We saw that the opening of the sixth seal in chapter 6 refers to the overthrow of the old Pagan religions of pagan Rome. The seventh seal is not opened until chapter 8, verse 1.
All the symbolism of chapter 7 is therefore under the sixth seal. At the end of the 3rd century Paganism was dominant, persecuting, seeking to “abolish the Christian name.” But by the end of the 4th century the civilized world had become Christian.
Four angels (v.1) standing on the four ‘corners’ of the earth holding back ‘four winds’ that it ‘should not blow on the earth’. These winds symbolise four destructive agencies were restrained by the Holy Spirit until the Holy Spirit’s work of the spreading the gospel was accomplished, by taking advantage of this opportunity.
The same type of language is used in 2 Thessalonians 6,7 but there in application to the rise of the antiChrist. “The mystery of iniquity does already work: only He [the Holy Spirit] who now lets [meaning restrains] will let [restrain], until He be taken out of the way.” (2 Thessalonians 7] Thus what we read in verse 1 means that the Holy Spirit held back the pagan forces from utterly destroying the fledgling early Church, so that she had time to grow before any future persecutions. Historically it was from this 4th century church that we find the seed of all true believing churches that followed, and spread throughout the world.
Another angel (v.2) calls them to not hurt the earth or sea (v.3), representing the unbelievers until the ‘servants of God’ the believers are sealed or chosen. These are not some End-time army that some teach, but the 144,000 (v.4) seems to be symbolic of the Messianic (Jewish) believers at that time (v.4-8), and ‘a great multitude’ ‘of all nations’ is symbolic of the non-Jewish (or Gentile) Christians (v.9) as the Church had moved into and gotten established in the Gentile world. The great multitude (v.9) out of all nations, peoples and language groups stood before the Lamb in ‘white robes’, which is symbolic of triumphant and saved. These are they that overcame during the persecutions. The ‘palms’ in their hands indicate they are victors. Only by God can we obtain salvation (v.10).
The same 24 elders and the 4 beasts (living creatures) that were seen previously in chapters 4 and 5 are mentioned, which tells us this is in God’s throne room (v.11,12)
Those who lost their lives in persecution for the testimony of Christ (v.13-17) and they are rewarded with eternal life in heaven with the Lamb of God, the living fountain of life. They ‘came out of great tribulation’ meaning where the Spirit of God had held back these Barbarian hordes from the North there was a time of relative peace for Christianity to get established. The pagan Barbarians then moved into the collapsing Roman Empire bringing many pagan elements into the church, and what followed over several centuries was the rise to power of papal Rome.
The great tribulation (v.14) signifies the persecution the early Church suffered under the Roman Empire from the time of Christ for about 3 centuries until its eventual collapse under the weight of the Barbarians from the North. By the 4th century many were Gentile believers. All believers who died were saved by their trust in the blood of Christ (v.14), who paid their debt to God on the Cross. Note, ‘robes made white by the blood’ means that it was not by love but by Christ’s precious blood the debt was paid.