James 1:1)
"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 in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands." (Also see Rev.5:9) The scene now goes back to heaven and we see these Tribulation saints in white robes (the imputed righteousness of Christ) holding palm branches which signify victory in Christ. Though they were "left behind" at the Rapture, and though they surely suffered in the Tribulation, now look at all they have in Christ: ["Perfect nearness: "They are before the throne of God; Perfect service: and serve him day and night in his temple; Perfect fellowship: and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them; Perfect satisfaction: Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. Perfect security: the sun will not beat upon them, or any scorching heat. Perfect guidance: For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. Perfect joy: And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." Rev.7:15-17; NKJV New King James Version, MacDonald, William ; Farstad, Arthur: Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1995, S. Re 7:1]
We are now in the age of grace but it will surely end according to God's Word. "Hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?" (Rev. 6:16-17) The wrath of God is unpopular, under-taught and "un-believed" among many in the church today. "Oh I don't believe in a God like that," some say. This is yet another reason to study the book of Revelation so we may grasp a greater revelation of the God we worship. It is still socially acceptable (and maybe socially advantageous) to go to church here in the Bible belt. But try publicly proclaiming your faith in Jesus in China or Iran or parts of India and see what it will cost you. I believe, along with many others, that the price of proclaiming Christ as Lord and Savior in America (especially as the only way to God/heaven -John 14:6) will be going way up and we need to be ready. The lines are already being drawn. "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold." (Matt. 24:12)
The following are questions from Steve Griffith's commentary: Steve Griffith (http://revelationalive.net/about-us/)
1. Read Rev. 7:1 – 8:1 [Note: the salvation of the 144,000 Jews is portrayed (parenthetically) in Rev. 7:1-8; the ministry of the 144,000 Jews is portrayed (parenthetically) in Rev. 14:1-7.]
2. If the four angels are told not to "harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the bondservants of our God on their foreheads," then what does this imply about the timing of the sealing of these bondservants? i.e., before the Tribulation (pre-Trib) or during the Tribulation (mid-Trib) or after the Tribulation (post-Trib)? Read Rev. 14:4 also. What does the expression "first fruits" mean? How does this influence your answer above?
3. From v. 3, how do we know that the 144,000 are saved individuals?
4. According to vv.4-8, how many tribes of Israel do the 144,000 come from and how many come from each tribe?
5. What Person knows after these nearly 2,000 years without genealogical records in Israel which Jews belong to which tribe?
6. According to v.9, from where does the "great multitude" seen standing before God the Father and God the Son come?
7. How is this great multitude clothed? What does this indicate?
8. What are they seen saying to their God and to the Lamb (v.10)?
9. What is the further response of the great multitude (v.11-12)? Do you think that one day you and I will be doing the exact same thing?
10. According to v.14, from what half of the Tribulation period has this great multitude come?
11. What is the basis of their salvation, according to v.14? What great encouragement do you see in vv. 15-17?
Until He comes, Len and Kristen
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