Revelation 7:1-17 Part 8


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.’


We’re going to do our best to cover verses nine through twelve this morning.  Not that it’s unimportant – it is!  Very!  But the language isn’t something that we have to labor over like what was required of us in the first three verses.

John has seen the incredible spectacle of the Light of the World emerging from Dayspring on high, to bring light to those who are sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death.  And He commands the creatures of the heaven in favor of His elect of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Then John hears the number of them and their order.  Every last one of them is to be sealed and rescued before the wrath of the Lamb.  Before the decreation of “heaven and earth” Israel, which was brought into being in the very likeness of His “holy of holies” above His cosmos, every last one of the true Israel is to be found and sent out into the nations; and it is they who would form the Church of Jesus Christ in the nations.

And the promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would be filled up in the blessing to all tribes and peoples and tongues.  And our Lord’s people in all the nations of God’s creation would be “as the stars in the heaven and as the sand on the seashore”.

And the New Israel would be an uncountable number coming through the gates of the New Jerusalem – the gates named for the patriarchs of the Church.  And they would all stand on the foundation having the names of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ.

And now, as we continue to read – beginning at verse nine – the true Israel has been found and sealed and rescued and named; and John is immediately shown, in startling clarity, that which had been prophesied from the beginning, and that for which Jesus Christ had prayed.  The apostle John recorded that prayer in chapter seventeen of His Gospel.

Here are a few verses from His prayer (and right after this, remember, He was delivered up by His Father – through the deception of the apostle Judas):


1)    These things spake Jesus; and lifting up His eyes to heaven He said, ‘Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son, that the Son may glorify Thee:

2)    even as Thou gavest Him authority over all flesh, that to all who Thou hast given Him, he should give eternal life.

3)    And this is life eternal, that they should know Thee the only true God, and Him who Thou didst send, even Jesus Christ.

4)    I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do.

5)    And now, Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine Own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.

6)    I manifested Thy Name unto the ones who Thou gavest Me out of the world: Thine they were, and Thou gavest them to Me; and they have kept Thy Word.

7)    Now they know that all things whatsoever Thou hast given Me are from Thee:

8)    for the Words which Thou gavest Me I have given unto them; and they received them, and knew of a Truth that I came forth from Thee, and they believed that Thou didst send Me.

9)             I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for those who Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine:

10) 1and all things that are Mine are Thine, and Thine are mine: and I am glorified in them.

11) And I am no more in the world, and these are in the world, and I come to Thee. Holy Father, keep them in Thy name which Thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are.

12) While I was with them, I kept them in Thy name which Thou hast given me: and I guarded them, and not one of them perished, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.

13) But now I come to Thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy made full in themselves.

14) I have given them Thy word; and the world hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

15) I pray not that Thou shouldest take them from the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil one.

16) They are not of the world even as I am not of the world.

17) Sanctify them in the Truth: Thy Word is Truth.

18) As Thou didst send me into the world, even so sent I them into the world.

19) And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.

20) Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that believe on Me through their word;

21) that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us: that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me.


Now listen to Jesus, as the apostle John records it, as our Lord speaks concerning the salvation of the world.  John chapter three:


16) For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes (faiths) in Him should not perish but have eternal life

17) For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.

18) Whoever believes (faiths) in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the Name of the only Son of God.

19) And this is the judgment: the Light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the Light because their works were evil.

20) For everyone who does wicked things hates the Light and does not come to the Light, lest his works should be exposed.

21) But whoever does what is true comes to the Light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.


This is the fullness of the promise to Abraham, you see.  And all through the Scripture we find prophecies, and events of foreshadowing, regarding the salvation of the world.

Listen to Isaiah in chapter forty-nine:


5)    And now the LORD (Yahveh) says, He who formed me from the womb to be His servant, to bring Jacob (Israel) back to Him; and that Israel might be gathered to Him – for I Am honored in the eyes of the LORD, and my God has become My strength—

6)    he says: "It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth."

7)    Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation, the servant of rulers:  "Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you."


What John sees here in our text, verses nine through twelve, is a glimpse of the innumerable multitude of God’s people, promised to Abraham… a number “as the sand on the seashore, and as the stars in the sky”.  And they are from all nations and peoples and tongues and tribes.

First it’s the “firstfruits”, the lost sheep of the house of Israel; then the uncountable number from the nations of the earth.  The one hundred and forty-four thousand (here in our text) are the remnant – the “true Israel”; yet the fullness of the promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob takes place through the salvation of the world. 

The number of the remnant is filled up by the bringing-in of the Gentiles to share the blessings of Abraham.  It’s what John “sees” here in these four verses; it’s exactly what God said through Isaiah in chapter forty-nine; and it’s what the apostle Paul wrote, before John, to the Churches of Galatia in chapter three:


7)    Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.

8)    And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles through faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "In you shall all the nations be blessed."

9)    So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.


There are several awesome sermons about God’s great love for His creation recorded for us through the history of the Church.  And I want to read just a couple of comments from one of them for you in a minute.

But as an introduction to that, let me just say that all arminians, and many Calvinists, completely miss the point of passages such as John 3:16.  It’s obvious why arminians miss it.

However many Calvinists also miss it; and the reason is that they rely on the abbreviated, soteriological paradigms that are constructed for them. And they don’t delve deeper into God’s Covenant with His creation.  Although the confessional paradigms have much to commend them, since there is much truth there, there is a tendency among Calvinists to see those paradigms as the whole truth… thereby limiting Calvin’s followers from making a deeper and more thorough search of God’s Word.

It’s very similar to the discussions that we’ve had previously regarding the “federal vision” controversy (which I prefer to call “Covenant Vision”).  The “formulas” that are presented to the Reformed world in the confessions and catechisms of the Church through the history of the Reformation are looked upon as the “whole truth” by many.  And since they are the whole truth (rather than the brief, teaching statement that they are), then they can’t be improved.  And thus the battle rages over the very definition of “faith”, and “faithing” and “faithfulness”.

But, as wonderful as the documents and their instructive formulas are (being the God-ordained work of our dedicated Reformed forefathers), they do not rise to the level of God’s Word.  They are teaching documents; documents of great value; and therefore we must pay close attention to them.

But when they are viewed as the complete summary of the Truth of God’s Word, then those who view these historical documents in that way limit themselves from making further inquiry into the depth and breadth and height of the mind of God as He reveals Himself in His holy Word.

With regard to John 3:16, although the differences in understanding within the Reformed world haven’t anywhere near reached the Church-splitting, pitched-battle state as have those concerning the soteriological definition of faith, the differences are there nonetheless.

But, as we get a clearer understanding of these four verses in our text, John sees a multitude in the heaven that no one could comprehend.  And they are from every nation and people of the world!  An innumerable host.

To get a perspective on that, I want to read for you a little bit from a sermon by Benjamin Warfield.  He is considered, in most reformed circles, to have been the last great theologian/principal of Princeton Seminary before the split in 1929 that resulted in the formation of Westminster Seminary (in Philadelphia) and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

This short passage is from a sermon of his, the text of which is John 3:16:


“You must not fancy, then, that God sits helplessly by while the world, which He has created for Himself, hurtles hopelessly to destruction, and He is able only to snatch with difficulty here and there a brand from the universal burning.

The world does not govern Him in a single one of its acts:  He governs it and leads it steadily onward to the end which, from the beginning, or ever a beam of it had been laid, He had determined for it….  Through all the years one increasing purpose runs, one increasing purpose:  the kingdoms of the earth become ever more and more the Kingdom of our God and His Christ.  The process may be slow; the progress may appear to our impatient eyes to lag.  But it is God Who is building; and under His hands the structure rises as steadily as it does slowly, and in due time the capstone shall be set into its place, and to our astonished eyes shall be revealed nothing less than a saved world.”


This is what the apostle John is shown a brief glimpse of here in our text.  First He is shown the remnant of the House of Israel, saved from the abomination of desolation shortly to come.  Our Lord Jesus Christ personally said that He came in order to find the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Jacob).  And He and His apostles did just that.  And they are the firstfruits and the gates of the new city of God.  Then, from their Word (according to Jesus as recorded in John seventeen) John sees the nations and peoples and tongues and tribes of the world.

The nations will bow the knee to the King of Kings; and “the knowledge of God will cover the earth as the water covers the sea” (as Isaiah prophesied).  As the sand on the seashore (Abraham was told), and as the stars in the sky, the uncomprehended multitude will glorify the God of the heaven and the earth. 

And as the apostle Paul himself said, in Romans eight, “the cosmos itself (the world itself) groans for this redemption”.

It’s a shame that the present Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and the Presbyterian Church in America, and the United Presbyterian Church in the United States, and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, and the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, et al, hold primarily to amillennialism and premillennialism.  They need to read the sermon on John 3:16 by Benjamin Breckenridge Warfield.

And then they need to read what John heard and saw in the heaven… and what he wrote for us, the Church, in this letter.

Now, as you can see, John uses one of our favorite little words, doesn’t he?  “Lo!”  After the completion of the numbering of the remnant of the nations of Israel, John looks; and something extraordinarily significant comes into his view!

And as we’ve seen so many times before, the significance of that little word, used many times through the Gospel of Matthew, almost always has to do with what God has said before through one (or more) of His prophets.  And in this case, as we read previously, it was the salvation of the world, as prophesied through Isaiah (chapter forty-nine).

You see, as John looks on our God already perceives, and Jesus Christ has already made provision for – not only the promised salvation of the elect from the twelve tribes – but also for an innumerable host from every people, tongue and tribe of His creation.  Israel first; and then the nations.  Israel the firstfruits; then, through their word (the word of the twelve apostles and the twelve sons of Jacob), peoples of all the earth will flow into the New Jerusalem through the twelve gates named for them.

Although they are uncountable (not counted for John), each of them individually, as God perceived them, has on a white garment – so prominent in all of Scripture – garments washed clean in the blood of the Christ.

Not only just the “countable” ones who have already been counted and sealed and rescued, but also those who will, through their word, be added to the host of heaven!  They, too, in God’s view of His creation, will wear the white garments – all having been washed in the blood of the Lamb of God.

What an incredible spectacle for John to see; for the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world, has already presented Him Self as the one covenantal offering; and the perfect justice of God having been satisfied, an inestimable number – God’s elect people (not yet “counted” as are those from the twelve tribes of Israel) – are already perceived as being cleansed in the blood of the Lamb.  And the entirety of God’s people breaks out in praise and honor of the God Who has wrought so great salvation on their behalf.

Although there are foreshadowings and prefigurings and intimations, all through God’s Word, of the salvation of Israel and the Gentile nations and His creation, there certainly can’t be any one passage in all the Bible more clear than this one; for it is God Who shows John His Own perception of the full, completed work of the Son of God – Jesus, the Christ.  And John writes it down and sends it to the Churches for them to see, as well.  And now we can see it!  And all of us can be cheered; and all of us can give thanks; and all of us can anticipate (which is the very essence of hope).

The hymn – “The Church’s One Foundation”, which we’ll sing in a little while, has a couplet in the sixth verse which reflects all that we’re seeing here; and it most certainly confirms that its author knew exactly what John was seeing here in our text.  Here it is:


“Yet she on earth hath union with God the Three in One;

And mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won.”


This is the Church, of course… ”she on earth”.  And the author of the hymn, Samuel Johnson, obviously understood the Scripture from the prophets, and from Revelation chapter seven, and from other places – such as Hebrews chapter twelve.  Listen to that as I read three verses for you.  Writing to the Churches then being established in the nations, the writer of Hebrews says:


22) But ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of messengers,

23) To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

24) And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.


“To the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn, which are written in the heaven….”  There is a “communion” (as Samuel Johnson says), “a mystic sweet communion”, between the Church – “she on earth” – and the “firstfruits”….the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Jacob).  The “Firstborn” – The Christ - won their “rest” with the shedding of His Own blood.  And He prayed, as we read earlier, for the innumerable host from the nations through their word!

And that’s what we see here in the text, isn’t it?  John sees the twelve thousand from each nation (those Jesus came to seek and to save); and then he’s briefly shown the “communion” that all the rest of the Church has – and will have – with the firstfruits of Jesus Christ.

Taking that a step further, there are only two places in the New Testament where the word “palm” occurs.  One is right here in our text – verse nine.  And the other is also by the apostle John, in his Gospel, chapter twelve.

In the Gospel of John, the people cut palm branches – just branches (no fruit), and put them in the road as Jesus made His way into Jerusalem to be delivered up and crucified.. 

But here in the Revelation (the only other place in which the palms are mentioned), it is obvious that the “word” of the firstfruit of Christ, the elect of the twelve tribes of Israel, (that “word of God”) has borne much fruit in an uncountable number of Gentiles from the nations and peoples and tongues of the earth.  And it is, indeed, a “sweet communion” for, in Christ, there is “brotherhood” in our new heritage.

The “firstfruit” of the Christ were the elect of the twelve tribes; and their fruit (from their “word”) were the uncounted number of Gentiles from the nations.  And “In Christ” they are “one”; and there is no more Jew and Gentile, for In Him the “wall of separation” doesn’t exist.  All who are “in Him” are rebirthed into a new heritage; and it’s not a heritage of blood or ethnicity.  It isn’t a heritage passed down from Adam.  But it’s an all-new heritage in the second Adam – the Christ of God!

And that’s exactly what John is looking at, isn’t he?  Right here in the “capstone” to the Word of God, he is shown “the promise” made to Abraham that, in him, all the nations of the earth would be blessed.  It is, truly, a communion of the covenantal promise.

And John sees a great celebration in the heaven, with all the creatures of the glory cloud (the messengers) remaining in place; and the elders and the four throne-creatures worshipping God; for the Lamb, in the opening of the sixth seal, has “shown” them His SO great salvation… the salvation of the world!  And John hears a great “benediction” in the heaven as he looks on.

It is a seven-fold benediction – words to give glory to God, for He will be glorified.  He is glorified in the work of the Christ – the Anointed One; He is glorified in the promised salvation of a holy remnant of Jacob; He Who IS – into the ages – is glorified in the salvation of all His elect of the peoples and tongues and tribes of the nations; He is glorified in the cleansing and restoration of His entire creation!

He is glorified as the entire heaven breaks out in awesome benedictus:

“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.”  And please remember that the “Amen” is an oath concerning the truth and validity of that which is said.

The Word of God will sanctify His creation through the blood of the Lamb.  He is this world’s Prophet (the “greater” Moses); He is this world’s Priest (the “greater” Aaron); He is this world’s King (the “greater” David)… all to the glory of God.

And this has so many implications, doesn’t it… all of which run deep and far and wide; and we’ve discussed many of them in all our time together.  How do we then live – to the glory of God?  How do we worship? How do we think?  How do we engage?  What’s the starting point?

In our last couple of minutes, I’d like to comment on just one of those many implications.  And it’s in response to what is widely known in the evangelical Christian community as the “two kingdom” approach to this world’s society and culture.

The two-kingdom approach to this world teaches that "heavenly things" are directed exclusively by God's redemptive grace and special Revelation; while "earthly things" are approached, formulated and put into practice by common grace and natural law.

In this ideal world (ideal according to these evangelicals), believers and unbelievers, because they work together to construct society using common-ground features found in natural law, made this “second kingdom” (the earthly one) work to their satisfaction. As long as most of the people believed in God (whether Roman Catholic or Protestant), such a world that worked pretty well for a while was possible.

But, suffice it to say, along the way came Darwin and the Dewey public educational system (which is based in Darwinism); and lo and behold! … rational mankind, having been trained in Darwinism and Deweyism, began to interpret natural law in a totally different way!

And as a result, the “system” constructed on common ground between believers and unbelievers begins falling apart!  (Surprise!)  And it looks really “bad” for the earthly kingdom.

But, “come what may”, say the evangelicals, for our “real” home is the “spiritual” kingdom.  And so most of them then “retreat”.  And they stay in retreat based on the teachings of their pastors and teachers.  The teaching goes something like this:

The Gospel has absolutely nothing to do with outward existence but only with eternal life; not with external orders and institutions, which could come in conflict with the secular orders, but only with the heart and its relationship with God.

"The Gospel frees us from this world, frees us from all questions of this world, frees us inwardly also from the questions of public life, also from the social questions.”

“The authority of the state on the whole, resting as it does upon authority of the government, is more important than the elimination of any shortcomings which it might have."

And then, after this majority is thus consigned by its evangelical leaders to the sidelines, a small minority that’s left, along with some crafty idolators, want to teach the “old” interpretation of natural law to those who have already moved on – way beyond the issues of good and evil.

That small minority, hopefully working with the rest of rational mankind to re-establish natural law can be likened to a man putting a post in front of his oceanfront home in order to hold back an oncoming hurricane.

But you see this text in John’s Revelation, and all the rest of God’s Word, knows nothing of two kingdoms!  There is but ONE!  And there is only one King.  He is the Word of God made flesh; crucified, risen, ascended and CROWNED King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  And He is the presently reigning King of all of heaven and earth, and the One Who requires exclusive worship and obedience!

And no rational, natural law kingdom will stand; for they are all competing entities in open rebellion, refusing to offer honorable service to the reigning Monarch.  Governments based on them actually “hate” God’s Word, for they prefer their own law and their own concept of society and culture.

Christian men and women and children must “speak” the Word of God, “without Whom nothing was made that was made” (Gospel of John, chapter one).  We must speak that Word, or there will be no confession and repentance.  It is the Word of God that is the power of God into salvation for those who are “faithing”.  Whenever there is opportunity to speak, it must be truth and right as God defines them.  And remember… there is no neutrality; and there is no common ground.

And then we must pray “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done in the earth, as it is in the heaven.”