What God Is Waiting For (18:3)

The people who survive this period of extreme deception and confusion are certainly not babes in the truth. Rather, they are grown-up, adult believers. They are models of perfection and Christian maturity. They have had their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil. Though their faith is severely tried, they do not let God down. Their faith is deeper than that of a little child. Little children need a lot of protection. But these saints, like Job, can stand alone.

I understand that God is waiting for the development of such firm believers. He waits in mercy because He loves His children. He is not willing that any of them should be lost. God knows that if these final, awesome, closing events are allowed to come too soon, His children would not be ready. They would be confused, and some would be deceived. He would never allow anyone to be tested more than they are able to bear. So He waits.

The last book of the Bible pictures angels mercifully holding back the final winds of strife until God’s children have been sealed and settled into the truth. It makes sense that He should do so. It is consistent with what we know to be true about our God:

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 ascend from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels. . . . “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God upon their foreheads” (Rev 7:1-3, RSV).

The closing events of human history are being held back because we have not yet been sealed. But what would sealing have meant to the early Christians who heard this section of Revelation being read out loud to them? Let’s imagine a congregation in Ephesus. After all, that is where the scroll would have arrived from the island of Patmos. Someone arose and read it out loud to the congregation. No doubt they were familiar with Paul’s letter that eventually became known as the letter to the Ephesians. And in the letter to the Ephesians, Paul has quite a lot to say about the sealing and how this is the work of the Holy Spirit. For example: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Eph 4:30, NIV). How is the Holy Spirit involved in our being sealed?

In Him [Christ] you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel [good news] of your salvation, and have believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. . . . (Eph 1:13, RSV).

Note the combination of truth, the gospel, salvation, faith and the sealing work of the Holy Spirit. What is this truth? What is this good news? That is the subject of all twenty chapters of this book. The truth, the good news, is that God is not the kind of person His enemies have made Him out to be. See how Paul clarifies that: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better” (Eph 1:17, NIV). Notice the last phrase, “know Him better.” That is the truth. That is the good news. That is the work of the Spirit of Truth. The Holy Spirit comes to lead us into truth so that we might know the Father better. This is also a theme in the Gospel of John:

The Holy Spirit . . . will be your teacher and will bring to your minds all that I have said to you. . . . But when the Helper comes, that is, the Spirit of truth, . . . he will speak plainly about Me. And you yourselves will also speak plainly about me. . . . [The Spirit] will guide you into everything that is true (John 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:13, Phillips).

John, who wrote about sealing in Revelation 7, also wrote the Gospel which includes much information about the Holy Spirit. The Spirit was coming to guide us into the truth, to convince us of the truth, to settle us into the truth. John likely also knew about Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. John knew that the believers would have some background for understanding what it would mean to be sealed. It means, in the words of Ellen White, “to be so settled into the truth, both intellectually and spiritually, that one cannot be moved.” Ellen G. White, Last Day Events, 219; SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 4, 1161.

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