The word “seal” as used in the Bible has a range of rich meanings, all of which apply to believers:
- It is a signature1
- It is an identification mark—a name2
- It is a mark of royal ownership3
- It is a warning to others not to mess with the king’s property under penalty of death4
- It is a means to prevent unauthorized access (like sealing a letter)5
- It is evidence of tampering6
- It is a down-payment to guarantee future payment in full7
- It is a symbol of delegated authority8
- It closes something so nothing else can be added or subtracted (like sealing a jar)
- It is a sign of quality (like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval)9
- It is a mark of authenticity10
For examples in Scripture of the uses of the word “seal”, see Appendix 1 which follows.
For examples of the contrasting word “mark”, see Appendix 2 below.
Uses of the word “Seal”
In Revelation 7 we see an angel delaying judgments until the believers are sealed on their foreheads: “And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried out 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 or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.’”11
Likewise in the parallel passage in Ezekiel 9, “The Lord said to him, ‘Go through the midst of the city, even through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark12 on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst.’”13
Immediately after the believers are sealed, the judgments are allowed to occur against any who do not have the seal: “But to the others He said in my hearing, ‘Go through the city after him and strike; do not let your eye have pity and do not spare. Utterly slay old men, young men, maidens, little children, and women, but do not touch any man on whom is the mark;14 and you shall start from My sanctuary.’”15
Similarly, in the overlay passage in Revelation 9, “They were told not to hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.”16
It is interesting to contrast Revelation 9 and Ezekiel 9.In Ezekiel 9 those without the seal of God were killed without mercy; in Revelation 9 they were forbidden to be killed, but only tormented.17 Perhaps these are different events.
In Revelation 14 we are told what the seal means, “Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads.”20
This same thought is expressed in Revelation 3, “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.”21
Likewise in Rev 22:4, “…they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.”
Rom 4:11 tells us that Abraham received circumcision as a seal: “…and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith…”Although he was circumcised in his flesh, we will be circumcised in our hearts [spirits]. “But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.”22 This was predicted by the OT prophets: “Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live.”23
It is interesting that the word “seal” is consistently used in New Testament Scripture to indicate believers, whereas the word “mark” is used to indicate non-believers. A person can either have the seal of God or the mark of the beast.24
Following in Appendix 2 are verses referring to the “mark” of the beast.
The “mark” of the Beast
Rev 15:2-3, “And I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, holding harps of God.”
Rev 14:9-10, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.”
Rev 14:11, “…they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”
Rev 13:16-17, “And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.”
Rev 16:2, “So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth; and it became a loathsome and malignant sore on the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image.“
Rev 19:20, “And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.”
Rev 20:4, “Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”
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- 1 Kings 21:8, “So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal, an letters to the elders and to the nobles who were living with Naboth in his city.”
- Est 3:12, “Then the king’s scribes were summoned on the thirteenth day of the first month, and it was written just as Haman commanded to the king’s satraps, to the governors who were over each province and to the princes of each people, each province according to its script, each people according to its language, being written in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed with the king’s signet ring.”
- Eph 1:13-14, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation — having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”
- Dan 6:17, “A stone was brought and laid over the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signet rings of his nobles, so that nothing would be changed in regard to Daniel.”
- Dan 12:9, He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time.”
- Matt 27:66, “And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.”
- 2 Cor 1:21-22, Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, 22 who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.
- John 6:27, “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.”
- Rom 4:11, “…he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe….”
- Jer 32:10-11, “I signed and sealed the deed, and called in witnesses, and weighed out the silver on the scales. 11 “Then I took the deeds of purchase, both the sealed copy containing the terms and conditions and the open copy…”
- Rev 7:2-3
- Although the Hebrew word is incorrectly translated “mark,” it really means “signature” or “seal.” In those days, a person’s signature was a wax seal impressed with his signature ring.
- Ezekiel 9:4
- This is the same Hebrew word that should have been translated “signature” or “seal.”
- Ezekiel 9:5-6
- Rev 9:4
- Rev 9:5, “And they were not permitted to kill anyone….”
- Ezekiel 12:7,13
- Or another interpretation is that the angel himself is marked with the seal on his forehead.However this is unlikely since the Greek word for “having” is “echo” which means “having in one’s possession, power, charge, control”.This strongly implies that the “seal” is a physical object (like a ring perhaps) that is held by the angel.
- Rev 14:1
- Rev 3:12-13
- Rom 2:29
- Deut 30:6
- A seal is something permanent whereas a mark is temporary—a smudge. If we are sealed by the Holy Spirit, we are His forever.In contrast, if someone has the mark of the beast, he may still have the opportunity to repent, accept Jesus’ sacrifice on his behalf, and receive the seal of the Spirit.