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by Kristen C. Strocchia
“Then 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: ‘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.” Revelation 7:2-3
Destructive atmospheric calm will come upon the earth, but–just like during the famine of the third seal–the angels are instructed not to allow anyone or anything to be harmed until God’s mercy intervenes on behalf of His people. An angel comes announcing the charge to seal the foreheads of God’s servants.
We see a similar scene in Ezekiel 9. A man dressed in linen with a writing kit is charged to go through Jerusalem and mark the foreheads of the holy–the people who detested idolatry just like God does. The mark was the Hebrew letter taw which had the shape as either an x or a + on the forehead. This charge and carrying out is a pause in the middle of the judgment on the idolaters in Ezekiel just as it is in the world judgment of Revelation.
To authenticate and protect ancient documents, they were folded, tied and a lump of clay pressed over the knot and stamped with a signet ring. This chapter 7 seal is literally God’s name being stamped on the foreheads of his followers [Revelation 14:1, 22:4], authenticating them as true believers and protecting them in the coming judgments [Revelation 9:4].
It’s reminiscent of the Old Testament command to bind God’s Word to our foreheads [Deuteronomy 6:8], which showed an understanding of and devotion to His Word. Practicing the godliness outlined in Scripture protected the Jews from many natural phenomena throughout history–one such being the Bubonic plague, because God’s dietary and hygiene laws prevented the spread of disease among the Jews long before science understood why.
But this Revelation 7 seal will protect not based on the undiscovered science of a world that is passing away, but it will be the hand of the Almighty God on the lives of those who worship and serve Him alone. More like the first Passover when the Hebrews were protected if they had lamb’s blood painted on their doorposts and lintels. This sealing of the faithful will be like a final Passover when–in God’s mercy–He will withhold the intensifying judgments, beginning with the seventh seal until He identifies His own.
In other words, God is Just. In this life, God allows both believers and unbelievers to enjoy His sun and rain, to experience the blessings and hardships of our freewill [Matthew 5:45], to have the opportunity to recognize Him and repent. But a day is coming when God will separate the believers from the unbelievers [Matthew 25:32]. Seven being the number of completion, God will not complete the judgment of the earth without first identifying and protecting the innocent–those pardoned for their sins because they have accepted Jesus as Lord of their life.
Is Jesus’ name already written on your heart? Do you trust Him to provide for you and protect you no matter what may happen on this earth? Do you believe that He alone is God and worthy of your faithful devotion?
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“Then I saw in the right hand of Him who sits on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?’ But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep! See, the lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” Revelation 5:1-5
Jesus, God the Son, held seven stars in His right hand [Revelation 1:16] which represented the angels of the seven churches. Here God the Father held a scroll that had so much written on it the author had to use the backside as well as the more customary inside of the scroll for writing. A similarly filled scroll is mentioned in Ezekiel 2:9-10, which the prophet is instructed to eat. That scroll was said to contain all of the laments and woes, and it tasted very bitter to the prophet.
The Revelation 5 scroll is also sealed with seven seals. Official documents were often sealed by pressing a signet ring into a circle of clay or wax to keep the edge of the scroll from opening. Only the intended recipient was permitted to break this seal. In Roman times, wills were often witnessed and sealed by seven people. And a will speaks to inheritance [Galatians 3:29; Ephesians 3:6; et al.].
While inheritance often has a positive connotation, here we will find that the inheritance is double-edged.
But before John learns this, he hears that no human being that has ever lived is the intended recipient of this scroll. And this upsets John. If God Almighty is holding a scroll with His words written on it, then–so faithful and loving is the disciple that–John wants to know what His word is.
An elder comforts John, pointing out the Lion of Judah [praise] and the Root of David [beloved] who has been victorious. Jesus, both fully God and fully man, is the only one found worthy to open the scroll. Being fully God, He was sinless. But being fully man, He died for all of our sins, taking on the wages of the world. Being fully man, He died. But being fully God, He defeated hell and the grave, rising from the dead.
His victory is far above any human victory in life, and yet we share in His victory [Ephesians 2:5-7]. Through this shared victory, He is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll on behalf of the whole world.
Which side of the double-edged sword will you experience in eternity? Have you accepted Jesus’ victory in your life? If so, do you live in a way that acknowledges His worthiness alone?
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“In the center around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered in eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was and is and is to come.” Revelation 4:6b-8
In the ancient world, thrones were typically formed so that the King sat on the images of powerful animals. It affirmed their position of authority in the perception of their people. King Solomon’s throne, for example, had two carved lions serving as armrests and the dais–leading up to the throne–had six steps with twelve more lions, each step flanked with a sculpted lion on each end.
However, just as God Himself lives and His Word is living and active, here in Revelation 4–as in Ezekiel 10–God’s throne is portrayed as being alive. These four living creatures full of fire and eyes and wings in conjunction with the fiery, intersecting wheels create something like a divine chariot on which God crosses the heavens [2 Samuel 22:11; Psalms 18:10; Ezekiel 10:1].
Moreover, these living creatures–aka the Cherubim–guarded the way to the Tree of Life after Man’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden [Genesis 3:24], and were included in the adornment of the ark of the covenant [Exodus 25:18-22] and the tapestries of the Tent of Meeting [Exodus 26:1]. In this way, the creatures served as a reminder of the holiness of God’s house. And the symbols themselves were in fact patterned after the originals in heaven.
Interestingly enough, the set-up of the ark of the covenant with the winged cherubim facing each other on top and the requisite construction and layout of the Holy of Holies gave the room the appearance of a throne room. So in a very real sense, God was seated on His throne among His chosen people, the Jews. And the name of this ark of the covenant throne in the Holy of Holies? The Mercy Seat [Psalms 99:1; Exodus 25:17-22]. For it was here that the sacrificial blood–once a year–was sprinkled to make atonement for the sins of all Israel.
But this was just a copy of the original. Jesus–having shed His blood on the cross–was seated at the right hand of His Father on His throne in heaven. The original Mercy Seat. His sacrifice didn’t need to be repeated year after year [Hebrews 10:1-10]. And it made atonement–that is it made a wrongdoing right–for the sins of the whole world, not just Israel [Ephesians 2:11-19; John 3:16].
Do you believe that God is holy? Does His holiness pervade your life as a Christian? Do you allow His mercy to flow from His throne through you to this world to His glory and honor?
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“After He drove the man out, He placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” Genesis 3:24
Cherubim. One of the fascinatingly mysterious creations for man to try to comprehend. The cherubim are angelic beings created by God and first charged–in human history–with guarding the way to the tree of life with the aid of a flaming sword.
For anyone whose never seen a cherubim before, Ezekiel 10 and Revelation 4 describe what the they look like. First of all, Ezekiel tells us that they have four faces: man, lion, eagle and cherub [Ezekiel, but calf in Revelation]. Now they are often represented with one face on each side of their head, probably because Ezekiel says that they can go in any direction they face and that they never turn their head. These angelic creatures also have six wings: four to cover themselves with and two with which they fly. And their whole body–four heads, six wings and human hands underneath the wings–is covered in eyes. In Ezekiel, the cherubim are accompanied by four wheels that look like wheels intersected by wheels which are also covered in eyes and that move in sync with the cherubim.
Surprising that no movie producer has tried to portray cherubim. Doesn’t this sound like the epitome of a creature from a mythology? In fact, the Sphinx and mythological creatures that are part-human-part-animal [i.e. centaurs and satyrs] or two animals mixed together [i.e. griffins and manticores] were Satan’s knock-offs of God’s original cherubim. Satan likes to take God’s truth and create his own version of it to lead people astray. And it doesn’t matter to him when his lies fall into mythology, because unfortunately, when people doubt Satan’s knock-off lies, they also doubt the original truth of God from which it was drawn.
In Ezekiel 10, the cherubim were the rear guard, ushering out the presence of the Lord from among the Israelites. In Revelation 4, the cherubim surround the throne of God, lifting Him up in praise. “Day and night they never stop saying, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” Which sets off a chain reaction in heaven, because then the twenty-four elders around the throne fall down and worship God as Creator as well.
But isn’t it interesting that the Cherubim are heavenly creatures that look like four of God’s earthly creations combined? And isn’t it interesting that these creatures continually recognize God’s holiness, sovereignty and eternality? Because when sin entered the world, God’s created man stopped revering those very things. The sin in our hearts cannot tolerate a holy God. [If you don’t believe me, just listen to how the media talks about Christians and the Bible.] The sin in our hearts refuses to be subject to anyone other than self. And the sin in our heart would keep us from eternity.
God set a cherubim guard at the tree of life, because the cherubim faithfully recognize His holiness alone. They didn’t fall for Satan’s lie in heaven, and they wouldn’t be deceived by sinful man. God. Is. Holy. Period. *Drops the mic.*
What does it mean that God is Holy? How then should you and I live our lives?