The Sealing of the Saints
Chapter six ended with the breaking of the sixth seal and the beginning of the end. The Bible uses graphic language to describe the cataclysmic events to be unleashed upon the earth. But what we see is unrepentant and unregenerate man clinging to his sins. Oh, he is frightened alright, but only as one who wishes he might continue in his sin and not be held accountable for it. He calls upon the rocks to crush him rather than the Lord to save him.
But chapter seven offers a different picture, one of glory and security. The angels are commanded to do no more harm upon the earth until the servants of God are sealed. This seal implies God’s ownership and protection over His people. It does not mean that they will not suffer on the earth; God’s protection over us has never meant that. It does mean that these will not experience the wrath of God that is coming upon the earth. Interpretations abound as to the number (144,000) and the tribes. As the New Testament refers to the Church as the new Israel (Romans 2:28-29; Galatians 3:29; 6:16), and as the tribe that heads the list is the tribe from which our Lord came, I am inclined to see the tribes as a symbolic way for speaking of the Church (Revelation is a symbolic book) and the 144,000 as a symbolic way of referring to the full number of believers throughout the ages coming into the Church. The Lord sets His seal upon us, and we are His, both now and forever.
But the primary message of this chapter is how the Lord guards and protects His people while on earth through times of tribulation (7:1-8), and how they shall have a glorious homecoming when they reach the other shore (7:9-17). They are clothed in white robes that have been washed in the blood of the Lamb – a reference to our being covered and forgiven by the blood our Lord shed on the cross for us. That they have come out of great tribulation speaks to the ongoing trials and tribulations God’s people endure in this world. Our constant adversary, the devil, never gives us rest but tempts us sore. But we are reassured of ultimate victory and that one day, we shall lead even the angels and the elders and the four living creatures in a hymn of praise to our God (v. 10). And why shouldn’t we? How can we not sing when we abide in a glorious place where we shall “serve Him day and night,” where He shall “shelter [us] with His presence,” where we shall never again know hunger, thirst, scorching heat, or pain. Instead, the Lamb shall be our shepherd, who shall ever be our source of eternal refreshment.