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November 26th, 2020
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gary damronMY PERSPECTIVE, Gary Damron

 

The sixth chapter of Revelation, which describes times of universal terror, closes with a question, “‘…and who is able to stand?’” (verse 17). The first verse of the seventh chapter suggests the answer. If not for God’s restraining hand on destructive forces, no one can survive – but in this interlude, four angels temporarily keep the four winds of destruction from blowing, and God’s servants are sealed (Revelation 7:1-3). 

This seal, different than those John previously described fastening the Book, is carried by a fifth angel. “The seal of the living God” reminds of signet rings worn by ancient kings to validate ownership or legitimacy. The angel holding it cries out to the others that earth is not to be destroyed until the redemption of God’s people (their sealing) is complete. 

The living God is contrasted to all the idols created by men, summarized in a somewhat sarcastic way by Isaiah in chapter 44:9-20. The living, true God is described by Moses (Deuteronomy 5:26); by Joshua as the Israelites crossed the Jordan River (Joshua, chapter 3); and David in Psalm 84:2 – “My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.” The apostle Paul’s references to sealing believers include 2 Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians 1:13 and 4:30, in reference to the Holy Spirit; and in 2 Timothy 2:19 – he wrote, “The Lord knows who are his.” 

Prophecies in Ezekiel chapter 9 describe a mark on the foreheads of those who are to be protected from destruction. Countless times in history God has intervened and saved a remnant. Here, in the terrible last days, God extends spiritual protection to all those who’ve been found faithful. 

Many have speculated on the total number and who these people are. There are listed 12,000 from each tribe, but they are not exactly the same as the twelve sons of Jacob. You may recall that ten of the twelve tribes disappeared with the Babylonian captivity. The tribe of Dan, northernmost geographically in Israel, is not included here at all, while descendants of Joseph, divided between his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh, are. Offspring of Levi were not numbered in the early census, nor were they given an inheritance in the Promised Land, since they’d been set apart to serve in the temple. Yet here they are included in the total. 

Theories abound on about who these 144,000 are, and whether the number can be taken literally. Some think it includes all those purified since Pentecost; others describe Jews who convert after the Rapture; still others believe they are the ‘New Israel’ – loyal members of the New Testament Church. The interpretation indicates the transitory nature of man contrasted with God’s eternality (2 Peter 3:8 and Psalm 90). Symbolic numbers of twelve tribes multiplied by twelve, times one thousand (which often meant “a lot”), means to me there will be many, many at the throne.  I tend to think these include all Jewish people who are found faithful to the one true God, not limited to a specific number. 

Nevertheless, the exact total does not seem essential. What matters is that John envisions, “‘… a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice…” (Revelation 7:9, 10). At this glimpse into heaven, we see all barriers broken down, all woes from chapter 6 conquered. It reminds of Jesus’ transfiguration just before his week of suffering and crucifixion (Matthew 17 and Mark 9). The glory of this revelation will carry believers through all that transpires with the opening of seventh seal and in End Times. 

Chapter 7 of Revelation contains some of the Bible’s most comforting words (verses 15 through 17), ending the same as Revelation 21:3: “‘…and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.’” Like Paul and Barnabas who’d been stoned and dragged from a city, they encourage other Christians. “‘Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God’” (Acts 14:22). 

All those standing before the throne wear white robes, previously reserved only for priests. Inferred in the passage is a message of exhortation. Those of us remaining in the world are to continue telling of Christ’s salvation and interceding for others. Isaiah’s prophecies in chapters 40 and 49, and Ezekiel’s in chapter 34, foretell deliverance of those who follow the true Shepherd. This leader not only offers protection, but as one who’s gone through suffering himself, shows his care for all our needs. 

In Hebrews chapter 2, the writer encourages readers to pay close attention to what we’ve heard, and asks, “…how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (verses 1 and 3). Tribulation and judgment are coming, but each one who knows Jesus has the opportunity to stand among the great heavenly multitude. 

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