Remember, John is still seeing scenes from the sixth seal.
1 ¶ And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. 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, 3 Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. 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. 5 Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand. 6 Of the tribe of Aser were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Nepthalim were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasses were sealed twelve thousand. 7 Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand. 8 Of the tribe of Zabulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand. 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; 10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. 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, 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.
13 ¶ And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? 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. 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. 16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. 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.
This seal opens in chapter 6, verse 12, with a great earthquake and the sun turning black with the moon turning red.
Joel 2:31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.
There is an astronomic disturbance and a tremendous meteor shower, perhaps, although there are possible spiritual meanings of this passage about the stars of heaven. This is a world shaking event that takes place, an earthquake that is devastating and things falling from space. It is so bad that the great men and the lowly men of the earth hide in places that would not be where you would go in a regular earthquake, hoping to be hidden from Christ’s wrath. Perhaps, in their hatred of God they view this kind of death as an escape from the physical destruction. They admit that no one can stand against Christ in this absolute disaster.
Do the stars of heaven signify spiritual beings from what we call outer space but what God calls the firmament of the heaven coming to earth?
Genesis 1:15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.
Psalm 115:16 The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD’S: but the earth hath he given to the children of men.
Ephesians 2:2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Notice the day of Christ’s wrath is come. There are multitudes in heaven who have come out of great tribulation. Christ is said to have spared the church from the wrath to come.
1Thessalonians 1:10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
7:1 opens with four angels standing on the four corners of the earth preventing any wind from blowing. What is the significance of that? It is important to understand that great disaster and tragedy in the world as we know it is a direct function of God holding back judgment and when a great calamity happens He has unleashed something waiting to happen. Great evil comes through people who choose to be conduits for it, not having any control over how bad it will get.
Matthew 18:7 Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!
Are the four corners of the earth a reference to literal places or is that just a phrase referring to every direction as in the four winds in Matthew 24 or Jeremiah 49?
Matthew 24:31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Jeremiah 49:36 And upon Elam will I bring the four winds from the four quarters of heaven, and will scatter them toward all those winds; and there shall be no nation whither the outcasts of Elam shall not come.
I suggest that four corners of the earth represent every possible direction and every possible location. We know it is a figurative statement because the Bible says the earth is a circle and doesn’t have four physical corners just like it says that there is a huge empty space in outer space and that the earth hangs in space and is not resting on a giant’s shoulders or the back of a turtle as in some mythologies.
Isaiah 40:22 It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:
Job 26:7 He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing.
It is then that another angel tells them to wait until God has sealed Jewish servants He has chosen for His purpose. There are 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes but a tribe of Joseph is mentioned in place of Ephraim.
Joshua 14:4 For the children of Joseph were two tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim: therefore they gave no part unto the Levites in the land, save cities to dwell in, with their suburbs for their cattle and for their substance.
Joshua 16:4 So the children of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, took their inheritance.
Ephraim was a troublesome tribe, which you can see by a search of the Old Testament but still, while not mentioned by name in Revelation, his brother’s tribe is, and there is a tribe of Joseph mentioned here along with Manasseh’s tribe. Once before, the phrase, tribe of Joseph, referred to Manasseh, and Ephraim was named;
Numbers 13:8 Of the tribe of Ephraim, Oshea the son of Nun...11 Of the tribe of Joseph, namely, of the tribe of Manasseh, Gaddi the son of Susi.
So, I would not make too much of the substitution other than, perhaps, God’s dissatisfaction with Ephraim as tribe of Joseph may be a reference to it. However, the tribe of Dan is not mentioned, which is why Irenaeus, referred to earlier, believed that the Beast would arise from the descendants of that tribe. The absence of Dan must be significant but we don’t have enough information to go on to make a certain determination.
These servants number 144,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. This has nothing to do with how many people wind up in heaven. I believe these are whom Satan makes war on when he cannot destroy the Jews who have fled to the wilderness.
Revelation 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. 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. 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.
There is a great multitude before the throne that have come out of great tribulation. They are all arrayed in white robes, which we know symbolizes righteousness. It’s a lot of people who, along with the four beasts and the elders, praise and worship Christ with seven more exaltations with thanksgiving being added.
An elder asks John a rhetorical question and John throws it back to him. These are all people who it is said came out of great tribulation. Here is the translated church in Heaven. They will serve God who will live among them. They will never hunger or thirst or suffer the heat of the sun. Christ, the Lamb of God, will lead them and all their tears will be wiped away.
The angels, the ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands, in Revelation 5, signify the presence in heaven, even now, of all saints throughout history from the time of Christ’s resurrection. After the translation which includes the resurrection of the saved dead physically and bodily they are the great multitude of verse 9.
Remember what an angel is.
Isaiah 63:9 In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.
Psalm 104:4 Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire:
Hebrews 1:7 And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.
Matthew 18:10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.
Hebrews 12:23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
While a believer is here on earth he or she also has a presence in heaven, an angel…
Ephesians 2:4 ¶ But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 And hath raised us up together [past tense], and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: 7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
… with which they will be united in the first resurrection which consists of the church, living and dead, being translated to heaven, receiving a new body, as Paul stated in 1Corinthians 15…
1Corinthians 15:51 ¶ Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
…and in 1Thessalonians.
1Thessalonians 4:13 ¶ But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
When will this literally happen? Certain things will happen first. Notice in the following verses from 2Thessalonians by parallel phrasing we see the definition of the day of Christ as the same event as our gathering together unto him.
2Thessalonians 2:1 ¶ Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, 2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
3 ¶ Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?
Now, let’s move on to the seventh seal, remembering that this is how they are shown to John but that these events are happening together. I have an enormous book on military history that, for instance, for World War II outlines every campaign in Europe, has a break in the action, and then starts over again outlining every campaign in the Pacific over the same time frame. The events are related in the order they are being shown to John. This is not a movie or a TV show.