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Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on March 23, 2016 under AM Bible Study |

AM Bible Study Group; March 23, 2016 from Revelation 6:1-8

Theme: Before the outpouring of His wrath, God gives the world a remarkable display of His saving grace by providing select proclaimers of the gospel.

(All Scripture is taken from The New King James Version, unless otherwise indicated).

The beginning words of our text this morning are, “After these things . . .” The “things” that had just been described had been the opening of the six seals and the release of the events of the great tribulation. And with the opening of the sixth seal in particular, the kings and great ones of this earth are presented as having recognized that the next event will be the outpouring of the wrath of the Lamb (6:16-17). It is a sober time in which divine judgment is clearly understood to be at hand.

But what we discover in the seventh chapter is that God graciously provides an ‘intermission’ between the opening of the sixth and the seventh seals—that is, between the period of tribulation and the outpouring of wrath. And this divine ‘intermission’ sets before us a wonderful display of God’s grace before His just judgment is poured out upon a wicked world. In the later half of this chapter, God shows us the glorious picture of how many souls will be saved through faith in Jesus during this dark time. And in the first half of this chapter, He shows us the marvelous means by which He will provide for the saving message of the gospel to be proclaimed and spread in the world.


A. “After these things”, John sees four angels standing at the four corners of the earth. The “four corners” is a phrase that makes use of phenomenal language (much as we would say that the sun “rises”). It is here meant to describe the four key points of the compass—north, south, east and west. The four angels are described in verse two as having been granted “to harm the earth and the sea”. Their activities probably parallel the devastating events on earth that are described in the first four “trumpets” of 8:7-12.

B. Note that they are shown as “holding the four winds of the earth”. In Scripture, the “four winds” describe the tumultuous stirrings of the Gentile world (Daniel 7:2); and holding those winds back suggests a temporary “restraining” of the activities of the Gentile world until the sealing of God’s “servants” occurs (vv. 4-8). Even in those dark days, the affairs of men remain under the sovereign control of the almighty God.

C. We’re told that, as a result of holding back the four winds, no wind would blow on either the earth, or the sea, or on any tree. An ominous stillness will occur that is something like the profound quiet in heaven that will precede the outpouring of God’s wrath (8:1). It’s hard to imagine what an attention-getting impact that stillness will have on the hearts of men—especially knowing (as they clearly will) that the time of God’s wrath had finally come!


A. It’s at this time that John is shown another vision of yet another angel. This angel is said to “ascend [literally] from the rising of the sun” (that is, from the east). God’s works on this world are sometimes described in the Bible as transpiring from east to west; and likewise, the sinful impulses of men are often described as leading them from the west to the east. This angel’s approach from the east to the west mark it as a gracious work of God.

B. This angel is described as “having the seal of the living God”. The seal being described is used as a mark of ownership—one that, in this case, indicates that the individuals about to be sealed are God’s own property. That He Himself is described as “the living God” may be intended to set Him in contrast to the dreadful idolatry and atheism that will characterize the times—giving further emphasis to the fact that He is very much present and involved.

C. This seal-bearing angel cries out with a loud voice to the four angles that they are to refrain from doing harm to “the earth, the sea, or the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads”. This “sealing” is similar to that mentioned in Ezekiel 9:4—a mark from God that pertains to those who sigh and cry over all the abominations that were done in Israel. (The godly character of these sealed ones is also described in Revelation 14:1-5.) During the outpouring of God’s wrath, those who are unprotected are presented as those who do not have this seal (9:4). (This “sealing” from God seems to be imitated by the devil in 13:16 as a seal of allegiance to the Antichrist during the tribulation period.) The nature of the outpouring of God’s wrath is one of great harm to the earth; but no such harm can come to the earth until after these persons are sealed.


A. John is given the number of these sealed ones—a remarkable and specific number of 144,000. This is further delineated in an even more specific manner—12,000 from each of the tribes of Israel. There is no reason to see these as anything else but the literal sealing of the literal members of the tribes of Israel. The members of these tribes may not be identifiable to man today; but the records are well-kept, and the pedigrees are well-preserved, by our sovereign God. (This doesn’t mean that no one else will be saved during this time, nor does it mean that only these will be saved from among Israel. These 144,000 are very special individuals; and their qualifications are very specifically described in 14:1-5 in such a way as to distinguish them as unique members of humanity.)

B. The listing of the tribes mentioned here do not match the order or grouping of the tribes as they are listed elsewhere in Scripture. The tribe of Levi is here included; and instead of the tribe of Ephraim, we find the tribe of Joseph (who’s two sons were Ephraim and Manasseh). And most interesting of all, we find that the tribe of Dan is missing altogether. (Some have suggested that the omission of Dan was because of the ominous prediction that is made of this tribe in Genesis 49:17—that it shall be “a serpent by the way, a viper by the path, that bites the horse’s heels so that its rider shall fall backward.” The tribe of Dan brought idolatry into the nation during the troublesome days of the judges [Judges 18:30-31]; and it was in the territory of the tribe of Dan that Jeroboam set up one of his idolatrous images in order to bring division to the land, and by which he became the king of its idolatrous northern kingdom [1 Kings 12:28-30]. God warns in Deuteronomy 29:14-29 [especially v. 21] that anyone who turns away from His covenant to idolatry would be separated by Him from the tribes of Israel. It’s interesting also to note that Dan is missing from the list of tribes described in 1 Chronicles 4-8. But it’s also important to note that, later on in God’s prophetic revelation, Dan is mentioned first in the list of tribes in the future division of the land described in Ezekiel 48 [see Ezekiel 48:1-2]. It’s possible that the name of the tribe of Dan—which means “judge”—would have been inappropriate to include in a list of the tribes that were endowed by God to convey His grace.) In the end, then, the fact that this list of tribes differs from others in earlier parts of Scripture may only be intended to emphasize that this is a literal ‘sealing’ of literal members of these specific portions of the Jewish nation.

C. And it’s very important—and very thrilling—to consider what results in the world from these 144,000 individuals being sealed. What follows is the a great multitude which no one could number—far greater than 144,000—of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, present and standing before God’s throne; giving praise to Him for salvation (7:9-10). These are said to be coming out of the great tribulation (v. 14). The 144,000 sealed Jewish “servants”, then, seem to be used by God to bring about a great awakening and a turning to Jesus Christ from among the Gentile world just prior to the outpouring of God’s wrath on earth! What a marvelous display of God’s grace—even in a time just before His just judgment is revealed!

* * * * * * * * * *

As 2 Peter 3:9 says, the Lord “is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance”. We truly serve a God of great mercy! But He is also a God of righteous judgment; and the day of grace will end, and the day of His wrath will come!

May the display of His mercy, as we find it in this passage, spur us on to share the message of Jesus Christ with others while we can!

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