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The Bible about SHUNNING sinners / heretics who cause division in church – excommunication

2 cor 2But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called A BROTHER be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. (1 Cor. 5:11)

There are sadly pastors and entire congregations who have completely misunderstood what the Bible says about brothers and sisters who have wandered off from the truth, resulting in a treatment which will not aid the lost persons at all.

There is one Biblical case which stands out in the Bible when it comes to ”shunning” someone, and that is when Paul criticizes the Corinthian church for not reacting despite one of their members living in a deep sin.

One sin makes you a sinner, but all sins are not of the same degree. Some sins are for example an ”abomination” before God, and we can also read about a sin ”not unto death”. Surely there is a difference between murdering an innocent person in cold blood vs being in an unexpected situation where a white lie is used in order to not reveal a nice birthday surprise? In the case of the Corinthian church, the sin in question concerned a man engaged in sexual immorality together with his father’s wife, which Paul considered was so detestable that it was ”not even named among the gentiles”. 

1 Cor. 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! 2 And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. 3 For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.6 Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.9 I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. 10 Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 13 But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person. (NKJV)

Paul refers to a previous letter, and he clarifies that he did not advise the Corinthians to not keep company with all sinners in the whole world because then they could no longer live in the world. What he meant was that they should not keep company with anyone called a brother (which means a Christian brother or sister) who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner. Those listed sins are rather serious, and Paul tells the Corinthians to not even eat with such a person (other people might get the idea that we are supporting them in their sins or that we are just the same). Jesus of course ate with sinners, but not all his company would be regarded as his ”brothers”.

We should not try to add to Paul’s words – or withdraw. For instance, he does not say we must not talk to such people or not even say hello. Surely it would be awesome if such sinners returned to the Lord, and what better means do we have to our disposal than talking to them and try to persuade them to repent?:

Ja 5:19 Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;20 Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.

It is hard to convert someone from his sins if we are not even allowed to have a dialogue with him. The man in 1 Cor. 5 was engaged in a serious sin (an ongoing sin not repented of), so clearly he should not have been allowed to stay in that church gathering considering that a little leaven leavens the whole lump.  It is quite possible that the man in 1 Cor. 5 is again mentioned in Paul’s subsequent letter. In this letter Paul says that the punishment was sufficient for the man, and: you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.” (NASB). 

2 Cor. 2:4 For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you, with many tears, not that you should be grieved, but that you might know the love which I have so abundantly for you.5 But if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent—not to be too severe. 6 This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, 7 so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. 8 Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him. (NKJV)

So on the one hand Paul makes no room for a person engaged in sexual immorality (or other severe sins which he gives examples of), but on the other hand he provides a way back also for an ardent sinner provided that the person repents and leaves all sins behind. One can easily imagine that a man might be totally swallowed up with sorrow, if friends and family suddenly cease talking to him and pretend that he is nothing more than air. After a period with such a treatment, maybe the person claims to be sorry and openly repents, but can the church really trust that he has truly repented and that it is not rather a case of someone feeling lonely and wanting to return to his family and friends? God cannot be fooled.

Paul never tells us to cease having conversations with Christians even if they live in sin (it is possible to have conversations outside of a church gathering) and particularly not if they are family members. We are also told to not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father. So we should react when people sin, but think about how we phrase ourselves and how we treat them. The goal is to see them return to the truth, so a condescending and patronizing attitude might not work.

1 Tim. 5:1 Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers,—8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

More verses about shunning and influencing a person to repent (KJV)2 Pet

Matt. 18:12 How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

If a man goes astray God would certainly like to see him back on track, so we too should seek out the lost person and try to influence him to repent for his sins and return to the fold. The prodigal son did just that – he confessed his sins, repented and returned to his Father. If a brother sins against us (or perhaps sins against a whole church gathering), then Jesus tells us to first speak to him alone. It is of course essential that the person understands in what way he has sinned so that he also understands the point we are trying to make. Just saying ”I hereby rebuke you, you evil heretic!” is not enough if the person does not understand exactly what he did wrong, plus it is questionable if it is the smartest way to express oneself.

It is of course a possibility that a church leader reacts to something that is no sin at all (but rather a case of misunderstanding or twisting someone’s speech), and then it is hard to repent for something that the accused person does not see as a sin. If the case is that it was truly a sin and if the accused person refuses to listen or repent, then two or three witnesses are needed to establish the case. If the accused person is still unwilling to listen or repent, then the whole church should be told. If the accused person is still unwilling to turn around, then he must be regarded as a heathen – but note that it is still possible to have friendly and polite conversations with heathens! We are not told to ignore heathens and treat them as they do not exist, and note that it does not say that we should treat them WORSE than heathens. Surely it is possible to treat also heathens with kindness and love?

Where in the Bible can we read that also all the children (small children and teenagers) of an excommunicated person must be excommunicated as well, and no longer have any contact with the church members? (Nowhere.) The children might have been really good friends with other youngsters in a church for many years, and does God really suggest that they are no longer allowed to play or socialize with each other any more?

We should also add the risk for that the witnesses blindly obey the church leader (especially in a cult environment) who in his turn might not be entirely obedient to the Scriptures. The opposite is also true, that the church leader might blindly believe the witnesses’ description of a case. The instructions from Paul of course only work if the whole chain is unbroken – and not if the church leader is in error and makes unfair judgments. That is also why Paul told both Timothy and Titus to not be too quick with the ”laying on of hands” (selecting a person to become a church leader), because then the whole church gathering will risk to be off course.

A charged person certainly has the right to defend himself (this is true even in a secular court room), particularly in a church gathering that is not in all circumstances based on the word of God (like in a cult). If the pastor requests that a person must repent, and does not even give him a chance to defend himself or correct misunderstandings, then something is utterly wrong.

Rom. 16:17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences CONTRARY TO THE DOCTRINE which ye have learned; and avoid them.18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.19 For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.

Above we can read Paul saying that the brethren should ”mark them… and avoid them” if it concerns people who cause divisions contrary to God’s words. He does not clarify to what extent they should be avoided (avoiding does not necessarily mean that we cannot even walk on the same street as the person in question), but it evidently concerns people who continuously cause division in church contrary to God’s words. If such a person repents and ceases to cause division there is always a way back, but if he refuses to cease sinning Paul’s advice should be followed.

To ”mark” them does not mean that this marking must be repeated, and that the person can be verbally attacked as soon as you meet him. It is enough to do the marking once. However, if we continue to spend time with a trouble maker, eat with him and socialize with him (as in not avoiding him), then there is a risk that other people will interpret our undisturbed friendship as though we condone his actions. That is why Paul requests to see a change in our attitude towards a clear trouble maker. Paul does not necessarily tell us to stir up a huge drama scene as soon as there are minor differences of opinions about insignificant matters. I believe Paul is talking about clear cases of sin where a person is a trouble maker and/or causes a division in church over rather essential matters while refusing to back off.

Rom. 12:5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.—8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;—16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

Above we can see how important it is to be of one body, but also how important it is to show love and respect.

Titus 3:1 Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.3 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 9 But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.10 A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject;11 Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.

Paul gives instructions for a church leader, and if the church leader is subject to the word of God then it is a lot easier for the members to be subject to the church leader. However, we must always do as the Bereans (Acts 17:11) – to compare what we hear with Scriptures in order to know if what we hear is true. A church leader should speak evil of no man, be gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men, etc.  Since we too have been guilty of many sins, we could choose a wise way to influence people to repent. God has shown kindness and love to us, so we too should show the same to others. Not as in accepting their sin, but by consider the way we treat them and try to make them turn around.

Paul goes on to say a man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject. This advice must also be understood correctly and with caution. It takes some serious sins in order to qualify as an heretic (someone who clearly rejects the word of God and refuses to repent), so we should not cause an inflation of the word by spreading out admonitions left and right as soon as someone has some minor disagreements and asks valid questions. Neither should we fall into the other ditch and be so ”generous” that we choose not to react even if people in our congregation are proud of their sins.

2 John 1:7 For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.8 Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:11 For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.

Someone who refuses to accept the deity of Jesus, that he has come in the flesh, is labelled as a deceiver and even an antichrist. To accept Jesus as God is very central for the Christian faith. It is not certain that we should not allow anyone into our homes unless he/she shares our precise faith (particularly not if they are family members or relatives), but if someone wants to ”bring” an ”antichrist message” into our homes – like a former brother who would like to convert you and your family – then we should not accept him. I believe it is another matter if we invite lost people with the aim to convert them. Remember again that Jesus ate with sinners who did not view him as the Messiah.

Gal. 1:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.6 Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.

Paul tells us to ”restore” a person who is overtaken in a fault ”in the spirit of meekness” . Once again love and respect are taught here.

2 Thess. 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.7 For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;8 Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you:9 Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.11 For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.12 Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.13 But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.14 And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.15 Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

We are told to ”withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us”, and the context here is about working and to not be a burden to others. ”For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies”. In such cases we are told ”them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread”. We are also told if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed” but also Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother”. If we are to admonish him as a brother, we think about how we phrase ourselves and we do not ridicule him, repeatedly call him an heretic (once is often enough) etc.

There are certain rules about elders:

1 Tim. 5:19 Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.20 Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.

Saved despite taking THE MARK OF THE BEAST? No way, John MacArthur

mark of the beast

Getting the mark of the beast is the same as losing your soul

It’s not certain what the mark of the beast really is (we can only speculate) but it’s absolutely certain that it’s not possible to enter the kingdom of God if you choose to get this mark in the future when it’s going to be offered. I don’t believe that this mark will be forced on people who have no choice in the matter – like newborn babies – because it wouldn’t be a righteous judgment to send people to the lake of fire due to something that is outside of their control. I also don’t believe it’s a mark that we will get by mistake, without realizing what it really is. Since our souls are involved, I believe it’s going to be a very clear choice, so that we will know what is at stake.

John MacArthur usually gets his theology views twisted (see for instance this article) and that includes the issue of the mark of the beast. He claims that it’s possible to take the mark of the beast as long as you don’t worship it, but the Bible doesn’t give such assurances. He starts with making the mistake to use a pretribulation rapture as a foundation, which the Bible doesn’t teach. Saints will be on earth at the same time as Antichrist, and that means that they will have to go through at least part of the tribulation until they will see Christ. On the other hand, they will escape the wrath of God, but that’s not the same as the tribulation.

Saints are being warned from taking the mark of the beast throughout the book of Revelations, and it wouldn’t be logical to warn christians for something that they will never have to face or endure.

Below we can read that those who, at this point, do not have their names in the book of life (there is only one book of life), will be the same as those who will worship the beast, and they will naturally also have the mark of the beast if they also choose to worship him. This is interesting to note, because according to Rev. 20:15, those who are not in the book of life will be those who end up in the lake of fire. So the option we have are 1) being in the book of life, or 2) worship the beast.

If anyone refuses to worship the beast, he will be killed by the beast, but at least the beast doesn’t have power over our souls. It also says that ”he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads”, but this must means ”all kinds of people from all across the world”, because we know that not every single person will choose to take this mark – namely those who we previously read about, who will be killed due to refusing the mark.

Rev. 13:And it was given unto him to make war with the SAINTS, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.If any man have an ear, let him hear.10 He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the SAINTS.15 And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.18 Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.

Below the angel says that if any man worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark, he will have to go through the wrath of God and and shall be tormented with fire and will have no rest day or night. So based on the below passage, we can read twice that this horrible promise seems to be for:

  • whosoever worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark in his forehead, or in his hand
  • whosoever worships the beast and his image (again)
  • whosoever receives the mark of his name

Rev. .14:And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,10 The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:11 And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.12 Here is the patience of the SAINTS: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.

Below we can read that there will be a certain amount of people who will get victory over the beast, over his image and over his MARK. We know that they won’t be able to claim victory if they worship the beast and/or take the mark:

Rev. 15:1 And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God.And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God.

There will be a grievous sore on those who have the mark of the beast, according to the below passage, and on those who worship his image. We can read about the blessings involved for those who are being prepared and who keep their clothes, which means that there is such an alternative – for those who have not taken the mark or worshiped the beast:

Rev. 16:1 And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth.And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image.—15 Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.

Those who will be cast alive into the lake of fire will be 1) them that had received the mark of the beast, and 2) them that worshiped his image – which seem to be one and the same people:.

Rev. 19:20 And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.

Those who will live and reign with Christ for a thousand years are those who:

  • were beheaded for the witness of Jesus and for the word of God
  • and who had not worshiped the beast
  • and who had not worshiped the beast’s image
  • and who had not received the beast’s mark on their foreheads/hands

All others will not live again until 1000 years have passed, and will be thrown in the lake of fire (the second death). The choices are 1) not being involved with the beast in any way – either worshiping him or taking his mark – which means you have your name in the book of life, or 2) being involved with the beast – worshiping him and taking his mark – which means your name is not in the book of life:

Rev. 20:And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.—14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

How do we endure the tribulation?

How is it possible to endure the great tribulation? We must be very close to God (praying, reading his word, singing worship songs, fasting, etc) and live according to the Spirit. If we are lukewarm and live too much in the world, the temptations around us will be much too difficult to endure. We must live in the promise that we will be getting power to overcome, and the holy Spirit is our guide.

Deut. 4:30 When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the Lord thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice;31 (For the Lord thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.

Matt. 13:20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

Matt. 24:21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.23 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.—29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

The question to John MacArthur was once the person takes the mark, is there any possibility of Him coming to Christ?”

John answered: —-”Now, the question is, if you’re living in the Tribulation period, and you take this mark, in other words, you identify with the beast’s empire, will you still be able to be redeemed? And I think the answer to that is yes. Yes!  Otherwise there would be no salvation of anybody in the end of the Tribulation; and youve got to have the salvation of folks in the end of the Tribulation.”

Since MacArthur still has the recordings and transcripts on his website (it’s the year 2013) as per this site, one must assume that this is still his view until he claims something else.

A good article from Charisma News here about John MacArthur and his war on charismatic christians.

Sealed UNTO the day of redemption, but a seal can be broken Eph. 4:30

 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed UNTO the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30)

Based on the Greek text, the latter part of the above sentence can be translated ”by whom you were sealed FOR the day of redemption”. The preposition ”for” is a translation from the Greek word εἰς (eis, Strong’s 1519) and apart from ”for” it can mean into, in, among and till. The text does not say ”sealed and saved unconditionally all the way UNTIL the day of redemption no matter the conduct”. Were sealed” in the verseis a translation from ἐσφραγίσθητε (esphragisthēte, Strong’s 4972).

There is nothing that suggests that a seal can absolutely not be tampered with. When someone places a seal on something – like the one in the picture above to the left – he doesn’t do this with the idea that no one can remove the seal, but rather to show a unique mark and/or ownership of something. The aim might very well be to see the seal untouched until there is a proper time to remove it, but there is no guarantee that it will remain as it is until that day.

The Greek word sphragizó can mean seal, or set a seal upon, or mark with a seal. We are indeed uniquely ”marked” when we as christians have the Holy Spirit in our lives, and we are separate and different from those without this mark. The word is from sphragís (a seal) – to seal (affix) with a signet ring or other instrument to stamp (a roller or seal). ”Sealing” in the ancient world served as a ”legal signature”, and it was sometimes done by the use of religious tattoos – again signifying ”belonging to”. The same word is used for the stone which was blocking the grave of Jesus – and which  was later REMOVED.

2 Cor. 122Who hath also SEALED us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.

Matt. 27:66So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, SEALING the stone, and setting a watch.

Rev.  10:4And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not.

The book of Ephesians talks about a corporate election and about the promised future for the body of Christ. The CHURCH or the BODY OF CHRIST was predestined, before the creation of the world, to enter the Kingdom of God and inherit the promises. The question is if we as individuals choose to belong or not.

Eph. 1:22And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the CHURCH23Which is his BODY, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

Eph. 4:4There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;—  16From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

Eph. 1:13In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise14Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

or:

In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation – having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (Eph. 1:13, 14; 4:30).

Read the many warnings in the same chapter of Ephesians 4. The warnings are addressed to believers. The sealing of the Holy Spirit is conditional since we can ”grieve” and eventually ”insult” the Spirit of Grace which means total apostasy.

Hebr. 10 29Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?

Only believers can possess the Holy Spirit and no one can enter the Kingdom of God without the Spirit. He is therefore the guarantee of an inheritance for believers and not unbelievers. Through union with Christ we are ”predestined” to adoption and an inheritance as children of God, being ”joint heirs” with Christ (Eph. 1:5, 10-11, cf. Rom. 8:17; Gal. 3:29; 4:7). This is what is in view when Paul speaks of being sealed ”for the day of redemption”, but we must not assume that this sealing is unbreakable which the text does not claim.

What is a guarantee? Guarantee receipts normally have conditions which you can often read in the ”fine print”. If you get a guarantee receipt for a certain product and you would like to make a claim, the store might request that you bring both the product and the receipt before they are willing to look at your claim. They might also request that you do this within a certain time frame and that you state what’s wrong with the product. Another example might be if someone buys you a bus ticket which guarantees that you will get to a certain city PROVIDED that 1) you don’t throw away your ticket, 2) that you embark the right bus on the right time, and 3) that you STAY ON the bus until it arrives at the destination. The BUS will arrive at the destination as promised, but the question is if YOU will choose to be among the bus passengers.

1 Samuel 16:14 But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.

Psalm 5:11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me

A circumcision was also a ”seal” for those under the old covenant.

Rom. 4:11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a SEAL of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also

This seal WAS broken and guaranteed nothing when those who were circumcised broke the covenant and were cut off from the people of God.

Rom. 2:25For circumcision verily profiteth, IF thou keep the law:but IF thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. 26Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? 27And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?

As you can see, this seal was conditioned on continued faith and obedience. The Holy Spirit marks us as God’s children of the new covenant, but if we would totally abandon the faith and/or live in disobedience with no plan to repent, then the Holy Spirit might no longer have a reason to remain and then we are no longer sealed. Also circumcised (sealed) Jews were broken off through unbelief as Rom. 11 tells us.

Acts. 5:32And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.

John 14:15If ye love me, keep my commandments.16And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever

Rom. 8:9But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, IF so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. 10And IF Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

Rom. 11:16 For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again.

God speaks of the Israelites who ”grieved” His Holy Spirit in their rebellion. These Jews were cut off from the promise of entering God’s rest and they became God’s enemies.

Isaiah 6310But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: THEREFORE he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them. — 14As a beast goeth down into the valley, the Spirit of the LORD caused him to rest: so didst thou lead thy people, to make thyself a glorious name.

In the NT the ”rest” is the eternal rest that all believers will attain. The book of Hebrews continually speak of the promise of eternal rest, in combination with WARNINGS to believers not to miss out on this promised rest through hardening their hearts in unbelief, just as the Israelites did who rebelled against God during the Exodus.

Hebr. 3:6But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end7Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, 8Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 9When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. 10Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. 11So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) 12Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. 13But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; 15While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. 16For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. 17But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? 18And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? 19So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

Hebr. 4:1Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. 2For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. 3For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. 5And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. 6Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: 7Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. 8For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. 9There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. 10For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. 11Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

Hebr. 6: 11And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: 12That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Jude 1:5I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not

The word ”called” below in Gal. 1:6 is the same word as in Rom. 8:30 – καλέω (kaleó Strong’s 2564). Paul marvels at the fact that some Galatians despite being called are deserting Christ and turning to another gospel. Paul noticed that these Galatians were true believers who were apostatizing from the faith. Despite being chosen, called elect they risked falling away. If kaleo refers to the elect in Rom 8:30 then it must also refer to the elect in Gal 1:6.

Galatians 1:6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that CALLED you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

If you’re trapped in Calvinism, do read about the contradictions within TULIP here.

Church Fathers

The Shepherd of Hermes 6(72):3 I say unto him, ”Sir, now then show me concerning those that have given up their rods, what manner of man each of them is, and their abode, that when they hear this, they that believed and have received the seal and have broken it and did not keep it sound may fully understand what they are doing, and repent, receiving from thee a seal, and may glorify the Lord, that He had compassion upon them and sent thee to renew their spirits.”

Clement 7:6 For as concerning them that have not kept the seal, He saith,`Their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be for a spectacle unto all flesh’. 

Clement 8:6 So then He meaneth this, Keep the flesh pure and the seal unstained, to the end that we may receive life.