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God’s Plan for Israel, Part 1

God promised that He will never leave or forsake Israel; the same promise is for us that He will never leave us or forsake us.

 

Revelation 7:1-17 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. Then I saw another angel ascending 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, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:

 

12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed, 12,000 from the tribe of Reuben, 12,000 from the tribe of Gad,

12,000 from the tribe of Asher, 12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali, 12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh,

12,000 from the tribe of Simeon, 12,000 from the tribe of Levi, 12,000 from the tribe of Issachar,

12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun, 12,000 from the tribe of Joseph, 12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed.

 

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

 

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

 

“Therefore they are before the throne of God,

    and serve him day and night in his temple;

    and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.

They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;

    the sun shall not strike them,

    nor any scorching heat.

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.”

 

As the world continues to turn against Israel, some of us are wondering what God’s has planned for Israel. The war against Hamas that started four months ago may have given the anti-Israel voices an open and wider platform to spew hate against Israel and Jews but it's not new. Ever since God gave the Promised Land to Israel, nations have hated Israel because of God’s plan for Israel.

 

The problem is that many believe that God is done with the unfaithful Israel and that the church has replaced Israel. What they need to know is that God’s plan for Israel was never dependent on Israel’s faithfulness to God but on God’s faithfulness to Israel.

 

Revelation 7, in the middle of the seven-year period of tribulation, the Lamb that was slain suspended His campaign of wrath on earth to fulfill God’s plan for Israel in the end times.

 

The big idea is that the church has not and will not replace Israel and God’s plan for Israel will come to pass.

 

As we continue our series, “Uncovering Revelation” verse by verse, Revelation 7 reveals three truths about God’s plan for Israel in the end times. God will put His seal on Israel to save Israel and then, through their witness, save all nations and finally, save creation itself. Today, we will look at the first truth and next Sunday, we will discuss the other two truths.

 

God Will Put His Seal on Israel to Save Israel

 

Revelation 7:1 starts with, “after this” with “this” referring to the four horses of the apocalypse and the wrath of the Lamb that brought havoc on Earth and left no place for anyone to hide. After this, John testifies, “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 corners of the earth means four points of the compass: north, south, east, and west meaning from all directions of the Earth.

 

The four winds in Ezekiel 37:9, Daniel 7:2, and Zechariah 2:6 are God’s judgment.

 

In Revelation 7:1, John saw four angels holding back the outpouring of God the Son’s judgment on earth from all directions. The reason is found in Revelation 7:2-3, “Then I saw another angel ascending 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, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” 

 

The fifth angel from the east delivered the divine decree that servants of God must be sealed with the seal of the living God before judgment continues.

 

God held back the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah to allow Lot and his family to leave the city. He did the same for Noah and his family. Second Peter 3:9 teaches that God is doing the same today so more people can escape His wrath by receiving Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

 

In the end times, one more push for the salvation of the world will be made through the sealing of the servants of God.

 

Revelation 7:4 explains who the servants of God are, And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel…” with Revelation 7:5-8 listing 12,000 people from each of the 12 tribes.

 

To understand better why Israel, look at three aspects of the sealed and the seal.

 

The Selection of the Sealed


The 144,000 Israelites were sealed because of God’s unilateral election of Israel. The idea of election is explained in the Bible.

 

In Jeremiah 1:5, God said, Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” The word consecrated means to set apart to be holy for God. Similarly, God set apart Israel to be God’s witness to the nations.

 

Ephesians 1:4 says, “he [God] chose us in him [Jesus] before the foundation of the world.”

 

Romans 8:28-29 explains how and why before the foundation of the earth, For those whom he [God] foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”  The selection of Israel to be sealed during tribulation was because God elected them to be His own, to bring the Savior of the World, the Son of God through Israel to restore the world to Himself.

 

 

In Revelation 7:5-8, the tribe of Dan is missing. For centuries many have believed it is indicative of the ethnicity of the antichrist that he will be a Jew from the tribe of Dan. I don’t think the intent of the text is to identify the ethnicity of the antichrist, but rather the selection of the 144,000 to be sealed.

 

The identity of the 144,000 has generated much debate and has given birth to cults, heresies, and controversies. One of the most well-known heresies is Jehovah's Witnesses. They believe the 144,000 are the elite JWs who will enter heaven. In the 1930s, the JW organization said the 144,000 were sealed and that all new Witnesses would have to spend eternity in restored paradise on the new earth but lately, they believe the 144,000 will be sealed just before the Great Tribulation starts.

 

Bible-believing Christians are also divided over the identity of the 144,000. A large section of evangelicals believe that the 144,000 are not the Jews rather that it is symbolic of the completion and fullness of all believers in Jesus throughout the history of the church. Their rationale is just as the number seven mentioned in Revelation, that is seven stars, seven spirits, seven seals, seven lampstands, seven churches, seven bowls, seven trumpets, seven horns, and seven eyes were symbolic and presented completeness.

 

Similarly, 12 elders, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 apostles, and later, the measurement of the New Jerusalem being 12,000 units square should be taken as the fullness of God. They see 12 multiplied by 12,000, that is 144,000 means a complete number of God’s servants, God’s elect. Therefore, they say 144,000 is a symbol of a number that is uncountable.

 

That makes sense but in other places, the text tells us what seven represents. For example, Revelation 1:20 reads, “The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”

 

Revelation 7:4 says they are Jews from the 12 tribes of Israel, nothing less and nothing more. Besides the very next verse, Revelation 7:9 says, After this I looked,” that is, after the sealing of Israel, “and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” There is nothing left to speculate if you read what the text is saying.

 

The Significance of the Sealed


The 144,000 are sealed to fulfill God’s plan for Israel in order to protect and preserve them from God’s judgment on Earth during the Great Tribulation and in Heaven and to mark them as God’s own possession in the end times. This will happen when Israel believes in the atoning work of Christ and shares it with others.

 

The reality is that some of the elect of God upon hearing the Gospel that Jesus died to save them from eternal death immediately follow Jesus. Others don’t. It takes them going through Hell on earth before they see the light. The elect of God will come to Jesus no matter what.

 

I believe that following the cosmic destruction in Revelation  6 that will shake the heavenly bodies and the foundation of the Earth and recognition of the Lamb who was slain as the judge, Israel will mourn, confess, and repent for they crucified the hope of their salvation, the Messiah, their Savior.

 

This is when God will hear their cry and put His seal on them to save Israel. This is consistent with Zechariah 12:10, And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.” 

 

The one they pierced at His first coming will be their refuge and shelter they sought out as Revelation 6 ended. Like the days of Nehemiah and Ezra, a revival will break out everywhere among Jews and nations will come to Christ because of their witness.

 

Many evangelicals oppose dispensational theology that says all promises of God for Israel must be fulfilled with ethnic and national Israel and that after the Rapture of the church, God will begin dealing with ethnic and national Israel. The opponents of such theology may defend that they don’t believe in replacement theology, however, their acknowledgment that all the promises for Israel are being fulfilled in the church and that there is no distinction between Israel and the church is replacing Israel with the church.

 

Where do they get their theology? They look at various partial scriptures from the Old and New Testaments to redefine Israel.

 

Romans 2:28-29 says, “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter.” Some will say that this is no longer about ethnic Jews but about those who believe in Jesus are the true Jews.

 

They will support it with Galatians 6:16 which says, “And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God,” that the Israel of God refers to the Church.

 

They will argue that Galatians 3:29 which says, And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” is the church.

 

What they do not understand is that with these verses, Paul intended to draw Jews to the saving grace of Jesus, not to replace them with gentiles and the church.

 

For Scripture that supports the view that Israel is not replaced but the church, Romans 11:1-2 reads, I ask, then, has God rejected his people [that’s the Jews]? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin.  God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.”

 

Continuing with Romans 11:11-12, “So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!

 

And in Romans 11:25, Paul writes, Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.”

 

Once all that is accomplished, in Romans 11:26-27, Paul quotes Hosea 14:1-7 and declares, And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.”

 

Finally, Paul affirms God’s plan for Israel in Romans 11:29, writing, For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”

 

God never changes; so His plan will never change.

 

It bothers me deeply when misguided godly people with the desire to please Jesus, to serve Jesus, to show the love of Jesus, and for the sake of Jesus show up in rallies and protests against Israel to support those who desire the annihilation of God's chosen people and Israel. Supporting anyone who hates Jews and demands the destruction of God's chosen people is opposing God and God’s plan for Israel. When churches remain silent on the role and relationship of Israel with the church in the New Testament or teach replacement theology, they, quite frankly, encourage support for rallies and protests against Israel.

 

The Significance of the Seal


The seal is the mark that God puts on their foreheads to declare His ownership so they can be His witnesses. In the New Testament, every believer is promised to be sealed with the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1:13-14 says, And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession — to the praise of his glory.”

 

The job of the Holy Spirit to guide and counsel the church will come to an end with the Rapture of the church because He will ascend back to the Father from whom He preceded. However, to fulfill God’s plan for Israel, the Holy Spirit will descend only on those who will have the seal of the living God.

 

In the Old Testament, this was the method where the Spirit came to reside on individuals for prophecy and proclamation of the truth. This seal will save them but also declare them to be the servants of God to share the gospel with others. Therefore, nations will be reconciled to God through Jesus. This very purpose is why God elected the chosen people of Israel in the first place.

 

Pray for Israel and do not participate in anything against God's chosen people. The Bible teaches that those who bless Israel will be blessed. Israel is not going anywhere. The church will not replace Israel and God’s plan for Israel will be fulfilled.

 

Last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday. Many people in our town had a mark of ashes on their foreheads. When we saw those marks, we identified them as Catholics, just like we can identify members of the Hindu community by marks on their foreheads.

 

Similar to this, in the end times, the mark of the beast and the mark of the living God on the foreheads of people will identify who belongs to Christ and who belongs to the antichrist.

 

Do not believe the lie that the church has replaced Israel and that God is done with Israel because of their unfaithfulness. God’s plan for Israel was never about their faithfulness to God but God’s faithfulness to Israel.

 

Be watchful when you hear anti-Israel rhetoric. Never forget that God promised that He will never leave or forsake Israel no matter how one tries to convince you of that. The same promise is for us that He will never leave us or forsake us. Also, remember if God can leave or forsake Israel, then there is no guarantee that He will not leave and forsake you. The truth is that God never changes, so He will never leave or forsake His elect. Ephesians 1:13-14 says that we have been marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession.

 

Study Questions

 

1.       What are the four corners of the earth and four winds of the earth (Revelation 7:1)? 

 

2.       Why were the angels standing at the four corners of the earth in Revelation 7:1? Why were they holding back the four winds of the earth? 

 

3.       What does Revelation 7:1-17 teach (literally says) about the identity of 144,000 who were sealed in verse 4?

Discuss your view and briefly examine the Preterist, Idealist, Historicist, and Futurist view on the identity of the 144,000. 

 

Deeper Study Questions

 

1.       How does Revelation 7 help you to understand God’s Plan for Israel? 

 

2.       If God allows you to speak to someone who either hates Jews and Israel or does not see them as a part of God’s plan, how you would explain the God’s plan for Israel in the end times?

 

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