I remember the wintery night forty-five years ago like it was yesterday. I was a young person who had been seeking for the truth for several years and had been invited to study the book of Revelation once a week with a life-long Bible Worker named Carrie Tichenor, who had retired near Pacific Union College in Angwin, California.
As our small group entered her home, the rather smallish Carrie, with a twinkle in her eye and earnest hello, would welcome us and then we would sit in her living room with a warm fire spitting its embers from the hearth. Carrie always sat in her rocking chair next to the fire while we all with expectant breath waited for the Divine lesson and influence to settle upon us.
Since I had been raised a devout Catholic, I had never read the Bible before and the pictures from the pages of Revelation were entirely new, at times strange and always utterly exciting and fascinating to me. In one of our early lessons together, Miss Tichenor cast before us all the breath-taking prophetic picture brought to view in the impressive words of 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 to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree.”
Yes, yes the reality of that mighty, cosmic tug of war between the angels and the winds of strife immediately grasped my mind. The four angels in symbol are even now seen holding back the Category 10 storms that are soon to engulf the earth in the time of trouble. In Sunday’s Sabbath School lesson, we are reminded just what these winds are: “As the angels of God cease to hold in check the fierce winds of human passions, all the elements of strife will be let loose.” (Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, 614.)
These winds will not cease until Jesus comes and quiets the storm and leads His children to their heavenly home as envisioned in the last verse of the chapter . . . which draws from the distinctly pastoral imagery of Psalms 23: “For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 17:7).
The angels are holding back these very real winds of strife, which at times begin to blow upon our little world, so that another angel may go forth to put the seal of the Living God on the hearts and minds of the 144,000 (Rev. 7:2-4). In Sunday’s lesson we are reminded of the clearest statement Ellen White made on just what the sealing is: “It is not a visible mark put on one’s forehead but a settling into the truth, both intellectually and spiritually, so they [God’s people] cannot be moved.” Last Day Events, 220.
In her statement here, Ellen White clearly defines the sealing as a “settling” into the truth, over a period of time, so that the people of God will not “be moved” when the hurricane force winds of strife blow. These sealed people have sunk their roots deeply into the foundation of the Way, the Truth and the Life. This settling takes place “both intellectually and spiritually.” A mere assent to the truth will not be enough to endure the vicious trials of the time of trouble and the choice is left to each one of us to daily seek the Lord in prayer and the devotional life.
In Friday’s lesson we are reminded that “the identity of the 144,000 is a hotly debated issue.” Although this number has been “hotly debated” in the past, it has somewhat receded in recent times by other issues up for debate within the Adventist church. I think there is a good historical-theological lesson here.
What prompts much writing and debate in one era eventually settles into its proper place over time. The flurry of academic writing and polemic which surrounded the Des Ford controversy in the early 1980s is barely a memory now. Just as the people of God are settled into the truth over time, perhaps the truth itself needs to be settled as well. And for me, the vivid picture of the truth of Revelation 7 was forever settled in my own impressionable mind that evening as we listened with awe around the fire in the warm home of Miss Carrie Tichenor. May her tribe increase.
Pastor Jim Park is currently living in Southern California as a retired Pastor and Seminary Professor. He teaches online for Loma Linda University and consults on Mission Projects and Research for the world-wide Church.
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