Revelation 7: Interlude
- The 144 000
- The Great Multitude
‘Who can stand?’ This is the question that the last chapter has ended with. We saw a picture of the four horsemen devastating the earth, we had intimations of the church being ravaged in martyrdom and the whole earth being judged by God in a terrifying and irresistible judgement. The question on everyone’s mind in the churches receiving this letter would be, what about the church? Chapter 7 is the answer to that question. This chapter is called an interlude by many. In the midst of the storm of judgements between the 6th and 7th seal there is a peaceful eye in the storm where God magnifies His dealings with the apple of His eye. He paints in beautiful pictures the fulfilment of the many promises of protection, keeping and reward for the overcomers.
This chapter is a storm of contention among the different schools of interpretation. The Historicist school sees this chapter as describing God holding back the four winds of the Barbarian horde that would ravage the Roman Empire, as well as the false teaching of Arius and Pelagius after Constantine while He seals and protects the church symbolised by the 144 000 for protection. The Preterist school sees the 144 000 as the Jewish believers who heeded Christ’s warning to flee Judea when the abomination that causes desolation was surrounding Jerusalem. The Great multitude is seen as the many more Gentiles that would be saved than Jews in fulfilment of Is. 54:1. The Futurist school believes that the church is removed from the earth before the Rapture and that the 144 000 are literal Jews in fulfilment of Romans 11:26-32 who then evangelise the world resulting in the great multitude of Gentiles getting saved. According to some Dispensationalists those Gentiles because they missed the rapture will worship before an earthly throne not a heavenly one after their resurrection as second class saints.
Our approach is different and it is a simple one. The book of Revelation has a particular device that is repeated where the Seer hears one thing but when it is unveiled it has a form different to what He heard. In 5:5 one of the elders speaks about the Lion of the tribe of Judah but when Christ is revealed He appears as a slain lamb 5:6. In Revelation 21:9 John is told he will be shown the bride of Christ but in v10 he is shown the New Jerusalem. Likewise we hear 144 000 being sealed 7:4 but then we see a Great multitude 7:9. In every case we have complimentary descriptions of the same reality.
Secondly, we understand that this is the same group in two different position. One the one hand we have the church on earth, the church militant who is engaged in war and is numbered like an army and sealed as God’s possession as a guarantee of being claimed by Him on the day of Redemption Eph. 4:30. Then we have a picture of the same church who has suffered and entered into their victory and rest, the church triumphant as a numberless multitude before God’s throne.