Faithfulness - Its Cost & Rewards

Rev 14:1-5

1 Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father's name written on their foreheads. 2 And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps. 3 They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth. 4 These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb. 5 And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God. NKJV

The blackest storms often give place to the loveliest sunsets. The winds and thunders exhaust themselves. The clouds empty and break. And from the calm heavens behind them comes a golden light, girthing the remaining fragments of gloom with chains of brightness, and overarching with the bow of promise the path along which the terrible tempest has just passed. Like this evening glory after the summer's gust, is the chapter on which we now enter. (from The Apocalypse: Exposition of the Book of Revelation, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1998 by Biblesoft)

THE FIRST VISION V-1-5

THE SAVIOR

Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb

This is none other than the Jews Messiah. The one they have looked for for thousands of years. In the midst of great persecution of the Jews by the Antichrist and in the midst of the idolatry that will characterize that day, Christ will break through to rescue His people from utter destruction. The scene is that of the end of the tribulation when Jesus returns to put an end to the ungodly reign of antichrist.

THE SITE

Standing on Mount Zion,

There are two main views of this. The first view, taken by Larkin is that this is the heavenly mount Zion spoken of in Heb. 12:22-23 and that either the 144,000 have been martyred or translated. The second main view, taken by Strauss is that this is the earthly mount Zion, Jerusalem and that the 144,000 have been preserved through the tribulation period and now unite with their Savior who has returned to earth to bring everything to a close. I tend to agree with Strauss. I see this to go together with what we find later in the chapter where the last judgments are disclosed.

THE SEALED

And with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand,

I do not think there is any doubt that this is the same 144,000 that we saw in chapter 7. I don't think that we can say that this number is symbolical while contending that the number in chapter 7 is literal. These are the ones who were sealed at the beginning of the tribulation period and because God has preserved them, they have been a continual trouble to the Antichrist just as Elijah was to Ahab in the days of 3 1/2 years of drought in the Old Testament.

Who are those who dwell with God? The Psalmist has the answer.

Ps 15 LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? 2 He who walks uprightly, And works righteousness, And speaks the truth in his heart; 3 He who does not backbite with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend; 4 In whose eyes a vile person is despised, But he honors those who fear the LORD; He who swears to his own hurt and does not change; 5 He who does not put out his money at usury, Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved. NKJV

This passage speaks so clearly as a commentary on Rev. 14:1-5 where we see these who have the blessed privilege of not only standing with the Messiah but to never leave His presence. The follow Him where ever He goes. The blessings of heaven are sometimes connected with the sufferings and trials and our own faithfulness on earth.

THE SEAL

Having His Father's name written on their foreheads.

In chapter 7 we are not told what the seal is but here we find that it is the name of the Father. Strauss takes the view that the seal is a visible seal in the same manner as the seal of the Antichrist will be visible. The seal proclaimed their ownership, character, and loyalty to the lamb. The name of the Father, which is a Jewish mark, seems to further indicate that these are the Jews from chapter 7. It was no doubt a contrast to the sealing of the followers of the beast that we read in chapter 13. In the New Testament days it was the custom for the followers of certain false gods or idols to have the name of their god inscribed on them, even on their foreheads. Thus John is giving us a description of these who are God's as having His name and the name of the Lamb inscribed on them.

THEIR SONG

And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps. They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth.

"Out of heaven a voice with tremendous range, like that of many waters is heard. It rolls and peals and echoes like that of thunder, and gathering volume, it finally individualizes into the voice of many harpers harping with their harps" Herman Hoyt quoted by Strauss.

This is not a heavenly choir as we saw in chapter 5 but an earthly choir of redeemed Jews. In chapter 5 were are given the words of the song but here we are not and are told that no one can learn the song but these 144,000. It seems that they are accompanied by harpers. Throughout the Old Testament the playing of harps is a sign of joy and happiness while not playing them is a sign of sorrow and mourning (Isa. 24:8; Psa. 137:1-4).

[No man could learn that song] As none but genuine Christians can worship God acceptably, because they approach him through the only Mediator, so none can understand the deep things of God but such; nor can others know the cause why true believers exult so much in God through Christ, because they know not the communion which such hold with the Father and the Son through the Holy Spirit. (from Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1996 by Biblesoft)

THEIR SANCTIFICATION

These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins.

There is a question concerning the gender of the 144,000, for they are said to have not been defiled with women and also are said to be virgins. Since the word virgin is applied to both male and female (1 Cor. 7:25-28), that word does not tell us that only men are meant. The other phrase, "were not defiled with women," seems to be more restrictive. Larkin, Strauss and Walvoord all agree that it could indicate both male and female. Walvoord points out that Israel is referred to as a virgin in 2 Kings 19:21; Isa. 37:22; Lam. 2:13; Jer. 18:13; 31:4, 21; Amos 5:2. The term also is applied to the New Testament church, 2 Cor. 11:2. The term virgin may relate to Mat. 25:1-13.

This certainly speaks of their faithfulness. When all around them vileness is the name of the game these still proved pure. One of the greatest peer pressures that the world uses is the idea that everyone is doing it. It could have been just such thought that might be going through these peoples minds as they see the whole world going one way and their God leading them a different way. I think of Daniel and his three friends in Daniel chapter one. They were young, maybe even teenagers. They had been taken from family and home to a land far away. They were commanded to eat those things that their God had forbidden them to eat. It would have been much easier to just fall in with the program and eat the delivered food. But Daniel and his friends will obey God rather than man. When I read of those in the Old Testament and these in the great tribulation who under the most adverse circumstances were faithful, it compels me to reexamine my own conduct.

These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes.

In this we see that these are totally dedicated to their Messiah. They are free from spiritual fornication, that spiritual adultery of which James wrote in James 4:4, "Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." In the Old Testament spiritual adultery is associated with idol worship Ex. 34:15; Deut. 31:16; Jud. 2:17; Hos 9:1). These have kept themselves pure from this even in the worst of times. And because they have been faithful in the worst of times they will, with the Lamb enjoy the best of times.

These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.

The term firstfruits seems to once again identify these with a Jewish heritage for the whole idea of firstfruits is a Hebrew one (Ex. 23:16-19; 34:22-26; Lev. 2:12-14; 23:10-20; etc.) The firstfruits with its offering and calibration was a sign and seal that the harvest would come. So it is here, these 144,000 are not all the saved from Israel for all Israel shall be saved (Rom. 11:26) but these are only the firstfruits of a plentiful harvest.

THEIR SINCERITY

And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God.

This period of time, being Satan's time will be a period of lying and falsehood (2 Thess. 2:9, 11; 1 John 2:22). But none of this has affected these who know God as Zephaniah says in 3:13 concerning the millennium, "The remnant of Israel shall do no unrighteousness And speak no lies, Nor shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth; For they shall feed <their> flocks and lie down, And no one shall make <them> afraid."

God wants us to be faithful. The sad but true story is that none of us are as faithful as we could be. Some are more faithful than others. Some have more difficult circumstances than others and it requires more dedication for them to be faithful than for others. Those in foreign lands who are persecuted for their faith have a much higher price to pay for their faithfulness than do we here in this country.

But we need to understand that what ever the circumstance, whatever the threat, whatever the temptation, it pays to be faithful. God rewards faithfulness. He never misses anything we do for His name. Even if it is only a cup of water, we will receive a reward if we do it in Jesus' name.

Let us be know and faithful. Faithful even when the world considers it foolishness. Even when other may consider us prudish, of goodie-two-shoes, let us be faithful. We are not seeking the praise of men but the praise of our God.

 

Faithfulness - Its Cost & Rewards

Rev 14:1-5

1 Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father's name written on their foreheads. 2 And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps. 3 They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth. 4 These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb. 5 And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God. NKJV

This passage comes along where the scene has become the darkest. Like that rainbow that is borne out of the darkest storm. Like the stars that shine brightest on the darkest night. We have seen in Rev. 13 the darkest day of earth's future:

The worship of the man of sin.

The deceiving of the world by the false prophet,

The persecution & death of millions of followers of the Lamb.

And when our hearts would fail us for contemplation of those things to come, John is given a brief view of the end.

God not only know the end, He determines the end for He never fails. It pays to serve God and be faithful whatever the cost.

  1. God never fails - He has always had a faithful band
    1. Elijah's day
      1. Sin abounded
      2. Idol worship was ramped
      3. Ungodliness plagued the nation from the king's palace to the peasants hut.
      4. Persecution of the righteous to the extent that Elijah thought he was the only one left and wanted God to take his life also.
      5. There was little toleration of God's people, message or His messengers.
      6. But God had 7,000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal.
    2. John's day
      1. Nero is on the throne.
      2. The world is taken up with paganism
      3. The world is taken up with immorality
      4. The toleration of Christians has moved from acceptance to hate and they are put to death by the thousands.
    3. The tribulation period will be worse.
      1. The Antichrist - Satan's man is in charge of the world.
      2. The false prophet is working wonders, miracles, deceiving the whole world.
      3. The people of earth wonder after the beast to worship him.
      4. The mark of the beast clearly separates the believers from the rest of society.
      5. It expels them from the market place and they cannot buy of sell.
      6. Besides all this the time is filled with the terrible disasters on the earth.
      7. But God's people are still faithful.
      8. Faithful even in the worst of times.
      9. Faithful to death.
      10. Faithful when the world is against them.
      11. Faithful when it would be easy to give in to sin.
        1. Joseph in Gen in Potiphar's house.
        2. Daniel and his friends.
        3. S.M.A. In Daniel
        4. Those who choose to be unfaithful will never lack for excuses but God knows.
      12. But they bear the seal of the Father's Name upon them.
      13. 2 Tim 2:19 Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity." NKJV
  2. God never fails for He wins the final victory.
    1. We see the Lamb & the 144,000 that we began the tribulation period with standing on Mount Zion, that is Jerusalem after it is all said and done.
    2. They stand there victorious.
    3. The stand in the temple area.
      1. Where the antichrist proclaimed himself as God.
      2. Where the image of the beast was set up, given life, and was worshiped.
    4. They stand there singing.
      1. Singing is rejoicing.
      2. Singing is triumph.
      3. They sing a song that only they know.
        1. That is only they can understand for only they have gone though what they have gone through.
        2. It is a song of redemption.
        3. They are redeemed and that is the reason for their victory.
        4. They belong to the King of Kings and He never loses.
    5. Where once they had been scorned and been beaten by the antichrist, they now are conquering by the Lamb who they follow day and night.
      1. It reminds me of the promise that God gives us through Paul in Rom. 8 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." 37Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. NKJV
      2. What a wonderful promise.
      3. It is promises like that that should spur us on to greater faithfulness.
  3. God never fails for Jesus, the Lamb, our Savior still lives, and lives to reign.
    1. He will destroy
      1. The antichrist
      2. The false prophet
      3. Those who oppose Him
      4. Those who will not submit to Him
    2. He does not force us to follow but those who do not will suffer the circumstances.
    3. He wants to love into His kingdom but if we reject His love, we will experience His judgement.

Con: People always want to be on the winning team. But sometimes that is hard to determine ahead of time. Some people want to be on the winning team but they are not concerned about faithfulness to the team.

Faithfulness to a worldly group may or may not pay off, but faithfulness to God never fails to give dividends.

 
This message was preached at FBC Toulon, by Albert Harmon. See it at http://toulonbaptist.com