Revelation 025 – God’s Faithfulness

Dr. Andy Woods | Jan 6, 2019 | Revelation 7:1-8 | Revelation

Andy Woods

God’s Faithfulness    1-6-19

Revelation 7:1-8        Lesson 25

Let’s take our Bibles, if we could, and open them to the Book of Revelation, chapter 7, trying to look at verses 1-8 this morning.  The title of our message this morning is God’s Faithfulness.  And before we get into our study today of God’s Word I want to talk about money!   You guys are saying oh no!  No, you all will like this one.  If you look at your bulletin, the very back page, it gives you a total for giving for 2018 and a total of expenses for 2018 and you’ll notice that the giving is higher than the expenses.  Is that a good thing?  [clapping]  In fact, according to my old math that would make a surplus wouldn’t it?  Roughly rounding up $32,000.  So what does that mean?  What it means is… you know at this ministry we hardly… I don’t think we even mention money, do we?  I mean, at Sugar Land Bible Church we don’t even pass an offering plate; there’s some offering boxes in the back if you feel so led to give.  And so it’s very encouraging to us as church leaders that simply by teaching God’s Word the Holy Spirit is obviously working in the hearts and lives of a lot of people to get behind us under no duress from us, no emergency we’re constantly talking about.   You want to get behind us financially and we just wanted to not come back and say give us more, we just want to say thank you.  Can we do that?  So let’s give the Lord a praise the offering there.

On February 3, Dr. Thomas Ice is going to be here; he is the Executive Director of the Pre-trib Study Group  and he’s going to be teaching the Sunday School hour and he’s going to be teaching the sermon that follows.  And you’re not going to want to miss him, him and his wife Janis will be here; he’s going to be teaching you the end times, catch this, from the Book of Deuteronomy.  Did you know the Book of Deuteronomy talks about the end times?  I watched  him do this whole presentation at Prophecy Watchers and I said you’ve got to come and do that at our church.  So we’ve got that scheduled for February 3.  I just want to make  you aware of that.  You say well Andy, where are  you going to be?  Well, I’m actually going back to Israel, don’t worry, not permanently, in early February so he’ll be here for that particular Sunday that I won’t be here.  You say well, didn’t you just go to Israel?  Why are you going back to Israel?  Well, I’m getting involved in some real estate deals over there [laughter].  The reason being is the Bible tells us I’m supposed to live there for a thousand years so I’m trying to get my property all purchased and ready for myself.  What do you think about that?  You ought to think about doing it too, because you’re going to be there for a thousand years also.  So there we go.

But this morning we’re taking a look at Revelation 7:1-8.  You might recall that Jesus is in heaven and He’s opening a seven-sealed scroll which is bringing various judgments to the earth.   And chapter 6 is sort of a layout, if you will, of those judgments.  We focused last time on verses 12-17, the sixth seal judgment which concludes with these words, Revelation 6:17, “for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”

I mean, these judgments are of such a sever and epic proportions, is there anything good taking place in this terrible time period?  Can anybody stand?  And the answer is found in chapter 7 where you start to see the bright spot amidst the darkness, where there is a group of people that are standing for God as they are sealed by His Holy Spirit and here is where we start getting a treatment of the future 144,000 Jewish or Hebrew evangelists.

Now I haven’t had a lot of time to talk about this but in the Book of Revelation there are three sets of judgments: seal judgments, most of which we’ve studied, one seal left; trumpet judgments, and the bowl judgments.  And when we get to the seventh seal in chapter 8 I’m going to be making the case that these judgments are not recapitulated.  In other words, they’re not concurrent, they’re not all happening at the same time, they don’t overlap, but rather what happens is the seventh seal will unleash the trumpets.  The seventh trumpet will  unleash the bowls and so they sort of pull out, sort of like a telescope.  It’s sort of like a telescope view of these judgments. We’ll say more about that when we get to Revelation chapter 8.

And generally speaking the content in the Book of Revelation in this futuristic vision that John is seeing, the content flows chronologically.  However, there are five times where the chronology stops.  The best illustration that I have ever heard of this was I think from Donald Grey Barnhouse, he described it as a lunch break.  When you go on a  hike what do you do?  You kind of walk up the mountain in order and all of a sudden someone gets hungry and says I want to stop for lunch.  And so what kind of place do you pick for lunch on this hike on the mountain?  You pick the most scenic place you could find, right?   Because when  you’re in a good scenic place you are allowed to, with good vision and a good location, look backward from where you come from and it allows you to look forward to where you’re going.  And then once you had this view and had your lunch then you get right back on the road and you keep marching up the mountain.

In essence that’s what the Book of Revelation is doing; it’s moving chronologically but there are five “lunch breaks” found.  And the lunch breaks are all related to something that has already happened or is about to happen in the sequence; it’s not irrelevant data, it’s not random data just thrown at you, it’s designed by the Holy Spirit to give further clarification to something you just read.

For example, we are in Revelation 7 which is our first lunch break, and it says, “who can stand,” so now there’s a stop in the chronology where we learn who it is that’s standing, the 144,000 Jewish evangelists.  Once that discussion or part of the vision is over then the chronology will continue on.  And this will happen in the Book of Revelation five times.  This is why a lot of people are confused about the Book of Revelation, they don’t know how to put everything in sequence and in order and the reason they don’t know how is no one has ever taught them that it’s generally chronological except for five times the chronology stops.

Now when I was living in the Dallas area I had a very good friend, a very smart friend, a business investor type of guy and I was trying to explain this to him and I called them  non-chronological parenthetical insertions.  He came back and he said, and he started talking with me about this, and he said five NCPI’s and I didn’t know what he was talking about, what’s an NCPI?  Well that stands for Non-Chronological Parenthetical Insertion.  So there are five NCPI’s in the Book of Revelation.   And there’s where they are.  [(1) Revelation 7 – 144,000 Jews, (2) Revelation 11 – Two Jewish witnesses, (3) Revelation 12 – Israel flees, (4) Revelation 20:9 – Jerusalem in the kingdom, (5) Revelation 21:12 – 13-Gates of the eternal city.]

We are at our first one here in Revelation 7.  You say well where do these occur.  I don’t know if you can see this chart but it’s on our website, it demonstrates exactly where these NCPI’s, Non Chronological Parenthetical Insertions or better said, Lunch break take place.  Every time  you get to a 6 in the judgments, number 6, expect a lunch break. So we are at seal judgment number six, that has just happened so now we’re getting our first lunch break, Revelation 7.  There is going to be another one at the end of Trumpet six before Trumpet seven and another one at the end of bowl six but before bowl seven. See that?  Every time  you get to six you just say aha, it’s time for a lunch break.

And then the only thing to remember is there’s two more after that, one after trumpet seven and one after bowl seven.   So the first Non-Chronological Parenthetical Insertion in between seal six and  seal seven.  The second one, in between trumpet six and trumpet seven and there’s another one after trumpet seven.  Then there’s another one in between bowl six and bowl seven.  And then there’s another one after bowl seven.  You say that’s a lot to remember.  That’s why I put that chart together and don’t worry if you don’t have it all down at the first sitting, we’re going to be referring to this chart repeatedly but it’s going to help you sort of make sense of the chronology in the Book of Revelation.  These lunch breaks are not just random information, it’s designed to amplify truth that we have just been studying.

We have received the question “who can stand?” at the end of seal judgment six and now we’re receiving our first lunch break where we’re learning who it is that can stand during this time, these 144,000 Jewish evangelists.

I can say categorically this, based on Revelation 7, that there is coming upon the earth before the Lord returns the greatest spiritual awakening the world has ever seen.  The greatest time for evangelism and the harvest of souls is yet future. And that’s really what Revelation 7 is talking about.  Now verses 1-8 are the instruments of the awakening, the 144,000 , and verses 9-17 is the description of the awakening itself.  And if we’re fortunate, as God gives us grace today we may make it through Roman numeral I, the instruments.  I mean, who exactly is it that God is going to use to bring the greatest harvest of souls that was ever seen in world history to our world.  The instrument that he will use are described there in Revelation 7:1-8.

So you’ll notice first all verses 1-3 their sealing.  Notice if you will verse 1, “After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, so that no wind would blow on the earth or on the sea or on any tree.”  Now you’ll notice the expression “after this;” “after this” when it’s accompanied by a verb of perception, like “I saw,” and “I heard,” it’s not making a statement that chapter 7 is going to follow the information in chapter 6.  Whatever meta tauta, “after this” in the Book of Revelation is followed by a verb of perception, “I saw” and “I heard” it’s not saying here’s what’s going to come after seal judgment number six.  What it’s saying is this is the next thing John saw.  This is the next thing God saw fit to disclose to John.

Now sometimes when this is used it’s referring to the next thing that’s coming, but not when it’s accompanied with a verb of perception, I saw and I heard.  This is something that’s being taken out of order, as I’ll be showing you, “after this” is not following necessarily the sixth seal judgment, it’s just the next thing that John saw is your, if you will, lunch break, taking information from the beginning and taking us all the way to the end.  You see that there in Revelation chapter 7.  That’s what he means by “after this.”

Now look at this here, “After this I saw four angels standing at the four corner of the earth,” oh-oh, so the earth has four corners, right?  We have a problem today because… when I first learned of this I thought it was a gag or a joke; I learned it was a real phenomenon, but there are people over this world that claim to be Bible readers and Bible believers and want to honor the authority of the Scripture that are now teaching that the Bible says the earth is flat.  Have  you heard of this movement?  What is my response to that?  And by the way, the only reason I’m bringing this up is they use verses like this, there it is, “four corners of the earth.”

Well, my response to that is this; if the earth is flat then the moon must be flat also so I’m going to start a flat moon society and we can give ourselves the name Lunatics.  Now if people want to go out and make fools of themselves go right ahead, but please don’t blame that on the Bible.  And such people have never learned the distinction between plain language and figurative language.  The reality of the situation is this is how language functions.  You can make a statement in one breath that’s literal and you can make a statement in another breath that’s figurative.  For example this morning my wife says to me, “how did you sleep last night?”  And I said “great, I slept until 8:00 a.m. and I slept like a log.”  And she doesn’t say to me well, what do you mean by 8:00 a.m.?  No, she understands exactly what I mean by 8:00 a.m., she assigns a literal understanding to the words 8:00 a.m.  When I say “I slept like a log” she doesn’t say well, gee whiz, I know our last name is Woods so maybe you turned into a piece of wood in the middle of the night.  NO, she would understand that as a simile or a figurative expression and what gives it away is the word “like” that makes it a simile.

The Bible does this all the time.  Language does this all the time.  Sometimes it wants to be understood literally, as I’ll show you later in this chapter; sometimes it wants to be understood figuratively. So to take a statement like “the four corners of the earth” and develop around it this idea that the earth is actually flat and all of the pictures that we see from NASA or wherever are part of the conspiracy, because that’s what they say, they say it’s just a conspiracy out there, this globe idea is not true.  Well what about all the pictures from outer space?  Well, they’re all, NASA and all these groups are part of the conspiracy to convince us that the earth is a sphere or round when they want us to believe that the earth is flat.

If that’s true then what do you do with Psalm 113:3, “From the rising of the sun to its setting The name of the LORD is to be praised.”  You see, Revelation 7:1, Psalm 113:3 is an example of figurative language.  The technical name for it is  phenomenological language, language narrated from the perspective of man because we all know that the sun doesn’t rise; it’s the earth rotating around the sun in our heliocentric solar system.  But you know, we were in Venice, my wife and myself and we were having this fantastic breakfast at the top floor of this hotel and we could see out in the water beautifully and we could see the sun coming up and I didn’t say to my wife, “what a wonderful earth rotation we’re looking at” because I’m using some phenomenological language.

In fact, if you go to verse 2 there it is again, the rising of the sun, phenomenological language which is common in the Scripture.  [And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea,” Revelation 7:2]  It’s sort of sad I even have to cover this issue, if it weren’t for this worldwide movement out there of what we call the flat earth society, the fact of the matter is the Bible makes a lot of statements, I believe giving a lot of hints of the sphere of the earth, the roundness of the earth.

Job 26:7, the oldest book of the Bible, says this of the earth?  “He stretches out the north over empty space And hangs the earth on nothing.”  That is a scientific statement in the oldest book of the Bible, the Book of Job, that is so far ahead of its time, because the ancients taught that the earth actually was on an elephant and the reason there was earthquakes is because the elephant was moving.  Think how different your Bible is, which makes it a scientifically advanced statement.

Isaiah 40:22 talks about the circle of the earth  [Isaiah 40:22, “It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.”]  And Jesus, in Luke 17:34-36 says that when the Second Advent happens it’s going to affect people sleeping in bed, grinding at the mill, working in the field.  [Luke 17:34-36, “I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left.  [35] There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will be taken and the other will be left.  [36] [ Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left.”]

Doesn’t that sort of imply that people are living at different distances from the sun on a round globe earth?  And when the Second Advent happens it’s going to affect everybody on the planet instant­aneously.  The fact of the matter is this “four corners of the earth,” that’s phenomenological language, it’s a cultural idiom.  In fact, when you look into the distance and you see a ship coming up over the horizon, that should be a hint, shouldn’t it, that the earth is not flat.

Someone asked me, well what will it take to convince you that the earth is flat?  And here’s my offer—someone needs to get me a picture of the edge; if you can get a picture of the edge, I don’t care if you’re in a helicopter, plane, whatever it is, get me a picture of the edge and I’ll convert to the flat earth society; until then I believe that the earth is a globe.  Amen!  You say what did  you learn at church today?  Just tell people that the earth is not flat.

But you’ll notice also it talks about, “After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, so that no wind would blow on the earth or on the sea or on any tree.”  Now what does that mean?  Take a look down at verse 2, “And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea,” so one angel who’s holding a seal… now why is he holding a seal?  That’s very important because there’s 144,000 Hebrews that are about to be sealed by the living God.  And he’s crying out to the other angels who are given the responsibility to come and destroy the earth via the events of the tribulation to wait just a moment.  Before there’s any physical destruction or harm to the planet hold everything back because God wants to do something first.

It’s interesting that this angel is called an angel holding “the seal of the living God.”    And I think that’s a wonderful description of God, He is “the living God.”  In fact, Revelation 9:20 speaks of idols that people will worship in the last days, idols which can neither see nor hear nor walk.  [Revelation 9:20, “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk;”]

Why spend your time involved with an idol (they can’t even communicate with you), when you could be in a relationship with the living God.  I love Isaiah 46:1-4 where the children of Israel are carrying their idols around, these statues.  And God, through the prophet Isaiah, speaks to the nation of Israel and He basically says are those getting heavy?

[Isaiah 46:1-4, “Bel has bowed down, Nebo stoops over; their images are consigned to the beasts and the cattle.  The things that you carry are burdensome, a load for the weary beast.  [2] They stooped over, they have bowed down together; they could not rescue the burden, but have themselves gone into captivity.  [3] “Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, you who have been borne by Me from birth and have been carried from the womb;  [4] Even to your old age I will be the same, and even to your graying years I will bear you!  I have done it, and I will carry you; And I will bear you and I will deliver you.”]

I mean, you’re carrying this idol around with you all the time; are your arms getting fatigued, are they getting heavy?  And you know, God says, the day is going to come where you’re going to be too sick and old to carry those things around; what are you going to do then?    God says I’ll tell you what I’ll do for you as the living God—when you get too old to carry something I’ll carry you.  Now isn’t that a better deal, having a relationship with the living God who in your old age can carry you, versus hauling around with you this stature, metallic slab of whatever it is that can’t do anything for you, it can’t even see, it can’t walk, it can’t communicate.  And this is the foolishness that we move into when we begin to worship things over the God that made those things.  May God deliver us from the mindset of idolatry and return to a relationship with the living God.

You’ll notice verse 3 starts to give some more information.  It says, “saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.”  Don’t do any harm to the planet until this sealing occurs to the bondservants of our God

Now this would lead me to conclude that this sealing either takes place just before the tribulation starts or maybe better said at the beginning part of the tribulation period, because the first seal was opened, the antichrist, the rider on the white horse came forward, and he seemed to solve the world’s problems, as we have talked about, in a false hope and a false peace that quickly collapses.  But there’s a reference to this temporary peace that comes to the earth and since this sealing happens before any harm comes to the earth I would gather that these 144,000 are sealed by God before the second seal judgment and the subsequent seal judgments which bring so much destruction to the planet.

There are many verses that talk about this temporary peace that the antichrist will bring in.  Daniel 9:27 talks about it. [Daniel 9:27, “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”]  That’s what gives peace to Israel.

1 Thessalonians 5:3 says, “While they are saying,” what? “‘Peace and safety!’ then destruction will come [upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.]’”  That can’t happen unless peace and safety occurs first.

Ezekiel 38 verse 8 and verse 11 talks about an invasion of Israel, I believe during this time period while the nation is dwelling in security without walls.  [Ezekiel 38:8, “After many days you will be summoned; in the latter years you will come into the land that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual waste; but its people were brought out from the nations, and they are living securely, all of them.”  Ezekiel 38:11, “and you will say, ‘I will go up against the land of unwalled villages. I will go against those who are at rest, that live securely, all of them living without walls and having no bars or gates,”]

Revelation 6:2 describes this antichrist that’s coming as the rider on the white horse with a bow and it was given to him to conquer.  Revelation 6:2, “I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.”]  And when the second seal is opened war breaks out and peace is taken from the earth.   You can’t have peace taken from the earth until peace is first established on the earth, a false peace, a pseudo peace, something that happens very early on in the tribulation period and I think that’s sort of a hint as to the timing of the sealing of these 144,000.

The fourth seal judgment, number two comes, these 144,000 are sealed by God.  What is a seal?  A seal, or being sealed by God is His mark of ownership on a person.  By the way, according to Ephesians 1:13 you have that seal as well as a Christian.  It talks about our salvation having also believed you were sealed in Him, in the Holy Spirit of promise.  [Ephesians 1:13, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation– having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.”]

Ephesians 4:30 tells the church age believer, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”  This is one of the reasons I don’t think a believer, once in Christ, can lost their salvation because that seal is a permanent spiritual mark upon the Christian.

It’s interesting to me how Satan imitates the things that God does.  When we get into Revelation 13:6-18 we learn about a satanic system that will similarly give people a mark preventing them from participating in the one-world economy of that time. Revelation 14:9-11 talks about the same thing, as does Revelation 20:4.    [Revelation 13:6-18, “And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, 17and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name. 18Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.”

Revelation 14:9-11, “Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, [10]  he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. [11]  ‘And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”  Revelation 20:4, “Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. “]

What can Satan offer?  Nothing but a cheap imitation, a cheap counterfeit of what God does.  When we trust Christ we are sealed by the Holy Spirit and these 144,000 I understand it as suddenly they come to an awareness that their Messiah, Jesus Christ, when their nation has been in rejection for over two thousand years, it suddenly dawns on them that Jesus is their Messiah.  Hebrew Bible or Old Testament points to Jesus Christ, they hear, they read, they understand, they believe the gospel and the 144,000 of them are converted.  And yet what are they called in Revelation 14:4?  Firstfruits of greater things to come.  [Revelation 14:4, “These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb.”]

What was firstfruits?  Firstfruits was the initial crop or harvest that came in in Old Testament times giving confidence that a greater harvest or crop is certain and right around the corner.  You see, these 144,000 are called the firstfruits because they are the initial converts that God is going to use in this darkest time of history to evangelize the entire world, hence the title “firstfruits.”

And I believe that God will move very fast once the rapture of the church takes place to seal these 144,000.  Why is that?  It relates to the character of God and the nature of God.  God does not leave the earth EVER without a witness of Himself.  The church through the pre-tribulational rapture  will have been removed from the earth and God very fast moves into the conversion of the instrument that He will use for worldwide evangelization, these 144,000 Jewish evangelists. God does this because He never leaves the earth as wicked as  it is without a witness of Himself.

I ran into this very, to me a fascinating historical point from William Martin’s book entitled A Prophet Without Honor: The Billy Graham Story.  And what he says is this:  “An interesting note of history, November 6, 1935,” now he goes on and he says, “that was a scant year before the death of famed crusade evangelist Billy Sunday.”  We all know the name Billy Graham, we don’t really know the name Billy Sunday who was sort of a pre-cursor to Billy Graham and had a tremendous influence as well.  William Martin says, “An interesting note of history, November 6, 1935, a scant year before the death of the famed crusade evangelist, Billy Sunday, a teenager named Billy Graham had just declared his intention to spend his life preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.”  I mean, just before Billy Sunday died it so happens that a teenager walks into a revivalist tent, receives Christ as Savior, and commits his life to proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Things in God’s time can get somewhat tight but He’s always on time, and He works this way because He does not leave the earth without a witness of Himself.  The church is gone and the 144,000, Revelation  7:1-3, are converted, they are sealed by God.  [Revelation 7:1-3, “After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, so that no wind would blow on the earth or on the sea or on any tree. [2]  And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, [3] saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.”’]

And you’ll notice what it says, these 144,000 are called bond servants.  The Greek word for bondservant there is doulos, it basically means a slave.  And that in essence is what a disciple of Jesus Christ is.  We’re not here to do our own thing.  We’re not here to formulate our own ideas. We’re not here to pursue our own agenda. We’re not here to pursue our own program.  We’re here to submit to the Lord Jesus Christ as Christians and walk out the life of discipleship where we become a doulos, a bondservant, a slave if you will.

It’s interesting that when the apostles wrote letters in the New Testament they didn’t tout their credentials.  Today when people write letters and write things they always have a laundry list of their credentials and their accomplishments. You don’t find that with the apostles.  2 Peter 1:1, Simon Peter calls himself at the beginning of that book, “a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ…”  [2 Peter 1:1, “Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:”]  Now only am I an apostle of Jesus Christ, I’m a bondservant, I am a slave.

And I hope as we enter the year 2019 that more and more of us as Christians would become like that in our daily walk, wake up every day saying you know, Lord, You’re the One that saved me, You’re the One that redeemed me, You’re the One that sealed me, have  Your way in my life today.  Have your way in my life in the  year 2019.  Have a year in me where it’s not my will and my desire and my aspirations but what is it that You have for me.

So these servants are called doulos, bondservants of God.   And so we have their sealing, verses 1-3, and then we have their number given, verse 4, “And I heard the number of those who were sealed, 144,000 sealed from every tribe of the” First Baptist Church… no, it doesn’t say that, “from every tribe of the sons of Israel.”  Now people say well, gee whiz, 144,000, I mean, is that a literal number?  You just told us that the earth is not flat, we don’t have four corners, that’s a figure of speech.  Obviously 144,00 must be sort of a symbolic number, right?  Allegorical.  The problem is when John wants to be loose with numbers he’s very good at it. If you look down at verse 9 it says, “After these things I looked and behold a great multitude,” this is another group, “which no one could count.” [Revelation 7:9]

See that?  Group two no one could count; group one, 144,000.  If John wanted to say it’s about 144,000 he could have said that, couldn’t he?  In fact, in the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:41 there were 3,000 people converted.  Is that a literal 3,000?  Could it be 3002?  Yes, because it says there, “were added about,” Acts 2:41, three thousand souls. [ Acts 2:41, “So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.”]

Do you see the word “about” here in Revelation 7:4?  Not at all, it’s just a specific number.  [Revelation 7:4, “And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:”]  So I believe that this number is an actual mathematical number.  In fact, Robert Thomas says in his very excellent commentary on the Book of Revelation, “No number in Revelation is verifiably a symbolic number.”  [Revelation 8 to 22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), 408]

Every single number you run into, unless there’s some sort of compelling evidence not to take it that way, you take it as an actual literal number.  And by the way, did you see where these tribes came from?  Or these 144,000 came from? “From every tribe of the sons of Israel.” Robert Thomas says this, very interesting information.  “Of the 404 verses in the Apocalypse,” or the Book of Revelation, “278 allude to the OT Scripture. No other NT writer uses the OT more than this. Yet the book is marked by an entire absence of formal quotations from the OT.”  [Revelation 1 to 7: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), 40.]

Isn’t that interesting, you go through the Book of Revelation and there’s not a single Old Testament quote but there are at least 404 verses, 278 of them referencing, alluding in some way, to the Old Testament.

Now let’s think about this.  If John is using in this visions, as God is giving John this vision, the Old Testament so frequently how were the tribes spoken of in the Old Testament?  Well, the twelve tribes are always literal, aren’t they?  In fact, the beginning of the tribes you’ll see in Genesis 29 and 30.  If the tribes are literal in the Old Testament and the Book of Revelation depends so heavily on the Old Testament then the tribes must be literal here.  And if the tribes are literal maybe the number is literal as well.  Do you see that?

Now I know what some of you are thinking, Andy, what’s the matter with you?  Don’t you understand that in the  year 722 B.C. the tribes were lost?  Don’t you understand that seven hundred years before the time of Christ the Syrians came against the northern kingdom, the ten northern tribes, scattered them into worldwide dispersion and consequently those tribes have been lost, never to be restored, never to be regained.  When you begin to talk about a literal 144,000 stemming from the twelve tribes of Israel this is the counter argument you run into… we all know this can’t be literal because the tribes are lost.  I mean, they were lost seven centuries before the time of Jesus Christ.  Let me answer it this way?  Lost to who?  Maybe lost to man but God knows exactly where they are, doesn’t He.

In fact, Acts 26:7, this is 700 years after they were supposedly lost, the Apostle Paul says all “our twelve tribes.”   I guess Paul didn’t think they were lost.  [Acts 26:7, “the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve God night and day. And for this hope, O King, I am being accused by Jews.”’  By the way, have you read the Book of James lately?  How does the Book begin?  “James, a bondservant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes [who are dispersed abroad:  Greetings.]”  The whole book 700 years after they were supposedly lost is addressed to the full tribe.  I don’t think they are lost as far as God is concerned.

By the way, in  your Christmas greeting, early Luke, did  you run across a prophetess named Anna?  In Luke 2:36?  Did you notice that Anna is of the tribe of Asher?  I mean, her tribal identity is documented.  [Luke 2:36, “And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher….”]  Her tribal identity is known after supposedly these tribes being lost for 700 years.   I don’t really care what the history channel says.  I don’t care what all the skeptics say.  The fact of the matter is the tribes are not lost, God knows exactly where they are and it’s just a matter of time before He reveals where they are so that these 144,000 can be, number 1, saved, regenerated, sealed, and number 2, used by God.

Now at Chafer Theological Seminary we have an annual conference and it’s typically held not too far from here at West Houston Bible Church, there’s an extensive archives of presentations that are given at that particular conference, and in the year 2017 we had a speaker whose name was Bennet Greenspan, he is one of the world’s leaders in genealogies, DNA, all of the things that go into that.  To my mind he is not a Christian, he is not a believer.  We had him come speak to us as an expert in what he knows, genealogies.  The title of his talk is this: Are Modern Jews Descended From the Biblical Israelites?  If you somehow bought into this lost tribes mindset I would encourage you to access his presentation and watch it because he proves that the Jews, living in the land of Israel today, are indeed Israelites and tribal identities can be known.

You say well, Andy, why is this subject so important to you?  I mean every time I come to this church you talk about the Jews, you talk about Israel, I mean, can’t you talk about something more practical, can’t you talk about something more relevant?  The reality of the situation is talking about the Jews and Israel is one of the most relevant subjects you could ever get into, because it’s a revelation of God’s character, which is 100% faithful.  The fact of the matter is God has made specific promises, the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and He will fulfill every single promise. You say well they don’t deserve it, the nation rejected Christ.  Look at the unbelief of the nation of Israel all the way through Old Testament times.  Look at the unbelief of the nation of Israel today.  Are  you telling me that this nation is going to be converted?  Are you telling me that there’s 144,000 firstfruits in their midst, that are going to be won to Christ and are going to evangelize the whole world?  How could you think that, don’t you know that the ancient Israel doesn’t deserve that privilege?

And you’re right, they don’t deserve it. But you know who else doesn’t deserve it?  You don’t deserve it.  I don’t deserve it.  You don’t even deserve to be sitting here.  I don’t even deserve to be standing here. And isn’t it interesting that we will bask in the grace of God and we will deny it to somebody else.  The reasons that God is going to use the nation of Israel is to magnify His character of faithfulness.  What does 2 Timothy 2:13 say?  “If we are faithless, He remains” what? “faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.”  And when I see the scattering of Israel into the land beginning in 1948 in preparation for these events that we’re speaking of here, I don’t get upset about it, I don’t get mad about it.  I say PRAISE THE LORD!  Because if God is going to keep His Word to them He’s going to keep His Word to who else?  To me, because I can be disobedient and faithless just as they have been.

It does move me somewhat emotionally to think about this, that this nation that has spent so much time rejecting Christ, denying Christ, even God forbid turning Christ over to Rome for execution as a formal decision, committing Matthew 12, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.  This nation that persecuted early Christianity, stoned to death the first martyr of the church age, a man named Stephen.  And  yet God is going to put His hand back on that nation and use them again because of promises He’s made.  This can’t be on the basis of human merit; this has to be completely on the basis of grace.  And I say PRAISE THE LORD!   God has a future for the 144,000.   He has a future for the tribes; if the tribes are literal then the number coming from the tribes have to be literal as well.

Roy Zuck, one of my mentors, writes this:  “When John wrote that a hundred forty-four thousand will be sealed there is no reason to not take these numbers in the normal literal sense.  Since the tribal names are all literal, not symbolic, there is no reason to take these numbers symbolically.”  And I’m sure you heard the breakdown as Ed was reading the verses; it’s not just a hundred forty-four thousand from the various tribes, it’s twelve thousand from each tribe.  The number is divisible by twelve, and the tribes themselves are mentioned.

You see, if you don’t get straight on some of these prophetic truths you will be deceived by the kingdom of the cults who are coming to your door.  It’s not if they come but when they come because when they come there’s going to be a group of people out there, very nice friendly people, two of them generally, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and you’ll engage them in conversation and at some point they’re going to say only a hundred and forty-four thousand people get to heaven, the rest of the believers who persevere in good works are going to populate the earthly kingdom and the unbelievers will be annihilated, in other words, they’ll disappear.  They don’t believe in the eternal retribution of eternal punishment.

And you say well, that’s very interesting, where are  you getting this hundred and forty-four thousand figure from.  And they’re going to pull out Revelation 7 and say it’s right there in your Bible. And you say wait a minute, I go to Sugar Land Bible Church, and my pastor preaches prophecy and he thinks prophecy is practical and he said, and I believe him (if you do believe me) based on the Scripture that these 144,000, who is it speaking of here?  Of a special group of people that persevere in good works and get to heaven?  Absolutely NOT!  These are a literal 144,000 Jews coming from the twelve tribes of Israel.  That’s who they are.

See, if you don’t have a literal framework for interpreting prophecy you’re vulnerable to anybody who wants to come along and manipulate the truths of God’s Word for their own benefit.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses completely and utterly demolish the context of these verses.  In fact, the way Walter Martin speaks of a man who apparently was one of the 144,000, he got that special title because he persevered in good works and supposedly in their system was on his way to heaven.  Well, he got saved and he wrote a book about his salvation.  Know what the title of the book is?  One hundred and forty-three thousand nine hundred and ninety nine.

And I can pick up any evangelical commentary today, George Ladd’s Commentary for example, on The Book of Revelation.  He says, boldly in his commentary, this is the church, this is the church fulfilling the great commission. That’s kind of funny, I don’t see the word “church” here. Do  you?  The fact of the matter is after the church is removed from the earth, chapter 4, although the word church is found nineteen times in Revelation 1-3, I don’t see the word church again.  In fact what I see is God putting His hand back on Israel and is using Israel for His purposes.  This is not the church, this is not some special group within the Jehovah’s Witness system that makes it into heaven.  These are literal Jews coming from the twelve tribes of Israel that God is sealing, winning to Christ in other words and preparing them for their mission, which is world evangelization.

The tribes are mentioned there in verses 5-8, “from the tribe of Judah, twelve thousand, from the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand, from the tribe of Gad twelve thousand, [6] from the tribe of Asher twelve thousand, from the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand, from the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand, [7] from the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand, from the tribe of Levi twelve thousand, from the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand, [8] from the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand, from the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand, from the tribe of Benjamin, twelve thousand were sealed.”

Now you say well pastor, I have a problem here, I don’t see the name Ephraim. Well, don’t lose too much sleep over that because Ephraim was one of the twelve tribes; in fact, Joseph had two sons, [Genesis 46:27, “and the sons of Joseph, who were born to him in Egypt were two…”]   One son was named Ephraim, the other son was named who?  Manasseh.  So many times what happens in the Bible is Ephraim is used as a synonym for Joseph.  If Joseph is on the list, and he’s right there  in verse 8 isn’t he?  And Ephraim is on the list as well.  You say does this happen anywhere else in the Bible.  In Ezekiel 37 and verse 16 you’ll find Joseph being used as a synonym for Ephraim, “’For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim.”  [Ezekiel 37:16, “And you, son of man, take for yourself one stick and write on it, ‘For Judah and for the sons of Israel, his companions’; then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim and all the house of Israel, his companions.’”]  And so I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over the fact that Ephraim is not mentioned.

Now the one that everybody camps on is Dan.  Where in the world is Dan?  And so people develop this view that well, Dan must have done something pretty bad so the antichrist must be coming from the tribe of Dan.  I call this the Bad Boy Dan Series.  And Dan did do a lot of bad stuff, that tribe.  Leviticus 24:11, there’s an idolater there from the tribe of Dan.  [Leviticus 24:11, “The son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the Name and cursed. So they brought him to Moses. (Now his mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan.)”

Dan, Judges 8:30-31 brought idolatry into the land of Israel after Joshua had conquered the land.  [Judges 8:30-31, “Now Gideon had seventy sons who were his direct descendants, for he had many wives. [31] His concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he named him Abimelech.”]  And in fact, false worship centers were set up in Beersheba and where else?  Dan!    1 Kings 12:28-30.  [1 Kings 12:28-30, “So the king consulted, and made two golden calves, and he said to them, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt.” [29] He set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. [30] Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan.”]

So many people speculate, well that’s why Dan is left off this list.  The problem with that is Dan shows up again in the millennial kingdom.  In fact, in Ezekiel 48:1 and verse 32 you’ll see a reference to Dan receiving her tribal allotment in the millennial kingdom.  [Ezekiel 48:1, “Now these are the names of the tribes: from the northern extremity, beside the way of Hethlon to Lebo-hamath, as far as Hazar-enan at the border of Damascus, toward the north beside Hamath, running from east to west, Dan, one portion.”  Ezekiel 48:32, “On the east side, 4,500 cubits, shall be three gates: the gate of Joseph, one; the gate of Benjamin, one; the gate of Dan, one.”]  And so I guess my question sort of is well if Dan and her sin was enough to exclude Dan from being on the list of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists why does Dan show up again in the millennial kingdom?  It doesn’t make sense.

I think a far better view of this is the one postulated by a Hebrew Christian scholar, Arnold Fruchtenbaum, and he simply notes that Joseph begat Ephraim and Manasseh,  Genesis 41:50-52,  Genesis 46:20.  [Genesis 41:50-52, “Now before the year of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph, whom Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, bore to him. [51] Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” [52] He named the second Ephraim, “For,” he said, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”  Genesis 46:20, “Now to Joseph in the land of Egypt were born Manasseh and Ephraim, whom Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, bore to him.”]

So according to my old math that brings the number of names not to twelve but to thirteen.  For whatever reason the biblical writers, especially John, liked the number twelve, and so what you’ll notice in the Bible when the tribes are mentioned someone gets bumped off the list.  For example, Moses addressed the tribes in Deuteronomy 33, the twelve tribes are mentioned but you don’t see Simeon on the list in Deuteronomy 33.  In Ezekiel 47-48 it mentions all the land that the various tribes will inherit but you don’t see the name Levi inheriting land.

So I think what is happening, rather than developing all of these theories about Dan I think it’s simply stylistic.  You’re dealing with thirteen, the biblical writers like the number twelve, so for whatever reason somebody gets left off the list and it’s not always Dan, sometimes its Levi, sometimes its Simeon.  So that’s sort of my explanation for the missing Dan.  I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over that, to me it’s simply stylistic.

But it is interesting that these tribes, from these tribes will come forth these 12,000 from each tribe, 144,000.  And they’re going to usher in verse 9 which we won’t be able to get to today, a global harvest without our denomination, without our pulpits, without our Christian television stations, (thank God for that, Amen!)  Without our Christian radio stations, without our Christian bookstores, without our Christian sermons, without our [can’t understand word] organizations, without anything related to the church age God is going to fulfill world evangelization.  What the church has left undone will be completed by the 144,000.

And see, we have a tendency to look at ourselves and our ministries as if we’re SO important.  The fact of the matter is God doesn’t need me, He doesn’t need you, he doesn’t need any of us.  In fact, He’s got the whole thing under control whether we participate or not.  The only issue is are you going to get the blessings  of being used by God?  God’s work is going to get done, the only issue is do you get the privilege of being used by God.  See, when my daughter was very little we were teaching here to do some chores around the house and we started  her off with emptying the dishwasher and she was little and she was struggling with taking things out of the dishwasher and reaching up and putting them in the drawers and all of this kind of stuff.  And I said to myself, you know, why don’t I just do it myself, I could get it done a lot faster.  Then I thought to myself well if I did it all myself I would be depriving her of the joy of contributing to the household.  I would be depriving her of life lessons that she needs to learn to develop into a responsible human being.  See that?

World evangeli­zation is going to happen, whether the church drops the ball or not world evangeli-zation is going to happen.  The issue is, is the church in the last days in her waning moments on the earth going to submit to the authority of God and cooperate with Him.  That’s the issue.  I hope  that does happen.  I hope the church goes out with a blaze of glory, accomplishing everything that God wanted to do through the church and the church in the twenty-first century, assuming the rapture happens this year, enters heaven fully rewarded.  That would be my desire.  That’s God’s desire too.

But oh no, what if the church drops the ball?  What if the church moves into apostasy?  Do you think God’s sitting around with sweaty palms saying what am I going to do?  How am I going to pull this off?  You see, a passage like this brings a lot of humility to us because you start seeing that God has it all figured out.  It’s all figured out, it’s just a matter of who’s He going to use in these last days.  The 144,000 Jewish evangelists will, as we’ll see next week, blanket the whole world with the gospel.  But is the church in its waning moments going to fulfill the great commission?  I think that latter issue is sort of up in the air right now.

I also think  it’s kind of up in the air with your life, with my life, as we go into a new year.  Look how [can’t understand word] is going be.  God’s work is going to get done but is He going to use you to do that work, because he loves you and wants to see you participate in what He is doing and He wants to give you the joy of being used.  Talk about New Year’s resolutions, that ought to be one.  Lord, I know You’re going to do what  You’re going to do in 2919 what You’re going to do but I want to be not on the bench, I want to be one of the starting five.  How about that for a prayer request?   How about that for a New Year’s resolution?

How do you get into the starting five? Well, you submit to God by becoming a doulos, a bond­servant.  But before you can become a bondservant there’s something else you need to do, you need to get saved.  You need to get sealed by the Holy Spirit.  You need to be regenerated and that can’t happen until you what?   You’ve got to believe, because as we celebrated the Lord’s Table Jesus has done everything that can be done to allow us to enter into a relationship with Him He simply asks us to trust in His message, receive Jesus Christ as a free gift as your Savior. And there’s only one way to receive a gift from God and that’s by faith.  You can do that right now even as I’m talking, in the quietness of your own mind and heart, it’s not a matter of raising a hand, walking an aisle, joining a church, giving money, etc.  It’s a matter of privacy between you and the Lord where you trust in Him and Him alone for salvation.  If it’s something you need more explanation on I’m available after the service to talk.

But for those of us “in Christ” what’s the issue?  Now the issue is doulos, bondservant, not my will be done but Thy will be done.  And suddenly you find yourself in the starting five, you find  yourself being used strategically in the work of God which is going to get done one way or the other.  My God at Sugar Land Bible Church give us, number one, believers in Christ, and number two, disciples cooperating with His plan and program for the church in its final hours just prior to the rapture.  Shall we pray.

Father, we are grateful for Revelation 7:1-8, the things that it reveals to us.  Be with us this next week, we ask, as we study the great work that will be brought forth to these prepared instruments coming from the lineage of Israel.  We’ll  be careful to give you all the praise and the glory.  We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said….  Amen.