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Summary: In the Christian classic, Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan wrote this parable about the character Faithful: First they scourged him, then they buffeted him, then they lanced his flesh with knives; after that they stoned him with stones, then pricked him w

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THE 144,000

Revelation 7:1-17

In the Christian classic, Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan wrote this parable about the character Faithful:

First they scourged him, then they buffeted him, then they lanced his flesh with knives; after that they stoned him with stones, then pricked him with their swords, and last of all, they burned him to ashes at the stake. Thus came Faithful to his end.

Now, I saw that there stood behind the multitude a chariot and a couple of horses waiting for Faithful, who was taken up into it, and straightway was carried up through the clouds with sound of trumpet the nearest way to the Celestial Gate.

The martyrdom of Faithful stands out as an exciting episode in Bunyan’s famous story. Is Faithful a heretic, as the jury finds, or is he a true disciple of Christ? It all depends on your perspective.

Are the martyrs of Revelation to be pitied or to be praised? It all depends on your perspective, but the best answer is both!

Have you ever noticed how looking at people from a different vantage point changes what they appear to be? We live in San Diego County. If I arrive in San Diego from the east, I would come over the hills and come through sprawling suburbs, shopping malls, well groomed subdivisions, that merge from dry golden hills. If I were to approach from the west, via the ocean, I would be struck with the sight of a glittering metropolis, skyscrapers and the Coronado bridge that rises over the horizon.

So what is San Diego, a glittering metropolis or sprawling suburbs? It all depends on your perspective, but the best answer is, both. Keep this in mind as we look at chapter 7.

This chapter forms an interlude between the opening of the sixth and seventh seals. It also introduces two groups of people from the tribulation. Here lies the principal exegetical difficulty with our chapter. Who are the 144,000 and the innumerable multitude clothed in white? Is the reference to the tribes of Israel symbolic, representative or literal? Are those described in the multitude martyrs?

Before we begin to deal with the whole chapter in detail, remember that John is seeing the vision of what is to happen in the last days. In these final days there will be an assault by every evil and demonic power with devastating effect. Just before the onslaught of evil, the faithful are to be sealed with the seal of God in order that they may survive it.

Who are these people?

144,000 Sealed

John’s vision is still from heaven. He is high above the earth and can see four angels standing at the four corners of the earth. This phrase does not mean John thought the world was square, but refer to the four primary points on the compass, from which direction the four winds blow.

These angels hold back the wind for the duration of this interlude. There will be no wind, no breeze, no waves breaking on the shore, no movement of clouds in the sky, everything will be deathly still.

The reason for this becomes clear as John sees another angel coming up from the east (sun rising) with a promise of blessings. The seal of the living God is different from the seals on the scroll (Chapter 5). Here the seal is to protect God’s people from the destructive effects of the coming judgment.


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