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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, non the sea, nor on any tree” (Revelation 7:1). Chapter seven is a continuation of the last portion of chapter 6, which presents the investigative judgment of those who are alive at the time of the Second Coming of Christ. In Revelation 6:12-17 the people who do not know Jesus are presented, those who call for the rocks to fall on them and hide them from the face of the Lamb. They ask a significant question: “The great day of His wrath has come, and who shall be able to stand?” In answer to this question, two groups are brought to view in chapter 7: the 144,000 (v. 4) and the great multitude (v. 9). As we will see in this chapter, these two groups comprise the people who will be alive and who will be saved (they are "able to stand") at the Second Coming of Christ.

What is involved in “the great day of [God’s] wrath?” John was first shown “four angels standing on the four corners of the earth holding back the four winds of the earth.” This language is similar that found elsewhere in Revelation, in Daniel and in other prophecies. For example, in Revelation 20:7,8 we learn that after the 1000 years “Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth.” In this passage the four corners of the earth are linked with the releasing of Satan from “his prison,” enabling him to “deceive the nations” into attacking “the saints and their beloved city” (v. 9). In Daniel 7:2 “the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea.” The four beasts represented the great world empires, Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome, which attacked and conquered the people of God. The four winds represented the strife, tumult and warfare that brought these empires into power. In other passages the four winds represent the wars and strife that have scattered God’s people to every corner of the earth.[1] 

Comparing these verses, we see that the four angels represent the supernatural forces that bring on the affliction, chaos and warfare that Satan uses to persecute and scatter God's people.[2] These forces are restrained, but when they are released Satan will be allowed to use the nations of the earth to bring about the great tribulation that is the central drama of the Book of Revelation.

Continue to next section:    7:2,3  THE SEAL OF GOD

[1]  Ezekiel 5:10,12, Zechariah 2:6, Jeremiah 49:32-36, Matthew 24:31.

[2]  It is not clear from Revelation 7:2 whether the four angels are angels of God who are restraining the destruction of the "four winds of the earth" or are angels of Satan who are given permission to use the four winds to cause chaos and destruction. The language of verse two suggests the latter: "He [clearly an angel of God "ascending from the east"] cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea." The Greek word for "granted" (edothi) is used in the trumpets and elsewhere in Revelation to indicate permission given to Satan and his agents to cause destruction.  See for example Revelation 6:4,8, 9:1,3,5, 13:5,7,14,15. We see later in the trumpets four destructive angels that are clearly Satan's agents (Revelation 9:14,15). This commentary takes the position that the seven trumpets are Satan's activity that he is allowed to carry out during the time of trouble, and both sets of four angels (7:1-3, 9:14-19) are Satan's angels of destruction.

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