Sealing of the 144,000 on Earth: Part 2 of 4 (series: Lessons on Revelations)
by John Lowe
To this point, John has not described any winds that need to be held back, so these angels may be holding back all that was released in the first four seals. At the least, they are stopping the natural order of the world. The sun is not shinning, the stars are not shinning, meteors are falling to the earth, and now the wind has stopped blowing.
This is difficult for many of us to understand; those who live in the temperate countries do not know the terror of the wind. But there is something here more far-reaching than that and more characteristic of Jewish thought, the Jews knew nothing about secondary causes. We say that atmospheric conditions, variations in temperature, land and mountain configurations, cause certain things to happen. The Jews ascribe it all to the direct action of God. They simply said, God sent the rain; God made the wind to blow; God thundered; God sent His lightning. Surely both points of view are correct, for we may still believe that God acts through the laws by which His universe is governed.
2 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 the sea,
“Another angel” means this is a fifth angel. He is apparently of a higher rank than the other four because he gives them orders (v. 3). As we see in the Book of Daniel and also in the Epistle to the Ephesians, angels have rank like the military, both the good and the bad. “Another angel” who has the seal of the “living God” comes from the east. The final disaster comes from the east when the time for Armageddon is ripe. The Lord also comes from the east when He comes in His Glory. “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:7). The east probably indicates the direction of Jerusalem.
This angel has a message for the “four angels” holding back the winds—he instructs them to hold back their damage until the servants (slaves) of God are identified by a seal on their foreheads (v. 3). This seal will mark them so that they will not be hurt during the judgment of God. According to Revelation 14:1-5, the servants marked with a seal are those who have kept themselves pure, followed the Lamb, been purchased by God, and been offered as first fruits.
This seal that the angel has with him differs from the seven seals on the scroll that the Lamb had been opening. In ancient days, a king would push his signet grain into wax on a scroll or document as a seal to mark his ownership and to protect its contents. God places His own seal on His followers, identifying them as His own and guaranteeing His protection over their souls. Here God’s seal was placed on the foreheads of his servants. This seal would be counterfeited by Satan in 13:16 (a seal known as “the mark of the beast”). These two marks would separate the people into two distinct categories—those owned by God and those owned by Satan. Ezekiel 9:4-7 records God sending a divine messenger through Jerusalem to mark the foreheads of those who still worshipped the one true God. Here, the seal that the angel put on the believer’s foreheads was the name of the lamb and Hs Father’s name (see 14:1).
3 Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
A sudden stillness descends upon the scene (vision) so that the hundred and forty-four thousand (v. 4) can be sealed. Why did the believer’s need this seal of protection? Most likely, they needed protection from what would be a time of intense difficulty on the earth, for the angels at the four winds were told, “Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till . . .” God said to delinquent Lot, “I cannot do anything till thou be come thither” (Genesis 19:22). It follows, then, that God will not allow the Great Tribulation to develop until He has secured and sealed a remnant of believing Jews. It is very clear that God will have a remnant of His people who are going to be saved—144,000 (v. 4). This may seem to you like a big number, but actually, it is very small. There are over 14,000,000 Jews today in the world, and in comparison to that number, you can see that the remnant of the children of Israel (the nation of Israel) is really going to be very small. These are the ones who are going to witness of Christ in the Great Tribulation. In Matthew 24:14, speaking of this period, the Lord Jesus said: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations and then shall the end come.”
Even though we are led to believe from the statement in verse 3— “Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads”—that the angels will be permitted to release the four destroying winds when the sealing is accomplished, but this is NOT done. It is not until we come to Revelation 9:15 that we are told, “And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men.” The Holy Spirit doesn’t say what their preparation consisted of, but, without a doubt, they knew their assignment and were ready to act on a moment’s notice to kill one-third of the inhabitants of the earth. You may thank God if you are a Christian, because you will be in Heaven when it happens.
At the end of history, people will face a time that will be marked by unprecedented evil and persecution— “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered” (Daniel 12:1). In 9:3-4, for example, during the fifth trumpet, stinging locusts descend on the earth and are told “to attack all the people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads” (NLT). In 16:2, “the first angel left the Temple and poured out his bowl over the earth, and horrible, malignant sores broke out on every one who had the mark of the beast” (NLT). However, the seal would not protect the believers in all instances from the pain and suffering of those judgments, nor would it protect them from death. Ultimately, the seal was a sign of spiritual and eternal protection. Those sealed would be protected from God’s punishment of an unrepentant world. They would not face God’s wrath, even though they would face the wrath of those who hate God. Jesus had said, “. . . Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30).
Pretribulationists (which I am, by the way) believe that Christians will have been raptured—removed from this world to meet the Lord in the air—just before the Tribulation begins. They believe that this seal means that many others will become believers during the time of tribulation—these new believers will receive this seal. According to this verse, the only believers who will suffer through this terrible evil and persecution will be those who become Christians during the tribulation—perhaps because they had witnessed the rapture of true believers.
Although scripture isn’t clear whether believer’s will have to go through the “Great Tribulation,” the Bible clearly states that God looks after His people (Psalm 1:6; 145:20; Ezekiel 34:12). He promises to protect believer’s and give them the strength to endure any and all tribulation (Psalm 32:7; John 17:15). The worst thing about the storms of life is that men are likely to lose the thought of God in the storms.
Both those who think that the Christians will be raptured before the Tribulation, as well as those who think they will remain on earth throughout, agree that the seal put on believer’s “foreheads” will protect them. Both groups also consider 3:10 to describe this: “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.”
What is the mark that is put upon their “foreheads?” Now here is a place where I must confess (I sure hope you won’t let this get out) that I do not know the answer, and I can only make suggestions. My feeling, though, is that it is a spiritual mark that will be in their lives: “. . . But by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20)—by their lives. I believe that is going to be the mark of God’s own during this period because the godless are really going to be godless in this period.