BEFORE we deal with this chapter in detail, it is better to set out the general picture behind it.
John is seeing the vision of the last terrible days and in particular the great tribulation which is to come, and the like of which has not been seen since the beginning of the world (Matthew 24:21; Mark 13:19). In this coming tribulation, there was to be a final assault by every evil power and a final devastation of the earth. It is to play their part in this devastation that the winds are waiting; but, for a little while, they are being held back.
Before this time of terror and devastation comes, the faithful are to be sealed with the seal of God in order that they may survive it. It is not that they are to be exempt from it but that they are to be brought safely through it.
This is a frightening picture: even if the faithful are to be brought through this terrible time, they nonetheless must pass through it; and this is a prospect to make even the bravest shudder.
In verse 9, the range of the seer’s vision extends still further, and he sees the faithful after the tribulation has passed. They are in perfect peace and satisfaction in the very presence of God. The end time will bring them unspeakable horrors; but, when they have passed through it, they will enter into joy which is equally beyond words.
There are really three elements in this picture. (1) There is a warning. The last unparalleled and inconceivable time of tribulation is coming soon. (2) There is an assurance. In that time of destruction, the faithful will suffer terribly; but they will come out on the other side because they are sealed with the seal of God. (3) There is a promise. When they have passed through that time, they will come to the blessedness in which all pain and sorrow have gone and there is nothing but peace and joy.