Where is the tribe of Dan in Rev. 7?

Reggie,

I would love to hear your insight on the reason why the Tribe of Dan is not included in the ‘sealing’ of Israel in Revelation 7:5-8. This has been a question on my heart for some time have concluded various possibilities as to why Dan may be excluded. I suppose it may be something very simple that I am not seeing, but I thought your opinion would help.

Also, I have just been pondering the thought that if Levi is included in the sealing and Dan is excluded, is Levi no longer a tribe separated unto the Lord to be ‘the Priests’ as depicted all throughout the Old Testament? I understand in part that all Israel that is saved will be a corporate priest to the nations, so would that mean that Levi would not need to fill the role of Priest in the Temple in Jerusalem during the Millennial Kingdom?

If my second line of questions is too cryptic then please just focus on the issue of Dan. I believe that insight will help me to answer some of these other questions. Thanks so much and I will continue to pray for Ben Israel in these days.

Peace in Christ,

It is interesting that I would see this after just leaving our meeting this Lord’s day morning where we discussed the heavenly calling and hope. How that even while the patriarchs dwelt in the Land of promise, they did not receive their portion but saw it afar. You’re already wondering “What in the world does this have to do with Rev 7:5-8 Dan, and Levi? Well, I’m coming to that. We were over in the first verses of Ps 107:4-6 and noticing how much they parallel Israel’s past and future experience of wilderness wandering, noticing the faithful pattern and applying this to the believer’s pilgrimage. We reviewed how Abraham looked for a city and concluded that this holy quest saw beyond even the literal fulfillment of millennial hope, and takes us beyond the millennium on to the final unveiling and descent of the heavenly Jerusalem. Thus, the “country” that the fathers were seeking is much more than even that glorious millennial fulfillment which we ‘literalists’ assuredly see as an actual future inheritance of the physical descendants in the Land, according to the literal reading of prophecy.

Then we considered the so-called Psalms of ascent, which were sung during the annual pilgrimages UP to Zion, and noticed how that though David invested the earthly Jerusalem with full prophetic significance in terms of earthly calling and hope, he nonetheless makes certain references that clearly point beyond to a heavenly counterpart (the heavenly pattern). He speaks as though very aware of a ‘heavenly Zion’ that transcends the earthly. All of this is to make point of the fact that we detract nothing from the literal and the concrete historical fulfillment of prophecy by also recognizing a symbolism that transcends the earthly fulfillment that points beyond to the more fixed, more ultimate, perfected, and eternal heavenly reality. So however crucial and indispensable the earthly fulfillment (our incarnational God), this is not the final goal, but a real space/ time index and pointer to the perfected state (“when that which is perfect has come …. then shall we know even as we are known” quite a statement!).

By reviewing the obvious here with you, I’m preparing you for the jarring thought that I don’t believe that the 144,000 is Israel according to the flesh, i.e., not physical Jews (though, of course, there is always a remnant that will be Jewish). This detracts nothing from the conclusion of Paul in Ro 11; nor does it encourage notions of replacement. All Israel (meaning the surviving remnant as the beginning of a nation of real physical ethnic descent that will “all” know him ‘from that day and forward’, Isa 59:21; Jer 31:34; Ezek 39:22), will, of course, yet be saved at the time appointed (Ps 102:13; Dan 11:27, 29, 35; esp. Dan 12:1). Seeing the spiritual and symbolic connotations in the Spirit’s employment of well adapted apocalyptic imagery through His servant John certainly doesn’t compromise my commitment to a thoroughgoing literal futurism where Israel is concerned.

There is a whole theology and logic for what I’m proposing, particularly implicit in the gospel of John and the Revelation (significantly, books by the same earthly author), but I will not go into that now. I’m sure you’re already up on all the speculative views of Dan’s greater propensity towards idolatry, or Hippolytus’ idea that the Antichrist comes out of Dan. None of that satisfies me for a number of theological reasons. But since you mention Levi and Dan in Ezek 40ff., I think this may be a key in support of what I’m suggesting here. You will notice that both Dan and Levi receive their portions and gates; they are not absent in the earthly scene of Ezekiel’s vision of restoration, nor from the glorious city of Revelation that also mentions the twelve tribes; here too we expect that all are accounted for and represented, as in the millennial (post-Day of the Lord) earth of Ezekiel’s vision. So what is this in Rev 7?

Could it be that this is a clue that the sealed remnant represents a heavenly spiritual corporate entity/ or company that anticipates, as first-fruits, not only the literal gathering of Israel at Christ’s return, but the perfection in love of an overcoming church that “loves not its life unto death according to Rev 12? That is, this is the first fruits of covenant fulfillment, not only of millennial Israel, but also, and even more particularly, this is the eschatological forerunners of the glorious church of Christ as it is about to be perfected through the sufferings of the final test (Rev 3:10). These are free from sensual entanglements, as Samson the Danite was not, and these are free from idolatry, as the tribe that was particularly prone to idolatry was not, and these are vigilant and set for the defense of the gospel, not as Dan that was slack and negligent concerning its duty to participate in the defense of their brethren. They were not their brother’s keeper. But these, in complete contrast of the compromised tribe of Dan, are perfect in their love and faithful unto death. Though hunted, persecuted, even killed, paradoxically, not a hair of their head will perish. They are sealed; already ascended far above the access of principalities and powers, because their faith has found an unshakable resting place. I take this in complete keeping with the eschatological birthing of the man-child (Rev 12), a key to which is Paul’s remark concerning the relationship of travail to the “formation of Christ” in his wavering believers. See what I mean? These are those in whom Christ has been formed to such a degree as to manifest Him in the flesh through their faith and love unto death.

Thus, I identify these in Rev 7 and 14 (I see them as the same company) as the result of the woman’s (heavenly Zion’s) travail (Isa 66; Rev 12). So this could be a vanguard prevision and representation of the last great harvest gathered out of “the tribulation, the great one” of Rev 7. These would be that first fruits company that have been processed by revelation and divine dealings (the judgment that begins in the church before it comes to Israel and world?) in preparation for the final witness.

Manifestly, this 144,000 stand on the eve of the last persecution. They are prepared in advance so that not one falls or defects from their course during the time at hand; they are sealed. I don’t believe this sealing means immunity from the wrath of man, or physical death. Quite the contrary; even the two witnesses suffer this. These are those that ‘understand among the people that instruct many, they are the ‘wise’ (not only concerning the fulfillment of end-time events, but most importantly the mystery of the prophetic gospel of Christ; Ro 16:25-26) that turn many to righteousness (Dan 11:32-35; 12:3).

Will many of these be Jewish? I’m certain. Still, that concession to the context of Dan 11 doesn’t’ dissuade me of the thought that not all are Jews. What will be going on among the Jews and messianic believers in the Land will be equally underway throughout the world, and that witness will be conducted by Gentiles as well. This is evident by John’s apocalyptic enlargement on Daniel’s more localized vision. In fact, if we recognize God’s declared strategy concerning the role of Gentile witness to Israel (Ro 11), it would be contradictory if there were not Gentiles of equal attainment that constitute true witness to Israel at that time.

So not being a pre-tribulational in my view of the rapture, I conclude that IF the 144,000 are strictly Jewish believers, then they are only the Jewish part of a much larger remnant. But note that the timing for this purity and perfection is BEFORE the tribulation begins. This view also has its problems. Clearly there is symbolism here that defies complete literalization. The question then is: ‘How much is literal, and how much is symbolic? And what is in fact being signified by the imagery?

Hence, Dan, in complete contrast to Ezek 40ff., is deliberately NOT mentioned precisely to show that the corporate company in view is not to be reckoned after the flesh, just as reference to virginity is not to be taken as literal celibacy, but a spiritual maturity and hence freedom from all compromise and earthly entanglement. I take the sealing to be something that attends the greater liberation from that old enemy of faith called “confidence in the flesh.” That is the power of the veil that will be broken in a powerful way by the Spirit of revelation to that poor and needy company that find themselves at the threshold of the final conflict.

Why then invest this 144,000 with the identity of the twelve tribes if literal Jews are not in view? Because a tremendous crisis of identity existed in the early church as to who counted as the true people of God, and you will remember how difficult it was for the apostles to extricate this question from Jewish claim to natural pedigree. John’s gospel, and Paul’s epistles are particularly occupied with this. “Other sheep have I”, “not this nation only but ….” “Those who SAY they are Jews and are not” etc. How better to comfort the remnant prepared for the last suffering than to identify them as NO LESS the twelve tribes of covenant promise than the yet to be saved Jewish remnant at the conclusion of Jacob’s trouble? Hence, they are not merely the first fruits of God’s covenant promise for earthly Israel, but they are first fruits of God’s goals and intentions for the glorious ‘one new man’, the revealed body of Christ, as this mystery too must be manifest before men and angels, and where better than in the last and greatest tribulation? These are the eunuchs (spiritually speaking) that keep His charge, that love His Sabbath (the essence of the idea), that are completely devoted to His ways, and therefore, as such, will have a place “better than sons and daughters” in His house (Isa 56).

Besides, the natural identity of the tribes have been lost to natural proof for a very important divine reason. Such identification would now have to be by revelation and not be DNA tracking, though some will try to suggest such things, and so the astonishing theories now circulating that makes the revelation of the gospel a DNA kind of thing, and this by the same people that have all kinds of theological difficulty with the concept of election. Go figure. Do I have faith because there is some trace of Israelite DNA in my heredity, or do I have faith because God gave it to me? I think the latter.

Well, there you have it. Ask a speculative question and get a speculative answer, one that I’ve never advanced before. So keep me informed of your findings, and check me in my heresy before I go too far. I hope always to be checked, corrected, and covered, by staying closely in touch with the Lord as He has most strategically distributed His supply to me “through” the frailty of His body. It is an astonishing paradox of feebleness and yet power, supply, and provision. That’s where the safety is; by staying dependent on the Lord in what appears the most undependable place of all, namely, among that feeble folk that He calls His body, especially those most likely to be overlooked or lightly discounted by the presumptions of faulty human estimation.

Yours in the Beloved, Reggie

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