The Weekend Word
An Introduction to Chapter 14
- What is to come follows on the heels of everything that looks like defeat for the church (end of ch 13) – the dragon, the 2 beasts, the mark to buy and sell.
- It is like we can hear the Christians crying out, “who can stand?” or better yet, who can live with this? But here comes the answer.
- So this is an alternative community – the devil does not have the only one. The alternative community is the church who follows the lamb wherever he goes.
- We saw the church in Rev 7 and Rev 11 (the 2 witnesses) – but having just spoken of the community of the beasts in ch 13 we now witness John’s pastoral instincts leading him to remind all of us, including his readers and hearers of the day that we all belong to the community – the fellowship of the lamb.
- Here in chapter 14 that church is described. John sees the Lamb, he sees Jesus Christ. Earlier in Rev 1:9-20 John had seen Jesus as the one who lives and is among his people. We saw the same in Rev 5 in the throne room – John saw Jesus standing among the elders – who are the worshiping people of God who sing the new song (also described here in 14:3).
- We learned in Rev 7 that the symbolic number of the church is 144,000 – they are marked on their foreheads with God’s seal and the shepherd is the lamb who is at the center on the throne. (v.17)
- It is indeed Jesus who leads his people to worship before the throne (Rev 8) and he sees to their safety as they live in the hostile community, the false church of the beast (Rev 11). This is why John now says he see the Lamb here in ch 14.
- John is once again recapitulating / describing again, the same event – Jesus with and among his church over and over again as we go through that period of time between the two advents (that period we call the millennium) for reassurance. We could nickname the Apostle John – Johnny One Note
The Lamb and His Church – or, the victory of the redeemed.
1 Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.
- This is a reminder of Hebrews 12 – the great cloud of witnesses. Paul speaks of something similar in 1 Cor 9:24-25 – running the race and in Phil 3, pressing on.
- John is given another vision – he sees Jesus with his people – which assures that we do not need to do what the dragon wants us to do – which is to compromise.
- A good pastor would emphasize this in his teaching as he delivers pastoral care. “In spite of what you see around you, rest assured. Let me speak the truth into your ears – the Lord says…”
- This is a reminder – these / we are known by the Father and we are given an identity to have salvation in the fullest sense. The name written on our foreheads is Good Shepherd language – “I know my sheep…”
- Where does the Lamb stand? On Mt Zion. This is huge as Mt Zion in the Bible is the place of God’s presence. It is the place of freedom, the place of worship and the place of safety for the church.
- It seems quite appropriate that it is this particular location where Jesus stands with his church – the spot where the temple and the sacrificial altar once stood.
- Mt Zion is the heavenly Jerusalem – Heb 12:22. Mt Zion is that Holy city where God has placed his king – Psalm 2. The place of salvation for all who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
2 And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps,
3 and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.
- “A new song before the throne” – Here we see once again the Divine liturgy and hymnody which belongs to heaven. We cannot possibly even imagine the beauty of this heavenly worship, although we get a glimpse, ever so dim, in our Divine Service.
- The song of the lamb – the song of victory by the lamb who was slain.
- By his blood Jesus has purchased / redeemed for God saints from every tribe, language, people and nation. (Rev 5:9)
- 1 Cor 13 speaks of seeing through a glass dimly. This is the way we sing today. We can sing holy, holy, holy but when we come to that day we will be surprised saying “Oh! I didn’t know that this is what it all entails.” “Oh! This is what Isaiah saw.” “Oh! This is what John was witnessing.” Oh! This is who Peter and Paul were preaching about.” “Oh! That’s what our songs were about.”
- It is one thing to sing Amazing Grace from a place of exile and promise – it’s another thing to sing it when faith has turned to sight.
- The Divine liturgy/hymnody is for believers – only believers can learn, understand, and appreciate it. Worship is for believers only – not unbelievers. The divine worship service is not a time for evangelism.
- “No one could learn that song except the 144,000…” How were they able to learn it (understand it)? The Divine Service is the time when believers gather together in the Holy of Holies where God’s presence dwells to confess their sins and receive forgiveness, life, and salvation through God’s means of grace – his holy word and sacraments. Only believers, those who have been catechized in the faith, can know and understand what is really going on in the Divine Service.
- Two things we should never do – (1) we should never design our worship services around the wants and desires of the unchurched. If they are to become churched, then they are to be catechized in the faith so that they, too, can know and understand what is happening in the Divine Service. (2) we should never feel pressured to apologize for this position.