Saturday, 31 December 2016 00:16

46. Seal on the forehead: property of God * Revelation 7:1-8, PART 1

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1 And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.

2 And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea,

3 Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.

4 And I heard the number of them who were sealed: and there were sealed a hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.

5 Of the tribe of Judah were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand.

6 Of the tribe of Asher were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Naphtali were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasseh were sealed twelve thousand.

7 Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand.

8 Of the tribe of Zebulun were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.

 

Part 1 - Revelation 7:1-3

 

*** Background ***: Chapter 7 of Revelation comes in as a pause between the opening of the sixth and seventh seals. It is the detailed answer to the question raised at the end of the sixth seal: “For the great day of his wrath has come; and who shall be able to stand?” (Revelation 6:17; see studies #43 and #44). The wicked people were looking to hide themselves in the rocks, because they were not able to tolerate the sight of the full glory of God. The power of God’s glory is revealed at that moment in such an intense way, that they were asking themselves if anyone could possibly tolerate it. After John saw, in the vision, the events taking place in the sixth seal, he started to describe what came next.

*** Four angels, four corner, and four winds ***: The number 4 seems to be significant in this passage. It is repeated 3 times. We saw 4 angels calling out 4 horsemen during the opening of the first 4 seals. But we cannot say with certainty that the 4 angels of chapter 7 are the same four from chapter 6. But they do have something in common. They are involved in activities that are to be executed in a global scale. The 4 angels of chapter 6 call out horsemen that must complete their work throughout the whole world. The angels in chapter 7 are holding the winds while standing in all four corners of the Earth. In the ancient Near East, the expression “four corners of the earth” was equivalent to what we would call today the cardinal points of the compass (North, South, East, and West). We see this expression being used in the Old Testament (Isaiah 11:12; Ezekiel 7:2; Jeremiah 49:36). The four angels are “holding the four winds of the Earth”. In the Old Testament, winds are like chariots under God’s powers, executing His judgement (Jeremiah 4:11-13; Isaiah 66:15-16). The wind of the Lord was to fall with fury on the wicked (Jeremiah 23:19; Jeremiah 30:23). A wind of the Lord, coming from the East, was to come and destroy the fertility of the land of Ephraim (Hosea 13:15). Efraim was one of the tribes of Israel that decided to worship other gods and openly sin against God (Hosea 13:1-2). The book of Daniel says that the “four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea.” (Daniel 7:2). There are two other mentions of the four winds in Daniel (Daniel 8:8 and Daniel 11:4). The angels in Revelation 7:1 are holding the winds so they don’t “blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.” Based on the Old Testament texts we mentioned already, when the winds blow, judgements from God fall on those who are not living according to the commands of God. In other words, the judgements of God are about to fall on the Earth, but before that can happen, there is an activity that needs to be concluded first: the sealing of God’s servants on their foreheads (Revelation 7:3).

*** On the Earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree ***: The job the four angels had was to hold the winds of the Earth, so they would not blow on the earth the sea, or on any tree until it was time. Note that in verse 2, it says that these angels eventually would have to hurt the earth and the sea. But it does not mention the trees. The four angels did not receive the power to hurt the trees. But the one angel mentioned in verse 2, adds “trees” to the list of requests to the four angels holding the four winds. They were not to unleash the winds until all God’s followers had been sealed. The expression “earth and the sea” brings us back to creation, as mentioned in the 10 Commandments: “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day: therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Everything that is in “heaven and earth, and sea” is under the domain of the Creator. All worship must be given to the One who made “heaven, and earth, and the sea” (Revelation 14:7). But there is someone else, wanting to claim that power and worship for himself. Revelation 12:12 says: “[…] Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and of the sea! for the devil has come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has but a short time.” We see here the Devil’s plan to pour his wrath over the entirety of God’s domain. It is no surprise that the two end-time religious-political powers (portrayed as beasts) come from the sea and from the earth. Once the winds are unleashed, those belonging to the sea and to the earth will be affected by them.

The hurting of trees brings us back to the 10 Plagues of Egypt, more specifically to the 8th plague (Exodus 10:1-20). That plague was the one with locusts, who came with an East wind sent by God. And the locusts “covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left: and there remained not any green thing in the trees, or in the herbs of the field, through all the land of Egypt.”(Exodus 10:15). After some time, God removed the locusts with a West wind, and cast them into the Red sea (Exodus 10:19). The ninth plague was the one where there was darkness throughout the land. The darkness was so intense it could be felt (Exodus 10:21). In a way, this is similar to the situation found during the 6th seal, where the sun, moon and stars are darkened (study #43). The 10th plague (Exodus 11) could fall on everyone, Egyptians and Hebrews. Death would come to either of them if they did not have a mark on the door. That mark served as a sign of their obedience to God. In light of the symbolism based on the Old Testament, we can understand that the one angel is asking the four angels to hold a little longer before unleashing the winds of God’s judgments, while they finish sealing the people of God.

*** Another angel coming from the East ***: The other angel mentioned in Revelation 7:2 comes from the East, or as some versions say, from the rising of the sun. Both in the Old and New Testaments, East is commonly associated with God or Christ: the Garden if Eden was located in the East (Genesis 2:8); the glory of God comes from the East (Ezekiel 43:2); the magi saw a star in the East indicating the birth of the Messiah (Matthew 2:2,9); Jesus is called the sunrise (or dayspring, or dawn) that came from on high (or Heaven) to visit us (Luke 1:78); Jesus is the Morning Star (Revelation 22:16); the Second Coming of Jesus will be like the lightening that comes from the East and shines all the way to the West, when “He shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (see Matthew 24:27,31). The angel from Revelation 7:2 can be understood as a messenger sent from God, since he comes from the East/rising sun. He could possible even be Christ Himself, telling the four angels it was not time yet to unleash the winds.

*** The seal on the forehead ***: We read in Ezekiel 9 the vision the prophet received about the destruction of Jerusalem before the people were taken in Exile. Ezekiel saw a messenger dressed in linen, and having a writer’s inkhorn. His job was to mark the foreheads of the faithful people before the wicked people in the house of Israel and Judah were slain. The ones in charge of the slaughtering were not to come near the ones having the mark on the forehead. To have something sealed implies that the sealed thing belongs to the one inputing the seal. It is interesting to see that the opening of a seal (sixth) reveals the sealing of something else. The same way the seals of the scroll on the right side of God served to protect the contents and authenticity of the message in the scroll, the seal of God’s people also serves to protect them from being tempered with and from being destroyed right along with the ones who have not chosen to stand for the truth of God. The seal in Revelation is a symbol that represents ownership. God is the one claiming possession of all those who wish to belong to Him. Paul says in Ephesians 1:13-14: “In whom you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after you believed, you were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” God is the One who seals His people with the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Ephesians 4:30). God knows who belongs to Him; the ones who God knows belong to Him can have the seal (2 Timothy 2:19). The seal of the Holy Spirit is described more specifically in Revelation 14:1, and Revelation 22:4: “and his name shall be on their foreheads.” The seal of God is the Father’s name written on the people’s foreheads. This was a promise made to the church in Philadelphia, to the ones who overcome: “and I will write upon him the name of my God” (Revelation 3:12).

In Exodus 13:14-16, we read that the fact that God spared the ones who marked their doors with the blood on the last plague in Egypt, was to be a sign in the people’s hand and forehead. They needed to remember that the mighty hand of God had brought them out of Egypt. But in Ezekiel 9 and Revelation 7, the sign is only to be placed on the forehead. There is a significant difference between the tenth plague in Egypt, and the sealing of God’s people as described by Paul, in the verses mentioned earlier. In Exodus 10, the people had to physically demonstrate what they believed in their heart. It was not only enough to believe God could spare them, and that He could save them from the Egyptians. They had to go the extra step and do something about it. They had to paint their door with the blood of an innocent lamb (Exodus 12:7,13). The sacrifice of that lamb pointed to a Savior who was still to come. For the people in the last days, the sacrifice of the Lamb has already been completed in the death of Christ at the cross. There is nothing anyone can do to be saved. Jesus already did what is needed to save humanity. All is left, is to believe in the One whom God has sent (John 6:29). No one can bring salvation upon themselves based on their own efforts or merit. It is only through the blood of Jesus, that we can be sealed. Only when we believe. And so, now that we are in the side of history that stands after the cross, it makes sense that the symbol used does not include the hand (action). It only includes the forehead (belief).

When God spoke to the prophet, about establishing the New Covenant, He wanted to mark His people in a special way, a way that would show that they belonged to Him: “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, says the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:33; See also Hebrews 10:16). The seal of God is placed on those who are faithful to God’s word, His commands. Not just one or two, but all of His commands. They are all equal before the Lord. “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10). It is not up to us to pick and choose which ones we want to follow. We cannot open ourselves partially to God’s Word. The focus, however, is not on the following of a checklist, as if that is what will save us. The focus is on the acceptance of God’s will in our lives - “not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39) - because of our love for Him. When we love Him above ourselves, the choice to follow all His truth and to live out what God wants for our lives are not a chore or a burden, but a delight (Psalm 1:1-2; Psalm 40:8; Psalm 119:66-72,92,173-174). The law is a mirror that shows us the sin in our lives (Romans 3:20), and only the blood of Jesus can cleanse the sin made evident by the law (Romans 3:24-25). If we love God, why would we reject the tool He gave us to detect iniquity? If we are unable to detect sin, we become blind to our need of a Savior. If we don’t know we need a Savior, then we won’t feel the need to repent and accept His cleansing Salvation. If we reject His Salvation, we will be lost forever. And that is why the enemy wants to take away God’s Law from people’s hearts. God’s law is part of God’s truth. If we reject even part of this truth, we also reject the holy Spirit. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to teach us the truth. In Jesus’ words: “If you love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; He that has my commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves me: and he that loves me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” (John 14:15-16,21).

*** Counterpoint ***: The sealing of the faithful people of God, and consequent protection from the wrath of God contrasts with the sealing of the wicked. We can read about this in the Fifth Trumpet, where locusts fill the earth, but are prevented from harming the grass, trees, or any green things, and can only torment the ones without the seal of God (Revelation 9:3-4). This is what can be understood from these verses in chapter 9: the ones who do not have the seal of God are in the opposite group to the vegetation. In essence, the trees, grass and green things, are the symbol for the ones who have the seal of God on their foreheads.The ones without the seal of God bear the mark of the beast instead. The mark of the beast on the ones who reject God is the name of the beast, written on their hands or their foreheads (Revelation 13:16-17). Everyone on Earth will receive a mark. It is the identification of which side they have picked. As we have studied many times before, there are only two sides. The ones who bear the seal of God, are protected from His wrath, and judgements. But the ones who have the mark of the beast will not be immune to God’s wrath.

*** Overview ***: The one who overcomes is the one who will bear the name of God on his forehead. The acceptance of the true message of God is what allows for the sealing of the faithful. The presence of the Holy Spirit in someone's heart is the seal necessary to differentiate the citizen of Heaven from the inhabitants of the Earth. The ones God recognizes as belonging to Him, have their sins forgiven and forgotten forever. The sealing of God’s people does not start at the last days. Actually, that’s when it stops. The order comes for the angels holding the four winds saying that it will soon be time to unleash the winds, but only after the sealing of the saints is complete. As Paul said, the sealing had already started in his time. Sealing comes with accepting the message, and living it out on a day-to-day basis, as we walk with the Lord. The ones who belong to God, are the ones who keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus (Revelation 14:12). The sealing of God is conditional to the acceptance of His truth. It is up to each one of us to decide to whom we want to belong to. There will be no one left without a seal or a mark.

   
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