A Sealing and a Resurrection
Next, John saw four angels standing “on the four corners of the earth,” or as we would say, at the four points of the compass, holding back “the four winds of the earth” from destructive action. About six hundred years before John saw this vision, the prophet Zechariah saw one similar. He saw four chariots with horses, and an angel told him, “these are the four winds (the word is translated ‘spirits,’ but should not have been) of the heavens” (Zechariah 6:5). These four chariots with horses undoubtedly mean judgment agents. Therefore, we conclude the “four winds” of our chapter must mean the same thing.
If the “four winds” are judgment agents or forces, it seems natural to conclude that here is another view of the four agents described in 6:8, “sword . . . hunger . . . death (that is, pestilence) . . . the beasts of the earth.” The latter word means “wild beasts” and may refer to military ferocity and human rulers like Antichrist and the False Prophet rather than literal wild animals. However, chapter 13 describes the beast by the same name of “wild beast” as used in chapter 6 as warring with the saints and killing those who would not worship the image of the beast.
We are told that God’s angels were keeping these judgment forces or winds from blowing until 144,000 people could be “sealed.” This seal is different from the seals on the book in the Almighty’s right hand in that it is a mark on the forehead. Those who have traveled in India will understand what is meant. A man puts a mark on his forehead to indicate the religious order or caste to which he belongs. You may have seen this mark in pictures of natives of India.
In chapter 14, we read that the “seal” had God’s name on it—“having His Father’s name in their foreheads.” Do you know what God’s name is? “God,” do you answer? No, God is His title, not His personal name just as “King” is the title of the man on the throne of Great Britain. Likewise, “President” is the title of the man that is head of the American people. However, the king carries a personal name besides as does the president of the United States, and just so does God have a personal name. Do you know what it is? Many scarcely know it. One reason is that the name is almost suppressed in our English translation of the Old Testament. The Jews believe the name is too holy to mention, and the name is only translated a few times. In the rest of the places, the word LORD in small capitals is used instead. If you have an American Revised Bible, you discover it immediately. It is Jehovah.
The Hebrew word, rather than the English form, will be used because it is the seal on the forehead of 144,000 Israelites. Here is how it would look—
That is the mark they will bear. Those who have this mark will be protected from the judgment winds of war, famine, pestilence and the murderous rulers of that day. This marking was done to teach John, who was to teach us, that God is going to recognize and protect them as His own. God does not need to know them from other people, for He already knows them perfectly. Not only does He know all things, but also He knows that which is yet to come in the future.
When the children of Israel were about to be delivered out of Egypt, the angel of God slew all the firstborn sons of the Egyptians. Also, God required every family of the Israelites to put the blood of a lamb upon the side posts and above the door to guard their firstborn from death. This action was not done to show the angel whom to slay but to teach the Israelites. God wanted them to learn His protecting care provided they would follow all His instructions carefully. Also, God wanted them to learn in advance something about how the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God, would protect us from judgment. When the 144,000 are sealed, God teaches us how He will care for them.
The peculiar thing to notice here is that they are all Israelites—12,000 out of each of the twelve tribes of Israel. The tribes are mentioned differently from any other place in the Old Testament. The sons of Jacob, or Israel, were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulon, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph and Benjamin. Levi, though, was the priestly tribe. When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, they were not given tracts of land like the other Israelites, but cities and smaller plots of ground. The number was kept at twelve tribes who had tracts of land for farming by dividing the tribe of Joseph into two tribes and naming those tribes after Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.
In this book of Revelation, Levi’s name appears again while the tribe of Dan disappears altogether. The tribe of Ephraim is called by the father’s name again, Joseph. Why the name of Joseph is chosen, I do not know. Many think Dan is dropped because it is supposed that Antichrist will come out of that tribe with the Danites fighting for Antichrist.
Why will these be sealed and cared for? Either they will have come to believe on Jesus Christ or God knows they will be coverted soon. The Bible says to Christians, “After that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest (pledge) of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession” (Ephesians 1:13, 14). From this scripture, we learn that all who believe are sealed.
Zechariah 12:9-14 contains a prophecy of widespread repentance by all families of the Israelites, v. 14. Only four names are mentioned—David and his son Nathan; Levi and his grandson Shimei. These four represent the royal and the priestly lines as repenting, for they are the most important. Then, the rest are mentioned in one body.
It is said: “They shall look upon Me whom they have pierced.” First, the spiritual eyes of these Israelites will be opened to realize Jesus Christ as their Messiah. They will also understand that instead of receiving Him as Messiah when He came, they had Him put to death. After long centuries of blindness, they will finally repent. Then, we are told, “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness” (Zechariah 13:1).
While we commonly speak of these as “Jews,” who are or will be converted to Christ in this period of time, constantly bear in mind this fact: Ten of the tribes of the Israelites were “lost” hundreds of years before Christ. The Jews were scattered to the ends of the earth. God alone knows where some of them are. The word, “Jew,” comes from the tribe of Judah. Judah, a large part of Levi, some of Benjamin, and stragglers from the other tribes constitute the body or nation called “Jews” in the New Testament. When converted to Christ, we should call them Israelites as Paul does.
Afterwards, when we mention the Israelites, recall that we are not speaking of the “Jews” merely as we know them. We might think of some of these people who are converted to Christ as American or British or French or German or belonging to some other nationality that has lost their connection with Israel. However, God has not lost their connection. He has watched over them through the centuries until they have been won to Christ. When a sufficient number repent along with those openly known to be Jews, the numbers of each tribe will increase to 12,000. Then, they will be “sealed” and protected from the coming Tribulation which John saw.
Later, in chapters 11 and 12, we learn how these Jews will be won to Christ. Chapter 11 tells about Two Witnesses, one of whom as least, may have been at work winning souls for some time before the 144,000 were saved. One of those Two Witnesses is Elijah. He must have impressed the Israelites tremendously. His chief object in coming to earth again will be to prepare for the Lord’s second coming just as John the Baptist prepared for His first coming. Approaching is a great period of winning Israelites to Christ.
Almost every religious movement wins women more readily and in larger numbers than men. Chapter 12 tells us that women will work tremendously in this preparation for the Lord’s second coming. Indeed, Isaiah 40:9 commands women to proclaim the Lord’s second coming as John the Baptist did His first coming. The verse, however, is obscured by mistranslation and should read: “O thou woman that bringest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into the high mountain; O thou woman that bringest good tidings to Jerusalem, life up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him: behold His reward is with Him, and His recompense (R. V.) before Him.(1)
A prophecy about women preaching is also found in Psalm 68:11, and the Revised Version gives the correct translation: “The women that publish the tidings are a great host.” However, Peter made the matter plainest of all. On the day of Pentecost, he showed that women must preach the Gospel or prophesy before the present dispensation closes. He declared that Joel’s prophecy about the matter related to the dispensation which began when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples in Jerusalem when he said, “IN THE LAST DAYS, I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.” Having been addressed to the Israelites, it means sons and daughters of Israel. The sons have already done so, but the daughters have not done so yet. Those daughters must do so, or God’s word will fail of fulfillment, which cannot be. Joel continues: “And on My servants and on My handmaidens will I pour out IN THOSE DAYS of My Spirit; and they shall prophesy” (Acts 2:17, 18). This last verse refers to women in general, Gentile Christian women who must prophesy before this dispensation closes or God’s word would fail to be fulfilled which is impossible.
Notice the words of Scripture in capital letters—“in the last days” and “in those days.” Every Bible student knows these two expressions refer to this present Gospel dispensation. Therefore, just as the preaching of men opened the present dispensation, the preaching of women will close it when the prophecies in this direction are completely fulfilled.
Furthermore, as the Gospel was first preached at Jerusalem by Jewish men (the apostles), so will it be when “the women that publish the tidings are a great host.” The promise is to the daughters of Israel first and afterwards to women in general. Also, the promise includes the commandment, “O thou woman that bringest good tidings to Zion . . .to Jerusalem.” This outpouring of the Holy Spirit will fit the daughters of Israel to proclaim the Lord’s second coming in the full power of the Holy Spirit, first at Jerusalem.
Of course, other women have already preached the Lord’s second coming with good effect. Not until the Spirit is poured out in full Pentecostal power upon converted Jewesses, however, will Joel’s prophecy about women begin to be fulfilled. This outpouring of the Spirit and the work of women, then, will be the chief thing that will win these 144,000 Israelites to Christ so that they are sealed. More will be said when we reach the 12th chapter.
Earlier, we quoted from Zechariah, “There shall be a fountain opened to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.” No doubt this prophecy is for these same days of which we speak. We see, then, the tribe of Judah, David’s tribe, will be the most affected by this spirit of repentance, for the revival will begin among the Jews who have returned to Palestine to live.
The repentance of these Israelites is described by Zechariah: “I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of grace (causing them to repent) and of supplications: and they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him (Christ whom they pierced) as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for (the death of) his firstborn. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem” (Zechariah 12:10, 11).
When it takes place, we cannot be sure whether the sealing of the 144,000 Israelites means they have already turned to Christ, or that God knows they will shortly repent. At least they are protected by the sealing from the coming Tribulation, which shows they are not under His displeasure as are others. When we come to chapter 12, we will have more to say about this matter. Meanwhile, if you have access to Dr. Adam Clarke’s, Bible Commentaries, I advise you to read what he says on the passage in Isaiah 40:9 if you are not yet convinced it relates to women.
After these Israelites are sealed, a description is given of a large body of people “of all nations, and kindred, and peoples, and tongues,” standing before the throne of God. These are not Jewish, but Gentile Christians resurrected from the dead. These are not resurrected quite as soon as the 144,000 are sealed. These are not the same saints in heaven mentioned in 5:9,10. Those were in heaven before the opening of any of the seven seals. These “are coming up out of the great tribulation,” as verse 14 should have been translated. The Great Tribulation has not actually begun when the 144,000 are sealed. They are sealed while the Tribulation is being held in check so they will not be hurt when it comes. (See Appendix D)
John mentions these people coming up out of the Great Tribulation because their resurrection from the dead is dependent upon the “fullness of the Jews,” not because it happens precisely at this time. Paul wrote of this matter in his letter to the Romans. He said that the Jews because they rejected Jesus Christ when He first came had become “blinded,” except for a few of them like himself and the early disciples of Jesus. Then, the Gospel went out freely to the Gentiles, who have been accepted by Christ, when they believe. In contrast, the Jews’ unbelief was the cause of the destruction of Jerusalem because it led them to crucify Jesus—induce the Romans to do so. This action Paul calls the “fall” of the Jews when he writes, “Through their fall salvation came unto the Gentiles.” Then, he adds, “If the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them be the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness?”
The fullness, of course, is the 144,000. Then, Paul tells us what this “fullness” will bring to the Gentiles: “If the casting away of them (the Jews) is the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be but LIFE FROM THE DEAD?” (Romans 11:12, 15). It is, then, because the conversion of these Jews is reckoned as the cause of resurrection of the Gentiles. It is not because this resurrection follows immediately when these Jews are sealed that John mentions the two together. The resurrection is mentioned sooner than it occurs in this chapter.
John says: “After this I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no one 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 hand; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God who sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.” (7:9-10). This verse mentions a resurrection of Gentile Christians. They are in heaven with the 144,000 Christian “Jews” still upon the earth, passing through some of the Tribulation scenes but not suffering by them (9:4).
Of the Gentiles, it says, “These are they who are coming out of the Great Tribulation.” Some actually teach that this means they are escaping all the suffering of the Tribulation by a translation—not by a resurrection. They seem not to notice what follows. “They shall hunger no more neither thirst any more
nor shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes”—which proves that they had been through very sore troubles. As to the idea that they have been translated, no translation takes place before the one mentioned under the seventh trumpet, 12:5 after “the second woe is past” (11:14); that is, after the Tribulation is well under way. (See Appendix D.)
1. More can be learned about this passage towards the end of Appendix C.