SUMMARY OF CHAPTER 7
John sees the angels getting ready to release judgment upon the earth, but they are told to hold off until God seals His people with the Holy Spirit so that they will be protected from the judgment that is intended for those who reject God. John’s vision here is of the saints of the Great Tribulation, first seen as the 144,000 while on earth, but then he sees them in a vision after the Great Tribulation as a great multitude in future glory.
1 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree.
The four angels are probably the angels who blew the first four trumpets in chapter 8. The first four trumpets are judgments controlled by angels but come from the earth by natural disasters and from mankind, while the other trumpets were not from earthly causes but spiritual causes. The four corners of the earth is reference to north, south, east, and west.
2 Then I saw another angel ascend from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, 3 saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God upon their foreheads.”
The seal of the living God is the seal of the Holy Spirit, to promise God’s people graces in order to battle the temptations and seductions of the Devil, and for protection from God’s wrath in the Great tribulation (See. CCC 1296).
4 And I heard the number of the sealed, a hundred and forty-four thousand sealed, out of every tribe of the sons of Israel, 5 twelve thousand sealed out of the tribe of Judah, twelve thousand of the tribe of Reuben, twelve thousand of the tribe of Gad, 6 twelve thousand of the tribe of Asher, twelve thousand of the tribe of Naphtali, twelve thousand of the tribe of Manasseh, 7 twelve thousand of the tribe of Simeon, twelve thousand of the tribe of Levi, twelve thousand of the tribe of Issachar, 8 twelve thousand of the tribe of Zebulun, twelve thousand of the tribe of Joseph, twelve thousand sealed out of the tribe of Benjamin.
These 144,000 are the same as the great multitude seen in verse 9, and these are the new People of God, that is, the saints of the Great Tribulation (see v. 7:14), especially the martyrs slain for the Word of the God (see CCC 1138). These are not only the Jews who convert to Christianity during the Great Tribulation, but all believers during that time. St. John sees them right here in the vision prior to the suffering of the Great Tribulation, while he then visions them after Judgment Day standing before the Throne of God in glory in verses 9-17. The giving of the names of the 12 tribes are not intended to be understood as descendants from those 12 tribes, but that the names of the tribes themselves have meanings that explain the spiritual qualities of all the different converts. St. James uses similar language in the beginning of his general epistle by referring to all Christians as “the twelve tribes in the dispersion“. It should be noted that Dan was replaced by Levi, and is believed by some that it is left out because the Antichrist is suppose to come from the tribe of Dan. Also Ephraim is replaced by Joseph.
From Douay Rheims Bible
7:4 Of all tribes put together, so many, 144,000. He signifies by these thousands and the multitudes following, all the elect, but the elect of the Jews, to be in a certain number: the elect of the Gentiles to be innumerable.
Meanings behind the names
Reuben- son of vision
Levi- the one received in addition
Zebulun- habitation of strength
Benjamin- son of grief
9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels stood round the throne and round the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.” 13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and whence have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Now John sees the great multitude there after the Judgment Day who are the same as the 144,000 mentioned above. It should be noted that St. John, when he says that he saw this multitude, that he did not say that he saw another people, but that he saw a great multitude and not making any distinction between them and the 144,000. It is only a different interval of the vision. St. John sees this vision in Heaven where time is not an issue because it is in eternity. The Jews and Gentiles are now one nation, the spiritual nation of Israel called the Church, “And if you are Christs, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise (Gal. 3:29).” The white robes indicates the purity of their souls through Jesus.
15 Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night within his temple; and he who sits upon the throne will shelter them with his presence. 16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
St. John sees the Tribulation saints worshipping God for eternity in Heaven, never to suffer again. The living water is the grace from the Holy Spirit. Jesus tells the woman at the well about that living water, “but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life (John 4:14).”