Before Jesus, the Lamb of God, opens the seventh seal John is presented with what is sometimes referred to as an interlude. It seems to me that we are given a reminder of or hope in the steadfastness of God at this point before heaven rains down its fury and all hell breaks loose on earth.
We are truly getting into visionary symbolism now and must keep this in mind as we proceed. From a literal understanding of the Bible point of view, we have to remember that John wrote what he saw in a vision that he was given while in the Spirit. In other words, he wrote what he actually saw but it is the nature of visions to be symbolic in nature and not literal in the normal sense of the word.
He saw “four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth” and another angel “ascending from the rising sun” (Chapter 7: 1-2, ESV). Obviously, there are no corners to our spherical earth and the sun does not actually rise, the earth rotates on its axis. What we have is a “calm” before the storm” as it were and the angel coming upon a new day. This angel calls for a “time out” while he marks a certain number of people with the Seal of God on their foreheads for their protection. Is this an actual mark on their foreheads or something more spiritual? Who knows? The point is that there is a set number of a specific people who receive a blessing from God at this point.
The blessed people are from the “tribe of the sons of Israel” (v. 4, ESV). Some scholars point out that the names of tribes and their order are slightly unorthodox but I think the more important point is that their is a set number set aside for this blessing and it is unclear whether this number should be understood literally or whether the number, too, is symbolic (12 x 12 x 1,00). I believe that it is best understood that this is a remnant of Israelites and not a fanciful description of the Church given what immediately follows and given the happenings after the seventh seal is broken. I can’t help but be reminded of Cain as he leaves the Lord in Genesis. God places a mark on his forehead so that he will not be murdered by the sundry people of the world.
The message is clear, God still loves His people and they are not forgotten in the last days. There is hope for them.
In contrast to the Israelites, the vision shifts to “a great multitude that no one could number” (v. 9, ESV). These are people from all over the world and they are seen standing before the throne. We told exactly who these people are by one of the elders. “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (v. 14, ESV).
This is a hopeful vision in that it reminds the faithful of where their true hope lies. This is what they have to look forward to when all is said and done. The words here are very similar to the words that describe the New Heaven and the new Earth in Chapter 21 and the New Jerusalem in Chapter 22.
“Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:15-17, ESV)
This is not, as some claim, a message that the faithful of Christ will be worshiping God in heaven while the rest of humanity suffers through the Great Tribulation. Instead, when we consider what we have learned so far in Revelation, it’s a reminder of what the faithful have to look forward to in the end. Those who heed God’s exhortation to follow right doctrine and stay faithful to God in word and deed, will receive their reward in God’s presence (c.f. Chapter 2).
God knows we humans need such reminders, especially just before heaven rains down destruction and all hell breaks loose in the next chapter when the seventh seal is opened.
Stay faithful, my friends. in your faith lies your hope.
- Revelation 6: The First Six Seals (christophercrandolph.wordpress.com)
- Revelation 4 and 5: An Image of Father and Son (christophercrandolph.wordpress.com)
- Revelation 3: Hope in Jesus (christophercrandolph.wordpress.com)
- Revelation 1: Spiritual Gifts (christophercrandolph.wordpress.com)
- Revelation 1-3: The Introduction (christophercrandolph.wordpress.com)
- Revelation 2: Testing the Faithful (christophercrandolph.wordpress.com)
- Daniel Chapters 11 And 12: Have Faith (christophercrandolph.wordpress.com)