Revelation 7 - "HEAR THE NUMBER - SEE THE MULTITUDE" - Rev. G. VanDooren (bio)
"HEAR THE NUMBER - SEE THE MULTITUDE"
Chapter 7 is a striking illustration of what we have previously discovered and what really is the key to understanding this fascinating book given by God.
In chapter 5 we saw the Lion of Judah, the Lamb of God as the only one who was worthy to take the scroll, to take over from God, so to speak, in ruling and ordering the history of world and church. That scroll was sealed with seven seals. They had to be broken, otherwise history would come to a standstill, and the Cross would have been in vain.
Chapter 6 tells us now how the Lamb Himself starts to break open those seals, the first, second, third, fourth ... Every time something terrible happens in the world, there are four horses representing the destructive powers of war. It is exactly the same - be it in a symbolic picture what the Lord Jesus had said when He was still on earth, Matthew 24, And you will hear of wars and of rumours of war. The first, white horse must therefore also be understood as a war-horse, bringing destruction. It does not agree with the character of this vision to suddenly see Jesus Christ as victor on a white horse. He opens the seal; he is not in the seal.
Then, with the fifth seal we are shown how the people of God, the church throughout the ages, suffer from those wars. Many of those wars are religious wars, and thus God's children have been killed by the thousands. Do not all believers have to suffer and die with Jesus Christ? Thus we see them as the souls under the altar, vs. 9. At this stage they are still under the altar, and not yet, as in chapter 20, sitting on thrones, reigning with Christ. That is also part of the picture, of the symbolic presentation.
Then comes the sixth seal, and now, you say, now comes the end, the end of the world. Because is it not on judgment day that people will call to the mountains and rocks, 'fall on us and hide us' . . .? Judgment Day! But no, There is the big interruption. Before the seventh seal is opened (and that will not happen before chapter 8), before the great day of the wrath of the Lamb comes, there is the loud call: Stop!!
Thus starts chapter 7. When we enter it, we remind ourselves that Revelation shows us, not only about the very last days of this age, but what has been happening already during all centuries: wars and rumours of wars. And that was nothing new either. During the Old Testament period it was already, that after every winter the kings went out for war, and they did not take prisoners.
But now then the surprise of chapter 7. After all the rumours of war there is a peaceful, pastoral picture. One could give this chapter the heading:
IN THE MIDST OF TRIBULATION THE
CHURCH OF THE LAMB SURVIVES
The chapter is clearly divided in two parts:
1. Hear the number!
2. See the multitude!
1. Hear the Number
At the four corners of the earth (a wellknown biblical way of picturing the world), four angels obey the command of the Lamb: stop! They hold back the winds. There is a pause, an interruption of wars and all their terrible aftermath. Not really a pause in the history of the world, but there is a pause in the vision. While all the plagues and murders and misery go on, John is granted a view of what in the mean time is happening with the church, with the
gathering of the church. You hear the surprise in his voice, like in vs. 9, Then I looked and behold. . . At this moment we have to decide how we are going about reading this chapter. There are two ways. The one way is how a reformed believer reads it as one who is trained in reading the Scriptures, in all their beautiful variety, as one book, one story, one message. How do others read the two parts of chapter 7, which are:
1. I heard the number of those who
2. I saw the multitude of those who are
Reformed believers have always tried to understand this chapter in context, within the framework of the whole New Testament, even the whole Bible. After having done it this way, shall we then listen to all the misguided theories of those, though also Biblebelievers, who especially since the Desert Storm and events in the Middle East, cut the Bible in pieces, and turn it into a jigsaw puzzle with the most astonishing and unbelievable results?
Maybe, for a change, it is better to do it the other* way around. Let's first ask how others, many others, millions of them, nowadays read Revelation, and especially also this chapter. After having done this, we will ask ourselves how we read it in the firm conviction that we do so according to the meaning and the purpose of the Holy Spirit. Yes, that is the better way.
Do we really have to mention the Jehovah's Witnesses here? They find themselves outside the ecumenical Christian Church; they do not even believe that God is Triune. They have their own particular interpretation of Revelation 7. There is the number 144,000, 12 times twelve thousand. They claim that number (one would say: "of course!") for themselves. The 144,000 real and undiluted Jehovah's Witnesses will forever live in heaven; all of them and they only. 144,000 only? That will be a small heaven! And what about their millions of followers, whom they obviously consider as of second rank? Those millions (and that is then the great multitude which no man could number, vs 9) will, according to them, live forever on earth, in peace and prosperity. Nowhere could I find that they will also live without sin. But "sin" is the weakest point in the doctrine of this sect.
Apart from that, do you see that they turn everything upside down? John heard the number, and the sealing of the number taking place on earth, and not in heaven, while the innumerable multitude is not on earth but standing before the throne, vs 9,10.
The greatest trouble today, however, is not with these so-called Witnesses but with the millions of Bible believers (that is what they are, and no doubt about that) who are nowadays known as "Evangelicals". Many of them are baptists, or anyway have a "baptistic" mind, so to speak. They gather in several churches or denominations. Since the Desert Storm they have produced a flood of literature. This is not the place to go into details. I just mention titles like, Armageddon, Oil and the Middle East Crisis by John F. Walvoord, and Global Peace and the Rise of Antichrist by Dave Hunt. You must believe me that what I am now going to quote, is taken from these and other sources.
These Bible-readers find in chapter 7 (and other parts of Revelation) the three great events that according to them are now going to happen. I trust you know the terms. First there is the Rapture; then the Great Tribulation and finally the arrival of the Millennium. There are, it must be said, many differences as to the chronological order of these events, but essentially you find them agreeing in the main themes.
You may then throw in the terms like Gog and Magog, and of course Armageddon.
What is all this about? How do they find in the Bible what we have not found until now? Because they, for sure, come with a lot of Bible references in their publications. They are even recently joined by a fullblooded Jew, Rabbi Lubavitch who has started a movement for and among Jews under the standard of the Millennium.
Let us start with what is written about so much and believed by so many nowadays: the Rapture. They point to vs 14 (as you see, they turn the order of things around, just like the Jehovah's Witnesses, be it with different results.) There we read, They have come out of the great tribulation. We understand this as speaking about the universal church, that all through the centuries has suffered from tribulation, the great tribulation. But those who expect the Rapture in the near future, read here, and now I quote, that this Rapture is God's method to grant all true believers escape from tribulation. That's not what the text says: "out of'. Thus they were in the middle of it and their God pulled them out of ft. Rapturists read: God pulls them up before the tribulation starts: ft is "God's method to grant them escape." The Rapture takes place before the Great Tribulation starts. 'The Rapture"? you wonder? Why that word? Well, they found it in Paul's letter to the Thessalonians, 1 Thess. 4:13-18. Paul clearly writes there about the great event of the day of resurrection. We who are left (that is: those who are still alive when the Lord Jesus returns) shall not proceed those who have fallen asleep. We will all have to waft for each other, and will all be caught up together with them in the clouds. We confess that every Sunday that we believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. "Rapture" for them is another word for "being caught up", and they are convinced that will happen very soon. I read that the latest date is 1993, because many of them are convinced that the Millennium will come in the year 2000, and that Great Tribulation will last seven years, the time in between 1993 and 2000. They pick those "seven years" out of Daniel 9:25, without much regard for the context in Daniel 7. So then, that is the Rapture. In the near future you will find empty cars on the side of the highways, empty places in plants and shops and homes. Suddenly all true believers will be caught up in a splitsecond, the twinkling of an eye.
There seems to be no unanimity as to whether the believers who passed away before that moment will rise and take part in the Rapture. But one thing is sure. The Rapture will, to them, take place before things are starting to get really bad.
Let me illustrate. Once I happened, somewhere down south, to find myself in a church that had the name "Reformed" on it. The minister happened to preach about the Rapture. He was trained at the Moody Bible Institute. The church was filled with greyheaded seniors, snowbirds they call them in Florida. The sermon was constantly interrupted by exclamations from these old people: "Amen!" "Hallelujah!" No wonder, I thought. Straight from a Florida sun room to heaven, and leaving all the trouble behind, for your children and grandchildren . . ..
So much for the Rapture.
Then comes The Great Tribulation. I will, at this moment, spare you some of the gruesome details. Later on chapter 16 and 20 will mention Armageddon and Gog and Magog. Let me only state that, according to the most popular writers among them, in Armageddon, that is the Valley of Megiddo, there will be 400 million enemies. Of this total, 200 million are from Asia, 100 million from Africa, plus 100 million from "Rosj" (a name they picked all the way back from Genesis 46:21 and read it as though it said "Russia~'). All of them on horses, by all means! No more about that, except to express our wonderment that obviously during that tribulation the main target of tribulation or persecution is the true believers, and they are not there any more, they have been raptured!
This is the prelude to the arrival of the Millennium. The meaning comes from "mill" or 1000 and ennium from annus or year. Although the expression a thousand years does not come before chapter 20 of Revelation, it is read into chapter 7 already. You know why? All those who read all these ideas of the Rapture into the Bible by cutting it into 100 pieces like a puzzle and randomly reassembling them, are all firmly convinced that the Lord Jesus Christ as the Root of David, ch. 5, did not finish His mandate when He ascended into heaven. He did not get to the throne of David yet. He did not rebuild the temple. He did not fulfil all the promises that have been given to Old Israel, to the Jews. In all that is happening today in the world, especially in the Middle East, they see the forebodings of the Messiah coming down from His heavenly sanctuary (read letter to the Hebrews) down to earthly Jerusalem to gather all the nations of the Jews, as I found written somewhere. Then He will not come as Redeemer of sinners, but as King of the Jews, establishing a kingdom of David for one thousand years on earth. Yes, on earth! And then, only then will all those beautiful Psalms like 2, 72, 110 be fulfilled. We as christians from the gentiles should not sing them. They are not meant for us. They were written for the Jews.
But, you wonder, why is there a place for that in a sermon on Revelation 7! The answer is simple. As already stated, people who read the Bible in terms of Rapture and Millennium, read this chapter 7 backwards. They found the Rapture in the last part, and the Millennium in the first part of ch. 7. Yes! there it is I heard the number ... twelve times twelve-thousand from all the tribes. What else can this be but the return of "all the nations of the Jews" to their land? And what else but the arrival of their King Messiah? In what they call 'their own land' the King of the Jews will make that real- estate along the Mediterranean, which once was the promised land, the centre of the whole world. All kings will pay Him due honour. Of course, all that comes to an end after exactly one thousand years. There comes, then, a lot of misery yet before the final coming, the Return, of which the Church confesses, Until He shall come again to judge the living and the dead, without a Millennium, however.
Of course, since the Desert Storm and the events in Europe several details have been added to the picture, like the European Community, NATO, and now the most recent addition of the Commonwealth of the late Soviet Union. Let's not forget the resurrection of the Roman Empire with the Antichrist coming out of the area of Southern Europe.
Please, you say, that will do. Indeed it will do in order to make clear that millions of honest Bible-believing people believe and expect all this because of their fundamental error in their view of the Bible. First, they broke the Bible into two Bibles. The first part, or Old Testament, is for the Jews, and for them only. That's why they believe in the Millennium. Then finally the LORD will make true for the leftovers of His old people the many O.T. promises that have not yet been fulfilled to them in a literal way. That is also the reason why those christians are opposed to infant baptism and do not really know much about the Covenant that the LORD made with us and our children because that is "old-testamentic".
But then they proceed and break the Bible into a thousand pieces. Reading their publications, one becomes dumbfounded how they take texts, words, numbers from left and right, lift them out of the context, and put together a patchwork, a jigsawpuzzle. They are always on the run to keep track of the most recent events, to give them a proper place within their millenanian outlook. Now the micro-chip has become the mark of the beast.
Of course, we wholeheartedly agree with them that we must be on the alert and on the outlook. Feminism, the new age religion and the worship of "Mother Earth", lawlessness, and humanism are all warnings that we do not become defiled With the world and thus perish with the world.
How, then, do we read the Bible, and especially Revelation, and specifically this chapter 7? The answer is that we, trained in the Reformed Creeds, read the Bible as one book, in which every text must be understood Within its context. In other words, every text is like a window through which we are given a view over the whole Word of God.
What is for us, and for everyone who believes, the true comfort in this chapter 7, this interruption between the sixth and the seventh seal?
We have already directed your attention to the fact that John heard something, and then, vs 9, after this I looked and behold! He saw something. Thus first, what did John hear?
He saw the four angels standing at the four corners of the earth. Mind you, on earth, not in heaven. It is important to keep that in mind, also when we hear another angel who with a loud voice proclaims and proscribes a period of calm, do not harm anything on earth. Something else has to be completed first, the sealing of the servants of God upon their foreheads.
We remind ourselves again that in Revelation all things are put in symbolical form. This already means that with a seal on their foreheads we need not think of something visible for everyone. It is a symbol. It is even a secret. Because John heard the number. He does not say, 'look and behold' as he does in the second half of this vision.
One can only hear the number. Why? Because what is taking place, is the "sealing" of God's servants. Let the light of the Bible shine on this "sealing"! One thinks of the word of the apostle in 11 Timothy 2:19. God's foundation stands, bearing this seal, 'The LORD knows those who are His.'And, we add, only He knows! We usually shy away from the idea of "The Invisible Church", as though that were something high up in the clouds, containing already now all the elect. That is vain philosophy. But K is also true that we can only hear the number of those who are sealed by the Holy Spirit; upon whom the LORD God has set his mark of ownership. We hear in our mind sounds like, "He has put his seal upon us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee." 11 Cor. 1:22. You have been sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, and do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephes. 1:13, 4:30
It is our firm conviction that the Scripture in Revelation explains itself in the rest of the Bible. The sealing of which John heard in our text is nothing else but what has been going on, is going on, and will be going on till the last elect has been sealed by and with the Spirit of God.
But that sealing itself is invisible to our eyes. We may see the results, although the warning that there are always weeds among the wheat, and hypocrites among the number of God's children should make us careful. Only the LORD knows who are His own. But the comfort is in the number: 144,000.
Hearing that number, there are some "of course's". Of course, this is a symbolical number. 1 doubt if even the most ardent millennarian dares to say that from every tribe in the Millennium there will be exactly 12.000 sealed, not one more, not one less. And of course, the number is not only symbolical, but it is not the number of the twelve tribes of Israel as they left Egypt and settled in the promised land! Of course not! Because then one wonders why some names-are not there. Think of Dan, think of Ephraim. And why, one would say, is not Rueben mentioned first, as always? Why Judah first? That is of course no problem for one who remembers from chapter 5 that the Lamb is the Lion of Judah.
But not only that. From other parts of the New Testament we learn that "Israel" in the new dispensation underwent a significant change. Now it is, like in Galatians 3, SO you see that it is the men of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And, Romans 9, not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, vs 6, and chapter 11:25, until the full number of the Gentiles comes in, so all Israel will be saved. We may confess this in that beautiful answer of the Catechism, Lord's Day 21, 1 believe that the Son of God, out of the whole human race, from the beginning of the world unto its end, gathers, defends and preserves for Himself, by His Spirit and Word, in the unity of the true faith, a church chosen to everlasting life; and I believe that I am, and forever shall remain a living member of it.
Yes, the twelve tribes, so we read in vs. 4: out of every tribe of the sons of Israel. And then we do not overlook, that James wrote his letter to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion, meaning the church of Jesus Christ in his days. And Peter likewise, to the exiles of the Dispersion sanctified by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with His blood. 1 Peter 1:1,2
In this way Scripture itself leads us to the understanding of what and who are meant by the twelve tribes here in Revelation 7. And equally to the understanding of the number 144.000. It should be clear to everyone that this number is to be understood as a symbol, a picture in numbers, so to speak. It is, for our sake, for the seven churches in Asia, broken down into twelve times twelve thousand. Twelve. Who does then not think of the twelve tribes of Israel born from the twelve sons of Jacob. And of the number of the disciples: twelve. The measure of the new city that descends from heaven, Rev. 21, is 12.000 stadia. And it has 12 gates, made of 12 pearls. It is as though the Holy Spirit wants to hammer into our minds that twelve is the number of His church. Some want, then, to break 12 down into three times four. Four the number of the world, three the number of the Triune God, and thus twelve standing for God's work of redemption in and for the world. That may be correct, but beyond doubt the number thousand stands for fullness, completeness. Ten times ten times ten. What a comfort for churches that are to be persecuted: "no one is missing, no one will be missed!" No one can separate us from the love of Christ. The complete number of all God's elect will, in the course of the centuries, be sealed with the Holy Spirit.
Before we pass on to the second part of this chapter of what John saw, we cannot pass by the fact that some believe that
these 144,000 are only a part, and then of course a small part because you can count them easily. The number 144,000, if you take it literally, is not that many. These 144.000 are only a part of what John sees after he has heard the number, behold, a great multitude that no man can number, vs 9. The next question is then, of course, 'Who are they? The martyrs of the Roman Empire, maybe?" This would, however, not only run counter to what we have just learned about the meaning of the number 144,000, the whole church of both dispensations. It would, in addition, produce the question of whom of that great multitude are not sealed. Are only a part of them sealed? Who would be able to swallow that? People redeemed forever, and not sealed with God's mark? We will most readily grant the martyrs the first places. Let them stand forever in front of the multitude. The one star differs in glory from the other. But in apocalyptic language, Ch. 20:4, beheaded for Jesus got the meaning of all those who died with Christ, or in other words, all believers.
Finally, look at both parts of this chapter, and you will discover that both the 144,000 and the great multitude have the same names. They are called the servants of God. The Lamb is in the midst of them, and He is their Shepherd. Is that not true of both the sealed ones and those who washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb? The only answer is, yes! When we take into account the symbolical meaning of all these figures in Revelation, then we have no problem with that. John heard and saw the one holy and universal church in two pictures. First as they were and are sealed on earth, and then as they all together will serve God day and night in His temple.
The wonderful comfort, for the seven churches, for those persecuted and scattered, and even for us today is, that not withstanding all the wars and calamities, the church will be complete: 144,000.
You know what? After that chapter full of monsters, chapter 13, with all the ravage they have done on earth, and going after the remnant of the seed of the woman, the number in chapter 14 is still, no, not 143,000, not even 143,999, but because no one will be missed, it is still, after all, one hundred and forty-four thousand. The one people of God. The one and only church of Jesus Christ.
Elect from every nation,
Yet one o'er all the earth!
The Lord never wanted to throw a lot of problems at his children, which even professors in theology cannot solve (read all their different and contrasting explanations of these numbers and symbols in Revelation). He simply wanted to show us: look, beloved, twelve times twelve thousand, and, as my servant Paul said: And so all Israel will be saved! That is the message of the 144,000.
2. See the Multitude
It is clear that we now enter into the second stage in the vision of chapter 7. In the first John heard, now he sees. Some important questions have to be answered in order to understand what exactly the Spirit says here to the seven churches, and to the church of all ages.
In seeking the answers we again follow a different route than the many evangelical Bible- believers of our day who, according to their publications, find here indications of the rapture, the great tribulation and after that the millennium. We read that this great multitude comes out of the great tribulation, vs 14. John looks at that multitude which no man could number. One of the elders, that is one of the captains of the heavenly hosts, asks him, who are these? John was supposed to know, but he throws the question back Sir, you know. And then, indeed, this great multitude comes, the elder answers, out of the great tribulation. Before we take a closer look at that multitude, we first should know where they come from.
Out of the great tribulation. Not, as those believing in the Rapture make of it, they come before the great tribulation starts.
With a misguided reference to an expression by Daniel, ch 9:25, they understand by seven weeks, seven years, and then place the great tribulation at the very end of this age, i.e. after the rapture, the disappearance of all true believers from this earth.
But we repeat the question we had with the understanding of the number 144.000. There we came to the conclusion that, in the light of all the Scriptures, this symbolic number stands for all those sealed by the Holy Spirit, from the beginning to the end. These 144.000 are not a (small) part of the innumerable multitude! Seeing chapter 7 in the light of all the Scriptures forces us to conclude that the 144.000 and the multitude are one and the same.
That also forces us to understand the great tribulation, as standing for all tribulations that God's people ever went through. Of course, no one will deny that the last days before the return of Christ these tribulations will be multiplied. But, we ask, has there ever been a time that there was not, what the Lord said to his disciples, John 16:33, In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.?
As everywhere in Revelation, also here the whole history is concentrated in one symbol, one vision, one picture. You need only think of chapter 12. The dragon standing before the woman, and you get the key to the understanding of this last book of the Bible.
SO it is with the tribulation which is called here, the great tribulation, all tribulations taken together. The seven churches knew about it. To Smyrna the Lord wrote, I know your tribulation ... you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation, ch. 2:9,10.
But they were not the first ones! Was there ever a time that there was no tribulation at all? Abel already knew about it. Tribulation is spread over all history because it is the battle between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. So Israel underwent tribulation in Egypt. That's why you find in Revelation so many pictures and colours that remind us of what happened in Egypt. Many Psalms weep because of any form of tribulation, be it individual or as a nation. The tribulation of Babylon came. Think of Ezekiel. And Daniel saw the horrors of the time of Antiochus Epiphanes coming. The Lord Jesus in Matthew 24 warned His own to flee from the city when tribulation would come. Think of all the martyrs of the Roman Empire. With the author of Hebrews 11 we must agree, And what more shall I say? For time would fail me . . .. God's children suffered mocking, scourging, imprisonment; they were stoned, sawn in two, killed with the sword, destitute, afflicted, ill-treated, wandering . . ., Heb. 11:32-38. Then came the 16th century drowning in the blood of God's children. The seventy years of the evil empire of Communism, Tibet, China, the massacres of Armenian christians time would fail me.
We in our comfortable homes and pews, we should keep in mind that we are only a very small part of that great multitude. We are not the only ones, let alone the best ones. We should think a bit more often of what Peter calls your brotherhood throughout the world. . ., 1 Peter 5:9.
The great tribulation, indeed. And we better prepare for getting our share of it. The forebodings are already there.
This understanding of the great tribulation has simultaneously answered the question, 'Who are they in white robes, with palm branches in their hands."?
The answer is, vs 9, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues. Our fathers must certainly have had these words in mind, when they wrote Lord's Day 21 of the Heidelberg Catechism, I believe that the Son of God out of the whole human race gathers His church from the beginning of the world till the end, as we quoted earlier.
If you have no problem with Pharaoh's dreams about seven gaunt and thin cows eating up the seven sleek and fat cows, and the seven thin ears swallowing up the full ears because that was a dream, a vision, a symbol, like so many similar visions throughout the Bible, then you will have no problem with seeing this great multitude in heaven as the other side of the 144,000 of those who were sealed on earth throughout the ages. You may here use the terms 'the Church Militant' and 'the Church Triumphant", if only you keep in mind that there is only one holy, universal christian church. One flock, one shepherd. Yes, one Shepherd.
When John heard the number and saw the multitude, that does not mean that both were and are completed right now, at this moment. The sealing by the Holy Spirit is still going on. And so is the arrival of those in white robes into heavenly glory. Their number is not complete yet. The Holy Spirit has the word for it, although, as so often, it doesn't come through in most translations. The words in vs. 14, they are these who have come are supposed to be the translation
of the original greek words. But they are not. In the original language as John wrote it down, there is a present participle that means 'they are coming". They came, they will come, they keep on coming till the last one has arrived.
What a comfort! By faith we may, with John, see the assurance of things hoped for, Heb. 1 1;1, Luke concluded his record of Pentecost with the words, And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved, Acts 2:47. That's what we read here. That is what the Holy Spirit wants to comfort us with. They keep on coming!
No wonder that singing burst forth from all sides. There is, vs 10, the first song of the redeemed recorded in Revelation. That must be something, when an innumerable multitude cries out with a loud voice, Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb! God is still in the centre of their song, although He handed the scroll over to the Lamb.
Then all heaven joins in. All fall on their faces, worshipping God, and saying "Amen! It's true!" And they also put God in the centre of their song for ever and ever, Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might there is the number seven again! These seven glories be to our God for ever and ever! Hear that? Not only the elders, but all angels and with them the four living creatures, all creation calls God our God, Amen and Amen. There are a lot of Amens here.
The chapter is concluded with something that moved me most when I put my ear on all that we are told here. There is one of the elders, the same who wondered if John understood what he saw. And then he answered his own question, vs 14. But that is not the end. Then this elder, one of the heads in the heavenly order of the angels,
becomes a poet! look and listen at vs 1517. This is how he looks at the church gathered before the throne of God. He sees in their midst the Lamb who will be their shepherd. We obviously still need a shepherd in everlasting life. Or rather, because the Lamb is their shepherd, who will fulfil every word of Psalm 23 to the last letter for ever and ever. Therefore, they will not hunger any more or thirst. The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me fie down in green pastures, He leads me beside still waters He will guide them to springs of living water. In the end, Revelation returns to this. Then he showed me the river of the water of life, and on either side the tree of life with twelve kinds of fruit. All, in symbolical colours, expressing what no eye has seen, no ear heard.
Then comes the last line of his poem, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Every tear. Angels, sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation, Heb. 1:14, obviously have seen God's children weep. Was for them this world not a valley of tears most of the time? If it was not because of the oppression of the enemy, it was because of their own sins and shortcomings. They saw those tears and knew that God kept them in His bottle, Psalm 56:8.
But then no tears any more. God Himself Will wipe away every one of them. They keep on coming but in this vision we saw the final picture.
Mid tumult of her war
She waits the consummation
Of peace for evermore.
And with John we saw all this in between the opening of the sixth and the seventh seal. The angels that stood at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds, may now let them go. Let them blow again, followed by peals of thunder, lightning and earthquakes. Let then the trumpets be blown in rapid succession and demons rise up from the nether world. Let woes come. But even after many m( woes and calamities and monsters, in chapter 14 John again saw the 144,000. NO single one was missing. No one can pull you from my hand, says our Lord and Redeemer.