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REVELATION OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE - Chapter 7 - Verse 2

Verse 2. And I saw another angel. Evidently having no connexion with the four, and employed for another purpose. This angel, also, must have been symbolic; and all that is implied is, that something would be done as if an angel had done it.

Ascending from the east. He appeared in the east, and seemed to rise like the sun. It is not easy to determine what is the special significancy, if any, of the east here, or why this quarter of the heavens is designated rather than the north, the south, or the west. It may be that as light begins in the east, this would be properly symbolic of something that could be compared with the light of the morning; or that some influence in "sealing" the servants of God would in fact go out from the east; or perhaps no special significance is to be attached to the quarter from which the angel is seen to come. It is not necessary to suppose that every minute thing in a symbol is to receive a complete fulfilment, or that there will be some particular thing to correspond with it. Perhaps all that is meant here is, that as the sun comes forth with splendour from the east, so the angel came with magnificence to perform a task—that of sealing the servants of God —cheerful and joyous like that which the sun performs. It is certain that from no other quarter of the heavens would it be so appropriate to represent an angel as coming forth to perform a purpose of light and mercy and salvation. It does not seem to me, therefore, that we are to look, in the fulfilment of this, for any special influence setting in from the east as that which is symbolized here.

Having the seal of the living God. Bearing it in his hands. In regard to this seal the following remarks may be made:

(a) The phrase "seal of the living God" doubtless means that which God had appointed, or which he would use; that is, if God himself came forth in this manner, he would use this seal for these purposes. Men often have a seal of their own, with some name, symbol, or device, which designates it as theirs, and which no other one has a right to use. A seal is sometimes used by the person himself; sometimes entrusted to a high officer of state; sometimes to the secretary of a corporation; and sometimes, as a mark of special favour, to a friend. In this case it was entrusted to an angel who was authorized to use it, and whose use of it would be sanctioned, of course, wherever he applied it, by the living God, as if he had employed it himself.

(b) As to the form of the seal, we have no information. It would be most natural to suppose that the name "of the living God" would be engraven on it, so that that name would appear on any one to whom it might be affixed. Compare Barnes on "2 Ti 2:19".

It was customary in the East to brand the name of the master on the forehead of a slave, (Grotius, in loc.;) and such an idea would meet all that is implied in the language here, though there is no certain evidence that there is an allusion to that custom. In subsequent times, in the church, it was common for Christians to impress the sign of the cross on their foreheads. —Tertullian de Corona; Cyrill. lib. vi. See Grotius. As nothing is said here, however, about any mark or device on the seal, conjecture is useless as to what it was.

(c) As to what was to be designated by the seal, the main idea is clear, that it was to place some such mark upon his friends that they would be known to be his, and that they would be safe in the impending calamities. There is perhaps allusion here to Eze 9:4-6, where the following direction to the prophet occurs: "Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh, and that cry, for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite; let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women; but come not near any man upon whom is the mark." The essential ideas in the sealing, in the passage before us, would therefore seem to be,

(1.) that there would be some mark, sign, or token, by which they who were the people of God would be known; that is, there would be something which would answer, in this respect, the same purpose as if a seal had been impressed upon their foreheads. Whether this was an outward badge, or a religious rite, or the doctrines which they would hold and by which they would be known, or something in their spirit and manner which would characterize his true disciples, may be a fair subject of inquiry. It is not specifically designated by the use of the word.

(2.) It would be something that would be conspicuous or prominent, as if it were impressed on the forehead. It would not be merely some internal sealing, or some designation by which they would be known to themselves and to God, but it would be something apparent, as if engraved on the forehead. What this would be, whether a profession, or a form of religion, or the holding of some doctrine, or the manifestation of a particular spirit, is not here designated.

(3.) This would be something appointed by God himself. It would not be of human origin, but would be as if an angel sent from heaven should impress it on the forehead. If it refers to the doctrines which they would hold, they could not be doctrines of human origin; if to the spirit which they would manifest, it would be a spirit of heavenly origin; if to some outward protection, it would be manifest that it was from God.

(4.) This would be a pledge of safety. The design of sealing the persons referred to seems to have been to secure their safety in the impending calamities. Thus the winds were held back until those who were to be sealed could be designated, and then they were to be allowed to sweep over the earth. These things, therefore, we are to look for in the fulfilment of the symbol.

And he cried with a loud voice. As if he had authority to command, and as if the four winds were about to be let forth upon the world.

To whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea. Who had power committed to them to do this by means of the four winds.

{a} "seal" 2 Ti 2:19

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