Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Revelation 14:1-5 Only the Holy & Obedient Are in Heaven

KEY TEXT: Revelation 14:1-5 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. 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, 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. 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, and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless.

KEY THOT: John's vision shifts from what is happenning on earth to what is happening in heaven. While Mount Zion in the OT is used to refer to the earthly Jerusalem, in the NT it is used to refer to the heavenly Jerusalem. For example, the writer to Hebrews refers to Mount Zion as the heavenly city of God: "But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant" (Hebrews 12:22-24). One day, this heavenly Mount Zion (Jerusalem) will descend out of heaven (Rev. 21:2) onto the new earth as the eternal City of God. But at this point in time, it is still located in heaven for God's final wrath against sinful humanity has not been poured out yet. 

What John sees in this vision is the same 144,000 from the 12 tribes of Israel (Rev. 7:4-8) who have "had been redeemed from the earth...redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb" (v. 4). They are in heaven because they were sealed on their foreheads with Christ's and the Father's name as they had refused the mark of the beast on their foreheads (Rev. 13:16). They have kept themselves sexually pure (holy). The 144,000 are characterized by holiness.

Holiness is topic that is seldom heard nowadays--neither from the pulpit nor in our Bible study discussion. We are now so focused on happiness, rather than holiness. We want the Good Life at the expense of the Great Life. The Great Life promised by Christ is one that begins with a heart crying out for holiness: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Mt. 5:8). Without this desperation for holiness, there will be no revival, no matter how many prayer meetings we may have.

But the 144,000 is also characterized by their obedience: they "follow the Lamb wherever he goes" (v.4). That is the heart of faith: obedience. To follow the Lamb wherever He may lead us. Many of us turn faith on its head: we want the Lamb to follow us wherever we choose to go. That is not loving Jesus--that is using Jesus. Jesus has said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments...If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him" (John 14:15, 23). That is the true mark of a faith--obedience: "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him" (John 3:36). In other words, if our believing does not lead to right behaving, we won't make it to heaven.

The first word that came out of Jesus' mouth at the start of his ministry was "Repent!" not "Receive!": "From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'" (Matthew 4:17). We can't receive until we have repented. And we can only receive because we have obeyed, just as the 144,000 have received the name of Jesus and the Father on their foreheads because "they follow the Lamb wherever he goes."

In our narcissistic age, the focus of faith is always on receiving rather than on giving, on believing rather than on obeying. If we are to experience true faith again and the resulting life transformation, we have to put the emphasis back on the word "obey", not just "believe". Otherwise, we may be believing in vain and become self-deceived: "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves" (James 1:22). 

Let's go back to the basics of Jesus' words. Let's not ignore His clear warnings and escape into self-deception of believing without behaving. 

Abba-Father, deliver us from false beliefs and self-deception because we would rather please ourselves than please You. Amen.

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