The New Testament makes it unmistakably
clear that with God there is no respect of persons. In Christ we
are not seen as Gentile versus Jew. The coming of Jesus ushered in a new
economy. In Jesus Christ all people from all tribes, languages and nations
are welcomed by God. Paul declares “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there
is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are
all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28) Paul presents the New Testament
position very clearly: In Christ the Gentiles are no longer seen as distant
from God. In Christ the dividing wall between Gentiles and Jew is brought
down and abolished. (Eph. 2:13-15; 6:8 & Col. 3:11) Yet Revelation
seven speaks about 144,000 "of all the tribes of the children of Israel."(7:4)
These 144,000 are deliberately set apart from the Gentiles: i.e. "the great
multitude from ever nation, tribe, and tongue". (Rev. 7:9)
Israel is identified by each individual tribe, with their respective numbers. The vast multitude is lumped together into an innumerable group. The 144,000 are said to be sealed, this is not said of the multitude. We are told that these 144,000 sing a song that no one else can learn. (Is the non-Jew illiterate?) Why would Revelation 7 deliberately contradict the single economy created under Jesus Christ? Or is Revelation 7 intended to be a record of the fulfillment of the Old Testament covenant made with Israel?
To come to a better understanding lets consider some of the things that are said about these 144,000. John speaks of these 144,000 as "sealed". Paul speaks of himself, and the Corinthians as being sealed in 2 Corinthians 1:22. He also speaks of the Ephesians in the same manner.(Eph 1:13) In both of these references it is implied that this sealing is synonymous to being given the Holy Spirit. Therefore receiving the Holy Spirit, as recorded in Acts 2, can be considered a sealing.
In Revelation 14:4 these 144,000 are said to be "virgins" because they're "not defiled by women". To take this literally would then imply that to be married is to be defiled. Such a conclusion is illogical in light of Hebrews 13:4, which declares marriage to be honorable and the bed undefiled. Therefore the references to virginity and women must be figurative.
The term "woman" is used figuratively to designate the Church, either true or false. The Church was part of God's plan before the foundation of the world. (Eph.1:4 cp Psa.2:8) Since we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world the Church is definitely not a parenthesis in history. Instead She is what the "redemptive history" of the Old Testament looked forward to. In Jesus Christ that redemption became reality, and with the coming of the Holy Spirit a new covenant community -the Church - was brought into being on earth. However as we have seen in the breaking of the seals the Church became defiled. John refers to that defiled church figuratively; as a woman who defiles. Therefore those not defiled by women must be a reference to the apostolic Church. They are said to "follow the Lamb wherever He goes", thus being true to Jesus Christ, and the Gospel. They did not get involved in carnality such as was evident in the Corinthian church.(1 Cor. 3:1f) They were true and faithful to the apostles teaching, committed to each other, and to God. (Acts 2:42;46&47) For this reason they are called virgins.
In Revelation 14:4 these 144,000 are also called “firstfruits unto God and the Lamb". In Romans 16:5 Paul speaks of the first convert of Achaia as firstfruit. In 1 Corinthians 16:15 he speaks of the house of Stephanas as firstfruits. James addresses his letter to "the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad", (James 1:1) and states in verse 18 "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures". So James sees himself as well as the converts from the twelve tribes, as “fristfruits” to God. Thus the testimony of two apostles is that the original converts in an area where called “firstfruits”. We must therefore conclude that Revelation 14:4 points to the original 144,000 Jewish converts.
It is only these converts that could be said to be without guile, and faultless. The 144,000 had a singleness in mind and purpose, pictured by the sealing in the forehead. They sing a song only they could learn, because for them redemption was pure and holy. They experienced the gospel before it became contaminated as in the Corinthian church or as in the seven churches addressed by John.
They are categorized as separate from the great multitude, because under the Old Covenant there was a chosen race, Israel. Israel had been promised a Messiah who would fulfill all six requirements of Daniel 9:24. With the sealing of the 144,000 those requirements have been fulfilled. The 70th week of Daniel is complete. God’s covenant with Israel has been confirmed and ratified. That confirmation and ratification establishes the Church as God’s covenant community of the New Testament era. A covenant community that is no longer limited by race, but is open to all races..
The Time of That Sealing
The sealing of the 144,000 is said to take place at a certain point in history. The angel with the seal of God commands the angel of the four winds not to hurt the earth, the sea or trees until “we have sealed the servants of our God.” (Rev. 7:3) In order for us to see the early Jewish converts as fulfilling this prophecy that “sealing” would have to have taken olace before the end of the Apostolic era. So does the Angel’s command suggest that period of time? Let’s find out!
According to Strong's Concordance the word translated "hurt" is made up of the negative particle and the word "right" or "justice". Both Strong and Thayer define this word as: "to be unjust, to sin, unrighteousness of heart and life, to do wrong; morally, socially and physically". Given the meaning of the word raises a question: can the wind be morally unjust or sin against the earth, the sea, and trees? Obviously not! Only people sin. Therefore proper exegesis demands that we see either the act of hurting or the objects that are hurt as figurative.
Neither Strong nor Thayer suggests a figurative use for the word "hurt". Its use in scripture bears out that fact. Except for its use here the word is never used in relationship to inanimate objects. It is always used when speaking of interpersonal relationships. An example is Acts 7:24,26,27, where this same word is translated "wrong". It is also translated as "wrong" in 1 Corinthians 6:7,8, and again it is used to speak of interpersonal relationships. In Revelation 22:11 it is translated as "unjust", and there to it involves people. How the word is used would suggest two things concerning its use in Revelation 7:3. First the objects of the hurt in Revelation 7 must be seen as figurative. Secondly: those objects are figurative of people.
It has already been noted that "tree" can refer to people in a national sense, such as the fig tree being figurative language for Israel. In Revelation 17 there is a great whore that sits on “many waters”. (v1) These waters are said to be people. (v 15) Therefore the term “sea” can refer to people as a collected body of water. Logic would then suggest that the term "earth" refers to people, just like the term "sea", but designating people in a more structured and solidified form.
Winds of change, which also hurt, began to blow as early as 70A.D. That year the Roman’s ravaged the city of Jerusalem and its people. The barbarism inflicted on the people of Jerusalem was “hurt” in the fullest meaning of the word. And when a civilized people become barbaric in their governance, hurt is blowing in the wind. Jesus said that there would be great tribulation. (Matt. 24:21) Those prophetic words were unfolding before societies very eyes, but society continued to rampage through history. As we study the warnings of the seven trumpets, we will find that society did not heed God's warnings. Instead society used its disciplines to serve other gods. As a result society experienced the hellish cost of doing so. Yes: from John's vantage point there was coming a time when not only the trees - individual nations - would be hurt, but society and its structures as well. However the original 144,000 converts to Christianity did not suffer that hurt. As "virgins" they were spared the torments of the tribulation.
However there is a great multitude which comes out of great tribulation, but that tribulation does not effect their stand before the Lamb. They stand in white robes, with palms in their hands, honoring God and the Lamb for His Salvation. This results in all the angels falling on their faces before the throne in worship to God. When Solomon dedicated the temple (2 Chron. 5:13,14) the praise of God by the people resulted in the glory of the Lord being so strong the priests could not stand to minister. In Revelation 7:11 it is implied that the worship by the tribulation saints makes it impossible for the angels to remain standing. Is that worship or what?
Yes the 144,000 sang a song that the tribulation saints could not learn. Their experience with God was unique, a virgin experience, undefiled, they experienced the gospel in its purest form. However for those of us who have experienced God's salvation in the tribulation, we to have a powerful place of worship. The angels of heaven will not be able to stand in its splendor. I can just imagine what happens to the devil and his angels at that point. He will be flattened, as if run over by a steam roller.
God's response to this worship is like a Father's tender care for his favored child. That response leads us into the opening of the seventh seal. When it is opened heaven is enveloped by an awesome silence. This silence stands in absolute contrast to the bombardment of sight and sound in the opening of the first six seals. It's like a Christmas Eve: Everyone is in a flurry of activity opening gifts. Bows, ribbons and papers flying in all directions. Everyone is fully animated, and talking at the same time. Then, Father presents his favored son with a special gift, to be opened for the whole family. As the son breaks the tape that seals in the gift, silence creeps across the room. Everyones attention and focus is riveted with anticipation. As the gift becomes visible there is a living, pulsating, overwhelming, emotional awe that envelopes everyone. In Revelation that awe results in an overpowering silence that lasts for half an hour.
This is how Revelation 7 introduces us to the Church. She is made up of the 144,000 and the tribulation saints. Because this introduction leads into the opening of the seventh seal, suggests that there is a link between the Church and this final seal. The fifth and sixth seals give us the awakening and coming alive of the Church in history. With the seventh seal God continues what He began with the fifth seal. In the seventh seal period the Church comes into all her glory. This coming into her glory causes Heaven to be silent. How great and awesome that glory will be! We will have to experience it to fully understand it. And we will experience it just like John experienced it. We are living in the sixth seal period of history, but we have not yet come to the opening of the seventh seal. But we will, and when we do it will be awesome. You'll stand in awe as you experience what eye has not seen, what ear has not heard, that which we couldn't even have imagined: But God has prepared it for the Church, and the Holy Spirit will bring it into reality.(1 Cor. 2:9)
Are you prepared for what lies ahead? Many are predicting and believing this world will be engulfed in seven years of hell on earth. However a Church that believes Her God is about to give this planet over to Satan, is far removed from the worship that she has been designated for. Yes there was a great tribulation! One which the Church experienced, but she has not been called to wallow in that tribulation. She has been called into an awesome place of glory and worship. It's time for the Church to fulfill her calling and mandate. She is destined to worship God like this world and even heaven has never before seen or heard. Are you prepared to do so?
A word of exhortation concerning date setting for these events!
In these studies I present each seal as covering about 360 years of our history. If 1AD is when the first seal began, we then come to the year 2160 for the closing of the sixth seal, and the opening of the seventh. That implies the establishment of a date. Many think that because a date is suggested we can now assume we're ready for the event. WRONG! Any bride that thinks she’s ready for a wedding because she knows its date is both ignorant and foolish. Jesus’ purpose in giving us Revelation was so that we could be prepared. So is the Church ready for the opening of the seventh seal? Hardly! She’s not even sure if she’s going to be raptured before the tribulation, half way through it, or at the end of it!
Focussing on the date of a God initiated event is both fruitless and foolish. Remember the parable of the ten virgins. They all knew the bridegroom was coming. All of them set out to meet him. All of them where overcome by sleep. However five of them are called follish because they weren’t prepared. That lack of preparedness had nothing to do with knowing the time of the bridegrooms coming. It had everything to do with having enough oil for their lamps. (Read Matthew 25:1-11) So because they had a shortage of oil, they lacked what they required to go and meet the bridegroom. When the seventh seal is broken will we be found wantingl? We are repeatedly given the durational length of various events in Revelation. However those time references are not given so we can pin point those events to a certain date, then think that we are now ready for the event. That is ignorant and foolish. So be admonished: knowing the date of an event does not mean you’re prepared for that event. Be a wise bride, be prepared for the coming of the bridegroom!