March 28, 2012

Apocalypse Prophecy XLIII: The Seven Seals-Part II

The 144,000

According to Ezekiel 9:4-6 the mark is the Hebrew letter, “Tav” made like an “X” or “+” and in that context, the mark here was symbolic. In terms of the 144,000 sealed in Revelation 7:4-8 there are three views:

  • A reference to members of actual Jewish tribes saved during the Great Tribulation.
  • A symbolic reference of the faithful Jewish remnant during the Great Tribulation.
  • A symbolic reference of all the faithful believers (ecclesia) who live during the Great Tribulation.

In Hebrew thought – 144,000 (144=12x12) signifies perfection and completion. The fact that there is an exact number, 12,000 from each tribe of Israel (a la the Exodus and Wilderness wandering), maybe an indication of the symbolic nature of the passage as 12 was the number of the people of God in Jewish texts like the Dead Sea Scrolls). Also, 144,000 is 12x12x10x10x10 – these symbolic numbers were standard fare in Jewish views of the future.

Another interesting aside is why Levi is included when it had no inheritance with the other tribes as noted in Numbers 18:20-24 and Joshua 13:14. Why is Joseph named but not his son Ephraim, who is usually connected with his brother Manasseh? Mot conspicuously, why is the tribe of Dan omitted here and yet included in Ezekiel’s list for the apportionment of the Land (Ezekiel 48:1)?

All open questions that I have no ready answer for.

The Multitude from the Tribulation

It is possible that this section may represent a different group than the one pictured just previous in 7:1-8 or this could be another picture of the same group now in heaven. Nothing rules this out in prophecy unless of course someone takes a literalist interpretation too far. Scripture in (v.14) tells us this group are Gentiles who have been saved through faith in Christ during the Tribulation "ἐκ τῆς θλίψεως/out of tribulation" and we will see them again in Rev. 14.

The fact that they are standing before the throne and not seated around it indicates that these people are not identified with the 24 elders and if they were OT believers John should've been able to recognized them. Instead, John
had to ask one of the elders.

John then describes this multitude:
  • They were accepted – they stood before the Throne
  • They are clothed in white robes & holding palm branches, speaks of victory and overcoming a reference to the Feast of Tabernacles  (Lev. 23:40-43)
  • They were joyful – sang praises to the Father and to the Lamb
  • They were rewarded with the privilege of being in His (God's) presence and serving Him
  • In Revelation 7:12 is the sevenfold list of attributes expresses complete or perfect praise.
  • In Revelation 7:13 is a classic rabbinic questioning technique – ask a question of a  disciple that they could not answer and would have to ask for the answer.
  • In Revelation 7:14 the Great Tribulation designation has been held by some scholars as referring to the beginning of hostility that was already being experienced by the church of John’s day.
  • Strangely, they are making robes white with blood is clearly a ritual rather than visual image – sacrificial blood purified utensils for worship in the OT and white was the color of robes required for worship in the NT period.
  • In Revelation 7:15-16 we see God’s tabernacle as a refuge over them directly echoes Isa 4:5-6 which in turn alludes to a new exodus of salvation in the future.
  • In verses 16 and 17 we get this awesome paradoxical mental image of Shepherd care or a Lamb who is the Good Shepherd.

In chapter 8:1-5 we see the opening of the Seventh Seal. The opening of the 7th seal will also announce the seven ‘trumpet judgments’ or Revelation 8-11. From this point forward the wrath of God will increase both in intensity and extent. With the opening of the seventh seal we hear something strange: “silence in heaven for about half and hour”. This seems to indicate the significance or importance of the opening. As it was in the Old Testament I believe there are Old Testament allusions here also. Trumpets purposes were multifold as they served to announce important events and give signals in time of war. The 7 trumpets of Revelation 8 & 11 appear to be no different as they announce a series of plagues more severe than the seals but not as quite as devastating as the bowls.

The next judgment on deck…the Trumpets…

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