We go through the imagery of the great multitude from every nation, tribe, and tongue standing in the throne room of God. We also look at the special status given to martyrs–their distinct relationship to Christ. Both of these are features of the last redemption, the great hope for Christians as they serve as faithful witnesses in the Kingdom of God. We begin in the first two verses of Revelation 7. Transcription:
The seal of God on their foreheads
Verse 2. Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God.
Now we’re breaking the seals, but those seals got there in the first place when God waxed them and sealed them. And they weren’t allowed to be opened, remember? Nobody could open this book. And this book is the culmination of human history. It’s the bringing in of justice and restoration, and it can’t be opened. Nobody’s allowed to open it, except Jesus, because he was found worthy, and he’s allowed to open it. So now history can come to its full culmination.
That same seal is now coming in to be used again.
And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth—To whom it was what? Granted. We’re in the throne room. Nothing happens that isn’t authorized. I don’t know how many times we’re going to get this repeated. I haven’t counted, but it’s a bunch. God’s on his throne, no matter how bad things get. God is on his throne.
He wants us to be great witnesses. That’s the point.
And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”
What’s the seal do? It’s only mentioned one other time that I could find. Look at 9:4. This is the scorpions, these man-scorpions that we’ll see before too long. And these man-scorpions were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.
So at least one thing that this seal is going to do is protect from some of the things that are happening that are demonic inspired that are going to bring torment.
Obviously, it doesn’t protect people from death because there are lots of martyrs happening. In fact, Revelation tells us that from this point forward, it’s a special blessing to be killed as a martyr.
But it is protection.
We are said to be sealed by the Holy Spirit. It’s our protection. No one can break that seal except the Lamb of God. And the Lamb of God is him to whom we are owned. We don’t have to worry about being accepted by God. When we believe in Jesus, we’re sealed in the Holy Spirit. That’s a done deal. It’s not going to be unwound.
These rewards that we’re talking about, of whether we’re going to be an overcomer or not, that depends on whether we walk in that spirit or whether we don’t.
And the seal is on the foreheads. This is interesting, the forehead. One of the things that I saw is that the priest, the high priest, had a crown on his forehead, and on it was written, “Holiness to the Lord.” It’s the idea that it’s right there. It’s prominent.
The Jews were told to put the verses of God on their forehead and on their hand. Your hand is what you do with, and your forehead is what you think with. Have it on your mind. Have it in your experience. Do. Think and do. Think and do.
This is representative of the fact that the seal is a preeminent thing in our life.
Those sealed from among the 12 tribes
And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed.
Here are the twelve tribes: Judah, Reuben, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin. And each one it says, “Of the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand were sealed.”
This is interesting because these tribes are not the original 12 tribes. There’s a tribe left off. It’s the tribe of Dan. Dan’s left off and Manasseh is substituted in. These are not the 12 tribes that got the land parcels.
When they divvied up the land, Levi was left out because Levi did not get land. The priests, they got cities, and the Joseph allocation went to two tribes: Ephraim and Manasseh. But Manasseh, now, is substituted for Dan, and Ephraim’s left off. Kind of fascinating, isn’t it? Always 12, but the 12 kind of rotates.
And I think part of this is because 12 is the symbol for organizational fulfillment.
How many disciples were there? 12. When one dropped out, what did they do? Found two guys who were equally qualified, but instead of having 13 like I would have done, they cast lots and only had 12. Got to have 12!
This idea of 12, and one is always getting substituted for, seems to be kind of always going on in the scripture. I’m not sure what that’s talking about. But maybe it’s talking about, we get grafted in, there’s always room for you. Maybe that’s what it’s saying.
So we’ve got organizational fulfillment, and a thousand is the number for bringing in fulfillment of an age. God will say, “I will give blessings to a thousand generations.” That’s fulfillment of an age.
The millennial kingdom is going to be a thousand years.
You get organizational fulfillment and age fulfillment combined together.
The promises to Israel are about to be fulfilled
Now what is that talking about? Well, I don’t know. I don’t know if this is literal, figurative, or both. I would guess it’s both. But, I think what it’s telling us here is Israel is about to be completely fulfilled. Everything about Israel, all the promises, the promises of Ezekiel about the temple. The promises about the millennial kingdom, the lion will lay down with the lamb. The promise of the Messiah sitting on the throne. The promise of the land and the boundaries that have never been fulfilled. All these things are about to come to complete and total fruition.
So, we’ve got this sealing that happens. This is teaching us a lot of things that even though God is authorizing all these things, nothing’s going to be harmed unless he allows it to be harmed. And he’s still caring for his people. That’s really clear.
All nations, tribes, peoples
Verse 9. After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples—we’re going to have a total fulfillment of Israel and all the promises to Israel, but the blessing of those grafted into Israel is not suspended here. It’s going to be fulfilled along with Israel.
Every tribe, every nation, every tongue standing before—where? The throne. We’re back in the throne room. God is on the throne. Who else is going to be participating on the throne? Those who were martyred. Who else is going to be participating on the throne? All the overcomers who are going to reign with him.
If you’re on the earth when things are spinning out of control in any era, you don’t think in terms of, this is right around the corner from me being in charge. What you think of is, things are out of control! I might get killed!
The message here is be a faithful witness. Do not fear death. And I will give you power over all nations with me. It’s a tremendous promise. And one of the reasons why it’s hard to keep in mind is because that’s not what we’re experiencing. So if we read, hear, and believe, we get a special blessing. Remember that was promised to us? A special blessing.
Doesn’t that make sense? If you know there’s hope in horrible situations you’re going to have a much better time than if you think all is lost and this is a time of despair?
So here are these people, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb—the one opening the seals—clothed with white robes—white robes is always a symbol of righteousness in the scripture—with palm branches in their hands, and crying with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom,
Thanksgiving and honor and power and might,
Be to our God forever and ever.
Now if I could, I would break into The Messiah song that’s written from this. I just can’t sing it very well, but I recommend you go and—when I go along and I read this, I stop and [singing] “blessing, honor, wisdom.”
Martyrs have a special intimacy with Jesus
Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?” And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation—this three and a half years of sorrow—and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Tears in heaven
So we’re in the throne room. The Great Tribulation is going on or is about to be culminated. We don’t know exactly what’s happening, or at what time. This is not necessarily sequential. But tears will be wiped away.
We’re in the throne room, and the tears haven’t been wiped away yet. I think that’s really important because tears are associated with learning. Do you remember when you learned to ride a bike, and you cried because you couldn’t get it? Or maybe you were running the hundredth wind sprint, and you just didn’t think you could do it anymore, and you would have cried if you weren’t afraid of even worse things happening? Or maybe you cry yourself to sleep because you think you’re a terrible mom.
Learning is difficult, and it brings tears.
You know, when you’re young, you don’t have any wisdom, but you have a lot of energy. But you cry a lot because you don’t have any wisdom. And you do stupid stuff. Then you get old, and now you have wisdom hopefully. But you cry for a different reason. You cry because you stood up and everything hurts. And you don’t have the energy to apply all that wisdom.
But do you know what’s going to happen? We’re going to get to a time where the learning has completely been fulfilled. All the stuff we learned about knowing God by faith, it’s going to be ingested.
At that point, whatever mistakes we’ve made, whatever wood, hay, and stubble got burned up, there’s going to be pain associated with that. That’s not going to be pleasant. But you know what it’s going to do? It’s going to teach us. We’re going to have a full culmination of everything we’ve learned. And we’re going to have a new body that doesn’t hurt when you get up in the morning. In fact, you don’t even have to get up in the morning. You don’t have to go to bed anymore because there’s no more night.
There’s going to be this new era where we’re going to get to take all this wisdom that we have, if we got it, and apply it with great energy. It’s exciting.
So, these people that are martyred have a special intimacy with Jesus. He says, I’m going to keep these people a little closer to me because they’re so precious to me. They were faithful witnesses.
You know, any martyreo is someone that didn’t fear death, didn’t fear rejection. Didn’t fear death of relationships. Didn’t fear death of their connection with the world’s system. And instead said, I’m going to follow Jesus irrespective of these negative consequences in this world. That’s a martyr.
These martyrs took that and also were physically killed, and God has a special place in his heart for these people, the ones who came through the tribulation.
The tribulation is a horrific time, but every horrific time comes with an amazing opportunity. We don’t need to feel sorry for the people who go through the tribulation. In fact, every one of us has an opportunity to go through tribulation in our life.
Salvation belongs to our God
Just a couple of other things: Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne. You’ll see there in your translation, probably, the word belongs is in italics. That’s because the translator added it. Salvation to our God is actually how it reads.
Down in this blessing Thanksgiving and honor and power and might—in verse 12—be—be is italicized. It’s “honor, power and might to our God forever and ever.”
And, of course, this is not the granting of glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honor, and power. This is the recognition. I think the translators did okay by presuming the word belongs goes into belongs to our God because that would follow the same pattern. We’re recognizing that salvation belongs to you. We’re recognizing that salvation stems from you.
What could God be delivered from?
It could also mean that there’s a deliverance that’s now being experienced by God. Think about it. Every time we see the world salvation, something’s being delivered from something. And most anything can be delivered from something.
And I thought about this: What could God be delivered from? Obviously he can’t be delivered from sin. Obviously he can’t be delivered from death. Those are the things we care about being delivered from.
But one thing God is delivered from is the frustration of having his creation marred, scarred, and darkened. That’s about to end.
The culminating event of human history
When we get to the end of the seventh trumpet, the kingdom is going to be pronounced. This has now happened. And the seven bowls come, and they clean it up, and then Jesus comes back on a white horse, and his kingdom is brought to bear in a physical way. Then we’re going to see the new heaven and the new earth, and the culminating event of human history, when heaven comes to earth and God dwells with men physically and tangibly. Not as a shielded God like Jesus was when he came in human form and shielded his glory, but in full glory. So full of glory that we don’t even need the sun. That’s where we’re headed with this. And he’s telling us this because dark days come first.
There’s an old bluegrass song “The Darkest Hour’s Just Before Dawn.” That’s what we’re going to experience.
So tribulation is part of our life. There’s going to be a Great Tribulation, but we can take this message and apply it now. Because if as we go through tribulation, we focus on being a great witness, not fearing death, any kind of death, death of relationship, physical death, we are being the martyreo that God’s called us to be, and no matter what happens in our life, God authorized it, whether we understand it or not. And he let us experience this because it’s in our best interest. If we can embrace that and believe it, then we are winning.