"Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book."
Rev 22:7

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Multitudes in Heaven
Source: Wikipedia

Revelation 7:1-3

Revelation 7:1 - After these things...

Here John indicates a transition in what he sees. We saw the same wording in Revelation 4:1 that showed a clear transition from the Church Age to the beginning of the Tribulation. That transition was in the main narrative, which shows the Church Age ends before the Tribulation. Whereas, the transition in chapter 7 shows us that John is seeing something different from the main storyline; the narrative pauses after the events in Revelation 6 and resumes in Revelation 8. This describes an interlude.

Recall from the "Revelation Introduction," an interlude is a parenthesis in the main dialogue, where we get more information, or a different perspective to the main storyline. In other words, an interlude is a background story to the narrative, with clear indications that each interlude reaches back or forward in time, and generally returns to where the primary narrative left off. There are four interludes in Revelation as shown in the graphic below. This study will show that the interlude in chapter 7 begins before Revelation 6 and ends in Revelation 14:

Revelation Flow Chart

Revelation 7:1 - ...I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree.

The Hebrew word for "corners" literally means edge, or wing. The "four corners of the earth" show that the entire globe is in view, as shown in the passages below:

Isaiah 11:11-12 - It shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people who are left, from Assyria and Egypt, from Pathros and Cush, from Elam and Shinar, from Hamath and the islands of the sea. He will set up a banner for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.
Revelation 20:7-8 - Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea.

Recall from Revelation 6, the number "four" relates to the earth. We saw that the four living creatures announced the four spirit horses of the first four Seal judgments. Here John sees four angels holding back the "four winds." We will see in Revelation 7:2-3, the "four winds" have the power to cause destruction on the earth, sea and, and trees. A casual read would lead one to believe that these are four physical winds that cause the destruction described in the following Trumpet judgments:

Revelation 8:7-9 - The first angel sounded: And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth. And a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up. Then the second angel sounded: And something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood. And a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.

However, the source of these judgments on the earth, sea and trees in these Trumpet judgments appears to originate from outside the atmosphere, as discussed in Revelation 6:12-14, not from the "four winds."

In seeking a literal interpretation for the "four winds," it is interesting to note there are four major jet streams, or channels of fast-moving wind, that meander around the earth in the upper atmosphere:

4 Jets

    "Jet streams are caused by a combination of a planet's rotation on its axis and atmospheric heating (by solar radiation and, on some planets other than Earth, internal heat). Jet streams form near boundaries of adjacent air masses with significant differences in temperature, such as the polar region and the warmer air towards the equator."

Jet Stream Cross Section

Source: Wikipedia

As an interesting side note, Israel is about 32°N in latitude, and lies in the "Ferrel Cell" circuit pictured above, which is an air flow circuit formed by the differences in air masses between the Subtropical and Polar Jets in the Northern Hemisphere. In the following passage, King Solomon accurately describes the "Ferrel Cell" circuit:

Ecclesiastes 1:6 - The wind goes toward the south, and turns around to the north; the wind whirls about continually, and comes again on its circuit.

It is reasonable to surmise that the Lord commissioned the four angels to restrain these four jet winds from causing destruction on the earth by keeping them in their "circuit," moving eastward around the world since God formed them. As noted above, jet streams form due to differences in air masses and the earth's rotation. If a polar reverse occurs during the sixth Seal judgment, the four jet streams might move or become altered from their circuit. Recall from Revelation 6:12-14, that a polar reverse could be the cause of the global tectonic upheaval that causes the global earthquake described by John and the earth being moved out of its place by Isaiah:

Revelation 6:12-14 - I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place.
Isaiah 13:13 - Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth will move out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts and in the day of His fierce anger.

A possible magnetic polar reverse and global earthquake in the sixth Seal judgment could cause an alteration of the earth's rotation on its axis (Revelation 6:14). The Indonesian earthquake in 2004, the Chile earthquake in 2010, and the Japanese earthquake in 2011 all made slight changes to the earth's rotation on its axis (Source: 1, 2, 3).

A global earthquake could drastically affect the earth's rotation. Consequently, the path of the jet streams would shift by a significant alteration in the earth's rotation, which in turn would drastically change our weather patterns. It makes one wonder if our extreme weather of the last decade, blamed on "global warming," which has been proven flat since 1998 (source), is at all related to the massive earthquakes that have affected the earth's rotation on its axis.

While there is little doubt the jet streams will become altered in the sixth Seal judgment, there is no mention of the "four winds" in the judgments specific to hurting the earth, sea, and trees in Revelation. There is one specific wind in Scripture, the "east wind" (Genesis 41:6, 23, 27, Exodus 10:13, 14:21-23, 28, Job 27:13, 21, Isaiah 27:7-8, Jeremiah 18:17, Ezekiel 17:10-12, Hosea 13:12, 15, Psalms 78:26-31), that causes destruction, but is not found in Revelation either. In fact, any mention of wind is absent in all the Tribulation judgments.

The use of "four winds" in Scripture denotes a global scope:

Jeremiah 49:36 - Against Elam I will bring the four winds from the four quarters of heaven, and scatter them toward all those winds; there shall be no nations where the outcasts of Elam will not go.
Ezekiel 37:9-10 - Also He said to me, "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live." ' " So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.
Daniel 8:8 - Therefore the male goat grew very great; but when he became strong, the large horn was broken, and in place of it four notable ones came up toward the four winds of heaven.
Daniel 11:3-4 - Then a mighty king shall arise, who shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will. And when he has arisen, his kingdom shall be broken up and divided toward the four winds of heaven...
Zechariah 2:6 - "Up, up! Flee from the land of the north," says the LORD; "for I have spread you abroad like the four winds of heaven," says the LORD.
Matthew 24:31 - And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Mark 13:27 - And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven.

Only the passage in Daniel shows the "four winds" as something other than a collective term used for the four cardinal directions:

Daniel 7:2-3 - Daniel spoke, saying, "I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other."

The four great beasts are the four empires (Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome), or the four horns God used to exile Judah (Zechariah 1:18-21). God used the "four spirits" in judgment and conquest of each succeeding empire (Zechariah 6:6-7). The word for "spirit" in Hebrew is "ruach," and in Greek "an'emos," is the same word for "wind." In the New Testament, the Greek word "pneuma" is used for wind and "an'emos" is used for "spirit." However, the Greek Septuagint translates "spirits" in Zechariah 6:5 as "an'emos," which is the same Greek word translated "winds" here in Revelation:

Scripture Passage Translation Hebrew Greek
Revelation 7:1 Winds - an'emos (Textus Receptus)
Zechariah 6:5 Spirits ruach an'emos (Septuagint)
Daniel 7:2 Winds ruach an'emos (Septuagint)

In other words, the "four winds" in Daniel and Revelation are the same as the "four spirits" in Zechariah, which are the four horses in Revelation 6, as shown in the Zechariah study. Therefore, John sees the four angels restraining the "four winds," which are the four horses before they ride out in judgment, which supports this chapter being an interlude that begins before Revelation 6, as discussed in the last section.

Revelation 7:2 - Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea...

John sees an angel "ascending from the east," also referred to in Scripture as from the rising of the sun, or the sunrise. Going to the east from the west depicts exile, separation, or departing:

Genesis 3:24 - So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.
Genesis 4:16 - Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden.
Genesis 13:11 - Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other.
Genesis 25:6 - But Abraham gave gifts to the sons of the concubines which Abraham had; and while he was still living he sent them eastward, away from Isaac his son, to the country of the east.
Ezekiel 10:18-19 - Then the glory of the LORD departed from the threshold of the temple and stood over the cherubim. And the cherubim lifted their wings and mounted up from the earth in my sight. When they went out, the wheels were beside them; and they stood at the door of the east gate of the LORD's house, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them.

In contrast, coming from the east moving westward, or toward the sunset depicts assembling or return:

Genesis 11:2 - And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there.
Revelation 16:12 - Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared.
Deuteronomy 11:29-31 - Now it shall be, when the LORD your God has brought you into the land which you go to possess, that you shall put the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal. Are they not on the other side of the Jordan, toward the setting sun, in the land of the Canaanites who dwell in the plain opposite Gilgal, beside the terebinth trees of Moreh? For you will cross over the Jordan and go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you, and you will possess it and dwell in it.

As the children of Israel returned to the Promised Land from the east, crossing the Jordan River toward the west, so shall the Lord will return from the east toward the west:

Matthew 24:27 - For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
Zechariah 14:4 - And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south.
Ezekiel 43:1-4 - Afterward he brought me to the gate, the gate that faces toward the east. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east. His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with His glory. It was like the appearance of the vision which I saw-like the vision which I saw when I came to destroy the city. The visions were like the vision which I saw by the River Chebar; and I fell on my face. And the glory of the LORD came into the temple by way of the gate which faces toward the east.
Ezekiel 44:1-2 - Then He brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary which faces toward the east, but it was shut. And the LORD said to me, "This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter by it, because the LORD God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut.

The prophet Malachi even calls the Lord "The Sun of Righteousness," showing He will arise like the sun, which travels from east to west:

Malach 4:1-2 - "For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up," says the LORD of hosts, "that will leave them neither root nor branch. But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings; and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves."

Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist, also alluded to Jesus coming to the earth like the rising sun, calling Him the "Dayspring" when he prophesied:

Luke 1:67-68, 77-79 - Now his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: "Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people... to give knowledge of salvation to His people By the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace."

The angel from the east is coming from the same direction the Lord will return from, indicating that the Lord sent him. Revelation 7:3-4 shows that the Lord has commissioned this angel and other angels to seal 144,000 servants who turn to God before the Tribulation judgments begin. As we will see later, the work of these Jewish servants will result in a great multitude that assembles in Heaven.

The angel from the east holds a marking device to seal the 144,000 servants with the "seal of the living God." Unlike the inanimate idols and the evil spirits posing as "gods" who will perish, God is a "living God and the everlasting King":

Jeremiah 10:3-5, 8, 10-11 - For the customs of the peoples are futile; for one cuts a tree from the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with nails and hammers so that it will not topple. They are upright, like a palm tree, and they cannot speak; they must be carried, because they cannot go by themselves. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, nor can they do any good.... But they are altogether dull-hearted and foolish; a wooden idol is a worthless doctrine.... But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth will tremble, and the nations will not be able to endure His indignation. Thus you shall say to them: "The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under these heavens."
1 Thessalonians 1:9 - For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.

As we will discuss in more detail in the next section, this seal is the name of the Father, in a visible mark placed on the foreheads of the 144,000 servants:

Revelation 14:1 - Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father's name written on their foreheads.

Revelation 7:3 - ...saying, "Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads."

God had given the four angels the power to harm the "earth, the sea, or the trees" through the "four winds," just as God gave angels the power to cause destruction in Egypt:

Psalms 78:43, 49 - When He worked His signs in Egypt, and His wonders in the field of Zoan... He cast on them the fierceness of His anger, wrath, indignation, and trouble, by sending angels of destruction among them.

The earth, the sea, and the trees will certainly be harmed in some of the Tribulation judgments (Revelation 8:7-9, Revelation 16:3). However, as shown in the last section the harm is coming from the "four winds," which are the "four spirits," or the four horses in Revelation 6. Therefore, since the four horses do not harm the earth, the sea, and the trees, we can see that they are metaphors for kingdoms, nations, and people, which are targeted in the first four Seal judgments (Revelation 6:1-8).

Scripture describes the following kingdoms and people as trees:

The "sea" represents the Gentile nations:

Psalms 65:7 - You who still the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the peoples.
Psalms 98:7 - Let the sea roar, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell in it.
Isaiah 17:12 - Woe to the multitude of many people who make a noise like the roar of the seas, and to the rushing of nations that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters!
Isaiah 23:11 - He stretched out His hand over the sea, He shook the kingdoms; the LORD has given a commandment against Canaan to destroy its strongholds.
Isaiah 60:5 - Then you shall see and become radiant, and your heart shall swell with joy; because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the Gentiles shall come to you.
Ezekiel 26:3-5 - "Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: 'Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and will cause many nations to come up against you, as the sea causes its waves to come up. And they shall destroy the walls of Tyre and break down her towers; I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her like the top of a rock. It shall be a place for spreading nets in the midst of the sea, for I have spoken,' says the Lord GOD; 'it shall become plunder for the nations."
Ezekiel 32:2 - "Son of man, take up a lamentation for Pharaoh king of Egypt, and say to him: 'You are like a young lion among the nations, and you are like a monster in the seas, bursting forth in your rivers, troubling the waters with your feet, and fouling their rivers.'"
Daniel 7:2-3 - Daniel spoke, saying, "I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other."
Habakkuk 3:12, 15 - You marched through the land in indignation; You trampled the nations in anger.... You walked through the sea with Your horses, through the heap of great waters.
Revelation 13:1 - Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.

The Greek word translated "earth" can also mean "land," which is the opposite of "sea." If the sea represents the Gentile people and nations, then the land represents the people and nation of Israel, which the following passage supports:

Isaiah 5:25-26 - Therefore the anger of the LORD is aroused against His people; He has stretched out His hand against them and stricken them, and the hills trembled. Their carcasses were as refuse in the midst of the streets. For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still. He will lift up a banner to the nations from afar, and will whistle to them from the end of the earth; surely they shall come with speed, swiftly. In that day they will roar against them like the roaring of the sea. And if one looks to the land, behold, darkness and sorrow; and the light is darkened by the clouds.

In an interesting observation, the parting of the Red Sea during the Exodus is a picture of Israel as the "land" in the middle of the "sea" of Gentile nations:

Exodus 15:19 - For the horses of Pharaoh went with his chariots and his horsemen into the sea, and the LORD brought back the waters of the sea upon them. But the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea.
Nehemiah 9:11 - And You divided the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on the dry land; and their persecutors You threw into the deep, as a stone into the mighty waters.

The judgments brought by the "four winds," or the four horses in Revelation 6 will harm the metaphorical "earth," "sea," and "trees," which represent Israel, Gentile nations, kingdoms, and people, as shown above:

Haggai 2:6-7, 22 - For thus says the LORD of hosts: 'Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,' says the LORD of hosts.... I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms; I will destroy the strength of the Gentile kingdoms.....

The angel from the east tells the four restraining angels that him and other angels need to mark God's servants before they allow the "four winds" to "harm the earth, the sea, or the trees." If the angel from the east did not come with this protective seal (Revelation 7:2) and tell the angels restraining the "four winds" to wait until the servants are sealed, these servants and the great multitude of saints that get saved would potentially perish in the Tribulation judgments the angels are ready to unleash, without the opportunity to turn to God. The loud cry of the angel (Revelation 7:2) may suggest that the angels were just about ready to release the "four winds." This shows God's longsuffering, even in judgment, to give every opportunity for people to repent unto salvation:

2 Peter 3:9, 15 - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance... and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation...

As mentioned in the last section, this seal is the name of the Father (Revelation 14:1), in a visible mark on the forehead. Before the judgment on Judah came at the hands of the Babylonians, God sent a man clothed in linen, possibly Jesus incarnate (Daniel 10:5, 12:6-7), to mark those who mourned over the idolatry and abominations done in Jerusalem:

Ezekiel 8:16-18 - So He brought me into the inner court of the LORD's house; and there, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs toward the temple of the LORD and their faces toward the east, and they were worshiping the sun toward the east. And He said to me, "Have you seen this, O son of man? Is it a trivial thing to the house of Judah to commit the abominations which they commit here? For they have filled the land with violence; then they have returned to provoke Me to anger. Indeed they put the branch to their nose. Therefore I also will act in fury. My eye will not spare nor will I have pity; and though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, I will not hear them."
Ezekiel 9:1-6 - Then He called out in my hearing with a loud voice, saying, "Let those who have charge over the city draw near, each with a deadly weapon in his hand." And suddenly six men came from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, each with his battle-ax in his hand. One man among them was clothed with linen and had a writer's inkhorn at his side. They went in and stood beside the bronze altar. Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub, where it had been, to the threshold of the temple. And He called to the man clothed with linen, who had the writer's inkhorn at his side; and the LORD said to him, "Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it." To the others He said in my hearing, "Go after him through the city and kill; do not let your eye spare, nor have any pity. Utterly slay old and young men, maidens and little children and women; but do not come near anyone on whom is the mark; and begin at My sanctuary." So they began with the elders who were before the temple.

The following excerpt from "Holman Bible Dictionary" shows the significance of placing the mark on the forehead:

    The Emblem of Holiness was placed on Aaron's forehead (Exodus 28:38). This symbolized acceptance before the Lord. A mark was put upon the foreheads of those in Jerusalem who mourned for the wickedness of Jerusalem. They were spared in a time of terrible judgment (Ezekiel 9:4).

    The Bible indicates that a person's character can be determined by observing the forehead. A set forehead indicates opposition, defiance, and rebellion (Jeremiah 3:3). Hardness of the forehead indicates determination to persevere (Isaiah 48:4; Ezekiel 3:8-9).

The Hebrew for "mark" is the Hebrew letter "tav." The only other use of the "tav" alone is in the book of Job, which shows a sign of exemption from judgment (source):

Job 31:35 - Oh, that I had one to hear me! Here is my mark. Oh, that the Almighty would answer me, that my Prosecutor had written a book!

The ancient "tav" was in the form of a cross (source). How fitting that the "seal of the living God" (Revelation 7:2) is a cross signifying exemption from judgment. Jesus' death on the cross reconciled men to God through His blood, exempting believers from "the handwriting of requirements" of the Law in forgiveness:

Ephesians 2:13-16 - But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.
Colossians 2:13-14 - And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

Similarly, the Hebrew people were exempt from the judgment on the firstborn of Egypt if they marked their doors with blood, tracing the sign of a cross as they first dipped the blood in the basin, striking the lintel, and then the two doorposts:

Exodus 12:22-23 - And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning. For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you.

The Greek word for "servant" is "doulos," also translated "slave" or "bondservant," which means they belong to someone else. In this case the 144,000 servants are slaves of God. The seal shows God's ownership of those He marks, like the branding of a slave by their master:

John 6:27 - "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him."
2 Timothy 2:19 - Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity."

Scripture shows similar branding on the forehead of harlots, who are sex slaves, or spiritual slaves to idolatry, and those who follow the beast in the Tribulation:

Jeremiah 3:3 - Therefore the showers have been withheld, and there has been no latter rain. You have had a harlot's forehead; you refuse to be ashamed.
Revelation 17:5 - And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
Revelation 13:16-17 - He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

Whether or not the mark is visible to other humans, it is visible to the angelic and demonic realm, because we see in the passage below that they cannot touch those with the seal of God alone in the fifth Trumpet judgment. In this case, the grass and trees are physical and not a metaphor for people and kingdoms because every person without the seal of God is subject to this judgment:

Revelation 9:1-4 - Then the fifth angel sounded: And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit, and smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace. So the sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke of the pit. Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.

The Lord is the "Alpha and Omega, the first and the last" (Revelation 1:11). In Hebrew it is the "aleph" and the "tav," the first and last letters in Hebrew. The last letter "tav" denotes that the Lord is paramount of all that there is; without limit or end, able to save those who come through Christ's finished work on the cross (John 19:30):

Hebrews 7:24-25 - But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

If the "First and the Last" is a title or name of the Son, it is also the name of the Father as they are "One" (John 10:30):

Isaiah 44:6-7 - Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: 'I am the First and I am the Last; besides Me there is no God. And who can proclaim as I do?

So, we see that the "tav" is a cross, a mark of exemption or protection from judgment, ownership of God, it is in the name or title of the Father, and it fits John's description of the seal on the foreheads of the 144,000 Jewish servants. The possession of God aspect of this seal has similarities to seal of the Holy Spirit given to believers in the Church Age, or "dispensation of grace":

2 Corinthians 1:21-22 - Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
Ephesians 1:13-14 - In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
Revelation 3:12 - He who overcomes... I will write on him the name of My God...

In the "dispensation of grace," the Lord gives the Church the Holy Spirit as a pledge from Christ for the promise of salvation; those under the Law had no such assurance. During the "dispensation of the Law," the Holy Spirit did dwell in select people: the judges, the prophets, and others for His purpose (Judges 3:10, 1 Samuel 16:13, Nehemiah 9:30, Zechariah 7:12). However, these people were not sealed and they had no assurance that the Holy Spirit would stay with them (1 Samuel 16:14, Psalm 51:11-12, Isaiah 63:10). This did not mean that they could lose their salvation, as salvation has always been based on a covenant relationship; just that they had no assurance of their salvation, as we do under the "dispensation of grace." (Click here for more on the covenant of salvation).

In the "dispensation of judgment," or the Tribulation, the only ones sealed are the 144,000 servants of God (Revelation 7:4). While the context shows that the Lord supernaturally protects these servants through their ministry, as just shown above, the "sealing" is also a guarantee of salvation from the Holy Spirit who dwells within them. In other words, the mark shows protection, but the sealing shows indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This suggests that the Holy Spirit will operate like He did during the "dispensation of the Law," in that He will dwell in a select few for a specific purpose.

Unlike the Old Testament Saints, the 144,000 sealed servants will also have the assurance of their salvation like believers in the Church. In other words, the Holy Spirit is not there as a comforter to all believers during the "dispensation of judgment," but only for the 144,000 servants, in addition to protection for the difficult task they must accomplish. Being a believer during the Tribulation will be exceptionally difficult, especially without the comfort and assurance of the Holy Spirit.

There is further evidence that the Holy Spirit does not dwell in all believers during the Tribulation like He does today. We see a transition at the end of the "dispensation of judgment," where God will again pour out the Holy Spirit on Israel and all flesh, as He did at Pentecost at the birth of the Church (Acts 2):

Joel 2:28-29 - "And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days."
Ezekiel 39:29 - "And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,' says the Lord GOD."
Zechariah 12:10 - "And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication..."

There would not be a second outpouring of the Holy Spirit if all believers were already in-dwelt by Him during the Tribulation. Those who receive the Holy Spirit in the second outpouring at the end of the Tribulation will enter the kingdom:

John 3:5 - Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."

Recall from Revelation 3:12, overcomers, or believers are the spiritual temple of God. Since God put His name on the earthly temple (1 Kings 9:3), it makes sense that He will put His name on the spiritual temple, made of believers:

Revelation 3:12 - He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God...
Revelation 22:3-4 - And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.

Being a servant of God involves sharing and keeping the word of God. The patriarch, the prophets, Law abiding Jews, good kings, Jesus, and His disciples, are examples of God's servants in Scripture, who kept and shared God's word:

Genesis 26:5, 24 - ...Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.... And the LORD appeared to him the same night and said, "I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham's sake."
Numbers 12:7-8 - "...My servant Moses; He is faithful in all My house. I speak with him face to face, even plainly, and not in dark sayings; and he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant Moses?"
1 Kings 18:36 - And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, "LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word."
2 Kings 17:13 - Yet the LORD testified against Israel and against Judah, by all of His prophets, every seer, saying, "Turn from your evil ways, and keep My commandments and My statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by My servants the prophets."
2 Chronicles 6:12, 14 - Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands... and he said: "LORD God of Israel, there is no God in heaven or on earth like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts."
Isaiah 49:6 - Indeed He says, 'It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.'
Ezekiel 37:24 - "David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them."
John 12:25-26 - He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.

Through the rest of the study, we will see the evidence that the 144,000 servants follow suit to other servants of God. In response to the 144,000 servant's ministry, there is a multitude saved throughout the Tribulation (Revelation 7:9). These servants will share the word of God wherever they go, like the Apostle Paul, who shared the Gospel:

Acts 16:17 - This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, "These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation."

Revelation 7:4-8

Revelation 7:4 - And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed...

The number of servants sealed by the angel is 144,000. In my study on prophetic numbers, I show that the biblical meaning of 144,000 is "government of divine order" or "appointed persons of divine order," based on the roots of ten and twelve. Indeed, the Lord has chosen these servants from the tribes of Israel for a divine purpose.

Some like to spiritualize away this large number, but there is no reason to do so. I believe this number is as literal as the 7,000 prophets God preserved in Elijah's day (1 Kings 19:18). In fact, John painstakingly lists each tribe in the next few verses, with the number of servants God calls from each. Since the tribes of Israel are largely still in exile around the world, it is likely the Lord will call them from all nations and they will minister in all these nations, producing a great harvest of believers from around the world:

Revelation 7:9 - After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb...

As shown in the passage below, these servants are "firstfruits" of the Tribulation harvest, which means they are the first ones redeemed to Heaven before the rest of the harvest of souls, as discussed in the "Pre-Tribulation Rapture" study:

Revelation 14:1-4 - Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father's name written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps. They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth. These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.

The 144,000 servants will come from the tribes of Israel which are all accounted for within the Jewish people today. A remnant in the northern tribes of the Kingdom of Israel moved south to the Kingdom of Judah before the Assyrian exile (1 Chronicles 9:1-3, 2 Chronicles 11:14-16, 15:8-9, 30:25, 31:6). This remnant of the northern tribes is mentioned after the Assyrian exile (2 Chronicles 34:1-9), and also a remnant is mentioned with the exiles who returned to Judah after the Babylonian exile (Ezra 6:16-17). There are no "lost tribes" of Israel. We see further evidence in the following passages that the Lord has accounted for all the tribes within Judah:

Luke 2:36-37 - Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.
Acts 26:7 - To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope's sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews.
Romans 11:1 - I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
James 1:1 - James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.

This is important to note because Paul uses "Jews" and "Israel" interchangeably regarding God calling them His people again (Romans 9). It is not a surprise that the 144,000 servants are Jewish, as the Lord said He would always keep a remnant to Himself (Romans 9:27, 11:5). These Jewish servants will pick up where the Church leaves off after the rapture, being a light to the Gentiles and spreading the Gospel, which is what the Lord commissioned the Jews to do:

Isaiah 42:6 - "I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles."
Romans 3:1-2 - What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.

God's chosen people have passed down the torch" of sharing the "oracles of God" since Abraham:

Passing the torch of the Word

* An angel bridges the gap for a brief period at the end of the Tribulation, after the 144,000 and 2 witnesses go to Heaven (Revelation 14:6).

The 144,000 Jewish servants have a lot in common with the Apostle Paul:

The Apostle Paul 144,000 Jewish Servants
A Jewish Servant of God (Romans 11:1). Jewish Servants of God (Revelation 7:4-8).
Saved on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). Saved after Damascus destroyed, before the Tribulation begins (See below).
Sealed by the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:22). Sealed and marked with the Father's name (Revelation 7:3, 14:1).
Brought the Gospel to the Gentiles (Romans 15:16). A multitude of all nations saved after angel seals them (Revelation 7:9).
Preached the Gospel to the whole world (Colossians 1:23). Gospel preached to the whole world again before Jesus returns (Matthew 24:14).
Not married (1 Corinthians 7:8) Virgins (Revelation 14:4).
Preached in distressing times under the Roman emperor Nero (1 Corinthians 7:28). Servants in the Tribulation during the rise of the antichrist (Revelation 7 & 14).
Resurrected and raptured with the Church (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17). Taken to Heaven rapture-style to the throne in Heaven (Revelation 14:1-4).

I believe the 144,000 Jewish Servants will likely have a supernatural confrontation with the Lord like Paul did, immediately after the rapture. There are scriptural parallels that suggest that the rapture of the Church occurs shortly before Israel destroys Damascus and defeats their neighbors, as shown in my study on the "Great Middle East War." This destruction of Damascus will likely be the sign the Lord gives these Jewish servants that brings them to salvation and, in turn, share the truth with the many seeking it after the rapture and the "Great Middle East War":

1 Corinthians 1:22 - For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom.
Zechariah 9:1 - The burden of the word of the LORD - against the land of Hadrach, and Damascus its resting place (for the eyes of men and all the tribes of Israel are on the LORD)...
Isaiah 17:1, 7 - The burden against Damascus. "Behold, Damascus will cease from being a city, and it will be a ruinous heap...." In that day a man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will have respect for the Holy One of Israel.
Zephaniah 2:11 - The LORD will be awesome to them, for He will reduce to nothing all the gods of the earth; people shall worship Him, each one from his place, indeed all the shores of the nations.

We find further description of the 144,000 servant's ministry in the following passage:

Isaiah 61:1-6 - "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified." And they shall rebuild the old ruins, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations. Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the foreigner shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers. But you shall be named the priests of the LORD, they shall call you the servants of our God. You shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory you shall boast.

Jesus read this passage in a synagogue, showing that He had fulfilled the prophecy He was reading (Luke 4:16-21). However, Jesus only read part of this prophecy, the portion He fulfilled at His first coming. The rest of this prophecy will find fulfillment at the "day of vengeance of our God," or the Tribulation. Most of the rest of this passage describes everything the Lord will restore leading up to and into His kingdom. But note the last sentence. There will also be a group of people that help Jesus do these things during the "day of vengeance" or the Tribulation. They are called "the servants of our God" and will also "preach good tidings to the poor," which is the Gospel (Romans 10:15). That means this passage is describing the ministry of the 144,000 servants of God in the Tribulation.

Jesus will judge the survivors of the "Sheep and Goat" Judgment based on how they treat His "brethren" in the Tribulation.

Matthew 25:37-40 - "Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'"

Recall from Revelation 6:11, "brethren" can refer to kin. The following passage which also speaks of the Lord's judgment of the nations after the Tribulation confirms that the "brethren" in Matthew 25 are Jews:

Joel 3:1-2 - "For behold, in those days and at that time, when I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; and I will enter into judgment with them there on account of My people, My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; they have also divided up My land.

The 144,000 Jewish servants are among His "brethren." It is interesting that Paul, who has a lot in common with the 144,000 Jewish servants, as shown earlier, went through the same types of suffering as will the "brethren" of the Tribulation:

2 Corinthians 11:22-30 - Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? - I speak as a fool - I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness - Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation? If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity.

Paul's ministry "turned the world upside-down," with a multitude turning to Christ (Acts 17). Imagine the success of the 144,000 servant's ministry, if it is like Paul's ministry. These servants are probably well versed in Scripture like Paul, and have the benefit as a group, being well versed in the languages in the nations they are dispersed in. With 144,000 "Apostle Pauls" preaching around the world, it is no wonder a multitude will be saved (Revelation 7:9) and the Gospel will be "preached to all the world" (Matthew 24:14) in the short span of the seven-year Tribulation.

Revelation 7:5-8 - ...of the tribe of Judah twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand were sealed.

Of the tribes sealed, we see a peculiar list. In my study: "What's in a Name," we see that the tribes of Israel usually listed in various orders with Manasseh and Ephraim and not Levi. Each list of names tells the redemption story in a slightly different way. The following version of the story for this list in Revelation is as follows:

    I will praise the Lord. The Lord has looked upon my affliction. Good fortune has come [and] happy and blessed am I. I have struggled [but] God has made me forget my toil. The Lord has heard I was unloved, [but now] my husband will be joined unto me. God has given me my reward. Now my husband will dwell with me, [because] God has taken away my reproach [by the] Son of [His] right hand.

In the tribes sealed among the 144,000, we find Dan and Ephraim missing, and Joseph and Levi included. While one could assume that Ephraim is within the tribe of Joseph, this oddity should cause us to seek out why the Lord has excluded these two tribes in the list of the 144,000 servants.

Recall from Revelation 7:3, those who mourned over Jerusalem in Ezekiel 9 and were given the protective mark, are those who abhorred the idolatry around them. Interestingly, we find the epitome of idolatry in the Old Testament centered in Dan and in Bethel, which was in Ephraim. Jeroboam chose Dan and Bethel to erect two golden calves for Israel to worship, instead of worshiping the Lord in Jerusalem at the temple:

1 Kings 12:26-29 - And Jeroboam said in his heart, "Now the kingdom may return to the house of David: If these people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn back to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and go back to Rehoboam king of Judah." Therefore the king asked advice, made two calves of gold, and said to the people, "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt!" And he set up one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan.
1 Kings 12:30-33 - Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan. He made shrines on the high places, and made priests from every class of people, who were not of the sons of Levi. Jeroboam ordained a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, like the feast that was in Judah, and offered sacrifices on the altar. So he did at Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he had made. And at Bethel he installed the priests of the high places which he had made. So he made offerings on the altar which he had made at Bethel on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, in the month which he had devised in his own heart. And he ordained a feast for the children of Israel, and offered sacrifices on the altar and burned incense.

However, the idolatry for Dan and Ephraim began as far back as the period of the Judges. In Judges 17-18, we find a man from Ephraim called Micah, who erected a shrine with an ephod and other idols, complete with his own priest from the tribe of Levi. The tribe of Dan had decided to migrate north to seek out a new inheritance, when they came upon Micah's house. They stole Micah's idols and priest, struck down the people of Laish, and set up the ephod to worship there.

God warned that the tribes that went after idolatry would come under a curse and set apart for adversity:

Deuteronomy 29:14-21 - "I make this covenant and this oath, not with you alone, but with him who stands here with us today before the LORD our God, as well as with him who is not here with us today (for you know that we dwelt in the land of Egypt and that we came through the nations which you passed by, and you saw their abominations and their idols which were among them-wood and stone and silver and gold); 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, 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."

The following passage mentions both Dan and Ephraim when the wind of destruction came from the Lord in the Babylonian conquest. Judah did not learn their lesson from the idolatry that epitomized Dan and Ephraim, and thus experienced their same fate, just as the Lord warned. Note in the following passage that God's destructive wind in the Babylonian conquest is the judgment brought by the "four winds" (Revelation 7:1), or the "four spirits" with chariots (Zechariah 6:5), as discussed earlier:

Jeremiah 4:1, 11-17 - "If you will return, O Israel," says the LORD, "Return to Me; and if you will put away your abominations out of My sight, then you shall not be moved.... At that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem, "a dry wind of the desolate heights blows in the wilderness - toward the daughter of My people - not to fan or to cleanse - a wind too strong for these will come for Me; now I will also speak judgment against them." "Behold, he shall come up like clouds, and his chariots like a whirlwind. His horses are swifter than eagles. Woe to us, for we are plundered!" O Jerusalem, wash your heart from wickedness, that you may be saved. How long shall your evil thoughts lodge within you? For a voice declares from Dan and proclaims affliction from Mount Ephraim: "Make mention to the nations, yes, proclaim against Jerusalem, that watchers come from a far country and raise their voice against the cities of Judah. Like keepers of a field they are against her all around, because she has been rebellious against Me," says the LORD.

Ephraim and Dan also had not learned their lesson after the Assyrian conquest of the northern kingdom. When the King of Judah invited the remnant in the northern tribes to come to Jerusalem to worship the Lord and keep the Passover, they mocked him. Yet some people humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem. However, Dan and Ephraim were among the tribes that refused to come to Jerusalem to worship the Lord:

2 Chronicles 30:1-2, 8-11 - And Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and also wrote letters to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, to keep the Passover to the LORD God of Israel. For the king and his leaders and all the assembly in Jerusalem had agreed to keep the Passover in the second month.... "Now do not be stiff-necked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the LORD; and enter His sanctuary, which He has sanctified forever, and serve the LORD your God, that the fierceness of His wrath may turn away from you. For if you return to the LORD, your brethren and your children will be treated with compassion by those who lead them captive, so that they may come back to this land; for the LORD your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn His face from you if you return to Him." So the runners passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, as far as Zebulun; but they laughed at them and mocked them. Nevertheless some from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem.

The book of Hosea shows that God held Ephraim responsible for the idolatry in Israel. Hosea prophesied about Ephraim's destruction because of their spiritual harlotry that defiled Israel:

Hosea 4:17, 5:3-4, 9, 6:10 - Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone.... I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hidden from Me; for now, O Ephraim, you commit harlotry; Israel is defiled. "They do not direct their deeds toward turning to their God, for the spirit of harlotry is in their midst, and they do not know the LORD...." Ephraim shall be desolate in the day of rebuke; among the tribes of Israel I make known what is sure.... I have seen a horrible thing in the house of Israel: There is the harlotry of Ephraim; Israel is defiled.

The prophet and musician Asaph echoes what Hosea prophesied in the following Psalm. He also points out the reason God rejected the tabernacle in Shiloh, which was in Ephraim:

Psalms 78:56-61 - Yet they tested and provoked the Most High God, and did not keep His testimonies, but turned back and acted unfaithfully like their fathers; they were turned aside like a deceitful bow. For they provoked Him to anger with their high places, and moved Him to jealousy with their carved images. When God heard this, He was furious, and greatly abhorred Israel, so that He forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent He had placed among men, and delivered His strength into captivity, and His glory into the enemy's hand.
Psalms 78:62-68 - He also gave His people over to the sword, and was furious with His inheritance. The fire consumed their young men, and their maidens were not given in marriage. Their priests fell by the sword, and their widows made no lamentation. Then the Lord awoke as from sleep, like a mighty man who shouts because of wine. And He beat back His enemies; He put them to a perpetual reproach. Moreover He rejected the tent of Joseph, and did not choose the tribe of Ephraim, but chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion which He loved.

While Ephraim could be within the tribe of Joseph as part of the 144,000 servants, Dan is completely absent. Some believe the false prophet, or the second beast will arise out of the tribe of Dan:

Revelation 13:11-15 - Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth - by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.

Note that the false prophet comes out of the earth, while the first beast comes out of the sea (Revelation 13:1). Recall from Revelation 7:2, the sea is a metaphor for Gentile nations, and the earth or land is a metaphor for Israel. Therefore, it does look like the false prophet is Jewish. In addition, the false prophet promotes idolatry in the worship of the first beast, like Dan and Ephraim promoted idolatry to Israel.

Jacob prophesied about what would befall the tribes of Israel in the last days. In the prophecy about Dan, Jacob said he would be a serpent or a viper, causing people to fall like a rider on a bitten horse:

Genesis 49:1, 16-17 - And Jacob called his sons and said, "Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days...." "Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent by the way, a viper by the path, that bites the horse's heels so that its rider shall fall backward."

Similar imagery appears in the judgment prophesied against Judah for their idolatry. God sent serpents and vipers because of their idolatry. It is interesting that Dan appears in this passage. Dan's territory was north, in the direction that the Babylonians would come. This is also the same direction the "four spirits of heaven," or the four horses rode in the Assyrian conquest (Zechariah 6:5-7):

Jeremiah 8:16-19 - The snorting of His horses was heard from Dan. The whole land trembled at the sound of the neighing of His strong ones; for they have come and devoured the land and all that is in it, the city and those who dwell in it." "For behold, I will send serpents among you, vipers which cannot be charmed, and they shall bite you," says the LORD. I would comfort myself in sorrow; My heart is faint in me. Listen! The voice, the cry of the daughter of My people - From a far country: "Is not the LORD in Zion? Is not her King in her?" "Why have they provoked Me to anger with their carved images - with foreign idols?"

Though we cannot be dogmatic on the issue, if the false prophet is Jewish, then it is possible he will be from the tribe of Dan, based on Jacob's prophecy about Dan being a serpent, and their exclusion from the 144,000 servants of God. The false prophet will make many men fall into idolatry through the power of the first beast, whose power is from the serpent Satan:

Revelation 20:2 - He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan...
Revelation 13:4 - So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast...

Scripture also shows that you cannot serve God and go after idols, like the false prophet. You can only serve God alone to be His servant:

Ezekiel 20:39-40 - "As for you, O house of Israel," thus says the Lord GOD: "Go, serve every one of you his idols - and hereafter - if you will not obey Me; but profane My holy name no more with your gifts and your idols. For on My holy mountain, on the mountain height of Israel," says the Lord GOD, "there all the house of Israel, all of them in the land, shall serve Me; there I will accept them, and there I will require your offerings and the firstfruits of your sacrifices, together with all your holy things."
Deuteronomy 6:13-15 - You shall fear the LORD your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are all around you (for the LORD your God is a jealous God among you), lest the anger of the LORD your God be aroused against you and destroy you from the face of the earth.
Joshua 24:15-18 - "And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." So the people answered and said: "Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods; for the LORD our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, who did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way that we went and among all the people through whom we passed. And the LORD drove out from before us all the people, including the Amorites who dwelt in the land. We also will serve the LORD, for He is our God."
Joshua 24:19-25 - But Joshua said to the people, "You cannot serve the LORD, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good." And the people said to Joshua, "No, but we will serve the LORD!" So Joshua said to the people, "You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD for yourselves, to serve Him." And they said, "We are witnesses!" "Now therefore," he said, "put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD God of Israel." And the people said to Joshua, "The LORD our God we will serve, and His voice we will obey!" Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem.
1 Samuel 7:3 - Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, "If you return to the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths from among you, and prepare your hearts for the LORD, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines."
2 Corinthians 6:14-16 - Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be my people."

Going after idols is spiritual harlotry:

Exodus 34:13-17 - But you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they play the harlot with their gods and make sacrifice to their gods, and one of them invites you and you eat of his sacrifice, and you take of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters play the harlot with their gods and make your sons play the harlot with their gods. "You shall make no molded gods for yourselves."

The 144,000 servants are "virgins." There is no doubt these servants are spiritual virgins, as they serve only God:

Revelation 14:1, 3-4 - Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand.... They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth. These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes....

The Greek word translated in this passage as "virgins" is in the feminine form. The only other place we see this word in Scripture where it is not speaking of a woman is in the following passage about the spiritual virginity of the Bride of Christ:

2 Corinthians 11:2 - For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

The 144,000 do not defile themselves with women, which seems to specify a literal fulfillment, in that these servants will not know a woman intimately. However, defilement is more than losing ones' virginity. Defilement with women would indicate sexual immorality. In the spiritual sense, defilement is playing the harlot with idols:

1 Corinthians 8:7 - However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.

Though a literal fulfillment of the servants physically being virgins is not out of the question, based on the following passages, the 144,000 servants' virginity may be speaking more of spiritual virginity, which goes along with why Ephraim and Dan are absent. In addition, the "women" who could potentially defile the servants (Revelation 14:4) might be spiritual harlots, which are religious systems that worship false gods, as discussed in the "Pre-Tribulation Rapture" study. Only those who are spiritual virgins, of a pure heart after the Lord, and not idols are able to ascend Mount Zion, the hill of the Lord:

Revelation 14:1, 4-5 - Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father's name written on their foreheads.... These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God.
Psalms 24:3-4 - Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully.

But God will restore Ephraim as a son, and they will never go after idols again:

Jeremiah 31:18 - "I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself: 'You have chastised me, and I was chastised, like an untrained bull; restore me, and I will return, for You are the LORD my God. Surely, after my turning, I repented; and after I was instructed, I struck myself on the thigh; I was ashamed, yes, even humiliated, because I bore the reproach of my youth.' Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For though I spoke against him, I earnestly remember him still; therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, says the LORD."
Ezekiel 37:19-23 - ...say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "Surely I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will join them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand."' And the sticks on which you write will be in your hand before their eyes. "Then say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again. They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be My people, and I will be their God."

In a sign of grace and forgiveness, Dan is the first tribe to receive their allotment of land in the Millennium:

Ezekiel 48:1-2 - "Now these are the names of the tribes: From the northern border along the road to Hethlon at the entrance of Hamath, to Hazar Enan, the border of Damascus northward, in the direction of Hamath, there shall be one section for Dan from its east to its west side..."

In the next section, there is a multitude that arrives in Heaven. As discussed over the last few sections, many believe this saved multitude in Heaven is the fruit of the 144,000 servants' ministry. There is support for that notion in the following parable Jesus gave:

Matthew 21:42-46 - Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes'? "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder." Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them. But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet.
Matthew 22:1-7 - And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: "The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. Again, he sent out other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, "See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding." ' But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.
Matthew 22:8-14 - Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.' So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests. "But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' "For many are called, but few are chosen."

The first round of servants sent out with the "Kingdom of Heaven" message was John the Baptist and his disciples (Matthew 3, Luke 7). But most rejected their message. The second round of servants sent out were Jesus and His disciples (Luke 10, John 20). Everyone but John died as martyrs, Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans about forty years after the Jewish leaders rejected Jesus as Messiah, and the Gospel message was spread by His disciples then and now.

Those who reject the last round of servants end up in eternal punishment like those who reject the "brethren" in the "Sheep and Goat" Judgment, as discussed in the last section. This places the last round of servants in the Tribulation period, who gather a multitude for the wedding. This is further evidence that the 144,000 Jewish servants of God are the ones responsible for the great multitude that find salvation in the Tribulation period, who later are resurrected and rule with Christ in His kingdom:

Revelation 20:4 - And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
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