Revelation 7

The Word Made Fresh

1Then I saw four angels standing at the earth’s four corners. They were holding back the four winds so that no wind could blow on the earth or the sea or against the trees. 2Another angel was coming down from the sunrise with the seal of the living God. He called out loudly to the four who had been empowered to destroy the earth and the sea. 3He said, “Don’t harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have identified God’s servants and placed a seal on their foreheads.”

4Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: one hundred forty-four thousand from the tribes of the people of Israel:

5From Judah, twelve thousand.
From Reuben, twelve thousand.
From Gad, twelve thousand.
6From Asher, twelve thousand.
From Naphtali, twelve thousand.
From Manasseh, twelve thousand.
7From Simeon, twelve thousand.
From Levi, twelve thousand.
From Issachar, twelve thousand.
8From Zebulun, twelve thousand.
From Joseph, twelve thousand.
From Benjamin, twelve thousand.

9Then I looked, and saw a huge multitude, from every nation and tribe and peoples and languages, that couldn’t be counted. They were standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They wore white robes, with palm branches in their hands. 10They called out in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne and to the Lamb!”

11All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four creatures. They fell face down before the throne and worshiped God singing,

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might belong to our God forever and ever! Amen!”

13Then one of the elders said to me, “Who are these in white robes? Where did they come from?”

14I answered, “Sir, you know!”

Then he said, “These are the ones who have survived the great ordeal. They have washed their robes and made them pure in the blood of the lamb. 15This is why they stand before God’s throne and worship God morning and night in his temple. And the one seated on the throne gives them shelter. 16They will never be hungry or thirsty again. The sun and any other scorching heat won’t harm them, 17because the Lamb before the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to the springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”


1-3: Instead of opening of the seventh seal, there is a break in the sequence as John’s vision continues with the appearance of four angels, which mirror the four living creatures of verse 4:7. The numbers four and seven play prominent roles in Revelation. Both numbers symbolize completion. Four is the number of completion as regards space (the four corners of the earth, for example) and seven is the number of completion as regards time (the seven days of creation, for example). The purpose of the four angels is to hold back the four winds. Ancient people generally believed that winds which blew in the four cardinal directions (north, south, east, and west) were harmless and even beneficial, but the winds that blew diagonally across the compass were destructive winds. The symbolism here is that the four angels are at the corners of the earth holding back the winds of destruction until the servants of God have been marked for preservation. That order is given by an additional angel rising with the sun. The symbolism of the rising sun is an expression of life, especially of resurrection and eternal life.

4-8: Much has been written about the 144,000 who are to be sealed. Here’s what I make of it: the number twelve also has symbolic power, and is also a number that signifies perfection or completion. 144 is 12X12, and John must surely understand the number to represent the completion of Israel. But I do not believe that he intended it to mean the completion of historic Israel and the Jewish people. He intended it to refer to the Church as the completion of Israel. It is an interesting and oft debated but never adequately explained fact that the list of “tribes” in these verses is different from lists in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament the tribe of Levi was not included in the censuses or in the distribution of land. In this list Levi is included but the tribe of Dan curiously is not, and the tribe of Joseph is divided into Manasseh and Joseph to preserve the number 12. There is evidence that in the early church it was believed that the antichrist would come from Dan because that tribe was viewed in a most negative light in the Old Testament (see, for example, Judges 17-18), and that may be the reason John excludes them. I note also that the 144,000 are to be sealed, but nowhere does it say that only 144,000 will be saved.

9-12: Now a great uncountable multitude (that’s where most of us will fit into John’s scheme) joins the scene and praises God and the Lamb in unison, loudly. Then everyone — the great multitude, the 144,000 who are “sealed,” the angels, the living creatures, the elders — erupts in song ascribing attributes of power and wisdom to God.

13-17: One of the elders, who is not named, approaches John and asks who these people are, the great multitude in white from verse 9. John turns the question back to him and he answers that they are the ones who have “come out of the great ordeal.” In other words, they have remained faithful through all the persecutions of the church. Note that they have not escaped the persecutions, but have remained faithful in spite of being persecuted. I suspect these verses provided great encouragement to those who were suffering. When the persecutions have run their course those who persevered are forever under the reign of God who provides all their needs and wipes their tears away.


God has everything under control according to his plan. However difficult life may become for us, the goal is a world of peace and health in a life that never ends.