I. Preliminary Considerations
-Verses 1-8 represent an interlude (i.e. a reprieve or delay in action) between the events represented in the breaking of the first 6 seals and the events represented by the breaking of the seventh seal/seven trumpets (8:1-6).
-The events represented in the breaking of the six seals = The Jewish War from its beginning to w/in 5mos of its end (MAR/67 AD – APR/70 AD).
-Where this places Titus and his Roman armies = they have surrounded the city of Jerusalem in anticipation of a full-scale siege on her walls. This is seen most specifically through what is communicated to us in the sixth seal (as discussed in the prev. study). It is the beginning of the end, the abomination of desolation, the prophetic consequence of Israel’s rejection of Christ/Son of God (Luk 21:20 w/Mat 24:15; Luk 19:41-44); regarding Daniel (Dan 12:11)
Re: Daniel and the regular sacrifice:
-According to Josephus, all of the priests (including the High Priest) were slaughtered by the zealots who took the city of Jerusalem and made the Temple their citadel at the beginning of the War (see Wars 4.2-5.2). This would have also meant that the regular sacrifices ceased to be offered (since those commissioned by God to do it were all dead).
Re: Prophetic consequence of Israel’s rejection of Christ (the Son of God)
“At Rome, Peter and Paul foretold that it would shortly come to pass, that God would send a king who would overcome the Jews and who would lay their city level with the ground. He would besiege them
until they so pined with hunger and thirst, that they would start eating one another. Finally, they would fall into their enemies’ hands and would see their wives most grievously tormented in their sight and
their virgins violated and prostituted. Their sons would be torn asunder and their little ones dashed to pieces. Everything would be destroyed by fire and sword and they would forever be banished from their
own lands. All this would happen, because they exalted themselves above the most loving Son of God, who was approved by God Himself.” –Lactantius (Divine Institutions, 4.21.7)
-(Deu 28:30, 47-58; Hos 13:12-16 w/Mat 23:32)
-However, before the full scale siege actually begins, a moment of divinely ordained reprieve (or delay) is granted. Titus allows those who wish to leave the city to go w/o harm.
“(Some of) the people had a great inclination to desert to the Romans; accordingly some of them sold
what they had, and even the most precious things that had been laid up as treasures by them, for a very
small matter, and swallowed down pieces of gold, that they might not be found by the robbers; and
when they escaped to the Romans, went to stool, and had wherewithal to provide plentifully for
themselves; for Titus let a great number of them go away into the country, whither they pleased…” – Josephus (Wars, 5.10.1)
II. Contextual Interpretation
VERSES 1-8 REPRESENT THE ESCAPE OF THE JEWISH CHRISTIANS (i.e. the Jerusalem Church) FROM JERUSALEM WHO UNDERSTOOD AND HEEDED CHRIST’S WARNING OF WHEN TO FLEE THE CITY (LUK 21:20-24).
(1) four angels, corners and winds..no wind to blow on the earth, sea or tree = God holding back the Romans from immediately destroying Jerusalem ( this is the job of the 4 angels = v2; “teis geis”; Jer 49:36-37; Eze 37:9; Dan 7:2, 8:8; Zec 2:6; Mat 24:31 = God’s decree to action—which means this then is what the blowing winds are carrying out, but now have been restrained). *note regarding the mention of the sea and trees: this (ml) points to its larger trajectory (or greater fulfillment).
(2-3) angel ascending from the rising of the sun (Isa 41:1-4, 25, 46:11; Eze 43:1-3); seal of the living God…do not harm…until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads (Eze 9:1-7; Exo 13:9, 16; in contrast Rev 9:4, 13:16-17, 14:9, 20:4; also consider 2Co 1:22; 2Ti 2:19)
*In light of these three verses consider “cut short” in (Mat 24:22)
“The protective ‘mark’ in Ezekiel 9 is literally the tav, the last letter in the Hebrew alphabet. The ancient Hebrew form of the tav was ‘+’, a cross, a fact that was not lost on the early Church…Tertullian believed that God had given Ezekiel ‘the very form of the cross’ which he predicted would be the sign on our foreheads in the true Catholic Jerusalem.” –David Chilton
(4-8) The Jerusalem Church/Jewish Christians =one hundred forty-four thousand (12 apostlesX12 Jews =Jewish Church (Mat 19:28; Luk 22:30) X 1,000 = completely preserved; Deu 1:11; Psa 105:8; Num 31:4-5; Psa 84:10; Ecc 6:6; SoS 4:4; Rev 20:4; Rom 11:26); STARTS w/Judah and excludes Dan and Ephraim =completely pure (Gen 49:10; Hos 4:17-14:8; cf. Hos 5:9; Judas Iscariot = Dan? Consider Act 1:25 w/Jud 18:1-3 same words used for portion/lot and place in each text– also similar context for both (loss of inheritance and idolatry). In addition: a comparison of the counterclockwise reversal of Ezekiel’s list (Eze 48:31-34) of tribes (as represented in Rev 7) and NT lists of the twelve disciples (Matt 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:13-16; and Acts 1:13) shows a startling parallel between Judas and Dan. Interestingly, only Peter, Philip, James of Alphaeus, and Judas Iscariot appear in the same position on all lists.
“Ephraim likewise may have been excluded from the Revelation7 list because of its association with idolatry. Ephraim was noted in distinction from the other tribes fro its penchant for idolatry, for which it was exterminated by divine judgment. Some suggest that these two omissions could be a hint that John is conducting a polemic against part of the professing church who are compromising through idolatry. But since these are omissions, they more likely point in the opposite direction, to an attempt to portray the professing church as apparently pure.” –GK Beale
“Dan is omitted because (in Christian tradition) it was associated with Judas Iscariot and his forfeiture of apostolic office.” –Ross E. Winkle
“The fact that the angel intervenes (in Revelation 7:2-3) before they are destroyed in the land surely indicates the era prior to the final and total devastation of the land in AD 70. Were the land already destroyed (as it was in AD 70), such protection would have been embarrassingly anachronistic.” — Kenneth Gentry
“The 144,000 are Jewish Christians. The extreme care with which their ancestry is set forth removes all doubt concerning their Jewish character. Their Hebrew nature is further accentuated by the intended contrast between them and the great Gentile multitude. The former is a small, easily counted group, of one certain racial extraction, who escape persecution…If reasons previously stated, and others yet to be mentioned are sound, and the first section of the Revelation concerns the Judaistic persecution of the church and the fall of Jerusalem, then it is obvious that these 144,000 Christian Jews who are sealed against the destruction ought to be identified with those who escaped to Pella in accordance with Christ’s command (Luke 21:20-24) when they saw Jerusalem surrounded by Roman armies.” –Jay Adams
“The people of the church in Jerusalem had been commanded by a revelation, vouchsafed approved men there before the war, to leave the city and dwell in a certain town of Perea called Pella. And when those that believed in Christ had come thither from Jerusalem, then, as if the royal city of the Jews and the whole land of Judea were entirely destitute of holy men, the judgment of God at length overtook those that had committed such outrages against Christ and his apostles, and totally destroyed that generation of impious men.” –Eusebius (History of the Church, p. 111)
-Epiphanius (Heresies 29:7) argues that Revelation was written for the purpose of warning Christians to flee Jerusalem before the coming destruction.