“The Unveiling of Jesus”
IV. Chp. 6-19 The tribulation on earth: (1:19c) “The things which will take place after this”
Chp. 6-9 The first half
“Those who are able to stand”
II. Vs. 1-8 Sealed bond servants
III. Vs. 9-17 Saved by the blood of the lamb
In the 6th chapter we saw the natural progression of the human race left to its own desires apart from any preserving influence from the Church and the two responses of the human race to that.
- The first was to turn and trust God
- The second was to run form God’s love and grace.
It is this second group that asked the question as to who was able to stand before the wrath of the Lamb? Before we seek the answer to their question (which is given us in this chapter) there is a quick observation between this chapter and the one that proceeded it as well as the one that follows it. We see judgment suspended as the scene switches to heaven as we are introduced to two groups that will be able to not only stand but also worship and serve the Lamb as well.
II. Vs. 1-8 Sealed bond servants
Vs. 1 It important to take in account the setting in which something is said, here we notice that John specifically says the words “After these things” prior to telling us that which he saw. The question “Who is able to stand” was uttered by the inhabitants of the earth that were attempting to flee from the Lamb of God. In verse 9 John’s words related to the setting “After these things” here in this verse those words appear directly in front of the introduction of the gentile multitude in heaven. That helps us understand the word “servants” (bond servant) in verse three that these 144,000 Jews will be directly involved in leading those gentile multitude which no one can number to faith in the Messiah. Jesus told His disciples in 24:14 that “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” and here we see the fulfillment of Jesus’ words.
We also see that four angels are holding back the winds, we are told that the angelic influence over the forces of nature, (In 14:18 it is over fire and in 16:5 it is over water). We have always heard the phrase “mother nature” but in reality it is God who is over the forces of nature and during the tribulation period He will use them to help judge those who refuse to love His truth. The word “corner” is literally quarters or quadrants, which would refer to North, South, East and West. Think of the effects this would have upon the global climate! It no doubt would lead to some of the effects that the two witness have over the rain as well as the waters for 3 ½ in chapter 11:6. The first five seals effects were directly upon man; here the effects are upon that which man was to be steward over, the earth and its environment.
Vs. 2-3 It appears that the holding back of the winds will cause great damage to the “the earth, the sea and the trees” but they are not to do anything until the servants of the Lord are sealed on their foreheads. In chapter 14:1 we are told that “His Father’s name (is) written on their foreheads”. Seals in scripture (as well as ancient history) were for the purpose of identification specifically as it related too “possession, protection and preservation”. The timing of their sealing is just prior to the opening of the seventh seal in chapter eight and suggests that these Jews are to be stamped as belonging in the Lord’s “possession” being under the Lord’s “protection” and “preserved” for the Lord’s purpose to witness to the gentile world. Isaiah spoke of this in Isa. 42:6-7 where we read, “I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, And will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the Gentiles, To open blind eyes, To bring out prisoners from the prison, Those who sit in darkness from the prison house.” Even though the Lord had always had that plan for Israel they more often looked as though they were the ones that needed the light but here we see that during the tribulation period God’s plan for them will be fulfilled.
What made the difference in these 144,000 that had never before happened? We are told that they “sealed the servants of our God”. The word servant’s is “bond slaves” or servants by choice they choose to stay with the Lord even when they were free to leave.
Vs. 4-8 Many have placed themselves in this number of sealed servants, J.W’s, Herbert W. Armstrong and even some groups of 7th Day Adventists but the problem with their interpretation is that there is not a hint of symbolism in this number. I believe that we can know with absolute certainty the identification of this 144,000 as we are told that they were made up of 12,000 from the tribes listed below. For any group to claim that they are part of the 144,000 only they need to do is tell us what tribe they are from!
The list of tribes given here differs from other lists of tribes and presents more questions as to why then it provides answers. For instance:
- Why is Levi mentioned when this tribe was given no inheritance of land?
- Why is Joseph mentioned instead of his son Ephraim, who is usually connected with his brother Manasseh?
- Why is Dan omitted here yet included in Ezekiel’s prophecy concern the distribution of land during the millennial reign of Christ?
Here is my answer to these questions “I don’t know!”
Much has also been made of the so called “10 lost tribes” of the Assyrian captivity but it must be pointed out that it is impossible for God to lose anything much less His chosen people. This list represents God’s choice not mans and He is not bothered by the lack of genealogical records.
- Judah: Mentioned first is the tribe of Kings and especially the King of Kings.
- Reuben: The first born of Leah, who lost his birthright because his pride and insecurity that caused him to sleep with his father’s concubine.
- Gad and Asher: These were Leah’s children through her handmaiden Zilpah, Anna who gave testimony at the birth of Jesus came from the so-called lost tribe of Asher.
- Naphtali: Rachel’s 2nd son by her handmaiden Bilhah, as noted her first born son Dan is left off this list but placed in the list in Ezekiel 48 as having land even though it is the furthest from the temple.
- Manasseh: The youngest son of Joseph born to him while he was in Egypt and then claimed as a son by his grandfather’s Jacob.
- Simeon and Levi: Leah’s 2nd and 3rd children to whom Jacob calls cruel.
- Issachar and Zebulun: Leah’s 5th and 6th children who were given land where Jesus first began His ministry (Galilee).
- Joseph and Benjamin: Rachael’s only two sons Benjamin was the tribe of Paul and again a so-called lost tribe.
12,000 from each exactly whom God wants by His grace! In Isaiah 60: 1-3 the prophet saw this saying, “Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the LORD will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising.” Then in 49:9-12 we are given the outcome “His glory” being seen upon these 144,000 as we are told that “You may say to the prisoners, ‘Go forth,’ To those who are in darkness, ‘Show yourselves.’ “They shall feed along the roads, And their pastures shall be on all desolate heights. They shall neither hunger nor thirst, Neither heat nor sun shall strike them; For He who has mercy on them will lead them, Even by the springs of water He will guide them. I will make each of My mountains a road, And My highways shall be elevated. Surely these shall come from afar; Look! Those from the north and the west, And these from the land of Sinim.”
III. Vs. 9-17 Saved by the blood of the lamb
Vs. 9 The timing of this vision and the fact that the number is so large that no man can number it answer two questions:
- Will people get saved during the tribulation?: The answer is yes as we see the single greatest revival in the history of the world.
- How will the people of the world react to the events?: The answer is a number so large that can’t be counted will come to Christ.
Clearly the gospel is going to be preached after the rapture of the Church as verse 14 tells us when they got saved, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation”. Combine the effect of the 144,000’s evangelism with their method of doing so found in 14:4 “These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes.” And you see if you follow the Lamb where ever He goes He will always lead you to the Father and to those in need. Their salvation crosses every government, ancestry, race and language. What we have is the Spirit of God working through those servants of God! The people who would not receive the Lord are seeking to hide from the Lamb and ask “Who is able to stand?” The answer is those who receive Jesus! In their hands is the symbol of victory (the palm branches) won on their behalf.
Vs. 10-12 Their praise is both for the source (God) as well as the instrument (the Lamb) of their salvation. No matter what time frame upon the earth the source and instrument of our salvation has never changed! At the words of their praise all stand and fall on their faces in praise to God! This praise is very similar to that of 5:12 with the only notable difference being in 5:12 the Lamb is said to be worthy of riches and here thanksgiving is what is offered. Perhaps the reason for this is that chapter 5 is a picture of the raptured church before the throne and here we have the full number of gentiles the combination of the seated elders and those martyred tribulation believers standing unite together in praise. In Eph. 1:18 we are told that the church is “the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” in Matthew 13:46 we are called the Pearl of great price. The cry of the angels in revelation 5:12 was that the Lamb was worthy to receive His full reward of gentile believers and here He does!
Vs. 13-17 A rhetorical question is asked and then answered because John does not know the answer but the one that asks it the “raptured church” does. In verse 14 the simple interpretation is the best that the innumerable saints came from the tribulation period and that their spiritual purity is based upon being washed in Jesus’ blood. Heb. 9:22 and 1 Peter 1:18-19 shed light upon being washed in Christ’s blood as we are told that, “all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission” and “you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
Vs. 15- 17 John records five blessings given these tribulation believers:
- Vs. 15a Presence “They are before the throne of God”: They are continually in the presence of the Lord.
- Vs. 15b Privilege “And serve Him day and night in His temple”: They are given a place of continual service as Adam was in the cool of the day as He will amongst them. So their service will be in constant fellowship.
- Vs. 16 Preserved “They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat”: They will forever be delivered from any and all afflictions of life as they had to go through the tribulation where life offered them no preservation they will never again experience anything but God’s abundant grace.
- Vs. 17a Provisions “the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters.” Truly the 23rd psalm will be theirs personally as the Lord will be their shepherd and they shall not want!
- Vs. 17b Precious “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes”: They will experience the tender comfort and care from all past heartaches as well as a promise of never more having any!