(7.4-8)  4     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.

5     Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand.

6     Of the tribe of Aser were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Nepthalim were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasses were sealed twelve thousand.

7     Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand.

8     Of the tribe of Zabulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand. 

1.   Wrath is suspended in the tribulation, until 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes are sealed. “If language means anything, these sealed ones are literal Israelites.”[1] Do you notice anything about the 12 tribes that are mentioned? There are a number of things that strike me as curious: 

#1  Judah is listed first. Though born fourth of Jacob’s sons, the tribe of Judah is preeminent in this listing of the tribes, undoubtedly because it is the tribe that the Lord Jesus Christ was born into. 

#2  The tribe of Levi is listed with the other tribes. Levi is usually left out of Old Testament lists of tribes, and Joseph’s two half tribes, named after his sons Ephraim and Manasseh are put in, making the number of tribes named equal to 12. This must mean that one of the tribes has been left out. 

#3  Notice that Manasseh, one of the half tribes is listed. But notice also that Joseph is listed. If John used the name Joseph to refer to the other half tribe, which was Ephraim (remembering that Joseph had two sons by his Egyptian wife, Manasseh and Ephraim), then we know that both half tribes are listed. That would mean the tribe of Dan has been left out for some reason. 

2.   Why would Dan be left out and Ephraim be represented by Joseph’s name? Did John make a mistake? Folks, even if Scriptures were not inspired, which they are, John would not mistakenly leave out one of the tribe’s names. Remember, this man is a Jewish believer. He knows which tribes are which as well as he knows his own name. A possible explanation is found in the Old Testament. 

3.   Turn to Deuteronomy 29.19-29 and take note of what Moses wrote: 

19   And it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst:

20   The LORD will not spare him, but then the anger of the LORD and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the LORD shall blot out his name from under heaven.

21   And the LORD shall separate him unto evil out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this book of the law:

22   So that the generation to come of your children that shall rise up after you, and the stranger that shall come from a far land, shall say, when they see the plagues of that land, and the sicknesses which the LORD hath laid upon it;

23   And that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom, and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, which the LORD overthrew in his anger, and in his wrath:

24    Even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger?

25    Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them forth out of the land of Egypt:

26    For they went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given unto them:

27    And the anger of the LORD was kindled against this land, to bring upon it all the curses that are written in this book:

28    And the LORD rooted them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land, as it is this day.

29    The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law. 

4.   Remember from your reading of the historical books of the Old Testament that the tribe of Dan was very prone to idolatry after they moved from their original location in the promised land to the north country of Palestine, near the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon. 

5.   Remember, also, that it was Ephraim that dominated the ten northern tribes of Israel after civil war had divided the nation when Solomon died, and that Ephraim‘s city of Samaria became the idol-ridden capital city after the separation from Judah, with her capital of Jerusalem. 

6.   So, it is possible that God will refuse the Danites during the tribulation and will alter the name of the Ephraimites during the tribulation, because of their past sins of idolatry. But does that mean that God has cast them off and forgotten them forever? No. Turn to Ezekiel for the answer to that question. Ezekiel chapter 48 records the conditions that will prevail in the nation of Israel during the millennium. Though these two tribes might have been passed over or slighted by God in the tribulation, He has not cast them off. 

7.   Beginning with Ezekiel 48.1, we have described for us the territory allotted to each tribe during the millennial reign of King Jesus: 

1      Now these are the names of the tribes. From the north end to the coast of the way of Hethlon, as one goeth to Hamath, Hazarenan, the border of Damascus northward, to the coast of Hamath; for these are his sides east and west; a portion for Dan.

2      And by the border of Dan, from the east side unto the west side, a portion for Asher.

3      And by the border of Asher, from the east side even unto the west side, a portion for Naphtali.

4      And by the border of Naphtali, from the east side unto the west side, a portion for Manasseh.

5      And by the border of Manasseh, from the east side unto the west side, a portion for Ephraim.

6      And by the border of Ephraim, from the east side even unto the west side, a portion for Reuben.

7      And by the border of Reuben, from the east side unto the west side, a portion for Judah.

8      And by the border of Judah, from the east side unto the west side, shall be the offering which ye shall offer of five and twenty thousand reeds in breadth, and in length as one of the other parts, from the east side unto the west side: and the sanctuary shall be in the midst of it. 

It is clear that in the millennial kingdom Dan’s place is restored among the tribes, and that there seems to be no distinction between Ephraim and Manasseh and the other tribes, either. 

8.   This brings to an end John’s first vision during the lull in the action, which is chapter 7. To summarize, “God will select 12,000 Jews from each of the twelve tribes of Israel to be His special servants throughout the Tribulation. We are not told what the seal is that He places on their foreheads, but whatever it is, it endows them with both protection and power from on high. The fact that these are Jewish groups indicates that there will be many Jews who come to accept Christ as their Messiah at the outset of the Tribulation. We can only imagine what evangelistic success these 144,000 servants of God will have. They are often likened to the zeal of the apostle Paul and those anointed with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:1-40).”[2] The next vision begins with verse 9.

[1] Strauss, page 171.

[2] See footnote for Revelation 7.1-8 from Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000), page 1375.

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