Understanding The Apocalypse

Revelation 7:1-17
Chapter 12

The late Dr. W. B. Hinson, speaking from the pulpit shortly before he died said,

"I walked outside where I live, five miles out of the city, and I looked across at the mountain that I love. I looked at the river in which I rejoice and I looked at the stately trees that are always God's poetry to my soul. Then in the evening I looked up into the great sky where God was lighting His lamps, and I said: I may not see you many more times, but, Mountain, I shall be alive when you are gone; And River, I shall be alive when you cease running toward the sea; And Stars, I shall be alive when you have fallen from your sockets in the great down-pulling of the material universe."

While all who are born again share Dr. Hinson's assurance of everlasting life, at the same time, most have a concern for those who have not placed their trust in Christ, especially family and friends. Certainly, we look forward to the Glorious appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, when the heavens will open and the trump of God shall sound and we go to meet Him in the air. Still, we have reservations, because we have loved ones who have not come to faith in Christ.

Perhaps, Revelation 7, was written to comfort those who remain until the coming of the Lord. For this is the great mercy chapter of Revelation that brings relief to hearts burdened for the unsaved who will enter the Tribulation. This is the portion of Holy Scripture that clearly reveals a mighty work of salvation will occur, following the rapture of the Church.

I. After These Things

"And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree" (Revelation 7:1).
The question that naturally follows the phrase, "And after these things" is, "What things?"

It is possible John is referring to the opening of the six seals and many believe this is the case. However, because the four angels are given the power to hurt the earth and sea, it seems more appropriate to think John is describing the continuation of the events, which follow the opening of the sixth seal. That is, after the earthquake, the darkening of the sun and moon, the falling of the stars and the hiding of men, John sees, "Four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree."

We read in Revelation 6, that earthquakes will shake the very foundations of the earth, moving mountains and islands out of their places. The blackout of the sun and moon will cast darkness across the earth. The falling stars will crash into the earth's surface destroying the habitats of mankind and they will seek shelter in the rocks and caves.

However, the effect of God's wrath on the weather comes in Revelation 7:1, when the four angels withhold the winds from the earth. It is the wind that brings the moisture laden clouds inland to produce the rain need to grow crops. It is the wind that brings warm air from the tropics and cold air from the polar regions. Without the wind there will be no seasons, no rain and no propagation. This is the hurt mentioned in Revelation 7:2, for without rain the earth cannot produce.

II. The Sealing of the Servants

"And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God; and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads" (Revelation 7:2-3).
Clearly, these disruptive events of the Great Tribulation will be postponed until the servants are sealed. This is necessary because those who are sealed will be Divinely protected during the Great Tribulation, as our Lord said, in Matthew 24:22. "And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved; but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened."

The "Elect," are the Remnant of Israel. The "Remnant" is the small group of believing Jews that God will protect through the Great Tribulation and who will be living on earth to receive their King, when He comes in Glory, to establish His Kingdom. These are those about whom Jesus also spoke in Matthew 24:13, when He said, "But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved."

This is not a reference to salvation of the soul brought by endurance in the faith. This is, according to Matthew 24:22, a reference to the saving of the flesh or bodies of those Jews who are alive at the end of the Great Tribulation. The Jews who make it to the end of the Great Tribulation will be saved or rescued. We have a picture of this in Zechariah 14:1-5.

"Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.

Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the East, and the Mount of Olives shall cleave in its midst toward the East and toward the West, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the North, and half of it toward the South.

And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azel; yea, thy shall flee, as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah, king of Judah; and the Lord, my God, shall come, and all the saints with Him."

Jeremiah 23:3-6 also speaks of this remnant the Lord will save through the Great Tribulation.
"And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries to which I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. And I will set up shepherds over them who shall feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the Lord.

Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called, the Lord our Righteousness."

From these passages we see God that has not abandoned Israel and He will preserve a remnant to receive their King and dwell in His Kingdom. This is the purpose of the sealing of the servants that will take place immediately before the beginning of the Great Tribulation. Those sealed are the Remnant God will preserve on the earth, to receive their King. This also tells us that without divine intervention this Remnant would not survive the Great Tribulation.

III. The Identification of the Remnant

"And I heard the number of them which were sealed; and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.

Of the tribe of Judah were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand.

Of the tribe of Asher were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Naphtali were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasseh were sealed twelve thousand.

Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand.

Of the tribe of Zebulun were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand" (Revelation 7:4-8)

Without question, this is a listing of the twelve tribes of Israel with the number of those to be preserved in each tribe. The purpose of this Remnant is to welcome their Messiah when He comes in Glory. Contrary to the teaching that Israel was dispersed and replaced forever, this listing proves God has not and will not replace His chosen nation with members of the Church, or any other group, until the Scriptures are fulfilled.

It is true that Israel is in dispersion today and Jews do not know from which tribe they descended and since their rejection of Christ they have suffered greatly at the hands of Gentiles. But God has not forgotten them, neither has He forgotten His promises to them. The Lord knows His chosen or elect people and in the midst of the Tribulation He will identify and preserve them.

IV. The Saved Out of the Tribulation

"After this I beheld and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands" (Revelation 7:9).
After witnessing the 144,000 Israelites sealed, John beheld another multitude. Notice, this group is innumerable and consists of all nations, kindreds, peoples and tongues. They stand before the Lamb, in the presence of God on His throne, clothed in white with palm fronds in their hands. The only possible location for this scene is heaven, for we know from Revelation 5 & 6, that is where the throne and the Lamb are. The white robes indicate their righteousness and the palms their victory. Both righteousness and victory are indicators of salvation.

These must be spiritually saved Jews and Gentiles living forever in the presence of God and there are so many of them that no man can number or count them. In Revelation 7:10-12, these that are saved, along with the angels, the elders who represent the Church, and the four living creatures, begin to worship before the throne of God. They are thankful for salvation and for those whom the Lord has saved.

"And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God who sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four living creatures, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshiped God, saying, Amen! Blessing and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might be unto our God forever and ever. Amen."
The questions, in Revelation 7:13 are, Who are these who have been saved? Where did they come from? "And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, Who are these who are arrayed in white robes? And from where did they come?"

The answer in Revelation 7:14 is, "These are they who came out of the Great Tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."

Notice, these are saved by the blood of the Lamb, just as those in every age have been saved. It is the blood of Christ shed on behalf of the Believer that allows God to impute righteousness. This righteousness is imputed to the individual through faith.

For those who lived before the cross of Christ, their faith looked forward to God's provision of a sacrifice to die for their sins. We have an illustration of this when Abraham took Isaac to the mountain top to offer a sacrifice unto God. When Isaac asked where the lamb for offering was, Abraham replied, "My son, God will provide Himself a lamb for an offering."

Abraham understood that God would, in the future, provide a sacrificial lamb. The Lamb of offering for sin that Abraham looked for in faith, is our Lord Jesus Christ.

Abraham and all who lived before the cross of Christ looked forward to the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, through faith. Those whose lives followed the cross in history look back in faith, to the sacrifice of the Lamb God provided. In both cases, it is the Blood of Christ poured out for humanity's sins that justifies all who believe in Him.

The essence of Revelation 7:15 is that these Tribulation Saints are secure in the presence of God, just as we who are members of the Church will also be.

"Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them."
Also, notice the word, "Therefore." This means Tribulation Saints are in the presence of God, not because of their own endeavors, but simply because they washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. It is only the blood of the Lamb that can remit sins and impute righteousness to all who believe Christ died and rose from the grave, for them.

While promising relief from their persecutions, Revelation:16-17, also calls attention to the things these Tribulation Saints must endure before their martyrdoms.

"They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes."
Hunger, thirst, exposure to the elements, and tears of sorrow, will be constant companions of the believers who live on earth during the Great Tribulation. Understand, these are not things they must endure to be saved. These are things they must endure because they put off their decision to trust Christ until after the rapture of the Church.

Consequently, they will suffer great persecutions. However, they are just as much the recipients of everlasting life as all who trust Christ in the ages before them. Therefore, they will partake of the living waters and God will remove the tears from their eyes.

Indeed, there is great comfort in Revelation 7. To know that God will continue His program of reconciling men unto Himself even after the Church is called into heaven, gives reason for each of us to say daily, "Come Quickly Lord Jesus."

From "Understanding The Apocalypse"
A book of sermons by Pastor Jim McColloch, Th.M., Th.D.
© Copyright 1994, 1999, 2006