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Revelation 7

Chapter 7

v. 1: Note that John says, “After this [vision] I saw [this next vision]…” not “After the things signified by the previous vision happen, then the things signified by this next vision will happen.”  This is important because it allows for the possibility that the things signified by each of these separate visions may overlap (or reemphasize) one another, as I believe they often do.[1] Will Jones in our Bible study group agreed with this idea and noted that other visions recorded in the Bible (such as Pharaoh’s two dreams in Genesis 41:1-7) do the same thing.

v. 3: The seal is the name of God and of Christ (14:1) and is in contrast to the seal of Beast I, which is his name, signified by the number 666 (13:16-18).  I wonder if the names of God and Christ here should be understood as numbers as well.  (I know they could be.)

Initially, the words of the angel made me think that God puts his seal on the foreheads of his people so that they would not be mistaken for unredeemed sinners during the destructive calamity of “the great day of God the Almighty;” (16:14)[2] such an act would be similar to the marking of the faithful with blood on the lintels during the first Passover (Exodus 12:21-23).  I still have not completely rejected this idea,[3] but upon reading chapter 14, I do favor another theory.  I suspect that the angel here is marking those who are destined for martyrdom under the reign of Beast I.  In this case, the complete number referred to in 6:11 would be 144,000.  Whatever the case, it should be noted that this sealing does not seem to be a common act that happens to all Christians the moment they become Christians.  These people are recognized as Christians, “servants of our God,” before the sealing.  Thus, the sealing is for another purpose beyond simply acknowledging them as Christians.  It is specifically designed for those who will have to face “the great ordeal” (7:14) of the reign of Beast I.

Vs. 4-8: These verses describe the marking of the 144,000.  This number should be understood symbolically rather than literally.  As proof, just look at the number of the tribes of Israel in this section.  The literal truth is that there were more tribes than 12: Dan and Ephraim are both left out of this list of 12.  Nevertheless, the number of tribes is fixed at 12 because of the symbolism of the number itself.  Similarly, the number of those marked with the seal of God here is called 144,000 because of the significance of the number as a multiple of 12, not because it is the literal number of those who will be sealed at that time.

Albrecht Dürer Four Angels Staying the Winds and Signing the Chosen

 

 

vs. 9-17: Verses 1-8 describe one vision.  Verse 9 begins another.  Verses 9-17 describe a scene in heaven after “the great day of God the Almighty” (16:14)[4] and the final judgment of humanity.  The reason I believe that 7:9-17 describe heaven after the final judgment is because the imagery of these verses (the water of life, the wiping away of tears) is so similar to imagery describing heaven and spiritual Jerusalem after the final judgment.  For instance, compare 7:15-17 with 21:2-4, and 22:1.

v. 9: Johnson believes this great multitude represents the Gentile Christians as opposed to the Jewish Christians, who he believes are represented by the 144,000.  This is a reasonable conclusion on one level since this great multitude is from “every nation” and the 144,000 were so overtly drawn from the tribes of Israel.  However, I do not think Johnson is correct.  I think this great multitude and the 144,000 represent the same thing: all the Christian martyrs (Jews and Gentiles) who “come out of the great ordeal” (7:14).  Here are my reasons:

1)  I believe the great multitude includes both Jews and Gentiles because its people are described by the elder as “they who have come out of the great ordeal,” not as “the Gentile Christians who have come out of the great ordeal.”  Besides, the 144,000 are described as “the servants of our God” (7:3) rather than “the Jewish servants of our God.”[5]

2) I believe the great multitude is made entirely of martyrs because the elder says that they have “come out of the great ordeal” and “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (7:14).  An ordeal is a time of trial and suffering, a time that is likely to produce a number of martyrs.  This is called “the great ordeal,” and in the context of Revelation, this seems like a reference to the 3 ½ years during which Beast I “is allowed to make war on the saints” (13:7).  As for the white robes, it is true that all Christians (not just martyrs) are made pure by the blood of the Lamb (and could, therefore, be described metaphorically as wearing white robes), but I think that the white robes of these Christians in this great multitude allude to the white robe of 6:11, the robe given to the martyrs.

Thus, I believe the first vision (7:1-8) describes the sealing of all Christians (Jews and Gentiles) who will be martyred during the reign of Beast I.  This same group is represented in the next vision (7:9-17) to assure John (and us) that they would, in fact, be saved and honored.

One argument against this theory might point out that the group of 144,000 could be counted, whereas “no one could count” the great multitude, but this can be easily answered.  Saying that no one could count the multitude is merely a way of communicating the vastness of the multitude rather than a literal statement of fact.  The number, however large, must be finite since it represents a finite group (i.e., “those who come out of the great ordeal”)  of humanity, which is itself a finite group.  At the very least, God himself could count it, but I suspect others could too if they wanted to badly enough.

v. 13: I wonder why the elder asks John this.  Perhaps he is testing John or inviting him to ask the question himself.

v. 14: This great multitude does not depict all the redeemed humans who ever lived.  According to the elder, it only depicts those who will be martyred during the 3 ½ years of the reign of Beast I on earth, i.e., those who “come through the great ordeal.”

As I try to understand these visions, it is a little disconcerting to notice that John himself does not understand the vision until it is explained by the elder.  Oh well.…


[1] See notes on 6:2 but also on 9:12.

[2] For a discussion of this day, see notes at 20:4.

[3] 9:4, for instance, seems to confirm the Blood on the Lintels Theory.

[4] For a discussion of this day, see notes at 20:4.

[5] Remember Romans 2:28-29.

12 Responses to “Revelation 7”

  1. […] in the sixth seal must have happened before the events of the first four seals.  See also notes on 7:9-17, which describe how another vision in the sixth seal seems to symbolize events after those […]

  2. […] in the sixth seal must have happened before the events of the first four seals.  See also notes on 7:9-17, which describe how another vision in the sixth seal seems to symbolize events after those […]

  3. […] See 7:3 […]

  4. […] See 7:3 […]

  5. […] each of these separate visions may overlap (or reemphasize) one another, as I believe they often do.[1] Will Jones in our Bible study group agreed with this idea and noted that other visions recorded in […]

  6. […] each of these separate visions may overlap (or reemphasize) one another, as I believe they often do.[1] Will Jones in our Bible study group agreed with this idea and noted that other visions recorded in […]

  7. […] 1)  I believe the great multitude includes both Jews and Gentiles because its people are described by the elder as “they who have come out of the great ordeal,” not as “the Gentile Christians who have come out of the great ordeal.”  Besides, the 144,000 are described as “the servants of our God” (7:3) rather than “the Jewish servants of our God.”[5] […]

  8. […] 1)  I believe the great multitude includes both Jews and Gentiles because its people are described by the elder as “they who have come out of the great ordeal,” not as “the Gentile Christians who have come out of the great ordeal.”  Besides, the 144,000 are described as “the servants of our God” (7:3) rather than “the Jewish servants of our God.”[5] […]

  9. […] in the sixth seal must have happened before the events of the first four seals.  See also notes on 7:9-17, which describe how another vision in the sixth seal seems to symbolize events after those […]

  10. […] [3] See also note on 7:1. […]

  11. […] in the sixth seal must have happened before the events of the first four seals.  See also notes on 7:9-17, which describe how another vision in the sixth seal seems to symbolize events after those […]

  12. […] [3] See also note on 7:1. […]

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