Read Revelation 7
John records a delay before the opening of the seventh seal in which a different sort of seal is placed on those who are faithful to God. This seal of God is said to be a protection and is a sign of belonging or “ownership” of God’s people for Himself. Somehow, they will be protected, possibly from the many things that we just read about in chapter 6. The four angels could very well be the four horsemen given that they had been given the power to harm the earth.
As John records those who are sealed, we see him using the names of the tribes of Israel with at least one exception, Joseph, as he did not have his own tribe and the omission of Dan, possibly because of their idolatry which is recorded in Judges 18. In some of the mainstream books and discussion about the book of Revelation, a great deal of emphasis is placed on Israel; this is true in America as well. Evangelical beliefs have led us to take a vested interest in the land of Israel, thinking that doing so will somehow put us on the good side of God at the end times. However, long after the nation split and the Northern Kingdom was destroyed, Scripture still uses the language of “Israel,”to talk about the people of God. More than likely that is what is the case here as well.
It also doesn’t make much sense for the direction that Revelation has been taking, talking about Christians, the Church, Christ’s work, and even those that have been martyred for the faith, and then to suddenly jump back to Biblical Israel for 8 verses, before returning to Christians again. Instead, what John is referring to here is the whole of the people of God. He references that 12 tribes of Israel and that 12,000 from each tribe were sealed.
The number 12 is a significant number in Scripture as well, representing the fullness of the people of God. In addition to that, the number 10, as well as its multiples (10, 100, 1000), are readily used in Scripture to talk about things being complete. So, 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes is symbolic of the whole of the people of God being sealed and protected.
What happens next is a familiar sight for both John and his readers as once again worship around the throne of God is recorded. All the people of God from everywhere in the world and throughout all time raise their voices in worship to God and to the Lamb. Once again, their sole concern is worship to God above all else.
All of these people are wearing white robes, representing the purity they have because they are washed in Jesus’ blood. John writes that they have come out of the “great tribulation” which could be reflective of their experience of persecution on earth. Jesus refers to such a time in Matthew 24, a time that is near the end of time. Perhaps this is reflective of a period of time in which the world will see a worsening of persecution against the Church and those who faithfully follow Jesus.
I’m probably not telling anyone anything new when I say that most people don’t relish the idea of persecution, much less greater persecution than one is already experiencing. However, Scripture says time and again that the world will hate those who love Jesus. But Jesus also reassures His disciples to “take heart, for I have overcome the world.” This reassurance is exactly what God is communicating in Revelation; despite everything that has taken and will take place, Christ is the victorious conqueror and our victory, like those depicted in this chapter, is found solely in Him.