Seal of God

SYNOPSIS - The saints are sealed before the “four winds of the earth” are unleashed by the four riders – Revelation 7:1-3

Dark Storm - Photo by Lefty Kasdaglis on Unsplash
At first glance, the seventh chapter of the book of Revelation appears to interrupt the sequence of seal openings with unrelated events. Before the contents of the first five seals can be unleashed, the “servants of God” must be prepared to endure the coming onslaught. Likewise, their “sealing” will enable them to “stand” before the “Lamb” and the Throne on the “Day of the Lord” – The opening of the sixth seal.

Chapter 7 consists of four sections - (Revelation 7:1-17):
  • The sealing of God’s servants - (7:1-3).
  • The numbering of the sealed - (7:4-8).
  • The vision of an innumerable multitude - (7:9-12).
  • The interpretation of the innumerable multitude - (7:14-17).
The “sealed servants of God” are presented using two different images - The tribes of Israel assembled for travel, and the “innumerable multitude” exiting the “great tribulation.” At the end of the chapter, the full number of the saints is assembled and “standing before the Lamb and the Throne,” anticipating the later vision of New Jerusalem.

The fifth and sixth seal openings ask two questions that are answered in this chapter:
  • How long must the martyrs wait for vindication?
  • Who can stand before the wrath of the Lamb?
The “sealing of the servants” uses imagery from the Exodus story of Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness. The “sealing” marks off the full number of the martyrs who are assembled for the march to the new Promised Land - New Jerusalem. The vision of the “innumerable multitude” presents overcoming saints now “standing” before the “Lamb” and the Throne in New Jerusalem, having faithfully endured the “great tribulation.”

The Four Winds
  • (Revelation 7:1-3) - “After this, I saw four messengers standing at the four corners of the earth, holding fast the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow upon the land or upon the sea or upon any tree. And I saw another messenger ascending from the rising of the sun, holding the seal of the Living God; and he cried out with a loud voice unto the four messengers unto whom it had been given to injure the land and the sea, saying — Do not injure the land or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God upon their foreheads.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
After this” refers to the sequence in which John received the vision, not to the chronological order of any actual events. The paragraph cannot follow the sixth seal chronologically since its opening produces the “Day of the Lord” and the “wrath” of God and the “Lamb.”

John saw four angels holding back the “four winds of the earth.” This alludes to a passage from the book of Zechariah, and to Daniel’s vision of four beasts seen ascending from a storm-tossed sea disturbed by the “four winds of heaven”:
  • (Zechariah 6:1-5) - “And once again I lifted mine eyes and looked, and lo! four chariots coming forward from between two mountains,…In the first chariot were red horses, — and in the second chariot, black horses; and in the third chariot, white horses, — and in the fourth chariot, horses spotted, deep red. Then began I and said unto the messenger who was speaking with me, — What are these, my lord? And the messenger answered and said unto me, — These are the four winds of the heavens, coming forward after each hath presented itself near the Lord of all the earth.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
  • (Daniel 7:2-3) – “Daniel spake and said, I was looking in my vision [which came] with the night, — when, lo! the four winds of the heavens, bursting forth upon the great sea, and four large wild beasts coming up out of the sea, — diverse one from another.
The “four winds” correspond to the four riders that were released when the first four seals were opened. Note the description of the four groups of colored horses in the passage from Zechariah. In Revelation, the “four winds” are given” authority “to injure the earth and the sea” – “Given” is the same verb applied to the authority to act that was “given” to each of the four riders - (Revelation 6:1-8).

Stormy Sea - Photo by Alexandre Brondino on Unspla
Photo by Alexandre Brondino on Unsplash

The wording from Zechariah is changed, from the “four winds of heaven” to the “four winds of the earth”; probably, because the four horsemen have authority “over a fourth part of the earth.” The words also echo the description from the book of Daniel of the four beasts “ascending from the sea.”

Sealing

The “sealing” occurred before the “Lamb” opened the first four seals to unleash their contents. Elsewhere in Revelation, the term “servants of God” refers to followers of the “Lamb,” the “saints” - (Revelation 1:1, 2:20, 19:219:5, 22:3, 22:6).

The angel with the “seal of God” ordered the “four winds” to forebear “until we seal the servants of our God.” This echoes the story from the book of Exodus when the homes of the Israelites were marked off with the blood of lambs to protect them from the destroying angel - (Exodus 12:13-28).

The “sealing” also alludes to a passage from the book of Ezekiel where a mark was placed on the foreheads of the righteous in Jerusalem who grieved over the “abominations” they had witnessed:
  • (Ezekiel 9:3-4) - “And the glory of the God of Israel lifted itself up from off the cherub whereon it had been, unto the threshold of the house, — and he called unto the man clothed with linen, who had the scribes ink holder by his side. Then said Yahweh unto him. Pass along through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, — and set thou a mark upon the foreheads of the men who are sighing and crying over all the abominations that are being done in her midst.
This “sealing” does not protect the saints from death. Instead, it empowers them to persevere through tribulations and persecutions. Again, since the “four winds” are withheld until the servants are sealed, the “sealing” is related to whatever the first four seals unleashed - (Revelation 1:9, 6:9, 11:7, 12:11, 12:17, 13:7-10, 20:4).

The four angels were commanded not to harm “the earth, neither the sea nor the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” This is a verbal link to the fifth trumpet when the “scorpions” released from the “Abyss” were told not to harm “the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree, but only such men as have not the seal of God on their foreheads.” This suggests an overlap between the series of seals and trumpets - (Revelation 9:1-4).

The “seal of God” designates ownership - It is placed on the “foreheads” of His servants. The same group reappears in chapter 14 - The 144,000 “males” who follow the “Lamb” and have “his Father’s name written upon their foreheads” - (Revelation 14:1-5).

The “seal of God” was anticipated in the letter to the church at Philadelphia:
  • (Revelation 3:10-12) – “Because thou didst keep my word of endurance, I also will keep thee out of the hour of trial, which is about to come upon the whole habitable world to try them that dwell upon the earth. I come quickly: hold fast that which thou hast, that no one take thy crown. He that overcometh, I will make him a pillar in the sanctuary of my God, and outside shall he in nowise go forth anymore; and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God, and I will write upon him my new name.
The placement of the “sealing of God’s servants” after the sixth seal - The “day of wrath” - suggests the events represented by the four riders occur between the enthronement of the “Lamb” and the “Day of the Lord,” the “hour of trial” when no one will be able to “stand” before the Throne.

The “seal of God” designates the men and women who belong to the “Lamb” and prepares them to persevere through the “great tribulation.” In the interim between the enthronement of the “Lamb” and the “Day of the Lord,” death, disease, trials, and persecution continue to impact believers.

However, unlike the “inhabitants of the earth,” the overcoming saints will come out of the “great tribulation” to find themselves “standing” and celebrating before the “Lamb” and the Throne in New Jerusalem - (Revelation 7:14-14).

The “sealing” protects God’s servants from the final “wrath” unleashed against the “inhabitants of the earth” when the sixth seal is opened, the day of the “wrath” when no one else will be able “to stand.”




Comments

Popular Posts

Language of the New Testament

Deceivers, Tumults, Opposition