The Seal of God (T.F. Torrance on Revelation 7)

After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm 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”…After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”…Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:1-3, 9-10, 13-14).

(The following sermon excerpt comes from T.F. Torrance, 1959. The Apocalypse Today. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, pp.53-55)

One after another John has seen disaster fall upon disaster as history unfolded itself before him, but now there is a pause as the vision of the tempestuous world, and in that pause John is given to see that the angels of providence take their orders only from the angel of grace. In the Gospel story the winds and the waves obeyed only the Saviour of men. So in the wide troubled world the winds and the storms leap to the gracious command of Jesus6a00e54f9519ae8833019104f5217e970c Christ: the command of redeeming love. There is absolutely nothing that happens in this world but God governs it and uses it in the purpose of His grace. That is the recurring emphasis of the Apocalypse. How is it developed here?

No doubt the winds play havoc on the earth, but they are held in check from utterly destroying the earth until the people of God are sealed in their foreheads as belonging to Jesus Christ…In Revelation the sealing on the forehead is a symbolic sealing in the Name of the Crucified; it is the conspicuous mark whereby God’s people are recognized… Christians are baptized as a sign and seal that they belong to Christ, that they die with Him and rise again to be new creatures. We have been baptized like that. We have had the sacramental mark of grace signed and sealed upon us for Jesus Christ has made us His own. But do we really adhere to Jesus Christ? Are we true to our baptism? It is only in the time of tribulation, in the trial of suffering that we can tell who are sealed with the blood of Christ and marked out as belonging to Him in heart and faith. That is why God’s grace takes the winds and the storms of the world in command in order to put the Church of Jesus Christ to the test. How will the baptized come out of so great a tribulation? Will they come out with robes washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb, their baptism in the death of Christ standing out as a conspicuous mark of validity, the valid seal that they belong to Christ?…

The world will be shaken to its very foundations. It will be judged, but it will also be renewed. This is the world which the Lord has made; this is the world consecrated by the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ – He will not allow it to be annihilated. The Creator will not be thwarted in His divine purpose. His act of love will be fulfilled. Nevertheless there will be great tribulation for the world cannot be redeemed without suffering. How will we stand in regard to our baptism in the midst of such tribulation? Are we prepared to stand by our baptism, bearing the reproach of Christ even though it may mean a baptism of blood? Are we prepared to bear such testimony to Jesus Christ that, cost what it may, we will remain utterly faithful to our Saviour? How will our Christian witness fare when the winds of fury are unleashed and the storm beats upon our own house? That is why the angels of providence take their orders from the angel of grace. There is a purpose of grace behind the troubles of the world – the sealing of the saints and the testing of their baptism…

The believer who knows that he has been sealed by the Spirit of God has nothing to fear. He will not be put to shame. When all the hosts of hell rise up against him, and he is crushed down by the weight of dire calamity, when in his own heart he is tempted to doubt and to despair, let him remember his baptism. it is Christ’s own pledge that no one will pluck him out of God’s almighty hand.

2 thoughts on “The Seal of God (T.F. Torrance on Revelation 7)

  1. Jamie Stegner 13 November 2016 / 15:07

    Why is Earth not capitalized? All other planets are always capitalized. We take ours – gift from God – for granted.


    • Jonathan Kleis 13 November 2016 / 15:12

      It’s not capitalized because it’s not being used as a proper name, such as “Mars” or “Saturn”. If it were being used as a paper name, such as “four angels standing at the four corners of Earth”, then in that case it would be capitalized. It’s just an issue of grammar.


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