LINK: Revelation 7
The stage is set for final judgment. The sixth seal has been broken and unleashed on the earth. Even mighty rulers hide,"calling to the mountains and rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?'" (Revelation 6:16-17 ESV)
We see who can stand in Chapter 7! Four angels are ready to let loose the winds of destruction when a fifth angel ascends with the "seal of the living God." He calls to the other angels to do no harm to the earth or sea or trees until God's servants are sealed on their foreheads. Those who are sealed are the only ones who will stand.
John hears that 144,000 are sealed, from every tribe. Then a list of some of the tribes of Israel is given, with 12,000 from each tribe. Not every tribe is listed. The tribe of Dan is left off, as is Ephraim. Joseph (from which the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh came) is included. Judah, the tribe that Jesus came from, is listed first. Because of all this, and because of the number 144,000 and the exact numbers of 12,000 from each of the tribes, I believe that this is a symbolic number that represents completeness. (The number 12 often represents completeness in Scripture, as does 10 cubed. 12 x 12 =144; 10 x 10 x 10 = 1000; 144 x 1000 = 144, 000.) ALL believers, through all history, are sealed. Only God knows how many. Not one is left out. (There are quite a few Christians who do not see that number as symbolic - just thought I should let you know that! I am simply explaining as it makes sense to me; I am not the last word on the topic, for sure.)
Then John sees. "After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'" (Revelation 7:9-10 ESV) I think this multitude is those who were sealed.
They are experiencing what they had only hoped for on earth. The salvation they know now is from God and the Lamb, not from their own goodness or wisdom. They have been a church in tribulation - all the tribulations of all God's saints through all the history of the world is surely great - and now they are the church triumphant - giving glory to God. They placed their trust in the shed blood of the Lamb; they wear clean garments, garments of righteousness, made clean through Jesus' death.
It hit me as I read this that first John heard and then he saw. When I read that I thought of these verses, "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17 ESV) And "now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1 ESV) And "for we walk by faith, not by sight." (2 Cor. 5:7 ESV)
We do not see now. Just as John heard of those sealed, and then saw the fulfillment; so it is for us. We who are sealed by our faith in the Lamb do not see yet, but someday we will. Right now we operate on the basis of what we are told, what we hear in God's Word; but someday we will SEE!
This will be true of us (!):
“Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:15-17 ESV)
Here's what William Hendriksen says:
"Therefore are they before the throne of God. Only those who have placed their confidence in Christ and His atonement appear before the throne. They worship Him; that is, they render to Him the spontaneous, glad, and thorough devotion of the heart. It is unceasing worship. These redeemed saints in glory, moreover, experience the sweetest, fullest, and most intimate fellowship with God through Christ; they worship Him in His sanctuary, that is in His immediate presence. The One who sits on the throne treats them as His own dear children, for such by grace they are; He spreads His presence like a tent over them. Negatively, their salvation consists in this, that they are delivered from every care and hardship, from every form of trial and persecution; no more hunger, thirst, or heat. Positively, their salvation means this, that they enjoy the most perfect bliss; the Lamb is now their shepherd (cf. Ps. 23; Jn. 10: 11, 14). Thin of it, a Lamb being a shepherd! This Lamb leads His flock to life's springs of water. Water symbolizes eternal life and salvation (Is. 55:1; Jn. 7: 38,39). The springs of water indicate the source of life, for throught the Lamb the redeemed have eternal and uninterrupted fellowship with the Father.
Finally, the sweetest touch of all: 'And God shall wipe away every tear out of their eyes.' Not merely are the tears wiped or even wiped away; they are wiped out of the eyes so that nothing but perfect joy, bliss, glory, sweetest fellowship and most abundant life, remains. And God Himself is the Author of this perfect salvation." (from More than Conquerors, 114)
Read verses 9-17 out loud and worship our God!
Help us to take to heart the words of this wonderful book, dear Lord. You alone deserve our worship. Help us to worship you now and to continue to walk by faith, believing you, even in the midst of trial and for some, persecution. Give us hope. We look forward so much to the time when our faith will be sight and we will join believers from every people group and time and language in worshiping you. In the name of the Lamb who has washed our rags and made them gloriously spotless, Amen.