#22 Who Are Those Guys?
This morning we are going to be looking at another of those controversial passages and this one has so many people jumping up and down and throwing out theories, you wouldn’t believe it. Everyone seems to have an opinion and I emphasize that word, OPINION! We will look at some of them and we will also look at the scriptures themselves so that we may come to a biblical, God honoring conclusion to the matter. But first I want to kind of summarize what we have seen since chapter 6 and the book of the seven seals. Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, the Lion of the tribe of Judah has taken the book from the hand of God.
I have stated my opinion as to the identity of the book; that it is the book of the last judgment of the earth. I believe this because each time a seal is broken a judgment falls! Remember that others have other views, the title deed of the earth, the book of all of redemptive history… I have looked at it from the context of the Book of Revelation and that is how I have come to my conclusion.
To sum up what we saw in Chapter 6, Jesus broke the first seal and a conqueror went forth on a white horse to conquer followed by a rider on a red horse who went forth to take peace from the earth, followed by a rider on a black horse representing famine and bringing up the rear was death riding on a pale horse with Hades following close behind. The fifth seal revealed the Martyrs, those who gave their lives for the cause of Christ, who sealed their testimony with their blood. And then in the sixth seal we see the destruction of the earth, the crashing universe and the terrified human race…those whose names are not written in the Lambs Book of Life!
William Hendriksen, speaking of this says “It is interesting to observe that this final outpouring of the divine wrath of God is described under the sixth seal – six, or rather, six hundred and sixty six, this being the number of man and is represented as affecting six objects of creation. First there is an earthquake. Consider the following passages, (Ezek 38:18-20) (Joel 2:1-11) (Amos 8:1-10) (Matt 24:29-31) Picture if you will, the earth rising and falling in rapid waves as and indication of God’s power and anger. Then in connection with this earthquake, the sun turns black as sackcloth and the full moon becomes as blood. The darkening of the sky often accompanies earthquakes; yet more than that is intended by this description.
This is not merely a darkening nor even an eclipse for the very light of the sun is blotted out and the moon assumes the color of blood. The illustration is very plain and very terrible as it gives us a glimpse of the terror of the Day in which the Judgment of God falls upon a Christ hating, Church hating world.
The stars fall from heaven like a fig tree casting her unripe figs when shaken by a violent wind. The powers of heaven will be shaken. Then the sky splits apart and rolls up like a scroll and every mountain and island are moved out of their places. Again try to visualize what John is seeing. The heavens curl up like a piece of paper, the sun, its light blotted out so that it looks like a black sack used in mourning, the big full moon resembles a bloody ball, the stars turned out of their orbits and plunging to the earth in great showers, the earth itself quaking violently so that every hose crashes to the ground and every mountain and island suddenly disappearing. What a picture of dread and despair, of confusion and consternation for the wicked.
Notice too the six classes of people that are mentioned. First are the kings of the earth, the dictators and supreme political rulers of the world. Secondly we have the princes, those next in authority to the kings. Thirdly, we see the officers, the military dictators and generals. Fourth are the rich men, the leaders in commerce and industry. Fifth are the strong men, those who exert a powerful influence in any realm and lastly every slave and freeman, the entire lower class consisting of those who were still serving as slaves or those who had been released from bondage.
In other words we see the entire godless world seized with sudden fear. Like the men of Noah’s day, these are terror stricken and fleeing, fleeing from something far more terrible than the crumbling mountains and falling rocks. They will even try to seek safety in death itself. John hears the shrieks of agony uttered by millions of voices. Kings and slaves, princes and servants they are all caught in the same self inflicted agony of despair. The dreadful wail is heard “Mountains and rocks; fall on us and hide us from the face of the One sitting on the Throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. For it came, the great day of Their wrath and who is able to stand! The door of grace is closed forever!”
Now it is time for the seventh trumpet to sound. Now we turn our attention from judgment to liberty, from horror to joy, from wails to songs of highest praise. We read in (Rev 7:1-17) 1After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, so that no wind would blow on the earth or on the sea or on any tree. Could this be an awesome illustration of the calm before the storm?
MacArthur says that these four angels turn off the earth’s atmosphere for a period of time. Chuck Smith teaches that this is a judgment in itself as the ceasing of the wind leads to even more chaos and destruction. Hendriksen says these winds are the winds of woe that are for the moment held back under the control of God’s restraining hand.
I see this as an awesome interlude since it is not until chapter 8 that the seventh seal is broken. (Re 8:1) “When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” During this interlude of judgments God is not idle. He is sealing His people. Cast your minds back to Egypt. On that horrible night of judgment God’s people were sealed in a sense when they put lambs blood on the door. God saw the blood of the lamb and passed over those houses. Noah and his family were sealed in a sense too in that God Himself sealed them up in the ark just before He destroyed the world. Lot and his family were sealed in a sense in that they were delivered out of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and brought to a place of safety before judgment fell on the cities of the plains.
Here we have the same thing happening. Listen to what is said here. 2And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, therefore these winds are winds of judgment…3saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.” Do not release your judgments until God’s servants have been sealed.
Now we must ask the question; Who are those guys? They are A Remnant of Israel; a sealed multitude of 144,000. Now are they the Jehovah’s witnesses? I think not since the Jehovah’s witnesses deny the truth of the scriptures; indeed they have written their own version of the scriptures to accommodate their doctrines of devils.
How about Hal Lindsey’s idea! He says that these are 144,000 Jews for Jesus. They are Jewish evangelists who will go out and preach the truth and win souls for Jesus during the tribulation period. But the scriptures have already answered the question. These 144,000 are the bond-servants of our God! Mr. Hendriksen believes that the judgments that befall sinful men will not touch Gods anointed! He says, “These woes are punishments for the wicked persecuting world, they are not going to hurt you if the seal of God is on your forehead. The Lord has laid on Christ the iniquity of all the believers.
Therefore you can rest assured that to them that love God, all things work together for good, even to those that are called according to His purpose!” 4And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel: 5from the tribe of Judah, twelve thousand were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand, from the tribe of Gad twelve thousand, 6from the tribe of Asher twelve thousand, from the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand, from the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand, 7from the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand, from the tribe of Levi twelve thousand, from the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand, 8from the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand, from the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand, from the tribe of Benjamin, twelve thousand were sealed. Now are these a representative number of the church? Are they literal Jews from each tribe as listed below?
Let me offer my opinion. It seems to me that they are a distinct group of Jews and I believe that they are the remnant that Paul spoke of in (Ro 9:27) when he said “Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “THOUGH THE NUMBER OF THE SONS OF ISRAEL BE LIKE THE SAND OF THE SEA, IT IS THE REMNANT THAT WILL BE SAVED; we will see them one more time in chapter 14:1-3) Whether then they are a literal 144,000 or a representative/symbolic number, I believe that these are the remnant of Israel who are saved by our Lord Jesus Christ and that they represent God’s fulfillment of His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and to all the prophets of Israel. He had told them that His covenant with them was forever and I see this as the fulfillment of His promise. They are the Elect of the Jews, a specific number just like the gentiles.
We see this distinction in that the next group of people are called A Multitude from the Tribulation. Here are the gentile believers who have called upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved. They have heeded the warning to flee from the wrath to come and are now with the Lord in Paradise. We read in verse 9After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, This is important for us to understand! We have heard that there will be relatively few people in heaven.
Indeed there have been churches who have wanted it that way. From an actual hymn I quote: “We are the Lord’s elected few let all the rest be damned. There’s room enough in hell for you, we’ll not have heaven crammed!” What an evil heart must have written these words! This is truly a picture of one who cares not for the never dying souls of men. This is a picture of greed and selfishness much like the man whose barn would not hold all of his crops, who decided to build bigger barns and sit back and relax and revel in his ‘stuff.’
But God is not a man and does not think as we think. He has prepared a place for all of His children, all who will call upon His Name; who will do so because He will cause them to! Just as the 144,000 Jews will be made willing in the day of His power so too will the gentiles and together we will rejoice in the God of our Salvation for all eternity. We see the gentile believers now…standing before the throne and before the Lamb, they are clothed in white robes, which speaks of the cleansing blood of the Lamb of God Who has taken away our sins by the shedding of His own blood. It illustrates another important fact too, that we are clothed in Christ’s robe of righteousness; that is, His righteousness has been imputed to us because of which we are able to approach the Throne of Grace, the Mercy Seat of God Almighty.
We must never forget that we were not saved because of what we have done. We were not saved by our own merit. We are beholden to Jesus Christ for His sacrifice which He offered in our place. Nothing in our hands we bring, only to His cross we cling! We are the off-scouring of the earth, the dregs of society, the filth of the world. And yet God had mercy. In spite of our sinfulness, despite the fact that we hated God and loved sin, God had mercy. God had compassion upon us because we were like sheep without a shepherd. And He called us…and He saved us…and He became our Great Shepherd, the shepherd of our souls.
He called us by name and led us out of the world one by one. He led us out of the desert and into green pastures and beside still waters where He restored our souls. Those who stand before the Throne know this and they worship Him. Notice further what it says… and palm branches were in their hands; was the triumphal entry just a trial run for the real thing. Here, just like in Jerusalem 2000 years ago men worship with palm branches. There is one distinction to be made in this scene. Unlike the past event, there will be no reneging on the Lord here. Remember that the same people who were praising Jesus one day were calling for His death just a few days later.
They were caught up in the moment like a mob. And just a few days later they were caught up again, like a mob. For the most part they didn’t know what they were doing; it was a ‘Monkey see, monkey do thing. But here in heaven the children of God see Him face to face. The veil is removed, the dark glass taken away and the sheep of His pasture worship their Shepherd with shouts of joy and songs of gladness 10and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” The worship is universal. 11And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12saying, “Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
Eye has not seen nor has ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man what God has prepared for those who love Him! Nothing that we could ever experience here on earth can ever compare to what God has reserved in heaven for we have been predestined to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, (1Pe 1:4) There we will rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice!
Now God gives us some clarification as to who these people are in the next few verses. 13Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?” 14I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15“For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. 16“They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; unlike the wicked who will suffer unspeakable horrors for all eternity, Gods children will have entered their eternal rest…17for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”
Heaven is home! Heaven is where all of God’s children will find rest for their sin weary souls. Whether it be the 144,000 or the gentiles, we will all stand on equal ground before the throne; we will all stand as sinners, saved by grace. And we will all rejoice together in the God of our salvation. He will be our God and we will be His people. We will sing of the mercy of God forever and ever rejoicing that our names were written in the Lamb’s book of Life.