I. THE HOLY SPIRIT AS A SEAL
What does the last part of verse 13 tell us about the Holy Spirit? It is like a "seal." Thank God that the Holy Spirit is like a "seal." Brothers and sisters, do you know why the sealing is needed and what "the seal" means? Second Timothy 2:19 says, "Having this seal,  The Lord knows those who are His, and,  Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness." Therefore, there are two meanings to the sealing. First, once something is sealed, it signifies that the thing belongs to the man who sealed it. Second, what is being sealed bears the resemblance of the seal. "The Lord knows those who are His," indicates that all those who are sealed by the Lord belong to Him. "And, Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness," indicates that all those sealed by the Lord should bear His image. The first meaning of the sealing is that we belong to the Lord. The second meaning is that we are the same as the Lord and bear His image. For instance, when I put a seal on an envelope with sealing wax, the seal on the envelope is just like my seal. Sometimes we see sons that look like their fathers and daughters that look like their mothers. We say that they must have come out of the same mold. This is the second meaning of the Holy Spirit as a seal. Therefore, the Holy Spirit as a seal tells us two things. First, I belong to Him; second, I should bear His image, for He is holy.
The Ephesians understood the Holy Spirit as a seal much better than we do, for their city was engaged in lumber business. Ephesus was close to a harbor, and the trees were cut on the mountain and floated downstream to the harbor. Once I read a book about Ephesus. It said that many merchants went there to buy lumber. Each of them brought with him a different seal of iron, like a hammer. When they completed negotiation on a load of lumber, each of them would seal the lumber he bought with his own hammer-seal before he went home. It did not matter if they did not come back after three or five months; some did not have need for the lumber right away. Whenever they wanted their lumber, they would send their men to get it, bringing along the hammer-seal used previously. They only needed to compare the seals on the wood with their own seal. All the pieces that had their seal belonged to them, and they could take them away. No mistake could be made this way. This is the way the lumber merchants in Foochow conducted business also. They would buy the lumber in the upper part of the Ming River and seal it with their hammer-seals. Then the wood would be floated down the Ming River to Foochow. There the buyers would come and check their purchase by comparing it with their seal.
God has not only sealed us with the Holy Spirit as a seal, indicating that we belong to Him now, but has also told us that we are sealed unto the day of redemption. Hence, Ephesians 4:30 says, "You were sealed unto the day of redemption." It does not say "for a while" but "unto the day of redemption." What does "the day of redemption" refer to? It refers to the day our body is redeemed and raptured. When the Lord comes to reap and rapture the believers, there will be some in Shanghai, some in Southeast Asia, some in China, some in England, some in Africa, and some elsewhere. How can the Lord recognize His people? It is by the seal. The seal is just for the day of redemption. Where there is the seal, there will be no confusion and no mistake. God is like the lumber merchant. He only accepts those who belong to Him according to His seal. Those without the Holy Spirit are not His, and He will not accept them. Those with the Holy Spirit are His, and He will reap, raise them up, and take them home at the proper time. (Here, we will not cover the matter of the times and the order of rapture, for it is beyond the scope of this subject.) Our Christian life begins with salvation and ends with our redemption. From the beginning to the end, the Holy Spirit is always like a seal. The Holy Spirit is the seal of God. The Holy Spirit is not the sealer but the seal. It is God who puts the Holy Spirit into us as a seal. If you have not believed in the Lord Jesus, your position is very dangerous. If you have believed in the Lord Jesus as Savior and as Lord, no matter if you are a new believer or have been a believer for a long time, you are safe and sound, for the Holy Spirit is dwelling in you. How long will this indwelling last? It will last unto the day of redemption. Some may think that if they are not good, if they stumble, or if they commit sins, the Holy Spirit will cease to dwell in them. But the Bible says, "Unto the day of redemption." There is something called "the chart of the heart" printed by some churches. It contains some excellent truths. But its teaching concerning the Holy Spirit is completely wrong. It shows the Holy Spirit as a dove which flies away when a believer commits a serious sin, and man’s heart is left without the Holy Spirit but with the devil and all kinds of lust. This is a great mistake. The Bible tells us very clearly that in the New Testament age, the Holy Spirit dwells in us unto the day of redemption; He never leaves us halfway through. Once God seals us with the Holy Spirit, it indicates that we belong to Him; it means that we will belong to Him forever, and this fact can never be changed.
But this is not all. There is another very glorious gift, which is that we can have the power to be like Him. When God seals us, not only does it indicate that we belong to Him, but that we, the sealed ones, bear the image of His seal. We know that if we put a seal on soft wax, it will naturally bear the image of the seal. When we are sealed within by God with the Holy Spirit, we will have God’s nature and life. Such a nature and life are God-like. If we live according to them, we will have a living on earth that is God-like.
Many people are misled to think that they should try to improve and cultivate themselves and work hard before they can be like God, but this is not true. At the time we are saved, God has already made us like Him and given us something of Himself in our inner being. God has never commanded us to be like Him, because it is impossible for us to do it by ourselves. Yet we do have our responsibility, which is to express this image and not allow it to be covered by anything of the world. What a glorious truth that God’s seal is in us! By this seal, that is, the Holy Spirit, we can live out God’s life. With such a provision, nothing is impossible! Now we must realize that in us there is a treasure out of which we can bring forth many precious things.
As those who have the seal of God, our only responsibilities are, on the one hand, to reckon ourselves as being dead to sin and believe that everything that is against such an image has been dealt with by the Lord’s cross. On the other hand, we have to consecrate ourselves to God and let the Holy Spirit live out God’s life. When we fail and stumble, we still have not lost the image given by God’s seal; we have only covered up this image and not lived out a life that is of God.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 17: Notes on Scriptural Messages (1), Chapter 10, by Watchman Nee)