“I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun having the seal of the living God; and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was given to injure the earth and sea, saying, ‘Do not begin to injure the earth, nor the sea, nor the trees, until we should seal the slaves of our God on their foreheads,” Revelation 7:2-3.
To be sealed is to be set apart. The later manifestation of the mark of the beast in the book of Revelation (Rev. 13:16-17) is but a demonic mimicking of the seal of the Lord. Nevertheless, it is clear we as mankind will be sealed unto someone. St. Andrew of Caesarea teaches, “Just as it had been revealed to Ezekiel long ago (Ezek. 9:2-11) about the one dressed in fine linen who sealed the foreheads of those who groan so that the righteous would not be destroyed together with the unrighteous … the superior holy power urging the punishing angels to do nothing to those who committed offenses, before recognizing those distinguished by the sealing who serve the truth.”1
St. Andrew also clearly indicates that a primary aspect of the seal of the Lord is that of the Holy Spirit, “Creation having come into being for us, partakes with us in the afflictions when we are chastised; likewise, therefore, it will rejoice when the saints are glorified. Through these we learn also before the bringing of trials the virtuous need to be strengthened through angelic assistance, through the ‘seal of the Spirit’ given to us and manifesting our own power according to the amount of work we have put to it. The rest [of humanity] will remain without help, for by their own will they will not be helped.”2
The greatest weapon against the aggressive attempt of the enemy to mark people with his machinations is to be sealed with the grace of the Holy Spirit. The great Apostle proclaims, “Now the One Who established us with you in Christ, and Who anointed us, is God. Who also sealed us and gave us the earnest of the Spirit” (2 Cor 1:21-22). Every person is sealed with the Holy Spirit when he is born anew in the waters of baptism and anointed with holy chrism. Indeed, it is by the Spirit that the Christian is “sealed until the day of redemption” (cf. Eph. 4:30). The seal implanted through Chrismation is a seed; the believer must water it and tend to it, thereby cultivating within his inner-man the fruits of the Holy Spirit.3 If one professes Christ only in words and fails to tend the seed planted within, then the seed remains merely a seed, though still bearing within itself the potential to be the greatest tree.4 St. Nektarios of Aegina explicates, “The Christian way of life does not utilize the principles that demand a mere knowledge of the ideas and the ways of thinking in a particular system or religion; it also requires the motivational will of man to be activated so that the ideas and teachings that flow from it can be accepted as a divine power that can actually grant life and save, when man is aware of it and allows the power of such divine words to be felt and become effectively transformative in his life.”5
The believer who cultivates, as is commanded, the grace of the Holy Spirit in his life bears the mark of a person not of this world. He is sealed unto the Holy and set apart from the fallen leaven of this age. The believer receives into his inner-man the transfiguring grace of the Holy Spirit;6 he is sealed with Christ Who is the Seal of the very likeness of the Father.7 On the Last Day the believer will give an account of what he has done with this seal set in his inner-man. For if he allows the filth of sin to pile on, he will have to make an answer for it. In fact, it will be worse for those who claim to have received the divine light and yet willingly choose darkness, for having once received the image and seal of Christ in the heart, they neglected it and covered it with the filth of sin. Yet the original seal is never totally eradicated; the buried grace of the Spirit intercedes for repentance even until death.8
Through seeking and cultivating the grace of the Spirit within, the believer begins to have the image of God refreshed in him, thereby being re-made into His likeness.9 Man’s whole being is renewed and vivified by the grace of the Holy Spirit. The believer sealed with the Holy Spirit, in true humility, begins to understand the great awesomeness of God’s love for mankind: “He has poured out abundantly His Holy Spirit upon us, given as His pledge of our immortality. Which Holy Spirit makes us both believers, obedient ‘children of God and equal heirs with Christ’.”10
Salvation is being united to Christ, and it is only through the Holy Spirit wherein the believer is united to Him. Those united unto Him are sealed unto Him. The Holy Fathers are emphatic: to be a true Christian the believer must be striving to live his life immersed in the grace of the Holy Spirit, and this grace is alive and active. We see in the Scripture and the Holy Fathers that the grace of the Holy Spirit should be all-encompassing within the life of the believer, and this is reflected in the words which are used, such as, being ‘filled’, and ‘sealed’, as well as ‘clothed’.11
“As many as are baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”12 Our first father Adam was stripped of the robe of the Spirit due to his disobedience. He thus found himself naked; reduced to fleshly animal-like existence, no longer clothed in the light of grace, but existing in the garments of skin.13 Yet now, through the coming of the God-Man Jesus Christ, man may be clothed once again in the brilliance of divine grace, as St Symeon the New Theologian testifies, “Shining around us all, and encircling and cherishing us with the glory of his divinity, He is called raiment, and so we say that we clothe ourselves with Him who is intangible in every way and Who can not be grasped.”14 Although this robe of glory will only be fully revealed on the Last Day, those seeking to live in truth are called to put off the garment of the flesh and to be adorned with the robe of the Holy Spirit, now in this life. St. Gregory Palamas writes: Let us look to our heavenly Father. Let us forsake the world, for we are no longer of the earth, earthy, like the first man, but like the second man the Lord, from heaven (1 Cor. 15: 47). Let us lift up our hearts to Him. Let us contemplate this magnificent spectacle, our nature dwelling eternally with the immaterial fire of the Godhead. And putting aside our coats of skin (cf. Gen. 3: 21), in which we were clothed as a result of transgression, let us stand in the holy place, each of us marking out his own holy ground through the virtues … [that] we may have boldness to run towards Him and be enlightened and, once illumined, to live with Him in the glory of His sublime light.15
Thus, the believer should now be actively weaving in his inner-man, by grace, the garment of the Spirit.16 This vesture will shine forth and be revealed and is even being revealed today, in those who fervently seek the Lord. This clothing in grace is made manifest, even in this age, at times to the eyes of those whom God has chosen.17 This adornment in grace is the reality – it is the true glory and call of every believer; not the existence in fleshly garments consumed with worldly pleasures.
The believer must be diligent not to cast aside his spiritual garment through negligence, forgetfulness of God, and worldly living, and thus be found naked at the wedding feast of Christ.18 Even now the believer is given to carry about the glory of God in the earthen vessel of his body. Quietly within our apparently weak and frail human bodies, the Kingdom of Heaven is being built up; a glorious temple is being erected, a garment of indescribable light is being woven. St. Macarius the Great says: “What glory true Christians will receive in the resurrection: namely, the glory of light and the spiritual delights of the Spirit which even now they are deemed worthy to possess interiorly. Because of this, these gifts of the Spirit will rebound also in their bodies then. The saints even now possess this glory in their souls … it will then cover and clothe their naked bodies. It will sweep them up into Heaven and we will at last come to rest, both body and soul, with the Lord forever.”19
The eternal bulwark of Christians is the seal of the Lord. It is the only thing that will keep us from being marked by the beast of this world.
1St. Andrew of Caesarea, Commentary on the Apocalypse, pg. 103
3 Cf. Galatians 5: 16-25, 6: 8.
4 Cf. Matthew 13: 31-32. St. Theophan the Recluse says that the grace of the Spirit “is in all of us, but He is not active in all of us.” The Art of Prayer, An Orthodox Anthology, compiled by Igumen Chariton, trans. E. Kadloubovsky, E. Palmer, London, 1966, p. 172. See also St. Nicholas Cabasilas, The Life in Christ, Crestwood, 1974, p. 114.
5St. Nektarios of Aegina, Habitation of Holiness, pp. 27-28
6 Cf. St. Macarius the Great, Fifty Spiritual Homilies, 5. 5, p. 65. and The Raising of the Intellect, 63. in The Philokalia, vol 3, p. 312.
7 Cf. Anaphora prayer of St. Basil the Great. The Service Books of the Orthodox Church, Large Format Edition, South Canaan, 2010, p. 139. John 6: 27.
8 Cf. St. Seraphim of Sarov, Conversation with Motovilov, in The Joy of the Holy, pp. 111-112.
9 Cf. St. Diadochos of Photiki, On Spiritual Knowledge, 89. in The Philokalia, vol. 1, p. 288.
10 St. Patrick of Ireland, The Confession, 4, trans. J. Skinner, New York, 1998, p. 30.
11 Cf. Ephesians 1: 13, 5: 18; 2 Corinthians 5: 2-4.
12 Galatians 3:27. Sung instead of the Trisagion in the Divine Liturgy on certain Feast Days of the Church. Cf. The Service Books of the Orthodox Church, p. 43.
13 Cf. Genesis 3:21.
14St. Symeon the New Theologian, On the Mystical Life, vol. 2, p. 93. Cf. The Discourses, 14. 5, p. 265.
15 St. Greagory Palamas, The Homilies, 53. 65, p. 444.
16 “In regards the garment Christians wear it is evident that the Spirit clothes them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit forever.” St. Macarius the Great, Fifty Spiritual Homilies,6. 7, p. 78. Cf. St. Seraphim of Sarov, Conversation with Motovilov, in The Joy of the Holy, p. 112.
17 Cf. St. Seraphim of Sarov, Conversation with Motovilov, in The Joy of the Holy, pp. 114-115.
18 Cf. Matthew 22: 11-14.
19 St. Macarius the Great, Fifty Spiritual Homilies 5. 11, p. 74. Cf. Ibid 2. 5, p. 46.