God Sets His Seal of Protection Upon The 144,000 Select Men of Israel
John sees four mighty angels virtually hold back the winds of judgment long enough for God to set His seal of protection upon 144,000 select men of Israel.
v.1 "After these things 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."
In the wake of the chaos of the vision recorded in last chapter, John now beholds four angels standing at the "four corners of the earth holding the four winds of the earth". This might imply that these angels are standing at the four points of the
compass—north, east, south, and west. But what does John mean by “holding the four winds?"
Some see it as a restraining of literal winds and thereby a form of intensifying the earlier judgments. But the Bible also uses the word "wind" as a symbol of divine judgment (see Jer.49:36; 51:1; 2Sam.22:11). And though I see no contradiction that this might concern the weather (given the great earthquake and other events we read about in the last chapter) I tend to accept this latter explanation. That God is using these angels to pause the judgments long enough for Him to seal His servants.
Then John sees another angel ascending from the east and carrying with him "the seal of the living God” which he uses to write the name of God on the foreheads of His servants (Rev.14:1) as protection against the destructive forces of the judgments yet to come (Rev.9:4). Interestingly, a similar event is recorded in the book of Ezekiel wherein a man (not unlike this angel from the east) was used in a similar fashion by God to seal the righteous throughout Jerusalem as a means of protecting them against an impending judgment of death (check—Ezekiel 9). We will see later that they all make it (Rev.14:1).
Twelve thousand Jews from each of the twelve tribes of Israel are sealed. And later we'll discover that all one hundred and forty-four thousand are male Jews characterized as virgins (Rev.14:1-5).
It should be noted that the tribe of Dan—one of the original tribes of Israel (Gen.49:16)—is omitted and the tribe of Manasseh (the son of Joseph but not one of the original twelve tribes; Gen.48:1) is put in its place. Why Dan is excommunicated in the Tribulation is unclear; though the tribe does have a part in the millennium Kingdom (Ezekiel 48). One suggestion is that it’s because Dan was the first tribe to fall into idolatry in the promised land of Canaan (Judges 18:30-31). Another thought is that it might hint that Antichrist himself is a Jew of the tribe of Dan. I don’t know.
One more point. Skeptics have long held to a theory that some of the tribes of Israel were “lost” following their Assyrian captivity. Obviously, they are not lost to God, however, and when the time is ready, He can and will find them.
Whereas John just watched one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed in preparation for Tribulation service, here he seems to leap forward in time and sees a great multitude worshiping in heaven that have come out of great tribulation. Why does John record one group sealed prior to the great Tribulation and then suddenly a second group clearly having endured the great Tribulation? I believe it’s because the two groups are indelibly linked. Whereas the earlier group was designated to preach the gospel during the Tribulation, this second group represents those who will hear the preaching and are saved because of it.
These Tribulation saints are adorned in white robes to signify the righteousness of Christ and waving palm branches as a symbol of victory. Considering the great suffering which these saints must endure in the Tribulation, it’s fitting that they get the assurance that Christ will eternally dwell among them; that they shall neither hunger nor thirst anymore, nor be stroke by the sun or any heat; and that God wipe away every tear from their eyes.
About the Author
James Kobzeff is an evangelical born-again Christian who has long had a passion for the Church to know the Revelation. His commentary is the result of having studied and taught the Book many times over the past thirty years and is considered a continual work-in-process.
You can read more at his blog Learn the Revelation