After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel. – Revelation 7:1-4
Well we floated right by the opening of the seven seals without any water-related passages. Lots of interesting imagery, just no water. So this passage follows the scroll opening by the Lamb and the events that followed involving horses and pale riders bringing all sort of chaos and calamity upon humanity. This period of time is referred to as the “great day of wrath” (Revelations 6:17).
After all this calamity and chaos come four angels standing at the four corners of the earth. These angels were “holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree”. This is an interesting word picture. These angelic beings are preventing air from moving around the earth, i.e. wind. As I understand it wind is the result of differences in atmospheric pressure. Wind actually is an important part of a properly functioning earth. It moves gasses and water vapor around to keep the whole earth system running smoothly. The angels holding it back would result in a collapse of the earth’s normal functioning.
A fifth angel joins the scene. This angel has the seal of the living God. I am not sure what this means but this angel, instead of acting on the earth and its air movement, acted as an advocate for the servants of God. This angel asked that the wrath of the first four angels be stayed until “we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” So many seals and scrolls here in revelations. I am not sure what to make of this protection of the “chosen” of God, but apparently there were, or will be, “144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.” This would seem to be at odds with the message of Jesus that there is place in Heaven for all those who confess that Jesus is Lord.
The seal of the Living God would be what Jesus had it would seem to me. He was certainly the Living Water for His disciples and served as their, and our, advocate before God. I am not sure how this “angel” relates to Jesus and His role as our advocate.
This is one of those passages where I feel like I am missing something. Why would the inclusive message of Jesus be transformed into this exclusive sealing of a limited number, 144,000, people? I do not know. Perhaps there is a difference between those still toiling the land of oblivion and those who have already crossed over into the afterlife? I am not sure. Maybe this particular message was meant mainly for wayward Jewish people still clinging to the old treasures while the new ones were slipping through their fingers?
This passage is some of the turbulent water that I anticipated I would find here in revelations. I am not sure what to make of it and I pray that as I continue down the river passages like this will make more sense.
Prayer: God help me to understand the meaning and importance of passages like this one in light of the love and Grave articulated by Jesus.
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