The Beginning of Sorrows: The Seal Judgments
Revelation 6 – 7
Revelation 6 – 7
Key terms in prophecy. Having now come to the great sequence of prophetic events than runs through ch.11, it is helpful for us to understand some key terms in prophecy.
- “The world” in prophecy refers to the planet earth, the whole globe. Read more…
- “The earth” refers to what students of prophecy have called “the prophetic earth”, which encompasses Europe, the Middle East, and Israel. It encompasses the nations we find in the Old Testament prophetic scriptures. Read more…
- “The third part of the earth” refers to a subset of the prophetic earth, and as we will later show, it likely refers to the area controlled by the old Roman Empire, including Israel. Read more…
- “The fourth part of the earth” is again a subset of the prophetic earth, and I take it to be within the bounds of the “third part”, possibly referring to Western Europe. Read more…
- “The land” in prophecy always refers to the land of Israel, in some cases including all that was promised to Abraham in Genesis 15, depending on the context. Read more…
- “The city” generally refers to earthly Jerusalem, which is the center of the prophetic earth (Ezek. 5:5, Deut. 32:8). When another city is intended (such as Rome, ch.17-18), or the church (ch.21), the city is explicitly distinguished.
The Beginning of Sorrows. The first 3 1/2 years of Daniel's seventieth week is called “The Beginning of Sorrows” (Matt. 24:8). During this period the first six seals of Revelation are unfolded. It begins when The Beast makes a covenant with Israel, and ends when "the abomination of desolations" is set up in the holy place. Passages that deal directly with the Beginning of Sorrows are Rev. 6, Matthew 24:4-14, and various places in the first book of the Psalms. Relatively little is written about the first three and a half years of Daniel's seventieth week, compared to the volumes that deal with the events that come later.
Arrangement of the Seals. When the first four seals are opened, a horse and rider come forth under each seal. Horses in scripture generally speak of power to subdue (Job 39:19-25, Rev. 19:11). By contrast, thrones speak of dominion after the victory has been won (Rev. 20:4). Often horses speak of a special kind of power; that of human agencies moved by Divine providence. For example, in the Old Testament, the king was not to multiply horses (Deut. 17:16). The first four seals will be carried out providentially by God through human agencies. The last three seal-judgments are directly from God. 4 (natural) + 3 (divine) = 7 (a complete series). The first four seals will progress in a logical order that men might try to explain away. For example, they may blame the bloodshed of the second seal on the political changes of the first seal. Or the might blame the economic crash of the third seal on the wars of the second seal. But God will catch the wise and their own craftiness (Job 5:13, 1 Cor. 3:19). It is helpful to remember too that from Rev. 6:1 – 11:18 we have the judgment of the western nations. The seal judgments are followed by the trumpet judgments. The seal judgments are largely providential, while the trumpets are direct from God, and far more extreme.
- 1st Seal: Conquest through Diplomacy – White Horse (6:1-2)
- 2nd Seal: War and Bloodshed – Red Horse (6:3-4)
- 3rd Seal: Widespread Famine – Black Horse (6:5-6)
- 4th Seal: Mass Death – Pale Horse (6:7-8)
- 5th Seal: Middle of Week – Jewish Witnesses Martyred (6:9-11)
- 6th Seal: Governmental Upheaval – Hearts Fail (6:10-17)
- (Two Companies Preserved: A Jewish and a Gentile) (Rev. 7)
1st Seal: Conquest through Diplomacy – White Horse (6:1-2)
¶ And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying, as a voice of thunder, Come and see. v.1 With each of the first four seals, a certain order is followed. First, the Lamb opens the seal. He alone is worthy, and He alone is able. Second, the living creatures call forth the judgments, because that is their role; to execute the judgment of God. The authorized version has “Come and see”, as if the creatures were calling John to witness something. But they are really speaking to the horses; “Come”. Third, the judgments are carried out by mounted horses, which represent human agencies.
2 And I saw: and behold, a white horse, and he that sat upon it having a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went forth conquering and that he might conquer. v.2 The first horse is “white”, a color in scripture that often speaks of purity. In this case it is likely an outward pretense of having pure motives. The rider of the white horse has “a bow” which is a weapon used in long-distance warfare. Yet there is no mention of an arrow. He has a “crown” which speaks of political authority, and he goes forth “conquering”. It speaks of a kind of conquering without physical violence or bloodshed. Many conquests have been made through treaties and negotiations. Daniel 9:27 is a good example of one of these treaties, which will take place at the beginning of the tribulation. Some have speculated that the rider of the white horse the Antichrist. However, this could not be the case, because Antichrist doesn’t come into prominence until the middle of the week (Rev. 13). It is quite possible that the particular agency is papal Rome, who will be very instrumental in forming the ten-Nation Western Confederacy (we get this by comparing with Rev 17:15). What this rider does is similar to what the Catholic church does with the west in ch. 17. This phase will continue at least until they get the Roman Empire up on its feet.
2nd Seal: War and Bloodshed – Red Horse (6:3-4)
¶ 3 And when it opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, Come and see. v.3 With the second seal, and only with the second seal, the word “behold” is omitted and the word “another” is added. Perhaps this shows that there is a strong connection between the white and red horses. Perhaps both represent different aspects of the development of the revived Roman Empire.
4 And another, a red horse, went forth; and to him that sat upon it, to him it was given to take peace from the earth, and that they should slay one another; and there was given to him a great sword. v.4 The second horse is “red”, which no doubt pictures blood and bloodshed. The rider of the red horse is given a divine mandate to “take peace from the earth”, which results in mass confusion, violence, and mutual slaughter. While certainly this would include conquest, it also seems to include the idea of civil war. Matt. 24 speaks of “nation against nation”, but this is more like town against town, and neighbor against neighbor. The violence may begin with a general anarchy, and then as the confederacies form, it may develop into larger battles. The rider holds “a great sword”. Compare this great sword with the “sharp sword” (Rev. 1:16). A great sword is used for broad, indiscriminate sweeping. A sharp sword is used for discriminant jabs and piercing. The change from white horse to the red horse is also instructive. Conquest through diplomacy will descend into conquest through bloodshed. We have seen examples of this progression in history; e.g. Hitler’s bloodless takeover of Austria in 1938, followed by his bloody conquest of Poland in 1939.
3rd Seal: Widespread Famine – Black Horse (6:5-6)
¶ 5 And when it opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, Come and see. And I saw: and behold, a black horse, and he that sat upon it having a balance in his hand. v.5 The third seal involves a “black” horse. The rider holds a “balance in his hand”, which was a tool used in the marketplace to measure products and currency. The third seal represents economic failure and famine, mainly affecting the working class. We read in Lam. 5:10, “Our skin was black like an oven because of the terrible famine.” The 1929 Wall Street crash was called Black Tuesday.
6 And I heard as a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, A choenix of wheat for a denarius, and three choenixes of barley for a denarius: and do not injure the oil and the wine. v.6 A voice comes from the middle of the four living creatures. If the beasts at this point are still around the throne, then this voice is either the voice of God or of the Lamb. The voice cries out the market prices for wheat and barley. The prices that are given are famine prices. A denarius was a soldier’s daily pay, and could normally purchase six choenixes of wheat. But here, one day’s work will only buy one day’s food. Families cannot survive in this economy. “Barley” was the poor man’s food. Yet the voice adds, “do not injure the oil and wine”. The oil and wine are the finer fares, things enjoyed by the rich. As bad as this famine is, the rich are yet unaffected (Prov. 21:17).
4th Seal: Mass Death – Pale Horse (6:7-8)
¶ 7 And when it opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, Come and see. 8 And I saw: and behold, a pale horse, and he that sat upon it, his name was Death, and hades followed with him; and authority was given to him over the fourth of the earth to slay with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and by the beasts of the earth. v.8 The fourth seal involves a “pale” horse, which is the color of death. The pale horse represents mass death (likely a pestilence, which is a fatal epidemic disease). Why do we think it involves disease? If we correlate the seal judgments with the judgments in Matthew 24 which occur at the same time, we will find that pestilences are mentioned (Matt. 24:7). Furthermore, slaying with “death” is mentioned in addition to the sword and hunger, etc. What else would this be but disease? The rider is called “Death” and he is followed by “hades”, almost like a cart following the horse. It speaks of complete separation from the land of the living. Death claims the body, and immediately, Hades claims the soul. Yet the reach of these judgments is still limited to a restricted part of the earth; the “fourth part” which I believer is Western Europe. Read more… Notice that the “sword” and “hunger” are included in this judgment. It shows that the second and third seals are wrapped up in the fourth. Even “the beasts of the earth” become a threat to people. The animal kingdom will begin to attack humans. In Genesis 9:2, God said to Noah, “And let the fear of you and the dread of you be upon every animal of the earth, and upon all fowl of the heavens: upon all that moveth on the ground; and upon all the fishes of the sea: into your hand are they delivered.” God’s intention was for man to be in close with the animals, as the head of creation. But sin degraded the relationship. It could be that, before the flood, animals were attacking humans (Gen. 6:12). To preserve man, after the flood God put a fear of man into the animals. Generally speaking, wild animals run away from people. This fear of man was necessary, now that sin had entered, for man to have dominion over the animals. But in the tribulation, the animals will begin to lose their fear of man.
5th Seal: Middle of Week – Jewish Witnesses Martyred (6:9-11)
¶ 9 And when it opened the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of them that had been slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held; v.9 The Martyrs. The fifth seal does not involve a horse and rider, but rather the souls of martyrs that will be killed in the tribulation. It is likely that the false church, which we find in Rev. 17-18 will be a major influence at this time, will be responsible for this persecution (see Rev. 18:24). These souls are the first group of Jewish martyrs, slain by those who dwell on the earth for their faithfulness. Their souls are seen separate from their bodies; i.e. they are seen in hades. Symbolically, they are viewed “under the altar”. They had just been on the altar, like an animal that is sacrificed (reference Lev. 4:7, the brazen altar). They are martyred for “the word of God” and “for the testimony which they held”. They will be preaching the word of God. And what was their testimony? “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matt. 24:14). They will be preaching a gospel, but not exactly the same gospel that we preach today; the gospel of the grace of God. These ones will preach the gospel of the kingdom, which simply is the command to repent because the king is coming.
10 and they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O sovereign Ruler, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell upon the earth? v.10 The Martyrs’ Prayer. The martyrs’ prayer is given to us. They do not address God as Father, but as “sovereign ruler”. Their mode of addressing God and the spirit of their prayers proves these are not Christian prayers (Matt. 5:43-44). Rather, these are the imprecatory prayers of those with Israelitish hopes. We have similar prayers in the Psalms (e.g. Psalm 94). They pray for vengeance on their enemies, on those who took their lives. We find that a certain class of persons is responsible for the death of these martyrs. They are called “earth-dwellers” and are mentioned perhaps ten times in the book of Revelation. Earth-dwellers are those who have been offered heaven, but have chosen earth instead (see Rev. 3:10).
11 And there was given to them, to each one a white robe; and it was said to them that they should rest yet a little while, until both their fellow-bondmen and their brethren, who were about to be killed as they, should be fulfilled. v.11 The Martyrs’ Rest. The martyrs are given “white robes”, which are symbols of the Lord’s special approval for their faithfulness (see Rev. 3:4-5). Their prayers cannot be fully answered at the time of the fifth seal, and so the martyrs must wait until the remainder of the martyrs are killed under far more furious persecution at the hands of the beast (Rev. 11; 14:13). Iniquity must reach its height before the retribution falls. Perhaps the martyrs of the second half week are distinguished in v.11 as: (1) “fellow servants” or Gentile believers and (2) “their brethren” or Jewish believers. This is uncertain, but possible. All of the tribulation martyrs will be raised together at the time spoken of in Rev. 11:11, and seen together reigning with Christ in Rev. 20:4.
6th Seal: Governmental Upheaval – Hearts Fail (6:10-17)
¶ 12 And I saw when it opened the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as hair sackcloth, and the whole moon became as blood, 13 and the stars of heaven fell upon the earth, as a fig tree, shaken by a great wind, casts its unseasonable figs. vv.12-13 The Lights Fall. There are no horses with the fifth and sixth seals. The sixth seal is more direct from God. The first thing is a great “earthquake”, which may represent a shaking of great Western governments – establishments that have remained stable and settled for the several millennia (Heb. 12:26). What causes this upheaval? God causes it, but He uses instruments. The timing of the sixth seal corresponds to the Satan’s fall from heaven at the middle of Daniel’s seventieth week (Rev. 12:9). At this same time, the false church will collapse and fall prey to the ten kingdoms she once controlled (Rev. 17:16). The judgment of the false church will cause great distress among the nations (Rev. 18). Next we have the fall of the sun, moon, and stars to the earth. We must understand that these are symbols. If one star literally fell to the earth, before it ever reached earth, the earth would be sucked into its gravitational field and destroyed. Clearly, the language is symbolic. The heavenly bodies are sources of light that provide guidance to man; “the great light to rule the day, and the small light to rule the night” (Gen. 1:16-17). The “sun” or supreme governing authorities (Gen. 37:9), the “moon” or those all authorities whose power is derived from the supreme authority, and the “stars” or lesser authorities (perhaps governments of less important countries), will fall also from their place as beacons to mankind. They will apostatize under Satan’s darkening power. There will be a shower of these authorities that descend into upheaval, pictured by fruit falling from a tree when the wind blows. These are “unseasonable” figs that are concealed under the leaves and never ripen. They are cast off by the wintry wind of God’s wrath. The mention of “figs” here is interesting. Perhaps there is an allusion to Israel’s national apostasy when Antichrist comes forward at the middle of the week? Every authority that previously posed as a moral beacon to mankind in the West now apostatizes, and this makes way for the Beast and False Prophet to step forward.
14 And the heaven was removed as a book rolled up, and every mountain and island were removed out of their places. v.14 Reference Points are Removed. It speaks of the “heaven” or sky being “rolled up”. It gives us mental picture of the sky, the backdrop of everything, being removed. In the tribulation, the framework of society will dissolve; e.g. manners, honesty, civility, etc. “Mountains” would be long established governments like the U.S.A. and England (see Dan. 2:35). “Islands” may represent of great sources of wealth or great financial institutions; e.g. Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, AIG, etc. (see Ezek. 27:3-15). It isn’t yet the total destruction of these institutions, but the moving them out of place, resulting in confusion and despair.
15 And the kings of the earth, and the great, and the chiliarchs, and the rich, and the strong, and every bondman and freeman, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains; 16 and they say to the mountains and to the rocks, Fall on us, and have us hidden from (1) the face of him that sits upon the throne, and from (2) the wrath of the Lamb; 17 because the great day of his wrath is come, and who is able to stand? vv.15-17 Fear Takes Hold Everywhere. Every class of persons that gave Western civilization a sense of stability will be struck with terror. Kings, chilarchs (meaning “commander of a thousand”, which is a military rank, Mark 6:1), the rich and strong, all the way down to the citizen and the slave, all will wish to be hidden from this judgement. They will beg for anything stable (rocks and mountains), the last vestiges of civilized government, even if oppressive, to hide them from God and His discipline. It seems that they call for the rocks etc. to hid them, not to kill them. Later men will seek death – moral, conscience death (Rev. 9:6) – but will not find it. There is no repentance or cry for mercy, just pure terror. They will think at that time that it is “the wrath of the Lamb”. These people know Who is behind these judgments. It is because they are in the part of the world that has had the light of the gospel, but rejected it. They think it is the end, but their terror is premature. This is only the middle of the week. It will get far worse in the last half of the week. Compare the earthquake in v.12 with the earthquake in Rev. 16:18.
(Two Companies Preserved: A Jewish and a Gentile) (Rev. 7)
Revelation 7. There is a parenthesis between the sixth and seventh seal, the sixth and seventh trumpet, and the sixth and seventh bowl. In each case we get added details that help us understand the seventh seal, trumpet, or bowl. Revelation 7 is the parenthesis in the seal-series of judgments. This chapter is for the hearts of the tribulation saints, and perhaps for our hearts as well. After seeing the first six seals we might wonder if any will make it through the tribulation at all. This chapter shows us that God has a remnant of Jews and Gentiles which will be preserved and brought into the millennium. It is a little bit like flipping to the end of a book to be assured about the outcome. Three companies are distinguished in this chapter: (1) v.4 Jew, (2) v.9 Gentile, and (3) v.12 Church of God; but only Jew and Gentile are on earth during the tribulation.
Noah, a type of the preserved remnant. The difference between ‘saved through’ the tribulation (Rev. 7) and ‘saved out of’ it (Rev. 3:10) is seen typically in the flood. Enoch is a type of the church, because he was taken by God, and was not on the earth during the flood. Noah and family are a type of the preserved remnant, because they were ‘saved through water’ although they never got wet; they were specially sheltered by God. Another Old Testament picture of the preserved remnant is Daniel’s three friends, who were preserved in the midst of a burning fiery furnace.
¶ And after this I saw four angels standing upon the four corners of the earth, holding fast the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow upon the earth, nor upon the sea, nor upon any tree. v.1 These angels have universal authority over creation, standing on the four corners of the earth. Obviously this is symbolic, and it is helpful to realize that the numeral four in scripture speaks of universality in creation. The “four winds” are the disturbing influences throughout the world that God can, at His will, let loose in judgment. Perhaps demonic forces are included (Eph. 2:2). Three entities are destined for judgment: “the earth” which represents the nations in the state of stability (Matt. 13:38), “the sea” which represents the nations in a state of turmoil (Rev. 13:1, Matt. 13:1,47), and “the trees” which represent the great men of this world (Dan. 4:20-22).
2 And I saw another angel ascending from the sunrising, having the seal of the living God; and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it had been given to hurt the earth and the sea, 3 saying, Hurt not the earth, nor the sea, nor the trees, until we shall have sealed the bondmen of our God upon their foreheads. vv.2-3 Another angel comes onto the scene from the east, the rising of the sun. Sometimes in the book of Revelation the Lord Himself is described as an angel, but I don’t believe that is true in this case. It isn’t until the trumpet series that the Lord assumes the angelic form and title. In the seal-judgment series He is the Lamb.12 The seal marks them for preservation from martyrdom. Before the seventh seal is opened, we are assured that a great company will be preserved. An example of this sealing or marking is Joshua 2:18, and Ezek. 9:4-6. Perhaps as a contrast to this seal or mark, those who dwell on the earth receive the mark of the Beast in their foreheads.
The Jewish company sealed (vv.4-7)
4 And I heard the number of the sealed, a hundred and forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the sons of Israel: 5 out of the tribe of Juda, twelve thousand sealed; out of the tribe of Reuben, twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Gad, twelve thousand; 6 out of the tribe of Aser, twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Nepthalim, twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Manasseh, twelve thousand; 7 out of the tribe of Simeon, twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Levi, twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Issachar, twelve thousand; 8 out of the tribe of Zabulun, twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Joseph, twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Benjamin, twelve thousand sealed. vv.4-8 The total number of those sealed or marked for preservation is 144,000. This is a symbolic number. The 144,000 equals 12 x 12 x 1,000. Twelve is the number of the dealings of God with man by means of human administration (Rev. 21:12). The multiplier of 1000 refers to the millennium. There are 12,000 sealed from each tribe, showing that “all Israel shall be saved” (Rom. 11:26). The nation of Israel in a remnant character will be preserved to enter the Millennium in administrative perfection. This remnant will form the nucleus of the nation, through whom Messiah will govern the other nations. Only two tribes will be in the land when Messiah comes, but all twelve tribes are mentioned here because the ten tribes will be brought back home to enter the kingdom (Ezek. 20:33-44, Jer. 30:3). The tribe of Dan isn’t mentioned; instead Levi takes his place. Perhaps this is because Dan was the tribe that introduced idolatry to Israel (see Judges 18)? However, some of the tribe of Dan will survive the tribulation because they will have a portion in the land, as Ezekiel 48:1 tells us. Ephraim’s name also isn’t mentioned, perhaps because, as the leader of the northern kingdom, Ephraim led Israel into idolatry (Hosea 4:17). Yet Ephraim is included here under the name ‘Joseph’.
|Remnant of…||Gentiles||Two Tribes||Ten Tribes|
|Preserved||Rev. 7:9-12||Rev. 7:4-7; 14:1||Rev. 7:4-7|
|Martyred 1st Half||Included in Rev. 5:9-10; 6:9-11?||Rev. 6:9-11; 12:11; 14:2-3; Included in Rev. 5:9-10?||Included in Rev. 5:9-10?|
|Martyred 2nd Half||Rev. 15:2-4; Included in Rev. 5:9-10?||Rev. 11:1-14; 12:17; 14:2-3; Included in Rev. 5:9-10?||Included in Rev. 5:9-10?|
|Raised||Rev. 20:4||Rev. 20:4, 14:13||Rev. 20:4|
Gentle Company Added: Worship Breaks Forth (vv.9-12)
¶ 9 After these things I saw, and lo, a great crowd, which no one could number, out of every nation and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cry with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb. vv.9-10 A Gentile Company. Another company comes into view on earth. The are “out of every nation and tribes and peoples and tongues”, meaning that they are Gentiles. They are so numerous that they could “not be numbered”. There are no multiples of twelve in this case, because Gentiles won’t be in earthly administration in the Millennium. The Lord’s throne will be in heaven in the Millennium (Psa. 103:19), but there will be an earthly extension of it on earth (Ezek. 43:7). Contrast these preserved Gentiles who are “before the throne” in that they have access to it (Heb. 4:16), with the elders who are “around the throne” as to their location (Rev. 4 – 5). Although they are before the throne, these Gentile saints are still on earth, still in the scene where they have been preserved, although the tribulation is over. Additional proofs that they are on earth are in v.15. These ones are wearing “white robes”, showing that they are morally suitable as far as practical holiness is concerned. In v.15 the question of their standing is addressed, and there the blood is mentioned. They are holding “palms”, which are emblems of joy resulting from a victorious deliverance. Are the 144,000 Jewish saints a part of this multitude? I don’t know. The white-robed crowd cries out to God in praise. Although the wording is difficult, I believe the sense of their cry is: “all praise and credit for our salvation be to God… etc.”. They cry (not sing) of an earthly deliverance through the tribulation from physical and moral damage.
Earth, Heaven, Earth. We have had a scene on earth (vv.9-10), and now a scene in heaven (vv.11-12). This is followed by a scene on earth again (vv.15-17).
11 And all the angels stood around the throne, and the elders, and the four living creatures, and fell before the throne upon their faces, and worshipped God, 12 saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and strength, to our God, to the ages of ages. Amen. vv.11-12 The Chant in Heaven. I am not quite sure how to read v.11. It could be that the angels, elders, and living creatures all fall and worship together. But it could also be that the elders and living creatures are inside the circle of angels. In this case the elders and living creatures would not fall in worship with the angels (as in Rev. 5:11-12). It this is the case, it could be so because the elders are heavenly saints, and earthly deliverance through the tribulation isn’t something they can appropriately praise for. The angels on the other hand “minister for them who shall be a salvation” (Heb. 1:14), even for saints in the tribulation! They chant a chant of seven notes. Compare with Rev. 5:12.
|Category||Rev. 5:12||Rev. 7:12|
|Order of the notes||power → divine glory + happiness.||God’s glory + happiness → strength|
|Differences||riches: the theme is Lamb’s worthiness||thanksgiving: the subject is thanks.|
|Addressee||to the lamb||to god|
The Blessed Place and Portion of Both Remnants (vv.13-17)
¶ 13 And one of the elders answered, saying to me, These who are clothed with white robes, who are they, and whence came they? 14 And I said to him, My lord, “thou” knowest. And he said to me, These are they who come out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb. vv.13-14 The elder, who is characterized by intelligence, ask John two questions – not because he doesn’t know – but because he is teaching John. This is a nice illustration of teaching through asking questions! The answer to “whence came they?” is that they have come out of the Great Tribulation, preserved miraculously from the power of the Beast and Antichrist. “The Great Tribulation” is a term referring to the second half of Daniel’s 70th week. See Dan. 9:27, Matt. 24:21. The answer to “who are these?” is that their standing before God is on the same basis as every saint in every dispensation: redemption through the blood of Jesus.
The Great Rewards for the Remnant (vv.15-17)
15 Therefore are they (1) before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple, and (2) he that sits upon the throne shall spread his tabernacle over them. 16 (3) They shall not hunger any more, neither shall they thirst any more, (4) nor shall the sun at all fall on them, nor any burning heat; 17 (5) because the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall shepherd them, and shall lead them to fountains of waters of life, (6) and God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes. vv.15-17 There is a six-fold reward for this faithful remnant. First, they will be priests in the millennial temple in Jerusalem. Note that this must be on earth because there will be no temple or day and night in the heavenly temple (Rev. 21). Second, they will come under Jehovah’s glory and defense (Isa. 4:5-6) as an overspreading tent. Note that in the eternal state, it will be tabernacling with men (Rev. 21:3), not over it. Third, every need of their’s will be satisfied; and not just physical needs, but spiritual needs as well (Matt. 5:6). Fourth, they will never again experience any suffering or pain, physical or otherwise (Jam. 1:11, Song. 1:6). Fifth, they will come under the personal shepherding care of the Lamb for 1000 years! Finally, they will be given everlasting consolation. God Himself will remove every sorrow and every occasion for sorrow. See note on Rev. 21:4.
- The Lamb only is concerned in the seals. The angelic power is connected with the trumpets. We shall see this more particularly; but I remark only, the Lamb is always in a higher or lower place (this latter, by grace), not exercising intermediate providences; in the throne, suffering, or judging. – Darby, J.N. Notes on Revelation.
- Some have conceived that the sealing angel is Christ, partly because it is assumed that the work done is communicating the Holy Spirit of promise, the seal of redemption. To me all this is more than doubtful. It is not till we reach the trumpet series that our Lord ever assumes the angelic form and title. Whether we look at the seals, or at the parenthesis between the two last, He is invariably, where the reference is certain, spoken of as the Lamb. Again, this angel rises up from the sun-rising. I can readily apply such a movement to angels subject to the Son of man, ascending and descending to do His pleasure. But when the Lord appears in angelic garb, He either ministers as High Priest with the golden censer, or He comes down with unmistakable tokens and proclamation of His dominion and power. – Kelly, William. Lectures on Revelation.