Revelation 7


Chapter 7 describes two distinct groups. First are the 144,000 (v. 1-8); second are those whose robes have been made white in the blood of the Lamb (9-17). Both are righteous. Both are exalted. Both enjoy the blessings of the Millennial reign of Christ. But the first group is sealed up unto eternal life, meaning their calling and election has been made sure.
Some students of the gospel have privately wondered if receiving one's calling and election in mortality was prerequisite for exaltation. However, this scripture teaches us that the vast majority of exalted saints will not have been sealed up unto eternal life during their mortal lives. Rather, they join the group "arrayed in white robes...[having] made them white in the blood of the Lamb." (v. 13-14) The promises made to this second group exceed mortal comprehension-they are the blessings of the exalted.
Spencer W. Kimball
It would seem that these people had not always been perfect. They had had soiled robes and many weaknesses, but had now overcome and had washed the soiled raiment in the blood of the Lamb. They were now clean and purified, as is indicated in the blessings promised. (The Miracle of Forgiveness [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969], chapter 22)

Rev. 7:1 four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds

The earth doesn't have corners, nor can mortals grab hold of the wind. This language is expressive and symbolic of the mission of these angels to gather the elect from the ends of the earth. The winds of destruction must be held at bay until this can be accomplished. "Such winds brought drought, heat, insect plagues, and desolation. The mention of sun and withering heat in verse sixteen suggests that John had in mind the sirocco, a scorching wind that burnt up vegetation and left the land dust dry. Biblical people viewed such winds as displays of divine wrath (cf. Hosea 3:5; Rev. 16:9, "great heat" being from a scorching wind). In this light, the angels play the role of divine executioners with power to destroy the whole earth... These angels have, as it were, two faces. They are not only destroying angels, but saving angels as well. What makes the difference is how men respond to the message they dispense." (Richard D. Draper, Opening the Seven Seals: The Visions of John the Revelator [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1991], 77.)
And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matt. 24: 31)
Yea, verily I say unto you again, the time has come when the voice of the Lord is unto you: Go ye out of Babylon; gather ye out from among the nations, from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (D&C 133:7)
Q. What are we to understand by the four angels, spoken of in the 7th chapter and 1st verse of Revelation?
A. We are to understand that they are four angels sent forth from God, to whom is given power over the four parts of the earth, to save life and to destroy; these are they who have the everlasting gospel to commit to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people; having power to shut up the heavens, to seal up unto life, or to cast down to the regions of darkness.
(D&C 77:1)
Section 133 of the Doctrine and Covenants teaches the same principles as contained in Revelation 7 but with language which is easier to understand. Consider the D&C version of this same doctrine.
...Go ye out of Babylon; gather ye out from among the nations, from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Send forth the elders of my church unto the nations which are afar off; unto the islands of the sea; send forth unto foreign lands; call upon all nations, first upon the Gentiles, and then upon the Jews.
And behold, and lo, this shall be their cry, and the voice of the Lord unto all people: Go ye forth unto the land of Zion, that the borders of my people may be enlarged, and that her stakes may be strengthened, and that Zion may go forth unto the regions round about.
Yea, let the cry go forth among all people... Hearken and hear, O ye inhabitants of the earth. Listen, ye elders of my church together, and hear the voice of the Lord; for he calleth upon all men, and he commandeth all men everywhere to repent.
For behold, the Lord God hath sent forth the angel crying through the midst of heaven, saying: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight, for the hour of his coming is nigh-
When the Lamb shall stand upon Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand, having his Father's name written on their foreheads.
Wherefore, prepare ye for the coming of the Bridegroom; go ye, go ye out to meet him. (D&C 133:7-19)
Wilford Woodruff
I think, many times, that we, as Elders of Israel and as Latter-day Saints, come far short of realizing our position before the Lord. The work required at our hands is great and mighty; it is the work of Almighty God. We are held responsible for presenting the Gospel of Christ to all the nations of the earth, to warn the Gentiles, to prepare for the return of the lost ten tribes of Israel, and for carrying the Gospel to the whole tribes of Israel. We are held responsible for all this, and for building Temples to the Most High, wherein we can enter and attend to ordinances for the salvation of our dead. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 18: 114 - 115.)

Rev. 7:2 I saw another angel ascending from the east

Q. What are we to understand by the angel ascending from the east, Revelation 7th chapter and 2nd verse?
A. We are to understand that the angel ascending from the east is he to whom is given the seal of the living God over the twelve tribes of Israel; wherefore, he crieth unto the four angels having the everlasting gospel, saying: Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. And, if you will receive it, this is Elias which was to come to gather together the tribes of Israel and restore all things.
(D&C 77:9)
Do we know who this angel is? The prophet said he is Elias, but the doctrine of Elias can be quite confusing. The Bible Dictionary states: "the word Elias has many applications and has been placed upon many persons as a title pertaining to both preparatory and restorative functions." The prototypical preparatory Elias was John the Baptist, but there are many Eliases. Similarly, the prototypical restorative Elias is the one referred to in this verse, but there are many others. The Lord said this Elias was a prophet, "to whom I have committed the keys of bringing to pass the restoration of all things spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began." (D&C 27:6) Who then is this Elias who was to "come to gather together the tribes of Israel and restore all things"? (D&C 77:9)
Bruce R. Mcconkie stated, "the Elias who was to restore all things is the angel Gabriel who was known in mortality as Noah." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3: 492.) President Joseph Fielding Smith taught, "This is the same Elias who held the keys of the dispensation of Abraham and who came to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, April 3, 1836, in the Kirtland Temple and restored the keys of Abraham's dispensation." (Answers to Gospel Questions, 3:139-40).
Joseph Smith
The Priesthood was first given to Adam...Then to Noah, who is Gabriel: he stands next in authority to Adam in the Priesthood; he was called of God to this office, and was the father of all living in this day, and to him was given the dominion. These men held keys first on earth, and then in heaven. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 157)

Rev. 7:3 Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads

The four angels under the direction of Elias have been given a specific priesthood assignment. They have the power to send the wicked to hell, and they have power to seal the saints up unto eternal life through the priesthood. Before they can send the wicked "down to the regions of darkness," the righteous must first be sealed up. A priesthood leader who has had his calling and election made sure has been sealed up unto eternal life. This is the significance of being sealed "in their foreheads." Elder McConkie wrote, "Since these sealing blessings are conferred by the laying on of hands of those who hold the keys of this power, it follows that John's description of placing a seal in the forehead is not just apocalyptic imagery but a literal description of what takes place." (Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966], 683.) A specified number of these brethren must be sealed up unto eternal life prior to the Second Coming.
Joseph Smith
Four destroying angels holding power over the four quarters of the earth until the servants of God are sealed in their foreheads, which signifies sealing the blessing upon their heads, meaning the everlasting covenant, thereby making their calling and election sure. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976], 321.)
Bruce R. McConkie
Some of this sealing has already occurred-a few of Ephraim and a sprinkling of Manasseh have been sealed up unto eternal life; but the great day of fulfillment, where all Israel is concerned, lies ahead. And again, be it noted, there is more to the labors of Elias of the Restoration than the works of one angel only. (The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982], 105.)

Rev. 7:4 there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand

Q. What time are the things spoken of in this chapter to be accomplished?
A. They are to be accomplished in the sixth thousand years, or the opening of the sixth seal.
Q. What are we to understand by sealing the one hundred and forty-four thousand, out of all the tribes of Israel-twelve thousand out of every tribe?
A. We are to understand that those who are sealed are high priests, ordained unto the holy order of God, to administer the everlasting gospel; for they are they who are ordained out of every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, by the angels to whom is given power over the nations of the earth, to bring as many as will come to the church of the Firstborn.
(D&C 77:10-11)
Gerald N. Lund
President Joseph Fielding Smith spoke of these high priests and the privilege it would be to be included in that group.
This certainly is a great honor to be one of the 144 thousand who are specially called by the power of "the angels to whom is given power over the nations of the earth" to bring souls unto Christ. John the Apostle, had the great desire to bring souls to Christ. The Three Nephite Disciples likewise sought this great honor and it was granted to them. It is one of the noblest desires that a man can have. It will be a wonderful blessing to those who are called in this great group.
It is difficult to say when the actual calling of these men will take place. Some prophets have spoken as though it would be after the return of the ten tribes. But whether it would happen before, after, or during the Council of Adam-ondi-Ahman is not clear. Joseph Smith once indicated to some holders of the priesthood that the selection for that group of high priest-missionaries had already commenced even then.
I attended prayer-meeting with the quorum in the assembly room, and made some remarks respecting the hundred and forty-four thousand mentioned by John the Revelator, showing that the selection of persons to form that number had already commenced.
(Gerald N. Lund, The Coming of the Lord [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1971], 174.)
Orson Pratt
The ten tribes will have to come forth and come to this land, to be crowned with glory in the midst of Zion by the hands of the servants of God, even the Children of Ephraim; and twelve thousand High Priests will be [selected] from each of these ten tribes, as well as from the scattered tribes, and sealed in their foreheads, and will be ordained and receive power to gather out of all nations, kindreds, tongues and people as many as will come unto the general assemblage of the Church of the Firstborn. Will not that be a great work? Imagine one hundred and forty-four thousand High Priests going forth among the nations, and gathering out as many as will come to the Church of the Firstborn... The work is of great magnitude, Latter-day Saints, and we are living almost upon the eve of it. Six thousand years have nearly gone by, the world is getting aged, and Satan has accomplished almost all that the Lord intends that he shall accomplish, before the day of rest. With a work of such magnitude before them, the Latter-day Saints should be wide awake, and should not have their minds engaged in those fooleries in which many indulge at the present time. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 16: 326.)

Rev. 7:5-8 Twelve thousand of each tribe

The list we read in Revelation 7 omits the tribe of Dan. The Bible Dictionary states, "The reason for the omission of the tribe of Dan in John's list in Rev. 7:5-7 is not known." The other confounding thing about this list is that Ephraim is not specifically listed. Rather, Joseph and Manasseh are listed instead. The twelve thousand of the tribe of Joseph would probably be from the tribe of Ephraim, but we do not know why John listed them this way.

Rev. 7:5 Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand

Can we imagine 12,000 men, holding the priesthood, descending from Judah, who have been sealed up unto eternal life by having their calling and election made sure? Right now it is hard to imagine that there are 12,000 priesthood holders in the entire church which are of the tribe of Judah! What does this say about the timing of the Lord's coming? Joseph Smith was told that the things described in this chapter were to occur during the sixth thousand years. (D&C 77:10) That includes the sealing of 12,000 men from the tribe of Judah, and from the other tribes for that matter. From our current knowledge of the Lord's dealing with his children, this would seem to be something that will take quite a while to accomplish.
Most likely, the ten tribes must first return from the land of the North. Then they will receive the temple blessings required. Section 133 tells us that the temple ordinances administered on behalf of the returned 10 tribes in the New Jerusalem corresponds to the sanctification of the tribe of Judah in the Old Jerusalem.
And they who are in the north countries (the ten tribes) shall come in remembrance before the Lord...
And they shall bring forth their rich treasures unto the children of Ephraim, my servants.
And the boundaries of the everlasting hills shall tremble at their presence.
And there shall they fall down and be crowned with glory, even in Zion, by the hands of the servants of the Lord, even the children of Ephraim.
And they shall be filled with songs of everlasting joy.
Behold, this is the blessing of the everlasting God upon the tribes of Israel, and the richer blessing upon the head of Ephraim and his fellows.
And they also of the tribe of Judah, after their pain, shall be sanctified in holiness before the Lord, to dwell in his presence day and night, forever and ever. (D&C 133:26-35)

Rev. 7:9 I beheld... a great multitude, which no man could number

Bruce R. McConkie
How many people by actual number shall be saved and exalted in the heavenly Jerusalem? Though the gate is strait and the way narrow and though comparatively few of earth's present inhabitants shall be so rewarded, yet the total number who actually do so obtain shall be large beyond comprehension. John speaks in one place of "ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands," which is a hundred million, plus unspecified millions (Rev. 5:11), and in another of "a great multitude, which no man could number." (Rev. 7:9.) It should be remembered that this host shall include the millions of children who have died before they arrived at the years of accountability as well as the unnumbered hosts who pass through their mortal probation in that millennial day when "children shall grow up without sin unto salvation." (D. & C. 45:58.) (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 3: 231.)

Rev. 7:9 clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands

The apocryphal writings of Enoch describe how he received his white robe of righteousness:
Out of the love which he had for me, more than for all the denizens of the heights, the Holy One, blessed be he, fashioned for me a majestic robe, in which all kinds of luminaries were set, and he clothed me in it. He fashioned for me a glorious cloak in which brightness, brilliance, splendor, and luster of every kind were fixed, and he wrapped me in it. He fashioned for me a kingly crown in which 49 refulgent stones were placed each like the sun's orb, and its brilliance shone into the four quarters of the heaven. (Donald W. Parry, ed., Temples of the Ancient World: Ritual and Symbolism [Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book Co., Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1994], 718 - 719.)
Thankful to the Lord for his goodness, these sanctified saints hold palms in their hands. The palm leaf symbolizes joy, peace, and triumph. As when used at Christ's triumphal entry, the adoring throng acknowledges the great triumph of the Master, for it is through his merits that they are glorified; it is through his blood that their robes are white.
Jeffrey R. Holland
Purity-through the blood of the Lamb. That is what this book pleads for, and that is what I pray we will strive to achieve. Such is God's covenant. Such is Christ's mission. Such is our privilege and our duty and our unmerited opportunity. May we one day greet each other, clothed in robes of righteousness, whiter and brighter than the noonday sun, there at the pleasing bar of the Great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both the quick and the dead. ("For a Wise Purpose," Ensign, Jan. 1996, 19)

Rev. 7:13 what are these which are arrayed in white robes?

Gordon B. Hinckley
The house of the Lord is a house of purity. Those who serve therein dress in spotless white. They participate in sacred ordinances. They are instructed in the eternal plan of the Lord. They make covenants enjoining personal morality and rectitude, unselfishness and service. Their activities are anticipatory of that scene described by John the Revelator:
What are these which are arrayed in white robes? ...
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.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.
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. (Rev. 7:13, 15-17.)
("Rejoice in This Great Era of Temple Building," Ensign, Nov. 1985, 59-60)
Gordon B. Hinckley
Those who come to these holy houses are arrayed in white as they participate therein. They come only on recommendation of their local ecclesiastical authorities, having been certified as to their worthiness. They are expected to come clean in thought, clean in body, and clean in dress to enter the temple of God. As they enter they are expected to leave the world behind them and concentrate on things divine.
This very exercise, if such it may be called, carries with it a reward of its own, for who in these times of stress would not welcome an occasional opportunity to shut out the world and enter into the Lord's house, there to ponder quietly the eternal things of God? These sacred precincts offer the opportunity, available nowhere else, to learn of and reflect on the truly meaningful things of life-our relationship to deity and our eternal journey from a preexistent state through this life and on to a future estate where we shall know and associate one with another, including our own loved ones and our forebears who have preceded us and from whom has come our inheritance of things of the body, mind, and spirit. ("Why These Temples?" Ensign, Aug. 1974, 40-41)

Rev. 7:14 These... came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white

Spencer W. Kimball
It would seem that these people had not always been perfect. They had had soiled robes and many weaknesses, but had now overcome and had washed the soiled raiment in the blood of the Lamb. They were now clean and purified, as is indicated in the blessings promised. (The Miracle of Forgiveness [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969], chapter 22)
Charles W. Nibley
This is not an easy religion. "Blessed and holy are they who come up out of much tribulation." Don't forget that. And they did not do it themselves; the honor and glory of it was not to themselves, but they had washed their robes white in the blood of the Lamb. He was their Savior. He it was they had held to, as to the iron rod; and it was through the trouble and trial, the sweat, and experience in every form that they gained knowledge, and added line upon line and precept upon precept. Every day and every year they so lived that they became molded a little more into the likeness of the Son of God Himself. (Conference Report, April 1914, Afternoon Session. 120 - 121.)

Rev. 7:16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more

Matthias F. Cowley
Nothing could be more literal, more tangible, more real than this; nothing more just. The righteous were to come forth and enjoy a thousand years of absolute peace and freedom from the tribulations heaped upon them by the wicked, untrammeled with trials brought upon them by Lucifer; free from sickness, sin and sorrow; living in the personal presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, in full enjoyment of the earth in all its paradisiacal glory. (Cowley's Talks on Doctrine [Chattanooga: Ben. E. Rich, 1902], 173.)

Rev. 7:17 God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes

Joseph Smith
Some of our beloved brethren, have had to seal their testimony with their blood; and have died martyrs to the cause of truth; yet,
Short, though bitter was their pain,
Everlasting is their joy.
Let us not sorrow as "those without hope," the time is fast approaching, when we shall see them again, and rejoice together, without being afraid of wicked men: Yes, those who have slept in Christ, shall he bring with him, when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and admired by all those who believe: but to take vengeance upon his enemies, and all those who obey not the gospel. At that time, the hearts of the widow and fatherless shall be comforted, and every tear shall be wiped from of their faces.
The trials they have had to pass through, shall work together for their good, and prepare them for the society of those, who have come up out of great tribulation; and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, compiled and edited by Dean C. Jessee [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1984], 444-445)
Ezra Taft Benson
There are times when you simply have to righteously hang on and outlast the devil until his depressive spirit leaves you. As the Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith: "Thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; "And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high." (D&C 121:7-8.)
Pressing on in noble endeavors, even while surrounded by a cloud of depression, will eventually bring you out on top into the sunshine. Even our master Jesus the Christ, while facing that supreme test of being temporarily left alone by our Father during the crucifixion, continued performing his labors for the children of men, and then shortly thereafter he was glorified and received a fulness of joy. While you are going through your trial, you can recall your past victories and count the blessings that you do have with a sure hope of greater ones to follow if you are faithful. And you can have that certain knowledge that in due time God will wipe away all tears and that "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." (1 Cor. 2:9.) ("Do Not Despair," Ensign, Oct. 1986, 5)