THE seventh chapter of the book of Revelation continues the description of events taking place under the sixth seal. Already the signs, which prophecy foretold would appear in the heavens, have been seen. Not only did men witness the phenomena, but as early as 1844, and since that time, these things have been recognized as signs of the second appearing of the Son of man, and as such, have been preached before all the world. When the Saviour was giving the signs by which men should know of the approach of the second advent, He mentions, in addition to the strange appearance in the heavens, "upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity." This distress of nations follows the falling of the stars, and as it is the subject with which the seventh chapter of Revelation is introduced, it places that chapter, when considered chronologically, between the thirteenth and fourteenth verses of the sixth chapter of Revelation.
"After these things," that is, after the occurrence of the signs mentioned in Rev. 6:12, 13, "I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth." John's view of heaven had opened to his mind the workings of the government of God, and the work of the angels was revealed as he watched the loosening of the seals. "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?" Angels who excel in strength, do the bidding of Jehovah, hearkening unto the voice of His word. Gabriel, the angel of prophecy, is by no means the only one who has a specifically assigned task. To John are shown four of these heavenly beings, standing on the four corners of the globe, holding the winds that they might not blow. Winds symbolize war or contention. There has been more than one war in the past, as well as more than one dark day; but at a certain period of time, there should be a distress of nations differing from all previous international troubles.
In the opening of the fifth seal, when the church as a church came from the Dark Ages, two great principles born of the Reformation, and cutting short the persecuting power, finally made martyrdom impossible. These two principles then came into existence under the names of Protestantism and democracy. Protestantism, representing the religious phase of society; democracy, or the principle which recognizes the equal rights of all mankind, representing the civil government. In other words, the results of the sixteenth century Reformation were not seen alone in the organization of Protestant churches; but there was at the same time a protest against the absolute monarchy which had borne sway for a thousand years.
Under these conditions the salvation of the cause demanded a new soil for the cultivation of freedom. For this purpose God had already opened America and Southern Africa. the South African colonies failed to profit by their opportunities, but in America both Protestantism and democracy –freedom to worship, and the equal rights of men in civil affairs, --blossomed and bore fruit in the Constitution of the United States. During the first half century of this nation's existence, it was watched with a most critical eye by monarchs and statesmen of Europe. But as the government grew stronger, and one state after another was added; as its ministers received recognition in foreign courts; and as its products were sought in foreign markets, the people of European governments saw, that democracy was no longer an experiment, but a possibility.
There was restlessness in Europe. From the days of Napoleon, France was divided in its opinions, and the desire for a representative government, was more than once made known. Any manifestation on the part of subjects in all European countries was jealously watched by the sovereigns, and all uprisings were put down with unusual severity. The elements were gathering for a storm, the low mutterings of distant thunder were heard; yet each ruler tried to convince himself that his throne was secure. France, fortunate or unfortunate, as one may choose to view the matter, appears, however, to have been the center from which the waves of commotion started. In 1830 the French ministry, fearing that too much authority was being exercised by the Chamber of Deputies, issued an ordinance declaring all recent elections illegal, restricting suffrage, and limiting the freedom of the press.
This act was met by mob violence, and resulted in the unseating of the reigning monarch and the enthroning of a new French king, who, because he was crowned by the middle classes, was called the "citizens' king." The name was significant. The common people were coming into power, and had nations followed the leadings of Providence, there might have been, in the next few years, a peaceful reorganization of Europe. Instead, however, the people, especially of dependent countries and provinces, were oppressed. But the French uprising had its effect. "In Saxony and in the minor states of Germany, disturbances were consequent on the tidings of the revolution at Paris." In Poland there was an uprising, a result of the movement in Paris. One result traceable to the French trouble, occurred in the year 1832, when "eight thousand Poles were sent to Siberia." In Germany, unity was foretold by the formation of the customs-union between 1828 and 1834. Uprisings occurred in Italy, demanding independence and unity.
In 1833 the system of slavery in the British colonies was abolished. In 1837 Victoria became ruler of England; and the repeal in 1846 of the Corn Laws, which imposed duties on imported grains, was an omen of the increasing liberality of the British government. Events might be multiplied, to show the sharp division between those who favored popular rights and those who still fought for the divine right of kings.
The internal pressure became greater. It was recognized by all that some settlement must soon be reached. The climax came, when in 1848, mob violence again broke out in France. For two years there had been a scarcity of food, and the rabble rebelled against all authority. The king, Louis Phillippe, abdicated, and escaped to England. Except for the courage and firmness of a few French statesmen, who guided affairs through this critical period, the scenes of the Revolution of 1789, would have been repeated. The soldiers fraternized with the mob. Only through the wisest management, a socialistic Directory was avoided. Instead, the motion for a provisional government, prevailed. A constitution was adopted which provided for a president who should serve for a term of four years. Louis Napoleon was elected first president of the new French Republic. This was the eventful year of 1848. Judson, in his work entitled "Europe in the Nineteenth Century," says this revolution "was like a lighted match touched to the dry prairie grass after a drought. The flames flashed at once throughout the continent." In Germany "new ministries were installed which were pledged to a liberal policy." Prussia and Austria were thoroughly disturbed by the movement for freedom and national unity."
In Germany nearly five hundred men gathered, determined to organize a provisional government. The disturbances in Prussia, forced the king to swear to maintain a new constitution. Both Hungary and Vienna revolted, and this furnished the long coveted occasion for the Italians to throw off Austrian rule. Thus, in a brief period of time, many crowned heads of Europe submitted themselves to the people.
In the midst of the turmoil and strife, came a sudden calm. No man could assign any reason for it. Like the troubled waters of Gennesaret when Christ spoke peace out of the storm, tumult and confusion ceased. The four angels had been stationed on the earth to hold the winds of strife till the servants of God could be sealed. Europe had been wrought upon until the power of an absolute monarchy was practically a thing of the past. There was now an opportunity for the ripening of the principles of the Reformation. The closing work in the earth, will be a continuation of the movement set on foot when the darkness of the Middle Ages was broken. God has prepared the earth for the rapid spread of the Gospel, and the sealing work is now going on.
"And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, ... saying, 'Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.'"
Nations are represented as being held in check by the angels of heaven until the servants of God are sealed. men are led to ask, "What is this seal placed upon the foreheads by which God recognizes His servants?" God's chosen people are always a peculiar people; they are called to be a nation of kings, a royal priesthood, who show forth the virtues of their Commander. Jehovah looks not on the outward appearance, but weighs character, and places His seal on those whose hearts are right toward Him. When Abraham was called to become the founder of a nation, God gave to him "the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had." To the seed of Abraham, who live in the time of the end, the same God gives a sign, or seal, of the righteousness of the faith which they have. This seal comes not because of boasted pride, or self-supremacy, but by simple faith in the promises of God, as a child learns from its mother. Christ, looking up to heaven, said, "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." This sign or seal, is a direct revelation from God, to those who will accept with the faith of a little child. "Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven." That which the Father and Son alone can reveal is a knowledge of God, and this knowledge of God, is the seal placed in the foreheads of the chosen generation. To this, Paul testifies in the words, "The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are His." The seal then is the knowledge of the true God, and this, Jehovah has placed in His Sabbath.
"Hallow My Sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between Me and you, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God." "Moreover also I gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them." This seal is a sign of sanctification, and it is a sign forever. "Verily My Sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations." Again He says, "It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He rested, and was refreshed." This was spiritual rest, for "God is a Spirit," and knows no rest but spiritual rest. The rest, the blessing, and the sanctification of the Sabbath of Jehovah are all spiritual, and only such as are living in a condition symbolized by the first seal, can rest as God rested. Such, and such alone, have a knowledge of God. The seal placed in the forehead by the angel, cannot be read by man; only God and heavenly beings can read it. For this reason, no civil law can enforce Sabbath keeping. Man may keep the form one day in seven, but only a knowledge of God can give the seal in the forehead. Christ was a living commentary on true Sabbath observance, and the things which He did on that day, reveal the mind of God toward the children of men. "The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God." "On the seventh day God ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it."
In these texts, the day upon which God rested, and which He subsequently blessed and sanctified, is plainly stated to be the seventh day. And from that seventh day on which Jehovah rested, all future seventh days have in them the blessing and the sanctification. The use of the word seal directs the mind to a legal document. When a ruler's seal is attached to a legal paper, that seal contains the name of the one in authority, his right to rule, and the territory over which he rules. These features are all made prominent in the seal contained in the law of God. To-day the seal is usually placed, either at the beginning, or at the close of the decree or law; but in the divine law it is placed in the center, that nothing may be taken from, or added thereto. The fourth commandment reads: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work. ... For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested on the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it." Herein lie the three specifications of a seal: first, the name, -- Lord thy God, Jehovah; second, the authority, -- Creator; third, the extent of territory, -- the heavens and earth. Take away this command from the Decalogue, and it would contain no seal. God's right to rule rests in the fourth commandment, and the seal will be placed in the foreheads of those who thus know God. The knowledge of the creative and the redeeming power of God, is revealed by Christ in the fourth commandment of the Decalogue.
In 1848 the Angel from the East called to the four angels to hold the winds of war until the servants of God were sealed in their foreheads. Since 1848, in the quiet which has prevailed among nations, light upon the Sabbath of Jehovah's law, has been going to every nation of the earth. It began gently as the rising sun; it shines today with the clearness of the noonday rays. Thousands, in all quarters of the globe testify to the saving health in the Sabbath observance.
The number of the servants of our God is now being made up. "I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel." Character alone is the basis of the sealing work. The promise of the new earth was made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; but the literal descendants of these patriarchs, failed to develop a character which would place upon them a seal of the living God, and they were rejected as a nation. Then the Gentiles, like branches from a wild olive tree, were, contrary to nature, grafted into the Jewish root; and those who bear fruit unto righteousness will partake of the inheritance once promised to Jews of the flesh. The places in the twelve tribes, which might have been filled by the direct descendants of Abraham, will be occupied by children by adoption. The attention of all heaven is directed toward this sealing work; for when it is over, the plan of redemption is completed. The one hundred and forty-four thousand are divided into classes called by the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. These are character names, and those who develop the character, will be classed under the tribe bearing a name indicating that character.
To illustrate; "Issachar is a strong ass couching down between two burdens: and he saw that rest was good, and the land that it was pleasant; and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute." Burden bearers are here described. Those, who, looking forward to the promised future home are willing to couch often beneath heavy burdens; and like the patient ass, even bear double burdens, that the cause of God may prosper. They are free and happy in this service; and the cause of God would never move forward in the earth if it were not for these loyal burden bearers, -- these faithful Issachars, spending their lives "couching down between two burdens," while close by perhaps, are the representatives of Naphtali, who bear no burdens. "Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words." Free and lighthearted, he sees a thousand places where he can speak goodly words, and spring hastily to give a helping hand, that the representatives of Issachar, bowed down under their heavy burdens, would never see, neither does God expect it of them. All are needed to make the number complete.
Let not the burden bearer think, that because he bears the heavy burdens he is the most important. He is only one twelfth part of the whole. One company will represent Levi, whose life seemed a failure through sin; and yet through victory in God, the Levites became teachers in Israel. And of unstable Reuben it is said, "Let Reuben live, and not die." He became the "excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power." Judah represents the leaders, those before whom the others bow down. Every phase of the work is represented, and the name of each tribe will be placed on one of the gates of the city of God. The tribe of Dan is omitted in the final count, and two portions are given to the family of Joseph to make up the twelve. Of Dan it was said: "Dan shall judge his people, as on of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward." God purposed that Dan should judge Israel righteously. Keen observation, and quick discernment are necessary for a judge. These gifts were given to Dan, but instead of using them aright, he was "a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward." In other words, he became a backbiter, a cruel critic.
The gift intended for a blessing, when perverted, became an injury, causing others to fall. The cruel critic, the one who always detects the evil in others and speaks of it first, has the gift of judgment misdirected. None who persist in this work, can ever enter the kingdom of heaven; for the "accuser of our brethren" was cast out of heaven once, and neither he, nor his representatives, will ever enter its shining portals again.
Once more the prophet John was shown the end of the sixth seal. The creatures of God's love were gathered from all ages. An innumerable company of the redeemed were seen standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed with the robes of Christ's righteousness; but throughout eternity, they will remember that both robes and palms are the result of the sacrifice of the Son of God. With one voice the song rings through heaven, "Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb." The redeemed host sing the song of their experience; and the angels who are acquainted with each individual, the four and twenty elders, and the four beasts who have had a similar experience, respond to the mighty chorus.
Then, as if again to call attention to the little company who have suffered most, one elder, pointing to the one hundred and forty-four thousand, said, "What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?" He answers his own question, saying, "These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
The Saviour Himself was made perfect through suffering, and, as a man, gained the place on the throne beside the Father; because He overcame. The life of the one hundred and fortyfour thousand is pictured in the experiences of the apostles who lived nearest to the Saviour when He was upon earth. Because they have lived as He lived, and passed through the trials which He endured, and Satan has been forced to acknowledge that he found none of his own nature in them, "therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple: and He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them."
Before the rebellion in heaven, Lucifer was a covering cherub, standing always in the presence of God. In his fall he took with him a multitude of angels. The place once occupied by Satan and his angels, will be filled by the hundred and forty-four thousand, when they gather at last about the throne, where they serve God day and night in His temple, with God Himself dwelling in their midst. This is their reward for the hunger and thirst endured on earth. They form the bodyguard of their Saviour, and He leads them to the fountain of living waters. They, who, on earth clung to the knowledge of God when the world was given over to idolatry, have an infinity of truth to learn, and endless ages for growth and development. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." That beginning was made here on earth, when, to be true to the knowledge of God, men ofttimes suffered hunger and thirst, tribulation and persecution.
But he who endures as seeing Him who is invisible, -- the Lamb, who is in the presence of God, will one day be filled with the knowledge of the Lord. In that day the tears of earth will be wiped away by the joys of eternity. "Neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat." On earth they have felt the heat of the sun's rays, and although, after the restoration, the sunshine is sevenfold brighter than at present, yet the little company stand so near the throne, and are so enshrouded by the intense light of the Father and Son, that the sunlight is no longer noticeable. The appearance of one angel on earth dazzled the eyes of the centurion's guard at the Saviour's tomb, and they fell like dead men. Light is the result of an abundance of life. What must be the purity of those who partake of divinity to such a degree that they walk in the very presence of the Creator?
These are redeemed from among men. They come from the last generation, -- that race which is almost extinct because of the prevalence of disease and sin. But the blood of the Lamb is all powerful, and places these next the throne. "Where sin abounded grace did much more abound." The matchless love of Christ, who can understand!
Page 127; Isa. 41:22, 26; Matt. 28:19; Luke 21:25, 26.
Page 128; Rev. 7:1; Zech. 14:19; Psa. 47:7; Heb. 1:14; Psa. 103:20; Dan. 10:21; Psa. 34:7; Matt. 18:10; Dan. 11:40; Isa. 17:12, 13; Rev. 13:8; Gen. 4:3, 4; Rev. 12:14-16; Isa. 60:16; Isa. 61:6.
Page 129; Job 12:23, 24; Rom. 13:3, 4; Prov. 28:15; Isa. 26:15; Nahum 1:11; Isa. 23:11; Dan. 4:17; Dan. 5:19.
Page 130; Psa. 94:20; Psa. 94:20-23; Isa. 14:6; Isa. 47:11.
Page 131; Prov. 14:34; Dan. 2:37; Hos. 12:7; Eccl. 4:1; Eze. 14:13; Lam. 1:6; Eccl. 9:14-16; Prov. 16:20; Psa. 38:19, 20.
Page 132; Isa. 33:6; Psa. 75:5-7; Psa. 33:16; Rev. 7:2, 3; Rev. 14:9-12.
Page 133; Titus 2:14; 1Pet. 2:9; 1Sam. 16:7; Rom. 4:11; Matt. 18:3; Matt. 11:25; Matt. 16:17; John 17:3; 2Tim. 2:19; Eze. 20:20; John 14:15; John 14:21; Ex. 31:13; Ex. 31:17; Jer. 10:11, 12; John 4:24.
Page 134; Eze. 9:4; Ex. 20:8-11; Gen. 2:2, 3; Ex. 34:21; Isa. 58:13, 14.
Page 135; Matt. 24:20; Rom. 7:12; Esther 8:8; Isa. 8:16 Matt. 5:17, 18.
Page 136; Eze. 46;1; Lev. 19:30; Luke 23:54-56; Rev. 7:4; Rev. 14:9-12; Neh. 9:14; Isa. 56:2; Rom. 11:17, 18; Rom. 11:20; Rev. 22:14.
Page 137; Luke 13:34; Eze. 9:11; Rev. 7:5-8; Gen. 49:14, 15; Gal. 2:9; Isa. 9:6; Isa. 22:22; 1Chron. 12:32; Judges 5:15; Gen. 49:21; Prov. 15:26; Prov. 16:24; Psa. 119:103; Prov. 15:1; Judges 5:18.
Page 138; 1Cor. 12:20, 21; Gen. 49:5-7; Deut. 33:8-11; Gen. 49:3;, 4; Deut. 33:6; Gen. 49:9-12; Deut. 33:7; Rev. 21:12; Rev. 7:5-8; Rev. 7:6-8; Gen. 49:16, 17; Psa. 50:20-22; Psa. 101:5; 1Kings 3:7-28; Matt. 25:24-28.
Page 139; Rev. 12:10; Rev. 7:9-11; Rev. 7:12-15; Heb. 5:8, 9; Rev. 3:21.
Page 140; Job 1:8; 1John 3:2, 3; John 14:30; Eze. 28:14; Rev. 12:9; Rev. 21:3; Rev. 3:10; Isa. 49:9, 10; Heb. 11:27; Rev. 7:16, 17.
Page 141; Isa. 30:26; Matt. 13:43; Matt. 28:2, 3; Mic. 7:18; Rom. 5:20.