Thursday, October 2, 2014

Waiting for That Day

I am once again in Revelation as part of my routine NT reading.  I finished chapter seven and noticed something I missed previously because of a section heading inserted by the publisher.  The scene is of four angels holding back the winds and given power to harm the earth and sea.  To these another angel gives instruction:
“Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”  And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel: …  (Rev 7:3-4)
Following this is a scene in heaven before the throne of God:
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, …  (Rev 7:9)
In my circles these are accepted as two distinct groups because of the ethnicity and location, but I wonder if there is not more to be learned from looking at the whole.  Following are some comparisons.

Covenant relation – The 144,000 are sons of Israel and therefore God’s people in relation to the Mosaic Covenant, whereas the multitude are global in origin: outside the covenant relationship through Moses, they have been grafted in.  Both now are recognized as elect before God as children of Abraham by faith.

Relative location – The tribes are described as being on earth, whereas the multitude is before the throne of God.  We can see the difference in that one group is still a living testimony on earth, whereas the other has suffered and is currently worshiping before the throne.  Both continue to fulfill the work of God in the respective roles wherein He has left them.

Divine protection – The tribes have a seal placed on them guarding against what would come, while the multitude is described as coming out of great tribulation.  In effect both groups are delivered from the world’s judgment but through different ways.  The former are protected from the final judgment coming on sin, death, and the devil, but the latter has been called to suffer first before they were delivered.  Both are being kept in the care of God Almighty to wait for the end.

Certain hope – At the end of the chapter is a poetic piece attached to the multitude’s presence before the throne.
Therefore 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.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
    the sun shall not strike them,
    nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
    and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”  (Rev 7:15-17)
To conclude that these lines relate only to the multitude already in heaven does injustice to those who are sealed and yet remain on earth.  The given promise befalls the elect from beginning to end.  All that are of faith rest assured that their place is with the Lord because the Lamb of God fulfilled what neither we in our attempts nor the Law in all its divine goodness could correct.  The bride will be welcomed by the Bridegroom and be joined together in glorious union, never to be parted.

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.”  Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus! (Rev 22:20)

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