This is the continuation of my series reviewing Revelations as part of my reading of The Book of Revelation: Things Which Must Shortly Come to Pass by G. Erik Brandt. In my last installment, we examined the opening of the Sixth Seal, through the end of Chapter 6 of Revelations. However, that was not the end of the explanation of the Sixth Seal, which continues in Chapter 7.
The first element of Chapter 7 is the mention of four angels set over the earth. From verses 1 and 2:
1 And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.
2 And 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 given to hurt the earth and the sea,
3 Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
Brandt explains that the "four corners of the earth" indicates geographical completeness; thus, the scope of the mission of the four angels is over the whole of the earth, rather than one particular locale. The term "winds" is from the Greek anemos, suggesting a violent agitation, forceful stream of air, or powerful tempest. Brandt indicates that a tempest of this magnitude is associated with disaster such as hurricanes or tornadoes. He also notes: "Scripturally, winds are often associated with plagues and judgments sent upon the disobedient." He references, for instance, Gen. 41:23, 27; Ex. 10:13; Jer. 18:17. However, the number of the tempests, and directions from which they come, is significant:
John saw not one, but four winds connecting all the corners of the earth, an omen of violent tempests that will affect the entire globe. For the moment the angels hold back the winds, but when they are unleashed, not one living soul will avoid their influence.The mission of the four angels is described in greater detail in D&C 77:8:
Q. What are we to understand by the four angels, spoken of in the 7th chapter and 1st verse of Revelation?
A. We are to understand that they are four angels sent forth from God, to whom is given power over the four parts of the earth, to save life and to destroy; these are they who have the everlasting gospel to commit to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people; having power to shut up the heavens, to seal up unto life, or to cast down to the regions of darkness.
In other words, the mission of the four angels is not just to save life, but spread of the gospel to all nations, but also the taking of life as the Lord's judgments are to be poured out upon the nations. Brandt suggests, then, that these angels may be the "reapers" referred to in the parable of the wheat and the tares. (See Matt. 13:24-30, 36-42). Initially, the angels were held back from releasing the "winds" upon the earth:
(D&C 86:4-7). However, Brandt points out that, subsequently, the angels were permitted to release the judgments, pointing to a later address from Wilford Woodruff, which I have also previously discussed. Essentially, though, in June 1894, President Woodruff proclaimed that the angels had been released, and that "[t]he next twenty years will see mighty changes among the nations of the earth." Twenty years later saw the assassination of Arch Duke Ferdinand, which sparked World War I.4 But behold, in the last days, even now while the Lord is beginning to bring forth the word, and the blade is springing up and is yet tender—
5 Behold, verily I say unto you, the angels are crying unto the Lord day and night, who are ready and waiting to be sent forth to reap down the fields;
6 But the Lord saith unto them, pluck not up the tares while the blade is yet tender (for verily your faith is weak), lest you destroy the wheat also.
7 Therefore, let the wheat and the tares grow together until the harvest is fully ripe; then ye shall first gather out the wheat from among the tares, and after the gathering of the wheat, behold and lo, the tares are bound in bundles, and the field remaineth to be burned.
Brandt reminds us, though, that:
As we witness these calamities, we must remember that their initial purpose is to shake and stir up the children of men in remembrance of their Creator. Cataclysmic events often serve to open doors and to prepare the world for the gospel message.I will discuss the actual mechanism of how and why this works in a future post.