Revelation 7:4
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.
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(4) And I heard the number of them . . . Translate, And I heard the number of the sealed: there were a hundred and forty and four thousand sealed out of every tribe of the sons of Israel. There are two or three questions which these verses suggest. What are we to understand by the number twelve thousand from each tribe? Who are these who are drawn from the tribes of Israel? Why is there a change of the order and name of the tribes? It may help us to clearer thoughts to take the second of these questions first. (1) Who are these one hundred and forty-four thousand? An answer to this has been partly anticipated in our previous comments; but perhaps a fuller consideration is needed. Some have thought that the sealed ones must be Jewish Christians: i.e., they are disposed to take the twelve tribes literally. The scope of the previous verses seems decisive against this view. The time of judgment and trial is drawing near; we have seen the tokens of the coming storm in the opening of the sixth seal; our wish is to know the lot of the saints of God; this chapter answers this wish: they are safe, having the seal of God. Now, to limit the answer to the Israelitish Christians is to break in abruptly upon the general flow of thought with a bold literalism. The sealed ones are explained to be the servants of God; the description which follows proclaims them to be the “Israel of God.” It would be a strange leap away from the subject to introduce a sudden limitation of thought. Nor is there any necessity for doing so. Israelitish and Jewish names are freely adopted by the sacred writers, and used in a spiritual sense without any explanation of such usage; and the Apostle most emphatically laid down the principle that “he is not a Jew which is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh, but he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit and not in the letter” (Romans 2:28-29); and the principle he applies by affirming that in Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek” (Galatians 3:28). The Christian Church absorbs the Jewish, inherits her privileges, and adopts, with wider and nobler meaning, her phraseology. She has her Jerusalem, but it is a heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:22): a Jerusalem from above (Galatians 4:26): a new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2; see Revelation 3:12); and to that Jerusalem of God the true Israel of God, the chosen generation and royal priesthood of every age, turn the eye of faith. It is needless to say that this view does not rob, as it has been said, the Jew of God’s promises; it only intensifies those promises by showing the growth of that Church in which the Jew may yet find the truest consummation of his holiest and highest hopes, and into which God is yet able to graft them in again (Romans 11:23; Romans 11:25-26), and in which he may yet play a part loftier than men dream of. (2) How are we to understand the numbers? As we cannot adopt the literal interpretation of the tribes of Israel, still less can we admit a literal interpretation of the numbers here mentioned; but they are not on this ground to be looked upon as meaningless numbers: there is an appropriate symbolism in the numbers of the Apocalypse. Twelve is used as the number of those who in every age have been called out to witness for some truth which the world needed. Thus the twelve tribes of Israel were the appointed witnesses of a pure theology and a pure morality in the days of idolatry and license; and later, the twelve Apostles became the inheritors of a similar, though higher, spiritual work in the world. The number twelve, then, stands for a world-witness of divine truth; and the fruits of this world-witness is a wide and sustained success: the twelve multiplied by the twelve a thousand-fold—“the native and not degenerate progeny of the Apostles apostolically multiplied” (Mede, quoted by Dr. Currey). The skeleton organisation is twelve, the college of the Apostles; the one hundred and forty-four thousand represent the growth into full numbers of the choice ones of God. (3) Does the change in the order and names of the tribes symbolise anything? The alterations are not without significance. They are briefly these: The tribe of Dan is omitted, and the name of Ephraim does not appear, but the number is made up to twelve by two representatives of Joseph: Manasseh, who stands sixth in order, and Joseph (superseding the name, but representing the tribe of Ephraim), who is placed eleventh on the list. The number twelve is maintained to show that in all changes God’s purposes stand. The omission of one tribe and the changed name of another are designed to show that in the Church, as in Israel, the most splendid opportunities may be lost. Dan, once a tribe, and not an insignificant tribe, which had reared its heroes, gradually lapsed into idolatry and immorality, dwindled in numbers and importance, and at length disappeared, and as a tribe became extinct. Its omission in this list is a silent but emphatic comment on the sacred warnings: “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” “Begin not to say we have Abraham to our father: God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” Similarly, Ephraim, as has been suggested by a thoughtful writer, who exalted himself in Israel, is now lost in the greater name of Joseph. (Comp. Hosea 13:1; Hosea 10:11; Luke 18:14.) The order of the names is altered. Reuben no longer stands first: Judah has taken the firstborn’s place; and Levi, though named, does not occupy the third, the place of his birthright, but the eighth place. Here, again, the changes have their teachings. The unstable Reuben, with all his splendid advantages—the firstborn, the excellency of dignity and the excellency of power—failed to hold his own among his brethren; the fatal instability of his character accompanied his history, and weakened his otherwise pre-eminent powers; yet weak and erring, the type of the brilliant and vacillating, he is not an outcast altogether, but finds place, and high place, among the servants of God. Judah, lion-like, resolute, and strong, wins the foremost place; from him springs the true Ruler, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, to unfold the counsels of God, and to rule the world with a righteous sceptre. Levi’s subordinate position is thought to be due to the fact that the Mosaic ritual and Levitical priesthood are at an end. This may be so; the changes are the result of the actual history of the tribes, and illustrate how in the Christian Church, as in the Jewish, privileges may be lost, opportunities seized or cast away, offices and functions used for a time, and then laid aside when their work is accomplished; but in all and through all changes, God’s unchanging purpose runs onward to its certain close. The grouping of the tribes is, as has been pointed out, in the order of closest kinship: “We find not one violent separation of those who are naturally united, where both are truly members of the Israel of God” (Rev. C. H. Waller, Names on Gates of Pearl).

Revelation 7:4-8. And I heard the number of them, a hundred and forty and four thousand — This single passage, says the bishop of Meaux, may show the mistake of those who always expect the numbers in the Revelation to be precise and exact; for is it to be supposed, that there should be in each tribe twelve thousand believers, neither more nor fewer, to make up the total sum of one hundred and forty-four thousand? It is not by such trifles and low sense the divine oracles are to be explained. We are to observe, in the numbers of the Revelation, a certain figurative proportion which the Holy Ghost designs to point out to observation. As there were twelve patriarchs and twelve apostles, twelve became a sacred number in the synagogue and in the Christian Church. This number of twelve, first multiplied into itself, and then by one thousand, makes one hundred and forty-four thousand. The bishop sees, in the solid proportion of this square number, the unchangeableness of the truth of God and his promises. Perhaps it may mean the beauty and stability of the Christian Church, keeping to the apostolical purity of faith and worship. Of the tribe of Juda, &c. — As the Church of Christ was first formed out of the Jewish Church and nation, so here the spiritual Israel is first mentioned. But the twelve tribes are not enumerated here in the same order as they are in other places of Holy Scripture. Judah hath the precedence, because from him descended the Messiah, and in this tribe the kingdom was established. Dan is entirely omitted, being the first tribe that fell into idolatry after the settlement of Israel in Canaan; and also being early reduced to a single family, which family itself seems to have been cut off in war before the time of Ezra. For in the Chronicles, where the posterity of the patriarchs is recited, Dan is wholly omitted. Ephraim also was a tribe that greatly promoted idolatry, and therefore is not mentioned by name, but the tribe is denominated that of Joseph. The Levitical ceremonies being abolished, Levi was again on a level with his brethren, and is here mentioned as a tribe instead of that of Dan. In this list the children of the bond-woman and of the free-woman are confounded together; for in Christ Jesus there is neither bond nor free.7:1-8 In the figurative language of Scripture, the blowing of the four winds together, means a dreadful and general destruction. But the destruction is delayed. Seals were used to mark for each person his own possessions. This mark is the witness of the Holy Ghost, printed in the hearts of believers. And the Lord would not suffer his people to be afflicted before they were marked, that they might be prepared against all conflicts. And, observe, of those who are thus sealed by the Spirit, the seal must be on the forehead, plainly to be seen alike by friends and foes, but not by the believer himself, except as he looks stedfastly in the glass of God's word. The number of those who were sealed, may be understood to stand for the remnant of people which God reserved. Though the church of God is but a little flock, in comparison with the wicked world, yet it is a society really large, and to be still more enlarged. Here the universal church is figured under the type of Israel.And I heard the number of them which were sealed - He does not say where he heard that, or by whom it was communicated to him, or when it was done. The material point is, that he heard it; he did not see it done. Either by the angel, or by some direct communication from God, he was told of the number that would be sealed, and of the distribution of the whole number into twelve equal parts, represented by the tribes of the children of Israel.

And there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel - In regard to this number, the first and the main question is, whether it is meant that this was to be the literal number, or whether it was symbolical; and, if the latter, of what it is a symbol:

I. As to the first of these inquiries, there does not appear to be any good reason for doubt. The fair interpretation seems to require that it should be understood as symbolical, or as designed not to be literally taken; for:

(a) the whole scene is symbolical - the winds, the angels, the sealing.

(b) It cannot be supposed that this number will include all who will be sealed and saved. In whatever way this is interpreted, and whatever we may suppose it to refer to, we cannot but suppose that more than this number will be saved.

(c) The number is too exact and artificial to suppose that it is literal. It is inconceivable that exactly the same number - precisely twelve thousand - should be selected from each tribe of the children of Israel.

(d) If literal, it is necessary to suppose that this refers to the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. But on every supposition this is absurd. Ten of their tribes had been long before carried away, and the distinction of the tribes was lost, no more to be recovered, and the Hebrew people never have been, since the time of John, in circumstances to which the description here could be applicable. These considerations make it clear that the description here is symbolical. But,

II. Of what is it symbolical? Is it of a large number, or of a small number? Is it of those who would be saved from among the Jews, or of all who would be saved in the Christian church - represented as the "tribes of the children of Israel?" To these inquiries we may answer:

(1) that the representation seems to be rather that of a comparatively small number than a large one, for these reasons:

(a) The number of itself is not large.

(b) The number is not large as compared with those who must have constituted the tribes here referred to - the number twelve thousand, for example, as compared with the whole number of the tribe of Judah, of the tribe of Reuben, etc.

(c) It would seem from the language that there would be some selection from a much greater number. Thus, not all in the tribes were scaled, but those who were sealed were "of all the tribes" - ἐκ πάσης φυλῆς ek pasēs phulēs; that is, out of these tribes. So in the specification in each tribe - ἐκ φυλῆς Ἰούδα, Ρουβὴν ek phulēs Iouda, Roubēn, etc. Some out of the tribe, to wit, twelve thousand, were sealed, It is not said of the twelve thousand of the tribes of Judah, Reuben, etc., that they constituted the tribe, but that they were sealed out of the tribe, as a part of it preserved and saved. "When the preposition ἐκ ek, or "out of," stands after any such verb as sealed, between a definite numeral and a noun of multitude in the genitive, sound criticism requires, doubtless, that the numeral should be thus construed as signifying, not the whole, but a part taken out" (Elliott, i. 237). Compare Exodus 32:28; Numbers 1:21; 1 Samuel 4:10. The phrase, then, would properly denote those taken out of some other and greater number - as a portion of a tribe, and not the whole tribe. If the reference here is to the church, it would seem to denote that a portion only of that church would be sealed.

(d) For the same reason the idea would seem to be, that comparatively a small portion is referred to - as twelve thousand would be comparatively a small part of one of the tribes of Israel; and if this refers to the church, we should expect to find its fulfillment in a state of things in which the largest proportion would not be scaled; that is, in a corrupt state of the church in which there would be many professors of religion, but comparatively few who had real piety.

(2) to the other inquiry - whether this refers to those who would be sealed and saved among the Jews, or to those in the Christian church - we may answer:


4. Twelve is the number of the tribes, and appropriate to the Church: three by four: three, the divine number, multiplied by four, the number for world-wide extension. Twelve by twelve implies fixity and completeness, which is taken a thousandfold in 144,000. A thousand implies the world perfectly pervaded by the divine; for it is ten, the world number, raised to the power of three, the number of God.

of all the tribes—literally, "out of every tribe"; not 144,000 of each tribe, but the aggregate of the twelve thousand from every tribe.

children—Greek, "sons of Israel." Re 3:12; 21:12, are no objection, as Alford thinks, to the literal Israel being meant; for, in consummated glory, still the Church will be that "built on the foundation of the (Twelve) apostles (Israelites), Jesus Christ (an Israelite) being the chief corner-stone." Gentile believers shall have the name of Jerusalem written on them, in that they shall share the citizenship antitypical to that of the literal Jerusalem.

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. And I heard the number of them which were sealed,.... And therefore could be sure of the exact number, which did not depend upon his sight, and telling them, in which some mistake might have been made, but he heard the number expressed:

and there were sealed an hundred and forty, and four thousand: which is a square number arising from twelve, the square root of it, being just twelve times twelve thousand; and may denote their being the true and genuine offspring of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, holding their doctrine, and being built on their foundation; see Revelation 21:14; and these were

of all the tribes of the children of Israel; not that these were all Jews in a literal sense, for the time of their conversion in great numbers is not yet come. Dr. Goodwin thinks these sealed ones design the believers of the Greek and Armenian churches, and his reasons are not despicable; but this is to limit and restrain them to a particular part of the church of Christ; whereas they take in all the saints within this long tract of time, even all that are the true Israel of God, who are Jews inwardly, of what nation, kindred, tongue, and people soever; and is a certain and determinate number for an uncertain and indeterminate one; and only intends a large number of persons known to God and Christ; see the Apocrypha:

"Arise up and stand, behold the number of those that be sealed in the feast of the Lord;'' (2 Esdras 2:38)

And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed {5} an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.

(5) That is, of the Jews a number certain in itself before God, and such as may be numbered of us: for which cause also the same is here set down as certain. But of the elect who are Gentiles, the number indeed is in itself certain with God, but of us not possibly to be numbered, as God, Ge 15:5. This is spoken with respect, when a certain number is put for one uncertain. Compare with Re 7:9.

Revelation 7:4-8. καὶ ἤκουσα τὸν ἀριθμὸν τῶν ἐσφραγισμένων. The act of sealing is, therefore, to be considered as occurring between Revelation 7:3 and Revelation 7:4. That John does not behold this act itself, but only hears the number of the sealed,—probably from the other angel, Revelation 7:2-3,[2295]—corresponds with the holy moderation which is peculiar to true prophecy; for as in the innumerable company, Revelation 7:9 sqq., the sealing, in general, is such as cannot be represented,[2296] so in reference to the one hundred and forty-four thousand out of Israel, it would be in a high degree unnatural if their sealing had occurred before the eyes of the prophet. In Ezekiel 9 it is, likewise, not described how the mark was made upon the foreheads of the godly; but after the command for this is communicated (Revelation 7:4), in Revelation 7:11 it is said that it is accomplished. Yet it is not a happy fiction of John,[2297] that he says that he has only heard the number of the sealed; but the apparently insignificant circumstance testifies to the truth of the vision, and the entirely ethical nature of divine revelation in general. Nor is it possible for that to be revealed by vision to the prophet which must conflict with his proper subjectivity.

The schematic number one hundred and forty-four thousand applies, as a product of the radical number twelve, especially to believers from the twelve tribes of Israel.

ἐκ πάσης φυλῆς υἱῶν Ἰσρ. “Out of every tribe.” Cf. Winer, p. 105. The pregnant mode of expression shows that one hundred and forty-four thousand in all were sealed, and that the sealed were from every tribe. What follows (Revelation 7:5-8) makes the declaration more specific, upon which it is to be noted: 1. That the number of twelve thousand, fixed for each of the twelve tribes, from the very fact that it is every time the same shows that it is schematic by expressing the idea that in the divine gifts of grace all have like share, but no one from any one right. It is just as when in Ezekiel 47:14, the Holy Land appears equally divided among all the tribes. 2. As to the representation of the tribes, neither the tribe of Levi dare be missing,[2298] nor is the fixed number, twelve, exceeded. Yet it was impracticable to include Manasseh and Ephraim under the name of Joseph, because each of those two branches of the original tribe of Joseph stands by the side of the other tribes with significative independence of age.[2299] If, also, John wanted, in general, to avoid the name of Ephraim, because of the untheocratic reminiscence connected therewith, he put instead thereof the accurately taken paternal name of Joseph, including also the fraternal tribe of Manasseh.[2300] Yet the appearance of not thirteen, but only twelve tribes, is accomplished by the omission of the tribe of Dan.[2301] Gomarus,[2302] Hartwig, and Züll. have indeed put ΔΆΝ instead of ΜΑΝΑΣΣῆ,—an arbitrary decision, in no way justified by unimportant codd. (Revelation 9:13), because they offer ΔΆΝ instead of ΓΆΔ,[2303] and this contradicts the express testimonies of Iren., Orig., Andr., etc. Of just as little force is the play upon the name Manasseh, according to which the root of the word (נָשָׂח, “he forgot”) is regarded as indicating that here another name, viz., Dan, is regarded as forgotten, or properly not forgotten, but “embraced or incorporated in a secret way.”[2304] The intentional omission of the tribe of Dan is explained, especially by the Church Fathers, by the fact that from this tribe the Antichrist was to come,[2305] which, however, John nowhere intimates. Others have recalled the idolatry of the Danites;[2306] but the old sin of the tribe can be no foundation for excluding all its members from eternal life. The avoidance of the name of Ephraim, that had become “offensive,”[2307] in no way favors this view, because the tribe named, of course, intentionally not as Ephraim, but Joseph, presents its twelve thousand like the rest. The simplest reason for not naming Dan lies rather in the fact that it had died out long already before the time of John;[2308] even though the more definite declaration of Jewish tradition that only the family of Husim survived from the tribe of Dan,[2309] may be nothing but a reminiscence of Genesis 46:23. Already in 1 Chronicles 4 sqq., the tribe of Dan is omitted, although it is not passed over in 1 Chronicles 2:1 sqq. Cf. also Deuteronomy 33, where the small tribes of Simeon and Issachar are lacking.

In the succession it is only by an artificial subtilty which often passes over into pure trifling, that a consequent intention and a mystical meaning can be found. Beda, e.g., explains, because of the secret meaning of the name: “After Judah, therefore, Reuben; i.e., after the beginnings of divine confession and praise, the performance of an action follows.”[2310] Besides, the opinion of Hengstenb.[2311] is possible, that the sons of the wives and those of the bondwomen are intentionally commingled in order to indicate that in Christ no earthly distinction is valid. But Grot. also can say, from his standpoint, “No order is observed, because in Christ all are equal.”[2312] It is natural for Judah to have the precedence, because from that tribe the Lord comes.”[2313] Reuben follows afterwards, who as the firstborn could have stood before.[2314] The succeeding names are introduced without further intention; only at the close stands Benjamin as the youngest, and finally, from an allusion to the O. T.,[2315] in connection with Joseph.[2316]

[2295] De Wette, Ebrard.

[2296] See the general note on ch. 7.

[2297] Züll.

[2298] Beng., correctly: “Since the Levitical ceremonies have been abandoned, Levi again is found on an equal footing with his brethren. All are priests; all have access, not one through the other, but one with the other.”

[2299] Ewald, etc.

[2300] Cf. Numbers 13:11.

[2301] Cf. especially Heinrichs, Excursus iii.: “Cur in recensu tribuum Israel, c. vii. 5–8, nulla tribus Daniticæ mentio fiat” (ii. 228 sqq.).

[2302] In Wetst.

[2303] Cf. also Matth.

[2304] Beng., Eichh.

[2305] Cf. Genesis 49:17. Beda, Andr., C. a Lap., Stern.

[2306] Judges 18. Wetst., Vitr., Hengstenb.

[2307] Hengstenb.

[2308] Grot., Ew., De Wette, Ebrard, etc.

[2309] Cf. Grot.

[2310] “Reuben = videns filium; filii = opera.”

[2311] Cf. Vitr., etc.

[2312] Cf. also C. a Lap., Calov., De Wette, etc.

[2313] Revelation 5:5; Hebrews 7:14. Beda, Beng., Rinck, Ebrard, etc.

[2314] Cf. also 1 Chronicles 5:1.

[2315] Genesis 35:24; Genesis 46:20-21; Deuteronomy 27:21; Numbers 1:10-11; 1 Chronicles 2:2.

[2316] It is strange that in א, not only Gad and Simeon are forgotten, but also Joseph and Benjamin are transposed.


LIII. Revelation 7:4. τοὺς δούλους τοῦ θεοῦ

Gebhardt emphatically dissents from the limitation of the one hundred and forty-four thousand to converted Israelites: “Neither the Jews in contrast with the Gentiles, nor the Christian Jews in distinction from the Christian Gentiles, but Christians, the true Israelites, whether Jews or Gentiles. The twelve tribes of the children of Israel are therefore identical with the people of God; only the latter are described in O. T. style, or typically, and as a living great organism.” “Where the purpose is to confirm Christians in their confidence in God, or to impress on their mind their high dignity, they are represented as the true Israel, as the numbered or chosen one hundred and forty-four thousand.” So Philippi (Kirch. Glaubenslehre, iv. iii. 251): “The one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed out of all the tribes of the children of Israel are not only Christians among the Jews, upon which see Calov., Ewald, De Wette, Hengstenb., Klief., etc.; but rather the entire congregation of believers is meant, the true spiritual Israel, who have been preserved from all the plagues to be inflicted on the world.” Beck also argues against the view advocated by our author, but regards those sealed as elect persons among believers: “The υἱοι Ἰσραηλ here mentioned are ancient Israel as little as Jerusalem in the Apocalypse is ancient Jerusalem, or as little as, in general, the temple, altar, candlesticks, Balaam, Jezebel, Jews, etc., above, designate the ancient historical objects and persons; but the latter are only the types of that which corresponds in the Christian congregation. So the name Israelites here is likewise typical. The twelve tribes of the children of Israel, from whom the choice is made, have, in the Apocalypse, their metropolis in the New Jerusalem, which, according to Revelation 21:12; Revelation 21:14, has the names of the twelve tribes of Israel on its doors, and is built upon the foundation of the twelve apostles. The name of this new Jerusalem, as the N. T. city of God, is, according to Revelation 3:12, stamped, together with the name of the N. T. God (my God, i.e., Jesus Christ), and, therefore, with the seal of God here mentioned with respect to the children of Israel, upon those who, by fidelity to the word of Jesus Christ, have proved conquerors in the time of trial. Thus it is also expressly said of the one hundred and forty-four thousand designated in Revelation 14:3, that they were ‘purchased from the earth,’ or (Revelation 7:4) ‘from among men,’ from humanity, and, therefore, not merely from the Jewish nation; cf. Revelation 5:9. In the Apocalypse, the entire development of the kingdom is stated universally. It has thus, also, nothing whatever to do with a particularistic national sphere, or with the history of a particular people, but with the universal national sphere, with the universal judgment and universal salvation, and, therefore, with a universal and not a partial, holy nation; cf. Revelation 10:11. But this conception is conformable also to the N. T. fundamental view. According to this, there is awarded to ancient Israel, indeed, the first participation in universal grace (Romans 1:16; Romans 11:25-32), but no such particular preference as the sealing before the plagues, so that, therefore, all Gentile Christians must be subject thereto. The national distinction between Jew and Gentile, the distinction of the flesh, is removed in the fellowship of the new covenant (John 10:16Revelation 7:4. After a pause, in which the sealing is supposed to have taken place, the writer hears that the number of the sealed is the stereotyped 144,000, twelve thousand from each of the twelve tribes of Israel (a “thousand” being the primitive subdivision of a clan or tribe, like the English shire into “hundreds”). The enumeration of these tribes (Revelation 7:5-8) contains two peculiarities, (a) the substitution of Joseph for Ephraim, a variation to which we have no clue, and (b) the omission of Dan. The latter reflects the growing disrepute into which Dan fell; it either stands last (e.g. in [912].; Joshua 19:40 f.; Jdg 1:34) or drops out entirely, while it is curiously connected in the Talmud as already in Test. XII. Patr. (Daniel 5)’ with Beliar, and in Irenæus (5:30, 32) as in Hippolytus (de Antichr. 5, 6) with the origin of Antichrist. This sinister reputation (cf. A.C. 171–174, Selwyn 200–204, Erbes 77 f.), current long before Irenæus’ day, rested on the haggadic interpretation of passages like Genesis 49:17; Deuteronomy 33:22; and Jeremiah 8:16. Andreas, commenting on Revelation 16:12, thinks that Antichrist will probably come from Persia, ἔνθα ἡ φυλὴ τοῦ Δάν.

[912] Codex Porphyrianus (sæc. ix.), at St. Petersburg, collated by Tischendorf. Its text is deficient for chap. Revelation 2:13-16.The Sealing of the 144,000, Revelation 7:4-84. an hundred and forty and four thousand] As there are twelve tribes, so in each tribe there are to be twelve thousands: possibly with a reminiscence of the primitive political and military organisation, when a “thousand” was a recognised subdivision of a tribe. See Jdg 6:15; Micah 5:2. Any way, we are probably to understand that each portion of Israel is a miniature likeness of the whole.

of all the tribes of the children of Israel] It is one of the most controverted of the minor questions of interpretation of this Book, whether Israel is here to be understood in the literal or the spiritual sense. This vision of a certain number of Israelites, and the next of an innumerable multitude of all nations, are certainly correlative to each other: and the most obvious way of understanding them is, that among God’s elect there will be many faithful Israelites, and yet few comparatively to the number of faithful Gentiles. Others however understand these 144,000, and the innumerable multitude of Revelation 7:9, to represent the same persons regarded in two different aspects. To God they are all His own people, all duly numbered and organised and marshalled as His army, and everyone known to Him by name: on the other hand, from a human point of view they belong to all nations, and. are too many to be counted. Lastly, in Revelation 14:1 we hear of a company of 144,000 whom (not from their number only) it is natural to identify with these: and it appears that these represent, not the whole multitude of the elect, but a group specially faithful and specially favoured, even among them. It seems worth asking, whether the true solution be not a combination of the first and last, whether we are to understand that Christ’s nearest and dearest ones still come from God’s old people, who are still “beloved for the fathers’ sake,” though they attain such nearness to Him, not by virtue of their descent, but by graces of the same kind as sanctify Gentile saints also.Revelation 7:4. Ἰσραὴλ) Israel in the strict sense is denoted. For this book pronounces literally respecting Israel many things, which some take in a figurative sense. Israelism, as H. More terms it, Book i., Synops. proph., cap. 4, ought not to be too much extended. Lampe rightly says, that the Jews ought to be sought for in the Apocalypse, more than most interpreters have found them. Medit. anecd. in Apoc., p. 261.Verse 4. - And I heard the number of them which were sealed. The description of the actual operation of sealing is omitted (cf. Ezekiel 9, where it is also omitted). And there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand. Omit "and there were." This number - the square of 12 multiplied by 1000 - is typical of a large and perfect number. No one has ever said that the number should be taken literally; and there are evident reasons why it could not be so intended. We have, therefore, to inquire what is its symbolical signification. The number 12 is always typical, in the Apocalypse and elsewhere, of a complete and perfect number. It is formed of 4 multiplied by 3. Four is generally representative of the created universe, and 3 of the Godhead (see Revelation 5:9). 4 plus 3, that is 7; and 4 multiplied by 3, that is 12, indicate a perfect number - a number which includes and embraces everything. And thus 12 multiplied by 12 denotes the most exhaustive and perfect completion. The number 1000 is generally used to denote a large and complete, but somewhat uncertain, number (cf. Revelation 14:1; Revelation 20:2; Revelation 21:16, etc.). Thus the square of 12 multiplied by 1000 has the signification of a large number not definitely fixed, but nevertheless perfect; that is to say, not omitting a single one of those who should be included in the number. We are therefore taught that at the judgment day, before the destruction of the world is allowed to take place, a large number, consisting of those who have proved themselves to be God's servants, will be preserved and set apart; and that, although the number may be large, yet it will be perfect, not one of those who are worthy to be selected being overlooked or forgotten. This number subsequently is increased, being included in the "great multitude which no man could number" of ver. 9, and which is formed by the whole company of the redeemed. Of all the tribes of the children of Israel. The Authorized Version here appears to give the correct sense of πᾶς, "every." The number is made up not necessarily by an equal number from each tribe, but by a number from the twelve tribes viewed as a whole. As explained above, the number one thousand, though signifying "completeness," is not a definite number. Here, as elsewhere, it is the spiritual Israel which is signified. In support of this view, we may remark:

(1) The constant use in the Apocalypse of the terms" Israel," "Jew," "Jerusalem," etc., in the spiritual sense; and it seems scarcely credible that the writer of the book, who throughout insists on the fulfilment in the Christian religion of all things Jewish, should in this place, for no apparent reason, deliberately make a distinction between Jew and Gentile. The terms are constantly used to denote the spiritual Israel, the spiritual Jerusalem, etc., except where allusion is made to some historical fact, as in Revelation 2:14; Revelation 5:5; Revelation 22:16; Revelation 15:3 (cf. Jews, Revelation 2:9 and Revelation 3:9; Israel, Revelation 21:12; Jerusalem, Revelation 3:12 and Revelation 21:2, 10; Babylon, Revelation 14:8; Revelation 16:19; Revelation 17:5; Revelation 18:2, 10, 21; Sodom and Egypt, Revelation 11:8; Euphrates, Revelation 9:14; Revelation 16:12; Sion, Revelation 14:1; Jezebel, Revelation 2:20; David, Revelation 3:7; Gentiles, Revelation 11:2).

(2) The improbability of the omission of the tribe of Dan, if the literal Israel were meant.

(3) The general testimony of ancient commentators, which is the view of those who appointed this passage for use in the Liturgy on All Saints' Day. Some, however, have considered that the hundred and forty-four thousand are distinct from, and not included in, the multitude of ver. 9. They believe the former indicates the converted from among the Jews, and the latter those saved from the Gentiles. Thus Bengel, Dusterdieck, Ebrard, Grotius, etc. But it may be remembered that in Revelation 14:3, 4, the hundred and forty-four thousand redeemed from the earth and from among men is not confined to Jews. By other commentators the number has been thought to denote converts in the age of Constantine, etc. An hundred and forty and four thousand

Not literally, but the number symbolical of fixedness and full completion (12 x 12). The interpretations, as usual, vary greatly, dividing generally into two great classes: one holding that only Jews are meant, the other including the whole number of the elect both Jew and Gentile. Of the former class some regard the sealed as representing Jewish believers chosen out of the literal Israel. Others add to this the idea of these as forming the nucleus of glorified humanity to which the Gentiles are joined. Others again regard them as Jews reserved by God until Antichrist comes, to maintain in the bosom of their nation a true belief in Jehovah and His law, like the seven thousand in the days of Elijah.

The interpretation of the latter class seems entitled to the greater weight. According to the Apocalyptic usage, Jewish terms are "christianized and heightened in their meaning, and the word "Israel" is to be understood of all Christians, the blessed company of all faithful people, the true Israel of God." See Romans 2:28, Romans 2:29; Romans 9:6, Romans 9:7; Galatians 6:16; Philippians 3:3. The city of God, which includes all believers, is designated by the Jewish name, New Jerusalem. In Revelation 7:3, the sealed are designated generally as the servants of God. In chapter 14 the one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed are mentioned after the description of the enemies of Christ, who have reference to the whole Church of Christ; and the mention of the sealed is followed by the world-wide harvest and vintage of the earth. The one hundred and forty-four thousand in chapter 14, have the Father's name written in their foreheads; and in Revelation 22:4, all the inhabitants of the New Jerusalem are so marked. In Revelation 21:12, the twelve tribes include all believers. The mark of Satan which is in the forehead, is set upon all his servants without distinction of race. See Revelation 13:16, Revelation 13:17; Revelation 14:9; Revelation 16:2; Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:4. The plagues threaten both Jews and Gentiles, as the sealing protects all.

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