Monday, July 11, 2011

Revelation Chapter Seven, Part 3 of 4

7:5 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.
Here again we see God micro-managing. You will note that Dan and Ephraim are absent among the tribes counted. Joseph replaces Ephraim while Manasseh remains. We know from Ezekiel that Dan is not lost and will be issued land and a place in Israel during Jesus’ thousand years reign, Ezekiel 48:1. Dan was a rebellious house from the first, and never actually occupied the territory allotted them; instead going in and occupying land far north, Judges 18. One of the golden calves of Jeroboam dwelt in Dan in the farthest region of Israel during the era of the northern kingdom of Samaria, Amos 8:14. Apparently Dan’s tribe will not receive the honor of being sealed, but they will survive as a tribe into Millennium.

And what of Ephraim? If you look back at the books of Kings you will find Jeroboam, son of Nebat, the first king of the northern kingdom after Solomon passed away and Rehoboam assumed the throne. It is recorded that he was of the tribe of Ephraim, 1st Kings 11:26. In this verse we read that Jeroboam rebelled against the king; this is a pattern Jeroboam would go on to cement in later times by constructing the golden calves for pagan worship instead of relying on the faithful promise of God. Jeroboam’s sin, which the northern tribes never put away, was the cause of their ultimate downfall and utter apostasy from the true worship of Jehovah, Hosea 4:17. This is why I believe Ephraim is no longer mentioned among the sealed tribes, though they too are remembered by God and given land and a place in Israel during the thousand years, Ezekiel 48:5. Disobedience can remove a saint from the place of God’s blessing but never from the love of God in Christ Jesus, Romans 8:38-39. But do not think too lightly of disobedience; God counts it as the sin of witchcraft and idolatry, 1st Samuel 15:23. It cost Moses his entrance into the Promised Land. It cost Joshua his defeat at Ai. It cost David his son. Disobedience is costly and we are instructed to liberate ourselves from such sin that we may run our race without hindrance, Hebrews 12:1. Let us run to win.

7:9-10 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; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
This great and innumerable multitude shall be the fruit of the labors of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists, the two witnesses, and the Holy Spirit working through them to bring many souls to saving faith in Jesus Christ during this dark time. I personally picture the Jewish witnesses like a small army of Pauls compassing the world and bringing the gospel unflinchingly and with great spiritual fervor and power to every country, city and individual on earth.

Revelation 7:14 tells us that this massive convergence of saints washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. In other words, their sins were forgiven them, and washed away in Christ’s atoning blood just like ours today, Revelation 1:5. Why do they rejoice so before God’s throne? Because they realize (as some today conveniently ignore or deny) that it is entirely because of God that they stand where they stand; there is nothing in us that makes us worthy of Heaven or salvation. The gospel which God says saves is one of condition, not of merit. You either believe it, and the One who it pertains to, or you reject it and search for alternative means of reaching the coveted goal of Heaven. This multitude, like the Hebrews that came up from the Red Sea after escaping Egypt, rejoiced in the deliverance of God who wrought for them their salvation. God parted the sea, held it back, kept Pharaoh at bay, and eventually destroyed the king of Egypt’s pursuing army when they tried to reach the Jews on the other side. All the Jews had to do was believe God’s capability to do this and walk forward in faith.

The faith of these saints cost them their physical lives. But our Lord tells us: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matthew 16:25-26. You aren’t saved by sacrificing your own life, 1st Corinthians 13:3. Unlike Islam and Roman Catholic Crusaders, one does not reach Heaven by self sacrifice. This is not what this passage teaches. In the context of Jesus’ teachings our Lord is saying that if you keep your life (that is, refuse Christ’s salvation and Lordship over you) you will lose it eternally. Even if you acquired all, you must eventually die and leave it behind, and then you are forfeit your very soul, which shall be tormented in the Lake of Fire eternally. Solomon considers this “sore travail,” Ecclesiastes 4:8. Losing one’s life is, in faith, surrendering to Christ’s claim on us through the gospel. His death purchased everyone on earth, 1st Timothy 4:10. The salvation Jesus brings is thus offered to everyone on earth; yet it is conditional that we receive this salvation and offer of eternal life in Jesus Christ by faith in Him. This is what it means to lose one’s life; that is how we find it. We find our Savior and we find our purpose, the very reason that we were created to begin with. Still, the choice remains: the fleeting pleasures of the world where we can pretend to be our own petty gods or eternal life in Jesus Christ where we find life and purpose.

7:13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me
At this point an elder, one of those sitting on one of the twenty four thrones before the throne of God (Revelation 4:4), turns to John and asks a question. This is another subtle proof that Revelation is not a mystical text with jumbles of hidden meanings that take years of painful toil and erudite study to extract. Unless the context explains and demands a symbolical meaning the meaning of this book ought to be received as literal. This elder, a glorified saint sitting in God’s presence, is speaking with John. To turn them (and everything else in Revelation) into symbols and images destroys the coherence of the book and removes any edification one might gain from its study. Reduced to symbolism Revelation, and for that matter, the Bible, can mean utterly anything you want them to. This is a subtle tactic of the enemy that has done great and successful harm within the professing church of Jesus Christ.

7:13-14 What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? 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.
Let us pause and immediately notice that the whiteness of the robes comes not from the saints, but from Christ’s cleansing blood. This is imputed whiteness, the imputed righteousness of God, which He imparts to all those whose faith rests solely in His Son. It is this great righteousness that makes a saint fit for Heaven. Nothing else will avail you.

The elder confirms two things regarding these saints. Number one: this great multitude comes exclusively out of the Tribulation period. If you want to take his words even more literally; they come directly from the Great Tribulation, or the latter three and one half years after the Antichrist proclaims himself to be God, institutes something similar to emperor worship and kills anyone who does not receive his mark and worship his image. The lines are clearly drawn by that point in time: you either have the mark of the beast so you may buy and sell and live peaceably in the Beast’s kingdom; or you receive the seal of the living God to be marked as one of His, and risk being violently martyred for your faith.

Number two: the saints all standing before God’s throne in Heaven are present because they have by faith received the imputed righteousness of Christ. These are the ones who overcame the Beast first by the blood of the Lamb; then by the word of their testimony. That is, they proclaimed Christ as Lord when the whole world had gone astray and followed the demagogue who makes himself out to be God, Revelation 13:4; 1st John 5:19. Finally they loved not their lives unto the death, Revelation 12:11. They counted Jesus Christ and His gospel more valuable than their own lives. He purchased them from sin, whose only wage is death; and they went forth proclaiming the same message of salvation that initially set them free; for this these saints will suffer persecution and finally execution.

These are the Tribulation saints. Satan apparently has no more interest at the time in enticing and misleading the saints of the Tribulation period; so he will satisfy himself by having them brutally killed. Perhaps he no longer has access and ability to entice them as he did Peter and Job, since he will no longer have access to God’s throne and audience by the beginning of the Great Tribulation, or the second period of three and one half years, Revelation 12:8-10.

1 comment:

  1. Jesus repeatedly told his disciples he would be killed and raised again from the dead, but they didn't understand it until they saw it happen. There are things in Revelation that will not be understood until they happen. Attempts to assign some other meaning other than the literal is effectively the same as the disciples failure to believe what Jesus told them.

    Great Post.


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