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What a joyous and hopeful song we have just sung. When the race is complete, still my lips shall repeat, yet not I but through Christ in me. So, Father, we look to Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, that He might speak to us, that we might hear His voice as the sound of many rushing waters, and that You would call each of us to faith and repentance, you would renew our strength, that You would save us on this day that we might be gathered in the heavenly places as a holy army to sing Your praise now and forevermore. We ask in Jesus. Amen.
Our text this morning comes from Revelation chapter 14. Revelation 14. We’ll be looking at just the first paragraph, verses 1 through 5 of Revelation 14.
“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.”
For the better part of two chapters, John has been given visions of diabolical creatures. Chapter 12, a great red dragon. Now we actually don’t see it. John sees it and then he describes it to us. But in your mind’s eye, you think a great red dragon. Grotesque looking with seven heads and ten horns and a mighty tail strong enough to swipe away the stars out of the sky. A great red dragon.
Then he sees a beast out of the sea with ten horns and seven heads. It looks like a leopard but it has feet like a bear and it has a mouth like a lion. And then a second beast from the earth with two horns and a voice like the dragon.
Chapter 13 we were introduced to these two beasts, or the beast and his false prophet. They were representations of a rogue government and of a false religion.
So we’ve seen the first beast, which is given power from the dragon to persecute the Church, and then we saw the second beast who had words given from the dragon to deceive the inhabitants of the earth. And after these striking visions, we might be left wondering how will God’s people endure. Remember, that was the call after the first beast, endurance, or we might be left wondering how can they be discerning, because that was the call after the second beast. And even bigger than that, we might wonder, well, what hope really is there for God’s people among this unholy trinity – dragon, beast, beast. Perhaps you can easily reach that same conclusion with the sin in your own heart, with the headlines around our country or the world, or just pain or betrayal in your own midst, confusion, and you know all too well it seems like who gets all of the billing, all of the top heading. It’s the dragon and his beasts and you wonder what is the answer to this unholy trinity and these diabolical visions.
Then we come to chapter 14 and it gives us the answer. As simple as it is striking and profound, “then I looked and I saw a Lamb.” I looked and I saw a great red dragon, I looked and I saw a beast coming from the sea, I looked and I saw a beast from the earth, and now, in sharp contrast to those visions, the ultimate answer to the problem, the perversion of the state, the perversion of religion, this dragon at work in the world, this beast of the government, this beast of false religion. If that’s all you can see, if that’s what it looks like, all you can witness in the world, then you are not seeing the world as God sees it.
Yes, there’s a need for hard work and plans and strategy and how to change a culture, how to make a difference in the world. All of that is good. But don’t miss the starting place because we easily, we skip that. We see dragon/beast/beast and we say all right, let’s huddle up. What are we going to do? How are we going to fix it? God wants us to fix this. Dragon/beast/beast. If that’s what you see, if that’s all you can see, if you go through week after week feeling this palpable sense of fear and gloom and despondency and discouragement, then you’re not seeing the world as God sees it. “Then I looked and there was a Lamb.”
Now you wouldn’t normally think that a sheep would be a match for a dragon and two devilish beasts. I saw on my Twitter feed this week somebody just put, they said, you just need some encouragement today. Here’s a 10-second clip of a sheep walking in the woods with a hat on. That’s what it was because that’s what the internet provides us. That is kind of maybe the best thing I’ve seen. That is pretty cute. A little sheep with a hat walking in the woods. That’s what we think of.
But this is no ordinary Shawn the sheep. That was for you, kids. This is the messianic sheep. This is the Lamb of God slain but now He is standing. The last time we saw the Lamb He was opening the scrolls and the seals and now He appears in victory to reassure John and to reassure each of us the beast from the sea, the beast of the earth, this diabolical government, this false religion, all infused with the power of the dragon, they are no match for the sheep that stands in heaven.
Remember, this is the true Lamb. If you look back in chapter 13, verse 11, remember the second beast rising out of the earth had two horns like a lamb. He’s not grotesque like the first beast was with a leopard and a bear and all the rest. He looks like a lamb. Why? Because it is representative of false religion. He’s a counterfeit. He looks something like a Christ. In fact, he looks like one who had been given a mortal wound and yet now lives. This is a counterfeit Christ, a false religion.
Now we have the real Christ, the real thing. He appears in victory. No matter what the dragon and his two beastly friends may try to do on the earth, they are no match. This is not a fair fight. Yes, the devil is powerful; yes, we live in a fallen world. It’s easy to see much darkness and corruption all around us. Do not think for a moment that this is sort of two basic equals and yet God’s going to slug it out in the end.
This passage, chapter 14, surely was written with Psalm 2 in mind. Why do the nations rage? The people’s plot in vain. You might say why do the beasts assail themselves against the Lord? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against His anointed. Everyone marshaling their forces, the beast of the false government and the beast of the false religion, and they think as they lead, remember what we saw in chapter 13, many people, they have millions, multitude of followers, and they have signs and wonders and it seems like the whole world is going after them.
But you remember what Psalm 2 says. In the face of this diabolical princely opposition, the One enthroned in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them. Then He rebukes them in His anger, terrifies them in His wrath, saying I have installed My King on Zion, My holy hill.
You see why I said chapter 14 was absolutely written with Psalm 2 in mind? Because now we see the literal installment of the messianic king, the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, standing here on Mount Zion, even as the dragon and the two beasts come together, seemingly invincible, but God’s anointed stands.
Notice, verse 1, “with Him on the mount are 144,000.” Now let’s remember how numbers work in the book of Revelation. There’s lots of numbers and they have a basic referent. Seven, from seven days of the week, a number of completion. And as I argued at the end of chapter 13, the name of the beast, the number, is 666, man’s number because it’s one short of perfection. It’s not a secret code, it’s just not 777, it’s 666. Forty in the Bible is a long period of time. Ten is a multiplier of perfection. 12 is a number for the tribes and for the apostles.
So let’s remember how numbers work. Let’s not be manipulating the numbers to find secret codes.
I came across over the weekend these sports commentators. I can’t take credit for any of this, or blame for any of this, but this is what they came up with. Why the Chiefs are going to win tonight, whether you like that or not, they said why the Chiefs are going to win tonight. Well, they have Taylor Swift, we all know, and Taylor Swift’s favorite number is 13. That’s what I’m told. I sort of lost track after the “Shake it off” song, whenever that was. So that’s her favorite number, it’s in her songs, I guess. She just had her 13th album. She won her 13th Grammy.
This is Super Bowl 58. 5 + 8, 13. The Chiefs are playing the 49ers. 4 + 9, yep, 13. Today is February 11. 02/11. 2 + 11. Now you’re starting to wonder really. She has been, I’m told, so far to 12 NFL games. This will be her, her 13th. The 49ers were the number one seed, the Chiefs were the number three seed. Now she is flying, I hear, from Tokyo, which is a 13-hour flight. So you could just keep on going.
So that’s not, that’s not the way Revelation, that you just mix and match. You can always find a code to say something and it means somebody else. There’s just a general way in which an apocalyptic literature these numbers have a kind of valence or resonance.
So as we saw in chapter 7, 144,000, 12 x 12 x 1000, 12 tribes, 12 apostles. So this is the totality of the number of God’s people. It’s a representative number for God’s people. In chapter 7 there’s a picture of the Church triumphant, standing. Remember chapter 6, the wrath of the Lamb is revealed. Who can stand? Well, the 144,000 can stand. Here a picture of the Church that has stood firm. It’s really a continuation of chapter 7. The wrath of the Lamb. Who can stand? The 144,000. Now we get a picture in heaven with the Lamb and His 144,000.
This number, this is important for understanding the rest of this passage, and we saw this in chapter 7, it’s depicted as a holy army.
Remember in chapter 7, it may even do good to just turn back there and just keep your finger in 14, look at chapter 7. Remember 12,000 from the tribe of Judah, 12,000 from the tribe of Reuben. It’s a stylized list of the tribes, 12,000 from each. It’s a census. Well, the censuses in the Old Testament were for military purposes. That’s why you count the people. It’s for a military reckoning. The 144,000 in chapter 7 are given as a divine census, a kind of holy army.
So her in chapter 14, in the face of the dragon and the two beasts, now we’re to picture the Lamb standing victorious and there with Him is His holy army. Notice where they’re standing on Mount Zion, more about that in a moment, they’re standing on the literal high ground. This is the place of conquest. It’s as if the Lamb has won His victory and there on the high ground, looking down upon the spoils of victory, upon all His conquered foes, the dragon was no match, the beast was no match, the false prophet was no match, and there He is with His conquering army. This conquest, however, is not won by spilling the blood of our opponents, it was won by the shed blood of the Lamb and by the willingness of the holy army to be faithful even to the point of death.
You get that? This victory, this spiritual victory, is not won, it’s not to say that there’s not a place in God’s ordering of government, there is such a thing as just war, but this warfare, this spiritual warfare, this conquering of Christ’s kingdom, does not come by the shedding of our enemies’ blood. It comes by the shedding of Christ’s blood and by our willingness to say even to the point of death I will follow the Lamb.
So there He is on Mount Zion, you see in verse 1. This is not the literal Mount Zion. There are some schools of interpretation that say, no, this is on the temple mount in Jerusalem and these are maybe 144,000 evangelists who are going to win the world to Christ during the time of the millennial reign, or leading up to the millennial reign during the tribulation. But the only other New Testament example of Mount Zion, the only other time this is in the New Testament, is in Hebrews 12:22, which we read earlier in the service where it says, “You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of living God to the heavenly Jerusalem.” In other words, Mount Zion, city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem, those are all synonyms for talking about the heavenly realities.
So this is not Jesus standing on a literal temple mount in Jerusalem but rather it’s a scene of Christ and the Church spiritually triumphant in heaven. Again, we know it’s a heavenly scene because we have later thrones and everywhere we have thrones in the book of Revelation we’re in some kind of heavenly scene.
Revelation wants to show us this scene which is not meant to be tell you what’s happening on the newspaper or the internet, it’s to tell you what you can’t see by the newspaper and the internet, what your own eyeballs won’t see, what your own heart with all of our fears won’t show you. This is the vision that God wants to give us if you have the eyes of faith, that even as all looks lost and so much looks to be in turmoil and utter despondency, yet there is this vision, this heavenly vision of Christ and His triumphant people in glory.
Remember again the counsel we were given after each of the beasts. Look again, chapter 13, verse 10. So we have the first beast and this is the government persecuting Christians and verse 10 says, “Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.” What do you do when the government is implacably turned against you?
Well, again, here in the Roman Empire, they don’t have the chance to have representative government and elections and they don’t have all the things that we have, so it’s not the only word for us, but it is a word – endure.
Then after the second beast, remember that’s false religion, deceiving, that’s why verse 18 says this calls for wisdom. So false state, this calls for endurance; false religion, this calls for wisdom.
So how does this vision in chapter 14 connect to those two exhortations in chapter 13?
Well, because the answer for endurance and the answer for discernment is the same. How do you endure? You look at the Lamb who was slain and yet He lives. How do you discern false religion from true? You look at the Lamb and at Christ.
If you want to be an expert in counterfeit currency, well, it’s true, you do need to know what counterfeit currency looks like, but the first thing you need to do is you need to absolutely know what the true currency looks like. That’s true in our day. If you want to be discerning as a Christian, you might say, well, I need to be an expert in the cults and all the world religions and I need to know what all the false teachers are saying out there. Well, there is some value in understanding that. But only if you first have an absolutely crystal clear picture of the real thing. To just know what a lot of false currency looks like without being able to measure it against the true currency will just make you very confused and not discerning.
Endurance, discernment. The answer to both look upon the Lamb. Would you see a picture in heaven that you cannot see with your own eyeballs here on earth.
Do you remember the story in 2 Kings 6? Maybe some of you have heard it before. Israel is at war with the Arameans who are some of their enemies at the time. There is an army of horses and chariots surrounding the city and God’s people seemed destined for utter destruction. They’re just looking around and they can just see on the horizon, enemy, enemy, enemy, all the way around. We’re completely surrounded. We’re cut off. Our supplies are cut off, our reinforcements are cut off, our escape is cut off.
Do you remember what happens? The prophet Elisha prays that the Lord would open His servant’s eyes that he may see, and then Elisha says, “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Do you remember the man looked again and now instead of seeing his enemies all around, he saw the mountains were full of angelic horses and chariots of fire. It was to show him there is a spiritual army on our side if only we have the eyes of faith to see it.
Not an exact parallel, but Aragorn comes back after he’s gotten all of the kings who were under their curse and had to avenge themselves and so they come out with this sort of spiritual army that overruns the place and just when it seemed as if all hope was lost, and you just have Aragorn and just a couple of his friends, then this spiritual army on the side of the righteous.
So here in Revelation 14 we are given a vision of what we should have eyes to see. The kingdom of Christ may appear at times to be a lost cause. We may be saddened by opposition. We may be scared to share our faith. We may be grieved by wayward children. We may be so tired of suffering from cancer and debilitating illness, but look, look, look. The Lamb stands and His holy army with Him.
Do you see what Revelation is doing? It’s depicting to us these two warring camps. Which one are you in? Are you a follower of the beast, deceived, oppressed. Remember, they thought the beast was their salvation but the beast was their oppression. That’s the way sin works. You think sin if your freedom; it’s not. It’s your diabolical, tyrannical master. You have followers of the beast or you have the followers of the Lamb, and the reason we know that the mark on the forehead for the followers of the beast is not your Social Security number or a microchip is, well, here it says the followers of the Lamb have the name. Well, we take that to be a spiritual identity. Both of them are thinking of a spiritual identity.
I want you to notice the characteristics of the followers of the Lamb.
One. It says that they are virgins. Now that seems strange. Verse 4 – these who have not defiled themselves with women for they are virgins. This is not advocating sexual asceticism. There’s a verse in 1 Timothy 4:2 that says some people have come and forbidden marriage and Paul says there that’s a doctrine a demons. So that’s actually a demonic doctrine that says any kind of sexual intercourse is bad and you shouldn’t get married.
So why does it say here defiling themselves? That makes it sound like sex here is something really bad, and if you’re truly spiritual you’ll be a virgin.
Remember, this 144,000 is depicted as a holy army. That’s why it’s given with reference to men. This isn’t literal 144,000, only men, but rather it’s depicted as a holy army which in the Old Testament would have been an army only of men, and one of the requirements for the Israelite soldiers when they were engaged in holy war is that they would abstain themselves from sex. Deuteronomy 23:9 – when you are encamped against your enemy, keep away from everything impure, because the man’s discharge would render him ritually unclean.
In 1 Samuel 21 David is hiding out at a place called Nob. The priest Ahimelech is there, David’s men are hungry but the only food is the consecrated bread. The priest says, “Are your men pure? Have they kept themselves from women?” David says, “Of course, we always keep ourselves from women when we’re out in battle.”
So this was commonplace. This was what was commanded. When you are the holy army, out in holy battle, you abstain yourself. Part of it was ritual impurity, perhaps part of it was just free from distraction. Part of it was probably just the simplicity of let’s not have groups of women or wives trailing with us out into battle. We are absolutely focused.
This also helps you remember the story of David and Bathsheba. Remember after David sins with Bathsheba and then she’s pregnant and David wants to try to cover it up, and he wants Bathsheba to have sex with her husband Uriah, he brings Uriah back that the two would sleep together but you remember Uriah refuses to do it. You might think, well, you’re home, on furlough, of course, but he still considers himself in battle. His men are out at the field.
So it’s not fitting to have sex when you’re the holy army engaged in holy battle. That’s what this is about. Sexual purity is not the issue so much as it is here a referent for spiritual chastity. The holy army of God is not defiled by harlotry with the world or the beast.
We’ll come to it in several weeks, Revelation chapter 17, there will be a woman riding a beast. She is this prostitute, Babylon. Babylon is depicted as a whore, as a prostitute. So the way of the world is one of spiritual adultery, the way of Christ is the one of spiritual chastity.
Just like 2 Corinthians 11:2. Paul says, “My aim is to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” He didn’t mean there that all the Corinthians had to be virgins and they couldn’t get married, but he means that collectively as a people they are to have the spiritual purity and chastity as a virgin.
So when it says they are virgins, it’s because he’s thinking of a holy army that has kept themselves pure and unstained from the world.
Two. Notice they follow the Lamb wherever it goes. Verse 4 – It is these who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. Isn’t that a great phrase? You could do worse than this than what does it mean to be a Christian? Here it is in one sentence. What does a Christian do? What is my life about? I follow the Lamb wherever He goes.
Now of course here it’s thinking about in a military sense that the Lamb is the captain and we’re good soldiers. We go off and when our commanding officer tells us to charge, we charge, when he tells us to stay, we stay. When he gives us an order, we salute and we say, “Yes, sir.” That’s what it means, he follows us wherever he goes. It’s not just follow, follow, follow, I mean, it’s not just on a fun trip down the yellow brick road, this is a military “yes, sir” what you tell me to do, I will go.
Some of us could use a little soldierly toughness. I know it can be pushed to an extreme, stiff upper lip, real men don’t cry, don’t think about what hurts, just stuff it all down. That was maybe the danger of some previous generations. But let’s be honest. Younger generations are pushed way to the other extreme. So much so that even a number of secular thinkers are now calling, people who don’t have any sort of Christian worldview, they’re calling young people to be anti-fragile, anti-fragile. That is, yeah, there’s a sense in which we want to be sensitive and we want to help people, understand what’s going on, and yet you can do that to such a degree that people are constantly wondering something’s probably wrong.
You ever had it when somebody says, I’ll have this once in a while, you’re feeling just fine and somebody says, “Are you doing all right? You don’t look so good.” Immediately you think, wow, I didn’t think of that until right now, but now that you say it, what do I look like? I might be feeling bad.
We could use some anti-fragile. Some soldierly toughness at times. That everything is not the end of the world, everything does not need a time out. Everything does not need another safe space.
Parents, parents, you understand this. It takes discernment. You know, you can tell, there’s a cry that your kids have and you can tell, wow, something really bad happened. There’s a broken bone, somebody fell out of a building, there’s lots of blood, little blood okay, there’s a lot. This is a blood, this is really bad. And you know your parental Spidey sense rushes in and says, you know, swoops up and “are you okay” and hug and you take care of it, you fix it, you bring them in and all of that.
You also know there is a type of cry, and I’m not saying they’re faking it, they actually, it’s something, but you know that there’s another kind of cry where the best thing you do is you don’t show that you’ve really noticed and what do you say? You’ll be okay.
It takes a little bit. It’s a little hard sometimes because they did stub something, they did fall, they did skin their knee. But they’re almost looking at you like this hurts, and Mom, Dad, your reaction’s going to tell me how I should respond. How bad is the scrape on my knee right now? And it’s actually not great parenting to give them the response to every scared knee, whooo whooo, and 911 and everybody swoops in. Sometimes the wise response is to say, “You’re going to be okay.”
There’s a certain soldierly toughness which I think we’ve lost in many parts of the Church. We’re too easily upset, too easily offended, and sometimes you need to say, “Captain Jesus Christ, You tell me where to go and I’ll go and I will follow.” After all, we follow a Lamb who was slain and we, too, will be considered sheep as to be slaughtered. Remember, this war is not like other wars. The war is not won by killing but by dying, by dying to self, by dying to the Lamb, by our willingness to go wherever He leads. We go wherever He goes.
Three. Firstfruits. You see that these have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits from God. You see that in verse 4. This is obvious Old Testament imagery. You would come in and you would bring the beginning of the harvest. Here’s the firstfruits. It’s to tell you that a larger harvest is to be accomplished.
Look at the heading about verse 14, the harvest of the earth. Yeah, there’s the harvest of the earth. These dead in Christ, triumphant, reigning, are a kind of firstfruits of the harvest that is to come.
Four. No lie is found in their mouth. That is in contrast to the two lying beasts, God’s followers are truthful.
Zephaniah 3:13 – the remnant of Israel will no wrong, they will speak no lies, nor will deceit be found in their mouths.
Remember, the ultimate lie, the most fundamental lie is to worship a false God. Or like the Israelites and the golden calf, to think you’re worshiping the true God and to do it in a false way.
So most fundamentally there is no lie in their mouth. Why? Because they follow the real Lamb, not the counterfeit. We’re not deceived. We bear faithful witness.
1 John 2:22 – Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist.
So it stands to reason if a mark of the antichrist, or the spirit of antichrists, is to deceive, to lie, to deny Jesus and His total humanity and deity and salvation for sin, then to be a follower of the Lamb is to bear the truth.
Isaiah 53:9 says, “No deceit was found in His mouth.”
Then you see at the end of verse 5 a summarizing statement – they are blameless.
Now don’t get caught up there. Blameless in the Bible doesn’t usually mean sinless perfection. They’re blameless. You panic and you think, oh, so to be among God’s people I need to never do anything wrong. But rather it means that they are faithful followers, acceptable sacrifices. It means they bear a striking resemblance to the Lamb that they serve.
Think about it. This army is pure like Christ is pure. Willing to die as He died. Firstfruits of a larger ingathering, just as His resurrection was a firstfruits. They bear no false witness just like our Savior Christ Jesus bore no false witness.
So it comes to this familiar adage you’ve probably heard before – we become what we behold. Or, we are what we worship.
One of the reasons for limiting your intake and my intake, I’m in the same boat, of entertainment and screens, it’s not because it’s all bad, some of it’s helpful, some of it’s just entertaining, funny, it’s fine. One of the reasons is we become what we behold. If this is your only time, you get an hour and 10, 15, 20 minutes on a Sunday of beholding Christ, it’s hard to compete with the rest of your week and beholding either filth or just fluff. We become what we behold.
The holy army looks like Christ because they’ve been looking on Christ. I say this to my own shame, how many days I get done and I think what a waste of that scrolling motion. Not because it’s all bad or most of it hopefully isn’t, but what am I beholding and what am I becoming?
Now here’s what I want you to notice in closing, one last characteristic. So they’re virgins, they follow the Lamb, they are firstfruits, no lie is in their mouth, they’re blameless. One other thing, one final characteristic of the Lamb’s army – they sing. They sing with loud voices. Verse 2 – I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters, like the sound of loud thunder. The voice was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps. It’s actually the same Greek word three times. You could translate it “the sound of harpists harping on their harps.”
I mean, Nathan is good, really good. Two harps, wow. This guy plans ahead.
Now the harp was actually something probably think halfway between a harp like that and a guitar, like Nathan was playing. Actually, the Greek word for “harp” is “kithara.” You can hear we get our English word “guitar” from the word that’s translated “harp.” It was a lyre, l-y-r-e, a seven-stringed lyre, maybe like this big. You can go look it up. People have recreated what these ancient instruments looked like and kind of what they sound like and they do sort of sound kind of halfway between that kind of big harp and this kind of strumming guitar.
They often had a loud sound box for reverberation and so they could make a very loud noise. The harp, or the kithara, was often used in public performances. It was typically a professional musician’s instrument. It could be used in competitions and concerts because it had the ability to fill up a large space. So if you love harps, you can think of harps; if you like guitars, you can think of guitars. If you don’t like harps and guitars, think of some other stringed instrument.
But it’s a loud noise of harpists on their harps, and they sing. Look. No one could learn the song except the 144,000. This is the song for God’s people.
Now we’re going to get to this in Revelation 18, but you need to see it here. Remember I said the contrast, this is the holy army, God’s pure, chaste people. They have not committed adultery with the world. The opposite of God’s pure bride, holy chaste army, is Babylon. Babylon is likened unto a whore, a prostitute, the very definition of immorality.
Now look for a moment, chapter 18, verse 22. The fall of Babylon. I want you to notice one of the judgments that befalls Babylon. 18, we’ll start in the middle of 21.
“So will Babylon the great city,” this whore of Babylon, “be thrown down with violence, and will be found no more; and the sound of harpists and musicians, of flute players and trumpeters, will be heard in you no more.”
One of the judgments in Revelation to befall Babylon, no music. No harps, no flutes, no trumpets. No singing.
Now almost everyone does love some kind of music, but even if you didn’t, you can understand what this is about. If you come home, husbands, and your wife has Alexa playing a song and the kids are there and they’re singing along and they’re putting something on for dinner, what does it immediately do to your senses? People are singing. There’s music. If you walk into a stadium and everyone’s chanting or singing their fight song or something, there’s something good happening.
If you walk into a bar, I don’t walk into too many bars, but if they’re all, you know, where somebody knows your name and they’re singing a song, that’s the most I ever learned about bars, why? Happy. People are together. There’s something to celebrate, something to sing about.
When Babylon’s judged, no more songs. No more music. This song in heaven only the 144,000. Here is a gift that God’s people and only God’s people will have for all eternity is they get to sing.
As is often the case, Martin Luther put it very well – I have no use for cranks who despise music because it is a gift of God. Music drives away the devil and makes people happy. They forget thereby all wrath, unchastity, arrogance, and the like. Next after theology I give to music the highest place and the greatest honor.
All throughout Scripture the response of God’s people to some great act of deliverance is to sing.
Job 38:7 – the morning stars sang together and the angels shouted for joy.
That’s what they did, and Lewis depicts it so well there at the beginning of Narnia. As the stars are made, they, Job says, they sing out. What a joyful thing that God has done to call us into being.
Exodus 15. Moses and the Israelites sing after crossing the Red Sea – I will sing to the Lord for He is highly exalted.
When the Israelites dug a well in Numbers 21 and they found water, they sing, “Spring up, O well.”
When God gave His people victory over Sisera and the Canaanites, Deborah and Barak sing to the Lord.
In the days of Hezekiah when the Passover is reinstated, they sing. In Nehemiah’s day when the wall is dedicated, they sing. In Ezra’s day when the foundation of the temple is laid, they sing – He is good, His love endures forever.
The scene in chapter 13 and chapter 14 is one of war. You want to do culture war? You want to be a culture warrior? Come to church. Worship. Sing.
Sometimes people talk, even well-meaning Christians, talk as if well, all this time on Sunday is sort of just a refueling station to get out and do the real work that happens outside these doors. People almost make you feel guilty. Well, you shouldn’t like this so much. The real stuff is out there. Well, what if it is the real stuff is in here? And it’s trying to get the rest of the world acclimated to what happens here and now?
Because this in Revelation is a scene of war. You have two beasts mounting their war and then you have a holy army with its war and what do they do in their holy warfare? They worship. Music. Singing. Because there’s something and someone to celebrate.
Friends, we have something to sing about every Lord’s Day as we celebrate the resurrection and the victory of the Lamb, slain and yet risen. Our captain, our king, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, coming again to judge the living and the dead. We as a glorified army of living sacrifices get to sing now and in heaven, to celebrate God’s final act of redemption.
So we sing a song, this new song we have yet to learn, but one day we will know it as they know it now in heaven and we will sing it with unceasing praise for endless days to give God glory and glory. When all of Babylon is silent, and all of hell echoes throughout eternity without a note of music, we will forever be singing and celebrating to Christ, our captain.
Let’s pray. Father in heaven, we give thanks for this joyful noise and so we sing, crown Him with many crowns. In Jesus we pray. Amen.