Revelation 7:3
Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
7:1-8 In the figurative language of Scripture, the blowing of the four winds together, means a dreadful and general destruction. But the destruction is delayed. Seals were used to mark for each person his own possessions. This mark is the witness of the Holy Ghost, printed in the hearts of believers. And the Lord would not suffer his people to be afflicted before they were marked, that they might be prepared against all conflicts. And, observe, of those who are thus sealed by the Spirit, the seal must be on the forehead, plainly to be seen alike by friends and foes, but not by the believer himself, except as he looks stedfastly in the glass of God's word. The number of those who were sealed, may be understood to stand for the remnant of people which God reserved. Though the church of God is but a little flock, in comparison with the wicked world, yet it is a society really large, and to be still more enlarged. Here the universal church is figured under the type of Israel.Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea ... - Let the winds be restrained until what is here designated shall be done. These destroying angels were commanded to suspend the work of destruction until the servants of God could be rendered secure. The division here, as in Revelation 7:1, of the "earth, the sea, and the trees," seems to include everything - water, land, and the productions of the earth. Nothing was to be injured until the angel should designate the true servants of God.

Till we have sealed the servants of our God - The use of the plural "we" seems to denote that he did not expect to do it alone. Who were to be associated with him, whether angels or human beings, he does not intimate; but the work was evidently such that it demanded the agency of more than one.

In their foreheads - See the notes on Revelation 7:2; compare Ezekiel 9:4-5. A mark thus placed on the forehead would be conspicuous, and would be something which could at once be recognized if destruction should spread over the world. The fulfillment of this is to be found in two things:

(a) in something which would be conspicuous or prominent - so that it could be seen; and,

(b) in the mark being of such a nature or character that it would be a proper designation of the fact that they were the true servants of God.

3. Hurt not—by letting loose the destructive winds.

till we have sealed the servants of our God—parallel to Mt 24:31, "His angels … shall gather together His elect from the four winds." God's love is such, that He cannot do anything in the way of judgment, till His people are secured from hurt (Ge 19:22). Israel, at the eve of the Lord's coming, shall be found re-embodied as a nation; for its tribes are distinctly specified (Joseph, however, being substituted for Dan; whether because Antichrist is to come from Dan, or because Dan is to be Antichrist's especial tool [Aretas, tenth century], compare Ge 49:17; Jer 8:16; Am 8:14; just as there was a Judas among the Twelve). Out of these tribes a believing remnant will be preserved from the judgments which shall destroy all the Antichristian confederacy (Re 6:12-17), and shall be transfigured with the elect Church of all nations, namely, 144,000 (or whatever number is meant by this symbolical number), who shall faithfully resist the seductions of Antichrist, while the rest of the nation, restored to Palestine in unbelief, are his dupes, and at last his victims. Previously to the Lord's judgments on Antichrist and his hosts, these latter shall destroy two-thirds of the nation, one-third escaping, and, by the Spirit's operation through affliction, turning to the Lord, which remnant shall form the nucleus on earth of the Israelite nation that is from this time to stand at the head of the millennial nations of the world. Israel's spiritual resurrection shall be "as life from the dead" to all the nations. As now a regeneration goes on here and there of individuals, so there shall then be a regeneration of nations universally, and this in connection with Christ's coming. Mt 24:34; "this generation (the Jewish nation) shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled," which implies that Israel can no more pass away before Christ's advent, than Christ's own words can pass away (the same Greek), Mt 24:35. So exactly Zec 13:8, 9; 14:2-4, 9-21; compare Zec 12:2-14; 13:1, 2. So also Eze 8:17, 18; 9:1-7, especially Eze 9:4. Compare also Eze 10:2 with Re 8:5, where the final judgments actually fall on the earth, with the same accompaniment, the fire of the altar cast into the earth, including the fire scattered over the city. So again, Re 14:1, the same 144,000 appear on Zion with the Father's name in their forehead, at the close of the section, the twelfth through fourteenth chapters, concerning the Church and her foes. Not that the saints are exempt from trial: Re 7:14 proves the contrary; but their trials are distinct from the destroying judgments that fall on the world; from these they are exempted, as Israel was from the plagues of Egypt, especially from the last, the Israelite doors having the protecting seal of the blood-mark.

foreheads—the most conspicuous and noblest part of man's body; on which the helmet, "the hope of salvation," is worn.

A manifest allusion to Ezekiel 9:4, and, as some think, to the usage of some eastern countries, for masters to set their names upon the forehead of their slaves, by which they were known to be theirs, as we mark our sheep or other beasts. Men as vainly dispute what this seal should be, as what the t meant in Ezekiel 9:1-11, the mark set upon those that mourned for the abominations of Jerusalem. The place where they were to be sealed signified the end of their sealing to be not so much for confirmation, for which seals are used, as notification, to signify to others they belong to God; so as it was of the same use as the blood upon the two side-posts and the upper door-posts of the Israelites in Egypt, Exodus 12:13. Saying, hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees,.... That is, as yet, for their commission was not contradicted, nor taken away by Christ; and at the time appointed, at the blowing of the several trumpets, they let loose the winds, and let in the Goths, Hans, and Vandals, the Saracens and Turks into the empire, and after that poured out the vials of God's wrath upon the Romish antichrist: this retarding of them was but in appearance, that there might be an opportunity to show to John what care would be taken all along of the church of Christ, and true servants of the living God:

till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads; the servants of sin, Satan, and the beast of Rome, were took no notice nor care of; they were the persons to be hurt by the winds, signified by the earth, sea, and trees, even idolaters, small and great; but "the servants of our God", who serve him with grace in their hearts, from a principle of love, in the exercise of faith, without servile fear, and with reverence and godly fear, in righteousness and true holiness, and with a view to his glory; and are worshippers of him in spirit and in truth, being followers of the Lamb, whithersoever he goes; and so are the servants of his God, and their God; the sealing of them does not design the sealing of them with the seal of election, this was done in eternity; nor with the seal of the Spirit, which is common to all the saints in all ages; but it denotes the hiding and concealing, and so securing the saints amidst all the calamities of the empire, and throughout the whole time of the Romish apostasy, from first to last; and respects the time when the church fled into the wilderness, and was hid, and nourished with the hidden manna, for a time, and times, and half a time, Revelation 12:14. Christ set a mark upon them, as was upon the houses of the Israelites, when the destroying angel passed through Egypt, and destroyed the firstborn in it; and as was upon the foreheads of those that sighed and cried in Jerusalem, when orders were given to slay young and old, Exodus 12:23. Christ will have a people in the worst of times; he knows who are his, and he will take care of them; he has his chambers of protection to hide them in, till the indignation is over past: the sealers, "we", are either Father, Son, and Spirit, who are all jointly concerned for the welfare of the eject; or Christ and his ministering angels that attend him, whom he employs for the good and safety of the heirs of salvation: the seal with which these are sealed is the seal of the living God, the foreknowledge, love, care, and power of God; and the name of God, even Christ's Father's name, and their Father's name, in their foreheads; the new name of children of God, by and under which they are known and preserved by him: and this is said to be "in their foreheads", in allusion to servants, who used to be marked in their foreheads; hence they are called by Apuleius (c) "frontes literati"; and by Martial, a servant is called "fronte notatus" (d): but then these were such who had committed faults, and this was done by way of punishment (e); wherefore it can hardly be thought that the servants of God should be sealed, in allusion to them: but rather with reference to the mitre on the high priest's forehead, as some think; or it may be to Ezekiel 9:4, and shows, that though these persons were hid and concealed from men, they were well known to God and Christ; nor were they ashamed to make a public and open confession of Christ before men, as did the true and faithful witnesses of Christ, the Waldenses and Albigenses, in the midst of the greatest darkness of Popery, and of danger from men; and who seem to be chiefly intended.

(c) Metamorph. l. 9. p. 130. (d) Epigr. l. 3. Ep. 20. (e) Vid. Popma de Operis Servorum, p. 170, &c.

Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
3. till we have sealed] The object of the sealing is twofold. (1) to mark them as God’s own, beyond the risk of loss; we may almost certainly infer, from this chapter compared with Revelation 14:1, that the inscription of the seal is the Name of God and of the Lamb; and (2) to mark them as to be saved from the judgements that the other angels are to execute upon the world. Hence we are to compare this sealing, on the one hand with the mark (a less careful and indelible one than here—a cross marked with ink, not a name stamped with a seal) set on the protesting remnant in Ezekiel 9:4; Ezekiel 9:6 (R. V.): on the other hand, with 2 Timothy 2:19; Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:30. It is scarcely likely indeed that St John refers consciously to these passages in St Paul, but it is likely that the image of the seal was the common property of the Apostolic Church, perhaps that the name was already applied, as in later times, to the rite which we call confirmation.Revelation 7:3. [81] ΣΦΡΑΓΊΣΩΜΕΝ, we may seal) By this sealing, the servants of God out of the tribes of Israel are preserved, all along from the time of John, against the calamities which threaten under the seven trumpets. Before this there had been no need of sealing, before the danger. The ancestors are sealed at one time, and their posterity at another. If the ancestors were slain, there would be no posterity. Under the trumpet of the fifth angel, not even are those slain who are not sealed; much less, therefore, are they slain who are sealed.

[81] ἀπὸ ἀνατολῆς ἡλίου, from the rising of the sun) It was from the east, therefore, that the plagues began.—V. g.—τὴν γῆν καὶ τὴν θάλασσαν, the earth and the sea) Here the trees are also mentioned. The earth is Asia; the sea Europe; the rivers (ch. Revelation 8:10) and the trees, Africa,—V. g.Verse 3. - Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees. Hurt not, by loosing the four winds, as stated on ver. 2. The destruction prepared for the guilty world is not allowed to fall until God's elect have been gathered in, and preserved free from danger (cf. Matthew 24:31, where immediately after the appearance of the Son of man, his elect are gathered from the four winds). (For the signification of the earth, the sea, and the trees, see on vers. 1 and 2.) Till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. The angel associates himself with the first four, as being on an equality with them in this work, although he alone is stated to possess the seal (ver. 2). Of the nature of the sealing nothing more is indicated. The forehead is naturally mentioned as being the most conspicuous part of man, as well as that which we are accustomed to regard as the noblest and most vital part. The idea may be compared with that in Ezekiel 9:4, 6. It is remarkable, too, that the word in Ezekiel rendered "mark" is the name of the Hebrew letter tau, of which the ancient form was a cross (cf. the sign of the cross in baptism; also Revelation 3:12, "I will write upon him the Name of my God... and my new Name;" and Revelation 14:1, "Having his Father s Name written in their foreheads"). "The servants of our God," says Bengel, is a title which especially belongs to holy men in Israel (cf. Genesis 1:17; Deuteronomy 32:36; Isaiah 61:6). Those who hold the preterist view believe that the Christians who escaped the destruction of Jerusalem are indicated by this expression. The sealed are probably these referred to by our Lord in Matthew 24:22, 24, 31, as "the elect." In their foreheads

Compare Exodus 28:36-38; Ezekiel 9:4.

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