Revelation 7:1-8 NLTse Then I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds so they did not blow on the earth or the sea, or even on any tree. (2) And I saw another angel coming up from the east, carrying the seal of the living God. And he shouted to those four angels, who had been given power to harm land and sea, (3) “Wait! Don’t harm the land or the sea or the trees until we have placed the seal of God on the foreheads of his servants.” (4) And I heard how many were marked with the seal of God–144,000 were sealed from all the tribes of Israel: (5) from Judah……………12,000 from Reuben……………12,000 from Gad……………12,000 (6) from Asher……………12,000 from Naphtali……………12,000 from Manasseh……………12,000 (7) from Simeon……………12,000 from Levi……………12,000 from Issachar……………12,000 (8) from Zebulun……………12,000 from Joseph……………12,000 from Benjamin……………12,000
We’re supposed to be looking for visions of Heaven to understand what Heaven is, what it looks like, where God lives, and what we hope to one day see. One of the aspects of Heaven the Book of Revelation gives us is an account of Heaven’s point of view when attention is focused on this world. That is a mistake a lot of philosophers make. They take a book like Revelation, then mold it into a view the world understands, and the majority of people agree with. They can’t grasp onto the fact, this book and message is from Heaven, thereby giving us a view from Heaven’s perspective.
John is still in Heaven looking at this world. God’s throne is still behind him. Millions of angels are all around. Suddenly all of Heaven grows silent. You could hear a pin drop. The only sound John hears is his own breath. John suddenly realizes his cloths are old, torn, tattered, and dirty. John feels the dirt upon his skin, feeling like he is out of place, but knowing he is welcome in Heaven. God called John to Heaven. Strange beings called John from one scene to another. Every angel knew John was visiting Heaven to gain a view of this world each of those angels shared. If only earth could see the contrasts between their perfect home in Heaven and how men changed God’s creation on earth. If only men could see the devil working over them and understand Satan’s goals.
Satan wants to attack this world. The first four seals showed how Satan marches about with his weapons, a crown on his head, gaining what he considers victories, destroying everything and everyone that is good, and using the riches of this world like a shiny lure to draw a fish to its last meal. If it wasn’t for God holding back Satan, he would destroy every one of Christ’s followers in a less than a day. Satan has his angels stationed all over this world watching every one of Christ’s followers. He has each of them numbered. That’s all they are to Satan, numbers to worry about, numbers to plot against, numbers he wants to destroy.
To Heaven, this world is the battle ground of the Universe. No other planet has to go through what this world is experiencing. All of this war, violence, greed, and death are rather foreign to the angels and beings on other planets. Think of living in a perfect society with no locks, no police, no armies, no crime, no sickness or death, looking down at this planet and trying to figure out how we reduced common sense to less than what insects have in their world. We look like a totally different race of beings. How do you think a living angel in Heaven would describe the scene here in earth?
There seems to be two sides to the 144,000 mentioned in this chapter. Is the number a symbol, an exact physical number, or something else? What have we been dealing with so far in Revelation, physical or spiritual aspects? Where is this number located, in Heaven of earth? Is there a time when this number is counted? Does this number deal specifically with physical Israel, or is Israel a symbol? We have a lot of questions. Each person in the 144,000 received God’s seal. That is an important detail. The seal is placed on their foreheads for everyone to see. Is it a physical or spiritual seal? Can we see it on earth, or is the seal for Heaven to see? Who set the seal on those people? If angels set the seal, maybe they are the only ones who can see it. Out of all those tribes we see listed, a few names are missing, people we would expect to see sealed. What about Jacob? There is no tribe of Jacob, but Israel as a whole is Jacob. What about Issac, Abraham, the 318 men who followed him into battle, Adam, Eve, their son Able, and a host of other people like Enoch? How could that 144,000 represent all the people sealed by God in the general view many people share?
A Vast Crowd
Revelation 7:9-12 NLTse (9) After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. (10) And they were shouting with a mighty shout, “Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!” (11) And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living beings. And they fell before the throne with their faces to the ground and worshiped God. (12) They sang, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength belong to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
Another example of the Bible answering a question. Would John describe 144,000 as a vast crowd? It is a large number, but when John says, “too great to count,” that indicated more than 144,000. “Every nation, tribe, and language,” tells us, those people came from earth. We are told how God changed languages in a story recorded in Genesis. No one knows the language spoken in Heaven, but the Bible has no indication Heaven is made up of many nations and languages.
Once all those people were gathered, it seems they all spoke the same language. John heard what they were singing, “Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!” Could John have understood those words if they were spoken in different languages?
Those people were not angels. John mentioned a separate group of angels in the same story. If people choose to segregate one part of a story in the Bible, like that 144,000, they can come up with rather strange interpretations. When other parts of the story are compared, contradictions and questions arise.
Revelation 7:13-17 NLTse (13) Then one of the twenty-four elders asked me, “Who are these who are clothed in white? Where did they come from?” (14) And I said to him, “Sir, you are the one who knows.” Then he said to me, “These are the ones who died in the great tribulation. They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white. (15) “That is why they stand in front of God’s throne and serve him day and night in his Temple. And he who sits on the throne will give them shelter. (16) They will never again be hungry or thirsty; they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun. (17) For the Lamb on the throne will be their Shepherd. He will lead them to springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”
As we continue in this chapter, we see key words telling us a sequence of events. Key words such as, “after this,” and, “then,” tell us, John was told to record the specific order of events. One event led into another. Then questions were answered. Without a doubt, God knew people would use one little part of this chapter in ways it was never intended to be used. Organizations use the number 144,000 to convince people, they have to be members of that organization to be saved. Those organizations claim a higher degree of wisdom and knowledge. That’s why John was told to record the song telling us where true wisdom comes from. “Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength belong to our God forever and ever!” Letters to those churches confirmed, outside influences will creep in to trick people. We should know how to judge between deceptions and the truth. When we pay attention, John’s visions teaches us how.
John didn’t try to answer the question himself. John relied on a source from Heaven. A source he knew he could trust. A source that could not lie. Symbols like those white robes, seated on thrones in front of God’s throne, and the title, elder, all point to one that has been cleansed by God, is in God’s presence, can prove they are in God’s presence, can describe God and His throne, and can be trusted. John gives us the key to understanding and safety. Many people choose to speculate on the numbers and groups in this chapter, but John showed us, go to a reliable source for the answer. Don’t speculate. John’s reactions are calculated and arranged to teach an important lesson.
That lesson, its question and the answer bring us to one of the most misused and abused words in the Bible, tribulation. More has been written, preached, taught, and speculated about that word than any other word in the Bible. Story books have been written, movies produced, and large congregations have popped up around that one word. No one seems to read the Bible, or look at the context that word was used in. Once again, the Bible defined that tribulation, but who wants to read the Bible?
“That is why they stand in front of God’s throne and serve him day and night in his Temple. And he who sits on the throne will give them shelter. They will never again be hungry or thirsty; they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun. For the Lamb on the throne will be their Shepherd. He will lead them to springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”
Will people suffer physical hunger, thirst, and heat after they turn to Jesus? Of course they will. We have to look at the physical and spiritual aspects of those symbols. Jesus used hunger and thirst as symbols. “Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.” Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me. However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them. For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will. And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. (John 6:34-39 NLTse).
People have taken that hunger and thirst and turned it into a money making religion. They took the security Jesus promised and turned it into an action, adventure religion, where people face insurmountable odds and somehow come out on top. People figure out the symbols, identify a single threat, and battle that threat using their wits and man made weapons. The spirituality is so twisted, all the truth is lost.
We have a vision of Heaven to look at. But many people choose to look at the world for answers. They choose to look to leaders hiding inside holes, and behind rocks for answers. People who speak to rocks and build mountains they think can stand up to God, His plan, and will. The mountains that crumble and fall when Jesus returns.
John gave us a view of Heaven. John described God on His throne, and the Lamb standing in front of God. If our place is with Jesus, why would we stand anywhere else expect in God’s presence? John was taken there in vision, and told where God’s people will be, “they stand in front of God’s throne and serve him day and night in his Temple. And he who sits on the throne will give them shelter.” This chapter is filled with symbolism. Then why jump to conclusions based on one single word in this chapter and assume John saw people in front of God’s throne in the physical state? What about the spiritual? Shouldn’t it be the goal of every Christian to gain the view of Heaven John had?
Did you ever ask why God chose John to write the Book of Revelation? Have you read John’s Gospel? Jesus asked, “Do you finally believe? But the time is coming–indeed it’s here now–when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:31-33 NLTse).
Jesus was with the Father, and the Father was with Jesus. Didn’t Jesus teach about that connection He had when He walked in flesh and blood upon the earth? Didn’t Jesus want us to receive that same connection? Didn’t the disciples have trouble understanding that connection, and didn’t Jesus tell them, one day they would understand? If Jesus made all those promises, and taught about that connection with God, why do some people think, we have to wait for a certain moment in time to stand with Jesus at God’s throne to worship Him?
The problem is, only those who worship God day and night can experience God in the way John described. Because that takes faith, dedication, and time, the world contours up an easier way, and offers that as a solution. It isn’t a solution. It’s not even close. Wait until a certain day and stand in front of God. What about that seal of God? Are you sealed if you wait until the last minute to worship God on His throne? What about the judgment? There are a million views on the judgment, many of them follow the same thought, wait until the last minute, some predetermined time. When your name comes before God, will He say He knows you, or not?
Are there tears in Heaven, or is Jesus wiping them away while we are still stuck in this world? Are we going to wait until we are in Heaven to be lead to those springs of life giving water, or are we led to spiritual water in this life? It seems the world has one view on God, and John has been giving us another view.