Reading the Word
Revelation 7:1–8 (ESV)
1 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. 2 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, 3 saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” 4 And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel: 5 12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed, 12,000 from the tribe of Reuben, 12,000 from the tribe of Gad, 6 12,000 from the tribe of Asher, 12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali, 12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh, 7 12,000 from the tribe of Simeon, 12,000 from the tribe of Levi, 12,000 from the tribe of Issachar, 8 12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun, 12,000 from the tribe of Joseph, 12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed.
Understanding and Applying the Word
In this passage we find a brief interlude between God’s judgments. The pause takes place so that God’s people can be sealed with a mark on their foreheads in order to set them apart from the coming judgments.
There is discussion about who the 144,000 are. Should this be taken literally as 144,000 Jewish believers? Or, should it be taken figuratively as a reference to all of God’s people? It seems best, because of the detailed listing of each tribe, to take the passage as speaking of literal Israel. We are told that in the Great Tribulation, God will seal 144,000 Jewish believers as they serve him.
The primary point of the passage is that God’s people are protected from his wrath. This does not mean that they are protected from the evil of other people. In fact, we see a picture throughout Revelation of the spiritual battle that is taking place and that believers are a part of. But we know who we belong to and he has promised not to abandon us, but to keep us for himself.
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