The Book of Revelation with commentary by Dr. Henry M. Morris and paintings by Ramona Lowe
The paintings are a work in progress and the finished pieces are highlighted in red on Page 2

Page 54

The Witnesses

Revelation 7:5.     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.

     As the tribes are enumerated, twelve thousand sealed per tribe, John records the names of each tribe and the order in which they were sealed.  Although Reuben was the oldest son of Israel, Judah is named first.  The reason is discussed in 1 Chronicles 5:1, 2.  “. . . Reuben the firstborn of Israel (for he was the firstborn; but, forasmuch as he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel: and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright.  For Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler; but the birthright was Joseph’s:) . . .”

     To Judah, the fourth son of Jacob, was given the “sceptre” (Genesis 49:10), and “it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda” (Hebrews 7:14).  The twelve apostles, each of whom will judge one of the tribes of Israel, were all themselves from Judah’s tribe, so far as known.  It is appropriate, therefore, that the 12,000 Judahites would be the first sealed, with Reuben second.  Why Gad (the seventh son of Jacob, and the firstborn of his concubine Zilpah) is mentioned third is not known.  Jacob’s prophecy concerning him was that “he shall overcome at the last” (Genesis 49:19).

Revelation 7:6.     Of the tribe of Aser were sealed twelve thousand.  Of the tribe of Nephthalim were sealed twelve thousand.  Of the tribe of Manasses were sealed twelve thousand.

     Asher and Naphtali were the eighth and sixth sons of Jacob.  Manasseh was the first son of Joseph, Jacob’s eleventh son.  They were respectively the sons of Zilpah, Bilhah, and grandson of Rachel.  Again there is no obvious reason for the order of enumeration.  Perhaps it is this order in which the respective tribes will be gathered to the land of Israel in the last days to receive the sealing.

     Neither does there seem a clear reason for the full repetition of the statement about the sealing of each tribe.  It would seem one or two verses might have sufficed to give all the same information.  Nevertheless, God does nothing without reason, nor would John have recorded this detailed enumeration unless he considered it significant.  Evidently it is important that everyone know, beyond any question, that every single tribe of Israel has been preserved by God through the ages and that He also knows to which tribe each modern Israelite belongs (as reckoned, no doubt, by the male genealogy throughout the generations), even though the individuals themselves do not know.

     It is noteworthy that the twelve tribes of Israel are formally listed many times in Scripture (almost thirty, in fact) and the order of enumeration is different in almost every case.  If nothing else, this tells us that – except for Judah – the order is irrelevant.  They are all equally important in the sight of God.

Revelation 7:7.     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.

     Simon and Levi, Jacob’s second and third sons, are frequently listed together.  However, Levi was the priestly tribe and had no geographical region originally assigned to his descendants in the promised land.  As priests and Levites, they were given particular cities in all of the various tribal areas.  As the spiritual leaders of Israel throughout the centuries, it would be expected and appropriate that they would be included among those sealed for this special service.

     On the other hand, none from the tribe of Dan are listed at all, the inference perhaps being that none of the latter-day Danites were available or ready for this ministry.  That the tribe of Dan has been preserved, however, is evident from the fact that it is listed as the very first in the division of the lands in the millennial kingdom (Ezekiel 48:1).  Dan was the first tribe to lapse into idolatry in the promised land (Judges 18:30, 31), and this pagan inheritance is evidently still manifest even in the hundredth generation (note the warning in Deuteronomy 29:18-21).  There will come the time, however, when even Dan will be converted.  “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Romans 11:26).

Revelation 7:8.     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. 

     Benjamin, the youngest of Jacob’s sons, is listed last, as Judah was the first.  Judah and Benjamin had been the two tribes left in the kingdom of Judah after the ten tribes separated to form the northern kingdom, Israel, in the days of Rehoboam and Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:16-24).  The northern kingdom was often called Ephraim, the latter tribe having become dominant among the ten tribes in Israel.  Ephraim, however, was the son of Joseph, as was Manasseh, Joseph having been granted the double inheritance forfeited by Reuben.  Thus Ephraim and Manasseh had traditionally each been recognized as one of the twelve tribes, with Levi not considered as one of the twelve.  In this enumeration, however, Ephraim is called Joseph, probably to stress the fact that all twelve tribes are united again.  In the millennial geographical division (Ezekiel 48:1-29), all thirteen (including Levi, Dan, Ephraim, and Manasseh) will have a portion.  At the last, however, the final recognition (that is, the names on the gates of Jerusalem) will be of the twelve original tribes, the actual twelve sons of Jacob (Ezekiel 48:31-35) and presumably this will be the case in the eternal new Jerusalem as well (Revelation 21:12).

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