So far, in the book of Revelation we have looked at and studied two of the three groups of events, or two of the three groups of judgments, which will take place during the tribulation following the Rapture of the church age believer. We also studied the breaking of the seven seals which sealed the scroll. You will remember that the scroll is the title deed to this old world which rightfully belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ, and which will soon be in His full possession again as it is wrenched by force from the grasp of the god of this world, the prince of the power of the air, that old dragon, Satan.
We then studied the blasting of the seven trumpets, which told of even harsher wrath to fall from heaven upon rebellious mankind. That took us through chapter 11. Chapters 12-14 comprise another interlude before the last group of judgments, which are the seven bowls of wrath, beginning in chapter 15. So, our study tonight actually begins the third chapter of the interlude formed by chapters 12-14 before the seven bowls of wrath.
In chapters 12 and 13 we saw seven performers on the world scene. The woman, which was Israel; the red dragon, which was Satan; the child of the woman, which was Jesus Christ; Michael, the archangel; the remnant of Israel; and finally, the first and second beasts, which are the antichrist and the false prophet, respectively. All through chapter 13 we saw nothing but bad news. The blasphemous beasts and the idolatry that they will promote dominates everything.
In chapter 14, which we begin tonight, God begins to show us what happens to His people while all of this is going on. Remember that chapter 14 is not chronological. That is to say, it is probably a summation of the events which occur near the end of the Great Tribulation.
(14.1) And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads.
1. When John writes, “And I looked, and, lo,...” he shows us that he is still the seer, the observer of future history that unfolds before his very eyes. Folks, the only way such a thing could have happened is for God to hold the future in His hands and to simply pass it before John’s eyes. Amen? The hymn writer was right. “I know Who holds the future.”
2. Verses 1-5 seem to be a vision shown to John of a scene that takes place shortly after the millennium begins. It may be a kind of flash ahead. I say that because the 144,000 witnesses, the young, male, virgin, Jews, which we first see in Revelation chapter 7, are standing with the Lord Jesus Christ on Mount Zion, which is in Jerusalem. Why would such a scene suggest a millennial time frame? Because the Lord Jesus Christ never stood in the midst of 144,000 Jewish male virgins during His first advent, leading me to conclude that this even must occur during His second advent.
3. Notice that of the 144,000 who were sealed at the beginning of the Tribulation, in Revelation chapter 7, all 144,000 make it into the Lord’s presence. Perhaps they did not all survive the Great Tribulation, but they will survive eternally, and will end up with the Lamb of God. It is a comfort to know that what God purposes to do in a person’s life will be done in that person’s life. Amen? Philippians 1.6: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” He wanted these men to go through the Tribulation for Him, so He sealed them for their soul’s safety. The result? Complete preservation. What God started God completed.
4. Again, this does not necessarily mean that none of the 144,000 did not experience physical death along the way. But what is physical death to the child of God? It is a promotion to the presence of God. It is the realization of the hope referred to in Romans 5.1-2:
1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
5. This also suggests Ephesians 1.13-14:
13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
You see, we who know Christ are also are sealed . . . ready to be delivered to heaven at the appropriate time.
6. But what does the phrase “having his Father's name written in their foreheads” mean? The word “his” obviously refers to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb referred to in this verse. It will be His Father’s name, God the Father’s name, which will be written on the foreheads of the 144,000. Will the Father’s name be visible, or seen only by the angels? We do not know.
(14.2) And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps
1. I do not know what it is that John heard, unless God, with accompaniment of a heavenly orchestra, is teaching these men the song they sing in verse 3.
2. And from the description of the voice, it may very well have been the Lord Jesus Christ Who is teaching them this song. That would make the Lord Jesus Christ the great music director, leading His Own in the glorifying of the Father through song.
(14.3) And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.
1. Do you remember the new song the 24 elders sang in Revelation 5.9? “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” Well, this is probably a different song.
2. We know that it is sung by a different group of people, because they sing it before the 24 elders, and before the beasts, and before the throne. This makes it rather difficult to assert that the 144,000 are symbolic of the church, and that the 24 elders symbolize the church, as well. This is because it is not likely that both symbolize church age Christians.
3. The last half of the verse shows conclusively that this is a different song than the elders sang. Maybe their song is different because their experiences were different. After all, they had endured the most terrible period of human history.
4. I am sure that through such troubled times only God’s grace provided the strength for them to persevere. Notice verses 4 and 5, which shows how the grace became available.
(14.4-5) 4 These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.
5 And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.
1. These verses are sometimes misapplied to teach the Romish doctrine that a celibate state is more holy than a married state. But try to understand some things behind why these men will remain virgins unto God.
2. Jeremiah 16.1-4 gives some insight as to why these young men will not marry:
1 The word of the LORD came also unto me, saying,
2 Thou shalt not take thee a wife, neither shalt thou have sons or daughters in this place.
3 For thus saith the LORD concerning the sons and concerning the daughters that are born in this place, and concerning their mothers that bare them, and concerning their fathers that begat them in this land;
4 They shall die of grievous deaths; they shall not be lamented; neither shall they be buried; but they shall be as dung upon the face of the earth: and they shall be consumed by the sword, and by famine; and their carcases shall be meat for the fowls of heaven, and for the beasts of the earth.
In this passage we see that God actually spared Jeremiah great grief and heartache by forbidding marriage. This is because God knew that Jerusalem would fall and be sacked by the Babylonians.
Note: Why do people always think God wrongs them when He seeks to protect them? I wonder if any of these Jewish men will complain because God has spared them the pain and suffering of perhaps watching wives and children slaughtered, or, worse, betray them. As with Jeremiah and these 144,000, consider that God is good and that His will for our lives, no matter how difficult to comprehend, is always for the best.
3. Turn to First Corinthians 7.25-28:
25 Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.
26 I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.
27 Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.
28 But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.
Here Paul gives some advice, not a command. He suggests that folks consider remaining single. Why? Verse 26 . . . this present distress. Paul only wanted to protect Christians from the heartache that would be inevitable in the persecution to come, seeing their loved ones, husbands, wives, children, slain for the cause of Christ.
4. If these situations warranted celibacy back in times past, how much more needful will it be for the choice servants of God to remain unmarried through the most horrible time in human history, which will be the Great Tribulation? You see, these young virgins will remain so for the purpose of avoiding every possible hindrance to serving God. They will be totally devoted to and consecrated to their Lord Jesus Christ.
5. So, having followed their Lord Jesus, in spirit, during the Tribulation, we see that they are given the privilege of following Him in person during the millennium.
6. These 144,000 are called the first fruits because they are just the first of many to be converted in the seventieth week of Daniel, the seven years of the Tribulation, after all the Christians are removed by the Rapture. This probably refers to the fact that they were the first of many millions to be saved during the Tribulation. This is because first fruits refers to the initial portion of the crop that is harvested.
7. “And in their mouth was found no guile.” This refers to the absence of lies in their speech. These boys will be preachers of the truths of God’s Word, not tellers of the lies of the antichrist.
8. Finally, “they are without fault before the throne of God.” This does not refer to their sinlessness during their life on earth, but to the fact that their sins are cleansed by the blood of Christ, which left them blameless in God’s sight.
9. So, after the dismal record of the antichrist and the false prophet, we see the saints of God preserved through it all.