Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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APOCALYPSE - Chapter 7

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Apocalypse 7

Supplemental Commentary:

II.  THE SEVEN SEALS  4, 1 -- 8, 1 (continued)

3.  An Intermediate Vision, and the Opening of the Seventh Seal  7, 1 -- 8, 1

The last vision closed with the question, "Who is able to stand?"  The present vision answers that question.  It is the second part of the tableau belonging to the sixth seal.

7, 1-8:  Sealing of the Spiritual IsraelThe four winds: denote days of trouble, as the winds sweep away the chaff.  Cf. Jer. 49, 36; Dan. 7, 2.  The angels appear as carrying out the designs of God.  From the rising of the sun: the fifth angel comes from the region of light and salvation.  The seal of the living God is an emblem of security.  This symbolism is taken from Ezech. 9, 4.  Servants of our God: the faithful, who are to be marked as slaves were branded, probably with the name of God and the Lamb.  As in Exodus (12, 7) the houses of the Israelites were marked with the blood of the lamb and their occupants preserved from the exterminating angel, so the servants of God, both Jew and Gentile, are preserved by this mark from the cataclysms of the last day.

The number is manifestly symbolical and indicates all those who will be saved.  Cf. note to the text.  The number twelve is maintained in the list of the tribes to show that in all changes the purposes of God stand firm.

7, 9-12:  Blessedness of the Sealed.  After this: introduces a new scene.  The passage is closely linked to 4-6.  White robes . . . palms: this symbolism may be drawn from the Feast of Tabernacles, or from the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.  In any case it represents victory.  According to Tertullian these victors are those who overcome Antichrist; others hold they are the martyrs, or the Gentiles as opposed to the Jews in 7, 5 ff.  It is more likely that they are identical with the hundred and forty-four thousand, that number now being indicated as meaning a countless throng.  The sealing is an assurance that all God's servants will be safe in time of trouble; this vision tells us they have actually come safely out of it.  All bear the emblems of purity, of victory, of felicity and triumph; and all worship and praise God with a loud voice.  Their cry is an acknowledgment that their salvation is due not to themselves, but to their God and to the Lamb.

7, 13 -- 8, 1:  The Seventh Seal.  The constancy of the victors is attributed to the blood of the Lamb, because the death of Jesus is the cause of this as of every other supernatural act.  They are before the throne of God night and day and serve Him in His temple.  The language is figurative, for in the heavenly Jerusalem there is no temple (21, 22).  In 15 the verbs change from the present to the future; the vision becomes a prediction.  None of the privations they endured for Christ's sake will trouble them; God will become their comforter.  Finally, the Lamb opens the seventh seal.  Silence: even the doxologies of heaven are hushed.  This symbolizes the anxious expectancy of all creatures, and all the events which follow in the Apocalypse are in some way attached to the opening of this seal.

Confraternity Bible:

Sealing of the Spiritual Israel  1 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding fast the four winds of the earth, that no wind should blow over the earth, or over the sea, or upon any tree.  2 And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, who had it in their power to harm the earth and the sea, 3 saying, "Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads."  4* And I heard the number of those who were sealed, a hundred and forty-four thousand sealed, out of every tribe of the children of Israel;
5 Of the tribe of Juda, twelve thousand sealed;

of the tribe of Ruben, twelve thousand;

of the tribe of Gad, twelve thousand;

6 of the tribe of Aser, twelve thousand;

of the tribe of Nephthali, twelve thousand;

of the tribe of Manasses, twelve thousand;

7 of the tribe of Simeon, twelve thousand;

of the tribe of Levi, twelve thousand;

of the tribe of Issachar, twelve thousand;

8 of the tribe of Zabulon, twelve thousand;

of the tribe of Joseph, twelve thousand;

of the tribe of Benjamin, twelve thousand sealed.
Blessedness of the Sealed  9 After this I saw a great multitude which no man could number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and with palms in their hands.  10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying,
"Salvation belongs to our God

Who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb." 
11 And all the angels were standing round about the throne, and the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, 12 saying,
"Amen.  Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength to our God forever and ever.  Amen."
The Seventh Seal  13 And one of the elders spoke and said to me, "These who are clothed in white robes, who are they? and whence have they come?"  14 And I said to him, "My lord, thou knowest."  And he said to me, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  15 Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple, and he who sits upon the throne will dwell with them.  16 They shall neither hunger nor thirst any more, neither shall the sun strike them nor any heat.  17 For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them, and will guide them to the fountains of the waters of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."


4: A hundred and forty-four thousand: a symbolical number which signifies a great multitude, i.e., all the predestined.  In the enumeration of the twelve tribes Ephraim is replaced by Joseph, and Dan is not mentioned at all, perhaps intentionally, for the Antichrist was to come out of Dan according to a Jewish tradition.