Revelation – The Sealed Saved – 15
It has been a while since we’ve been in Revelation. We took a break for the Summer and started off the school looking at Acts 2 and what the early church devoted themselves to. Now, it’s time to hop right back into Revelation where we left off.
The first series we did had to do with the seven churches. It was more like some of the epistles of the New Testament than what we really think of when we think of Revelation. This second series, though, is where we start getting into the end times, apocalyptic things that you are accustomed to when you think of Revelation.
If you remember back to Revelation 4 and 5, we see John weep because no one is found worthy to open the scroll and to break its seals. And the scroll represents the flow of history…where history is heading. But then John has reason to weep no more, because Jesus, the Lamb who was slain, is worthy. And what we see in Revelation 6 is the opening of the first six seals. And what flows from this history unfolding is God’s judgment poured out on earth in such horrifying ways that the world has never seen before. And the last line before our chapter for today is, “for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (6:17).
It is amidst this desperation that chapter 7 starts.
Some say what we’re reading is between the 6th and the 7th seals. Others say it is another recounting of what is happening amidst the 6 seals being opened. When this is happening doesn’t matter as much as what is happening. Here is what we see right off the bat.
Those who are saved are sealed and protected by the Lamb. (1-4)
This is further biblical proof of what we as Southern Baptists and those who hold to Reformed theology refer to as perseverance of the saints. Those who are saved persevere to the end. They don’t just persevere, but they are protected. Their faith is protected. They won’t fall away and be deceived. And they are protected from God’s just wrath.
What we see in this passage is the angels are ready to execute God’s judgment on the earth, but God says, “Wait.” I want you to think how much of a relief those words would be right before you are about to be punished for something. We all deserve judgment, and say there is a firing squad about to execute you, you are blindfolded, and you hear the countdown. “Ready! Aim!” But before you hear, “Fire!” You hear a different word…“Wait!” How much of a relief would that be?! Amidst righteous judgment on the earth, God says, “Wait!” for the sake of sealing those who are saved.
God shows mercy amidst his wrath. (3)
The Old Testament, where we think God seems most vengeful, describes God like this:
6“The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7)
And it’s not just in the Old Testament. It is now with the gospel for you. Romans 6:23 shows God’s mercy amidst his wrath. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And it is also in the future as we see from this passage. God cannot cease to be who he is, and even amidst his just wrath, he is merciful and gracious.
God seals those who belong to him. (4)
What do you think this seal is? Or this sign? How would you mark someone as belonging to you? Who has ever seen Toy Story? How does Andy mark his toys as belonging to him? He writes his name on them.
Later in Revelation 14:1, we see what this seal is: “Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.”
All those who belong to Jesus are sealed by Jesus. They are secure. Their faith won’t faulter. Even if the world around them caves and collapses, they won’t. This seal is in direct contrast to another mark on the forehead we hear of in Revelation 13…the mark of the beast…666. Whatever this mark is, we know it belongs to all those who are deceived and don’t follow Jesus. But to those who do follow God, they are sealed and stamped with his name, to not faulter in their faith.
Is that you? Will you stand firm for Jesus when things get hard? Will you follow the crowds of the world and culture around you? Or will you follow Jesus at all costs? Followers of Jesus are sealed and secure.
Now, what we see here with the numbers…that gets into some classic Revelation stuff. What does the number 144,000 mean? A lot of people have different specific views on what it means, but we can boil it down to two main options.
The 144,000 are either 1) Jewish believers, or 2) the whole people of God (the church.) (4-8)
Of the two main commentaries I use in my study for Revelation, one believes the first one and the other believes the second one. If you read scripture from a dispensational theology viewpoint, you will likely hold to the first one. If you read scripture from a covenantal theology viewpoint, you will likely hold to the second.
In all of these points of detail in Revelation, we should never lose sight of what we do know and of the big picture. Here’s what we do know here: God, in all times, has his faithful servants who are his possession and have his protection.
That’s what we know. And that includes you if you are in Christ. If you are not in Christ, this judgment is coming for you. If you have never placed your faith in the finished work of Jesus, you will get what you deserve, and you deserve the just wrath of God. But you don’t have to. Jesus took your punishment. And if you confess with your mouth that he is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9). That’s what God is all about. He loves you so much that he wants to save you. He is eager to save. Not just here, but he so loves the whole world that he gave his only Son. And he saves people from the whole world.
Christianity is global. (9) Our worship here on earth should be a foretaste of our worship in heaven. This is one major reason you see such a big push against Christian nationalism right now. And I think rightly so. If a brother or sister in Christ, from another country, was in one of our worship services around July 4, would they be able to worship? In a lot of churches, I don’t think so. I think we should thank God for our country, but many forget that Christianity is not an American religion. Yes, we have freedom of religion, and that is incredible, and we should thank God for it, but Christianity is a global religion, and it is even thriving in places where there is no freedom of religion. Christianity is global. And that is what we see and hear around the throne of God.
Every people group is represented around God’s throne. The gospel is going to be heard and believed among all the peoples of the earth. (10)
We sang a song tonight inspired by Psalm 67:4, of which John Piper’s book “Let the Nations be Glad” is also based on. I want you to hear how he starts off his book: “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t.”
What we see around the throne is the end result of missions here on earth. People from every people group are worshiping God. There are a total of 17,428 people groups around the world. A people group is a specific group of people with a distinct culture and language. Out of those people groups, 7,417 are unreached. 42.5% of the world population is unreached. That is 3.37 billion people. That means they have little or no access to the gospel. There is not a church or enough evangelical Christian population to be able to tell this group how to be saved without outside assistance.
The mission that lays before us is great! The whole world needs to worship God, and people from the whole world WILL worship God!
** This isn’t in the sermon, but it is interesting to note. The twelve tribes mentioned here are different than you see at different places in the Old Testament. One way is that Joseph is mentioned. But one I find interesting is that Dan is missing. Some say that it is because they fell into gross idolatry. But, when you look at early church history and their belief, there are some interesting eschatological implications.
“Dan is omitted, replaced by Levi, because of its practice of gross idolatry. Further, Irenaeus (a second-century church father) noted the pre-Christian Jewish tradition that antichrist would come from Dan, and Hippolytus wrote, “As the Christ was born from the tribe of Judah, so will the Antichrist be born from the tribe of Dan.” And Genesis 49:17 says, “Dan shall be a serpent in the way, a horned snake in the path, that bites the horse’s heels, so that his rider falls backward.” Finally, the Testament of Dan (5:6) says Satan is the prince of Dan.”
 Gordon D. Fee, Revelation: A New Testament Commentary, New Covenant Commentary Series (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2011), 107.
 Daniel L. Akin, Exalting Jesus in Revelation, Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary (Nashville: B&H, 2016), 155.
 John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad! (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010), 15.
 Akin, Exalting Jesus in Revelation, 156.