*Below is Pastor Andrew’s preaching outline from Sunday’s sermon, not a word for word manuscript. This is meant as aid in seeing the thought and direction of the sermon.
Where we have been:
6 seals opened:
1-4: 4 Horseman from Zechariah
5: The Alter of the Lord, where the saints cry out for the day of the Lord to Come
6: The day of the Lord is unleashed on the earth.
Today’s texts comes off of the sixth seal and is a bit of an interlude or a parenthesis to the previous section. This is not a new seal, but rather is to be read reflectively backwards over the first 6 seals. It is in many ways a vision reflecting the word of the Lord from the 5th seal, that they await the full number to come in, and our text today reflects and expands on this truth.
Before I jump into the sermonic portion of our evening, I need to lay down some interpretive guidelines. This is one of the texts in revelation that your interpretation of the meaning is derived from your view of the context and the use of biblical imagery and numbers.
So, to begin with we need to establish a base line view of who are the 144,000 sealed by God.
The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Book of Revelation The 144,000
The identification of the group is debated. Five general identifications have been offered.
(1) Some commentators understand the number 144,000 as literal and conclude that those who are sealed are a remnant of ethnic Israelites. This is based on the presupposition that John’s language is to be understood literally except where he states explicitly otherwise. It is also usually based on a futurist understanding of the book’s structure according to which 4:1–22:5 refers only to a future tribulation immediately preceding Christ’s second coming. Accordingly, 7:4–8 is said to allude to a group of ethnic Israelites who come to believe in Christ during this tribulation period and who will be protected from martyrdom during it.
(2) Some commentators link 7:3–8 to the prophecy in Rom. 11:24–26 that all ethnic Israel will be saved at Christ’s second coming. Most holding this view attach figurative significance to the number 144,000. But for many who hold this futuristic view of Romans 11, the phrase “all Israel” in 11:26 refers not to a remnant, which is clearly the idea in Rev. 7:3–8, but to the whole or a majority of the nation living at the time of the eschaton.
(3) Similarly, Feuillet sees this group as a Christian remnant of ethnic Jews living in the first century, contrasted with unbelieving Jews of that time. This remnant emerged as a result of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
(4) Many commentators rightly understand the number to be figurative, since nearly all other numbers in the book have figurative significance. Here, the group who is sealed represents the complete number of God’s people.
For the Purpose of today sermon and our personal conviction the figurative nature of the number seems to be the correct one. For a few reasons:
the numbers connect with the idea of Completeness: 12 squared multiplied by 1000. Which taken together symbolizes the people of God for all time (1000 being the fullness of time). The whole of true Israel multiplied by the 12 apostles multiplied by 1000 years
-This interpretation flows from the fact that in ch 21 the new Jerusalem is made up of the 12 tribes built on the twelve apostles. thus, the gentile believers in the end of the book are equated with the people of Israel, as one group.
Another key factor to this interpretation lies in the thought that this pictures the events on earth throughout history which will culminate in the conclusion to this visionary parenthesis in 9-17.
From this starting point let’s dive into the truth that God has sealed his people:
I. From Spiritual Destruction (1-3)
Revelation 7:1–3 ESV
After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”
-The first thing we come to is the transition from the seals into another vision:
Remember the “Then I saw” does not denote chronological events, but rather the series in which he sees them. many of the vision have overlapping aspects and work in tandem. Here we see a vision of the work of God that takes place throughout the six seals.
-The four angels represent the rule of God over the whole earth (Four corners again not literal we are not flat earthers, it is symbolic over the whole)
And the winds/ spirits are connected back to the work of the Horsemen throughout the earth:
Zechariah 6:1–8 ESV
Again, I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, four chariots came out from between two mountains. And the mountains were mountains of bronze. The first chariot had red horses, the second black horses, the third white horses, and the fourth chariot dappled horses—all of them strong. Then I answered and said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?” And the angel answered and said to me, “These are going out to the four winds of heaven, after presenting themselves before the Lord of all the earth. The chariot with the black horses goes toward the north country, the white ones go after them, and the dappled ones go toward the south country.” When the strong horses came out, they were impatient to go and patrol the earth. And he said, “Go, patrol the earth.” So, they patrolled the earth. Then he cried to me, “Behold, those who go toward the north country have set my Spirit at rest in the north country.”
- The first thing we see when we come to this text is the work of the Lord is from beginning to end and that as we have seen this is all unfolding according to his plan. the angels are messenger of the Lord and they have control over the world. showing us God’s command. Nothing can happen apart from God’s work and providence. He is over the whole of the earth and his command cannot be thwarted.
- This is essential for everything that is about to take place and reflects back on what we have already seen. The whole of God’s redemptive work has been set into motion and controlled by the willful arm of God.
-So, while these angels control the forces of destruction against the earth a new Angel arrives and calls them to await his work:
-He is given the seal of the Lord
-He rises from the east often associated with the work of God
-He is given authority over the other angels to cease their duties till his is finished.
- Here we are given the wonderful insight into the gift that is God’s providence in election. the Lord here seals his own. protecting them against what is to come. Based on what we know form the text and the encouragement given to the 7 churches this protection is one of spiritual endurance to overcome and conquer. The trials that the angels will pour out will not bring these saints to ruin, but rather will refine their faith.
And this is where the Lord will seal His own:
The seal of God again is not new to revelation, but first finds itself in the book of Ezekiel:
Ezekiel 9:4 ESV
And the Lord said to him, “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.”
the seal of the Lord was seen as proof of those who were His, the seal was given to His faithful children who we see rejected the evils of their neighbors and clung to the will and glory of God.
Possible vague foreshadowing of the Passover seal.
Ultimately what the seal shows them is that they were God’s children and as such they were afforded the protection that came from being His.
In the roman world this seal or mark could be seen in connection to roman slaves. They were given marks to symbolize who they belonged to and as such who would come, and exact payment should one of their own be harmed.
These markings would be a warning against anyone seeking to harm them
As servants of God we too bear these marks. those who are His are marked by His word and even more so His Spirit:
Ephesians 1:13–14 ESV
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
The seal of the Lord will protect us from the advance of evil, and secure us to himself (While the beast will mark his own 14:9-11)
Ultimately the Lord’s seal will protect us from the day of Judgement
and as we shall see what is important as well is to understand that this sealing is by the Grace of God for us.
II. By God’s Grace (3-8)
Revelation 7:3–8 ESV
saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel: 12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed, 12,000 from the tribe of Reuben, 12,000 from the tribe of Gad, 12,000 from the tribe of Asher, 12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali, 12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh, 12,000 from the tribe of Simeon, 12,000 from the tribe of Levi, 12,000 from the tribe of Issachar, 12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun, 12,000 from the tribe of Joseph, 12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed.
God’s decree goes forth and the angel does His work of sealing.
-This is a universal work from begging to end God is the one who chose and seals his own
-The Lord is the One who has set us apart from the world
-The Lord has been gracious to us in freeing us from the wrath to come.
God will save every one of His own, not one will be lost. This moment is another reminder of why he told the saints to wait patiently, the whole number has not been called home.
Now on the textual side of the conclusion of this portion of chapter 7 there are some interesting things to note (all of which lead to some interesting speculation)
- The tribes listed here do not match any other description of the tribes of Israel in scripture
- Judah here is assigned the highest of honor being named first. This would correspond to the fact that the Messiah came from Judah.
- Ephraim and Dan are not placed in the list
- Joseph is listed but so is Manasseh his son (Ephraim and Manasseh were their own full tribes)
- Ephraim was the name often given to the whole of the ten Kingdoms of northern Israel who fell into idolatry.
- Dan is completely omitted without any word as to why
- Some suggest this is due to Dan’s fall into idolatry (though in Ezekiel 48 they are the first tribe listed to be restored)
- Some suggest this is a reflection on the difference between the visible and invisible seal of God (those who you think will be there because of their external affiliation will not be)
- As of John’s receiving of the vision the tribes had all been dissolved and mixed so much that they had simply assembled themselves as Jews (a shorten form of Judah), with Samaria being a remnant mix of the tribes of the north which intermingled with the world. Today there exist no tribes.
- In the end again, it seems the tribes listed are figurative to show the truth of the whole people of God whom he has chosen, named and given a home. It is a reminder that he is the one who seals and names. He is the one who has clothed His people with the gifted of His grace and salvation.
So, what do we do with this:
- Remember if you are in Christ you have been sealed by God for the Day of Glory. trials will come, life will end hard, there will be ups and downs, but your God has placed his seal upon you and will be with you, stand fast in those days.
- God’s plans are never thwarted and what looks like in a moment defeat is in the scope of eternity a grand and glorious victory: here we have been given a vision that on earth we are protected from the spiritual forces that seek to destroy us, next week we will once again be whisked back into heaven where this perfect earthly assembly joins the chorus of Heaven in song around the throne.
John 3:8 ESV
The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So, it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
-The evidence of the spirits seal is God’s work in you and through you. You are grieved by your own sin and cling to the savior for rest and restoration. You cannot earn the salvation of the Lord, but those whom he has chosen and sealed will evidence His work. This text encourages us again to work out our salvation.
-Jumping ahead to next week gives us encouragement to strive in our today, not only are we sealed by God to endure, we have been sealed to Worship
Revelation 7:9–10 ESV
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!”
-In our jobs to we worship God through the trials of being a Christian
-In our relationship and friendships, do we look to him as our preserving source when all is going wrong, or things don’t seem to make sense.
-When the world around us falters and falls who is there to hope in, but the Lord who has given to us his seal. Who lovingly gave us His Son, and through the Spirit ensures our salvation?
-Lastly once again let us remember that with each morning breathe we take we know that the full number of the sealed have yet to come into glory, and with each day the Lord has given us the gift to be the avenue of his grace towards them, calling them to repentance and faith. Let us not grow weary in a weary world in the proclamation of the God news of Christ.