At the breaking of the sixth seal, the universe is darkened and the Earth frozen. There was no permanent destruction to the Sun, Moon and Stars. There are some that assign permanent destruction to the Sun, Moon and Stars at the breaking of the sixth seal. It is only by ignoring textual details and maximizing similarities between the sixth seal, the fourth trumpet and fourth bowl that one can make a case against limited cessation of light during the breaking of the sixth seal. At the outpouring of the fourth bowl judgment, the Sun scotched men severely with great heat, they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues, and they repented not to give Him glory(Rev.16:8,9). This implies there was no permanent destruction to the Sun, Moon and Stars at the breaking of the sixth seal. Whatever happened at the breaking of the sixth seal was limited in duration. It is the appearance of The Son Of Man in the heavens, the Shekinah, to seal His servants and rescue the saints that would dispel the darkness and defrost the Earth.
The Avenging Angels( 1).
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 any tree.
After these things is a phrase and a popular formula that John uses to introduce another unit of vision or material. It indicates a new sequence, but not necessarily a new time factor. There are four angels. We are not told who they are, their rank or regalia. They are avenging angels. They are playing a restraining role now until the servants of God are sealed. Thereafter the Earth shall be reaped. They are certainly amongst the angelic reapers. They hold the four winds of the Earth. They are high ranking and powerful to hold the four winds of the Earth. They are controlling angels. They are positioned at the four corners of the Earth. That means they control the whole Earth. The significance of their position lies in the fact that they control the whole Earth, the Sea and the Trees. The four winds of the Earth indicate the fours cardinal points, East, West, North and South( Jer.49:36; Eze.37:9; Dan.7:2; 8:8 & 11:4). They are holding the four winds in order that the wind would not blow on the whole Earth. This is the purpose of the restraining angels. They are holding back the wind. We are not told why the winds needs to be restrained, but the implication is danger. If the wind is let lose, it would cause great destruction on the Earth. They are going to let it lose anyway, but only after the servants of God has been sealed in their foreheads. Therefore only those who are divinely protected would be safe from the blowing wind.
The Sealing Angel(2 & 3).
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, saying hurt not the Earth, neither the Sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
Here another angel is introduced. He is ascending from the East, the rising of the Sun. Again we are not told who he is nor his rank or regalia. But he has the seal of God. He must be a high ranking angel to bear the seal of God. We are not told what this seal looks like; it is not explicitly defined but is God’s seal. We are not told what the sealing is for. But seals generally are for authentication, identification, ownership and protection. It was given the four previously introduced angels to hurt the Earth. Therefore they are avenging angels. But must play a restraining role until the servants of God are sealed in their foreheads. In verse 3, the sealing angel calls on the four avenging angels not to hurt the Earth, the Sea, and the Trees till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. It is stated explicitly the Earth, the Sea and the Trees are about to be hurt by the wrath of God; this must not be done until the servants of God have been sealed for protection. Why must the Earth itself, the Sea and the Trees be hurt. Is this an undeserved wrath? When Adam fell so did the whole Earth. The whole creation groaneth and travaileth together in pain until….(Rom.8:18-22). The whole creation locked in perpetual fallen state is about to begin its journey to rebirth. Like its redeemer, The Christ, it must suffer before its ultimate freedom. To be cleansed from the defilement of Sin, it must be salted with fire.
The sealing process itself is done by multiple number of angels. This is quite understandable considering the number to be sealed. We do not know the exact number of angels involved. The sealing is to prevent harm. The people sealed are called “sunduloi,” that is slaves or bond-servants. This term is used of believers also. But it is not clear here whether these bond-servants have the same relationship as we have with Christ today.
“And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed a hundred and forty and four thousand of the tribes of the children of Israel. Of the tribe of Judah were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe Asher were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Naphlatlim were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Menasses were sealed twelve thousand. 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. Of the tribe of Zebulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of true tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.”
Of the children of Israel were sealed twelve thousand from each of the twelve tribes. The total is 144,000. Why twelve thousand were chosen from each of the twelve tribes, we are not told. In Hebrew numerology and gematria, 12 can be broken down to 10 and 2. Ten is the number of completeness and 2 is that of unity. Behold how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. It is like the previous ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aharon’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garment; as the dew of Hermon; as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore(Ps 133:1-3). Two cannot work together except they be agreed(Amos 3:3). Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift his fellow: buth woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. If one prevail against him, two shall withstand him. If two lie together, they have heat; but how can one be warm alone(Eccl.4:9-22a). It is not good for man to be alone; I will make him a help meet for him( Gen.2:18). Ten itself can be broken down to 7 and 3. Seven is the divine number of perfection and 3 stands for the Trinity and love. Besides, a three gold cord is now easily broken(Eccl.4:12b). Thousand stands for multitude. We do not dare suggest that the number is more than 144,000. But it may be representative, a kind of firstfruits of the children of Israel. In chapter 14, they stand with the Lamb on Mount Zion. They are redeemed from the Earth. They are not defiled with women. They are virgins. They follow the Lamb wherever He goeth. They were the only ones on Earth who could sing the new song sang by the redeemed in Heaven(Rev. 14:1-5). Obviously they are not believers in Jesus as we are today, else would they be raptured with the multitude which no one could number. They were sealed for protection. They were initially secluded in the rose red city of Petra, the Judean wilderness and perhaps in Jerusalem, in cellars and underground basements and bonkers, from where they were rescued, by the Lamb and taken to Mount Zion, where He reclaimed God’s rule over the Earth at the sounding of the 7th trumpet and the surviving remnants of Israel reconciled to God shortly before.
We see that Dan is omitted from the list, and Joseph is included. It is speculated that this is so because Dan was given to idolatry. They forcefully took the idol from the house of Micah(Judges 17). When the kingdom divided after the death Solomon, Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, set his idols in Bethel and Dan(1 Kings 12:25-30). Even in NT times, the whole area of Dan was given to Idolatry. The Greek god of Pan was worshipped in Dan. The shrine is there to this day at Banias at the foot of the the Hermon.
The right of primogeniture belonged Reuben, but he lost it when he engaged in incestus relation with his father’s concubine(Gen.35:22; 49:3-4). Judah, thou art the one thy brethren shall praise(Gen.49:7-12). So leadership went to Judah. But the double portion of the firstborn went to Joseph for his faithfulness(Gen.48:5,15-22). Jacob adopted his two grandchildren, Ephraim and Menasses . What is not clear here is why Joseph is mentioned instead of Ephraim. The double portion of Joseph is in Ephraim and Menasseh. Menasseh is mentioned, and Ephraim replaced with his father Joseph, which I consider somewhat redundant and tautological. But the revelator told us what he heard and saw. Ephraim was probably omitted beacuse of idolatry in the ten northern tribes with which it was synonymous. Levi was included, so also Simeon. Remember their terrible anger in wiping out the people of Shechem, in the matter of their sister Dinah(Gen.34;49:5-7). Their father Jacob promised to scatter them in Israel. But Levi redeemed himself when he killed his brethren when they were joined to idols in Baalpeor(Ex.32:26-28). Nevertheless his inheritance was scattered amongst the other tribes when he received the priesthood instead of the firstborn from every tribe. Simeon never redeemed himself. His inheritance was within the territory of Judah. In the millennium, in the new land grants, Dan shall be given a portion, so also Simeon. The priests, the sons of Zadok, and the Levites shall haven their portion in the vicinity of the millennial temple in Jerusalem(Eze. 37 & 38).
The Multitude Which No One Could Number(9 & 10).
“After this I beheld, and, lo, a multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindred, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, salvation to our God who sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb.”
After this is a phrase John uses to introduce another unit of vision. In this unit of vision John saw an innumerable multitude. This a metaphor. It indicates that this group of people is a very large crowd. The Greek literally says much or many group. This however does not mean this group cannot be counted. Given time and resources one could count them. Unlike the previous group consisting only of Israelites and a limited number of 144,000, 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes of Israel, this group consists of a large crowd, from all colours and races, tongues and nations, including Jews and Gentiles. The innumerable multitude represents a universal gathering. They stood before the throne. This is a heavenly scene in contrast to the earthly scene of 144,000. They are not arriving; they have already arrived. They are not assembling, they have assembled. This is a finished product. They were clothed in white robes. These earthlings in Heaven have bodies. To survive in Heaven, these bodies must be glorified eternal immortal resurrection bodies. Unlike the fifth seal martyrs under the altar in Heaven, souls without bodies who received white robes later, this innumerate multitude are already clothed in white robes. They have arrived, they have assembled, and they are clothed in white robes. The implication of this should not be lost on anyone. Their job is finished. Their work is over. They have arrived. They are glorified.
They have palm branches in their hands. In the ancient Neareast, palm branches signify, victory, triumph and peace. And this immediately reminds us of Our Lord’s triumphal entry in Jerusalem(John 12:13). In that incident, the multitude waved Palm branches before the Lord saying, Hosannah, blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosannah means save now please. In contrast to that crowd at the Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, this great innumerable multitude is not asking God for salvation, neither is God in need of salvation, but rather praising God in recognition of the fact that salvation comes from and belongs to God only. God the Father, and God the Son are the only source of salvation, redemption and victory and peace. Salvation to our God who sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb. The praise and worship is toward God the Father, and God the Son, who alone have redeemed humanity. Here the Holy Spirit is not mentioned, but it is understood that praise to one person of the Trinity is praise to all. The Holy Spirit does not praise and worship Himself, but rather directs us to worship the Father and the Son.
The Angelic Chorus(11 & 12).
And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, saying, Amen: blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgivings, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
Unlike the universal orchestra in chapter 5, the choir increased in reverse geometric progression. First the innumerable multitude, then all the angels, which also happens to be an innumerable multitude. From the outer reaches of the throne to the centre of the throne. The four and twenty elder and then, those closest to the throne, the four beasts. They all worshipped God, saying, Amen. Amen is a Hebrew acrostic meaning, God is a faithful King. They acknowledged His faithfulness, and worshipped Him in a sevenfold doxology, saying, blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. The sevenfold doxological predicate, preceded by an Amen, concludes with an Amen. The number 7 is the divine number of perfection in Hebrew numerology and gematria. Its use here, as in other places on the scroll of Revelation, indicates the perfected nature of end time events.
The Identity Of The Innumerable Multitude(13 & 14).
And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, what are these who are arrayed in white robes? And whence came they? And I said unto him, sir, thou knowest. And he said unto me, these are they who came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
One of the elders asked the revelator the questions, who are these who are arrayed in white robes, and from where do they come? The questions were asked not in ignorance, but to generate discussion, in order that he the elder might instruct the revelator; for the elder was in the know. The revelator answered, sir, thou knowest. The elder answered the question in reverse order. This is an NT methodology(Matt.24:3-31). The elder began by answering the second question first, from whence do they come? He did not say specifically where they came from, but a specific time is indicated. They came out of the great tribulation. The great tribulation is not a place but a period of time(Mark 13:19). Daniel 12:1 calls it a time of distress. But it is also obvious it took place on Earth. The locale is the whole Earth. It may have been worst in some places on Earth, but it happened all over the Earth. The epicenter is Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel. The question is full of interpretative insights, and whence anticipates a specific location. The innumerable multitude came out of the Great Tribulation. The Great Tribulation took place at a specific time on Earth, but not a specific place. Those or the ones who come out of great tribulation is a Greek substantival participle. This group is not in the process of coming individually but have come as a group. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Overcomers are clothed in white garments(Rev.3:5). The Laodiceans were counseled to purchase raiment so that their nakedness do not appear(Rev.3:18). Not all these arrivals are martyrs. Some did die, but there is no evidence they were all martyred. They have washed their robes and made white in the blood of the Lamb. This answered the first question. The innumerable multitude are those who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. The blood is the symbol of life. This means that the atoning work of Jesus secured eternal redemption for the innumerable multitude. This pretty well defined the group, believers in Jesus taken to heaven at the Rapture of the saints.
The Blessedness Of The Innumerable Multitude(15-17).
Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve day and night in His temple: and He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them nor any heat. For the Lamb who is the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
These innumerable multitude are before the throne of God and serve Him day and night. There is a throne in Heaven where the Father holds court as Sovereign Lord of the universe. In the millennium, there will be a throne room in the millennial temple on Mount Zion which shall be contiguous with the New Jerusalem. It is likely that it is this temple that is intended here. It may not be necessary to make a distinction between the two, because service to the Son is service to the Father and vice versa. They are before The Lord because of their salvation which they owe to The Lamb. Day and night refers to the unceasing nature and timelessness of praise and worship. They shall join the eternal adorers in Heaven in the praise and worship of God. God’s presence shall dwell amongst them for ever and ever. The removal of physical, environmental, and emotional discomforts implies they are resurrected saints. Wearing glorified eternal immortal resurrection bodies, these saints are no longer subject to the temporal frailties of the mortal body. Living fountains of waters implies the abundant life of the glorified saints.