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After this I saw four

angels standing at

the four corners of the earth,

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holding back the four winds

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of the earth, so that

no wind would blow

on the earth, or

on the sea

or on any tree.

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After this I saw a sufficient number of angels positioned at the most distant places of the earth so as to cover every possible place on the earth. They had a firm hold on all the Spirit’s movement and activity so there would be

no benefit or punishment from the Spirit’s activity on the places where men live or the places where strange unseen creatures live, or on any other form of life.


1: Do these angels appear later in Revelation?

It doesn’t matter! The important thing is that these four angels were ready to release punishment on the entire earth. The idea is that punishment is coming. It is not necessary to know how or when or in what form such punishment occurs. It may refer to punishments that are mentioned elsewhere in Revelation, but it may not. That is not important.


In Hebrew one word means “wind, Spirit and life.” In the Jewish mind these ideas were always tied together reminding them that the Spirit of God breathed His breath (wind) of life into man and he became a living being.


Here “trees” stand for life in general. Trees are also one of the things that manifest the movement of the wind. We cannot see the wind, but we can see the trees being moved by the wind.

“No Wind”

When a Jew of John’s day, or a Gentile who was familiar with Jewish history and thought, read that there would be no wind he knew this meant the Spirit’s activity would cease. This would include beneficial activity and punishment. Punishment was often depicted by destructive winds, but we know the presence of God’s Spirit is a good thing too – just think about the rushing wind heard on Pentecost. From what follows we see that the emphasis here seems to be on punishment of the wicked, but as the reader reads this for the first time he does not yet know which it will be.

Some believe this wind refers only to punishment or judgment, and they make no reference to the Holy Spirit in their comments. However, I believe that for the people of that day, the tie between wind and the Spirit of God was so strong one could never fully separate them. If the wind was a sign of judgment, it was judgment coming from God, executed in some cases by His Spirit.

Another aspect of symbolism is that every detail may not square perfectly with good theology. Can an angel hold back God’s Holy Spirit? No. But since this is a picture we should not analyze it in that way. I think this was a way to show John that the activity of the Holy Spirit would

be restricted for a time. He saw angels holding back the wind, and knew what that meant. It was simply a figurative way to communicate an idea; we should not allow it to change our theology by giving angels actual power over the Holy Spirit. The ideas being communicated are that punishment of the wicked is being restrained for a time, and that the Holy Spirit will somehow be involved in that punishment. That is all we need to know. The idea that the Spirit would be involved in something negative like punishment may be new to us. God’s Spirit is the active agency of His will, for pleasant or unpleasant purposes.

This restraining of the Holy Spirit would be for a short time only—until all the faithful can be given the mark of God’s ownership. This is given to the faithful as a guarantee that God will take care of them during their hardships. We already know that in Revelation that does not mean taking us out of hardship, but helping us be faithful and true till the end. The greatest fear of those suffering persecution is not the fear of more pain, but the fear of possibly becoming weak and succumbing to the temptation to turn away from Jesus. God’s seal assures them that if they seek His help in remaining faithful, they will receive His strength to remain faithful, come what may.

Although this restraining of the Spirit’s activity is a restraining of His punishment on the wicked and is done on behalf of the faithful, it appears that this will also be done as another warning, and another chance to repent. It will serve to wake people up to their need for God. We are told elsewhere in Scripture that God does not want any to perish but is constantly extending the opportunity to repent (II Peter 3:9) as long as it is called “today” (Heb. 3:13). Up until the last moment, either the last moment of life or the last moment before His judgment falls, there is opportunity to repent.  There was room in Noah’s ark for more people and there was opportunity for them to be saved from the flood up until the very moment when God shut the door. In His mercy God does not bring judgment without first giving warnings and ample time for repentance.

It will also serve to bring greater distinction between the people who follow God and those who rebel against Him. Whenever God brings judgment it is clear that His judgment is right and just, for He has made very clear who is rebellious and who is faithful.