Sermon Notes: Revelation 7
Revelation 7 treats us to two hopeful visions of the church: __________________on earth, ______________________in heaven; __________________ for now, ____________________forever!
“After this” (v. 1) The order in which John sees things doesn’t necessarily describe the order in which they’re fulfilled. Here, his vision of the church protected actually portrays God’s action prior to the unleashing of the horseman of chapter 6.
“four winds” (v. 1) See Hosea 13:15; Isa. 40:7, 24; Jer. 4:11-12, and especially Dan. 7:2; Zech. 6:1-5 for the winds as symbolic destruction. The four winds are probably another picture of the four horseman of chapter 6.
“seal” (vs. 2-4) – a linking word to chapter 6. But here the seal is a mark of ownership by God (see 2 Tim. 2:19). Ezekiel 9 also pictures the faithful being marked for exemption from destruction.
“144,000” (v. 4) Most commentators see this figure as obviously symbolic of all the people of God, “The suspiciously tidy sort of number that is much more likely to be a symbol than a statistic.” (Michael Wilcock) Twelve (the number of the tribes of Israel) is both squared and multiplied by a thousand to emphasize completeness. God knows and seals all who are his servants.
“twelve tribes” (vs. 5-8) Careful readers have, for centuries, noticed anomalies in this listing. The order, for example, is unusual but the Old Testament lists the 12 tribes eighteen times, with no one order evidently standard. The tribe of Dan is omitted (with Manasseh, in effect, listed twice, since he was a son of Joseph). The omission was, some think, because legend had it that the antichrist would come from the tribe of Dan. But Dan is included in Ezekiel 48, another vision of future blessing. The irregularities in this list are probably meant to tip us off that it’s symbolic, not literal.
“palms” (v. 9) John 12:13 (from which we get “Palm Sunday”) is the only other place palms are mentioned in the New Testament. They represent festive joy.
“washed in the blood” (v. 14) Other Bible texts call blood a cleansing agent: Hebrews 9:24 and 1 John 1:7, for example.
“shepherd” (v. 17) A striking mixed metaphor; the lamb as shepherd. Compare John 10:1-30; 21:15-17; Psalm 23, and Isa. 40:11.
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Revelation’s visions are repetitive, covering the same theme and same period of time from different angles. Why?
“The mind of man is incurably centrifugal, forever flying off at a tangent. He must be brought back to the great central truths – made, literally, to concentrate. Those truths God outlines for him again and again, sometimes by a pencil sketch, sometimes by a more detailed pen drawing, sometimes by brushfuls of paint. The likelihood therefore is that he is doing the same in Revelation; and unless we have good reason to believe the opposite, we may expect the truth conveyed in this book to be intensive rather than extensive. In other words, what we are shown here is more likely to be a working over in colour of a picture we already know in outline, than to be an extra piece of canvas tacked on to the original picture.” (Michael Wilcock, Revelation, p. 39)