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Bible Study: The Book of the Revelation – LESSON 6

Calvary Bible Church Bible Study

The Book of the Revelation

 

LESSON 6:

PARENTHETICAL PASSAGE AND OTHER INFORMATION.  7:1-17.

Chapter 7 introduces a new item that can be confusing if it is not understood and recognized.  This component is called a “PARENTHETICAL PASSAGE” (as though the material were in parentheses), and it is a “break” in the normal flow and progress of the action.  In the normal “flow” of things, the SIXTH SEAL would be followed immediately by the SEVENTH SEAL.  However, we find that this “flow” is interrupted by the vision of the 144,000 sealed Jews, and the multitude of Gentiles.  It may help you to think of these parenthetical passages as being like a commercial during a television program.  This is NOT to say that their information is any less important, but that they “break” into the normal flow of events.  As we progress through the rest of the Revelation, you will see other parenthetical passages.

 

The Sealed Remnant Of Israel.  7:1-8.

All interpreters that I have read have seen two distinct groups in this chapter, one mentioned in verses 1–8 and another in verses 9–17. In fact, they are so distinct that some have even considered that they do not belong in the same chapter. But to believe that would be to completely disregard the unity of the passage.

 

vrs     1        The four angels are not prominent creatures, or they would have been specified with more detail. They are God’s providential restraining forces against judgment until the sealing is completed. Winds are known to be God’s agencies to carry out His purposes (Psalm 148:8).

 

vrs     2        The angel in this verse is quite different by description and performance. Just as today the seal is the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30), so it will be in the Seventieth Week. Only Christ can perform this sealing by the Spirit. He is the Angel of the Lord and the Angel of the Covenant of the Old Testament. The seal of the living God probably includes a special impartation of the Holy Spirit for their specific service for God.  It also probably relates to their stand against ungodliness (see Ezekiel 9:1-11).

 

vrs     3        In a period when ownership and security are vital factors (see Revelation 9:4; 14:1; 13:16), the seal of God on the foreheads of His servants is essential to their ministry.

 

vrs     4–8    “I heard the number of them which were sealed.”  Strangely, at this point there is much divergence of views the identity of the company in verses 4–8. Some take an allegorical interpretation, but this allows for great latitude for the imagination and provides nothing firm upon which to rest one’s interpretation. Some indicate the group must be the first fruits of the church (“the Israel of God,” cf. H. Alford, The Greek Testament, Vol. IV, Part II, pp. 623–625). Still others hold they are the Jewish nation in general.  However, any interpretation other than a LITERAL one falls apart for several reasons.  First, that they are of Israel is manifest from their identity (vs. 4); they are from all the tribes of the children of Israel. Second, they cannot be reckoned as the church; for that body is never called Israel (even in 6:16, where the issue is legalizers over against genuine believers in Israel, who are the elect remnant in the church, Romans 11:5).  Third, they cannot be Israel in general; for God would not place His seal upon unbelievers for service to Him. Finally, these servants are from the tribes of Israel, literally so, redeemed by God and sealed for service.  As to the number a hundred and forty and four thousand, some take it literally and others symbolically. If it is understood symbolically, it appears strange that there is such a detailed enumeration of the tribes. If the number appears too small for the magnitude of the task, one needs only to remember that twelve apostles and their converts in the early church turned the world upside down in the first century (Acts 17:6). The fact that Levi is included in the enumeration has intrigued readers of the Apocalypse (he was never given a portion in the land under Joshua, only forty-eight cities in the territories of the other tribes). Also, the list substitutes Joseph for Ephraim; and, most puzzling, it omits Dan. There is no ground for dogmatic assertion here, although many opinions have been offered to explain the omission. One position is that Dan is omitted because the Antichrist will come from that tribe, judging from Genesis 49:17. However, there is not enough evidence to make this assertion with any force.  Notice also, 49:16 is a strong promise. Another explanation is that Dan does not appear in the list because it was the first tribe to embrace idolatry (Judges 18). But nowhere is this serious departure from the Lord evaluated as worse than the idolatries of the other tribes. Moreover, in the distribution of the land in the reign of Christ in Jerusalem, Dan is in fact given his inheritance (Ezekiel 48:1–2).  The time of the sealing is important, even if it can be determined only approximately. Judging from the fact that the sealing is accomplished before the breaking of the seventh seal (8:1), it probably will take place before the last seal, thus before the second half of the Seventieth Week when Satan’s forces will be arrayed against the godly and the witnesses will indeed need the added protection of God for their work. They are a special group commissioned for a specific mission.

 

The Saints (From All Kindreds). 7:9–17.

Again, various opinions have been advanced for the identity of this group. First, it can be stated with confidence that they are not the same group that is mentioned in the first part of the chapter. It is clearly set forth that this second group is from all the nations of the earth, whereas it was clearly presented that the 144,000 were from one nation alone, Israel.  What we DO know is that these people have died in what is referred to as “great tribulation” (literally, “the tribulation, the great one”), and that they apparently died for their testimony.  Could this be the completion of martyrs mentioned as “the souls under the altar” (Revelation 6:9-11)?  Possibly.

 

vrs     9        The great multitude is innumerable, whereas the witnesses from Israel were exactly numbered, even with subdivisions in each case. They have access to the throne, the presence of God, and the Lamb, clothed with white robes, the garments of righteousness. Moreover, the palms in their hands speak of victories over the enemy.

 

vrs     10      Their praise accords with the similar exercise of the redeemed ones in this book.

 

vrs     11–12         Angels, elders and the four beasts join in the symphony of praise to God.

 

vrs     13      One of the elders (since he is part of the church in heaven, he knows the answer, 1st Corinthians 13:12) asked John the identity of the great company, evidently to focus attention on their essential nature.

 

vrs     14      If they are the church, it would seem that the church will continue into at least a part of the section of the Seventieth Week of Daniel, since the elder identifies them as redeemed ones, they which came out of great tribulation (Greek “ek teµs thlipeoµs teµs megaleµs”, out of the Tribulation, the great one).

 

vrs     15.     Where are these redeemed standing? Some declare they are in heaven; others, on earth. It seems that they are in heaven, because this verse mentions that they are before the throne of God and speaks of serving day and night.  Isaiah 66:19–21 teaches that there will be a temple in the Millennium, and Isaiah 4:5–6 predicts a tabernacle as well (for the details of the temple cf. Ezekiel 40–48).  Notice the truest fulfillment of the promise found in the Book of Exodus that God would “dwell among” His people (Exodus 25:8).

 

vrs     16      They shall hunger no more, neither thirst. (see Isaiah 49:10). The reason many cannot conceive of these things happening in the Millennium is their lack of understanding of the glories of that wonderful age and reign, when the Lord Jesus Christ visibly rules the earth from His headquarters and capital in Jerusalem.

 

vrs     17      “For the Lamb shall feed them … lead them … and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”  In view of the unprecedented agonies these redeemed have endured through the Great Tribulation, the words of promise in verses 15–17 are all the more welcome. The truth of Romans 8:18 will be found totally true for them.