1. Amen! Hallelujah! - A study of the Book of Revelation
How Long, Sovereign Lord? (Part 2)
Text: Revelation 7:1-17
Date: April 15, 2007
Palm Desert Church
2. Lesson 7—How Long, Sovereign Lord? (Part 2)
THE SEALING OF 144,000
REV 7:1-8 WEB
After this, I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the
four winds of the earth, so that no wind would blow on the earth, or on the
sea, or on any tree. I saw another angel ascend from the sunrise, having the
seal of the living God. He cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it
was given to harm the earth and the sea, saying, "Don't harm the earth,
neither the sea, nor the trees, until we have sealed the bondservants of our
God on their foreheads!" I heard the number of those who were sealed, one
hundred forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the children of Israel:
Of the tribe of Judah were sealed twelve thousand, Of the tribe of Reuben
twelve thousand, Of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand, Of the tribe of Asher
twelve thousand, Of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand, Of the tribe of
Manasseh twelve thousand, Of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand, Of the
tribe of Levi twelve thousand, Of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand, Of the
tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand, Of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand, Of
the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.
THIS IS AN INTERLUDE BETWEEN THE SIXTH AND SEVENTH SEALS
•It asks the question: "What will happen to God's people when he executes his
judgment on his enemies?"
•The scene begins when John sees four angels holding back the winds to delay
God's judgment for a time.
•The picture of God using the four winds as agents of his judgment are seen in
various places in the Old Testament prophets.
THE PROPHETS USE WIND TO DESCRIBE GOD'S JUDGMENT ON JUDAH
•Jer 4:11-12 WEB At that time shall it be said to this people and to Jerusalem, A
hot wind from the bare heights in the wilderness toward the daughter of my
people, not to winnow, nor to cleanse; a full wind from these shall come for
me: now will I also utter judgments against them.
•Jer 18:17 WEB I will scatter them as with an east wind before the enemy; I will
show them the back, and not the face, in the day of their calamity.
WIND DESCRIBES GOD'S JUDGMENT OF ELAM
Jer 49:34-38 WEB The word of Yahweh that came to Jeremiah the prophet
concerning Elam, in the … reign of Zedekiah king of Judah .., Thus says
3. Lesson 7—How Long, Sovereign Lord? (Part 2)
Yahweh of Hosts: Behold, I will break the bow of Elam … On Elam will I bring
the four winds from the four quarters of the sky, and will scatter them toward
all those winds; and there shall be no nation where the outcasts of Elam shall
not come. I will cause Elam to be dismayed before their enemies, and before
those who seek their life; and I will bring evil on them, even my fierce anger,
says Yahweh; and I will send the sword after them, until I have consumed
them; and I will set my throne in Elam, and will destroy from there king and
WIND ALSO DESCRIBES GOD'S JUDGMENT OF THE NORTH
• Zec 6:1-8 WEB Again I … saw … four chariots … In the first … were red
horses; in the second … black horses; in the third … white horses; and in the
fourth … dappled horses, all of them powerful. Then I asked the angel who
talked with me, "What are these, my lord?" The angel answered me, "These
are the four winds of the sky, which go forth from standing before the Lord of
all the earth. The one with the black horses goes out toward the north
country; and the white went out after them; and the dappled went forth toward
the south country." The strong went out, and sought to go that they might
walk back and forth through the earth: and he said, "Go around and through
the earth!" So they walked back and forth through the earth. Then he called to
me, and spoke to me, saying, "Behold, those who go toward the north country
have quieted my spirit in the north country."
THE PRIMARY OT BACKGROUND FOR THIS SCENE IS FOUND IN EZEKIEL 9:1-11
• Eze 9:1-11 WEB Then he cried … Cause you them that have charge over the
city to draw near, every man with his destroying weapon … Behold, six men
came from the way of the upper gate … every man with his slaughter weapon
… and one man … clothed in linen, with a writer's inkhorn ... They went in,
and stood beside the brazen altar … and he called to the man clothed in
linen ... Yahweh said to him, Go through … the midst of Jerusalem, and set a
mark on the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry over all the
abominations that are done in … it. To the others he said … Go you through
the city after him, and strike: don't let your eye spare, neither have you pity;
kill utterly the old man, the young man and the virgin, and little children and
women; but don't come near any man on whom is the mark: and begin at my
THE PROPHET SEES ARMED GUARDS TAKING STATIONS AT THE TEMPLE
•While they wait, a scribe goes throughout Jerusalem, placing a mark on the
foreheads of godly people who grieve because of the corruption of Jerusalem
•When all the godly are marked, the guards are told to start at the temple and to
4. Lesson 7—How Long, Sovereign Lord? (Part 2)
kill everyone who doesn't have the mark
•The vision is designed to assure the godly that they will be preserved when
God hammers Jerusalem with the sword of Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC
IN REVELATION 7, JOHN SEES A SIMILAR VISION
•The winds of judgment are held back until all of God's people are marked for
•God has his seal of approval placed on his people before he hammers his
•It is the assurance that God can take care of his own even when dealing with
•2Ti 2:19 WEB However God's firm foundation stands, having this seal, "The
Lord knows those who are his," and, "Let every one who names the name of
the Lord depart from unrighteousness."
BUT WHY ARE WE TOLD THAT 144,000 ARE SEALED?
•This is intended to make us think of the numbers 12 and 1000, because we are
told that the 144,000 consists of 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes.
•In other words, the 144,000 consists of 12 X 12 X 1000.
REMEMBER THAT 12 AND ITS MULTIPLES ARE USED TO IDENTIFY GOD’S PEOPLE
When we think of God's people in the Old Testament, we think of the twelve
patriarchs and the twelve tribes. When we think of God's people in the New
Testament, we think of the twelve apostles. We've already seen God's
redeemed people depicted as twenty-four elders sitting on thrones around
God's throne in heaven and we identified them as the redeemed under the
old and new covenants.
Rev 4:4 WEB Around the throne were twenty-four thrones. On the thrones were
twenty-four elders sitting, dressed in white garments, with crowns of gold on
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO GOD'S PEOPLE WHEN HE DESTROYS HIS ENEMIES?
•God knows those who are his and he will preserve them. But, from a human
perspective, the reader might wonder whether any of the godly might be
overlooked and fall victim to God's judgment?
•The number 144,000 is designed to assure the godly that God doesn't make
5. Lesson 7—How Long, Sovereign Lord? (Part 2)
•How many of God’s people are going to get sealed & protected? All of them!
•How many are going to slip through the cracks? None of them!
NUMBERS ARE IMPORTANT IN APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE
•Forexample 1,000 signifies "all" of something. Psalms uses the number to
assert that all cattle in the world belong to God
•Psa 50:9-11 WEB I have no need for a bull from your stall, Nor male goats from
your pens. For every animal of the forest is mine, And the cattle on a
thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains. The wild animals of the
field are mine.
•When the Lord says "the cattle on 1,000 hills" belong to him, that is tantamount
to saying "all the cattle" belong to him
NUMBERS ARE SIGNIFICANT TO US, TOO
•How many of us haven't said to wayward children “I’ve told you a thousand
times” to do or not do something.
•We seldom think about the fact that we use a dozen to describe a complete set
of something, or that we habitually do not have a thirteenth floor in a hotel.
•These are carry-overs that remind us that numbers have a symbolic
significance to us, as well.
SEALING 12,000 EACH FROM 12 TRIBES MEANS ALL OF GOD'S PEOPLE WERE SEALED
•But why just seal individuals from Israel?
•And why not from all of the tribes?
•Numbers are figurative, not literal – they are not intended to be precise
•Forexample, here it would be easy to overlook the fact that there were actually
thirteen tribes of Israel - not twelve.
CHECK IT OUT
•We speak of twelve patriarchs, because Jacob had twelve sons.
•We also know that there were twelve land divisions in the Promised Land.
•But there were actually thirteen tribes.
6. Lesson 7—How Long, Sovereign Lord? (Part 2)
THE PATRIARCHS ARE NOT THE SAME AS THE TRIBES
•Before Jacob died, he adopted Joseph's sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, in
place of Joseph.
•Gen 48:1-22 WEB It happened after these things, that someone said to Joseph,
"Behold, your father is sick." He took with him his two sons, Manasseh and
Ephraim. … Israel strengthened himself, and sat on the bed. Jacob said to
Joseph, "… Now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt
before I came to you into Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh, even as
Reuben and Simeon, will be mine. …
AS A RESULT, THERE WAS NO TRIBE OF JOSEPH
•In the place of Joseph, there were two tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim.
•Thus, even though Jacob had twelve sons, Israel actually was divided into
•In the list in Revelation 7, the tribe of Joseph refers to Ephraim, since
Manasseh is listed separately. This is consistent with other OT references.
OT REFERENCES TO A TRIBE OF JOSEPH REFER TO ONE – OR BOTH – OF HIS SONS
•It could be a reference to both Ephraim and Manasseh
Jos 18:11 WEB The lot of the tribe of the children of Benjamin came up
according to their families. The border of their lot went out between the
children of Judah and the children of Joseph.
•Or it could be a reference to Ephraim, alone
Psa 78:67 WEB Moreover he rejected the tent of Joseph, and didn't choose
the tribe of Ephraim
THERE WERE ONLY TWELVE LAND DIVISIONS IN THE PROMISED LAND
•But when you look closely at the land divisions, you find that there was no land
division assigned to the tribe of Levi.
•Jos 13:14 WEB Only to the tribe of Levi he gave no inheritance; the offerings of
Yahweh, the God of Israel, made by fire are his inheritance, as he spoke to
•Jos 13:33 WEB But to the tribe of Levi Moses gave no inheritance: Yahweh, the
God of Israel, is their inheritance, as he spoke to them.
SO THERE WERE 12 PATRIARCHS AND 12 LAND DIVISIONS, BUT 13 TRIBES
7. Lesson 7—How Long, Sovereign Lord? (Part 2)
•In Revelation 7, you have to look closely to find that one of the tribes is missing.
•When John recites 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes, he lists Ephraim as
Joseph and leaves Dan out of the list, entirely.
•Why would that be? Is it because there is no one from the tribe of Dan who is
•No, rather, it is because the purpose of the numbers is not to mathematically
quantify the godly.
REMEMBER THAT THE ANCIENTS DID NOT VIEW NUMBERS AS WE DO
•Matthew left out names in order to list 14 generations between Abraham &
David, David & the Exile, & the Exile & Jesus.
Mat 1:17 WEB So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen
generations; from David to the exile to Babylon fourteen generations; and
from the carrying away to Babylon to the Christ, fourteen generations.
•He did so because he wanted the reader to see the number 14, the number
that represented the name of David
DON'T TAKE 144,000 LITERALLY AND DON'T LOOK FOR 12,000 EACH FROM 12
The point is: God knows his people & doesn't miss even one
He protects every godly saint
Why 144,000 from Israel?
Were there no godly Gentiles around?
By now, Christian writers have taken to considering the church as the real Israel
Gal 6:15-16 WEB For in Christ Jesus neither is circumcision anything, nor
uncircumcision, but a new creation. As many as walk by this rule, peace
and mercy be on them, on God's Israel.
PAUL WAS POINTING OUT THE FUTILITY OF JUDAISM AND THE SUPERIORITY OF
Being a Jew, or not being a Jew doesn't matter. All that matters is being in
Phi 3:3-7 WEB For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit,
and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh; though I
8. Lesson 7—How Long, Sovereign Lord? (Part 2)
myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If any other man thinks
that he has confidence in the flesh, I yet more: circumcised the eighth day,
of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews;
concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the
assembly; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, found
blameless. However, what things were gain to me, these have I counted
loss for Christ.
JESUS' BROTHER DESCRIBED CHRISTIANS AS "12 TRIBES OF THE DISPERSION"
•Jam 1:1 WEB James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the
twelve tribes which are in the Dispersion: Greetings.
•Likewise, when John speaks of the 144,000 as the tribes of Israel, that is not
•He is speaking of Christians - Jew and Gentile - who are sealed for protection
in the day of tribulation associated with God's judgments
THE GREAT MULTITUDE
REV 7:9-17 WEB
• After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no man could
number, out of every nation and of all tribes, peoples, and languages,
standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes, with
palm branches in their hands. They cried with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation
be to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" All the angels were
standing around the throne, the elders, and the four living creatures; and they
fell on their faces before his throne, and worshiped God, saying, "Amen!
Blessing, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honor, power, and might, be to our
God forever and ever! Amen." One of the elders answered, saying to me,
"These who are arrayed in white robes, who are they, and from where did
they come?" I told him, "My lord, you know." He said to me, "These are those
who came out of the great tribulation. They washed their robes, and made
them white in the Lamb's blood. Therefore they are before the throne of God,
they serve him day and night in his temple. He who sits on the throne will
spread his tent over them. They will never be hungry, neither thirsty any
more; neither will the sun beat on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in
the midst of the throne shepherds them, and leads them to springs of waters
of life. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
IF THE 144,000 IS THE CHURCH ON EARTH, WHO IS THE GREAT MULTITUDE OF 7:9-
9. Lesson 7—How Long, Sovereign Lord? (Part 2)
•Some writers say that the 144,000 represent the redeemed of the Jews and
that the great multitude represents the redeemed of the Gentiles.
•They point to the fact that the 144,000 come from the tribes of Israel and that
the great multitude comes from "every nation, tribe, people and language".
THERE IS SOMETHING THAT IS MORE COMPELLING
•The 144,000 are on earth; the great multitude is in heaven
•The great multitude is "before the throne and before the Lamb." They are
wearing white robes and praising God and the Lamb. They are in heaven,
and not on earth.
•By contrast, the 144,000 were those sealed for protection while they were still
•The 144,000 are the redeemed facing distress on earth; the great multitude is
the redeemed after the distress of the earth is behind them.
ONE OF THE ELDERS ASKS "WHO ARE THEY, AND FROM WHERE DID THEY COME?"
•When John doesn't know the answer, the elder gives the answer: they are the
overcomers enjoying their reward.
•Rev 7:13-14 WEB One of the elders answered, saying to me, "These who are
arrayed in white robes, who are they, and from where did they come?" I told
him, "My lord, you know." He said to me, "These are those who came out of
the great tribulation. They washed their robes, and made them white in the
THESE ARE THE MARTYRS WE SAW UNDER THE ALTAR IN THE FIFTH SEAL
•Rev 6:9-11 WEB When he opened the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the
souls of those who had been killed for the Word of God, and for the testimony
of the Lamb which they had. (10) They cried with a loud voice, saying, "How
long, Master, the holy and true, until you judge and avenge our blood on
those who dwell on the earth?" (11) A long white robe was given to each of
them. They were told that they should rest yet for a while, until their fellow
servants and their brothers, who would also be killed even as they were,
should complete their course.
THE 144,000 ARE ON EARTH; THE GREAT MULTITUDE IS IN HEAVEN
The 144,000 saints face persecution and are promised God's protection
The great multitude are saints who have gone on to their reward.
10. Lesson 7—How Long, Sovereign Lord? (Part 2)
Both may be the same group from two perspectives:
From earth's viewpoint, they are protected and preserved by God
From heaven's viewpoint, their reward is already secured
Even if they are not the same group at the moment, the 144,000 will become a
part of the great multitude if they are faithful to death
SHIFTING VANTAGE POINTS IS A COMMON FEATURE OF APOCALYPTIC WRITINGS
•It is seen in elsewhere in Revelation.
•Remember that John saw Jesus ascend to heaven in Acts 1, but in Revelation
5, he saw the same scene from heaven's viewpoint, as the Lamb enters the
throne room of God.
IN REVELATION 1:9FF, JOHN SEES JESUS WALKING IN HEAVEN'S TABERNACLE
•In that scene, he is inspecting the lampstands that he identifies as the
•Then, in Revelation 2-3, he sends a message to each of the churches on earth
in the seven cities.
•The vision is of Jesus walking among his churches, but the messages are sent
from heaven to earth.
REVELATION 12 SHIFTS FROM EARTH TO HEAVEN AND BACK TO EARTH
•First, the Dragon (identified as Satan) seeks to devour the child of the woman.
•When he is unsuccessful, he chases the child into heaven.
•When he loses the conflict in heaven, he pursues her other children on earth.
OTHER PASSAGES REFER TO ACTIVITIES IN HEAVEN THAT HAVE AN EFFECT ON EARTH
Daniel 10 gives insight into this
Daniel's prayers are interrupted by an angel who tells Daniel that he had
intended to come to set Daniel's mind at ease earlier, but he had been
detained by conflict with the Prince of Persia
Michael showed up to take over the fight with the Persian prince, so that the
angel could make his trip to see Daniel
Then, the angel leaves Daniel to join Michael in the fight against the Prince of
11. Lesson 7—How Long, Sovereign Lord? (Part 2)
He goes on to say "when I go, the prince of Greece will come"
DAN 10:10-13 WEB
Behold, a hand touched me, which set me on my knees and on the palms of my
hands. He said to me, Daniel, you man greatly beloved, understand the
words that I speak to you, and stand upright; for to you am I now sent. When
he had spoken this word to me, I stood trembling. Then said he to me, Don't
be afraid, Daniel; for from the first day that you did set your heart to
understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard:
and I am come for your words' sake. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia
withstood me twenty-one days; but, behold, Michael, one of the chief princes,
came to help me: and I remained there with the kings of Persia.
Dan 10:20-21 WEB Then he said, "Do you know why I have come to you? Now
I will return to fight with the prince of Persia. When I go forth, behold, the
prince of Greece shall come. But I will tell you that which is inscribed in the
writing of truth: and there is none who holds with me against these, but
Michael your prince."
CYRUS, THE PERSIAN KING THOUGHT HE WAS FIGHTING ALEXANDER THE GREAT
•He didn't know he was engaged in a heavenly conflict, involving angels, that
was designed to bring down Persia and to elevate Greece!
•This is the fulfillment of the vision of a ram and a goat in Daniel 8
Dan 8:19-21 WEB He said, Behold, I will make you know what shall be in
the latter time of the indignation; for it belongs to the appointed time of the
end. (20) The ram which you saw, that had the two horns, they are the
kings of Media and Persia. (21) The rough male goat is the king of
Greece: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king.
REVELATION 7 PRESENTS TWO PERSPECTIVES OF ONE COMMON THEME
•The message is the same, whether you look at it from the vantage point of
godly people on earth (the 144,000) or godly people who have gone on to
their reward (the great multitude)
•The message is this: God is able to protect and preserve his people here - and
he is able to provide for them hereafter!