Sunday, August 3, 2014

REVELATION 14: 1 - 5 “THE TRIUMPHANT LAMB AND HIS CHURCH“

The book of  Revelation is full of striking contrasts – in fact  some of the  mightiest  contrasts  which exist in this universe ! It is the contrast between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness - between God and one of His mightiest creatures,  Satan.
This is the prophetic record of the greatest battle of the ages. The devil  (a created being)  chooses  to rebel against his  Creator [1].  This contrast is seen as we  observe this  battle now from the viewpoint of Satan  and  now from the viewpoint of God Almighty.
In the last few chapters we have  observed this contrast between the dragon and the woman, the dragon and the Lamb,  the Lamb and the beast,   between Christ and anti-Christ  and between church and world.
This contrast, we have noted  follows in cyclical fashions . Dark and horrible pictures  of Satan and his destructive work on earth (where he  has been  thrown down – Rev  12:7-13) are followed by light,  triumph, victory, joy and glory.   We see these cycles  and contrasts  in Chapter  6  where  the opening of the first 6 seals  presents us  with  a  horrible, dark picture. However , this  was followed immediately by that wonderful image  in Ch 7  of the 144 000 servants of God , sealed and secure in the midst of tribulation , followed by the vision of the great multitude from every tribe, nation, people and language  that no one could count!
We find that the same contrast exists between the sad chapters   8:6- 11:14 ( the six trumpets)  and  Ch. 11:15 – the  victorious 7th trumpet .
And now we find that  same contrast depicted   between chapters 12,13  and chapter  14. In Chapter's 12 & 13 we   found the picture of the dragon (Satan)   and his 2 helpers , the first beast, the anti-christ,  who arises out of the sea of humanity,  and the  second beast , the false prophet   who  arises  from the earth.  All this sounds terribly depressing - if it were not for  this  wonderful revelation of the Lamb's glory in Chapter  14!
So now   we have once again the joy  to  observe  the victory  of  our  Lord Jesus,  our conquering  King - the Lamb that was  slain,  standing on Mt Zion with the 144 000 who had his name and the  name of His Father written on their foreheads! (14:1)

In these 5 verses  we   shall consider  the following  issues:
1.     What is the purpose of this vision ?
2.     Why is the lamb standing on Mt.Zion ?
3.     Who are the 144 000?

1.     WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE VISION?
The terrible restlessness, the suffering and the evil  experienced in this world  makes us  easily worried and anxious . The thought of   Satan and his  two  unholy  helpers , the anti-christ and the false prophet   unsettles us. We need perspective , and this is where we now get it .  Chapter  14 is given to John by the Holy Spirit for our encouragement .  In the midst of that terrible revelation of the unholy trinity , we see  the Lamb of God,  the second member of the Holy  Trinity.

 A biblical illustration will help us to appreciate the beauty of this vision even more:
In  2 Ki 6: 8 - 23 we find  the story of Elisha the prophet and his servant ,  at a place called Dothan. The  Arameans (Syrians)  are getting quite fed up with Elisha since  he was using his prophetic powers  to warn the king of Israel , whenever they wished to raid a place in Israel . As a result they are determined to capture  Elisha.  One night they surround the city to get him. When Elisha's servant wakes up that morning , he is quite alarmed , but his master tells him : "Don't be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them" (v. 16). Then Elisha prayed , "O Lord, open his eyes that he may see."  God  opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (v.17) !
So, what  did the servant see?  He did not see a city besieged by enemies, but a city protected by the angels of God - and in particular , he saw the wall of fire around Elisha!  Now there was a glimpse into spiritual  reality.  To the natural  eye it seemed to be all gloom and doom. But with the eyes of faith - it was all God! The enemy did not feature!
As John receives this vision  of the Lamb on Mt. Zion it is also in the context of gloom and doom. Satan seems to be in control. The earth seems to be firmly in his grip. But John receives a   vision  that  shows him and us   Someone far greater !  This  is the  main point of the chapter – to provide us with  ultimate  perspective!

2.     WHY IS THE  LAMB STANDING ON  MT. ZION ?
The Lamb is clearly the Lord Jesus .   He is standing on Mt Zion.  Where  and what is Mt Zion ?
a.     In the literal sense Mt. Zion was  the hill in  Jerusalem y on which the stronghold or the citadel of the city stood. David captured this city from the Jebusites,[2] and made that his stronghold. Later that same name was  applied to the place where the temple stood ,  and where  God was said to dwell among His people.  Sometimes  Mt Zion even  referred the entire city of Jerusalem [3]- the city of God - the holy city .
b.     In  a symbolical sense ,  Zion embodied  two  truths
(i)               It embodied  the  centre of God's power[4] on earth
(ii)             It  embodied the  place  His presence among His people.
However  the physical  Mt Zion is symbolical of a still far greater truth : This Mt Zion also corresponds to Hebrews  12:22 where "Mt Zion is called the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God." Thus , the  ultimate picture of the earthly Mount Zion is heaven , "where thousands upon thousands of angels are found in joyful assembly, and where the church of the firstborn is found, whose names are written in heaven " !  Remember that the voice that speaks here like " the roar of many waters and  like  the sound  of  loud thunder"  (14:2) speaks from Zion in heaven!
c.      In the prophetic sense of the word,  Zion was synonymous with the promised messianic kingdom of justice and peace ( Ps 2:6; Mic. 4:7 ; Isa 59:12 ; Hebr. 12:22). Don't forget , that the Lord Jesus, the Messiah  came to Jerusalem. He came to the daughter of Zion . As the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah  said [5]"The deliverer will come from Zion ...".   Not only   was He the deliverer. He still is the deliverer. In  one sense He always stands there ! So it is entirely appropriate that we should find the Lord Jesus standing here.

But in what sense does He stand there?   Some think that this is to be seen in a literal sense i.e. in  a future sense, when He comes again , that He physically shall stand on that mountain.   That may be so , but  there is a bigger picture  behind this .  Earthly Jerusalem and Mt. Zion  have been besieged and conquered  in her history more times than we would care to count.  But in a spiritual and prophetic sense   Mt Zion  is  an unassailable fortress ; it represents the heavenly city of our King! And our king is never defeated. He is never chased out of  His city. That city  and Mt Zion must not be thought of so much as a literal city , but  a spiritual city made up of human stones - the church of God- and her God is always within her. She will never fall ( Psalm 46). In that sense  the  Lord Jesus always stands on Mt Zion - His holy hill. He is the guardian of His city.  
Now it is  so that  the  church of God is always assailed by Satan and will she stand  ?  Psalm 2 helps  us  here. The Psalm tells  us  that  there always has been conspiracy by the nations against the Lord and His Anointed One; there always has been this rebellion against God and His kingdom… but  the  God who sits enthroned in the heavens laughs! Why ? Because He has installed his King on Zion , His holy hill! ( Ps 2:4-6).  Now this cannot mean the earthly Jerusalem, because that city has been sacked so many times in history . Which holy citadel is he speaking about ? He speaks about His covenant people - the church. She is unassailable ! Her future is secure in the heavenly city (Hebr. 12:22). He is her keeper. [6] The devil does not have dominion here .  Christ has been installed as King , and His kingdom  cannot fail .
So, the glimpse that John is given in this passage  for our sakes is like that glimpse that the servant of Elisha receives, when Elisha prays :"Lord open His eyes!" , and  the servant now sees with an entirely new perspective. This city is surrounded by the armies of the living God!
So,  in the midst of apparent chaos and  the mess created by the devil and his legions,  we  look over and beyond , and we see Jesus – the Lamb on  Mt Zion !  Aren't you glad that you came to church this morning to hear this encouragement ? 

3.     WHO ARE THE  144 000 STANDING WITH THE LAMB?
The Lamb  does not stand alone on Mt. Zion. He has His people with him - the 144 000. We have seen  this number before in Chapter 7. Who are they ? We  have previously said  that the number 144 000   must  be understood in a  symbolic  fashion. This is true  for  all the numerical  values  in this book.  In Chapter 7 we saw that the 144 000  represented  the servants of God ( O.T. and N.T saints). It symbolises a vast number. The same is true here. There is only one  difference. In Chapter 7 they are  viewed from the earth . Now they are viewed from heaven. There they are singing that new song before the throne and before the 4 living creatures and the elders.  The contents of that "new song" have been revealed to us in Rev 5:9,10 .

They represent the harvest of the "first fruit" of God and the Lamb. (v.4) . Normally , the term "first-fruits" is used in the sense of the first reaping of what is to be a much greater harvest. But here the "redeemed from the earth" equals the "first fruits". They are the first fruits  from the earth in the sense that "first fruits" were holy to the Lord and they belong to the Lord as His very own special possession, and as such they are brought into the house of the Lord.  We do not  need to limit these 144 000 only to Israel. No , the totality of God's believing children are implied here. Jesus our Good Shepherd ,   spoke  in John 10  of the "sheep"  (Israel) and the "other sheep" (gentiles). He concludes by saying in that context  : "there shall be one flock and one shepherd" (John 10:16)
They are marked . Their Father's name is on their foreheads.Their destiny is totally different from those who have received the mark of the beast on their foreheads  (13:16f).

In what sense must we understand the phrase "these are those who have not defiled themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure?"  Once again, if we can save ourselves from literalism here , we will be on safe ground. Celibacy and abstinence from sex can certainly not be  understood as a virtue for gaining entrance into heaven .  So what does it mean then? We must remember that "adultery" is symbolic of "spiritual adultery" in Scripture.  Hence Israel is the picture of an idolatrous woman in Hosea’s prophecy. Israel was very often described as a spiritual prostitute in Scripture .
Now  this sort of  spiritual purity that we find of those mentioned  here in verses  4 and  5 is symbolic of the redeemed of the Lord , the first fruits . When Christ purchased His people from the bondage of sin, He cleansed them and washed them. He redeemed them ! They are  not guilty.  No longer are they spiritual idolaters. They are blameless. They adhere to the truth , and not to lies. They follow the Lamb , and they remain faithful to Him even in the midst of most terrible suffering and persecution.
Again, remember  that it is not their own strength that keeps them . They are kept by their good Shepherd. He has bought them and He has marked them. They are kept by the Holy Spirit

CONCLUSION:

The purpose of this section  is then for our  encouragement. We see the Lamb and his people standing in Mt Zion. We see them standing - and not defeated. We see them pure and undefiled. We see them singing! They have overcome. And what is more , not one Christian soldier is missing in action. Those whom we saw on the earth in Chapter 7 , are  the same  as those who we see in heaven (Ch. 14) . Truly the Good Shepherd shall loose none of those whom the Father has given to Him (John 10:27 - 30).  So cheer up dear believer. You are on the Lord's side.  Amen !



[1] This does not mean that God created sin. The devil freely chose to sin and thereby the principle of sin was unleashed in the world that God had made.
[2] 2 Sam 5:7ff ; 1 Chron 11:5
[3] Isa 33:20
[4] Ps 9:11; 110:2
[5] (Isa 59:20,21 ; 27:9  ; Jer 31:33,34 à quoted by Paul in Romans 11:26)
[6] Ps 121; Rom 8

No comments: