Are tribulation saints sealed by the Holy Spirit, in the same way we as the Church are? Because if so, then they cannot lose their salvation. But I can only see where the 144,000 are said to specifically be sealed in that day. What if the Spirit simply comes and goes, and they become weak willed and take the mark of the beast?
The Spirit of God will return to the earth following the Rapture, according to Revelation 7:
REV. 7:1 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, so that no wind would blow on the earth or on the sea or on any tree.
REV. 7:2 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,
REV. 7:3 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.”
In v2 we hear of a fifth angel ascending from the rising sun having the seal of the living God. The scriptures don’t tell us who this angel might be, though he is obviously significant and has authority. This fifth angel is giving instruction to the other four which begins a new pattern in the book of Revelation: the importance of angels in carrying out the judgments.
We must remember that the letter itself was delivered to John by angels and in the course of the vision, angels will escort or explain things to John but now we see they are also instruments to carry out the judgments. Furthermore, it appears that when Jesus opens a seal, for example, it leads to an angel doing something to bring about judgment on Earth. We begin to learn that it’s important to God that the devastation be carefully timed to prevent interrupting a sealing.
Specifically, in v3 the four angels are told they cannot begin their devastating attacks on the earth until bondservants are sealed. A bondservant is the New Testament title for a believer in Jesus Christ. Therefore, we learn how new faith returns to the earth following the removal of the church prior to the Tribulation, i.e. these believers are to be sealed on their foreheads, we’re told.
To be sealed is generally a way of saying being born again as Paul says in 2 Corinthians:
2COR. 1:21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God,
2COR. 1:22 who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.
So we should conclude that this passage is describing God preparing to bring a group of people to faith during Tribulation. But why does John mention their foreheads? We believe this is related to something that happens later in the book of Revelation:
REV. 13:16 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,
Later, during the seven years, it becomes mandatory for every human being to receive a distinguishing mark on their forehead. That mark means a person worships the Antichrist, and those who refuse the mark are killed.
Meanwhile, the Antichrist is rising to power leading to World War and more devastation, yet as this happens the Lord is also at work bringing to faith a new generation of believers on earth and then John tells us where this new generation will come from:
REV. 7:4 And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:
REV. 7:5 from the tribe of Judah, twelve thousand were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand, from the tribe of Gad twelve thousand,
REV. 7:6 from the tribe of Asher twelve thousand, from the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand, from the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand,
REV. 7:7 from the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand, from the tribe of Levi twelve thousand, from the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand,
REV. 7:8 from the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand, from the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand, from the tribe of Benjamin, twelve thousand were sealed.
Here we have the infamous 144,000 of Tribulation. While there has been widespread speculation about this group of people, the Bible is clear about who they will be.
First, this is a group of bond-servants who come to faith after the start of Tribulation, which again confirms that the Holy Spirit will be back on earth at work producing faith during this time. If people are being brought to faith and sealed, then we know the Spirit is at work and these people are the product of that work.
Secondly, we know that no believer on earth today can be part of this group because all believers are removed (raptured) prior to Tribulation. We are told these believers are taken from among the twelve tribes of Israel, therefore, they are all Jewish. Anyone who is not descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob cannot be one of the 144,000.
As we know from John 4, Jesus says salvation must always start with the Jewish people in every age, because that’s the plan of God for the earth:
JOHN 4:22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, because salvation is from the Jews.
God always brings salvation through the Jewish people first (Romans 1:16). The patriarchs were Jewish, the prophets were Jewish, the Apostles were Jewish, and of course the Lord was Jewish. The covenants were given to the Jews, the word of God came through Jewish writers and the temple service belongs to Israel. So everything we have regarding our salvation and relationship with Christ was made available to us through the Jewish people, just as the Lord promised Abraham, that through his seed many nations would be blessed. As a result, that pattern continues in the Tribulation.
Furthermore, God brings these 144,000 Jews to faith in Jesus and then calls them to be the first evangelists of Tribulation. Thus, from this seed group, the world will experience a new wave of faith:
REV. 7:9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands;
REV. 7:10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
REV. 7:11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,
REV. 7:12 saying, “Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
God will bring faith to a new generation of believers on earth in the final years prior to Jesus' return. Obviously, these new believers will have missed the Rapture, but the Bible testifies that their new faith in Jesus is not the product of the Rapture experience but of the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts, which is how all believers come to faith.
Additionally, God calls all believers to persevere until the end through trials and hardship:
JAMES 1:12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
MATT. 10:22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
2TIM. 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;
2TIM. 4:8 in the future there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.
During a time of catastrophic persecution a believer will need the encouragement from the Lord in order to not give up or grow weary.
For a thorough understanding of the events of Tribulation, including the work of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists, please watch our Revelation Bible study series.