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THE SIXTH SEAL, PART 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.” 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. Revelation 7:1–4.

 

In the sixth chapter of Revelation we encountered the restoration of the truth of the biblical church of God. This truth was welcomed by some, but it was largely rejected by the established church.

In the seventh chapter we see the response to this truth by those called the servants of God in verse 3. As people began to respond to the truth of the biblical church, four angels appear at the four corners of the earth holding the four winds of the earth. The holding back of these winds produced some kind of harm, which then prompted the appearance of another angel. This angel instructed the first four to do no harm until we—all five angels—seal the servants of our God in their foreheads.

The sixth chapter ends with the established churches anticipating the great day of the wrath of the Lamb; these four angels are the agents of His wrath and His wrath is nothing less than the withholding of the four winds from the earth, the sea, and the trees.

 

The Angels

 

At the beginning of chapter 7 we encounter four angels standing at the four corners of the earth. We understand from our previous studies that angels represent ministers or ministries of the church. The four corners of the earth suggest the four points of the compass, which then suggests that the effects of what is about to happen are to be experienced across the entire earth. The picture is that of the ministry of the true body of Christ around the world receiving and preparing to proclaim the message of the biblical church that will unleash the moving of the Holy Spirit throughout the world of the professed church-at-large. We learned this began around 1800 a.d.

But before we can consider that we must discover who the earth, sea, and trees are that are affected by the wrath of the Lamb.

 

The Earth, the Sea and the Trees

 

Up to this point in the Revelation, the word earth has appeared 13 times. In chapter 1 the tribes of the earth mourn because of the Glorified Christ. From this we understand that the earth are those that lament or are grieved by the presence of Christ. In chapter 3, the letter to the church at Philadelphia, a trial was to come that would test those that dwell on the earth; those who keep God’s commands would be kept from this trial. From this we understand the earth is those that do not keep God’s commands. In chapter 5, the seven Spirits of God are sent out into all the earth. From this we learn that the earth are the unregenerate, those to whom God reaches out with the offer of salvation from sin. In chapter 6 we read of the beasts of the earth and of stars, or ministries that have fallen to the earth. Summarize what we have seen, the earth is those: That are grieved by the presence of Christ; those that do not keep God’s commandments; those to whom the Holy Spirit offers salvation—people in sin; and fallen ministries—those in fallen apostate churches. The earth, then, is an element of mankind that is not among the redeemed, those not saved from sin through the atonement in Christ.

The sea is that body of water that surrounds the earth. The sea appears in different contexts in the Revelation. Being that the wrath of the Lamb affects this sea, the sea cannot be a good or neutral thing. In 8:8, the sounding of the second trumpet, we find that “something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea” causing the sea to become blood. In 10:2 we see a mighty angel setting his right foot on the sea and his left on the land—or earth as the King James Version. So, we learn that the sea is juxtaposed next to the earth in the dealings of the Glorified Christ. In 12:12 that inhabitants of the earth and sea are given over to the wrath of the devil. And in 13:1 we find a blasphemous beast rising up out of the sea. And in 17:15 the harlot, Mystery Babylon, sits on waters, which are defined as “peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.” Considering these things, we see that the sea represents another element of mankind that is not among the redeemed. It is largely the church world without salvation—Christianity in name only.

Trees are plants that live on the earth. In 8:7 a third part of the trees were burned up under the sounding of the first trumpet. However, in 9:4 trees are protected from the locusts that come out of the bottomless pit if those trees have the seal of God. From this we suggest that trees are people that are among the redeemed but are unstable and vulnerable in spiritual matters. They are saved but have not been established in the faith.

 

The Task of the Four Angels

 

The task of the four angels in exercising the wrath of the Lamb is to hold back the wind from the earth, sea, and trees.

The wind represents the work and presence of the Holy Spirit. On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon the church as “a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.” (Acts 2:2).

In Revelation 5, the Lamb sitting on the throne has “seven horns and seven eyes which are said to be the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” Can we say the four corners of the earth is the same as all the earth? The seven Spirits of God in chapter 5 are actually the one Holy Spirit working throughout the entire gospel dispensation. In chapter 7, the Holy Spirit is represented as four winds of the earth, the one Holy Spirit that works across the entire world of human life.

And what is the work of the Holy Spirit? In John 16 Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit, whose work is to convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. He brings conviction of committed sin to those He draws to salvation; He convicts or admonishes those that accept God’s gift of salvation to live holy, righteous lives; and He enacts judgment: He reinforces the truth of absolute right and wrong; good and evil so that the human race is fully accountable to God.

As the four angles begin holding back the four winds, a fifth angel appears coming from the east. As the wise men came from the east and were led to Christ by the star, this angel represents the wisdom and caution of Christ working through His ministry. As the wise men were led to Christ by the star, God’s people in the organized visible-church-at-large are given the opportunity to see Christ’s body, the real church, before God’s judgment is pressed on them. This ministry of wisdom was given to the angel to seal the servants of our God in their foreheads with the seal of the living God.

What is the seal of the living God? Christ’s initial teaching about His church shows us exactly what the seal of the living God is: Matthew 16:17, “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” The Living Bible styles the statement in very simple words: “My Father in heaven has personally revealed this to you.” You will recall that the Jews saw Jesus as a resurrected John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or some other prophet. The disciples answered that they knew Jesus to be the Son of the living God. The seal is the recognition and conviction that Jesus is the Second Person of the Godhead sent to atone for our sins and to reconcile us to God.

It is this recognition and conviction upon which Christ builds His church. No one can be part of His church without that deep-seated conviction and the experience of salvation from sin that comes from that conviction. Jesus gave a preview of this truth in John 6:27 where He says, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”

The Apostle Paul tells us the seal, that conviction that Christ is God, is actually the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in 2 Corinthians 1:22, “who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” Paul further stresses this truth in Ephesians 1:13, “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,” and in Ephesians 4:30, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” 2 Timothy 2:19 gives us this seal in the simplest of words, “Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’” and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” This is the seal the wisdom of God says must be upon the servants of our God for them to be able to recognize the biblical church, the real body of Christ.

 

Understanding of the Biblical Church Breaks Forth

 

As we enter the time of the sixth seal, the days of the Lamb’s wrath, we see the mercy of the Glorified Christ being shown by holding back His wrath until this seal is placed on the foreheads of His servants.

At this time in history, around the beginning of the nineteenth century, the truth of the biblical church is difficult to comprehend as Christianity has been divided and subdivided into many different churches and denominations. There is no real sense of oneness, or unity, among the Christian churches at this time, each essentially taking the position that it is the true church and the only means of salvation.

In the initial days of the Primitive Church Movement, the emphasis was on the imitation of the Early Church and the shunning of creeds and confessions. To listen to American ministers of this tradition, one could get the idea that this was strictly an American movement, but the Revelation tells us it encompassed the four corners of the earth.

Historians record a great deal about the changes in the visible-church-at-large of this period, but there were undoubtedly places around the world where the Holy Spirit worked to move people towards unity as the one body of Christ that escaped the notice of historians. In the 1830’s the influence of Alexander Campbell reached England and Scotland, and congregations formed by people leaving the Baptist churches. Kenneth Scott Latourette writes in his book Christianity In A Revolutionary Age:

 

They wished Christian unity and aspired to it by seeking to restore the New Testament church and to be known by Bible names, such as Disciples of Christ and Christians, rather than by sectarian designations.[1]

 

In 1842 . . . G. C. Reid . . . made them aware of one another, the Church of Christ, with more than twelve hundred members about equally divided between Scotland and England and with a few members in Wales, formed a comprehensive organization which, while respecting the autonomy of each congregation, provided for cooperation in missionary efforts.[2]

 

Latourette makes us aware of a similar movement that came into being earlier in the nineteenth century:

 

Another movement, also seeking the restoration of New Testament Christianity, was known by its adherents simply as the Brethren or the Christian Brethren but to the outer world as the Darbyites or the Plymouth Brethren.[3]

 

The Brethren were convinced of the perfect acceptance of the believer in Christ before God, of the present possession of eternal life by all believers, and of the union of all believers to one another by the Holy Spirit’s indwelling. They viewed the Church as both local, consisting of all the believers in a city, and as the body of Christ and the universal Church of God on earth.[4]

 

Also arising in the British Isles were similar para-church groups such as the Salvation Army, the Church Army, the Evangelization Society, and the Open-Air Mission. Latourette comments that “In the later part of the century the Nonconforming churches developed and increasing sense of kinship”.[5] While no real union of these churches followed, some steps were put in place to facilitate a union. William Reed Huntington put forth four principles on which he proposed that a United Church could rest: The Holy Scriptures as the Word of God, the primitive creeds as the rule of faith, The two sacraments ordained by Christ, and, The historic episcopate.[6] This means there must be an actual line of ordination of ministers that goes back to the original Apostles of Christ. It was this last point, the historic episcopate, that prevented real union from taking place.

As we observed in a previous lecture, similar things were happening as seen in the Stone-Campbell movement and the Winebrennarian Church of God in the United States. What other events were happening around the world with regard to the awakening of a visible biblical church of God may never be known; nevertheless, we can be assured that something was happening among God’s people around the world.

 

Wisdom Waits

 

The four angels were told to hold back the four winds of the earth. A world-wide ministry was being awakened by the Holy Spirit as to the biblical need and requirement for unity among the body of Christ. The established church did not want to hear such a message as it would do away with denominations and sects among Christians.

The message would soon be released, but it was necessary for the Holy Spirit to stir up those who are called the servants of God. To accept the message of unity among Christians, individual Christians had to be convinced of salvation from sin and holiness of life, not just as individuals, but collectively as the body of Christ. When the message of the unity of the body of Christ was to be let out, the unregenerate and nominal Christian church would reject it; and, many in those churches that were truly saved would be dissuaded from accepting and responding to the message when they heard it.

When the servants of our God were sealed under this sixth seal, the message of the biblical church was let loose and this mystical number of 144,000 out “of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed” and emerged from caves, rocks, and mountains to take a visible stand for the biblical church of God as built by Jesus Christ through the work of the atonement.

Our next chapter will explore this coming out.



[1] Latourette, Kenneth Scott,  Christianity In A Revolutionary Age,  Zondervan Publishing House: Grand Rapids, MI,  1959,  vol. II, pg. 343.

[2] Ibid, in loco.

[3] Ibid, pg. 344.

[4] Ibid, pg. 345.

[5] Ibid, pg. 349.

[6] Ibid, ppg 349, 350.