It is quite likely that you have seen a TV show or movie where a person writes a letter, folds it up, drips melted wax on the page overlap, and then presses a stamp or signet ring into the wax leaving an impression on the cooled wax. This was a form of security used on important documents throughout much of history. This seal provided two distinct but related services.
The first thing the seal does is prove the authenticity of the letter’s sender. Each important person or official would have their own engraved picture or emblem on a stamp or ring. So to get a letter with that impression in the sealing wax would provide proof that the letter was indeed from the person claiming to send it and not a forgery. Of course, that does assume that the person receiving the letter recognized the sender’s seal, otherwise it meant nothing.
The second service provided by the seal was a guarantee that the letter had not been tampered with. If someone opened and read the letter while in transit the seal would be broken. Then the recipient would then know that someone else had read the letter and knew of its contents. And the message of the letter could potentially have been tampered with.
Sealed by the Holy Spirit
Paul uses this image of the seal in Ephesians to describe a part of what the Holy Spirit does in the life of a believer
When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13b-14 NIV)
In this passage the Holy Spirit is the seal of God stamped onto all those who have believed. The Holy Spirit within is proof to me that I belong to God. And his presence should be a demonstration to other believers as well that I am God’s. But for those who are not themselves sealed by the Holy Spirit, the seal on our lives, like the unknown wax seal, has no value; to them, there is no possible proof of God’s ownership.
In the Ephesian passage, the seal is not so much a guarantee that the contents have not been tampered with. Instead, it is a promise guaranteeing the inheritance of those who are sealed. If I know the Holy Spirit’s presence in my life, I can rest assured that my future with God is secure. The Holy Spirit’s presence is the first deposit on that life, with the remainder coming at my redemption.
This sealing by the Holy Spirit is one of the spiritual blessings that Paul has been sharing. And it is one that I am very grateful for. With the Holy Spirit sealing my life, I do not have to live in doubt concerning my eternity. Instead, I can rest assured that God will provide, and I praise him for that.