God's Seal of Protection
Philadelphia Baptist Church
4/29/2007 Sun. a.m.
God’s Seal of Protection
Revelation 7:1–3, 9–17
These [who are arrayed in white robes] are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Revelation 7:14.
In the religions of the ancient world, blood was viewed as sacred. Some ancients saw blood as containing the life principle, even the soul. They did not understand the function of blood in the body. The fact that blood circulated in the body was not well understood until about 1615’s A.D...
Blood was widely consumed as a food in the first century A.D.. This practice was repulsive to the Jews (Leviticus 7:26; 17:12, 14; 19:26) and was forbidden by the early church (Acts 15:20). Like many of their contemporaries, ancient Jews believed a person’s blood contained his or her life. If the blood drained from a person, they knew that that person would die.
Thus life and blood were tightly connected (Deuteronomy 12:23). This helps us understand the frequent phrase innocent blood. From our modern, scientific point of view, we cannot imagine blood itself being guilty or innocent any more than hair can be. Yet innocent blood conveys the idea of the violent death of an innocent person. To slay an innocent person would bring “blood” or “bloodguilt” upon the perpetrator (Deuteronomy 19:10).
The Old Testament taught that human blood was not to be shed in violence (Genesis 9:6). Murder was more than a criminal act; it was an offense against God. The Old Testament taught that blood purifies, as summarized in the New Testament passage Hebrews 9:22: “without shedding of blood is no remission [of sins].”
For the church to talk about the blood of Christ may seem “uncivilized” to many in our time. There is a certain delicate balance here. The blood that Jesus shed for us is a stark reality. We are to teach this in a way that is understandable. If we sugarcoat this fact too much, however, the message may be lost.
The Old Testament teaching about the purpose of blood sacrifices pointed to the seriousness of sin and how great its penalty must be. Yet those sacrifices were not capable of paying sin’s penalty. That is why we needed the death of Jesus to satisfy the price of redemption (Romans 3:21–26).
While no one can withstand God’s wrath, there is a protection for the people of God so that they will not have to face it. This protection comes through the blood of the Lamb, our blessed Savior, Jesus Christ.
I. Seal of Protection (Revelation 7:1–3)
Can you spot a Christian by appearance alone? Do we look different from non-Christians? While some styles of dress may identify persons as nonbelievers, most Christians look and dress like their non-Christian neighbors. This text teaches that there is a spiritual seal on God’s people that somehow marks them.
A. Angels Controlling Nature (v. 1)
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.
The number four symbolizes the whole earth in Revelation. This may be represented by the four angels charged with the earth, the four corners or quarters of the land (Revelation 20:8), or the four winds that blow upon the earth (Jeremiah 49:36; Ezekiel 37:9; Daniel 7:2; Mark 13:27). The four angels seem to be stewards of the earth. Their actions demonstrate a pause in the furious activities of the previous chapter.
B. Angel with God’s Seal (vv. 2, 3)
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.
Another angel enters the scene (ascending from the east), symbolizing the dawning of a new stage in the events. This angel possesses God’s seal, giving him the ability to place a spiritual mark on people. This angel also has authority over the four earth-steward angels and is able to command them.
Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
The spiritual seal of God is pictured as a mark on the foreheads of God’s servants. Any destruction to be done by the four earth-steward angels is “on hold” until the project of marking all servants of God is accomplished.
This seal on the forehead is a repeated image in this book (Revelation 9:4; 14:1; 22:4; Ezekiel 9:4). It stands in contrast to the “mark of the beast,” a type of sealing done on those who are not covered by the blood of the Lamb, whose names are not written in the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation 14:9; 16:2). This mark is equivalent to having worshiped the false god of the beast. The lake of fire awaits those who do (19:20; 20:10, 15).
Those who have placed their trust in Christ are not in danger of having the mark of the beast stamped on their souls. Christians are protected by the blood of the Lamb.
II. Panoply of the Protected (Revelation 7:9–12)
Revelation 7:4–8 introduces God’s people numbering 144,000 witnesses. The number 144,000, or 12 times 12,000, refers to the Jewish people of God. These are pictured as coming from the nation of Israel, but they are not alone.
A. White-Robed Multitude (vv. 9, 10)
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.
Added to the 144,000 is a great multitude. The crowd defies any attempt to number it. This multitude comes from all the families and peoples of the earth, not just Israel. They are uniformly clothed in white robes.
They are also carrying palm leaves. This reminds us of Palm Sunday and Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (John 12:13). It is customary in the ancient world to carry palm branches at celebrations.
A white robe is the customary baptismal garb in many churches. The color white has long symbolized purity.
In this text John sees a multitude of God’s people dressed in white standing before His throne. Their robes are a symbol of the righteousness they had found in Christ.
And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
The Palm Sunday cry of “Hosanna” meant “God, save us!” Understandably, the Jews of Jesus’ day were hoping for God’s miraculous saving of their nation. The cry Salvation to our God is a fulfillment of that Palm Sunday appeal. In Heaven the people of God shout “Salvation!” to celebrate an accomplished fact. They are the multitude of the saved, and the salvation is attributed both to God and to the Lamb.
B. Heavenly Throng (vv. 11, 12)
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.
The multitude of the saved is now joined by the heavenly cast of characters who worship. We saw angels, the elders, and the four beasts back in chapters 4 and 5. As before, they assume a prostrate posture of worship.
Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
The throng sings a sevenfold worship song. It is like their earlier praise song (Revelation 5:12) with the change of riches to thanksgiving. Amen means “it is true.” The long-anticipated salvation of God is now finalized.
III. Blood of Protection (Revelation 7:13–17)
Most men are not experts at doing laundry. If they are like me, they end up with white sheets tinged pink because they washed them with a new red T-shirt. However, even the worst launderer knows that you need clean water to get clean clothes. You cannot wash white linens in muddy water and make them bright white. Yet Scripture offers an amazing image: robes washed in blood that become purest white.
A. Washed in Blood (vv. 13, 14)
And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?
John again draws the attention of one of the elders (Revelation 5:5). Perhaps John looks confused at this vast array of white robes, so the elder poses a question that is already in John’s mind: What’s going on with all these white-robed people?
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.
John wisely lets the elder answer his own questions. The robed persons have survived great tribulation. This is the tribulation period related to Christ’s second coming. These are the saints who have endured to the end. They have been faithful unto death (Revelation 2:10); they have received their crown-of-life reward. This reward is pictured here as the privilege of wearing a white robe. It is white, the symbol of purity, because of the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus.
We therefore have a startling picture: washing a robe in red, staining blood and having it come out the purest white. The blood of Jesus was the price for our sins. The Bible teaches that blood must be shed for sins to be forgiven (Hebrews 9:22). The blood of Jesus is thus a divine means for our forgiveness. The shedding of Jesus’ blood paid the price that God decreed for sin’s punishment. We can have our guilt taken away (Hebrews 10:19; 12:24; 1 John 1:7).
B. Fulfilled in God’s Service (v. 15)
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.
This is not simply a picture of future bliss in Heaven. This can also be seen as a possibility for us today. Worship is our acknowledgment of the Holy God and submission to Him. We don’t need to wait for the afterlife in order to serve him day and night. We can do it now!
C. Protected by the Mighty Lamb (vv. 16, 17)
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.
Much of this is a spiritual image of our lives today. We are sheltered by our Savior. We suffer no eternal damage from the natural world. We live with the comfort of God in our lives. We do indeed suffer the daily sorrows of life, but God overcomes these.
We now live lives of protection and purpose. The center of the throne is the Lamb, and the Lamb is the center of our lives (Isaiah 49:10). Our purpose is to trust, obey, and follow Him (John 21:22). Jesus bids us follow Him today and every day (Matthew 16:24). We thus die to self and rejoice in our service to Him (1 Corinthians 15:31).
Paul taught that since we are justified by Christ’s blood, we are saved from God’s wrath (Romans 5:9).
Peter wrote that we have been redeemed from useless lives by the blood of Jesus (1 Peter 1:18, 19).
Paul writes in Hebrews that the blood of Christ purifies us so that we can worship God (Hebrews 9:14).
John’s opening statements of Revelation, affirmes that the blood of Jesus makes us free from the enslavement of sin (Revelation 1:5).
Paul put it very plainly when he said “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3). As Robert Lowry (1826–1899) wrote in the hymn:
“Nothing But the Blood”
What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.