Revelation 7:1 (NIV) 1 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.
On verse 1: After the sixth seal is broken, John sees four angels holding back “the four winds of the earth” (v1), effectively stopping any wind from blowing on the earth. According to some scientists, if there was no more wind on the earth, much of the earth would become uninhabitable, temperatures on the earth would become either extremely hot or extremely cold, mass migration would lead to coastal regions being heavily populated, marine life would die, widespread famine would occur and many people would not be able to survive.
Similarly, we need the wind of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Without the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus likens to a wind (see John 3:8), our spiritual lives would dry out.
Revelation 7:2-3 (NIV) 2 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: 3 “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.”
On verses 2-3: Before the four angels are allowed to continue holding back the wind and in so doing damage the earth, another angel bearing the seal of God calls out to them and tells them not to harm the earth this way until the foreheads of God’s servants have been sealed. The seal, which might look like a stamp or an embossing, served as a symbol of God’s ownership and approval, giving the sealed person access to God’s special blessing and protection.
Similarly, do you know that when you place your faith in Jesus Christ, the Bible says that you are marked in Him with a seal, that is, the Holy Spirit? See Ephesians 1:13. The Holy Spirit in your life is the seal of God’s ownership and approval over your life, giving you access to God’s special blessing and protection.
Revelation 7:4-8 (NIV) 4 Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel. 5 From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben 12,000, from the tribe of Gad 12,000, 6 from the tribe of Asher 12,000, from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000, from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000, 7 from the tribe of Simeon 12,000, from the tribe of Levi 12,000, from the tribe of Issachar 12,000, 8 from the tribe of Zebulun 12,000, from the tribe of Joseph 12,000, from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000.
On verses 4-8: Here it is announced that 144,000 people have been sealed and who presumably gain access to some special blessing or protection from God. Despite verse 4 saying that the 144,000 are “from all the tribes of Israel”, this list of tribes is peculiar in that it omits the tribe of Dan, includes the tribe of Joseph and his son Manasseh while omitting Joseph’s other son Ephraim. Various scholars have speculated as to why, with some thinking that Dan was omitted because Dan was the first tribe to commit idolatry. Still, all of this is speculation.
More importantly, who are the 144,000 listed here? Is the 144,000 number meant to be literal or symbolic? Are the 144,000 different from the “great multitude that no one can count” in verse 9? There are many interpretations out there. Some interpreters believe that the 144,000 is a figurative symbol for the Christian church (which in reality has many more than 144,000 people such that 144,000 is symbolic of perfection). Jehovah’s Witnesses dangerously and falsely use this passage to teach that literally only 144,000 exactly will go to heaven and rule with Christ.
Perhaps the best interpretation is that the 144,000 refers to Jewish Christians (“from all the tribes of Israel”) while the great multitude in verse 9 refers to Gentile Christians “from every nation, tribe, people and language” (v9). This interpretation is supported by the fact that John seems to distinguish the 144,000 in verse 4 from the great multitude in verse 9 both in terms of ethnic background and sheer number. This latter interpretation also brings to life for us a little more what Paul writes when he says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Romans 1:16), since the Jewish believers are counted first, and then the Gentile multitude appears in the verses that follow.
Revelation 7:9-17 (NIV) 9 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. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 11 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, 12 saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” 13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes–who are they, and where did they come from?” 14 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. 15 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 spread his tent over them. 16 Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. 17 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.”
On verses 9-17: Here we see a beautiful picture of “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” (v9). Robed in white and holding palm branches (v9b), they worship God the Father and Jesus the Son in a loud voice (v10), with the angels, elders and four living creatures saying “Amen!” and giving God their praise as well (v11-12).
Who is this great multitude? This great multitude most likely represents Gentile believers “who have come out of the great tribulation” (v14a). What great tribulation is verse 14 referring to? It is the formidable period of suffering and judgment that Revelation 6 and the beginning of Revelation 7 describe.
The elder also explains to John that the people in this great multitude “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (v14b). Now they serve day and night in the temple and the One on the throne spreads His tent over them (i.e. gives them His presence and protection) (v15), such that they will never suffer again (v16). Jesus the Lamb will be their shepherd, leading them to springs of living water while God the Father wipes away every tear from their eyes (v17).
What can we learn from this? It is only through the blood of Jesus that we can be washed and purified of sin and become acceptable before God (v14b). It is only through the blood of Jesus that we have access to God’s presence and can serve Him (v15). In the presence of God the Father and Jesus the Son of God, there is no more suffering and sadness, only springs of living water (v16-17).
Heavenly Father, thank You for the wind of Your Holy Spirit who breathes new life in me. Jesus, thank You so much for Your blood that cleanses me of all unrighteousness. Holy Spirit, come and fill me today that I would live for Your glory. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!