The Great Multitude

AFTER THIS (7:9-17) refers to the sealing of the 144,000 Israelite evangelists. The Holy Spirit will empower their ministry (Joel 2:28). Pentecost is a token of this outpouring of the Spirit (Acts 2:14-21). The fruit of their evangelism will be a saved multitude during the Tribulation that no one could count. Undoubtedly, the books of Daniel and Revelation will play an important role in their conversion also. This multitude stands in contrast to the 144,000.

The Great Multitude
Name: Every nation, tribe, people and language
Number: Countless amount
Locality: Heaven
Purpose: Martyred
Reward: Received

Nations = political bodies
Tribes = families
People = geographic groups
Language = diversity

The 144,000
Name: Twelve Tribes of Israel
Number: Definite amount
Locality: Earth
Purpose: Preserved
Reward: To be received

The martyred Tribulation saints receive prominence and honor.

Position, 9 Standing before the Throne in front of the Lamb
Purity, 9, 13 Wearing white robes
Praise, 9 Palm branches in their hands (cf. John 12:13)
Privilege, 15 Serving or Worshiping God day and night in His Temple

Worship of the saints is the appropriate response to God and His salvation in the Lamb. The angels, elders and living creatures join the worship with sevenfold praise (7:12).

The saint’s praise of verses 15-17 celebrates the fulfillment of the twenty-third Psalm (cf. John 14ff; Hebrews 13:20).

Ten Blessings of the Redeemed:

1. To stand before God’s throne
2. To serve God day and night in His Temple
3. To have God shelter them
4. To hunger no more
5. To thirst no more
6. To have no oppressive sun
7. To have no scorching heat
8. To be shepherded by the Lamb
9. To have springs of living water
10. To have no more sorrow

HEAT in the Bible is symbolic of persecution and suffering. SUN signifies government. There will be no more oppressive government. God is still working out His program in human history, distinctions still exits between Jews and Gentiles, the Church, Israel, and the Tribulation Saints. Such distinctions will disappear, after the Millennial Kingdom, when there is no longer any sea, which is made up of all classes of people (21:1).

The Sealed of Israel

AFTER THIS (7:1) denotes after “the beginning of birth pains” announced by Christ (Matthew 24:4-8) and the coming of the Great Day of God and the Lamb’s Wrath (Revelation 6:1-17).

FOUR ANGELS might be the first four trumpet judgment angels who are commanded not to blow their trumpets bringing the judgments until the 144,000 Jews are sealed or marked for protection to go through those judgments.

THE FOUR CORNERS OF THE EARTH AND THE FOUR WINDS symbolize the totality of the world in apocalyptic symbols (Jeremiah 49:36; Ezekiel 37:9; Daniel 7:2; Matthew 24:31). There is an eye of the hurricane—the calm in the midst of the storm. The winds of judgment are held back until the 144,000 are sealed. Historicists view either the four winds as the forces that led to Rome’s demise or winds of error that came into the Church.

THE SEAL OF THE LIVING GOD (7:2-3). Seal often refers to the mark left by a signet ring pressed into hot wax to manifest authority, ownership or protection. This seal might be the “mark” (taw) in Phoenician script which looks like a cross and was later adopted by the early Jewish Christians as a symbol for their faith. Masters branded servants on the forehead and hand in Bible times. The text is silent as to whether this seal is visible or invisible to the naked eye. It appears to be visible once the 144,000 are raptured. 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 (Revelation 14:1).

This seal symbolizes salvation (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30) and ownership by God and the Lamb. The seal provides protection or security for 144,000 Israelites from the Antichrist and Satan’s demonic forces (Revelation 9:1-4). They do not have the mark of the Beast or worship him (Revelation 20:4).

ALL THE TRIBES OF ISRAEL (7:4-8). The tribes of Dan and Ephraim are omitted from the list, probably due to their going into idolatry first (Leviticus 24:11; Judges 18:1-2, 30-31; 1 Kings 12:28-30). The tribe of Dan could be guilty of idolatry in the Tribulation. Dan is included in Ezekiel’s apportionment of the Land (Ezekiel 48:1). Joseph is named instead of his son Ephraim. Levi is named here but had no inheritance in the Land.

Assuredly, the whereabouts of the tribes is known to God. He is able to distinguish each person. God has a faithful Israelite remnant in every age (1 Kings 19:18; Romans 11:5).

The 144,000 Israelites are a missionary corps. This corps will be instrumental in the salvation of many Jews and Gentiles during the Tribulation.

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come (Matthew 24:14).

The 144,000 are the firstfruits of a new redeemed Israel. Symbolically, they foreshadow the salvation of all Israel that survives until the nation’s Day of Atonement (Zechariah 12:10-13:3; Romans 11:25-27).

The Tribulation Saints

CHAPTER SEVEN contains two of eleven segments or interludes inserted at various places to develop certain threads of the revelation. As such, these inserted pieces often cause a break in the chronology of the main portion of the book and may take the particular topic back to the beginning or to the end (flashbacks or flash-forwards). For the lack of a better name, they will be identified as “parentheses.”

Chapters six and seven have parallel sections:

Chapter Six
Four horsemen, 1-8
Martyrs clothed in white robes, 9-11
Wrath of the Lamb, 12-17

Chapter Seven
Four Angels, 1-3
144,000 Israelites sealed, 4-11
Compassion of the Lamb, 12-17

There are two groups of people in chapter seven:

First Group (7:1-8)
144,000 Sealed
Witnessing on Earth
Enter into the Kingdom

Second Group (7:9-17)
Countless Multitude
Worshiping in Heaven
Share in the Kingdom

The parenthesis of chapter seven covers the entire seven years of the Tribulation, showing who will be saved during this terrible time of distress. This parenthesis is the answer to prayers like Habakkuk’s prayer: “In wrath remember mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2).

Historicists view the visions of this chapter as the second half of the sixth seal, applying them to politico-religious revolution under Constantine around A.D. 312-360. The 144,000 (Jews) and the Great Multitude (Gentiles) proportionally represent the redeemed Church (Isaiah 54:1). Hence, the Church having gone through great tribulation is now seen in heaven.

Preterists view the breaking of the first six seals as dealing with the A.D. 70 destruction of Jerusalem, therefore, the 144,000 are the remnant of Jewish Christians who escaped the doomed city before its destruction and the Great Multitude is saved Gentiles killed under Roman persecution.

Idealists hold that the four winds are the same as the four horsemen based on their interpretation of Zechariah 6:1-8. Hence, the sealing of God’s people has taken place before the first seal is opened. They hold the 144,000 symbolizes the “church militant” while on earth and Great Multitude represents the “Church triumphant” in heaven.

Futurists hold that the 144,000 Sealed Israelites and the Great Multitude of this chapter are saved during the Tribulation Period after the Rapture of the Church.