Summary: The Jewish elect and the persecuted church are shown in Tribulation era "close-ups".
The Jewish elect in the wilderness
(7:1-8, 14:1-5, 12:6, 12:13-16)
I’ll say it again: We have already covered most of the entire scope of the Book of Revelation, that is, the Scroll in the hand of the Lamb, in one short chapter. By chapter 7, we have come to the end of human history this side of the 2nd coming. We will not advance beyond this moment until chapter 19. That means that everything that follows from chapters 7 through 18 is nothing more than a review and a close-up of what we have already seen. In chapters 7-18 we will learn the time frame of the seals, the political background, the state of the people of God (both Jewish and Christian) during this time, the origin of the trouble, God’s preliminary judgments on it all, and more. But it is important to keep the understanding before us that with these six seals we have seen an outline of most of the Book.
Where do we go from here? Though chapter 7 begins, “after these things”, we need to understand, as with all such phrases in the book, that we are talking about the sequence of visions John saw, and not the sequence of history that took place. After the whirlwind tour of the Tribulation, John is now given a close-up, a piece of background, so that the setting of the Book starts coming into sharper focus. As you see above, I have linked the first portion of chapter 7 with events in chapters 12 and 14 where we will discuss these matters again. But, put all of these verses of chapters 7, 12, and 14 together, and here is the picture:
For three and one half years (12:6), a “woman” (12:1) is securely hidden by God (12:14) from a Dragon (12:9). She has a Child, whom the Dragon immediately attempts to destroy. She is taken to the wilderness by air (12:14). There, the Enemy makes an all-out attempt to destroy her also (12:15), fails (12:16) , and begins persecuting the other children of the woman (12:17). The woman is described much like the images of Joseph’s dream, found in Genesis 37:9. “The sun, the moon, and 12 stars” can only be the family known as Israel, in its end-time form. Only Israel combines the activities said to be performed by the woman: she gives birth to the Messiah, gives birth to Messiah’s followers and the remnant, and hides awhile from the wrath of Satan.
Consider the promise of God through Hosea in this regard (2:14): “I will allure her, will bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her.” Also, Zechariah: (12:10) “I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they have pierced; they will mourn for him as one mourns for his only son…”
This is why I suggest that this final “elect” of Israel, hidden away and spoken to by none other than Jesus Himself, are the 144,000. It seems that 7:1-8 is just another way of telling this wilderness story. We read here of the sealing of 144,000 special Jews. This happens early in the Tribulation before the harm caused by the destroying angels (7:3). So the entire sealing period could be the first three and one half years. Israel is called into the wilderness and into the “sealing” process in unbelief. This is why they cannot be a part of the great ingathering of the second half of chapter 7: They are not His yet! They are not ready to die the martyr’s death yet. They do not have a song of salvation, yet. But they emerge from the wilderness (14:1-5) truly converted to Jesus.
Does not Paul help us here by saying that “even at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace” ? And, “...hardening in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:5, 25). And in the second half of chapter 7, we see those Gentiles indeed being brought in!
The announcement (7:1-4). It is worth noting that there are four angels responsible for the preservation of earth. Four. And four corners and four winds. Could this “four-ness” correspond to the devastation of the four horsemen of chapter 6?
Timing of the sealing (7:3). We know that there is incredible harm done to the earth, sea, and trees in chapter 6, so it is clear that the sealing takes place before the worst of the Great Tribulation. To be specific, the trumpets, which take place during the latter seals, sound forth their judgments first on these very things mentioned here: earth, trees, and sea (8:7-9)! So somewhere after man’s inhumanity to man brings the peoples of earth to war and poverty, and sometime before God Himself hurts the natural creation, the 144,000 are sealed.