In today’s passage we see the use of a few important numbers. The number four seems to represent the created universe (e.g. four corners of the earth and four winds of the earth). The number 12 was the number of tribes in Israel and the number of Jesus’ disciples. This number may represent Israel, the church, or God’s redeemed people from both the Old and New Testaments. A number multiplied by 10s, such as 144,000 (12x12x10x10x10), suggests an indefinite but very large figure. In the reading it says that the 144,000 people are from the tribes of Israel, but some believe that they represent God’s people in general or the Church.
In verse 14 there appears the term “great tribulation.” A note in The NIV Student Bible says,
Bible interpreters have proposed many theories to explain “the great tribulation,” a time of great persecution for Christians. Some believe it will occur in the future, around the time of Christ’s return. Others believe John was referring to persecutions against the church occurring in his own day. Regardless, John stresses the overarching promise that the time of tribulation does not last forever. One day the faithful will no longer hunger or thirst and will never again have reason to cry (verses 16-17).One of the main themes of this book is the victory of Jesus over the forces of evil. How does the second half of this chapter make you feel about following Jesus? Does the end result make a great tribulation worth it for you? Verses 16 and 17 are good ones to memorize for times of hardship or persecution.
-Written for Verve by Mike Zimmerman