The things contained in this chapter came in after the opening of the
six seals, which foretold great calamities in the world; and before the
sound of the seven trumpets, which gave notice of great corruptions
arising in the church: between these comes in this comfortable chapter,
which secures the graces and comforts of the people of God in times of
common calamity. We have,
I. An account of the restraint laid upon the winds,
II. The sealing of the servants of God,
III. The songs of angels and saints on this occasion,
IV. A description of the honour and happiness of those who had
faithfully served Christ, and suffered for him,
The Vision of Heaven.
A. D. 95.
1 And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four
corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that
the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any
2 And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the
seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the
four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea,
3 Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees,
till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
4 And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there
were sealed a 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.
9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man
could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and
tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed
with white robes, and palms in their hands;
10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God
which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
11 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about
the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on
their faces, and worshipped God,
12 Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and
thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God
for ever and ever. Amen.
Here we have, I. An account of the restraint laid upon the winds. By
these winds we suppose are meant those errors and corruptions in
religion which would occasion a great deal of trouble and mischief to
the church of God. Sometimes the Holy Spirit is compared to the wind:
here the spirits of error are compared to the four winds,
contrary one to another, but doing much hurt to the church, the garden
and vineyard of God, breaking the branches and blasting the fruits of
his plantation. The devil is called the prince of the power of the
air; he, by a great wind, overthrew the house of Job's eldest son.
Errors are as wind, by which those who are unstable are shaken, and
carried to and fro,
1. These are called the winds of the earth, because they blow
only in these lower regions near the earth; heaven is always clear and
free from them.
2. They are restrained by the ministry of angels, standing on the
four corners of the earth, intimating that the spirit of error
cannot go forth till God permits it, and that the angels minister to
the good of the church by restraining its enemies.
3. Their restraint was only for a season, and that was till the
servants of God were sealed in their foreheads. God has a
particular care and concern for his own servants in times of temptation
and corruption, and he has a way to secure them from the common
infection; he first establishes them, and then he tries them; he has
the timing of their trials in his own hand.
II. An account of the sealing of the servants of God, where observe,
1. To whom this work was committed--to an angel, another angel.
While some of the angels were employed to restrain Satan and his
agents, another angel was employed to mark out and distinguish the
faithful servants of God.
2. How they were distinguished--the seal of God was set upon their
foreheads, a seal known to him, and as plain as if it appeared in their
foreheads; by this mark they were set apart for mercy and safety in the
worst of times.
3. The number of those that were sealed, where observe,
(1.) A particular account of those that were sealed of the twelve
tribes of Israel--twelve thousand out of every tribe, the whole sum
amounting to a hundred and forty-four thousand. In this list the
tribe of Dan is omitted, perhaps because they were greatly addicted to
idolatry; and the order of the tribes is altered, perhaps according as
they had been more or less faithful to God. Some take these to be a
select number of the Jews who were reserved for mercy at the
destruction of Jerusalem; others think that time was past, and
therefore it is to be more generally applied to God's chosen remnant in
the world; but, if the destruction of Jerusalem was not yet over (and I
think it is hard to prove that it was), it seems more proper to
understand this of the remnant of that people which God had reserved
according to the election of grace, only here we have a definite number
for an indefinite.
(2.) A general account of those who were saved out of other nations
A great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and
kindreds, and people, and tongues. Though these are not said to be
sealed, yet they were selected by God out of all nations, and brought
into his church, and there stood before the throne. Observe,
[1.] God will have a greater harvest of souls among the Gentiles than
he had among the Jews. More are the children of the desolate than of
the married woman.
[2.] The Lord knows who are his, and he will keep them safe in times of
[3.] Though the church of God is but a little flock, in comparison of
the wicked world, yet it is no contemptible society, but really large
and to be still more enlarged.
III. We have the songs of saints and angels on this occasion,
1. The praises offered up by the saints (and, as it seems to me, by the
Gentile believers) for the care of God in reserving so large a remnant
of the Jews, and saving them from infidelity and destruction. The
Jewish church prayed for the Gentiles before their conversion, and the
Gentile churches have reason to bless God for his distinguishing mercy
to so many of the Jews, when the rest were cut off. Here observe,
(1.) The posture of these praising saints: they stood before the
throne, and before the Lamb, before the Creator and the Mediator.
In acts of religious worship we come nigh to God, and are to conceive
ourselves as in his special presence; and we must come to God by
Christ. The throne of God would be inaccessible to sinners were it not
for a Mediator.
(2.) Their habit: they were clothed with white robes, and had palms
in their hands; they were invested with the robes of justification,
holiness, and victory, and had palms in their hands, as conquerors used
to appear in their triumphs: such a glorious appearance will the
faithful servants of God make at last, when they have fought the
good fight of faith and finished their course.
(3.) Their employment: they cried with a loud voice, saying,
Salvation to our God who sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb.
This may be understood either as a hosannah, wishing well to the
interest of God and Christ in the church and in the world, or as a
hallelujah, giving to God and the Lamb the praise of the great
salvation; both the Father and the Son are joined together in these
praises; the Father contrived this salvation, the Son purchased it, and
those who enjoy it must and will bless the Lord and the Lamb, and they
will do it publicly, and with becoming fervour.
2. Here is the song of the angels
(1.) Their station--before the throne of God, attending on him,
and about the saints, ready to serve them.
(2.) Their posture, which is very humble, and expressive of the
greatest reverence: They fell before the throne on their faces, and
worshipped God. Behold the most excellent of all the creatures, who
never sinned, who are before him continually, not only covering their
faces, but falling down on their faces before the Lord! What humility
then, and what profound reverence, become us vile frail creatures, when
we come into the presence of God! We should fall down before him; there
should be both a reverential frame of spirit and a humble behaviour in
all our addresses to God
(3.) Their praises. They consented to the praises of the saints, said
their Amen thereto; there is in heaven a perfect harmony between
the angels and saints; and then they added more of their own,
saying, Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and
honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever.
[1.] They acknowledge the glorious attributes of God--his wisdom, his
power, and his might.
[2.] They declare that for these his divine perfections he ought to be
blessed, and praised, and glorified, to all eternity; and they confirm
it by their Amen. We see what is the work of heaven, and we
ought to begin it now, to get our hearts tuned for it, to be much in
it, and to long for that world where our praises, as well as happiness,
will be perfected.
Honour and Happiness of the Saints.
A. D. 95.
13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are
these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?
14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me,
These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have
washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15 Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him
day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne
shall dwell among them.
16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither
shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.
17 For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed
them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and
God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
Here we have a description of the honour and happiness of those who
have faithfully served the Lord Jesus Christ, and suffered for him.
I. A question asked by one of the elders, not for his own information,
but for John's instruction: ministers may learn from the people,
especially from aged and experienced Christians; the lowest saint in
heaven knows more than the greatest apostle in the world. Now the
question has two parts:--
1. What are these that are arrayed in white robes?
2. Whence came they? It seems to be spoken by way of admiration,
Song of Solomon 3:6,
Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness! Faithful
Christians deserve our notice and respect; we should mark the
II. The answer returned by the apostle, in which he tacitly
acknowledges his own ignorance, and sues to this elder for information:
Thou knowest. Those who would gain knowledge must not be ashamed
to own their ignorance, nor to desire instruction from any that are
able to give it.
III. The account given to the apostle concerning that noble army of
martyrs who stood before the throne of God in white robes, with
palms of victory in their hands: and notice is taken here of,
1. The low and desolate state they had formerly been in; they had been
in great tribulation, persecuted by men, tempted by Satan, sometimes
troubled in their own spirits; they had suffered the spoiling of their
goods, the imprisonment of their persons, yea, the loss of life itself.
The way to heaven lies through many tribulations; but tribulation, how
great soever, shall not separate us from the love of God.
Tribulation, when gone through well, will make heaven more welcome and
2. The means by which they had been prepared for the great honour and
happiness they now enjoyed: they had washed their robes, and made
them white in the blood of the Lamb,
It is not the blood of the martyrs themselves, but the blood of the
Lamb, that can wash away sin, and make the soul pure and clean in the
sight of God. Other blood stains; this is the only blood that makes the
robes of the saints white and clean.
3. The blessedness to which they are now advanced, being thus prepared
(1.) They are happy in their station, for they are before the throne
of God night and day; and he dwells among them; they are in
that presence where there is fulness of joy.
(2.) They are happy in their employment, for they serve God
continually, and that without weakness, drowsiness, or weariness.
Heaven is a state of service, though not of suffering; it is a state of
rest, but not of sloth; it is a praising delightful rest.
(3.) They are happy in their freedom from all the inconveniences of
this present life.
[1.] From all want and sense of want: They hunger and thirst no
more; all their wants are supplied, and all the uneasiness caused
thereby is removed.
[2.] From all sickness and pain: they shall never be scorched by the
heat of the sun any more.
(4.) They are happy in the love and guidance of the Lord Jesus: He
shall feed them, he shall lead them to living fountains of waters,
he shall put them into the possession of every thing that is pleasant
and refreshing to their souls, and therefore they shall hunger and
thirst no more.
(5.) They are happy in being delivered from all sorrow or occasion of
it: God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. They have
formerly had their sorrows, and shed many tears, both upon the account
of sin and affliction; but God himself, with his own gentle and
gracious hand, will wipe those tears away, and they shall return no
more for ever; and they would not have been without those tears, when
God comes to wipe them away. In this he deals with them as a tender
father who finds his beloved child in tears, he comforts him, he wipes
his eyes, and turns his sorrow into rejoicing. This should moderate
the Christian's sorrow in his present state, and support him under all
the troubles of it; for those that sow in tears shall reap in joy;
and those that now go forth weeping, bearing precious seed, shall
doubtless come again rejoicing, bringing their sheaves with
Matthew Henry "Verse by Verse Commentary for 'Revelation' Matthew Henry Bible Commentary".