Summary: Find security and victory in Christ!
There is a monastery in Portugal perched high on a 3,000 foot cliff and accessible only by a terrifying ride in a swaying basket. The basket is pulled on a single rope by several strong men, who perspire under the strain of the fully loaded basket.
Some time ago, an American tourist, who visited the site, got nervous about half way up when he noticed that the rope was old and frayed. Hoping to relieve his fear, he asked, “How often do you change the rope?”
The monk in charge replied, “Whenever it breaks!” Whoa! (Todd Catteau, www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-todd-catteau-humor-confidence-70025.asp)
I think that’s the way some people view their journey to heaven, especially when times are tough. They feel like they’re on a swaying basket being pulled to heaven by an old and fraying rope, hoping it doesn’t break anytime soon. They’ve lost any sense of security, so they grit their teeth and hang on for dear life, afraid to take any risks for Jesus.
Maybe that’s how some of you feel this morning. If that’s the case, then you will be encouraged by the story of those who come to faith in Christ during the Great Tribulation.
They will face persecution like no believer has ever known it before. They will pay a great price to profess the name of Christ, and many will lose their lives for it. They will be under tremendous pressure to give up their faith and deny their Savior, and yet they will do just the opposite. They will be bold witnesses for the Lord. They will take unimaginable risks to spread His fame around the world. They will go all out, refusing to be paralyzed by fear.
The question is: Where will they find the security to do that? Where will they find the courage to stand for Christ? Where will they find the confidence to go all out for Him even during the Great Tribulation? Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Revelation 7, Revelation 7, which tells us not only where THEY found their security, but where WE can find it as well.
Revelation 7:1 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. (ESV)
After the start of the Tribulation, God sends four of his angels to hold back the winds of judgment and destruction for a time. Why?
Revelation 7:2-3 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.” (ESV)
God wants to mark out His own. He wants to distinguish those who belong to Him before He judges the rest of the world.
Revelation 7:4-8 And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel: 12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed, 12,000 from the tribe of Reuben, 12,000 from the tribe of Gad, 12,000 from the tribe of Asher, 12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali, 12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh, 12,000 from the tribe of Simeon, 12,000 from the tribe of Levi, 12,000 from the tribe of Issachar, 12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun, 12,000 from the tribe of Joseph, 12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed. (ESV)
God seals 144,000 Jews. He puts His seal of ownership on them, and He secures them for safe delivery into His kingdom.
At the beginning of the Tribulation, after the rapture of the church, 144,000 Jews will look at each other and say, “Oh boy, did we make a big mistake!” All of a sudden, they will realize that they were wrong about Jesus. They will understand that He indeed is their Savior and Messiah, and they will put their trust in Him.
That’s when God will seal them. In other words, He will put his mark of ownership on them. He will mark them as His property, as His possession.
In Bible days, when a man sealed a document, he would drop a piece of wax on it, take off his own special signet ring, and press it into the wax. That showed that the document was uniquely his, that it belonged to him alone. But more than that, it secured the document for its intended destination, much like a registered letter does today.
Several years ago, when I was appealing an insurance company’s denial of coverage, I asked a lawyer friend for help. He had represented an insurance company in the past, so he knew what to say and what NOT to say to get the best results. He reviewed every letter I wrote to that insurance company; and when I got his approval, I sent them all “registered mail, return receipt requested.” It cost extra to send the letters that way, but when the post office put that special sticker on that letter, a seal (if you will), it was my guarantee that the letter would arrive at its intended destination.