Holding Back for Those Holding Fast

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Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads

“After this I saw four angles standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, so that no wind should blow on the earth or on the sea or on any tree. And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.”

I realize that I have previously leaped forward in Revelation, so that we have seen the number of the beast at least once. However, in the reading of Revelation, without leaping and bounding throughout the text, up until this point, have we read of the number of the beast? The answer is no. The number of the beast is always at the forefront. People desire to discern what or who the number represents. What does it mean? Is it a man? Is it a system? Is it a microchip? I have my opinion on the number of the beast–to whom it represents, but it’s opinion. An educated guess I hope, but an opinion nonetheless. What I can say is; it absolutely represents bad government.

However, we’re not there yet. We’re at a point in Revelation where six seals have been broken and we anxiously anticipate the breaking of the seventh and final seal. We’ve read of famine, earthquakes, wars, pestilence, and the like. Yet now we find ourselves reading about a seal written on the forehead of God’s bondservants.

This is rarely discussed. It is always about the mark of the beast, yet seldom about the mark of God. Yet the mark of the Lord is superlative and mentioned first. Not only in the context but in the Bible as well–by about a few thousand years. That’s correct, our Old Testament tutor has much to say about the mark of the Lord.

“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! “And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. “And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. “And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. “And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” – Deuteronomy

While this passage of scripture was taken to literal extremes, as we do with Revelation, it is supremely stated and a statutory set in stone. One doesn’t literally bind the word of God to one’s head, but figuratively we should be known for our good works. The mark of the Lord is the exact opposite of the mark of the beast. No, it’s not a macro-server, as opposed to a microchip. As an aside; no one needs an implanted microchip to buy, sell, or be monitored; your smartphone can do that. Probably that’s the new idea of the mark of the beast–smart phones. Yes, the new idea; before it was microchips, before that it was a barcode tattoo. Before the barcode tattoo it was a branding and before that it was the number carved into the flesh.

This is why using a hermeneutical system, such as the CAGED method is of great importance​. When we consult our Old Testament tutor and understand the genre, while considering the context and the aspirations of the author to his audience, things like barcodes and microchips actually pale in comparison to the intended meaning. Using the CAGED method keeps us from cranial conjecture and imaginary imagery. We look out our windows and translate Revelation by what we see happening in the world. We don’t take our Vitamin A. We don’t consider the author’s aspirations to his audience. If we will examine ourselves, we prove this point. I really don’t know about you but I was convinced that the mark of the beast was a tattoo of a barcode. That is until the perfection of microchips and RFD scanners. I am proof we’re doing it wrong. I didn’t see the original intent, I translated Revelation based on me.

O.O.T.T. Deuteronomy 6:8 “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.” Deuteronomy 11:8 reads; “You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.” Exodus 13:16 reads in a similar manner when it says, “So it shall serve as a sign on your hand and as phylacteries on your forehead, for with a powerful hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt.” Even without considering the context in its entirety, the imagery is illuminated. Israel wasn’t to literally bind God’s word to their foreheads but to live out his words. Notice; “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart.” -Proverbs 3:3

Jesus condemns the practice of taking these scriptures to literal extremes in Matthew 23, yes, the chapter with the seven woes. Jesus says, ‘But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments.” The Pharisees took God’s command to be marked by his word literally and made them to be actual frontals and phylacteries. Jesus claimed that they were doing it wrong, not only the taking of Deuteronomy literally but that they did it to be noticed by men. God knows what is on our foreheads, hands and hearts. The point of the imagery then, and in Revelation, is to live by his words, not merely put them on display. Back to our text:

After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, so that no wind should blow on the earth or on the sea or on any tree.” Jesus is once again evoking the imagery of the number four. Four angels, four corners, four winds. No, the Lord is not a flat-earther. As stated ad nauseum, we cannot take these images to literal extremes. Jesus created the Earth, he knows that it is round. Using the CAGED method we look internally first then search the rest of the scriptures. In Revelation we have seen imagery of, four living creatures, four horsemen and a fourth of the Earth. The number four is imagery of completion. Not perfection, but fullness. Seven is heavenly completeness, perfection. It’s also the sum of 3; God, and 4; complete.

The four angels are withholding the four winds from the four corners of the Earth. Again, not to be taken to literal extremes. There are many winds; nor’easter, westerly, gales, southerly, tornado, easterly. The number four demonstrates that all winds are held back from all the Earth, and even this is still imagery. It’s also imagery that can be lost on most of us in the United States. We have building codes and standards to protect us from the wind. Though this year seemed to be hurricane heaven and nor’easters became the norm. Remember the Vitamin A, what would this mean to the first century church in Asia?

O.O.T.T. Jeremiah 49:36 “I will bring upon Elam the four winds From the four ends of heaven, And will scatter them to all these winds; And there will be no nation To which the outcasts of Elam will not go.” And Isaiah records, “You contended with them by banishing them, by driving them away. With His fierce wind He has expelled them on the day of the east wind.” Context is King, notice: ‘Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.” 

There’s a pause in the action here in Revelation chapter 7 after the terrifying account in chapter 6.  Withholding the wind, especially to the first century church in Asia would have great significance. Much of their trade was done by boat or ship. Most of these seven churches were fairly close to the ocean. They had heard and seen the destruction of ships due to gales and storms. How many suffered shipwreck during those days? The apostle Paul did.

Before God continues to pour his wrath out on the Earth, he will first seal those who are the true church, those who walk with him. The immediate context could certainly be a very good argument for a mid-tribulational rapture. But let’s not jump to conclusions, we have farther to go.

It is also worth noting that the wind in Scripture often is a reference for the Spirit. That may be why Revelation uses the number seven in the imagery. To those of us who love to take things literally; wind does not mean Spirit in this context, it literally means wind, figuratively.

We all have some experience with devestating wind, myself certainly included. When I was very young, my uncle took me and my two older cousins​ to play on a playground one sunny, spring Sunday afternoon, possibly 36 years ago today. Though very young, I still remember it vividly. Out of nowhere, a mini tornado came and picked me up off the slide and slammed me to the ground. My ears, nose, mouth and eyes were stuffed full of sand. There is much power in the wind. Similarly, while my father trained with the National Guard during summer camp, a helicopter landed near by where we were staying. I ran out to observe but got too close. The prop-wash grabbed hold of me and once again, I found myself flung to the earth, dinning on dirt. In fact, the picture from the Closed Door, is all that remained from a church building project in the Caribbean, that was all but destroyed by a hurricane.

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God is providing a respite to seal up his people; the true church, the real church, the church that still exists. We have simply been taught wrong.

 

 

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