|My illustration from a study of Revelation in 2001|
This chapter is a pause in the events before the seventh seal is broken.
When referring to the great day of His wrath in 6:17, the question is asked: "Who is able to stand?" Revelation 7 is the answer to that question in two groups of people:
7:1-8: Jews - 144,000 (12 tribes x 12,000), sealed on earth
7:9-17: Gentiles and Jews` from all nations - numberless, standing in heaven before God
Before the seventh seal is opened, John sees four angels on the corners of the earth (Zechariah 6:5), and they are instructed to do no harm to the land until the servants of God are sealed, symbolizing God's protection and ownership. Note the story in Ezekiel 9:1-7.
Some believe these 144,000 are the church. Some believe it is twelve tribes of Israel (Old Testament saints) times twelve Apostles (New Testament saints), but it says they are from all the tribes of Israel. The genealogical records have all been destroyed, but God knows His people (Matthew 19:28; Acts 26:7; James 1:1). Levi is included here even though no inheritance was promised in the Old Testament (Numbers 18:20-24; Joshua 13:14). Joseph is named with his son, Manasseh, but not Ephraim. Some commentators believe this is because of Ephraim's rebellion (Judges 17:1-3; Hosea 4:17). The tribe of Dan is totally omitted, and it is speculated that this is because of its rebellion and idolatry (Genesis 49:17; Judges 18:30; 1 Kings 12:28-29), but Dan is mentioned in land distribution in Ezekiel's prophecy (Ezekiel 48:1-2). While there are many hypotheses, we do not know the definitive reasons and just need to obey what we DO know (Deuteronomy 29:29). Judah's tribe is first, probably because it is Jesus' tribe.
Gentiles and Jews
Jesus died to redeem people "from every tribe and tongue and people and nation" (Revelation 5:9), and He told us to go out and invite everybody to the party (Mark 16:15).
This numberless multitude is standing before the throne (God the Father) and in front of the Lamb (God the Son). Some commentators believe these are just Gentiles, some just the 144,000, some the 144,000 plus Gentiles from all peoples. Since it says every people, I tend to believe it could not just be Jews or just Gentiles but a mix! Regardless of who they are, they ascribe honor to God and the Lamb with the angels, 24 elders, and the four living creatures similar to 5:9-10. (Remember that Revelation is primarily about worship.)
Some commentators believe this is the same group of martyrs from 6:9 who are now wearing white robes and holding palm branches to signify righteous triumph. We know that they have come out of the great tribulation ("affliction" or "persecution") that Jesus predicted in Matthew 24:21. They suffered hunger (13:17), thirst (16:4), and lack of shelter (16:8-9), but they were safe in heaven, guided by the Shepherd, and given living water to drink. And they were there to serve God night and day and to worship.
I felt the need to walk and pray yesterday rather than do the post for Revelation 7 because I was almost two months behind in my daily "Walking for the World"! After praying for about five different unreached peoples, trying to catch up, it hit me that I was applying Revelation 7:9 before I even studied it! :) Don't you love it when God does that?
From the beginning of the Bible Book Club, I have stated that God's heart is for ALL the nations, and the Book of Revelation is no exception. It thrills my heart to think of that great multitude worshipping and serving God!
How will You be involved with what is on God's heart?
"Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." (Mark 16:15)
What part will you play in God's global cause for ALL the peoples of the earth? Pray? Give? Go? Send? Mobilize? Welcome?
Here is the resource I talked about in my reflection:
Joshua Project Unreached People of the Day
It is a great place to start!
Lord, all nations will come and worship You. Lead us to the role You want us to play in this. Amen.