2B.   The Great Tribulation In The World (6-18) (continued)

Note:    At this point in our study we will examine the seventh chapter of the Revelation, which is a kind of parenthetical pause between the opening of the 6th and 7th seals of the redemption book that the Lord Jesus Christ holds in His hand. Let me explain: Had not God chosen to insert this parenthetical pause in the Revelation there would have been no break or interruption in the logical unfolding of God’s judgments upon lost humanity. However, as we study this next chapter we shall notice that judgment is not the theme here at all. Grace and mercy are the themes of this chapter. It is as though God, in the midst of all this wrath and judgment, just before the worst of it falls down upon the heads of lost mankind, decides to show us that in the midst of all this horror, there will still be grace and mercy. You see, my friend, this seventh chapter of Revelation is really an answer to a prayer that was prayed thousands of years ago. The prayer is recorded in Habakkuk 3.1-2. Please turn there and read with me: “1 A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet upon Shigionoth. 2 O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.” Notice that last phrase uttered, prayed really, by Habakkuk: “In wrath remember mercy.” Folks, this is what God does throughout the entire Tribulation period. He remembers mercy. But because informing the readers of both the wrath of God and the mercy of God at the same time is extremely difficult, if not impossible, God has instead decided to insert this portion of Scripture, as a means of informing the reader what He will be doing behind the scenes of terror and judgment.

(7.1)    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. 

1.   “And after these things 

a.   The phrase “and after these things” translates a phrase very similar to the one I talked about in Revelation 4.1 in an earlier study. John uses the phrase here to show us very clearly that he is changing subjects from the judgments dealt with in chapter 6. 

b.   Things other than wrath have captured John’s attention for the present time. What is so interesting to John? 

2.   “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.” 

a.   I do not doubt that God uses literal angels to superintend the affairs of nature, but you must ask yourself if wind, as a literal wind, plays a significant role in God’s plan of the ages. If literal wind does not seem to be a reasonable concept in verse 1, then you must ask yourself if earth, wind, the sea, and trees symbolizes anything in Scripture. 

b.   Get out your concordance and do some cross referencing and you will see that in Daniel 7.2-3, earth, wind, and the sea pops up. Please turn to that passage: 

2      Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea.

3      And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another. 

What do we find here? We find that Daniel uses the word “winds” to symbolize sweeping world powers, uses the word “land” to symbolize the nation of Israel (though no reference to the earth is made in this passage), and uses the word “sea” to symbolize Gentiles. 

c.   By the way, you will never go wrong in your study of prophecy if you take Daniel’s lead and recognize that when symbolic language is being used the “sea” always refers to Gentile nations or peoples, and that “land” always refers to the children or the nation of Israel. 

d.   Turn to Judges 9.7-15, where an allegory uses trees as a symbol of governmental authority: 

7      And when they told it to Jotham, he went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice, and cried, and said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you.

8      The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us.

9      But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?

10    And the trees said to the fig tree, Come thou, and reign over us.

11    But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees?

12    Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou, and reign over us.

13    And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?

14    Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us.

15    And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon. 

e.   Taking all of these symbols together, this is what we might surmise: Havoc will be brought upon the entire planet as a result of the opening of the first six seals and their corresponding judgments. But before the final seal is opened angelic beings will be used to restrain four world powers from harming the Jewish people, the Gentile populations of the world, and the various governments that rule over mankind. 

f.    Who could these four great world powers be? It might be speculated that they are the forces of the antichrist located in Europe, #1, the forces of the so-called southern confederacy, #2 (which would be the combined Arab moslem nations of the middle east and north Africa), the forces of Gog and Magog to the north, #3 (which would be the Russian Republic), and the Asian hordes from the east, #4, with their millions of soldiers. 

g.   So, you can see why divine intervention would be necessary to stop these four powers, if you take the four winds to be symbolic references to world powers. Such an array of military might has never before been assembled. Therefore, for a period of time, at least, God’s plan requires stability among the Gentiles, among the nations, and for Israel. This restraint by the angels will provide that stability. 

3.   But what if John is not using symbolic language here? What if he is literally reporting what he saw in this first of two visions of Revelation chapter 7? We have already seen that cataclysmic events will occur during this period. What if John’s vision provides for us yet another glimpse of what will happen, along with a spiritual behind the scenes explanation of why certain things will happen? That is, if this is literal, we are told from what John saw that “The 4 angels will turn off, for a brief interlude, the essential engine of the earth’s atmosphere.”[1] 

4.   An observation before we proceed: For centuries, many so-called scientists were positive that the world was flat, though seafaring men always knew the world was round. Since the Roman Catholic Church placed so little reliance on the Word of God, Rome also believed the world to be flat, ignoring the Biblical evidence for a round planet. Then the world was proven to be spherical by empirical evidence. Know what happened then? People ridiculed the Bible, because Scripture referred to the four corners of the world. Do you know what happened when man began launching sophisticated satellites that could photograph and measure the geographical features of the earth? Though I have been unable to find the source, I read years ago, I remember reading that satellite measurements determined that the earth is slightly tetrahedral. Know what that is? A tetrahedron is a three-dimensional figure that has four corners. Once again, the Bible is right and scientists are just trying to catch up. 

(7.2-3)  2           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,

3          Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. 

1.   “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 

a.   The angel referred to here in verse 2 has authority over the angels referred to in verse 1. Why do we know that is true? He issues the four angels mentioned in verse 1 a directive. Having the seal of the living God (whatever it means to “have the seal”, he must be an angel of very high station, indeed. 

b.   Some believe that this angel is the Angel of the LORD, the Lord Jesus, Himself. Why? Because of the seal he possesses. If that seal is the Holy Spirit, Ephesians 1.13 and 4.30, then this angel is the Lord Jesus. Remember, the Lord Jesus did appear to men on a number of occasions during Old Testament times as the Angel of the LORD. Turn to those two verses and read with me: 

13    In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 

30   And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 

If this angel possesses this seal, and if this seal is no other than the Holy Spirit of God, by Whom individuals are sealed unto the day of redemption, then this angel could very well be the Lord Jesus Christ. 

c.    But what if this angel is himself sealed? What is this angel has a seal with which he seals God’s servants, but the seal is not the Holy Spirit? “To the prophet’s contemporaries ‘seal’ would have connoted the branding of cattle and the tattooing of slaves and soldiers, esp. those in the service of the emperor who could be recognized by this mark if they deserted; the marking of a soldier or the member of a guild on the hand, brow, or neck to seal him as a religious devotee, i.e., a member of a sacred militia. The mark in this case was a sign of consecration to the deity; it could refer to the mark prophets might have worn on their forehead, either painted or tattooed; or it could refer to the phylactery worn on the forehead and hand (s. Ford). The idea of the sealing would be to mark one’s property and show ownership (Swete).”[2] 

d.   Whoever the angel is, he cried with a loud voice. The word “loud” comes from the Greek word mega, with the word “voice” translated from the Greek word fwnh. A voice like a megaphone, then, is what is conveyed here. Very loud, indeed. Because he is giving loud and commanding direction, and because he is ascending from the east, my opinion is that this is not the Lord Jesus Christ. I may be wrong, but in John’s visions, the Lord Jesus Christ is at this point still standing before the throne of God with the redemption seal in His hand, preparing to open the seventh seal. Therefore, I think this is an angel of extremely high rank, but an angel still and not the Lord Jesus. 

2.   “the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea 

a.    This phrase clearly shows that the four angels mentioned in verse 1 are tasked with the responsibility of inflicting harm and damage to the landmasses and the oceans. This strengthens my belief that the “four winds” mentioned in verse one are literal. So, for a while, angels who would be wreaking havoc are restrained. 

b.   Let is also be observed that this portion of Scripture shows that God has authorized four angels to wreak environmental havoc during the Great Tribulation, something the environmentalists would never admit to. Since environmentalists tend to look upon this earth as the mother of us all, as Gaia, they simply cannot abide the notion that when God begins to pour His wrath on sinful mankind He will do so, in part, by bringing on mankind eco-destruction such as this world has not seen since the Flood. 

3.   Verse 3: “Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.” 

a.    Apparently, special servants of God are marked by a seal, much as we find in Ezekiel 9.4-6: 

4      And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.

5      And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity:

6      Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house. 

b.   This sealing is so important that judgment stops and is held in abeyance while the sealing is taking place. Friends, these servants occupy a very significant place in God’s plan! They are very important! 

c.    Notice where they are sealed. Let me ask you a question: Where will Satan have the servants of the antichrist sealed? The same place. Folks, Satan does always try to imitate and counterfeit the work of God. 

4.   Summarizing verses 1,2 and 3, then . . . A high ranking angel, who is likely not the Lord Jesus Christ but a created being, orders four angels to hold at bay four world powers. These world powers are prevented from harming Gentiles, Jews, and governments until these special servants of God are sealed on their foreheads. That is what these verses mean if the winds are symbolic. 

5.   But if the four winds are literal winds, and John is telling us of climatological events yet to come, then what we are being told here is that there will be no environment damage done until these special servants of God are sealed on their foreheads and marked as special servants of God. I am of the opinion that the literal interpretation is the proper view of these three verses.

[1] See footnote for Revelation 7.1 from John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 2001.

[2] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), pages 828-829.

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