Rob Dalrymple, «These Are the Ones», Vol. 86 (2005) 396-406
The thematic features relating to John’s depiction of the righteous in the
intercalations of Rev 11,3-13 and 7,1-17 as well as how these features might
affect our understanding of Revelation 7,1-17 are examined. Four foci pertaining
to the righteous are explicitly present in the account of the Two Witnesses (11,3-
13). All four foci, also, materialize in the description of the 144,000 (7,1-8) and
the Great Multitude (7,9-17). However, when we examine Rev 7,1-8, we find that
John only incorporates the first two of the four foci (Divine Protection and
Witnesses) while in the account of 7,9-17, only the latter two appear (Enduring
Persecution and Vindication of the Righteous). If, however, we read Rev 7,1-17
as the account of one group, then the thematic parallels with the intercalation of
Rev 11,3-13 are retained.
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402 Rob Dalrymple
least, the ascent of the witnesses figuratively affirms a final, decisive
deliverance and vindication of Godâ€™s people at the end of time (36).
The resurrection of the Two Witnesses in the presence of their enemies
likely serves as an explicit indication of their vindication. Ladd affirms that it
serves as a â€œsign to those whom they had been witnesses that they were truly
prophetsâ€ (37). The righteous are encouraged that though the wicked appear to
inflict the righteous with suffering, which brings them great joy (11,10), it is
the righteous that eventually reap the eternal inheritance.
3. 7,1-17 The 144,000, the Great Multitude, and the Four Foci
Of the four foci, the presence of the provision of divine protection for the
righteousâ€”the first focusâ€”necessitates little defense. Less clarity is present
in the secondâ€”that the righteous function in the capacity of witnesses. The
third focus, that of their enduring persecution, is relatively obscure, though
most scholars suggest the â€œgreat multitudeâ€ (7,9) represents the martyrs (38). In
regards to the fourth focus, the latter half of this chapter proclaims their
vindication as indicated by their presence in heaven (7,9-17), though this
interpretation is fraught with difficulties. That this passage lacks the clarity in
each of the four foci, compared, for example, with the Two Witnesses in
chapter 11, may result from the Apocalypseâ€™s tendency to recapitulate certain
events/features with the latter accounts providing details (39).
a) Focus #1: Divine Protection
Though the sealing of the 144,000 from each of the tribes of Israel has
fostered a great number of interpretations, our primary concern â€” in
accordance with our first focus â€” is that they are righteous persons, which
virtually all affirm, that are afforded divine protection (40). That God protects
the 144,000 derives from the stated purpose of their being sealed. Namely,
according to 7,3, the righteous are afforded protection from the plagues of
(36) BEALE, Revelation, 596-97.
(37) LADD, Revelation, 159.
(38) E.g., BEASLEY-MURRAY, Revelation, 145; W. HENDRIKSEN, â€œMore Than
Conquerorsâ€ (Ph.D. diss., Pikeâ€™s Peak Bible Seminary 1939) 134-35; R.W. WALL,
Revelation (New International Biblical Commentary; Peabody, MA 1991), 117. Though
Mounce suggests that â€œThe arguments for identifying the 144,000 with a select group of
martyrs, however, is far from conclusive (R.H. MOUNCE, Revelation [NICNT; Grand
Rapids 1998] 159).
(39) For example, one may examine the depth of chapters 12-14 in recapitulating the
events of chapter 11. Bauckham suggests that â€œWe can begin to see that what chapters 12-
14 add to the account in 11,3-13 is primarily a much fuller exposition of the conflict
between the forces of evil and the witnessing church, to which 11,7 briefly alludesâ€. 285.
See discussion below.
(40) Determining the nature of the protection exceeds our interests as well. Essentially,
commentators view this protection (and in chapter 11): spiritually (BEALE, Revelation, 409-
410; HUGHES, Revelation, 93-94); protection from demons (R.H. CHARLES, A Critical and
Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John with Introduction, Notes and Indices
[ICC; Edinburgh 1963] 269); or, as some form of physical protection (MOUNCE, Revelation,
218-19; WALVOORD, Revelation, 140; H. LINDSAY, Thereâ€™s a New World Coming [New
York 1975] 107-08). On the other hand, G.B. Caird claims that it is â€œambiguous, since it
does not protect them from deathâ€ (Revelation, 97).