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The Sealing Vision
We have an episode before us in this chapter. The painful solicitude, which could scarcely fail to arise even in the faithful, on account of the judgments that threaten the world, as these were developed in a lengthened series under the first six seals, from which, as themselves also living in the world, it might seem as if they could hardly escape, is here met by a double consolation: first, that God holds over them his protecting hand, while war and terrors of every kind overspread the world, Revelation 7:1-8; and then, that there is opened up a view into that celestial glory, which awaits the chosen after the short tribulation of the present time, Revelation 7:9-17.
First, in regard to the portion, Revelation 7:1-8, we have to inquire what precisely is the place of this scene? The answer is at once furnished by Revelation 7:1. According to it the winds have still not moved, the judgments on the world have not yet begun to take effect. But these begin with the very first seal, and not merely with the sixth. So that it is here represented, what is to take place before the accomplishment of that, which is announced in the opening of the sixth seal. Those who think that the faithful are here placed in security against the tribulation, that is spoken of in what follows, [Note: Bengel: “This already points to the trumpets. God’s servants are secured by the sealing against the plagues under the trumpets, and especially under the trumpets of the four first angels.”] have—apart from the consideration that we are not justified in going out of the group of the seven seals, which stops at ch. Revelation 8:1—this against them, that here no trace is to be found of judgments that have already preceded; up till this time there is only guilt in the world, but not punishment. And this also serves as a refutation of those, who refer the security only to the judgment of the sixth seal. This last opinion has also against it the consideration, that the four number of the angels and the winds points to a variety and fulness in the divine judgments, such as are found to exist only when we take into account the sixth seal. In regard to the regressive character of this portion, which has proved a stumbling-block to so many expositors, Hoffmann remarks well: “It should not stumble us, that the earth here appears still unhurt. Since these two parts, the world’s destruction and the church’s preservation, are co-ordinate to each other, it might happen without disadvantage to the intended result and the knowledge to be obtained of it, that the theatre, which was comprehended in the general dissolution that was spoken of as taking place in the world’s destruction, presents itself anew as still unhurt, when a representation comes to be made of the foresight that was to be exercised in the church’s preservation.”
To a church fainting under the bloody persecutions of the world the Seer had announced the great judgments, through which God was going to avenge the blood of his servants on the world, and break its rebelliousness, humble its pride. But out of the consolation itself a new fear arises. The church is still in the world, and must therefore, as it seems, be herself involved in a participation of those frightful judgments. Especially was the representation of the fifth seal fitted to awaken this fear. If all should be convulsed, if the proud trees must fall, under whose shelter men dwell upon earth, there appears no hope of safety even for the elect. A new consolation is brought in here to meet this new temptation. God’s protecting hand will be stretched out over his own children even during these frightful plagues, as in former times he delivered Lot from the midst of destruction, as he slew Egypt and spared Goshen; as he gave to Zerubabel the comforting promise, that amid the terrible shakings of the world he would make him as a seal-ring; [Note: Ch. 6 here stands in the same relation to ch. 7 that Haggai 2:21-22 (“I shake the heavens and the earth, and overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen,” &c.) does to Re 6:23, “in that day, saith the Lord of Hosts, I will take thee Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, and will make thee as a seal-ring, for I have chosen thee, saith the Lord of Hosts.” The remarks made in the Christology there are equally applicable here: “The fundamental idea is God’s affectionate guardianship of his people amid all the mighty changes brought by him upon the world, which, just because they are not accidental, but designed by his guidance to exult his people and kingdom, cannot he injurious to them; so that his people can look with peace and comfort upon the earth’s desolations, assured that these are but the way to a better world.”] as in Zechariah 9:8, after a representation of the great judgments with which all the countries around Judah should be visited, and the kingdom brought to nought under whose dominion it then stood (Persia), it is said, “and I make for my house a camp against the invading enemy;” no oppressor shall pass through them any more; for now I see with mine eyes.” Jesus Christ had already, during his sojourn on earth, not only guaranteed safety to his disciples under the persecutions they were to experience in the world, but also in the midst of the judgments by which the world was to be visited, Matthew 24:22.
Ch. Revelation 7:1. And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea nor on any tree.
The winds in Scripture are the symbol of divine judgments, the storms of suffering and temptation which are appointed by God. In ch. Revelation 6:13, “as a fig-tree casts its unripe fruit, when shaken by a strong wind,” the divine judgment was already compared to a strong wind. And from that there was but a step to the representation here, where it appears under the image of the wind. In Job 9:17, it is said, “he breaketh me in a tempest, and multiplieth my wounds without cause.” In 1 Kings 19:11, “the great and strong wind, rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord,” denotes the storm of assaults and tribulations which befel the church and her representatives, the prophets. The powerful storm out of the north, in Ezekiel, Ezekiel 1:4, symbolises the judgment that was to break in upon Judea out of Babylon. In Jeremiah also, Jeremiah 22:22, the judgment of God is represented under the image of the wind. But there are three passages in particular of the Old Testament which serve as a foundation for the one before us. In Jeremiah 49:36, the divine judgments rushing in upon all sides appear as the four winds, “and I bring against Elam the four winds from the four ends of the heaven, and I scatter them toward all the four winds.” The winds are introduced here, not as Züllig thinks, for the immediate purpose of scattering, but for that of destroying: the scattering to the four winds is only the consequence of the powerful activity of the winds, as appears plainly from Jeremiah 49:32, where the “I bring their calamity from all sides” corresponds as to the matter: and also because it is not said, “and the four winds scatter them,” but, “I scatter them to all the four winds.” So here also the circumstance of the four angels standing with the four winds on the four corners of the earth, indicates that the storms of the divine judgments were to break in from all sides, and so, in accordance with what was said in the sixth seal, brings out the multifarious nature of the divine judgments, presupposing the greatness of the guilt they were sent to chastise. The second passage is Daniel 7:2. There the four winds of heaven are let loose upon the great sea, as a description of the divine judgments which were to be executed by the conquerors of the world. The third and last passage is Zechariah 6:1, ss. The prophet sees four chariots. The interpreting angel instructs him regarding the meaning of these in Zechariah 6:5, “These are the four winds of heaven, which go forth, after they have appeared ministering before the Lord of the whole earth.” The four winds of heaven are used to symbolize the divine judgments. It is on account of their personification that chariots are ascribed to them, and that the chariots in which we must suppose the winds to be carried are afterwards identified with the winds.
The four winds are called the four winds of the earth. The earth is wanting in some critical helps, and Bengel would omit it; but, improperly; for, in the fundamental passages, it is not simply the four winds, but the four winds of heaven, that are mentioned; and the omission of heaven here is to be accounted for from the earth preceding and following, the threefold mention of which is certainly not accidental, but emphatically points to the theatre of the divine judgments.
The four winds are held by four angels. Their chief mission is to let the winds go (comp. on Revelation 7:2), whence it is given to them to hurt the earth and the sea. But along with this they had the charge of restraining the winds for some time longer, till the saints were placed in security, as the angels in Sodom were at once commissioned to destroy the city and to deliver Lot. And this is the only point made prominent here, because it is the only thing of present importance. That the angels are not, as Züllig conceives, the angels of the four winds, but that they are here employed on a special business, is clear from this, that the discourse is not of the four angels, but quite indefinitely of four angels, while it is of the four winds. We are not to think, with Bengel, of bad angels. With such the mission would not suit, either to hold the winds for the preservation of the righteous, or to let them loose for the destruction of the wicked. Both belong, according to the doctrine of Scripture, to the good angels—see in regard to the latter my commentary on Psalms 78:49. According to Exodus 12:13, Exodus 12:23, the slaying of the first-born of Egypt was accomplished by the destroyer, the angel of the Lord with his attendants. According also to Revelation 7:3 of this chapter, the four angels take part in the sealing of the elect. [Note: Bengel remarks: “They are bad angels; for good angels, though they do harm, still do no injustice.” But ἁ?δικεῖ?ν is used in the sense of doing harm, giving pain, often in the Apocalypse itself, ch. 6:6, 9:4. In that sense it must at any rate be taken here, since, even if the angels were bad, the work done by them has nothing in it of injustice; they were certainly instruments of deserved punishment.] In the angels who hold and let go the winds, the thought that the salvation of the chosen and the destruction of the wicked comes only from God, is clothed, as it were, with flesh and blood [Note: Vitringa: Qua dictionis formula innuitur, nullos in orbe terrarum motus cieri majores, qui non pudcant a dei consilio.]—comp. the similar symbolical representation in ch. Revelation 9:14-15.
The four angels with the four winds make up with the earth, the sea. and the trees, the number seven: in the first group the spoilers, in the second those that were to be spoiled, the agens and the patiens of the desolation.
The sea, according to Daniel 7:2, can only he the sea of the nations. Of the sea in the literal sense, besides, we cannot think, because that could not be hurt by the winds, as stated in Revelation 7:2. Finally, that the sea and the trees are used figuratively is clear from the position of the trees, which are separated from the earth, to which the natural trees belong, and are placed after the sea.
The trees here correspond to the kings, magnates, etc., in ch. Revelation 6:15. Trees and grass in ch. Revelation 8:7, Revelation 9:4, denote the high and the low, princes and subjects. In the Old Testament trees are the common symbol of the great. In Isaiah 10:18-19, the trees of Ashur, in contrast to his brushwood, are his great ones. But especially has this symbol a frequent place in those prophets, with whom St John most closely connected himself, Daniel and Ezekiel. In Daniel 4 Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon appears under the image of a lofty tree: “Thou, O king, art that tree,” Daniel 4:19, In Ezekiel, Ezekiel 31:3, ss., Assyria is represented as a cedar on Lebanon, beautifully foliaged, its top reaching to the very clouds; in its branches nestled all the fowls of heaven, the beasts of the field bore under its boughs, and many tribes of the earth dwelt beneath its shade. In Ezekiel 17 also the house of David appears as a high cedar on Lebanon; the trees of the field (Michaelis: “all princes and potentates of this world”) saw its wonderful growth, and perceived from it that it is the Lord who exalts or depresses all trees. The trees of the field, too, in Ezekiel 31:4-5, Ezekiel 31:15, are the princes of the earth. Comp. besides Jeremiah 21:14, Jeremiah 46:22-23.
The angels hold the winds that the wind might not blow upon any tree, literally, every tree. And as Züllig remarks, the word all or every is not used in vain in the Apocalypse For the present the winds must blow upon no tree; by and bye they must blow upon all trees. The hurting of the trees brings injury to those who dwell under their branches; Ezekiel 31:6, Ezekiel 31:17, Ezekiel 17:23; Matthew 13:31-32. If but a single tree had been hurt before the sealing, the promise which the Lord has given to his people would be broken. For without his protecting grace the fall of that tree would be hurtful to them. Precious privilege of Christians, that they are preserved from the destruction which the fall of the tree brings along with it!
THE SEVEN SEALS
The seer is snatched up to heaven, and sees there a holy assemblage, in which all points to the judgment, which, for the benefit of his sorely oppressed church, the Lord is going to execute upon the ungodly world, ch. 4. What the whole scene was of itself fitted to suggest is then brought clearly out in ch. 5, where a book with seven seals is delivered to Christ for the purpose of being opened, containing the judgments to be inflicted on the world. This opening follows, and the judgments- one after another become manifest in ch. 6 and in ch. Revelation 8:1. Ch. 7 forms an intermediate episode, in which is represented the preservation of the faithful in the midst of the judgments which alight on the world.
Revelation 7:2. And I saw another angel ascend from the rising of the sun, who had the seal of the living God, and cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, saying,
Revelation 7:3. Hurt not the earth, nor the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
On the expression “another angel,” Bengel remarks: “This was a holy, but a created angel. To such an one alone is the word suitable, which he utters in Revelation 7:3.” But this other angel is rather Christ, sent by God the Father as the Saviour and the Comforter of his afflicted church. The “our God” is no objection to that, as Bengel supposes. For Christ also calls God his God, John 20:17; and in Romans 15:6, Paul speaks of the God of our Lord Jesus Christ. [Note: See on the connection between the full equality of nature and the dependance in Christ, Schmeider über das hohenpriesterliche Gebet, p. 20.] Nor does the epithet angel speak against its being Christ. For this denotes not the nature but the mission, which he has in common with the inferior angels. Through the whole of the Old Testament the Logos constantly appears as the angel of the Lord. Christ represents himself as an angel also, in ch. Revelation 10:1, and Revelation 18:1. The reference to Christ is favoured by the absolute authority which this angel exercises over the other angels, and the fundamental passage of Ezekiel 9, where the righteous are marked by the angel of the Lord, the heavenly mediator between God and his people, who presents himself in the garb of the earthly mediator—comp. Leviticus 16:4, Leviticus 16:23. But more especially, and sufficient of itself, indeed, is the proof that is afforded by the circumstance that the angel here ascends from the rising of the sun. [Note: Bengel: “Elsewhere the angels come down from heaven, ch. 10:1, 18:1, 20:1. But here an angel goes forth from the horizon, as the sun in his course.”]  Züllig calls it “a circumstance very enigmatical.” But it suits only Christ. The sun-rising marks the heavenly region. In the east, where the visible sun goes forth, there was given to the Seer a glorious spectacle, there the spiritual sun ascends the heavens—that is, Christ, as possessor of the glory of God, as which he is also elsewhere in the Revelation and in other parts of Scripture compared to the sun—comp. Revelation 10:1, Revelation 1:16, John 1:9, where Christ appears as the true light, which enlightens every man, Matthew 17:2, and on the sun as a symbol of the glory of the Lord, see on ch. Revelation 12:1. As the rising sun, or the sun going forth in the height, Christ was spoken of by Zecharias in Luke 1:78. The wonderful mercy of God celebrated by him, “through which the rising from on high has visited us, and he has appeared to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,’’ makes itself known here anew by a visitation, which he accomplishes for his people in the immediate prospect of the troubles that threatened them. The sun is brought into view here as the source of vivifying and refreshing power, Christ as the Saviour and helper of his people. The angel, who ascends as the spiritual sun, forms a contrast to the angel with the four winds. As these announce storms of sufferings and tribulations, so the lovely image of the sun promises salvation and refreshment to those who stand under his grace. The original passage for the representation here (as also for Luke 1:78. where it is combined with Isaiah 9:1), is Malachi 4:2, “And to you that fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness shall arise, and salvation is under his wings.” The sun there is primarily righteousness itself, or salvation as a matter-of-fact justification and manifestation of righteousness. But He, through whom the righteousness was to be imparted to the Lord’s people, with whose appearance righteousness was to arise on them as the sun, is, according to Malachi 3:1, the angel of the Lord, the heavenly mediator of the covenant, who makes good his threatenings and promises. So that the view of the church, which understands Christ by the sun, is perfectly correct in the main, as he also is in reality the light that arises on those who dwell in the land of darkness like the shadow of death. (See the Christology on the passage.) Amid the anxieties and fears which are apt to be occasioned by the thought of the heavy judgments that God brings on a guilty world, let us never lose sight of this comforting image of the angel that ascends from the rising of the sun.
The angel has the seal of the living God that he might seal with it the servants of God in their foreheads. The original passage is Ezekiel 9:4, where the Lord says to the person clothed in linen, “Thou shalt set a mark upon the foreheads of the men, who sigh and cry over all the abominations which are done in the midst of them.” In the midst of the six angels, who were sent for judgment against the ungodly Jerusalem, or the world in the church, a man appeared clothed in linen, with an inkhorn on his thigh, the angel of the Lord (see Christology on the passage for the proof), who receives from God a charge to go through the city, and mark the elect. It was a symbolical representation of the truth, most consolatory to the true people of God, ready to faint under the thought of God’s impending judgments, that in the midst of these the protecting hand of his grace would be upon them, that they should not be swept away for the iniquities of the city, and that, just as he knew how to reserve the wicked to the day of judgment, so also did he know how to deliver the godly out of temptation ( 2 Peter 2:10). This assurance of an actual preservation was verified, for example, in the deliverance of Jeremiah, and in that of Ebed-Melech, to whom the Lord said by Jeremiah, Jeremiah 39:16-18, “Behold I will bring my words upon this city for evil and not for good, and thou shalt see it in that day. But I will deliver thee in that day, saith the Lord, and thou shalt not he given into the hand of the men of whom thou art afraid. For, I will surely deliver thee, and thou shalt not fall by the sword, but thy life shall be for a prey unto thee: because thou hast put thy trust in me, saith the Lord.” To the inkhorn in Ezekiel corresponds the seal of God here, and to the mark in the one place, the impress of the seal in the other.
In common life things are sealed for a double purpose—either to make them inaccessible and lay them under seal, Matthew 27:66, or to confirm them. And accordingly in Scripture there is a double import in the figurative and symbolical use of sealing. The latter of the two kinds is referred to in the passages, John 3:33, John 6:27; Romans 4:11; 1 Corinthians 9:2; 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13. Here the sense of confirming is the more suitable, as it was not by the sealing that persons could be first made servants of God; they could only be recognised and outwardly represented as such; whence also the seal was to be impressed on their foreheads, the place where it could be most easily seen. He that is sealed is confirmed in his position as the servant of God, and is thereby made secure against the calamities, which can only alight on the children of this world. God gives them in respect to the matter a letter and seal, that they are his servants. Bengel understands the sealing otherwise: “Where there is any thing that belongs to a prince’s establishment, where the royal arms are imprinted on plate, or where a seal of that sort is impressed on a writing, there must no one lay hold of the object. Now, what belongs to the great God, that remains untouched. If any one would appropriate it to himself, he must again be deprived of it.” Harless gives the same view of the sealing on Ephesians 1:13, “The impress of the seal marks the certainty, that what is stamped with it belongs in some respect to the possessor of the seal. In what particular respect the seal does not indicate.” But the use of sealing as a mark of property is without any certain example in Scripture.
According to the opinion of many expositors, the name of Jehovah must have been on the seal. They rest on ch. Revelation 14:1, where the elect are said to have the name of God on their foreheads. But that name there denotes their character as servants of God, which belonged to them before the sealing here, and which was the foundation of the sealing. Nor must we lay stress on the circumstance, that in the East the seal commonly bears the name of its possessor. For, the custom is still not so common there, that it might be understood of itself, and in that case it would have required here to be expressly mentioned. But it is carefully to be noted, that even in Ezekiel a mark is spoken of quite generally, without any more immediate description of the sort of mark. For that reason alone we must here not go beyond what is expressly written. Nothing depends on what might be on the seal, but simply, that it was the seal of God.
The seal is described as that of the living God. The same thing is implied here as in the original passage, Psalms 42:2, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God,” where I remarked in my Commentary, “the Psalmist’s God is not a phantom, which, itself dead, is also incapable of imparting life; he is the living, and consequently the life-giving; comp. the corresponding phrase, ‘the God of my life in Psalms 42:8, rich in salvation for his people.’” See on ch. Revelation 1:18.
The loud voice proclaims the determined and absolute will; comp. John 11:43, where Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus come forth.” Bengel interprets differently: “The loud cry indicates, that the four angels were already about to make a commencement of the work of desolation. If something is ready to be done, and we would fain arrest it, we then raise our voice.”
Instead of: until we have sealed, Luther has: until we seal, following the not sufficiently established reading of σφραγί?ζωμεν . Since no others are mentioned as being present in the scene, the we is most simply explained by: I and you. This mode of explaining it can only be objected to, if by the four angels bad angels are understood. “Bad angels,” Bengel says on this false supposition, “are also indeed in the power of God the Almighty; but no one of them can say, My God; and neither could any good angel say in fellowship with the bad, Our God.” We may be the less surprised to find the four angels here represented as taking part in the work of scaling, since not only was it given to them in Revelation 7:2 to hurt the earth and the sea, but also, according to Revelation 7:1, for the sake of the elect to hold the four winds of the earth. The analogy, too, of the fundamental passage is in favour of this view. In Ezekiel 9 we find no appearance of any one beside the six angels, who were sent to execute God’s judgments, and the person in linen clothing who was to murk the elect. The last, however, is the leader of the whole party, as appears from this, that thus only is the number seven completed, and that he stands in the midst, while the others follow him. That the person clothed in linen appears also at the (desecrated; altar, indicates that he too had a part in the execution of judgment; comp. Revelation 8:5, Amos 9:1. We are not, however, to conclude from the we with Züllig: “Hence these others also must have had the seal of the living God, not the person alone who spake.” But it is against this, that only one seal of the living God is named; and also the analogy of Ezekiel, according to whom the marking was performed merely by the person who was clothed in linen The works of judgment and preservation were so distributed, that the first was executed by the four angels, and the second by the other angel. The two, however, still formed a common work. The four angels so far took part in the sealing, that they held the winds till it was completed, and gave to it their cordial concurrence and joyful assistance. And the judgment again was executed under the auspices of the other angel; the four angels were but the instruments of the wrath of the Lamb, ch. Revelation 6:16.
Bengel remarks: “The hurting lasts for a long time, and so also does the work of scaling, which is perpetually in progress. Whenever a paroxysm of hurting breaks forth, the servants of God also are preserved, for whom it then becomes necessary, until they are placed in perfect security on Mount Zion, ch. Revelation 14:1.” But in this it is not properly distinguished between the symbol and the fact indicated thereby; and what belongs only to the latter is transferred to the former. The sealing as a symbolical act was accomplished in a single period of time; it was done once for all before the commencement of the plagues, by which the ungodly world was to be judged. But the simple idea is, that amid all the judgments which befal the world for its sins, God protects his own people.
The sealing refers to the entire duration of the Christian church, even to its final completion; to the entire duration of the world, even to its final destruction. Therefore, it has not yet lost its significance. And for the present time in particular it is full of consolation, as the sixth seal is beginning to be realized anew in a manner never seen before.
Revelation 7:4. And I heard the number of those who were sealed, an hundred and forty and four thousand, that were sealed out of all the tribes of the children of Israel. The act of sealing is not expressly reported to have been brought to a close, but the Seer passes on abruptly to what presupposes it to have been actually finished. The “I heard” is particularly to be noted. Züllig: “The number is too great for the Seer to have ascertained it by his own reckoning, and yet it must be a quite definite number. Hence he aptly feigns (!) that he heard it announced.” The “I heard” here coincides with “the great multitude, which no one could number,” in Revelation 7:9, and disproves the opinion of those who, because a determinate number is mentioned here, while there the (relative) innumerableness is spoken of, would conclude that in the latter passage a different company is meant.
That the number 144,000 has not a statistical, but a purely theological value, is evident from the way it is made up. A great multitude of believers, that no one can number, could not be more appropriately indicated than by this number. Twelve is the signature of the church (see my Commentary on Balaam, p. 72), and as such is often used in this book itself—comp. ch. Revelation 12:1, where the woman, who represents the church, has a crown of twelve stars, Revelation 21:12, where the city has twelve gates, Revelation 21:14, where the walls of the city have twelve foundations, Revelation 21:16-17, the four and twenty elders. In its simplest and most elementary form, this number presents itself in the twelve patriarchs and the twelve apostles, the two sources of the stream of the church. The idea of” the great multitude” of believers is expressed thus: the fundamental number is multiplied by itself, as in Revelation 21:17, and then by thousands, as in Revelation 21:16. While Bengel is here at great pains to rescue the definite number, because with the recognition of the truth here light falls also upon other numbers of the Revelation—those numbers, which lie at the bottom of his castle in the air, his apocalyptic chronology
Bossuet clearly perceived the right view, and distinctly announced it. He says, “This passage alone ought to make it manifest, how greatly they deceive themselves, who would always apprehend an exact and definite number in the numbers of the Apocalypse. For, can it be imagined, that there was precisely in each tribe twelve thousand elect, neither more nor less, to make up this total number of 144,000? It is not by such minutiae, nor with such scrupulous littleness of spirit, that the sacred oracles should be explained. It is necessary to understand in the numbers of the Apocalypse a certain mystical reason, to which the Holy Spirit seeks to draw our attention. The mystery, which we are to learn here, is, that the number twelve, sacred in the synagogue and in the church, because of the twelve patriarchs and the twelve apostles, is multiplied by itself, in order to make twelve thousand in each tribe, and twelve times twelve thousand in all the tribes together, that we might perceive the faith of patriarchs and of apostles multiplied in their successors; and in the solidity of a number so perfectly square, the eternal immutability of the truth of God and of his apostles.” If the number is rightly understood, all such questions, as whether the 144,000 are so many individual souls, or whether so many men belong to them, fall entirely into abeyance.
The same 144,000, whose preservation amid the plagues that were to come upon the earth is here represented, meet us again in ch. Revelation 14:1; Revelation 14:3, in their state of heavenly glory; substantially also here in the same state, in Revelation 7:9, ss., only that the number is not expressly repeated. Both the preservation and the glory are at the same time pledged to the true members of the church, and besides these a third, citizenship in the New Jerusalem.
The sealed are out of all the tribes of the children of Israel. It is no contradiction to this, that Dan is not named in the following enumeration; the omission merely shows, that according to the Seer’s point of view Dan was excluded from the number of the tribes of Israel. But this very omission of the tribe of Dan is a proof that the Seer spake of the tribes of the children of Israel, not in a Jewish, but in an Israelitish-Christian sense. In the sacred books of the Old Testament the wicked appear, in spite of their fleshly descent from Jacob, as cut off from their people. But, on the other hand, native heathens, under certain restrictions, were on account of their faith naturalized in Israel; and the prophets announced, that one day these restrictions were to be abolished, and the naturalization of believing heathen, going hand in hand with the exclusion of the false seed, shall proceed with great rapidity. So, for example, Isaiah in Isaiah 56:6-7, and Ezekiel in Ezekiel 47:22-23, “And it shall come to pass, that ye shall divide it (the land) by lot for an inheritance among you, and to the strangers that sojourn among you, who shall beget children among you; and they shall be unto you as born in the country among the children of Israel; they shall have inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel. And it shall come to pass, that in what tribe the stranger sojourneth, there shall ye give him his inheritance, saith the Lord God.” Michaelis: “The distinction of races which existed under the Old Covenant shall be abolished;” see also Hävernick on the passage. Now that Israel and his tribes are mentioned here in this sense, that the Christian church is what is meant by them, as being the legitimate continuation of ancient Israel, not only appears from the omission already referred to of the tribe of Dan, and from the equality of the numbers in the small and the great tribes, but will also be still farther proved at ch. 11 from the effacing there of all tribe-distinctions. Those who with Bengel hold stiffly to the point, that Israel is here spoken of in the natural sense, entangle themselves in the difficulty, that the Jewish Christians, to whom by their view the promise exclusively belongs, cannot possibly be separated from the others. Bengel himself says: “With the Jews, who for so long a period have assumed, whether willingly or by constraint, the Christian name, circumcision has been renounced, and the multitudes of their descendants have become intermingled with the heathen, so that it is impossible for us to know who among us may have derived our descent from Jews or heathen; as, on the other hand, a Jew does not know whether he may not have partly sprung from a proselyte.” Besides, the following argument is irresistible: the plagues, against which the sealing brings security, pass over the whole earth, threaten alike all who, according to Re 59-10, have been redeemed by the blood of Christ out of every kindred and tongue, people and nation, and made kings and priests to their God; not a word being said as to any separate division of Jewish Christians. But how unlikely is it that the Seer should have obtained consolation only for a part of those that were in danger! What should fill all with anxiety required to be met with consolation for all; and so, according to Revelation 7:3, the servants of God generally must be sealed. To understand by these simply the Jewish Christians, is the greatest arbitrariness. Bengel says: “As certainly as the tribe of Judah is that from which the victorious Lion, the Lamb, sprung (ch Revelation 5:5), so certainly are all the tribes here to be literally understood.” But the question is not whether literally or non-literally; but whether with the inclusion or the exclusion of the adopted children, who through faith have become incorporated? And the former has on its side the analogy among Israel of the excision of the false seed, the entire omission of Dan, and the circumstance that in the rest it is not the whole tribes that are sealed, but only a limited number out of each. Besides, though the tribes were to be understood literally, the enumeration of tilt particular tribes could still have only an ideal import. They serve merely to embody the thought that the preservation shall extend alike to all parts of the church. This results simply from the consideration that at the time the Apocalypse was composed, the distinction of tribes had already in great part vanished, then from the omission of one whole tribe, which could never have taken place if a real numbering had been meant, further from the absolute equality of the numbers obtained from the small and the great alike, &c.
Ewald admits that it is not Jewish Christians specially who are spoken of, but the whole Christian church; in the transference, however, of the name of Israel to Christians, he conceives he finds a proof of the Judaizing disposition of the author. But if a fault were really to be discovered in this, it must necessarily be a quite common one (Ewald would ascribe it to the author of the Revelation in contrast to Paul and John); since the Saviour himself took the lead in designating his church by the name of Israel, Matthew 19:28, and chose his apostles with a respect to the number of the tribes of Israel; comp. the introductory investigations to ch. 11. The name arose out of a consideration of the continuity of the church, which doubtless cannot but look very strange to an age that has been so much accustomed to tear asunder the Old and New Testaments from each other.
Revelation 7:5. Of the tribe of Judah were sealed twelve thousand; of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand; of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand. Revelation 7:6. Of the tribe of Asher were sealed twelve thousand; of the tribe of Naphthali were sealed twelve thousand; of the tribe of Manasseh were sealed twelve thousand. Revelation 7:7. Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand; of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand; of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand. Revelation 7:8. Of the tribe of Zebulon were sealed twelve thousand; of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand; of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.
The tribes are united in pairs together. Bengel: “It was after Luther’s death that the Bible was divided into verses as we now find it, and there in each verse we have three tribes, which does not make a suitable arrangement.” In regard to the reason for the pair-like arrangement, Züllig remarks: “The birth determines the order in the eight last, four closely related brotherly pairs after their mothers. It only required the two leaders Judah and Reuben to be placed beside each other, and then with Simeon and Levi, who were in other respects closely connected (comp. Genesis 49:5-7, where they stand in juxtaposition), there just remained one pair more.” Precisely as the tribes here, the apostles are arranged in pairs, Matthew 10:2, ss., and for similar reasons; at the head stand two pairs of brothers, and with an express reference to this relationship. The other points which this list presents for notice are the following:—1. The tribe Dan is omitted. Several, indeed, have tried to save themselves the trouble of explaining this omission by getting rid of the fact. Thus Züllig remarks: “In all manuscripts and editions Manasseh stands instead of Dan. And Irenaeus in his early age knew no variation. But even if the author himself may have written it so, we must hold him to have written wrong, and affirm it ought to have been Dan; so overwhelming here are the considerations of the higher criticism.” But such a procedure condemns itself; in no book are we less warranted in employing a superficial, “It must be so,” in order to change the text. Nor must the reason of the peculiarity be sought in the difficulty, which presented itself to the Seer, in his being obliged not to overstep the number twelve, because this was the signature of the church, while the tribes were thirteen To meet this no heroic effort was needed. The prophet only required to comprehend the two tribes Ephraim and Manasseh, under the name of Joseph, which might the more readily have occurred, as Ezekiel, Ezekiel 48:32, had already by this means reduced the number to twelve. He must, therefore, have had an important special reason for leaving out the tribe of Dan; and this could only be a theological one. We find the key in such passages as ch. Revelation 14:4, where it is said of the hundred, forty, and four thousand, who had been redeemed from the earth, from the twelve tribes of the children of Israel, “These are they who have not defiled themselves with women ( i.e. sins), for they are virgins;” ch. Revelation 21:27, “And nothing that is common shall enter therein, and that worketh abomination and lies,” ch. Revelation 22:14. Almost the only remarkable fact which is to be found in the history of the Danites is, that after having got possession of the land, they introduced into their territory a false worship (Judges 18), which continued through centuries. On this account did Ezekiel, Ezekiel 48, in determining the respective positions of the tribes, assign the most remote place on the north to Dan, at the farthest distance from the sanctuary, to which Judah immediately adjoined. John only proceeds a step farther, and excludes Dan altogether. There he stands in the limits of the world, here his place is not Found in it at all. This explanation of the fact is also confirmed by the analogy of the substitution of the name of Joseph for Ephraim, and by the corresponding fact in the history of the apostles, from which the name of Judas Iscariot was dropt out because of his apostacy. 2. Instead of Ephraim stands Joseph, after Manasseh. the other son of Joseph, had been named. This, too, must have a deep ground. For it is without example elsewhere to find one of the two tribes, that sprung from him, designated by his name in contradistinction to the other. Numbers 13:11 cannot be referred to as in point. For, there it is said, “Of the tribe of Joseph (as a second deputy, beside that of Ephraim) of the tribe of Manasseh.” But here Joseph is exactly substituted for Ephraim. We shall perceive the reason of the fact if we take a glance at the history. The Ephraimite Micah had first, according to Judges 17, set up the false worship, which afterwards passed over to the Danites. Through the whole period of the Judges the sons of Ephraim had shown themselves to be “deceitful bowmen, who turned back in the day of battle,” Psalms 78:9 (see my Commentary); they afterwards set themselves against the sanctuary in Zion, and against the dominion of David’s house and line; they were the authors of the lamentable division which inflicted on the people of Israel a deadly wound. By all which they had rendered their name an offence. In its room, therefore, that of Joseph is put, the sacred remembrance of which was a security, that the tribe of Ephraim should not, like the tribe of Dan, suffer the fate of an entire extinction. 3. Judah, who, according to the order of birth, was the fourth among the sons of Leah, stands here at the head, and has precedence of Reuben, the first-born. The reason of this is given in Hebrews 7:14, “For it is manifest that our Lord sprang from Judah;” and may also be learnt from this book, where Christ is called the lion of the tribe of Judah. Even under the Old Testament this tribe was distinguished, by the promises he obtained with reference to this, from the lips of Jacob, Genesis 49:10, and from the prophet Nathan, who announced to David the perpetual dominion of his line, and consequently that of Judah. 4. Levi, who had in the blessing of Moses been so nobly distinguished with privilege, and placed immediately after Judah, here again descends from the elevation he had already reached. He is mixed up with the others without the appearance of any superiority. Bengel: “After the Levitical ceremonies were abolished, Levi found himself again on a level with his brethren. All now are priests, all have access, not one through another, but one with another. Levi was chosen of old for the public ministrations of the sanctuary, and the priesthood in particular was given to Aaron and his posterity; but in the New Testament such shadow-work is passed away, and Levi hence became as one of the other tribes.” This entire assimilation of Levi to the rest, shows that the precedence of Judah rested on nothing but its relation to Christ, that whatever else distinguished it does not come into notice here, and also shows how far they are from the mind of John, who suppose him to have given the pre-eminence to Jewish Christians. What this presupposed, belonged to the same line as the prerogatives of Levi. We cannot at once take away the old distinctions within Judaism, and still retain the boundaries between Jewish and heathenish origin. Has Levi no peculiar place, then the word “there is neither Jew, nor Greek, nor Gentile,” has assuredly entered. 5. The foundation of the arrangement of the tribes stands in the order of the birth of the sons of Jacob. But there is a series of departures from this, which as a whole are ruled by one principle—namely this, that in the kingdom of Christ difference of birth, external privilege avails nothing; the same principle, on which the doctrine of Paul in Ephesians 3:6 rests, “That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by his Gospel.” To facilitate a survey of the matter, we shall set down here (after Züllig) the order of birth, and that of the Apocalypse after each other.
Order of Birth: Of Leah: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah. Of Bilhah: Dan, Napthali. Of Zilpah: Gad, Asher. Of Leah again: Issachar, Zebulon. Of Rachel: Joseph, Benjamin.
Order of the Apocalypse: Of Leah: Judah, Reuben. Of Zilpah: Gad, Asher. Of Bilhah and Rachel: Naphthali, Manasseh. Of Leah again from her earlier sons: Simeon, Levi. Of Leah the two last-born: Issachar, Zebulon. Of Rachel: Joseph, Benjamin.
Whoever,” remarks Züllig, “has but a moderate acquaintance with the spirit of order that prevailed with the author of the Apocalypse, he can have no doubt that these transpositions were not arbitrary, but were well weighed; consequently, that under this apparent want of order a real order, though probably of a very artificial kind, lay hidden.” On nearer consideration this order cannot escape us. There is found a complete intermingling of the sons of the different women, and in particular of the sons of the maids with those of the proper wives. Of the four first sons of ‘Leah two are separated, Simeon and Levi, and in the middle, between them and the other two
Judah and Reuben—are placed the sons of the concubines. But thus only the sons of the one wife were placed on a level with the sons of the concubines. And the same thing was effected in regard to the sons also of Rachel, by putting Manasseh, who was descended from Rachel, in the room of Dan, and combining him into a pair with Naphthali. (It does not stand: Manasseh, Naphthali, as it would have been Dan, Naphthali; because Manasseh, and not Naphthali is the name shoved in; Manasseh was assigned as an accompaniment to Naphthali.) By this method also the aim is accomplished of placing the sons of Rachel, the humanly beloved, on a footing of equality with the sons of Leah, who was hated. Manasseh stands in the middle of the sons of Leah. [Note: If any doubt might still exist as to the genuineness of the reading Manasseh, it would be completely removed by this collocation.] It only further remains to be asked, why the order of the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah should have been reversed. The answer is, because the equalization with the sons of Leah, who open the series, must first be attained, and one of the sons of Bilhah is extruded, in order to make room for the son of Rachel.
If there could be any doubt as to the correctness of the solution now given, it would be removed by comparing the parallel passages in Ezekiel. In the two enumerations also of the sons of Jacob, which are given by him in Ezekiel 48, the whole arrangement is theologically constructed, and pervaded by the same principle. There is found an intentional intermingling of the sons of the maid-servants and the wives, and of the latter again among each other, in Ezekiel 48:31-34. Thus Dan stands in the middle between Benjamin, the son of Rachel, and Simeon, the son of Leah. The latter is separated from his natural companion Levi, and is brought in after the sons of Rachel, and after Dan. Three sons of Leah take the lead, three receive the third place, and the conclusion is formed by three sons of the bond-maids. In the second place are two sons of Rachel, and a son of a bond-maid. So that all birth-prerogatives are broken through. Naphthali must conclude the whole, and give precedence to the sons of Zilpah, because Bilhah’s posterity had already attained to honour through the advancement of Dan. In Ezekiel 48:1-7 and Ezekiel 48:23-29, the tribes are divided into two groups, the one of seven, and the other of five, a division of the twelve, which we often meet with in the arrangements of the Psalms. In the middle of the two groups is the sanctuary. The first group is closed by Judah, the second commenced by Benjamin, so that the nearest to the sanctuary are the two tribes, which remained true after the apostacy of Israel—(Benjamin certainly but in part.) Three pairs precede Judah, two follow Benjamin. First, a son of Bilhah and one of Zilpah are paired. Dan and Asher. Then a son of Bilhah and one of Rachel, Naphthali, Manasseh (just as here.) Next a son of Rachel and one of Leah, Ephraim and Reuben. Finally, a son of Leah and Zilpath, Zebulon and Gad. Only one pair of sons of one mother is to be found, Simeon and Issachar; which could not be avoided, because the number of the sons of Leah was a preponderating one. But the object was already fully accomplished.
We close the exposition of this section with the words of Bengel: “The Lord knows them that are his. Oh! it is good to serve the Lord. In peaceful times, when matters go well, and there is a fair wind, one is not so deeply sensible of this, nor is a special preservation so needful. But when bad angels step forth (or rather, times of tribulation and chastisement arise), then does the divine election form a blessed feature in the condition of those who are under the protection of the Almighty.”
Revelation 7:9-17. In the midst of the plagues, which are destined to befal the world, the elect were assured of safety in the preceding context. But this can still only preserve them from the worst. It is impossible to be happy amid the desolations of a falling world. That the execution of judgment on the world must bring heavy troubles on the Lord’s people, in the first instance in the catastrophe of Judea, which John saw lying behind him, was plainly implied in the words of our Lord in Matthew 24:19-22. And how, indeed, can it be otherwise, since the guilt of the world is nothing absolutely foreign to them, since they have themselves to struggle with the sin which reigns in the world, and since they also so far need the sufferings, which fall with a destructive severity on the world, that through these they are tried and purified, and withdrawn from an undue love to the world. So, then, a new consolation is still required for believers, and this is furnished in the section before us. The good reaches its end. Those who were before assured of preservation amid the judgments that are decreed against the world, are here presented before us in that heavenly glory which awaited them. If they have in many respects to suffer here with the world, what boots it? since the white garments, and the palms, and the waters of life, are sure to them.
Revelation 7:9. After these things l saw, and behold! a great multitude, which no one could number, of every nation, and tribes, and peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes and palms in their hands. The multitude that no one could number is a characteristic description of Israel, or the church—comp. Genesis 13:16, Genesis 15:5; Numbers 23:10. Such a description alone shows that it is not simply heathen Christians who are here spoken of, in contradistinction to the Jewish ones, of whom mention was made in Revelation 7:1-8. The note here that they could not be numbered is equivalent to the express designation as Israel there. It is to be observed that it is not the absolute, but only the relative innumerableness that is affirmed: a great multitude, which no one can number; as also in Revelation 7:4, the Seer hears the number of the sealed, because he himself could not number them. Bengel remarks that “the sealed were a great number, and the number of angels in ch. Revelation 5:11 was still greater, and of the horsemen in ch. Revelation 9:16, where there were hundreds of millions; still these companies were capable of being numbered; but the one before us could neither John nor any one number.” This overlooking, however, of what has been stated above, and magnifying the numbers here to something beyond all bounds, proceeds on the error of departing from the scriptural mode of contemplating the conditions of blessedness, and adopting that of the world, which would have all to be blessed. Bengel refutes himself, when he remarks, “it is elsewhere stated in Scripture that those who pass through the wide gate into destruction are many, but few comparatively who find the strait gate and enter by the narrow way into life.”
In respect to the words: out of every nation, &c., see on ch. Revelation 5:9. [Note: Bengel noticed as remarkable the singular ἐ?́?θνους in connection with the following plurals, but was not fortunate in the explanation of it. In the use of ἐ?́?θνος the plural was avoided, became both in the New Testament generally and in the Apocalypse (comp. 2:26, 11:2, 18) it is usually employed us a designation of the heathen. But here the nations generally must be meant. It differs so far from λαό?ς that it is the lowest name, and designates the peoples merely as masses, corresponding to the Hebr. גוי , whereas λαό?ς denotes them after the organism which unites them together. Because this organism in so far as it arises in a natural way, is of a very imperfect kind, so there is, till Christ’s coming, strictly speaking, but one people—that of God; comp. Deuteronomy 32:21, where the heathen are marked as no people, לא עם , with 4:7, 8, “what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them as the Lord our God?” &c.]
On the white robes as the symbol of glory, see on ch. Revelation 6:11. The angel also, in Mark 16:5, was arrayed in white clothing, and possibly the literal agreement of the expression was not accidental, and was intended to intimate, that believers when made perfect shall be “like the angels in heaven,” Matthew 22:30. Their standing designation, the saints, that is, the exalted, the glorious, expresses the substance of what is symbolically indicated by the white clothing. [Note: In regard to the reading Bengel remarks: “Μετὰ? ταῦ?τα εἶ?δον , καὶ? ἰ?δοὺ? ὄ?χλος πολύς—ἑ?στῶ?τες—περιβεβλημένους , a middle rending, whence some reduce the whole period to the nominative, others to the accusative. The mixture of cases displeases Wolf, as frequently, indeed, happens in this book.” The accusative περιβεβλημένους is governed by εἶ?δον , which comes forth here from behind the ἰ?δοὺ? , as also in ch. 4:4 the accusative depends on the omitted εἶ?δον .] The palms in the hands of the elect are, in the opinion of many, palms of victory. But when one reads in Ewald, “After having patiently endured they bear palms like conquerors in the Olympic games,” we can scarcely fail to feel distrustful of such an exposition. A reference to the Olympic games is something quite out of place; nor is there in the whole of Revelation a single well certified example of such a transition to the territory of heathen symbols. But, besides, the palms as signs of victory accord ill at Revelation 7:10, where the subject of discourse is not of what the elect had done, nor generally, indeed, throughout the section, but only of what they had been. The discourse that follows speaks not of victory, but of salvation. The palms as symbolical of victory would ascribe to the redeemed an activity, which is out of place here, where all is designed to celebrate the surpassing grace of a redeeming God. Finally, if the palms were those of victory, the white robes would not alone be mentioned in Revelation 7:13. This shows that the palms have not, like the white garments, an objective meaning. The palms are beyond doubt those of the feast of tabernacles. According to Leviticus 23:40, the children of Israel at this festival were to bring green branches of palms, and take other trees, and rejoice before the Lord seven days. The latter words point to the import of the rite. It was an expression of joy, the feast of tabernacles being pre-eminently a feast of joy—comp. Deuteronomy 16:14-15. The immediate occasion of this joy was the prosperously concluded harvest; comp. Isaiah 9:2, where the joy of harvest is spoken of as joy of the highest kind. In Leviticus 23:39 it is said before, “when ye have gathered in the produce of the land.” This object of the joy was represented through the fruits, which were to be used along with the green branches, and which are named before them. As these stood related in the Mosaic law to the green branches, so here the white robes; and in this we have an explanation of the circumstance, that the latter alone are mentioned in Revelation 7:13. The meaning of the green branches remains the same, whether we suppose with the Jewish tradition, that during the feast they were borne in the hand, or with Bähr (Symbolik II. p. 625), and others, that the Israelites adorned their tabernacles with them. This last is certainly what was done with them in the time of Nehemiah ( Nehemiah 8:15—from which passage, however, it cannot be proved that the branches were not, at the same time, carried in the hand). The green twigs of trees, which have the freshest and thickest foliage, are always an expression of joy. Such we must maintain to be the case, unless we would tear asunder the passage before us from that of John 12:12-13, which is very closely connected with it; “On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went forth to meet him, and cried: Hosanna! Blessed is the king of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.” If by the palms we understand the palms of joy, the symbolical acknowledgment of the salvation which is certified by the name Jesus, the two passages agree harmoniously together. As the people formerly expressed through this symbol their salvation-joy, when Jesus, the Saviour, rode into the earthly Jerusalem, so now do the elect, when they are in the heavenly Zion with Christ, comp. ch. Revelation 14:1. [Note: The word φοί?νικες occurs no where else in the New Testament but in these two passages ( Mark 11:8 uses στοιβά?δας for τὰ? βαῖ?α τῶ?ν φοινί?κων .) But we can perceive here also the difference between the historical and the poetical style. In the Gospel John speaks of palm branches, here of palms.] The green branches cannot be regarded as means simply for the construction of the booths (the materials for which are left quite indefinite), because they are mentioned in the law of Moses without any respect to the booths, which only come to be noticed at a later period, and also because of the connection in which the feast stood with the people’s rejoicing. But the truth is, that nothing precisely is determined in the Mosaic law as to the application of the green branches. The main thing was that they were there. They were merely ordered to be taken. But the order prescribed in the law rendered it very natural for the people not to satisfy themselves with a simple employment of the branches about the booths. Their independent signification would in that case have readily fallen into the shade. That the custom of bearing the palms in the hand had at any rate become common before the period at which the Apocalypse was written is certain from Macc. Revelation 10:7, where it is said of the celebration of the feast of tabernacles after the temple had been consecrated, “And they bare branches and fair boughs, and palms also, and sang psalms unto him that had given them good success in cleansing his place,” where, also, the bearing of the palm branches was an expression of joy for the deliverance that had been obtained. It is further evident from Jos. Ant. B. Revelation 13:13, § 5, and from the passage before us itself, as soon as it is admitted that the palms are the palms of the feast of tabernacles. And that they really were so we can the less doubt, as several of the traits also in what follows point to a heavenly celebration of the feast of tabernacles; comp. Revelation 7:15, where allusion is made to the booths; Revelation 7:16, where the notes given of the misery from which the redeemed had been taken, are derived from the leading features of the distressed condition that belonged to Israel in the literal wilderness; Revelation 7:17, where there seems to be a reference to the rite of pouring out water at the feast of tabernacles. The expression: and palms in their hands, cannot but remind one of the Jewish tradition, according to which every Israelite carried a bunch of green branches in his right hand and an apple in the left.
From the preceding remarks we have before us a celebration of the feast of tabernacles in heaven. There is the less reason for controverting such a view, as an ideal keeping of the feast of tabernacles occurs even in the Old Testament. Zechariah, in Zechariah 14:16, makes the converted heathen in Messiah’s time repair to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of tabernacles in gratitude to God for his having graciously led them through the wilderness, and for the blessings of salvation conferred upon them (see Christology on the passage.) The feast of tabernacles, according to its double signification, the historical and the natural, was admirably fitted for serving as a type of this heavenly solemnity. As regards the first, the feast was, according to Leviticus 23:43, a feast of thanksgiving for the Lord’s gracious preservation experienced by Israel during their wanderings in the wilderness, which alone prevented the people from being destroyed by the dangers that surrounded them, and purified them for the possession of the land of Canaan. The antitype of the festival in this respect is kept by those who, after having escaped the troubles and dangers of their pilgrimage through the wilderness of life, have reached the heavenly Canaan, the place of their rest, where they shall never hunger any more nor thirst any more, and the sun shall not light on them or any heat. In regard to the natural signification of the symbol, Bähr remarks, “With the feast of tabernacles all field-labour ceased, and winter, the period of rest, began. Every one saw himself recompensed for the labours of the year, his cares were gone, the whole fulness of the divine blessing was in the hands of all. No time of the year was so appropriate for joy and rejoicing.” The application to the heavenly harvest-feast, when the elect rest from their labours and their works follow them, when they shall be accredited for what they have here wrought in the sweat of their brow, and what God’s blessing conferred on them, is clear as day. What Bähr also says, p. 658, on the connection between the two aspects of the feast, the natural and the historical, equally applies to the antitypical festival: “After having gathered in the whole produce of the field, the agricultural people found themselves at the end of their annual labours and occupations, were in possession of the promised and expected blessing, felt rewarded for all the trouble and the faith with which they had sown their seed in hope, and could now enjoy their rest. No time, certainly, could be more appropriate than that to remind them of the finished toil connected with their wanderings in the wilderness, of the time when their fidelity was proved, of the great act of divine beneficence in giving them possession of the promised land, where also they found rest from battle.” The Israelite in his pains and labour on the earth, which the Lord has cursed, consoled himself by a glance toward the joyful day, when before the earthly sanctuary he should bear palms in his hands. May we find consolation during our time of pilgrimage upon earth, by casting our eye on the heavenly palms.
Revelation 7:10. And they cried with a loud voice and said: The salvation to our God, who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb! In the words of the thanksgiving of the redeemed, there is an allusion to Psalms 3:8, “Salvation is the Lord’s,” q.d., he is the possessor and sole dispenser of it;”over thy people thy blessing.” What there forms the foundation of the prayer is turned here into a thanksgiving. Luther has rendered improperly: Salvation be to, etc., instead of: the salvation. Bengel: “That they had been delivered out of all danger and distress, and were now in the enjoyment of blessing, for this they gave thanks aloud to God and to the Lamb. Our God, said they, who sits upon the throne, has given us salvation, and we have to thank his love entirely for it, and that for ever. The Lamb has purchased for us the salvation, and bestows it on us. Christ Jesus is our salvation (Joshua): therefore do we praise his inconceivably great and wonderful love for ever.
Salvation or blessedness is something precious. The word properly signifies deliverance and freedom from all mischief and adversity: but along with this there is also an overflowing of joy and glory. Both are expressed together, 2 Timothy 2:10
Now, when a soul passing from this world is introduced into that other, this is in a manner the first cry that it raises there: the salvation be to our God and the Lamb.” The salvation forms the contrast to the great tribulation, out of which, according to Revelation 7:14, they have been taken. Allusion is made to the name of Jesus, as also in Matthew 21:9, where the multitudes exclaim at the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, “Hosanna to the Son of David;” let his name, Jesus, be verified, let there be salvation to him, and through him, to us. Here the redeemed give thanks for the keeping of the name, for the accomplishment of the salvation. There also He, who sits upon the throne, appears as the ultimate author of salvation: Hosanna in the highest, help us, thou who art enthroned in heaven, through him in whom thou hast laid up the treasures of salvation. The hosanna is now changed into a hallelujah. It had even then a hallelujah in the background. For the cry for help rests on the confidence that he will help. An allusion to the common hosanna-cry at the feast of tabernacles is more doubtful. But at any rate, Psalms 118:25, the place whence that cry was borrowed, and which was wont to be repeated at the feast of tabernacles, “Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, send now prosperity,” has finally passed into fulfilment in the case of these redeemed ones.
To the Lamb, at whose wrath the world trembles, ch. Revelation 6:16. Why they call Christ the Lamb is evident from Revelation 7:14. His holy atoning blood is the source of their salvation; see on ch. Revelation 5:6.
Revelation 7:11. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders, and the four beasts, and fell down before the throne on their face, and worshipped God, Revelation 7:12. Saying, Amen, the blessing, and the glory, and the wisdom, and the thanksgiving, and the honour, and the power, and the strength, be to our God for ever and ever, Amen!
The angels are our patterns in the adoration of God, whose glory is presented to our apprehension through their songs of praise, comp. Psalms 29:1-2; Psalms 89:6-7; Psalms 89:6-7; Psalms 103:20. But the glory of God has most singularly manifested itself in the leading of his church through the wilderness of the world to the heavenly Canaan and Zion, so that the angels could not remain unconcerned in the matter. They would otherwise have been untrue to their high calling and their delightful obligation. Their voice was heard at the birth of Christ, comp. Luke 2:13-14, “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” So now they could not be silent, when the holy work, which had its unpromising commencement in the birth of Christ, has reached its close. There is joy before the angels of God over one sinner that repents ( Luke 15:10). If they rejoice over the glory of God, which manifests itself in the conversion of a single sinner, how can they refrain from testifying their joy at the manifestation of God’s glory in the final safety and well-being of his whole church? The worship is not addressed to God in centradistinction to Christ, but to God in Christ (the Lamb, according to Revelation 7:17, is in the midst of the throne.) But that Christ is not expressly named, is to be explained on the ground, that essentially the same doxology had already been uttered in respect to him, in ch. Revelation 5:12. The connection between the two passages is marked by the two last words there being intentionally made the first here. Intentionally also are the same words repeated here, with a slight alteration ( thanksgiving here instead of riches there), enough as a mark of independence. [Note: Bengel remarks: “But why is it said here, that all the angels worshipped God, and not also the Lamb, since it is admitted elsewhere, that all the angels of God worship also the Son? The answer is, that the angels are in an especial manner under God’s oversight and dominion, as the faithful, in the New Testament, stand peculiarly under the Lamb.” But this explanation of the fact is immediately dispersed by ch. 5:12.] The first Amen expressed an accord to the praise of the redeemed, and so marks the sphere in which the glory of the Lord has unfolded itself. The omission of the second Amen in several critical helps is to be explained from this signification of the first Amen not being understood. It is the less to be regarded, as in some copies even the first Amen has been omitted on the same account.
In the encomiums the seven are better divided into the three and four (as also in Revelation 6:15, Isaiah 11:2), than into the four and three. For, by the first division, the thanksgiving appears at the head of the second group, and serves, like the blessing in the first, as an explanation of the following epithets—shows, that God must receive the honour, etc., in the commendation given of them. On the other hand, in ch. Revelation 5:12, the seven is divided by the four and the three: power and riches, wisdom and strength, honour and glory, blessing. The reverse order was naturally to have been expected, as the beginning here connects itself with the end there. Power and riches then stand together, as riches and strength in ch. Revelation 6:15, wisdom and strength, as counsel and strength in Isaiah 11:2. The twin pair, honour and glory, remain together. Finally, in that case blessing stands alone, and the internal is also externally represented.
Revelation 7:13. And one of the elders answered and said to me: Who are these clothed with white robes? And whence came they? Expositors for the most part remark here superficially, that answer stands for, commenced to speak. Bengel, however, gave the correct view: “John had not indeed asked, but certainly desired to know, who the persons in white robes were. And this desire of his was met by the elder.” A question can be asked otherwise than by a word. John’s whole conduct betrayed that he burned with desire to get an exact account of the attractive appearance of the persons in white clothing. The answer to the silent question is thrown into the form of a verbal question, with the view simply of calling forth John’s express request for information, and the confession of his own inability. Bengel: “It not only requires one who knows something to ask, but there must also be a fit opportunity for one who would communicate any thing to another, if he commences with a question, as was the case with our Lord in his wise procedure toward his disciples, the Samaritan woman, and others. In such a manner one can often get at the heart, and loose a man’s tongue, who could not find his way to it before, so that he is glad at the circumstance.” The who and whence art thou, was in ancient times the regular question to friends on their arrival. [Note: See, for example, Homer, Od. v. 104: Ξεῖ?νε τὸ? μεν σε πρῶ?τον ἐ?γὼ?ν εἰ?ρή?σομαι αὐ?τὴ? τί?ς· πό?θεν εἰ?ς ἀ?νδρῶ?ν ; Πό?θε τοι πό?λις ἠ?δὲ? τοκῆ?ες . Other passages may be seen in Wolf’s Curse] . The questions are afterwards answered in the reverse order, first the whence, then the who.
Revelation 7:14. And I said to him: My Lord, thou knowest it. And he said to me: these are they, who come out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made their robes bright in the blood of the Lamb. In the speech of John there is a discreet request for information. Thou knowest it, says he; thou hast been longer here than I have been; I do not know. If thou wouldst tell me, I shall receive it with thankfulness.
John addresses the elder as his lord. Bengel: “Before an elder, the title of Lord was not so common as it is now; and that John should have said to the elder, Lord, nay, my Lord, has much significance in it. John saw great and glorious things, and the elders were there in the midst of them. He found himself in a state of holy wonder, and said to the elder, My Lord. Still greater things were disclosed to him there, and in his transport he forgot himself so far as to attempt even twice to worship the angel. To say, My Lord, as John did, and to worship, is not far different; nay, it is a step to the other.” John said, My Lord, in the presence of the glory of the Lord, which shines upon the blessed, so that the expression of veneration at last returns to the Lord himself. So Lot in Genesis 19:18 addressed the angels by the name Adonai, which properly belongs only to God; and in Isaiah 45:14, the Gentiles who desire salvation fall down before the church of the Lord, and supplicate to her, because God is only in her, and there is no God besides. To take the “My Lord” in a feebler sense, is the less suitable, as we have here before us a vision, and the territory of appearance and mere courtesy is far away. Elsewhere also in the New Testament this address always occurs as an expression of veneration and dependence. The Greeks, in John 12:21, address Philip thus, and certainly on no other account (“Lord, we would see Jesus”), because they transferred the glory of the master to the disciple. In John 20:15, Mary takes Jesus for the gardener, but she doubtless would not have styled him Lord, if she had sought only common things of him, if she had not believed herself to be dependent on him in regard to her beloved. The address here, therefore, in unison with the following: Thou knowest it, points to the vast distance between what is here and what shall be hereafter; so that the most advanced, who still dwell here in flesh and faith, can only look up to the perfectly righteous. There is a very striking agreement between the “thou knowest it,” and Peter’s reply to our Lord in John 21:15-16.
On the words, “These are they who come,” Züllig remarks, “The present in the signification of the future renders it manifest that it is only a vision, when John says he already saw them above, at the time he wrote; for they were certainly then still below on the earth, and could only be translated to heaven a considerable time afterwards, when they had borne their share in the tribulation spoken of.”
It may be asked what we are to understand by “the great tribulation.” According to Bengel, it must indicate generally the troubles of human life.” What else is this great tribulation than all men’s pains and labour on the earth, which God has cursed, and the collected sorrows which have been brought on the human family by the fall of Adam? This is clear from the following contrast. The partakers of salvation shall hunger and thirst no more, be free henceforth from sweat and tears. The great tribulation, therefore, consists in hunger, thirst, heat, tears, &c. To this tribulation all men, not excepting the elect, have been subjected since the fall, in this vale of tears and sorrows. It is a plague, which one meets with every day; troubles may certainly be counted on. Respect is not had here to any particular tribulation, which some might have to suffer for the word of God; but it is this earthly sorrowful life itself, such as Adam doubtless experienced beyond any of his descendants. Before, he could walk up and down in Paradise, and eat of the fruit of its trees, one only excepted, without any toil on his part. But after the fall he had the burden of a laborious and troublesome cultivation laid on him. It was said, In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread; words that briefly express hunger, thirst, heat, and tears.” But this exposition seeks in vain for support from Revelation 7:16; the distresses mentioned there are not those generally of this life, but those of the wilderness. But what disproves it is, that by it the starting-point, the fainting of believers in prospect of the judgments which were going to be inflicted on the world, is overlooked, and so the connection is destroyed between Revelation 7:9-17 and Revelation 7:1-8. The same reason is also decisive against those who would understand by the great tribulation the persecution of Christians. The consolation for those Christians, who sighed under the persecutions of the world, has been given earlier, and finds its completion in ch. Revelation 8:1. It lies in the contents of the seventh seal. The definite article alone, which implies the distress to be known from the preceding context, leads to the conclusion, that by the great tribulation the plagues of the world are to be understood, which bring with them troubles also for the elect. To the same result we are also led by the original passage, Matthew 24:21,”For there shall then be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world till now, nor shall be.” The subject of discourse there, too, is the judgments to be brought on the world, which necessarily involve the elect in sufferings along with others. Finally, this explanation is confirmed by comparing ch. Revelation 3:10, where the hour of temptation is spoken of which shall come upon the whole world, to tempt those who dwell upon the earth. The subject of discourse there cannot be persecution, for the temptation appears as a future one, while the persecution raged at that very time. But here we can the less think of persecution, as there is not a syllable found in regard to what in that case would have been of such vast moment—fidelity and stedfastness. Only the general marks of believers are given. The washing and making bright are to be carefully distinguished. The washing denotes the obtaining of pardon of sin through the blood of Christ; the making bright sanctification which springs out of reconciliation. In the symbolical rites of the law, and in the explanation of it in Ezekiel, Ezekiel 36:25, “and I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean from all your impurities, and from all your filthiness will I purify you.” the washing and sprinkling with water appears as an image of the forgiveness of sins (see Christol. there.) Filthy garments (the clothing being regarded as a symbol of the state [Note: Vitringa: “The stole (robe) is a symbol of the condition or state in which any one is. Among the Orientals, as well as the Romans and other people of the west, the custom was such that from the robe, tunic, or gown, the Mate and dignity of any one could be easily perceived.”] ) were, in the Old Testament, borne by sinners, clean ones by the justified, Isaiah 64:5, Zech. Zechariah 3:4, “and he answered and said to those who stood before him: Take away from him the filthy garments; and he said to Joshua, behold, I take away from thee thy sins, and they will clothe thee with festive garments.” Here instead of the water the blood of Christ is put, to indicate that it is not simply forgiveness, but forgiveness as rooting itself in the atonement which is spoken of. We have a commentary in 1 John 1:7, “The blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin;” 1 John 5:6, “This is he who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not by water only (forgiveness without satisfaction), but by water and blood;’’ John 19:34, “One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and immediately there came out water and blood.” The great importance which is laid upon this in John 19:35, is to be explained from the apostle seeing a symbolical meaning in the procedure, from his perceiving in the water and the blood the forgiveness that has its root in the atonement of Christ. The point of connection here between the Revelation and the other writings of John is a very delicate and deep one.
To the mating of the garments bright corresponds in the passage of Ezekiel referred to, Ezekiel 36:26, the “giving of a new heart and a new spirit” (after the purging away of their sins); and in John, the “walking in the light,” 1 John 1:7, “not sinning,” 1 John 2:1, 1 John 3:6, 1 John 3:9, “keeping one’s self,” 1 John 5:18, “doing the will of God,” 1 John 2:17, “doing what is well-pleasing before him,” 1 John 3:22, “keeping his commandments,” 1 John 5:3. The courageous witness-bearing, which, according to ch. Revelation 12:11, springs from the sense of forgiveness as obtained through the blood of the Lamb, is only a particular manifestation of the sanctified life which is denoted by the bright garments. On the white or bright as the colour of clear splendour, the symbolical image of glory, comp. on ch. Revelation 3:4. Here the white is the colour of the righteous, which streams forth in the splendour of their virtues—comp. Revelation 3:18-19, Revelation 19:8. For, that the doing, and not the reward of holiness, is what is here spoken of (whence the white garment differs here from that in Revelation 5:9 and Revelation 6:11), appears first from the active, “they have made them white;” then, and more especially, from a reward on this account being announced in Rev. 5:15; and still farther from the white clothing which is said to have been given to believers ( Revelation 6:11), never having like this been unclean. That there is an internal connection between white clothing in the one sense and in the other, or between sanctification and glory, it is scarcely necessary to remark.
Revelation 7:15. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple, and he who sits upon the throne shall tabernacle before them. Therefore, because, as Bengel says, “they have been fitly prepared for it by the blood of the Lamb.”
The delineation of the blessedness is completed in a threefold three: they are before the throne, they serve, they are tented;—they hunger not, they thirst not, they suffer no heat;—the Lamb feeds them, leads them, wipes them. The foundation for this lies in the three number of the Mosaic blessing on the chosen people, which, with those here, has reached its complete fulfilment.
Vitringa thinks that here the happy condition of the perfectly righteous on this earth is represented. But the whole position of our section is against this, which can unfold nothing that lies absolutely beyond the seventh seal; and so also is ch. Revelation 6:11, where the white garments are mentioned in regard to the intermediate state before the completion of God’s kingdom—the standing before the throne of God, which belongs, according to ch. Revelation 4:2, to heaven—the serving him in his temple, which is also heavenly, ch. Revelation 11:19, Revelation 14:15; Revelation 14:17, Revelation 15:5; Revelation 15:8, Revelation 16:1; Revelation 16:17; and a comparison of the parallel passages, ch. Revelation 14:1-5, Revelation 15:2-4, Revelation 20:4-6. The affinity of our passage to those which relate to the “regeneration,” Matthew 19:28, the state of blessedness to be enjoyed by the church on the renovated earth, can prove nothing, inasmuch as there exists an internal connection between the state of the perfectly righteous before, and that af t er the resurrection.
To remark, “that here we have a representation, 1, as to how the righteous serve God, and, 2, what God gives to them,” is fitted to mislead; for even the being before the throne of God, and serving him in his temple, free from the sorrow and vexation which in many ways were experienced from the vanities of time, appears here as wonderful grace and recompense (hence the therefore), according to the hymn “Den wahren Gott zu schauen,” &c. (“To behold the true God and the beautiful garniture of the heavenly world, this is real blessedness,”) and 1 Corinthians 14:12. Even in this life it is not only a sacred duty, but also a precious privilege of believers to endeavour to copy after the example of Anna, who “departed not from the temple, and served God with fastings and prayers day and night.” Bengel: “In the world it is held to be a great honour when a lord of the chamber, a high servant may always be about the sovereign, and can get the nearest access to him at all times; but what is this compared with the privilege of those who are before the throne of God, and wait upon him day and night?
He will tabernacle upon them is as much as: he will perform to them the part of a tent. The tent, therefore, is the Lord himself, and Psalms 31:20 corresponds, “Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence from the confederacy of man; thon shalt keep them secretly in a tabernacle from the strife of tongues.” The correspondence here is closer than in Psalms 28:5, where the godly are represented as hidden with the Lord in his tent. But in the other passage the Lord himself, as in the words before us, his gracious countenance directed upon the godly, is their hiding-place and tabernacle. Isaiah 4:6 is also to be compared, where it is said respecting the time of salvation, and the completion of the kingdom of God, “And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the day time from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and rain.” The tabernacle consists, according to our verse, in the grace of the Lord abiding with his people and protecting them—in the Shekinah. In Deuteronomy 33:27, and Psalms 90:1, God was called by Moses the dwelling-place of his people amid the troubles of life. Here also, as it appears, there is an allusion to the feast of tabernacles: in that blessed time there shall be an infinitely glorious tabernacle.
Revelation 7:16. They shall not hunger any more nor thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. Revelation 7:17. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them into life-fountains of waters, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. The fundamental passage for Revelation 7:16, and the two first members of Revelation 7:17, is Isaiah 49:10, “They shall neither hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them; for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them.” Compare the similar passage, Isaiah 48:21, “And they thirsted not when he led them through the deserts; he caused the waters to flow out of the rock for them; he clave the rock also, and the waters gushed out.” What, then, in allusion to the earlier proof of the Lord’s shepherd-faithfulness, as manifested in the guiding of his people through the literal wilderness, is said respecting the Lord’s watchful care and goodness toward his people during their journey through the wilderness of the world, is here transferred to the condition of those who have completed this journey; with them the word first becomes perfectly true, the promised good is actually reached. There are only two important deviations from the original passages. 1. Instead of “He that has mercy on them,” we have here, “The Lamb in the midst of the throne.” Thus what is said of Jehovah in the prophet is appropriated to Christ. The relation of Christ to the supreme God, is here marked as a more internal one than in ch. Revelation 5:6, where the Lamb stands between the throne with the four beasts, and the elders, as the exalted mediator between God and his people. The expression, “In the midst of the throne,” has respect also to Christ as sitting on the right hand of God. It declares him to be equal in might and glory with the Father; and in the Revelation stands in unison with such things, as his having the seven Spirits of God, receiving divine worship, having applied to him directly what in the Old Testament is written of God. It accords also with what in the Gospel of John is written of the Word of God (comp. here Revelation 19:13), who in the beginning was with God and was God, of the oneness of Christ with the Father, of his being in the Father, and of the Father being in him, in ch. Revelation 14:10-11. The bringing out of the full Godhead of Christ is suitable here, because only from this point of view could Christ have been substituted for God in the original passages, and because Christ could no otherwise bestow the highest good on his people than as the possessor of essential Godhead. 2. Instead of simple water-springs, “in the original passages, we have here” life -fountains of water.” This addition indicates, that spiritual fountains of water are meant. The well-springs of life here correspond to the wells of salvation in Isaiah 12:3, “And ye draw water with joy out of the wells of salvation.” Comp. Psalms 87:7, where also the springs are the springs of salvation, which refresh the thirsty soul and the parched land, Psalms 84:6. Life with John is “that life, which really is such, the direct antithesis of death; as the Logos is called the life—that is, life in full vigour disturbed in its flow by no check, nothing painful or unpleasant, but blessed life, as God the primeval source of life gives it, a life that is raised above all creaturely evanescence and weakness” (Köstlin, Lehrbegr. des Johannes, p. 235.) Life is consequently another term for salvation, which is also indicated by Ezekiel in Ezekiel 47 by the fountain, which issues from the sanctuary in Zion, and flows into the Dead Sea, refreshing and fructifying the wilderness on its way. Also in Revelation 21:6; Revelation 22:1-17 the water of life is descriptive of salvation. That by the introduction of this single word, Isaiah 12:3 is combined with the original passage into one whole, appears the more suitable, as the figure of that passage was at the feast of tabernacles embodied in the symbolical action of pouring out water. That an allusion to this should have been made here was the more natural, as the palms and the tabernacles had already preceded ( Revelation 7:15). The salvation or life, which through that rite is designated as the privilege and the hope of the people of God, is in the fullest measure secured to them here by him, who as the Lamb is at the same time the true shepherd. They now receive in truth what was only imaged by the literal waters of the wilderness. For, these were a type of the well-springs of salvation, which the Lord opens in all ages for his people in the wilderness of trouble, and most gloriously when the period of their pilgrimage is over—see my Comm. on Psalms 107:35. [Note: The reading ζώ?σας for ζωῆ?ς is by much the worst supported of the two. It has only arisen from the copyists stumbling at the doable genitive. All the parallel passages in the Apocalypse speak for ζωῆ?ς , ch. 21:6, 22:1, 17. Of living fountains we nowhere else read, but always of living waters, and this has a solid ground in the circumstance that fountains are always living. For the addition to the original passages there must have been a Deuteronomy 6 nite reason, as in the substitution of the Lamb in the midst of the throne, for, him that has mercy. The ζώ?σας does not contain such an one, for it does not arise from the image. In the ζωῆ?ς also alone do we perceive a reason for the word, that has been introduced, being placed first. It lies in the reference to Isaiah 12:3, where also it is the springs (not the waters) of salvation that are discoursed of.] It is to be carefully noted that it is precisely in the gospel of John that the passages occur, in which the blessings of salvation, which the Lord gives even in this life to his people, are denoted by not hungering, not thirsting, the true bread and the living water—comp. John 4:14-15, John 6:35, John 7:38. These passages are the more analogous to the one before us, as in them also respect is had to what the Lord formerly did for his people in the wilderness. This starting-point is distinctly marked in John 6:30-31, “Then said they to him, what sign showest thou then, that we may see and believe on thee? What dost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert, as it is written, he gave them bread from heaven to eat.” From what has been remarked we see that hunger, thirst, the heat of the sun, are mentioned as the leading and more manifest forms of the annoyances that were experienced in the march through the wilderness. Viewed in regard to the substance, hunger and thirst indicate the unsatisfied need for salvation, the sun the glow of tribulations—comp. ch. Revelation 16:8-9. The conclusion of Revelation 7:17: and God shall wipe away, etc., is taken from Isaiah 25:8. These words return again, not without reason, in ch. Revelation 21:4, with a slight, and as to the meaning unimportant, yet still intentional variation. For instead of, “ out of the eyes,” it is there “ from the eyes.” (Such small differences almost constantly occur in the borrowings and repetitions of Scripture. They serve to prevent the appearance of a lifeless adoption.) In ch. Revelation 21:4 the subject of discourse is the “regeneration,” the kingdom of glory upon earth, to which the words in the original passages refer, and in which they are to find their only complete and ultimate fulfilment.
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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Revelation 7". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent