Beth Moore - After This I Looked - Part 1
You may be seated. You're opened with me to Revelation chapter 7, and I want to give a little bit of background for anybody that might be with us who has very little familiarity with the book. Without a doubt, it is the one that, if you don't have much familiarity with the scriptures, you are the most frightened of, or it could be that you have a lot of familiarity with the scriptures and you're still frightened half to death of it. Whatever it may be, I want you to look with me in these pages and understand with me if you look, if you... put something right here in Revelation chapter 7. For just a moment, go to Revelation 1, and I want you to see where the title for the book comes from. Look in that prologue, Revelation chapter 1. I want to show you a couple of things there.
The title Revelation is coming from the very first word in the Greek, and that is the word apokalupsis, and it is a term that means what many of you think it means. A revealing, an unveiling, a disclosing of some kind. And it says immediately, we're told from the very beginning. If you're wondering what is being revealed, Jesus Christ says it from the top, 1:1, "The revelation of Jesus Christ that God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place". So the revelation is of him himself. I want you to look at 19. So Revelation 1, verse 19, and it tells us this. So these are the words of Christ speaking to John the apostle on the island of Patmos. In verse 19, "Therefore write," he says, "what you have seen, what is, and what will take place after this". So he tells him, "Write what you have seen, what is, and what will take place after this".
So you see several different timeframes. So throughout the course of the revelation there are different timeframes going, and what makes it really, really interesting is that some of the things that are being recorded are looking back on the past. For instance, Revelation chapter 12 is glancing back in the timeline to the time of Christ's birth and his coming. So it's not in chronological order of events taking place. It's going to be a conglomeration of things that have been, things that are, and things that will be; and it corresponds beautifully to when he says, if you notice with me in Revelation 1, when he says in verse 8, when God says, "'I am the Alpha and the Omega,' says the Lord God, 'the one who is, the one who was, and the one who is to come, the Almighty.'"
And I love that verse so much because it starts with the present; the one who is, the one who was, and the one who is to come. And it corresponds with the timeframes that God, through Christ, is giving to John. "You're going to talk about in this recording," he says, "the things that you have seen, the things that are, and the things that must take place". And so here's what we can know. No matter what the timeframe, he is Almighty in all of them. I love that thought because what is true universally, what is true theologically is also true for you personally. He is the God who is in your life in this moment. He is still God over your was. Does anybody need him to be?
You say, "Well, that's all past". Well, yes it is, you can't go back and relive it, but maybe you need to know this evening that he is still God over your was because he has no time restraints. Did anybody need a word tonight? And he is God of my is, the God of my was, and the God of everything that is to come. He's that corporately. He's that universally. But the challenge in the book of Revelation is that it could be going back and forth at any time between those timeframes. We don't always know which one we are in, so it could be happening parallel in time. It could be happening in a circular timeframe where it's going back around and picking back on something that he has already told us and now he's going to emphasize some other part of it or it may be back to back, but the challenge is that we don't always know for sure.
Now, here's what I want you to see. I want you, and I'm going to bring this up on the screen not because you need to copy the whole thing down, but I want you, at least some key words. If this helps you, take a look at the screen and look at a couple of different elements of Revelation because it falls under the general category of apocalyptic literature. But we'll find within it three different literary types, and I want you to see it. So in the pages of Revelation from chapter 1 all the way to 22, you would find, number one, you'd find the prophetic, the prophetic. You'd find prophecy. Now, in the Word of God, when the word prophecy is used, that Greek word that is used and translated prophecy and that we think of as the prophetic, it can take two different forms. It can be that it is prediction, but it can also be that it's proclamation. Prophecy can be when it's like thus saith the Lord.
When God has given a message through his Word to us, that's prophetic. It also could entail something that is predictive. In other words, it's telling something that's going to happen but not always. And so it's what many theologians, and I think this is a very simple and clear way to put it. It can either be foretelling or it can be forth-telling, but both of those would fall under prophetic. So there's that. Then there's apocalyptic. So there's that. Then there's apocalyptic. Now, good question would be, I love to operate in any kind of a teaching atmosphere like we would in a class, and this is when I wish it were small enough where you could pitch up your hand and ask a question because a very good question right here would be, then what is the difference between times in the book of Revelation that it's going to be prophetic literature, a prophetic kind of style, and when it's going to be apocalyptic?
Well, think of the prophetic on steroids. Think of the prophetic that has been intensified and that's when you'll begin to think along the lines of the apocalyptic. It's when prophecy gets intensified through all manner of imagery. It may be through poetry. Symbolism is often used, things that represent other things, using something that we recognize to represent something that is unknown to us entirely. In other words, this is what it looks like, the closest thing we have to describe it. It would be that kind of thing; the symbolic, the imagery. It's prophecy that's intensified and almost surely on purpose cryptic, and the reason why I point this out is because when God inspired his Word and gave us Genesis to Revelation, and I mean, did close the thing down. "Do not add to it. Do not take away from it".
We have the canon of scripture all the way through. When that was given to us, he was very purposeful about the way he did it. He didn't inspire it and then go, "Oh, man, I didn't realize they were not going to understand that". There are all sorts of hidden things in the Word of God that in the time to come will be unveiled to us and we'll think, "That's what that meant," things that we'll understand when we see his face that didn't make a lot of sense to us now, we're like, "Oh, of course, that was it". But so much of this, this is the unveiling of things that are hidden, things that sometimes are beyond our understanding. So you got to keep that in mind. There are things that, it's why we can't just be dogmatic about everything in Revelation because there are times that this symbolism is purposely unclear and so we're just left back to go, "Lord, you know, you know, and I'm trying to. Give me insight into it, but dogma is out of place here".
Then the third one... now, let me tell you something. Just because of my training, I am a sucker for alliteration. So I could have used a much easier word for number three, but no. Because why? Because I needed the I-C on the end of it, that's why. So I used the words, it's three literary types: the prophetic, the apocalyptic, and epistolic, epistolic. Now, you probably heard the word apostolic. Apostles. Apostolic. That's not what the word is here. Epistolic, and it means epistle. Epistolic, and it means epistle. You can see that word in it. It means in letter form. So when it comes right down to it, Revelation is a letter. It is a letter like the other epistles, only, boy, is it a letter all its own and in complete uniqueness.
But so there are times, like in Revelation 2 and 3, John is being given the revelation of Jesus Christ in words that he is supposed to take to these seven churches. So it's got that epistle kind of literary touch in it as well. So three different types. So we're dealing with that every single time we open this book. So keep that in mind as we look at it. And remember with me, it's extremely important to note that the visions are written in the order that Christ gave them to John, but they're not linear. They're not written in a chronological order, like this happens and then this happens and then this happens and then this happens. As I said to you earlier, some are circular, some of them parallel, some of them simultaneously. Sometimes we'll see something happening at the same time, but it's something seen on earth and then a separate vision that is seen in heaven, and we're going to see a little bit of that in just a moment.
Now, here is where I'm about to pick up with you. I'm going to read through the whole chapter of Revelation 7, but we're mostly going to settle on 9 through 17. But I want you to see something that we don't want to miss in those first eight verses. If you're looking at Revelation chapter 7, glance with me, you're going to notice that in the chapter before, remember, in the Scriptures, the chapter breaks were not inspired. Those were added later. The verses were added later, and that's been a blessing to us because it gives us an order. It gives us a way to turn to so and so. It breaks it down where it's more readable for us. But they were not there originally. All this text just went one right after another. So we have to look at it as much in context as we have time to do.
So if you glance back to Revelation chapter 6 you're going to see that this is when the Lamb opens, starts opening the seven seals, and these seals, I mean, you talk about frightening. This is the frightening part, and of course there's a visitation of this kind of a unveiling a number of times in the book of Revelation. This is what makes it so scary for us. But it's talking about just some catastrophic things that happen on the earth in this era of time. And so it's the first seal, the second seal, the third seal, the fourth seal, the fifth seal, and the sixth seal. And so between the sixth and seventh seal, all of a sudden there is this break. So if you notice with me, you would see that chapter 8 is the seventh seal. So between six and seven, all of a sudden, as if the Lord is giving John the Revelator as well as us the reader a breather of worship, a breather of hope and expectancy and of reassurance. We have it coming right in between the two.
So Revelation chapter 7, verse 1, "After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, restraining the four winds of the earth so that no wind could blow on the earth or on the sea or on any tree. Then I saw another angel rising up from the east, who had the seal of the living God. He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels who were allowed to harm the earth and the sea, 'Don't harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we seal the servants of our God on their foreheads.' And I heard the number", I want to say again, verse 4, "I heard the number", everybody say those words. Of what? Say it one more time. "I heard the number of the sealed," and he says, "144,000 sealed from every tribe of the Israelites". I won't go through reading every single one of them, but he now goes into all 12 of the tribes.
One of the things that makes this very, very intriguing is that numerous times in the scripture, you will see the tribes listed out, Old Testament and New. But what's amazing here is that Judah is first, because it's, of course, bringing it from the very beginning from the tribe of Judah, which is the tribe of Christ. So it says, "144,000 sealed from every tribe of the Israelites, 12,000 sealed from the tribe of Judah". It goes to Reuben, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and 12,000, you can tell it's closing it up because it says sealed from the tribe of Benjamin. So I want you to glance at that for a moment because when we look at that segment of verses, we're going to see that the next set is given right next to it, connected to it, but there is a very intentional contrast. And if we miss that contrast, we have missed the biggest point of it.
So why does it begin with the tribes, and why on earth is it 144,000, and why is it 12,000 each? Well, this is one of the things that is in contrast here. Remember that I had you re-emphasize with me on verse 4, that it says that John heard the number. We're going to see that when it comes to Revelation 7:9, it's going to say, "After this I looked". So we heard one, he sees another. So let me start up with you. I want you to see with me verse 9, and I'm going to read through 17, and it's going to lock back in to the first portion, 1 through 8. "After this I looked, was there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: 'Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!'"
I don't know if you're a visual learner or not, but, boy, this is when you want to be. Just try to picture it with me because he heard the number of the 144,000. He is seeing this particular sight, and he says from every nation, tribe, and people, and language. One of the things I absolutely love about that is that what becomes obvious to us there is that we've retained distinction. We don't know how or exactly what it will look like, but he knew that it had not all just blended to gray. And I don't know if you love that like I do, but to me this is so dramatic and so gorgeous because for him to be able to tell this is every people from every people and tongue and tribe on the earth, a number of which cannot be counted, before the throne and before the Lamb, and they were clothed in white robes and had palm branches in their hands crying out, "Salvation belongs to our God who's seated on the throne, and to the Lamb"!
I'm picking up at verse 11. "All the angels stood around the throne, and along with the elders and the four living creatures they fell facedown before the throne and worshiped God saying, 'Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength be to our God forever and ever. Amen.' Then one of the elders asked me," so this is the elder asking John the Revelator, "who are these people in white robes, and where did they come from"? And John says to him, "'Sir, you know.' Then he told me: These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason they are before the throne of God, and they serve him day and night in his temple. The one seated on the throne will shelter them: They will no longer hunger; they will no longer thirst; the sun will no longer strike them, nor will any scorching heat. For the Lamb who is at the center of the throne will shepherd them; he will guide them to springs of waters of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes".
I looked and there was a vast multitude. Did you notice with me in the first portion of the chapter, it's numbered exactly to the count according to the symbolism here? You can assume 144,000 is not meant to be literal but meant to be representative of this 12 times 12. Twelve is an important number in the Word of God. There were 12 heads of the tribes of Israel. There were 12 disciples. I don't know if this is right or not, but it's always made so much sense to me. The original way I was ever taught years ago in my Bible doctrine class on eschatology, I was taught that the 24 elders that are around the throne in Revelation chapter 4 are probably the heads of the 12 tribes and the 12 disciples, you know, counting, I always like to think counting Paul instead of the last one, that there's a little switch. But who knows that? Who knows that for sure? We don't know, but what we do know is that 12 and 12 is what makes 24, and those 12s are so important in the Word of God.
So there's 12,000 of these in each one of these tribes that are sealed and then there's 144,000 total. So you can know that's going to be symbolic. It's just going to tell us that it's this perfect number of these that are sealed. Now, what's important to see is that particular vision is on earth. The vision we now see between 8 and 9, we switch from what John is hearing that is happening on earth and then what John is going to look and see in a vision of something that is not happening on this earth. So these are important contrasts we don't want to miss. The first was Jewish. The second is every nation, tribe, and tongue.
So why are the two side by side? That would be the big important question if we were in class together. Why then, as different as they are, are they side by side? Because one of the most plausible answers is that with the appearance of these verses in between the sixth and seventh seal and all the catastrophic nature of them, all of that prophetic and apocalyptic, you want to talk about apocalyptic, you look back at 6 and you will see it. I mean, intensifies in all of these images because it is so terrifying. The most obvious question might be, has God changed his mind? That if we were ever to see a catastrophic time on this earth, would we be left to wonder? Will he keep his promises? Will he do what he said he was going to do? Has he gotten so frustrated with the whole thing that it's like, "You know what, forget it".
'Cause, you know, there's that scene in Exodus 32, remember it, when Moses has come down the mountain and he sees that they're all having a party down there and all sorts of idolatry down there, there's a golden calf that they're worshiping, and I mean, he says to Aaron, "What on earth are you doing"? Aaron says, "Well, you're not going to believe this, but, like, we threw the jewelry in and out jumped this calf. And I mean, what could we do"? And so the very next thing that you see is God saying to Moses, "I'm going to tell you something. I'm sending an angel with you. I'm going to keep my promise. I'm going to send them to the Promised Land. I'm going to send them through this wilderness. I'm going to do all the things I said I was going to do. I'm going to send them to a land of milk and honey, but I'm not going to go with you. Because if I go with you, I may kill you".
Now, you're going to need to go back and look at it for yourself, but I mean, he's going like, "You know what? It's best for me to stay home". I don't know if any of you have ever done what I did occasionally in my parenting life, which was to tell one of my children, "Go to your room and lock your door because mother is coming for you right now and you don't want me to find you". You understand what I'm saying? It's sort of like that, you know, "You go on and I'm going to stay back here". And so Moses goes, "No, that's not what I signed up for. I would rather be out here in the thorns and the thistles," and I'm paraphrasing that, I'm giving you the intent of that, "than to go into a land of promise without you. I want you. I want your presence. I want your presence". So I mean, to ask ourselves questions. What in the world is going on here? Where is the Lord in all of this?