And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth…
I. PENT-UP JUDGMENT. Righteousness produces judgment, and grace restrains it. Grace does not nullify or cancel judgment; it simply suspends it. The history of our earth is one of suspended judgment. Of this judgment, we may say that it is —
1. Slow. When it comes, it comes swiftly; but meanwhile it is not rash, nor precipitate. This slowness often deludes the sinner.
2. Silent. It makes no sign. The fermenting elements are noiseless. There are often no thunder-clouds, but a calm, blue sky.
3. Sure. It will not miss its mark, nor mistake its victim, nor forget its time. Its slowness and silence contribute to its certainty.
4. Terrible. The blow, when it comes, is overwhelming. The pent-up torrent, when it breaks its barrier, carries all before it. So God's vengeance is infinitely terrible. Who can stand before it?
II. THE SEALING. In the chapter before us it is a Jewish multitude that is specially named as sealed; but as in ver. 3 it is the "servants of God" that are said to be sealed, we may infer that by that expression both Gentile and Jew are meant. The sealing seems (as in Ezekiel 9.) to intimate exemption from the earthly judgments of a particular time. I do not dwell on this further than to point out God's care for His own in days of trouble — as in Noah's days, in Lot's days, in Ezekiel's days, in the time of Jerusalem's great siege. I would remind you of the ninety-first Psalm also, which is specially written for evil days.
III. THE INGATHERING. It is not simply for temporal protection that God stays His judgments, but for salvation. A time of pent-up judgment is a time of ingathering. A time of judgment may also be so, but a time of suspended judgment still more so. For at such a time God is in earnest — in earnest in His grace, in earnest in His righteousness. His long-suffering is salvation; His patience is life eternal. He pities to the last. Judgment is His strange work. At such a time the gospel comes with peculiar power.
(H. Bonar, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.