Revelation Chapter 7: Yehovah's ("God's") provision for and protection of the Redeemed of Israel during the Final Seven Years, and a preview of the appearance in Heaven of the Redeemed of the Assembly of Believers in Yeshua (the "Church"), who are martyred during the Great Tribulation.
7:1-3 (a) After these things I saw (b) four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having (c) the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels (b continued) to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, "Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees (c continued) till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads."
a. "After these things I saw" indicates another major shift in subject matter (cf. 4:1), from the breaking of the first six seals in Heaven and the events on the earth associated with those six seals to what happens to the 144,000 sealed of Israel during the intermission between the breaking of the sixth seal and the breaking of the seventh seal, then a preview of the ultimate destiny of Yehovah’s People the Followers of Yeshua following the Great Tribulation and Rapture.
b. This is apparently a brief time period during which the cataclysmic events following the breaking of the sixth seal have ceased wreaking their havoc on Earth. Imagine a time of eerie quiet and stillness that suddenly falls during a great thunderstorm, just before a tornado comes roaring through. The winds that blew during the ferocious events of the sixth seal have stopped blowing because the four angels who have the power to release the winds and cause great damage to the earth, its vegetation, and the sea (which is exactly what will happen when the Wrath of God is released on the earth - 8:7-10) have been told to hold them back. As we shall see in the next chapter (8:1), there is also a half-hour period of total silence in Heaven just before the Wrath of God starts to be released on the earth. Perhaps this time period on Earth when the winds are being held back is the same as the half-hour of silence in Heaven.
c. Before the Wrath of God begins to be released, the "servants" of Yehovah must be sealed on their foreheads. As we will see, this is a seal of protection applied to Yehovah’s people on the earth, Israel, in the same way that He placed a mark on Cain to protect him after he killed his brother Abel (a type of the Messiah who offered an acceptable sacrifice to Yehovah), as he wandered the earth an alien to those he met (cf. Genesis 4:14-15). In the same way, the remnant of Israel who killed their brother Yeshua (who offered Himself as the acceptable sacrifice to Yehovah), but still look forward in faith to His coming, although they do not recognize who He is, will be protected during the Great Tribulation (the wrath of Satan) and the time when the wrath of God is being poured out on Earth.
7:4-8 And I heard the number of those who were sealed. (a) One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed: of (b) the tribe of Judah twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of (c) Manasseh twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Zebulon twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of (d) Joseph twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand were sealed.
a. Some may object, "Do you mean to tell me that after being scattered among the nations of the world and unidentified for over 2,700 years, there will be exactly 144,000 of Israel - 12,000 from each tribe - who are given the protective seal of Yehovah during the Final Seven Years?" Well, why not? Is anything beyond the power of the Almighty God? If we are going to hold to a literal interpretation of Scripture, that is what the Bible says, and, without Scriptural or contextual evidence to the contrary, 144,000 will be the exact number of Israelites sealed by the angels of the Lord between the sixth seal events and the breaking of the seventh seal, remarkable as that may seem. The phrase, “children of Israel,” occurs 656 times in the Bible and not once does it refer to anyone other than the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel). The northern kingdom of Israel, the "House of Ephraim" or the "House of Israel" (ten tribes), was destroyed by the Assyrians in about 720 BCE and many of the people of those tribes - some entire tribes - were carried away into captivity beyond the Euphrates into Assyria (later, Medo-Persia) and subsequently scattered among the nations of the world. And the southern kingdom, the "House of Judah" - who was composed not only of the tribe of Judah but also the tribe of Benjamin, much of the tribe of Levi, plus many from other tribes who lived among them - was also dispersed worldwide beginning with the Babylonian captivity in 586 BCE, then especially by the Roman dispersions in 70 and 135 CE. There are many groups all over the world today who claim to be descendants of the various tribes of Israel. And although, according to Yehovah’s birthright promise to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph (cf. Genesis 48:16), their descendants are an innumerable multitude among the peoples of the world, the majority will be destroyed during the “day of the Wrath of the Lord” (Ezekiel 6:11-12, 19). Only a very small remnant will be saved (Isaiah 1:9, Ezekiel 6:8). And Yehovah knows exactly who and where Israel’s physical descendants - all twelve tribes - are, and He is preparing 144,000 of them, who are totally devoted to Him, who are not genetically mixed with the non-Hebrews of the world, and who are still looking for the coming of the Messiah (cf. 14:3-4), to come out of (modern, prophesied) Babylon (cf. 18:4) back into the land of Israel (cf. Isaiah 10:20-22) where they will be sealed on their foreheads for their protection during the Final Seven Years. More details about the role of the 144,000 during and after the Final Seven Years are given in Chapter 14. As we shall see in that chapter, the 144,000 are the "first fruits" of all the Israelites who will be grafted back into the olive tree and brought into the Millennial Kingdom of the Messiah at the end of the Final Seven Years (cf. Romans 9:23, 26).
b. Judah, although not the firstborn of Israel (who was Reuben), was chosen by Yehovah, as was prophesied by Jacob on his deathbed, to father the tribe from which the kings David and Solomon, who would rule over all the tribes of Israel, would come. Judah was also the tribe to which all the other tribes of Israel will eventually gather, to be ruled by the ultimate King of Israel, the Messiah, who is also a descendant of Judah, David, and Solomon (cf. Genesis 49:10). This designation of Judah by Yehovah to be the royal tribe of Israel is apparently why he is listed first in Revelation 7.
c. Manasseh, the son of Joseph and adopted son of Israel, replaces Israel’s son, Dan, on this list. The reason for Dan being replaced by Manasseh is not clear, but it may be because, as seems to be prophesied by Jacob (Genesis 49:17), that Dan was a treacherous, violent “serpent” - a satanically-influenced character. Rather than establishing cities in the territory allotted him, the tribe of Dan ruthlessly attacked and took over other cities (e.g., Judges 18:27-29), and the tribe of Dan was heavily involved in idolatry (Judges 18:30; 1 Kings 12:29; Amos 8:14). So, although the tribe of Dan will have a place in the millennial Messianic Kingdom (cf. Ezekiel 48:1, 2), he will be not be represented among the righteous 144,000.
d. Another puzzling part of this prophecy is that Joseph is listed among the tribes of the 144,000 rather than Ephraim. Joseph’s inheritance was divided between his sons (Israel’s adopted sons), Ephraim and Manasseh. And Israel told Joseph that Ephraim would become a “multitude of nations” (Genesis 48:19), the same promise that Yehovah had given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (cf. Genesis 28:3-4). Then, when Israel died, his first-born’s birthright inheritance went to Ephraim rather than to Reuben (1 Chronicles 5:1). So, why is the tribe of Ephraim not among the twelve tribes listed in Revelation 7? A possible answer might be that the tribes are listed in the Old Covenant Scriptures (1 Chronicles 5-8) according to their natural, physical birth order, but they are listed in the Revelation according to their place in the plan of Yehovah and their relationship to Him. That is why Judah, the ancestor of King David and of the King of Kings who will reign from David’s throne over all Israel in the millennial Kingdom of God (cf. Isaiah 9:6-7), is listed first, and why Manasseh is listed in the place of Dan, the evil, idolatrous tribe. Likewise, although Ephraim, as was prophesied, received the birthright inheritance, Jeroboam, an Ephraimite, rebelled against Solomon, King of Israel (cf. 1 Kings 11:26). Then later, after Solomon’s death, when his son, Rehoboam, took over as King of Israel, Jeroboam led the northern ten tribes in rebellion against Rehoboam and Judah, establishing the northern kingdom, which continued to be called “Israel,” with Shechem, in the mountains of Ephraim, as its capital. (cf. 1 Kings 12:19, 25). After that, Israel (then also called “Ephraim”), moved farther and farther away from the religious practices of the southern kingdom (which, after the division of the kingdom, was stripped of the name “Israel” and was just called “Judah”) and into idolatrous practices that were instituted by Jeroboam. And although Ephraim had received the birthright inheritance in the Promised Land, he actually received it as the proxy for his father, Joseph, who remained in Egypt until he died and to whom, as the natural son of Israel, the inheritance technically belonged (cf. 1 Chronicles 5:2). In fact, in some Old Covenant Scriptures passages, the names Israel, Joseph, and Ephraim are used interchangeably (e.g., Ezekiel 37:16). And that is probably why Joseph, who is the clearest type of the Messiah of any of the sons of Israel, is listed rather than his son Ephraim among the tribes of the 144,000.5
7:9-10 (a) After these things I looked, and behold, a (b) great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with (c) palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
a. “After these things I looked” indicates another major shift in focus - back to Heaven and to Yehovah’s people the Followers of Yeshua (the redeemed Bride of the Messiah).
b. This innumerable multitude from all nations (Greek: ethnos - ethnic groups), tribes, peoples (Greek: phule - a better word to translate as “nations”), and languages is also seen shouting similar words of praise following the final destruction of Babylon, the kingdom of Satan, at the end of the seven years (19:1-2). So, this scene is apparently a preview of what will occur at the end of the Final Seven Years, after the blowing of the Last Trump (cf. the commentary on 11:14-19). (Remember, scenes in Heaven transcend time, so their time and sequence must be determined by contextual clues rather than by a strict time-line chart of events on earth.) These are the redeemed, resurrected, and glorified Saints of all ages, because no other group of human beings, wearing white robes of righteousness and salvation, is seen in Heaven before, during, or after the Final Seven Years. At this point in time, following the resurrection and ascension of the Redeemed at the end of the Final Seven Years, they must have been joined by those whose souls who had been under the altar and had been given their white robes but had been told to “rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed” (6:11).
c. Waving palm branches was a traditional greeting for a conquering hero or king, as when those who believed that Yeshua was the Messiah greeted Him as he rode into Jerusalem while they sang, "Hosanna [Hebrew: hoshia-na - “O save!”] to the Son of David!‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9)
7:11-12 (a) All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped Yehovah, saying: (b) “Amen! (c) Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
a. All the other inhabitants of Heaven in John’s vision—the angels, elders, and living creatures - join the innumerable multitude in absolute, submissive adoration of the Lord.
b. “Amen” means “So be it” or “That settles it.”
c. This is another seven-fold ascription of praise similar to the one at 5:12.
7:13-14 Then one of (a) the elders answered, saying to me, (b) “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?” And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” So he said to me, “These are the ones who (c) come out of the (d) great tribulation, and (e) washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb.”
a. For the identification of the elders, see the commentary on 4:4.
b. The elder asks John two rhetorical questions: “Who are these?” and, “Where did they come from?” the answers to which must be important, because the elder answers them himself.
c. The innumerable multitude comes “out of” the Great Tribulation. The Greek word (ek or ex) for “out of,” from which the English word “exit” is derived, means exactly as it is translated: “out of,” “from,” or “away from,” as when someone exits an event. And this confirms what Yeshua said:
For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened. (Matthew 24:21-22)
In other words, the Redeemed will come out of the Great Tribulation when it is cut short (Matthew 24:22) by the events of the Last (seventh) Trump, including the return of the Messiah for His Elect (Mark 13:27) and the “last plagues” of the Wrath of God (15:1). Yeshua goes on to explain that, at that time, He will return to gather His Elect (the “Rapture”) “from the four winds, from the farthest part of the earth to the farthest part of heaven” (Matthew 24:27-31; Mark 13:27). For exactly when, in the sequence of End-Times events, the Rapture will occur, please read Appendix 6—When is the Rapture?
Some argue that “His elect” in Matthew 24:31 refers only to the Remnant of Israel who will be hidden, protected, and nourished on Earth during the Final Seven Years, but both common sense and Yehovah’s Word negate that interpretation: (1) “Elect” is used to refer to the Messiah once and to ancient Israel in only three passages of the Old Covenant Scriptures. And all three of those occurences that refer to Israel are in Isaiah (Isaiah 45:4; 65:9, 22), in prophecies regarding the Millennium. But, in the Renewed Covenant Scriptures, the “elect” or the "election" occurs 22 times and refers once to angels (1 Timothy 5:21), once to the Messiah (1 Peter 2:6), in four instances to Israel (Romans 9:11; 11:5, 7, 28), but in every other instance to followers of Yeshua. (2) Yeshua’s prophecy as recorded in Matthew 24 (also Mark 13 and Luke 17), involves both the Jews and the Followers of Yeshua. Yeshua appears to be alluding to what will happen to the Jews in the near future when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 68 CE and the Jews were dispersed; but the language of the text indicates that when He speaks of gathering His elect, He is speaking of gathering His Disciples "from the four winds to the farthest part of Heaven" (clearly a reference to the Rapture, not to gathering His people out of the nations into the land of Israel) when He returns at “the end of the age” (Matthew 24:3). Another clue that the Lord is speaking both of the Jews and His Disciples is that He uses terms that refer to both; for example, He states, “For false [messiahs] and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24). (3) The direction of the action (from Earth to Heaven) when He returns and gathers His Elect appears to be vertical, toward Heaven, not horizontal on the earth. Later, the apostle Paul gave us exactly the same scenario in greater detail:
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of [Yehovah]. And the dead in [the Messiah] will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
This is a clear reference to what is commonly called “The Rapture” (which is from the Latin word, rapio, translated “caught up” in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 in the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible). (cf. Matthew 24:7-30).
So again, a major key to understanding the End Times prophecies of Yeshua, as recorded in both the gospels and the Revelation, is knowing that they are given to both the Jews and the Disciples of Yeshua, and knowing which parts refer to the Jews who have not yet accepted Yeshua as their Messiah, which parts refer to the Disciples of Yeshua, and which parts refer to both. And that can be determined only by comparing Scripture with Scripture.
Most Bible teachers refer to the entire Final Seven Years as “the tribulation.” But that is a contrived label with no textual support. So, what is the “Great Tribulation” ? Again, Yeshua makes that clear. He states that it will be that terrible time “such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” after the “‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet,standing in the holy place” (Matthew 24:15, 21). When we turn to the book of Daniel, we find that what Yeshua told His disciples exactly parallels - almost quotes - what is written there:
Then he [Antimessiah] shall confirm a covenant with many for one week [Hebrew: shabua - seven years]; but in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate . . . . And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. (Daniel 9:27; 12:1)
In other words, the Great Tribulation will be the 42 months (cf. 13:5) following the anti-messiah’s desecration of the Temple in Jerusalem and declaring himself to be “God” (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:4) at the mid-point of the seven years when, through him, Satan’s wrath (cf. 12:12) will be poured out on the Elect (the followers of Yeshua). These events will be further clarified when we get to Chapter 13.
d. This is a description not just of martyrs but of all the Redeemed of the Lord (cf. 1:5).
7:16-17 “Therefore they are before the throne of [Yehovah], and serve Him day and night (a) in His temple. And He who sits on the throne (b) will dwell among them. (c) They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And [Yehovah] will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
a. Typified by the Temple on the earth where the priests of Israel served, there is a Temple in Heaven where the Redeemed, who are all priests in the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. 1:6), will serve.
b. As Jewish grooms prepared a home, which was attached to their parents’ home, for their brides before they were married, Yeshua told His Disciples, before His ascension into Heaven, that He was going to prepare a place for them in His Father’s house so that where He was they could be also, and He would dwell with them (cf. John 14:2, 3; 21:3).
c. This is a preview of the eternal state of the Redeemed (cf. 21:3-4). So, once the Bride of the Messiah is with Him in Heaven, she will be, as promised (1 Thessalonians 5:9), safe from the Wrath of God.
Already, by reading and interpreting the Bible in a literal, common-sense way and by comparing Scripture with Scripture, a large part of the Lord’s Revelation mural has been painted for us, has it not? We see that there will be a seven-year period of time, which we are calling the Final Seven Years and which Yeshua’s Disciples called “the end of the age” (Matthew 24:3), when world history will be brought to a tremendously tumultuous and cataclysmic close. The seven years will begin with a totally evil man - called, in the Bible, the “prince who is to come,” the “man of sin,” the “son of perdition,” the “lawless one,” “[Antimessiah],” and the “beast” - signing a peace treaty with Israel then going forth to conquer the world. But he will not conquer, in the beginning of his conquest, primarily by force; he will conquer by deceit and intrigue (cf. Daniel 11:21, 23, 32). Nevertheless, his insidious maneuvers to conquer Earth will result in wars, bloodshed, famine, pestilence, and death (including the martyrdom of Followers of Yeshua) on a global, unprecedented scale. Then, at the midpoint of the seven years, the anti-messiah will set up what both Daniel and Yeshua referred to as “the abomination that causes desolation” in the rebuilt Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Then, a time of “great tribulation” for the people of Yehovah especially the “true
Israelites” (Romans 9:6—those who look forward in faith to the coming Messiah,
but who do not yet recognize who He is) and the present Followers
of the Messiah Yeshua, when the anti-messiah will ruthlessly destroy anyone who does not worship and submit to him. But, at the end of those three and one-half years, the Great Tribulation will be cut short by the events announced by the Last Trump: the return of the Messiah Yeshua in the clouds, the Rapture of the Assembly of Believers in the Messiah (the "Church"), and the outpouring of the final plagues of the Wrath of God following the sounding of the seventh trumpet (cf. 11:14-15; 15:1).
Please keep reading through this commentary to see the above sequence of events unfold as described.
In conclusion, we learn from Revelation 7 that there are two groups of the Lord's people who will be involved in the "Great Tribulation" of the Final Seven Years - those of Israel who look forward in faith to the coming Messiah but who are temporarily blinded to who He is (cf. Romans 11:25), and those who already know Him as Yeshua the Messiah ("Jesus Christ"). For further confirmation of this reality, keep reading, especially the commentary on chapters 12-14.
5After the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel and the carrying away into captivity of the southern kingdom, the people of Judah and the other tribes of the southern kingdom began to again refer to themselves as “Israel” (cf. Daniel 9:7, 11, 20). And, because at that time Judah was the primary intact, clearly identifiable tribe remaining, all Israelites began to be referred to as “Jews” (cf. Daniel 3:8, 12; Romans 9:24, 27). So, in this commentary, the terms “Jews” and “Israelites” are used interchangeably. Although today many groups of the dispersed of Israel have lost track of their genealogies, some have strong oral traditions and a very small number of the house of David seem to have clear genealogical links all the way back to David. Genealogical and genetic research are also claiming to have identified links back to the original tribes.
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Continue from Chapter 7: Yehovah's Provision for the Redeemed of the Jews and the Followers of Yeshua during the Final Seven Years to Chapter 8: The Opening of the Seventh Seal and the Events of the First Four Trumpet Judgments.
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