SYNOPSIS: God’s servants are sealed before the “four winds of the earth” are unleashed by the four horsemen – Revelation 7:1-3.
At first glance, the seventh chapter of the book of Revelation appears to interrupt the sequence of seal openings with unrelated events that intervene between the sixth and seventh seal openings. However, the “interruption” is an integral part of the Seven Seals. Chapter 7 is comprised of four sections:
- The sealing of God’s servants – (Revelation 7:1-3).
- The numbering of the sealed – (7:4-8).
- The vision of an innumerable multitude – (7:9-12).
- The interpretation of the innumerable multitude – (7:14-17).
In this chapter, the same group is presented using two different images – The tribes of Israel assembled for travel and the “innumerable multitude” seen by John exiting the “great tribulation.” At the end of the chapter, the full number of the saints is found “standing before the Lamb and the Throne” in the New Creation.
The fifth and sixth seal openings asked two questions that are answered in Chapter 7:
- How long must the martyrs wait for vindication?
- Who can stand before the wrath of the Lamb?
The “sealing of God’s servants” borrows imagery from the Exodus story. The “sealing” marks off the full number of martyrs assembled for the march to the new Promised Land, New Jerusalem. The vision of the “innumerable multitude” presents overcoming saints who are enabled to “stand” before the Lamb and the Throne in the New Creation, having faithfully endured the “great tribulation.”
The Four Winds
- (Revelation 7:1-3) – “After this, I saw four messengers standing at the four corners of the earth, holding fast the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow upon the land or upon the sea or upon any tree. And I saw another messenger ascending from the rising of the sun, holding the seal of the Living God; and he cried out with a loud voice unto the four messengers unto whom it had been given to injure the land and the sea, saying—Do not injure the land or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God upon their foreheads.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
“After this” refers to the sequence in which John has been receiving the vision, not to the chronological sequence of any actual events. The paragraph cannot follow the sixth seal chronologically since the opening of the sixth seal produced the Day of the Lord and the final judgment.
John now sees four angels holding back the “four winds of the earth,” a clause alluding to a passage from the book of Zechariah:
- (Zechariah 6:1-5) – “And once again I lifted mine eyes and looked, and lo! four chariots coming forward from between two mountains,…In the first chariot were red horses,—and in the second chariot, black horses; and in the third chariot, white horses,—and in the fourth chariot, horses spotted, deep red. Then began I and said unto the messenger who was speaking with me,—What are these, my lord? And the messenger answered, and said unto me,—These are the four winds of the heavens, coming forward after each hath presented itself near the Lord of all the earth.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
The “four winds” are identical to the four riders released when the first four seals were broken open by the Lamb. Note the description of the four groups of colored horses in the passage from Zechariah. In Revelation, the “four winds” are“given” authority “to injure the earth and the sea,” the same verb used for the authority to act “given” to each of the four horsemen (Revelation 6:1-8).
However, the wording from Zechariah is changed from, the “four winds of heaven,” to the “four winds of the earth,” most likely, because the four horsemen have authority “over a fourth part of the earth.” The wording also echoes the description from the book of Daniel of the four beasts the prophet saw ascending from a chaotic sea:
- (Daniel 7:2-3) – “Daniel spake and said, I was looking in my vision [which came] with the night,—when, lo! the four winds of the heavens, bursting forth upon the great sea, and four large wild beasts coming up out of the sea,—diverse, one from another.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
The “sealing” occurs before the Lamb opens the first four seals. The forces released upon the saints by the four riders occur after the saints are “sealed.” Elsewhere in Revelation, the term “servants of God” refers to followers of the Lamb, NOT to national Israel (Revelation 1:1, 2:20, 19:2, 19:5, 22:3, 22:6).
The “sealing” also echoes a passage from Ezekiel in which a mark is placed on the foreheads of the righteous men in Jerusalem grieved over the “abominations” they witnessed:
- (Ezekiel 9:3-4) – “And the glory of the God of Israel lifted itself up from off the cherub whereon it had been, unto the threshold of the house,—and he called unto the man clothed with linen, who had the scribes ink holder by his side. Then said Yahweh unto him. Pass along through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem,—and set thou a mark upon the foreheads of the men who are sighing and crying over all the abominations that are being done in her midst.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
Unlike when Israel was in bondage in ancient Egypt, this “sealing” does not protect saints from death. Instead, it empowers them to persevere through the coming tribulations and persecutions. Again, since the “four winds” are withheld until God’s servants are sealed, this “sealing” is related directly to whatever the first four seals unleash (Revelation 1:9, 6:9, 11:7, 12:11, 12:17, 13:7-10, 20:4).
The four angels are commanded not to harm “the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” This is a verbal link to Chapter 9, the fifth trumpet when the “scorpions” released from the “Abyss” are told not to harm “the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree, but only such men as have not the seal of God on their foreheads.” The verbal link suggests there is some overlap between the series of Seven Seals and Seven Trumpets (Revelation 9:1-4).
The “seal of God” designates ownership. It is placed on the foreheads of His servants. The same sealed company reappears in Chapter 14, the 144,000 “males” who follow the Lamb and have “his Father’s name written upon their foreheads” (Revelation 14:1-5).
The “seal of God” was anticipated in the letter to the church at Philadelphia:
- (Revelation 3:10-12) – “Because thou didst keep my word of endurance, I also will keep thee out of the hour of trial, which is about to come upon the whole habitable world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. I come quickly: hold fast that which thou hast, that no one take thy crown. He that overcometh, I will make him a pillar in the sanctuary of my God, and outside shall he in nowise go forth any more; and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God, and I will write upon him my new name.”
The placement of the image of the “sealing of God’s servants” after the opening of the sixth seal, the “day of wrath,” suggests the events represented by the four riders occur between the enthronement of the Lamb and the Day of the Lord, the hour when no one is able to “stand” before the Lamb and the Throne.
In other words, the “seal of God” designates the overcoming saints who belong to the Lamb, and it prepares them to persevere through whatever transpires between the exaltation of Jesus and the end of the age.
In the interim, death, disease, trials, and persecution continue to impact believers. However, unlike the “inhabitants of the earth,” overcoming saints will find themselves “standing” and celebrating before the Lamb and the Throne in New Jerusalem after enduring the “great tribulation” (Revelation 7:14-14).
Above all, the “sealing” protects God’s servants from the final “wrath” unleashed against the “inhabitants of the earth” on the Day of the Lord, the “hour of trial” described when the sixth seal was opened, the day of the “wrath” when no one else will be able “to stand.”