Revelation 11 – Part 1

“And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.” Revelation 11:3

To introduce this next part of the parenthesis between the sixth and seventh trumpet judgments in Revelation 10:1-11:14, I want to quote Christian author and speaker, Chuck Swindoll:

When they come to us in the form of bestselling novels, prime-time television, epic poems, or blockbuster movies, the heroes in classic stories tend to follow a common formula. They often are average individuals who endure and conquer overwhelming adversity at the cost of tremendous personal sacrifice in order to accomplish seemingly impossible goals. Think about some of the great films of the last couple of generations—Star Wars, Rocky, Titanic, Braveheart—and you get the picture. Such tales motivate us to overcome our weaknesses and accomplish great objectives. Enemies attack, obstacles are hurled into their path, and tragedies strike; but the heroes of great stories find a secret source of strength beyond themselves. Such strength enables them to vanquish even the most potent adversaries.

“When the people are real and the events are true, such stories inspire us all the more. Consider the brave men and women of the “Greatest Generation” who sacrificed their comfort and even their lives to defeat the overwhelming forces of evil during World War II. We remember individuals like Corrie ten Boom, who risked her life to help Jews escape the clutches of the Nazis. In fact, history—especially church history—is filled with moving stories of saints, mere men and women like you and me, who took a stand for Christ and paid the ultimate price for their courageous convictions. Though their flames were extinguished in their own dark generations, the light of their valor continues to burn brightly.

“The book of Revelation also presents us with the story of underdogs who stand against overpowering and intimidating forces. John himself stood strong under the persecution of the emperor Domitian (Revelation 1:9). Members of the early church courageously stood against trials and temptations (2:9-11). Now, in Revelation 11:3-14, we’ll encounter two end-times prophets, simply called the ‘two witnesses,’ who take a stand in the midst of the worst generation in human history.” 1

The apostle John was instructed to “prophesy again,” a second time regarding the seven-year Tribulation “about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings” (10:11). This second survey of the seven-years Tribulation would focus on specific characters, including the two witnesses of Revelation 11 and their people, the Jews.To establish the context in which these two witnesses will minister, John writes, “Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, ‘Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there.’” (Revelation 11:1). John was instructed to use a “a reed like a measuring rod,” much like a modern yardstick, to “measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there.”

This is a reference to the rebuilt temple of God by the Jews during the first half of the Tribulation period when God resumes dealing directly with the nation of Israel (11:1; cf. Daniel 9:27; 2 Thessalonians 2:4). This is important to understand from John’s perspective. After all, John had this vision around the year AD 96. Twenty-five years earlier, the Roman army had leveled the Jerusalem temple under the command of the Roman general, Titus. When John heard this angelic voice tell him to measure the temple, his first thought may have been, “Temple? What temple?” 2

However, John also knew that Old Testament prophecies, the Lord Jesus, and the apostle Paul all pointed to a future temple that would stand during the seventieth week of years known as the Tribulation (Daniel 9:27). Daniel 9:26-27 mentioned both the destruction of the “city and the sanctuary” which took place in 70 A.D. when the Roman army invaded Jerusalem (Daniel 9:26), and the ceasing (He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering”) of reestablished temple worship in Jerusalem at the midpoint of the seventieth “week” of years (Daniel 9:27; 12:11). 3

Jesus quoted Daniel’s prophetic words when He spoke of “the abomination of desolation” being set up in “the holy place” or temple in Judea (Matthew 24:15-16). The apostle Paul shared more details about the same future event when he described the coming of the Beast or Antichrist as 3 the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). 4 What this means is that the Jewish temple will be rebuilt before the midpoint of the seven-years Tribulation when the Beast of Revelation or Antichrist will enter the temple and become the focal point of worship.

“Bible scholar Charles Ryrie suggests that the temple mentioned in Revelation 11:1-2 is ‘the temple that will be built during the Tribulation, in which Jewish worship will be carried on during the first part of that seven-year period and in which, at the midpoint, the man of sin will exalt himself to be worshiped.’” 5

Christian author and pastor Tony Evans writes, To measure a structure or piece of property in Scripture is a means of laying claim to it. You measure it because you own it. In this case, then, God is laying claim to the Jewish temple in Jerusalem that will be rebuilt during the tribulation. Today a Muslim mosque known as the Dome of the Rock sits on the temple site. Orthodox Jews, however, pray daily for the return of the temple at the Western Wall—the one remaining structure from the ancient Jewish temple complex that sits beneath the Dome of the Rock.” 6

The angel told John to leave something out of his measurement. But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months.” (Revelation 11:2). John is told to “leave out the court which is outside the temple” because it will be “given to the Gentiles” who “will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months” during the last 3 ½ years of the Tribulation period after the Beast or Antichrist breaks his covenant with Israel in the middle of the seventieth week of years and controls the temple court and the rest of Jerusalem (cf. Daniel 9:27; Matthew 24:15-22; Revelation 13:5).

This explains in part why John’s “stomach became bitter” when he received this revelation of future judgment from God (10:10). His own people, the Jews, would be under the oppressive direction of the Man of Sin who would severely persecute God’s people in Jerusalem during the last half of the seven-years Tribulation (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Daniel 7:25). Jerusalem had to be judged because it became spiritually corrupt like Sodom and Egypt in Old Testament days (cf. Revelation 11:8). 7

We learn two things from Revelation 11:1-2: “First, the worshipers at the temple will be far fewer in number than those left out. John was able to quickly measure those within, but those on the outside were too numerous to count. This serves as an important reminder that God can and does work out His plan through a remnant.

“Second, we see that God has set in advance a limit on the time during which the nations will be permitted to ‘tread under foot the holy city.’ The ‘forty-two months’ here likely refers to the second half of the Tribulation period, during which the future Antichrist and his false prophet will reign (see 13:5). As we’ll see in a moment, the end-times regime of that diabolical duo won’t come to full power until God has first delivered His last prophetic words through His own duo of divine spokesmen—the two witnesses.” 8

We also learn from verse 2 that God gives the Gentiles only what is “outside” while the inner reality of Israel’s worship and worshippers is protected by Him (this protection is symbolized by the measurement of the temple in verse 1). The true worship of God is protected at the same time the city (and by implication the temple), falls under the oppressive dominion of the Gentiles. 9

In contrast to the the “forty-two months” of Gentile domination during the last 3 ½ years of the Tribulation (11:2), John writes, “And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.” (Revelation 11:3).

Who are these two witnesses? Many commentators believe they will be “Moses” and “Elijah” restored to life, since these men were prophets and performed the kinds of miracles these witnesses will perform (11:6). 10 In addition, they refer to Moses and Elijah appearing with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration in a preview of His Second Coming to earth (Matthew 16:27-17:7; 2 Peter 1:16-18). 11 Other students of the Bible believe they will be “Enoch” and “Elijah,” since God took these men to heaven without dying. 12 Another reason some believe one of these witnesses will be Elijah is Malachi 4:5, which predicts that Elijah will return before the Messiah. 13 Some interpreters “who believe that this particular part of Revelation refers not to future events but to events that occurred in the first century have identified the two witnesses as Peter and Paul, James and John, or even two high priests killed by the Romans in AD 68!” 14

The bottom line is God does not reveal the identity of these two witnesses in the biblical text. What God does tell us is these “two witnesses…will prophesy” or communicate revealed truth from God “one thousand two hundred and sixty days” which would be 3 ½ years during the first half of the Tribulation period, resulting in the conversion of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists who will spread the “gospel of the kingdom” during the last half of the Tribulation period (11:3; cf. 7:1-10) to “all the nations” (cf. Matthew 24:14). The gospel of the kingdom refers to the good news of King Jesus returning to earth to set up His kingdom at the end of the Tribulation period (Revelation 19:11-21). Only those who believe in Christ will be able to enter His kingdom on earth (Matthew 18:3; 21:31-32; John 3:3-16). 

The two witnesses do not neglect the preaching of the cross, for Revelation 7:14 and Zechariah 13:7-9 indicate that the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom in the seventieth week is accompanied by the preaching of the cross. The message committed to the church is the message of grace. The church has no other message. The fact that the message announced is one of judgment, repentance, and preparation in view of the coming of the King indicates that the church must no longer be present, for no such message is committed to her.” 15

That this refers to the first half of the Tribulation period 16 is seen by comparing these two witnesses to “the two olive trees” of Zechariah 4:1-14, namely Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel, the Jewish governor, who returned from captivity in Babylon to re-establish worship in Jerusalem (11:4; cf. Zechariah 3:1; 4:1-14). These two witnesses will not be able to re-establish worship in Jerusalem during the last half of the Tribulation because the Beast or Antichrist will put an end to sacrifices and persecute God’s people so that they will have to flee from Jerusalem (Matthew 24:15-22), so their ministry must take place during the first half of the Tribulation.

Keep in mind that after Jesus removes His church from the earth via the Rapture (Revelation 4:1-4; cf. I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-5:11), not one saved person will be left on the earth. But this will change the very day it becomes true. Two men in Israel will be converted to Christ—apparently by direct, supernatural revelation (similar to Samuel in 1 Samuel 3 or Saul of Tarsus in Acts 9). They will become the first prophets of Israel (outside those of the early church) since John the Baptist and will be given power to perform miracles that will torment (cf. Rev 11:10) earth’s inhabitants. Their clothing of sackcloth will match their message that the Day of Judgment spoken of by the OT prophets (the Day of the Lord; cf. Isa 13:9; 34:8; Zeph 1:14-18; Zechariah 14) has arrived. They will also share the good news of the gospel so that the firstfruits of the Lamb—the 144,000—will be converted, and spread the gospel to the ends of the earth (Matt 24:14). However, the primary role of the two witnesses is clear: they will testify about the Creator who has begun to pour out His wrath on rebellious mankind.” 17

John gives us a few more details about these two men. “These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the Lord of the earth.” (Revelation 11:4). These two witnesses are compared to “two olive trees and… lampstands” because they are dependent on the oil of God’s Spirit to be the Lord’s light in a dark world as they speak the truth of God, Who controls the entire “earth.”

“And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner.” (Revelation 11:5). “If anyone wants to harm” these two witnesses, and they will because of the judgments these witnesses bring upon the earth (cf. 11:6), the witnesses will be able to protect themselves with “fire” that “proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies,” like what Elijah did (cf. 2 Kings 1:10-14).

Like Elijah (cf. I Kings 17:1, 7; 18:1), these two witnesses “have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy” (Revelation 11:6a). Also, the length of their ministry(“days of their prophesying”) will be the same as the drought that God sent during Elijah’s day (three and a half years – I Kings 17:1; 18:1; cf. Luke 4:25; James 5:17). Like Moses (Exodus 7:14-12:30), “they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire.” (Revelation 11:6b). The supernatural power of these two witnesses will exceed what Moses possessed in that they will be able “to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire.” God used Moses to destroy Egypt with plagues (cf. Exodus 10:7), but these two servants of the Lord will be used to inflict devastation on the whole earth. 18

This will be the fifth period in history when God will enable a few people to do unusually spectacular signs and wonders in connection with delivering great amounts of new revelation. 19 The first four periods were:

1. The times of Moses and Joshua.

2. Of Elijah and Elisha.

3. Of Daniel and his three friends.

4. The times of Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry and that of His apostles.

Do you ever feel like you are the only person in your community that cares about the things of God? Do you think you are helpless to see transformation in your own life or in the lives of others? What Revelation 11:1-6 teaches us is that no matter how hopeless or helpless a situation may seem, God can change things for the better.

Even though there will be no believers remaining on the earth after the removal of the church at the time of the Rapture, God’s grace is seen when He provides His life-giving message during the most wicked time in human history. Through two witnesses He brings directly to faith in Christ, God will proclaim the gospel during the first half of the Tribulation period, resulting in the salvation of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists who will then evangelize all the nations during the last half of the Tribulation period (11:1-6; cf. 7:1-17; Matthew 24:14).

The “power” these two witnesses will receive from God comes from the same Holy Spirit Who indwells and empowers all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead will empower God’s two witnesses during the first half of the Tribulation and is the same Holy Spirit that indwells all who believe in Jesus today. Just as God gave supernatural “power” to these two witnesses to proclaim His message to a wicked world (Revelation 11:3), so God gives Christians today the supernatural ability through His Holy Spirit to proclaim His truth to a secular and pluralistic world that does not want to hear the gospel of grace which exposes their sin and their need for a Savior (Acts 1:8). The key for Christians is to depend upon the Holy Spirit, not themselves. When we do that, all the glory belongs to God, not ourselves.

Swindoll writes, The Bible is filled with examples of God using outcasts and underdogs to accomplish His will: David versus Goliath, Elijah versus the prophets of Baal, Gideon’s three hundred men versus thousands of Midianites, Esther versus Haman. Our God delights in turning the tables on the world’s mindset of ‘bigger is better’ and ‘only the strong survive.’ In a world that sees success and accomplishments as the ultimate standard for determining a person’s worth, it’s easy to forget that God often chooses the small over the large and a remnant over the masses.” 21

God will take two men during the darkest time in human history and use them to change the lives of 144,000 Jews whom God will use to spread the gospel around the world. Since God will do that, never underestimate what He can do through you at a time when you may feel all alone and unable to make a difference. God is able to provide for you and protect you as He did the two witnesses.

Prayer: Gracious Father, thank You for giving us a glimpse of Your magnificent grace during a time when the world deserved Your devastating judgments. After removing Your church from the earth, You could have wiped out every human being on earth with the outpouring of Your wrath. But because of Your grace, You directly brought two men to faith whose prophetic ministry would result in the salvation of 144,000 Jews who would preach the gospel to all the nations during the last half of the Tribulation period. When we feel alone and unable to make a difference in our declining world, Your Word reminds us that nothing is impossible with You, Lord. If You can use two men to change thousands of lives during the worst time in human history, You can use us to make a difference for Christ in our world today so all the glory belongs to You. Please help us never to forget that our strength comes from You alone. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.   

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 213.

2. Ibid., pg. 214.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2392.

7. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1536.

8. Swindoll, pg. 215.

9. Vacendak, pg. 1536.

10. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 125 cites J. B. Smith, A Revelation of Jesus Christ Edited by J. Otis Yoder (Scottdale, Pa: Herald Press, 1971), pg. 169; Merrill C. Tenney, Interpreting Revelation (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959), pg. 191 and William Barclay, The Revelation of John Vol. 2, The Daily Study Bible series, 2nd ed. (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pp. 86-87. 11.  Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 348.

12. Constable, pg. 125 cites Joseph A. Seiss, The Apocalypse Charles C. Cook, 1900; reprint ed., (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1973), pg. 244; and Thomas W. Mackay, “Early Christian Millenarianist Interpretation of the Two Witnesses in John’s Apoclaypse, 11:3-13.” In By Study and Also by Faith, pp. 252-65, 310. Edited by John M. Lundquist and Stephen D. Ricks. Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1990.

13. Constable, pg. 125 cites Robert H. Gundry, The Church and the Tribulation, Contemporary Evangelical Perspectives series (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, Academic Books, 1973), pg. 94.

14. Swindoll, pg. 216 cites Gregory K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, The New International Greek Testament Commentary series (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., and Carlisle, England: Paternoster Press, 1999), pp. 572-573 and Grant R. Osborne, Revelation Verse by Verse, Osborne New Testament Commentaries (Bellingham WA: Lexham Press, 2016), pp. 417-418.

15. J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Zondervan Academic, 2010 Kindle Edition), pg. 217.

16. Swindoll, pg. 216 cites Charles C. Ryrie, The Ryrie Study Bible (1961), cf. Vacendak, pg. 1536.

17. Vacendak, pp. 1536-1537.

18. Ibid., pg. 1537.  

19. Constable, pg. 127; Swindoll, pg. 217.

20. Swindoll, pg. 217. 21. Ibid., pg. 219.

Revelation 7 – Part 2

“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands.” Revelation 7:9

During the interlude between the sixth and seventh seal judgments, the apostle John receives two visions of God’s great mercy involving the salvation and sealing of 144,000 Jews on the earth (7:1-8) and the salvation of Gentiles and Jews from every nation who are taken to heaven (7:9-17). Even though this will be a time of trouble on the earth like never before, it will also be a time of salvation like never before—of both Jews (7:1-8) and Gentiles (7:9-17). 1

I often hear a certain religious group responding to our online videos who claim that there will only be 144,000 people in heaven. 2  Some scholars believe the 144,000 on the earth (7:1-8) are the same group mentioned in heaven (7:9-17). 3 But this is contrary to what we see in Revelation 7. There are significant differences between the redeemed group of 144,000 on the earth (7:1-8) and the redeemed group of people before God’s throne in heaven (7:9-17): 4

1. The number of redeemed on the earth is not only smaller, but definite (“one hundred and forty-four thousand” – 7:4), but the number of redeemed in heaven is not only larger, but indefinite (“a great multitude which no one could number” – 7:9).

2. People from all the tribes of the children of Israel” comprise the first group (7:4), but people from “all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues” make up the second (7:9).

3. The first group is standing on “the earth” (7:1-3), whereas the second group is standing “before the throne” of God in heaven (7:9).

4. God prepares the first group for imminent peril on the earth (“Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads” – 7:3), but the second group is victorious, secure, and at rest in heaven (“standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands” – 7:9).

5. The first group is prepared for persecution on the earth (7:1-8), but the second group is ascended to heaven after persecution (7:14-15).

There seems to be a cause-and-effect relationship in Revelation 7between the 144,000 Jewish believers in verses 1-8 and the innumerable crowd of Gentile believers in verses 9-17. The ministry of the 144,000 during the last half of the Tribulation period brings about salvation for millions of people. 5 In spite of the turmoil all around them, the 144,000 Jewish evangelists are faithful to God and God uses them to reach many people from all over the earth during the last half of the Tribulation period (cf. Matthew 24:14). 6

Some students of the Bible have concluded that those who heard the gospel before the Rapture of the Church and rejected it, will not be able to get saved during the Tribulation. They refer to 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 for support of this view. 9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12).

When Paul speaks of being “saved” (2:10), he is speaking of the salvation or deliverance from the Tribulation on earth by means of the Rapture of the church as seen elsewhere in his letters to the Thessalonians (cf. I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-5:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:1). 7 Verse 12 does not mean that everyone alive at the time of the Rapture who are unbelievers will be given God’s “strong delusion” and be unable to get saved during the Tribulation.

Seemingly when the Rapture occurs the Man of Sin will emerge and will give some explanation for the sudden disappearance of Christians. With this lie will surely come his claim to be God and to offer protection for all who follow him. Many will be deceived by his message. It is not known for sure what the strong delusion will be. But it is known that only unbelievers who did not “believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” will be deceived (2:12). This cannot mean that all the unsaved when the Rapture occurs will be eternally condemned since Revelation 7 states that there will be 144,000 Jewish evangelists who will lead innumerable Jews and Gentiles all over the earth to faith in Christ during the Tribulation. 8

Those who had “pleasure in unrighteousness” are people who heard and yet rejected the gospel in this Church Age. Those in tribes and people groups who have not heard the gospel will not be endangered by this delusion. It is possible that some in countries like the United States, where the gospel is accessible to all, will not have heard the clear gospel, or have not heard it enough, and so some of them will come to faith in Christ during the Tribulation. Likely, however, many people in Christian lands will be deluded when the Rapture occurs and will be hardened in unbelief. Most of the converts of the 144,000 will likely be in third-world countries and unreached areas of the world (Matthew 24:14). 9

This is a powerful reminder for unbelievers not to continue in their unbelief. They are to cry out to God to show them the truth. Their fear of the coming Tribulation is meant by God to motivate them to ask Him to reveal the truth of the gospel to them. 10 During the Tribulation it will be very difficult for those who have continually rejected the gospel to come to faith in Christ. After all, it won’t get easier to be a Christian after the Rapture, but rather more difficult, since the Antichrist will openly persecute those who receive Christ and refuse to take his mark (Revelation 13:7, 16-17). However, to say that it is impossible for anyone to receive God’s mercy during the Tribulation is expanding 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 beyond what the context allows.” 11

Let’s take a closer look now at this second group in heaven. The apostle John writes, “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands.” (Revelation 7:9). The converts of the 144,000 are from “all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues.” Every country, tribe, people-group, and language group will be represented in heaven. This tells us that racial distinctions and uniqueness are retained in eternity. 12

Only Jesus Christ can unite all nations and ethnicities together for all of eternity! Governments, special interest groups, and well-meaning religious groups have failed to bring universal peace to the nations of the world. However, God is at work amid a world that is divided. There are churches today comprised of various ethnicities worshiping the true God, Jesus Christ (I John 5:20)! This is a preview of more to come throughout eternity.

These converts of the 144,000 will be “clothed with white robes.” Thesewhite robes” represent believers in Jesus who have been declared righteous in the sight of God through faith in Christ. One of the twenty-four elders says of this group, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:14). Whereas the white robes in Revelation 3:4-5 are an eternal reward given to believers who remain faithful to Christ until they go to heaven, the robes here in 7:9, 14 are symbolic of the complete and eternal cleansing of sin that comes to every person who believes in Christ for eternal life. 13

These believers standing before the thrones of God the Father and God the Son are holding “palm branches in their hands” (7:9), which recalls John 12:13 where the Jews meet Christ at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem with joyful celebration and exalt Him as Israel’s King. (The Jews celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles by waving palm branches as they quoted Psalm 118:25-26.) In a similar manner the redeemed ones before the throne will celebrate the imminent victory of the King at His Second Advent (cf. 19:11–20:3) as well as His coming reign (cf. 20:4).” 14

This innumerable group of redeemed people are, crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Revelation 7:10). The word for “salvation” (sōtēria) here refers to a two-fold deliverance: first, from the Lake of Fire as seen in verse 14 where reference is made to the eternal cleansing of the blood of the Lamb. And secondly, when Christ returns to the earth there will be a deliverance from the Man of Sin (cf. Micah 5:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 19:15-20), physical corruption (cf. Romans 8:21-22; Isaiah 35), and the rebellion of men (cf. Psalm 2:9; Jeremiah 30:23-24; Revelation 19:11-21). 15

Verse 10 underscores that this salvation or deliverance belongs to God the Father(“our God who sits on the throne”)and God the Son(“to the Lamb”). Only God could pay the penalty for all our sins since it took a perfect sacrifice to accomplish such a feat (Hebrews 1:8; 10:1-14). And only God could overcome centuries of sin and death through His return to earth to set up His kingdom and bring universal peace and blessings to the earth (Revelation 11:15-18; 19:11-20:6; cf. Isaiah 11:1-16; 65:17-25). 

In addition to these martyred Tribulation believers (7:14) shouting praises to God the Father and God the Son, John tells us, “All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God.” (Revelation 7:11). Other “angels,” in addition to the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders, representing the church, “stood around the throne and worshiped God.” While the earth is subject to wrath at this time, heaven is filled with worship of God the Father and God the Son.

All the inhabitants of heaven are saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 7:12). “Blessing” (eulogia) or praise is what God deserves because of what He will do for these people (cf. Revelation 5:12, 13). 16 “Glory” (doxa) is the honor due to God because of His good reputation, specifically for delivering them (cf. Revelation 1:6; 4:11; 5:12, 13; 19:1). 17 “Wisdom” (sophia) is God’s infinite knowledge displayed in His plan of deliverance (cf. Revelation 5:12). “Thanksgiving” (eucharistia) literally means “well” and “to give freely,” but it denotes an expression of gratitude for a favor rendered (cf. Revelation 4:9). 18

“Honor” (timē) or esteem is what God deserves because He has planned and provided this salvation (cf. Revelation 4:11; 5:12, 13). 19  “Power” (dynamis) reflects God’s omnipotence that enables Him to overcome all opposition (cf. Revelation 4:11; 5:12; 19:1). 20 “Might” (ischys) or strength refers to God’s inherent power that enabled Him to deliver this multitude from their enemies (5:12). 21 God is worthy of this worship throughout eternity. “Amen” (Amēn) underlines the truthfulness of this sevenfold ascription (cf. 5:13). 22

We must not overlook the oneness of God the Father and God the Son in these verses. While their worship is directed to both God the Father and God the Lamb, we are told they “worshiped God” (7:11) and gave praise “to our God” (7:12). During His earthly ministry Jesus said, “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son.” (John 5:22). The Jews thought it was God alone who would judge the world, but Jesus claims that the Father has given Him that privilege. Why? “That all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.” (John 5:23). The Jews believed that only God was to be honored and worshiped. Jesus claims the same right to be worshiped and honored that the Father has. This emphasizes the unity of the Father and the Son. What is done to One, is also done to the other because they are equals. They both have the same divine nature.

This is why all other religions fall short. They cannot truly honor God or worship Him apart from Jesus Christ. This is why Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism, Jehovah Witnesses, etc., all fall short because they do not worship and honor God the Father through Jesus Christ. They may say Jesus was a god or a prophet or a good moral teacher, but they do not believe He is the one true God. And by rejecting Jesus Christ as God, they are rejecting His Father because Christ is the perfect reflection of the Father.

But this will not happen in heaven. All the inhabitants of heaven will honor and worship both God the Father and God the Son because they understand the oneness of God. Jesus said, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19b). Jesus taught that God is one (“the name” is singular) in divine nature, yet eternally exists in three Persons (“Father… Son… Holy Spirit”) Who are equal in every way, yet distinct in their tasks and relations to humanity. God is one substance (Deuteronomy 6:4), yet three in Person (Ephesians 2:18; 2 Corinthians 13:14). Students of the Bible refer to this truth as the Trinity or “three in one.”

All three Persons in Matthew 28:19 share one “name,” because they are one Being. This is not self-contradiction, and here is why: Person is not the same as being. Your being is the quality that makes you what you are, but your person is the quality that makes you who you are. For example, we are humans. That is what we are. That is why we are called human beings. But what we are is not the same as who we are. If someone asks, “Who are you?” I should not respond by saying, “A human!” That answers the question of what I am, not who I am. Who I am is Jeff Ropp; that is my person. What I am is a human; that is my being. Being and person are separate.

Unlike a human being, which has only one person, God has three Persons. He is one being, Yahweh, in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Unlike a human being, which has only one person, God has three persons. He is one being, Yahweh, in three persons: Father, Son, and Spirit. He is more than able to exist like that because He is God. If we say God must have only one Person, like humans, then we are making God in our image. Who are we to limit God? It is up to God to tell us Who He is. That is where the discussion should really be between Christians and non-Christians: on revelation, not on the conceptual plane of “Trinity versus _______,” as if our reason alone can dictate or even decipher the nature of God.

Christians and non-Christians should agree that God is greater than we can possibly conceive, more complex than we could ever hope to grasp. We are in no position to determine the intricacies of God’s nature. If God were to inform us that He is one being in one Person, we are obligated to believe Him. If He tells us, “I am one being in three Persons,” who are we to say “No” to God? As believers in revelation, we must turn to divine Scripture to learn about God.

Scripture is the reason why Christians believe God is triune. The doctrine of the Trinity is the best interpretation of the Bible. There are five elements found repeatedly throughout the Bible’s text that are best interpreted through the lens of the Trinity:

– There is only one God (e.g., Romans 3:30) 

– The Father is God (e.g., John 6:27)

– Jesus is God (e.g., John 20:28; Romans 9:5; 2 Peter 1:1) 

– The Holy Spirit is God (e.g., Acts 5:3–5) 

– These three are distinct Persons (e.g., John 14:16–17)

Those who reject this biblical truth of the Trinity, cannot worship God in the way He has revealed in His holy Word, the Bible. They can change their minds now and believe in Jesus alone for His gift of eternal life (John 3:36a) and worship the Triune God “on earth” and “in heaven” forever (Revelation 5:13; cf. Philippians 2:9-11). But if they refuse to believe Jesus Christ for His gift of eternal life, God’s wrath “abides on him” or her forever (John 3:36b) and they will bow down before Jesus as their Lord “under the earth” in the lake of fire (Revelation 5:13; 20:15; cf. Philippians 2:9-11).  

As we looked upon the inhabitants of heaven during the Tribulation on earth, we saw an innumerable gathering of people before the throne of God consisting of Jews and Gentiles from the church age (“twenty-four elders”) and the Tribulation (7:9, 14). What part of this great multitude of people in heaven will be there because of you and me? Because we were faithful to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ (Mark 16:15) and make disciples of those who believed in Christ (Matthew 28:19-20)?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for revealing Your great mercy during this unprecedented time of judgment on the earth. Thank You that by believing in Jesus we can be a part of this innumerable gathering of people worshiping You and Your Son around Your throne in heaven forever. We praise Your name and thank You that Israel will finally fulfill their covenant promise – to be a light to the Gentiles and to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom throughout the world during the last half of the Tribulation period. Thank You that by Your grace, we can also invest in helping to populate heaven by sharing the gospel with the lost and making disciples of those who believe in Christ during what time we have left on the earth. Please lead us to the people Your Spirit has prepared to hear and believe the gospel so we may share it with them. All blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might belong to You both now and forever, O Lord God. In the matchless name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.   

ENDNOTES:

1. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 1524-1525.

2. Jehovah Witnesses are the most common responders who adhere to this view.

3. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 99 cites as an example Gregory K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, The New International Greek Testament Commentary series (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., and Carlisle, England: Paternoster Press, 1999), pg. 424; George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), pg. 116.

4. Adapted from Constable, pg. 99 and Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 167.  

5. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pp. 291-291.

6. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1526.

7. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1149.

8. Ibid., pg. 1150.

9. Ibid.  

10. Ibid.

11. Hitchcock, pg. 244.

12. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2384.

13. Vacendak, pg. 1526.

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid.

16. Constable, pg. 100.

17. Ibid., cites W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, (Old Tappan, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell, 1966), pg. 158.

18. Ibid., cites George Abbott-Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1950), pg. 190.

19. Ibid., cites F. C. Jennings, Studies in Revelation, (New York: Publication Office of “Our Hope,” n.d.), pg. 230.

20. Ibid.

21. Ibid., cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1—7, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pp. 491-92.

22. Ibid.

23. The last few paragraphs are adapted from former Muslim, Nabeel Qureshi’s book No God but One: Allah or Jesus? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016 Kindle Edition), pp. 55-57.

Revelation 7 – Part 1

“And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed.” Revelation 7:4

John received two new visions that corrected the possible impression that no one would survive the “beginning of birth-pangs” (Matthew 24:6-8) during the first half of the Tribulation judgments (Revelation 6:1-17). God will save two groups of people during the first half of the Tribulation (cf. Matthew 24:14): He will preserve 144,000 Israelites alive on the earth (7:1-8), and He will take to heaven a multitude of people from all nations who will die during that time (7:9-17). John saw both groups in chapter 7, which contrasts the panic of unbelievers described in Chapter 6 (“After these things”) and in answer to the question “Who is able to stand?” (6:17), with the security of believers during this time of unprecedented suffering (7:1a). 1

The mention of martyrs during the Tribulation (6:9-11) leads John to write about what will happen to those who become believers during that time. Though billions of unbelievers will die, many will come to faith in Christ and many of those will be martyred for their faith in Him. In wrath, God will remember mercy (cf. Hab 3:2). Even though this will be a time of trouble like never before, it will also be a time of salvation like never before—of both Jews (vv 1-8) and Gentiles (vv 9-17).” 2

As the hoofbeats of the four horsemen echoed into the distance and the cacophony of geological and cosmic upheavals stilled, John’s attention turned to the center of the earthly end-times drama: the land of Israel. Throughout their history, the people of Israel had been conquered, delivered, devastated, exiled, and restored over and over again as military threats bombarded them from every side. Yet at the beginning of John’s vision of the Tribulation, just as the land of Israel is about to endure the most devastating war in all of history, God’s intervention reminds us that He will keep His promises to Israel.” 3

In between the sixth and seventh seals of judgment, John writes, “After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree.” (Revelation 7:1). The apostle “saw four angels standing at the four corners.” The phrase “four corners of the earth, is an idiom for the four cardinal directions 4 – north, south, east, and west. 5

The four angels in John’s vision have the responsibility of restraining the judgment of God (pictured by “the four winds,” cf. Jeremiah 49:36-38; Daniel 7:2; Hosea 13:15) on nature (“the earth…the sea…any tree”). Most of the trumpet and bowl judgments involve God’s destruction of the earth’s environment in some way (cf. Revelation 8–9, 16). However, as Revelation 11:14 indicates, the first six trumpet judgments take place before the 144,000 go out to preach in the last half of the seven years. 6

Then John sees another angel in addition to the first four: “2 Then 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 granted to harm the earth and the sea, 3 saying, ‘Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.’” (Revelation 7:2-3). “Another” [allon] angel” of the same kind as the first four angels ascended “from the east” (literally – “from the rising of the sun”). In the Bible, divine salvation often comes “from the east” (cf. Genesis 2:8; Ezekiel 43:2; Matthew 2:1; 2 Peter 1:19; Revelation 22:16). 7

This fifth angel had “the seal of the living God.” A “seal” was a symbol of ownership (2 Corinthians 1:22), authentication (John 6:27), and protection leading to final salvation (Ephesians 1:14; 4:30; cf. Genesis 4:15; Exodus 12:7). 8 This “seal” represents God’s intention to protect the twelve tribes of Israel that are mentioned in verses 4-8, much as He protected Noah from the Flood, Israel from the plagues of Egypt, and Rahab and her household in Jericho. 9

“In Ezekiel 9, a linen-clothed angel went forth and put a mark on a select group of people to set them apart from those on whom God’s judgment would fall. The same is true here. The purpose of this seal is to set apart those who will share the gospel in the last three-and-a-half years of the Tribulation and to protect them from the judgments that will be falling on unrepentant mankind (cf. 9:4).” 10

On earth during the Tribulation, the followers of the Beast will bear his mark on their right hand or forehead (Revelation 13:16). During this same time, the Lord will identify His people by placing a seal of ownership on their foreheads (Revelation 7:3). Revelation 7 and 13 use two different Greek words to distinguish these marks from each other. In Revelation 7, God seals the 144,000 on their “foreheads.” The word used there for the verb “sealed” is sphragizō, which symbolizes the spiritual sealing mentioned throughout the New Testament (John 3:33; 6:27; 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). But in Revelation 13, where followers of the Antichrist are given a “mark” (Revelation 13:16-17), the word used is charagma which refers to a literal brand, tattoo, or etching. 11

This angel commands the four angels to whom was given authority “to harm the earth and the sea” to withhold their judgment on the earth until he had finished sealing “the servants of our God on their foreheads” (7:3). God wants His servants set apart and ready before any of the judgments fall on the earth. 12 The “servants” in view are believers in Jesus Christ who are Jews (7:4-8). The sealing of God’s servants sets them apart as God’s redeemed people and guaranteed their physical safety while they preached the gospel during the last 3 ½ years of the Tribulation when the trumpet judgments take place (8:7-21; 11:15-18).

“Evidently God will give these 144,000 believers special protection in the last half of the Tribulation, because its calamities will be much more severe than those in the first half. Antichrist will also mark his followers in a similar way (13:16-18; 14:9, 11; 16:2; 19:20).” 13

Next John writes, “And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed.” (Revelation 7:4). When God’s Word says, “all the tribes of the children of Israel,” He means it. Unfortunately, “most posttribulationists and amillennialists believe the 144,000 are members of ‘spiritual Israel,’ a title of theirs for the church. 14 “Many interpreters take the number 144,000 as symbolic of all God’s servants in the Tribulation.” 15

Swindoll writes, Many Christians today are convinced that God’s plan for ethnic Israel has come to an end. Some believe that the promises of a glorious nation and blessing in the Holy Land have been abolished because of Israel’s past unfaithfulness. Others have determined that these promises were fulfilled in a spiritual sense through Christ in the church. Some theologians propose that Israel has been replaced by the church and that ethnic Jews have been divorced by God, without a future in God’s plan.

“However, the New Testament assures us that God plans to bring about the fulfillment of those promises through Jesus Christ. Although most ethnic Jews have been in a state of unbelief since the time of Jesus, God will one day bring a remnant to faith in Christ and restore them to the land promised to their forefathers (Genesis 13:15). Jesus Himself promised the apostles, ‘In the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel’ (Matthew 19:28). Before Christ’s ascension, the disciples eagerly inquired about the timing of that earthly kingdom when they asked, ‘Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?’ (Acts 1:6). It is significant that Jesus didn’t reject their literal interpretation and expectation of a future fulfillment of these earthly promises. Instead, He told them that they would not know the timing of this restoration (Acts 1:7-8). 

Years later, the apostle Paul addressed the problem of Israel’s unbelief by declaring that this rebellion would one day be reversed: ‘A partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved’ (Romans 11:25-26). In other words, when God has accomplished His purposes through the church, He will again turn His attention to the nation of Israel and bring them to faith in Christ. We can see the beginnings of this future for Israel with the sealing of the 144,000 in Revelation 7:1-8.

“Why is the restoration of Israel so important? Because God’s very reputation as a Promise Keeper is at stake! With explicit reference to the calling of Israel, Paul said, ‘For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable’ (Romans 11:29). It’s as simple as this: If we cannot trust God to keep His promises to Israel (Jeremiah 31:35-37), how can we trust Him to keep His promises to us (Romans 8:35-39)? Never doubt it: God will do what He says He will do!” 16

That God is referring to ethnic Israel is underscored by the fact that John heard the names of twelve tribes of Israel with 12,000 from each tribe “sealed” and thus protected: 5 of the tribe of Judah twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand were sealed; 6 of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand were sealed; 7 of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand were sealed; 8 of the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand were sealed.” (Revelation 7:5-8). Nothing in this text suggests a symbolic understanding. The fact that specific “tribes” were named “and specific numbers from each tribe were indicated would seem to remove this from the symbolic and to justify literal interpretation. If God intended these verses to represent Israel literally, He would have used this means. Nowhere else in the Bible do a dozen references to the 12 tribes mean the church. Obviously, Israel will be in the Tribulation, and though men do not know the identification of each tribe today, certainly God knows.” 17

The number of sealed servants of God, with specific numbers from each tribe in contrast with the indefinite number of 7:9, underscores the literal understanding of these verses. “If it is taken symbolically, no number in the book can be taken literally.” 18

Hitchcock gives several reasons why the church cannot represent Israel in Revelation 7:1-8: “Why would the Holy Spirit begin to mix the church and Israel in the book of Revelation, the final book in the New Testament, when He has so carefully distinguished the two groups in the previous twenty-six books of the New Testament? Why begin to identify the church as the true, spiritual Israel at this late point in the New Testament? It does not make good sense and is inconsistent.

“Second, if one holds to the pre-Tribulation timing for the Rapture, the church is already in heaven as pictured by the twenty-four elders in Revelation 4–5. Thus, it doesn’t make sense that the group in Revelation 7, which is on earth, would be the church. The church has already been raptured.

“Third, it is interesting that Jews and Gentiles are clearly distinguished from one another in Revelation 7. The 144,000 Jews are listed in 7:1-8 while 7:9-17 presents an innumerable host of ‘every nation and tribe and people and language.’ Merging these two groups does not do justice to the distinctions that Revelation 7 makes:

“Jews from twelve tribes of Israel (Revelation 7:1-8), Gentiles from every nation, tribe, people, and language (Revelation 7:9-17); numbered—144,000 (Revelation 7:1-8), not numbered—“a great multitude which no one could count” (Revelation 7:9-17); standing on earth (Revelation 7:1-8), standing before God’s throne (Revelation 7:9-17); sealed for protection (Revelation 7:1-8), ascended after persecution (Revelation 7:9-17).

Furthermore, Revelation 7 clearly distinguishes between Jews and Gentiles, but this distinction is inconsistent with the New Testament picture of the church—Jews and Gentiles are seen as one in the body of Christ (Galatians 3:27-28; Ephesians 3:6). Since Galatians 3 and Ephesians 3 unite Jews and Gentiles as one and since Revelation 7 does not reflect that unity, the Rapture must reinstitute a division between Jews and Gentiles. Revelation 7 reflects that division.

So then, who are these 144,000 servants of God? If the Scriptures are interpreted literally, then the 144,000 are a literal group of 144,000 Jewish men—12,000 from each of the twelve tribes of Israel—raised up by God during the Tribulation to serve Him. They are not spiritual Israel (the church), but actual Israel.” 19

The most important fact taught here is that God continues to watch over Israel even in the time of Israel’s great distress. There is no justification whatever for spiritualizing either the number or the names of the tribes in this passage, to make them represent the church.” 20

In conclusion, God’s faithfulness to His promises is seen in the fact that ethnic Israel will retain her national identity before God during the Tribulation period, and He will resume dealing with them again as His chosen people during this time (7:1-8; cf. Daniel 9:24-27). Jehovah Witnesses or any other Gentiles who claim to be a part of this group fail to accept the final authority of God’s Word which clearly states that these 144,000 servants of God will be physical descendants of the twelve Israelite tribes. When they are sealed (7:1-8), they will know their tribal roots, and their sealing will take place after the Rapture of the Church (4:1-4).

How can we apply this to our lives today? Just as God prepared the 144,000 Jewish servants for service by giving them His seal (7:2-8), so God has prepared us for His service by giving us the Holy Spirit to empower us to be His witnesses to the entire world (Acts 1:8). We are not alone when it comes to sharing the gospel with a lost world. God the Holy Spirit indwells us (John 14:16-17) and will give us the boldness (Acts 4:29-31) and words to speak to those who need Christ in their lives (Matthew 10:19-20).

The 144,000 Jewish servants will boldly proclaim the gospel of Christ’s coming Kingdom during the Tribulation period. There appears to be a cause-and-effect relationship in Revelation 7 between the 144,000 Jewish believers (7:1-8) and the innumerable crowd of Gentile believers in heaven from all nations (7:9-17). The preaching of the gospel by these 144,000 Jewish evangelists during the last half of the Tribulation period will results in an innumerable number of people being saved. They will be the greatest evangelists the world has ever seen. These sealed servants of God will fulfill Matthew 24:14: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” Revelation 7 provides a panorama of God’s saving work during the Tribulation. The 144,000 reveal God’s passion to save people even amid the unspeakable judgments of the Tribulation. To the very end, our Savior will graciously continue “to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10). 21

Does our passion for the lost reflect that of our Savior Who desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (I Timothy 2:3-4)? I am convinced that the closer we grow to the heart of the Lord Jesus, the more our hearts for the lost will reflect His. Christ promises that if we follow Him, He will make us fishers of men (Matthew 4:19). Do you feel inadequate to evangelize the lost? Do you ever think that you do not know enough to share the gospel with non-Christians? Ask the Lord Jesus to help you follow Him daily and He will teach you all you need to know about evangelism. The best way to learn to talk to unbelievers is to walk and talk with Jesus.

Swindoll reminds us that this interlude between the sixth and seventh seal judgments in Revelation 7 teaches us several things: “To reaffirm Christ’s central position, remind us of God’s great plan of redemption, and reassure us that God’s wrath isn’t without mercy. John needed that interlude. So do we. In fact, it might be wise for us to follow God’s example and work interludes into our own lives.

“Interludes do at least three things for us—all of them essential in a world filled with relentless stress, hardship, busyness, and drama.

“First, interludes reaffirm for us who’s first… Interludes strengthen the centrality and preeminence of Christ. When we are alone for even a short period of time, we get a desperately needed opportunity to focus on Him. Strive to make this ‘time with God’ a daily appointment. Consider not only setting aside a few hours on Sunday morning to remember who’s first but also devoting the whole Lord’s Day to Christ-centered activities.

Second, interludes remind us of what’s important. In the fast pace of modern life, we frequently get our priorities jumbled up. The nonessentials of life tend to bleed over into the essentials—and vice versa. When we pause, step back, and gather our thoughts, we give ourselves a chance to reorder our priorities. Such occasions to ‘regroup’ can be monthly getaways or annual retreats. Each of us is different, but all of us need a chance to reconsider priorities, set things straight, and form a plan to keep life’s essentials on top. Consider dedicating a portion of a vacation to thinking and praying through your priorities. What a difference it will make for the rest of the year!

Third, interludes refresh us with why it’s all worth it. In the depths of despair, in the thick of tragedy, in the throes of suffering, we need interludes in order to recharge spiritually with the faith and fortitude to carry on. Interludes can help us endure suffering, loss, disappointment, and the death of dreams. They massage us back to a fresh new start. We reenter the fray with a new perspective, centered on God’s goodness and on His plan and purpose. Sometimes we just need a shelter from the storm.

“It’s easy to lose sight of God’s goodness, grace, and mercy in the midst of the daily turmoil of life in this fallen world. Only during interludes of reflection are we able to evaluate our priorities and passions in light of the central position of Jesus Christ, which equips us with a new sense of purpose as we place our trust in Him.” 22

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for this amazing interlude in heaven between the sixth and seventh seal judgments which underscores that Your wrath is accompanied by Your mercy. Only You can give us security amid a world that is spinning out of control. Your judgments can awaken people for their need for Your mercy through the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank You for remaining faithful to Your promises to Israel and to those of us who are Gentiles. We can trust You to keep Your promises no matter how difficult life becomes. Please show us how to work interludes into our own lives that enable us to renew our commitment to Christ. We need to detach from this hostile world and renew our love relationship with Jesus. Make us more like You, Lord Jesus, so Your love for the lost becomes ours. Use us to proclaim Your message of grace through faith to a world that is perishing without You. Protect us from the evil one and equip us with a renewed sense of purpose as we place our trust in You. In Your mighty name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 94.

2. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 1524-1525.

3. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 162-163.

4. Ibid., pg. 163.

5.  Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2382.

6. Vacendak, pg. 1525. Regarding Revelation 11:14, Vacendak says, Since the death of the two witnesses and the subsequent earthquake occur after the first and second ‘woe’ (i.e., trumpet judgments five and six), one may conclude that the first six trumpet judgments occur during the first three-and-a-half years of the Tribulation” (pp. 1538-1539).

7. Constable, pg. 95.

8. Ibid.

9. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 164.

10. Vacendak, pg. 1525.

11. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 290.

12. Vacendak, pg. 1525.  

13. Constable, pg. 96.

14. Ibid., cites as examples William Barclay, The Revelation of John Vol. 2, The Daily Study Bible series 2nd ed. (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 30; Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, New International Commentary on the New Testament series (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1983), pg. 168; Leon Morris, The Revelation of St. John, Tyndale New Testament Commentary series, Reprint ed. (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), pg. 175; George Raymond Beasley-Murray, The Book of Revelation, New Century Bible Commentary series, Revised ed. (London: Morgan & Scott, 1974; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., and London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1983), pg. 140; George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John, 1972 reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1985), pp. 114 116; Henry Barclay Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John. 2nd ed. (London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1907), pg. 99; James Moffatt, “The Revelation of St. John the Divine,” In The Expositor’s Greek Testament Vol. 5 (1910), 4th ed. Edited by W. Robertson Nicoll 5 Vols. (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1900-12), pg. 395; Gregory K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, The New International Greek Testament Commentary series (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., and Carlisle, England: Paternoster Press, 1999), pg. 413; David E. Aune, Revelation 6—16, Word Biblical Commentary series (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), pg. 447.  

15. Ibid., cites as examples Alan Johnson, “Revelation,” In Hebrews-Revelation Vol. 12 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary 12 vols., Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), pp. 463 and 481; Ladd, pg. 117.

16. Swindoll, pp. 156-157.

17. Walvoord, pg. 164.

18. Constable, pg. 96 cites Thomas, Revelation 1—7, p. 474.

19. Hitchcock, pp. 288-289.

20. Walvoord, pg. 164.

21. Adapted from Hitchcock, pp. 291-292.

22. Swindoll, pp. 168-169.

Does Matthew 25:31-46 teach you must do good works to get to heaven?

“Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment.’” Matthew 25:45-46a

Some religious people teach that the Judgment of the Sheep and Goats (Matthew 25:31-46) says you must give to the needy to be saved from everlasting punishment. But this understanding ignores the context of the passage (Matthew 24:1-25:46) and contradicts the clear teaching of the New Testament about salvation by grace through faith alone in Christ alone apart from any good works (John 1:12; 3:15-16, 36; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 11:25-27; 20:31; Acts 16:31; Romans 6:23b; 4:5; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 1:13-14; 2:8-9; I Timothy 1:16; I John 5:13; Revelation 22:17; et al.). Matthew 25:31-46 is about the judgment of people who lived during the Tribulation period after the Rapture of the Church (Matthew 25:31-32; cf. Revelation 6-19).

The “sheep and the goats” in this passage represent Gentiles (“all the nations” – 25:32) who survive the Tribulation period and will be judged by King Jesus according to their response to Jesus’ Jewish “brethren” who are the 144,000 evangelists during the last half of the Tribulation period (Matthew 25:35-40, 42-45; Revelation 7:1-8; 14:1-5). Since no one who takes the mark of the beast gets saved during the Tribulation period (cf. Revelation 14:9-11), no unbeliever will help the Jewish evangelistic “brethren” of Christ. The Gentile believers who survive the Tribulation physically have endured faithfully for Christ (Matthew 24:13-14, 22) and helped His Jewish brethren, so they will “inherit” the kingdom or reign with Christ in His Kingdom on earth (Matthew 25:34; cf. 19:27-29; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:25-27).

The New Testament distinguishes “entering” the kingdom from “inheriting” the kingdom. We enter the kingdom of God by faith alone in Christ alone (Matthew 18:3; 19:14; Mark 10:15; John 3:5, 15-16), but we “inherit” the kingdom of God through faithful, sacrificial service and suffering for Christ (Matthew 19:27-29; Romans 8:17b; I Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21b; Ephesians 5:3-5; Colossians 3:23-24; Hebrews 1:2, 5, 9, 13-14; 6:12, 17; 9:15; Revelation 2:25-27).

For example, entering my house is different than inheriting my house. Entrance into my house is free. But if you want to inherit or possess my house, you must pay for it. When you pay for it, then you are entitled to certain privileges or authority. When you inherit my house, you can decide how to arrange the furniture and what colors to paint on the walls. But if you just enter my house, you don’t have those privileges. The same is true in the spiritual realm. You enter the kingdom of God through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. But you will not have all the privileges or authority that come with inheriting the kingdom. You must earn those privileges through faithful service to Jesus.

The “goats” in Matthew 25:31-46 represent unbelieving Gentiles who are judged and cast into the everlasting fire of hell. The “sheep” represent faithful believing Gentiles who will enter “into eternal life” and be transformed because you cannot “inherit” or rule in the Kingdom without being a transformed believer (Matthew 25:46; cf. I Corinthians 15:50). So this passage is not teaching that salvation is given to those who help the needy. Rather it is teaching that rewards will be given to believers who faithfully endure for Christ in the Tribulation period.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, although Matthew 25:31-46 refers to people in the Tribulation period, it does apply to me now. Lord God, Your salvation from hell has always been absolutely free through faith in You alone and always will be. But in this passage, You are talking about how to earn Your inheritance rewards that grant more authority and privileges in Your coming Kingdom. Oh my precious Lord, please grant me the grace to faithfully serve You until the end of my life on earth so I may receive Your inheritance rewards in the future. With those rewards, I will be able to bring You more glory and honor in Your coming Kingdom. Thank You my Lord and my God for hearing my prayer. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

A Look into the Future – Part 2 (Video)

This is the second in a series of videos about the future as recorded in the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation. This video focuses on the first half of the seven year Tribulation period after the Rapture of the Church. Please share this video with those you want to see in heaven.

The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site, http://www.revelationillustrated.com. The music and movie scenes in this video are used with permission from the producers of the video entitled “The Free Gift.”