Mercy in the Midst of Judgment

Rev 7:1-17

1 After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree.

2 Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea,

3 saying, "Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads."

4 And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed:

5 of the tribe of Judah twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand were sealed;

6 of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand were sealed;

7 of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand were sealed;

8 of the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand were sealed.

9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands,

10 and crying out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!"

11 All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,

12 saying: "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen."

13 Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, "Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?"

14 And I said to him, "Sir, you know." So he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

15 "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 dwell among them.

16 "They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat;

17 "for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." (NKJ)

 

The presence of saved people in the world after the rapture has puzzled some because according to II Thessalonians 2:7 the one who now restrains sin, often identified as the Holy Spirit, is pictured as being removed from the world. The question then is how can people be saved in the tribulation if the Holy Spirit is taken Out of the world? The answer, of course, is that the Holy Spirit is removed from the world in the same sense in which He came on the day of Pentecost. People were saved be the Spirit of God came to indwell the church, and it should be clear from other Scriptures that the Holy Spirit is always omnipresent. The Revelation of Jesus Christ; John F. Walvoord ; Moody Press; 1966, pages 139

The question was raised in 6:17 whether any would be saved in the Tribulation. This is answered in this chapter, and two classes of the saved are mentioned specifically: (1) those who are saved in Israel, (2) those of all nations who, though saved spiritually, are martyred. Though the chapters of Revelation are not all in chronological sequence, chapter 7 depicts a scene in heaven which precedes the second coming of Christ to the earth. Those seen in heaven were said to "come out of the Great Tribulation" (v. 14). The chapter accordingly indicates how they will be marvelously blessed in heaven after their trials on earth. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament: Electronic Edition c 1997, Parsons Technology, Inc.

Chapter 7 of the book of Revelation serves as a review of the situation described in the previous chapters and emphasizes two important facts. First, God is going to judge Israel in the period of great trial, and 12,000 from each tribe, totaling 144,000, will be protected and sealed from the judgments which will fall upon the world in general. Second, a great multitude of Gentiles will also be saved, but many of these will be martyred, and a multitude of the martyred dead are found in heaven rejoicing in the presence of the Lamb and representing every tongue and nation. It is an indication that even in the tragic closing hours prior to the second coming of Christ to the earth, countless souls will find Christ as Saviour and be saved by His grace. The Revelation of Jesus Christ; John F. Walvoord ; Moody Press; 1966, pages 149

1 After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree.

2 Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea,

3 saying, "Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads."

Seals imply possession and ownership. The 144,000 individuals sealed during the Tribulation are the possession of God.. . . The 144,000 Jews (12,000 from each tribe) will be wonderfully converted to Christ during the Tribulation after the exodus of the church. Not only does the text clearly maintain this, but also the care in listing each of the tribes adds validity to the interpretation (vv. 5-8). The peculiarities of the listing are these: (1) inclusion of Levi (v. 7), doubtless because of the cessation of O.T. priesthood; and (2) the substitution of Manasseh for Dan (Rev 7:6), the latter omitted possibly because of its idolatrous history. The Believer's Study Bible; Copyright © 1991 by the Criswell Center for Biblical Studies

The judgments are delayed until these 144,000 Jewish people can be sealed; i.e., protected supernaturally. Ryrie Study Bible; Ryrie, Charles Caldwell, Th.D., Ph.D.

4 And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed:

These sealed servants are all Jews: there are 12,000 each from twelve tribes of Israel. It is unfortunate that some well-meaning Christians have taught that the 144,000 are symbolic of the church (the new Israel), because the church is no longer on earth at this point in history. These Jews will probably be God's chosen missionaries--144,000 "Apostle Pauls" who carry the Gospel to all nations! This event will fulfill Christ's prophecy of Matt. 24:14; the result will be the salvation of a multitude of Gentiles (7:9ff). When you think of the multitudes that Paul won during his ministry, you can begin to imagine what 144,000 such missionaries would do! The tribe of Dan is missing from this list, and the tribe of Manasseh takes its place. The reasons seem to be: (1) Dan led Israel into idolatry, Judges 18:30; 1 Kings 12:28-30; (2) therefore God promised to blot out the name of the idolater, Deut. 29:18-21. Wiersbe's Expository Outlines on the New Testament; Warren W Wiersbe

5 of the tribe of Judah twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand were sealed;

6 of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand were sealed;

7 of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand were sealed;

8 of the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand were sealed.

The premillennialist takes the Jewish identity of the 144,000 literally and understands them to be Jewish converts who serve as missionaries during the Tribulation period (cf. Dan. 12:3). The Bible Reader's Companion; Richards, Lawrence O.

9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands,

Gentiles are also among those converted during the Great Tribulation. John now sees an innumerable multitude from among all nations, arrayed in white and standing before the throne. Were they the church, John would have no reason for perplexity. He would certainly have recognized some of them. He is informed by one of the elders that they are those who had washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb (v. 14). Further, they had come out of the Great Tribulation. The Believer's Study Bible; Copyright © 1991 by the Criswell Center for Biblical Studies

The palm-bearing multitude is reminiscent of Christ's entry into Jerusalem. The palm branch is the symbol of joy and triumph. New Commentary on the Whole Bible; Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Electronic Edition

. . . those here described are martyrs who have sealed their testimony with their own blood. Some believe that the majority of saints in the tribulation will die as martyrs. Many will be killed by earthquakes, war, and pestilence. Others will be the object of special persecution by the world ruler. They will be hounded to death much as the Jews were in World War II. Because they will not worship the beast, they will be under a death sentence (Rev. 13:15). Those who accept Christ in that time may be faced with the solemn alternative of either renouncing their faith in Christ and worshiping the beast or being slain. The result will be multiplied thousands of martyrs. The Revelation of Jesus Christ; John F. Walvoord ; Moody Press; 1966, pages 146

10 and crying out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!"

salvation--lit., "the salvation." All of the praise for man's salvation is to be given to God. At the time of the Lord's entry into Jerusalem, "salvation" was the cry of a palm-bearing crowd. "Hosanna," the term they shouted, means "save us now." Hosanna is derived from Psalm 118:25. In this psalm the same connection occurs between salvation, the tabernacle of the righteous, and the Jews' cry--to be repeated by the whole nation at the time of the Messiah's coming: "Blessed is the one who is coming, the one sent by the Lord." New Commentary on the Whole Bible; Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Electronic Edition

11 All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,

12 saying: "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen."

13 Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, "Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?"

14 And I said to him, "Sir, you know." So he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

"These are they which came out of great tribulation." In the Greek the expression is far more specific. Literally it could be translated, "These are those who came out of the tribulation, the great one." It is undoubtedly a reference to the specific period of the great tribulation of which Christ spoke (Matt. 24:21). The Revelation of Jesus Christ; John F. Walvoord ; Moody Press; 1966, pages145

It seems evident that these "who have come out of the Great Tribulation" have been martyred and were then safe in heaven. They were given the special privilege of being before God's throne and serving Him day and night in His temple. They were protected by God Himself and never again would they experience hunger… thirst, or scorching heat, with the implication that this was their experience of suffering on earth. They were under the special shepherd-care of the Lamb and were drinking from springs of living water. The narration concludes with the comforting truth that all their tears would be wiped away. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament: Electronic Edition c 1997, Parsons Technology, Inc.

Tribulation Although God's people may expect tribulation throughout the present age (John 16:33; Acts 14:22), the word "tribulation," as here, is also used specifically of a future time (Mat 24:21, 29; Mark 13:24). Since our Lord links the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel with this time of tribulation (Mat 24:15-21; Mark 13:14-19), it is evident that the tribulation is to be connected with the seventieth "seven" (week) of Daniel (Dan 9:27). Furthermore, the Biblical references have in common an allusion to unprecedented trouble (Jer 30:7; Dan 9:27; 12:1; Mat 24:21-22). From the Scriptures we may deduce that the tribulation will begin with the signing of the covenant to permit the renewal of Jewish sacrifice (Dan 9:27); it will be a period of unexampled trouble and judgment (see chain ref., Tribulation, Ps 2:5 to Rev 7:14), and is described in Rev 6-19; and it will involve the whole earth (Rev 3:10), but it is distinctively "the time of Jacob's trouble" (Jer 30:7). The elements of the great tribulation (the latter half of the seventieth week) are: (1) the cruel reign of the "beast out of the sea" (Rev 13:1) who, at the beginning of the final three and one-half years, will break his covenant with the Jews (by virtue of which they will have re-established the Temple worship, Dan 9:27), and show himself in the Temple, demanding that he be worshiped as God (Mat 24:15; 2 Th 2:4); (2) the active interposition of Satan "having great wrath" (Rev 12:12), who gives his power to the beast (Rev 13:4-5); (3) the unprecedented activity of demons (Rev 9:2, 11; cp. v. 20); and (4) the terrible bowl judgments of Rev 16. New Scofield Reference Bible KJV; Electronic Edition Copyright © 1998, Parsons Technology, Inc.

These are they which came out of great tribulation--This is the "tribulation" to which the martyrs were exposed under the fifth seal. It is the same that Christ predicted would precede his coming (Matt. 24:21); it will be followed by the same signs as the sixth seal (Matt. 24:29, 30). have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb--The blood of Jesus Christ (i.e., the blood that Jesus shed to secure our redemption) is the only thing that can purify us (see Heb. 7:14; 1 John 1:7; Rev. 12:11; 22:14). New Commentary on the Whole Bible; Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Electronic Edition

The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments speak often of blood as the symbol of life, as in Leviticus 17:14: "The life of all flesh is the blood thereof." The spiritual significance of shed blood is given prominence in both the Old and New Testaments with hundreds of references to it. According to Hebrews 9:22, "without shedding of blood is no remission." According to Acts 20:28, the church has been purchased by the blood of Christ. In Romans 3:25 Christ is declared to be the propitiation for our sins through "faith in his blood." In Romans 5:9 we are "justified by his blood," and therefore "shall be saved from wrath through him." Ephesians 1:7 states that "we have redemption through his blood." According to Colossians 1:20, Christ has "made peace through the blood of his cross.

The emphasis in the Scripture upon the shed blood of sacrifice whether in the Mosaic law of the Old Testament or the sacrifice of Christ in the New Testament points to the necessity of His substitutionary death for the believer's redemption. Though a modern world is offended by substitutionary sacrifice and especially by the reference to sacrificial blood, from God's viewpoint, like the children of Israel in Egypt, there is no safety except for those under the blood. God promised Israel in Exodus 12:13, "When I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt."

The blood of the Lamb is the assurance of cleansing and forgiveness for these who have been martyred for their faith in Christ. Even their own sacrificial death could not atone for their sins. They, like all others, must rest alone in that sacrifice which Christ provided for them. What is true for them is true for the saints of all ages; only the blood of Christ avails to wash away sin. The Revelation of Jesus Christ; John F. Walvoord ; Moody Press; 1966, pages 146-147

15 "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 dwell among them.

he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them--lit., "will spread his tent over them" (NIV)--i.e., God "will shelter them with his presence" (RSV). The Greek verb is the same one used in John 1:14, "tabernacled"New Commentary on the Whole Bible; Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Electronic Edition

16 "They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat;

17 "for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

Some have attempted to draw from this passage that there will be actual tears in heaven and have implied that saints will be shedding tears because of grief over wasted lives and unconfessed sin while on earth. This passage, however, does not even suggest such a situation. The point is that the grief and tears of the past, speaking of their trials in the tribulation, will be over when they get to heaven. The saints in glory will be occupied with the beauty and wonder of heaven and the worship of the Saviour. They will not have time for repentance of that which can no longer be changed. Instead, God will wipe away all tears resulting from their suffering on earth. In the glory of heaven whatever burdens and cares may have been laid upon the saints in earthly life, there will be no sorrow, no tears, and no death. The Revelation of Jesus Christ; John F. Walvoord ; Moody Press; 1966, pages 92, 93

This passage clearly teaches that many Gentiles will be saved during the tribulation. The command to preach the gospel to every nation throughout the world (Matt. 24:14; 28: 19--20) will have its ultimate fulfillment in this way before Christ comes back to establish His millennial kingdom. The concept sometimes advanced that the rapture cannot occur because all the world has not heard the gospel is a faulty conclusion. The requirement that all the world hear the gospel pertains not to the rapture but to the coming of Christ to set up His kingdom. The Revelation of Jesus Christ; John F. Walvoord ; Moody Press; 1966, pages 92, 93

 

Mercy in the Midst of Judgment

Rev 7:1-17

1 After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree.

2 Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea,

3 saying, "Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads."

4 And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed:

5 of the tribe of Judah twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand were sealed;

6 of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand were sealed;

7 of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand were sealed;

8 of the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand were sealed.

9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands,

10 and crying out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!"

11 All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,

12 saying: "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen."

13 Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, "Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?"

14 And I said to him, "Sir, you know." So he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

15 "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 dwell among them.

16 "They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat;

17 "for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." (NKJ)

 

It is good to know that our God is a God of mercy. That He is always merciful. And that in the face of all the terrible judgement that we see in the book of Revelation that He includes a section of grace.

Some people have wondered if anyone would be saved during this terrible time of judgment. The answer is yes. Although God's Holy Spirit, the restrainer that Paul referred to in 2 Thess. 2:7, will be taken from the world along with the Christians, yet He is God and is omnipresent.

God's spirit worked among men from the creation, but on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came in a special administration. That will be gone after the rapture, but not the Holy Spirit's presence or power to save.

We see from this chapter that multitudes will come to Christ during this time. They will be saved just as we have been saved by grace through faith.

  1. God has always tempered judgment with mercy.
    1. When God pronounced judgment on Adam and Eve He also provided a sacrifice to make a covering for their sin.
    2. When God destroyed the earth with a flood, yet He saved Noah and his family by warning them and instruction them to build a ship.
    3. When God destroyed Jericho, He saved Rahab the harlot.
    4. When God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, He rescued Lot and his family.
    5. When God destroyed Jerusalem in Ezekiel's day He preserved a number who were sealed with the seal of God. Ezek 9:4 and the LORD said to him, "Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it." (NKJ)
  2. God will be merciful to Israel once again
    1. Many people have a problem with this chapter for they believe that God is finished with Israel.
      1. They think that this chapter refers simply to Christians of all the ages.
      2. But why would we find two separate accounts of the same people but by entirely different descriptions.
      3. And why would He give us a list of these people by tribe and even then give us a unique list among the some 29 list found in the Bible.
    2. God is not through with Israel but will do all that He has told us.
    3. What is the purpose of these 144,000
      1. We do not really know but many have speculated that since the following group is mentioned in this passage that the innumerable number are won to Christ by the efforts of the 144,000.
      2. It might be that these are super evangelist like the Apostle Paul.
      3. Can you imagine the influence of 144,000 apostle Pauls in this world.
    4. There are some questions regarding the make up of these tribes and other questions we cannot answer today, Please get a set of the notes.
  3. God will seek out a people for His name even in the tribulation.
    1. These are not Jews but come from every tribe, tongue, nation and peoples.
    2. As John views them they are in heaven.
      1. They are clothed with white robes, and have palm branches in their hands.
      2. This is a scene of celebration for these have come out of the great tribulation, that is they were martyred for their faith.
      3. They cry out loudly that salvation is from God and from the Lamb. v -10
        1. Even though these have sealed their faith with their own blood, yet that cannot secure them heaven.
        2. Nothing that we do in this life will bring us salvation, it is a free gift that we have by faith in Jesus Christ.
    3. Who are these? The angel asked John.
      1. These are they that have come out of tribulation the great one.
      2. The are the ones who have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.
        1. The Blood of Jesus Christ has come into disrepute in latter years.
        2. We have removed it from some of our Bibles because it is offensive.
        3. The idea that we are sinners and need a savior is offensive to some.
        4. Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.
        5. Yes there will be grace and mercy in the midst of the great tribulation but only through the Blood of Jesus.
      3. They have the privilege of serving God day and night.
      4. They are blessed with tremendous blessings.
        1. He will dwell with them.
        2. The idea is that He will spread His tent over them which in Bible days was a sign of protection and favor.
        3. They will never hunger again.
        4. Although in the times of their persecution and martyrdom they were hungry, yet never again.
        5. Nor shall they thirst any more.
        6. The sun will not torment them any more.
        7. The Lamb shall shepherd them.
        8. He will lead them beside the waters of life.
        9. And God will remove all sorrow, regret and pain from them.

We too can experience His mercy and grace through Jesus Christ.

 

This message was preached at FBC Toulon, by Albert Harmon. See it at http://toulonbaptist.com