Vision of the Redeemed

Revelation 14

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
March 2023

We have been studying the Book of Revelation.  Today, we come to a great chapter.  It is a chapter that has made its way into pop culture.  One man wrote a novel that won a Pulitzer Prize.

It is a famous book.  It is called The Grapes of Wrath (1939). The title was taken from Revelation 14. It deals with “the harvest of the earth.”  It is the chapter that deals with the two harvests.

A Scary Chapter

This chapter is scary for unbelievers.  It is graphic.  It is violent.  It has the grim reaper in it.  It contains one of the most terrifying pictures of judgment in the Bible.

It describes a river of human blood miles flowing through streets.  This river is that is one hundred eighty miles long and is six feet deep.

That sounds like something right out of a horror movie.  It also has one of the greatest descriptions of Hell in the Bible.  There is nothing anywhere like it in the Bible.

They, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name. (Revelation 14:10-11 NIV)

It is described as a place of fire and brimstone.  It is described as a place where people are tormented.  It is described as a place where there is no rest day or night.  It is described as a place where the smoke goes up forever and ever.

A Comforting Chapter

This chapter is terrifying for unbelievers but for believers, it is comforting.  We see Jesus.  That is the definition of heaven.  When Jesus comes back, we will see him.  We will be like him.  We will be with Him forever.

In this chapter, the 144,000 see Jesus.  They stand with Him on Mount Zion.  They are happy.  Jesus stands with the ones who were faithful to Him.  He will stand with us as well.

There is also a special blessing given to believers in this chapter.  There is a beatitude in this chapter.  It is the second one in the book so far.  We read a blessing to everyone who read this book in Revelation 1 and in Revelation 14 there is another beatitude.

Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: BLESSED are the dead who die in the Lord from now on” (Revelation 14:13 NIV).

Two Destinies

We see two destinies in this chapter.  There are only two eternal destinies.  Everyone either goes to Heaven or Hell.  There is no third place for people to go.  There is no purgatory, only Heaven and Hell.  We either take Jesus as our Savior or as our Judge.

Revelation 14 describes the salvation of the saints.  It describes the judgment of the wicked.  It describes the reward of heaven.  It describes the punishment of Hell.

It describes one group of people tormented and suffering.  It describes another group of people that are happy.  They are full of joy.

They are singing.  They are with Jesus on Mount Zion in victory (Revelation 14:1-5).  It is a chapter with angels doing some strange things.

When Angels Preach

Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people. 7 He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.” (Revelation 14:6-7 NIV)

That is strange.  God gave us the job to preach the gospel to people.  He gave us the Great Commission.  That was not given to angels but to people but, near the end of the Tribulation Period, He will use some angels to preach the gospel.

He will not just use angels but flying angels to do it.  They will preach the gospel from the sky.  Supernatural beings will fly in the middle of the sky and preach the gospel to people all over the world.  They will probably do a better job than people do.

Symbolic Language

It is also chapter with a lot of symbols.  There are a lot of symbolic language in this chapter.  If you don’t see this, you won’t understand the chapter.  The symbolic part of the book began in Revelation 12.  This is not exhaustive, but here are some examples.

Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great,’ which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.” (Revelation 14:8 NIV)

The city that is fallen is not literal Babylon and this is not literal wine.  It is the wine of adultery and adultery is most likely more than literal adultery.  It is spiritual adultery.

This city will have sexual sin but Babylon will be the capital of the Antichrist.  It will be known primarily for promoting false worship. Idolatry is described as adultery in the Bible.

“If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives its mark on their forehead or on their hand, 10 they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. (Revelation 14:9-10 NIV)

Babylon had some wine.  God also has some wine, and it is undiluted. Most wine in the ancient world was diluted with water.  It is also not literal wine.  It is called the wine of God’s fury.  It is the wine of God’s wrath.  It is the wine of His anger.

The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. (Revelation 14:19 NIV)

That is not a literal winepress.  A literal winepress produces wine.  This winepress produces blood, and it is human blood (Revelation 14:20).

 And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. (Revelation 14:3 NIV)

There are 144,000 on Mount Zion.  Is this a literal number or a symbolic number?  This group sings a song that only the redeemed can sing.  They sing the song of the redeemed.  No one else can sing this song but them.

There are more than 144,000 people that know that song.  It is a song not limited to Jewish men and not to single Jewish men.  The word “virgins” in Greek is in the masculine.

Is it just a male choir?  Some Jewish women and Gentiles know that song.  That is why this number is probably symbolic.

Are these literal virgins or symbolic virgins?  They can’t be literal virgins because they represent all of those redeemed from the earth.  That is not limited to single men.

Even during the Tribulation Period, more than 144,000 men will be redeemed from the earth.

These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they remained virgins. (Revelation 14:4 NIV)

If you take this verse literally, it sounds like an insult to woman.  Jesus does not stand with women but just with men.  Women are defiling to men.

This is symbolic.  Revelation is an apocalyptic book.  Much of it is symbolic.  Jesus is depicted as a Lamb.  He is not a literal lamb.  The Antichrist is not a literal beast.

John does not hate women.  The church is described as the bride of Christ.  This verse is also not saying that there is anything wrong with marriage.

God was the one who created sex.  Adam and Eve were commanded to reproduce after their kind and the NT says that the marriage bed is UNDEFILED (Hebrews 13:4 KJV).  It is not dirty or sinful.

This is a symbolic picture of moral purity.  It is a picture of extreme devotion.  It is a picture of total dedication.  The church is described symbolically as a virgin bride (Ephesians 5:25-27; II Corinthians 11:2).

A Scene of Triumph

There are three parts to the chapter.  Each part begins with the words, “and I saw” (Revelation 14:1, 6, 14).  John sees three visions.

He sees a vision of the redeemed rewarded in heaven.  He sees a vision of the wicked suffering and tormented in Hell.  He also sees a vision of the end of the world.

We are not going to look at all visions this week.  This morning, we are just going to look at the first vision of Jesus and the redeemed.

It is a scene of triumph.  Revelation 13 was a scene of terror.  It was a scene of horror.  It describes religious deception, false miracles, demon-possessed politicians, false worship, religious persecution and economic hardship.

In the last chapter, the saints suffered.  The whole world is following the beast.  The name of God is blasphemed and slandered.  The Beast is given power to wage war against the saints and to overcome them.  It is a period of GREAT TRIBULATION (not just tribulation but great tribulation).

In this chapter, the saints are vindicated.  They are victorious.  They are standing with Jesus and all of their enemies are gone.  You don’t see them.  Today, we are only going to look at the first five verses of this chapter.  We will, look at the rest of the chapter next week.

Standing With Jesus

Today, we are going to look at the 144,00 but we are going to look at this group practically, not just prophetically.  We are going to look at them in a way you may have not before.

Today, we want to ask this question.  How do the 144,000 apply to us today?  What can we learn from them?  How do they speak to us today?  Ask yourself this question.

Do you want to be blessed by God?  Do you want to be honored like the 144,000 were?  Do you want to stand with Jesus on Mount Zion, like the 144,000 did? The 144,000 will have several characteristics.  We should have them as well.

1) Have you had a genuine salvation experience?

To stand with Jesus, you have to be saved.  You have to be redeemed.  Notice who Jesus does not stand with.

Jesus is NOT standing with atheists.  He is NOT standing with skeptics on Mount Zion.  He is NOT standing with cultists.

He is NOT standing with Hindus or Buddhists.  He is NOT standing with Muslims.  He is standing with people who are saved and know him.

He is not standing with the wicked.  He is not standing with the Beast on Mount Zion.  He is standing with the saved.

Many church choirs have believers and unbelievers in them but everyone in this choir was redeemed.  They are called redeemed, not once, but twice in this chapter.

No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been REDEEMED from the earth. (Revelation 14:3 ESV)

These have been REDEEMED from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb (Revelation 14:4 ESV).

The 144,000 were not perfect.  They had to be redeemed and we had to be redeemed as well.  We are sinners.  We need a Savior.  We need a redeemer.

We need someone to pay for us and deliver us from bondage.  God redeemed the Jews out of Egypt and He redeemed us as well.  Salvation was not free.  A payment had to be made and Jesus made it.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” (Galatians 3:13 ESV)

18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (I Peter 1:18-19 NIV)

Everyone is NOT saved.  Everyone on the planet is NOT redeemed.  The 144,000 were purchased from among mankind.

The question is this: Are you redeemed?  Do you have the Father’s name written on our forehead?  Are you saved?  Do you know for sure?  If you are saved, you are secure.  We know that from Revelation 14.

You can’t lose your salvation.  How do we know?  The 144,000 are mentioned two times in the Book of Revelation.  They are mentioned in Revelation 7 & Revelation 14.

In Revelation, 7, the 144,000 are ON EARTH at the beginning of the Tribulation period, surrounded by a hostile environment.  In Revelation 14, they are IN HEAVEN when the Tribulation Period is over.

William Hendriksen said that in Revelation, we see the church militant (Revelation 7).  We see the church triumphant in heaven (Revelation 14).[1]  The church militant refers to believers who are alive on earth.  The church triumphant refers to believers who have died and gone to heaven.

What is interesting is that ALL of them made it to heaven.  There were not 143,000 there.  There were 144,000 there.  None of them were lost.  None of them fell away or gave up the faith or lost their salvation.  None was missing.

37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose NONE of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:37-39 NIV)[2]

2) Are you totally devoted to Jesus?

Many Christians are saved but they are not sold out.  They are not on fire for God.  They are lukewarm.  How are the 144,000 described?

They are described as spiritual virgins (Revelation 14:4), totally dedicated to God.  They are described as firstfruits (Revelation 14:4).  Their life is an offering to God.  They are called His servants (Revelation 7:3).

We are to be sexually pure, although we are not all supposed to be unmarried.  Our lives should be an offering to God and we should serve Him.

Servants serve.  We don’t know how they will serve God in the Tribulation Period.  We don’t know all that they will do but they will do something.

Are we on fire for God?  What are we doing to serve God?  We serve God in different ways.  In what capacity are we serving him?  Some are saved, but don’t serve.  They say that 20% of the people in church do most of the work. That is what we will do in heaven.

I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and SERVE him DAY AND NIGHT in his temple; (Revelation 7:14-15 NIV)

Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. (Psalm 2:11 NIV)

Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! (Psalm 100:2 NIV)

3) Are you a passionate worshipper?

And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. (Revelation 14:3)

Not everyone who is saved is big on worshiping.  Some Christians never sing in church.  Their mouths are closed.  We do not all have to be in the choir, but we should all be singing.

We should all be worshipping.  The 144,000 were worshipers.  They were singers.  They were musical.  They are singing.  This chapter also mentions harps in heaven.  There will be a lot of music in heaven.

Some churches do not play musical instruments.  They are non-instrumental churches.  That makes absolutely no sense.  Here we see musical instruments in Heaven.

That was one characteristic of the 144,000.  They were singers.  We are told what type of song they sang.  They sang a LOUD song.  It was a loud sound like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder (not just thunder but loud thunder). It was loud but was also soothing and beautiful, like a harp.

They also sang a NEW song. The 144,000 did not just sing an old hymn.  They sang a new song.  This tells us what worship will be like in heaven. It tells us what heaven’s liturgy will be like.  We will not just be singing old hymns, like in gramma’s Baptist church.  God loves new songs.

The Bible tells us to do with that 144,000 will do.  Singing is a COMMAND.  It is not optional.

Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! (Psalm 96:1-2 ESV)

Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts. (Psalm 33:3 ESV)

4) Are you bold in your witness for Christ?

Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads (Revelation 14:1 NIV)

They have a seal on their forehead and the seal consists not just of one name but two (the name of the Father and of the Lamb).  What is this a picture of?

It is a picture of being a visible follower of Jesus.  He is on your forehead.  There is no hiding it.  Everyone knows you are a Christian.  You don‘t try to hide it.  You are not ashamed of the gospel.  You are not ashamed to be a Christian.

During the Tribulation Period, there will be no neutrality.  Everyone will have some mark.  You will either have the Mark of Jesus and the Father on your forehead or the Mark of the Beast.

Are you a visible believer or are you a secret believer?  Do people know that you are a Christian or would they be shocked if they found out.  Your life should be an outward demonstration of your faith.

5) Is your life completely surrendered to Jesus?

They are followers of the Lamb.  They follow Him wherever He goes.  Here you have sheep following a lamb but the lamb also happens to be their Shepherd (Revelation 7:17).  They follow Christ.  They are committed and devoted followers of Christ.

The Tribulation will be a period of great promiscuity.  There will be a lot of sexual  immorality, like there is today but the 144,000 will stay pure in this time.

While everyone else if following the Beast, this group will be following the Lamb.  They go where He goes.  They do what He tells them to do.  They follow His teaching.  They keep His commandments.

Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me” (John 10:27).  That is the definition of a Christian, a follower of Christ.  It is one of the signs that you are really saved.  Real sheep follow Jesus.

People who are not his sheep do not follow him (cf. I John 2:3-6). They “follow the Lamb WHEREVER HE GOES” (Revelation 14:4).

If he leads you to stay single all of your life, you stay single.  If he leads you to get married, you get married.  If He leads you to move to a different state or country, you move.

When the world goes in one direction and Jesus goes in the opposite direction, they follow Christ.  When their friends go in one direction and Jesus goes in another direction, they follow Jesus.

The 144,000 do not do what everyone else is doing.  They do not follow the crowd.  They follow Christ, even if it leads to martyrdom.  Are you that surrendered to Jesus?

6) Do you glorify God with your words?

This is convicting.  Does that describe us?  Paul described the mouth of the unsaved.  “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.” “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” (Romans 3:13-14 NIV).

After salvation, many continue to have bad language.  You can find people in the church, who swear, use profanity and vulgar words. Some preachers use that language.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29 NIV)

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving (Ephesians 5:3-4 NIV)

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:6 NIV)

We are told that no lie was found in their mouths (Revelation 14:5 NIV) and they will live in a world full of deception and lies.  In their day, everyone will believe the big lie about the Antichrist, the lie that he is God.

We may not all tell lies to people.  We may not all swear or use off-color language.  We may just use useless, idle words and not words that build people up.  We may not use words of grace.

7) Do you have you a good testimony before the world?

The 144,000 were sanctified.  We are told that they are not defiled.  They did not compromise with the world or with sin and they are said to be blameless (ἄμωμος). Does that describe us?

During the Tribulation Period, this group is described as blameless.  Noah before the Flood was called blameless (Genesis 6:9).  Apparently, it is possible to be blameless when everyone around you is completely wicked.  Are we blameless today?

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be BLAMELESS and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life (Philippians 2:14-16 NIV)

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and BLAMELESS.  (Ephesians 5:25-27 NIV)

[1] William Hendriksen, More than Conquerors, 153.

[2] Arminians believe you can lose your salvation based on John 17.  “While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled” (John 17:12 NIV).

Jesus lost Judas.  If He lost Judas, other people could be lost as well. None of them was lost, EXCEPT one.  One of the ones that God gave Him was lost but you have to read the rest of the verse.

Jesus is not saying that He tried really hard but lost one.  Jesus is not saying that He was a complete failure when it came to Judas.  He said, “Not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, THAT the Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:12 ESV).

It was part of the divine plan. It was the fulfillment of Scripture.  Jesus was not caught off guard by what Judas did.   It did not catch Him by surprise.  He did not fail when it came to Judas.  What Judas did was planned long ago, and Jesus did not lose a child of God.  The one who was lost was called “the son of perdition” (ὁ υἱὸς τῆς ἀπωλείας).

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