In chapter six of Revelation, we saw the Lamb opening six of the seven seals on the scroll, and with the opening of each of the first four seals, we saw a certain judgment unfold on the earth. In the opening of the fifth seal, we saw the souls of the martyrs crying to the Lord to avenge their blood on those who dwell on the earth; their cry seems to be immediately answered in the opening of the sixth seal, as we get a glimpse of the Lord coming to execute judgment on those “who know not God and do not obey the gospel” (cf 2 Thess 1:7). The chapter ends with this question raised by the ungodly, as they are fleeing God’s wrath, saying: “for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”. Chapter seven answers that question.
Instead of opening the seventh seal, as we would have anticipated to happen in chapter seven, John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, pauses the narrative to show us who it is that will be able to stand on the day of God’s wrath. The chapter opens with a scene of four angels ready to inflict further judgment on the inhabitants of the earth; but they were interrupted by a fifth angel who called out to them to refrain from harming the earth until the servants of God had been sealed on their foreheads. This seal, we are told in 14:1, contains the name of Christ and the Father, and its purpose is to identify and protect the believers from future judgment/wrath. This is an allusion to Ezekiel 9, where the man with the “writing case” was to go through Jerusalem and to put a mark on the foreheads of those who feared the Lord, to protect them from the coming judgment. By the grace of God, we have been washed in the blood of Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption (cf Eph 4:30; 2 Cor 1:22).
In the second scene (v.9), John gets a preview of the church victorious in heaven, made up of a multitude that no man could number from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne in glory; and then proceeds to describe their activity in heaven in verses 9-17, which is very similar to what we read in chapters 21 and 22. This he does to give us a foretaste of what is to come, so that we might rejoice in our trials, knowing that we have a glorious inheritance waiting for us; and one day, we too will stand with the redeemed in heaven and proclaim: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev 7:10).