“Then one of the elders asked me, ‘These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?’ I answered, ‘Sir, you know.’ And he said, ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’ (Revelation 7:13-14, NIV).
The opening of the seven-sealed scroll in Revelation Chapter 6-8 is the beginning of the end of the world as we know it! As each seal is opened, the scroll is unrolled a little more, revealing the series of judgments God has in store.
Revelation 7 is an interlude in the events taking place. This interruption in the apocalyptic events is to explain God’s program of grace and salvation during the coming tribulation. The “pause” may occur before the opening of the seals or after the first six seals have already run their course and before the seventh seal is opened. Either interpretation is consistent with the apocalypse as God’s final altar call.
The winds in 7:1 represent the already started judgment of Earth and the four angels who hold them back pause the Great Tribulation until God’s special servants can be sealed. These four angels appear to be holding back the physical destruction of Earth (or a portion of Earth) that occurs with the opening of the seventh seal.
The identification of the 144,000 in 7:4-8 has been much discussed. Most Bible scholars either regard the 144,000 as the church or as converted Jews who are still identified as Israelites in some manner.