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And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.
"And after these things"
The discussion of the seven seals is not yet finished, but before the seventh seal is described, John is shown another scene. This interjection of parenthetical material between the sixth and seventh seals is designed to emphasize important issues pertaining to the time of the sixth seal. Chapter seven appears to be inserted as an answer to the question asked in Revelation 6:17, "For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?"
"The four corners of the earth"
This same Greek expression is translated "the four quarters of the earth" in Revelation 20:8.
"Holding the four winds of the earth"
Here we are shown the closing scenes of man's probation (see below). When the angels loose the four winds, the earth will be plunged into the "time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time." Daniel 12:1. But as long as Jesus' present mediatorial work in the heavenly sanctuary continues, the angels must restrain the winds of trouble and strife. But when His work is finished, and the destiny of every person is fixed, then the vials of the wrath of God described in Revelation 16 will be poured out upon the earth.
And 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 given to hurt the earth and the sea,
"The seal of the living God"
Though we may have entered God's service, we are not eternally secure until we receive the seal of the living God.
What is this seal?
Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
The angels are about to let go of the four winds, when another angel hastily delivers an urgent message from God, "Hold! Hold! Hold! Hold! until the servants of God are sealed in their foreheads."
"The servants of our God"
When Adam and Eve sinned, Satan claimed the human race as his subjects. But instead of abandoning mankind in their sins, God implemented a plan of salvation, allowing man a period of probation, during which each person might choose whom he would serve. Under this plan, sinful man may, by the grace of God, turn from the service of sin to the service of God. Those who accept God's invitation and choose to enter His service are called "the servants of our God." Conversion happens when those who "were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures" (Titus 3:3), become "the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart" (Ephesians 6:6). In Romans 6:20-22 Paul described it this way, "For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. . . . But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life."
"In their foreheads"
The seal of the living God is not an external mark on their foreheads, but the impress of God in their foreheads. It is the ultimate fulfillment of God's promise, "I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them." Hebrews 10:16.
"Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes." Deuteronomy 11:18
"And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: . . . and thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes." Deuteronomy 6:6-8.
And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.
In Daniel 9:24, the nation of Israel was given a 490-year probationary period. Their continued status as God's chosen people would depend upon their response to God's grace during that time. But by their rejection of the Messiah when He appeared, they failed to fulfill the conditions of their probation, and Jesus had to declare, "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate." Matthew 23:38. What would then become of all God's promises to Israel? They would be fulfilled to those who, from any nation, would respond to God's invitation of mercy. Peter learned this truth through a vision received at the house of Simon the Tanner. From what he was shown in that vision he exclaimed, "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him." Acts 10:34, 35. All prophecies concerning "Israel," therefore, which find their fulfillment after the close of the seventy-week period of Daniel 9, must be applied accordingly.
The name "Israel" is a spiritual appellation reserved for spiritual people. Only as the Jews demonstrated what the term signifies did the designation apply to them. When they no longer qualified for the title, others were found who would.
Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand.
Of the tribe of Aser were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Nepthalim were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasses were sealed twelve thousand.
Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand.
Of the tribe of Zabulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.
After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;
And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,
Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?
And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.
For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.