Rev 7:4                      Who Shall Be Able to Stand?                              7/10/2005      ßà   

  • A Step Back in History (Rev 6:17, 7:1-8)

 

 

 

#1.       Who Are These 144,000? (Rev 9:4)

 

 

 

  • Who is the Spiritual Israel? (Matt 2:15, Hos 11:1, Matt 1:21, Rom 2:28-29, Phil 3:3, Rom 9:6-8,11-13, 24-29, 30-33, 10:12, 11:1-5,17,25-27)

 

 

 

 

  • Is There a Future Millennium? (Gal 3:7,28-29, 4:25-26, Rev 2:9, 3:9)

 

 

 

#2.       A Complete Perfect Square (Rev 21:16)

 

 

 

  • Chosen By God (Eph 1:4-5, 2:10, 2Thes 2:13)

 

 

 

#3.       The Sealing of the Saints (Rev 7:3, 2Cor 1:21-22, Eph 1:13, 4:30, Phil 1:6)

 

 

 

  • Perseverance of the Saints (John 10:28-29)

 

 

 

Please open your Bibles to the Revelation of Jesus Christ, Rev 6:17 (2X). Last week we saw that Christ opened the sixth seal of the Book that He had taken out of the right hand of Him that sitteth upon the throne. We expect that Christ would open the seventh seal of the Book. Instead, God shows us:

  • A Step Back in History (Rev 6:17, 7:1-8)

The fifth seal showed us the spiritual, ethical basis for the judgment of the world. The sixth seal showed us the beginning of the judgment of the world and the destruction of the world that is under the curse of sin. And then at the end of Chapter 6 we read in verse 17, “For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” The question is: Who shall be able to stand in the presence of God? That is why the title of the sermon today is, Who Shall Be Able to Stand?” (2X). We find the answer to this question here in Chapter 7. Let us read the first eight verses of this chapter:

Re 7:1 ¶  And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.

Re 7:2  And 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,

Re 7:3-4  Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in (Lit: on) their foreheads.                And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.

Re 7:5  Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand.

Re 7:6  Of the tribe of Asher were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Naphtali were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasseh were sealed twelve thousand.

Re 7:7  Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand.

Re 7:8  Of the tribe of Zebulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.

#1.       Who Are These 144,000? (Rev 9:4)

Who are these “servants of our God”, who will receive a seal of God on their foreheads? There are those who interpret this passage very literally. They claim that God here announces that the Jews, the literal descendants of Jacob, are the only true servants of God, who shall occupy a special place in the economy of God’s redemption plan and who will evangelize the world for a 1000 years. Does God have such a plan? Are there literally only 144,000 servants of God? Certainly not! Only Jehovah’s Witnesses interpret this number literally, and we don’t listen to them. We must remember that almost everything in this prophecy of Revelation is to be taken symbolically. Why should we interpret this passage literally? It does not make sense. God does not have two or three different salvation plans, like one for the OT Jews, and one for the NT Jews, and one for the Gentiles. The servants of God are not limited to these 144,000 Jews. We are also servants of God. Moreover, the sequence on this list of the tribes of Israel is not according to any known order. Judah is mentioned first, and then Reuben. Manasseh, who is a son of Joseph is mentioned in verse 6, whereas Joseph is mentioned in verse 8. And where are the tribes of Ephraim and Dan? Moreover, in Rev 9:4 we meet these sealed ones again and please turn there for a moment. God says in Rev 9:4, “And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads”. The locusts out of the abyss have been let loose, and whom may they hurt? “Only those men which have not the seal of God in (Lit: on) their foreheads”. Now, if these sealed ones are only the 144,000 Jews, then the locusts are going to hurt all the other Christians and only this small fraction of Jews are not going to be hurt. Now, that is an unacceptable proposition if we must believe the rest of the Bible. Moreover, did you know that there are not 12 tribes in the nation of Israel but 13 tribes, because the tribe of Joseph was split into two tribes: Ephraim and Manasseh? Wherever we see the 12 tribes of Israel mentioned, or listed in the Bible, God has left out one tribe and God indicates thereby that we must interpret the passage symbolically, or spiritually. And so, this passage in Rev 7:1-8 certainly tells us that we may not think here of the literal tribes of the nation of Israel, but of the Spiritual Israel. This is the only consistent interpretation of Rev 7. But:

  • Who is the Spiritual Israel? (Matt 2:15, Hos 11:1, Matt 1:21, Rom 2:28-29, Phil 3:3, Rom 9:6-8,11-13, 24-29, 30-33, 10:12, 11:1-5,17,25-27)

Please turn in your Bibles to the Gospel according to Matthew, Matt 2:15 (2X). Did you know that the Lord Jesus Christ is called Israel? Shortly after Jesus was born Herod, the king of Judea, wanted to kill him, for Herod did not want any competition. Joseph was warned in a dream, and Joseph and Mary and Jesus fled into Egypt until the death of Herod. And then we read in Matt 2:15,

Mt 2:15  And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt have I called my son”.

Where in the OT do we find the words that God called His Son out of Egypt? We find it in Hos 11:1,

Ho 11:1  When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt (2X).

If we did not have the commentary from the NT we would think that in Hos 11:1 God was referring to the Exodus of the children of Israel out of Egypt. But that is not so. God gives the Lord Jesus here the name Israel. And since He is the Spiritual Israel, all those who are of the family of Christ are also called the Spiritual Israel. All those in the Spiritual Israel are His people; all those are His servants. Please turn back one page to Matt 1:21 (2X). Before the Lord Jesus was born the Angel of the Lord appeared unto Joseph and gave him the name of the son of Mary. The Angel said to Joseph in Matt 1:21, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins”. All those whom He shall save from their sins, by dying on the cross, are called “His people”. In other words, “His people” does not refer to the Jews, but “His people” refers to everyone of God’s elect for whom the Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died on the cross. If “His people” would refer only to the Jews, then everyone in this congregation would not belong to His people; and you know that this is an unacceptable proposition if we must believe the rest of the Bible. Therefore we are called “His people”, and in God’s terminology we are called “Israel”, and in God’s terminology we are called “Jews”. Please turn about 270 pages to your right (ß) to the Epistle to the Romans, Rom 2:28 (2X). God speaks here in verses 25-27 about who in His terminology are called the “circumcision” and who are called the “uncircumcision”. In God’s terminology the “circumcision” are those who are circumcised in heart, and the “uncircumcision” are those who are still in rebellion against God. Then God says in:

Ro 2:28-29  For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:         But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

And that is altogether consistent with the rest of the Bible, for God says in Phil 3:3, “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh”. Please turn a few pages to your right, to Rom 9:6 (2X). The NT teaches clearly that there is no more a national Israel with special spiritual privileges and with a special way of salvation. Let us see what God writes on this subject matter in Romans chapter 9. In the beginning of Chapter 9 the Apostle Paul expresses his heartfelt grief over his brethren according to the flesh, because they are on the way to Hell. Now if the Jews are all going to be saved, Paul would not be so grieved about them. But if anyone would think that the promises of God had failed, and that He had rejected His people, and that the promises of a great seed, as the sand on the seashore and as the stars of heaven, would not now be realized, since Israel as a nation was now rejected, he would be sorely mistaken. On the contrary! That promise would never be more fulfilled than now, in the days of the NT, if only we make the true distinction between the physical Israel, and the ones whom God in His terminology calls “Israel”, just as God says here in Rom 9:6-8, “Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:        Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.  That is: They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.” Not the fact that they are children of Abraham made them true Israelites, for Ishmael and the children of Keturah were also children of Abraham in that sense, but they are not called Israel. Yet Isaac was the only child of the covenant, for Isaac was the only child of the promise. The same can be said of Jacob and Esau. Esau was a physical descendant of Abraham, but Esau was rejected according to the election of grace. Esau was rejected from the beginning, because God said in Rom 9:11-13, “(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)          It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” Esau was hated by God before the children were born, before they could have done any good or evil.  And so, what made anyone a true Israelite was the fact of election. Spiritual Israel, and not Israel as a nation, must be considered the true Israel. And therefore we must distinguish also in the days of the OT between Israel as a nation and the true Spiritual Israel. The true spiritual people of God were enclosed in Israel as a nation. But now, in the NT, this has been changed. God stated this in Rom 9:24-29. The nation as such has been rejected, and Spiritual Israel, the elect of God, are now gathered from Jews and Gentiles alike. The result is this:

Ro 9:30-31 That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.           But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.

Ro 9:32-33  Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;              As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

Allow me to paraphrase this. The Gentiles, who did not actively pursue to be right with God, did become right with God through the faith which God gave them freely, by His grace. On the other hand, the majority in the nation of Israel who actively pursued to be right with God, did not become right with God, because they did not believe Christ. They had no need for Christ. Instead they pursued to be right with God by obeying the works of the Law, and therefore they stumbled at that stumbling stone, which is Christ, who became to them a rock of offense. Paraphrased, from Rom 10:1-11, we can say that the righteousness which is by faith in Christ Jesus is the main and the only true blessing and characteristic of the people of God, both in the OT as well as in the NT period of time. Therefore, in the days of the NT there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, as we also read in Rom 10:12 (2X), “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.” It simply meant that salvation from the time of the cross was no more confined within the limits of Israel as a nation, but that it became the common property of both the Jews and the Gentiles. Finally, in Chapter 11 the Apostle Paul approaches the question whether Israel is rejected of God in such a way that there is no salvation for them, either for them as a nation or for any individual among them. No! Israel is not rejected in that absolute sense, that no Jew can be saved. On the contrary. Paul was a real Jew, and yet he was saved. And then he quoted from the time of Elijah to prove that even then there was a remnant according to the election of grace, the 7000 who did not bow the knee before Baal. And thus it is also  now, in the days of the NT, that there is a remnant also among the Jews, which certainly will be saved, by the righteousness which is by faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore, here is the situation in the NT era: If Spiritual Israel is likened unto an olive tree, then many branches have been cut out of the olive tree to ensure that Christ will be crucified. For a hardening has come over a part of national Israel. And instead of those branches which have been cut out of the olive tree, other branches have been grafted in, both from the Jews and from the Gentiles. And so all Israel, the true Spiritual Israel, shall be saved. When the fulness of the Gentiles have been grafted into the olive tree, and the fulness of the Jews have been also grafted upon that same olive tree, then all Israel shall have been saved. Let me summarize what we have learned so far in this study of Who is the Spiritual Israel?

#1, True Israel in the OT as well as in the NT periods of time is not carnal, but the Spiritual Israel.

#2, The nation as such has served its purpose; true Israel is now gathered from Jews and Gentiles.

#3, There is no difference between Jew and Gentile in the present dispensation. They can be saved only in the same Christ and by the same righteousness, which is by faith. In Christ there is no Jew or Greek. All nations are on the same plain at the foot of the cross.

Therefore, when we need to interpret a passage, like Rev 7:5-8, where apparently one nation is favored over all the other nations of the world, then the only principle that is in agreement with the Scriptures is that there is no such thing in the NT time as a special nation with special privileges over and above the other nations of the world. And so, the question that many have right now is this:

  • Is There a Future Millennium? (Gal 3:7,28-29, 4:25-26, Rev 2:9, 3:9)

From Rom 11 please turn about 50 pages to your right (ß) to the Epistle to the Galatians, Gal 3:7 (2X). Is there a future glorious 1000 years when the entire world will be evangelized by Jews, because Christ has come down and is reigning from Jerusalem? The answer is: NO! The Jews do not have special favors over all the non-Jews. All believers are called children of Abraham, since we all have the faith like that of our father Abraham. We read in Gal 3:7, “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham”. They which are of faith are not only the children of Abraham, but are also the children of God, the Bride of Christ, and the true Israel. And the number of true believers is not increasing in time, but is decreasing at an alarming rate, until at the time of Christ’s return the fraction of true believers of mankind will be as small as at the time of Noah, or as at the time of Lot. And when the last of God’s elect will have been saved, the end will come. God does not have a higher regard for Jewish Christians over Gentile Christians. Please drop down to verse 28. There we r:

Ga 3:28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

Ga  3:29  And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

You see, Jewish Christians should not claim that they are “more complete Christians” than other Christians who do not descend from Jewish parents. God says in John 1:13, “Not of blood”, which means, it does not depend on your bloodline. The Lord Jesus Christ is called the seed of Abraham. But look at the honor Christ bestows on us: If we belong to Christ, then we are also called Abraham’s seed, or children of Abraham, according to the promise. Please turn the page to Gal 4:25 (2X). In Gal 4 God shows us an allegory which involves Sarah and Isaac, versus Hagar and Ishmael. We read in Gal 4:25,

Ga 4:25  For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.

Ga 4:26  But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.

This Epistle was written before Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD. “Jerusalem which now is” refers to the city inhabited by the unconverted Jews, there East of the Mediterranean. They think that they are descendants of Sarah. But the irony of it all is this: God associates them with Hagar, the bondwoman, who associates with Sinai, where the Law was given, which leads to bondage; it is the bondage of being bound for Hell, because no one can be saved through obeying the Law. On the other hand Sarah is associated with “Jerusalem which is above”, which is free, because all those who belong to Christ have been set free from their obligation to pay for their sins. All those who belong to Christ are citizens of “Jerusalem which is above”. Let us now return to the Revelation of Jesus Christ, chapter 7. If in the light of Scripture we study this wonderful prophecy of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, we find that God never speaks of Israel in the literal and carnal sense of the word. When God speaks of Jerusalem, He either refers to the apostate church, which crucifies the Christ, or God refers to Jerusalem which is above, which is the Bride of Christ in glory. Jerusalem, Israel, Zion, all these are not used in the literal sense of the word, but always in the symbolical sense. God takes it even so far that He speaks of those who claim that they are Jews merely because they are physical descendants of Abraham, as those of the synagogue of Satan, in Rev 2:9, and Rev 3:9. Therefore we maintain that also Rev 7 must be understood in the symbolical sense of the word. Israel is the church of the new dispensation. The only question still remaining is this: How must we conceive of this church according to this passage in Rev 7:1-8? Obviously, the numbers in this passage must lead us to the answer. And what we see here is:

#2.       A Complete Perfect Square (Rev 21:16)

John heard the number 144,000. And why the number 12,000 out of every tribe? God arranged it so that 12 is multiplied by 12, which makes 144. Twelve is the number of God’s people on earth from the point of view of their free salvation. And so, 12x12 is pointing to the dwelling place of God in the souls of His saints here on earth. But when we look at the dimensions of the New Jerusalem, we see a third dimension: 12000x12000x120000. It means that in the new creation we can look forward to a dwelling place of God with men, which will have an added dimension to it. We read in Rev 21:16, “And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.” We have no idea what this added dimension might be, for the nature of the new creation remains a mystery to us. But the number 144,000 in Rev 7:4 also contains the factor 10, in that it is multiplied by 10x10x10. This is a perfect cube. Where have we seen this before? And then we remember that the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle in the wilderness had the dimension of 10 cubits long, 10 cubits wide and 10 cubits high. This was the place where the Ark of the Covenant found its resting place. God chose to dwell in this space of 10x10x10 in a special way. Again, when we consider the number that symbolizes the Body of Christ on this earth where Christ dwells in the souls of the saints, 144000, we see that it consists of 12x12x10x10x10. And all the numbers are pointing to a dwelling place of Christ. It is a number that indicates completion and perfection, indicating that 144,000 is a symbol for the perfection of the complete body of believers. And then we realize how God used the number 12 in the Bible: Twelve patriarchs, the twelve sons of Jacob, Christ chose twelve Apostles and the number of elders before the throne is two times twelve, 12 for the OT church and 12 for the NT church. And so, here upon earth the church, both in the OT and in the NT appears under the symbol of the number twelve. Moreover, 12x12, or 144, is the symbol of the church of God from the viewpoint of their reconciliation to God through His free grace. What do we understand by the free grace of God? It is to be:

  • Chosen By God (Eph 1:4-5, 2:10, 2Thes 2:13)

Please turn in your Bibles to the Epistle to the Ephesians, Eph 1:4 (2X). The free grace of God is given to dead sinners, who are unable to do anything pleasing in the sight of God. The free grace of God is given to us freely, not based on anything we would do, not based on our response to the hearing of the Gospel, but entirely according to the good pleasure of God’s will. We read about this free grace of God in Eph 1, and especially in verses 4 and 5,

Eph 1:4  According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

Eph 1:5  Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,

The Father chose us before the foundation of the world. Why would anyone object to such a display of the sovereignty of Almighty God? Before the foundation of the world the Father chose a Bride for His Son. What is so bad about that? Of course, that is not bad at all, but it takes away all our self-respect and all our high ideas about our inherent goodness. There is no such thing. Only those who are stuck in their pride will object to such a sovereign display of God’s own will. But the Bible says that God made us for His own purposes. Please drop down to Eph 2:10 (2X), and there we read,

Eph 2:10  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Is believing on the Lord Jesus Christ a good work? Yes indeed! Is calling upon the Name of the Lord a good work? Absolutely! These are the first movements of a soul that was made alive to God. We also read in the 2nd Epistle to the Thessalonians 2:13,

2Th 2:13 ¶  But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:

God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation. For this we give God thanks. Remember that He could have chosen someone else instead of you. And then He sealed you. What is:

#3.       The Sealing of the Saints? (Rev 7:3, 2Cor 1:21-22, Eph 1:13, 4:30, Phil 1:6)

Please turn in your Bibles to the 2nd Epistle to the Corinthians, 2Cor 1:21 (2X). We read in Rev 7:3, “Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in (Lit: on) their foreheads”. What is implied in the sealing of these 144,000? It is a mark that is placed upon something, or upon someone, with the purpose of adding security and safeguarding that thing or that person on whom the seal is placed. For example, a business man would seal a certain part of his property to mark his ownership and to safeguard it against robbery. A book was sealed when its contents had to be kept secret, to safeguard it against being opened by improper parties. We also read about the sealing of the saints in 2Cor 1:21-22,

2Co 1:21  Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God;

2Co 1:22  Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.

We also read about this sealing of the saints in Eph 1:13,

Eph 1:13  In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

And once more, we read in Eph 4:30,

Eph 4:30  And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

What all these passages indicate is that the saints are sealed by the Holy Spirit. It is a spiritual mark which is placed upon them, which safeguards them against attacks. The Holy Spirit changes the subjects of Satan into subjects of Christ. He it is who brings them to regeneration, to faith, to justification , and to sanctification. Their ownership can never be changed again. In short, the idea of this sealing is the same as that of the perseverance of the saints. Once having come to the faith, one remains a believer. And that is not because we are so faithful, or because we are so strong in our selves, but because the work He has begun within us, in our hearts, has the nature of a seal which can never be erased. God says in Phil 1:6,

Php 1:6  Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

And so, what more can we say about the:

  • Perseverance of the Saints? (John 10:28-29)

Please turn in your Bibles to  the Gospel according to John 10, John 10:28 (2X). Perhaps you remember that in Rev 7 something dreadful was going to happen. It is a time of tribulation in which these people must bear that seal. The angels are the servants of God who must execute the judgment of Christ. The winds which they hold are the evil powers which presently will be set loose upon the earth. The saints are made safe, so that they will not be hurt by these evil circumstances. But how must we understand them being safe? It does not mean that the people of God do not suffer. We will endure the same suffering, or perhaps more suffering, than the unsaved do, but spiritually we will not be shaken by these events. Spiritually we are sealed for all eternity. Our destiny is made sure. God speaks to our comfort here in John 10:28,

Joh 10:28-29  And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.    My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.

Therefore, when we asked the question in the beginning of this sermon, “Who Shall Be Able to Stand?” we can now confidently answer, “All those who are sealed unto the day of their redemption shall not fall away”. Be not afraid of all that is still to come. The Lord is our possessor, and He has sealed us against the evil day.                        

AMEN.                 Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.