A Preview of Jesus' Victory - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 14:1-20


It was in the year 1913 that a man named Nils Granlund, the advertising manager of a chain of theaters, spliced together rehearsal footage of a Broadway play that was playing at the time and he spliced that footage of the rehearsal together into a sort of mini-promotion that he then played to come after the films that were shown in his theaters and that’s how movie trailers, if you ever wondered why they were called trailers even though they come at the beginning now of movies, that’s how movie trailers were begun. They were previews of what was coming.

Tonight in our study of the book of Revelation we get our first glimpse at the trailer for Jesus’ ultimate victory over all of His enemies. Let me just remind you of where we are in our study of this book. We’re looking at chapter 6 through 18 which is about the seven-year Tribulation that’s coming. Now, just to remind you where we are, in chapter 11 verse 15 the seventh angel sounded his seventh trumpet and that initiates, as we’ll discover, the seven bowl s; those judgments that come at the very end of the Tribulation. Think bowl, not like a deep mixing bowl, but think bowl like a shallow saucer that can easily be dumped and those bowl judgments come at the very end as God takes back this planet from the usurpers. But we don’t learn the contents of those bowl judgments even though they’re introduced to us at the end of chapter 11, we don’t learn the contents of those bowl judgments until chapter 15 through 18. Chapters 12 through 14 then, as you can see on the little outline here, are an interlude, the third in this book. And these chapters describe events that unfold mostly during the seven-year Tribulation but also describe some events that reach back from the fall of Satan forward until the millennial kingdom and specifically to the Second Coming.

Now just to remind you of our outline of these three chapters that are the interlude in the middle of this book, you have in chapter 12 a description of Satan’s long war against God, His Messiah, and His people. And it describes that long war from beginning to end. In chapter 13 we meet Satan’s generals in one part of that war, the Tribulation, the seven-year Tribulation. And in the beginning of chapter 13 we meet the beast from the sea, that’s the false Christ, the antichrist. And then in the second half of chapter 13 last week we saw the beast from the earth, the false prophet. So that’s what we’ve seen so far in this interlude.

Tonight when we come to chapter 14 we begin to see Satan’s defeat at the hand of Jesus Christ. Let me give you a sort of thematic statement of Revelation 14. It can be condensed in this way. When you read it, it seems like there are these various parts and it’s hard to know how it all connects. Here’s how it connects. Revelation 14 provides a powerful preview of the Lamb’s final victory with the eternal defeat of His enemies and the eternal reward of His followers. That’s what this chapter is all about. Now when you look at chapter 13 with the antichrist and the false prophet and you look at chapter 14 there are a number of stark contrasts. Intentional stark contrasts.

Chapter 13 is dominated by Antichrist. Chapter 14 by the Lamb. Chapter 13 by Satan and demons. Chapter 14 by the holy angels. [Chapter] 13 by unbelievers. [Chapter] 14 by true believers. [Chapter] 13 by sin, lies and falsehoods. [Chapter] 14 by righteousness and truth. Chapter 13 is marked by blasphemy and idolatrous worship. Chapter 14 by praise and genuine worship of the true God. Chapter 13, there are those who are sealed with the mark of the beast. In chapter 14, those who are sealed with the mark of God and of the Lamb. In chapter 13 sin and rebellion against God appears to rum rampant and completely unpunished. Chapter 14 all sinners are condemned under the judgment of Jesus Christ, the Lamb. In chapter 13 you have the exultation of the antichrist. In chapter 14, you have the exultation of Jesus Christ.

So, get ready. This is like a shock to the system when we transition from chapter 13 to chapter 14. It’s like biblical whiplash as we look now ahead. Chapter 14 looks ahead and it gives us in summary a preview of what’s coming. It is a kind of trailer for the rest of the Tribulation period. Now let me give you a preliminary outline and I emphasize the word preliminary. I retain the right to tweak this as we go along but this chapter, this preview of Jesus’ ultimate victory, unfolds in five dramatic scenes.

First of all Jesus returns and gathers with His 144,000 witnesses in Jerusalem. That’s verses 1 to 5. Secondly, in verses 6 and 7 through His angel, Jesus preaches the gospel to the world. In verse 8, through His angel, Jesus proclaims the fall of Antichrist’s empire. Then in verses 9 through 13, again through His angel, Jesus announces the impending judgment of mankind. And then finally, in verses 14 to 20, Jesus initiates the final harvest of earth’s people. That’s what we’ll meet in this chapter. So you can see that it all points to Christ, it all points to His bringing everything to its end, to its conclusion.

Tonight we begin our study of this amazing preview of Jesus’s victory by looking at the first dramatic scene. And it is when Jesus returns and gathers with his 144,000 Jewish witnesses in Jerusalem. Let’s read it together. Revelation 14:1-5.

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. 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. 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. 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

have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to

the Lamb. And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless.

This is a summary of Jesus’ returning with this select group, gathering with them in celebration of His victory. Let’s look at it together. The first part of this scene as it unfolds is the Lamb’s abiding presence with His people. Look at verse 1. Here we see His return. “Then I looked and behold…” That familiar expression, in this letter marks a transition to a new paragraph and introduces something startling. So he says, I looked and wow! Look what I saw! The Lamb was standing on Mount Zion. Literally the Lamb having stood on Mount Zion.

Now, you remember we first met the Lamb back in chapter 5 verse 6 when we had this vision, John had this vision, of the throne room of God. And there he says, “And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain.…” Obviously this is our Lord Jesus Christ. And the primary point of referring to Him as a Lamb is to point to His accomplished sacrifice. But this is no ordinary lamb. Because Revelation describes this Lamb as glorified, exalted, the Redeemer, the Shepherd of His people. And look at chapter 17 verse 14. It says, “These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because [this Lamb] He is the Lord of lords and the King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.” So this Lamb in addition to being a Lamb, is the Lion. The Lion of the tribe of Judah as chapter 5 verse 5 describes Him, and He will rule and reign as King. He will destroy His enemies and He will reign.

Now, notice at the beginning here of chapter 14 the Lamb has taken up His position on Mount Zion. What is this? Some spiritualize this and say, well, because Hebrews 12:22-24 refers to the heavenly Jerusalem as Mount Zion, this must be heaven. We’re seeing Jesus in heaven. That doesn’t fit the context because notice when John sees this scene, he then hears a voice from where? Verse 2, “… from heaven…” What is the clear implication of that? That He, the Lamb, and the 144,000 are not in heaven; they’re on the earth. As we’ll see in a moment there are other biblical reasons to believe that we’re talking about the literal city of Jerusalem. The reference then in chapter 14 verse 1 to Mount Zion is to a physical location on this planet in Jerusalem. The fact that Jesus is described here as having taken His stand on Mount Zion in Jerusalem marks an absolutely monumental point in the history of redemption. John looks ahead really to chapter 19 and to the Second Coming to see Jesus having returned triumphant standing on Mount Zion surrounded by the 144,000 who were His faithful witnesses during the Tribulation.

Psalm 2 describes this same moment. Go back to Psalm 2. You remember the psalm begins:

Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a

vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers

take counsel together against the Lord and against His [Messiah],

Anointed One, saying, ‘Let us tear their fetters apart, and cast

away their cords from us!’

Now watch verse 4. “He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger, and terrify them in His fury, saying, ‘But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain.’” And He goes on to talk about the coronation of His Son to whom He will give, verse 8, “…the nations as His [Your] inheritance and the very ends of the earth as His [Your] possession.” And He will rule them all. So, you can see that this reference ties us back to God’s promise to His Son that He will be established as King in Mount Zion in Jerusalem. That’s what this passage is describing.

Other Old Testament passages connect the victorious Redeemer with Mount Zion. Isaiah 24:23, “Then the moon will be abashed and the sun ashamed, for Yahweh [the Lord] of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and His glory will be before His elders.” Zechariah who prophesies so much about this time, in Zechariah 14:4 says, “In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south.” In that day. In the day when a fountain of cleansing is open for the peoples of Israel is what he’s talking about. In that day, the end of the Tribulation, connection with the Second Coming. In that day, His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives.

What we’re seeing here in Revelation 4 is a preview of that reality. So verse 1 describes then, the return of the Lamb, the return of the King. He will be surrounded in that time by His witnesses. Verse 1 goes on to say, “And with Him 144,000…” Now we already met this group back in chapter 7, the first half of chapter 7 and we established who they are. I mentioned then that some try to make this 144,000 figurative; a symbol of the entire church or the Tribulation saints. So essentially, and this is a very faulty hermeneutic, but essentially they say 144,000 is not 144,000; they’re not 12,000 from each tribe of Israel; they’re not Jewish at all. This is symbolic of all believers. That is not a reliable consistent hermeneutic to land on that. Of course those deceived in the Jehovah Witnesses cult claim that they are the 144,000 witnesses which makes it a pretty serious problem if you’re 144,001, right? Not exactly sure how that works out.

But as we learned in chapter 7 verses 1 to 8 during the seven-year Tribulation, God will raise up 144,000 Jewish men; 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes. He will save them, He will commission them, He will seal them to be His witnesses on earth. Likely most or perhaps all of them will be saved shortly after the Rapture of the church and they will witness for Jesus Christ through the entire first half of the Tribulation. But what we see in chapter 7, verses 1-8, is that at the beginning of the second half of the Tribulation - just in to that second three and a half year period - God will mark them to protect them during the rest of their ministry as His judgments intensify and the trumpet and bowl judgments. They will be faithful witnesses to Jesus Christ during the worst time in human history. A devastating time of divine judgment and a relentless holocaust of God’s people at the hands of Antichrist. They will stand like 144,000 and Daniels. After their ministry is complete we learn some of them may suffer martyrdom. In chapter 12 we saw that Antichrist will persecute the Jewish people. But many of these 144,000, perhaps most, will survive and enter alive in the millennial kingdom after the Second Coming. Listen to how John Phillips in his commentary on Revelation describes this group. I love this:

“No other age has produced a company like this. A veritable army of militant

believers marching unscathed through every form of danger. It has been their’s

to defy the dragon, to bait the beast, and to give the lie to the false prophet. Their

calling has been to preach the gospel from the housetops when even to name the

name of Christ called for the most dreadful penalties. They have walked the streets

in broad daylight careless of the teeth-gnashing rage of their would-be torturers

and assassins. True witnesses of Jehovah in the most terrible era of the history

of mankind.”

Here in verse 1, this entire group of witnesses are all described as being reunited with Jesus Christ at His second coming.

Now these 144,000 are not the only ones that are redeemed during the Tribulation. As we discovered again back in the second half of chapter 7, there will be many others, both Jews and Gentiles; a countless number from every tribe and people and tongue and nation. So why are these 144,000 singled out? It’s because of their unique role during the Tribulation. They will serves as His special representatives. If I can put it this way, and this is my own phrase not the Scripture’s, it’s as if they are the twelve for the Tribulation. They are the hand picked ones. The proxies for Jesus who are His special legal representatives to go out and proclaim the truth in the midst of a world amuck with error. Whether they die as martyrs or whether they survive until His coming, the picture here in verse 1 is when He returns and when His feet stand on the Mount of Olives, on Mount Zion as it’s called here, which could refer to Jerusalem as a whole or some portion of the city, the 144,000 will stand with Him in His triumph. That’s the point. They are with Him. They’ve survived man’s worst. They’ve survived Satan’s worst. They’ve survived the antichrist’s worst. The false prophet’s worst. And they’ve been faithful and now they’re with their Lord. That’s His witnesses.

In verse 1 we also see His possession. As we learned in chapter 13, unbelievers during that time will receive the mark of the beast. However the 144,000 will bear the mark of God on their forehead. Go back to chapter 7. Chapter 7 verse 2:

And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun,

having the seal of the living God; and he cried out with a loud

voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth

and the sea, saying, ‘Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees

until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.’

And I heard the number of those who were sealed, 144,000 sealed

from every tribe of the sons of Israel.

They are sealed. The question is what is the seal of God as it’s mentioned here? Go back to our text, go back to verse 1 of chapter 14. Notice they’re described as having “His name”, the Lamb’s name, “And the name of His Father written on their foreheads.”

What was the purpose of this seal? Well, it’s serves two purposes. First of all it was a guarantee of their safety until their mission was accomplished. It was given to protect them as they carried out their witness of the gospel and of Jesus Christ. God promised to secure them from the continuing destruction that He Himself would bring on this planet and to physically protect them from their enemies until they had accomplished His mission. Satan, the antichrist, the false prophet, the entire world of unbelievers desperately will try to kill these preachers of the gospel. But God will mark them as those who cannot be harmed until He is finished. Apart from His permission and His will not one of them will be harmed. So it is a mark of protection. But it’s also a mark of ownership. This seal marks them as belonging to God and to the Lamb, in the same way that the mark of the beast marked them as worshipping and belonging to Antichrist. So there you see in verse 1, they’re with their Lord, they’re with the One they bore witness to, in many cases, with their lives. They’re reunited with Him. We’ll see in a few minutes that’s not only the passion of the people of Christ; that’s Christ’s passion for His people; to be with them.

Secondly, in verses 2 and 3 we see the Lamb’s adoring worship in a new song. When Christ returns the redeemed and the 144,000 will stand with Him on Mount Zion and they will join in the song of redemption directed to Christ. On this occasion we are told that this song will be led by a massive choir in heaven. Look at verse 2, “And I heard a voice from heaven…” As John watches the events in Jerusalem unfold, he hears a voice coming from above, from heaven. But verse 3, notice, makes it clear that this is not a single voice. Instead it is a huge number of voices joined together as if one voice. It’s a massive choir. And what will it sound like? Verse 2 says “… like the sound of many waters.”

Have you ever been to one of our world’s natural falls? Maybe you’ve stood at Niagara and you’ve stood there and heard the continual roar of those falls or maybe at the ocean or wherever it is. That’s the idea here. This massive voice will be powerful, impressive, overwhelming. In fact, Ezekiel 43:2 compares God’s voice to the sound of many waters. It’s like the voice of God. In Revelation 1:15 this same picture, the sound of many waters, describes the voice of Christ. This is neither of them. But it’s like that. Powerful, impressive, overwhelming, verse 2 goes on “… and like the sound of loud thunder…” it will be ear splitting. Very loud! Later in the book of Revelation these same images combine to describe the voice of a great multitude. Chapter 19 verse 6, “Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude; like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder.” That’s what it’s like.

But this choir will not only be powerful and overwhelming it will also be beautiful and captivating and enchanting. Notice verse 2 goes on to say, “And the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps.” The Greek word translated “harp” is kithara. It refers to a box lyre, a kind of ancient guitar. It looks like this [see slide illustration]. And on the slide you can see it. It’s the traditional instrument that was used in the singing of the Old Testament psalms. In Psalm 33:2, “Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre; sing praises to Him with a harp of ten strings.” That was the ancient Old Testament version. But in the first century, as the one you see here, it typically had seven strings of equal length, a rectangular sound box, and two arms that extended up to a crosspiece to which those strings were attached. It made a beautiful sound. Here the sound of this singing from heaven was like the sound of a massive orchestra of harps playing.

What John heard was hard for him to describe. It was powerful and overwhelming like torrents of water. It was loud like loud peals of thunder. And it was captivating like enchanting beautiful stringed instruments playing together more than you can count in unison. And they were singing. They were singing a new song of redemption, verse 3. “And they sang a new song…” Who’s singing? Well if you go back to chapter 5, let me just remind you, back in chapter 5 verses 9 and 10, the four living creatures, that unique order of angelic beings, and the elders representing the church, began a new song. This is what we read in chapter 5 verse 9: “They sang a new song saying ‘Worthy are You [to the Lamb] to take the book and break its 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 upon the earth.’” Then in verse 12 of chapter 5, millions of angels join in “…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 in verse 13, “Every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.’” A new song.

The concept of a new song occurs often in the Psalms. For example, Psalm 33:3, Psalm 40 verse 3 and others. The idea of a new song is this: every new expression of God’s love and grace that we experience calls out of us a new song of gratitude and praise. I am a very amateur songwriter but when I study and I come across the truths in God’s Word or when I hear someone else teach or I read something in a book, I’m making a list. I need to write some lyrics about that. That’s the idea of a new song. Comes out of being overwhelmed by the truth that you’ve come across.

In chapter 4, the elders praise the Father for His work of creation. In chapter 5 the elders praise the Lamb for the work of redemption. And here in chapter 14 verse 3 it appears that the angels will initiate this new song. The angelic choir breaks forth in a new song of redemption. Obviously angels cannot and do not need to be redeemed but they have great interests in God’s redemption of humanity. In Luke 15:10 we read this: “In the same way…” Jesus says “… I tell you there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” The angels celebrate the grace of God displayed in the redemption of sinners. 1 Peter 1 verses 10 and 12, “As to this salvation ….” it contains “… things into which the angels long to look.” Verse 3 says, “Before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders …” So the angels will break out in a new song before the throne of God when Christ returns to earth to culminate His redemptive work and establish His kingdom. They will sing before God’s throne and in the presence of the four living creatures and they will even sing to train New Testament believers. But this song is intended for one group especially. Verse 3 says, “And no one could learn the song except for the 144,000 who had been purchased from the earth.”

Now, there’s a lot of debate about what that may mean. One very real possibility is that only the 144,000 can learn this song from the angels and can sing it because of the unique role that they will play in redemptive history. We’re not told explicitly why only they will be able to learn and sing this song but one author speculates in this way: “They have been saved after the Rapture. At that time in history when man’s greatest persecutions and God’s greatest judgments were on the earth. It is at such a time that they found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” Maybe that’s it.

Another possibility here when it says that only the 144,000, it could be and some say, that it means the 144,000 represent all of the redeemed and that only the redeemed, those purchased by Christ from the earth, can sing this song. I tend to think it’s exactly as it says; only the 144,000 because of their unique role. But regardless what’s clear is this: the 144,000 will join heaven’s choir in praising God for His redemption. What will they sing? What is this new song? Well, we’re not told specifically but turn over a page to Revelation 15. Perhaps this is that new song. 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 they

sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the

Lamb, saying, ‘Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God,

the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations!

Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are

holy; For all the nations will come and worship before You, For Your

righteous acts have been revealed.’

Regardless, they will lift their voices and all heaven will exalt the Lamb in praise and the 144,000 will have their own song to sing as God has brought them through, the Lamb has brought them through.

Now as we examine this first dramatic scene in this chapter when Jesus returns and when He gathers with the 144,000 on Mount Zion, we’ve seen the Lamb’s abiding presence with His people in verse 1. His desire to be with them and their desire to be with Him. We’ve seen in verses 2 and 3, the Lamb’s adoring worship in a new song. But that brings us thirdly to the Lamb’s amazing praise of His people in verses 4 and 5. What’s interesting to me here is that although John writes this praise of the 144,000 in these two verses, he’s not its source. Remember the source of this book? It is the revelation of Jesus Christ. It is from Jesus Christ about Jesus Christ. It is His revelation. So what you have here is Jesus’ own praise for these faithful witnesses This isn’t John’s praise; this is their Lord’s praise of them. And what does Jesus praise these 144,000 faithful Jewish witness to the gospel for?

First of all, for their sexual purity. Verse 4, “These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste.” Now you have to put that verse in its larger context. Remember where we are. We’re talking about their ministry during the Tribulation period. You remember that at the beginning of the Tribulation according to 2 Thessalonians 2, God will remove His restraining influence in the world and He will allow sin and evil to run its full course. He will in the words of Romans 1, abandon earth’s people to their sin. And as a result sin of every kind will inundate this planet like Noah’s flood. In addition to that, idolatry and false worship which reigns supreme during the Tribulation, have always been marked by gross sexual sin and perversion because that’s where Satan always directs and leads. If you doubt that, read the Old Testament. Read about Baal and the high places. One of the most grotesque sexual perversion to ever hit this planet where the high places were literally platforms where sexual deeds could be carried out by worshippers of Baal so that Baal could watch as a voyeur. False worship always comes with that. And the worship of Antichrist during the Tribulation will not be an exception. It will be marked by every imaginable kind of deviant sexual activity. But during such a time these faithful men will repudiate the rampant sexual sin around them and they will be holy examples of purity, committed to their God. John describes them, notice, “as the ones who have not been defiled with women.”

Now don’t misunderstand that. Our Lord is not a misogynist. Nor does this denigrate marriage. Nor do the Scriptures teach that singleness is somehow a holier state than marriage. Rather, as 1 Corinthians 7 says, each person is to live as he’s been gifted by God either for marriage or for singleness. Hebrews 13:4 states that sex in marriage does not defile. It is pure and holy, a gift from God Himself. What John means here is that they have not engaged in sinful sexual relations. John adds in verse 4, “… for they have kept themselves chaste.” These 144,000 preachers of the gospel will be sexually pure in an impure age. They will be virgins in a profligate age. Even if they’re married, they will be characterized as those who are pure.

Secondly, Jesus praises them not only for their sexual purity but for their loyal discipleship. Verse 4 says these are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. Of course if you’ve repented and believe in Jesus you’re a follower of Jesus. He commands all believers to follow Him. Matthew 16:24. “Jesus said to His disciples, ‘… if anyone wishes to come after Me …’” - if you want to be a Christian - “‘… if anyone wishes to come after Me he must deny himself…’” You have to renounce yourself and everything about yourself and take up your cross and follow Jesus. That’s what He demands to even become His disciple. You have to follow Him. And these faithful witnesses do just that. They refused to determine for themselves where or how they will serve Jesus. He leads, they follow. They’ll be devoted to Jesus Christ and His gospel regardless of the cost. They’ll follow Him wherever it takes them. They will be witnesses for Jesus Christ whenever and wherever He determines. Again, listen to John Phillips, I love this, as he tries to describe it.

Does the Lamb need someone to stand on the steps of the Vatican

and cry out against the marriage of Christendom to the beast? There

are 144,000 ready to go. Does the Lord need someone to beard the

beast at some high function of state and roundly denounce him and

his alliance with Satan? There are 144,000 eager to go. Does the Lamb

need evangelists to proclaim to the untold millions, the gospel, to climb

the highest Himalayas, to cross the desert sands, to blaze evangelistic

trails through steaming jungles or to mush huskies across wide arctic wastes?

There are 144,000 ready to go. And though the beast gestapo dog their

footsteps and wreak upon their converts his direst vengeance yet they go

undaunted and undeterred.

They follow the Lamb wherever He goes. What a call for us. Jesus praises them for their loyal discipleship.

Thirdly, He praises them for their chosen role. Verse 4 goes on, “They have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb.” Now obviously all believers have been purchased. If you’re a Christian you’ve been purchased by the death of Christ. First Corinthians 6:20, “You have been bought with a price therefore glorify God in your body.” First Peter 1:18 and 19, “… you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but [you were] redeemed with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” You have been bought, you have been purchased. You are not your own. In the same way the 144,000 will be also purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ. But in their case they were purchased for a specific reason. Notice what verse 4 says, “These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb.”

Now we can’t be dogmatic what that means, that expression. That figure of speech, “first fruits”, is used in two ways in the Old Testament. It’s used of something or someone set apart to God. Deuteronomy 26 it’s used that way. In fact in two thirds of the sixty-six times this expression first fruits occurs in the Septuagint in the Old Testament it means something or someone set apart to God. And certainly our Lord means that of these men. They are set apart to Him for His service.

But a second way this expression “first fruit” is used in the Old Testament is as the first of a larger harvest. You remember, if you lived in ancient Israel and you were in to agriculture. That’s what you did. That’s how you supported yourself and your family, that’s how you had food, and you would take the first fruits of your crop; that is literally the first fruits, the first gathering of harvest. And you would dedicate that to the Lord as a sort of gratitude, an act of thankfulness for the rest of the harvest that was coming. It was an acknowledgment that that came from God and what was coming behind it was of God as well.

And so it’s possible here that when Jesus refers to them as the “first fruits” that they are first fruits in the sense that they are the first of a much larger Jewish harvest of souls that will come at the end of the Tribulation period in conjunction with the Second Coming. Again Zechariah 12:10 talks about “They will look on Him [Me]…” - speaking of the Jewish people at the Second Coming - “… they will look on Him [Me] whom they pierced, they will mourn for Him as an only Son…” and a fountain of cleansing will be open for them. Paul talks about in Romans 11 verses 25 to 27. And you can go back and listen to the messages on that. But there there is a promise that there will be a salvation of ethnic Jewish people just at the time of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. So it may be their first fruits in that sense. There are 144,000 as the first fruits of a much larger salvation that’s coming for their Jewish brothers.

Number four Jesus praises them for their faithful witness of the truth. Verse 5, “And no lie was found in their mouth.” No lie was found in their mouth. Now, John could mean here general truthfulness in their speech. I mean after all, all true Christians are to be marked by that. Ephesian 4:25 says, “Therefore laying aside falsehood speak truth, each of you with his neighbors, for we are members of one another.” In fact, as we’re going to see later in this same book of Revelation, God is not going to allow anyone whose life is characterized by lying, into heaven. But more likely here when John says that no lie was found in their mouth, he’s referring to their witness to the truth about Christ and the gospel. Remember during those seven years unbelievers will believe the lie. They will be duped by false wonders, by the deception of wickedness, by a deluding influence and therefore will believe what is false. All of that is in 2 Thessalonians 2. But these faithful witnesses will reject all of the lies of Antichrist. And they will urge everyone to embrace the truth; the truth about God, the truth about sin, the truth about Jesus Christ, the truth about His saving gospel. John MacArthur writes this:

Throughout the cataclysmic outpouring of God’s final judgments and

Satan’s final fury, they will preach the gospel. They will confront unbelievers

with their sins, call them to repentance and faith in the Savior, and proclaim

that the catastrophes taking place are God’s righteous judgment.

And God will in turn use their faithful ministry of the truth to save many. Go back to chapter 7 again. In part as a result of the witness of these faithful 144,000 here’s what will happen. Revelation 7 verse 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. And they cried out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation to our God

who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’

That is in part, the fruit of the ministry of these faithful, faithful men.

The fifth reason Jesus praises these men is their spiritual integrity. Verse 5 ends, “They are blameless.” Of course this doesn’t mean that they will be sinless but their lives will consistently be marked by the very quality for which God chose believers. Listen to Ephesians 1:4, “He chose us …” God the Father “…chose us in Christ [Him] before the foundation of the world,” in order “… that we would be holy and blameless before Him…” These men will exemplify that call. Or as Peter puts it in 1 Peter 1:15-16, “Like the holy One who called you, be holy yourselves in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” They will be exactly that. What a force of godly, gospel preaching men! Don’t you love the picture now of Christ standing with them on Mount Zion; the victory won.

What are the lessons from this group for us? From this passage? Let me give you a couple of them.

First of all, and I see this in His wanting to be and immediately being with these 144,000, it reminds me that Jesus loves and desires to be with His people. Look at John 14. John 14 in verse 3. This is in the Upper Room discourse. He’s just promised that He’s going to go and prepare a place for His followers in verse 2. Verse 3, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself.” Why? In order that, here’s My goal, “ … that where I am there you may be also.” Believer, do you realize that’s how Jesus Christ thinks about you? He wants you to be with Him. That’s His heart. Go over to chapter 17. John 17:24. This is in His high priestly prayer. He says, “Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given me…" and that’s both the apostles and that’s those who believed through their word - that’s us - all that You’ve given Me, all believers, I desire that they will "be with Me where I am.” That’s the heart of Jesus Christ. Turn to Revelation 21:3. Here’s the culmination of it. Here’s the fulfillment of it. “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men…” God will pitch His tent among us “… And He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them.” That is the heart of God. That is the heart of our Savior. That is the heart of Jesus Christ for you, believer. He wants to be with you.

A second lesson I see here is a reminder that chief among the heavenly rewards that we as His people will receive are first of all enjoying the presence of Christ. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 talks about the Rapture. And at the end of that passage it says, having been raptured “…we shall always be with the Lord.” We shall always be. Never again will we be separated. Revelation 3:12 talking to the church in Philadelphia, Jesus promises this to the overcomer. You remember the overcomer is every Christian, “I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God and he will not go out from it anymore.” We will eternally enjoy the presence of Jesus Christ just like the apostles. If I can put it this way without being disrespectful we get for eternity to “hang out” with Jesus Christ.

Another part of that reward is seeing the glory of Christ. If you’re still in John 17 look at verse 24. Again it continues, “Father I desire that they also whom You’ve given Me be with Me where I am so that they may see my glory which You have given Me.” One of the greatest joys of heaven will be seeing Jesus Christ for who He really is. Seeing the glory of Christ.

And then thirdly receiving the praise of Christ. That’s what happens here. This is the praise of Christ for these godly 144,000 men. But did you understand believer that every believer has the opportunity to receive that praise? First Corinthians 4:5 says when the Lord comes “…then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” Matthew 25:21, “His master said to him …” remember this? This is the most famous version “‘…well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’” There are two rewards in that passage. One of them is our faithfulness here gets us a greater opportunity to serve Christ there. That’s one reward. But the other is the praise of Jesus Christ. Can you imagine what it will be like, Christian, if you remain true to Him, faithful to Him, loyal to Him, not perfect but attempting to follow Him with your true heart, one day to stand before Jesus Christ and hear Him say, you did well? You’ve been a great servant, a great follower. Enter into the joy that’s Mine.

Number three, Jesus has marked us as His own. Just like He’ll mark the 144,000 if you’re His, He’s marked you. In Ephesians 1:13-14 we’re said to be “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise who is given as a pledge of our inheritance.” Jesus Christ has stamped His seal on you and that seal is called the Holy Spirit, His Spirit who now indwells you. He’s marked you just as truly as He’ll mark the 144,000. And He’s marked you with His name. Revelation 3:12 again to the church in Philadelphia, “He who overcomes …I will write on Him …” that’s every believer “… I will write on Him, the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from God, and My new name.” You’ve been marked by Christ just as surely as they will be.

Number four, Jesus values the same qualities in His people today that He will in them in that day. For example, sexual purity, He praises and prizes that today. First Thessalonians 4:3, “This is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality.” We live in a godless, sexually deviant age. And Jesus praises those believers who remain pure. He praises us for our loyal discipleship. John 10:27, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me…” He praises us for faithful witness to the truth. Philippians 2:15 “… prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life…” Put the light on display even as He shared in the Sermon on the Mount. Put the light on display with a faithful witness of the truth.

And then finally Jesus praises spiritual integrity. Second Peter 3:14, “Therefore beloved, since you look for these things ….” That is when God is going to bring this world to its end “… since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him … spotless and blameless…” People of integrity. Spiritual integrity.

So, we’re not called to be the 144,000. But we can see in them what Jesus praises and may God give us the resolve to pursue those qualities. But in the end this is not about the 144,000. This is about Jesus, the Lamb, the Lion, who is worthy of our praise and who will redeem His people. Let’s pray together.

Father, thank You, for this powerful reminder, this preview of coming attractions when Jesus will be victorious; when all heaven will break out in praise and song singing a new song of redemption, of the worthiness of the Lamb. Father, may we tune our hearts to sing that song even now and may we be faithful to Him in our generation as these 144,000 will be in theirs. So that we can hear His praise: Well done, good and faithful servant. We pray it in His name. Amen.


The False Prophet

Tom Pennington Revelation 13:11-18

A Preview of Jesus' Victory - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 14:1-20

A Preview of Jesus' Victory - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 14:1-20

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Babylon is Fallen! - Part 4

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Heaven's Hallelujah Chorus - Part 2

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The Millennium: Christ's Future Reign on Earth - Part 2

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The Eternal City - Part 2

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The Eternal City - Part 3

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How Should We Then Live? - Part 1

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