9/18/11 Revelation 7:1-8
Leader: Pastor Biebert
Meeting Time: 8:00 AM & 10:15 AM
“X” MARKS THE SAINT
In chapter 7, we see a group of men and women “no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language” (7:9). They stand before God’s judgment seat. Yet they are not afraid. They are celebrating. They wear the white robes of saints. They cheer the Lamb who donated His own life to rescue theirs and earn them saint-status (7:14). Verse 1-3 mention a total of five angels. The first four angels are holding back the winds of the earth. “Four corners of the earth” (7:1) is no more unscientific than when we use it in everyday language, like when we say “sunrise.” We know the earth is circling around the sun. There’s another angel (7:2) who has God’s seal.
What is the significance of the “four winds of the earth” (7:1)?
In the Bible, people use seals to prove they owned something and want to keep it safe. 6:15-17 tells us what danger is approaching.
2. Why does the one angel come from the east (7:2; Malachi 4:2; Matthew 24:27)? Who does he mark (7:2-3)?
“Seal” refers to the mark a signature ring would leave when someone presses it into wet clay. An official who wished to delegate his authority to a representative would let that subordinate use his ring. This is the kind of mark God put on Cain in Genesis 4:15. The forehead and the hand (Exodus 13:9, 16; 28:38; Deuteronomy 6:8; 11:18) were the most natural, obvious body parts for marking. They were exposed.
3. When does the angel imprint the mark on people (7:3)?
In Ezekiel 9:3-4, God gives each Jewish believer a forehead mark. It’s their protection pass when God rains down judgment. The mark is the final letter of the ancient Hebrew alphabet, “taw.” It looks just like an “x” or “+.” In Revelation’s previous chapter (6:12-17) God promises believers protection from His prosecution. It’s like the brand ranchers use to identify their cattle.
What is this seal God uses to label specific humans (7:3-4; 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30; Revelation 14:3-4)?
Remember too that Jesus taught that at the end God’s angels will gather the people He’s picked (Matthew 24:31). The mark pictures the people God has selected and protected. Interestingly, later in Revelation a similar mark indicates followers of the beast (13:16-18). God singles them out for His fury (14:9-11).
Why do two entirely different groups in Revelation get almost the same mark (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)?
The numbers in Revelation are picture language. There are three basic numbers: 3, 4, and 10. 3 is God’s number. 4 is the number of humanity. 10 is the number of completeness. By combining 3 and 4, we get 7, the number of God’s greatest interaction with humanity, the promise to send Jesus to rescue us. By multiplying 3 and 4, we get the number for believers, 12. The 144,000 pictures all the believers who lived before Jesus multiplied by all the ones since multiplied by 10 to the third power. It’s the full number of believers of all times. It’s what Revelation 21:9-12 pictures for us.
Why doesn’t anyone but Jews get this mark (7:4)?
It’s tempting to equate the list of Israel’s 12 tribes to mean only Jews, or the modern country of Israel, as some experts claim. The problem is that the list in Revelation doesn’t match any list in the Old Testament. Some Christians believe these 144,000 are Jewish evangelists who will go all over the world reaching people with Jesus’ news during the Great Tribulation. That’s where, they say, all the non-Jewish people in 7:9 come from. If you take the 144,000 literally, you have to have 12,000 male Jewish virgins from each tribe—14:4. The Bible is specific about their ethnicity, gender and sexual history. Revelation consistently refers to believers as Jews in 2:9; 3:9; 21:2, 14. Even Paul and Peter talked this way in Romans 2:28–29, Galatians 3:29; 6:16, Philippians 3:3, 1 Peter 1:1; 2:9.
Why doesn’t it mention anyone from the Jewish tribe of Dan (7:5-8)?
Levi makes this list, but no other one in the Bible. Joseph makes this list, but so does Manasseh, which is weird because the more important Ephraim tribe is missing here. Dan doesn’t make this list. Judah gets top billing. The twelve tribes no longer existed as separate entities in the first century. With exceptions, only Judah (5:5), Benjamin and Levi got top billing. It’s hard to keep track of separate tribes even today.
What’s up with this strange list (7:5-8)?
Throughout the Bible God fondly mentions the mark or seal of approval He places on each of His people. It’s not something we earn as God reviews our performance record. It’s something Jesus earned when He lived without even one blemish on His record, then faced the sentence we deserve.
1. What special event in our lives prods us to talk about the mark God’s given us?
2. How does this mark guarantee protection for each of God’s people (7:14)?
3. How does this section connect to Matthew 16:13-20? What’s the connection to Joshua 4:1-9?