Jesus shared His revelation vision with the Apostle John so that John could share that message with the church. Revelation 2:7, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” Chapters 2 and 3 describe the seven churches (seven historical periods of the church through our Lord’s second advent) and their unique messages. Revelation 4 symbolically represents the throne scene in heaven. Chapter 5 symbolizes Jesus as the Lamb of God holding a sealed scroll. Jesus is identified as the only one worthy to break the seals and unroll the scroll. Since our Lord’s first advent, He has broken each seal in order (Revelation 6), slowly revealing the plan of salvation for mankind, and identifying the mystery of God (the Lamb’s wife). When the last seal is broken (the 7th), the Lord is present and the scroll is open to all who love and follow the Lamb.
Chapter 7 describes the breaking of this final seal (albeit the announcement is found at the end of the chapter in Rev. 8:1). The scene opens with the four angels, holding back the four winds (preventing a whirlwind), so that the remaining earthly saints can be sealed in their foreheads and the full number of the sealed ones established (144,000). These remaining saints are still on the earth at the return of the Lord.
The four angels are not necessarily spirit beings, but may represent mighty spiritual forces having control over and restraining the four winds. These mighty spiritual forces are controlled by the four attributes of God, namely Justice, Wisdom, Love and Power (the four living creatures of Revelation 4:8).
The four corners of the earth would represent the foundations upon which earth’s civilization rests. These may be identified as the financial, religious, social and political parts of society. The four winds refer to forces that cause trouble in each of these areas. The trouble could be punishments, wars, anarchy, famine, and pestilence (see Ezekiel 5:17 & 14:21.) We should not be surprised that the prince of the power of the air, the adversary, has an interest and control in these earthly institutions. Consequently, he and his angels may well be involved.
The winds are prevented from harming the final members of the church (the servants of our God, Revelation 7:3) until they have obtained a seal in their foreheads. The earth (organized society), the sea (the restless masses) or any tree (the household of faith) are also spared for that period of time.
In the Old Testament, we are told Elijah was taken away in a whirlwind. Was that a preview of the saints in Revelation 7:3 who are finally taken in the whirlwind when the four winds are loosed?