[Sermon presented at East Texas Rally, Le Tourneau University campus, Longview, TX, March 10, 2001 – by Herbert E. Douglass, Th.D.]
Such was the headline for a recent magazine article that focused on the Firestone tires on Ford Navigators. The article reminded us of 1982 when somebody spiked Tylenol with cyanide, killing seven people. Johnson & Johnson, the manufacturer of Tylenol, sprang into action. The pharmaceutical giant promptly recalled 32 million Tylenol bottles from stores, hospitals, and nursing homes. Tylenol soon came out with a new kind of tamper-resistant packaging that was copied by the whole industry. The result: the names and their business survived: Tylenol and Johnson & Johnson, are still highly respected names to this day.
Today, two world-known giants are facing the same awful reality: Ford and Firestone have a problem with certain tires, some of which have caused the death of more than 100 people to date. Their number one challenge is similar to what Johnson & Johnson faced 20 years ago: How to Guard their Name, their Brand. Today, guarding their Name is Job #1 for Ford and Firestone. And Firestone, especially, is in deep trouble.
This problem is exactly what God has had on His hands for a long, long time, even before the creation of this world. Satan has done his best to spike the Name of God with something more deadly than cyanide. Cyanide kills temporarily; its victims rest until the resurrection. But getting the picture of God wrong can kill a person forever.
We all know what it is like to see someone ruin his or her family name. Perhaps some here know what it is like to be misrepresented and to have a cloud on your name. How does one go about clearing his or her name? Not easy! Throughout the Bible, God makes it very clear that nothing is more important for all the universe than to have His reputation cleared and His name honored. .
And that is exactly what John is telling us in Revelation 7. Jesus will not return until God has a people who make guarding the Name of God the most important purpose of their lives. That’s right! God is holding back the seven last plagues; thus, delaying the return of Jesus. Why? He is waiting for a people on whom He can safely put His name. Let’s look again at Rev. 7:
Revelation 7 opens with these words: “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 who had been given power to harm earth and sea, saying, ‘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).
What on earth could John be describing? Why is God holding back these last-day winds of terror and destruction? Why is He telling angels to: “Hold, hold--hold back the north wind of nuclear war. South wind, hold back those seven last plagues!” Why? “God’s people are not ready! Hold back the east wind of human madness!” Why? “God's people haven't caught on yet as to the purpose of the gospel!”. “Hold back the west wind of satanic fury until God’s people are ready to carry out their last assignment. Hold the winds until God's people are ready to be sealed, Hold the winds until His people are ready for His stamp of approval, Hold the winds until His people are ready for God to use them in His final message to earth's last generation.”
How many years does God have to keep holding the winds?
“And I heard the number of the sealed, a hundred and forty-four thousand sealed.” The number, of course, is symbolic of people in the last days who are totally committed to guarding God’s name. This sealing work is the final work to be accomplished by the gospel.
Now, let’s look at the 14th chapter of Revelation. John picks up this theme again: “Then I looked and lo, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father's name on their foreheads.” Some future!
What will identify God’s people in these last days? Sabbath-keeping, health-reforming tithe-payers? Yes and No! After all, Sabbath-keeping, health-reforming tithe payers once crucified God!
John tells us how God’s people will be identified in the last days—they will have the Father’s name written on their foreheads. They will be sealed with His approval. Many products can’t be sold without a certain seal of approval, the seal that tells the world that the product has passed all the tests—such as that seal of the Underwriter’s Lab on the bottom of electrical appliances.
What's the importance of a seal? Every gasoline pump has one, and every elevator has one. Or the value of a signature? Ask any art collector, or clock collector, ask any world-class violinist as he checks his Stradivarius. Ask your son or daughter when they buy Tiger Wood golf clubs or Steffi Graf tennis rackets. Or ask those in the audience who wear Ralph Lauren shirts and Tommy Hilfiger sweaters, or buy Gucci or Dooney Bourke handbags or shoes. Or those looking for a reliable washing machine (perhaps a Maytag) or lawn mower (maybe a Snapper or Honda) . For most products, the name means everything. It means that the product carries the endorsement of someone who cares about quality, someone who can be trusted—therefore you can trust those Tiger Woods golf clubs or a Maytag washer. Those names mean quality and you can trust anything that those names are on.
Remember those TV ads for Hanes clothing? Can’t you see that determined female inspector with all of her formidable charm, surveying the assembly line: “The quality goes in before the name goes on.”
Down here in the days of the held winds, that is what God is telling the universe when He writes His name in the foreheads of His faithful: “Listen to them,” He is saying, “You can trust what they say. I can give them my seal of approval. The quality goes in before my name goes on.”
What could be more wonderful than to have our heavenly Father write His name across your forehead? Is this a group you want to be a part of, or what? “ By that signature, God is saying, “Here are people who have let my Holy Spirit do His work, people who indeed reflect my glory. I am not embarrassed by how they represent Me and they have my seal of approval.” Later in Revelation, John describes the redeemed: “They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads” (Rev 22:4). Some future!
The Bible calls this process of having God’s signature on our lives, the “sealing work.” And this is what all heaven is focusing on today. Satan knows it, God knows it. Do we?
In the 12th chapter of Revelation, John tells us what Satan thinks about all this: “The dragon [or Satan] was enraged with the woman and went to make war with the rest [or remnant] of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 12:17)
Why is Satan so furious? He is furious when He sees that some Christians are not buying his deceptions and false gospels. And he is exceedingly furious when he sees people becoming sealed with God’s approval. What is this seal of God that makes Satan angry? “Just as soon as the people of God are sealed in their foreheads—it is not any seal or mark that can be seen, but a settling into the truth, both intellectually and spiritually, so they cannot be moved—just as soon as God’s people are sealed and ready for the shaking, it will come.” LDE:219; Maranatha 200; Ms 173, 1902
The gospel that seals, as described in Revelation 14, is the "everlasting gospel" that prepares a people to represent their Lord during the time when the “hour of God’s judgment has come.” The time when angels and all the unfallen universe are judging whether God is fair in His judgments about the men and women that He is sealing. This is a gospel with New Testament precision, not the limited gospel, the wine of Babylon, being preached throughout Christianity. It is a gospel that proclaims pardon and power--a gospel that beats back all the soft promises of a salvation without self-denial. It is a gospel of unlimited grace, grace that is powerful enough to overcome all inherited and cultivated tendencies to say No to the light of truth.
What are some of those soft gospels in these end-times? The wine of Babylon promises salvation with four options, all aimed at God's character and law that Satan is so angry about. He lets you take your pick: (1) “Forget the law--You're under grace--the law was abolished at the cross.”
When the weakness of that argument becomes obvious, Satan becomes more subtle with three other options. (2) Exalt the law as being so high above human attainment, that no man or woman could ever hope to keep it--but don't worry, the argument goes, “you don't have to keep the commandments because Jesus kept the law for you.”
Option #3 uses a different approach: "You can't keep the commandments because you were born a sinner. you live in sinful flesh, and you will always be falling short. But don't worry, as long as you are sorry for your sins, that is all the Lord requires. God looks at Jesus' record in the judgment and not yours.”
Option #4 is very enticing to others: “You shouldn't try to keep the commandments, because if you do, you will be a legalist. The main thing is to have a relationship with Jesus.”
Of course, you recognize some half-truths in these attractive deceptions. But careful Bible students will see through them and will keep their eyes on the everlasting gospel that will be heard again in its clarity in these last days. They let the Bible speak plainly to them, such as Paul's words to Titus: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:11-14).
And so when we are told that it is either unnecessary or impossible to be overcomers, we should remind ourselves that somebody called Satan is redefining and confusing the plan of salvation. And John calls this deception, the wine of Babylon. How far out of Babylon have you come?
Why does Satan hate the law so? Because God's way of running the universe is what he once resisted face-to-face when he was the chief of angels, long before He was cast out of heaven. The law of God reflects the character of God, especially Jesus—whom Lucifer resented and then hated when Jesus came to earth to prove Satan wrong. And Satan hates the everlasting gospel because the purpose of the gospel is to reproduce the character of Jesus, which just drives Satan furious.
He is furious when people see through his false gospels which is truly the new legalism. You ask, What is the new legalism? When men and women think they can be saved by believing in a legal adjustment on the books of heaven without a character adjustment on earth, and then calling this “Righteousness by Faith,”—then you know you are listening to the new legalism.
The good news is that Jesus changes people so that they can be sealed with His Father’s approval. People who take His words seriously possess the faith of Jesus. This is saving faith, the same kind of faith that kept Jesus from sinning.
And all heaven is waiting to seal that kind of person in these last days before the wind blows, before unbelievers tune out the pleadings of the Holy Spirit, before this world becomes a madhouse. These are the people who have learned how to endure in tough times— “those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:12).
These are people who are preparing to be translated, or if God desires, to be alive in the first resurrection. Those who prefer the Babylonian gospels will have their own resurrection. But they will wake up to a big surprise. Imagine: Can anyone imagine what it will be like when men and women wake up in the second resurrection screaming at their pastors and teachers, “You told me that grace covered my sins and that character did not count!”
Or screaming, “You told me that my assurance of salvation was in believing that Jesus died for me and that I could not add anything to what He did, now look where we are!”
Or screaming, “You told me that faith plus nothing was the way to avoid legalism, now look at us!”
Or screaming, “You told me that RXF meant that any attempt to add obedience to faith would be legalism, now look where we are!”
Or screaming, “You told me that Ellen White had no theological authority , now look at where we are!”
I know, you may feel today that your faith will never be strong enough to endure the tough times of the end times. But God is not through with you yet. And there is one thing you can do, you can keep on trusting the faithfulness of God. He will fulfill every promise. Believe Him. Trust the hand that was nailed to the Cross and the Heart of your Heavenly Father.
Young friend, and my dear friends with grey hair, stop worrying yourselves out of the arms of Jesus. There’s nothing we have done that can separate us from God if we reach up for those everlasting arms that are reaching down to you. There’s nothing we can do to keep Jesus from knocking on our door, except to say No, again and again, until we no longer want to listen to His request to help us.
Let us not be distracted with limited gospels straight out of Babylon. Listen to Jesus whisper: “Limit not the Holy One of Israel.” Give Him a chance. . He has left the light on and the front door open for you. His angels are still holding back the winds of human and satanic passion. Don’t frustrate Jesus, He is very good at saving His people from their sins, that’s His job. He will seal you if you let Him be your Saviour. That is the gospel. Go for it!
Copyright © 2001 Herbert E. Douglass. All rights reserved.