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Remember chapter 6? Who can forget the scene: somewhere beyond the starry sky there stands a herald angel with a trumpet in his hand, and by the decree of the Lord God Almighty, there is a day, there is an hour, there is a moment, there is an elected time when the angel shall sound and the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ.” Thus opens the Tribulation, the first step in Christ’s taking back the earth, which is rightfully His. One by one Christ unrolls the seals. As each seal is broken, He takes further possession and control of His inheritance. Here are only a few of the dreadful disasters that take place during the Tribulation:
1. One out of every four people will die (see Rev. 6:8), some through the ravages of war, others by starvation and amazingly many others by the ‘beasts of the earth’. One-third of all vegetation will be burned up. All grass, every tree, everything green will be destroyed. The sun and the moon will be darkened as nature goes into revolt. The gates of hell will open and hordes of locusts, the size of horses, will come upon the earth. Those locusts will be allowed to sting men like scorpions and the pain will last for five months. The Bible says men will beg God to let them die but they will not die (see Rev. 9:3-6). There will be worldwide famine, unlike anything the world has ever seen (see Rev. 18:8).
So what is Jesus doing during all this? His heart of love and compassion sends 144,000 missionaries (only 35,000 today). So chapter 7 opens with the LOVE of Jesus. The Lamb standing in triumph on Mount Sion and with him the one hundred and forty-four thousand. They are marked with his name and with the name of his Father on their foreheads. We have already thought about the meaning of the marking but we must look at it again. In the ancient world, a mark upon a person could stand for at least five different things.
It could stand for OWNERSHIP. Often the slave was branded with his owner’s mark, as sheep and cattle are branded. The company with the Lamb belongs to God.
It could stand for LOYALTY. The soldier would sometimes brand his hand with the name of the general whom he loved and would follow into any battle. The company of the Lamb are the veterans who have proved their loyalty.
It could stand for SECURITY. There is a curious third or fourth-century papyrus letter from a son to his father Apollo. Times are dangerous, and the son and the father are separated. The son sends his greetings and good wishes and then goes on: “I have indeed told you before of my grief at your absence from among us, and my fear that something dreadful might happen to you, and that we may not find your body. Indeed, I often wished to tell you that, having regard to the insecurity, I wanted to stamp a mark upon you” (P. Oxy. 680). The son wished to put a mark upon his father’s body in order to keep it safe. The company of the Lamb are those marked for security in life and in death.
It could stand for DEPENDENCE. Robertson Smith quotes a curious example of this. The great Arab chieftains had some humble clients who were absolutely dependent on them. Often the sheik would brand them with the same mark as he used to brand his camels to show that they were dependent on him. The company of the Lamb are those who are utterly dependent on his love and grace.
It could stand for SAFETY. It was common for those who were the devotees of a god to be stamped with his sign. Sometimes that worked very cruelly. Plutarch tells us that after the disastrous defeat of the Athenians under Nicias in Sicily, the Sicilians took the captives and branded them on the forehead with a galloping horse, the emblem of Sicily (Plutarch: Nicias 29). 3 Maccabees tells us that Ptolemy the Fourth of Egypt ordered that “all Jews should be degraded to the lowest rank and to the condition of slaves; and that those who spoke against it should be taken by force and put to death; and that these, when they were registered, should be marked with a brand on their bodies, with the ivy leaf, the emblem of Bacchus” (3 Maccabees 2: 28, 29).
The Company of the Lamb are those who rest in the absolutely secure safety of the Love of Jesus for His servants.
Tonight we discover the LOVE OF JESUS as He sends His Witnesses to Rescue lost and helpless sinners.
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