So what we have seen so far, is that the 144,000 which were sealed were all from the tribes of Israel — these were not Gentiles which were sealed, and neither were they only Jews, because we saw that the Jews are primarily descended from Judah and Benjamin (the Southern Kingdom), which only comprise 24,000 of those who were sealed.
Then after the 144,000 of Israel were sealed:
“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” Revelation 7:9-10
So we begin with the 12 tribes of Israel, and we end with every tribe, nation and tongue on the earth; we begin with numbers which can be counted, 144,000, and we end with a great multitude which no one could count.
This is what I am wondering that this chapter of Scripture is telling us: that 12,000 men from each tribe of Israel had believed in Jesus the Messiah and were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise way back in the time of Constantine and the Christian emperors of Rome (for that is when this passage falls, between the rise of Constantine described in chapter 6, and the barbarian invasions which bring about the fall of Rome, described in chapter 8). Then the Lord God scattered those 144,000 like seed. They and their descendants grew, bore fruit, and multiplied, and eventually spread to every nation, tribe, and tongue on the face of the earth. So much so that the next thing John sees is a vast multitude beyond counting, worshiping the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the Lamb before the throne.
Now I am not saying that those who are before the throne are only those who are physically descended from Abraham, although the author of this book about modern genetics and human history, says (on page 114) that “In fact, everyone on earth is by now a descendant of Abraham.” And who knows but that was God’s intent when He first blessed Abraham and promised him a countless multitude of descendants?
But those initial 144,000 became the missionaries, maybe even unwitting, to the rest of the world, and those Gentiles who joined themselves to Abraham’s God became as one who is native- born, in God’s eyes — they were grafted in. The fruit that the seed of the 144,000 bore includes those who became the Lord’s through their testimony, even if their testimony reaches them by way of a hundred changed lives and a dozen or so generations.
As to why the sealing did not take place right away after Jesus was raised from the dead, and why it had to wait until the reign of Constantine and the Christian emperors who followed him — well, the only tribes who at first knew about Jesus the Messiah were Judah and Benjamin, the Jews. Sufficient time had to elapse for the witness of the 12 apostles to reach the scattered tribes of Israel, including those of the 10 tribes who were dispersed by Assyria some 700 years before the birth of Jesus Christ.
If true, the brilliance of God’s plan is truly marvelous: He chose 12 disciples to invest His life into. Then last of all, He chose a 13th apostle, Paul, who calls himself the apostle to the Gentiles, I assume in contrast to the other 12, who were apostles to the 12 tribes? Then as a result of those 12 (and also Paul), 12,000 from each tribe were sealed. And as a result of those 144,000, a countless multitude from every nation and tongue will be before the throne of God and the Lamb, crying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
To be continued …
Update: continued in Revelation 11: the trumpet judgment interval