Sealing is a prerequisite to entrance into the kingdom of heaven, and this is accomplished through the agency of the Holy Spirit. "Grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." Eph. 4:30. In verses 25-32 are enumerated some of the things which grieve the Spirit and thus prevent the work of sealing. These are lying, anger, stealing, corrupt language, bitterness, wrath, clamor, evil speaking, malice, and an unkind, harsh, unforgiving spirit. In fact, all "the works of the flesh" grieve the Holy Spirit and make sealing impossible.
In Ephesians I :13, 14 we are told that acceptance of the "word of. truth" causes the believer to be "sealed with that holy Spirit of promise," who is "the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession." An "earnest" is a pledge or advance payment to secure the fulfillment of a promise. Both the second and third persons of the Godhead have been pledged to make sure the promise of the future inheritance of the saints, the earth restored to its primitive glory.
A seal is defined by Webster as "that which authenticates, confirms, ratifies, makes stable ; that which effettually secures." The seal makes a legal paper binding and authentic. The seal of God is His ratification of our heavenly citizenship. It is that which confirms the new covenant in our lives, and secures us during the time of trouble when the wrath of God is visited upon the transgressor. It is the signet of God's approval of the work of the Holy Spirit in preparing us for the kingdom. It is the evidence that our characters are matured in righteousness and fixed for eternity, so that we are secure from Satan's devices and thus for the kingdom.
ESSENTIALS OF GOD'S SEAL.—In 2 Timothy 2:19 we are told what the seal of God involves : "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity." The seal, therefore, involves much more than the outward act of Sabbath observance. True Sabbathkeeping is but the outward sign of the character which God approves, for it signifies victory over all evil. (Isa. 56:1, 2; Eze. 20:52.) God acknowledges as His own, and thus seals for the kingdom, those who have renounced sin and developed His character.
Of Christ we read, "Him hath God the Father sealed." John 6:27. He was sealed at the time of His baptism when the Holy Spirit came upon Him in the form of a dove, and the voice of the Father was heard saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." The baptism of the Holy Spirit was the outward evidence of the sealing, and of the Father's approval of His character and mission as the Messiah. Jesus had stood every test, and His character was approved of and accepted by the Father. When God can say the same of us, we too can be sealed for our mission and for the kingdom. (See The Desire of Ages, p. 113.)
The disciples were sealed in the upper room where they got the victory over all sin and were fully accepted of God. The Pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit was the evidence of the sealing. "Christ's visible presence was about to be withdrawn from the disciples, but a new endowment of power was to be theirs. The holy Spirit was to be given them in its fulness, sealing them for their work."—Acts of the Apostles, p. 30, The chief purpose of the sealing is to enable the sealed to fulfill their divinely appointed mission which is impossible without the approval of heaven upon their characters, which is evidenced by the bestowal of the seal. This was true of Christ and His apostles, and will also be true of the remnant.
Final Sealing of God's Remnant
The sealing of God's remnant people is pictured in Revelation 7:1-4; 14;i, 4, 5. Seal, sign, mark, and name are synonymous. No person can receive the seal of God until he has the name or character of God, of which the Sabbath is the outward sign. It is regrettable that so many professed Sabbathkeepers are hanging out a false sign because they do not possess the character of which the Sabbath is a sign. It is the sign of sanctification, or holiness.
Those sealed under the preaching of the everlasting gospel in its last phase will be morally and spiritually "as pure as virgins." (Weymouth.) "And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God." When Christ returns He will receive to Himself "a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing." The church will "be holy and without blemish" and will be "preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Eph. 5:27; 1 Thess. 5:23; Jude 24.)
The Spirit of prophecy sets forth the same qualifications for the seal of God and the latter rain.
"Those who receive the seal of the living God, and are protected in the time of trouble, must reflect the image of Jesus fully. I saw that many were neglecting the preparation so needful, and were looking to the time of 'refreshing' and the 'latter rain' to fit them to stand in the day of the Lord, and to live in His sight. Oh, how many I saw in the time of trouble without a shelter ! They had neglected the needful preparation, therefore they could not receive the refreshing that all must have to fit them to live in the sight of a holy God. . . I saw that none could share the 'refreshing,' unless they obtain the victory over every besetment, over pride, selfishness, love of the world, and over every wrong word and action."—Early Writings, p. 71.
"Now is the time to prepare. The seal of God will never be placed upon the forehead of an impure man or woman. It will never be placed upon the forehead of the ambitious, world-loving man or woman. It will never be placed upon the forehead of men or women of false tongues or deceitful hearts. All who receive the seal of God must be without spot before God—candidates for Heaven."—Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 216.
We are also told that "those who are uniting with the world, are receiving the worldly mold, and preparing for the mark of the beast," but those who are humbling themselves and purifying their souls "are receiving the heavenly mold, and preparing for the seal of God in their foreheads." "When the decree goes forth, and the stamp is impressed, their character will remain pure and spotless for eternity."—Ibid.
The sealing will be followed by the latter rain, which will be the evidence that the sealing has taken place. "Not one of us will ever receive the seal of God while our characters have one spot or stain upon them. It is left with us to remedy the defects in our characters, to cleanse the soul temple of every defilement. Then the latter rain will fall upon us as the early rain fell upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost."—Ibid., p. 214.
"I was shown that the testimony to the Laodiceans applies to God's people at the present time, and the reason it has not accomplished a greater work is because of the hardness of their hearts. But God has given the message time to do its work. The heart must be purified from sins which have so long shut out Jesus. This fearful message will do its work. . . . It is designed to arouse the people of God, to discover to them their backslidings, and to lead to zealous repentance, that they may be favored with the presence of Jesus, and be fitted for the loud cry. . . Those who come up to every point, and stand every test, and overcome whatever be the price what it may, have heeded the counsel of the True Witness, and they will receive the latter rain, and thus be fitted for translation."—/bid., vol. s, pp. 186-188.
In light of these and similar statements it is evident that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the latter rain cannot take place until our characters are fully approved of God. He will entrust with "the fulness of divine power" only those who have gained permanent victories and are safe for the kingdom. When they become pillars in the church temple as the result of victory over sin, they will "go no more out." (Rev. 3:10-12.) This experience is necessary in order to live through the plagues after the close of probation without a mediator.
"No sin can be tolerated in those who shall walk with Christ in white. The filthy garments are to be removed, and Christ's robe of righteousness is to be placed upon us. By repentance and faith we are enabled to render obedience to all the commandments of God, and are found without blame before Him. . . . The faithful, praying ones are, as it were, shut in with God. They themselves know not how securely they are shielded.... As the people of God afflict their souls before Him, pleading for purity of heart, the command is given, 'Take away the filthy garments from them,' and the encouraging words are spoken, 'Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.' The spotless robe of Christ's righteousness is placed' upon the tried, tempted, yet faithful children of God. The despised remnant are clothed in glorious apparel, never more to be defiled by the corruptions of the world. Their names are retained in the Lamb's book of life, enrolled among the faithful of the ages. They have resisted the wiles of the deceiver ; they have not been turned from their loyalty by the dragon's roar. Now they are eternally secure from the tempter's devices."—Ibid., vol. 5, PP. 472-475.
Those only who are greatly concerned over their own spiritual state and that of the church, as well as the overwhelming iniquity of the world, will receive the seal of God. In Ezekiel 10:1-6 we find a picture of the sealing work and the divine judgments upon those who do not receive the mark of God's approval. The slaughter begins where it should—with the leaders responsible for the condition, because they did not give the warning and "weep between the porch and the altar," and sigh and "cry for all the abominations" in the midst of the church. (rbid., vol. 5, pp. 200-212.)
The Unpardonable Sin Defined
Grieving the Holy Spirit also leads to the sin that can never be pardoned—the "sin unto death." (Matt. 12:31, 32; I John 5:16, 17.) When this sin is committed, it is too late to pray. It is the last and fatal stage of the disease of sin, for which there is no remedy. "The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost" is the result of insulting and heaping indignity upon Him, for which God brings a terrible reward.
Attributing the work and power of the Holy Spirit to Satanic agencies is one way in which the unpardonable sin is committed. (Matt. 12: 22-32.) "What constitutes the sin against the Holy Ghost ?—It is willfully attributing to Satan the work of the Holy Spirit. . . . It is through the medium of His Spirit that God works upon the human heart; and when men willfully reject the Spirit, and declare it to be from Satan, they cut off the channel by which God can communicate with them."—Ibid., p. 634. In Testimonies to Ministers, page 90, we are told that when we reject a heaven-sent message we "indulge the attributes of Satan, and pour contempt upon the manifestation of the Holy Spirit." Read this entire chapter entitled "Rejecting the Light."
There are degrees of sin, or different stages of the disease of sin. "God does not regard all sins as of equal magnitude; there are degrees of guilt in His estimation, as well as in that of man."—Steps to Christ, p. 34. The sins of ignorance are those innocently committed, and they are gladly forgiven. Paul told the Athenians that God winked at their ignorance, but when light comes He calls for repentance. (Acts 17:30, 31.) The sin of omission is that of the neglect of duty, a failure to live up to one's full opportunity or responsibility. All of us are guilty of this every day. The sin of mistake is an unintentional wrong because of an error in judgment. It is a falling short of the mark of perfection.
The sin of presumption is a willful and defiant transgression committed with bold design. It is "a violation of known duty." It is the sin of knowledge, and is therefore rebellion. It is doing wrong with the eyes wide open. With the psalmist all should continually pray, "Keep back Thy servant also from presumptuous sins ; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression." Ps. 19:13. This is a very serious sin because it leads to 'the great transgression," the "sin unto death," the sin that cannot be pardoned. Persistently committing known sin grieves away the Holy Spirit and leads to the unpardonable sin. "The commission of a known sin silences the witnessing voice of the Spirit and separates the soul from God."—The Great Controversy, p. 472.
It is possible to drive the Holy Spirit from us so that its pleading voice cannot be heard. "To day if ye will hear His voice, harden not your heart" for "the sin against the Holy Ghost is the sin of persistent refusal to respond to the invitation to repent."—Review and Herald, June 29, 1897. (See also Acts 7:51-54.)
Refusing to listen to the voice of the Spirit through the Word hardens the heart until it becomes like "an adamant stone" upon which impressions can no longer be made by the prickings of the sword of the Spirit. (Heb. 3 :7-11; Zech. 7:11-14.) The "still small voice" can no longer be heard, and the conscience becomes "seared" as with "a hot iron" so that it is "past feeling." (I Tim. 4:2; Eph. 4:19.) We are either sealed or seared according to our attitude toward the pleadings of the Holy Spirit. Refusal to obey the call of an alarm clock will soon deaden its alarm so that it is not even heard. Thus it is with the awakening voice of the Holy Spirit.
The antediluvian world sinned away its day of grace by resisting the Holy Spirit under the preaching of Noah, as did the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah as they mocked at the warning message of Lot. The Jewish nation closed their probation as God's chosen people by rejecting their Messiah and His message through the apostles under the Pentecostal power of the Holy Spirit. The world today is fast committing the same sin, and it will reach the unpardonable stage when the message of Revelation 14:6-14 and 18 :1-5 are given under the latter rain and loud cry.
"The angel of mercy is about to take her flight never to return," and "the Spirit of God is gradually but surely being withdrawn from the earth."—Testimonies, vol. 9, p. II. The harvests of righteousness and iniquity will both be brought to full maturity during the latter rain and prepared for the sickles of the reaping angels. These are indeed momentous times when the destinies of all men are about to be decided for all eternity.