As stated in previous posts, the best understanding of the information presented in this blog post will best be understood in context of the flow of the previous posts in this series. This post in particular is directly related to the previous post.
After the opening of the sixth seal, John is allowed to see some events that seem to occur before the opening of the seventh seal.
First, he sees four angels at the four corners of the earth that seem to be in control of the four winds. They are instructed not to cause any destruction on earth until the servants of God have been sealed with a mark (from the Greek) in their foreheads. These servants are then identified as being composed of 144,000 Jews from the 12 tribes of Israel.
We will find out later in Revelation 14 that this mark is the name of God. Revelation 9 informs us (as implied by the wording in this chapter) that the seal provides protection for these witnesses during the time of their ministry.
In the last post I concluded that there is a strong possibility that the earthquake resulting from the opening of the sixth seal is directly connected to the rapture. The fact that God is sealing witnesses to His truth following the opening of that seal fits right in with the fact that God will not leave the world without a witness to His truth. Though not mentioned yet in the narrative, I believe the two witnesses spoken of in chapter 11 will be witnessing during the first half of the tribulation period (but more on that later). The events of the sixth seal judgment have evidently resulted in many Jews finally accepting the truth of scripture and turning to the Lord in faith. It is also fitting that God’s primary witnesses during the tribulation period be Jewish, since the purpose of that time period is to produce a purified remnant of Jewish believers through whom God will fulfill His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob.
The next things John sees is “a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues” standing before the throne and before the Lamb—the victorious risen Savior. That is the very description used of the body of believers in chapter five. It is so very clear to me that this is a picture of all those who have been raptured—a special mystery revealed by Paul.
1 Corinthians 15:51–52 “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
1 Thessalonians 4:15–17 “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
This also fits perfectly with the words of Jesus recorded by John in his gospel.
John 14:1–3 “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
When John was caught up to heaven in the fourth chapter, which many people interpret as meaning that the rapture happens at that point, Jesus is nowhere to be found and the 24 elders are assumed to represent that body of believers. At this point in chapter seven, however, we see a great multitude of believers from every people group standing in the presence of Jesus before the throne of the Father—“that where I am, there ye may be also.” It just makes so much sense to me.
The scene is one of worship and praise by all who are in heaven. Notice that the scene includes the peoples of the nations, the angels, the elders and the four beasts. If the 24 elders represented those raptured, why are they identified separately?
One of the elders actually tells John that these people had come out of great tribulation. I have most often heard it taught that this represents those who have died during the tribulation, but it just doesn’t fit. “The great tribulation” is a reference to the last 3.5 years of that seven-year period; we haven’t gotten to the midpoint yet. I think people forget that Luke tells us that all believers will enter the kingdom of God through “much tribulation”—from the Greek: affliction, anguish, burdened, persecution, tribulation, trouble.
Acts 14:22 “Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”
I just realized that the Lord is declaring that there will be people from every nation in that body of believers. I am reminded that no one will have a valid excuse for rejecting God before His judgment throne. He has promised that those who respond to the revelation He has given and seek to know more will receive accordingly.
Psalms 19:1–3 “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.”
Romans 1:19–20 “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse….”
Jeremiah 29:13 “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”
2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
Titus 2:11 “For God’s grace, which brings deliverance, has appeared to all people.”
Revelation 21:6 “And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.”
Many like to limit the promises of God without consideration of the character of God. Scripture is clear that He is the same yesterday, today and forever.
Malachi 3:6 “For I am the LORD, I change not….”
Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.”
James 1:17 “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
Scripture is clear that the revelation of God is evident in His creation to such an extent that it leaves man without excuse. Scripture is clear that He is not willing that any should perish. Scripture is everywhere clear that God is eager to respond to those who seek to know Him.
(to be continued…)