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Sealing the Israel of God

21 Jul
Israel of God

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The sealing of the one hundred and forty-four thousand in Revelation, chapter 7, has been a point of interest to many Bible students throughout church history. In fact, some even interpret this group of believers to point to their own denomination, believing they are the most faithful of the faithful. The predominant view, however, is that the number is symbolic of a complete group of disciples of Christ with none missing. Yet, even this point of view is divided into two interpretations. The first explanation is that the group is made up of only believing Jews, i.e. the complete group of Jews with none missing, while the second understanding includes gentiles, pointing to the spiritual understanding of the Israel of God in the New Testament (Romans 2:28-29; 9:6-7).

After breaking the first six seals of the book, which was in the right hand of Jesus, John saw four angels who sat upon the four corners of the earth (Revelation 7:1). These angels are the first four angels who would blow the first four of seven trumpets, which constitute the seventh seal of the book in the right hand of Jesus, who is sitting on the Throne (cf. Revelation 8:1, 6). They are holding back the winds or their breath from blowing their trumpets.

Many Bible students believe the four corners of the earth point to the four directions of the globe: north, south, east and west. However, I believe the four corners in the context of Jesus’ judgments constitute the borders of the land of the Jews in Judea and Galilee. John probably saw the angels on the four corners of the Altar of Sacrifice or the Bronze Altar, which, perhaps, stand for the borders of Israel (cf. Ezekiel 7:2), or the prayers of the people of God within those borders. The four winds, or the first four of the seven angel trumpeters, brought four specific judgments upon the land of the Jews that would signal its destruction (Revelation 7:2).

Next, John saw an angel who ascended out of the east (Revelation 7:2), which may mean east of the Throne. This angel may be the one who came and stood before the Altar of Incense, whose censor contained the prayers of the saints (Revelation 8:3; cf. Revelation 6:9-10). If this is so, then the Angel is Jesus, ministering out of his office as High Priest. In any event, this one spoke to the four angels standing on the four corners of the earth (cf. Revelation 7:1), and told them not to permit the winds of destruction to blow upon the earth, until the servants of the Lord were sealed in their foreheads (Revelation 7:3).

This sealing alludes to the exodus of Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 12:7, 12-13), which, if true, would indicate a second exodus was commanded by God at this point. However, this exodus would not come out of any nation or even come out of the world but, rather, out from under the influence of the world and into Christ (John 15:19; cf. 17:6, 15; 1Corinthians 5:10). The Lord told Moses to have the people “gird up their loins” at the time of their exodus out of Egypt (Exodus 12:11). Jesus commanded his disciples to gird up their loins, while they awaited his coming (Luke 12:35), and this seems to point to a second exodus out of what was spiritually called Egypt, i.e. Jerusalem, the place where Jesus was crucified (Revelation 11:8). The Exodus was not literal, of course, but Jesus’ disciples were to come out from under the influence of the Jewish faith.

The rabbis understood that there would be a second exodus during the days of the Messiah, based upon Jeremiah 23:7-8, where it is said the Lord would lead his people out of the north country.[1] Moreover, it was also believed that just as the children of Israel wandered for 40 years in the wilderness, so, too, the days of the Messiah would last 40 years:

  1. Eliezer said: The days of the Messiah will last forty years, as it is written, Forty years long shall I take hold of the generation.[2]

Notice that the context of the reference to the forty years (cf. Psalm 95:10-11) is that the Lord would be displeased with Israel during that period of time, and it is to this forty years that they refer, calling them the days of the Messiah. This places the context of Psalm 95:10-11 to the time of the preaching of the Gospel between Pentecost in 31 AD to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD.

Finally, John heard that the number of those who were sealed was 144000, which is a perfect number: 12 x 12 x 10 x 10 x 10, or the square of 12 multiplied by the product of 10 cubed. It represents the whole of the children of God—all of the elect of Israel, indicated by the 12 tribes mentioned (Revelation 7:4-8).

Although those who were sealed were Jews, according to Revelation 7:5-8, the New Testament claims that all those who say they are physical Jews aren’t really Jews in the spiritual sense (Romans 2:28-29; cf. Galatians 6:15-16; Revelation 2:9). Nevertheless, the Scriptures also say that in Christ there is neither Jew, nor Greek, male nor female, bond nor free (Galatians 3:28). Therefore, if we retain this context in the Apocalypse, and if we do not, we would contradict Scripture (John 10:35), then those who are sealed are not only Jews, but gentiles, as well. The whole of the Israel of God are included in this sealing.

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[1] Babylonians Talmud: Berachaoth 12b

[2] Babylonian Talmud: Sanhedrin 99a

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2019 in Apocalypse, Book of Revelation

 

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