Revelation 7:4

who were sealed
ἐσφραγισμένων [esphragismenōn] , perfect passive participle, ones having been sealed. The angel recounts the total number of individuals who, by this time, have been sealed. The seal identifies those who are set apart for special protection in the midst of the judgments from God. “The mark which denotes ownership also carries with it the protection of the owner,”1 in this case, God. The seal may not be visible to men, but is evident to God and the angels and demons who carry forth his judgment (Rev. Rev. 9:4+). It is analogous to the sealing of believers today, who are baptized into the body of Christ and sealed with the Holy Spirit (2Cor. 2Cor. 1:22; Eph. Eph. 1:13; Eph. 4:30).

The best analysis of the seal is that it protects against the disasters that the four winds will bring to the earth (Beckwith; Caird). The context of Rev. Rev. 7:1-3+ is in preparation for the judgments of the seventh seal that includes the seven trumpets. Thus the sealing must refer to these judgments. The command “do not hurt” implies that after the sealing is finished, the judgments that are next in the divine program (i.e., Revelation Rev. 8:1+) will come (Smith).2

Seiss suggests that in order to stand in the midst of this time of unparalleled judgment and tribulation, those who are sealed will require a special measure of spiritual enablement:

We may, therefore, conceive of this sealing of the 144,000 as a special and extraordinary impartation of the Holy Ghost; which again connects this vision with particular Old Testament promises. By the mouth of Joel, the Lord said to Israel: “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.” This was indeed a general promise, but with it was coupled another, which is not so general, but particular to Israel: “And your sons and your daughters [O Jews] shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions, and also upon the servants and upon the handmaidens in those days will I pour out my Spirit.” Peter tells us that this began to be fulfilled in the miracle of Pentecost; but the fulfilment did not end there. There are also particulars in this passage which were not fulfilled upon the primitive Church—particulars which refer to the judgment times, and connect directly to the scenes to which this sealing of the 144,000 is related. “Wonders in heaven and earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke,” are spoken of; and the turning of the sun into darkness, and the moon into blood; . . . In this we distinctly recognize the occurrences under the red horseman of the second seal, the physical prodigies of the sixth seal, and the exact manifestations under the first and fifth trumpets.3

One hundred and forty-four thousand
In our discussion of Interpreting Symbols , we noted the tendency of many interpreters to ignore the literal meaning of numbers whenever a cherished theological viewpoint makes the literal value given in the text unpopular. Perhaps the two most abused numbers in the entire book of Revelation are the 144,000 sealed individuals here and the 1,000 years of the millennial reign (Rev. Rev. 20:1+). Although this passage goes to great lengths to make plain the literal nature of what is being conveyed, this hasn’t stopped many from flights of interpretive fancy which substitute subjective conjecture for the plain facts:

The name “Christ” appears seven times and the name “Jesus” fourteen times. “The Lamb” is used of Christ twenty-eight times, seven bringing the Lamb and God together. The 7 x 4 appearances of this title underscore the universal scope of the Lamb’s complete victory. . . . Twelve is the number of God’s people, which is squared to indicate completeness and multiplied by one thousand to connote vastness.4

Twelve is the number of the tribes, and appropriate to the Church: three by four: three, the divine number, multiplied by four, the number for world-wide extension. Twelve by twelve implies fixity and completeness, which is taken a thousandfold in 144,000. A thousand implies the world perfectly pervaded by the divine; for it is ten, the world number, raised to the power of three, the number of God. [emphasis added]5

No matter how specific God’s Word may be concerning the identification of this group of persons, the interpreters refuse to follow the text where it leads. This is because they have theological biases which go against recognizing the obvious Jewish nature of this passage. (As we saw earlier, the Jewish nature of this book was recognized by many and led to opposition to its acceptance into the canon.)

Many are so morbidly prejudiced against everything Jewish, that it is concluded in advance, that anything merciful, referring to the Israelitish race, must needs be understood some other way than as the words are written. Though all the prophets were Jews, and Jesus was a Jew, and the writer of this Apocalypse was a Jew, and all the Apostles were Jews, and salvation itself is of the Jews, and the Jews as a distinct people are everywhere spoken of as destined to continue to the world’s end, it is regarded as the next thing to apostasy from the faith, to apply anything hopeful, that God has said, to this particular race. . . . No wonder, therefore, that they cannot find a consistent interpretation of a vision of grace which is predicated of Jacob’s literal seed, in contradistinction from all others.6

Bullinger, an authority on figures of speech, holds that this number is not symbolic of some other group than the Jews, but intentionally definite:

Alford says of this number, “No one I am aware of has taken it literally!” Very likely: but we are thankful to be an exception to the rule, and to believe what God says. There is such a thing as Figures of Speech, but, we ask, what Figure is used here? What is its name? The truth is that there is here no Figure whatever; but it is the simple statement of fact: a definite number in contrast with the indefinite number in this very chapter (Rev. Rev. 7:9+). If the total number is not exact, then all the items which go to make it up are indefinite also. If the number is symbolical, then what number in the Book may we take as literal? . . . We prefer to believe God. And, believing Him, we conclude that He had reserved 7,000 in the days of Ahab (1K. 1K. 19:18; Rom. Rom. 11:4), so He will reserve 144,000 in the Great Tribulation.7

As is often the case within Scripture, when the plain sense of Scripture is rejected, a foothold is provided for aberrant teachings frequented by cults, in this case the Jehovah’s Witnesses:

The Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that the 144,000 is the body of spirit-begotten believers who have a “heavenly hope” (Rom. Rom. 8:24. Eph. Eph. 4:4. Col. Col. 1:5. Heb. Heb. 7:19. 1Pe. 1Pe. 1:3. 1Jn. 1Jn. 3:3). All other believers can have only an “earthly hope” (Job Job 14:7. Jer. Jer. 31:17. Acts Acts 26:6). Once the Watchtower organization had more than 144,000 adherents, the teaching was developed that the “great multitude” mentioned later in the chapter (Rev. Rev. 7:9+) referred to those Christians who had only an earthly hope. Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that members of the “great multitude” who have only an earthly hope do not need to be born again. . . . If the claim of Jehovah’s Witnesses that the heavenly hope is limited to 144,000 has any validity, the significance of that hope for anyone today is purely historical, for since this number was reached within five years of Pentecost, no person alive today could possibly lay claim to be one of that fixed number, not even the leaders of the Watchtower in Brooklyn, New York.8

However, the verses which follow make it clear that the sealed are Jews. This is in accordance with what is said later concerning the 144,000—that they are firstfruits,

These sealed Jews are those who come to faith in Jesus as Messiah during the Tribulation period. They are further described as “first fruits unto God and to the Lamb” (Rev. Rev. 14:4+), indicating that they compose the first stage of a final harvest of Jewish souls to be gathered later at the Lord’s coming in glory. . . . These comprise the “remnant” of Jews “who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. Rev. 12:17+b).9

See commentary on Revelation 14:1.

of all the tribes of the children of Israel
Children of Israel, υἱῶν Ἰσραήλ [huiōn Israēl] , literally: sons of Israel. These are the same twelve tribes of the children of Israel whose names are written on the gates of the New Jerusalem (Rev. Rev. 21:12+). These are a specific group of people who are physical offspring of Israel and differentiated from the rest of men (Zec. Zec. 9:1). In the regeneration, Jesus said the apostles will rule over these tribes (Mtt. Mat. 19:28; Luke Luke 22:30). 1Th. 4:15-17), God will work in grace amongst His ancient people, and among the Gentiles at large outside the apostate part of the world.”10 At this point in the Revelation, we encounter one of those “Jewish elements” in the book of Revelation which seem to cause much discomfort for many commentators. Bullinger elaborates:

Few Scriptures have suffered more at the hands of Gentile Christians than this. Notwithstanding the fact that it concerns “all the tribes of the children of Israel,” and that the twelve tribes are named separately, popular interpretation insists on taking them as meaning the Church of God. Any system of interpretation which has this for its foundation may be judged and condemned at the outset as not only useless, but mischievous. Such a system has been described by Hooker as one “which changeth the meaning of words as alchemy doth, or would do, the substance of metals, making anything what it listeth; and bringeth, in the end, all truth to nothing.”11

The unwillingness to accept the Jewishness of what is described here is evident from many commentators who refuse to take the passage at face value:

The number scarcely refers only to Jewish Christians; rather it stands for all the members of the Church, the true Israel.12

If [the number is] literal, it is necessary to suppose that this refers to the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. But on every supposition this is absurd. Ten of their tribes had been long before carried away, and the distinction of the tribes was lost, no more to be recovered, and the Hebrew people never have been, since the time of John, in circumstances to which the description here could be applicable. These considerations make it clear that the description here is symbolical. [emphasis added]13

Walvoord accepts this passage as proving that the twelve tribes are still in existence. This interpretation seriously complicates the book of Revelation by bringing in racial distinctions which no longer exist in the NT purview. It disregards the historical fact that ten of the twelve tribes disappeared in Assyria and the remaining two list their separate identity when Jerusalem fell in A.D. 70. . . . The number is obviously symbolic. [emphasis added]14

Mounce asserts that taking the passage literally “seriously complicates” the book of Revelation and asserts that racial distinctions . . . no longer exist in the NT purview . This would have come as a surprise to the apostle Paul who continued to describe himself as a Jew long after his conversion (Acts Acts 21:39-Acts 22:3), said the same of Peter (Gal. Gal. 2:14-16), and spent almost three full chapters of Romans explaining to believers that God is not through with the Jewish nation (Rom. Rom. 9:1, Rom. 10:1, Rom. 11:1). At the close of this most important section of Scripture, Paul makes a statement which directly contradicts Mounce:

For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.” Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Rom. Rom. 11:25-29) [emphasis added]

Elements of this short, but very important passage, reveal:
  1. Paul was concerned that certain Gentile believers would be wise in your own opinion, namely that they would assume, like Mounce, that racial distinctions no longer exist. Not so!
  2. Paul differentiates between two different groups of believers. Paul is doing the unthinkable, according to those with Mounce’s view. He is making a distinction among the redeemed! And what distinction is it? He is contrasting the fullness of the Gentiles with all Israel. He is saying that God has a different emphasis and timetable for the Gentile elect and the Jewish elect! God Himself recognizes a racial distinction which Mounce cannot recognize.
  3. The Deliverer will come (future tense) and turn away ungodliness from Jacob. The fullness of the Gentiles and ungodly Jacob can not be made one and the same without ignoring the most basic rules of interpretation. One describes Gentiles and the other Jews. Both will eventually come to faith.
  4. When a Jew comes to faith in Messiah Jesus, he does not cease to be a Jew. In fact, the exact opposite was the concern in NT times—whether a Gentile, upon coming to faith had to become a Jew (Acts Acts 10:45; Acts 11:17; Acts 15:6-29)!15
  5. When the Deliverer turns away ungodliness from Jacob (who is Israel, the father of the Jews), it is said that this is because of God’s covenant. What covenant is that? It is the New Covenant which was originally given to Israel (Jer. Jer. 31:31). Again, what is surprising in the NT is not that Jews cease to be Jews (they don’t), but that Gentiles participate in this Jewish covenant.
Another frequently-encountered error concerning the interpretation of this passage is the assertion that ten of the twelve tribes have been forever lost. We discuss this unbiblical myth in our section entitled Ten Tribes Lost?

This passage also teaches that the so-called “ten lost tribes” were, in fact, never lost (cf. Rev. Rev. 21:12+; Matt. Mat. 19:28; Luke Luke 22:30; Jas. Jas. 1:1). Instead, representatives from the ten northern tribes filtered south and intermingled with the two southern tribes (cf. 2Chr. 2Chr. 30:1-11; 2Chr. 34:1-9) and thus were preserved.16

Ladd, in his desire to avoid the plain teaching of the text, believes this list of the twelve tribes is unlike any other in the OT:

These twelve tribes cannot be literal Israel, because they are not the twelve tribes of OT Israel. The list here appears nowhere else in the Bible. It has three irregularities: it names Judah first, thus ignoring the OT order of the tribes; it omits Dan with no explanation (see Eze. Eze. 48:1); it mentions Joseph instead of Ephraim. Perhaps John meant by this irregular listing of the twelve tribes to designate the Israel that is not the literal Israel. . . . The twelve tribes were irregularly listed to show that true Israel is not literal Israel, but the Church.17

Here we meet again with Replacement Theology—the unbiblical idea that the Church is “Israel,” something nowhere stated in Scripture. To be sure, believers are called the spiritual seed of Abraham (Rom. Rom. 4:12-18; Gal. Gal. 3:7-8, Gal. 3:29), but if Scripture is any indication, there is an important distinction between the spiritual seed of Abraham and the physical seed of Jacob. For nowhere in all of Holy Writ—not once—is the Church denoted by the word “Israel.”18 Those who confuse the Church with Israel are just one step behind many of the cults, such as The Church of God or British Israelism, who want to oust Israel from her promises and substitute themselves instead. (For more on these movements, see Ten Tribes Lost?) The Church already has her own promises so why should we try to steal Israel’s too? Besides, the spiritual restoration of the Jews is attended with great blessings: “For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (Rom. Rom. 11:15). The irregularities which Ladd sees as so significant are found in other listings of the tribes. Concerning the omission of tribes, we could cite the omission of Dan from the extensive tribal genealogies of 1 Chronicles 1Chr. 2:10. “In the enumerations of the tribes throughout Scripture, of which there are about eighteen, the full representative number twelve is always given, but as Jacob had thirteen sons [counting the two sons of Joseph instead of the father as Jacob’s] one or other is always omitted.”19 This rotation and omission of tribal names is not unusual, as Ladd would have us believe, but is typical. “It should be noted that there is no standard way of listing the twelve tribes. There are at least nineteen different ways of listing them in the Old Testament, none of which agree with the list given here.”20

A careful examination of the dozen places in the Bible where all the twelve tribes are mentioned will reveal some very beautiful truths. Jacob had twelve sons who were the fathers of the twelve tribes. Joseph and two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, whose names later were added to the list of the tribes. This gives us fourteen names out of which twelve are selected, but not always the same twelve, in presenting the truths concerning Israel. Levi, the priestly tribe, had no military duties to perform and was not given a portion of the land when the tribes entered Palestine. The portion of Levi was to be the Lord Himself (Deu. Deu. 18:1-2; Jos. Jos. 13:14). In order to fill His place both in military affairs and in the land, a new tribe had to be found so Joseph was replaced by his two sons. Leaving out the name of Levi and that of Joseph, twelve names remained.21

Concerning Judah being listed first, the camp of Judah led the procession of the tribes on the march (Num. Num. 10:14). Rather than seeking to understand why this list omits Dan and Ephraim, Ladd merely asserts that their omission means that the phrase “children of Israel” must denote the Church. But this runs roughshod over hermeneutical principles because these 144,000 from the tribes of Israel are contrasted with “a great multitude . . . of all . . . tribes” (Rev. Rev. 7:9+). These are different groups: one is denoted by twelve specific tribal names and is only 144,000 in size. The other comes from all tribes (and nations, peoples, and tongues) and is innumerable.22 As to why Dan and Ephraim are omitted from the list, there seems to be a ready explanation. God promises that any person or tribe which practices idolatry will be set apart for adversity:

So that there may not be among you man or woman or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations [e.g., idolatry], and that there may not be among you a root bearing bitterness or wormwood; and so it may not happen, when he hears the words of this curse, that he blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall have peace, even though I follow the dictates of my heart’ -as though the drunkard could be included with the sober. The LORD would not spare him; for then the anger of the LORD and His jealousy would burn against that man, and every curse that is written in this book would settle on him, and the LORD would blot out his name from under heaven. And the LORD would separate him from all the tribes of Israel for adversity, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this Book of the Law. (Deu. Deu. 29:18-21) [emphasis added]

When the tribe of Dan migrated north from their original location, they persuaded a renegade Levite in Ephraim to join them, along with his graven image. After overthrowing Laish and renaming the town Dan, they set up the carved image and a priesthood attended it (Jdg. Jdg. 18:19-30). Thereafter, the town of Dan became a center for worship of one of the golden calves which Jeroboam promoted as an alternative to worship at Jerusalem during the divided kingdom (1K. 1K. 12:28-30; 2K. 2K. 10:29).

The Lord’s estimation of Dan and his idolatry can be seen in the decreasing role of the tribe in scriptural history. In the twenty different listings of the tribes, Dan is generally far down and often is the last in the list. Consider, for example, the order of march in the wilderness: “And the standard of the camp of the children of Dan set forward, which was over the rear guard of all the camps throughout their hosts; and over its host was Ahiezer, the son of Ammishaddai” (Num. Num. 10:25). [See Camp of Israel .] Dan was the last tribe to receive its inheritance in the Promised Land (Jos. Jos. 19:47-49). Most striking is the total omission of Dan from the extensive tribal genealogies of 1 Chronicles 1Chr. 2:10! These scriptural facts should be remembered when facing the often-asked question of why Dan is omitted in the 144,000 Jews sealed in the Tribulation period (Rev. Rev. 7:4-8+). Evidently this is due to the problem of idolatry which plagued this tribe throughout its history.23

Also, when Deborah and Barak led Israel to war in the time of the judges, the tribes sent men to fight, but not Dan. Dan’s failure to participate is remarked upon in Scripture: “Why did Dan remain on ships?” (Jdg. Jdg. 5:17). Ephraim also was involved with idolatry:

Interestingly, Jeroboam’s idols were placed in the tribes of Dan and Ephraim (i.e., Bethel, 1K. 1K. 12:29). Thus, in the Revelation Rev. 7:1+ listing, Dan was replaced by Levi (Rev. Rev. 7:7+) and Ephraim was replaced by his father Joseph (Rev. Rev. 7:8+), while his brother Manasseh was included to complete the twelve (Rev. Rev. 7:6+).24

The tribes of Dan and Ephraim are omitted from the list which follows, being replaced by Levi and Joseph. The reason for Ephraim’s omission is suggested by Hos. Hos. 4:17. For possible reasons for Dan’s omission see the related texts . . . (Lev. Lev. 24:10-16. Deu. Deu. 29:18-21. Jdg. Jdg. 18:2-31. 1K. 1K. 12:26-33). Dan and Ephraim are included in Ezekiel’s prophecy of their inheritance in the eternal earthly kingdom of Christ (Eze. Eze. 48:1-6, Eze. 48:32), demonstrating God’s faithfulness to his covenant and promise (Lev. Lev. 26:44. Mal. Mal. 3:6. Rom. Rom. 11:29. Rom. 15:8).25

Although Dan is omitted here, this should not be taken as an indication that the tribe of Dan will perish due to lack of protection during the Tribulation. Eze. 48:2), but while being first mentioned, it is the furthest removed from the temple, being situated in the extreme north.”26 Some understand the omission of Dan as an indication that the Antichrist will arise from Dan:27

He who shall come claiming the kingdom for himself, and shall terrify those men of whom we have been speaking, having a name containing the aforesaid number [666], is truly the abomination of desolation. This, too, the apostle affirms: “When they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction shall come upon them.” And Jeremiah does not merely point out his sudden coming, but he even indicates the tribe from which he shall come, where he says, “We shall hear the voice of his swift horses from Dan; the whole earth shall be moved by the voice of the neighing of his galloping horses: he shall also come and devour the earth, and the fulness thereof, the city also, and they that dwell therein.” [Jer. Jer. 8:16] This, too, is the reason that this tribe is not reckoned in the Apocalypse along with those which are saved.—Irenaeus, Against Heresies,

Yet, in our discussion of The Beast we identify reasons which indicate a Gentile origin for the Antichrist. See the discussion of whether the Beast will be Jewish or Gentile? There is also the possibility that the omission of Dan and Ephraim are not as significant as many think, perhaps mainly motivated to maintain symmetry.29 The sealed are said to be “servants of God” (Rev. Rev. 7:3+) and “follow the Lamb wherever He goes” perhaps indicating a unique dedication and obedience to God in the midst of the Tribulation on earth (Rev. Rev. 7:3+; Rev. 14:4-5+). Their ministry is probably evangelistic in nature. Isaiah described a worldwide Jewish mission to the Gentiles. The context is immediately before the gathering of the Jews for the millennial age:30

I will set a sign among them; and those among them who escape I will send to the nations: to Tarshish and Pul and Lud, who draw the bow, and Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands afar off who have not heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles . Then they shall bring all your brethren for an offering to the LORD out of all nations, on horses and in chariots and in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem, says the LORD, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the LORD. (Isa. Isa. 66:19-20) [emphasis added]

It seems conclusive that these are to be used in evangelism. First, what else could be the purpose of a divinely-protected group in the midst of this time period but to share the truth of the gospel and save even more from doom? Second , their appearance is grammatically linked with the innumerable believers which John subsequently sees (Rev. Rev. 7:9-17+).

In the future, God will graciously grant Israel a second opportunity to be His witness nation, and at that time they will not fail. Led by the 144,000 evangelists (Rev. Rev. 7:1-8+), Israel will be a light to the nations during the darkest hour of earth’s history.31

There is a decided advantage in using Jews to conduct a worldwide revival in the short timer period of 3 1/2 years. . . The modern missionary, . . . must spend approximately six years [4 years of Bible, 2 of target language] before he is fully equipped to present the gospel in a language that is not his own. . . . All of this world’s major languages, and a great number of the world’s minor languages, are spoken by Jews somewhere. . . . with a large segment of American Jewry being the exception, most Jews receive a good and basic understanding of the Old Testament text. . . . These Jews will already speak the languages needed. They will already have a basic knowledge of the Old Testament text. . . they could begin to preach the gospel in a very short period of time.32

Our Lord says that the gospel of the kingdom is to be preached in all the world for a witness before the end shall come (Mtt. Mat. 24:14). In view of all the teaching of the Word of God on this subject, it is undoubtedly the gospel of the kingdom which is the added special message of the 144,000. Of course, they present Jesus as the Saviour. Many look to Him and are saved. But they also preach the gospel of the kingdom presenting Jesus as Messiah. They are the sealed witnesses, the 144,000 like Paul who go out with all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, having the prophecies of Joel fulfilled in themselves, as the first faint occurrences at Pentecost cannot possibly be the complete fulfillment which comes to full fruition in the last days.33

Along with many Gentiles who will come to faith during this troublesome time, these 144,000 Jewish believers are the initial means by which the Deliverer will begin to turn ungodliness from the Jewish nation (Rom. Rom. 11:25-26). The setting apart of a specific group from among the Jews also provides evidence that the Church Age has come to a close:

As long as the church is on the earth there are none saved to a special Jewish relationship. All who are saved are saved to a position in the body of Christ as indicated in Colossians Col. 1:26-29; Col. 3:11; Ephesians Eph. 2:14-22; Eph. 3:1-7. During the seventieth week the church must be absent, for out of the saved remnant in Israel God seals 144,000 Jews, 12,000 from each tribe, according to Revelation Rev. 7:4+. The fact that God is again dealing with Israel on this national relationship, setting them apart to national identities, and sending them as special representatives to the nations in place of the witness of the church, indicates that the church must no longer be on earth.34

The Twelve Tribes of Israel

The Twelve Tribes of Israel

Scott sees significance in the grouping of the tribes which follows:

In our English version there are three tribes named in each verse, but in reality the arrangement of the tribes as of the apostles (Mtt. Mat. 10:2-4) is in pairs: first , Judah and Reuben—the fourth and first sons of Leah—the former the royal tribe, the latter the representative of the nation (Gen. Gen. 49:3); second , Gad and Asher—the two sons of Zilpah—associated in the prophetic blessings in the last days (Gen. Gen. 49:19-20); third , Naphtali and Manasseh linked in the enumeration of Eze. Eze. 48:4; fourth , Simeon and Levi—the second and third sons of Leah—associated in the prophetic enumeration (Gen. Gen. 49:5-7), also in the Lord’s revelation of Himself to saved Israel (Zec. Zec. 12:13); fifth, Issachar and Zabulon [sic ]—the fifth and sixth sons of Leah, both are associated in the prophetic (Gen. Gen. 49:1), and in the territorial (Eze. Eze. 48:1) enumerations of the tribes; sixth, Joseph and Benjamin—the two sons of Rachel, the beloved wife of the patriarch.35


1 Frederick William Danker and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 796.

2 Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1992), Rev. 7:3.

3 J. A. Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), 166.

4 Gregory K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), 61.

5 A. R. Fausset, “The Revelation of St. John the Divine,” in Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, 1877), Rev. 7:4.

6 Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 161.

7 E. W. Bullinger, Commentary On Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1984, 1935), 282.

8 Jerome Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1992), Rev. 7:4.

9 William Varner, Jacob’s Dozen: A Prophetic Look at the Tribes of Israel (Bellmawr, NJ: Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1987), 103.

10 Walter Scott, Exposition of The Revelation (London, England: Pickering & Inglis, n.d.), 153.

11 Bullinger, Commentary On Revelation, 278.

12 Raymond Edward Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland Edmund Murphy, eds., The Jerome Biblical Commentary (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1996, c1968), Rev. 7:4.

13 Albert Barns, Notes on the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1884-85), Rev. 7:4.

14 Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977), 168.

15 “Scripture speaks of three categories of persons its contents concern: the Jews, the Gentiles, and the church of God (1Cor. 1Cor. 10:32). What is stated in Rev. Rev. 7:4+ pertains to Israel—it cannot pertain to any other group. The names of the tribes of Israel are nowhere in Scripture ever applied to the Gentiles or the church of God. Even among those who (mistakenly) believe the term ‘Israel’ can denote the Church, some recognize the overwhelming evidence in this passage against taking ‘Israel’ as the Church: “It is clear that, though ‘Israel’ may elsewhere designate the spiritual Israel, ‘the elect (Church) on earth’ [Alford], here, where the names of the tribes one by one are specified, these names cannot have any but the literal meaning.”36 ”—Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, Rev. 7:4.

16 John MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), Rev. 7:4.

17 G. E. Ladd, “Revelation, Book of,” in Geoffrey W. Bromiley, ed., International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979, 1915), 4:175.

18 The “Israel of God” of Gal. Gal. 6:16 being no exception. “As Peter Richardson observes: ‘Strong confirmation of this position [i.e., that “Israel” refers to the Jews in the NT] comes from the total absence of an identification of the church with Israel until A.D. 160; and also from the total absence, even then, of the term “Israel of God” to characterize the church.’ ”—Alan F. Johnson, Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), Rev. 7:1-3. In every instance, the word “Israel” refers to those who are of the physical seed of Jacob. See [Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 1989), 684-690].

19 Scott, Exposition of The Revelation, 157.

20 MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Rev. 7:4.

21 Donald Grey Barnhouse, Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971), 148.

22 “The Gentile company (verse 9) is not numbered. The Israelitish company, on the contrary, is carefully reckoned and the result stated, not in round numbers, but in precise terms.”—Scott, Exposition of The Revelation, 157.

23 Varner, Jacob’s Dozen: A Prophetic Look at the Tribes of Israel, 60.

24 Ibid., 103.

25 Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, Rev. 7:4.

26 Scott, Exposition of The Revelation, 158.

27 Mills suggests that Dan will be key in leading Israel toward the Antichrist in the time of the end: Lev. 24:11; Jdg. Jdg. 18:30-31; 1K. 1K. 12:28-29), and in the end times it will be no different: Dan will not recognize her Messiah, but will lead Israel in its firm covenant with the Pseudo-christ.”—Monty S. Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John (Dallas, TX: 3E Ministries, 1987), Revelation 7:4. As interesting as this theory might be, it requires the tribe of Dan to act in concert as a tribe which seems unlikely given the lack of human ability to determine the boundaries of the tribe within the Jewish population. Of course, the possibility exists that some form of genetic tracking, along with genetic material recovered from a known Danite, could provide the key to unlock human knowledge of the boundaries of the tribe. As we discuss elsewhere, God knows which are the offspring of each son of Jacob. See Ten Tribes Lost?.

28 Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. I (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1997), s.v. “ECF”

29 “A great deal of speculation and guesswork has developed as a result [of the omission of the tribe of Dan], mainly the idea that the Antichrist will come out of this tribe. . . . Others claim that the False Prophet will arise out of the Tribe of Dan and that is why that tribe is left out. But this too, is pure speculation. There is nothing in the context to suggest either of these suppositions. The text itself does not state the reason why the Tribe of Dan is left out. The actual reason is simply to maintain the symmetry of twelve.”—Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, rev ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 222-223.

30 Unger takes this evangelistic work as occurring during the millennial age rather than in preparation for it: “The LORD will dispatch those of the Jews who escape the judgments of the Tribulation to the nations to evangelize the Gentiles of the Kingdom.”—Merrill F. Unger, Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002), Isa. 66:19b. It would seem that “those among them who “escape” could refer to the sealed Jews of the Diaspora during the Tribulation period itself.”

31 MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Rev. 7:9.

32 Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, 178-179.

33 Barnhouse, Revelation, 151.

34 J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1958), 214.

35 Scott, Exposition of The Revelation, 158.

36 Fausset, “The Revelation of St. John the Divine,” Rev. 7:1.

Read Revelation 7:4