“After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners 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. Then 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 granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, ‘Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.’” (Revelation 7.1-3).
Perhaps no book of the Bible has generated more controversy regarding its interpretation than the book of Revelation. This daily column being what it is, I don’t think this is the forum in which I choose to add my two cents worth to this discussion. However, there are many valuable lessons in the book – lessons upon which all can agree - regardless of the interpretational approach that is followed. I wish to pursue one of these lessons in Today’s Little Lift.
The earth does not literally have four corners any more than it literally has four winds. However, the meaning of this passage is obvious when considered as a whole and when it is seen to be figurative language. The four winds are destructive forces, and the four corners of the earth simply refers to all areas of the earth (into every nook and cranny). The four angels are messengers with a Divine Mission who have been given power to “harm the earth and the sea.” However, they are told to refrain from any such hurtful actions until such time as God had accomplished a needed work, i.e. the application of God's seal upon His servants. Without this seal, His servants would not be distinguishable from unbelievers. Furthermore, the hurt that was to come to others was not to afflict God's sealed servants. In other words, God had a planned future for the unbelievers and it was different from the plans He had for the believers.
The four angels who were withholding harm from God's people signify the ultimate triumph of the saints. Or as Paul put it, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8.31). To quote a cliché sometimes heard in Christian circles, “With God on my side, I am always in the majority!” God's character and His power guarantee that nothing will befall us except those things over which He has already proven Himself to be superior. With this confidence we can face the potential hurt that the world offers with the sure knowledge of brighter days ahead. This is the same confidence that Paul, Peter, John, and others had when they faced the courts and tribunals without so much as a prayer from a human perspective. However in most cases that is exactly what they did have – a prayer - and that was all that was needed!
The pages of the Holy Bible are literally filled with those around whom God placed a protective shield and the effects of those actions on others. One that comes immediately to mind is the young man Joseph. Sold by his brothers into an environment that was sure to be filled with hostilities Joseph soon won the hearts of those close to him. Through the years he, through the power of God and a godly life, saved an entire nation of people and became the means by which the promises to Abraham (his great-grandfather) could be fulfilled. The same “four angels” that withheld the destructive winds in Revelation were surely at work in Joseph's life! That is the point; God works where and what He pleases to fulfill the purposes of love and righteousness.
God's people will ultimately triumph over all odds – No! That is not the case; all the “odds” are in favor of God's people. The battle is won; the victory sure! All the powers of heaven work to our benefit!
1. What do the “four winds” represent?
2. What power did the four angels have?
3. Why was it needful to place the seals on the foreheads of God's elect?
4. What are the “odds” that God's people will ultimately triumph over death, hell, and the grave?
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