Osborne, Grant R. Revelation. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002. Location: Ellis BS 2825.53.O73 2002
III. God in Majesty and Judgment (4:1-16:21) pp. 218-602.
- God’s Sovereignty in Judgment (4:1-11:19) pp. 219-450.
b. “First Interlude: Saints on Earth and in Heaven (7:1-17)” pp. 301-335
Osborne notes that there are several “interlude” passages in Revelation where the action comes to a halt for a while This one is closely tied to the judgment which it follows. It provides additional information about the situation and stresses God’s sovereign control over all (Osborne 2002, 301). It is often a matter of confusion that the saints in this passage are protected and are also killed. “The saints are protected from the wrath of God but are not protected from the wrath of the beast. They will not suffer from the seals, trumpets, and bowls but will suffer from the persecution of the earth-dwellers” (Osborne 2002, 302). The people of God are safe in God’s hands regardless of what else happens to them.
There is a natural division in Revelation 7 between people “sealed on earth” (7:1-8) and those “worshiping in heaven” (7:9-17). Osborne reviews a handful of different interpretations of the possible identities before concluding that those at the start of the chapter are a subset of those at the end, and that specific identities are unknown (Osborne 2002, 303).
The passage begins with angels holding back winds to prevent destruction. Osborne notes that the recurring pattern of sevens in Revelation is regularly made of a four and a three, leaving the group of four as an important number. In this case, the interaction with wind can indicate winds of judgment or of deliverance (Osborne 2002, 305). Some suggest that the winds here referred to are the destructive force of the horsemen found earlier. “Another” angel gives commands and bears God’s seal of authority. His rising in the east may indicate the place where God blesses people, or it may simply refer to a direction (Osborne 2002, 307). The people of God are to be sealed with God’s own seal, an act usually indicating possession and a guarantee of integrity (Osborne 2002, 309). Osborne also notes the seal essentially identified God’s people as part of his family, according to Roman custom. The mark on the forehead is a reference to Ezekiel 9:1-2, where those people who are grieved about sin are sealed to be protected (Osborne 2002, 310).
In Revelation 7:4-8 the number of those sealed is detailed at 144,000. Osborne notes that the number (12x12x1000) indicates completeness (Osborne 2002, 310). The passage can be read to indicate Jewish martyrs or people from many nations, as reflected in the later parts of the chapter. Some have also taken it as an entirely literal number (Osborne 2002, 311). Osborne observes at length how the New Testament frequently refers to the twelve tribes of Israel as a foreshadowing of the Christians and their twelve apostles, so this could be a reference to the totality of God’s people (Osborne 2002, 312). The ordering of the list of tribes has sparked discussion. Osborne finds that the order is varied in different places in Scripture. He does not take this list to have a particularly strong significance in its order (Osborne 2002, 314).
Revelation 7:9-17 shifts the scene to the area around the throne. Osborne considers that in the chronology of the narrative, 7:9-17 immediately follows 6:9-11, and that 7:1-8 was a flashback (Osborne 2002, 317). This great multitude, which cannot be numbered, has come out of tribulation, though not necessarily by martyrdom (Osborne 2002, 318). They wear white robes which presumably were given to them by God, as were the martyrs of 6:11 (Osborne 2002, 319). They have palm branches, as a sign of victory. Rather than calling for deliverance, these people call out that deliverance is from the Lord (Osborne 2002, 320). This group, with all the angels, falls on their faces before the throne in worship, singing a sevenfold hymn of praise (Osborne 2002, 321). The praises include all but one of the praise items from 5:12, replacing “wealth” with “thanksgiving” (Osborne 2002, 321).
In Revelation 7:13-17 the reader is led to question the identity of this multitude. One of the “elders” asks John his own unasked question. Who are they? John turns the question back to the elder (Osborne 2002, 323). They have come from great persecution. Osborne considers whether this is a particular period ushering in the end of the world. He does think with the use of the article it refers to the conflict described in chapter 12, where the church is victorious through the work of Christ (Osborne 2002, 325). In this triumph of Christ the saints have their robes washed white by the sacrificial blood of Christ (Osborne 2002, 326). Verses 15-17 are a hymn of thanksgiving spoken by the elder, speaking of the results of perseverance and purity, bringing the saint into the presence of God, removing suffering, and finding that the Lamb’s actions are sufficient. In verse 15 the people have been placed before God’s throne to serve God in worship (Osborne 2002, 327). Not only is the worship in a divine temple on a very high mountain, Osborne observes that God himself spreads his tent over his people. They are completely brought into the presence and protection of God (Osborne 2002, 328).
Revelation 7:16-17 bring us to an expression of the restoration of perfection. Osborne ties it to the promises of Isaiah 49:10 that those returning from exile will find all their needs provided for (Osborne 2002, 329). The reason given for all this is the very counter-intuitive statement of 7:17, that the Lamb is the shepherd for his people. Osborne briefly explores the odd metaphorical statements about the Lamb of God, not only in Revelation but also elsewhere in Scripture (Osborne 2002, 331).