Summary: Do you ever feel like God doesn’t know or care what you are going through? Does it seem like your life is out of control or out of God’s control? Learn about God’s seal of ownership and protection as we study the sealed saints and the Tribulation Christia
This chapter is an interlude between the 6th and 7th seals - just as there are pauses after the 6th trumpet and 6th bowl judgments.
1After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree.
These angels could be the four horsemen of the apocalypse we saw in chapter 6.
Verses 2 - 3
2 Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, 3 saying, "Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads."
The seal is the same seal used the seal up the scroll in chapters 5-6. A king would use his signet ring pushed into warm wax to signify ownership and protect the document’s contents. Here God is signifying His ownership of these people and protecting their hearts and souls from destruction. Ezekiel 9 shows a similar picture of an angel marking those who still believed in the one true God on their foreheads - people whose hearts are against evil and for the Lord - people who are then protected from the Lord’s judgment.
This seal will later be counterfeited by Satan (chapter 13).
Why the seal? It would assist the believers who come to Christ during the Tribulation. It will protect them from harm meant for the followers of the Beast. During the 5th trumpet, stinging locusts will descend on the earth, but will not harm these sealed by God. In Chapter 16 sores will break out only on those who have the mark of the Beast. But it won’t protect them from everything. Many of these we see here are killed by the Beast - but nothing can kill them ultimately and death is simply graduation.
By the way - did you know that all believers are "marked?" Ephesians 1 says the Holy Spirit has been given to us as a "seal." It is God’s guarantee that He owns us and will bring us safely to His kingdom.
Verses 4 - 8
4 And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:
512,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed,
12,000 from the tribe of Reuben,
12,000 from the tribe of Gad,
612,000 from the tribe of Asher,
12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali,
12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh,
712,000 from the tribe of Simeon,
12,000 from the tribe of Levi,
12,000 from the tribe of Issachar,
812,000 from the tribe of Zebulun,
12,000 from the tribe of Joseph,
12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed.
The question here is: who are these 144,000 and how literal is this listing? Some suggest that the list represents the church as a whole and that number is symbolic (12x12x1000 = completeness). You’d have to stretch things pretty far to get that - and the fact that each tribe is mentioned specifically argues for it to be Israel, not the church. No where is the church called "the sons of Israel." But here these sons of Israel are called: "servants of God" which refers to saved individuals.
Dan is missing - perhaps because Dan was the first to go into idolatry and against the Lord. Joseph is mentioned instead of Ephraim because Ephraim rebelled as well. Judah is mentioned first because from this tribe comes the Messiah.
Now - as you may know, 10 of these tribes were "lost" when the Assyrians came and took them away around 722BC. The Assyrians resettled them in other nations and they never returned to Israel. But these tribes are not lost to the Lord - He knows every descendant and will call them back to Him during this time.
What is their job? To evangelize the world. It doesn’t actually say that - but it’s a safe bet. If this is the church - why only 144,000, why mention the tribes? If only these are sealed, then what about the promises to the church that we are "sealed" in Him (2 Corinthians 1:22)?
A side note - the cult The Jehovah’s Witnesses actually believe that only 144,000 will make it into heaven based on this verse. This is simply not true - and I know folks in our own body who, after hearing this false doctrine - came to the Lord.
Verses 9 - 14
9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen."