Welcome to a revelation of Jesus. We have reached a critical point in our study of the book of Revelation. Perhaps you, like me, are dismayed that the Revelation narrative has spent so much time talking about the terrible things Satan and his agents have done and will do, and the success they have had in targeting those of us who believe in Jesus. The chiastic structure of Revelation teaches us that now that we have gotten to Revelation chapter 14 there is going to be a big change. I’m going to start this video by doing a review of what we have learned in the first half of Revelation in order to establish the context for the second half.
You may want to review video 4 in which we studied the chiastic literary structure. We learned that Revelation is divided into 8 sections. We know when we have reached a new section because each one is introduced by a scene from the sanctuary in heaven. The sections are arranged with corresponding symbols and language to create a mirror image that progresses and builds to a climax. Since there are an even number of sections, there are actually two climaxes, one for the first half of the book of Revelation which culminates at the end of chapter 13, and one for the second half of the book at the beginning of chapter 14.
We can learn the theme of each half of the book by looking at its climax. The most prominent features of the climax of the first half are the image, mark, name, and number of the beast. This theme of threat, coercion, and apostasy shows us that the first half of Revelation tells the story of Satan’s attempts to overthrow God’s kingdom by attacking His followers, using deceit, coercion, and counterfeit Christianity.
This doesn’t mean that Satan is the star of the first half. The whole book of Revelation is “a revelation of Jesus Christ”. But the elephant in the room when we talk about the love of God is that the world He created is full of sin with its pain, sorrow, and death. The Bible story begins at the dawn of creation when Satan managed to hijack God’s plan for humanity. The rest of the Bible tells the story of how God has worked to establish His kingdom in the face of Satan’s continuous opposition, with the major turning point at the Cross where Jesus broke the power of death by dying for our sins.
But Satan’s opposition didn’t end at the Cross. The Book of Acts tells about how the Apostolic Church established Christianity in the face of Satan’s fierce attacks. The first half of the Book of Revelation continues that story from the time of the Apostles to the time of the end.
We have seen this as we have progressed through the chiastic sections of the book of Revelation. In the first section the seven churches were characterized by a steady erosion of faith and love. The late apostolic church during the Ephesus era lost its first love and this led to a string of compromises that eventually resulted in the long Thyatira era with the horrific union of church and state of the dark ages. Even the bright light of the Protestant Reformation was darkened by infighting, intolerance, and dead formalism during the Sardis era. The revivals and missionary movements of the Philadelphia era offered a temporary reprieve, but in our modern times, Satan has used materialism and self-sufficiency to try to make Jesus irrelevant.
In the second section Satan’s efforts even invaded the heavenly realm as the seven seals portray the beginning of final judgment. The judgment was nearly thwarted by Satan’s challenge to the opening of the Book of Life. “The Lamb as if it was slain” overturned the challenge, but when the seals of the book were opened the four horses showed that a significant percentage of those who had been written in were so influenced by Satan that their names were blotted out.
In the third section the seven trumpets depict the destruction that Satan will be allowed to inflict on the earth. Satan himself appears on earth as the beast from the bottomless pit and uses war and the chaos it brings about to find an opportunity to attack God’s ambassadors, the two witnesses.
Finally, in the fourth section the cosmic conflict takes the story clear back to the incarnation of the Son of God, showing how Satan the dragon tried to destroy Him during His earthly ministry. After losing the war in heaven, Satan was banished to earth where he used the Christian Church he had corrupted, symbolized by a seven-headed beast from the sea, to persecute the remnant of faithful believers during the dark ages.
The beast received a deadly wound, but a new beast appears “out of the earth”. We saw that the United States of America and its allies will create an image of the beast, in other words, a modern union of church and state, that will bring us to the climax of Satan’s efforts to destroy the followers of Jesus with the mark, name, and number of the beast.
But despite what has seemed to be a degree of success, Jesus’ perfect life, death for our sins, and resurrection from the dead made it clear that Satan is a defeated foe. The second half of the book of Revelation, which we will begin to study in this video, tells the story of how God defeats sin and Satan, bringing back the harmony and perfection He always had in mind. When it’s all over “God Himself will be with His people. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3,4).
The second half of the book begins at the climax, giving a thumbnail sketch of how God will bring sin to an end. “[John] looked and behold, a Lamb standing on mount Zion, and with him 144,000, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads” (Revelation 14:1). God Himself is the central figure, and although God could be depicted in innumerable ways, He presents Himself at the peak of the great controversy as Jesus, the Lamb of God. In striking contrast to the deceptive, oppressive character of Satan, at the climax of the Book of Revelation God presents Himself as the self-sacrificing Savior who gave Himself for sinful humanity.
Remember that in chapter 12 we saw that Satan the dragon was the mastermind behind the effort to overcome God’s kingdom on earth, but by the time we got to the climax in chapter 13 the focus was on the beast from the sea and the beast from the earth, in other words, Satan’s earthly representatives who carry out his plans. We see the same pattern here at the climax of God’s victory: the Lamb is portrayed along with His earthly representatives. “Behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000”.
We have encountered this group in several previous videos and now we see why. They are featured at the very climax of the Book of Revelation. The 144,000 were first introduced in Revelation chapter 7 which depicts the judgment of those who are alive during the last days.
A mighty angel of God told four evil angels that they could not harm the earth until “144,000 of all the tribes of the children of Israel [are] sealed in their foreheads” (Revelation 7:4). We studied this group in detail in videos 23, 24, 25; you may want to go back and review the evidence that these are the people who are called in the last days to be God’s final witnesses and lead a great multitude out of darkness into God’s kingdom.
The 144,000 appear again during the seven trumpets. The trumpets depict the disasters that take place when Satan and his four evil angels are released. This time the 144,000 are called “the two witnesses,” and they give powerful testimony to the world even while being attacked by “the beast from the bottomless pit” (Revelation 11:7-13). You can learn more about this story in videos 38, 39, and 40.
The 144,00 appear again in chapter 15. This time they are called “those who have the victory over the beast” (Revelation 15:2). They are standing on a sea of glass with the great multitude who have come out of Babylon, rejoicing in the Lord even as the seven last plagues are about to be poured out. They appear one last time in chapter 18, symbolized by “an angel coming down from heaven” who cries “mightily with a strong voice” to God’s people who are in Babylon, “come out of her my people” (18:1-4). Learn more and see the fascinating scriptural support for all of these appearances of the 144,000 in video 25.
With so many important references it should not be surprising to find the 144,000 on center stage at the climax of the book. But it is important to remember that people are not the heroes of Revelation—”a Lamb standing on Mount Zion” and “His Father” are the central focus. The 144,000 were hopeless sinners like everyone else, and only God’s grace led them to repentance, gives them victory over sin, and enables them to persevere in the face of the overwhelming pressure of the Great Tribulation.
John saw “144,000, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads” (Revelation 14:1). Having the Father’s name written on our foreheads is much more than having our names written in the books of a church. First of all, we learn in Exodus 34 that God’s name is inseparable from His character. The Lord told Moses, “I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you” (Exodus 33:19).
Then He proclaimed His name and His character together, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Exodus 34:6, see also Deuteronomy 32:3,4, Isaiah 59:19, 57:15, Psalms 54:1, Exodus 34:14). To have the Father’s name written on their forehead means that the 144,000 reflect His character.
God’s name is also synonymous with His presence; from the Old Testament temple worship we learn that wherever God’s puts His name, His presence is there. King Jehoshaphat prayed, “[We] have built You a sanctuary for Your name… We will stand… in Your presence, for your name is in this temple (2Chronicles 20:7-9, see also Deuteronomy 12:5,11, 14:23, 16:2). The earthly temples are long gone, but now God’s people are the temple of God: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God” (1Corinthians 3:16, 6:19). The Father’s name written on the foreheads of the 144,000 means that He, through the Holy Spirit, is living in them and shining out of them.
It is no accident that God’s name is depicted on the foreheads of the 144,000 rather than somewhere else. The forehead is the most visible part of the body. This shows us that God’s purpose for the 144,000 is to reveal Him to those who see them.
Notice also verse 4. “[The 144,000] were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb” (Revelation 14:4). The first fruits are the eagerly awaited first sampling of the harvest to ripen.
Jesus, through His death and resurrection, became the “first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23), a guarantee that there will be a great harvest of resurrected believers. The 144,000 are first fruits in the sense that they are an example of what those in the eternal kingdom will be like and a guarantee that there will be many other men, women, and children who will also have the righteous character of Christ.
Verse 4 also tells us that God’s special representatives are redeemed. In Bible times to redeem meant to rescue someone from slavery or captivity. Notice what God says about the people He redeemed in 2 Samuel 7: “You are great, O Lord God… and who is like Your people, the one nation on the earth whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people, to make for Himself a name… Your people, whom You redeemed, You have made Your very own forever, and You, Lord have become their God… So let Your name be magnified forever” (2 Samuel 7:22-26). Here we see that God’s purpose in redeeming his people is not just to free them from bondage, but so that His name will be magnified.
To summarize what we have learned so far, the 144,000 have God’s name on their foreheads, in other words, they reflect God’s character in a way that is obvious to those who see them. They are a temple for His presence through the indwelling Holy Spirit, and they are first fruits that have been redeemed in order to magnify God’s holy name. This is the culmination of God’s plan as outlined in 1 John 4, to perfect for Himself a people who will be His witnesses during the “hour of His judgment”—”Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world” (1John 4:17).
Let’s learn more about these people who are front and center at the climax of Revelation. “These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins” (Revelation 14:4). This does not mean that they are celibate monks living in a monastery. In chapter 12 we studied in videos 42 and 43, and we saw that women in the Bible symbolize God’s chosen representatives, Old Testament Israel and the New Testament Church. In Revelation chapter 12 the church is pure and holy, depicted as a woman clothed with the sun, moon and stars.
In chapter 17 the corrupted church has departed so far from the faith of Jesus that they are symbolized by an immoral woman with the name, “Mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of harlots… drunk with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (Revelation 17:5,6). To be “defiled with women” means uniting at a heart level with the corrupted churches that are symbolized by the harlot and her daughters. These have become so influenced by Satan that they have listened to other “gods” and obeyed their demands to persecute God’s followers in the name of Jesus.
This doesn’t mean that people who have worshiped false gods and have been under the control of Satan cannot repent and become a part of God’s eternal kingdom. There will be a great multitude of people who will hear the message, “Babylon is fallen… come out of her my people!” (Revelation 18:2-4), But the 144,000 who give this message need to have a clear connection with the Holy Spirit so that they can hear His voice and carry out their mission. If attachment to false gods has opened a connection that Satan can exploit, they may be hearing mixed messages that could compromise their ministry. This is why the 144,000 “are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins”
The 144,000 also “follow the Lamb wherever He goes” (Revelation 14:4). These are people who are so in harmony with the Holy Spirit that they hear His voice, telling them where to go, what to do, and what to say. God is always at work all around us, seeking to open people’s hearts. When someone responds to the Holy Spirit’s prompting, God needs one of His human representatives to help them progress from having an impression in their heart to being a disciple of Jesus. Abraham, Moses and Elijah are just three of many Biblical examples of people who had such a well-developed relationship with God that they understood His directions and were willing to respond. The 144,000 will need to have this kind of relationship with God in order to deliver the powerful final messages during the treacherous conditions created by the image of the beast.
Twice in this passage the 144,000 are said to be “before the throne” (vs.3, 5), and at first glance, it would appear that the vision has moved forward to the time after the Second Coming of Christ when God’s people will be in heaven. However, in Revelation 7:15, which we studied in video 24, the 144,000 are also pictured as being “before the throne,” and we saw that this refers to the awesome experience they will have of being physically on earth in the midst of the plagues, but spiritually in heaven before the throne.
Let’s look at support for this concept. Notice that this first part of Revelation 14 is sandwiched between the final attack, the mark, number, and name of the beast, and the final message of God, that is, the three angels’ messages. This suggests that this section has the same context—God’s representatives, the 144,000, are still on earth just before His Second Coming.
In this sense, they are like Jesus, who said, “Now I am no longer in the world” (John 17:11), even though He still had three days of suffering, crucifixion, and the grave ahead of Him. He told Nicodemus, “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the son of Man who is in heaven” (John 3:13). Even though He had come down from heaven, He was still spiritually in heaven with His Father.
Stephen had this experience as he was about to be stoned—”He, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said ‘Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” (Acts 7:55,56).
Paul said, “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6), using the past tense which shows that spiritually and by faith we are already sitting with Christ on His throne. He invites us to “come boldly to the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16), even though His throne is in heaven and we are on earth.
These are faith experiences that we can taste now, but the unique experiences God’s people will have during the time of trouble will take our faith to a new level. On the one hand, the 144,000 will be facing the threats that go along with the image, mark, and number of the beast, and on the other hand, they will be receiving the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in latter-rain power. In this context, the heavenly realm will become such a reality that they will already be “before the throne.”
This experience will inspire the “new song” that they will sing. The reason that “no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand” is because they will have an experience unique in human history, as they proclaim the everlasting gospel to the world during the time of trouble.
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