THOUGHTS FROM REVELATION

THE SEAL OF GOD – Revelation 7:1-4

Four angels are standing at ‘the four corners of the earth’, holding back God’s judgment. As they do so, another angel appears. He has ‘the seal of God’, and he called out in a loud voice, commanding the four angels not to release the judgment until a seal is put on the foreheads of the servants of God. The redeemed, referred to as ‘the servants of God’, are marked with ‘the seal of the living God’. This excludes them from the great day of wrath already depicted in the vision of the sixth seal.

The only other New Testament references to the redeemed being ‘sealed’ by God are:

2Corinthians 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’ [compare 2Corinthians 5:5, where there is a similar reference].

Ephesians 1:13,14: ‘And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession …’

Ephesians 4:30: ‘… do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption’.

These references to believers being ‘sealed’ have a number of things in common:

The ‘seal’ is the Holy Spirit.

The ‘seal’ effectively sets believers apart for the salvation promised to them in Christ; it identifies them as God’s possession, ‘guaranteeing what is to come’, ‘guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption …’ and ‘for the day of redemption’.

They speak of an inheritance, a redemption, that is not yet fully complete, that, although possessed and guaranteed, still waits its ultimate expression and realisation. [This future aspect of redemption is eagerly anticipated by the suffering creation, the suffering believers and the Holy Spirit, all of which are currently groaning, struggling (the Greek is agonizomai – agonizing, striving, straining) because of the presence of sin and suffering in the world (Romans 8:18-27 ).]

The redeemed are sealed for that final redemption on the Day of the Lord, when they will be set free for ever from the presence of sin and suffering, and saved/protected from the final out-pouring of the wrath of the Lamb and of the one who sits on the throne.

Much, much more could be said about this ‘sealing’. That would take us deep into the meaning of the salvation the believer has in Christ, and this meditation would go ‘for ever’.  But if you are inclined to dig deeper, think about these two truths:

[1] the Holy Spirit baptises us into Christ [1Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27] – so unites us to Christ that all that he did for us as our substitute and representative is deemed to be ours.  Because of this God relates to believers always, ever and only in Christ and through his blood. [Note that Romans 6:3 states that we are baptized into his death.] This indicates that the blood of the Lamb [see Revelation 7:9,14] also constitutes the ‘seal of God’. In this it fulfils the prophetic symbolism of the blood on the doorposts and lintels which sealed the Israelites against the final plague in Egypt on the first Passover. It is also the blood of ‘the new covenant’ referred to by Christ when he instituted the ‘Lord’s Supper’ [Matthew 26:28] – a covenant sealed and ratified by the blood of the Lamb.

[2] God needs no physical mark on our foreheads to enable him to recognise us as his own, he already holds us safe and secure in his hand [John 10:28,29].

This vision of the sealing of the redeemed is simply apocalyptic symbolism assuring believers that they are safe and secure on the day of God’s wrath. No other outcome is possible. They are sealed by God – by his Spirit and by the blood of the Lamb.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2015