Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

Molalla, Oregon

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Revelation 7

September 11th, 2010 by Vic

September 5, 2010

“How will Christians survive?”

When John saw the tribulation that was coming, he asked the angel in chapter 6 who could survive.  Chapter 7 answers that question.  Christians will be saved.  God will care for His children.  God purchased them, protects them, and comforts them.  When God uses suffering to purify the righteous and punish the wicked, who can stand?  Who is safe?  When natural calamities increase and the world seems like no one is in control, God is still on the throne.

Let me remind you that John is seeing our world from heaven’s perspective.  Several different groups in John’s vision have represented us as Christians.  The 7 churches represent all Christians of all time.  The 4 creatures around the throne represent all God’s children camped around the Tabernacle.  The 24 elders represent all God’s children.  The myriads of myriads, the multitudes, the thousands of thousands, the martyrs under the altar, are all the children of God.  In chapter 7 we find 2 more groups representing the people of God.  We hear about 144,000 and see a great multitude.  The 144,000 is numbered to indicate completion and perfection.  The multitude that can’t be numbered emphasizes the size and variety of the family of God.  There is not a definitive number of saints, but there is a perfect number.

The relation between these two groups in 7 is parallel to the relation between the lion and the lamb in 5.   Dual symbolism is used to note two perspectives.

In the NT, the Church is compared to branches, sheep, living stones, bride, body, building, priesthood, household, etc.  So it probably should not surprise us that God’s children in Revelation are described as different groups.

In contrast to the different descriptions we see for God’s children, God has not changed or moved.  The heaven that John sees is like the heaven that Moses saw on top of the Mount.  One of the lessons for us in Revelation is that no matter who we are or where we are, or why we are who we are where we are, God is still in control.  He will punish evil and reward the righteous.  God does not change.

No matter if you insist that the 144,000 are physical Jews, spiritual Jews, fulfilled Jews, tribulation Jews, hidden Jews, orthodox Jews, scattered Jews, or not Jews, all will agree they are God’s children and part of the family.

The first 6 seals are part of God’s plan to bring all men to repentance.  God does not want any to perish.  After 6 seals have been opened to reveal world chaos, earthquakes, famines, upheavals, and other birth pangs, John reminds us that God is in control.  In the midst of the gory, John sees the glory.  In the midst of tribulation, John sees triumph.

Chapter 7 does not present a new series of future events during a final tribulation period following that of chapter 6.  Rather it gives the bigger picture.  The “after this” does not mean that the events are chronological, but the vision came after the previous vision.  Chapter 7 explains how Christians survive during the events in chapter 6.  God is protecting them.

REVELATION 7:1‑8

4 angels are holding the winds until a set time.  The earth is silent.  The winds are symbols of judgment like the 4 horses and may be the 4 horses.  They were prevented from doing any harm until God said so.

The angels have control over the evil winds or horses.  7:1-3 refers back to the time immediately preceding 6:1-8, before God releases any evil angelic agents of judgment.

Maybe the tribulation started with the ascension of Jesus.  Satan got very angry when Jesus sat on the throne in heaven and received back the title deed of the universe.  But Jesus’ rule brings suffering.  He began His rule by sending His spirit to give us the power to grow in our relationship with God.  God sealed all his children with the Holy Spirit to identify us as family.  We received power to be witnesses.

Six seals have been opened in chapter 6.  Some unusual events of nature happened.  God wants all men to come to repentance.  The beginning of the end is here.  God uses tribulation to reward and purify the righteous but punish the wicked.  The 6th seal introduced a major event that made everyone aware that the wrath of God was about to come.  When God’s wrath comes, who can stand against it?  After that question is asked, everything goes silent.

God controls time, but is not influenced by time.  He sets amounts, but is not an amount.  He sets limits, but is not limited.

No group of men will decide when the end comes.  The international monetary fund will not decide when the end comes.  The British monarchy will not decide when the end comes.  God may use evil men as He used Pharaoh in Egypt, Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon, Cyrus in Persia and the four horsemen, but the good news is that God appoints the men and sets the time.  God will use Obama.  Don’t complain about God’s plan.  Be faithful and patient.  Settle down and enjoy life.   Watch God work (Jeremiah).  Be witnesses.

Before the 7th seal is broken and the 7 trumpets sound and the wrath of God is poured out, God cares for His children.

We will discuss the mark of the beast in chapter 13.  The mark of the beast will give non believers temporary privileges and distinguish them from the children of God, but the mark of the beast does not protect them from the wrath of God.

You will see in Revelation that Satan tries to produce a counterfeit for every good that God establishes.  We saw the white horse in chapter 6 that looked like the white horse of Christ in chapter 19.  We will see a false trinity and the false seal, the mark of the beast like a cross.

The angel coming from the east has the seal of the living God.  The glory of God rises from the east.  The Messiah, God’s salvation returns through the eastern gate.  The wise men came from the east.  This seal on God’s children is obvious to angels.  It may not be obvious to wicked men.  The seal is a spiritual warning to all that the contents are owned and protected by God and are not to be destroyed or tampered with.  The seal means that we belong to God.  All Christians have it.  Somehow the Holy Spirit within us makes visible in our lives the name of the Lamb and the Father (14:1).  In one sense, Jesus is the seal of God.  The NT suggests that the Holy Spirit is the seal of God.  Some say the seal is baptism.  The 7th Day Adventists believe this seal is the day you worship.  But the real seal is a spiritual seal.

The seal on the forehead suggests it is my lifestyle.  I live by faith in Christ and Christ is seen in me.  My life reveals my commitment to God.  My lifestyle tells you whose family I belong to.  I’m just like my dad.  The high priest in the OT wore a physical gold plate on his forehead that read ‘holiness unto the Lord’.  Family slaves were marked on foreheads.

God cares for His own.  The seal signifies protection, ownership, and genuineness.  If the seal says “Jesus” it has to be good.  I’m an original.  It means I belong to God and He cares for me.  The seal or sign of blood on the doorposts at Passover also meant salvation and protection.

Now who are the 144,000?  There are at least 6 different opinions on that.  This list of 12 tribes is not like any other list in the Bible.  The seal empowers the 144,000 to witness as the true Israel was supposed to do.  The name and seal is given to all who believe.

Looking at the list, Judah is mentioned 1st.  That is rare in the O.T.  Levi is mentioned.  Levi was not given land, because he was to be a family of priests.  Some say he is included in this list now because the sacrifices were abolished by Jesus and are not to begin again, so Levi gets a heavenly inheritance.

Dan is not mentioned.  Some believe that the anti‑christ is to come from this tribe, but no trace of this family has been identified since the Babylonian captivity.  Both Dan and Ephraim were closely associated with idol worship.

Joseph was the 11th son of Jacob, but his 2 sons received his double inheritance.  However, only Manasseh is mentioned, Ephraim is not.  No other list in the Bible is exactly like this list.

12 is the number of corporate completeness.  We have 12 months.  Jerusalem has 12 gates.  The tree of life has 12 fruit.  There were 12 tribes and 12 apostles. 12 was a symbolic number.

Add to this the fact that 1,000 means all‑inclusive.  This group is not just the perfect square of 12, but it is all‑inclusive.  No one is left out or excluded.  This is a kind of paradox because it signifies an unlimited number with a definite number.  A symbolic number is used to express an unlimited number.  The next group clarifies how many are really in this group and why a symbolic number had to be used.  The multitude could not be counted so a symbolic number was used.

I think 144,000 represents the whole family of God in the world for all time.  This number is not intended to be exclusive, but inclusive.  It symbolically includes all.  7:4-8 portrays an army ready to fight.  7:14 says they conquer like the Lamb, persevering in suffering.  Our weapon is love.

The seal does not mean protection from physical death, but from the wrath of God.  So the answer to the question in Chapter 6 regarding who can stand, the answer is, “the children of God”.  They have been sealed by the Holy Spirit.  They are God’s possession.  They have power to persevere.

REVELATION 7:9‑17 describes the reward for those who persevere.

“After this” probably means this vision followed the previous one.  John heard the number 144,000 mentioned and apparently turned to see who they were and this is what he saw.  Instead of a limited number, he sees a multitude that cannot be numbered, as far as the eye can see.  It is one group portrayed from two different perspectives.  They are numbered exactly because God knows each of His children.  From man’s perspective they are an innumerable multitude that can’t be counted (like the children of Abraham and sands of the sea.)

This group representing God’s children are celebrating.  They have appropriate clothes for the occasion.  They are from every nation, tribe, and tongue.  All the faithful of every age are here.  Just as John hears about a lion and sees its meaning through the symbolism of the Lamb, so he hears about the 144,000 and sees the innumerable multitudes.

Their robes are white symbolizing victory and righteousness in Christ.  Jesus brought victory for all God’s children.  He gives clean robes to all who believe.

The palms also indicate victory over an enemy.  Palms were used at the Feast of Tabernacles which was the last festival of the Jewish year when all the harvest and labors were completed.  It was the Thanksgiving celebration.

They sing a song of victory and salvation.  “Thou, our God, sitting in majesty and power upon Thy throne, together with the Lamb who died in our place, are the cause and the means of our salvation.  It is all Your work, and to You belongs all glory.”  We have been saved from our sin and saved from the wrath of the living God.  We give Him praise.  Our victory is God’s victory.

Salvation means deliverance from sin and death; it is security and protection from the wrath of God.  The word Hosanna means ‘Salvation to the Lord’.  While this mixed multitude is singing Hosannas, the angels, elders and creatures near the throne sing a 7‑fold doxology of praise.  The word Amen means, so be it, truly.  It means I agree and what you say is true for me too.  To say Amen is to make a public commitment to live by the truth that has just been spoken.  Maybe we do not say Amen because we fear making commitments.

This 7‑fold doxology is a way of saying a complete Amen.  It is slightly different from what this choir sang in 5:12.  Our praise is not always the same.

Verse 14 identifies this mixed multitude a little by saying that these are the ones who are still coming out of the great tribulation.  A great tribulation is only mentioned here and in Matthew 24.  It is the final series of woes that immediately precede the end of time.  In my opinion, any tribulation I have is a great tribulation.  Any one you have is just tribulation.  John feels he is seeing the end-time prophecies of Daniel already beginning to be fulfilled.  These martyrs are representative of all believers who suffer.

The verb here suggests that they are still coming out of this tribulation.  There is still time to demonstrate our faith in Christ through sufferings or martyrdom.  Remember John is writing to those in tribulation.  His message is that God knows who you are and will be with you. God will surround you with His tabernacle (7:15).  God is with you in this tribulation.  The tribulation has begun and will intensify for faithful witnesses.

In the Scripture there are several kinds of tribulation.  There is the tribulation every Christian experiences in the routines of life.  All Christians share in the continuing sufferings of Christ.  “In this world you will have tribulation, but I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33).  Those are the times when nothing else can go wrong, but it does.  The tribulation consists of pressures to compromise our faith even within the church.  Sometimes tribulations come economically.  It will never be easy to be a faithful witness.  This is probably the tribulation of the 4 horses.  These tribulations God allows to bring all men to repentance.  The NT suggests an intense tribulation will come during the final generation of Christians that will climax all the previous persecutions.  This final tribulation comes because of the wrath of God poured out against sin.  This is the tribulation that unbelievers will experience just before an eternity in tribulation.

Robes were washed in blood to become white.  We are cleansed as we participate in the sufferings of Jesus.  Peter says we are purified by obedience.

There is no temple in heaven.  The very presence of God is our dwelling place.

God knows when you are hungry, thirsty, with no roof over your head.  As a mother comforts a child, Jesus, the good shepherd, will lead you to springs of living water and God shall wipe away every tear (singular).  The Lamb will be a shepherd.

Here is a promise you won’t want to miss.  Whether you have to go through a great tribulation or just the routines of life, Jesus walks with you and He is the Bread of Life.  He is the Living water.  His Spirit is a river of water within us.  The promise is for complete satisfaction.  There will always be a hunger and thirst and there will be always be complete satisfaction available in Christ.  The saints have a resource the world does not understand.

I’m concerned that some are hungry and do not know that they are starving their spirit to death.  They’ve had no living water and wonder why they are so sore, weak and depressed.  Life has been like a hot sun in the wilderness this week.  What does God have to do to get you to habitually come to him and drink from the living water?  I have found if I go to cut wood without taking a good drink of water, I come back up the hill totally wiped out.

To the 7 churches, Jesus revealed Himself as the complete satisfaction for each need.  Jesus can give you all His love and not have any less for me.  Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Believe on Jesus Christ as Lord and you can be saved from the wrath about to come.  Believe on Jesus Christ as Lord and you can have abundant life now and forever.

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