Meditation Mondays: Revelation 7:1-8: The Sealed 144,000
7 After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree. 2 Then 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 granted to harm the earth and the sea, 3 saying, “Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” 4 And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed:
5 of the tribe of Judah twelve thousand were sealed;
of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand were sealed;
of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand were sealed;
6 of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand were sealed;
of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand were sealed;
of the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand were sealed;
7 of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand were sealed;
of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand were sealed;
of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand were sealed;
8 of the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand were sealed;
of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand were sealed;
of the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand were sealed.
5 Angels. Four of which stand on the four corners of the earth, one which gives instructions. The number 144,000 sealed as 'servants of God' and we have the 12 tribes of Israel minus Dan (with Joseph included) and ordered differently than they appear elsewhere in Scripture.
This section is often referred to as a 'gracious interlude' between the opening of the seals. This interlude, or break in the opening of the seals does seem to fit nicely with the pause in military operations that the historian and eyewitness, Josephus describes in his accounting of this cosmic event (Jewish Wars, 4.9.2; 4.11.5). But this interlude also harmonizes with other parts of Scripture like Luke 21:20-24 when Jesus speaks of the destruction of the Temple:
20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. 22 For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. 23 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. 24 And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. (NKJV)
So, it seems that what John is seeing is 4 angels holding back the rage of this war, so that those Israelites who became Christians could escape and be persevered. There is no reason to take the sealing on the forehead (which is language borrowed from Ezekiel 9:4) as literal nor the number 144,000 (which is 12 (tribes of Israel) squared X 1000). The bottom line is in the midst of the Jewish Wars which led to the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, God spared His people just as Jesus spoke about in Luke 21.
Just as God physically preserved His people from perishing in the Jewish Wars so will He spiritually preserve all His elect from eternal damnation.