Welcome to A Revelation of Jesus. In this video we are continuing our series on the seven seals, which present the judgment of different categories of people in symbolic language and will be looking at the characteristics of the people sealed by God. The previous video introduced the sixth seal, which depicts the judgment of people who will be alive just before the Second Coming of Christ.
We saw that “the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man” are people who will be deceived by the “false christs and false prophets” who will appear during the Great Tribulation. At Christ’s coming they will be terrified, “hiding themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and saying to the mountains and rocks, fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!” (Revelation 6:15,16).
Their final cry introduces the main focus of the sixth seal: “For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Revelation 6:17).
Those who have rejected God feel like no one would be able to stand before the Lamb. But Revelation 7 introduces us to “a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing… before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9).
Let’s go back to the beginning of the chapter and get the context. “[John] saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea or on any tree” (Revelation 7:1). Similar language is found elsewhere in Revelation, in Daniel, and In other prophecies.
For example, after the 1,000 year millennium “Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth” (Revelation 20:7,8). In this passage, the four corners of the earth are linked with the release of Satan from “his prison,” enabling him to “deceive the nations” into attacking “the saints and their beloved city” (Revelation 20:9).
In Daniel 7 “The four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea” (Daniel 7:2). In a previous video we saw that the four beasts represented the great world empires, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, which attacked and conquered God’s representative people. The four winds symbolized the strife and warfare that brought these empires into power. In other passages of scripture, the four winds represent the wars and oppression that have scattered God’s people to every corner of the earth.
“[John] saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth” (Revelation 7:1). The Greek word for angel means messenger and in Revelation, it is used both for messengers from God and for agents of Satan. For example, the only other place in the Bible where four angels are mentioned is Revelation 9, where “four angels who are bound at the great river the Euphrates were released to kill a third of mankind” (Revelation 9:15). Clearly, these are satanic angels who are bound at the river Euphrates, which is a symbol of Babylon, the enemy of God’s people.
In Revelation 9 a satanic locust army “had as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon” (Revelation 9:11). This angel’s name in both Hebrew and Greek means destroyer, just the opposite of the Creator, showing that he is clearly a satanic entity.
The four angels holding the four winds also seem to be from Satan. In the next verse we see that they are given permission to “harm the earth” (Revelation 7:2), but in Revelation 11:18 a curse is pronounced on those who “destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:18). These evil angels would love nothing more than to release the four winds and throw the world into violence and chaos that Satan could exploit.
At first glance, it seems that the scene has shifted from the judgment taking place in heaven to wars and strife on earth. But when we read on we find that the angels are not permitted to release the winds and bring on earthly chaos until one last group of people comes into view.
“Then 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 had been granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, ‘Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads” (Revelation 7:2,3). This powerful angel is obviously a messenger from God, announcing his mission to “seal the servants of God on their foreheads… [with] the seal of the living God”.
The four angels with their winds of strife will not be permitted to harm the earth until God’s servants are “sealed in…their foreheads, And [John] heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand ” (Revelation 7:3,4). In the next video we will study the 144,000, but for now, let’s find out more about the seal in their foreheads.
A seal in the Bible usually has to do with documents, such as the book in chapter 5 that was “sealed with seven seals” (Revelation 5:1) and the prophetic book in Daniel 12 that was to be “sealed until the time of the end” (Daniel 12:4). By analyzing the seals that were placed on documents we can learn some things about the seal placed on the foreheads of the 144,000.
Seals served three main purposes.
The seal proved the authenticity of what was written. Anyone can produce a document that is supposedly from the king, but his unique seal proved that it was from him.
A seal also protected the document from those who did not have the right of access to it. Lots of people would like to open and read the document, but they could not without breaking the seal.
Finally, the seal secured the document from being changed. Once it had been sealed, no one could open it and change the text
The seal on the foreheads of the 144,000 is to a certain extent like the seals on documents. The seal proves the authenticity of God’s faithful followers, it protects them during the great tribulation, and secures their place in God’s kingdom. Let’s look at these a little closer.
First of all, God’s seal on their foreheads proves the authenticity of the 144,000. Obviously, this is not some kind of tattoo or visible mark. The sealing refers to what God does in their minds and hearts. In Revelation 14, instead of a seal, it says that the 144,000 have “the Father’s name written on their foreheads” (Revelation 14:1).
The Father’s name refers to His character. God told Moses, “I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you… The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abounding in goodness and truth…” (Exodus 33:18-34:7). Christ’s character becomes that of His followers as they are “transformed by the renewing of their minds” (Romans 12:2).
The apostle Paul wrote, “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” (Ephesians 1:13, 4:25-5:1).
This isn’t to say that being sealed means trying hard to be good. No amount of trying can make us kind and forgiving, or take away the bitterness, anger, and evil habits. The only effort that can transform one’s life is the effort to know Jesus.
As we grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, the Holy Spirit empowers us to become the holy people that God declared us to be when He forgave us of our sins. Before the four winds can blow, God’s name, His holy character, will be written in the hearts and minds of the 144,000. This proves their authenticity to the people around them, as well as to the angels and the rest of the universe who are looking on.
Just as documents were protected by the seals that were placed upon them, so God’s sealed and faithful followers will be protected by the seal on their foreheads. A special protective mark is not a new concept. As God was delivering the Children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt through a series of plagues, He instructed them to mark their doorposts with the blood of a lamb. The special mark protected them from the destroying angels that executed the final plague.
We also see this in Ezekiel chapters 1-10. God took Ezekiel on a tour of Jerusalem to see the apostasy that had taken hold of God’s representative nation. Their enemies, symbolized by “six men with battle axes” were determined to slaughter the inhabitants of Jerusalem who had rejected, God’s protective presence. But God restrained them and sent an angel “through the midst of Jerusalem to put a mark on the foreheads of those who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it”. The destroyers were commanded, “Do not come near anyone on whom is the mark” (Ezekiel 9:3-6).
During the final crisis, God’s people will again need protection from the fearsome events that will take place when the four angels are allowed to release the four winds. For example, the locust army of the fifth trumpet can “only harm those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads” (Revelation 9:4). Those sealed will also be protected from the seven last plagues, in contrast to those who receive the mark of the beast (see Revelation 14:9-12).
Finally, just as a seal secured a document so it could not be changed, so God’s seal on the foreheads of the 144,000 guarantees His people’s secure place in His kingdom. The central concept of the seven seals is that the angels and other inhabitants of the universe are given the opportunity to investigate and affirm God’s decisions regarding the eternal destiny of those who have had their names written in the book of life.
For believers throughout the ages who have died, this determination is made while they are sleeping in the grave during the investigative judgment when “the court is seated and the books are opened” (Daniel 7:10). Those who are found faithful will rise in the first resurrection to meet Jesus at His Second Coming.
However, those who are still alive when Jesus comes will have already had their names considered in the investigative judgment. Jesus said, “Behold I am coming quickly, and my reward is with Me, to give to everyone according to his work (Revelation 22:12, also Isaiah 40:10, 62:11). When Jesus comes the righteous “shall be caught up… to meet the Lord in the air” (1Thessalonians 4:17). Unbelievers, on the other hand, “will pay the penalty of eternal destruction…when He comes” (2 Thessalonians 1:9,10).
These verses show that the final determination will have already been made by the time Jesus comes. This means that those who are sealed will be guaranteed to be secure as citizens of the heavenly kingdom while they are still living on earth during the chaos of the time of trouble. Like faithful Job, their faithfulness in the midst of severe trials will be a rebuke to Satan, who claims that God’s followers only serve Him out of self-interest.
What does God do when He seals the 144,000 that enables them to stand faithful through the Great Tribulation?
For one thing, God said through the prophet Isaiah that He will “seal the law among my disciples” (Isaiah 8:16). He reiterates this promise in the New Covenant: “I will make a new covenant… I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Hebrews 8:8-10).
Sealing the law doesn’t mean giving a list of rules. The law is summarized in the two great commandments, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). Thus the law is a reflection of God’s character of love. Love for God and for our neighbors, as detailed in the ten commandments, is sealed in the hearts and minds of the 144,000 and of all who enter into the new covenant.
Revelation 14, which also describes the 144,000 and their ministry, shows that they have God’s law sealed in them. “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12).
This verse makes it clear that keeping God’s commandments is integrally related to “the faith of Jesus”. Righteousness by faith does not simply result in a new status, “saved,” but in a new life of loving obedience to God’s will.
The law is sealed in the heart but it is the Holy Spirit that enables us to keep it. “God…has sealed us and given us the Spirt in our hearts” (2Corinthians 1:22). “You were sealed by the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 1:13,4:30). People have been receiving the Holy Spirit since the beginning of the church, and even in Old Testament times.
But the sealing of the 144,000 will be an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, similar but on a much greater scale to what happened on the Day of Pentecost. “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, [the disciples] were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind… and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:1-4). Empowered by the Spirit, a few simple disciples took the good news of Jesus to the whole world.
The experiences of the Day of Pentecost and the similar but greater outpouring at the end of time are the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies concerning the former and the latter rain. “He will cause the rain to come down for you—the former rain and the latter rain ((Joel 2:23).
In Palestine, the former rain came in October and allowed the newly planted seeds to sprout and take root. They would grow slowly through the winter despite setbacks from storms and frost, but in March the latter rain would come, drenching the earth and giving the moisture needed to bring the plants to maturity for the harvest.
The former rain represents the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost that established the Christian Church. Throughout the long winter of church history the church has continued to grow and extend despite the storms that have beset her.
But in the “latter days” God will send the latter rain, an unprecedented outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Empowered by the Spirit the church will preach the gospel and demonstrate the love of Jesus to a world that is starving and desperate, battered and abused by the enemy. This is God’s most fervent desire; Jesus wants nothing more than to save as many as can be saved. So why hasn’t God already sent the latter rain?
The Holy Spirit is given “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:12), in other words, to empower God’s people to effectively share the good news that they have received with others who do not know Jesus. But God is not interested in giving spiritual gifts and power to people who only know Him superficially.
Consider the former rain, which is the model for the latter rain. The disciples had been with Jesus for 3 years, but by the time of His sacrifice they still had not received the fullness of the Holy Spirit. And no wonder; their “gospel” was, “Jesus is going to help us get rid of the Romans and I will be the greatest in the new kingdom”.
Even after Jesus had risen from the dead, walked with them for forty more days, and was ready to return to heaven they were still asking, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). It was not until they “Continued with one accord in one place in prayer and supplication” that they were “filled with the Holy Spirit” and powerfully proclaimed “the wonderful works of God” (Acts 1:14, 2:1-11).
You may remember from our series on the Seven Churches that God characterizes the church today as Laodicea. Jesus says of us, “You are neither cold nor hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, I will vomit you out of my mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:15-17).
The lukewarm Laodicean church will never receive the latter rain because God will not empower their “gospel” of self-centered complacency. The latter rain does not transform our priorities; we must first seek and allow the Holy Spirit to give us new priorities that Jesus can then empower.
The latter rain will come when God’s people realize their spiritual poverty and seek to know Jesus with the same determination that the disciples did before the Day of Pentecost. The prophet Hosea said, “They will seek My face; in their affliction they will earnestly seek Me. ‘Come, and let us return to the Lord…Let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord…and He will come to us like the latter and former rain” (Hosea 5:15-6:3).
Now, at the end of the age, it is time for God’s people to come together in prayer, pleading for the power to love one another and the lost people around us. “Ask the Lord for rain, in the time of the latter rain” (Zechariah 10:1).
Then the 144,000 will be “sealed in their foreheads” and go out to give the last message to the world. “It is time to seek the Lord, till He comes and rains righteousness on you (Hosea 10:12). In the next video we will find out who the 144,000 are and what their mission is.
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