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August 23, 2021 2:00 am
Director attention to Revelation chapter 7 Revelation chapter 7 and I want to read verses seven through eight John the relator says after these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth that the wind should not blow on the earth on the sea or on any tree.
Then 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 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 and I heard the number of those who were sealed. 144,000 of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed of the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed.
Of the tribe of Reuben 12,000 were sealed. Of the tribe of Gad 12,000 were sealed. Of the tribe of Asher 12,000 were sealed. The tribe of Naphtali 12,000 were sealed. Of the tribe of Manasseh 12,000 were sealed. Of the tribe of Simeon 12,000 were sealed.
Of the tribe of Levi 12,000 were sealed. Of the tribe of Issachar 12,000 were sealed. Of the tribe of Zebulun 12,000 were sealed. Of the tribe of Joseph 12,000 were sealed. Of the tribe of Benjamin 12,000 were sealed. Well here we are back in chapter 7, but in order to understand a bit of the context we need to take a look back may be the end of chapter 6.
Chapter 6 ends with this statement for the great day of his wrath has come in and a question and who is able to stand. John envisions what will take place at the end of this age, the great day of his wrath is the end of this age as we know it is the full and final judgment of God upon an unbelieving world. John is describing here is the sixth seal is opened cataclysmic events that will bring an end again to the world as we know it. John describes two things again. Verses 12 through 17 deal with the sixth seal, and in the sixth seal John is describing two things.
Number one John is describing the demise of the universe. Verses 12 through 14 a great earthquake. The sun became black as sackcloth of hair. The moon became like blood. The stars of heaven fell to the earth as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind than the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place.
John is not describing a temporal judgment, John is describing a cataclysmic judgment, John is describing what is coming in the great day of the Lord's wrath. The great day of his wrath. The second thing he's describes is describing here is the final fury of God's wrath that subdues and destroys all of his enemies which will take up chapters 8 through 20 say really that is going to take that much time to yes but here in chapter 7 we have an interlude, I will show that to you. Notice the Bible has the division adverse 12 chapter 6, the sixth seal cosmic disturbances and then I'm looking for the seventh seal is looking through headings and I'm looking and I finally when I get the chapter 8 I see seventh seal. The prelude to the seven trumpets so were not going to hear about the seventh seal until we get to chapter 8, but have chapter 7 the deal with what we have in chapter 7. Will John is going to describe two visions.
In this chapter that impart answer the question that's raised in verse 17 in relation to the great day of his wrath that is coming in. The question is who is able to stand. John's going to answer that is going to answer that, by way of two visions that he is going to give to us now again who is going to stand in that day will not. The unbelievers who will seek cover from the mountains and the rocks, but believers who are covered with God. Seal there able to stand before him, and before the Lamb. Why because they have no fear the judgment to come, though be able to stand and John will describe those who are standing before God. These two visions, John will see, I'm sorry John will hear John will hear in verse four, the number of those who were sealed 144,000 and I read to you the distinction there.
The 12,000. Of the various tribes of Israel. He heard that number.
Then in verse nine he says after these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, so he saw a great multitude. There beginning in verse nine of chapter 8 opens with the words when he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. Let's put that in its context.
When he opened the seventh seal. Remember back to chapter 5 in verse one were John said I saw on the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the on the back, sealed with seven seals. John saw a scroll in the right hand of God Almighty sealed with seven seals and we have already covered the first six seals that were in that scroll and the only thing left to be revealed of that scroll is the content of the seventh seal again.
The seventh seal is the last seal and it will unleash the full unmitigated wrath of God upon all of his enemy, including the devil and all of its hosts. Seven is a number that were not.
I don't think to interpret literally seven is a number that John refers to numerous times throughout this will.
This book and it's used symbolically to convey completeness. Remember the letter to the seven churches is not that there were only seven churches in Asia minor, but seven churches that spoke of completeness. This is representative of the churches that exist in any time in any age throughout church history. The seventh seal. Okay. The seventh seal leads to the seven trumpet judgments again.
Let's go back to chapter 8, we show that to you. He opens chapter 8 with these words when he opened the seventh seal. That's the last seal of the scroll.
There was silence in heaven for about half an hour and I saw the seven angels who stood before God and to them were given seven trumpets, seven trumpets, so the seventh seal introduces us to the seven trumpet judgments of God. Now again all of this is under the umbrella of the great day of his wrath.
The manifestation of the judgment of God upon again an unbelieving world and those seven snow seven trumpet judgments run through chapter 14. So in chapter 89 1011 1213 and 14 John is going to be dealing with the seven trumpet judgments that again that her art that are part of the seventh seal chapter 15 is a prelude to the bowl judgments. So when you get to the seventh trumpet judgment.
That's not the end of the judgment. The seventh judgment of the seventh trumpet judgment leads into the seven bowl judgments.
Those judgments notice again. Chapter 15 verse one then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete. This will be the final and full and complete manifestation of the wrath of God taken up by the seventh seal seventh seal was seven trumpets the seven bowl judgments now. The sequence of judgments. These bowl judgments culminate in chapter 20 at the great white throne judgment. A notice how quickly these bowl judgments come notice I don't know if your Bible has headings or not but mine does and I look at chapter 16 and verse one says then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth. Verse two says so the first went and poured out his bowl upon the earth. Verse three talks about the second bowl verse for the third bowl get to verse eight of chapter 16 is the fourth bowl mentor scorched verse 10. The fifth bowl darkness and pain.
Verse 12, the sixth bowl Euphrates, dried up verse 17.
This is all chapter 16 verse 17, the seventh bowl. The earth utterly shaken.
Then all the way until you get to the great white throne judgment of chapter 20 and then chapters 21 and 22 a new heaven and a new earth, so all that is just for us to keep our orientation to realize that were were not to read the book of the Revelation chronologically that we have here visions that keep being spoken about in the keep happening and where to see things in concentric circles, that's a whole lot different than in some kind of a chronological order. I think some people get confused and lose their way by approaching the book of the Revelation, the way we do some other books and look for chronology stop over senior another. Some order in place here.
There's order, but we need to understand what that order is and I'm trying to show it to all of this all the way to the end of chapter 20, all of that grows out of the scroll that was held in the hand of God Almighty. Chapter 5 in verse one that the sun comes and takes and opens the brakes the seals and begins to unfold. What transpires in those seven seals.
Now let's go back to chapter 7 chapter 7 will go back and revisit the first three verses that we did last Sunday night, but only to say John is telling us what he saw. Notice verse one after these things I saw four angels verse two.
Then I saw another angel, so he's telling us what he saw, but when he comes to verse four were said and I heard I heard I heard the number of those who were sealed. 144,000 of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed. He heard the number of those who were sealed and here's the question, how are we to understand this number.
This number of 144,000 is it to be understood literally, or is it to be understood symbolically or representative late. Those are serious questions and there are people and both camps respectable, reliable, trustworthy men in both camps before we deal with that which is respectable.
Let me speak to a false religion that finds some identity and what were considering here in chapter 7 and I'm speaking of the Jehovah witness Jehovah witnesses Charles Russell was the founder of the Jehovah witnesses in the 1870s they have a worldwide membership of somewhere between eight and 9 million adherents. This is what they believe.
They believe that the destruction of this present world. In this world system will take place at Armageddon that that destruction is eminent in that the establishment of God's kingdom over the earth is the only solution for all the problems that humanity faces Sabal. That sounds pretty plausible, pretty legitimate. Listen to some other things at the Jehovah's witnesses teach the Jehovah witnesses believe that this number hundred and 44,000 is to be understood literally. They teach that that hundred and 44,000 are members of the Jehovah's Witness and that when that number is reached of 144,000 that there is no more to be added to it. If you don't make that cut, then you are a second-class person in Jehovah's kingdom.
Here's the problem with that where there's lots of problems with that. But that number hundred and 44,000 is reached about 1935. If you happen to embrace this religion after 1935, you were left out was no way you could be included in that number of 100 and thousand that hundred and 44,000.
They believe are special people who actually say that they're the ones who are able to go to heaven every other adherent.
After that is to remain upon the earth. If you're not one of those hundred and 44,000. You can't be a leader in the church, you can't receive the sacraments of the Lord's table.
Think about this there. There's this dispatches does not teach that the hundred and 44,000 that John hears. They are not in heaven. They are on the earth. The Jehovah witnesses say these are the ones that are in heaven.
No, these are the ones according to this passage a correct understanding of this. These are the ones that are on the earth. The ones who are in heaven, is the multitude, which no man can number so they have the habit completely backwards, completely misunderstood. That's really not our major concern, but because the Jehovah witnesses at times will come to our door and tell us that there Jehovah's Witnesses. We need understand a little bit about where they find some kind of agreement in the Scriptures for their position.
Now what about those in the evangelical church. Those who we would find within the. The sphere of of orthodoxy. There are those who hold to a literal interpretation. They believe that the tribes the hundred and 44,000 verse four of all the tribes of the children of Israel are to be taken literally. That is a reference to ethnic Jews. Now there are three different nuanced interpretations of those who hold to a literal interpretation. Let me try and communicate that to you without at the same time creating confusion.
The first nuanced position is this understanding that during the great tribulation before the final judgment.
There will be an unprecedented moving of the spirit of God, resulting in the salvation of those who are Jews, those who are natural descendents of Israel there will be 144,000 of them that God saves and that they will be witnesses dispatched across the globe across the earth bearing witness, and they are sealed.
That is, that they will be protected from any harm. While they do this gospel work. That's one nuanced interpretation. A second that I think is much much harder to defend and I don't hear too many people arguing for this, but it's it's in its it's one of want to be thought of under this literal interpretation that the idea that the hundred and 44,000 are of all the tribes of the children of Israel that this is all of Israel that all Israel will be saved, that there will be at a restoration of national Israel. Israel is a nation well I've done some reading about that and it certainly did not commend itself very well to me, particularly when there's a number here for going to again interpret this to be hundred and 44,000. That is a pretty pretty small number in light of the Jewish population occur around the world.
There are 15 to 16 million Jews in the world. There are 6.7 million Jews residing in the nation of Israel even right now. So to say that this hundred and 44,000 is to be understood literally that it. Speaking of all Israel to be saved. There's an awful lot of problems in in reconciling that position with the text of Scripture and the number three, which I think is has has a pretty good hearing is that these hundred and 44,000 of all the tribes of the children of Israel, that they are the elect Jews who will be saved during the new covenant age during the church age grafted back into the olive tree.
They will be than this, not the nation as a whole, but a believing remnant out of the nation that they that there will be a moving of God within ethnic Jews toward the end of the age and we will see harvesting of a large number of Jews that would be inconsistent was with an interpretation of some of the things that Paul says over in the book of Romans, you know, you may be listening tonight Sabal that that notion of all Israel being saved to me. Not that batches that is so out there. I can't believe anybody would have thought of that will allow him to give you one verse that they hold to and that they look to your gonna have to you can have to wrestle with this verse. In light of how they're going to interpret it.
So Romans chapter 11 verse 26, pulse talking about Israel's rejection of the gospel of Christ and that that is not a final rejection that there's yet an opportunity God will work and he says, verse 23 and they also if they do not continue in unbelief will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.
For if you were cut out of the olive tree, which is why wild by nature and were grafted. Contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will they who are natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree, for I do not desire brother, and that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in verse 26 and so all Israel will be say as it is written, the deliverer will come out of Zion, and he will turn away ungodliness from Jacob and he goes on that context all Israel will be saved and have to wrestle with what that mean so again this is this is distilling an awful lot of study in the just a few minutes so will probably revisit this because it comes up different times will have to wrestle with literal interpretation versus symbolic a representative interpretation. So let's move on as there are those who hold to a literal interpretation. There are others who see here a symbolic rotation that is that the sealed ones refer to those who are of Abraham's seed of those who are the Israel of God, of those who are the true circumcision and let me just turn to a couple of verses in Galatians that explain a little bit about what those distinctions are Paul says in Galatians chapter 3 verse 26 for you are all the sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus for as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And then this verse and if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise says Paul, and then he says this in Galatians chapter 6 is he comes to the end of the book for 16 and as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them and upon the Israel of God, the Israel of God. And Paul is equating the church of Jesus Christ and those who make up the church as the Israel of God. The believers in Jesus Christ, according to what he says in Galatians 3 verse 29 are of the seed of Abraham. We are Abraham's children unless not a physical or an ethnic distinction but a spiritual one other number 144. This symbolic interpretation holds that that number is to be interpreted symbolically and that number is an expression of perfection say well you can have to help me with that. Well, I intend to do that. Revelation chapter 21 John gives us a description of the new Jerusalem in verse beginning in verse nine he says.
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talk with me, saying, I will show you the bride the lamb's wife and he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal and she had a great and high wall with 12 gates, and 12 angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the 12 tribes of the children of Israel, three gates on the east three gates on the north three gates on the south three gates on the west.
Now the wall of the city had 12 foundations, and on them were the name of the 12 apostles of the Lamb. And he will talk with me had a gold read to measure the city, its gates and its wall. The city is laid out as a square. Its length is as great as its breath. So were talking about a cube he says and he measured the city with the reed 12,000 furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal that he measured its wall 144 cubits, according to the measure of a man that is of an angel.
Now it's hard for us to envision her to think at least as far as I'm concerned they would understand this literally that the new Jerusalem literally has these dimensions. No, I believe that it is another description symbolically of perfection. 12×12 times a thousand. 12×12 is what 144 times a thousand makes 144,000 and why a thousand or thousand emphasized magnitude you recall some of the descriptive language that John uses about the scenes that he saw in heaven. Worship seems to just .1 to 2 point you to one of those that's in Revelation 5 verse 11 leases.
Then I looked and I heard the voices of many angels around the throne, the living creatures and the elders and the number of them was 10,000×10,000, and thousands of thousands. Now we get a calculator out, start multiplying thousands 9000 no, it's a way of expressing a number nobody can count magnitude. That's what is describing so symbolism the number 12. Get back to Revelation chapter 7 the number 12 is used throughout the book of Revelation symbolically refers to the saints. Here in chapter 7 I believe the woman with 12 stars on her head 12 in verse one.
The 12 tribes of Israel. Chapter 21 in verse 12. The various aspects of the new Jerusalem Mike I try to emphasize that number 12 as I was reading their Revelation chapter 21 Revelation chapter 2022 mL describing the new heaven and the new earth leases. Verse 20 chapter 22 and he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb in the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore what 12 fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. Again, I think that number 12 is again used symbolically to speak of perfection.
What else would we expect in the new Jerusalem that I mean that that the new heaven and a new earth, but perfection so he's describing perfection for us to hear some problems.
I think with the literal interpretation. One of the problems is if we hold to a literal interpretation. I think we're doing were fighting against the work of Christ on the cross which was done in order to remove distinctions between Jew and Gentile. Listen to what Paul says. He says what he speaks there in the number places. Romans chapter 10 verse 12 first Corinthians 12 verse 13 Galatians 328 Ephesians 213 16 that the walls of racial distinction have been broken down all believers are one in Jesus Christ. Harmony in Christ Jesus transcends all ethnic, racial and social division. Here's another difficulty when you look at the, the tribes that are listed there beginning at verse five.
They do not correspond to the list that we have in first Chronicles chapter 2 in Genesis chapter 35 there are significant differences in it says again verse four were introduced. I heard the number of those who were sealed. 144,000 of all the tribes of the children of Israel. So if we going to take a literal interpretation and it says of all the tribes of the children of Israel, you would expect that that list of tribes would include all the tribes of Israel. But it doesn't. Dan is omitted. Ephraim is omitted, you remember that Levi was a tribe of Levi did not have a land territory because the Levites were scattered throughout occupied land to represent the people in the religious observances there are. The list is not consistent either you go back and you look at the, the distinctions in the divisions, the firstborn son was was Ruben, but Ruben is not the first name mentioned here. The first name mentioned is Judah of the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed in the question is will why why Judah mentioned first.
Why don't they maintain the birth order.
Why is it Ruben the first one mentioned again, we don't know the answer to that question and I'm only implying and at an explanation, but I think that the emphasis is not on ethnicity. The emphasis is not on physical Jewish descent. The emphasis is on spiritual dissent and Judah is that tribe in which the that's really the only tribe that any Jew could trace his lineage down through and that was necessary to preserve the royal line which by which Jesus Christ would come when you talk to any Jew.
They don't say woman from the tribe of Gad on from the tribe of Asher on from the tribe of the there, they just recognize themselves as Jews.
They don't have this tribal distinction because it was lost when the northern tribe was exiled by the Assyrians and they were dispersed they lost that territorial distinction or that tribal distinction you say well God didn't lose it while I understand that argument, but I think it still creates a bit of a difficulty so let's think about this list again. Ephraim. Ephraim is not mentioned here, nor is Dan. The question is why not well you recall those two tribes were influenced by Jeroboam in the north when he built temples of worship and put idols in the places of worship, so that the people would not be tempted to travel back down to Jerusalem trying to consolidate his territory did one the people migrating back to Jerusalem for fear that when they went down for the religious observances that they would stay so they these tribes gave themselves to idolatry and to apostasy and therefore Dan and Ephraim are not mentioned. Question did those if were going to hold to a literal interpretation did those tribes therefore forfeit all rights to salvation because it says 144,000 of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed. Must we then assume that there will be no saved ones at all from those two tribes.
Another observation Joseph is mentioned. Did you notice that in verse eight of the tribe of Joseph, who is far as we know, never formed a tribe among Israel. Joseph didn't have a tribe and if you're going to argue that that's that this name takes the place of his two sons, then that argument doesn't hold up because you see Manasseh's name in verse six, Manasseh was one of Joseph's sons. So all of that to say that I think it's probably not best to think here of literal tribes of the nation of Israel, but of the spiritual Israel that's gathered from Jew and Gentile alike that we are we are all Israel. We are Abraham's seed, what is being described here is the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, still studying I'm still trying to get my mind around it. Prior to diving in to my study to prepare for this series I had previously held to a literal interpretation when I began to see the problems and difficulties with holding to that begin to understand how numbers are being used and how a symbolic interpretation is very tender, tenable and very easy to defend.
I have been leaning in that direction. So I think if we look at that list and we see in this list a portrayal of the church is the new Israel resolves, in my opinion an awful lot of difficulties. Again, I'm I'm interested in continuing to learn and study the next question we want. We don't have the time tonight to look at it is, what is the relationship of this number of 144,002 that John heard he didn't see he heard and again that helps me think you know if your ear in a crowd and you hear you get a sense of numbers. He heard he wasn't told exactly he heard I heard the number of those who were sealed but when he gets to verse nine is going on. Describe the vision of what he saw and we have to think through how does this hundred and 44,000 relate to this multitude, which no man can number and that's what where we will go when we come back to the text, Lord willing.
Next Sunday night. Well, thank you for persevering with me and praying for me. As we make our way through the book of the Revelation it is in some respects is been a bit of a daunting task but it's been challenging is been encouraging and God is been faithful. I think to help me in my study and I'm trying to do my best to work through my own confusion so that when I come to preach to you that I'm making things clear was bowing dismissing prayer father how we thank you for your eternal word how we thank you that you have a plan that transcends all of history that you are did your purposes cannot be thwarted, that all things are moving toward a wonderful and glorious climax. You are not satisfied with a world that is partly redeemed you are going to fully put your stamp on this world there will be a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.
Lord we long for that day. We look for that day.
We thank you for the book of the Revelation and the promise of blessing upon those who read it. We pray that you would help us to understand it, we might receive additional blessing fathers we think about our place in this world and what you are doing and what you have yet committed yourself to do for the honor and glory of our Savior for your own eternal glory. And again we would close with this benediction. A man blessing and glory and wisdom, Thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen