Chapter 10

The Sealing

INTRODUCTION

The Bible should provide its own explanation for the scenes that John saw and the Sealing is no exception. In Ezekiel we find an extremely close parallel to the sealing or marking of God's people in the last days. In fact, by simply changing the wording from "Israel" and "the land" to "the world" or "the whole earth", the prophecy foretold of Israel's destruction can apply to the apocalyptic sequence of events. This entire section of Ezekiel is extremely important. I will insert comments at some points within the section. Note that the Hebrew word for "land" as in verse 2 (erets) has also been translated as "earth" and "world" in other places in the Bible and is similar to the Greek gen or ges that we looked at in the introduction of the previous chapter.

SCRIPTURE

The sealing of the 144,000

Rev. 7:1 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land [or earth] or on the sea or on any tree. 2Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: 3"Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God." 4Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.

5From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed,
from the tribe of Reuben 12,000,
from the tribe of Gad 12,000,
6from the tribe of Asher 12,000,
from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000,
from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000,
7from the tribe of Simeon 12,000,
from the tribe of Levi 12,000,
from the tribe of Issachar 12,000,
8from the tribe of Zebulun 12,000,
from the tribe of Joseph 12,000,
from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000. . . .

Characteristics of the 144,000 revealed

Rev. 14:1 Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads. 2And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. 3And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. 5No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless.

The end has come

Ezek. 7:1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2"Son of man, this is what the Sovereign LORD says to the land of Israel: The end! The end has come upon the four corners of the land [note the same terms are used as in Rev. 7:1]. 3The end is now upon you and I will unleash my anger against you. I will judge you according to your conduct and repay you for all your detestable practices. 4I will not look on you with pity or spare you; I will surely repay you for your conduct and the detestable practices among you. Then you will know that I am the LORD.

5"This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Disaster! An unheard-of disaster is coming [certainly we are not familiar with the events foretold in the seven trumpets or seven last plagues]. 6The end has come! The end has come! It has roused itself against you. It has come! 7Doom has come upon you --you who dwell in the land. The time has come, the day is near; there is panic, not joy, upon the mountains. 8I am about to pour out my wrath on you and spend my anger against you [the time of the "14 plagues" is a time of wrath]; I will judge you according to your conduct and repay you for all your detestable practices. 9I will not look on you with pity or spare you; I will repay you in accordance with your conduct and the detestable practices among you. Then you will know that it is I the LORD who strikes the blow.

10"The day is here! It has come! Doom has burst forth, the rod has budded, arrogance has blossomed! 11Violence has grown into a rod to punish wickedness; none of the people will be left, none of that crowd --no wealth, nothing of value. 12The time has come, the day has arrived. Let not the buyer rejoice nor the seller grieve, for wrath is upon the whole crowd [literally, the whole multitude]. 13The seller will not recover the land he has sold as long as both of them live, for the vision concerning the whole crowd will not be reversed. [Note the concepts of buying and selling, which are also used in Rev. 13:16, 17 in association with the mark of the beast, the antithesis or opposite of the seal of God.] Because of their sins, not one of them will preserve his life. 14Though they blow the trumpet and get everything ready, no one will go into battle, for my wrath is upon the whole crowd.

15"Outside is the sword, inside are plague and famine [weren't these three of the four judgments of God mentioned in the opening of the fourth seal?]; those in the country will die by the sword, and those in the city will be devoured by famine and plague. 16All who survive and escape will be in the mountains, moaning like doves of the valleys, each because of his sins. 17Every hand will go limp, and every knee will become as weak as water. 18They will put on sackcloth and be clothed with terror. Their faces will be covered with shame and their heads will be shaved. 19They will throw their silver into the streets, and their gold will be an unclean thing. Their silver and gold will not be able to save them in the day of the LORD's wrath. They will not satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs with it, for it has made them stumble into sin. 20They were proud of their beautiful jewelry and used it to make their detestable idols and vile images. Therefore I will turn these into an unclean thing for them. 21I will hand it all over as plunder to foreigners and as loot to the wicked of the earth, and they will defile it. 22I will turn my face away from them, and they will desecrate my treasured place; robbers will enter it and desecrate it. [Obviously this section could only apply to Israel in Ezekiel's time since after the Lord destroys the wicked on the great day of the Lord, there will be no "wicked of the earth" left to loot God's people and the heavenly temple.]

23"Prepare chains, because the land is full of bloodshed and the city is full of violence. 24I will bring the most wicked of the nations to take possession of their houses; I will put an end to the pride of the mighty, and their sanctuaries will be desecrated. 25When terror comes, they will seek peace, but there will be none. 26Calamity upon calamity will come, and rumor upon rumor [The trumpets and the plagues can certainly be labeled calamities of the ultimate sort]. They will try to get a vision from the prophet; the teaching of the law by the priest will be lost, as will the counsel of the elders. 27The king will mourn, the prince will be clothed with despair, and the hands of the people of the land will tremble. I will deal with them according to their conduct, and by their own standards I will judge them. Then they will know that I am the LORD."

[Ezekiel chapter 8 then lists some of the abominations that were being done in Israel. We will look closely at these in association with the concept of the pagan religion of Babylon in a later chapter.]

God's people are marked (or sealed)

Ezek. 9:1 Then I heard [the Lord] call out in a loud voice, "Bring the guards of the city here, each with a weapon in his hand." 2And I saw six men coming from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, each with a deadly weapon in his hand. With them was a man clothed in linen who had a writing kit at his side. They came in and stood beside the bronze altar.

3Now the glory of the God of Israel went up from above the cherubim, where it had been, and moved to the threshold of the temple. Then the LORD called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side 4and said to him, "Go throughout the city of Jerusalem [or earth in our case] and put a mark [or seal or by implication, a signature or signet] on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it."

5As I listened, he said to the others, "Follow him through the city [or earth in our case] and kill, without showing pity or compassion. 6Slaughter old men, young men and maidens, women and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark [or seal]. Begin at my sanctuary [those who profess to be God's people]." So they began with the elders who were in front of the temple.

7Then he said to them, "Defile the temple and fill the courts with the slain. Go!" So they went out and began killing throughout the city [earth]. 8While they were killing and I was left alone, I fell face down, crying out, "Ah, Sovereign LORD! Are you going to destroy the entire remnant of Israel in this outpouring of your wrath on Jerusalem?"

9He answered me, "The sin of the house of Israel and Judah [the world] is exceedingly great; the land is full of bloodshed and the city is full of injustice. They say, `The LORD has forsaken the land; the LORD does not see.' 10So I will not look on them with pity or spare them, but I will bring down on their own heads what they have done."

11Then the man in linen with the writing kit at his side brought back word, saying, "I have done as you commanded."

COMMENTARY

Wow! Does that parallel the Sealing at the end of time?

Let's look at the lessons we can learn from this section of Ezekiel. Let's summarize them and then we will go into more detail as to those who are sealed.

1) God declares an end to mercy and pity

2) Its effects extend to the four corners of the earth.

3) God will unleash His anger or wrath on the world's people according to their conduct and detestable practices. This is stated twice directly and implied in several other places.

4) A disaster that mankind is not familiar with and has never experienced, will strike the earth.

5) There will be panic, not joy, when these calamities come. Amos 5:18-20 adds:

"Woe to you who long for the day of the LORD! Why do you long for the day of the LORD? That day will be darkness, not light. It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him. Will not the day of the LORD be darkness, not light--pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?"

6) People will not be able to successfully transact business.

7) None will be able to preserve their lives unless God has marked them with His seal or signature.

8) The wicked will be killed by God's deadly judgments.

9) Money and wealth will not be able to save one during this period of God's wrath.

10) Any survivors will be found in the mountains, not in the cities or plains.

11) People will seek solace from their clergy, the prophets and priests, but will not be able to find it.

12) The leaders of the people will be confused, mourning and in despair.

13) People will unequivocally recognize the hand and power of the Almighty God in these judgments.

Moving on to the sealing.

14) God orders the sealing or marking of His people.

15) The one chosen to mark God's people will mark them on their foreheads. This sign will not be visible to God's people, but will be readily noticed by the destroying angels that follow.

16) Those who will be marked are actively mourning and grieving over the sins of the world. No active support or silent tolerance of sin is noted here.

17) Those who are not marked as one of God's people are by default marked for destruction.

18) The destruction of those not sealed will be carried out without pity or compassion. The time for mercy and salvation will have ended by the time the sealing process is completed. This will be confirmed in a following section as we look at the censor being thrown down.

19) The destruction of those not sealed will begin with those who claim or profess to be followers of God, but who do not meet with His approval. 1Pet. 4:17 says,

"It is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?"

20) God's marked people will cry out for God to have mercy on the wicked, but the wicked's opportunity for salvation has ended and their destruction will continue until they have been utterly destroyed.

Let's look at greater detail at those who are sealed. After all, it would be the Christian's desire to be found worthy by God.

The sealing or selection of who are God's true followers begins with His professed people. Nearly a fourth of the world claims to be Christian today. The coinage of the United States of America bears the phrase, "In God We Trust." But just because one claims to be a Christian, is he or she really one? Jesus declared in Matt. 7:21-23,

"Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?" Then I will tell them plainly, `I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

We might paraphrase Daniel's comment to King Belshazzar in Dan. 5:26 and 27.

"God has numbered the days of your life and brought it to an end. You have been weighed in the scales and found wanting."

It will be the saddest experience for those who profess to follow God to hear Jesus utter these words to them, "Weighed in the balances and found wanting."

So who are they who receive the seal of God?

It is those who mourn and grieve over the sins of the world, especially of nations that claim to be Christian nations (e.g. the United States of America, Canada, Western Europe), and of the churches who claim Christianity, but rather reflect the morals of the world. Those sealed are actively mourning and grieving because they recognize the grievous wickedness and widespread immorality and lament over them.

Contrast this to those who are not sealed and therefore receive the mark of the beast. The mark of the beast can be received in either the forehead or the hand.

"He [the lamb-like beast] also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name." (Rev. 13:16, 17) [The identities of the beasts will be discussed in detail later]

The forehead is the seat of human knowledge and understanding. The hand is the tool that God has given us to work with, to perform actions with.

Those who receive the mark of the Beast, either do so by a conscientious decision, hence the forehead, or through a tolerance of the authority of the Beast, in order that they may continue to buy or sell.

The Beast's authority or power stands in rebellion against God's power and authority. The people of the world will have the opportunity to follow and do the will of their chosen spiritual leaders. Those who actively follow God by "doing His will" and mourn and grieve over the sins of those who don't, will be marked or sealed by God.

Those who either actively rebel against God and His will or are tolerant of rebellious behavior will not receive the mark or seal of God.

Let's note some of the contrasts.

God's Way

The Beast's Way

Obedience to God's Law and Decrees

Disobedience to God's Laws and Decrees

Mark received in the forehead

Mark received in the forehead or hand

Salvation obtained through Jesus Christ (only God can save)

Salvation obtained through own works 
(we can save ourselves)

We will look at this further as we study the Beasts and the mark of the Beast. But first let's see what else we can find out about the 144,000.

A modern day prophet, Ellen G. White, who is one of the most prolific authors in world history, the most translated author (and according to a survey done by the Barna Group of preachers under 40 years old, Ellen White ranked among the top three most influential authors) had a number of visions in which much of the information of Revelation was corroborated. Let's look at several sections specifically pertaining to the 144,000. The following are taken from Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 1.

"Soon we heard the voice of God like many waters, which gave us the day and hour of Jesus' coming. The living saints, 144,000 in number, knew and understood the voice, while the wicked thought it was thunder and an earthquake. When God spoke the time, He poured upon us the Holy Spirit, and our faces began to light up and shine with the glory of God, as Moses' did when he came down from Mount Sinai.

"The 144,000 were all sealed and perfectly united. On their foreheads were the words God, New Jerusalem, and a glorious star containing Jesus' new name.

"Then Jesus' silver trumpet sounded, as He descended on the cloud, wrapped in flames of fire. He gazed on the graves of the sleeping saints, then raised His eyes and hands to heaven, and cried: "Awake! Awake! Awake! ye that sleep in the dust, and arise." Then there was a mighty earthquake. The graves opened, and the dead came up clothed with immortality. The 144,000 shouted, "Alleluia!" as they recognized their friends who had been torn from them by death, and in the same moment we were changed, and caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air.

"We all entered the cloud together, and were seven days ascending to the sea of glass, when Jesus brought the crowns, and with His own right hand placed them on our heads. He gave us harps of gold and palms of victory. Here on the sea of glass the 144,000 stood in a perfect square. Some had very bright crowns, others not so bright. Some crowns appeared heavy with stars, while others had but few. All were perfectly satisfied with their crowns."

In chapter IX, entitled the VISION OF THE NEW EARTH* we find the following passages:

"As we were traveling along, we met a company who were also gazing at the glories of the place. I noticed red as a border on their garments; their crowns were brilliant; their robes were pure white. As we greeted them, I asked Jesus who they were. He said they were martyrs that had been slain for Him.

"And as we were about to enter the temple, Jesus raised His lovely voice and said, "Only the 144,000 enter this place," and we shouted, "Alleluia!"

"This temple was supported by seven pillars, all of transparent gold, set with pearls most glorious. The wonderful things I there saw, I cannot describe. Oh, that I could talk in the language of Canaan, then could I tell a little of the glory of the better world. I saw there tables of stone in which the names of the 144,000 were engraved in letters of gold."

The 144,000 Without Guile.--

"One of the marked features in the representation of the 144,000 is that in their mouth there was found no guile. The Lord has said, "Blessed is the man . . . in whose spirit there is no guile." They profess to be children of God, and are represented as following the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. They are prefigured before us as standing on Mount Zion, girt for holy service, clothed in white linen, which is the righteousness of the saints. But all who follow the Lamb in heaven will first have followed Him on earth, in trustful, loving, willing obedience, followed Him not fretfully and capriciously, but confidently, truthfully, as the flock follows the shepherd. . . ." {Selected Messages, Vol. 3, page 424 para. 2}

From what Ellen White was shown, we can further gather the following conclusions:

  1. Just prior to and at the time of Christ's Second Coming, there will be 144,000 living saints (it appears that all other believers will have perished/been martyred in the great tribulation).
  2. The 144,000 will be found to be without guile.  The free online dictionary gives the definition of guile to be: 1. Treacherous cunning; skillful deceit. 2. Obsolete A trick or stratagem.  Guile is a chief characteristic found in Satan, Christ's archenemy. These 144,000 totally lack that characteristic and emulate Jesus.  It could be said of them, "When one looks at one of them, one sees Jesus."
  3. The 144,000 will be sealed by God. The seal of God is a mark placed on the forehead of each sealed person. That seal contains the words "God, New Jerusalem, and a glorious star containing Jesus' new name." The 144,000 also have the Holy Spirit poured out on them, sealing them for the day of redemption.
  4. The 144,000 are a group distinct from the martyrs, those that are slain for Jesus. At Christ's Second Coming, the 144,000 are reunited with the resurrected martyrs.
  5. The 144,000 will be changed in an instant to immortality and are caught up into the clouds to be with the Lord.
  6. The 144,000 are given crowns containing stars representing the people that they have led to accept Jesus as their Savior. Some have led many to salvation, others have led few.
  7. The martyrs are clothed in robes that are bordered with red and are also highly honored in heaven.
  8. The 144,000 are set aside to be priests in God's heavenly temple, and only they may enter it.
  9. The names of the 144,000 are engraved permanently in the temple of God.

Verse 4 of Revelation 14 states:  "These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure."  What does this mean?  Does this mean that only male virgins belonging to one of the 12 tribes of Israel will be permitted to be one of the 144,000?  If He can find virgin male members of the 10 lost tribes of Israel after 2500 years, that's His prerogative.  Well, certainly if we take a literal view, this would be true; and if that is what God means, so be it. What is the clay to argue with the potter? (see Isaiah 45:9; Jeremiah 18:1-9)

But perhaps there is another interpretation.  My thinking is that sexual immorality is one of the most spoken against sins in the scriptures, especially for God's New Testament people (see compilation on Homosexuality, Adultery & Other Sexual Sins).  When James led the council in Jerusalem to discuss what laws should be imposed on new Gentile believers, they kept the rules simple: 

When they finished, James spoke up: ..."It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath." Acts 15:13, 19-21

This was reinforced by Jesus in His messages to two of the seven churches in Revelation:

"To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:... I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality." Rev 2:12, 14

"To the angel of the church in Thyatira write:... You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols." Rev 2:18, 20

And reinforced in other places in Revelation:

"The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts." Rev 9:20, 21

Jesus in His closing remarks in the last chapter of Revelation stated:

"Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie."  Rev. 22:14, 15 NKJV

Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount stated: 

"You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Matt. 5:27, 28

How prevalent is sexual activity and sexual immorality?

According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, "7 percent of unmarried women between ages 25 and 29 have never had sex; neither have 5 percent between 30 and 34 and 4.3 percent between 35 and 39" and "44.4 percent of girls between 15 and 19 had sex by the time they were 17." (source)

"Childbearing by unmarried women reached "historic levels," the report says, to an estimated 1.7 million, or 40% of all births. There were increases in the birth rate and the proportion of births as well as an increase in the number. Teen moms accounted for 23%. The report, based on preliminary data, was released Wednesday by the National Center for Health Statistics. Since 2002, all measures of childbearing by unmarried women have been "climbing steeply," says Stephanie Ventura, a demographer who worked on the government report, which is based on birth certificates. The report found 60% of women 20-24 who had babies in 2007 were unmarried, up from 51.6% in 2002. Among ages 25-29, 32.2% of births were to unmarried women, vs. 25% in 2002. For ages 15-19, almost 86% were unmarried, compared with 80% in '02." (source)

My thought is that with the pervasiveness of sexual immorality today and the ease of accessing pornography on the Internet, it is truly a rare person who has not in some way committed adultery or sexual immorality per Jesus' broadened definition of the term.  Combine that with a required lack of guile, and the numbers certainly could be reduced to only 144,000.

Let's go on to look at the Seal of God.

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