GETTING THE MESSAGE/Bible is the story of redemption
The Bible is a story of redemption, an appeal to sinful mankind to consider the glory and righteousness of the one, true living God and to turn from sin to the salvation He offers in Christ Jesus, the Savior appointed and given by God to us. It is the matter of life and death for us.
The book of Revelation isn’t an easy book to understand in all its details and imagery. But if you sat down and read through the book from start to finish, you would understand what Jesus meant when he told Martha: “Only one thing is necessary.” In Revelation there is a striking distinction made between people. There are those who belong to the Lamb, Christ, and inherit his kingdom, and everything good and glorious, and those who perish in their sins along with demonic powers and suffer in hell.
This distinction obviously makes other things pale in significance. In Revelation 7:1-3, we see the blessed state of those who belong to Christ. It isn’t blessed in this present world because you avoid tribulation (you won’t), but rather it is blessed because the Lord says you belong to Him and He has put His seal on you.
In verse one, we see angels holding back winds that represent destructive forces about to be released on the earth. The reason for the restraint is given in verses two and three: “I saw an angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the earth and sea, saying, ‘Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.’ ”
What is the seal? In chapter 14 we are told it is the Lamb and His Father’s name on their foreheads. This doesn’t mean a literal mark, but it is God making a distinction between His people and the people of the world. It is an amazing consolation to consider God’s name upon you.
We see this in other Scriptures. In Ezekiel 9, before the Lord sends death to the idolaters in Jerusalem, he instructs a man to go through the city and put a mark on all those who groaned over the abominations in the city, those who belonged to the Lord and were faithful to Him.
In Malachi 3 we see the Lord had a book of remembrance written in His presence for those who feared the Lord and esteemed His name: “They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you will see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.”
God speaks with sinners in this language. He opens a door of hope to be one of the people of God. He reveals how precious it is to be one of His redeemed people and how terrible it is to be outside the people of God. To refuse the salvation of God carries such indignity that men are lost forever.
In Revelation 7:3, the seal is placed on the servants of God. This means one given to loyal and faithful service. One becomes a servant of God when he embraces Christ. He who is a good servant thinks what service he can render to his King. To bear the name of the Lord means you are to advance the cause of the Lord.
Baptism represents the seal of the promise of God. It reflects more what God does for us than what we do for Him. In Christ our sins are washed away and we have life with God. In Revelation 7:14, those in heaven are described as those who “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” While faith is trusting in Christ, the Lord comes, and seals up life, love, and glory.
There is no redemption but by His blood. Not everyone who assents to the truth of what the Scripture says about Christ truly believes. Believing implies a union of the soul to Christ with trust and reliance. Paul told Timothy, “God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: ‘The Lord knows who are his,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.’”
The Rev. Chris Shelton is pastor of Union’s First Presbyterian Church.