In my office desk is a treasured souvenir from a trip to Taiwan a few years ago. It is my very own “chop,” a small square seal that makes my official stamp of identification. The use of a chop is widespread in East Asia; in China and Japan it is commonly used instead of a signature on legal documents.
In ancient Mesopotamia the use of a personal seal dates back to at least 2000 years before Christ. Important people in the Old Testament used a seal to give authority to their documents (see Genesis 41:42; Esther 3:10). When they pressed their seal against warm wax or soft clay, it made an official imprint (see Job 38:14). Both the engraved device and the imprint or inked image it left were called a “seal.”
Herodotus, the ancient Greek writer known as the Father of History, assured his readers that in Babylon every man carried a seal and a staff. Soon the Greeks and the Romans—indeed, the entire Mediterranean world—were using some kind of seal. An owner used a seal to mark his personal possessions, his livestock, and his slaves. A seller put his seal on a bill of sale to mark it as authentic. A king placed his seal on every royal decree to give it imperial authority. A priest examined and approved an animal for sacrifice, then marked it with a seal.
The Greek verb that means “I seal” is sphragizo (sfrah GID zo). In the New Testament the Father “placed his seal of approval” on the Son, giving him divine authority (John 6:27). On all of us as believers, God has “set his seal of ownership” by putting the Spirit in our hearts (2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13). This seal, the indwelling presence of the Spirit, means we are stamped as belonging to God. In the day of redemption our seal will mark us as heirs (Eph 4:30), while all those who do not have God’s seal will face punishment (see Rev 7:3 and 9:4). What a blessing and privilege to be stamped, sealed, and certified as the children of God!