The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Revelation 7

Rev 7:1

HOLDING BACK THE FOUR WINDS: Winds sym armies (Jer 4:11-12; Isa 17:13-14; Dan 7:2). Here, armies held in restraint, to produce a period of peace.

"The whole body of the church at Jerusalem having been commanded by a divine Revelation... removed from the city, and dwelt in a certain town beyond Jordan, called Pella... while those who remained in Jerusalem were utterly destroyed" (Eusebius; WRev 95). Cp passover symbolism: Isa 26:20,21.

Rev 7:2

THE LIVING GOD: Or, "God of the living creatures".

EAST: Lit, "rising of the sun". Christ the bright and morning star (22:16; 2Pe 1:19; Luk 1:78).

Rev 7:3

See Rev 14:1n.

2 contrasting seals: of God (here; 9:4) and of beast (Rev 13:16,17; 14:9,11; 15:2; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4).

The sealing of the servants of God (Rev 7:3) is drawn from Ezekiel. It is actually only one of a series of allusions, which can be traced: (a) Eze 7:2: "The end is come upon the four corners of the land." Rev 7:1: "Four angels standing on the four corners of the earth (Land)." (b) Eze 9:2: Seven men to smite Israel. Rev 7:2: "Four angels (the first four of the seven; ch 8:2) to whom it is given to hurt the earth and the sea. " (c) Eze 9: 4: The faithful sealed in their foreheads, Rev 7:3,4: The faithful sealed in their foreheads. (d) Eze 9:8: "They went forth... and I was left." Rev 8:1: "The seventh seal... silence in heaven about the space of half an hour." (e) Eze 9:8: Ezekiel's prayer for mercy. Rev 8:3: "the prayers of the saints offered before God." (f) Eze 9:9: The prayer rejected. Rev: The judgement goes forward uninterrupted. (g) Eze 10:2: Fire scattered over the city. Rev 8:5: Fire scattered on the earth (Land). (h) Eze 10:4,18,19: The "glory" departs from Israel (accompanied by "voices, thunderings, lightnings": Eze 1:13,14,24). Rev 8:5,6: "voices, thunderings, lightnings, an earthquake" and the sounding of the trumpet -- the end of the covenant made at Sinai (Exo 19:18,19).

Conclusion: the Trumpets represent divine judgements on Israel, just as did the prophecies of Ezekiel.

UNTIL WE PUT A SEAL ON THE FOREHEADS OF THE SERVANTS OF OUR GOD: "The strongest reason of all for looking for a fulfilment of Rev 7 in the First Century is the undeniable parallel with Ezek 9. It needs only to be emphasized that Ezek 9 had primary reference to the first overthrow of Jerusalem (by Nebuchadnezzar). There is therefore clear reason to believe that its counterpart in Rev 7 also has reference to the exercise of special Providence over the Lord's people who would otherwise have been similarly involved in the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem. Hence the description of them as coming out of the great tribulation.

"That such Providential protection was extended to the saints in the troublous times just mentioned is well known. First, there was the warning given by Jesus himself: 'And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh... then... let them which are in the midst of her (RV) depart out... ' (Luke 21:20,21)" (WRev).

SEAL: "As the image on a seal is impressed upon the soft wax, so the Truth of God is designed to reveal divine ways in us (Eph 2:10; Col 3:10). Christ was thus sealed by the Father (John 6:27). People saw in him and in his character a reflection of Yahweh.

"Thus his teaching had the stamp of Divine authority. As a person who wished to communicate his mind or will to someone at a distance authenticated it with his seal, so the Father had the son. This seal (the teaching of the Father manifested in the Son) is impressed upon the minds of the believers (Rev 14:1), and is revealed in their lives" (ApEp).

FOREHEADS: 8 times in Rev: Rev 7:3; 9:4; 13:16; 14:1,9; 17:5; 20:4; 22:4 -- but nowhere else. In LXX, at Exo 28:38; 1Sa 17:49; 2Ch 26:19,20; Isa 48:4; Eze 9:4.

Rev 7:4

Vv 4-8: Tabernacle motif: 12 tribes encamped around tabernacle.

The omission of Dan is significant. It has to be remembered that Dan was the first tribe in idolatry (Jdg 17; 18), and idolaters are banned from God's holy city (Rev 22:15). Also Dan deserted the inheritance assigned to him. And of all the twelve tribes Dan was completely content to stay in captivity -- there is no mention of Dan in the genealogies of 1Ch 4-8. The symbol of the tribe of Dan was a serpent (Gen 49:17) when it should have been the eagle (Num 2:25); the destruction of the serpent is one of the main themes of Rev (20:2,10). Because of this serpent symbol it was traditional among the very early Christians to assert that in the Last Days Antichrist would arise from the tribe of Dan (cp Gen 49:17; Jer 8:16,17).

There is no regard here at all to family arrangement (by contrast with every other similar list of these twelve names in Scripture), because the people typified here are they whose standing in the sight of God does not depend on natural relationship.

Rev 7:5

JUDAH: First place is not accorded to Reuben, the firstborn, but to Judah, because from Judah came Christ who is "the firstfruits," "the beginning of the creation of God," "the Lion of the tribe of Judah."

Rev 7:7

Levi listed with others, its special status now ceased. (There is a different priesthood.)

Rev 7:8

JOSEPH: Ephraim is omitted, but instead there is mention of Joseph, suggesting that only those out of Ephraim who are like their worthy progenitor will be fit for inclusion in the Lamb's great multitude: cp Ezek 37:16,19.

Rev 7:9

John hears (v 4) the number of redeemed, then he sees (v 9) them. Possibly, two different sets of redeemed ones: (1) the 144,000 literally taken out of twelve tribes (or their old inheritances in the Land of Israel): the modern redemption of Israel out of the tribulation of the Last Days, and (2) here, the consummation: in the gathering in of all the redeemed, now innumerable (not just 144,000), out of all nations (not just the 12 tribes of Israel) and all times (not just the last days): the great resurrection of the dead!

A GREAT MULTITUDE: Cp "mixed multitude" in Exo 12:38.

THAT NO ONE COULD COUNT: Perhaps in sense that no (ordinary) man can make up the number of the redeemed ones, but instead the 144,000 are the sole work of Christ (Psa 49:7). The redeemed are, first of all, an exclusively Jewish band; secondly, they become a great multitude out of all nations.

WHITE ROBES: The garment of justification leading to immortality (Rev 1:13; 19:8; 2Co 5:4).

Bible robes: the long robe of pretension (Luk 20:46); the torn robe of sorrow (Job 1:20); the scarlet robe of mockery (Mat 27:28); the best robe of righteousness (Luk 15:22); and the white robe of the redeemed (Rev 7:9).

PALM BRANCHES: As at Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem (cp Zec 9:9,10).

The anti-typical feast of Tabernacles which is identified with the kingdom (Zec 14:16). The original feast celebrated in ingathering of the fruit of Israel's land. It was celebrated for seven days, at the conclusion of which, the next day, the eighth, was constituted a Sabbath (Lev 23:36-44). "This great national celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles argues the previous cessation of judgement, and consequently the resting of the saints from their labours in the execution of it" (Eur). This great feast was preceded by the Day of Atonement, when all flesh was humbled
before Yahweh.

Rev 7:14

Vv 14-17: Our life in Christ, described in terms of Isr's wilderness wanderings.

WHO HAVE COME OUT OF THE GREAT TRIBULATION: "We know from experience that no one is ripe till he has known trouble. He may be good but he is unsympathetic. He may be interesting, but he is not entirely disinterested. There is always a degree of refined selfishness (and sometimes not very refined) about those who have known only pleasure. Trouble, if there be the right stuff to work on, removes the dross of the character, subdues and purifies and refines and ennobles, and makes fit for the kingdom of God. Therefore it is that the community of the glorified saints, as a whole, are described in the Apocalypse as 'those who have come out of great tribulation' " (SC 18).

This is not necessarily active persecution. The "perilous times" referred to in 2Ti 3:1-6 constitutes greater tribulation than active persecution. It is better to be rejected by the world than accepted by it.

THEY HAVE WASHED THEIR ROBES: Cp Isa 1:18; Zec 3:3-5. This indicates that the tribulation referred to is connected with the defiling influence of sin rather than active persecution.

The Lamb in Rev: his wrath (Rev 6:16); his blood (Rev 7:14); his book of life (Rev 13:8); his song (Rev 15:3); his marriage (Rev 19:7); his supper (Rev 19:9); and his throne (Rev 22:1).

Rev 7:15

THEY ARE BEFORE THE THRONE OF GOD: The veil now rent, they stand before the ark and mercy-seat in the Most Holy.

SPREAD HIS TENT OVER THEM: Gr "skenoo" = to pitch a tent. The overshadowing cloud in the wilderness (cp Psa 105:39).

Yahweh did this in Israel (Exo 25:8, 29:46), and He has likewise promised to do so in the future (Ezek 43:7; Psa 68:18). For the moment (presently) He dwells in His saints by the influence of His Word (cp 2Co 6:16).

The spreading of God's canopy over His people in the wilderness is celebrated by the Psalmist: "He spread a cloud for a covering: and a fire to give light in the night" (Psa 105:39). The same blessing is promised in even greater fulness in the age to come: "And I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea I will be their God, and they shall be my people" (Ezek 37:26b,27). Is it this which Paul speaks of, when -- in allusion to the weakness of his own mortality -- he says: "Most gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may spread a tabernacle over me" (2Co 12:9, RV mg)?

Rev 7:16

Vv 16,17: "Several of these phrases are derived -- with what appropriateness -- from a wonderful Messianic prophecy in Isa 49. The entire chapter should be studied. It travels in a comprehensive sweep from Jesus in Gethsemane, contemplating his life's work and effort apparently in ruins, to the glorious climax when he is able to rejoice in a vast multitude called out from Israel and the Gentiles to experience the marvels of God's gracious salvation.

"In the words: 'they shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more,' is to be recognized the fulfilment of all that the Manna and the Smitten Rock foreshadowed in the wilderness (1Co 10:3,4) -- the fulfilment also of Christ's own promise: 'He that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst' (John 6:35). Those hungering and thirsting after righteousness find full satisfaction at last. It is an appropriate return from him whom, all unknowing, they fed when he was hungry and to whom they gave the cup of cold water when he was athirst (Mat 25:35; 10:42).

"An interesting idea emerges from the words: 'neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.' This word 'heat' (in Isa 35:7: 'parched ground') Gesenius dogmatically translates: 'mirage'. There is marvellous appropriateness about this. The mirage of an oasis or pool leads the weary thirsty traveller on in hope. In the same way an anticipation of the nearness of the return of the Lord has buoyed up many a weary traveller to the Kingdom. What seemed so near in time has proved in fact to be remote. Many who thought to live to see the Kingdom established have gone to their sleep, some to a long, long sleep, but this prophecy in Revelation assures the faithful that the day surely comes when mirage will give place to reality, and faith to sight. And to make the assurance all the more emphatic, the phrase is introduced by a double negative: 'no, never shall the sun light on them, nor any heat' " (WRev).

NEVER... HUNGER... THIRST: Manna and water in wilderness: 1Co 10:3,4; Joh 6:35; 4:14.

THE SUN WILL NOT BEAT UPON THEM... : Persecutions (Psa 121:5-7).

Rev 7:17

An astonishing paradox: a "Lamb" will be a "Shepherd"!

AV has "feed them"; but literally, "shall shepherd them." He is the Chief Shepherd of the flock (cp Heb 13:20; John 10:11; Ezek 34:23; Psa 23).

SPRINGS OF LIVING WATER: Eternal life: Joh 4:14.

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