Satan is persecuting the church. Worldly nations are under his influence. State institutions and leaders direct the public to worship the worldly nations and bear the marks of those nations. How are true Christians identifiable in the context of such worldly nations and institutions since we are theocratic revolutionaries in the midst of the worldly nations that are passing away?
14.1 Καὶ εἶδον, καὶ ἰδοὺ τὸ ἀρνίον ἑστὸς ἐπὶ τὸ ὄρος Σιών, καὶ μετʼ αὐτοῦ ἑκατὸν τεσσεράκοντα τέσσαρες χιλιάδες ἔχουσαι τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ καὶ τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ γεγραμμένον ἐπὶ τῶν μετώπων αὐτῶν. 2 καὶ ἤκουσα φωνὴν ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ὡς φωνὴν ὑδάτων πολλῶν καὶ ὡς φωνὴν βροντῆς μεγάλης, καὶ ἡ φωνὴ ἣν ἤκουσα ὡς κιθαρῳδῶν κιθαριζόντων ἐν ταῖς κιθάραις αὐτῶν. 3 καὶ ᾄδουσιν ὡς ᾠδὴν καινὴν ἐνώπιον τοῦ θρόνου καὶ ἐνώπιον τῶν τεσσάρων ζῴων καὶ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων· καὶ οὐδεὶς ἐδύνατο μαθεῖν τὴν ᾠδὴν εἰ μὴ αἱ ἑκατὸν τεσσεράκοντα τέσσαρες χιλιάδες, οἱ ἠγορασμένοι ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς. 4 οὗτοί εἰσιν οἳ μετὰ γυναικῶν οὐκ ἐμολύνθησαν, παρθένοι γάρ εἰσιν· οὗτοι οἱ ἀκολουθοῦντες τῷ ἀρνίῳ ὅπου ἂν ὑπάγῃ· οὗτοι ἠγοράσθησαν ἀπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἀπαρχὴ τῷ θεῷ καὶ τῷ ἀρνίῳ, 5 καὶ ἐν τῷ στόματι αὐτῶν οὐχ εὑρέθη ψεῦδος· ἄμωμοί εἰσιν.
The 144,000 revisited (v. 1-5)
Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads.
The Lamb, Jesus Christ, symbolically stands on Mount Zion—the temple mount in Jerusalem. John juxtaposes the kingdom of the world and her citizens with Christ’s kingdom and His people. He has described the unholy trinity and the world, which has gone after the beast (Rome). Worldly people concern themselves with their own to-do lists, and the government indoctrinates the people according to its agendas—even barring certain people form participating in the Roman market place if their ideologies don’t fit that of the Imperial Cult. While the beasts are raging, there is a Lamb standing on Mount Zion. Those who reject the world flock to the Lamb.
This 144,000 are the 144,000 and great multitude from Chapter 7. In this pericope, the 144,000 are identified explicitly as those who follow the Lamb (v. 4), the church—affirming our interpretation of Chapter 7. The great advantage of lectio continua, expository study, teaching, and preaching is that the Bible reveals the validity of our interpretation. Too many pluck verses from context or do not consider the whole and, consequently, throw themselves into exegetical error—interpreting Revelation any number of fantastical ways. 12 represents the complete people of God. 144 is 12×12. 1000 represents a more than sufficient number, way more than enough. John is illustrating Christ’s completed complete, more than sufficient church—which was sealed from before the foundation of the world and has stood with the Lamb perpetually.
Instead of having the mark of the beast, its ethos, the 144,000 have the name of the Lamb and His Father written on their foreheads—they know and have their thoughts led by God, having His seal upon them (cf. 7:1-3). People either bear the mark of the beast or the mark of Christ. The mark is not a physical impression. It is a kingdom ethos. Either we have Christ as our master and a heavenly economy or we have the world as our master with its worldly economy. We cannot have two masters. We will love one and hate the other. There is no such thing as dual citizenship. The home of the Christ is with the Lamb rather than the beasts.
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 one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth.
Christ’s kingdom stands in opposition to the beasts’. The beasts persecute those who do not worship the nation and its leader(s) and who do not ascribe to her current cultural ideologies. But, the state really has nothing substantial to offer. That’s why it takes—taxes, liberties, and the marketplace. The kingdom of God is different. The Lamb is not here depicted as taking worldly things from people who don’t follow Him or bear His mark. Instead, they are given something new. They are taught a new song. The elect have always sincerely made a confession that most of the world cannot, a new song in their hearts. That symbolic song is the confession only true Christians are able to sincerely make. Such is why illegitimate Christian faith forces some works-based idea that people should be good enough, benefit society, promote the justice programs of the beast, and merely be kind to others. These are the marks of beast worship.
Those who are in Christ, conversely, learn a new song from the heavens (cf. Psalm 40:3). Their confession is in Christ alone. It is the song of Moses, which claims that no one is good or can keep the Law. Thus, only God can deliver His elect people. It is the song of Hannah, proclaiming the sovereignty of God alone in all matters. It is the psalmists who mourn over their own wretchedness and the sin of the generations, begging God for forgiveness. It is the song of Mary, exulting in the birth of Messiah. It is the holy roar of the saints who trust not in themselves for salvation but have believed upon the name of the Lamb, the only one who can deliver from the sin and death that are brought by worldly systems, governments, and religions that promote the mere goodness of people. Worldly religion, “do good, receive good,” is tired and broken. Christ gives life and teaches a new song despite the fact that no one is good—not even one.
Only those who are purchased by the Lamb can learn the song. This is the doctrine of limited atonement. Only those purchased from the earth can possibly learn the song. Christ did not pay for everyone, else everyone could learn the new song. According to John’s Revelation, no one can learn the song, receive citizenship in the kingdom of heaven, except those who have been purchased, redeemed, atoned for by the Lamb’s sacrifice on calvary. The atoning sacrifice only extends to those whose names were written in the Lamb’s book of life from the foundation of the world (cf. 13:8). Christ is Lord and He is the one wholly redeeming His elect people from among all people as first fruits to God and to Christ. Christians do not sing the types of praises the world sings, especially not those of the Imperial Cult or any cultural religion. This necessarily means that every Christian experiences conversion to Christianity and is not a Christian simply because that’s how he or she was raised. Cultural, or state, Christianity is not Christianity. Each Christian is in Christ only because he or she has been bought by Christ and brought to sing a new song.
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.
The elect are those who, because they have been purchased, are brought to honor God with their lives and words. The elect have kept themselves chaste from sexual defilement, and no lie was found in their mouths. There is only one way such purity can belong to anyone. Christ has imputed His own righteousness, clothed them in wedding garments, and placed His seal upon them. Regeneration precedes faith. Those who were predestined, having their names written in the Lamb’s book from the foundation of the world, follow the Lamb wherever He goes; they have been purchased from among people as first-fruits to God (the Father) and to the Lamb. They are blameless not because of their own goodness, like we see in the broken religion of the world, but because of Christ’s imputed righteousness.
What do you think it means that the 144,000 are first fruits to the Father and Lamb? Such a revelation eliminates mere futuristic fulfillment. If they are first-fruits, there will be second-fruits. The first fruits were saved in the First Century. The faith has been handed down through the generations. It will continued to be handed down. The 144,000 are revealed while testimony is being made about Christ and evangelism is being practiced. Once again, a lectio-continua presentation of the text affirms our timing of the two witnesses, beasts, 42 months, and mellinnium. John is writing to the witnesses of the First Century, assuring them that their work is not in vain. There will be more fruit to follow, ever-increasing fruit as Jesus taught it (Matthew 13:31-35). Thus, we receive the same encouragement today.
We let not tribulation drown us in the pessimism that defines so many worldly, theological systems. God is good. The Lamb is already victorious over the beasts. We are first fruits. Until Christ returns bodily, He is building His church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail (Matthew 16:18). There are still many people living under the beasts’ rule, trying to be good. You can’t be good enough. The world’s system is broken. There is no such thing as dharma (or karma). You are a sinner. Repent. Believe the gospel. Receive life. Learn a new song. Come and see that the Lamb is good. His economy is better than the world’s.
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