We come now to the end. The sixth seal portrays to us the chilling end of all things from this created order. Life as we know it now faces a terrifying end. The Day of the Lord comes and nothing remains the same for it gets destroyed by fire (2 Peter 3:10). The great tribulation ends with the Second coming of the Son of Man in glory (Matthew 24:29-30). Who can stand such wrath from God (Revelation 6:17) ? No one except God’s people whom God sealed for himself (Revelation 7:1-8).
Watching scary movies growing up makes me want to skip the bad and scary parts and move to the end where everything gets resolved. Unfortunately, fast forwarding Betamax/VHS tapes is slow compared today in Netflix you can do it almost instantly. So back then skipping was not a practical option. I had to endure all the parts of the movie both bad and good. Because of it I learned the value lesson of patience and perseverance. I gained the proper perspective that while bad things happen in the end, everything works out just fine.
Opening of the six seal delivers the end of the world but before John bring us to the seventh seal , he shows us two encouraging scenes. It is meant and understood to happen simultaneously with the sixth seal but from two different perspective. The first focuses on the elect here on earth while the second brings a wide angled view in heaven with God’s people glorying God at the throne with Jesus as the slained Lamb. It is John’s way of saying in the midst of this sobering end, everything works out fine for God’s people. This was his message to his congregation and it is also God’s message to us in our preaching this morning.
So we complete the first point with the sixth. Then we continue with the our second point with the 144,00 and end with the our third point which is the Great Multitude but discuss them both together under one heading.
Before we begin, let us pray…
The Six Seal
verses 12-17: “When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”
In context, the first four seals are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypses bringing conquest, war, famine, and death. The fifth seal pictures the comforting of saints martyred for their faith. And finally the sixth seal depicts for us the end of the world.
These verses from Revelation 6:12-17 describes for us the event similar to what Jesus describes in Matthew 24 and Peter narrates in 2 Peter 3. I will read them hear in full so we can all hear them and notice for ourselves the unmistakable resemblance.
Matthew 24 – The Coming of the Son of Man
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
2 Peter 3 – The Day of the Lord Will Come
This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
The Day of the Lord depicted by Peter here ends with the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. It brings a cosmic end to the whole created order and delivers a sobering end to all of life as we know it now. Jesus brings judgement against those who rebels against God and finally delivers his people in the end.
The Day is the Lord is coming of the Messiah in his full glory. It was the vision of the Old Testament prophets. From Isaiah 13:9-11, it reads:
“Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation, and to destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light. I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant, and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless.”
and Zephaniah 1:14-16, the prophet wrote:
The great day of the Lord is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter; the mighty man cries aloud there. A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements.
I want us to read all these text from the Old Testament in comparison with the ones from Jesus, Peter, and John from the New Testament because I want us to recognize the undeniable truth of the end of the world backed up by the authority of God’s Word.
In sum, God judges this world with his wrath and ends it with the coming of our Lord in glory.
144,000 and The Great Multitude
verses 1-12: “After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, saying, “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: 12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed, 12,000 from the tribe of Reuben, 12,000 from the tribe of Gad, 12,000 from the tribe of Asher, 12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali, 12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh, 12,000 from the tribe of Simeon, 12,000 from the tribe of Levi, 12,000 from the tribe of Issachar, 12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun, 12,000 from the tribe of Joseph, 12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed. 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, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
There are two separate scenes here signified by the words: “After this..” We can read it from verses 1 and 9. We separate them with the proper headings the 144,000 and The Great Multitude. Again, the first scene happens here on earth while the second is a view in heaven. All these happened within the same time frame of the first and second coming of Christ. We need to think of it as highlighted scenes after hearing the destruction of world written to encourage us in the midst of its terrifying message. It is like a cut to scenes in movies or in TV. The first is close up angle view of God’s elect while the second is a wide angle view of God’s people in heaven. Let us dive in on each view.
- Verse 1 speaks of the number 4. It is symbolic to the geographic view of North, East, South, West. The four corners, four angels, and four winds symbolizes the expansive reach and scope. It is where God’s people are found from all time in all places.
- Verses 2 and 4 speaks of the sealing of God’s people by the angels so that no harm can come upon them. Now we need to comment the meaning of the sealing, no harm, and the 144,000 number.
- The sealing of God’s people means the sealing of the Holy Spirit. It means the outpouring and indwelling of God through his Spirit to his people. It is our union with God through faith in Christ and by the indwelling of the Spirit. Paul speaks of this reality from Ephesians 1:3 where he wrote: “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” Also in Romans 8, he says, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 6:15-16).” And in 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 : “And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”
- Therefore, we can conclude from here the kind of no harm John intends for us to understand from this text. It means no spiritual harm. We can acknowledge there will tribulation, persecution, and even suffering for God’s people here on earth. We are not exempted from those. But what is guaranteed here is no spiritual harm will come us because we already received the seal and protection of God that comes from his Spirit.
- Lastly, the number 144,000. It is a symbol of the whole number of God’s elect. We are perfectly numbered and identified by God himself and none us can be snatched from his hand (John 10:28). The meticulous numbering of God’s people from 12,000 from each tribe points to this fact. 12x10x10x10 is the breakdown of this whole number per tribe. 12 means God’s people and 10 means from each generation and multiple of 10’s mean God’s people from generation to generation.
- The 12 tribes listed here from verses 5-8 where not he exactly the 12 tribes of Israel properly ordered and accounted for. Judah from where Jesus came from is listed first even though he was the eldest. Dan was not included in the list because of his sin of idolatry. And included here to replace him was the grandson Manasseh, son of Joseph. This identifies the listing as not strictly ethnic but spiritual and inclusive of the Gentiles
The Great Multitude
After going through the detail coming from verses 1-8, John takes us again back to the wide angle view in heaven where he saw a multitude from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and language, standing before the throne and before the lamb (verse 9).” Their white robes symbolize their vindication and clearly we can understand from the palm branches and singing that they are already worshiping God in heaven. Together with the courtiers of the court, they all sing praises and thanksgiving to God and declares “Amen!”. Then from verses 12-14, we understand from the dialogue between John and the angel that these Great multitude are those who receives the perfectly atoning work of Christ, the Lamb of God. This is what the white robes washed by the blood of Christ means. It symbolizes our salvation that comes from God and God alone.
So in the end, God’s Word provides us the proper perspective to live life in the midst of tribulation. Yes, like in scary movies, they include the bad parts as well as the good parts. But we mature not by getting rid of the bad parts but by facing them knowing that God ends it all for our good which is for his glory. So to this end we say Amen! Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus! Come!
This is the response of God’s people. We sing praises to Him so I read these remaining text with this in mind and encourages everyone to do the same in our worship today:
“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.”Revelation 7:15-17
ZCRC(Imus), God deserves all the glory and praise. So let us acknowledge his wisdom and power. Let us give thanks to him and praise him for he alone is God forever and ever. Maranatha! Amen!
Rev. Lance Filio is a minister of the Word and Sacraments at Zion Cornerstone Reformed Church (Imus). He finished his Bachelor Degree in Electronics Engineering at Mapua Institute of Technology and He is currently taking his Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) at MINTS. He lives in Taguig City, Philippines with his wife and three children.