Greetings! This is our third installment of our study on Revelation chapters 6 and 7. In our last post, we talked about what will happen when the fifth and sixth seals are opened, and how God’s wrath begins with a massive earthquake. In this post, we will begin studying chapter 7, which talks about the sealing of God’s 144000 servants. Let’s get started!
Revelation 6 and 7
Third in a Five-Part Series
By Karen Thompson
The Sealing of God’s Servants
Rev. 7:1 And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. 2 And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, 3 Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. 4 And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel. 5 Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand. 6 Of the tribe of Aser were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Nepthalim were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasses were sealed twelve thousand. 7 Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand. 8 Of the tribe of Zabulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.
Right after the Lord sent His first volley of wrath in the form of an earthquake, there is an immediate suspension of further destruction. In verse one, we find out the reason why. John says, “I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree” (v. 1). These angels were instructed to “hold the four winds of the earth” so that the wind would not blow on the earth, the sea, and trees. This means they were holding back destructive forces from being played out on the earth.
Then John tells us the reason the angels were told to hold back the winds: “And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads” (vv. 2–3).
An angel with the seal of God ascended from the east; he instructed the four angels whose assignment was to hurt the earth, the sea, and the trees to hold back from fulfilling their assignment. The reason why the angel with the seal instructed the four angels to not harm the earth, the sea, and the trees was because he needed to seal the servants of God. Apparently, the angel with the seal can’t complete his assignment while the four angels are fulfilling their assignment to harm the earth, the sea, and the trees. So the four angels must continue to hold back the four winds of heaven until the angel with the seal is done with his assignment.
Right away, there are questions that come to mind. First, what does it mean to be sealed with the seal of God? Second, who are these servants being sealed? Next, who are the angels that have been assigned to hold back the winds of heaven and then to hurt the earth, the sea, and the trees? If they can’t fulfill their assignment while the servants are being sealed, when do they complete their assignment? Lastly, what is happening during the period of time when the servants of God are being sealed?
What Does It Mean to Be Sealed?
Let’s begin by answering the first question: What does it mean to be sealed with the seal of the living God? It means these servants will have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. When a person gets born again, they are sealed with the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1:13 says, “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.” Then 2nd Corinthians 1:21–22 tells us that those who are established in Christ, God anoints and seals them: “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (NKJV). When one of the servants accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior, the angel seals him with the seal of God.
The Identity of the Sealed Servants
Now let’s answer the second question: Who are these servants being sealed? Verses 4–8 give us the identity of the servants that the angel sealed with the seal of God: “And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel. Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Aser were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Nepthalim were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasses were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Zabulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.”
John said the total number of servants being sealed was 144,000. But what is most exciting is the identity of these servants. The 144,000 servants are from the 12 tribes of Israel! The angel sealed 12,000 from each of the tribes. Being sealed means they all received Jesus as their Lord and Savior! Revelation 14:1 confirms this: “Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.” The 144,000 servants are in heaven standing with the Lamb, who is Jesus, and they all have His name and the Father’s name written on their foreheads! That’s how the angel sealed them—by writing the names of God the Father and Jesus on their foreheads.
Let’s continue the discussion as to their identity. In the past, there have been certain Gentile Christian groups who claimed they were the 144,000 servants. When you point out that the 144,000 servants are the descendants of Israel, not Gentile Christians, they respond by saying the northern kingdom of Israel is lost, and so this couldn’t possibly refer to the lost 10 tribes of Israel. It’s true, the northern 10 tribes of Israel are lost, in a manner of speaking. But they are not lost to God.
At this point, a small review on the history of how the tribes of Israel were divided into two kingdoms, resulting in the ten tribes being lost would be helpful. The 12 tribes split into two kingdoms because of King Solomon’s disobedience to God. God warned Solomon not to marry foreign wives as they would draw him into worshiping their foreign gods. King Solomon didn’t listen to God and married foreign women; just as God warned, he ended up worshiping the false gods of his foreign wives (1 Kings 4:5, 7, 8). God’s punishment for Solomon was severe. He said, “Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant. Nevertheless I will not do it in your days, for the sake of your father David; I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However I will not tear away the whole kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of my servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen” (1 Kings 11:11–13 NKJV).
Because of His promise to David, the Lord didn’t tear the kingdom from Solomon while he was still alive. The kingdom was torn from Solomon’s son, Rehoboam. The one tribe the Lord gave to Rehoboam was the tribe of Judah. Rehoboam ruled over the tribe of Levi as well (Levi was not considered one of the ten tribes because it was the priestly line) and a portion of the very small tribe of Benjamin (Jerusalem was located in the portion of land allotted to the tribe of Benjamin).
Jeroboam, one of Solomon’s mighty men of valor, was made king over the ten northern tribes. God told Jeroboam that He would prosper him and expand his kingdom if he obeyed His covenants and statutes. The southern kingdom was known as Judah, and the northern kingdom was known as Israel. The capital city for the southern kingdom of Judah was Jerusalem. And the capital city for the northern kingdom of Israel was Samaria.
Unfortunately, despite God’s promise to him, Jeroboam feared that if the people continued to make pilgrimages to Jerusalem to the temple that they would eventually want to be reunited with the southern kingdom of Judah. So he immediately set up false gods and built an idolatrous temple in Samaria to prevent the people from going to the temple in Jerusalem. God sent His prophets to the northern kingdom telling the people to repent, but they never did. After 200 years, God allowed the Assyrian king to take them captive in 721 BC.12
The Assyrians devised a system that prevented its conquered territories from rising up in rebellion. When they conquered a nation, they immediately set out to relocate many of its citizens to other parts of their empire. It says in 2 Kings 17:6 that the Assyrian king relocated a portion of the northern tribes of Israel to the cities of Halah and Gozan, both located in what is today’s northern Iran. Then he took citizens from other portions of his kingdom and placed them in the northern kingdom of Israel. This practice successfully prevented the people from revolting, because they were divided by both language and culture.
In time, the northern tribes of Israel were absorbed into the surrounding nations. They lost their identity as the children of Israel, thus making them the lost ten tribes of Israel. They weren’t lost because they were killed; they were lost because their descendants were assimilated into the cultures of the surrounding nations. But they’ve never been lost to God; He knows the DNA and ancestry of all people. It doesn’t matter that we do not know the identity of the descendants of the northern tribes of Israel, because God knows who and where they are.
God Will Keep His Promise to Restore Both Kingdoms of Israel and Judah
The tribes represented are 1) Judah, 2) Reuben, 3) Gad, 4) Aser, 5) Nepthalim, 6) Manasses, 7) Simeon, 8) Levi, 9) Issachar, 10) Zabulon, 11) Joseph, and 12) Benjamin. This list is missing the names of Dan and Ephraim. It’s not always apparent, but there were actually 13 tribes. If you’ll recall, there was never a tribe for Joseph, only tribes for his sons, Ephraim and Manasses. But in this list, we see Joseph’s name listed but not Ephraim’s. Levi was never considered a tribe, because the Levites were the priests, and consequently, they had no territory of their own. There are several places in the Old Testament where the 12 tribes of Israel are listed; however, each of these lists is missing one of the sons. It varies but mostly it is the tribe of Levi that is missing.
The most important thing about this list of the sealing of the 144,000 servants from the 12 tribes of the children of Israel is that it reveals how God is going to keep His covenant promise to the nation of Israel, to be that nation that is holy and set apart for His purpose. There are many prophetic words where God promises He will raise up both the southern and northern kingdoms and reunite them again. Keep in mind that these prophetic words were given long after the northern kingdom of Israel no longer existed. The prophet Ezekiel prophesied one such prophecy: “…Thus says the Lord God: Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again. They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be My people, and I will be their God”(Eze. 37:21–23 NKJV).
The Lord will gather the children of Israel from all the nations and bring them into their own land where He will make them one nation again with having only one king to rule over them. No more will the two nations be divided. When Ezekiel prophesied this word, the northern kingdom of Israel had already been conquered for well over 100 years. So after 100 years, he prophesied that they would all be re-gathered and become one nation again.
In addition to their re-gathering, Ezekiel also prophesied that their transgression toward God would come to an end. They would one day no longer worship false gods. God will declare that they are His people, and they will declare that He is their God. This prophetic word will be fulfilled at the conclusion of Daniel’s 70th week. Then in verses 26–28, the Lord reaffirmed His everlasting covenant with Israel saying: “Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people. The nations also will know that I, the Lord, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore” (Eze. 37:26–28 NKJV).
There will be a covenant of peace between Him and His people—not just the Jews from the tribe of Judah, but all the children of Israel. The Lord will establish them. They will increase and multiply as a people. And their enemies will be put to naught. And, most importantly, He will lift up Israel before the other nations as a sanctified nation, holy and set apart for His purpose. He will put His sanctuary in the midst of Jerusalem forever. Israel will be His headquarters.
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