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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

June 11, 2014

Revelations 7:1-17

  1. As we started this journey, we were first reminded that this book was written to the churches during a time of great persecution. The book was designed to inspire and encourage the believers of that time that God would be victorious over their enemies. Many of the things in Revelations were concerning the issues facing the first century church. A tremendous amount of imagery and symbolism is used to exaggerate the point. It is not unusual for the writers of that time to highlight their point with the use of strong imagery that conveyed the point in a grand way. From the first chapter we are told that the book would use symbols to signify the message. This book uses powerful imagery to convey a powerful message, but we must be careful as we read and study. This preacher feels that many, who have tried to interpret this book, have done so with some religious baggage that is not in the holy text. Often people have placed on the text current religious doctrines that would have never been considered by the first century reader of this book. I will strongly say that much of what has been said about this book is erroneous. Many ideas about revelations are the result of certain religious biases, false doctrines, and foolish teachings of man. I also think that the book of Revelations is not designed to change any truths of the gospel. Some of those truths are the perquisite of faith in Christ for salvation (John 14:6). The idea that no one is in heaven until all of us go “and the dead shall rise” (John 3:13, 1 Thes. 4:16). The idea that God is Spirit and even though we might use physical descriptions, God is not made up of matter (John 4:24). Concerning the redeemed of the Lord there is no Jew or Greek, but one family of faith Col 3:11, Gal. 3:28 Rom 10:12).

  2. Before we start today, let us recap a little In Chapter one, John sees the risen savior, Jesus Christ, as a glorious and majestic figure prepared to bring victory over all of his enemies. In chapters two through three John was encouraged to take the Lord’s dictation to the churches in the Roman Empire. These were real churches, but their message was timely then and timely now. The basic message was really the same. All the churches were encouraged to remain faithful, return to being faithful or repent from being unfaithful. The struggle to be faithful was due to the persecution of the church, the pressure to compromise, or the simple lust of the flesh. The message to the churches is to simply remain faithful to the glorious and victorious savior who redeemed us. After receiving the message to the churches, the apostle is given a vision of the Lord. He sees the Lord as the most glorious king that he could ever imagine. This king is not just any king, but the heavenly King of Kings. He is sitting on a thrown and instead of regular servants this king has angels all around him doing his bidding. John sees this king being worshipped by all who are around him. The point we were supposed to get is that our King is the King. What other king has angelic beings worshipping him? All other worldly kings ask the heavens for help, but this King has the heavens proclaiming his power and glory. The next vision that John sees is a slain lamb standing in front of the throne. This lamb is a representation of the Lord who was killed, but lives. John sees the one on the throne holding a scroll with seven seals on it. We understood that the 1st century reader would automatically see this as a “will” that gave a person’s last wishes. Only difference is that our King lives forever, others kings had to die for their wills to be read, but our King was dead and now lives again. The one on the throne has his will in his hand. Literally his will for the world. The will is sealed and the issue is who can open the seals. John sees that the Lamb is the only one who could open the seals on the scroll that was held in the hand of the one who sat on the throne. We are to see that it is only through Christ that the “will” of God is manifested. We are to see that the powerful will of God was done through the humble lamb that was slain. On last week we saw how the first six seals were opened. These seals demonstrated the victory of God and how he would deal with those who persecuted the people of God. In today’s lesson we will study another vision John received of the saints of God.

  3. Chapter 7:1-3. John sees another vision not of the throne room, but of earth that is not connected to the opening of the seals. John sees four angels standing on the four corners. We already know that four is always a picture of the entire earth. The angels standing at the four corners are an image of the angels about to do something that would affect the entire earth. God is about to do something that will affect all of creation. The next thing John sees is an angel coming from the east. Coming from the East is always a symbol of coming from God. God is always seen as being in the East. So John sees an angel coming from God with a message from the Lord. The message, a message to the four angels standing at the four corners, to not hurt anything in creation until the servants of God has been sealed. The point is that the servants of God would have been marked prior to some sort of global calamity.

  4. Verses 4-8. My interpretation of this passage is at odds with what is commonly taught about this scripture. My views on this passage are different because I think that people often throw out their theology to match a certain religious doctrine. For example the Jehovah’s Witnesses used to use this text to say that only 144,000 men would be able to go to heaven. Of course that would mean that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob since they were not from the tribes listed. Joshua as well would be eliminated since his tribe (Dan) is not even listed. Many evangelicals teach this passage and say that there are two groups that will be in Heaven, one Jewish and one Christian. I do not accept any of those teachings. What John sees in verses 4-8 are the redeemed of the Lord. They are sealed before the calamity that will come on the Earth. The number 144,000 is symbolic in nature. All the tribes are not listed (Dan) and one tribe is listed that wasn’t even considered a tribe (Joseph). People have tried to figure out why these tribes were not listed, but I suspect that the idea of this text is that the tribes of Israel is symbolic of all of God’s people who have put their faith in him. I do not think it is talking about the people we call Jews (John 8:39, Romans 2:28-29). The idea of 12,000 is something that is a play on the numbers 12 and 1000. The number 12 stands for the twelve tribes and the thousand is a number that means all. David says that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, not a literal thousand, but all the cattle are his (Psalm 50:1). Moses said God was faithful for a thousand generations (Deut. 7:9). This did not mean he would stop being faithful after a thousand generations. We should not see the number 144,000 as an exact number but see it as the full number (Rev 6:11). God’s full number is sealed before the great calamity. It doesn’t mean that they will not suffer, but they are sealed prior.

  5. Verses 9-10. John then is directed to heaven again and he sees a multitude of people that no one could count standing before the throne of God. Now we already know from verse 14 that these are those who have come out of the great tribulation. It is my opinion that John now sees the symbolic “144,000” now standing in front of God. The multitude is of a number that no man could count from every nation, tribe, people, and language. The multitude had white robes on a symbol of purity, and palm branches in their hands a symbol of victory. The multitude shouted praise with a loud voice to God who sits on the throne and the Lamb.

  6. Verses 11-12. Then John sees the host of angelic beings join in with the multitude and sing a seven-fold praise to God in response.

  7. Verses 13-17. One of the 24 elders asks John if he knows who the multitude in white robes represents. John says he does not know. Then the elder explains that the multitude is the redeemed saints (all the saints) who have come through the great tribulation. Now that they have come through they serve the Lord all the time and are taken care for eternity never to suffer anymore. The message to the church is that God will vindicate his people when all is said and done. The writer uses powerful imagery to convey a simple truth, the great God will bring total and complete victory for his people and their future will be that of no more pain and suffering.

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