Ezekiel 9:3-5 (ESV)
3 Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub on which it rested to the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed in linen, who had the writing case at his waist. 4 And the Lord said to him, “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.” 5 And to the others he said in my hearing, “Pass through the city after him, and strike. Your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity.
Revelation 7:1-3 (ESV)
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. 2 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, 3 saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”
What grabbed my attention in the passage in Ezekiel this morning was the parallel to the familiar passages in the book of Revelation. If you have ever been around others who are interested in end times discussions, you will most certainly have looked at the places in Revelation where followers of God and followers of the evil one are marked on their foreheads.
What is worthy of note for us is that Revelation is not the first place where such a marking occurs. And, as we see the Old Testament pattern for such marking, it might help us to understand the purposes of the ones prophesied in Revelation.
In Ezekiel, the prophet was speaking for God to a rebellious people who were facing the judgment of God. The promised judgment of God was about to fall on the city of Jerusalem as the Babylonians were coming.
But, before the judgment fell, God marked out for himself the faithful. Those who trusted in God, obeyed his laws, and who were saddened by the wickedness of the nation around them were clearly known to God. God marked them, and he promised to spare them his wrath.
In the book of Revelation, we see the same thing happening. In chapter 7, we see that God marks a group of 144,000, which I believe to be a symbolic number of the complete people of God. They are known to God and preserved by God from his coming judgment. In chapter 13, the devil mimics the work of God, marking the rest of the world as his own followers, a mark which has become the focus of countless writings and bad movies.
But what shall we do with these marks? What should we think about them? I certainly think that there is some interesting discussion to be had. For those who wish to talk about pre-millennial eschatology, I actually think the markings and the principles behind them point us away from a pre-tribulational, dispensational view. God marks his people and preserves them by his own power from the judgments he unleashes on the earth. However, in neither Ezekiel nor Revelation do we have evidence of God removing his people from the world in which his judgment is taking place.
Yet, I believe that there is far more than eschatology for us to consider in the markings. What we need to grasp as the people of God or as not the people of God is the fact that God knows those who are his. Not all people on earth are his. God keeps those who are his, even if they face difficult lives in the here and now. And, God’s judgment is headed toward those who oppose him.
The calling here, like the calling in many passages, should be for us to think with a much bigger vision of eternity. There is a God who is over us. He has the right to judge, and he most certainly will do so. He is far too great to lose those he has chosen. He is far too just to fail to judge those who are not under his mercy.
For someone who is not a follower of God, this passage, along with the rest of the Bible, is a call to come to God in repentance and find mercy in Christ. We come in repentance, because all of us have, at one time or another, been those not marked as followers of God. We have all rebelled against the commands and rule of God, and we deserve his judgment. We must realize that such a judgment is legitimate and promised. However, God also commands all people everywhere to turn from their sin and to place their trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ. If we will turn to Jesus for salvation, he will forgive us based on his sacrifice and he will grant us eternal life based on his perfect life and resurrection.
As Christians, we should recognize that God has us marked as his. He will preserve us. He may not remove us from harsh circumstances and difficult lives. But, God will never leave us. He will not forsake us. He will not judge us for our sins, because his judgment has already fallen on Christ as our perfect, sacrificial substitute. And now we live with minds set on eternity, knowing that the God who marked us as his own will bring us to himself and grant us eternal joy in his presence.