As if the white horse, with its rider bent on conquest were not enough. Or the red horse, whose rider had the power to take away peace, followed by the black horse of famine – because famine often follows war.
As if Death, riding a pale horse, killing a quarter of the population, with Hades hot on his heels wasn’t enough. The martyrs crying out to be avenged, the sun turning black, the moon turning blood red, stars falling from the sky and the heavens receding like a scroll being rolled…
As if all of that were not enough, a seventh seal looms.
Four angels stand at the ready. Four powerful angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four fierce winds. They wait for the signal.
A fifth angel approaches from the east. “Wait!” Foreheads need to be marked.
Twelve thousand foreheads from each of the twelve tribes. One hundred and forty-four thousand foreheads in all.
I pause and wonder how it is that each tribe has exactly 12,000 servants. What if one tribe has more than 12,000 worthy servants and another has less? Doesn’t matter, God apparently wants equal representation.
Before God will allow the winds of destruction to blow, swirl, whistle and howl across every corner of the earth, a seal has to be placed on the forehead of each of His servants.
Again I pause, grateful that I am sealed with the Holy Spirit; grateful that I am guaranteed an inheritance. (Ephesians 1)
But this seal, I think, is different. I’ve been stamped with the Holy Spirit. Revelation 14 will reveal that these 144,000 are stamped with the name of the Father and the name of the Lamb.
Remember when God marked Cain – a murderer! – so that no one could kill him?
Remember when God directed the Israelites to mark their doorposts with the blood of the Lamb to protect them from the angel of death?
Not everyone is as familiar with this story from Ezekiel 9, but God was fed up with His people and His wrath was imminent. He said:
“The sin of the people of Israel and Judah 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.’ So I will not look on them with pity or spare them, but I will bring down on their own heads what they have done.”
But before He unleashed the six men who were appointed to execute justice, a man in linen WITH A WRITING KIT, appeared. The Lord called to him and said:
“Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.”
I stop and chuckle: Gives new meaning to “The pen is mightier than the sword.”
Put a mark on all those who grieve and lament.
God notices when we grieve over injustice, cruelty and all the detestable things in which our culture engages.
It reminds me of what Peter wrote about Lot:
“and if [God] rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard) – if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.”
I never saw Lot as a righteous man who was distressed by the depraved conduct around him. I always saw him as a man who was cozying up to the depravity around him – which got him into trouble more than once. “Friendship with the world” is what James called it. Maybe that’s why Peter added “if this is so,” and put some of it in parenthesis. (Not that the Greeks used punctuation back then.)
Perhaps it wasn’t Lot’s own righteousness that caused him to be spared, perhaps it was solely his association with Abraham.
But I digress.
My point is that God has a history of marking people – worthy or not – in order to protect them. And that the seal on the foreheads of the 144,000 was more like the one received by Cain and the one described in Ezekiel 9 – a seal of protection – rather than a seal guaranteeing an inheritance.
The names of the Father and the Lamb, not the Holy Spirit.
Different names for different purposes?
The winds of destruction, with their seven trumpets and seven bowls of wrath, would not blow quite yet.
Not until chapter 8.
For now, the throne room is growing larger.
In chapter 4, John saw 4 living creatures and 24 elders around the throne. In chapter 5, they were joined and surrounded by thousands upon thousands of angels.
Now, a countless multitude has joined the worship. They cry in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
The names of the Father and the Lamb on the foreheads of the 144,000….
But these aren’t the 144,000. The 144,000 are still on earth to endure and survive the opening of the seventh seal.
This is a countless multitude who survived the first six seals and are now standing before the throne. They’ve been through a lot and they know a little something about from where salvation comes. Some of them may have been among the princes and the paupers cowering together begging the rocks to fall on them. But then, they ran to Jesus. They “washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.” Check it out. Verse 14. “They came out of the great tribulation and they have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.”
And now here they stand, with the four living creatures and the 24 elders and the thousands upon thousands of angels, wearing freshly cleaned white robes and holding palm branches, shouting the praises of the Ones who saves them.
And when they shout, the creatures, the elders and the angels fall on their faces and worship. When you’ve seen so much destruction, when you’ve been saved from so much, you want God to remain on the throne forever, and you say so:
“Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
The hub has been through some things. The hub has made some mistakes, and now the hub often says, “I’m just happy to be here.”
The multitude was happy to be there. So happy that they served God day and night in His temple, because when you are grateful, you want to do what you can.
And because it is in serving Him that you find your protection.
Remember, 144,000 servants were marked for protection against the devastating winds.
Standing there, at His throne, you are sheltered in His presence.
Never again will you be hungry or thirsty. Never again will the sun beat down on you.
You are under the care of the Shepherd – who will lead you to springs of living water, who will wipe away every tear from your eye.
And that is glorious. ‘Cuz you’ve done some crying.