What does holding the four winds mean?

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By BibleAsk Team


In the Book of Revelation, the imagery of the four winds being held back is a significant symbol that appears in Revelation 7:1-3 (NKJV). This passage reads:

Revelation 7:1-3 (NKJV):

“After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, ‘Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.'”

To understand the meaning and significance of “holding the four winds,” it is important to consider the broader biblical context, the symbolism of winds in Scripture, the role of angels, and the purpose of this divine action within the apocalyptic narrative of Revelation.

The Symbolism of Winds in Scripture

In the Bible, winds often symbolize various forms of God’s intervention in the world, including judgment, destruction, and divine providence. Here are some key instances:

  1. Judgment and Destruction:
    • Jeremiah 49:36 (NKJV): “Against Elam I will bring the four winds from the four quarters of heaven, and scatter them toward all those winds; there shall be no nations where the outcasts of Elam will not go.”
    • Daniel 7:2 (NKJV): “Daniel spoke, saying, ‘I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea.'”
  2. Divine Intervention and Providence:
    • Ezekiel 37:9 (NKJV): “Also He said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, “Thus says the Lord God: ‘Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.'”‘”

In Revelation, the four winds being held back symbolize a temporary restraint of God’s impending judgment upon the earth. This period of restraint serves a specific divine purpose, as indicated by the sealing of the servants of God.

The Role of Angels in Revelation

Angels play a crucial role in the Book of Revelation, often acting as agents of God’s will. They deliver messages, execute divine judgments, and offer protection to the faithful. In Revelation 7:1-3, four angels are depicted as standing at the four corners of the earth, a phrase that signifies the entirety of the earth. These angels hold back the four winds, symbolizing their control over the elements and their power to execute God’s commands.

Another angel, described as ascending from the east with the seal of the living God, instructs the four angels not to harm the earth, sea, or trees until the servants of God are sealed on their foreheads. This action underscores the protective role that angels can play, ensuring that God’s people are marked and safeguarded before any further judgments are unleashed.

While John saw in vision only four angels; the truth is that many angels are actually involved in holding back the destruction of Satan and his agencies. They are given the work of keeping back the raging anger of the wicked one who is like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).

The Purpose of Holding the Four Winds

The destructive forces represent Satan’s efforts to spread ruin and chaos everywhere. But God’s angels represent divine powers in the world holding back the forces of evil until the work of God on human hearts is finished and God’s children are sealed in their foreheads (Revelation 7:2-3; Ezekiel 9:2–6). The seal of God upon His people shows that He has recognized them as His own (2 Timothy 2:19). Paul referred to the sealing in the experience of receiving the Holy Spirit at conversion, baptism and the process of Christian growth or sanctification (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30).

This sealing represents a divine act of protection and identification. Here are some key points to consider:

  1. Protection of the Faithful:
    • Revelation 7:3 (NKJV): “‘Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.'” This sealing protects the faithful from the impending judgments that are about to be poured out on the earth.
  2. Identification and Ownership:
    • In biblical times, a seal was a mark of ownership and authenticity. The sealing of God’s servants indicates that they belong to Him and are under His divine protection.
    • Ephesians 1:13 (NKJV): “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.”
  3. Sign of Divine Favor:
    • The sealing signifies that those marked are recipients of God’s favor and grace. They are set apart for His purposes and will be spared from the judgments that follow.
    • Revelation 9:4 (NKJV): “They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.”

For more on the seal of God, check: https://bibleask.org/how-is-the-sabbath-the-seal-of-god/

The Broader Apocalyptic Context

The holding of the four winds fits into the broader apocalyptic narrative of Revelation, which is characterized by a series of judgments, symbolic visions, and the ultimate triumph of God’s kingdom. The sequence of events in Revelation often follows a pattern of vision, judgment, and interlude, where specific actions or warnings are given before the next phase of judgment unfolds.

In Revelation 6, the opening of the first six seals reveals a series of catastrophic events that befall the earth, including war, famine, pestilence, and cosmic disturbances. Revelation 7 serves as an interlude, a pause in the narrative where the focus shifts from judgment to divine protection and the sealing of God’s servants. This interlude highlights God’s mercy and sovereignty, demonstrating that even amidst impending judgment, He provides for and protects His people.

When the work of sealing is completed, then Satan will pour his evil upon the children of disobedience for the cup of their iniquity is full and strife will break loose. The whole world will be engulfed in ruin more terrible than the one that Jerusalem experienced during the siege by the Romans in 70 AD.

But God’s children will be protected from the devil. “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.” Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler” (Psalm 91:1-4).

Theological Implications

The holding of the four winds and the subsequent sealing of the servants of God carry several theological implications:

  1. God’s Sovereignty and Control:
    • The imagery of angels holding back the winds emphasizes God’s sovereignty over creation and His control over the forces of nature. It reassures believers that nothing happens outside of God’s divine plan and authority.
    • Psalm 148:8 (NKJV): “Fire and hail, snow and clouds; stormy wind, fulfilling His word.”
  2. God’s Mercy and Judgment:
    • The pause in judgment to seal the faithful reflects God’s mercy. Despite the severity of the judgments described in Revelation, God’s mercy is evident in His provision for the protection of His people.
    • Lamentations 3:22-23 (NKJV): “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”
  3. The Security of Believers:
    • The sealing signifies the security of believers in the midst of tribulation. It echoes the theme of God’s unwavering commitment to those who are faithful to Him.
    • John 10:28-29 (NKJV): “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.”
  4. The Hope of Redemption:
    • The act of sealing points to the ultimate hope of redemption and the promise of eternal life for God’s people. It assures believers of their place in God’s eternal kingdom, beyond the temporal judgments of the world.
    • Revelation 21:3-4 (NKJV): “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.'”

Conclusion

The imagery of holding the four winds in Revelation 7:1-3 is a powerful symbol within the apocalyptic narrative of the Book of Revelation. It represents a temporary restraint of divine judgment, allowing time for the sealing of God’s servants. This action highlights several key themes: the sovereignty of God, the mercy and protection offered to the faithful, and the assurance of their ultimate redemption.

Understanding this imagery within its broader biblical and theological context enriches our comprehension of Revelation’s message. It reassures believers of God’s control over the events of history, His protective care for those who are His, and the promise of eternal life amidst the trials and tribulations of the present age.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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