Summary: Our living has something to say about our dying; life has a direct relationship to death.
“The Great Unveiling: The Blessed Dead”
If Revelation makes one thing clear it’s that we are constantly making a choice between life and death. The message of this great book is often a re-echoing of the messages given to Israel long ago: God has placed before us life and death; choose life.
Yet we come to verse 13 in the 14th chapter of Revelation: “Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” My question is, if it’s so blessed to be dead, then why go on living? Let’s hurry up and be dead! And certainly that’s been voiced by many – often much more seriously than my jesting. And the answer is that our living has something to say about our dying; life has a direct relationship to death. To explore this more fully let’s study this 14th chapter.
We begin with the POSTURE OF THE REDEEMED in verses 1-5. The 144,000, the redeemed, are gathered on Mount Zion with the Lamb. THE REDEEMED HAVE A STANDING. Consider Mount Zion. Donald Grey Barnhouse wrote that the most rewarding study he ever made was of the usage of Mount Zion in Scripture. It led him through at least 30 Psalms, all of which gave a new meaning to its use here in Revelation! It is that very special place where God and His people dwell together victoriously. MOUNT ZION REPRESENTS THE HOPE OF GOD’S PEOPLE, THE PLACE OF DIVINE DELIVERANCE.
Standing on Mount Zion is THE LAMB. While Satan tries to appear in charge of this world in which we live, the Lamb Jesus Christ is standing tall and firm on Mount Zion. In fact the tense of the Greek word for ‘stand’ means a standing that is fixed and cannot be broken. No matter what it looks like on earth, the Lamb REIGNS – NOW AND FOREVER.
And it’s the 144,000 who are there. In chapter 7 we said the 144,000 were THE COMPLETE NUMBER OF GOD’S CHOSEN PEOPLE. God assigned people to Christ for his keeping. In Christ’s High Priestly prayer (John 17), He said that of all whom the Father had given Him, not one had been lost but the son of perdition. Well, here we see them – not one lost or snatched away by the wiles of Satan. They are safe! THEY, WITH THE LAMB, FORM THE CITY OF GOD, in opposition to those worldly systems and sites of the beast in previous chapters! God’s people, in God’s place, standing strong, secure, and victorious!
Also, THE REDEEMED POSSESS SAINTLINESS. This has to do with their character. John here points out 5 character traits for special notice – traits that ought to be a part of our character. FIRST, he mentions their SPIRITUAL MATURITY – they did not defile themselves. The Old Testament used this language to describe Israel’s relationship to God. Defile described her faithfulness and unfaithfulness. She was called a virgin but also a harlot and an adulteress. The women she fell victim to were, in reality, false gods and disobedient living. The saints of God, of which we are a part, do not defile themselves by going after other gods and allegiances. Rather their commitment is so total that there are no other ties or loyalties in comparison. They have lived up to what their marriage vow with Christ implies; having pledged themselves THEY WERE FAITHFUL!
And what about us? Most of us have stood before God and his church and made vows – we have pledged ourselves to him, wed ourselves to him. Have we lived up to those vows? Have we been faithful in our use of the Sacraments, the hearing of the Word, the giving of ourselves and our substance?
The SECOND characteristic of the saints is THEY FOLLOWED THE LAMB. In other words, they didn’t just take Jesus as their personal Savior and then do as they pleased. They did not tell Christ where they would and would not serve; THEY WENT WHERE HE CALLED AND LED. We do not make Christ Lord – He already is the Lord! He does quite well at being Lord without us! It’s a matter of whether or not we will let Him be Lord of our lives. Do you tell Him your conditions for serving? Do you tell Him where you will or won’t go? Or how you’ll serve? Have you repeatedly opened yourself up and said, “Lord, whatever, whenever, and wherever?”
John also sees, THIRD, the saintly idea of FIRST FRUITS. The first fruits were the first fruits harvested. They were special because in offering them to God they were dedicating their whole harvest. They were giving the first of their produce trusting God to deliver an abundant crop. Through offering the first and best of the crop, THEY OFFERED EVERYTHING. So these Christians on Mount Zion were the best that could be offered, and were a foretaste of the time when the whole world will be dedicated to God. How is your dedication? Have you offered the best of your life – or the leftovers? The first share of your blessings – or what’s left after “business” is taken care of?