I. God accounts for everyone of his own servants.
2 Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, 3 saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”
4 And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:
12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed,
12,000 from the tribe of Reuben,
12,000 from the tribe of Gad,
12,000 from the tribe of Asher,
12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali,
12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh,
12,000 from the tribe of Simeon,
12,000 from the tribe of Levi,
12,000 from the tribe of Issachar,
12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun,
12,000 from the tribe of Joseph,
12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed.
This is a most odd listing of the Tribes of Israel.
Dan is omitted altogether. Levi is the priestly tribe and is always omitted from a census of men able to go to war. Joseph is mentioned two times since Manasseh is his son. Ephraim is omitted like Dan. What is going on here?
The Symbolic View of the Twelve Tribes — We are dealing with a highly symbolic vision, not a literal detailed vision. The Lord is picturing his servants (douloi — bond slaves) . They are given here as a numbered body to indicate that God knows their exact number. He is concerned about preserving an exact number, and is not just concerned about preserving many. This is a census count in symbolic form.”
“The matter is open to question, but the form of the text may suggest a census, usually used in the Hebrew Bible to assess military preparation (Num. 1:3, 18, 20; 26:2, 4; I Chron. 27:23); this also explains the specification of adult males in 14:4. It further makes sense of why a given number is listed from each tribe (cf. Num. 1:20–47); in a real war one might draft twelve equal contingents from different tribes or regions (Num. 31:4–6; 1 Chron. 27:1–15).” (see Keener, below).
II. God enrolls his servants as spiritual warriors.
Before the winds of judgment are loosed on the world, God must seal His own people so they will be safe. This is not to say they will escape the anger of men who hate God. This is based on Ezekiel 9:6, 6 — the paleo-Hebrew letter Taw mark on forehead, sign of exemption from judgment; Ezekiel 9:4, 6″ (BDB Hebrew Lexicon). (see figure above showing how close the Taw is to a cross.)
The sealing symbolizes the protection God issues to his people whenever they are to enter into trial. This does not have reference only to the eschaton (the end of the age). The seals in chapter 6 refer to the abstract forces which will be unleashed throughout the end times that began with Christ’s resurrection and ends with His second coming.
The sealing refers to the fact that God’s people are protected during this period. God’s people will not suffer ultimate harm from the judgments that will fall on the earth. They will be persecuted, however, as we saw in the vision of the fifth seal. But, no amount of persecution will annihilate God’s people. No trial any believer will endure will affect his ultimate destination. He has the seal of the Living God upon him (note Rev. 14:1).
In classical, scholastic theology baptism is called character indelibilis — “the indelible mark on or quality of the soul.” (see Mueller, p. 139, below). Obviously the mark of Baptism is invisible to this world, but is visible to the spiritual world!
III. God seals his servants to show they are protected.
II Tim. 2:19 says, “The Lord knows those who are his.’ The seal was a signet ring that left an impression in wax. It did several things:
(1) It protected against tampering;
(2) It marked ownership;
(3) It certified a thing as genuine.
(4) It is a down-payment of the final possession.
All of these images blend here as we consider the significance of this sealing of God’s people. God has sealed them in order to ensure their ultimate destiny. He is committed to bringing them through the trials of the trials of this life. He will bring his people even through any tribulation that is yet future.
Charles Spurgeon says the sealing is a down payment, also.
“In the early times when land was sold, the owner cut a [piece of] turf from the grass [covered lawn] and cast it into the cap of the purchaser as a token that it was his; or he tore off the branch of a tree and put it into the new owner’s hand to show that he was entitled to all the products of the soil; and when the purchaser of a house received “seisin” [or possession], the key of the door, or a bundle of thatch plucked from the roof (see above drawing of a seisin), signified that the building was yielded up to him.
“The God of all grace has given to his people all the perfections of heaven to be their heritage for ever, and the earnest of his Spirit is to them the blessed token that all things are theirs. The Spirit’s work of comfort and sanctification is a part of heaven’s covenant blessings, a turf from the soil of Canaan, a twig from the tree of life, the key to mansions in the skies. Possessing the earnest of the Spirit we have received seisin of heaven.” (see Spurgeon, below).
We who are saved endure many trials and tribulations. However, we also have blessings from being Christ’s child. This is not heaven, but it isn’t always a hell.
IV. God still does much for the help of his people through His holy Angels.
The angels are said to have been given power to hurt. Here we have the past (aorist) passive tense of didomi indicating an implied divine agency. God has granted these angels their authority. They can harm the earth unless they are prohibited from doing so by God’s decree. In the case of God’s servants, they are protected against the pouring out of the wrath of God.
We will now leave the first section of chapter 7, and go on to the last part in the next post.
Keener, Craig. (2009). Revelation (The NIV Application Commentary, Book 20) Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Mueller, Richard. (2017). Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms; second edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
Spurgeon, C. H. (1870). Feathers for Arrows: Illustrations for Preachers and Teachers from My Note Book. London, UK: Passmore & Alabaster.
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