THE SERVANTS OF GOD ARE SEALED
Rev 7:1-4 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. 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, saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel. (Also See Rev. 7:5-10)
The symbolism, which foretold things which must shortly come to pass, was depicted when the Lamb of God, Christ Jesus, opened the first six seals of the book once held by God. These images were revealed to the apostle John, who observed, and recorded, them in this Revelation letter. Their symbolism was noted and discussed at length in previous studies. Fulfillment took place during the historical era of the Roman Empire during the reigns of Roman emperors that succeeded Domitian in the year 96, and continued unto the revolutionary reign of Constantine, which was symbolically depicted with the opening of the sixth seal. However, the entire symbolism revealed under the sixth seal was not completed in chapter 6, but was extended through chapter 7, and until the opening of the seventh seal, which is recorded in chapter 8. Following the symbolic description of future events found under the sixth seal, recorded in verses 12 through 17 of the preceding chapter, the lesson text revealed additional prophecies.
And after these things, that is, after the previous series of symbols depicting the rise and fall of the enemies of Christ, John's vision continues. Looking into the realm of heaven he saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth. The earth appeared to John as a vast plain with angels positioned at its four compass points - north, south, east, and west. Again, to gain the understanding of these scriptures, we must not consider this scene as something to be literally fulfilled in the future. Rather, in this particular scripture, we must look for the symbolism that will later be sequentially fulfilled in world events within, or immediately following, the reign of Constantine, as emperor of the Roman Empire.
These angels are seen by John as 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 translation of these "four winds" refers to gale-force winds - winds that cause destruction on the face of the earth. The winds depicted in this scene, were completely under the power of these four angels; they could be held or loosed by them at their discretion. Then John saw another angel arising from the east and holding the signet of God, noted here as the seal of the living God.
To the previous four angels that controlled the power of the four winds, this angelic messenger delivered this edict, which came directly from their all-powerful Creator, the God of heaven: Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. Here we find that earthly devastation by these symbolic four winds was emphatically forbidden by God until after the servants of God have been sealed, which carries the meaning of being completely protected from harm. In other words, God forbid that harm should come to His servants - His preachers, teachers, and leaders of the churches of Christ, until after that which God had foreordained had been accomplished.
With peaceful conditions being established under the leadership of Constantine, emperor of the Roman Empire, and with Christianity protected by his edicts, indeed, the greatest opportunity to spread the gospel of salvation through Christ Jesus was now safely available to the church of Christ, its leaders and its preachers. The seal of God, which represented His ownership, was placed symbolically on a great number of Jews that had accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior, represented here as an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel, noted in verses 5 through 8. Also obedient Christians from Gentile nations were protected under God's seal and symbolically represented here as a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues (Vs. 9).
From both the Jewish and from Gentile nations, those that proclaimed allegiance to Christ Jesus were gathered under the protective arm of God, allowing them the new-found freedom to preach the New Testament gospel of eternal salvation troughout the known world. These obedient teachers, and followers of Christ, were symbolically seen by John as they stood before God's throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb (Vss. 9-10). Both Jew and Gentile newborn Christian leaders, preachers, and teachers symbolically appeared before God, and His Son, Jesus Christ, wearing white clothing, signifying their innocence, purity, triumph, and victory. They held palm branches, which were known to be symbols of peace and joy, as they adoringly worshipped God and the Lamb, their Savior, giving thankful praise for the hope of eternal salvation.
Before closing the study of these scriptures, it is interesting to take a second look at the symbolic one hundred and forty-four thousand Jewish Christians noted in verse 4. (It should be noted that the same reference is made in Revelations 14:1). Verses 5 through 8 tell us that this number was made up of twelve thousand out of each tribe of Israel. These being symbolic numbers, they should not be taken literally. They only signify that a great number of Jews from each tribe had been converted to New Testament Christianity since the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ was preached on the Day of Pentecost. In this accounting Manasseh is mentioned but his younger brother, Ephraim is included under their father's name, Joseph. Levi, the priestly tribe, is generally omitted from the list of the tribes of Israel, because they had no geographical inheritance in the land of Canaan, but were only granted portions of cities within each tribe. However they are included here because they had equal inheritance with all other tribes to God's heavenly salvation.
Notably missing, among these tribes of Israel, is the tribe of Dan. Biblical scholars have given numerous explanations for the absence of this Jewish tribe, but most seem to have no valid, logical reason to substantiate their observations. The only reason that seems to have scriptural validation is found in Judges 18:30. There we note that the children of Dan had an early, but permanent, falling away from the righteous worship of God. Instead of worshipping in the city of Jerusalem and being led by priests chosen from God's ordained tribe of Levi, the descendants of Dan erected their own temple in the city, also known as Dan, and proclaimed men from the tribe of Manasseh to serve as their priests, and conduct their worship services. As far as records tell us, the children of Dan were the first Jews that rebelled against God's ritualistic, but firm, commandments. Could it be that the reason Dan was omitted from this listing was because of their original abandonment of God? And, because of this, were there no descendents of the tribe available, and having necessary open-mindedness, to be converted to Christianity? This, and possibly other answers, could be valid explanations for the omission of the tribe of Dan from this prophecy.