????????? The last three weeks we have been studying Revelation 12-13. We?ve learned about the ?enormous red dragon? and the two beasts. When I turned to Revelation 14 this week I didn?t see the dragon or the two beasts anywhere, but I saw a glorious scene?the Lamb standing on Mount Zion with 144,000 gathered around Him.
In studying this section of God?s Word this past week I?ve read different Bible teacher?s interpretations of the scene and, like every other section of Revelation, the Bible teachers have different takes on the scene. Where is Zion? Is it on earth or in heaven? Who are the 144,000? Are they Jews? Is the number symbolic of the whole people of God? Who are the 144,000? I read in verse 4, ?They follow the Lamb wherever he goes.? I?ve spent a lot of time this past week thinking about that one phrase from Revelation 14.? Jesus? people are those who follow Him. From the beginning of Jesus? ministry the offer went out, ?Come, follow me.?? It wasn?t an invitation that Jesus offered once, the invitation went out again and again. Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee when He saw Simon and his brother Andrew fishing. Jesus spotted the brothers and gave them an invitation.
17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17 NIV)
????????? The next day after Jesus invited Simon and Andrew to follow Him, Jesus found Phillip and the invitation went out once again. In John 1:43 we read,
43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 1:43 NIV)
????????? In John?s Gospel the Jews were prodding Jesus to tell them if He was the Messiah. Jesus told them that He had already made it known to them but they didn?t believe Him because they weren?t His sheep. Then He said,
27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27 NIV)
????????? The invitation didn?t stop after Jesus? crucifixion and resurrection. In John 21 Jesus appeared to His disciples, after His resurrection, and He ate a meal with them. After the meal Jesus spoke with Simon Peter and said,
18 I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” 20Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” 22Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” (John 21:18-22 ?NIV)
????????? Those who followed Jesus continued His message after He ascended to the right hand of the Father. Peter wrote a letter to believers who were going through difficult times. Peter said,
21To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:21 NIV)
????????? From the beginning of Jesus? ministry those who belong to Jesus are those who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. We will talk more about this before we leave here this morning, but let?s take a look at our Scripture for this morning found in Revelation 14:1-5.
1Then 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. 2And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. 3And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. 5No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless. (Revelation 14:1-5 NIV)
????????? As we take a look at Revelation 14 we can see how the vision is a stark contrast to the vision of Revelation 13. S. Lewis Johnson says,
Anyone who reads chapter 14 in the light of chapter 13 would agree that this scene that we have in chapter 14 is an obviously intended contrast with chapter 13. Let me just spell out some of the contrasts.
???????? In chapter 13 we have the beasts. The first beast we?ve called the Anti-Messiah or the Anti-Christ. The second beast we?ve called the False Prophet. He?s the beast that comes out of the earth and he has two horns like a lamb. Over against the beasts, we have in chapter 14, the Lamb of God.
???????? In chapter 13 we have the beast?s followers. They have the mark of the beast upon them, the 666. In chapter 14 we have the Lamb?s followers, the 144,000, and they have the names of the Son and the Father upon them.
???????? In chapter 13 we have the beast?s moral system of spiritual and literal harlotry, but in chapter 14 we have the Lamb?s moral system composed of purity and truth. There is no lie in those who follow the Lamb.
???????? In chapter 13 we have the beast?s enslaving system and in chapter 14 we have the Lamb?s system of ransom from earth and from men.
???????? In chapter 13 we have the beast?s new age order, but in chapter 14 we have the Lamb?s ancient law of God, together with the new song of redemption.
???????? In chapter 13 we have the beasts overcoming the saints. We read in chapter 13 and verse 7,
7 He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. (Revelation 13:7 NIV)
???? That lies before us in the near future, according to John?s way of putting things. He regards the end as near. In chapter 14 we have the Lamb victorious ?then,? that is in the future. So we know that while struggles exist and while men and women are persecuted on account of their testimony for Christ by the beasts and those who stand with him, the ultimate victory lies with the Lamb and those who are identified with Him.
???????? In chapter 13 we have the beasts and their duped and we have suggestions that they will head into perdition. This is not spelled out in chapter 13, but later on in this book, for they shall be ultimately found in the Lake of Fire. In chapter 14 we have the Lamb and those who follow Him and they are before the throne in Heaven following Him wherever He goes. (S. Lewis Johnson, audio sermon on Revelation 14)
Revelation 14 is made up of three visions and six scenes, some see seven scenes in the chapter. The phrase that we read at the beginning of verse 1, ?Then I looked??? appears in verse 1, 6, and 14. These words mark the beginning of the three visions of John in Revelation 14. What did he see when he looked? Well, let?s read verses 1-2 and see for ourselves.
1Then 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. (Revelation 14:1-2 NIV)
????????? After the vision John saw in Revelation 13 it must have been a joy for John to have seen the Lamb standing on Mount Zion. In Revelation 13 John had seen the dragon, the two beasts, persecution, deception, and the whole world going astray. Now he sees the Lamb and gathered around Him are the 144,000 with the name of the Lamb and the Father written on their foreheads. Many believe that the 144,000 are a special group of Jews. The first mention of the 144,000 was in Revelation 7. There we were told that they were Jews, 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. Others believe that the 144,000 are representative of the whole people of God. You can make your case for either argument, but know this?they were those who followed the Lamb wherever He went. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, in his sermon on this text, has written.
One hundred and forty-four thousand, we say, is a certain number made to represent the certainty of the salvation of all God’s elect, believing people. “I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the Mount Sion, and with him a hundred forty and four thousand.” And who were these people, “having his Father’s name written in their foreheads?” Not Bs for “Baptists,” not Ws for “Wesleyans,” not Es for “Established Church:” they had their Father’s name and nobody else’s. What a deal of fuss is made on earth about our distinctions! We think such a deal about belonging to this denomination, and the other. Why, if you were to go to heaven’s gates, and ask if they had any Baptists there, the angel would only look at you, and not answer you; if you were to ask if they had any Wesleyans, or members of the Established Church, he would say, “Nothing of the sort;” but if you were to ask him whether they had any Christians there, “Ay,” he would say, “an abundance of them: they are all one now?all called by one name; the old brand has been obliterated, and now they have not the name of this man or the other; they have the name of God, even their Father, stamped on their brow.” Learn then dear friends, whatever the connection to which you belong, to be charitable to your brethren, and kind to them, seeing that, after all, the name you now hold here will be forgotten in heaven, and only your Father’s name will be there known. (Charles H. Spurgeon)
????????? Who are the 144,000? They are those who belong to God, they have followed the Lamb wherever He went.
????????? John sees the Lamb standing on Mount Zion. We need to understand the great impact this vision would have had upon those who first heard it being read. Mount Zion to the Jews was the city of God. Originally, ?Zion? was simply a reference to a hill called ?Ophel? where the Jebusites had built their fortified city. David later conquered the city and made it into the capital city of all Israel. As time progressed the Jews began to see Mount Zion and Jerusalem as interchangeable terms for the city of God.
????????? The prophets of God spoke against the holy city of Jerusalem because of its sin and the waywardness of God?s people. Jerusalem was attacked and God?s people led into exile as God disciplined His people. The prophets began to speak about a new Jerusalem, a new Mount Zion, where sin would not be found and where the nations would gather in praise of Almighty God. In Isaiah 2 we read,
1This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem: 2 In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. 3 Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house 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. 4 He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. (Isaiah 2:1-4 NIV)
????????? Those who were living in the cities where the seven churches of Revelation were found were reassured that the dragon was standing on shaky ground, the sands of the sea, but the Lamb stands on the rock, the Mount of Zion. The dragon?s plans will crumble and fail, but the Lamb?s purposes will prevail. He will not be shaken, His purposes will never be thwarted, His people are secure under His care!
????????? What is it that is distinctive about these folks in Revelation 14. Well, first of all they belong to God, they are marked by God. We notice something else in verses 2-3. Read along with me.
2And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. 3And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. (Revelation 14:2-3 NIV)
????????? There was a loud noise rising up from the 144,000?they were singing a new song, a song that only they knew. Studying this section of God?s Word took me back to a time when I was at the Mall in Washington D.C. when the Promise Keepers had a Day of Prayer. There were so many men together seeking the heart of God. We lifted our voices together and the sound was deafening. I still get goose bumps every time I think about it. Yet, the experience I had in Washington D.C. will pale in comparison to the experience that awaits those who follow the Lamb on the day that we will all gather around His throne and lift our voices, as one voice, in praise to the Lamb.? What a day that will be.
????????? We are running out of time and I don?t want to miss the opportunity to talk about some of the remaining identifying marks of those who follow the Lamb. Read along with me from Revelation 14:4-5.
4These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. 5No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless. (Revelation 14:4-5 NIV)
????????? If you will notice in these verses those who gathered at Mount Zion were pure, they followed the Lamb, and they were purchased from among men. Let?s take some time to look at each of these distinguishing characteristics.
????????? First of all, we see that they did not defile themselves with women, they kept themselves pure. Now, ladies before you get offended, let?s examine this verse. The Greek word for ?defiled? is the word, ?emolunthesan,” and it means, ?to pollute, stain, contaminate, or defile.?? There is another place in Revelation where the word appears. In Revelation 3:4-5 we read what Jesus? said to the church in Sardis.
4Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.? 5He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. (Revelation 3:4-5 NIV)
????????? There are two ways that people have interpreted this ?defilement.?? First of all, it has been taken literally. All human sexuality is ?defiling.? There is no question that throughout Israel?s history there was the constant problem of sacred prostitution at the temples of Asherah and Baal. Paul battled this problem in his letter to the church in Corinth as well with the Temple of Aphrodite just outside of the city.
God has disciplined His people for their sexual indiscretions. He has warned His people that sexual immorality will destroy us. With that said, some take this verse to mean that all human sexuality is defiled. Origen even castrated himself so that he would not be polluted with sex. Origen was wrong in his understanding as we learn from studying the New Testament that there is no condemnation of marriage. In Hebrews 4:4 we read,
4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. (Hebrews 13:4 NIV)
????????? God has created the gift of sexuality for husbands and wives and He has ordained sexuality as the means of procreation within the confines of marriage.
????????? The second way of looking at this verse is to see it as symbolic of spiritual purity. In Revelation 17:2 we read about Babylon/Rome and how the kings of the earth committed harlotry with that evil nation. Verse 2 says,
2 With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries. (Revelation 17:2 NIV)
????????? To bow down before Domitian?s statue or to make an offering at one of his altars is to commit spiritual harlotry. This was one of the prophet?s major points of contention with Israel as Israel looked to surrounding pagan nations for their security rather than God. Any time we place something on the throne of our lives other than God we are committing spiritual adultery. God commands first place in our life.
????????? God?s people are called to be pure. We are to be pure sexually and spiritually. God has created sexual intimacy for husbands and wives and it is to be experienced and enjoyed within the confines of that relationship alone. At the same time God?s people are to be pure in their worship. We worship God and Him alone. There is no other altar for the Christian than the altar of Almighty God.
????????? The second defining mark of God?s people is that they follow the Lamb wherever He goes. I told you that I?ve been thinking about this a lot this past week. Where does the Lamb go? If you determined your answer to that question by asking the Church in America today you would think that Jesus was a fabulously wealthy, care-free, jet-setting, fun-loving, good-time-having playboy that spent His winters in the south of France and His summers on South Beach. The reason I say this is because as I think about the American Church today I am disturbed by how easily we fall out of the boat of faith and trust, how easily we are disturbed by what happens in our life, and how easily we blame the devil for all of our ills. Many of us honestly believe that to be a Christian means that you experience the ?good life,? as we define good. Those who follow the Lamb desire the ?God life? not the ?good life.? Those who gathered around Mount Zion follow the Lamb through the valley of the shadow of death, they follow Him through persecution, through heartache, through tragedy, through trials of various kinds. Those who follow the Lamb are those who count others as better than themselves, they lay down their lives for their friends, and they take up a towel and a basin of water to wash the feet of those the Lamb has led into their life. You think I?m making this stuff up? Try this on for size.
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.? 4Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:2-5 NIV)
????????? Last of all, those who follow the Lamb are those who have been purchased from among men. No wonder they follow the Lamb!? Those who follow the Lamb don?t earn that right, they don?t earn their salvation, they could never redeem themselves, but they were called and chosen to follow the Lamb. They recognize that if it weren?t for the victory of the Lamb they would still be lost in despair. Peter wrote to those in his day these compelling words,
18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (1 Peter 1:18-19 NIV)
????????? God is so good. He has called us, redeemed us, and claimed us as His own. Why would we ever want to follow anyone else? Paul wrote to the people of Corinth and said,
23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. (1 Corinthians 7:23 NIV)
????????? What a glorious vision we find in Revelation 14. Those living in Asia Minor must have wept as they heard the news that the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion with His people while the dragon?s days were numbered. You and I need to find assurance in this vision as well. I know where the Lamb is standing today, but where are you standing? Who are you following? Won?t you follow the Lamb?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
October 8, 2006