Revelation 7: Some Special People

For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall be their Shepherd, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.Revelation 7:17

Opening prayer: Father, it's hard to believe that I am a special person in Your eyes. Open my heart and mind to understand the strength and comfort that You offer to those of us who believe in Your Son, the Messiah of Israel.

This is a continuation of our series on the Revelation of Jesus the Messiah. If you haven't done so already, I encourage you to study our previous lessons in this series:

The Lord has an amazing long-term plan for our lives. God is moving toward establishing that wonderful period of peace and harmony that we've only read about, where the Prince of Peace rules the world. That's the Good News of the Gospel.

Unfortunately (from our short-term perspective), we can't jump directly to that page. Between now and the rule of Messiah will come a seven-year period of Tribulation when God will deal with the rebellious folk who won't submit to Him and to His Son, Jesus. Fortunately, as we saw in the Revelation Study on Raptures and Resurrections, God will extract Christians who are awake and alive just before the Tribulation period begins and bring us to heaven to be with Him. There we will enjoy the riches of His special plan for our lives.

This lesson will focus on two groups of people who will NOT be lifted out of the world before the Tribulation begins. These are people who did NOT come to a saving knowledge of Jesus, the Messiah, in time to participate in the first Rapture. Nevertheless, God has a special plan for their lives too.

We will start in Revelation 7, verses 1-8:

And 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 on any tree.
2 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, 3 Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
4 And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel. 5 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. 6 Of the tribe of Asher [were] sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Napthali [were] sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasseh [were] sealed twelve thousand. 7 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. 8 Of the tribe of Zebulon [were] sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph [were] sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin [were] sealed twelve thousand.

So? Who are these guys? What makes THEM special?

We don't know their names, but we can learn a few things from the passage:

Now let's read a peculiar passage in Revelation chapter 12 verses 1-6:

And a great sign was seen in heaven: a woman arrayed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars; 2 and she was with child; and she crieth out, travailing in birth, and in pain to be delivered. 3 And there was seen another sign in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his heads seven diadems. 4 And his tail draweth the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon standeth before the woman that is about to be delivered, that when she is delivered he may devour her child. 5 And she was delivered of a son, a man child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and unto his throne. 6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that there they may nourish her a thousand two hundred and threescore days.

Interpreting symbolism can be tricky, but there are several things we can say with confidence:

We find such a group in Revelation 14, verses 1-5:

And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the Mount Zion, and with Him an hundred forty and four thousand, having His Father's name written in their foreheads. 2 And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: 3 And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. 4 These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. 5 And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.

Our brave band of Messianic Israelites has arrived in heaven -- all 144,000 of them. Not one is missing. Not one of them is complaining (a miracle!) about how difficult their journey was or how poor the service was. They are all singing and praising God.

But why does God treat these people differently and what do they do between the time they're sealed and the time they pop up singing in heaven?

The "why" part is easy. God always teaches in pictures, and always uses the nation Israel as His canvas. When God established the Festivals (feast days) of Israel, He decreed a Feast of First Fruits. On this day, the first Sunday after Passover, His people were to bring in the "first fruits" of their field -- to include a little sheaf of immature grain from the early growth. When Jesus arose from His grave, on the first Sunday after Passover, He Himself became the first fruits from the field of mankind. A handful of other people also resurrected that day and appeared to their friends and family in Jerusalem; this handful was the little sheaf.

With that background, we can infer that the 144,000 represent the little sheaf from the nation Israel during the 70th week of Daniel. The full harvest of the nation Israel will come at the end of the 70th week. The 144,000 will probably have the veil removed from their eyes at the very beginning of the 7-year period, and will have a special anointing on their lives and ministry. Please note that I said "we can infer" and not "we can conclude." We can only interpret this Scripture in light of other Scriptures, and there isn't much to go on.

In reality, this group is of absolutely no concern to you or me. Their entire ministry will happen after we're gone to heaven. Chances are, we've never met any of them -- unless some of them are presently working as tour guides in Israel. There's only one reason to talk about them: because of what this story tells us about our Lord. God is NOT distant and impersonal. He knows you better than you know yourself. He loves you, believe it or not, whether you deserve it or not (Hint: you don't, and neither do I). This story tells us that God has His hand on a select group of Israelis who are NOT following His Son Jesus -- at least not today. He loves them now. They will (soon!) learn to love Him.

So why are Dan and Ephraim NOT included in the list of tribes?

Bible commentators will give you a thousand different explanations, but the most common are:

After these three, you get a host of theories with one vote each.

OK, teacher: What do YOU say is the reason?

The short answer is that I don't know for sure.

The long answer is a study you should perform on your own: how God arranges the names of the tribes to tell stories and point to Jesus.


I'll give you a very brief introduction to the subject and you can do further research later. The key concept is that the names of the 12 sons of Jacob have meanings. In addition, the two sons of Joseph (Ephraim and Manassah) were adopted by Jacob as his sons. This gives us 14 names, each with its own meaning, that the Lord can arrange in any particular order to convey a particular meaning in sentence format. Furthermore, He can create lists of 12 tribes containing any combination of these 14 names. Many times the message is context-sensitive, with a special significance unique to that context.

Here are the names of Jacob's sons, in the first complete list of the twelve, in Genesis 35:

ReubenSee, a son
SimeonHear, or hearing
LeviAttached, united
IssacharHe will bring a reward, wages
ZebulunWill honor
JosephLet him add, let him continue to
BenjaminSon of my right hand
DanJudged, vindicated
NaphtaliWrestling, my wrestling
GadHow fortunate
AsherHow happy

The two sons of Joseph, adopted by Jacob as sons for inheritance purposes, were:

ManassahMaking to forget

Next time you read the Bible cover-to-cover (this year?), make a note of each time God gives you a listing of the tribes. You'll find at least a dozen listings, and only a couple of them are identical. They vary in sequence and content, so each gives a slightly different message.

Now let's take another look at the listing of tribes to be included in the 144,000:

ReubenSee, a son
GadHow Fortunate
AsherHow happy
NaphtaliWrestling, my wrestling
ManassahMaking to forget
SimeonHear, hearing
LeviAttached, united
IssacharHe will bring reward, wages
ZebulonWill honor
JosephLet him add. let him continue
BenjaminSon of my right hand

Now try to squint your eyes and build up a couple of sentences from the tribal names. You'll see that it begins with praise and a son, how happy and fortunate, making to forget my wrestling. In the middle are rewards and honor. It ends with the Son of my right hand.

I still don't get it.

Neither do I, for sure. But the absence of Dan (judgment) hints that judgment (on the nation Israel) is not in view here. The absence of Ephraim (fruitful) hints that fruitfulness in childbearing is also not an issue -- the 144,000 are depicted as virgins.

To summarize:

Beyond these key points, the identity and careers of the 144,000 remain a mystery.

Our second group of Special People is found in Revelation 7, verses 9-17:

After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; 10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
11 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, 12 Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, [be] unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? 14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple: and He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. 16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. 17 For the Lamb which is in 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.

So who are these guys?

These people (guys and gals) are relatively easy to identify. The passage tells us quite a bit about them:

How do you know this group isn't the Church -- you and me? Many good people believe that we won't get raptured until some time during the last 3.5 years of the 7-year period.

Actually, there is a possibility that this group might be the Church. After all, they do come from every nationality and racial group, and they're definitely Christian. But there are a couple of reasons why I think they're latecomers:

Hey, teacher! I'm not sure I agree with any of your explanations and conclusions.

Good! Please don't be satisfied with ANYBODY's explanation, especially mine. My goal is to spur you on to do further study on your own. In fact, nothing would make me happier than to hear that you were so outraged by my lessons that you spent days studying these Scriptures trying to prove me wrong.

All I ask is one thing: Spend your time studying the Bible. Don't waste your time reading books ABOUT the Bible, except for fun. (Hint: You will save yourself a lot of grief (and money) if you avoid commentaries.) Instead, pray for the Holy Spirit to open your heart and mind. Then make up your own lists and charts based on your own personal study of the Bible.

A few study helps are worth purchasing. Look up key words and phrases in your Strong's Concordance and in your Vines' Dictionary of New Testament Words. Get the Greek/English Interlinear text by George Ricker Berry, so you can get a flavor for the word-by-word literal translation of the Greek. Spend the majority of your time studying in the New King James translation, which is generally the most accurate version. (Note: Although the paraphrase versions (Living Bible, NIV) are very readable for the Old Testament and helpful for devotional studies, they are less accurate in the New Testament.) Follow up on the margin notes in your Bible, looking for related passages and concepts. Take everybody's explanation (including mine) with a grain of salt.

The most important thing you can do is to prepare your heart for the return of the Lord. If you do, you will be the recipient of some amazing promises, as explained in our lesson on Raptures and Resurrections.

If you aren't sure if you're ready, please click the "mail-to" link below to send us an e-mail. Explain your concerns and we'll respond as quickly as we can.

Closing Prayer: Lord, I don't pretend to understand the complexity and precision of your Scriptures. But I put my trust in You and Your Son, Jesus, to keep me safe through the hard times to come. Amen.

To return to the Bible Writer Home Page, click here.
Copyright 1999-2004 Clarity Publishing Co.
Comments? Prayer requests? Send e-mail to: