The Bible should provide its own explanation for the scenes that John saw and the Sealing is no exception. In Ezekiel we find an extremely close parallel to the sealing or marking of God's people in the last days. In fact, by simply changing the wording from "Israel" and "the land" to "the world" or "the whole earth", the prophecy foretold of Israel's destruction can apply to the apocalyptic sequence of events. This entire section of Ezekiel is extremely important. I will insert comments at some points within the section. Note that the Hebrew word for "land" as in verse 2 (erets) has also been translated as "earth" and "world" in other places in the Bible and is similar to the Greek gen or ges that we looked at in the introduction of the previous chapter.
The sealing of the 144,000
Rev. 7:1 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land [or earth] or on the sea or on any tree. 2Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: 3"Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God." 4Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.
Rev. 14:1 Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads. 2And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. 3And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. 5No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless.
Ezek. 7:1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2"Son of man, this is what the Sovereign LORD says to the land of Israel: The end! The end has come upon the four corners of the land [note the same terms are used as in Rev. 7:1]. 3The end is now upon you and I will unleash my anger against you. I will judge you according to your conduct and repay you for all your detestable practices. 4I will not look on you with pity or spare you; I will surely repay you for your conduct and the detestable practices among you. Then you will know that I am the LORD.
5"This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Disaster! An unheard-of disaster is coming [certainly we are not familiar with the events foretold in the seven trumpets or seven last plagues]. 6The end has come! The end has come! It has roused itself against you. It has come! 7Doom has come upon you --you who dwell in the land. The time has come, the day is near; there is panic, not joy, upon the mountains. 8I am about to pour out my wrath on you and spend my anger against you [the time of the "14 plagues" is a time of wrath]; I will judge you according to your conduct and repay you for all your detestable practices. 9I will not look on you with pity or spare you; I will repay you in accordance with your conduct and the detestable practices among you. Then you will know that it is I the LORD who strikes the blow.
10"The day is here! It has come! Doom has burst forth, the rod has budded, arrogance has blossomed! 11Violence has grown into a rod to punish wickedness; none of the people will be left, none of that crowd --no wealth, nothing of value. 12The time has come, the day has arrived. Let not the buyer rejoice nor the seller grieve, for wrath is upon the whole crowd [literally, the whole multitude]. 13The seller will not recover the land he has sold as long as both of them live, for the vision concerning the whole crowd will not be reversed. [Note the concepts of buying and selling, which are also used in Rev. 13:16, 17 in association with the mark of the beast, the antithesis or opposite of the seal of God.] Because of their sins, not one of them will preserve his life. 14Though they blow the trumpet and get everything ready, no one will go into battle, for my wrath is upon the whole crowd.
15"Outside is the sword, inside are plague and famine [weren't these three of the four judgments of God mentioned in the opening of the fourth seal?]; those in the country will die by the sword, and those in the city will be devoured by famine and plague. 16All who survive and escape will be in the mountains, moaning like doves of the valleys, each because of his sins. 17Every hand will go limp, and every knee will become as weak as water. 18They will put on sackcloth and be clothed with terror. Their faces will be covered with shame and their heads will be shaved. 19They will throw their silver into the streets, and their gold will be an unclean thing. Their silver and gold will not be able to save them in the day of the LORD's wrath. They will not satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs with it, for it has made them stumble into sin. 20They were proud of their beautiful jewelry and used it to make their detestable idols and vile images. Therefore I will turn these into an unclean thing for them. 21I will hand it all over as plunder to foreigners and as loot to the wicked of the earth, and they will defile it. 22I will turn my face away from them, and they will desecrate my treasured place; robbers will enter it and desecrate it. [Obviously this section could only apply to Israel in Ezekiel's time since after the Lord destroys the wicked on the great day of the Lord, there will be no "wicked of the earth" left to loot God's people and the heavenly temple.]
23"Prepare chains, because the land is full of bloodshed and the city is full of violence. 24I will bring the most wicked of the nations to take possession of their houses; I will put an end to the pride of the mighty, and their sanctuaries will be desecrated. 25When terror comes, they will seek peace, but there will be none. 26Calamity upon calamity will come, and rumor upon rumor [The trumpets and the plagues can certainly be labeled calamities of the ultimate sort]. They will try to get a vision from the prophet; the teaching of the law by the priest will be lost, as will the counsel of the elders. 27The king will mourn, the prince will be clothed with despair, and the hands of the people of the land will tremble. I will deal with them according to their conduct, and by their own standards I will judge them. Then they will know that I am the LORD."
[Ezekiel chapter 8 then lists some of the abominations that were being done in Israel. We will look closely at these in association with the concept of the pagan religion of Babylon in a later chapter.]
Ezek. 9:1 Then I heard [the Lord] call out in a loud voice, "Bring the guards of the city here, each with a weapon in his hand." 2And I saw six men coming from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, each with a deadly weapon in his hand. With them was a man clothed in linen who had a writing kit at his side. They came in and stood beside the bronze altar.
3Now the glory of the God of Israel went up from above the cherubim, where it had been, and moved to the threshold of the temple. Then the LORD called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side 4and said to him, "Go throughout the city of Jerusalem [or earth in our case] and put a mark [or seal or by implication, a signature or signet] on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it."
5As I listened, he said to the others, "Follow him through the city [or earth in our case] and kill, without showing pity or compassion. 6Slaughter old men, young men and maidens, women and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark [or seal]. Begin at my sanctuary [those who profess to be God's people]." So they began with the elders who were in front of the temple.
7Then he said to them, "Defile the temple and fill the courts with the slain. Go!" So they went out and began killing throughout the city [earth]. 8While they were killing and I was left alone, I fell face down, crying out, "Ah, Sovereign LORD! Are you going to destroy the entire remnant of Israel in this outpouring of your wrath on Jerusalem?"
9He answered me, "The sin of the house of Israel and Judah [the world] 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.' 10So I will not look on them with pity or spare them, but I will bring down on their own heads what they have done."
11Then the man in linen with the writing kit at his side brought back word, saying, "I have done as you commanded."
Wow! Does that parallel the Sealing at the end of time?
Let's look at the lessons we can learn from this section of Ezekiel. Let's summarize them and then we will go into more detail as to those who are sealed.
1) God declares an end to mercy and pity
2) Its effects extend to the four corners of the earth.
3) God will unleash His anger or wrath on the world's people according to their conduct and detestable practices. This is stated twice directly and implied in several other places.
4) A disaster that mankind is not familiar with and has never experienced, will strike the earth.
5) There will be panic, not joy, when these calamities come. Amos 5:18-20 adds:
6) People will not be able to successfully transact business.
7) None will be able to preserve their lives unless God has marked them with His seal or signature.
8) The wicked will be killed by God's deadly judgments.
9) Money and wealth will not be able to save one during this period of God's wrath.
10) Any survivors will be found in the mountains, not in the cities or plains.
11) People will seek solace from their clergy, the prophets and priests, but will not be able to find it.
12) The leaders of the people will be confused, mourning and in despair.
13) People will unequivocally recognize the hand and power of the Almighty God in these judgments.
Moving on to the sealing.
14) God orders the sealing or marking of His people.
15) The one chosen to mark God's people will mark them on their foreheads. This sign will not be visible to God's people, but will be readily noticed by the destroying angels that follow.
16) Those who will be marked are actively mourning and grieving over the sins of the world. No active support or silent tolerance of sin is noted here.
17) Those who are not marked as one of God's people are by default marked for destruction.
18) The destruction of those not sealed will be carried out without pity or compassion. The time for mercy and salvation will have ended by the time the sealing process is completed. This will be confirmed in a following section as we look at the censor being thrown down.
19) The destruction of those not sealed will begin with those who claim or profess to be followers of God, but who do not meet with His approval. 1Pet. 4:17 says,
20) God's marked people will cry out for God to have mercy on the wicked, but the wicked's opportunity for salvation has ended and their destruction will continue until they have been utterly destroyed.
Let's look at greater detail at those who are sealed. After all, it would be the Christian's desire to be found worthy by God.
The sealing or selection of who are God's true followers begins with His professed people. Nearly a fourth of the world claims to be Christian today. The coinage of the United States of America bears the phrase, "In God We Trust." But just because one claims to be a Christian, is he or she really one? Jesus declared in Matt. 7:21-23,
We might paraphrase Daniel's comment to King Belshazzar in Dan. 5:26 and 27.
It will be the saddest experience for those who profess to follow God to hear Jesus utter these words to them, "Weighed in the balances and found wanting."
So who are they who receive the seal of God?
It is those who mourn and grieve over the sins of the world, especially of nations that claim to be Christian nations (e.g. the United States of America, Canada, Western Europe), and of the churches who claim Christianity, but rather reflect the morals of the world. Those sealed are actively mourning and grieving because they recognize the grievous wickedness and widespread immorality and lament over them.
Contrast this to those who are not sealed and therefore receive the mark of the beast. The mark of the beast can be received in either the forehead or the hand.
The forehead is the seat of human knowledge and understanding. The hand is the tool that God has given us to work with, to perform actions with.
Those who receive the mark of the Beast, either do so by a conscientious decision, hence the forehead, or through a tolerance of the authority of the Beast, in order that they may continue to buy or sell.
The Beast's authority or power stands in rebellion against God's power and authority. The people of the world will have the opportunity to follow and do the will of their chosen spiritual leaders. Those who actively follow God by "doing His will" and mourn and grieve over the sins of those who don't, will be marked or sealed by God.
Those who either actively rebel against God and His will or are tolerant of rebellious behavior will not receive the mark or seal of God.
Let's note some of the contrasts.
We will look at this further as we study the Beasts and the mark of the Beast. But first let's see what else we can find out about the 144,000.
A modern day prophet, Ellen G. White, who is one of the most prolific authors in world history, the most translated author (and according to a survey done by the Barna Group of preachers under 40 years old, Ellen White ranked among the top three most influential authors) had a number of visions in which much of the information of Revelation was corroborated. Let's look at several sections specifically pertaining to the 144,000. The following are taken from Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 1.
In chapter IX, entitled the VISION OF THE NEW EARTH* we find the following passages:
The 144,000 Without Guile.--
From what Ellen White was shown, we can further gather the following conclusions:
Verse 4 of Revelation 14 states: "These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure." What does this mean? Does this mean that only male virgins belonging to one of the 12 tribes of Israel will be permitted to be one of the 144,000? If He can find virgin male members of the 10 lost tribes of Israel after 2500 years, that's His prerogative. Well, certainly if we take a literal view, this would be true; and if that is what God means, so be it. What is the clay to argue with the potter? (see Isaiah 45:9; Jeremiah 18:1-9)
But perhaps there is another interpretation. My thinking is that sexual immorality is one of the most spoken against sins in the scriptures, especially for God's New Testament people (see compilation on Homosexuality, Adultery & Other Sexual Sins). When James led the council in Jerusalem to discuss what laws should be imposed on new Gentile believers, they kept the rules simple:
This was reinforced by Jesus in His messages to two of the seven churches in Revelation:
And reinforced in other places in Revelation:
Jesus in His closing remarks in the last chapter of Revelation stated:
Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount stated:
How prevalent is sexual activity and sexual immorality?
My thought is that with the pervasiveness of sexual immorality today and the ease of accessing pornography on the Internet, it is truly a rare person who has not in some way committed adultery or sexual immorality per Jesus' broadened definition of the term. Combine that with a required lack of guile, and the numbers certainly could be reduced to only 144,000.
Let's go on to look at the Seal of God.