There is an interlude in heaven, which is visited as the events are unfolding upon the earth. The four winds are the same forces as the four horsemen previously mentioned (C. 5). Verse 1) Some restraint is brought about of the forces on the earth through the administration of the first four seals. The winds appear to be another symbol for the spiritual forces unleashed with the breaking of the first four seals, now being held back for a short time. When a hurricane or a tornado hits where you live – “can you stand against it?” We need to both see and understand the purpose of the language of the signs.
Verse 2 & 3) The purpose for the interlude is revealed – the forces are restrained to allow sealing the servants of God. This is like the marking of the servants of God found in Ezek. 9:1. Those being marked in Ezekiel were spared as the five destroying angels were released upon those who were not marked. Sealing signifies possession (letters, and manuscripts are sealed – laws were stamped with seals of the king or minister). Ezekiel’s prophecy was looking toward the destruction of Jerusalem in BC 586. This is another clue that this time the prophesy of Revelation is looking at the pending destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
Verse 4) The 144,000: The number of those sealed “of all the tribes of the children of Israel” was 144,000, by 12,000 of each of the tribes mentioned. By detail, there were two half-tribes that were known as the tribe of Joseph (the “tribe of Joseph” is mentioned in Num. 13:9 and 36:5). Yet the half tribe of Manasseh is also included in this list, while the half tribe of Ephraim is omitted along with the tribe of Dan. The why is not very important in the bigger scheme of things. Those tribes had been “lost” in the dispersion (Diaspora), as were the other tribes who had comprised the Northern Kingdom. Some teachers overlook every bit of this and attribute these types of things to scribal errors, or to some other insignificance lost on modern students. But, we might consider: What sort of trained scribe would have missed naming these tribes? Further, there are at least two such lists in the OT, and there has been no concern concerning that (and some people may have never heard of this). The only reasonable way to account for a “discrepancy” is to view it exactly as it was listed. God does not make errors and he does not confuse anyone except unbelievers: So, let’s not join them. The vision is of “ALL the tribes…of Israel;” and we can be safe and leave it at that. However, it should sink in that this is referring to those faithful in Israel from beginning to end. The text takes up the prophesy about Christians the exact same way. From the beginning – in all the assemblies of Christ from the earliest days up to judgment. My-oh-my how thankful we ought to be that the numbers mean that there will be a full accounting. No one will be left out regardless of where you may find yourself: saved of Israel, saved of Christ, or (heaven forbid!) lost completely. Everyone will be listed properly, accurately and accordingly.
Many scholars reject the idea that former Israelites are identified here. Accepting the figure in the text is the reasonable form, and the only way to go – here, there, and everywhere in the scriptures. Israel “was” Israel until it “was not” Israel by 70 AD (to be sophomoric). The children of the Jews from the Diaspora, and into the time of Christ, all called themselves Israel; the Apostles and disciples did too. Sixteen different dialects and nations or regions were mentioned in Acts 2:9-11. This would allow that all the Jews from the beginning of their time at Sinai and right up to the end in 70 AD were identified and numbered, regardless of background, dialect or tribe. No matter what: Israel ceased to exist both as a nation and as a religion in 70 AD regardless of theories, statements, records, commentaries, sermons or notes. There were beyond that year (and ever since), no priests, and in a generation or so, there would no way to identify which tribes they were descendant; and the survivors of the sieges were killed or carried off as military conscripts. No priests meant no offerings. Therefore, the Law of Moses could no longer be followed as had been commanded. The Jews started this themselves, when they destroyed the genealogical lists. To complicate things further, whether priest or not: There was no brazen altar sanctioned by God anywhere, as the temple mound was disassembled by the Romans and the early seventh century been controlled by Islam (and they seem to discourage such things). That also means there has been no king, High Priest, or prophet in Israel with authority to call together the assembly. Because there is no kingly lineage, and no heirs of Aaron, Moses, of David or any other king, no high priest, prince or prophet: no one has any authority – any God granted authority. The last prophet in Israel was John the Baptist. Therefore no prophet of God has existed since or will ever exist again, this side of Judgment. Yet the pursuer of this dead and lifeless religion cling to their conceits and concepts as if it all still had some value to themselves and for anyone else. These things happened exactly as both the prophets of Israel and as Christ had said they would.
To conclude: the number (144,000 or 12 in the case of the tribes, and any other number for that matter), is no more-or-less precise or exact than any other number in this book – it simply indicates a complete group; and none who belong to God would be left out – no one will be overlooked in the accounting. While many commentators liken the 144,000 to “spiritual” Israel (whatever that means) – others suggest it signifies the glorified church (whatever that means). In verse 9 is a complication with the mention of yet another group “…a great multitude which no man could number of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues,” etc. If the first group was the glorified church, who then made up the second?
I will offer that the group is the Jews who followed the Law of Moses closely in its detail until it was “taken out of the way and nailed to the cross.” To that number all the righteous in Christ will be added. That is taught in the Scriptures – the rest is not. Therefore, these will be gathered into heaven – and they comprise a complete group, a full accounting – as has been told us by the numbers. Does that mean the exact same number were present from each tribe and the total was absolute on the final tally sheet? What about the poor fellow at position 12,001 or 144,007? How could it be so arranged? Remember: “…God is not the author of confusion.” We do confusion well enough without a heavenly boost.
We had better start praying that as Christians we do not have to be lined up and head counted for limited capacity in a city that is based on the same numberings. “There are just so many seats on this flight and not one more!” Has God ever set a number limit on salvation? If so, where and how did He do so? How about Jesus? Was there a limit for the descendants of Shem beyond the flood, later for Israel, for the Jews or the Christians? People put limits on who may be saved – God gave us all the instructions on how to be counted in the number. We need to stop trying to put God into puzzle form of our own size and liking, insisting on literal accounts and absolute numbers, as so many do.
The total number of 144,000 is twelve squared times one thousand. It is God’s accounting and it indicates a very large group where no one is overlooked. Twelve times twelve, to indicate that it is a very large group; and times a thousand to indicate it is full and complete, with no “stragglers.” It is beyond our reasonable capabilities to readily count; and it is the same number as the total of the tribes and later, the number of the chosen Apostles, all squared times 1,000. And this is whether the lists have everyone by serial numbers according to our thinking or our preferences. It is exactly like “twelve baskets full.” The precise “headcount” is not important here – but the fact that all are included while none will be left out, is critically important. The group in v.9 is the multitude of those who would be glorified after the tribulation has passed, and later we will learn of the glorified of God following judgment. Therefore, the interlude between the opening of the sixth and seventh seals is signatory of the combining of the two principal recipients of the gospel: The saved of the house of Israel with those of “all nations.” It looks directly into the fulfillment of the Covenant to Abraham. These would come through the great tribulation (v.14) to stand before the throne of God (Heb. 11:39 – 40, 12:23). Thereby, I will also offer again, that without a doubt the great tribulation begins with the isolation and destruction of Jerusalem.
These are to be counted as the great multitude — “standing before the Lamb, clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands” (signifying purity and peace in a triumphant occasion as during the Feast of the Tabernacles, or as in the Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem during the same feast period).
With this considered – then the first seals and the winds are indicative of an opening/coming period of trouble and are not necessarily identifiable as singular events, nor do they need to be so seen. They occur in at least four different sets of symbols within the book, all indicating an unleashing, beginning or continuance of difficult conditions or trials (horsemen, winds, trumpets, and plagues), all set to prepare and separate the chosen from the lost.