Summary: An exposition of Rev. 7
Keeping It Together When Everything Falls Apart
Whenever you read the book of Revelation, sooner or later you have to get to the unpleasant subject of tribulation---more specifically, what is known as the Great Tribulation---a future dark of dark days described in several ways in the Bible.
Da 12:1 And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book.
Mt 24:21-22 21For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.
Notice two things stand out about each of these passages: first, a warning that before God’s plan for redeeming this world is over, you and I should expect tribulation, and second, a promise that God will keep His people safe through (not always from) all tribulation.
But here’s a question there is some disagreement about—when is the Great Tribulation going to take place? Will Christians be around for this time of trouble, or will we be raptured out with Jesus before it comes? How will you tell the difference between the Great tribulation and the ordinary everyday version of tribulation?
I’ve read and studied the various theories and explanations and in all honesty, I don’t really have all the answers to these questions, and one reason why is that I don’t think the Lord wants us to spend a lot of time trying to figure out times and seasons in His own hands. I believe His main goal in telling us about the Great Tribulation is to help us be ready to handle tribulation whenever it comes, whether He leaves us here, or takes us to heaven.
Tribulation comes in all shapes and sizes. The sky doesn’t have to fall for you to feel like the world is falling apart. Money troubles, family troubles, job troubles, health problems, emotional problems, and a long list of all kinds of other things remind us that tribulation can come from almost any area of your life. The question is: how do you do it? Or another way to put it: how do you keep it all together when the world is falling apart?
This is really the question posed at the end of Rev. 6 by those who trying to hide from the wrath of God:
Re 6:17 For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?
When the world is falling apart, who can still hold it together? The people in John’ day needed some help in that area as they faced persecution and tribulation for their faith. John’s vision in Rev. 7 is meant to show those first readers of Revelation and us how God’s people can still be secure even in the center of the storm.
How do you keep it together when the world is falling apart?
1. Remember Who you belong to. (v. 1-8)
David Frost writes in his Book Of The World’s Worst Decisions about Olav Olavson, a Swedish citizen, who fell on hard times and in 1910 sold his body for medical research after his death to the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. The following year he inherited a fortune and resolved to buy himself back. The institute refused to sell its rights to his body, went to court, and won possession. In fact the institute obtained damages, since Olav had had two teeth pulled out without asking their permission.
Who owns you? Not just your body, but your soul? One of the great themes of the Bible is that even in judgment, God always differentiates between His people and the rest of the world.
Ex 8:22-23 22And in that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, in which My people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there, in order that you may know that I am the LORD in the midst of the land. 23I will make a difference between My people and your people…
This is the picture painted by John’s vision. He sees 4 angels standing at the 4 corners of the earth, holding back the tornado of judgment, the calm before the storm when a 5th angel from the east (the direction of Jerusalem) calls for a sealing of the servants of our God (v. 3). This sealing is an act of identifying these people specifically as belonging to God. John doesn’t see the sealing, but he does hear the number of those sealed as being 144,000 of all the tribes of Israel (v. 4), which are listed by tribe in vs. 5-8.