Here in this chapter we have what some have called a parenthesis. We have in this chapter a simple dichotomy. The first half of the chapter is devoted to the nation of Israel on earth during this time on earth and the second half of the chapter deals with believers in heaven during the same period of time. The context by which we see these visions is the withholding of divine wrath. The question of course is how we should interpret what we are reading. We of course have already ruled out historic views or analogy views. This allows us to ignore the vast majority of commentators who seem bent on interpreting this whole chapter as some event that is already past or allegorize the whole of it. The judgment in question is the not the judgment of Israel in AD 70. The twelve tribes of Israel are not to be spiritualized to fit the believers of the age. We do not look at this chapter as describing the phases of the church: the church militant on earth represented by the 144,000 and the church triumphant in heaven as represented by the multitude that no man can number.
This still fits in a chronological account of things yet to be. The chronology of this matter is emphatic. The first verse of this chapter contains the phrase “after these things” and the ninth verse contains the phrase “after this.” This gives us a chance to speak something of the matter of chronology of the book of revelation thus far. Although we cannot know for sure when the 70th week of Daniel began we have reason to believe it began with the Antichrist riding in peacefully at the beginning of the sixth chapter. That was the first event on earth concerning the things that must occur hereafter. Concerning the time line given by Christ in the 24th chapter of Matthew we have four phases of prophecy. Thus far in our study we have passed through the birth pangs/the beginning of sorrows and are approaching what Christ calls the end. The end will be highlighted by one single event known as the abomination of desolation which is described by Paul in the II Thessalonians chapter two and according to Daniel occurs in the middle of the seven year period. After that event occurs a great persecution of the nation of Israel will occur which is called of Christ great tribulation (Matt. 24:21). This persecution of Israel which is known as the great tribulation will last until the end of the 70th week which brings in the last phase of things yet to be and that is the coming of the Son of Man. Now, what I am about to say cannot be proven beyond all doubt from the Scriptures. We must accept that when it comes to things yet to be there is not always clarity. We make the assumption that thus far things are occurring in chronological order in the book of Revelation. We can say then that we are near the time which the Lord called the end but the event that is called the abomination of desolation in which the Antichrist will stand in the temple of God (that is, in Jerusalem) proclaiming that he is God and demanding worship from the world has yet to occur. It would appear that that event will occur in conjunction with events in the 12th and 13th chapters of Revelation during the trumpet judgments. It is in those chapters that we see the Jews fleeing Jerusalem and we see men worshipping the beast. So, in our discussion of the chronology of this 7th chapter we can say this: the events of this chapter happen immediately after the sixth seal was opened and all men come to the knowledge that Christ Himself is indeed coming in His wrath. The winds of divine judgment we see are for a moment withheld and a vision of two separate peoples are seen. A remnant of Israel is sealed to protect them from coming judgment and we see another company altogether completely removed from the coming judgment. Assuming that both Revelation and Matthew offer us chronological account of the things yet to come we can say that the period which Christ referred to the great tribulation has not yet come and what we read in this chapter is to show the divine preparation concerning the elect of God before that time comes. That immediately answers some of the rapture controversy that we find in this chapter. When it describes the great multitude that no man can number in heaven as being those “which came out of great tribulation” it cannot mean that they were removed out of that period of time. So this chapter is either stating that this company was taken out before the great tribulation which will soon occur or the term great tribulation here does not refer to the period of time which Christ spoke of in Matthew but rather the tribulation common to all saints (granted that this does not clear away the controversy of this multitude for we must still figure out if these are those taken out by rapture before the first seal or after sixth seal and we must figure out if they represent all resurrected saints or if they represent people who are saved during the 70th week but it takes the controversial phrase “out of great tribulation” out of the controversy.).
Basically, what we have in this chapter is a comparison of two companies who are elected of God. One is destined to go through the horrors of the great tribulation and one was graciously brought out of it. The nation of Israel will be destined to suffer but will be preserved through it, at least this remnant. Those who are saved are meant to be brought out before the great hour of suffering gets here and will rest with God. The grand purpose of this chapter is to compare the fate of Israel to the fate of believers in this age. The Jewish nation was to go through great tribulation while the believers of this age were to be spared. One was sealed of God (a remnant) because the nation was to be slain and persecuted the other was brought out so they could rest with God. This is the time of Jacob’s trouble and the time of the saint’s rest. We will look at this chapter under two distinct heads.