1. After his I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that no wind should blow on the earth, or on the sea, or upon any tree.
2 And I saw another angel ascend from the sunrising, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a great voice to the four angels to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea,
3 saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we shall have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.
These verses remind the reader that there is nothing that happens that God does not know about. He is in control. Again, this must be stressed to those suffering persecution (as well as to those suffering indifference and apathy in the modern world).
4 And I heard the number of them that were sealed, a hundred and forty and four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the children of Israel:
5 Of the tribe of Judah were sealed twelve thousand: Of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand; Of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand;
6 Of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand; Of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand; Of the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand;
7 Of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand; Of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand; Of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand;
8 Of the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand; Of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand; Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.
It must be noted that the tribe of Dan is excluded from this list. The reason is that in first Century Judaism, the tribe of Dan was despised as the tribe which had introduced idolatry into Israel in ancient times. The tribe thereby became a byword in Israel and the Church for those who worship other gods. Those who do worship other gods cannot expect to find themselves numbered among the people. 144,000 is simply symbolic. It is not meant to be an exact number (as some mistakenly take it); rather it is the people of God perfectly and completely (for the perfect number is 10. 10 times 10 is 100, etc. The number twelve is representative of the people of God as in the 12 tribes and the 12 apostles).
9 After these things I saw, and behold, a great multitude, which no man could number, out of every nation and of all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, arrayed in white robes, and palms in their hands;
Further, the exact number cannot be figured, as this verse clearly shows. Thus, those groups which say that there are only 144,000 saved folk have both misread and misrepresented the Scriptures. Cf. Deut. 12:3.
The palms in their hands are symbols of the victory wrought by God which they are privileged to participate in.
10 and they cry with a great voice, saying, Salvation unto our God who sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb.
11 And all the angels were standing round about the throne, and about the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,
12 saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
Its true! God does provide salvation and joy to his people.
13. And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, These that are arrayed in white robes, who are they, and whence came they?
14 And I say unto him, My lord, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they that come of the great tribulation, and they washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15 Therefore are they before the throne of God; and they serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall spread his tabernacle over them.
We dwell with God and He dwells with us. In the face of this, what does it matter if the Romans appear to have the upper hand. In reality they do not, for we know that it is God who dwells as Lord. And since He dwells with us we need fear nothing, not even the persecution of the insane Domitian.
16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun strike upon them, nor any heat:
17 for the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them unto fountains of waters of life: and God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes.
In 1st century Judaism it was expected that when the Messiah came the land would literally flow with plentiful water. Those who have visited Israel (especially its southern and western parts) know what a tremendous promise this is; for the land is very dry. In short, God promises here to be the very thing that His people need most.
Not only will He be everything they need; he will comfort them in such a way that their eyes are dried of tears. What bliss!
Copyright © Quartz Hill School of Theology. All Rights Reserved.