BY MIKE TAYLOR
7:2 And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea,
7:3 Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
7:4 And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.
Of all the books of the Bible, Revelation gives the Christian the most problems with it's symbols, word pictures, and prophetic message of the time we are fast approaching. One must divide the books into two distinct populations. I believe that God is speaking of the Church at the beginning of the book, and then makes a dramatic shift of focus to the rebellious Gentile nations and the nation of Israel. I see a common thread that flows through the whole of Revelation and that is, God putting down all rebellion during this period of 7 years and the refining of Israel and making her ready to accept her Messiah, at long last.
After chapter 5, the churches and the redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, are not mentioned again till chapter 19. Suddenly, the focus is turned to judgment of a world devoid of God and violating willfully His commandments. Then in chapter 7, God by His Holy Spirit reveals to John the main characters of this book. Let us take a look at a common thread that follows in the coming chapters that point to only one set of people....the nation of Israel.
144,000 EVANGELIST ORDAINED BY GOD
In chapter 7, God names the tribes of Israel that are symbolically 12,000 coming from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. In the bible, numbers are used as signs of perfection. Three is the sign of Divine perfection, seven is spiritual perfection, ten is the sign of ordinal perfection, and the number 12 is the sign of government perfection and is used throughout the bible as that sign of perfection. The number 144,000 from 12 tribes is 12x12 or 144 and thousand is given as a great number. Will it be just 144,000 when Israel and the scattered Jewish people amount to approximately 13 million people? I think that the symbolism points to Israel a nation as a whole. This symbolism is carried out numerous times within your bible, to emphasize that the focus of this book is on Israel. Apart from Israel, the rest of the nations are in divine judgment and we read horrific descriptions of the devastation brought on by this Divine wrath. Notice in the latter parts of chapter 7, we find these words:
7:9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;
7:10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
7:11 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,
7:12 Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
7:13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?
7:14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
7:15 Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.
7:16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.
7:17 For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
John was just introduced to the nation of Israel and the evangelist that were being sealed with the seal of God, 12,000 from each of the twelves tribes. He then sees a great multitude that are standing in white robes and “palm fronds” in their hands. They speak different languages and come from all portions of the earth. These are the martyred saints of God from all the people of Israel that have believed in their Messiah through the seven terrible years, called the Tribulation. As I have identified in past sermons, palms in the hands of these saints are a sign noted of Israel.
But also notice that they will serve in the Temple of God, night and day, and He that sits on the throne shall dwell among them. They are not kings and priests unto God noted in chapter 4 and the 24 elders as the glorified Church saints are, but are to serve God in His temple unlike what John then writes in chapter 5 about the church saints ruling and reigning on the earth,
5:9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;
5:10 And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
Notice the difference?
Proceeding on into chapter 8 and 9 and into chapter 10, we see plague after plague coming down on a rebellious mankind. Here we see the two witnesses. Again the focus is on Jerusalem and the nation of Israel, as these men stand in front of the rebuilt temple and prophesy 3.5 years or 1260 days until they are slain by the Beast coming up out of the pit. Some hypothesize, and it is not revealed, that these two witnesses are symbols of Elijah and Moses. Elijah being the only prophets who called fire out of heaven to accept the offered sacrifice to God in front of the Baal priest, and Moses who spoke plagues upon ancient Egypt preceding the Exodus. But both are Jewish, or to be more correct, Hebrew men of the nation of Israel clothed in sack cloth. Then there is this curious chapter twelve that many feel was just dropped in as a subset chapter, out of order. I believe God was identifying who the saints of this period would be and the focus of the book, Israel being refined as silver is in the fire.
ISRAEL DEPICTED AS WOMAN CLOTHED WITH THE SUN
12:1 And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
12:2 And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
12:3 And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
God goes all the way back to the beginning, to Genesis, where Jacob fully understood that he was the symbol of the sun, Rachel his wife was the moon, and the twelve stars were the sons of Jacob who became Israel renamed during wrestling with the Lord. When Joseph had a dream that the sun, the moon and twelve stars would bow down to him, Jacob knew who he was speaking of. This sign was the root of the nation of Israel. Israel as depicted is a woman in a glorious way, as her beginning was glorious, and her ending will also be glorious.
Verse two speaks of this woman with child, which we understand is the nation of Israel who gave birth to our Messiah and their Messiah. Notice the symbolism here of the red dragon? It is the same symbol used to speak of the beast power, 7 heads/crowns or empires with 10 horns being kingdoms within that final empire. Satan thought he had won when Jesus was crucified and killed, but his victory became his greatest defeat, as Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to the Father in Heaven with the keys to death, hell and the grave having re-purchased His creation.
Satan knows of the promises made to Israel and if he can just thwart God's plan, then God is a liar in his warped thinking. He embarks on a campaign to destroy the seed of Abraham. During this time, many of the children of Israel will be slain for their testimony of Jesus Christ, but God saves a remnant and sends them into the wilderness on the wings of a great eagle.
12:6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
Notice the time element, 3.5 years or 1260 days? During the destruction of Israel's temple during the Babylonian invasion it is said that those who believed God, escaped Jerusalem and went to Petra, a mountain stronghold in what is now modern day Jordan. Why Petra? From an excerpt from bible-guidance.com,
“Although the Bible does not explicitly state that a remnant in Israel will escape to Petra, this possibility is strongly implied by historical events, circumstantial evidence, and a prophecy about Jordan’s position in the tribulation period. Jews who would flee by foot from Jerusalem to the mountains will, in the interest of their own safety, not go in the direction of Egypt, Lebanon, Syria or the Mediterranean Sea. The invading forces of the Antichrist will come from these directions, and be easily able to encompass and destroy fugitive Jews who might venture into these regions. They will also refrain from going east in the direction of Amman in Jordan, as this area has good access roads on which enemy forces will be able to move quickly in pursuit of the “rebels.” The only reasonably safe area to move into would be the mountains along the shores of the Dead Sea – the highest and most inaccessible mountains being south of the Dead Sea at Petra.
According to the Jewish historian, Josephus, groups of Jews fled to Edom and Petra during the Babylonian invasion of Judah in the sixth century BC, when Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed. When the Romans destroyed the city and the temple in 70 AD, many Jews fled to the mountains along the Dead Sea. A number of them made a futile last stand on a mountaintop at Masada. Others moved further to Bozrah and Petra south of the Dead Sea.”
Sandwiched between verses of Israel fleeing into the wilderness, we see this about Satan and his legion demons being cast to the earth.
12:7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
12:8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
12:9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
12:10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.
God has cast out Satan and his demons where they are bound to the earth for the final play of this dramatic scene. Satan is frantic as he knows that his time is quickly running out and he rushes frantically in an attempt to destroy the children of Israel.
12:11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.(tribulation saints/Israel)
12:12 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.
12:13 And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.
Satan must kill every man, woman and child that is human with emphasis on the children of Israel and any believer in his nemesis, Jesus Christ. He must make God out a liar, but Satan will be ultimately defeated.
12:14 And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.
12:15 And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.
12:16 And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.
12:17 And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
One can only speculate what this passage means but obviously, it is supernatural and can only be attributed to God's power. But two wings of a great eagle reminds me of a verse in Isaiah,
40:28 Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.
40:29 He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
40:30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
40:31 But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
I believe this is divine intervention and God's protection of a remnant of the nation of Israel. During this time, a holocaust will be inflicted on the Israelite people scattered across the world, even into Israel, where it is written that 2/3 of the Jews would be martyred for their belief in Jesus Christ, but a small portion in comparison to the whole of Israel, God will save from death to enter into the 1000 reign of the Kingdom of God to repopulate the earth. Those that profess Jesus Christ will cause the dragon to be wroth with this remnant of her seed and for their testimony will be slain. Why did some survive in a mountain fortress for 3.5 years and others are slain? These who fled, believed the testimony of this 144,000 evangelist from the 12 tribes of Israel, and when they saw the abomination of desolation, they fled. They got out of dodge, so to speak. Those who believed not, where slain in martyrdom for being Jewish, being a late believer in their Messiah, or were intent on holding onto Jewish tradition. Possibly a combination of all three.
TRIBULATION SAINTS STAND ON MT. SION
Chapter 13 details the beast power and it's rise to rule the earth. Here the Anti-Christ is revealed as prophesied by Daniel and reinforced by our creator, Jesus Christ in Matthew 24. But notice chapter 14? Here we again have the aforementioned number of 144,000. let's read.
14:1 And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads.
14:2 And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps:
14:3 And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.
Only these people can sing this song. They are the tribulation saints, the nation of Israel who have embraced their Messiah at long last and have died for that belief, much like the 12 apostles before them. They died preaching the Gospel to all who would listen. The church cannot sing this song, as we are not Israel. We are not of the 144,000 saints as a symbol of the martyred nation of Israel. Some will say, in error I might add, that we are Israel. That is Replacement Theology and Israel has never been cast away. God has not replaced Israel, just set them aside till this time in history to turn His attention to them solely, as the church has been completed. God has promised that He would save ALL of Israel, not losing one!
10:15 Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before,
10:16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;
10:17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.
Again in Romans,
11:25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
11:26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
11:27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
11:28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the father's sakes.
Returning to Revelation:
14:4 These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.
14:5 And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.
Some say, ahah, see? It says being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb. It can't mean that we arrived prior to them, as they came as first fruits. What they fail to understand, is that I believe and there is good evidence to support this, that God works in dispensations. The church age has ended 7 years before. This is the time of Jacob's trouble and God turning His focus on Israel, as the time of the Gentiles has ended...We are the Gentiles that have been saved out of the earth. We are a people that were not His people, but because of Israel's unbelief and rejection of their Messiah, the Kingdom was given to another...Matthew,
21:42 Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?
21:43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
Paul makes a startling statement by the power of the Holy Spirit in Romans,
9:24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
9:25 As he saith also in Osee, (Hosea), I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.
9:26 And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.
We are the first fruits at the coming of the Lord for the Gentile Age, or the age of the Church, a dispensation also called the Age of Grace. When these who stand on Mt. Sion are considered first fruits of the Trials of Jacob, also known as Jacob's troubles and will be called Tribulation Saints. This is re-emphasized in chapter 15 in the following:
15:2 And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God.
15:3 And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.
Now this is not to say that some besides only Jewish people will heed the call of the 144,000 evangelist, but the likelihood of that fact grows smaller and less likely, as the focus is on Israel, not on the Gentile nations.
THE CHURCH RETURNS WITH OUR LORD IN VICTORY
As we progress into the prophecy and the events that will destroy 2/3 of all mankind by divine wrath, we come near to the end of God's judgment and John's vision of the marriage supper of the Lamb and the revealing of the bride of Christ. Until this time, the church and it's saints have not been mentioned, not one time since beginning chapter 6. Here John writes so of the bride by these words:
19:7 Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.
19:8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
19:9 And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.
Then at the culmination of the great feast in Heaven, where the bride is presented in linen white and clean, one final judgment is still in need of fulfillment. We, His chosen bride, and saints of the most High, come back to earth with our Husband, our King, our God which comes in full war cry and as a roaring Lion to avenge the earth for treatment of His people and the squelch the rebellion on earth.
19:11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
19:12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
19:13 And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
19:14 And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. (a sign of the saints and the bride)
19:15 And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
Almighty God, our Savior and King, will make short work of rebellion on this earth of the final battle called Armegeddon. Why is His vesture dipped in blood? It is not His blood, but the blood of those He has slain in divine wrath for the last 7 years is what I believe. Here He will finish the slaying of unrepentant, lawless mankind till blood rises to the bridles of the horses they ride in a valley that is several miles long. This is His final coming to rule and reign with a rod of iron. He will rescue His people Israel that have endured to the end.
Matthew 24, as Jesus had said over 2000 years ago,
24:22 And if those days were not shortened, no flesh would have been saved; but because of the chosen, shall those days be shortened.
Israel as a nation has cried out, believing in their Messiah they had rejected over 2000 years ago, as Jesus said, “Matthew 23:39 For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
Jesus has come and fought for Israel, as in the day of battle, Zechariah 14
14:3 Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.
14:4 And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
Then all of Israel will be reconciled unto their King and Lord, Savior and Almighty God.
Thus says the Lord GOD: "Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again. They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be My people, and I will be their God. . . . Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people. The nations also will know that I, the LORD, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore." Ezekiel 37:21-23