After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”Revelation 7:1-3
Why and how are God’s servants sealed with God’s seal and why on their foreheads?
When reading Revelation we should remember that we are dealing with Apocalyptic literature and the images and numbers should be understood symbolically, not literally.
The vision is of four mighty angels holding back destructive winds. The winds, or if you prefer the winds of woe*, are the seals of Revelation Ch. 6.
They are the winds of hardship, war, persecution, famine and ultimately of God’s final judgment (cf. Revelation 6:12-17) which will blow on the earth.
But the mighty angels are holding them back.
Notice that Revelation 6 ends with the question.
In the light of all these woes and indeed, in the light of God’s future cataclysmic judgement, who can stand? (cf. Revelation 6:17)
Fortunately, before the hardship and destruction of Ch. 6 come God’s people must be sealed.
A fifth angel holds the seal of the Living God and says that the winds cannot blow until the servants of God are sealed on their foreheads.
What does sealing indicate?
- Protection from tampering
- A mark of ownership
- A guarantee genuineness
This vision tells us that in the midst of a world where God’s plan and purposes often include difficult things, God makes sure that his servants are first sealed.
And when the Final Judgement does come, God’s people will therefore be able to stand.
How are God’s servants sealed?
In other places in the New Testament we read that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit when we put our trust in Jesus. E.g. Ephesians 1:13-14
Why on the forehead though?
Revelation 14:1 tells us that the seal is God’s name written on our foreheads. Symbolically, when we put our faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit writes God’s name on our foreheads. We have a new master.
In the Old Testament the High Priest had God’s name engraved on a gold plate on his forehead. On the plate it said: HOLY TO THE LORD (JEHOVAH). cf. Exodus 28:36-38
The High Priest was considered especially devoted to and commissioned by God.
Now however, in Jesus, every Christian is sealed with God’s name on their forehead.
Every Christian is devoted to Jesus and commissioned by Jesus.
Every Christian is owned by God and set apart for God.
In this world the winds of woe will often blow.
In the future God’s Judgement will come.
How will we stand?
God gives his servants his seal. We belong to God.
Of course, if we have God’s own seal we can also be sure we do not have the Mark of the Beast.
* William Henriksen’s commentary on Revelation (More than Conquerors) was extremely helpful.