The Meaning of Revelation 7:4 Explained

Revelation 7:4

KJV: And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.

YLT: And I heard the number of those sealed, (one hundred and forty four thousands were sealed out of all the tribes of the sons of Israel):

Darby: And I heard the number of the sealed, a hundred and forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the sons of Israel:

ASV: And I heard the number of them that were sealed, a hundred and forty and four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the children of Israel:

What does Revelation 7:4 Mean?

Verse Meaning

The specific references to Israel and the names of the12Israelite tribes strongly suggest that the nation of Israel is in view rather than the church. [1] Most posttribulationists and amillennialists believe the144 ,000 are members of "spiritual Israel," a title of theirs for the church. [2] Gundry called them ""orthodox" [3] Jews who will resist the seduction of the Antichrist." [4] He believed God will supernaturally keep them from dying during the Tribulation. He also believed they will accept Jesus Christ when He returns at the Second Coming, and they will populate the millennial kingdom. The problem with this view is that these witnesses appear to be believers in Jesus Christ. Many interpreters take the number144 ,000 as symbolic of all God"s servants in the Tribulation. [5]
"Though admittedly ingenious, the case for symbolism is exegetically weak. The principal reason for the view is a predisposition to make the144 ,000 into a group representative of the church with which no possible numerical connection exists. No justification can be found for understanding the simple statement of fact in Revelation 7:4 as a figure of speech. It is a definite number in contrast with the indefinite number of Revelation 7:9. If it is taken symbolically, no number in the book can be taken literally." [6]

Context Summary

Revelation 7:1-10 - The Multitude Before The Throne
Before times of unusual trial God prepares for the safety of His people. See Genesis 7:1; Genesis 19:16; Exodus 12:13; Ezekiel 9:3-5; Matthew 24:15-16. What a majestic conception this is and how comforting the thought that the winds are controlled by angels, and that the storms which sweep earth and heaven must obey the mandate of eternal love! God's people are not always saved from trial, but they are kept safe in it. We are sealed when the divine likeness is stamped on our characters, Ephesians 1:13. Those that have that likeness also enjoy the earnest of heaven in their hearts, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22.
The definiteness of the number sealed indicates the perfectness and greatness of this first fruit sheaf of souls. If the first sheaf be so full and heavy, what will not the harvest be! See Revelation 14:4. Beyond human count in number; representing every country under heaven; spotless in character; victorious in their conflict with evil; ascribing all glory to the Lamb as the result of His travail of soul. The tribe of Dan is omitted but perhaps reappears in Revelation 21:12. Does this mean that some will be saved as by firebrands plucked from it by the grace of God? [source]

Chapter Summary: Revelation 7

1  An angel seals the servants of God in their foreheads
4  The number of those who were sealed of the tribes of Israel: 144,000
9  Of all the other nations an innumerable multitude, which stand before the throne
14  Their robes were washed in the blood of the Lamb

Greek Commentary for Revelation 7:4

The number of the sealed [τον αριτμον των εσπραγισμενων]
Accusative case object of ηκουσα — ēkousa and genitive of the perfect passive articular participle of σπραγιζω — sphragizō He did not see the sealing or count them himself, but only heard. [source]
A hundred and forty and four thousand [εκατον τεσσερακοντα τεσσαρες χιλιαδες]
Symbolical, of course, and not meant to be a complete number of the sealed (or saved) even in that generation, let alone for all time. The number connotes perfection (Alford), 12x12x1000= a hundred and forty-four thousands Nominative absolute, not agreeing in case either with αριτμον — arithmon (accusative) or εσπραγισμενων — esphragismenōn (genitive). So as to the case of εσπραγισμενοι — esphragismenoi of every tribe of the children of Israel There are two opposite views here, one taking the sealed as referring only to Jews (either actual Jews as a remnant or just Jewish Christians), the other including Gentiles as well as Jewish Christians, that is the true Israel as in Revelation 2:9; Revelation 3:9. and like Paul in Galatians and Romans. This is the more probable view and it takes the twelve tribes in a spiritual sense. But in either view there remains the difficulty about names of the tribes. The list is not geographical, since Levi is included, but Dan is omitted and Manasseh put in his place, though he as the son of Joseph is included in Joseph. Irenaeus suggested that Antichrist was expected to come from the tribe of Dan and hence the omission here. There are various lists of the tribes in the O.T. (Genesis 35:22.; Genesis 46:8.; Gen 49; Exodus 1:1.; Numbers 1:2; Numbers 13:4; Numbers 26:34; Deuteronomy 27:11.; Deuteronomy 33:6.; Josh 13-22; Judges 5; 1 Chron 2-8; 1 Chronicles 12:24.; 1 Chronicles 27:16.; Ezek 48) and given in various orders. In 1 Chronicles 7:12 both Dan and Zebulon are omitted. Joseph is given here in place of Ephraim. The distribution is equal (12,000) to each tribe. [source]
An hundred and forty and four thousand []
Not literally, but the number symbolical of fixedness and full completion (12 x 12). The interpretations, as usual, vary greatly, dividing generally into two great classes: one holding that only Jews are meant, the other including the whole number of the elect both Jew and Gentile. Of the former class some regard the sealed as representing Jewish believers chosen out of the literal Israel. Others add to this the idea of these as forming the nucleus of glorified humanity to which the Gentiles are joined. Others again regard them as Jews reserved by God until Antichrist comes, to maintain in the bosom of their nation a true belief in Jehovah and His law, like the seven thousand in the days of Elijah. The interpretation of the latter class seems entitled to the greater weight. According to the Apocalyptic usage, Jewish terms are “christianized and heightened in their meaning, and the word “Israel” is to be understood of all Christians, the blessed company of all faithful people, the true Israel of God.” See Romans 2:28, Romans 2:29; Romans 9:6, Romans 9:7; Galatians 6:16; Philemon 3:3. The city of God, which includes all believers, is designated by the Jewish name, New Jerusalem. In Revelation 7:3, the sealed are designated generally as the servants of God. In chapter 14 the one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed are mentioned after the description of the enemies of Christ, who have reference to the whole Church of Christ; and the mention of the sealed is followed by the world-wide harvest and vintage of the earth. The one hundred and forty-four thousand in chapter 14, have the Father's name written in their foreheads; and in Revelation 22:4, all the inhabitants of the New Jerusalem are so marked. In Revelation 21:12, the twelve tribes include all believers. The mark of Satan which is in the forehead, is set upon all his servants without distinction of race. See Revelation 13:16, Revelation 13:17; Revelation 14:9; Revelation 16:2; Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:4. The plagues threaten both Jews and Gentiles, as the sealing protects all. -DIVIDER-
-DIVIDER-
[source]

Reverse Greek Commentary Search for Revelation 7:4

Revelation 5:11 Thousands [χιλιάδες]
Χιλιάς , a collective term like, μυριάς , meaning the number one thousand, is almost invariably used with men in Revelation. See Revelation 7:4; Revelation 11:13. Only once with a material object (Revelation 21:16). With inferior objects χίλιοι athousand is used. See Revelation 11:3; Revelation 12:6. These words are the theme of Alford's noble hymn - “Ten thousand times ten thousandIn sparkling raiment bright, The armies of the ransomed saints-DIVIDER-
Throng up the steeps of light:-DIVIDER-
'Tis finished, all is finished,-DIVIDER-
Their fight with death and sin;-DIVIDER-
Fling open wide the golden gates,And let the victors in.” [source]

Revelation 1:7 Kindreds [φυλαὶ]
More correctly, tribes. The word used of the true Israel in Revelation 5:5; Revelation 7:4-8; Revelation 21:12. As the tribes of Israel are the figure by which the people of God, Jew or Gentile, are represented, so unbelievers are here represented as tribes, “the mocking counterpart of the true Israel of God.” Compare Matthew 24:30, Matthew 24:31. [source]
Revelation 1:7 Shall see [οπσεται]
Future middle of οραω — horaō a reminiscence of Zechariah 12:10 according to the text of Theodotion (Aquila and Symmachus) rather than the lxx and like that of Matthew 24:30 (similar combination of Daniel and Zechariah) and Matthew 26:64. This picture of the victorious Christ in his return occurs also in Revelation 14:14, Revelation 14:18-20; Revelation 19:11-21; Revelation 20:7-10.And they which (και οιτινες — kai hoitines). “And the very ones who,” Romans and Jews, all who shared in this act.Pierced First aorist active indicative of εκκεντεω — ekkenteō late compound (Aristotle, Polybius, lxx), from εκ — ek and κεντεω — kenteō (to stab, to pierce), in N.T., only here and John 19:37, in both cases from Zechariah 12:10, but not the lxx text (apparently proof that John used the original Hebrew or the translation of Theodotion and Aquila).Shall mourn (κοπσονται — kopsontai). Future middle (direct) of κοπτω — koptō old verb, to cut, “they shall cut themselves,” as was common for mourners (Matthew 11:17; Luke 8:52; Luke 23:27). From Zechariah 12:12. See also Revelation 18:9.Tribes Not just the Jewish tribes, but the spiritual Israel of Jews and Gentiles as in Revelation 7:4-8. No nation had then accepted Christ as Lord and Saviour, nor has any yet done so. [source]
Revelation 1:7 Pierced [εχεκεντησαν]
First aorist active indicative of εκκεντεω — ekkenteō late compound (Aristotle, Polybius, lxx), from εκ — ek and κεντεω — kenteō (to stab, to pierce), in N.T., only here and John 19:37, in both cases from Zechariah 12:10, but not the lxx text (apparently proof that John used the original Hebrew or the translation of Theodotion and Aquila).Shall mourn (κοπσονται — kopsontai). Future middle (direct) of κοπτω — koptō old verb, to cut, “they shall cut themselves,” as was common for mourners (Matthew 11:17; Luke 8:52; Luke 23:27). From Zechariah 12:12. See also Revelation 18:9.Tribes Not just the Jewish tribes, but the spiritual Israel of Jews and Gentiles as in Revelation 7:4-8. No nation had then accepted Christ as Lord and Saviour, nor has any yet done so. [source]
Revelation 1:7 Tribes [πυλαι]
Not just the Jewish tribes, but the spiritual Israel of Jews and Gentiles as in Revelation 7:4-8. No nation had then accepted Christ as Lord and Saviour, nor has any yet done so. [source]
Revelation 14:3 No man could learn the song save [ουδεις εδυνατο ματειν την ωιδην ει μη]
Imperfect Perfect passive articular participle of αγοραζω — agorazō purchased by the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 5:9), masculine plural in apposition with χιλιαδες — chiliades (thousands) feminine plural (Revelation 7:5, Revelation 7:8; Revelation 14:1). Απο — Apo (from) here, though εκ — ek (out of) in Revelation 5:9. The 144,000 are not yet separated from the earth (John 17:15). Whether the 144,000 here are identical with that number in Revelation 7:4-8 or not, they must embrace both men and women. [source]
Revelation 14:3 Even they that had been purchased out of the earth [οι ηγορασμενοι απο της γης]
Perfect passive articular participle of αγοραζω — agorazō purchased by the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 5:9), masculine plural in apposition with χιλιαδες — chiliades (thousands) feminine plural (Revelation 7:5, Revelation 7:8; Revelation 14:1). Απο — Apo (from) here, though εκ — ek (out of) in Revelation 5:9. The 144,000 are not yet separated from the earth (John 17:15). Whether the 144,000 here are identical with that number in Revelation 7:4-8 or not, they must embrace both men and women. [source]
Revelation 21:17 A hundred and forty and four cubits [εκατον τεσσερακοντα τεσσαρων πηχων]
Another multiple of 12 (12x12=144) as in Revelation 7:4; Revelation 14:1. It is not clear whether it is the height or the breadth of the wall that is meant, though υπσος — hupsos (height) comes just before. That would be 216 feet high (cf. Revelation 21:12), not enormous in comparison with the 7,000,000 feet (1500 miles) height of the city. [source]
Revelation 9:16 Of the horsemen [του ιππικου]
Old adjective ιππικος — hippikos from ιππος — hippos (horse), equestrian. The neuter articular singular το ιππικον — to hippikon the horse or the cavalry in contrast with το πεζικον — to pezikon (the infantry), here only in N.T. For the numbers here see Revelation 5:11; Revelation 7:4. [source]
Revelation 21:8 For the fearful [τοις δειλοις]
Old word (from δειδω — deidō to fear) for the cowardly, who recanted under persecution, in N.T. only here, Matthew 8:26; Mark 4:40.Unbelieving (απιστοις — apistois). “Faithless,” “untrustworthy,” in contrast with Christ “ο πιστος — ho pistos ” (Revelation 1:5). Cf. Revelation 2:10, Revelation 2:13; Revelation 3:14; Revelation 17:14. Disloyalty is close kin to cowardice.Abominable Perfect passive participle of βδελυσσω — bdelussō old verb, in N.T. only here and Romans 2:22, common in lxx, to pollute (Exod 5:21). Those who have become defiled by the impurities of emperor-worship (Revelation 7:4.; Revelation 21:27; Romans 2:22; Titus 1:16).Murderers (πονευσιν — phoneusin). As a matter of course and all too common always (Mark 7:21; Romans 1:29; Revelation 9:21).Fornicators Again all too common always, then and now (1 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Timothy 1:9.). These two crimes often go together.Sorcerers (παρμακοις — pharmakois). Old word, in N.T. only here and Revelation 22:15. Closely connected with idolatry and magic (Revelation 9:21; Revelation 13:13.).Idolaters See 1 Corinthians 5:10.; 1 Corinthians 10:7; Ephesians 5:5; Revelation 22:15. With a powerful grip on men‘s lives then and now.All liars (πασι τοις πσευδεσιν — pasi tois pseudesin). Repeated in Revelation 22:15 and stigmatized often (Revelation 2:2; Revelation 3:9; Revelation 14:5; Revelation 21:8, Revelation 21:27; Revelation 22:15). Not a “light” sin. [source]
Revelation 21:8 Abominable [εβδελυγμενοις]
Perfect passive participle of βδελυσσω — bdelussō old verb, in N.T. only here and Romans 2:22, common in lxx, to pollute (Exod 5:21). Those who have become defiled by the impurities of emperor-worship (Revelation 7:4.; Revelation 21:27; Romans 2:22; Titus 1:16).Murderers (πονευσιν — phoneusin). As a matter of course and all too common always (Mark 7:21; Romans 1:29; Revelation 9:21).Fornicators Again all too common always, then and now (1 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Timothy 1:9.). These two crimes often go together.Sorcerers (παρμακοις — pharmakois). Old word, in N.T. only here and Revelation 22:15. Closely connected with idolatry and magic (Revelation 9:21; Revelation 13:13.).Idolaters See 1 Corinthians 5:10.; 1 Corinthians 10:7; Ephesians 5:5; Revelation 22:15. With a powerful grip on men‘s lives then and now.All liars (πασι τοις πσευδεσιν — pasi tois pseudesin). Repeated in Revelation 22:15 and stigmatized often (Revelation 2:2; Revelation 3:9; Revelation 14:5; Revelation 21:8, Revelation 21:27; Revelation 22:15). Not a “light” sin. [source]

What do the individual words in Revelation 7:4 mean?

And I heard the number of those having been sealed one hundred forty four thousand having been sealed out of every tribe of [the] sons of Israel
Καὶ ἤκουσα τὸν ἀριθμὸν τῶν ἐσφραγισμένων ἑκατὸν τεσσεράκοντα τέσσαρες χιλιάδες ἐσφραγισμένοι ἐκ πάσης φυλῆς υἱῶν Ἰσραήλ

ἤκουσα  I  heard 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Indicative Active, 1st Person Singular
Root: ἀκουστός 
Sense: to be endowed with the faculty of hearing, not deaf.
ἀριθμὸν  number 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Masculine Singular
Root: ἀριθμός  
Sense: a fixed and definite number.
τῶν  of  those 
Parse: Article, Genitive Masculine Plural
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
ἐσφραγισμένων  having  been  sealed 
Parse: Verb, Perfect Participle Middle or Passive, Genitive Masculine Plural
Root: σφραγίζω  
Sense: to set a seal upon, mark with a seal, to seal.
ἑκατὸν  one  hundred 
Parse: Adjective, Nominative Feminine Plural
Root: ἑκατόν  
Sense: a hundred.
τεσσεράκοντα  forty 
Parse: Adjective, Nominative Feminine Plural
Root: τεσσαράκοντα 
Sense: forty.
τέσσαρες  four 
Parse: Adjective, Nominative Feminine Plural
Root: τέσσαρες  
Sense: four.
χιλιάδες  thousand 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Feminine Plural
Root: χιλιάς  
Sense: a thousand, the number one thousand.
ἐσφραγισμένοι  having  been  sealed 
Parse: Verb, Perfect Participle Middle or Passive, Nominative Masculine Plural
Root: σφραγίζω  
Sense: to set a seal upon, mark with a seal, to seal.
ἐκ  out  of 
Parse: Preposition
Root: ἐκ 
Sense: out of, from, by, away from.
πάσης  every 
Parse: Adjective, Genitive Feminine Singular
Root: πᾶς  
Sense: individually.
φυλῆς  tribe 
Parse: Noun, Genitive Feminine Singular
Root: φυλή  
Sense: a tribe.
υἱῶν  of  [the]  sons 
Parse: Noun, Genitive Masculine Plural
Root: υἱός  
Sense: a son.
Ἰσραήλ  of  Israel 
Parse: Noun, Genitive Masculine Singular
Root: Ἰσραήλ  
Sense: the name given to the patriarch Jacob (and borne by him in addition to his former name).