John’s Vision of 144,000 Servants of God
1After this # 7:1 That is, after the sixth seal was broken open. Judgment is temporarily held back by these four angels of mercy. I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, and they were restraining the four winds so that no wind would blow on the land, on the sea, or on any tree. # 7:1 The number four represents universality (the four corners of the earth), and winds speak of divine agents that bring either blessing or judgment. The trees may point to what is deeply rooted within our souls. 2Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, # 7:2 Or “from the sun rising.” The east is often associated with blessings and the place from which God appears (Gen. 2:8; Ezek. 43:1–4; Matt. 2:1). The messenger was not descending from the east, but ascending. The star of Jesus was rising in the east. This sealing messenger represents the living God and points to Christ, who is rising in his people, bringing the light of a new day. It is a company of messengers arising out of the light of the sunrise to bring the seal of God upon his people. who had the seal of the living God. # 7:2 This seal is the mind of Christ, for it goes on the forehead (thoughts). Until we have the mind of Christ, we are incapable of discerning properly. Partaking of Christ’s mind empowers us to be righteous judges, righteous kings, and righteous priests. This seal is more than a seal of protection from the coming judgments, but a seal that qualifies them to bring the righteous judgments of God to the earth. This is the nature of God being written upon the foreheads and minds of his holy ones. He shouted out with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to damage earth and sea, 3saying, “Do not damage the earth, the sea, or the trees until we # 7:3 This is not one messenger; “he” has become “we.” have marked the loving servants of our God with a seal on their foreheads.” # 7:3 This mighty angel has more authority than the four (the number for worldwide or universality) who would damage the earth, sea, and trees. It is the angel carrying the seal of God that speaks of God’s grace and mercy, which will always triumph over judgment (James 2:13). The seal on their foreheads is the mind of Christ, the mark of the Christ. The winds of judgment are being held back until the sons of God have the thoughts and mind of Christ. To be “sealed” means to be protected from judgment (Ezek. 9:4–6). The seal of lamb’s blood on the doors of the Israelites protected them from the death angel. The new covenant seal is the Holy Spirit (the mind of Christ) that opens our hearts to the restoration of heaven. We are the seven-sealed scroll that is broken open so that the all-conquering life of Christ will subdue all things (Phil. 3:21). We are living letters, written not with ink but by the Spirit of God writing truth upon our hearts. In the volume of the book (scroll) it is written about Christ (Ps. 40:7).
4And I discovered the number of those who were sealed. It was one hundred and forty-four thousand, # 7:4 One hundred and forty-four thousand is 12 x 12 x 1,000. This speaks of completeness and represents God raising up sons and daughters who carry fully his image and likeness. It is not meant to be “a literal head count,” but showing us who they are. It is the number of Christ multiplied in his sons and daughters coming into the likeness of the Son. sealed out of every tribe of Israel’s people. # 7:4 “Israel’s people” are those who have wrestled with their nature and have been given a new name, a new nature, and have become princes with God. See Gen. 32:24–28; Gal. 3:29. The names of the twelve tribes of princes with God speak of the virtues of their names. Just as the twelve tribes were not birthed at the same time, so they become a picture of our progression in spiritual life from one “tribe” to another, from glory to glory.
5Twelve thousand were sealed from the tribe of Judah. # 7:5 Judah means “praise.” In every list of the twelve tribes, Reuben, the firstborn, is always listed first—but not here. Judah is listed first, not because he was the firstborn but because he was the tribal head of King David and King Jesus, the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Israel begins with the spiritual, not the natural. Judah is the spiritual head of Israel (Gen. 49:2) and points to Christ, the true firstborn of creation and the firstborn of many brothers (the church). As we are sealed into the tribe of Judah, we are given the revelation of our sonship in him.
Twelve thousand were sealed from the tribe of Reuben. # 7:5 Reuben means “Behold, a son!” Once we have seen Judah’s Lion as heaven’s firstborn Son, we move to beholding that Son living in us and fully being formed in us.
Twelve thousand were sealed from the tribe of Gad. # 7:5 Gad means “a troop.” Jacob gave his son Gad this prophecy: “A troop will troop upon him, but he will troop on their heels and overcome the troop at last” (literal Hebrew of Gen. 49:19). Gad symbolizes the beginning of the victorious life of an overcomer breaking forth. Throughout Israel’s history, the Gadites were tremendous warriors (1 Chron. 5:18–20; 12:8).
6Twelve thousand were sealed from the tribe of Asher. # 7:6 Asher means “happy.” The kingdom of God is full of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Our journey into becoming overcomers takes us on a path of endless bliss. A joy unspeakable and full of glory becomes our strength and our song. See John 15:11.
Twelve thousand were sealed from the tribe of Naphtali. # 7:6 Naphtali means “wrestling.” This points to the struggle of warfare between flesh and spirit, between living in the natural realm and in the sonship realm of the Spirit.
Twelve thousand were sealed from the tribe of Manasseh. # 7:6 Manasseh means “causing me to forget.” There is a realm of grace, where we forget the pain of our struggles and betrayals and enter into the vibrant, victorious life of Christ. We then can say like Manasseh’s father Joseph, “Others meant to harm me, but God meant to bless me and bring good out of all I’ve gone through.”
7Twelve thousand were sealed from the tribe of Simeon. # 7:7 Simeon means “a hearing ear” or “one who hears.” Our ears are to be pierced open to continually hear the voice of our Shepherd, Jesus Christ. See Isa. 50:4–5.
Twelve thousand were sealed from the tribe of Levi. # 7:7 Levi means “joined” (to the Lord) or “union.” Because of Levi’s zeal for the Lord when he refused to worship the golden calf after Israel’s deliverance from Exodus, God rewarded the tribe of Levi by calling them to be his priests so that they would be “joined” to God and find God alone as their inheritance. Today there are those who realize they are the bride of Christ and are determined to live in union with him, joined to his heart (Rom. 7:4; 1 Cor. 6:17; 2 Cor. 11:2).
Twelve thousand were sealed from the tribe of Issachar. # 7:7 Issachar means “reward” or “compensation.” Every obedient son and daughter of God will be rewarded with an indescribable inheritance full of blessings (Eph. 1:3; 2 Peter 1:3–4).
8Twelve thousand were sealed from the tribe of Zebulun. # 7:8 Zebulun means “dwelling” or “habitation.” As we pass through these twelve stages of our sonship, we will become a Zebulun people, his habitation. We don’t just receive things from God; we become his dwelling place, his holy of holies on the earth.
Twelve thousand were sealed from the tribe of Joseph. # 7:8 Joseph means “May he add” (another). As Rachel gave birth to Joseph, ending her season of barrenness, she exclaimed, “May Yahweh add to me another son” (Gen. 30:23–24). Although she rejoiced in having a son, she longed for another one. In the same way, God has chosen through Christ to bring many sons to glory, for Jesus is the Firstborn among many (Rom. 8:29).
Twelve thousand were sealed from the tribe of Benjamin. # 7:8 Benjamin means “son of my right hand.” The cry of Rachel for another son was answered with the birth of Benjamin. As she died in childbirth, her last act was to name her son Benomi, “son of my sorrow.” But Jacob renamed the boy Benjamin, “son of my right hand.” Through the travail of our difficulties, a true son of God’s right hand will come forth. We are now a “right hand” people, given the privilege of sitting enthroned with Christ at the right hand of God (Eph. 2:6; Rev. 3:21). In Benjamin we find the completion of our journey into the fullness of our inheritance (sonship) in Christ. At God’s right hand are a Benjamin company, mature in the fullness of Christ. The above list of the twelve tribes is unlike other lists, showing it to be a symbolic list of God’s people who are brought into the fullness of Christ. The tribe of Ephraim is often listed among the tribes of Israel but is missing in this list because of his (their) rebellion. The tribe of Dan is not listed due to its rebellion and idolatry. Dan means “judge.” Judgment is missing from the list, for Dan is not found among them. Although Dan was removed, Levi was added. The tribe of Levi, although not given an allotment with the other tribes because of their priestly calling, is listed here because of his (their) faithfulness to serve God.
A Vast Multitude from Every Nation
9After this I looked, and behold, right in front of me I saw a vast multitude of people—an enormous multitude so huge that no one could count—made up of victorious ones from every nation, tribe, people group, and language. They were all in glistening white robes, standing before the throne and before the Lamb with palm branches # 7:9 The palm tree is a biblical symbol of victory. in their hands. 10And they shouted out with a passionate voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God
seated on the throne
and to the Lamb!”
11All the angels were standing in a circle around the throne with the elders and the four living creatures, and they all fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12singing:
“Amen! Praise and glory,
wisdom and thanksgiving,
honor, power, and might
belong to our God forever and ever! Amen!”
13Then one of the elders asked me, “Who are these in glistening white robes, and where have they come from?”
14I answered, “My lord—you must know.”
Then he said to me, “They are ones who have washed their robes # 7:14 The implication is that their robes were defiled and needed to be washed. The world and the religious system must be removed from our “robes.” and made them white in the blood of the Lamb and have emerged from the midst of great pressure and ordeal. # 7:14 Or “the great [or ‘major’] oppression [persecution, tribulation].” Each of the white-robed saints had to pass through tribulation. This phrase “great tribulation” occurs twice in the book of Revelation and refers only to believers, never to the world. It is the true followers of the Lamb who pass through this “tribulation.” This comes from the Latin word tribulum, a hollowed-out rock that was used to separate wheat (or other grains) from the chaff. We must pass through tribulum (tribulation) to enter into the kingdom of God. See Acts 14:22. 15For this reason they are before the throne of God, ministering to him as priests # 7:15 The word used for “ministering” as priests is latreuo and can mean both “worship” and “serve” (as priests). day and night, within his cloud-filled sanctuary. And the enthroned One spreads over them his tabernacle-shelter. # 7:15 A vivid figure of speech for God dwelling with them, making his very residence with them. The Aramaic can be translated “The enthroned One leans over them.” 16Their souls will be completely satisfied. # 7:16 Or “They will never again experience hunger or thirst,” a figure of speech for being completely satisfied. And neither the sun nor any scorching heat will affect them. # 7:16 See Isa. 49:10. This scorching heat is most likely a figure of speech representing that demonic power will never afflict them. 17For the Lamb at the center of the throne continuously shepherds them unto life # 7:17 As translated from the Aramaic. The sacrificial heart of Christ as the Lamb will guide them and be their path of life. —guiding them to the everlasting fountains of the water of life. # 7:17 Some manuscripts have “to living springs of water.” And God will wipe from their eyes every last tear!” # 7:17 The Greek word for “anoint” is “to wipe” or “smear.” It is possible to translate this “He will anoint every tear shed from their eyes.” See Isa. 25:8.