The Book of  REVELATION
James J. Barker


Lesson 13
PEOPLE SAVED DURING THE TRIBULATION — PART 1

Text: REVELATION 7:1-17


INTRODUCTION


  1. In Revelation chapter 6, we saw that six of the seven seals were opened, and the wrath of God was poured out upon the earth.
  2. The seventh seal will be opened in Revelation chapter 8.  Before the breaking of the seventh seal, we come to this parenthetical section in chapter 7, which deals with people who are saved during the tribulation.
  3. Two major groups of tribulation saints are mentioned in this chapter: the 144,000 from the twelve tribes of Israel (7:4), and "a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues" (7:9).
  4. I use the term "saints" because that is what they are called here in the book of Revelation.  There is no mention of the church after Revelation chapter 3, but many people will be saved during the tribulation, and they are referred to as "saints" (cf. 5:8; 8:3, 4; 11:18; 13:7, 10; 14:12; 15:3; 16:6; 17:6; 18:24; 19:8).
  5. In contrast to Revelation chapter 6 which gives the chronological sequence of the major events of the great tribulation, chapter 7 does not advance the narrative but gives us information regarding these two major groups of saints in the tribulation.
  6. The opening portion of the chapter pictures 144,000 saved Israelites who will minister on earth during the great tribulation. The latter part of the chapter describes this great multitude of martyred dead in heaven. They are believers who died as a testimony to their faith from every kindred, tongue, and nation, and they are pictured before the throne of God in heaven (7:9).

 

I. WHO WILL BE SAVED AFTER THE RAPTURE?

  1. People often ask, "Who will be saved after the rapture?"  Many are puzzled because of the fascinating prophecies of II Thessalonians 2.
  2. The Scriptures clearly indicate that a great multitude of both Jews and Gentiles will trust in the Lord after the rapture of the church.
  3. The question is often asked how people can be saved during the tribulation if the Holy Spirit (the One who now restrains sin, according to II Thessalonians 2:7) is taken out of the world.
  4. The answer to that question is that the Holy Spirit is God, and God is omnipresent.  The Holy Spirit will be removed from the world in the same sense in which He came on the day of Pentecost.
  5. In other words, the church age began with the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and it will end at the rapture.
  6. People were saved before the day of Pentecost, and people will be saved after the rapture.
  7. Some mistakenly believe that no one was indwelt by the Holy Spirit or filled with the Holy Spirit before the day of Pentecost but that is not true.
  8. For example, John 20:22 says our Lord breathed on the disciples, and said unto them, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost."  That was before our Lord ascended into heaven, and therefore before the day of Pentecost.
  9. Luke 1:15 says John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Ghost, "even from his mother's womb."
  10. Luke 1:41 and 1:67 say his mother Elisabeth and his father Zacharias were also filled with the Holy Ghost.
  11. There are several Old Testament examples also.  Exodus 31:1-3 says, "And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: And I have filled him with the spirit of God..."
  12. The ministry of the Holy Spirit changed on the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit of God came to permanently indwell the church.  This was a fulfillment of John 14:16 and 17.  Jesus said, "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you."
  13. However, the Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit has always been in the world and always will be.   Way back in Genesis 1:2 we read, "And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."
  14. According to the Bible, certain ministries which are characteristic of our present dispensation will cease because the church will be raptured, but there will be the continued ministry of the Holy Spirit in a similar way to that which existed before the day of Pentecost.
  15. John Walvoord says, "When the present age ends and the Holy Spirit is caught up with the church, the situation will return to that which was true before the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit will continue to be working in the world, but in some particulars in a different way. There is good reason to believe, however, that the Holy Spirit will lead people to Christ, and many will be saved during the tribulation time. A description of this is given in the seventh chapter of the book of Revelation, which is so plain that no one should question whether people will be saved after the rapture" (The Revelation of Jesus Christ).

 

II. THE SEALING OF THE 144,000 (7:1-8)

  1. John sees four angels holding the four winds of the earth (7:1). Holding the four winds means God is holding back His judgment.  Verse 3 tells us why.
  2. The Bible employs the language of appearance (7:1).
  3. In verse 2, John sees another angel, "ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God."
  4. This angel commands the other four angels not to hurt the earth and the sea until the "servants" of God (the 144,000) are sealed in their foreheads (7:2, 3).
  5. What we see here is the Lord is going to set apart and protect His 144,000 servants before He moves in judgment (7:3).
  6. In the verses which follow, 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes of Israel are protected by this "seal of the living God" (7:2).
  7. These men who are sealed will be saved and supernaturally set apart as a special divine remnant to be a testimony to Godís grace and mercy during the coming tribulation, this terrible time of judgment.
  8. In chapter 6, we read that the judgment has already begun with the opening of the first six seals.  However, chapter 7 is parenthetical and does not advance the narrative.  God is showing us that multitudes will be saved during the coming tribulation period.
  9. Regarding the divine protection of the 144,000, there are many other instances in Scripture, when God set aside and protected His people from impending destruction.
  10. For example, when God sent the flood upon the earth, He separated Noah and his family from the rest of the human race, and the flood did not hurt them.
  11. Before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot and his wife and his two daughters were told to flee.  The angel said to Lot, "Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither" (Gen. 19:22).
  12. When God destroyed Jericho, He protected Rahab the harlot and her household.  Though Rahab was a pagan harlot, she had put her trust in the God of Israel, and so God protected her from the judgment that fell upon Jericho.
  13. In a similar way in the time of the great tribulation, protection will be given to this group of 144,000 Israelites.

 

III. THE 144,000 ARE JEWS FROM THE TWELVE TRIBES

  1. Based upon their erroneous interpretation of Revelation 7, the Jehovahís Witnesses teach that only 144,000 people will go to heaven.
  2. They say that God chose these 144,000 individuals, and their number was completed in the year 1935.  Furthermore, they teach that only faithful Jehovahís Witnesses were chosen for this special group.
  3. Faithful Jehovahís Witnesses not chosen to be among the 144,000 (by this they mean those who joined the Watchtower organization after 1935) will have to spend eternity on earth.  They cannot go to heaven.
  4. Spending eternity here on earth could be a problem since II Peter 3:10 says "the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up."
  5. Revelation 21:1 says, "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away."
  6. There are many other problems with the JW interpretation.  For example, Revelation 7:9 says, "a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne..."  This throne is in heaven.  The "great multitude, which no man could number..." will be in heaven, not on earth, because God's throne is in heaven (cf. 4:1, 2; 5:1; etc.).
  7. The Jehovah's Witnesses claim they are the 144,000 servants, but Revelation 7:4 says the 144,000 are from "the tribes of the children of Israel."
  8. Also, the 144,000 will be male virgins (cf. 14:1-5).
  9. Furthermore, the names of the tribes and the number to be saved from each tribe are given in great detail (7:4-8).
  10. The JW's say that we should not take the Bible so literally.  But when people move away from a literal interpretation (like Mr. Camping, for example), they get into great confusion, and "God is not the author of confusion" (I Cor. 14:33).
  11. The golden rule of interpretation is: "When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studies in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise. God in revealing His Word neither intends nor permits the reader to be confused. He wants His children to understand" (David L. Cooper).
  12. In this case, "the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense."  They will be literally 144,000 Israelites sealed by God during the coming tribulation.
  13. Revelation 7 reveals that the twelve tribes of Israel are still in existence, and the names of the different tribes are given.
  14. However, there are some differences and some omissions. In some lists of the twelve tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh (the two sons of Joseph), are numbered as separate tribes.
  15. In this list Manasseh is mentioned but his brother Ephraim is not, and in place of Ephraim the name of Joseph his father is given in Revelation 7:8.
  16. Interestingly, no mention is made of the tribe of Dan, and no explanation is given for the omission. Some Bible teachers say the tribe of Dan is not mentioned because Dan was the first tribe to go into idolatry.
  17. However, Dan is named first in the distribution of the land in the millennial kingdom, which will immediately follow the tribulation (Ezek. 48:1, 2).
  18. Though Jews today do not normally know what tribe they belong to, God certainly knows. The idea that the church is the true Israel (so-called "replacement theology") is not taught in Scripture, and in Scripture the word Israel is never used in reference to Gentiles.
  19. In the Bible, the word "Israel" refers only to those who are literal descendants of Israel (or Jacob), as we see here in Revelation 7.
  20. The mention of the twelve tribes of Israel is likewise a refutation of the idea that the tribes of Israel are lost, as well as of the ridiculous theory that the lost tribes are perpetuated in the English-speaking people of the world ("British-Israelism").
  21. "Obviously none of the tribes are lost as far as God is concerned. Though genealogies have been lost, a modern Jew can be assured that he belongs to the seed of Abraham; and God knows into which tribe he should be classified" (John Walvoord).
  22. James 1:1 refers to the twelve tribes of Israel as being in existence at the time he wrote his epistle. James addresses his letter "to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad."
  23. The Bible teaches that God has a future purpose for Israel and that in spite of satanic persecution a godly remnant will be preserved on earth when Christ returns.   Revelation 12 describes the satanic persecution.
  24. There will be other Israelites saved in addition to these 144,000.  The 144,000 will be a select group of preachers and soulwinners supernaturally protected by God during the tribulation.  These men could even be alive right now.
  25. Regarding the other Jews saved besides these 144,000, undoubtedly many of them will die martyrsí deaths and give up their lives for their faith.
  26. The 144,000 are those who will be delivered from their persecutors and brought safely through this terrible time of tribulation. In Revelation 14:1, they are seen standing with the Lord on Mount Zion.
  27. Since the Lord is with them, the prophecy in Revelation 14 will probably be fulfilled at the end of the tribulation when Christ returns.

 

CONCLUSION:

  1. In his book, We Can Have Revival Now, John R. Rice refers to the great revival that will take place during the tribulation, and that is recorded in Revelation 7.
  2. "In this blessed revival to come and spread over the whole earth during the reign of the Antichrist, during the tribulation period itself, when true preachers and Christians will have been carried away in the rapture, to Heaven, and the churches will have been taken over by unbelievers, and when it may mean death to turn to Christ -- then uncounted multitudes that no man can number from every nation and kindred and tongue and tribe will turn to God. What a revival! Nothing less than millions could be meant by these terms, 'a . . . multitude, which no man could number.' Past counting will be the converts in the marvelous revival yet to come in the Great Tribulation.  The Great Tribulation revival, so clearly prophesied in Revelation 7:9-14, proves that the day of great revivals is not passed, shows that the greatest revivals are yet to come.  And this blessed revival also proves that whatever the outward distress, God's people can seek His face and have His power. Whatever the human limitations, we can have revival. We can have revival when it means persecution and death for Christians. We can have revival when the government is wicked and anti-Christian. We can have revival when modernism is everywhere in the saddle. We can have revival, provided God's faithful few pay God's price and have His mighty power! Thank God for this wonderful revival when such multitudes will be saved in every nation of the world that they will be uncountable! Thank God for the 144,000 Israelites saved to witness for Christ in that period, but thank God still more for the multitudes, the uncountable multitudes, to be saved in every nation, saved among every heathen tribe, every language and dialect. What a revival God will give in the tribulation time!" (We Can Have Revival Now).


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