Chapters 2 and 3 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 16 | 17
Chapter 7: The spread of Christianity
A period of peace followed Constantine's rise to power. A series of strong emperors helped preserve economic and political stability, and the threat of the "barbarian" peoples was temporarily put under control. The Emperor Julian, for example, a famous follower of the ancient religion, did a great job driving the invaders out of Gaul.
7:1 And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.
This is what the Empire looked like in 330, during the reign of Constantine, enjoying its last peaceful moments:
During this time of relative peace and prosperity, the followers of Christianity, the religion that had come from the East, were greatly multiplied. A vast number of people received the "seal of the living God", giving up their old faith.
7:2 And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea,
7:3 Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
The number of Christians can be symbolically said to be 144,000, which is 12 times 12 times 1000, which is explained as the 12 Apostles (the Rocks upon which the Church is built), in a way "multiplying" themselves (12 times 12) through the spread of the Teaching, producing a large number of believers ("times 1000").
7:4 And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So the sacrifice of the multitudes slain during the great persecutions was not in vain.
7:9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;
7:10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
And all the heavenly powers seem to be thankful for that.
7:11 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,
7:12 Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
One of the "elders" of John's vision confirms that this multitude comprises those sacrificed during the persecutions.
7:13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?
7:14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
From now on, Christianity would reign without interruption in a large part of Europe, and, later on, of the whole world. The sacrifice of the generation of martyrs had made it possible that their descendants be guided by the light of the Christian, and not the ancient, religion. In the future, however, the Dark Ages lay ahead, characterized by spiritual darkness and perversion of religion. But this chapter deals with the hopes of this generation for a better future. And, with patience and faith, the darkness of the next centuries would eventually go away, and the Gospel, for which this generation had martyred, would triumph.
7:15 Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.
7:16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.
7:17 For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.