Through the end-time persecution, God seals the 144000 for the plagues.

SUMMARY

In Revelation 7, four angels are instructed to hold back the four winds until God’s people (the 144000) are all sealed on their foreheads with the seal of God. The four winds will be released as soon as they are all sealed (Rev 7:1-3). The question is this article is how this fits into the end-time events as described in Revelation 13 to 16.

Revelation 13:11-18 describes the end-time crisis during which the image of the beast attempts to put the mark of the beast on all people (Rev 13:15-16). Next, Revelation describes the people who have received the seal of God. They are the 144000 (Rev 14:1-5). Since both the mark of the beast and the seal of God are names on foreheads (Rev 13:16-14:3), that end-time persecution will divide the people of the world into these two groups.

Revelation 14 ends with Christ’s return (Rev 14:14-20). Then Revelation 15 jumps back to the time before His return and before the seven last plagues (Rev 16) and refers to God’s people as “those who had been victorious over the beast” (Rev 15:2). Since they are the people who have resisted the efforts to put the mark of the beast on them, they are the same as the 144000. The way in which they are described (Rev 15:2-4) seems to imply that, at the point in history represented by Revelation 15, all of “the bond-servants of our God” have already been sealed (Rev 7:3).

This is confirmed by Revelation 16, where the plagues fall only on the people with the mark of the beast (Rev 16:2). There will be no switching of sides after the plagues began to fall because none of the people with the mark of the beast will repent (Rev 16:9, 11). Furthermore, the seal of God implies that the eternal destiny of those people has been permanently settled. Therefore, none of them will fall away during the plagues.

Revelation 15, therefore, describes a point in history, during the Revelation 13-crisis, when every person will have either the mark of the beast or the seal of God. At that time, there will be no third ‘undecided’ group. Only then the plagues will begin to fall.

CONCLUSIONS

(A) God’s people will receive God’s seal (Rev 7:1-8) DURING AND THROUGH the Revelation-13-persecution.
(B) Their sealing will be completed before the plagues begin to fall.
(C)
God’s people receive the seal of God to prepare them for the plagues.
(D) Since the seven last plagues will be released as soon as they are all sealed, the four winds are the same as the seven last plagues.

– END OF SUMMARY –

PURPOSE OF THIS ARTICLE

The 144000 are explicitly mentioned twice in Revelation; in chapters 7 and 14:

In Revelation 7:1-3, the four winds of the earth are held back “until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.”

Revelation 7:4-8 describes them as 144000; 12000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel.

Revelation 14:1-5 describes their character: They have “His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads,” which means that they are like God in their thinking. They “have not been defiled with women,” which means that they are not involved with Babylon’s daughters (Rev 17:5). In other words, their theology is pure (cf. Rev 17:2).

Revelation 13 describes the end-time efforts of the image of the beast to put the mark of the beast on all people.

Revelation 16 describes the plagues that fall on the people who have accepted the mark of the beast.

The purpose of this article is to compare the sealing of the 144000, as described in Rev 7:1-8, to those later chapters to determine:

    • Where the sealing fits chronologically in the end-time events describes in Revelation 13 and 16.
    • What is the purpose of God’s seal:
      (a) To protect them against the image of the beast, or
      (b) To enable them to remain standing during the seven last plagues, or
      (c) Is the seal simply an indication that their eternal destiny is fixed?

This article begins with an overview of the plagues of Revelation 16, then compares that to the end-time persecution of Revelation 13, and then uses that information to draw conclusions with respect to the sealing in Rev 7:1-8.

REVELATION 15-16

Revelation 16 describes the seven last plagues. Revelation 15 serves as an introduction to the plagues.

WORLD DIVIDED INTO TWO GROUPS

Revelation 15 and 16 mention two groups of people. Chapter 15 refers to “those who had been victorious over the beast and his image” (Rev 15:2). Then the seven angels receive the seven last plagues (Rev 15:7) and pour them out on “the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image” (Rev 16:2).

The descriptions of these two groups of people refer back to Revelation 13, where the people of the world made “an image to the beast” (Rev 13:15). This image comes alive and attempt to force all people to accept the mark of the beast (Rev 13:16-18).

The way in which these two groups of people are described in Revelation 15 and 16 (see, Rev 15:2-4; 16:2) means that:

(A) They are the people that will LIVE DURING the time when the image will attempt to force all people to accept the mark of the beast. “Those who had been victorious over the beast and his image” are the people who will refuse to accept the mark. The others will accept the beast’s mark.

(B) Revelation 15 describes a point in human history when every person has made his or her final choice for or against the mark of the beast. At that point in history, every person will either have the mark of the beast or the seal of God. There will be no third ‘undecided’ group. This conclusion is based on the following observations:

        • These two groups are described as if complete when the plagues begin to fall (Rev 15:2; 16:2).
        • None of the people with the mark of the beast will repent during the plagues (Rev 16:9, 11).
        • The seal of God implies that the eternal destiny of the people who have God’s seal has been permanently settled.
        • In Revelation 15:8, the temple closes and nobody is allowed to enter. This symbolizes that nobody else will be saved because the temple is where people go to to receive forgiveness (e.g., Heb 10:10, 19).

Since there is no changing of sides during the plagues, the mark of the beast and the seal of God on the foreheads of people indicate that the eternal destiny of every person, living on earth at that point in time, is fixed.

TURNING POINT IN HUMAN HISTORY

When the world reaches this point, God will issue the command for the seven last plagues to be poured out. But there will be no changing of sides while the plagues fall.

Revelation 15, therefore, is a major moment in the history of mankind. We might not be able to see much change immediately. Things will remain as before, except that increasingly horrible catastrophes will threaten life and property. But the people of the world have survived and even thrived through many catastrophes over the millennia and they will think that they always will survive:

Where is the promise of His coming?
For ever since the fathers fell asleep,
all continues just as it was
from the beginning of creation
” (2 Peter 3:4).

The persecution of God’s people, therefore, will continue during the plagues.

REVELATION 13/14:
THE END-TIME PERSECUTION

While, in Revelation 13, people are forced to accept the mark of the beast, Revelation 16 describes the seven last plagues (Rev 15:1) on the people who have accepted the mark of the beast. This means that the persecution of Revelation 13 PRECEDES the plagues.

Revelation 13 shows Satan’s attack on God’s people through the organizations of the world (the image of the beast). People will be forced by the laws of government to conform to certain blasphemous religious practices (the mark of the beast).

Revelation 14 shows God’s response through His people. While the image of the beast persecutes people who do not accept the mark of the beast, God’s people will preach the message of the three angels (Rev 14:6-11). The three angels fly “in midheaven” (Rev 14:6), symbolizing that this message will go out with exceptional clarity and power, ensuring that everybody who accepts the mark of the beast is fully aware of the eternal consequences (Rev 14:9-11).

The crisis of revelation 13, therefore, will be a period of final decisions. Everybody will be forced to choose.

THE 144000 ARE THE VICTORIOUS PEOPLE.

Those who had been victorious over the beast and his image” (Rev 15:2) are God’s people during the war over the mark of the beast as described in Revelation 13. However, Revelation 13 and 14 symbolize the overcomers as 144000 sealed with the seal of God (Rev 14:1). Therefore, the 144000 are the same as the “victorious” people. To confirm this, notice that the “victorious” and the 144000 are both contrasted with the people with the mark of the beast:

      • Rev 15:1-16:1 contrasts the victorious people with the beast’s people.
      • Rev 13:16-14:1 contrasts the 144000 with the beast’s people.

SEALED DURING THE REVELATION-13-CRISIS

We know now that God’s people are sealed before the plagues begin to fall. But the crisis of Revelation 13 precedes the plagues. The question remains: Is the sealing completed also before the persecution of Revelation 13 begins? For the following reasons, God’s people will also be sealed DURING AND THROUGH that persecution:

THE PERSECUTION WILL DIVIDE THE WORLD INTO TWO GROUPS.

Revelation 13 ends with the image of the beast forcing people to accept the mark of the beast. Revelation 14 begins by describing the 144000 with the seal of God on their foreheads (cf. Rev 7:1-3). Revelation 13:16 to 14:3 are separated by a chapter break but form a unit. By mentioning the mark of the beast and the seal of God together and by describing them both as names on foreheads, these verses indicate that that persecution will divide the world into two classes:

    • People with the mark of the beast. This mark can be on the forehead (Rev 13:16), which means to think like the beast. Or it can be on the right hand, which means that they to go along with what the law requires – intimidated by the fierce penalties – even though they know it is wrong. 
    • People with the seal of God. The seal will only be on the forehead (Rev 7:3; 14:1), This means that the 144000 will think like God. They will have “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16). No group is mentioned with the seal of God only on the hand because God never forces people to do His will through intimidation. See, Why Satan thought he could win against God.

The mark of the beast and the seal of God, therefore, serve a similar function and identify the group to which a person belongs. Since the persecution divides the world into these groups, the conclusion is that God’s people are sealed DURING AND THROUGH that persecution; just as the beast’s people will receive the mark of the beast during this period.

MENTIONED AFTER THE PERSECUTION BUT BEFORE THE PLAGUES

This conclusion can be confirmed as follows: While the 144000 are described in Revelation 14:1 AFTER the Revelation-13-persecution, in Revelation 15:2 they are mentioned BEFORE the plagues fall. This again implies that God’s people will be sealed during that persecution but that that sealing will be completed before the plagues begin to fall.

This also means that God’s people receive the seal of God to prepare them for the plagues. The plagues will be a trying time for God’s people, for they will be warned:

Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes,
so that he will not walk about naked
and men will not see his shame
” (Rev 16:15).

REVELATION 7 – THE SEALING

On the basis of the overview of Revelation 13 to 16 above, we are now able to explain how the sealing fits into those events.

In Revelation 7, four angels hold back the four winds of the earth, until God’s people (the 144000) are all sealed. The winds will be released as soon as they are sealed (Rev 7:1-3).

It was concluded above that God’s people are sealed DURING the Rev-13-crisis and that the seven plagues will be poured out as soon as everybody has received either the mark of the beast or the seal of God. Therefore:

      • The sealing of the 144000, as described in Revelation 7:1-8, coincides with the Revelation-13-persecution.
      • Since both the four winds and the seven plagues are released as soon as God’s people are sealed, the four winds are another symbol for the seven last plagues.
      • God delays the winds because His people are not sealed (Rev 7:3). This means that God delays the plagues because His people are not yet ready. As discussed in the Purpose of the Plagues, the plagues serve a very important function, and God’s people need to be prepared.

A WAR OVER WORSHIP

The end-time crisis will be a war over worship.

The people with the mark of the beast profess to be Christians. See – The throne of the beast is religious authority. OR The beast in Revelation is the mainstream church of Christendom.

During the intense conflict of the Revelation 13 persecution, people will be forced by laws of government, namely by the threat of the death penalty (Rev 13:15) and by economic sanctions (Rev 13:17) to conform to long-standing (orthodox) but blasphemous religious practices and beliefs. At the same time, the three angels will preach God’s warnings with exceptional clarity and power (Rev 14:6-11). This will provide all intelligent human beings with sufficient evidence on which to base their decisions.

The message of the first angel is: “worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters” (Rev 14:7). By implication, the orthodox practices and beliefs force people to worship another. By the powerful message of the three angels, everybody will be made sufficiently aware that this age-old teaching, which is adopted by the majority, blasphemes God. 

The persecution by the beast will force every person forced to make a decision, and their decisions will reveal their faith or the lack thereof. In spite of the threats of persecution, the 144000 will give heed to this warning. Contrary to the revealed will of God, nominal Christians will submit to the image of the beast, thereby receiving the mark of the beast.

FINAL CONCLUSIONS

      1. The introduction of the plagues (Revelation 15) describes a point in human history when every person on earth will either have the mark of the beast or the seal of God.
      2. Those who had been victorious over the beast” (Rev 15:2) are the same as the 144000 sealed with the seal of God (Rev 14:1).
      3. God’s people will also be sealed during and through the Revelation-13-persecution.
      4. God’s people receive the seal of God to prepare them for the plagues.
      5. The sealing (Rev 7:1-8) coincides with the Rev-13-persecution.
      6. The four winds are the seven last plagues.

ARTICLES ON THE SEVEN SEALS

OVERVIEW

REVELATION 4

REVELATION 5

REVELATION 6

    • Seal 1: The white horse is the gospel.
    • Seals 2 to 4: Bloodshed, famine and death
    • Seal 5: Who are the souls under the altar?
    • Seal 6 includes the plagues and concludes with Christ’s return.

REVELATION 7

REVELATION 8

For further reading on Revelation, I recommend Jon Paulien’s commentary. For general discussions of theology, I recommend Graham Maxwell, who you will find on the Pineknoll website.

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