Sealing the Saints

The saints must be “sealed” before the onslaught of the “four winds of the earth” – Revelation 7:1-3

Storm Winds - Photo by Lucy Chian on Unsplash
Before the first four seals and their “riders” are unleashed, the “servants of God” must be prepared to persevere through the coming trials represented by the first six seal openings. And their “sealing” will enable them to “stand” before the “Lamb” and the “throne” on the coming “day of the wrath of the Lamb” when the “sixth seal” is opened - [
Storm Winds - Photo by Lucy Chian on Unsplash].

The vision in chapter 7 consists of four sections. First, is the “sealing of God’s servants.” Second, is the numbering of the sealed. Third, is the arrival of the “innumerable multitude” from the “great tribulation.” And fourth, is the interpretation of the “multitude.”

Previously, the fifth and sixth seal openings posed two questions that are answered in chapter 7. First, how long must the martyrs wait for vindication? And second, who can stand before the wrath of the Lamb?

The first question was answered when the fifth seal was broken open:  Until the full number of martyrs has been gathered. Only then will wrath befall the “inhabitants of the earth.” The second question remains open at this point in the narrative.

THE FOUR WINDS

John saw four angels restraining the “four winds of the earth,” an image that echoes passages from Zechariah and Daniel.
  • (Revelation 7:1-3) - “After this, I saw four angels 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 angel ascending from the rising of the sun, holding the seal of the Living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels for 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.

In his vision, Zechariah saw four chariots. Each was pulled by different colored horses. When he asked what they represented, he was told, “they are the four winds of the heavens coming forward after each has presented itself near the Lord of all the earth - (Zechariah 6:1-8).

Daniel saw the “four winds of the heavens bursting forth on the great sea, and four large beasts ascending out of the sea.” The “winds” agitated the “sea,” which caused the “four beasts” to rise out of it – (Daniel 7:1-3).

Lighthouse Storm - Photo by Marcus Woodbridge on Unsplash
[Photo by Marcus Woodbridge on Unsplash]

In 
Revelation, the “four winds” correspond to the four “riders” that appear as each of the first “four seals” is broken by the “Lamb.” In the present passage, the “four winds” are granted” authority “to injure the earth and the sea.”

Granted” translates the same Greek verb that is used to authorize the four “riders” to ride forth and release their afflictions - (Revelation 6:1-8).

And here, the wording from Zechariah is changed from the “four winds of heaven” to the “four winds of the earth”; probably to reflect the authority of the four “riders… over the fourth part of the earth.”

THE SEALING

The “servants of God” are “sealed” before the “four winds” are authorized to blow on the earth. Similarly, in Exodus, the homes of the Israelites were marked off with the blood of lambs to protect them from the destroying angel.

But the “sealing” alludes especially to the passage from Ezekiel that describes the “mark” placed on the “foreheads” of the righteous in Jerusalem who were grieved over the “abominations” taking place in the city - (Exodus 12:13-28, Ezekiel 9:3-4).

The “sealing” does not protect the saints from death, as the unveiling of the martyrs “under the altar” proves. Instead, it empowers them to persevere through the trials unleashed by the first four seals - (Revelation 1:9, 6:9, 11:7, 12:11, 12:17, 13:7-10, 20:4).

The four angels are not permitted 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 later fifth trumpet when the “scorpions” are released from the “Abyss” and commanded 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” - (Revelation 9:1-4).

The “seal of God” designates ownership. It is placed on the “foreheads” of His servants. The “seal” was anticipated in the letter to the church in Philadelphia:
  • (Revelation 3:11-12) – “Because you kept my word of endurance, I also will keep you out of the hour of trial, which is about to come upon the whole habitable earth to try the inhabitants of the earth. I am coming quickly! Hold fast that which you have, that no one takes your crown. He that overcomes, 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 literary placement of the “sealing of God’s servants” after the sixth seal suggests the events represented by the four riders occur between the enthronement of the “Lamb” and the “day of the wrath of the Lamb,” the “hour of trial” when no one is able to “stand,” except, possibly, the “sealed” saints.

The “seal of God” marks off the men 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 his “wrath,” for believers, death, disease, trials, and persecution continue.

But the “seal of God” also protects the church from the full effects of the “four winds” that are implemented by the four riders. The “seal” marks overcoming believers as “God’s servants,” and it enables them to endure whatever comes.

And while satanic forces may inflict suffering on the saints, including martyrdom, the “Lamb” has set limits on the amount of harm his enemies can do (e.g., “The oil and the wine you may not harm,” “The fourth part of the earth”).

In the fifth seal, the discovery of the martyrs “underneath the altar” demonstrates that they have “overcome” and persevered in the “testimony of Jesus” despite persecution. That their pleas for vindication are answered by informing them that their “number” remains incomplete means their deaths are not the end of the story.



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