The Redeemed from the Earth (Revelation 14:1-5)
Jesus came, paid the price, and redeemed us to God. In Christ “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:14). Jesus “entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12). Because Jesus gave his blood and redeemed us, we need to stay with him, to follow him.
Tonight’s text speaks of those who were redeemed by the blood of Jesus and stayed with him and served him. This evening, we want to examine their state after their life here on this earth.
Their Mark, v 1
John looked and saw a Lamb standing on Mount Zion. This is a contrast to the two beasts in chapter 13 who were arising—one arose from the sea and the other from the land. The Lamb’s standing signifies being established, standing firm, holding one’s ground. The arising from the sea and the land could indicate that these two individuals rose to power, but the Lamb possesses power by his deity, not through political means.
The Lamb stood on Mount Zion. Mount Zion was the Temple Mount, the location of the temple. This description comes to apply in Revelation to the heavenly city (Revelation 11:19; 21:2).
We have already seen the Lamb with his 144,000. As we have earlier stated, these 144,000 stand for the redeemed of all the ages. That these redeemed are pictured with the Lamb on Mount Zion shows that they were rewarded for their service; we will be rewarded for our service if we remain faithful. Scripture speaks of the reward that will one day be ours. “There is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8). The Lord has given us “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven” (l Peter 1:4). What a grand reward God has for his faithful children!
These 144,000 had the Father’s name written on their foreheads. Their having the Father’s name on their foreheads obviously contrasts with those who had the mark of the beast. This mark shows ownership, just as the mark of the beast showed allegiance, ownership, by him. Slaves were often branded in the first century to show to whom they belonged. We belong to God. “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8). “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Their Music, vv 2-3
John heard a voice from heaven. Without any doubt, the voice John heard was the song of the 144,000. The voice was like the voice of many waters and like the voice of loud thunder. The idea is that this was a loud voice. 144,000 people singing would create quite a loud sound. John heard a voice like the sound of the harpists playing on their harps. This causes many who advocate instrumental music in worship to say, “Look, there are harps in heaven, so they must be acceptable on earth.” There are a couple serious problems with that interpretation:
- If one wanted to make that argument, he would have to use a harp in worship; he couldn’t use another instrument.
- Also, there are many things in heaven that are not on earth. There is no marriage in heaven (Matthew 22:30). Using the logic of those who advocate instrumental music based on the harps in this text, we wouldn’t be able to marry on earth. There is a great throne in heaven with four living creatures and 24 elders around it. Do we need to set this up to worship properly?
These 144,000 sang a new song before the throne, and no one could learn that song except the 144,000 who were redeemed from the earth. They sang the song before the throne; they were finally in the presence of the One who had redeemed them. John did not provide the words of the song, for no one except the 144,000 could learn it. This was a special song that could only be sung in heaven and only learned by the redeemed.
Their Morality, vv 4-5
These 144,000 had not defiled themselves with women, for they were virgins. There are some who point to this text and say that sex is dirty, and that those who engage in sex give into their baser instincts. This text has nothing to do with whether sex is appropriate or inappropriate. We need to remember a couple of things:
- God created man “male and female” (Genesis 1:27), and thus he created sexuality. “A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). How can something God created be dirty or inappropriate?
- Paul told husbands and wives not to deprive one another of sexual relations (l Corinthians 7:3-5).
Their purity—their virginity—is best seen figuratively; they had not bowed down to idols. Idolatry is often described as sexual immorality. “They did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them” (Judges 2:17). “My people inquire of a piece of wood, and their walking staff gives them oracles. For a spirit of whoredom has led them astray, and they have left their God to play the whore” (Hosea 4: 12). But, these men were pure, they had not given themselves to idolatry.
We need to give ourselves to nothing but the service of the true God. We do not struggle with idols in this culture, but we may tend to give something other than God our full devotion. We need to put God first in our lives—above our families, above our work, above ourselves. Are you giving undivided loyalty to the Lord?
These follow the Lamb wherever he goes. Following the Lamb wherever he went implies shepherding: these 144,000 were being shepherded by Christ. These 144,000 followed Christ wherever he went in Mt. Zion because they had done so on earth.
These 144,000 were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb. These men had been redeemed from the earth; as we mentioned earlier, Jesus stepped forward and gave his blood to redeem humanity. These were firstfruits to God and to the Lamb. Under the Old Testament, the firstfruits of the harvest were given to God to acknowledge that all the land and all the increase came from him: “You shall not delay to offer from the fullness of your harvest and from the outflow of your presses. The firstborn of your sons you shall give to me” (Exodus 22:29). But, in the Septuagint, the Greek term used here simply came to mean “sacrifice;” the idea is probably that these redeemed have been set apart for God—they serve him.
In their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God. This identifies them as Christ-like. “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth” (l Peter 2:22). We need to be Christ-like in every aspect of our lives; we need to pattern our lives after his. We need to be careful that we have no deceit found in our mouth.
It is Jesus who can present us faultless before God’s throne (Jude 24). If we are in Christ, we will stand sinless before the throne of God at the Judgment, not because of our sinlessness, but because of his sinlessness. Are you in Christ? Will you stand faultless before God’s throne?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Alum Creek church of Christ in Alum Creek, West Virginia.