The Sealed People of God
"These 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
Seventh-day Adventists have long looked forward to the day when the events foretold in this week's lesson are fulfilled.
Beginning in Revelation 7:1, we find four angels standing at the four corners (or quarters) 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.
As I write this lesson, we are experiencing a winter storm -- heavy rains, wind, and snow. Yesterday the storm had not yet arrived, but its coming was heralded by strong winds.
When the four winds of Revelation 7 are permitted to blow, our world will be devastated on a scale not witnessed since the flood.
John saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. This angel had a message for the four angels who were holding the four winds. These angels possessed the power to unleash devastation on the earth, the sea, and the trees. But the commanding angel ordered them not to "harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads." (Revelation 7:3)
In vision, Ellen White saw that "the four angels had power from God to hold the four winds, and they were about to let them go; but while their hands were loosening, and the four winds were about to blow, the merciful eye of Jesus gazed on the remnant that were not sealed, and He raised His hands to the Father and pleaded with Him that He had spilled His blood for them. Then another angel was commissioned to fly swiftly to the four angels and bid them hold, until the servants of God were sealed with the seal of the living God in their foreheads. (EW, p. 38)
From this we can see that the sealing is so important that Jesus cannot come again until this work is accomplished. A delay is implied in the text, as the angels who are about to let go of the four winds are instructed by another angel who rushes to the scene imploring them to hold the four winds until the servants of God are sealed.
Every time you read of another disaster, crime, or pestilence in the news, do you pray that God's servants might be sealed? Do you see in these tragedies harbingers of greater tribulation yet to come?
We are living in the anti-typical Day of Atonement where Jesus is now completing His work in the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary. We can learn more about what this entails by examining the ancient Hebrew typical service.
F. C. Gilbert, a converted Jew, explains: "As the day draws to its close, the earnestness and intensity increases. It is generally believed that the close of this day is regarded in heaven as a 'sealing time.' If the people have done sufficient repenting, they will receive a 'good seal,' which means that they have stood the test in heaven. If not, then they fear they are lost, and may die at any time. Hence in their closing prayers of the day, instead of saying, 'Our Father, our King, write our name in the book of life;' 'Our Father, our King, write our name in the book of remembrance,' etc., they say, 'Our Father, our King, seal our name in the book of remembrance.' 'Our Father, our King, seal our name in the book of life.' " (Practical Lessons for the Church Today, p. 536, 537)
As type meets anti-type, we find another sealing takes place in the final Day of Atonement just before the close of probation, as described in Ezekiel 9 and Revelation 7. From the Spirit of Prophecy, we glean additional insights into what occurs on earth during Christ's closing sealing work in the heavenly temple.
"At the time when the danger and depression of the church are greatest, the little company who are standing in the light will be sighing and crying for the abominations that are done in the land. But more especially will their prayers arise in behalf of the church, because its members are doing after the manner of the world.
"The earnest prayers of this faithful few will not be in vain. When the Lord comes forth as an avenger, He will also come as a protector of all those who have preserved the faith in its purity, and kept themselves unspotted from the world. . . .
"The day of God's vengeance is just upon us. The seal of God will be placed upon the foreheads of those only who sigh and cry for the abominations done in the land. Those who link in sympathy with the world are eating and drinking with the drunken, and will surely be destroyed with the workers of iniquity. 'The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears are open unto their cry;' but 'the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.' (Psalms 34:15, 16)
"Our own course of action will determine whether we shall receive the seal of the living God, or be cut down by the destroying weapons." (CET, pp. 186, 187)
Adventists teach that the keeping of the seventh day Sabbath is the seal of God, since the fourth commandment contains Christ's name (Lord), title (Creator) and dominion (heaven and earth, sea, and all that in them is).
However, "not all who profess to keep the Sabbath will be sealed."
Hence, we cannot depend upon our Sabbath-keeping for assurance that we are saved or have the seal of God.
"There are many even among those who preach the truth to others who will not receive the seal of God in their foreheads. They had the light of truth, they knew their Master's will, they understood every point of faith, but they had not corresponding works. These who were so familiar with prophecy and the treasures of divine wisdom, should have acted their faith. They should have commanded their households after them, that by a well-ordered family they might present to the world the influence of the truth upon the human heart." (CET, p. 189)
This is a sobering statement, isn't it? Many who preach the truth, understand prophecy, and are acquainted with the treasures in God's word, will not be sealed.
"But it must be remembered that true Sabbath keeping is the fruitage of a genuine conversion to Christ. It is not merely resting on Saturday. To receive the seal of God through true Sabbath keeping is to receive the work of the Holy Spirit upon the heart, a 'rest' from sin and self: 'There remains therefore a rest [keeping of the sabbath, Greek] for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest, has himself ceased from his own works as God did from His' (Hebrews 4:9, 10). These 'works' are works of pride and love of self" (The Gospel in Revelation, by R. J. Wieland, p. 47).
What we need today is a revival of the sealing message of Jesus and His righteousness, and it must go deep into our hearts, making us obedient to all the commandments of God.
Ellen White utilized the term, the "sealing message" early in her ministry. In an unpublished letter giving his account of a meeting in Dorchester, near Boston, from October 20-22, 1848, Elder James White wrote: "We had an exceedingly powerful meeting. Ellen was again taken off in vision. She then began to describe the Sabbath light, which was the sealing truth. Said she: 'It arose from the rising of the sun. It arose back there in weakness, but light after light has shone upon it until the Sabbath truth is clear, weighty, and mighty" (LS, p. 116). And unlike the sun, the Sabbath truth will "be at its brightest when the saints are immortal; it will rise higher and higher until immortality comes' " (LS, p. 116).
The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message in 1888, we are told, that uplifts Jesus. "This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. Many had lost sight of Jesus. They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family. All power is given into His hands, that He may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless human agent. This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel's message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure" (TM, pp. 91, 92).
So, we see that the sealing message first given in 1848 could be likened to the dawn of the sun. Forty years later in 1888, the message was even brighter and clearer revelation than that at first. In 1888, the message God sent was the beginning of that which would prepare the 144,000, the sealed people of God, for translation.
The connection between the Sabbath and the most precious message, righteousness by faith, is this: the Sabbath can only be kept by those who are depending upon the righteousness of Christ for salvation. Any who are depending upon their own righteousness, or even their own Sabbath keeping, cannot receive the seal of God. True Sabbath keeping is the opposite of legalism.
The 144,000 are sealed on their foreheads. It is interesting to note that in Revelation 7, this group is described as the children of Israel by name. The Bible contains the life records of many of these men. Originally adulterers, liars, and murderers, these men were transformed, and the Bible includes the record of that transformation, too. When this group next appears upon the scene in Revelation 14, their names are not mentioned. Instead, they have their Father's name on their foreheads. Like Jacob after his long night of wrestling, the tribes represented by these sons of Jacob have come through the great tribulation, and their characters are sealed in the likeness of their Father's. Praise God!
There is hope for all of us. It doesn't matter what our past has been. None are too vile to save. No matter how righteous or wicked we view our past life, it is all filthy rags. Jesus lovingly washes away our sins with His own blood and provides for us a spotless robe.
"Now is the time to prepare. The seal of God will never be placed upon the forehead of an impure man or woman. It will never be placed upon the forehead of the ambitious, world loving man or woman. It will never be placed upon the forehead of men or women of false tongues or deceitful hearts. All who receive the seal must be without spot before God--candidates for heaven." (CET, p. 191)
We can never be sealed through our own efforts, rather, God's seal is placed on the foreheads of those who have received the gift of Christ and His righteousness in their hearts.
"Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is as strong as death, jealousy as cruel as the grave, its flames are flames of fire, a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly despised" (SS 8:6, 7).
"The Lord God is a jealous God, yet He bears long with the sins and transgressions of His people in this generation. If the people of God had walked in His counsel, the work of God would have advanced, the messages of truth would have been borne to all people that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Had the people of God believed Him and been doers of His word, had they kept His commandments, the angel would not have come flying through heaven with the message to the four angels that were to let loose the winds that they should blow upon the earth crying, Hold, hold the four winds that they blow not upon the earth until I have sealed the servants of God in their foreheads. But because the people are disobedient, unthankful, unholy, as were ancient Israel, time is prolonged that all may hear the last message of mercy proclaimed with a loud voice. The Lord's work has been hindered, the sealing time delayed. Many have not heard the truth. But the Lord will give them a chance to hear and be converted, and the great work of God will go forward" (Letter 106, 1897).
Praise God! There is still hope! May that message of Christ and His righteousness go forth speedily.