Revelation 7:1-17 Part 1


1)    After this I saw four messengers having stood upon the four corners of the earth restraining the four winds of the earth in order that the wind might not blow upon the earth or upon the sea or upon any tree.

2)    And I saw another messenger going up from dayspring having the  Living God’s seal.  And he did cry out in a great voice to the four messengers to whom it was given to injure the earth and the sea, saying

3)    ‘you may not injure the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.

4)    And I did hear the number of the ones who have been sealed, one hundred and forty four thousand have been sealed from all the tribes of the sons of Israel:

5)    from the tribe of Judah twelve thousand were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand, from the tribe of Gad twelve thousand,

6)    from the tribe of Asher twelve thousand, from the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand, from the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand,

7)    from the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand, from the tribe of Levi twelve thousand, from the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand,

8)    from the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand, from the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand, from the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand were sealed.

9)    After this I looked and, Lo!  a great crowd which no one was able to number out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, having stood before the throne and before the Lamb, having been arrayed in white garments and palms in their hands,

10) and crying out with a great voice, saying ‘The Salvation to our God, To Him Who sits on the throne and the Lamb!’

11) And all the messengers had remained steadfast round the throne, and the elders and four living creatures fell on their faces before the throne, and they did worship God,

12) saying ‘The praise and the glory and the wisdom and the thanksgiving and the honor and the power and the might to our God to the ages of ages.  Amen.’

13) And one of the elders uttered, saying to me ‘Who are these who have been arrayed in white garments?  And whence did they come?’

14) And I addressed him: ‘My lord, you have known!’  And he said to me, ‘These are the ones who are coming out of the great tribulation.  And they did wash their garments and make them white in the blood of the Lamb.’

15) Because of this are they before the throne of God.  And ‘they do service to Him day and night in His sanctuary’ And ‘the One Who sits on the throne shall tabernacle over them.’

16) ‘They shall no more hunger, nor shall they thirst any more, nor shall the sun fall down upon them, nor any burning heat.’

17) ‘For that Lamb in midst of the throne shall feed them, and He shall lead them upon springs of living water, and God shall wipe away every tear out of their eyes.’


Having been given a little extra time for reading, study, translation and exegesis, the breaks that are taken between chapters usually initiate some recapping and reiterating and preparation for what’s to come.  And we’re not going to make an exception to that practice as we enter in to chapter seven.

And as we start this morning, I just want to fix our attention once more on our confidence and assurance and reliance upon what God has revealed through His prophets and apostles.

Now, that might sound like I’m just “tweaking the obvious”.  And maybe that’s true.  But I don’t think that we ever get enough “confidence-building”, “faithfulness-producing” proclamation – either from God’s Word or about God’s Word.  After all, it’s HIS speech and HIS language, isn’t it?  And it’s not in “code”; and it’s not written in symbols.  It is His speech; and His speech reveals His perception of what is His… what belongs to Him.  And as we hear the Word of Truth from His Own mouth, and through His intent and design for His creation, it re-focuses our ways of thinking and our apprehension of, and the comprehension of, what is real and what is true and what is ultimately important.

And hearing it again, albeit from another perspective, will be the focus of a few comments as we enter the new chapter.  The other “perspective” is one that we’ve touched on before, and is that which is called “postmodernism”.  Due to our nation’s obvious moral decline, and the (equally obvious) apathy of the Church with respect to the Kingdom, and it’s inattention to the actual text of Scripture, this “syndrome” called postmodernism is worthy of some more time.  Although it’s only a “symptom” (more or less) of a present-day (temporary) decline, nevertheless it is an important one; and therefore it is of value as we learn to “defend” The Faith in a contemporary setting.

Then, secondly, we’ll have a short recap of the immediate context of chapter seven – which has to do with what John has just seen and heard in chapter six.  (That’s very important to chapter seven.)  And then lastly, before we begin to address the text line-by-line, we need to introduce one further element of “Trinity and Christology” from the Scripture.

Now.  With reference to God’s spoken and enscripturated Word in the Revelation, we’ve noted previously that that which John sees and hears and writes for the Churches (broken down into twenty-two chapters and a few over four hundred verses) contains about six hundred quotes, mentions and references to that which has already been seen, heard and enscripturated… those being primarily by Moses and the prophets, and the words of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels.  And the apostles, of course, write letters of comfort urging faithfulness and steadfastness – all in the context of the prophetic Word being filled up in their time!

Those prophetic events, and the apostles’ letters, lead us to ponder the issues surrounding human understanding of the Bible:  how to read it; how to preach it; how to hold steadfastly to what it says; and, of course, the implications for our lifestyles as receivers of our Lord’s covenant promises.

And I thought a brief comparison this morning would be helpful… the comparison being, on the one hand, how we’re learning to read and understand God’s Word and, on the other hand, how (what some contemporary sociologists, philosophers and theologians would call) a “postmodernist” would read and understand it.  I thought that this might be helpful as we begin again in the text, for we are always to be ready to give an answer – apologia – to defend.

One who might call himself a believer and, at the same time, thinks in terms of what those sociologists and philosophers and theologians define as postmodernism really have few, if any, absolutes.  They’re always searching within themselves (that is, “subjectively”) for objectivity.  But they don’t take into account that they are creatures.  They search for objectivity as if they are not creatures!

The creature (and might we say the corrupted creature) has a false idea of universal knowledge, and he wants to know – desires to know – what that absolute knowledge is.  But he can’t, because he is “creature”.  And that creates a terribly uncomfortable tension.  And since he is finite creature, he can never bridge the gap to objectivity.  He wants it, but he can’t attain it (that’s the source of the tension, you see).  And that tension degenerates into a complete lack of absolutes (which is the core of postmodernism).  He can’t attain it, so he just concludes that there aren’t any.  And since he has concluded that there are no absolutes, one’s opinion (or one’s “conversation”) is just a good as another’s.

On the other hand, we’re learning about ourselves.  We’re learning that we are creatures, and that creatures are, by the very nature of being creatures, subjective.  We do not know universally; we do not “define” – we are “defined”; knowing more about ourselves, we know that all of creation is “defined” and is known absolutely (I’m sure you can hear the tense of those verbs… they are “passive”.  Creation is defined; all of us as creatures are defined; and we and the creation are known.) We know that those absolutes do not originate in, or from, the subjective creature!

So, when reading, say, the Revelation of John, the postmodernist “professor” (i.e. one who professes) would conclude that his own interpretation is as good as any.  The great “tension” produced by an intense desire to know absolutely, but without the ability to know absolutely, has driven him to that conclusion! 

So he may conclude that Tim LaHay’s interpretation of the Revelation is especially good, but there are others whose different ideas about it are also very good.  Everybody’s ideas are good!  It’s all in “code” anyway, so one can’t know much about it absolutely.  After all (he concludes) there aren’t any absolutes… we’re just having “conversations” about all of this!

You see, the postmodernist, because of his intense desire to know absolutely, inherently wishes to be “as God” – knowing what God knows, and with the ability to define what is good.  And since it’s impossible for him to attain to that, the frustration issues forth in a declaration that there are no absolutes!  And the huge problem with that is that he has, therefore, pronounced an absolute!  “There are no absolutes” is an absolute!  So the postmodern thinker has finally reached the state in which he can declare an absolute; and that releases at least some of the tension and frustration (and therefore the attraction to postmodernist thinking)!  They have attained the goal of pronouncing an absolute (that there are no absolutes)!

 And where the Revelation is concerned, the postmodernist might declare that John’s text has no authorial objectivity.  And therefore the words must mean only what they mean to the reader!  And postmodernists are very protective and accepting of each other’s ideas and interpretations of things (their conversations, if you will)… as long as they don’t hold to any absolutes!  The only absolute allowed in the conversations is that there are none!

On the other hand, in the Revelation we are learning to know God, and, therefore, to know ourselves from God’s Written Speech.  Each time we see the confirmation and fullness of God’s older prophetic Word written in the same language as in the Revelation, the more we are learning that we are creatures, and that God is Who He says He is, and that He is completely sovereign in all that is His.  And as we learn these things, and submit to them, we are forced to deny ourselves any right to be “as God”; and we deny ourselves any right to know “as God”, and we deny ourselves any right to determine what is good or evil or to define what is good or evil.  God knows universally and absolutely; and He has revealed to us, in His creation and in His written speech, His absolutes.

So, to all the postmodernists out there, you desire to know “as God”.  But, you see, God condemned the very first attempt to do that!  Adam and his wife did not choose to do evil (that wasn’t the original sin); the original sin was that they attempted to determine for themselves what was good and evil!

And having been cursed, all mankind in Adam wishes to do the same… whether it’s in the civil government, Church government, business government, household government or self government!  Mankind wants the definition of what is good and what is bad to come from themselves!

But you, postmodernist, may not know as God knows; and you may not define, or determine for yourself, what is good and what isn’t.  You are a creature of His, and He defines you (as He, your Creator, has a right to do); and He defines what is good and what is evil; and you may not attempt to transcend your creaturehood.

And, secondly (to all the postmodernists), you have subsequently declared (in an attempt to transcend what you are) that there are no absolutes.  And you are wrong the second time.  There are absolutes.  And because of your perverted and twisted desire to be “as God”, you don’t know them… therefore your declaration that there are none!  Repentance is required… and acknowledgment that you are “creature”, and that God is Creator and Redeemer.  Then God will cause you (passive tense once again) to know the absolutes that He has revealed in His creation and in His Word.

The study of “how we know”, by the way, is called, in philosophy and theology, “epistemology”.  And it is most interesting that the root word in epistemology is “episteuw” – to faith!


Now we need to spend a little bit of time recapping the immediate context of chapter seven which, as you no doubt remember, is simply a continuation of the text.  There is no break.  The apostle John is there, and the Revelation is continuous.  So chapter seven has a context which is founded upon what John has seen and heard (and written) in chapter six.

After the four horsemen of Zechariah chapter one have been sent on their mission of “the beginning of travails”, John sees the martyrs of Christ’s Church asking how long the “Master” will continue to put up with Jerusalem and its pursuit of Jesus’ apostles and elders and deacons… and the “lost sheep of the house of Israel”.  They, the princes and priests and elders and pharisees of Israel, have now spilled the blood of the Lord’s people!  As Jesus and the apostles testified, Jerusalem, the holy mountain of Israel, was the murderer of the prophets (Matthew 23).  And they have killed God’s Son – Jesus the Christ!  And now, having pursued and persecuted and killed many in Israel for whom The Christ died, the blood of all the righteous in history is laid to their account (Matthew 24).

And so the blood of the slain lost sheep of the house of Israel cries out for the days of vengeance (Luke 21:22):  “until when, holy and worthy Master, are You not judging and avenging our blood from those dwelling on the earth?”  Our Lord Jesus Christ came to seek and to save them; and He promised that their blood would be avenged!  How long will it be? The vengeance is prophesied… and our Lord Himself said it.  How long before we are avenged?  They killed the prophets; they killed Jesus, and now they’ve pursued and killed us.  And You promised that the blood of all of God’s righteous people will brought upon them.  O Lord God we are anticipating the fullness of Your promise!

You see, they’re faithing in what He said!  And in response to their faithful petitions and cries, the Lamb of God looses the sixth seal and shows them that which is to take place quickly.  And there, loosed in the sixth seal, is the seven-fold, perfect judgment of the King of Kings upon Israel – God’s “heaven and earth” – which ceases to exist in the wrath of the Lamb.  That’s the Lamb’s answer, you see.  In the loosing of the sixth seal, He shows them what is about to be.

As John looks on in the heaven, chapter seven then continues (without a break), as our Lord reveals how He has known them, how He has sought them out and found them and held them for Himself, how He has removed them before the great tribulation holocaust, why their testimony resulted in their martyrdom, and how they now live, and that there are more of them to come.  And that’s why the seven-fold judgment upon Israel hasn’t happened yet!  And He has arrayed them in the white garments of righteousness.

And then they all see and participate in the worship of God in the heaven for all He has done and is about to do.  You see that this is a continuation of our Lord’s answer to those who have been martyred for their testimony! 

And to continue giving His faithful people comfort and joy in God’s great covenantal salvation, He then gives them a glimpse of the future salvation of the world!  Not only has He preserved His people Israel, but He has an uncountable number to join these, as the covenant is extended new into all nations and tribes and tongues and peoples.  And then there is this great celebration in the heaven as God reveals the fullness of His promise to Abraham – that he would be the father of an incalculable number in many nations!

And then, after that glimpse into the salvation of all of His elect, we will see, with John, the immediate return to the subject of Israel, as one of the elders quotes the very prophetic Scriptures that foretold and forthtold all of these things for God’s people from the twelve tribes.  God has not forgotten Israel.  His “lost sheep of the house of Israel” are His first-fruits… and then the nations!  He promised to save Israel, and He will.  And these who have been persecuted and murdered for their testimony are fully answered… their petitions for God’s revenge upon their persecutors are answered – and they are comforted in the Revelation of all of God’s elect.

So you see, the understanding of chapter seven depends on chapter six; the context of seven is the pleas and supplications and petitions of those who have shed their blood for the Name of Jesus.  Their prayers are imprecatory – they importune the Lord to avenge them, as He promised to do.  And His comforting answer to them begins with the loosing of the sixth seal and the Revelation of the complete decreation of Israel.  And the answer continues through chapter seven.


Now.  The third of the three that I mentioned which we need to approach this morning is a bit more complicated.  I’ve been putting it off for a while, since there wasn’t a textual necessity that we broach the subject, even though we touched on it at the beginning of six.  But that necessity has now arisen here in chapter seven.  And it becomes even more a necessity when the seventh seal is loosed.

On a couple of occasions in the preaching of the first six chapters (especially at the beginning of six), we’ve mentioned the diversity of work and the multiplicity (or variety) of appearances of the One Who has assumed the Kingship of the entire realm (i.e. “the heavens and the earth”).

It is, of course, second Person of Triune God, Who is resurrected, ascended and enthroned God-man.  And as we read and study the text of what John saw, our Lord “appears” to John in “forms” which can be described as diverse and multi-faceted.  And these forms in which He appears to His creatures, and in His creation, seem to be intimately related to His work.

For example, when John’s text refers to Daniel’s vision, He is described as “like a man above the throne in the heaven”.  And then as John is on the island of Patmos there in chapter one, He sees the Lord, and he describes Him in these words:


12) And I turned around to see the voice that was speaking with me; and when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands,

13) and in midst of the lampstands like a son of man, having been clothed upon to the feet and having been wrapped at the chest with a golden girdle:

14) His head and hair white as wool, white as snow, and His eyes as flaming fire,

15) and His feet like burnished brass as in having been fired in a furnace, and His voice as a sound of many waters,

16) and having seven stars in His right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword proceeding out of His mouth, and His face as the sun shines in its power.


And that’s, of course, how the Lord describes Himself in His seven letters to the Churches, isn’t it?  Jesus uses each item in John’s description of Him as He sends messages to the Churches.

Then in chapter four, John having been taken up into the heaven, Jesus appears to John in this form:


2)    Immediately I did come in spirit and, lo, a throne set in the heaven, and upon the throne One sitting,

3)    and the One sitting like stone, jasper and sardonyx in appearance, and a bow round about the throne like emerald in appearance.


Then this is how He appears to John in chapter five:


7)    And in midst of the throne and of the four creatures and in midst of the elders I did see a Lamb standing as slain, having seven horns and seven eyes which are the Spirits of God sending forth into all the earth.


As you no doubt remember, the Lamb is in midst of the throne, and He has the seven horns of absolute authority; and He has the seven eyes which are Holy Spirit sending forth into all the earth.

Then in chapter six John sees Him charging forth on the white horse, leading the other colored horses to the horrors of the  “beginning of travails”.

The point being that the appearance of the Son of God, having assumed the Rulership of all things, is presented as being very diverse, according to the work that He’s doing.  The work of the enthroned God the Son is intimately associated with His Person; His Person is intimately associated with His appearance; and His appearance is intimately associated with His work!

His Person nor His appearance nor His work can be distinguished, or separated out, or categorized; and neither can they be pigeonholed into dispensations!  He is God.  And He determines Himself to be what He is.  And He determines how He appears.  And man, with all of his ideas about what God the Son is supposed to look like, just dismisses, or suspends, or even ignores (in many cases), how He reveals Himself!

The grotesque view of Him as a slain Lamb with seven horns and seven eyes is a good example of that… as are others.  (You never see paintings of Him looking like that.)  Some in dispensational Churches can’t even imagine Him presently crowned King of Kings!  They’d rather see Him continue to look like a baby, or as One still hanging on the cross.  Those are awesome appearances of our Lord; and it is most admirable to remember them and to be instructed by them.  But, what about His further appearances?

There is revealed, all through the Scripture, the appearance (in form and work) of God the Son which has almost completely disappeared from Christological thought, writing and preaching  – even in Reformed circles.  (I say “almost” disappeared… that is, except for Calvin and Hengstenberg, et al.)

And that is His appearance as “Messenger” or, as the common translations have it – “angel”.  It’s pretty settled theology that our Lord – Yahveh – the Son of God – appeared on numerous occasions – before the incarnation – as a man.  That’s evident in the older Scripture.  And maybe we’ll have an opportunity to look at those to some degree next Lord’s Day.

But for some reason (maybe several reasons) His appearances as “Angelos” have been disparaged.  It’s as if commentators and writers and preachers have averted their eyes.  They seem not to want to recognize Him as He appears.

Perhaps, on the one hand, it’s been the mythology that’s emerged over the centuries having to do with “angels”; or perhaps it has to do with the Jewish cabbalist admixture of ancient writings with eastern mysticism; or maybe even fundamentalist Christianity that has no use for what else is revealed other than the birth, crucifixion and resurrection.

Or maybe all of these… and more.  But one thing is for sure.  For whatever reason (or reasons), this would be “new” to a lot of folks.  But of course what we’ve heard in the last seventy-five sermons would be “new” to many… and even “shocking”.

We’ll just introduce this today; but we’ll come back to it again next time as we take a more thorough look; and then we’ll approach it (as best we can) many times afterward as John sees and records for us the appearances of the second person of Triune God as “Arch-Angelos” – Lord of the messengers – as the Person of the Son of God reveals Himself in His work as the crowned Authority of the cosmos, and Lord of all creatures in the heavens and upon the earth.

This is truly the “angel of Yahveh”, or the “messenger of Yahveh” as He appears in older Scripture.  And John sees Him here at the beginning of our text arising as “dayspring”!

As we close this morning I have two passages to read for you, for the “Light of Life” has arisen to those in darkness and sitting in the shadow of death.

First is Isaiah chapter nine and verse two, in which the prophet prophesies the coming Messiah in the time of Israel’s great vexation.  Here it is:


2)    The people that walked in darkness have seen a great Light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the Light shined.


Then listen to the prophecy of the priest Zacharias, the father of John the baptizer, as Holy Spirit directs him to prophesy concerning the coming of the Christ (Who was then in the womb of Mary).  This is the Gospel of Luke, in chapter one:


67) And his father Zacharias was filled with Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying

68) ‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; for he hath visited and wrought redemption for His people,

69) And hath raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David

70) (As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets that have been from of old,

71) Salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us;)

72) To show mercy towards our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant;

73) The oath which he spake unto Abraham our father,

74) To grant unto us that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies should serve him without fear,

75) In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.

76) Yea and thou, child (that’s John the baptizer), shall be called the prophet of the Most High:  For thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to make ready His ways;

77) To give knowledge of salvation unto His people in the remission of their sins,

78) Because of the tender mercy of our God, Whereby the dayspring from on high shall visit us,

79) To shine upon them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death; to guide our feet into the way of peace.’


Here in Isaiah nine and in the prophecy of the baptizer’s father, are the same words and the same context that the apostle writes to the Church.  The “Dayspring” arises upon a people who are in darkness and sit in the shadow of death.  It is our Lord Jesus Christ, here in the first three verses of our text, Who is that “Dayspring”.  And He Who has complete authority in the heavens commands all of His angelic creatures for the protection of His elect who are sitting in the shadow of death until every one of them is sealed.

That’s the Person and appearance and work of our Lord that we mustn’t overlook.  Next Lord’s Day we’ll try our best to restore this appearance of our Lord to the place where it is as current and contemporary and vital as is His appearance as a baby.