Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.
These are not "spiritual" tribes or some illusion to Christendom. We are given the names of the twelve tribes in the verses that follow. We will come back to this group in Revelation Chapter 14.
The Great Multitude Out Of All Nations
"After these things I saw, and lo, a great multitude, which to number no one was able, OUT OF all nations, and tribes, and peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne, and before the Lamb, arrayed in white robes, and palms in their hands..."
-Rev 7:9 (Young's Literal Translation)
This verse is often used to teach that God saves men "of" every nation and language etc. But is that accurate?
We pause to note here the "four" angels, "four" corners of the earth, and the "four" winds. The number four being connected to things of the earth (creation). This reminds us that much of the future has to do with the earth. We've seen rewards, and crowns, the Kingdom, and the New Jerusalem all connected to the earth and/or to the promised land.
As we've seen, the context of Revelation 7 is clearly Israel. Verses 1-8 prophesy of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists called out of the 12 tribes of Israel. These go out and call Jews from the four corners of the earth. This is all yet future. We must "rightly divide" scripture (2 Tim 2:15) and not rip verses from their contexts.
Part of the common problem in Christendom with the application of verse 9 is the translation of the Greek word "ἐκ" by the use of the singular word "of." The more accurate translation is "out of" (see: Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon). The 144,000 evangelists are calling the elect nation, Israel, OUT OF* all the other nations. We see this calling out in the parables of Matthew (another Jewish book).
Note those in verse 9 are "arrayed in white robes." What does the context tell us about this multitude? Again, we have the writer asking for guidance in understanding (a practice we should all adopt).
"Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?” And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” So he said to me, “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. Therefore they are before the throne of God and serve Him day and night in His temple.-Rev 7:13-15
- They came out of (ἐκ) the Great Tribulation
- They believed in the Lamb of God
- They serve day and night in His temple
This is a multitude of Jews called out of all the nations.
Unfortunately, verse 9 is often used to rob Israel of her promises. Does the Lord save people of all ethnicities (nations)? Surely he does. We are Gentiles, but our promises in this age are not found in the Revelation.
This rare usage of "ex-anástasis" is only used here. However, in Luke 24:46, it is said of Christ:
Thus it hath been written, and thus it was behoving the Christ to suffer, and to rise out of the dead [αναστηναι εκ νεκρων] the third day,
The Final Sowing of the Gospel of the Kingdom
If you followed the sowings from the Parable of the Sower study in Matthew 13, you will notice a fourth and final sowing of the gospel of the Kingdom. As we have seen, the sowings are for Israel and Israel will one day soon again be at the center of the God's dealings. Attention will turn back to the earth, to the promised land, to the Kingdom, to David's throne, the twelve tribes.
12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel will be called out to again preach the promises of the Kingdom on earth (Revelation 7 & 14) along with the two witnesses of Rev 11.
In a recent study we noted the coming Great Tribulation yet to come on Israel. In the passage we reviewed in that study from Matthew 24, we have this:
But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 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. -Matt 24:13-14
“As I looked,
“thrones were set in place,
and the Ancient of Days took his seat.
His clothing was as white as snow;
the hair of his head was white like wool.
His throne was flaming with fire,
and its wheels were all ablaze.
A river of fire was flowing,
coming out from before him.
Thousands upon thousands attended him;
ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.
The court was seated,
and the books were opened.
“Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire.
The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.
Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying:
“We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty,
The One who is and who was and who is to come,
Because You have taken Your great power and reigned.
The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come,
And the time of the dead, that they should be judged,
And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints,
And those who fear Your name, small and great,
And should destroy those who destroy the earth.”
We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality [resurrection].
-1 Cor 15:51-53
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first [resurrection].
-1 Thess 4:16
Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people— saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”
Neither of these gospels do we preach in this age.
Hopefully, we are getting a picture of this future time. It is Israel-centric. As to the details, they will understand John and the Prophets. They will know who the Antichrist is. They will experience these things and understand them fully. That is, the remnant who serve Christ will have their understanding opened just as the chosen Apostles of the Lord had their understanding opened after his resurrection.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. [Jewish]” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”