REVELATION 7 - The Sealing
1 And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.
2 And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea,
3 Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
The chronology of the work here introduced is established beyond mistake. The sixth chapter closed with the events of the sixth seal, and the seventh seal is not mentioned until we reach the opening of chapter 8. The whole of chapter 7 is therefore thrown in here parenthetically. Why is it thus thrown in at this point? — Evidently for the purpose of stating additional particulars concerning the sixth seal. The expression, “after these things,” does not mean after the fulfillment of all the events previously described; but after the prophet had been carried down in vision to the close of the sixth seal, in order not to break the consecutive order of events as given in chapter 6, his mind is called to what is mentioned in chapter 7, as further particulars to transpire in connection with that seal. Then we inquire, Between what events in that seal does this work come in? It must transpire before the departing of the heavens as a scroll; for after that event there is no place for such a work as this. And it must take place subsequently to the signs in the sun, moon, and stars; for these signs have been fulfilled, and such a work has not yet been accomplished. It comes in, therefore, between the 13th and 14th verses of Revelation 6; but there, as already shown, is just where we now stand. Hence the first part of Revelation 7 relates to a work the accomplishment of which may be looked for at the present time.
Four Angel’s. — Angels are ever-present agents in the affairs of the earth; and why may not these be four of those heavenly beings into whose hands God has committed the work here described; namely, holding the winds while it is God’s purpose that they should not blow, and hurting the earth with them when the time comes that they should be loosed? For it will be noticed (verse 3) that the “hurting” is a work committed to their hands equally with the “holding;” so that they do not merely let the winds go when they are to blow, but they cause them to blow; they impel forward the work of destruction with their own supernatural energy. But the hurting process here brought to view does not include the seven last plagues. That work is given into the hands of seven special angels; this, into the hands of four. Or, it may be that when the time comes for the pouring out of the plagues, the seven angels who have specific charge of these judgments, unite with the four whose mission it is to cause the winds to blow, and all together bring on that pre-eminent exhibition of divine vengeance against a generation which is pre-eminent in guilt.
Four Corners of the Earth. — An expression denoting the four quarters, or the four points of the compass, and signifying that these angels, in their particular sphere, had charge of the whole earth.
The Four Winds. — Winds, in the Bible, symbolize political commotion, strife, and war. Daniel 7:2; Jeremiah 25:32. The four winds, held by four angels standing in the four quarters of the earth, must denote all the elements of strife and commotion that exist in the world; and when they are all loosed, and all blow together, it will constitute the great whirlwind just referred to in the prophecy of Jeremiah.
The Angel Ascending from the East. — Another literal angel, having charge of another specific work, is here introduced. Instead of the words, “ascending from the east,” some translations read, “Ascending from the sun rising,” which is a more literal translation. The expression evidently refers to manner rather than locality; for as the sun arises with rays at first oblique and comparatively powerless, but increases in strength until it shines in all its meridian power and splendor, so the work of this angel commences in weakness, moves onward with ever-accumulating influence, and closes in strength and power.
The Seal of the Living God. — This is the distinguishing characteristic of the ascending angel; he bears with him the seal of the living God. From this fact, and the chronology of his work, we are to determine, if possible, what movement is symbolized by his mission. The nature of his work is evidently embraced in his having the seal of the living God; and to ascertain what his work is, the inquiry must be answered what this seal of the living God is, which he bears with him.
1. The Term Seed Defined. — A seal is defined to be an instrument of sealing; that which “is used by individuals, corporate bodies, and states, for making impressions on wax, upon instruments of writing, as an evidence of their authenticity.” The original word in this passage is defined, “A seal, i. e., a signet ring; a mark, stamp, badge; a token, a pledge.” Among the significations of the verb are the following: “To secure to any one, to make sure; to set a seal or mark upon anything in token of its being genuine or approved; to attest, to confirm, to establish, to distinguish by a mark.” By a comparison of Genesis 17:11 with Romans 4:11, and Revelation 7:3 with Ezekiel 9:4, in connection with the above definition, the reader will see that the words token, sign, seal, and mark are used in the Bible as synonymous terms. The seal of God, as brought to view in our text, is to be applied to the servants of God. We are not, of course, to suppose that in this case it is some literal mark to be made in the flesh, but that it is some institution or observance having special reference to God, which will serve as a “mark of distinction” between the worshipers of God and those who are not in truth his servants, though they may profess to follow him.
2. The Use of a Seal. — A seal is used to render valid or authentic any enactments, or laws, which a person or power may promulgate. Frequent instances of its use occur in the Scriptures. In 1 Kings 21:8, we read that Jezebel “wrote letters in Ahab’s name, and sealed them with his seal.” These letters then had all the authority of King Ahab. Again, in Esther 3:12: “In the name of King Ahasuerus was it written, and sealed with the king’s ring.” So also in chapter 8:8: “The writing which is written in the king’s name, and sealed with the king’s ring, may no man reverse.”
3. Where a Seal is Used. — Always in connection with some law or enactment that demands obedience, or upon documents that are to be made legal, or subject to the provisions of law. The idea of law is inseparable from a seal.
4. As Applied to God. — We are not to suppose that to the enactments and laws of God binding upon men, there must be attached a literal seal, made with literal instruments; but from the definition of the term, and the purpose for which a seal is used, as shown above, we must understand a seal to be strictly that which gives validity and authenticity to enactments and laws. This is found, though a literal seal may not be used, in the name or signature of the law-making power, expressed in such terms as to show what the power is, and its right to make laws and demand obedience. Even with a literal seal, the name must always be used. (See the references above given.) An instance of the use of the name alone seems to occur in Daniel 6:8: “Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not;” that is, affix the signature of royalty, showing who it is that demands obedience, and his right to demand it.
In a gospel prophecy found in Isaiah 8, we read: “Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.” This must refer to a work of reviving some of the claims of the law in the minds of the disciples, which had been overlooked, or perverted from their true meaning. And this, in the prophecy, is called sealing the law, or restoring to it its seal, which had been taken from it.
Again, the 144,000, who in the chapter before us are said to be sealed with the seal of God in their foreheads, are again brought to view in Revelation 14:1, where they are said to have the Father’s name written in their foreheads.
From the foregoing reasoning, facts, and declarations of Scripture, two conclusions inevitably follow: --
1. The seal of God is found in connection with the law of God.
2. The seal of God is that part of his law which contains his name, or descriptive title, showing who he is, the extent of his dominion, and his right to rule.
The law of God is admitted by all the leading evangelical denominations to be summarily contained in the decalogue, or ten commandments. We have, then, but to examine these commandments to see which one it is that constitutes the seal of the law, or, in other words, makes known the true God, the law-making power. The first three commandments mention the word God; but we cannot tell from these who is meant, for there are multitudes of objects to which this name is applied. There are “gods many and lords many,” as the apostle says. 1 Corinthians 8:5. Passing over the fourth commandment for the time being, the fifth contains the words Lord and God, but does not define them; and the remaining five precepts do not contain the name of God at all. Now what shall be done? With that portion of the law which we have examined, it would be impossible to convict the grossest idolater of sin. The worshiper of images could say, This idol before me is my god; his name is god, and these are his precepts. The worshiper of the heavenly bodies could also say, The sun is my god, and I worship him according to this law. Thus, without the fourth commandment, the decalogue is null and void, so far as it pertains to enforcing the worship of the true God. But let us now add the fourth commandment, restore to the law this precept, which many are ready to contend has been expunged, and see how the case will then stand, As we examine this commandment, which contains the declaration, “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is,” etc., we see at once that we are reading the requirements of Him who created all things. The sun, then, is not the God of the decalogue; the true God is he who made the sun. No object in heaven or earth is the being who here demands obedience; for the God of this law is the one who made all created things. Now we have a weapon against idolatry. Now this law can no longer be applied to false gods, who “have not made the heavens and the earth.” Jeremiah 10:11. Now the author of this law has declared who he is, the extent of his dominion, and his right to rule; for every created intelligence must at once assent that He who is the Creator of all, has a right to demand obedience from all his creatures. Thus with the fourth commandment in its place, this wonderful document, the decalogue, the only document among men which God ever wrote with his own finger, has a signature; it has that which renders it intelligible and authentic; it has a seal. But without the fourth commandment, it lacks all these things.
From the foregoing reasoning, it is evident that the fourth commandment constitutes the seal of the law of God, or the seal of God. But the Scriptures do not leave us without direct testimony on this point.
We have seen above that in Scripture usage, sign, seal, token, and mark are synonymous terms. Now, the Lord expressly says that the Sabbath is a sign between him and his people. “Verily my Sabbaths ye shall keep; for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you.” Exodus 31:13. The same fact is again stated by the prophet Ezekiel 20:12, 20. Here the Lord told his people that the very object of their keeping the Sabbath, that is, observing the fourth commandment, was that they might know that he was the true God. This is the same as if the Lord had said, “The Sabbath is a seal. On my part it is the seal of my authority, the sign that I have the right to command obedience; on your part it is a token that you take me to be your God.”
Should it be said that this principle can have no application to Christians at the present time, as the Sabbath was a sign between God and the Jews only, it would be sufficient to reply that the terms Jew and Israel, in a true Scriptural sense, are not confined to the literal seed of Abraham. Abraham was chosen at first, because he was the friend of God, while his fathers were idolaters; and his seed were chosen to be God’s people, the guardians of his law and the depositaries of his truth, because all others had apostatized from him; and it is true that these words respecting the Sabbath were spoken to them while they enjoyed the honor of being thus set apart from all others. But when the middle wall of partition was broken down, and the Gentiles were called in to be partakers of the blessings of Abraham, all God’s people, both Jews and Gentiles, were brought into a new and more intimate relation to God through his Son, and they are now called “Jews inwardly,” and “Israelites indeed.” And now the declaration applies to all such; for they have as much occasion to know the Lord as had his people of old.
Thus the fourth commandment, or the Sabbath, is taken by the Lord as a sign between him and his people, or the seal of his law in both dispensations; the people by that commandment signifying that they are the worshipers of the true God, and God, by the same commandment, making himself known as their rightful ruler, inasmuch as he is their Creator.
In harmony with this idea, the significant fact is to be noticed that whenever the sacred writers wish to point out the true God in distinction from false gods of every description, an appeal is made to the great facts of creation, upon which the fourth commandment is based. (See 2 Kings 19:15; 2 Chronicles 2:12; Nehemiah 9:6; Psalms 115:4-7, 15; 121:2; 124:8; 134:3; 146:6; Isaiah 37:16; 42:5; 44:24; 45:12; Job 9:8; Isaiah 51:13; Jeremiah 10:10-12; Psalms 96:5; Jeremiah 32:17; 51:15; Acts 4:24; 14:15; 17:23, 24, etc.)
We refer again to the fact that the same company who in Revelation 7 have the seal of the living God in their foreheads, are brought to view again in Revelation 14:1, having the Father’s name in their foreheads. This is good proof that the “seal of the living God,” and the “Father’s name,” are used synonymously. The chain of evidence on this point is rendered complete, when it is ascertained that the fourth commandment, which has been shown to be the seal of the law, is spoken of by the Lord as that which contains his name. The proof of this will be seen by referring to Deuteronomy 16:6: “But at the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to place his name in, there shalt thou sacrifice the passover,” etc. What was there where they sacrificed the passover? — There was the sanctuary, having in its holiest apartment the ark with the ten commandments, the fourth of which declared the true God, and contained his name. Wherever this fourth commandment was, there God’s name was placed; and this was the only object to which the language could be applied. (See Deuteronomy 12:5, 11, 21; 14:23, 24, etc.)
Having now ascertained that the seal of God is his holy Sabbath, having his name, we are prepared to proceed with the application. By the scenes introduced in the verses before us, namely, the four winds apparently about to blow, bringing war and trouble upon the land, and this work restrained till the servants of God should be sealed, as though a preparatory work must be done for them to save them from this trouble, we are reminded of the houses of the Israelites marked with the blood of the paschal lamb, and spared as the destroying angel passed over to slay the first-born of the Egyptians (Exodus 12); also of the mark made by the man with a writer’s ink-horn (Ezekiel 9) upon all those who were to be spared by the men with the slaughtering weapons who followed after; and we conclude that the seal of God, here placed upon his servants, is some distinguishing mark, or religious characteristic, through which they will be exempted from the judgments of God that fall on the wicked around them.
As we have found the seal of God in the fourth commandment, the inquiry follows, Does the observance of that commandment involve any peculiarity in religious practice? — Yes, a very marked and striking one. It is one of the most singular facts to be met with in religious history that, in an age of such boasted gospel light as the present, when the influence of Christianity is so powerful and wide-spread, one of the most striking peculiarities in practice which a person can adopt, and one of the greatest crosses he can take up, even in the most enlightened and Christian lands, is the simple observance of the law of God. For the fourth commandment requires the observance of the seventh day of each week as the Sabbath of the Lord; but almost all Christendom, through the combined influences of paganism and the papacy, have been beguiled into the keeping of the first day. A person has but to commence the observance of the day enjoined in the commandment, and a mark of peculiarity is upon him at once. He is distinct alike from the professedly religious world and the unconverted world.
We conclude, then, that the angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God, is a divine messenger in charge of a work of reform to be carried on among men in reference to the Sabbath of the fourth commandment. The agents of this work on the earth are of course ministers of Christ; for to men is given the commission of instructing their fellow men in Bible truth; but as there is order in the execution of all the divine counsels, it seems not improbable that a literal angel may have the charge and oversight of this work.
We have already noticed the chronology of this work as locating it in our own time. This is further evident from the fact that, as the next event after the sealing of these servants of God, we behold them before the throne, with palms of victory in their hands. The sealing is therefore the last work to be accomplished for them prior to their redemption.
In Revelation 14 we find the same work again brought to view under the symbol of an angel flying in the midst of heaven with the most terrific warning that ever fell upon the ears of men. We shall speak of this more fully when we reach that chapter. We refer to it now, as it is the last work to be accomplished for the world before the coming of Christ, which is the next event in order in that prophecy, and hence must synchronize with the work here brought to view in Revelation 7:1-3. The angel with the seal of the living God, mentioned in chapter 7, is therefore the same as the third angel of chapter 14. And this view strengthens the foregoing exposition of the seal. For while, as the result of the work in chapter 7, a certain company are sealed with the seal of the living God, as the result of the third message of chapter 14 a company are brought out rendering Scriptural obedience to all the “commandments of God.” Verse 12. But, excepting the fourth, there is no commandment of the decalogue upon which the Christian world theoretically needs reforming; and that this is the representative question in this message is evident from the fact that the keeping of the commandments, observing, with all the other moral precepts, the Lord’s Sabbath, is what distinguishes the servants of God from those who worship the beast and receive his mark, which is, as will be hereafter shown, the observance of a counterfeit sabbath.
Having thus briefly noticed the main points of the subject, we now come to the most striking feature of all. In exact accordance with the foregoing chronological argument, we find this work already in process of fulfillment before our eyes. The third angel’s message is going forth; the angel ascending from the east is on his mission; the reform on the Sabbath question has commenced; it is surely, though yet in comparative silence, working its way through the land; it is destined to agitate every country entitled to the light of the gospel; and it will result in bringing out a people prepared for the soon coming of the Saviour, and sealed for his everlasting kingdom.
With one more question we leave these verses, upon which we have so lengthily dwelt. Have we seen among the nations any movements which would indicate that the cry of the ascending angel, “Hurt not,” etc., by the blowing of the winds, “till we have sealed the servants of our God,” has in any manner been answered? The time during which the winds are held could not, from the nature of the case, be a time of profound peace. This would not answer to the prophecy. For in order to make it manifest that the winds are being held, there must be disturbance, agitation, anger, and jealousy among the nations, with an occasional outburst of strife, like a fitful gust breaking away from the imprisoned and struggling tempest; and these outbursts must be suddenly and unexpectedly checked. Then, but not otherwise, would it be evident to him who looked at events in the light of the prophecy, that for some good purpose the restraining hand of Omnipotence was laid upon the surging elements of strife and war. And such has been the aspect of our times for nearly half a century. Commencing with the great revolution of 1848, when so many European thrones toppled into the dust, what a state of anger and political unrest has existed among all the nations of the earth! New and unlooked-for complications have suddenly sprung up, throwing matters into apparently inextricable confusion, and threatening immediate and direful war. And now and then the conflict has burst forth in fury, and a thousand voices have been raised to predict that the great crisis had come, that universal war must result, and the termination no man could foretell, when suddenly and unaccountably it has been extinguished, and all subsided into quiet again. In our own land the terrible civil war of 1861 to 1865 is a notable instance. By the spring of the latter year, so great had become the pressure upon the nation for men and means to continue the war that it began seriously to impede the progress of the work symbolized by the ascending angel, even threatening to arrest it entirely. Those interested in these truths, believing that the time had come for the application of the prophecy, and that the words of the angel, “Hurt not,” etc., indicated a movement on the part of the church, accordingly raised their petitions to the Ruler of nations to restrain the cruel work of tumult and war. Days of fasting and prayer were set apart for this purpose. The time at which this occurred was a dark and gloomy period of the war; and not a few high in political life predicted its indefinite continuance, and an appalling intensity of all its evils. But suddenly a change came; and not three months had elapsed from the time of which we speak, ere the last army of the Southern Confederacy had surrendered, and all its soldiers had laid down their arms. So sudden and entire was the collapse, and so grateful were all hearts for relief from the pressure of the terrible strife, that the nation broke forth into a song of jubilee, and these words were conspicuously displayed at the national capitol: “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” There are those who believe there was a definite cause for this sudden cessation of the strife, of which, of course, the world is but little aware. The sudden conclusion of the Franco-German war of 1870 and the recent war between Turkey and Russia, may be cited as still later examples. Perhaps further events of this kind are yet to be witnessed to fulfill more completely this feature of the prophecy.
4 And I heard the number of them which were sealed: [and there were] sealed an hundred [and] forty [and] four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.
5 Of the tribe of Juda [were] sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben [were] sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad [were] sealed twelve thousand.
6 Of the tribe of Aser [were] sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Nepthalim [were] sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasses [were] sealed twelve thousand.
7 Of the tribe of Simeon [were] sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi [were] sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar [were] sealed twelve thousand.
8 Of the tribe of Zabulon [were] sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph [were] sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin [were] sealed twelve thousand.
The number sealed is here stated to be one hundred and forty-four thousand; and from the fact that twelve thousand are sealed from each of the twelve tribes, many suppose that this work must have been accomplished as far back at least as about the beginning of the Christian era, when these tribes were literally in existence. They do not see how it can apply to our own time, when every trace of distinction between these tribes has been so long and so completely obliterated. We refer such persons to the opening language of the Epistle of James: “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations,” etc. Those whom James here addresses are (1) Christians; for they are his brethren; (2) They are not the converts to Christianity from the Jews, the twelve tribes of his own day; for he addresses them in view of the coming of the Lord. (See chapter 5.) He is thus addressing the last generation of Christians, the Christians of our own day; and he calls them the twelve tribes scattered abroad. How can this be? Paul explains in Romans 11:17-24. In the striking figure of grafting which he there introduces, the tame olive tree represents Israel. Some of the branches, the natural descendants of Abraham, were broken off because of unbelief (in Christ). Through faith in Christ the wild olive scions, the Gentiles, are grafted into the tame olive stock, and thus the twelve tribes are perpetuated. And here we find an explanation of the language of the same apostle: “They are not all Israel which are of Israel,” and “he is not a Jew which is one outwardly, ... but he is a Jew which is one inwardly.” Romans 9:6-8; 2:28, 29. So we find on the gates of the New Jerusalem — which is a New Testament or Christian, not a Jewish, city — the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. On the foundations of this city are inscribed the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. Revelation 21:12-14. If the twelve tribes belong exclusively to the former dispensation, the more natural order would have been to have their names on the foundations, and those of the twelve apostles on the gates; but no, the names of the twelve tribes are on the gates. And as through these gates, so inscribed, all the redeemed hosts will go in and out, so, as belonging to these twelve tribes, will all the redeemed be reckoned, whether on earth they were Jews or Gentiles. Of course we look in vain for any marks of distinction between the tribes here on earth; and since Christ has appeared in the flesh, the preservation of the genealogy of the tribes is not necessary. But in heaven, where the names of the church of the first-born are being enrolled, we may be sure there is order, and that each name is enrolled in its own tribe. Hebrews 12:23.
It will be observed that the enumeration of the tribes here differs from that given in other places. The twelve sons of Jacob, who became the heads of great families, called tribes, were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, and Joseph. But Jacob, on his dying bed, adopted the sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, to constitute two of the tribes of Israel. Genesis 48:5. This divided the tribe of Joseph, making thirteen tribes in all. Yet in the distribution of the land of Canaan by lot, they numbered but twelve tribes, and made but twelve lots; for the tribe of Levi was left out, being appointed to the service of the tabernacle, and having no inheritance. But in the passage before us, Ephraim and Dan are omitted, and Levi and Joseph put in their places. The omission of Dan is accounted for by commentators on the ground that that tribe was the one chiefly addicted to idolatry. (See Judges 18, etc.) The tribe of Levi here takes its place with the rest, as in the heavenly Canaan * the reasons for their not having an inheritance will not exist, as in the earthly; and Joseph is probably put for Ephraim, it being a name which appears to have been applied to either the tribe of Ephraim or Manasseh. Numbers 13:11.
Twelve thousand were sealed “out of” each of the twelve tribes, showing that not all who in the records of heaven had a place among these tribes when this sealing work commenced, stood the test, and were overcomers at last; for the names of those already in the book of life will be blotted out, unless they overcome. Revelation 3:5.
9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;
10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
11 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and [about] the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,
12 Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, [be] unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
The sealing having been accomplished, John beholds a countless multitude worshiping God in rapture before his throne. This vast throng are undoubtedly the saved out of every nation, kindred, tribe, and tongue, raised from the dead at the second coming of Christ, showing that the sealing is the last work accomplished for the people of God prior to translation.
13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?
14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15 Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.
16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.
17 For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
The questions proposed by one of the elders to John, “What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?” taken in connection with John’s answer, “Sir, thou knowest,” implying that John did not know, would seem to be devoid of all point, if they had reference to the whole of the great multitude now before him. For John did know who they were, and from whence they came; inasmuch as he had just said that they were people — redeemed of course — out of all nations, kindreds, people, and tongues; and John could have answered, These are the redeemed ones from all the nations of the earth. But if a special company in this vast throng were referred to, distinguished by some special mark or position, then it might not be so evident who they were, and what had given them their peculiarity; and the questions, as applied to them, would be appropriate and pertinent. We therefore incline to the view that attention is called to a special company by the questions which were proposed by one of the elders; and no company is brought to view to which special allusion would more naturally be made than to the company spoken of in the first part of the chapter; namely, the 144,000. John had indeed seen this company in their mortal state, as they were receiving the seal of the living God amid the troublous scenes of the last days; but as they here stand among the redeemed throng, the transition is so great, and the condition in which they now appear so different, that he does not recognize them as the special company which he saw sealed upon the earth. And to this company, the specifications that follow seem to be specially applicable.
1. They Came out of Great Tribulation. — While it is true in some degree of all Christians that they must “through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God,” it is true in a very emphatic sense of the 144,000. They pass through the great time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation. Daniel 12:1. They experience the mental anguish of the time of Jacob’s trouble. Jeremiah 30:4-7. They stand without a mediator through the terrific scenes of the seven last plagues, those exhibitions of God’s unmingled wrath in the earth. Revelation, chapters 15, 16. They pass through the severest time of trouble the world has ever known, although they are delivered out of it.
2. White Robes. — They wash their robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb. To the last generation the testimony is very emphatic on the subject of obtaining the white raiment. Revelation 3:5, 18. And though the 144,000 are accused of rejecting Christ, and trusting to their own works for salvation, because they refuse to violate the commandments of God (Revelation 14:1, 12), in the great day that calumny will be wiped off. It will be seen that they have rested their hope of life on the merits of the shed blood of their divine Redeemer, making him their source of righteousness. There is peculiar force in saying of these that they have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
3. The First-fruits. — Verse 15 describes the post of honor they occupy in the kingdom, and their nearness to God. In another place they are called “the first-fruits unto God and the Lamb.” Revelation 14:4.
4. They Shall Hunger No More. — In verse 16 it is said, “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more.” This shows that they have once suffered hunger and thirst. To what can this refer? As it doubtless has reference to some special experience, may it not refer to their trials in the time of trouble, more especially during the last plagues? In this time the righteous will be reduced to bread and water; and though that “will be sure” (Isaiah 33:16), enough for sustenance, yet may it not be that when the pastures, with all fruits and vegetation, are dried up (Joel 1:18-20), and the rivers and fountains are turned to blood (Revelation 16:4-9), to reduce their connection with earth and earthly things to the lowest limit, the saints who pass through that time will be brought occasionally to the extreme degrees of hunger and thirst? But the kingdom once gained, “they shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more.” And the prophet continues, in reference to this company, “Neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.” We remember that the 144,000 live through the time when power is given unto the sun “to scorch men with fire.” Revelation 16:8, 9. And though they are shielded from the deadly effect which it has upon the wicked around them, we cannot suppose that their sensibilities will be so deadened that they will feel no unpleasant sensations from the terrific heat. No; as they enter the fields of the heavenly Canaan, they will be prepared to appreciate the divine assurance that the sun shall not light upon or injure them, nor any heat.
5. And the Lamb Shall Lead Them. — Another testimony concerning the same company, and applying at the same time, says, “These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.” Revelation 14:4. Both expressions denote the state of intimate and divine companionship to which the blessed Redeemer admits them in reference to himself.
The psalmist, in the following beautiful passage, seems to allude to the same promise: “They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.” Psalms 36:8. The phraseology of this promise to the 144,000 is also partially found in the following glowing prophecy from the pen of Isaiah: “He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall be taken away from off all the earth; for the Lord hath spoken it.” Isaiah 25:8.