SEALING THE 144,000
An “angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God” commanded the angels who restrain the four winds to wait for the sealing of the 144,000. The Greek word for “the east” (anatolis ilio) means the rising of the sun. This is in contrast to other angels of Revelation who came down from heaven to make their announcements or carry out their missions. The sealing angel does not burst upon the scene, but does his work gradually, as the rising sun gradually enlightens the earth. Apparently the sealing of the 144,000 is a gradual work, starting with just a few until all have been sealed. When the sealing is completed, the "four angels standing on the four corners of the earth" will release “the four winds" which will harm “the earth, the sea and the trees” (Revelation 7:1-3).
Is 144,000 a literal or symbolic number? Since the Bible does not say, all opinions are a matter of conjecture. On the one hand, it seems symbolic, being the multiple of 12 times 12 times 1000. This brings to mind the twelve tribes whose names are written on the twelve gates of the New Jerusalem and the twelve apostles whose names are written on the twelve foundations of its walls (Revelation 21:12,13).
On the other hand, it is possible that God could have made a “deal” with Satan that he could prepare 144,000 people who had such godly characters that they could be sealed and remain faithful, without compromise, even through the trials and temptations of the great tribulation. This would be reminiscent of the deal God made with Satan concerning Job in the first two chapters of the Book of Job. Whether literal or symbolic, we should note that the 144,000 are not the only ones who are saved. They are a special group who live in the last moments of earth’s history, and as the discussion below will indicate, there is “a great multitude” of others who will also be saved at that time.
 Angels were seen flying in the midst of heaven (8:13, 14:6), coming down from heaven (10:1, 14:7, 18:1, 20:1), coming out of the temple (14:7) and standing in the sun (19:17) but nowhere else are they shown coming from the rising of the sun. When Revelation makes reference to the direction east the word anatolis (rising) is used by itself, without ilio (sun), as in Revelation 21:13 “three gates on the east (anatolis). The only other verse in Revelation where anatolis ilio is used is Revelation 16:12 “Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared.” This refers to the coming of Christ with the hosts of heaven (see 16:12 The Kings from the East). According to Matthew 24:30, this also is a process rather than an immediate event, starting first with the appearance of the sign of the Son of Man, then the mourning of the nations, then the coming of Christ on the clouds.