Revelation 7 Commentary: God's Seal On His People

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Please click here for previous study on Revelation 6 Commentary: Breaking The Seals of the Mysterious Book.

Revelation 7:1-3: After these things I 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. 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 was 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."

The seventh seal will not be opened until we come to chapter eight. Its opening takes place at the second coming of Christ. Therefore, the sealing work described in this chapter comes between the events under the opening of the sixth seal and the seventh seal. In other words, these things happen just before the second coming of Christ, but after the falling of the stars, which was in A.D. 1833. The six seals have prepared the way for the important work of these four angels and that of the special "angel ascending from the east."

We have already learned in chapter four how angels guide in the affairs of men. These "four angels" are now working in every part of the earth to prevent calamities and disasters that would hinder or destroy God's work.

"Wind" in Bible prophecy refers to strife, confusion, and war between the nations. We have all seen what happens when four winds blow at the same time: a whirlwind spirals into a funnel, which can be terribly destructive. Such a political, military, or social hurricane or tornado would hinder the progress of God's saving message in the world (see Daniel 7:2; Jeremiah 25:32). The measure of security and peace we now enjoy is due to the work of those four angels.

Jeremiah describes what will come when the four winds of human hatred are at last let loose: "Disaster shall go forth from nation to nation, and a great whirlwind shall be raised up from the farthest parts of the earth. And at that day the slain of the Lord shall be from one end of the earth even to the other end of the earth" (Jeremiah 25:32, 33). This can be nothing but the great impending battle of Armageddon, which God commissions His angels to hold back until He has sealed His faithful people.

Now we ask, What is the seal of the living God? Ezekiel will help us understand, for he mentions the "mark" which is placed upon the foreheads of God's people (Ezekiel 9:3, 4). This "mark" is a sign of victory over sin and of loyalty to the Lord.

In Egypt, as the destroying angel went through the land to slay all the firstborn of the Egyptians, he "passed over" those homes where the mark of blood was placed on the doorpost. So, in the final destruction, the destroying angels are commanded, "Do not come near any one on whom is the mark" (Ezekiel 9:6). The "seal of God" is therefore the mark identifying God's people as His. Being placed in their "foreheads" signifies that it has to do with the character. The character of His people is God's great concern. The power that applies the seal is the Holy Spirit (see Ephesians 4:30).

John further describes this seal in Revelation 14:1, saying that the 144,000 have "the Father's name written on their foreheads." What is God's name? In 1 John 4:8, we read: "God is love." When the character of the people of God is transformed into perfect love, then will the "Father's name" be written in their foreheads.
Hezekiah Seal

But how is love revealed? "Love is the fulfillment of the law" (Romans 13:10). If we profess to love, but do not fulfill the law of God, we deny the seal of God. And if we profess to keep God's commandments, but do not reveal love in our lives, we deny the Holy Spirit who impresses the seal upon God's people, because "the fruit of the Spirit is love" (Galatians 5:22).

A seal is the sign of authority, and is associated with the laws of government. "Whatever is written in the king's name and sealed with the king's signet ring, no one can revoke" (Esther 8:8). Queen Esther knew that if King Ahasuerus sealed the writing of the Persian law, it could never again be changed. God says through Isaiah: "Seal the law among my disciples" (Isaiah 8:16). Therefore we shall find the seal of God in His law.

A seal must have three details in order to be legal:

(1) The name of the law-giver;

(2) his position, or authority; and

(3) the territory over which he rules. For example, the Queen of England's seal would read, "Elizabeth (name), Queen (position or authority) of Great Britain, Ireland, and the Commonwealth (territory).

"Now we ask, where can we find the seal of God in His law? Only the Sabbath commandment contains all three essentials of a seal:

(1) "The seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord your God" (name of the law-giver);

(2) "in six days the Lord made" (His position or authority, He is the Creator); "the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them" (the territory over which He rules.)

When Isaiah spoke for God, "Bind up the testimony, seal the law among My disciples," he spoke of a work of restoring God's law to its rightful place of authority. Something in the law of God had evidently been overlooked and neglected by God's servants. This something was to be restored by the angel who places the seal of God upon the foreheads of God's people before the seventh angel brings history to an end.

Now we ask, What is the commandment usually neglected by the Lord's "disciples" today? It is indeed the fourth commandment, the Sabbath commandment. Many have turned away from the true Sabbath of the Lord, which is the seventh day, and have accepted a rest day chosen for them and commanded by the Roman Catholic Church, which day is the first day of the week. Our Lord says that His Holy Spirit sanctifies His people through the proper observance of the Sabbath: "Surely My sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you" (Exodus 31:13). Further, it is by observing the Sabbath that God's people come to know Him: "Hallow My Sabbaths, and they will be a sign between Me and you, that you may know that I am the Lord your God" (Ezekiel 20:20).

The Sabbath was never to be restricted only to the Jews as a nation. It was sanctified for man at creation, long before there was a Jew. It was kept by Jesus, who is our divine Example. He said He had not come to change the law or to destroy it. "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law, or the Prophets. I come not to destroy but to fulfill." "Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:17,19).

Further, Jesus told His disciples to keep the Sabbath even after His crucifixion and resurrection (see Matthew 24:15-21). The true seventh-day Sabbath was kept by the apostles and the Gentile Christians (see Acts 18:1, 4; 17:2; 13:42-44). John says that God's people in the last days will keep all His commandments, and this includes the Sabbath: "Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus" (Revelation 14:12). Lastly, the Sabbath will be faithfully observed in the new heavens and the new earth that the Lord shall create (Isaiah 66:22, 23).

To receive the "seal of God" therefore is to receive a distinguishing mark that sets one apart from others as very different and peculiar. The destroying angels are told, "Do not come near any one on whom is the mark" (Ezekiel 9:6). But all others including "the elders who were before the temple," were to be slain. Does the observance of the true Sabbath distinguish a person as different from most people?

Yes, most certainly. In this so-called "Christian age," one of the most peculiar things that a person can do is to observe the true Sabbath of the Lord, the seventh day, the day He set apart and sanctified, which is Saturday. The whole world, Christian and pagan, regularly use the Lord's true Sabbath as their busiest working day. Millions, because of the influence of paganism and the papacy, observe the first day of the week instead. This very peculiarity of observing the seventh day marks one as being different. This points to the Sabbath as being the seal of God.

But it must be remembered that true Sabbathkeeping is the fruitage of a genuine conversion to Christ. It is not merely resting on Saturday. To receive the seal of God through true Sabbathkeeping is to receive the work of the Holy Spirit upon the heart, a "rest" from sin and self: "There remains therefore a rest [keeping of the sabbath, Greek] for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest, has himself ceased from his own works as God did from His" (Hebrews 4:9, 10). These "works" are works of pride and love of self.

The work of this angel in sealing God's people is the most important activity in the world today. It will continue until in "every nation, tribe, tongue, and people" God's true followers shall have been gathered out and sealed. No power on earth or in hell can prevent the accomplishment of this work. For this purpose, the "four angels" continue to hold back the "winds of strife" in all the world a little longer. But only a little longer—soon will come that "time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation" (Daniel 12:1).

Revelation 7:4-8: And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed: of the tribe of Judah twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Napthali twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand were sealed.

Some may wonder how Christian people could be divided into the twelve tribes of Israel. We find the explanation in the book of Romans: "Nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham. . . . Those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted for the seed" (Romans 9:7, 8). "He is not a Jew who is one outwardly . . . but he is a Jew, who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter" (Romans 2:28, 29). James addresses his letter in the New Testament to Christian people, but calls them "the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad" (James 1:1). These are God's true people, believers in Christ.

The New Jerusalem is Christ's city, yet the gates bear the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, and all who enter go in through one of those twelve gates. Jesus Himself was a Jew—inwardly, "of the heart, in the Spirit."

Why are God's people divided into twelve different tribes? Each of the twelve tribes of Israel had special differences in character which are explained in Genesis 49:1-28 and Deuteronomy 33:6-24. Not all the members of each tribe are finally numbered among the overcomers with the 144,000. “Out of” each tribe were sealed 12,000 only.

The others? They chose not to overcome. The entire tribe of Dan is missing, evidently because of a refusal to overcome the sin of backbiting: "Dan shall be a serpent by the way, a viper in the path" (Genesis 49:16). Let us be among the overcomers!

Now we see that the 144,000 may be a very large company:

Revelation 7:9-12: After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" And all the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:

"Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, Thanksgiving and honor and power and might, Be to our God forever and ever. Amen."

This "great multitude" may include the 144,000, which is probably a mystical number. Numbers in the Bible are not always counted as we count them. When Jesus fed the 5,000, the number was "besides women and children" (Matthew 14:21). John first hears the "number of those who were sealed," 144,000; and afterwards he sees "a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues." Evidently this "multitude" are the fruitage of the preaching of the "three angels," who in the last days take the everlasting gospel to "every nation, tribe, tongue, and people" (Revelation 14:6,7). There is room among that great multitude for you!

The 144,000 are doubtless those who will be alive on the earth when Jesus returns. They have had a special experience. The great multitude may also include some who lived in past ages, who will be resurrected when the Lord comes (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17). We learn more about these people:

Revelation 7:13-17: Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, "Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?" And I said to him, "Sir, you know." So he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

How kind of one of the twenty-four elders to anticipate John's and our question! God wants us to understand this Book.

This "great tribulation" is the same as that spoken of by Daniel, which comes just before the end: "At that time [when the door of mercy is closed] Michael shall stand up [begin to reign],... and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered every one who is found written in the book" (Daniel 12:1).

"They have passed through the time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation; they have endured the anguish of the time of Jacob's trouble (see Jeremiah 30:6, 7); they have stood without an intercessor through the final outpouring of God's judgment. . . . They have seen the earth wasted with famine and pestilence, the sun having power to scorch men with great heat, and they themselves have endured suffering, hunger, and thirst. But 'they shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat' (Revelation 7:l6)."

These have lived during the seven last plagues (see Revelation 16) unharmed. These are those spoken of in the Book of Psalms, "Because you made the Lord who is my refuge, even the most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you nor shall any plague come near your dwelling." "Because he has set his love upon Me therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name" (Psalm 91:9, 10, 14).

Can any wealth which this world offers compare with the privilege of being numbered with this "great multitude"? A character like Christ's formed in this life is the fruit of our faith in Christ. When Christ shall come, He will not change the character of any individual. A precious lifetime is given to us to be improved in washing our robes and making them white "in the blood of the Lamb." It is all by grace and not by works.

There are many tears on our faces now; we know sorrow, bereavement; disappointment, and grinding poverty. But there will be no tears when God's people wear the white raiment—they will have learned to trust the Lord, and to know that all He does for us is for our good. Why should we feel discouraged when we believe that the Lord overrules for good all that happens to us?

For a detailed, well researched and easy to read commentary on the book of Revelation I urge to buy a copy of Revelation of Jesus Christ: Commentary on the Book of Revelation This verse-by-verse commentary offers a text-focused and Christ-centered approach to the book of Revelation. Appropriate for personal study and as a college and seminary text, this volume provides both in-depth notes and lay-oriented exposition for use by scholars, students, pastors, and laypeople. An ever-increasing interest in the prophecies of the Apocalypse has resulted in deeper understandings which are introduced in this updated edition. 

Ranko Stefanovic is professor of New Testament at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. He holds a Ph.D. degree from Andrews University and is a well-loved teacher, popular speaker, and author of scholarly articles.

Please click here for the next study on Revelation 8 commentary: The Seven Trumpets.

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