The judgment on the earth is stopped so that the seal of the Lamb can be placed on the foreheads of the 144,000. The seal of the Lamb on their foreheads symbolizes the fact that all of their thoughts, purposes and will have been given to and focused upon the Lamb; Jesus Christ. These are the ones, who have been redeemed, but what of the number? So much has been written on it, surely enough to make anyone’s head spin. Yet the answer is really quite simple; it is found in the number itself… and we’ve already covered it. The number 12 and multiples of 12 symbolize God’s people. There are 12 tribes, 12 disciples, 12 apostles, and around the throne of God are 24 elders. 12 X 12 x 1,000 = 144,000. Remember that 1,000 is a multiple of 10 and means a large and definite number. Thus 144,000 is the large and definite number of the entirety of the redeemed. Verses 5 through 8 indicate there are 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes, which add up to the same thing.
The forehead symbolizes the center of our thoughts, so placing a seal on the forehead symbolizes where the thoughts are focused.
The Multitude of Heaven
The scene shifts again suddenly, and this time we once again are in God’s throne room, but this time the entire multitude of the redeemed are surrounding the throne along with the ones who were there before. The redeemed offer their worship to God in verse 10, and the host of angels in verse 12. Then a funny thing happens, one of the elders strikes up a conversation with John, asking him who all those people were. John coyly replies telling him that he knows already; a little cheeky I’d say. Then the elder continues: “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb… With this, we can be certain that we have the scene figured correctly. Yet there is one thing that jumps out: they who have come out of the great tribulation. Once again we have something about which so much ink has been spilled: The Great Tribulation. Looking at our vision from the beginning in 4:1 we do see tribulation, and lots of it, particularly with those horsemen. The Gospel rode forth, and the powers of this world did everything possible to stop it by violence, but God only allowed it for so long, and then He acted.
The period of time covered in this vision is the period of time from the arrival of Jesus into heaven after His ascension and His return to earth for judgment. This world is the great tribulation, we live in it now, just as John did when this was written; it is why he was in exile. It is also why we see beheading videos on the internet. The scene John was looking at here in these verses is after the tribulation of our era is over, in eternity.
Even so, the elder had more to say, this time in one of those songs that come at the end of a vision and interpret it for us. Let’s see if we have it right.
“they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
will shelter them with his presence.
‘Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne
will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”
These quotes from Isaiah tell us that we are indeed correct in our understanding; we are looking at the redeemed after the final judgment in heaven in this scene; It is finished.
The only problem is, there’s one more seal!
When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. (8:1)
When the seventh and final seal is opened, there is silence, thus the full revelation of the scroll ends in silence. As always, there are many thoughts on this… here’s mine:
There isn’t a direct parallel in Old or New Testament, but there is in Jewish writings of the intertestamental period. According to 2 Baruch 3:7 the universe was originally silent: “Will the universe return to its nature and the world go back to its original silence?” 4 Ezra adds:
And I said, O Lord, thou spakest from the beginning of the creation, even the first day, and saidst thus; Let heaven and earth be made; and thy word was a perfect work. And then was the spirit, and darkness and silence were on every side; the sound of man’s voice was not yet formed. ( 4 Ezra 6:38-39)
Before the chaos, churning, striving and tumult of this world, there was silence in the creation. It would also appear that Ezra saw a return to silence after the end of this age, before God recreated the universe as His eternal kingdom:
After these years shall my son Christ die, and all men that have life. And the world shall be turned into the old silence seven days, like as in the former judgments: so that no man shall remain. And after seven days the world, that yet awaketh not, shall be raised up, and that shall die that is corrupt (4 Baruch 7:29-31)
While I’m not entirely satisfied that this evidence is conclusive, there does seem to be a similarity between this and Rev. 8:1. Here’s why I think so: In the very beginning, all was quiet in Creation, for there was the absence of everything that brings about noise, for the world was perfect and harmonious between God and His Creation. Along with so many other things, that changed after sin enters into the picture. In Rev. 8:1, sin is gone for good along with its effects, and God and redeemed Mankind are once again in complete harmony. Remember, these are all symbols, not literal things, and in that sense, I believe that John is trying to convey a message of a retune to the way it was before sin. Will it be that this is indicative of a lull between the final judgment, the arrival of all of the redeemed in heaven, but before the new heaven and the new earth? Maybe, and maybe we will gain some clarification as we continue in Revelation that will answer that question for us.
Next time, we’ll pick up with 8:2 and a new vision.