A Big, Big Crowd (Rev. 7:9-17)

people

To Follow, or Not to Follow – the Crowd

 

Has anyone ever told you not to follow the crowd? Most of the time this is wise advice. Choosing to follow Jesus daily usually means we are not following the crowd. But one day, there will be a Big, Big Crowd that I want to be a part of. You’ll find it in Revelation Chapter 7, verses 9-17. Earlier John has heard the number of God’s servants that were sealed, 144,000. Now he looks and sees a great multitude that no man can count from all nations and tribes and peoples and languages (Rev. 7:4, 9).

Wait a minute, he heard 144,000 and now he sees more people than can be counted. What’s that all about? This is not the first time this has happened to John. He probably was as surprised as we are. There are several other places in the book of Revelation where John hears one thing, but when he looks to see what it is, it looks different. He hears a loud voice like a trumpet and turns around and sees Jesus walking by the seven candlesticks (Rev. 1:10-13). Later he hears the Lion from the tribe of Judah has overcome. When he turns to see the lion, he sees the Lamb as having been slain (Rev. 5:5-6). There is a pattern here. What he hears and what he sees are actually the same thing, even though they are described differently. At first glance the 144,000 and the great multitude might appear to be two different groups, but they are probably the same group in different situations. Many scholars have called these two groups, “The Church Militant” and “The Church Triumphant”. The 144,000 are organized for battle – the Lord’s army. The great multitude are celebrating victory in Jesus after the battle is over.

Who are these people?

Even so, John was still wondering who exactly this big crowd was.  It’s a little funny that John doesn’t get to ask the question. One of the elders around the throne asks John, “Who are these people in white robes, and where did they come from?” As if John would know! So he quickly replies, “Sir, you know?!”

Yes, the elder does know and tells John,  “These are the ones who came out of great tribulation and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,” (Rev. 7:14).

Now here’s a question. Who in this world has never had any trouble or tribulation? Did Joseph have trouble? Did David have tribulation? Did the prophet Elisha or Queen Esther? All of these great men and women of God went through tribulation. Jesus’ disciples, without exception, experienced great trials and troubles. Jesus was very clear when he said, “In the world you shall have have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

While there will be a great tribulation at the end of time that will be like none other (Matt.24:21), it is also true that all people who stand in front of the throne of God will have experienced the tribulation of living on this world of sin and the trials of being in the greatest spiritual battle this universe has ever seen. The only way they will make it through is to be saved by the blood of Jesus, just like verse 14 says (Rev. 7:14).

No More Trouble!

Just like the blood of the lamb on the doorposts protected the Israelites from the last plague to fall upon Egypt, so Jesus’ blood, shed on the cross, protects all those who follow Him. No one will be saved except through the grace and mercy of Jesus. He died for our sins so that we may live forever with Him. Will you choose to give your life to Jesus today? If you do, He promises that when He makes a new Heaven and new earth for you, He will wipe all your tears away and there will be no more trouble (Rev. 7:17, 21:4).

I want to be in that Big, Big Crowd that bows down before our loving, merciful God and says, “Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever!” (Rev. 7:12) They won’t be people that followed the crowd here on earth. They will be those who followed Jesus.

I hope to see you there!

 

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Laying a Foundation

This week I was pondering the question, “Can you teach kids about the book of Revelation without sitting down and “studying” Revelation with them?”

Realizing that in everyday conversation, as it comes up, my kids and I have covered a lot of ground when it comes to Revelation, my answer is, “definitely yes!” Even my four-year old has an understanding of many things in the book of Revelation on a simple level though we have never sat down to “study” it.

girls-739071_1280

Guided Conversations

As a homeschool family we have a lot of time together to allow time for “random” guided conversations. I say random because often an inquisitive child sparks the conversation by asking a question like, “What will the healthiest food be in Heaven?” which leads eventually to a conversation about the tree of life with the leaves for the healing of the nations (Rev. 22:2). Or the common questions about Satan and dragons, followed by a discussion on why one should beware of “friendly dragons” and subsequent explanations of how the dragon likes to trick people (aka: deceive the whole world – Rev. 12:9). I’m not throwing Bible verses around, just talking about what the Bible says in kid language. These conversations are relatively common in our household because we discuss, or rather I bring up, these topics on a regular basis, which of course leads to discussions. When the four-year old states, “Satan is sneaky” or “How loud will it be when Jesus comes?” it is prime opportunity to discuss the beast and the dragon and how we must always check everything with the Bible to know the truth, or talk about what the Bible says about Jesus’ second coming.

When my older child wonders aloud why some so-called Christians don’t follow what the Bible says, it can lead to a conversation about compromise and how even the early church began compromising with the world, (most of the seven churches) and the great need for repentance and humbleness. This in turn is a great gateway into a discussion about why people sometimes persecute others in the name of God or christianity. Because said child has read a fair amount about the protestant reformation and church systems that did not follow the Bible and hated those who did, he can start to understand the idea of a beast power that looks religious, but is actually following the dragon.

Bible Connections

Another avenue I’ve used is relating other Bible stories to pieces of Revelation. While reading the story of the plagues of Egypt we contemplate how interesting it is that the last seven plagues did not touch the Hebrews and I note that there are seven, not ten, last plagues in Revelation which will also not touch God’s people in the end times. Or when we read about the armies of Israel going to battle described as the “thousands” of Israel, I can mention that the 144,000 in Revelation are divided into units of 1,000 also and represent the Lord’s army.

A Firm Foundation

Laying the foundation for our kids will only happen when we let God build a strong foundation under our own feet. If you haven’t embarked on a personal study of the book of Revelation yourself, start now. The more solid your foundation, the more you will have to share with kids when they ask those improbable questions. They need you to guide them with the aid of the Holy Spirit and with the Word of God as your sword.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

    • Read the Book of Revelation through more than once. Always pray for the Holy Spirit to lead you as you read.
    • Use a good Bible reference tool like Bible Gateway.com or the Bible Gateway App. Look up words to see their context and usage in the rest of the Bible like trumpets, plagues, four horses, etc.
    • Get a solid commentary or reader’s guide on Revelation that uses the Bible to interpret the Bible and sticks closely to the Biblical text. Some favorite ones are  Revelation of Jesus Christ and Plain Revelation by Ranko Stefanovic.

May God bless you as you share the truths in Revelation with your kids.

 

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The Lord’s Army

Battle of Thrones

War and Peace

Are you in the middle of a battle? Hmm, you may think to yourself. No, I’m sitting on the couch or hanging out with my friends (or whatever else you like to do) – it doesn’t feel like a battlefield. However, the middle of Revelation tells us we are in a war, and God does not lie. This war has been raging for a very long time and it’s not over yet.

Here’s the battle breakdown: There was war in heaven between Michael and his angels and the dragon (aka Satan) and his angels. Satan and his angels got kicked out of heaven. The dragon got angry with the woman (the church) and made war with her descendants who follow God’s commandments. The dragon (Satan) makes war with the saints (God’s people). The kings of the earth and the beast make war with the Lamb (Jesus), but Jesus is the victor! (Rev. 12, 13, 17) Sounds like there’s a serious battle of thrones going on.

We’re not going to discuss this whole war and all the players today, but you get the idea. There is a war going on. It even includes angels and demons. The Bible says, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12).

The 144,000

Armor by Matthew O'Keefe

Armor by Matthew O’Keefe

This brings us to a curious group of people in Revelation chapter 7. The servants of God have just been sealed with the seal of the living God to protect them from some impending judgment. Then John hears the number of them which were sealed: 144,000, 12,000 from each of the tribes of Israel.

Remember the language in Revelation is often symbolic. What could this number 144,000 mean? Here are some major clues. In times of war, ancient Israel’s army was divided into units of 1,000 (Num. 31:4-5, 1 Chron. 15:25). Even the tribes were organized into thousands based on the men who were able to go war for Israel (Num. 1:3,16). 12,000 from each tribe (12,000 x 12 tribes = 144,000). Now that’s a well equipped army!

Do you want to enlist with this army of God? Paul tells us to “Put on the full armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” Then he says again, “Take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (Eph. 6:11,13) Revelation chapter 6 ended with the question, “Who is able to stand?” Those who have put on the whole armor of God and are in the Lord’s army – the 144,000 sealed with the seal of the living God. You may want to read the rest of Ephesians chapter 6 to get your battle armor ready!

The Tribes of Israel

Now wait a minute, isn’t this army only from the tribes of Israel. What if I’m not from the modern nation of Israel or a Jew? That is a very good question! There are many “theories” floating around these days. To find the answer, we must let the Bible tell us who Israel is, not the latest apocalyptic novel. But first, some curious things about the list of tribes in Revelation chapter 7. This list is different from any other list of the tribes of Israel in the Old Testament. Also, Judah is never listed first in any other Old Testament list. It makes sense that Judah is first here when we remember that the Lamb, Jesus, is from the tribe of Judah (Rev. 5:5-6) and is the captain of this army!

by Matthew Cua

by Matthew Cua

Okay, back to our important question. Who is Israel in Revelation? The New Testament says there are two Israels – sort of. The Israel of the flesh (born a Jew) and the Israel of the promise (Jews and Gentiles who have faith in Jesus) (Rom. 9:6-8). It is the Israel of the promise (Jesus) that is the true Israel of God (Gal. 6:15-16). The good news from the Bible is that we can be “grafted in”,  joined to the Israel of God by believing in the Messiah, Jesus Christ (see Romans chapter 11). Paul said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek…. for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). Jews and Gentiles had become one through Jesus and Paul called this body of believers “the Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16). By faith in Jesus we can be part of the sons and daughters of Abraham (Gal. 3:7-9).

God is calling all people to belong to Him and to join his army. Will you answer His call?

Sign me up! I want to be part of the Lord’s Army!

Note to parents: There are many interpretations about who the 144,000 are and what their role is in the last days. The goal of this author is to let the Bible explain the Bible and give a simple but firm foundation of the principles of the text. There is clearly more to learn and study about these passages as a person grows and matures.

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Seal of the Living God

 

Do You Belong to God?

Lego Logo by David Pickett

Lego Logo by David Pickett

Do you own anything with a brand name on it? Maybe an iPod or Nike shoes or LEGO bricks? When you see the name or logo on something you immediately know something about it. First, you know what company made it. Perhaps you also know it’s really well made, fun for kids, or just cool. Sometimes people make “knock-offs” of these products. It looks the same, it even has the same name and logo on it, but it’s not the real thing. The original company did not make it. It might look real, but it’s a fake.

 

Just like there are fake Nike shoes, there are fake Christians. You can’t always tell just by looking at them or talking to them. Luckily we don’t have to decide who’s real and who’s faking it. God knows the heart and He knows who belongs to Him. All through history God has been marking those who belong to him, and very soon before Jesus comes again, all people on earth will receive a mark – either the seal of God or the mark of the beast. It will tell the angels who to pour out God’s wrath on, and who to protect.

 

Revelation chapter 7 says that God seals the servants of God. Rev. 7:1-3 He marks those who belong to Him, before he lets the four winds of the earth loose. Four winds symbolize judgment over all the earth (Isa. 66:15-16). And trees often symbolize people in the Bible (Psalm 1:1-3; Jer. 17:7-8).

 

Our wonderful, merciful God wants to protect you from the great plagues that will fall upon the earth at the end of this world. Wouldn’t it be good to know what this seal of God is and how we can be sealed? Let’s examine some clues to find out.

Seal of the Living God

A seal is a sign of ownership or authority. If you have God’s seal, it means you have given your heart and life to Him completely. Sealing also means to decide something forever. When God seals his people for the final time, their destiny will be sure. They will never turn back from God.

 

To find out what this seal is, let’s look at some important verses.

 

“In whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance…” Ephesians 1:13-14 (NKJV)

 

“And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” Ephesians 4:30

 

“Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” 2 Corinthians 1:21-22

 

What do these verses say the seal of God is? Yes, the Holy Spirit! Being sealed by the Holy Spirit is the sign

photo from ExaClair

photo from ExaClair

of a genuine Christian who belongs to God.

 

Chapter 6 of Revelation ended with the question, “Who shall be able to stand?”

Chapter 7 answers, those who have been sealed with the Holy Spirit, God’s sign of ownership, will be able to stand in the final great crisis of this world’s history.

 

Just like the Israelites were saved from the final plague of death that fell on the Egyptians by putting the blood of a lamb on their doorposts (Exod. 12:21-23), the Holy Spirit will protect Christian’s who are marked with the seal of God from the last deadly plagues to fall on earth. They will be washed in the blood of the Lamb – that’s Jesus’ blood that washes away our sins when we repent. This does not mean we will be whisked away and not see the destruction all around us. The Bible says we come out of the great tribulation (Rev. 7:14). To come out of a tunnel, you must first go through the tunnel. If you ever start to feel nervous or scared about this time of trouble, read and then memorize this wonderful Bible promise.

 

“A thousand shall fall at thy right side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.” Psalm 91:7-10

How Can I be Sealed With the Holy Spirit?

Jesus promises to give you the Holy Spirit if you do one thing. You may not believe how simple it is. Read this:

 

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” Luke 11:13

 

Wow! We just need to ask with a sincere heart. Many people read a few verses earlier where is says, “Ask and it will be given to you” (Luke 11:9) and think they can ask for anything they want and God will give it to them. Then they wonder why God isn’t answering their prayers. But now you know!  God wants us to ask for the Holy Spirit. When you ask for the Holy Spirit, God promises to answer your prayer!

 

Bedtime Prayers by Don O'Brian

Bedtime Prayers by Don O’Brian

When God sends you the Holy Spirit in answer to your prayers, the Spirit will start leading you to want to do things like pray and read the Bible. The Spirit will also start to show you where you might not be following God fully. The Spirit always nudges you to obey God and surrender fully to Him.

 

The Spirit also leads you to more truth and starts to expose the lies of Satan. This is a good thing! Don’t resist the Spirit when he starts speaking to your heart through the Bible. This is why the Bible says, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Eph. 4:30) and “But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; so He turned Himself against them as an enemy, and He fought against them.” (Isa. 63:10)

 

Right now we can either receive the Holy Spirit or resist the Holy Spirit. But there is coming a time when everyone will be sealed with God’s seal or the mark of the beast once and for all. After that there will be no second chances (Rev. 22:11). Pray today for God to send you the Holy Spirit and decide today that you will follow where the Spirit leads you. Then you will be sealed with the seal of God!

 

 


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Seals 5, 6, & 7 – Part 2

tabernacle

In Part 1 of Seals 5, 6, & 7, we covered the last three seals in a simple way. Part 2 is for older kids or adults who want to explore these seals in more detail.

 

Let’s dig deeper to look at some of the symbols in these last three seals and the full meaning of them. Remember when Jesus breaks the seals in Heaven, things happen on the earth as a result.

Puzzled RoseTo understand difficult passages of the Bible, we must look for clues in other parts of the Bible. Studying the Bible is like putting a big puzzle together. The more pieces we find that match, the more we can understand the “big picture”. The same goes for finding the meaning of symbolic language. Other parts of the Bible teach us what the symbols mean.

 

The Fifth Seal Opened. Read about it here:

Revelation 6:9-11

 

tabernaclekit4

This word picture of the altar is taken from way back when the Israelites offered animal sacrifices on the altar of burnt offering in the courtyard of the tabernacle. Lev. 4:7, 18 The killing of these animals was a symbol of the horrible consequences of sin. The person’s sin was transferred to an innocent and spotless animal that was then killed on the altar. The blood of the animal was poured out under the altar. Exod. 29:12, Lev. 4:7 The blood was a symbol of life. Lev. 17:11 The consequence of sin is death, so the life blood was poured out symbolizing the serious nature of sin. It causes death. But this sad ritual also symbolized hope. Someday, God’s son would come and his own innocent life-blood would be spilled out for us on the cross to make an atonement for us. Matt. 26:28 Atonement simply means at-one-ment. Sin separates us from God. But Jesus died in our place, for our sins, so that we could become connected to God again. Beautiful!

 

The souls under the altar had been slain, or killed, for the word of God. Jesus predicted this would happen. John 16:2, Matt. 10:38-39 They literally followed Jesus to the altar of sacrifice where he died for us. As Jesus sacrificed his life for us, these martyrs sacrificed their lives for Jesus. They followed Jesus even if it meant death. Now they are resting until the plan is finished. Others will join them who will also die for their faith. Rev. 6:11 People are still dying for Jesus in many parts of the world today. The white robes are their righteous deeds and the purity of Christ they had in their hearts. Rev. 19:8, Rev. 7:14, Gal. 2:20

 

Eventually God will answer the cries of all his people for justice. God will avenge his people when the sixth seal is opened. God’s judgment will come on all those who “dwell on the earth”. Those who “dwell on the earth” do not include God’s people. Rev. 3:10 God’s people are depicted as “dwelling in heavenly places” even though they haven’t gotten there physically yet. They are there spiritually. Rev. 13:6, Eph. 2:5-6

 

The Sixth Seal Opened. Read about it here: 

Rev. 6:12-17

Blood Moon by slworking2

Blood Moon 2014 by slworking2

 

When the sixth seal is opened, thing are shaken! There’s a great earthquake, the sun is darkened, the moon becomes as blood, the stars fall and mountains are moved out of their places. Wow! This sounds serious. While much of the book of Revelation is symbolic, some things may also be literal. For example when it says there will be an earthquake, I believe the earth will literally quake. It says the moon will become as blood. The moon may not literally become blood, but it may look like blood – that is, turn red.  All these things are signs of Jesus’ very soon coming. Matt.24:29-30, Joel 2:31

 

Did you know that in 2014 and 2015 there are four “blood moons”, lunar eclipses when the moon appears red. Amazingly, all four of these events happen on Biblical feast days, Passover and Feast of Tabernacles. Friends, Jesus is coming soon! Ask Him to come into your heart today, to wash your sins away, and to make you ready for His glorious coming.

 

Now for the people of the earth (those who are not following Jesus), these things are terrifying. It won’t matter if you’re a king, a captain, a rich man or a poor man. You will want to hide from the wrath of God. However, there will be nowhere to hide. The big question at the end of the sixth seal is, “Who shall be able to stand?” Rev. 6:17

 

Chapter 7 of Revelation will answer this question. And those who will be able to stand in the presence of God will not be asking the rocks to fall on them, but will be praising God and thanking Him for saving them. I want to learn more about Jesus, so I can be in that group of people. Don’t you? Keep reading His word, the Bible, and God will reveal more and more about His great love for you!

 

The Seventh Seal Opened. Read about it here: 

Rev. 8:1

 

The description of what happens when the seventh seal is opened is very short. “There was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.” Rev. 8:1

 

In between the sixth and seventh seal is chapter 7 of Revelation where the people of God are sealed. It appears that between the sixth and seventh seal being opened, the last plagues fall on earth and Jesus comes to rescue his people. There are different views on what this silence in heaven means. There is no other text that explains it fully. So sometimes we just have to use our best reasoning. Here’s one possibility. When Jesus comes to earth again with all his holy angels (Matt. 25:31, Mark 8:38) then Heaven will be empty for a short time. It will be silent in Heaven because no one will be there. When we return to Heaven with Jesus and the angels then surely it will be very noisy with everyone praising God. Rev. 7:9-10 There may be other reasons why Heaven is silent, but we know it will only be for a short time.

 

The Holy City by Waiting for the Word

The Holy City by Waiting for the Word

I believe we are very close to the end of this earth’s history as we know it. Jesus has almost finished opening the seals that fulfill this earth’s destiny. God’s plan will be completed, with or without you. Which side do you want to be on? Chose to follow Jesus today! He loves you and is waiting patiently for you to invite Him into your heart.

 

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God Hears Your Cry: Seals 5, 6 & 7 – Part 1

Have you ever wondered how long until God puts an end to all the bad things than happen in this world? Where is God while all this evil continues in the world?

You are not alone. Many people have asked this question, including people in the Bible. David asked, “How long Lord? Will you be angry forever?” Psalm 79:5

In other words, when will you do something God?  Like “revenging the blood of they servants which is shed?” Psalm 79:10

This type of revenge is not about getting even, but more about serving justice or making things right. If someone is a murderer, they will go to jail and may even receive the death penalty, if justice is served.

The prophet Habakkuk also asked, “O Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear!” Hab. 1:2

God Is Listening Snapshot of a shedding star

Check out what happens when the last three of the seven seals are broken. All of those who have died (martyrs) for following Jesus cry out symbolically together for help and for justice. God listens and responds.

Seals 5, 6 & 7

Seal 5 – Martyrs cry out, How long O Lord until you help us?Rev. 6:9-10

Seal 6 – God answers and punishes the enemies of his people and those who have not repented of their sins. Rev. 6:12-17

Seal 7 – Silence in Heaven / Jesus Comes to rescue his people. Rev. 8:1 

 

Choose Jesus Today

God will rescue his people from this world of sadness and evil and pain. There will also come a time when it will be too late to repent and give your life to God. Give Jesus your life today! Invite him into your heart today! Don’t wait until it’s too late.

 

More intriguing information on the details of Seals 5, 6 & 7 in Part 2 (coming soon!).

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