Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
SEALING OF THE
MULTITUDE OF THE
1. And--so B and Syriac. But A, C, Vulgate, and
Coptic omit "and."
after these things--A, B, C, and Coptic read, "after
this." The two visions in this chapter come in as an episode
after the sixth seal, and before the seventh seal. It is clear
that, though "Israel" may elsewhere designate the spiritual Israel,
"the elect (Church) on earth" [ALFORD], here,
where the names of the tribes one by one are specified, these names
cannot have any but the literal meaning. The second advent will be the
time of the restoration of the kingdom to Israel, when the
times of the Gentiles shall have been fulfilled, and the Jews shall
at last say, "Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord." The
period of the Lord's absence has been a blank in the history of the
Jews as a nation. As then Revelation is the Book of the Second Advent
[DE BURGH], naturally mention
of God's restored favor to Israel occurs among the events that usher in
earth . . . sea . . . tree--The judgments to
descend on these are in answer to the martyrs' prayer under the
fifth seal. Compare the same judgments under the fifth
trumpet, the sealed being exempt
on any tree--Greek, "against any tree"
(Greek, "epi ti dendron": but "on the earth,"
Greek, "epi tees gees").
2. from the east--Greek, "the rising of the sun." The
quarter from which God's glory oftenest manifests itself.
3. Hurt not--by letting loose the destructive winds.
till we have sealed the servants of our God--parallel to
"His angels . . . shall gather together His elect from the
four winds." God's love is such, that He cannot do anything in
the way of judgment, till His people are secured from hurt
Israel, at the eve of the Lord's coming, shall be found re-embodied as
a nation; for its tribes are distinctly specified (Joseph, however,
being substituted for Dan; whether because Antichrist is to come from
Dan, or because Dan is to be Antichrist's especial tool [ARETAS, tenth century], compare
just as there was a Judas among the Twelve). Out of these tribes a
believing remnant will be preserved from the judgments which shall
destroy all the Antichristian confederacy
and shall be transfigured with the elect Church of all nations,
namely, 144,000 (or whatever number is meant by this symbolical
number), who shall faithfully resist the seductions of Antichrist,
while the rest of the nation, restored to Palestine in unbelief, are
his dupes, and at last his victims. Previously to the Lord's judgments
on Antichrist and his hosts, these latter shall destroy
two-thirds of the nation, one-third escaping, and, by the
Spirit's operation through affliction, turning to the Lord, which
remnant shall form the nucleus on earth of the Israelite nation that is
from this time to stand at the head of the millennial nations of the
world. Israel's spiritual resurrection shall be "as life from the dead"
to all the nations. As now a regeneration goes on here and there of
individuals, so there shall then be a regeneration of nations
universally, and this in connection with Christ's coming.
"this generation (the Jewish nation) shall not pass till all these
things be fulfilled," which implies that Israel can no more pass
away before Christ's advent, than Christ's own words can
pass away (the same Greek),
Zec 13:8, 9; 14:2-4, 9-21;
Zec 12:2-14; 13:1, 2.
Eze 8:17, 18; 9:1-7,
with Re 8:5,
where the final judgments actually fall on the earth, with the same
accompaniment, the fire of the altar cast into the earth,
including the fire scattered over the city. So again,
the same 144,000 appear on Zion with the Father's name in their
forehead, at the close of the section, the twelfth through fourteenth
chapters, concerning the Church and her foes. Not that the saints are
exempt from trial:
proves the contrary; but their trials are distinct from the
destroying judgments that fall on the world; from these they are
exempted, as Israel was from the plagues of Egypt, especially from the
last, the Israelite doors having the protecting seal of the blood-mark.
foreheads--the most conspicuous and noblest part of man's body;
on which the helmet, "the hope of salvation," is worn.
4. Twelve is the number of the tribes, and appropriate to
the Church: three by four: three, the divine number,
multiplied by four, the number for world-wide extension. Twelve
by twelve implies fixity and completeness, which is taken a
thousandfold in 144,000. A thousand implies the world
perfectly pervaded by the divine; for it is ten, the world
number, raised to the power of three, the number of God.
of all the tribes--literally, "out of every tribe"; not 144,000
of each tribe, but the aggregate of the twelve thousand from every
children--Greek, "sons of Israel."
Re 3:12; 21:12,
are no objection, as ALFORD thinks, to the literal
Israel being meant; for, in consummated glory, still the Church will be
that "built on the foundation of the (Twelve) apostles
(Israelites), Jesus Christ (an Israelite) being the chief
corner-stone." Gentile believers shall have the name of Jerusalem
written on them, in that they shall share the citizenship
antitypical to that of the literal Jerusalem.
5-8. Judah (meaning praise) stands first, as Jesus'
tribe. Benjamin, the youngest, is last; and with him is associated
second last, Joseph. Reuben, as originally first-born, comes next after
Judah, to whom it gave place, having by sin lost its primogeniture
right. Besides the reason given above (see on
another akin for the omission of Dan, is, its having been the first to
lapse into idolatry
for which same reason the name Ephraim, also (compare
is omitted, and Joseph substituted. Also, it had been now for long
almost extinct. Long before, the Hebrews say [GROTIUS], it was reduced to the one family of Hussim,
which perished subsequently in the wars before Ezra's time. Hence it is
omitted in the fourth through eighth chapters of First Chronicles.
Dan's small numbers are joined here to Naphtali's, whose brother he was
by the same mother [BENGEL]. The twelve times
twelve thousand sealed ones of Israel are the nucleus of transfigured
humanity [AUBERLEN], to which the elect Gentiles
are joined, "a multitude which no man could number,"
(that is, the Church of Jews and Gentiles indiscriminately, in which
the Gentiles are the predominant element,
The word "tribes," Greek, implies that believing
Israelites are in this countless multitude). Both are in
heaven, yet ruling over the earth, as ministers of blessing to its
inhabitants: while upon earth the world of nations is added to the
kingdom of Israel. The twelve apostles stand at the head of the whole.
The upper and the lower congregation, though distinct, are intimately
9. no man--Greek, "no one."
of all nations--Greek, "OUT OF
every nation." The human race is "one nation" by origin,
but afterwards separated itself into tribes, peoples, and
tongues; hence, the one singular stands first, followed by the
people--Greek, "peoples." The "first-fruits unto the
Lamb," the 144,000
of Israel, are followed by a copious harvest of all nations, an
election out of the Gentiles, as the 144,000 are an election out
of Israel (see on
white robes--(See on
Re 3:5, 18; 4:4).
palms in . . . hands--the antitype to Christ's entry
into Jerusalem amidst the palm-bearing multitude. This shall be just
when He is about to come visibly and take possession of His kingdom.
The palm branch is the symbol of joy and triumph. It was used at
the feast of tabernacles, on the fifteenth day of the seventh month,
when they kept feast to God in thanksgiving for the ingathered fruits.
The antitype shall be the completed gathering in of the harvest of the
elect redeemed here described. Compare
whence it appears that the earthly feast of tabernacles will be
renewed, in commemoration of Israel's preservation in her long
wilderness-like sojourn among the nations from which she shall now be
delivered, just as the original typical feast was to commemorate her
dwelling for forty years in booths or tabernacles in the literal
10. cried--Greek, "cry," in the three oldest manuscripts,
A, B, C, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic. It is their
continuing, ceaseless employment.
Salvation--literally, "THE salvation"; all
the praise of our salvation be ascribed to our God. At the Lord's entry
into Jerusalem, the type, similarly "salvation" is the cry of the
palm-bearing multitudes. Hosanna means "save us now"; taken from
in which Psalm
(Ps 118:14, 15, 21, 26)
the same connection occurs between salvation, the
tabernacles of the righteous, and the Jews' cry to be repeated
by the whole nation at Christ's coming, "Blessed be He that cometh in
the name of the Lord."
11. The angels, as in
in their turn take up the anthem of praise. There it was "many
angels," here it is "all the angels."
stood--"were standing" [ALFORD].
12. Greek, "The blessing, the glory,
the wisdom, the thanksgiving, the honor,
the power, the might [the doxology is sevenfold,
implying its totality and completeness], unto the ages of the
13. answered--namely, to my thoughts; spoke, asking the question
which might have been expected to arise in John's mind from what has
gone before. One of the twenty-four elders, representing the Old and
New Testament ministry, appropriately acts as interpreter of this
vision of the glorified Church.
What, &c.--Greek order, "These which are arrayed in white
robes, WHO are they?"
14. Sir--Greek, "Lord." B, C, Vulgate, Syriac,
Coptic versions, and CYPRIAN read, "My Lord."
A omits "My," as English Version.
thou knowest--taken from
Comparatively ignorant ourselves of divine things, it is well for us to
look upward for divinely communicated knowledge.
came--rather as Greek, "come"; implying that they are
great tribulation--Greek, "THE great
tribulation"; "the tribulation, the great one," namely, the
tribulation to which the martyrs were exposed under the fifth seal, the
same which Christ foretells as about to precede His coming
great tribulation), and followed by the same signs as the sixth
(Mt 24:29, 30),
including also retrospectively all the tribulation which the
saints of all ages have had to pass through. Thus this seventh chapter
is a recapitulation of the vision of the six seals,
to fill up the outline there given in that part of it which affects the
faithful of that day. There, however, their number was waiting to be
completed, but here it is completed, and they are seen taken out of the
earth before the judgments on the Antichristian apostasy; with their
Lord, they, and all His faithful witnesses and disciples of past ages,
wait for His coming and their coming to be glorified and reign together
with Him. Meanwhile, in contrast with their previous sufferings, they
are exempt from the hunger, thirst, and scorching heats of their life
and are fed and refreshed by the Lamb of God Himself
(Re 7:17; 14:1-4, 13);
an earnest of their future perfect blessedness in both body and soul
(Re 21:4-6; 22:1-5).
washed . . . robes . . . white in the blood of
. . . Lamb--
Faith applies to the heart the purifying blood; once for all for
justification, continually throughout the life for sanctification.
15. Therefore--because they are so washed white; for without it
they could never have entered God's holy heaven;
"Blessed are those who wash their robes (the oldest manuscripts
reading), that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter
in through the gates into the city";
Eph 5:26, 27.
before--Greek, "in the presence of."
"face to face."
throne . . . temple--These are connected because we
can approach the heavenly King only through priestly mediation;
therefore, Christ is at once King and Priest on His throne.
day and night--that is, perpetually; as those approved of as
priests by the Sanhedrim were clothed in white, and kept by turns a
perpetual watch in the temple at Jerusalem; compare as to the singers,
"day and night";
Strictly "there is no night" in the heavenly sanctuary
in his temple--in what is the heavenly analogue to His temple on
earth, for strictly there is "no temple therein"
"God and the Lamb are the temple" filling the whole, so that there is
no distinction of sacred and secular places; the city is the temple,
and the temple the city. Compare
"the four living creatures rest not day and night, saying,
shall dwell among them--rather (Greek, "scenosei ep'
autous"), "shall be the tabernacle over them" (compare
Isa 4:5, 6; 8:14; 25:4;
His dwelling among them is to be understood as a secondary
truth, besides what is expressed, namely, His being their covert. When
once He tabernacled among us as the Word made flesh, He was in
great lowliness; then He shall be in great glory.
hunger no more--as they did here.
thirst any more--
the sun--literally, scorching in the East. Also, symbolically,
the sun of persecution.
neither . . . light--Greek, "by no means at all
. . . light" (fall).
heat--as the sirocco.
17. in the midst of the throne--that is, in the middle point in
front of the throne
feed--Greek, "tend as a shepherd."
living fountains of water--A, B, Vulgate, and
CYPRIAN read, (eternal) "life's fountains
of waters." "Living" is not supported by the old authorities.