Pastor Scott Andrews | January 22, 2023
I told you, recently, that the book of Revelation is a message of hope and encouragement. Undoubtedly, some of you thought, what? Really? Yeah, I mean, I’ve read to the end of the book, so I know the new heaven and new earth are coming. But the trip there is not hopeful, it’s not encouraging. Have you read the book, Scott? Have you listened to your sermons? Yeah, I’m the one who writes them.
Can I suggest that our problem might be one of perception. You see, many live by social media posts and memes – coffee cup theology. Cute little hope-filled sayings that make us feel good. And the truth is, many, maybe most of those hope-filled posts are just lies.
I’ve also recently mentioned several books I have read or am reading. Included in that list was a book by Alisa Childers, a self-described wife, mom, podcaster, blogger, and speaker. She was recently a guest speaker at Samaritan’s Purse, and I was introduced to her book, Another Gospel?, which I then devoured and now highly recommend. It chronicles her story of spending some time in a progressive church where the pastor was dismissing the orthodox truths of the Christian faith – literally deconstructing right before them. Abandoning the faith. Oh, he didn’t think so – he thought was improving that outdated religion – such that he and what he taught could not longer be called Christian.
Well, this week I was in Josh’s office, and he has selected several books by different authors which are worth reading for students in College Connection. Besides Another Gospel?, there was a new book by Childers entitled, Live Your Truth and Other Lies. I was intrigued and began reading it this week. So far, another homerun. I share this with you because some of my introductory thoughts come from her introductory thoughts in her newest book.
Again, we tend to live by those short, pithy, meaningful, positive, self-absorbed “truths” posted on social media. Some which on the surface may sound good – they certainly make us feel good. The challenge is, are they good – that is, are they true? They can’t be good if they’re not true. Is it possible that since we spend more time on social media than in the Word of God that our lives are shaped more by these mistruths than the enduring, faithful inspired truth of Scripture? Here’s some examples Childers gave – you’ve no doubt read them:
- (The title of the book) Live Your Truth
- Follow Your Heart
- Trust Your Instincts
- Be True to Yourself
- You Are Enough
Are those sayings true, helpful, biblical? The opposite is actually true. A.W. Tozer, who died in 1963 a year or two before Instagram, wrote,
“Too much of contemporary Christianity is borrowed from the philosophies of the world and even other religions—phrases and mottos that on the surface look great but are not rooted in Scripture or that mostly bolster one’s self-image.”
He wrote that in a book entitled The Crucified Life. Who would do that today? Jesus said it this way, “Deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow Me.” I wonder what Tozer would write now, some 60 years later. Here’s an incredibly important question – what guides your life – the philosophies of this world neatly packaged in memorable, self-focused sayings or the truth of God’s Word? You do understand God is both good and sovereign, and what He has planned for His people is altogether good, but maybe hard. To include the book of Revelation. To include suffering for the cause of Christ. Paul wrote in Philippians 3,
7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,
9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,
10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;
Well that needs to be deconstructed. He also wrote in Philippians 1:29, “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” What is wrong with you, Paul?
When the early apostles were arrested, flogged/beaten and threatened in Acts 5, they left rejoicing that they had been counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. On and on I could go, reminding us that Jesus promised His followers would be persecuted – and perfected by such persecution. The fellowship of His sufferings, transformed to His image.
But, the self-help gurus of today – even Christian ones – espouse a different philosophy – dare I say, contrary to Scripture. Girl, wash your face. You are exactly enough, just as you are. God wants you to be healthy and wealthy. Happy. And so, if the situation in which you find yourself does not make you happy – your marriage, your job, your church – then get out. Again, is it possible we are guided more by the world’s philosophies concerned with momentary happiness than eternal joy.
So, in that sense, the book of Revelation is a book of hope and encouragement. It is not a book of social media, really bad theology. We are in a three-chapter interlude in which John is backing up a bit to paint a centuries-long picture of the battle in which we find ourselves. A battle that is for our good. Not just the ultimate victory promised – but the battle itself. You see, we have found truths like, Jesus overcame Satan by His blood – by the cross – by being the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. And we are finding that we, His followers, overcome Satan the same way – certainly by the blood of Christ, but then in following Him, also by our suffering, maybe even death. But that likely won’t sell on a coffee cup. What does that do for your heart in this self-absorbed, live for number one, I am good enough world?
Here are two questions I want to ask you today – the answers of which reveal the destiny of your eternal soul – life with or apart from Christ. First, whose mark, whose seal will you bear; and second, will you be able to sing the song of the redeemed? Read the text with me, Revelation 14:1-5.
We know we are being introduced to the key players at the end of time in this age-old, unfolding drama of redemption. In chapter 12, we met the dragon, and saw his hatred of the woman, the seed/child of the women, and her other children – who hold to the testimony of Jesus. And we saw these startling words, “And they [that is, the brothers] overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives even when faced with death.”
Satan met his eternal defeat at the cross of Jesus Christ. I’ve said it a hundred times – the cross was not Satan’s victory, but his defeat. And we overcome him by our faith in the cross and resurrection – even if it means our own suffering and death. We don’t love our lives even when faced with death. Wait just a minute – that doesn’t fit social media, coffee cup theology. No, it doesn’t. It fits the Bible. The body they may kill, His truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.
This is good news, you see. And so, we are being introduced to the key players in the culmination of this war of good and evil when good triumphs and wins. But we also found the unholy triumvirate – the dragon, the beast from the sea, and the beast from the earth. That is, Satan, the Antichrist and the False Prophet.
And it’s as if John knows – well the Spirit directs him as he pens the book – he knows that there has been much wrath, mayhem, destruction, and death. And he knows we need some encouragement along the way – a reminder this is all according to God’s good plan. Even the battle, potential martyrdom, is for our good.
Which, by the way, someone asked me last week – if it is true we are going through the tribulation, and we are to long for the return of Christ, we even are saying, even so, come quickly Lord Jesus – in a sense, are we not asking for this suffering of tribulation to come? Why yes, yes we are. What better way to go than to die for Christ? There’s a hot-selling coffee cup for you.
Well, we need to meet some key players on the good side. Now, you must remember this battle is not, has not, nor ever will be a fair fight. God’s good plan for His people and for His glory is unfolding. The end has never been in doubt. And so here, we are reminded of the Lamb standing, now on Mount Zion, and with Him, the 144,000. At the very end of time, the Lamb will stand victorious with His people. Oh, we still have the seven bowl judgments – God’s wrath being poured out on rebellious earth dwellers who refuse to repent and declare their allegiance to Christ. Oh no, they are marked with the beast, and belong squarely, and eternally, to him.
And so, we still have the seven bowl judgments, the battle of Armageddon, the fall of Babylon, representing all civilization that is, in its evil, arrayed against God. The victory of the Lamb, the marriage supper of the Lamb, the coming of Christ – before Satan and his antichrist and false prophet are thrown forever into the lake of fire. Then will come the new heaven and new earth. You see, when I summarize it quickly like that – it is a message of hope.
So John, throughout this book, drops in these words of encouragement – hear them as John saying, hold on, the end is coming, and God wins. Here’s the outline of the text:
- The Company on Mount Zion (1)
- The Song of Heaven (2-3)
- Those (Alone) Who Learn the Song (4-5)
As usual, your system of theology determines the interpretation of the text. For example, is Mount Zion God’s dwelling in heaven, or is it literally on earth, the Mount Zion of Jerusalem? Is it in the eternal state in eternity future, or is it during the millennial kingdom? Are the 144,000 in heaven or on earth, and once again, who are they? Here, only Jewish males, or representative of all believers? It’s a challenge, but here we go.
This chapter is clearly outlined for us with three “then I looked” statements – three visions comprising the chapter (1,6,14). It’s a great chapter that contrasts the future of believers with earth dwellers, unbelievers. It contrasts the future glory of saints with the future harvest and judgment of sinners. Most agree that verses 1-5 – the Lamb standing on Mount Zion – is indeed sometime in the future. John is holding out or reminding us of the hope to come.
Then I looked, and behold – that’s an exclamation of wonder – and behold, the Lamb – stop right there. We’ve already seen the Lamb at significant times through the book. Back in chapter 5, John turned to see the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the only one worthy to take the book from the hand of God, and open its seals. As he turned, he saw, not a lion, but a Lamb standing, as if slain. He watched as the Lamb took the book, and the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb, and they sang a new song, “Worthy are You to take the book and break the seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign on the earth.”
Then I looked, and heard the voice of myriads and myriads of angels around throne with the four living creatures and the 24 elders saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” Then every created thing throughout the universe says it, “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”
I’d say the Lamb takes a central place. In chapter 6, He opens the seals one by one. In chapter 7, the first interlude, after the sealing of the 144,000, there was a great multitude which no one could count clothed in white robes, made white by the blood of the Lamb, crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
In chapter 8, the Lamb opens the seventh seal, revealing the seven trumpets. In chapters 8 and 9, we have the seven trumpets. In chapters 10 and 11, we have the first interlude – with the little book John is told to take and eat, which is sweet to his mouth, but bitter in his stomach – a reminder of the sweetness of the gospel, and the suffering to come. We saw the two witnesses who will do their work for 1260 days – likely the last half of the tribulation. And we saw their deaths, and resurrections as they were called up to heaven.
Bringing us to the seventh trumpet and the next three-chapter interlude – chapters 12-14. And the Lamb takes a central place as the key figure at the end of the last days. Yes, the dragon, the Antichrist and the False Prophet are on the scene. Big deal. We look to the future to see the Lamb still standing – now on Mount Zion. As I suggested, some see this as God’s dwelling place in heaven – the new heaven that will descend to earth. After all, Hebrews 12 says, “But you have come to Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and the church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood…”
There are other passages throughout Scripture that speak of Mount Zion being the dwelling place of God in heaven. But, to be sure, there is and was an earthly Mount Zion – Jerusalem and its surroundings. This could indeed be speaking of the future when the Lamb stands on the earthly Mount Zion at the end of days – some would suggest during the Millennial Kingdom. Most of us are at least familiar with Psalm 2, which reads,
1 Why are the nations in an uproar
And the peoples devising a vain thing?
2 The kings of the earth take their stand
And the rulers take counsel together
Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us tear their fetters apart
And cast away their cords from us!”
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs,
The Lord scoffs at them.
5 Then He will speak to them in His anger
And terrify them in His fury, saying,
6 “But as for Me, I have installed My King
Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”
That seems to be the earthly Mount Zion. We’ll come back to that in a few chapters. But notice, Jesus is standing, undefeated, with the 144,000. We saw back in chapter 7 that the 144,000 were sealed by God – which speaks of His ownership and protection – better, security. If in this vision, they are in heaven, they were perhaps martyred for their faith – but that martyrdom did not keep them from the presence of God. We’ve said many times, the worst Satan and the earth dwellers can do to believers is kill them physically – and speed their way to the presence of God. If they are standing on the earth, they have perhaps survived the tribulation – or perhaps come back with Christ at the end of the tribulation.
Now, back in chapter 7, they were 12 thousand from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. I suggested they were perhaps actual Jews who had come to faith in Christ, but they represent all believers. I think the same here – they represent all believers. Here’s the point I don’t want you to miss. There were 144,000 sealed, and in the future, there will be 144,000 standing on Mount Zion with the Lamb – meaning, none of them are missing. None. Because in John 6, Jesus said all that the Father has given will come to Me, and Jesus promised that He will lose none of those the Father has given Him. None means none. If you belong to God through the work of Son, you too will stand in the last days. You don’t have to worry about being deceived by the Antichrist. You will not worship him, nor will you take his mark.
Look at the end of verse 1 – instead of having the mark of the beast, these have His name, the Lamb’s name, and the name of His Father on their foreheads. We are supposed to notice contrast. You see, there were no chapter divisions when this book was written. We go right from the mark of the beast, the number of a man whose number is 666, straight to Mount Zion and the 144,000, who in contrast to the mark of the beast, have the seal of the Lamb and the Father. And I asked you at the beginning – whose mark will you have? Whose name will you bear? If you declare your allegiance to the Lamb, expressing faith in the Lamb and His work, you will be sealed by the name of the Father and the Lamb. If you do not, you will be marked by the beast. Whose mark will you have, whose mark do you have? The answer determines the destiny of your eternal soul.
Bringing us to the Song of Heaven in verses 2 and 3. Some point out that verse 1 is on earth – Mount Zion – while verses 2 and 3 are a voice from heaven. Look at it – John heard a voice from heaven, and three times he says like: the voice was like the sound of many waters and like the sound of thunder, and like the sound of harpists playing their harps. This voice he heard was at the same time loud, powerful, and beautiful. And with the sound like a powerful chorus of harps, they – we’re not sure who they are – they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders.
Lots of discussion about they. They sing before the throne – that is, to God. And the four living creatures and 24 elders don’t sing – they listen. The implication is, they don’t know the song. Only those who know it sing it. And they are those who apparently – my interpretation – those who have experienced the truth of the song – the truth of redemption – the truth of rescue – only those could sing the song.
This idea of a new song is found throughout Scripture – especially in the Psalms – and it is a song sung by those who have experienced a new deliverance from the Lord. They sing a new song to the Lord. Here, the 144,000 – I think representative of all believers – are able to learn and sing the song. I believe it to be the song of redemption. People – not living creatures, not angels – people created in the image of God, who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, will be able to sing the song. Those who have been redeemed – purchased – bought back – that’s what redeemed means. That’s the second question I began with – will you be able to sing the song of the Lamb – the song of the redeemed? Have you accepted the work of Christ and received His name?
You see, in I Peter 1, Peter talks about those who preached the gospel to us by the Holy Spirit. This is a gospel for fallen people – those alone created in God’s image, but who rebelled. Peter goes on to say, these truths of the gospel are things into which angels long to look. The implication is they cannot. The gospel is not for them. It is for you. You, and you alone, will be able to sing the song of the Lamb – the song of redemption. Again, will you be able to sing it?
In verses 4 and 5, John gives a further description of the 144,000. Again, some suggest this is a specific group of Jewish believers only who have been sealed by God. May be. But many also hold that they represent all believers of all time. And they are described in the following ways:
These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste, or more literally, they are virgins. Some want to take that literally – the 144,000 are only celibate men. It’s possible I suppose – but that seems to imply that marriage is defiling, impure, and yet, the NT defends marriage. More likely, I think, they represent all believers – men and women who have not defiled themselves – that is, with sexual immorality. But what does that mean? Throughout Scripture, those who have been involved in idolatry are spoken of as those who have committed spiritual adultery. They have rejected the true God and followed after false gods. The earth dwellers just a few verses before this had done so – they had worshiped the beast and received his mark. And then we remember what Paul said about the church as the bride of Christ – in a number of places – but look at II Corinthians 11,
2 For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.
These had kept themselves pure – in the face of severe persecution. They had been sealed by God – the name of the Father and the Lamb are on their foreheads. When compelled to worship the beast – after all, the rest of the world was – and take his mark – they had refused. They remained unpolluted – they remained faithful. They alone are the redeemed.
Second, not only did they not worship the beast, they follow the Lamb wherever He goes. You see, he who would be My follower must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. And where did He go? To death. It’s possible this is referring to those who were martyred for not taking the mark, and were therefore killed by the beast. So what? They remained faithful and followed Jesus wherever He took them, whatever it cost them.
And they followed, you see, because they had been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb. We see the idea of redemption again. To be redeemed is to be bought – purchased out of the slave market, for example. To buy your freedom from slavery or perhaps purchased back, redeemed as a captive of war. Here, both are true. People are in the slave market of sin, they are held captive by the enemy. And the price for freedom is too high to be paid. So Jesus paid it all, all to Him owe. Sin had left a crimson stain – He washed it white as snow. He purchased us – redeemed us and thereby reconciled us to the Father.
Notice the word first fruits. It’s an interesting word and usually means the first of a bounty – the first of many more to come. For example, in His resurrection, Jesus is the first fruit – the first of many more to come. But it also speaks of that which is separate from the rest. That seems to be the idea here – they were purchased from among men – separate, first fruits to God and to the Lamb. Here’s a question: why did He purchase you? One answer – simply grace.
Finally, they are described as those with no lie found in their mouth and they are blameless. In the context, they have not been found with the lies of the evil one. They did not exchange the truth of God for a lie. They made no compromises with the world or with Satan. They have not declared their allegiance to the beast – they are blameless – made so because their robes have been washed white in the blood of the Lamb.
And so again the questions: whose mark will you have, and will you be able to sing the song of the redeemed? Consider this as I close. Those who reject the mark of the beast here and receive Christ may die here, and live for eternity. Those who receive the mark of the beast here and reject Christ may live here, and die the second death for eternity. Will you sing the song of the redeemed?