Matthew Poole's Commentary
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.Revelation 7:1 John seeth four angels holding the four winds,
Revelation 7:2,3 and another angel coming to seal the servants of God
in their foreheads.
Revelation 7:4-8 The number of them that were sealed out of each of the
tribes of Israel.
Revelation 7:9,10 An innumerable multitude out of all other nations
stand before the throne in white robes, with palms in
their hands, praising God and the Lamb.
Revelation 7:11,12 The angels, elders, and beasts, worship and glorify God.
Revelation 7:13-17 One of the elders showeth John who they are that are clad
in white robes, and what is their blessedness for ever.
The first sufferings of the church under the Roman emperors that were pagans, was foretold under the first six seals, as hath been showed; but they had yet more, if not greater, things to suffer, which are discovered to John, as we shall see when we come to the opening of the seventh and last seal in the next chapter; only it pleaseth God by a vision, in this chapter, to comfort his church: so as though this vision relateth to the sixth seal, and was before the opening of the seventh, yet it hath a relation to that, to show the care that God would take of his church under those great evils that should happen upon the opening of the seventh seal, or when the things foretold upon the opening of it should come to be accomplished.
I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth; four good angels; God is called their God, Revelation 7:3.
Holding the four winds of the earth; that is, to whom God had given it in charge that they should inflict his judgments upon all the parts of the earth; for God often useth, by his prophets, the metaphor of winds, to express stormy, troublesome dispensations, as Jeremiah 18:17 49:36 51:1.
That the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree: this phrase is interpreted variously, God making use of the winds:
1. In a way of judgment, to throw down buildings and trees.
2. In a way of mercy, to purify the air, and by their gentle breathings to cherish things. Some interpret this command to the angels, into a command to these angels to forbear awhile those storms of judgment which were coming, till the servants of God should be sealed.
Others interpret them into a command to bring judgments, either corporal or spiritual, which they think is signified by the winds not blowing. The last seemeth to be favoured by the next verse, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea; which seemeth to me to interpret the blowing mentioned in this verse of a hurtful blowing.
The earth, the sea, and the trees, seem to signify all the sublunary world, especially the church.
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,By this other angel, some understand an angel by nature; some, a man, Elijah, or Constantine; others, Christ himself, called an Angel, Exodus 23:20. It is not much material whether we by this angel understand Christ, or some angel which he made his instrument. He gives a command to those four angels, whom God had made the ministers or executioners of his wrath and justice in the world.
Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.A manifest allusion to Ezekiel 9:4, and, as some think, to the usage of some eastern countries, for masters to set their names upon the forehead of their slaves, by which they were known to be theirs, as we mark our sheep or other beasts. Men as vainly dispute what this seal should be, as what the t meant in Ezekiel 9:1-11, the mark set upon those that mourned for the abominations of Jerusalem. The place where they were to be sealed signified the end of their sealing to be not so much for confirmation, for which seals are used, as notification, to signify to others they belong to God; so as it was of the same use as the blood upon the two side-posts and the upper door-posts of the Israelites in Egypt, Exodus 12:13.
And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.Ver. 4-8. For the understanding of these five verses several things are to be noted.
1. That the whole number is one hundred and forty-four thousand, which is the product of twelve, as the original number, (setting aside the ciphers), for twelve times twelve make one hundred and forty-four. The number of one hundred and forty-four, Revelation 21:17, was the measure of the wall of the new Jerusalem. Twelve, which is the root of this number one hundred and forty-four, seemeth to be God’s number, and used in Scripture about one hundred and forty-four times, and almost generally in things belonging to the church; which had twelve patriarchs, twelve tribes under the Old Testament, twelves apostles (as its head) under the New Testament: and the new Jerusalem from heaven, Revelation 21:12, is said to have twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; Revelation 7:14, the wall had twelve foundations; the length of it, Revelation 7:16, twelve thousand furlongs.
2. That we must not by one hundred and forty-four thousand understand a certain, but an uncertain number, which yet was very great.
3. That by the tribes of Israel mentioned here, are to be understood the several gospel churches of the Gentiles, who are now God’s Israel ingrafted into the true olive.
4. That the tribe of Dan is here left out, and Ephraim is not named, though included in Joseph. Of the tribe of Dan there were none sealed. Dan was a great ringleader to idolatry, so was Ephraim; see Judges 17:1-18:31; and at Dan it was that Jeroboam set up his calves. Levi is put in instead of Dan, and Joseph instead of Ephraim, by which means here are yet twelve tribes; which teacheth us this: That Christians, if idolaters, must not look for any special protection or favour from God in a day of evil.
5. These tribes are not set in order, according to their birthright.
Juda was Leah’s fourth son, Genesis 29:35, put first, because Christ descended from him.
Reuben, her eldest son, is put next, giving place only to the Messiah’s tribe.
Gad, Jacob’s son by Zilpah, Genesis 30:11, is put next.
Aser, Jacob’s son by Zilpah, in the fourth place, Genesis 30:13.
Nepthalim is put next, who was Jacob’s son by Bilhah, Rachel’s maid, Genesis 30:8.
Manasses is put next, who was Joseph’s son.
Simeon, Jacob’s second son by Leah, Genesis 29:33, is put in the seventh place.
Levi, Leah’s third son, Genesis 29:34, in the eighth place.
Issachar, Leah’s fifth son, Genesis 30:18, is put in the ninth place.
Zabulon, Leah’s sixth son, is put in the tenth place, Genesis 30:20.
Joseph is put in the eleventh place, for Ephraim his son.
Benjamin, Rachel’s second son, is put in the last place.
If there be any mystery in this order, differing from all other scriptures where there is a mention made of the twelve patriarchs, it is probable that Mr. Mede hath hit upon it, in regard of the, good or ill deserts of these tribes, some of which are mentioned by him; all may be learned from the history of the Jews recorded in holy writ. Hence we may learn, that the summary sense of all these verses is this: That although within that period of time which is signified under the seventh seal, there should be great persecutions of the church, yet God would preserve unto himself a great number in all his churches, which should not apostatize, and who in the persecutions should not be hurt; so as his church should not fail, though the archers should shoot sore at it; for though men raged, yet it was by God’s permission; and his angels overruled it, who should take notice of those numbers that he had sealed, and marked in their foreheads.
Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand.See Poole on "Revelation 7:4"
Of the tribe of Aser were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Nepthalim were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasses were sealed twelve thousand.See Poole on "Revelation 7:4"
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.See Poole on "Revelation 7:4"
Of the tribe of Zabulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.See Poole on "Revelation 7:4"
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;If we inquire who these were, we are told, Revelation 7:14, by the best Interpreter: These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, & c. So that they do not seem to be the one hundred and forty-four thousand mentioned for preservation in and from the evil, Revelation 7:4, but such as had escaped, or were not in or going into tribulation, but come out. The number of the former was determined; it is said of these, it could not be numbered. These were glorified ones, not militant; they
stood before the throne, and the Lamb, clothed with white robes; clothed in the habits of such as amongst the Romans had fought, and conquered, and triumphed; and to this end they are said to have carried
palms, the ensigns of victory,
in their hands.
And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.They acknowledge their temporal, spiritual, and eternal salvation to the gift and free mercy of God, in whom they had trusted, and to the Lord Jesus Christ, by whose merits and Spirit they had got the victory.
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,And all the angels stood round about the throne; the good angels, who always in heaven behold the face of their and our heavenly Father.
And about the elders; and about the twenty-four elders, mentioned Revelation 4:4.
And the four beasts; and the living creatures, mentioned Revelation 4:6.
And fell before the throne on their faces; the angels, elders, and living creatures, all fall down on their faces, in a reverential sense of the infinite distance between them and their Creator.
And worshipped God; thus paying an homage to God fitted to their glorified state, in consideration of his excellency.
Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.These words only signify the union and harmony of the angels and saints in praising God: See Poole on "Revelation 5:12".
And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?Not that he did not know, but to try whether John knew, or rather to set John upon inquiring.
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.John confessing his own ignorance, applies himself to this elder for instruction, who tells him: These were the souls of them that came out of great sufferings and persecution; but he addeth, that they were such as were washed in the blood of Christ. Suffering will not bring us to heaven without having our souls washed with the blood of Christ.
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.Therefore are they before the throne of God; not that they by their sufferings have merited heaven, but because it pleaseth God of his free grace so to reward them; therefore it was said, not only that they were such as came out of tribulation, but that they had washed their garments in the blood of the Lamb, whose blood had paid the price of their salvation.
And serve him day and night in his temple: by the temple, some understand the church in this life, but it is foreign to the true sense of the text; for John saw only their souls before the throne, their bodies were in their graves. By the temple is meant heaven, where God dwelleth, and is worshipped more gloriously and constantly than he was in the Jewish temple, or in any part of the militant church.
And he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them; as God by his gracious presence dwelt in the Jewish temple, so God by his glorious presence shall dwell amongst his glorified saints.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.This is taken out of Isaiah 49:10. They are all metaphorical expressions, all signifying the perfect state of glorified saints; they shall have no wants, nor be exposed to any afflictive providences.
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.For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne; Christ, the Lamb mentioned Revelation 5:6.
Shall feed them, &c.; shall take care of them, to satisfy and to protect them, and give them the best supplies, and both make them to forget their former sorrows, and prevent any timher cause of sorrow and affliction to them. A perfect description of the glorious and happy state of saints in heaven. For wherein lieth the happiness of heaven, but in a freedom from all the evils that encumber us in this life, and the enjoyment of all the happiness we are capable of, and being ever with the Lord Jesus Christ, under his influence and conduct? So as I cannot agree with Mr. Mede, or any of those who think this vision and these phrases describe any happy, peaceable state of the church in this life, after the throwing down of antichrist; but do think that John was showed this great reward of martyrs, to encourage the church of God under all those evils they were to suffer under antichrist and the beast, in that period of time which is described mystically upon the opening of the seventh seal, which we now come to in the next chapter.