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).