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 sea, saying, “hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads” (Revelation 7:2,3). The Greek word for angel, aggelos, means messenger and in Revelation is used both for messengers from God and for agents of Satan. The "angel ascending from the east" is obviously from God having His seal. This angel restrains the four angels that have been "given to hurt" the earth. The "four angels" on the other hand, do not seem to be messengers from God. First of all, they "harm the earth" and in chapter 11 a curse is pronounced against those who "destroy the earth." Moreover, four angels who will be released are mentioned again in chapter 9. They are bound at the river Euphrates (the headquarters of Satan's "Babylon" kingdom) and they will kill a third of mankind. They are also closely associated with the "angel of the bottomless pit," Satan (Revelation 9:11). It is likely that within the context of the great controversy Satan has been given a limited period of time in which he will be allowed to carry out his destructive plans without the restraining influence of God’s Spirit. But he will not be “released” (permitted to create affliction) until God’s servants are “sealed…in their foreheads”.

A seal in its most common Biblical application has to do with documents, such as the book of chapter 5 that was “sealed with seven seals.” Seals in the Bible served three main purposes. The seal proved the authenticity of what was written in the document.[1] It also protected the document from those who did not have the right of access to it.[2] Finally, it secured the document from being changed.[3] John “heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand.” God’s seal on His 144,000 is like the seals on documents—it proves the authenticity of His saints, protects them in the time of trouble and secures their place in His kingdom. Because the sealing and the ministry of the 144,000 are the central theme of the next 8 chapters we will examine these three aspects of the sealing in more detail.

God’s seal proves the authenticity of His saints. The servants of God are sealed on their foreheads. Obviously this is not some kind of tattoo or visible mark, but rather refers to what God does in their minds and hearts. In the parallel passage, Revelation 14:1-5, instead of a seal it says that the 144,000 have the “Father’s name written in their foreheads” (v.1).[4] The Father’s name refers to His character.[5] This righteous and holy character is both imputed (declared to be theirs) and imparted (made a reality in their lives) to His children. This is what it means to have His name written on their foreheads, and this is what proves that they are the children of God.[6]

Jesus, through His death on the cross, frees us from the condemnation of the law by declaring us "not guilty" (imputed righteousness). Then He sends the Holy Spirit to write (seal) the law of love in our minds and hearts, transforming our lives and making us new creatures: “You were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise…Therefore…do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God” (Ephesians 1:13, 4:25-5:1).

Being an imitator of God does not mean trying hard to be good. There is no amount of trying or effort that make us kind and forgiving or take away bitterness, anger and evil habits. The only effort that can transform the life is the effort to know God and be filled with the Holy Spirit. God through His Spirit can create new hearts and minds tht are open to Him when we accept the sacrifice Jesus made for us. The Holy Spirit then carries on a work of healing and repentance in our lives—healing us from the injuries the enemy has inflicted, and bringing us to repentance for the destructive ways we have responded to those wounds in futile attempts to relieve the pain they were causing us. As we grow in the grace and knowledge of God, the Holy Spirit empowers us to become the holy people that God declared us to be when He forgave us of our sins.

“Holiness to the Lord” was written on the foreheads of the priests of the ancient sanctuary (Exodus 28:36-38). Likewise, God’s name, His holy character, is written on the foreheads of the 144,000. Their holy character proves their authenticity to the rest of the universe (the angels, etc.) who are looking on to see what humans are like when they come into harmony with God.[7]

Continue to next section: THE SEAL PROTECTS AND SECURES THE 144,000

[1] See 1 Kings 21:8, Jeremiah 32:9-14.

[2] “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” Revelation 5:2, see also Daniel 12:9

[3] “The king sealed it with his own signet ring…that the purpose concerning Daniel might not be changed” (Daniel 6:17, see also Esther 8:8).

[4] See also Revelation 3:12 and 22:4.

[5] God told Moses, “I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you.” When God proclaimed His name, He proclaimed His character: “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty” (Exodus 33:18-34:7).

[6] Note the clear parallel of Revelation 22:4 and 1 John 3:2: “They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads” “We know that we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” When we see Him as He is, He is able to give us His name, His character, and we become like Him. This becomes obvious in chapter 14: 1-5 where the holy character of the 144,000 is described.

[7] "We have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men" (1Corinthians 4:9). "The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed" (Romans 8:19).