The Weekend Word
4 It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb,
- This is a point of great division in the American church. There are those who teach that the group described is not the church but is indeed Israel. The claim is made that these are literally 12,000 Jews from the 12 tribes of Israel who God has chosen to carry his word to the nations left behind after the church has been raptured – taken away from the earth and planted in heaven for the time of tribulation on the earth. This is not my position. If you want to read this position, the books are in great quantity and fill bookstore shelves.
- How do we identify this redeemed group? What are the marks?
- #1 = they are described as virgins. Since we take much if not all of Revelation as being symbolic, I make the case that these are not 144,000 virgin Jewish men as some do.
- This is a description of those, both men and women who have not worshiped the beast. They have kept themselves clean from the pollution, the impurity of idolatry. The Bible describes idolatry and false worship as adultery – sexual immorality – out whoring after other gods.
- These 144,000 ‘virgins’, are the church – are the bride of Christ. She is holy – see Rev 21 – not in herself but because v.3 says she has been redeemed by Jesus.
- #2 = the 144,000 follow the lamb wherever he goes. They / we are his disciples. Where do we follow him? From death into life.
- #3 = they have been purchased from man (mankind) and since we have been purchased by the blood of the lamb this sets Christians apart from all the rest of humanity which worships the beast. The 144,000 are special.
- We are the first fruit of the harvest. This new Israel of God is set aside, dedicated to the service of God. This follows right along with Leviticus 2 and Ezekiel 45 & 48.
5 and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless.
- This is not that they have not told lies. These are those who have not lied about God. This is faithfulness to the 2nd
- #4 = they are blameless – not because of what they have done, but because of what they have been given – the righteousness, the purity and the holiness of Jesus – the lamb who was slain. Spotless and blameless like the lamb himself.
The Messages of the Three Angels – The Future of the Unredeemed: Eternal Damnation.
- Those who stand with the Lamb on Mount Zion to sing a new song are those who have kept themselves pure and followed Jesus in life and even in death. This glimpse into the future is a word of great encouragement to the believer. However, John also has a vision of the future of the non-believer in which the final historical judgment is delivered in the ominous words of three angels. These three angels are not messengers of God’s grace but of his judgment and wrath.
6 Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.
- We saw other angels – how many gospels? Only the one. Paul in Galatians 1 warned about those who would teach any other gospel – even if it is an angel from heaven. Paul teaches this eternal gospel in 1 Cor 15:1-4. Paul tells us this is the gospel.
- This is the gospel – it is a word, it is a message, it is a deed – it is an act of God that takes place outside of me. It is not me and it is not my actions. It is not inside of me and it is not my feelings or emotions. It is not something that needs to be nurtured or resurrected in me.
- The reformation way of talking about this is ‘the gospel is what God has done for you outside of yourself in Christ Jesus – and the gospel comes to you through an external objective word of God – a preacher comes, a preacher speaks the word, a preacher’s hand baptizes and preacher’s mouth says ‘take and eat, take and drink’ and in those words Christ speaks.”
- Now, in America, many say “yes, we agree about the gospel but what really counts is what God is doing in you.”
- Many other Christian groups will say, yeah, yeah, yeah – we know what Jesus did on that one Good Friday but now we must move on to the fruit we must produce. This stems from the ‘once saved always saved’ teaching – the idea that sanctification takes precedence over justification in the life of the believer.
- The result? The eternal gospel becomes useful only as an evangelism tool and gets put on the back burner as now the emphasis for the baptized believers is to make missionaries out of them.
- The problem is, and this is missed by many, is that the Christian remains a sinner until he or she dies and still needs to hear law and gospel preaching.
7 And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
- Wow! This sounds like stuff right out of the first article of the creed.
- Something to note here – we previously heard the 3 woes. Now they are matched bookended by the 3 announcements from the 3 angels. This is good news – assurance, certainty and more certainty for the faithful, the church.
- At the same time we will see in the announcements warnings against compromise and apostasy.
- What is it to ‘fear God’? This is, or should be, the purpose of preaching the eternal gospel. To move people to fear God, to give him glory and to worship him – because of their / our sin and the coming judgment.
- What does the Small Catechism say our response should be in the explanations for the 10 Commandments? “We should fear and love God…”