Revelation 043 – Three EssentialsRevelation 14:1-7 • Dr. Andy Woods • June 23, 2019 • Revelation
Dr. Andy Woods
Three Essentials 6-23-19
Revelation 14:1-7 Lesson 43
Let’s take our Bibles and open them to the Book of Revelation, chapter 14. As you’re turning there, I just want to acknowledge a couple of things that took place last week. The first is the passing of Ursula Kemp, who was a member of Sugar Land Bible Church and long before she became connected with Sugar Land Bible Church she had what I could best describe as a transgenerational ministry in this city. In fact, many people have come to this church shocked to discover Ursula Kemp came here and talked about how they were ministered to her in her home; she taught children in her home for years when they were but kids. And so we all loved Ursula, we appreciate Ursula, but she’s in a better place because “absent from the body is to be” what? “present with the Lord.” You should have gotten something in your inbox related to the memorial service, funeral that’s going to be held this week, not here but at another location.
And also please be in prayer for our youth who are traveling to the Answers in Genesis Noah’s Ark. Have you guys heard of that, Noah’s Ark… where is that, Kentucky, Cincinnati, somewhere? They’re having fun at any rate. But I think that’s a healthy thing because we’re communicating to our youth that Genesis 1-11 is actual history, there really was a Garden of Eden, there really was a Adam, there really was a flood, there really was a ark that saved eight people. And so, it’s sort of a place where you can go and learn about the science and all of that associated with that historical event. But just pray for traveling mercies and that the Lord would deepen the convictions of our youth, that they need not shrink away from the Bible or be embarrassed by the Bible; everything the Bible says is true. Amen!
Let’s take our Bibles and turn in them to the Book of Revelation, chapter 14. And as we’re doing that my slides say “Angelology,” you guys don’t want to hear that probably because we covered that earlier. So, let’s go over to Revelation 14. The title of our message this morning is Three Essentials. What is life all about? If someone has lived a wise life or a good life what exactly does that mean? And I think in our passage this morning we’re going to see three essentials that really make up a life well lived.
But the context of all of these things is Revelation 14, the tribulation judgments, particularly the manifestation of trumpet seven; once that trumpet is sounded there’s a legal transfer happening; the kingdom of this world is becoming the kingdom of our Christ, of our God and His Christ. And what is happening in the Book of Revelation is the ownership of the world is being transferred legally from Satan’s grasp back to the grasp of God and He will install His Son, Jesus Christ, to reign on the earth. And the high point in the Book is that coming reign of Jesus which is described in Revelation 20.
But before that reign can happen the usurper of the earth has to be evicted. And that’s what’s happening with these various judgments. And that’s why Revelation 11:15 says, “The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our LORD and of His Christ.” And let me tell you something, Satan doesn’t like it, he doesn’t want to be evicted. And so what we see described in Revelation 12-14 is what I would think is really the last stand of Satan. This is his last attempt really to assert his own will over that of the Creator and hold on in terms of the countermove to the eviction process that’s happening. And we saw in chapter 12 how Satan tried to blot the nation, the nation of Israel through which the kingdom will come. What a great way to stop the manifestation of the kingdom than to destroy the instrument through which the kingdom will come, the nation of Israel, chapter 12.
And then from there we moved into chapter 13 where we got an in-depth description of the two human beings that Satan will use during this terrible time period. Those are the two beasts; the first beast, the antichrist being what we would call a political ruler. The second beast or the false prophet being what we would call a religious ruler, and how the Bible just difficulties massive amounts of information about these two people that Satan will be using mightily in his last stand.
And Satan’s attempt to assert authority over the earth in a counter move against God is so radical and it’s so severe that if you were just to have chapter 13 in your Bible by itself you would become very despondent because it looks an awful lot like Satan has the upper hand. It looks an awful lot like Satan is winning. Do you ever feel that way in your life, evil always seems to triumph; evil always seems to get its way? And if you live your life with that point of view you become very hopeless, lacking hope, in the Christian life that things can ever get better. And so we are people that desperately need hope.
And that’s why we have chapter 14 which follows chapter 13. Chapter 14 is at the darkest time in human history. God is still very much in control, everything that’s happening is being orchestrated towards His predetermined plan. And that’s how to interpret events in your own life. Things can get very difficult, things can get very dark, things can become very frustrating but there’s always that glimmer of hope. And if that glimmer of hope ever disappears we become very despondent. And we are people that desperately need hope so what we have in chapter 14 are six scenes of hope.
We know a scene is changing many times because John will say “I saw,” and something new happens. Or it will say an angel, or another angel did this or that and that’s also a clue that the scenery is changing. And so, by my count there are six scenes of hope here. Number one, the destiny of the 144,000, verses 1-5. Number two, as bad as it gets, an angel is proclaiming the gospel all over the earth, verses 6-7. Number three, the height of the antichrist’s empire, the zenith of it, Babylon, is destined to be destroyed, verse 8. Number four, what about all of those who have aligned themselves with the beast and the beast’s system? Their doom is described, verses 9-12.
Number five, what about people that die during the time period? There will be many martyrs. What we learn in verse 13 is actually when a person dies a great favor has been done for them because absent from the body is to be what? Present with the Lord. It was somewhat painful to my wife and myself to visit Ursula this last week or the week before, just prior to her death, and even though she has proof read many of my papers, although we were very good strong companions in terms of theology, talking about theology with each other constantly, it was painful to observe that the, in the room, really didn’t recognize who we were. And it’s such a wonderful thing to have the perspective of the Bible that the moment she passed is the moment the Lord brought His angels to escort her to heaven. She’s in a far better place now. And so death actually is doing someone a favor, verse 13.
And then finally God is not unaware of the evil that’s happening on the earth. In fact, He’s going to bring a great judgment harvest at the battle of Armageddon, verses 14-16 where the blood of the evildoers will flow as high as the horses’ bridles for 200 miles… payday someday! God is aware of all of the evil that’s happening in our world.
And then these statements are what we would call proleptic in the sense that they haven’t yet transpired in our sequence as we’ve studied the Book of Revelation but they eventually will come because God is still in control. Amen! So let’s see if we can work through some of these scenes this morning; I’m not sure how far we’ll get.
But notice verses 1-5, the destiny of the 144,000. We have their appearance, verse 1; their song, verses 2-3, and then you move into verses 4 and 5 and you have some tremendous information about their sanctification, and there what we’re talking about is their walk with the Lord. And if I look at their walk with the Lord I say oh, Lord, I just would love to have a walk with you like these 144,000.
But notice, if you will, their appearance, they show up there in verse 1 in Revelation 14 and notice what it says. It says, “Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him 144,000 having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads.’: Now who are these 144,000? We’ve already been introduced to them, haven’t we, in Revelation 7. These are those who were sealed by God, the mark of the Holy Spirit was placed upon them and they were used of God, and continue to be used of God to spread the gospel throughout the whole world during the tribulation period. We refer to them as the 144,000 Jewish evangelist; 12,000 descending from each of the twelve tribes.
And it’s interesting that it describes them here proleptically futuristically standing on Mt. Zion. Now it’s interesting to me that there are probably two major views on what this means, “standing on Mount Zion.” One commentator goes one way and one commentator goes the other way. So let me give you the two views.
The first view is that this Mount Zion is millennial Mount Zion; it’s the Mount Zion that will exist during the thousand-year kingdom. We know that such a place exists; you’ll see it in Isaiah 2:3. During the thousand-year reign of Christ the law of the Lord will go forth from where? Zion, and “the word of the LORD from Jerusalem,” Jerusalem being a synonym for Mount Zion. [Isaiah 2:3, “Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.’ The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.”] And so many people say these 144,000 survive the tribulation period and there they are in the millennial kingdom praising Jesus Christ and praising the Lamb.
Another viewpoint though is that Mount Zion here is not an earthly Mount Zion but it’s a heavenly Mount Zion. And it’s interesting that when you study the Book of Revelation whenever there is an earthly entity in God, a temple, a tabernacle, Mount Zion, those same things exist already in heaven. We know of a heavenly Mount Zion from Hebrews 12:22. It says, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels,” so one view says the hope is that the 144,000 survive the tribulation period and they’re there with Jesus in the millennial kingdom. Another view says no, the 144,000 are now in heaven with Jesus Christ. I, if I had to pick between the two views I guess I would pick the later view because when you go down to verse 3 it sort of describes this scenery a little bit, doesn’t it.
It says, [Revelation 14:3] “They sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders and no one could learn the song except the 144, 000 who had been redeemed from the earth.” Verse 1 says, “They’re with the Lamb.” [Revelation 14:1, “Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144, 000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.”]
And isn’t it interesting that as you go through the Book of Revelation the Lamb (Jesus) is in heaven. Revelation 3:21, Jesus says to the church at Laodicea, “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” Where is Jesus right now? He’s on the Father’s throne in heaven.
Verse 3 goes on and it mentions four living creatures and twenty-four elders and as you go through the Book of Revelation these folks were always in heaven. [Revelation 14:3, “And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been purchased from the earth.”] And so since that’s part of the scenery I guess I would have to say that the 144,000 are in the presence of the Lord at a heavenly Mount Zion.
It is interesting that Ezekiel 9:4-5 mentions marks on people and if they’re given a mark they’re survivors. “Ezekiel 9:4-5, “The LORD said to him, “Go through the midst of the city, even through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst.”  But to the others He said in my hearing, “Go through the city after him and strike; do not let your eye have pity and do not spare.”]
We see a similar mark placed on the 144,000. I don’t think the mark indicates that they live forever, what I think it indicates is they continue to live until their task is completed. At some point they’ve reached their destiny in terms of their task of blanketing the world with the gospel. And God, at that time, allows them to depart and to get into heaven. But it’s very interesting to note, how did they get into heaven? We’re not told but there’s a pretty good likelihood that they were martyred and got into heaven that way. And you say well how was that a victory? It’s a victory because no matter what happens to the child of God heaven is waiting. That’s something that the devil can never snatch; it’s something that the devil can never take away and in fact Jesus came into the world to remove from us the fear of death, which has placed men and women in bondage all of their lives, Hebrews 2:15. [Hebrews 2:15, “and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.”]
And what we learn is that you know what? Death is not something to be afraid of. For the child of God or for the believer death is not the end; death is the beginning. Death is just a transfer, if you will. And so these 144,000 certainly may have been killed by the beast because of their evangelistic activity but as the Bible says, “absent from the body is to be” what, “present with the Lord.”
[2 Corinthians 5:8, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”]
In fact, Paul not only said that in 2 Corinthians 5:8 but in Philippians 1:21-23 he says, “For me to live is Christ and to die is” what? “gain.  But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose.  But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better;” My daughter and I in our housing tract where we live we just do a little walk at the end of the day, in the cool of the day and she sometimes will ask me questions and this week she asked me this question; she says well what is heaven like exactly? You know, it’s amazing, you know that show, Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader or something like that? It’s amazing how kids can reveal how ignorant we are about things. I mean a kid asks about why is there bad things, why do bad things happen to good people, and where did Satan come from and can you explain the Trinity and these kinds of things.
So, what is heaven like exactly? Well I really didn’t have a specific description in mind other than this verse, Philippians 1:23, where Paul says, “to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better;” I said whatever it is it’s better, it’s better than what we have here, and consequently it’s not something to be fearful of.
So it’s interesting to me that this grace is being bestowed upon these 144,000 amidst the darkness and the difficulty and the enslavement of the human race that we saw last week when men have to receive the mark on their right hand or their forehead simply to participate in the global economy. In fact, what does it say here at the end of verse 1? “[Revelation 14:1, “Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads.”] What God is saying to these 144,000 thousand is don’t worry about the satanic marking system; God says I’ve got a marking system of My own, My name, the name of the Father is written on your forehead.
And this is not just true of the 144,000, it’s true of you as well. The moment you trust that Jesus Christ is your personal Savior the mark of God was placed on you. Ephesians 1:13 says, “We were sealed with Him in the spirit of promise.” [Ephesians 1:13, “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.”] And can that mark ever disappear? Ephesians 4:30 says no because we are sealed unto the day of” what? “the day of redemption.” [Ephesians 4:30, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”]
When something is marked in the Bible it’s someone saying that’s something that belongs to me. That’s my property. This is why Satan in the work of the beast and the mark of the beast is marking the whole human race in his last stand against God, he’s saying these people belong to me. And yet we find this mark on the 144,000 where God says no Satan, these ones here don’t belong to you, they belong to Me! And this mark is placed on every single child of God today even in the church age, Ephesians 1:13. And so no matter what happens to you in your life, good or bad, you’re God’s special possession. You are God’s special property and therefore even death itself is not something that the believer needs to be fearful of, because just like the 144,000 upon being martyred went to heavenly Mount Zion, the Bible is very clear that absent from the body is to be present with the LORD.” 2 Corinthians 5:8, [“We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”]
What a way to live, understanding that Satan can only go so far and do so much; he can’t distract from the fact that you belong to God and he certainly cannot interfere with your fast track unto divine glory. That’s a done deal. And so with that we can praise the Lord. And consequently that’s what these 144,000 begin to do; they begin to praise the Lord.
And we have a description here, moving away from their appearance to their song. They have a special song that they sing. Notice, if you will verse 2, it says, “And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps.” You’ll notice the repetition of “like.” John keeps saying as he’s given this vision on the Isle of Patmos back in the first century, it was “like,” it was “like,” it was “like,” and he’s using similes to describe a vision in which God simply said I’m going to disclose this vision to you and I want you to write it down.
It mentions here the waters, verse 2, “I heard a voice … like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder,” and I’m thinking of Psalm 29:3, which describes God’s voice just that way. It says, “The voice of the LORD is upon the waters; The God of glory thunders, The LORD is over many waters.” And it mentions here harpists and harps in heaven. Revelation 15:2 talks about musical instruments like harps and harpists in heaven. It says in Revelation 15:2, “And I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, holding harps of God.”
And we get a description of their specific song there in verse 3, it says, “And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn from the song except the 144,000 who had been purchased from the earth.” We start to get a description of their song. You know, it’s kind of interesting to me how important music is to God. We just had a worship service in terms of music a little earlier, prior to the sermon. Unfortunately, a lot of time we kind of look at that, myself included, as just sort of a ritual to get through but the reality is music and musical instruments and singing and all of these kinds of things are very important to God. In fact, if you don’t like to praise the Lord in song you probably won’t be that happy in heaven and you probably won’t be that happy hanging around these 144,00 who are singing this new song unto the Lord.
There’s a verse in the Bible, it’s one of these verses that kind of get tossed in there that we kind of skip over but it’s dealing with the passion narratives and the Garden of Gethsemane experience and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and His betrayal and how all of those things were imminent in His life there towards the very end of His earthly life. And it says this is Matthew 26:30; it says, “After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” And before all of these prophesied events happened Jesus sort of pictures it this way, gathered together this little tiny group of disciples and together they sort of broke out into praise; they broke out into a hymn, they broke out into a song.
And it shows you in the midst of the severity of those events that music and singing actually continues on. And the song is a new song that they sang and apparently, it’s a song that’s personal between Jesus and the 144,000. You know people will sometimes ask me questions, like what did they sing? And my answer is well how am I supposed to know, it’s a personal song, it’s a song between them and Christ. And that’s who Jesus is, He’s personal. He’s not a generic God that just simply died for the sins of the world generically but He is a God that wants a personal relationship with people and different groups of people, even these 144,000 there’s a song taking place that’s only known to that group between them and Jesus Christ.
I hope you see the Lord that way in your life. The Bible says in Matthew 10 that the very hairs on our head are numbered. [Matthew 10:30, “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”] That’s how much God is intimately interested, not just in people as a whole but you as a person. And in fact, I believe this, that if you were the only person on the face of the earth the death, burial and ascension of Jesus Christ would have happened none the less because God cares about you as a person. He wants a personal relationship with YOU! And how do you have a personal relationship with anybody? Well, you’ve got to keep communication open; if you stop communicating with each other you can’t have a relationship with somebody. That’s like saying oh, my best friend is so and so but we haven’t talked in ten years. Well, you might want to rethink whether they’re your best friend, because you can’t have a friendship without communication.
How do you keep the chain of communication open between you and God? Well, one way is through prayer, that’s you way of communicating to God. The second way is by staying in His Word, that’s the primary way that God communicates to us. If your marriage is struggling and having problems and you go to a marriage counsellor, if that marriage counsellor is worth their salt at all they will ask you what are your channels of communication like in your marriage. Or have you been sort of walled off from each other, he’s doing his thing, she’s doing her thing, the two of you are never really interacting with each other, never really communicating with each other. We can get like that with God, can’t we? Or we can get in one-way conversations where we do all the talking, we pray and pray and pray and never get into His Word and let Him talk to us. Or we let Him do all the talking, we study and study and study and never pray to Him.
A healthy relationship involves two-way communication. And a healthy relationship always involves keeping close or short accounts. It’s easy for us to offend the people we love; it’s very easy for us to hurt the people that we love the most. And when we do that we just keep a very close short account and we say at the end of the day I’m sorry I did this or I’m sorry I did that and it’s that kind of thing is not happening in any relationship a wedge develops and the two of you are driven apart.
And that’s how it is with the Lord, because we sin against the Lord, even as Christians. Amen! I didn’t hear too loud of an “Amen” there, am I talking to the right crowd this morning? We sin against the Lord and we can alienate the Lord. And what do we do in those moments of sin? We, as 1 John 1:9 we confess our sins to Him. [1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”] He is faithful and just to forgive us, He doesn’t get us saved again, He restores fellowship which has been broken because of unconfessed sin. You know, Christianity is not that complicated; the personal relationship with the Lord is what the Lord wants and it’s obviously what the Lord has here with this 144,000. There’s a song that they’re singing that’s very personal between them and Jesus Christ.
And then you ask yourself what are they singing for exactly? Why do we sing? Verse 3, it says, “And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand” now as you get to the end of this verse you see the reason why they’re singing, they “had been purchased from the earth.” What exactly is worship? Worship is a response to truth. You hear truth or read of truth in the Bible, which is so profound and life changing that the only thing you can really do as a person in response to that truth, as your heart wells up with gratitude is simply sing to the Lord, publicly praise the Lord, publicly worship the Lord.
I mean, why are they singing this song? It’s right there at the end of verse 3, because they “had been purchased,” they had been redeemed. What does that mean they “had been purchased”? Someone paid a price. Well why did someone have to pay a price for them? Because they were in a state of enslavement a price was paid which liberated them from bondage; they were praising the Lord on account of that and don’t we have the same thing? I mean, aren’t we sitting here today in freedom from sin and guilt and damnation and hell and eternal retribution because Jesus Christ, the second member of the Godhead paid the purchase price for us? Isn’t that a theological and positional reality? Do we really understand what we have? I mean, if we understood that why aren’t we people of praise? Why aren’t we people of worship? Why aren’t we people that just sort of explode into audible and verbal gratitude for what the Lord has done. And so these 100,440 in heavenly Mount Zion sort of served for us as a role model of what true worship is, which is simply a response to truth.
And then you move down into verses 4-5 and you see the walk they had with the Lord. I call this their sanctification or their progressive sanctification. I think there’s at least five things here. First of all, notice their virginity. Look, if you will, at verse 4, Revelation 14:4, it says, “These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These are those who have been purchased from among men as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb. Verse 5, “And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless.” What a convicting walk of the Lord these 144,000 had. I look at that and I say Lord, in Your providence and in Your grace can you make me just like this.
But notice some of the scriptures, their virginity not “defiled with women.” Now most of the Bible commentators that you will read at this point will go over to 1 Corinthians 7:25-35 and they’ll talk about the advantages of the single state. [1 Corinthians 7:25, Now concerning virgins I have no command of the Lord, but I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy.  I think then that this is good in view of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain as he is.  Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife.  But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you.  But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none;  and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess;  and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away.  But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord;  but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife,  and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband.  This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but [e]to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.”]
And it is true that marriage is a God ordained institution and there’s no doubt about that and there are many blessings associated with marriage. But the other thing to understand is there’s a lot of advantages associated with being a single person. When I was a single person I could do things for God that I cannot do as a married person, and vice versa. And I think so many times people that are single see themselves as deficient, why is everybody else married and I’m not. Well the solution to that one is just go talk to all the married people and see how happy they are. The reality of the situation is God has you as a single person for this season in your life for a reason. Embrace that! Don’t feel like you’re somehow less of a person or you’ve missed the will of God because there are things you can do as a single person that you can’t do as a married person.
You know, when I was single I could completely, in an unhindered way, give myself totally to the study of the Word of God which I really can’t do as a married person. And I really wasn’t all that concerned about my apartment or what it looked like; if you walked into that place you would think it was like a fraternity house but I thought it was great, I really did. I didn’t have all of the fancy accoutrements and fancy furniture and I didn’t have to work hard to pay all the bills for all these things, I could just be with the Lord and I could study with the Lord and then I met my wife and she came over and I said isn’t this great! And she said no it’s not…. [laughter] and so things began to change for the better, I’m not complaining, for the better.
But the fact of the matter is I was able to do certain things as a single person that I can’t do as a married person. And there are certain things you can do as a married person that you can’t do as a single person. And that’s why in 1 Corinthians 7 what does Paul say? He says, “be content in whatever circumstance you’re in.” And so this may be a reference to these 144,000, the ministry that they had because they weren’t encumbered by the marriage and family which brings a natural division, Paul says 1 Corinthians 7. So that may be the explanation here related to their virginity.
But let me give you another possibility; this may not be an either/or but a both/and. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11:2-3, to the Corinthians, “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.  But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” You know, as Paul was talking about the Corinthians relationship to the Lord in his early stages he describes it as spiritual virginity, purity! And so we are the bride of Christ, are we now? And so as we walk out our lives as the bride of Christ we begin to be separated from the things of the world; we become pure spiritually, tactically speaking, much like a virgin. So is this talking about their physical virginity? Possibly. Is it talking about their spiritual virginity? Possibly, but whatever the case is they were completely and holy consecrated and dedicated unto the Lord.
Notice their loyalty. It’s an amazing statement here about their loyalty to Jesus. Verse 4, it says, “These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste.” It says, “These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes.” I have to tell you that as I was reading this this week it was somewhat convicting. I mean, does that mean do I follow Jesus wherever He goes. I have to say that many times I’m very quick to assert my own will over the will of Jesus Christ. And this is the difference that the Bible draws between being saved or justified and becoming a disciple of Christ. You know, the whole confusion related to Lordship salvation, we’ve talked about that many times at this church, it’s sort of related to people trying to merge the two together. The fact of the matter is they are two different things. Being saved by work of grace, by faith alone is completely different than the walk of discipleship.
Charlie Bing in this chart sums it up. Justification is received through faith. Discipleship is costly; it’s entered into through commitment and obedience by the Spirit’s enablement. Justification is not by works but discipleship you’ve got to cooperate with the Lord under His power. Justification is instant; discipleship, wow, that’s a life-long process. Justification is justification, discipleship we call progressive sanctification. In justification Jesus paid the price. But as you become a disciple what you learn is there are things that the Lord wants you to give up. There are things in your hand that you’re holding onto tightly that the Lord touches those hands and says that belongs to Me, give that up! Now I’ve discovered that the more I yield unto God He replaces them with something better over the course of time. But there are things where I’m always holding onto and the Lord says no, that needs to be yielded to me under My power. And so we begin to pay a price, in a sense, in discipleship.
Justification is trusting in Jesus as Savior. Discipleship is following Jesus as Lord. Justification occurs when you believe the gospel. Discipleship starts to happen when you take the commands of God given to the Christian and you begin to obey those commands under His power on a moment by moment basis. Justification is the satisfaction of one condition… to believe! Discipleship there are multiple conditions. Justification is experienced by all Christians but discipleship is experienced by some. Justification results in eternal life; discipleship results in rewards, authority and fruitfulness in this life. [Adapted from http://www.gracelife.org/resources/gracenotes.asp?id=23]
And I don’t think in modern day evangelicalism we distinguish those enough and consequently people merge the two together and they hold out unto the Law what looks like a works-oriented gospel when in reality the whole controversy can be resolved simply by recognizing these two tenses of salvation. And these 144,000 Jewish evangelists had grown in their relationship to the Lord to the point where they were disciples of the Lord, even unto death. And consequently, they follow the Lord wherever He goes.” David Hocking, in his commentary on the Book of Revelation, which I’m enjoying, says this, concerning the 144,000. He says, “They are willing to go anywhere the Lord wanted them to go and to do whatever He wanted them to do. What marvelous examples they are to all of us who seek to follow our Lord Jesus Christ!” [David Hocking, The Book of Revelation: Understanding the Future (Tustin, CA: Hope For Today Publications, 2014), 437.]
We move away from their virginity and their loyalty and we get a snapshot here of their redemption. Notice also verse 4, towards the end of the verse, it says: “These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb.” They’ve been purchased from among men, we talked about what that means, but here another phrase is introduced, the end of verse 4, they were purchased as firstfruits. What does that mean? It’s going back to Jewish harvest imagery where firstfruits came in in terms of the harvest or the crop and that was always a happy time because if the firstfruits came in it was sort of a guarantee that what else is going to come in later? The rest of the crop.
And consequently these 144,000 are called firstfruits redeemed unto the Lord. Why are they called firstfruits? Because God wants to use them to save other people. He wants to use them as His instruments to bless other people. He wants their initial experience of salvation to be used as it comes out of their mouth as a testimony to other people and consequently other people will get saved. What a great description of the 144,000 because in Revelation 7 we learn that the 144,000 are redeemed, verses 1-8, and then the second part of the chapter then they learn why they are redeemed. They’re not just redeemed for themselves, they’re redeemed for the purpose of being a blessing to somebody else. And what a harvest that is when you get into the second part of Revelation, chapter 7 verses 9-17. Verses 9-17 of chapter 7, the great harvest could not become a reality unless the first-fruits were brought in, in the early part of the chapter, Revelation 7:1-8.
Why are these 144,000 called the firstfruits? Because God is going to use them to bless other people. And not only did God use them to bless the Gentiles, He’s going to use them to plant seeds so that the rest of the nation of Israel, in unbelief, will get saved , because in Romans 11:25-26 we learn that it’s not just the 144,000 Jews that are saved. God’s end game is that the whole nation could get saved. It says, Romans 11:25, “For I do not want you brethren to be uninformed of this mystery so that you will not be wise in your own estimation that a partial happening has happened to Israel until…” “UNTIL the fullness of the Gentiles has come in,” Romans 11:26, “and so all Israel will be saved just as it is written.” I want to use you to reap a greater harvest down the road; that’s why they’re called the firstfruits.
Zechariah 12:10, of the conversion of the bulk of the nation later on says this, “”I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will grieve bitterly over him as one grieves for a firstborn son.” You know, the day is going to come in the tribulation period where the whole nation of Israel just begins to uncontrollably sob and weep, much like Joseph’s brothers did when they betrayed Joseph and were later reunited with him. The nation of Israel has done the exact same kind of thing; it’s betrayed Christ but now they’re reunited with the truth of the gospel in the tribulation period itself, towards the end of it, and it’s an emotional experience. I mean, the tears begin to flow much like you would mourn or cry or emote over the death of your own firstborn.
And there are bigger things on the horizon for Israel, other than these 144,000 and that’s why they’re called here the “firstfruits of the harvest.” I’m not one of the 144,000 because I’m not in the tribulation and I’m certainly not, as far as I know, a physical descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but there’s a parallel for us. I wonder many times when I hear the testimonies of other Christians of the difficulty that they went through to get saved, how they got saved very late in life after all kinds of problems and difficulties that come into their lives. And here I am at the age of 16 getting saved and protected from all of that. In fact, my parents just celebrated their 61st I think it is, wedding anniversary. My parents have been married longer than I’ve been alive. And you look at the state of marriage today and you don’t see really stability in marriage. Why is it that I came from a home that was stable and others didn’t? Why is it that God planted seeds in my life so early and it didn’t happen to other people? Have you ever wondered that about yourself? Does that describe you?
It could be this, that God wants to use you for a purpose. I mean, the reason God has lavished His grace upon you is He’s always known how He’s going to use you to bless somebody else. It’s not all about us, we think the universe revolves around us most of the time, don’t we? The holy trinity consists of me, myself and I. It’s my salvation, my redemption, and certainly a lot of that; personal salvation is to be celebrated. But here’s the deal, it was never just for you. It was always so God could take your life and mold it and shape it in such a way because He knew the people that would be coming down the pipe later that would need what you have to say. And this is what happened to the 144,000 evangelists and this is what happens, I believe to us. Don’t look at salvation as just something about yourself. God blesses you to be a blessing to other people. You are, in a certain sense, a first fruit just as these 144,000 are firstfruits under the Lord.
And look at the integrity of these people, verse 5, “And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless.” You know, the whole concept of lying, the whole concept of deception, the whole concept of doublespeak, such a thing is really outside of the character of God, isn’t it? Didn’t Jesus say in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, the life, no man comes to the Father but through Me.” You know when lies are in our mouths or deception is in our mouths, or double speak, we’re really not emulating the character of God. And notice the innocence of these 144,000; they are “blameless.” Does that mean perfect? It can’t mean perfect because Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” But what it means is a lifestyle that’s not sinless but sins less.
That’s the walk of a disciple. It’s the type of lifestyle you look when you appoint someone as a leader in a church for example. 1 Timothy 3:2 says, “An overseer, then, must be above reproach,” a perfection? Impossible, no one is, but someone who is not sinless but is sinning less and is growing. So, you have this tremendous description of these 144,000, their virginity, their loyalty, their redemption, their integrity, and their innocence. And we have to move into verses 6 and 7 because that’s where I got the title of the sermon from, verses 6 and 7.
So, let’s just do verse 6 and 7 and with these we will conclude. We move from a first scene of hope, the destiny of the 144,000, to a second scene of hope, the proclamation of the eternal gospel. Isn’t it amazing to realize that in this very difficult time in human history with the human race in enslavement the gospel is still going out. So, we notice its proclamation, verse 6, it’s emphasis, verse 7. Let’s take a look at its proclamation, its eternality, its proclaimer and audience, and its universality.
Notice verse 6, a second scene of hope begins to be described here, “And I saw another angel” that’s a clue, “flying in midair, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people;” eternal gospel, what does that mean? There’s a lot of confusion on this; a lot of people want to come up with this idea that it’s some kind of different gospel. Frankly I don’t think the gospel is different because I don’t think the gospel ever changed. Revelation 13:8 of the gospel of Jesus Christ calls Him the Lamb, Revelation 13:8 is translated in the NKJV at least, “the lamb slain from the” what? “foundation of the earth.”
This is always the plan of God, to bring into existence the gospel which means good news. It was the gospel that was announced in Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head and you shall bruise him on the heal.” It was always known that there was coming one into the world who would take the serpent’s head and crush it. This was the very gospel that was believed by Abram. Genesis 15:6, or Abram says, “Then he believed in the LORD, and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Abram received the transferred righteousness of Jesus Christ simply because he believed in the Lord. That’s what the angel is trumpeting.
Now having said all of that I think there’s a kingdom nuance here because when the gospel is offered in the end times with the prospect of the bulk of the nation of Israel embracing it the kingdom and its manifestation is right around the corner. John the Baptist said this in Matthew 3:2, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” which was a special offer given to the nation of Israel in the first century that if they enthroned Christ on Christ’s terms the kingdom would come. This was preached by Jesus, Matthew 4:17. It was offered initially to Israel, Matthew 10:5-7, “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles” when Jesus sent out the twelve to preach, “do not enter any city of the Samaritans but rather go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and as you go preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” This was preached by John, it was preached by Jesus, it was preached by the twelve, it was preached by the seventy and it was turned down by the nation, Matthew 12.
[Matthew 4:17, “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 10:5-7, These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not]go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans;  but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven ]is at hand.’” Matthew 12:24, “But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.”]
Matthew 12:24 is really the hinge where they attributed Christ’s miracles to Beelzebub and that unique offer was pulled off the table for the nation, the kingdom was not going to come in that generation. The kingdom was going to be proclaimed; the kingdom was going to be postponed. Now does that mean the gospel stopped being preached? Acts 16:31, the Philippian jailor asked, “What must I do to be saved,” and what was the response? “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand…” It doesn’t say that, it says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”’ In other words, the opportunity for a nation to receive it and consequently the manifestation of the kingdom now offer is gone but the gospel of personal individual salvation kept being preached in the Book of Acts.
And that’s what is being preached here by this angel but it’s a little bit different here because Jesus said “the gospel of the” what? “kingdom shall be preached to the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” [Matthew 24:14] All of a sudden now the kingdom is back on the table. Why is that? Because now you have the potentiality of the whole nation, the crux of the nation, the remnant of the nation to all embrace it and once that happens the kingdom will come. So it’s the same gospel but now it’s a little bit different as once again the nation as a whole has the potential to receive it, meaning that the kingdom, the millennial kingdom is at hand or right around the corner. That’s what we mean by its eternality.
Notice its proclaimer and its audience. Who is preaching this gospel? It says in verse an angel. “And I saw another angel flying in mid heaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people;” [Revelation 14:7] So this gospel is being preached by an angel in the tribulation period to the earth dwellers in the tribulation period.
Now this is very interesting to me because normally the gospel is preached by people. Why does God use people to preach the gospel? Who better to preach the gospel than those who have what? Experienced the salvation offered by the gospel. Human beings are the very best proclaimers of the gospel, those who have received it. Angels typically don’t preach the gospel because the plan of salvation is not open to angels. But here it looks to me as if God is so desirous for humanity in Satan’s last stand to receive salvation that He sets aside His normal way of doing things and actually allows an angel himself to get into the act. God is pulling out all the stops and allowing the gospel to be spread over the entire face of the earth. You know, there’s a lot of people today talking about how angels are delivering the gospel to people. A lot of testimonies you hear about people in foreign lands how an angel gave them the gospel.
To be frank with you, as much as I’m in favor of people getting saved I’m somewhat standoffish about those testimonies because it’s not the normal operating procedure of God in the present age. Those that proclaim the gospel are those who have received the benefits of the gospel. And that rule, as far as I can tell, really doesn’t change until following the church age after the rapture of the church, the 70th week of Daniel has started and God now sets aside His normal way of doing things and allows an angel to preach the gospel because that’s how much God loves humanity. And look who this gospel goes to; I mean, it goes all over the world, verse 6, as this angel is proclaiming it goes to every nation and tribe and people and tongue. And do a word study on those four nouns, Revelation 5:9, 7:9, 10:11, 11:9, 13:7, 17:15, and you’ll see that those nouns together always indicate universality, indicates totality, it indicates everything.
[Revelation 5:9, “And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” Revelation 7:9, “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; Revelation 10:11, “And they said to me, “You must prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.” Revelation 11:19, “And the temple of God which is in heaven was opened; and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple, and there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm. Revelation 13:7, “It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him.” Revelation 17:15, “And he said to me, ‘The waters which you saw where the harlot sits, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.”’]
Why is God allowing the gospel by an angel to go out everywhere? Because 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for” what? “all to come to repentance.”
And then the last part of this the emphasis on the gospel. I’ve got to sneak this in, this is where the title of the sermon came from. What’s he emphasizing here? You know, if you lived out in your life these three things you’ve lived a heck of a life in God. These are the three essentials. You’ll see them there in verse chapter 14, verse 7. What does it say, “and he said with a loud voice,” not a silent voice, “a loud voice,” number 1. Number 2, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come;” number 3, “worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.”
What are the three essentials of life? Number one, “Fear God.” Isn’t that the trouble with humanity, we don’t fear God and yet Proverbs 1:7 says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” Knowledge starts with a healthy respect or fear of God. Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool has said in his heart there is no God.” That’s why people are so foolish today and confused; they dismiss what’s necessary to become knowledgeable and wise, “the fear of the Lord.”
Number two, glorify God. Why did the handwriting on the wall chapter happen? Why did God pull the curtains on Neo-Babylonia in 539 B.C. in Daniel 5? It’s very simple, there was a man there named Belteshazzar. According to Daniel 5:23 he did not glorify God despite the fact that his very life and his breath were in the hands of God. [Daniel 5:23, “but you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines have been drinking wine from them; and you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which do not see, hear or understand. But the God in whose hand are your life-breath and your ways, you have not glorified.”]
Number one, fear God. Number 2, glorify God. Number 3, worship God. Isn’t that our purpose? David Hocking in his commentary on Revelation puts it this way. “The number one priority of every believer should be the worship and praise of Almighty God. We were created to worship the God who made us. The action of falling down on their faces” referring to the twenty-four elders, Revelation 4, “demonstrates a clear understanding of God‘s greatness and the believer’s humility before God.” [David Hocking, The Book of Revelation: Understanding the Future (Tustin, CA: Hope For Today Publications, 2014), 390]
Are you a worshipper of God? That’s your purpose. Are you someone that glorifies God in everything they do? That’s your purpose. Are you someone that has begun your life with a healthy respect of the principles and the precepts of God? I find in my life sometimes I’m one of the three, two of the three, rarely am I ever three of the three and yet that’s the calling of the Christian. These are the three essentials; this is what life is about. And as this gospel is being proclaimed its results are being advertised to the whole human race that this is what your existence is about, This is why you were born. This is why you were conceived.
And we look here about glorifying God and worshipping God and you say well why does God get the glory? You see it there at the end of verse 7, it says, “worship Him who” what? “made the heavens and the earth and the sea and the springs of water.” It doesn’t matter what Charles Darwin said. God deserves glory on account of what He has made. Revelation 4:11 of God, says, “Worthy are You, O LORD our God, to receive glory and honor and power for You created all things and because of Your will they existed and were created.”
You look at a Picasso painting or Michael Angelo or you read a Shakespearean masterpiece and what’s the natural ambition that you should have? You should want to praise the Creator of those words. And yet here’s the human race, sitting in the universe, intricately designed by God, so intricately designed that there are seven billion people on the earth and no two of our fingerprints are identical. Every snowflake you examine under a microscope is different. And here we are orbiting around the sun and we’re not so close to the sun that we burn up and we’re not so far away from the sun that we freeze to death. And we’re rotating around the sun at exactly the right distance to sustain life.
God has put all these things together and what does the human race do? Deny the existence of God, deny the rightful glory that He deserves. And this is what this angel is correcting. He’s saying worship God because God has made and created the heavens and the earth and the sea and the springs of water. And just to get the point across you might remember the trumpet judgment where God started tampering with the ocean, Revelation 8:8-9. [Revelation 8:8-9, “The second angel sounded, and something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea; and a third of the sea became blood,  and a third of the creatures which were in the sea and had life, died; and a third of the ships were destroyed.”]
He started tampering with the fresh water supply, Revelation 8:10-11. [Revelation 8:10-11, “The third angel sounded, and a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of waters. 11 The name of the star is called Wormwood; and a third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the waters, because they were made bitter.”]
Who gives God the right to do that? How day you God, interfere with the ocean! Or interfere with the fresh water supply! The fact of the matter is God has any right to interfere with anything He wants because He’s the Creator. And in this day of Darwinism and naturalism and atheism, which no doubt are philosophies that will cover the whole world during the tribulation period itself, this angel flies to and fro giving the eternal gospel and reminding humanity of the basic essentials that God deserves glory because He has made all things. A simple truth and a simple reality.
So in the darkness of this time period the destiny of the 144,000 are sealed and the gospel is still being proclaimed. And speaking of the gospel, it’s possible that you could be here and have never received it. “Gospel” just means good news. It’s not man’s message to God, it’s God’s message to man. And the message is simply this, Jesus Christ bridged heaven and earth, sort of like Jacob’s ladder bridging those two realms by becoming a human being and dying in our place. And His final words on the cross prior to His death were “It is finished!” And He’s indicated and validated who He claims to be through His bodily resurrection from the dead and He has entrusted to the church a very simple message that in any lost sinner will simply trust, not in their own works but the work which Jesus did for them in a nanosecond of faith. That’s how simple the gospel is.
Well, pastor, aren’t you going to tell people they need to take up their cross and follow Him? That’s not the gospel; that’s the walk of discipleship which comes later. You’re not saved because you took up your cross and followed Him; you’re saved because He took up His cross. Amen! And you receive it as a gift which is by faith.
And if you won’t come that way you can’t get saved. You say well your rules are pretty harsh. Number one, they’re not my rules. I could have never come up with something like this. I mean, if it was up to me I would have made it so difficult and hard I would have thrown in all these other things. God doesn’t do that.
And so our exhortation to you is simply to hear the message of the gospel and respond to it by way of faith as a gift. The Book of Romans, chapter 4, verse 5 says, “To the one who does not work but believes,” is that you? Are you no longer working but trusting in what He has done in this day.
And you can do that right now in the quietness of your own heart and with your own mind as the Holy Spirit has come into the world to convict men and women of their need to do this as the Spirit convicts us of sin, righteousness and judgment. And it’s just a reminder that we need to trust in Christ and Christ alone.
And our exhortation to you is to do that in the quietness of your own mind and heart even where you’re sitting. People may be listening to this on an archive or listening or watching through internet, social media, you can do it too, you can get the whole matter resolved right now simply by trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ. If it’s something you need more explanation on I’m available after the service to talk.
Shall we pray; Father, we’re grateful for hope and in the darkest hour hope is still available through these 144,000 and your future for them and the ongoing proclamation of Your gospel. Help us to be good stewards of this this week, share these truths with others this week and walk out a walk of hope. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name and God’s people said…. Amen.