Sealing of the Elect of Israel. The Countless Multitude of the Gentile
1. And—so B and Syriac. But A, C,
Vulgate, and Coptic omit "and."
after these things—A, B, C, and
Coptic read, "after this." The two visions in this chapter come
in as an episode after the sixth seal, and before the seventh
seal. It is clear that, though "Israel" may elsewhere designate the
spiritual Israel, "the elect (Church) on earth" [Alford], here, where the names of the tribes one by
one are specified, these names cannot have any but the literal meaning.
The second advent will be the time of the restoration of the kingdom
to Israel, when the times of the Gentiles shall have been
fulfilled, and the Jews shall at last say, "Blessed is He that
cometh in the name of the Lord." The period of the Lord's absence has
been a blank in the history of the Jews as a nation. As then Revelation
is the Book of the Second Advent [De
Burgh], naturally mention of God's restored favor to Israel
occurs among the events that usher in Christ's advent.
earth … sea … tree—The
judgments to descend on these are in answer to the martyrs' prayer
under the fifth seal. Compare the same judgments under the
fifth trumpet, the sealed being exempt (Re 9:4).
on any tree—Greek,
"against any tree" (Greek, "epi ti dendron": but
"on the earth," Greek, "epi tees gees").
2. from the east—Greek, "the
rising of the sun." The quarter from which God's glory oftenest
3. Hurt not—by letting loose the
till we have sealed the servants of our
God—parallel to Mt 24:31,
"His angels … shall gather together His elect from the four
winds." God's love is such, that He cannot do anything in the
way of judgment, till His people are secured from hurt (Ge 19:22). Israel, at the eve of the Lord's
coming, shall be found re-embodied as a nation; for its tribes are
distinctly specified (Joseph, however, being substituted for Dan;
whether because Antichrist is to come from Dan, or because Dan is to be
Antichrist's especial tool [Aretas,
tenth century], compare Ge 49:17; Jer 8:16; Am 8:14; just as there was a Judas among
the Twelve). Out of these tribes a believing remnant will be
preserved from the judgments which shall destroy all the Antichristian
confederacy (Re 6:12-17), and shall be transfigured with the
elect Church of all nations, namely, 144,000 (or whatever number is
meant by this symbolical number), who shall faithfully resist the
seductions of Antichrist, while the rest of the nation, restored to
Palestine in unbelief, are his dupes, and at last his victims.
Previously to the Lord's judgments on Antichrist and his hosts, these
latter shall destroy two-thirds of the nation, one-third
escaping, and, by the Spirit's operation through affliction, turning to
the Lord, which remnant shall form the nucleus on earth of the
Israelite nation that is from this time to stand at the head of the
millennial nations of the world. Israel's spiritual resurrection shall
be "as life from the dead" to all the nations. As now a regeneration
goes on here and there of individuals, so there shall then be a
regeneration of nations universally, and this in connection with
Christ's coming. Mt 24:34;
"this generation (the Jewish nation) shall not pass till all these
things be fulfilled," which implies that Israel can no more pass
away before Christ's advent, than Christ's own words can
pass away (the same Greek), Mt 24:35. So exactly Zec 13:8,
9; 14:2-4, 9-21; compare
Zec 12:2-14; 13:1, 2. So also Eze 8:17, 18; 9:1-7, especially Eze 9:4. Compare also Eze 10:2 with Re
8:5, where the final
judgments actually fall on the earth, with the same accompaniment,
the fire of the altar cast into the earth, including the fire
scattered over the city. So again, Re 14:1, the same 144,000 appear on Zion with
the Father's name in their forehead, at the close of the section, the
twelfth through fourteenth chapters, concerning the Church and her
foes. Not that the saints are exempt from trial: Re 7:14 proves the contrary; but their trials
are distinct from the destroying judgments that fall on the
world; from these they are exempted, as Israel was from the plagues of
Egypt, especially from the last, the Israelite doors having the
protecting seal of the blood-mark.
foreheads—the most conspicuous and
noblest part of man's body; on which the helmet, "the hope of
salvation," is worn.
4. Twelve is the number of the tribes,
and appropriate to the Church: three by four: three, the
divine number, multiplied by four, the number for world-wide
extension. Twelve by twelve implies fixity and completeness,
which is taken a thousandfold in 144,000. A thousand implies
the world perfectly pervaded by the divine; for it is
ten, the world number, raised to the power of three, the
number of God.
of all the tribes—literally, "out of
every tribe"; not 144,000 of each tribe, but the aggregate of the
twelve thousand from every tribe.
children—Greek, "sons of
Israel." Re 3:12; 21:12, are no objection, as Alford thinks, to the literal Israel being meant;
for, in consummated glory, still the Church will be that "built on the
foundation of the (Twelve) apostles (Israelites), Jesus Christ
(an Israelite) being the chief corner-stone." Gentile believers shall
have the name of Jerusalem written on them, in that they shall
share the citizenship antitypical to that of the literal Jerusalem.
5-8. Judah (meaning praise) stands
first, as Jesus' tribe. Benjamin, the youngest, is last; and with him
is associated second last, Joseph. Reuben, as originally first-born,
comes next after Judah, to whom it gave place, having by sin lost its
primogeniture right. Besides the reason given above (see on Re 7:2), another akin for the omission of Dan, is, its
having been the first to lapse into idolatry (Jud 18:1-31); for which same reason the name
Ephraim, also (compare Jud 17:1-3; Ho 4:17), is omitted, and Joseph substituted.
Also, it had been now for long almost extinct. Long before, the Hebrews
say [Grotius], it was reduced to the one
family of Hussim, which perished subsequently in the wars before Ezra's
time. Hence it is omitted in the fourth through eighth chapters of
First Chronicles. Dan's small numbers are joined here to Naphtali's,
whose brother he was by the same mother [Bengel]. The twelve times twelve thousand sealed
ones of Israel are the nucleus of transfigured humanity [Auberlen], to which the elect Gentiles are joined,
"a multitude which no man could number," Re 7:9 (that is, the Church of Jews and
Gentiles indiscriminately, in which the Gentiles are the predominant
21:24. The word "tribes,"
Greek, implies that believing Israelites are in this
countless multitude). Both are in heaven, yet ruling over the
earth, as ministers of blessing to its inhabitants: while upon earth
the world of nations is added to the kingdom of Israel. The twelve
apostles stand at the head of the whole. The upper and the lower
congregation, though distinct, are intimately associated.
9. no man—Greek, "no one."
of all nations—Greek, "OUT OF every nation." The human race is
"one nation" by origin, but afterwards separated itself into
tribes, peoples, and tongues; hence, the one singular
stands first, followed by the three plurals.
people—Greek, "peoples." The
"first-fruits unto the Lamb," the 144,000 (Re 14:1-4) of Israel, are followed by a copious
harvest of all nations, an election out of the Gentiles, as the
144,000 are an election out of Israel (see on Re
white robes—(See on Re 6:11; also Re 3:5, 18; 4:4).
palms in … hands—the antitype to
Christ's entry into Jerusalem amidst the palm-bearing multitude. This
shall be just when He is about to come visibly and take possession of
His kingdom. The palm branch is the symbol of joy and triumph.
It was used at the feast of tabernacles, on the fifteenth day of the
seventh month, when they kept feast to God in thanksgiving for the
ingathered fruits. The antitype shall be the completed gathering in of
the harvest of the elect redeemed here described. Compare Zec 14:16, whence it appears that the
earthly feast of tabernacles will be renewed, in commemoration
of Israel's preservation in her long wilderness-like sojourn among the
nations from which she shall now be delivered, just as the original
typical feast was to commemorate her dwelling for forty years in booths
or tabernacles in the literal wilderness.
10. cried—Greek, "cry," in the
three oldest manuscripts, A, B, C, Vulgate, Syriac, and
Coptic. It is their continuing, ceaseless employment.
Salvation—literally, "THE salvation"; all the praise of our salvation be
ascribed to our God. At the Lord's entry into Jerusalem, the type,
similarly "salvation" is the cry of the palm-bearing multitudes.
Hosanna means "save us now"; taken from Ps 118:25, in which Psalm (Ps 118:14,
15, 21, 26) the same
connection occurs between salvation, the tabernacles of
the righteous, and the Jews' cry to be repeated by the whole nation at
Christ's coming, "Blessed be He that cometh in the name of the
11. The angels, as in Re 5:11, in their turn take up the anthem of
praise. There it was "many angels," here it is "all the
stood—"were standing" [Alford].
12. Greek, "The blessing,
the glory, the wisdom, the thanksgiving,
the honor, the power, the might [the doxology is
sevenfold, implying its totality and completeness], unto the
ages of the ages."
13. answered—namely, to my thoughts;
spoke, asking the question which might have been expected to arise in
John's mind from what has gone before. One of the twenty-four elders,
representing the Old and New Testament ministry, appropriately acts as
interpreter of this vision of the glorified Church.
What, &c.—Greek order,
"These which are arrayed in white robes, WHO are they?"
14. Sir—Greek, "Lord." B, C,
Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic versions, and Cyprian read, "My Lord." A omits "My," as English
thou knowest—taken from Eze 37:3. Comparatively ignorant ourselves of
divine things, it is well for us to look upward for divinely
came—rather as Greek, "come";
implying that they are just come.
great tribulation—Greek, "THE great tribulation"; "the tribulation, the
great one," namely, the tribulation to which the martyrs were
exposed under the fifth seal, the same which Christ foretells as about
to precede His coming (Mt 24:21,
great tribulation), and followed by the same signs as the sixth
24:29, 30), compare Da 12:1; including also retrospectively
all the tribulation which the saints of all ages have had to
pass through. Thus this seventh chapter is a recapitulation of the
vision of the six seals, Re 6:1-17,
to fill up the outline there given in that part of it which affects the
faithful of that day. There, however, their number was waiting to be
completed, but here it is completed, and they are seen taken out of the
earth before the judgments on the Antichristian apostasy; with their
Lord, they, and all His faithful witnesses and disciples of past ages,
wait for His coming and their coming to be glorified and reign together
with Him. Meanwhile, in contrast with their previous sufferings, they
are exempt from the hunger, thirst, and scorching heats of their life
on earth (Re
7:16), and are fed and
refreshed by the Lamb of God Himself (Re 7:17; 14:1-4, 13); an earnest of their future perfect
blessedness in both body and soul united (Re 21:4-6;
washed … robes … white in the blood
of … Lamb—(Re 1:5; Isa 1:18; Heb 9:14;
1Jo 1:7; compare Isa 61:10;
Zec 3:3-5). Faith applies to
the heart the purifying blood; once for all for justification,
continually throughout the life for sanctification.
15. Therefore—because they are so washed
white; for without it they could never have entered God's holy heaven;
22:14, "Blessed are those who
wash their robes (the oldest manuscripts reading), that they may
have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into
the city"; Re 21:27; Eph 5:26, 27.
before—Greek, "in the presence
of." Mt 5:8; 1Co 13:12, "face to face."
throne … temple—These are
connected because we can approach the heavenly King only through
priestly mediation; therefore, Christ is at once King and Priest on His
day and night—that is, perpetually; as
those approved of as priests by the Sanhedrim were clothed in white,
and kept by turns a perpetual watch in the temple at Jerusalem; compare
as to the singers, 1Ch 9:33,
"day and night"; Ps 134:1.
Strictly "there is no night" in the heavenly sanctuary (Re 22:5).
in his temple—in what is the heavenly
analogue to His temple on earth, for strictly there is "no temple
therein" (Re 21:22),
"God and the Lamb are the temple" filling the whole, so that there is
no distinction of sacred and secular places; the city is the temple,
and the temple the city. Compare Re 4:8, "the four living creatures rest not
day and night, saying, Holy," &c.
shall dwell among them—rather
(Greek, "scenosei ep' autous"), "shall be the tabernacle
over them" (compare Re 21:3; Le 26:11, especially Isa 4:5, 6; 8:14; 25:4; Eze 37:27). His dwelling among them is to
be understood as a secondary truth, besides what is expressed, namely,
His being their covert. When once He tabernacled among us as the
Word made flesh, He was in great lowliness; then He shall be in
16. (Isa 49:10).
hunger no more—as they did here.
thirst any more—(Joh 4:13).
the sun—literally, scorching in the
East. Also, symbolically, the sun of persecution.
neither … light—Greek,
"by no means at all … light" (fall).
heat—as the sirocco.
17. in the midst of the throne—that is,
in the middle point in front of the throne (Re 5:6).
feed—Greek, "tend as a
living fountains of water—A, B,
Vulgate, and Cyprian read,
(eternal) "life's fountains of waters." "Living" is not
supported by the old authorities.