Revelation 7: 1-4
After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: ‘Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.’ Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.
If we see one thing in Revelation, it is that God knows those who are His and He takes His responsibility for us very seriously. His church is His bride and He is incredibly protective of and passionate about His bride. We see that as we come into chapter 7.
It is really important to know that when we read something in Revelation, it doesn’t mean it happened in that order – but it means that John saw the vision in that order. So it’s not – 'what happened next?' – but – 'What did John see next?'
It’s like a movie, where there are three or four different short stories told one after the other, but it’s only later that you realise they were all interconnected and actually all happening at the same time. It all suddenly ties together and you see how the different stories are all interlinked and interwoven. They were all different perspectives or views of the same story.
And so here at the start of chapter 7, see what God says: Don’t let any of the tribulation start until my people have a seal placed on them.
But stop – did we not just read all about the tribulation in chapter 6? Yes. Chapter 6 was one vision of the tribulation – all the awful things happening on earth. And the question, or the cry, at the end of chapter 6 from those who weren’t yet God’s people was:
“For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?’”
Who can withstand all of this – who can get through this, who can find any hope in all of this? That’s the question we’re left hanging with. And that’s exactly what John is about to find out in the next part of the vision.
Here, at the start of chapter 7, John is taken back to before all the tribulation starts and he’s shown how he will get through it, he’s shown exactly how the church will survive it.
It’s like you’ve been watching an event live on BBC and when you get to a certain point, you flick over to ITV and it’s just starting there, but their camera is showing all from a totally different angle. So while you’ve seen it before, in a sense you haven’t, because you’re now seeing it in a different way.
“….‘Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.’ Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.” (7: 2-4)
God will put some sort of seal on His people. Something to distinguish them from everyone else who are not part of the church. Remember a seal is a mark of ownership, a mark of identification to say: You belong to me. It was also a mark of security – it sealed a document so that it couldn’t be opened apart from by the one with authority to open it.
And when you think about it even today – a seal provides security. When you buy a product at the supermarket, say baby food, it is sealed to protect what’s inside. It’s to stop outside contaminants from spoiling what’s inside, it keeps the product secure.
In a sense I also think that’s what it means when it talks about God sealing His people. That while there may be sin and fear and chaos all around us – it doesn’t have to be inside us.
Christians may look on the outside like everyone else, we don’t have a Ready Brek glow or a halo – but in the spiritual world, in the invisible world which Revelation reveals to us, we are set apart, there is something which is spiritually visible which marks us out as belonging to Jesus. What is this seal, this marking God puts on us. It’s the Holy Spirit.
2 Cor 1: 21-22: “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”
Eph 1: 13: “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit…”
Eph 4:30: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
The moment you are born again, the second you become a Christian, God’s Holy Spirit comes and lives within you and He never leaves you. He sets you apart as a child of God, you are under the ownership of Jesus, He empowers you to live the Christian life, He guides you in God’s ways, He brings forth the character of Jesus as you surrender your old sinful desires and give Him control. He is your security deposit of all God has ahead for you in eternity.
As 2 Tim 2: 19 says: “Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: The Lord knows those who are his…”
God doesn’t keep His people from experiencing suffering and pain – but He promises to bring us through it, that even death is not final because we are sealed, we are His, and no matter what – He has us in His hand.