On page 40 we gave you a rough outline of The Revelation. The introduction, we said, features a book with seven seals. The time of great trouble is marked by seven trumpets. And God's punishment of the world is marked by seven "vials" or containers of judgment that are poured out on the earth. Each division overlaps slightly on the ones before or after it.

So when the fifth seal on the book was opened, it gave John a glimpse of the time of great trouble (also called the Great Tribulation). He saw martyrs crying out to God and asking how much longer they would have to wait for Christ to return and save them. They were told that they would have to wait a little longer until other believers had been tested in the same way.

The sixth seal gave John a further glimpse of what would happen during the Tribulation. There was a great earthquake; the stars of heaven fell to earth; the sun was blackened; and the moon turned red.

Then there was the seventh seal. It appears that the entire seventh chapter represents the seventh seal, although the seal itself is not mentioned until the first verse of the eighth chapter. John said that there was silence in heaven for about half an hour after the last seal had been opened. It is as though all of heaven was left speechless at the conclusion of this powerfully moving "book" or movie.

What happened in the seventh chapter (when the last seal was opened) was that 144,000 "servants of God" were "sealed in their foreheads" in preparation for the coming troubles. Apparently these 144,000 people will grow in numbers during the Great Tribulation, because then John says he saw "a great multitude which no one could number" (Revelation 7:9), and he was told, "These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." (Revelation 7:14)

In chapter seven ("The Missing Week") we talked about this visible restoration of God's people for the last seven years of earth's history. Although these 144,000 people represent God's chosen people, it is a mistake to confuse them with the Jews of today. There were originally twelve tribes of Israel, and the tribe of Judah was only one of them. The Jews get their name from one of two tribes that they represent (Judah and Benjamin). The other tribes no longer exist.

A more complete description of the 144,000 appears in Revelation 14:4-5, where we see that these people are not distinguished by their ancestry so much as by their faith: "These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile; for they are without fault before the throne of God."

There are two key phrases here. One is that these people are guileless. In other words, they are deeply sincere. They want to know the truth at any cost to themselves, and they are prepared to change their lives to conform with the truth.

The other phrase is that they "follow the Lamb wherever he goes". So they are genuine followers of Jesus – not just "professing Christians" who think they are doing well if they go to church on Sunday. Instead, they are honest to goodness obedient Christians.

There is a third phrase describing these people, which we will not go into now. They are described as "virgins", or "unmarried daughters". This feminine term is combined with masculine terms in such a way as to imply that gender is not an important issue in determining membership in this army. There is room for debate over whether the virginity spoken of here is a literal sexual thing or just a form of spiritual commitment.

Reference to the tribes of Israel (just before the book focuses on the Great Tribulation) points us back to Daniel's prophecy and the last seven years for God's people. The Jews were only one of twelve tribes at the time of Christ, but they were still officially "God's people"... until they rejected his Messiah.

This final revelation of God's people will be those who have not rejected his Messiah (or Lamb). These people will be visibly united for seven last years.

*For more information related to this chapter, please check out the following video: Bro Dave Chap. #9 - The End of Organized Religion

Appendix, Chapter 12

Revelation 6:9-17. "When he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held. They cried with a loud voice, saying, "How long, Oh Lord, holy and true, do you not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" White robes were given unto every one of them, and it was said that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brothers that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.

When he had opened the sixth seal, there was a great earthquake. The sun became black as sackcloth of hair. The moon became as blood, and the stars of heaven fell to the earth… and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. The kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him that sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. For the great day of his wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?"

Revelation 7:2-4. "I saw another angel ascending from the East, having the seal of the living God, and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, saying, "Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads." And I heard the number of them which were sealed. There were sealed a hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel."

Revelation 7:9. "After this I beheld and, lo, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations and kindreds and people and tongues, stood before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes and with palms in their hands."

Revelation 7:14. "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."

Revelation 8:1. "When he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour."