The Revelation of Jesus Christ
“Who Can Stand?” Rev 7:1-17
I. PROLOGUE 1:1-20 (Things you have seen)
II. Messages to the Seven churches 2-3 (Things with are)
III. Last Days 4-22 (Things which are about to take place)
A. Heavenly worship around the throne 4-5
1. Worship the Creator sitting on the Throne 4
2. Worship the Redeemer before the Throne 5
That catalyst for this worship was the run-up to the last days. In John’s vision, Jesus appears in the throne room as the Lamb of God / Lion of Judah. The One sitting on the throne turns over the scroll sealed with seven seals. It is a scroll outlining the decreed events of the last days.
Jesus stands to break the seals and execute the final judgment on the unbelieving wicked.
His actions trigger a massive praise gathering anxious to see the restoration of God’s Kingdom on earth. The breaking of each of the seven seals securing the scroll initiates a catastrophic event.
B. The Seven seals 6:1-8:1
1. Seals 1-6
When compared to the prophetic data from the Gospels the events of the seven seals appears to either immediately precede the seven year tribulation or comprise the first 3 ½ years of the tribulation.
1. Seal #1 – White horse with a crowned arched sent out to conquer
The first horse is specially dispatched from heaven and represents the conquering power of the word of God as weapon against the evil one and that will be preached all through the earth before the end comes. Jesus warned them not to be misled by false teachers, but listen to the word. People will not have an excuse for being deceived. The Word of the Lord will powerfully go forth throughout the earth.
2. Seal #2 – Red horse with a swordsman sent out to eliminate peace and stir up murder. 6:3-4
When the truth is reject it leaves a vacuum and violence results.
3. Seal #3 – Black horse sent out to bring famine 6:5-6
It is clear that the result of this seal has to do with a lack of food or runaway inflation.
Many times such a problem comes about after extended warfare.
4. Seal #4 – The pale horse ridden by death followed by Hades sent out to kill ¼ of the population 6:7-8
This seal could possibly eliminate up to 1 billion people in a short period of time through war, famine, pestilence and wild beasts. This breaking of this seal kicks the world into absolute chaos.
5. Seal #5 – Cry of the martyrs 6:9-11
The martyrs of Biblical history cry for vengeance.
They are told to wait a little longer until the rest of special people slated for martyrdom run their course.
6. Seal #6 – Multiple natural catastrophes 6:12-17
A gigantic earthquake yet not the “big one”. Darkening of the sun. Moon turns red. Massive meteor showers. The heavens are exposed to the world to see the throne room and the source of judgment. Massive shifting of the tectonic plates.
The response of every unbeliever on earth from every walk of life? Hide us! They recognize the source of all these events but rather than repent, they want to hide. This will not be the first time they react rather than repent. They ask “who can stand in the presence of the one sitting on the throne and the wrath of the Lamb.” As catastrophic as these event are, they are considered birth pangs, only the beginning. From here on out, events become more frequent and more intense. We still have the trumpet judgments and the bowl judgments as the full measure of God’s wrath is poured out on the unbelieving world.
The “beginning of birth-pangs” (Matt. 24:8; Mark 13:8)
The first half of the Tribulation
Matt. 24:4–5 Mark 13:6 Luke 21:8 Antichrists Rev. 6:1–2 First seal
Matt. 24:6–7 Mark 13:7–8 Luke 21:9–10 War Rev. 6:3–4 Second seal
Matt. 24:7 Mark 13:8 Luke 21:11 Famine Rev. 6:5–6 Third seal
Matt. 24:9 Mark 13:12 Luke 21:16 Death Rev. 6:7–8 Fourth seal
Matt. 24:9–13 Mark 13:9–13 Luke 21:12–19 Martyrdom Rev. 6:9–11 Fifth seal
Luke 21:11 Earthly & heavenly phenomena Rev. 6:12–17 Sixth seal
The “abomination of desolation” (Matt. 24:15; Mark 13:14)
The middle of the Tribulation
2. Interlude 7:1-17
Chapter seven serves as a kind of interlude or break in the chronology. It is possible that John sees another vision detailing other things taking place sometime during the breaking of the seven seals and catastrophic events described in chapter six. It also intensifies the drama of the breaking of the seventh seal. The passage begins with the vision trigger “after this”.
Here he described events that will happen both in heaven and on earth. This chapter graphically illustrates mercy in the midst of wrath.
2 LORD, I have heard the report about You and I fear. O LORD, revive Your work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy. Habakkuk 3:2
Even in the face of the horrifying disasters on the unbelievers triggered by the seven seals where people cry out, “who can stand against the wrath of the God and the Lamb?”, God still demonstrates His mercy on those whose heart turns toward God.
John describes four groups in this vision.
a. The spoiling angels 7:1
1 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, so that no wind would blow on the earth or on the sea or on any tree.
Have you ever been at a place where there was absolutely no wind? Four angels stood at each of the four compass points; North, South, East and West. Their mission was to keep any wind from blowing. It appears they had the power to affect the atmospheric conditions of the earth.
b. The Sealing angel 7:2-3
John then observed another angel dispatched from God to temporarily prevent the four spoiling angels from doing harm to the earth.
2 And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, 3 saying, "Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads." Revelation 7:2-3
c. The sealed Jews 7:4-8
Before we discuss who these individuals are, let’s talk about the concept of a seal. A seal was symbolic of ownership, authentication, and protection.
“It was not uncommon for a soldier or a guild member to receive such a mark as a religious devotee. The mark was a sign of consecration to deity. The forehead was chosen because it was the most conspicuous, the most noble, and the part by which a person is usually identified.”
The Bible teaches that all believers are sealed at the moment of their rebirth.
13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory. Ephesians 1:13-14
Listening to the message; the gospel
Believing the message of salvation in Jesus
Sealing by the Holy Spirit
21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, 22 who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22
30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30
The Holy Spirit becomes the constant companion and guardian of every child of God. God will mark 144,000 individuals in the end times with His sovereign seal guaranteeing both spiritual and physical authentication and protection. They will receive a mark in their forehead for all to recognize; Hands off!!!. There is a very interesting contrast with the “mark” of the beast issued to unbelievers later. God’s seal protects them from both physical and spiritual harm.
The mark of the beast temporarily protects from physical harm but ultimately results in eternal damnation.
The beast forces people to swear allegiance to him and receive his mark. God invites individuals to follow Him and seals them for the day of ultimate deliverance.
So who are these individuals? John heard an exact number quoted; 144,000. The exactness of the number indicates God will specifically choose these individuals as His servants for a specific task during the period of the tribulation. They will serve Him amidst the most devastating devastation to every afflict humanity. Through it all, it appears that they will be protected both from the horrific natural disasters and the outpouring of God’s wrath as well as from human and demonic retaliation or harm. They are identified as Jews chosen out of each of the twelve tribes of Israel. There are and even 12,000 chosen from each tribe. These are not all the Jews that turn to Jesus during this time but a select group.
Many feel they are specially chosen as evangelists during the tribulation period. There is actually no specific reference to their task. Most feel that their job will be to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the whole world. God’s witness to the kingdom of God began through 12 apostles and was subsequently rejected and declined by Israel as a nation. In the last days 144,000 apostles (sent ones) will resume the message of the Kingdom resulting in massive worldwide revival such as the world has never seen. These are the true “Jesus for Jesus”!
There is no reason to think that this number be interpreted symbolically. John is not given a specific number for the next group in his vision. The fact that John delineates each of the twelve tribes makes it most likely to refer to actual Jews from each of those tribes. Otherwise there is no point even mentioning the 12 tribes.
There are no less than nineteen lists of Jacob’s (Israel’s) sons in the Old Testament.
(Gen. 35:22–26; 46:8–25; 49:3–27; Exod. 1:2–5; Num. 1:5–15; 2:3–31; 13:4–15; 26:4–51; 34:19–28; Deut. 27:12–13; 33:6–25; Josh. 13:7–22; Judg. 5:12–18; 1 Chron. 2:1–8:40; 12:24–37; 27:16–22; Ezek. 48:1–7, 23–28, 31–34).
None of those lists match this one. This list excludes Dan and Ephraim and includes Joseph. Some suggest Dan and Ephraim were eliminated because of idolatry yet the other tribes were equally guilty and Ezek 48:1-2 indicates both Dan and Ephraim will receive a millennial portion of land.
We will understand someday but there is no textual explanation to assert a definitive reason for the variance. This massive evangelism force turns up again later in John’s record.
1 Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. 2 And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps. 3 And they sang* a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth. 4 These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb. 5 And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless. Revelation 14:1-5
Maybe these are some of the first Jews to believe during the Tribulation period.
d. The slain multitude 7:9-17
In another vision, John observed another group of people different from the former group.
9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; 10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." Revelation 7:9-10
This will be a multi-national multitude of people too numerous to count. No head count was offered. They were all crowded around the throne and before the Lamb. They are dressed in pure white robes symbolic of purity and honor. They waved palm branches symbolic of celebration, deliverance and joy. The Jews celebrate the feast of tabernacles with the use of palm branches that celebrated God’s provision during their journey to the Promised Land.
These tribulation converts from every corner of the earth celebrate God who sits on the throne and the Lamb with palm branches and cries of praise for their salvation. Just as Jesus entered Jerusalem the first time as the sacrificial lamb to the celebratory cries of His followers He now prepares to enter Jerusalem as the victorious Lion of Judah. The angels, the four angelic beings and the 24 elders join the celebration as they all fall on their faces before the throne.
12Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen. Rev 7:12
Again a sevenfold praise chorus will resound around the throne room.
John had no idea who these people were when an angel questioned him as to their identity.
13 Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, "These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?" Revelation 7:13
John deferred to him.
14 I said to him, "My lord, you know." And he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 "For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. 16 "They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; 17 for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes." Revelation 7:14-17
It appears that these are believers spoken of by the previous group of martyrs under the altar.
Their number now seems complete. Most feel that these are individuals martyred during the tribulation for their refusal to receive the mark of the beast and because of their commitment to Jesus. They are possibly the fruit of the evangelism efforts of the 144,000. It seems that they are the fulfillment of the gospel going out to every corner of the earth just before the end.
14 This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. Matt 24:14
The tenderness of God toward these faithful servants is touching.
15 "For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. 16 "They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; 17 for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes." Revelation 7:15-17
No post traumatic stress, peace, satisfaction, rest, guidance, comfort.
The most striking issue to address out of this passage is the issue of tribulation and suffering.
On the one hand, you have a group of people fully protected from harm in the middle of the worst catastrophes of all time.
On the other hand you have a group of people brutally slaughtered in the same tribulation.
Does God always keep His servants from physical harm? A cursory survey of the Bible clearly shows that God’s people are not always exempt from pain and suffering. Jesus Himself suffered to the point of death on a cross. Church history records throngs of Jesus followers enduring horrendous suffering. The Bible also records many incidents of miraculous deliverance from harm.
If the reason we embrace the idea of a pre-tribulational rapture stems from our desire to escape suffering, we have missed the point. There is no guarantee that you will escape severe suffering even before the tribulation. In fact, Jesus warned that, “in the world you will have tribulation but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world.” Some trusting Christ in the past may have thought they were already in the Great Tribulation.
We all need to be prepared to endure suffering for the sake of Christ. Look at the attitude expressed by this multitude of martyrs!
10 Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.
Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen." Rev 7:10-12
No blaming. No complaining. Only praise to the Lamb and the One who sits on the throne.
How different from the American church today. What does God allow such suffering?
Why me? Why should I serve a God who allows me to be uncomfortable? So many serve Him only as long as things go well and life seems good. Paul rejoiced at the opportunity to suffer for Christ.
17 But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. 18 You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me. Philippians 2:17-18
24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions. Colossians 1:24
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18
What if God wanted us to go through the tribulation as an example of committed love?
Would we be willing to suffer for His sake? On the other hand, God clearly desires to spare His children unnecessary pain and suffering.
At the times when He poured out His wrath on rebellious men, God rescued the faithful.
4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; 5 and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter; 7 and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men 8 (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment… 2 Peter 2:4-11
Several passages indicate the fact that God will spare believers from His wrath.
That does not insulate us from enduring wrath from unbelievers.
His wrath comes on the sons of disobedience. (Col 3.6)
He rescues us from the wrath to come. (1 Thes 1:10)
God has not destined us for wrath but salvation in Christ. (1 Thes 5:9)
Egypt was punished for its refusal to listen to God’s demands concerning His people. God punished Egypt through ten devastating plagues not unlike events of the last days. Israel suffered some, but supernaturally escaped the devastation rained on the Egyptians.
Here we see the two ends of the suffering spectrum so graphically illustrated in Heb 11.
We observe trust in God enabling great deliverance from suffering and hardship.
We also observe trust in God enabling great endurance through terrible suffering.
We rejoice at the blessed hope promised at the coming of Jesus.
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. Titus 2:11-14
We are also instructed to rejoice at the daily tribulation that troubles the faithful.
2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:3-5
They key is trust in God.
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. 14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
1 Peter 4:12-14
19Those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. 1 Peter 4:19