Children ages 3 to second grade are dismissed to children’s church.
SUPER “COMMITTED” HEROES
Webster’s Dictionary defines commitment as . . . dedicating yourself to something, like a person or a cause. A commitment also obligates you to do something. Before you make a commitment, you should think carefully about the commitment you are pledging to. Some commitments are large, like marriage, when you promise to love and cherish another person until death, or a job, when you are hired you're making a commitment to show up and do the job well. There are smaller commitments too. If you said you'd meet a friend at six, that's a commitment. You also can speak of commitment as a quality, such as, staying after school for a study group shows your commitment to good grades.
I also like the word “passionate”. I believe that you show what you are passionate about by what you are committed to. I once heard or read something about commitment and passion. It said you can tell what you are passionate about and committed to by the emails you receive based on the things you have searched on the internet. At that time I looked at the emails I was receiving which was easy for me because I pretty much save my emails into folders so I can access them later. What I found was that I received emails about the following things: Youth and Church Ministry, Christian Music, the Bible and genealogy. I realized it was true. Those are things I am passionate about and committed to.
What are you committed to and or passionate about? Maybe it is sports or a sports team. If I were to ask you who is Pastor Stuart’s favorite baseball team, what would you say? The Baltimore Orioles. Why? Because he has talked about them a number of times in stories during his sermons. You could probably look around any given Sunday and know who is committed to what football team. Why? Because they wear their favorite teams jersey. Maybe you are committed to and passionate about helping people in need. There are many people in our congregation who are passionate about helping others. Hopefully, you are passionate about and committed to your families, your church here at Idaville and our community. I think yesterday shows how much Idaville Church is committed to our community. Every year we have the Hallelujah Party which is a free event for our community. It is a time that we show the love of Jesus to those in our community. We should be passionate about and committed to what Jesus was passionate about and committed to which was loving others and pursuing, growing and multiplying disciples.
The Bible is full of stories about committed people. One such story is Abraham. Imagine the commitment it took for Abraham to leave his family and his home to travel to a land that God would show him. Abraham was promised a new home, a son and many descendants and that God would bless him and bless the whole world through him. Think about it though, Abraham was never going to see the fruits of that promise yet he stayed committed to God’s plan. Another is Joseph. I believe that Joseph knew from a young age that God was speaking to him through the dreams he was having but I bet he never expected God’s plan for his life to include being thrown in a pit by his brothers, left to die and then being sold into slavery to Egypt. Joseph was committed to doing the right thing even in difficult situations and God used him to feed his family during a famine, set them up in a fertile land and turn his family into the nation of Israel and God’s Chosen People. We could go on and on. The Bible is full of stories about superheroes, not people with extraordinary abilities, but ordinary humans with ordinary abilities who do extraordinary things. What makes them superhuman is their commitment to and their passion for God.
This morning we are going to see people who are committed to the Lamb and because of their commitment they will be able to accomplish feats that are superhuman. They are extraordinary, not because they have super-powers, but because they have super-commitment. They love the LORD enough to make Him their first and foremost focus. His purposes occupy their primary priorities. They are the 144,000. We first saw them in chapter 7 as the ones that God sealed before the beginning of the tribulation. This was one of many interludes that John includes in his account of the Revelation that was intended to give his readers hope for their future after showing them the devastation that was coming upon the earth during the last days. Today as we look at the first five verses of chapter 14, we see another interlude immediately after John’s account of the beast coming out of the sea and the beast coming out of the earth. At the end of chapter 13 John calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints and now at the beginning of chapter 14 John again gives his readers hope as he shows them the 144,000 standing victoriously with the Lamb on Mount Zion. They have the name of God the Father and the Lamb on their foreheads. These names are placed on the foreheads of those who love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. The 144,000 are passionate about and committed to the Lamb. The 144,000 were committed to keeping themselves pure, to following the Lamb wherever he goes, to not lying and to being blameless. This kind of commitment super-power is available to each of us. It’s not an accident of chromosomal mutation, or magical intervention or alien invasion. It’s a human persuasion. Which brings us to this morning’s big idea which is God wants to use ordinary human beings like you and me to accomplish His extraordinary purposes on earth.
Before we dig into our passage this morning, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, Make us like those sealed for Your purposes. Set us apart. Focus our eyes to see the truth. Enrich our ears to hear Your truth. Teach our mouths to speak the truth. Train our hearts to embrace Your truth, and Use our lives to show Your truth, with all the love and grace you place in us. In the name of Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Amen.
A man in business for himself enjoyed so much success, he had to move to a bigger place. The move was rather burdensome, but it was nice to have a larger warehouse and a bigger sales office. So on the day of the grand opening a friend sent him some flowers to celebrate. However, the order got mixed up at the florist shop, and the businessman received a bouquet that was intended for a funeral. It came with a card which read, “My deepest sympathy during this time of sorrow.”
When the businessman’s friend found out, he immediately went to the florist to demand an explanation. The florist met him outside the shop and was obviously upset. He said, “I am terribly sorry about the mix-up with the flowers, but I hope you will understand. Your situation is not half as bad as the one down at the funeral home. The folks there received your flowers accompanied by the card which read: BEST WISHES IN YOUR NEW LOCATION.”
What a great card for the funeral of a believer! When we as believers die, we move from a cramped, difficult situation to much larger and nicer quarters. The move itself may be burdensome, but the new location is out of this world.
In John 16:33, Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Even if we go through a lot of pain in this life, even if we go through some tribulation, it will be worth it all when we get to heaven. This is the story that John wants his readers to understand. Yes, the events of chapter 13 are horrific because those who are committed to the Lamb will not be able to buy or sell and will even be killed if they do not worship the image of the beast but they can take heart that the Lamb has overcome the world and they will spend eternity in heaven with God and Jesus Christ.
Today we’ll be in chapter 14. A few things to note: One, this chapter is not chronological in that it does not take up the next events of the Tribulation following chapter 13. Two, most of what John is writing down is big picture stuff but chapter 14 is a smaller picture of what is happening within the bigger picture. Here John is seeing specific visions of peoples and events that are going on in the tribulation period.
From chapter 13 to chapter 14 we also see many contrasts: In place of the wicked beasts of chapter 13 we see the Lamb in chapter 14. In his description of the beasts, John repeatedly reminded us that the authority behind the land beast was the sea beast, which in turn had his authority and power from the dragon. Here in chapter 14 we see that standing behind the Lamb was the power of the omnipotent Creator. In place of a multitude of people worshiping the Antichrist in chapter 13 we now see a vast number of redeemed ones praising and following Christ. We also see the two marks. The mark of the Beast and the seal of God and Jesus. People will have declared who their master is by whose “mark” they have on them. One of the messages of chapters 13 and 14 is simple: the one you follow is crucial. The one you worship is decisive.
If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Revelation 14. We will be looking at verses 1-5 where we see a group of believers who will go through more pain and tribulation than any of us will ever experience in this life. In fact, they will go through the Great Tribulation itself; but on the other end, they will stand victorious with Jesus Himself and sing His praises. We will start with verse 1:
Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads.
With chapter 14 there comes a change and a turning of the tide. We see that God takes over in direct and determined intervention in the affairs of the earth dwellers. From here on, we have a picture of a world rescued by God. We also see God’s response to the attack of the two beasts described in chapter 13. The beast’s goal, from the beginning, has been to stop the Messiah, destroy the Jews and persecute the church. Here God claims His own and begins the final harvest. Chapter 14 also gives a glimpse into eternity to show believers what awaits them if they endure. Their suffering will not be meaningless; it will only be a prelude to eternity with God.
So, we again see the 144,000. Who are these 144,000? Of course, scholars are divided. Half say they are the same 144,000 that we saw in chapter 7 and the other half say it is a different 144,000. I believe that the 144,000 in this chapter are the same group we saw in chapter 7 because there are many similarities between both groups. They were sealed by God before the tribulation starts against the difficulties to come on earth. During the reign of the Antichrist they are God’s witnesses, preaching the gospel of the kingdom and announcing the coming of the King. They are protected spiritually and sealed for heaven. Satan does everything he can to make their lives miserable. As we saw in chapter 13, he starves them to death, he persecutes them, and he kills them. He is able to mutilate their bodies, but he cannot touch their souls. Despite the rage of the dragon and the beast the 144,000 will be in heaven with the Lamb and the Father one day. They are now seen anticipating the great triumph, which lay ahead. They have been faithful and committed to the Lamb from the time they were called.
I think the most awesome thing about the 144,000 is that number 144,000. In chapter 7 God sealed 144,000 and now in this passage Johns sees a vision of the future and all those who have been sealed and promised heaven we’re standing with Christ. God started out with 144,000 committed followers and He came through the Great Tribulation with 144,000. In other words no believers will be lost, forgotten, or misplaced. Everyone who has been sealed with God’s seal will one day be with Christ. All believers throughout history will be with Christ. The promise is certain. The number will be complete.
The first thing we are told about these 144,000 is that “They are an exalted company.” They are exalted because they are standing with the Lamb on Mount Zion. The Lamb is none other than the Jew’s Messiah and Deliverer, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. John has dramatically shown the great powers of satanic evil embodied in the two beasts as they have forced the world into idolatry. Now he abruptly shows us a vision of the Lamb and His army standing on Mount Zion. It is refreshing to have Him appear when almost all of the people on the earth are worshipping Satan. God always has His faithful people, no matter how wicked the world may become.
It is fitting that the Lamb should be standing on Mount Zion because this is the sacred space that had long been associated with divine deliverance and with the location where Christ will begin his millennial reign. In constructing this image, John may have in mind the prophet Joel who had foretold of this divine deliverance. This is what God’s word says in Joel 2:32, “And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said, even among the survivors whom the Lord calls.” In traditional Judaism this is the place where the remnant of Israel would be gathered together in the messianic age. The statements about Mount Zion in the Gospels and the epistles are mostly all quotes from OT prophets but the writer of Hebrews alone stands out as bringing the term to one final stage of development. He sees Mount Zion as God originally saw it, as the place where all the Redeemed, not just the Jewish elect but also the church, would congregate. He saw it as the Heavenly Jerusalem where God Himself would be. Hebrews 12:22a says, “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly.”
So what does John mean here when he shows us Mount Zion? Again, scholars are divided. Half say it is the earthly Mount Zion and the other half say it is referring to heavenly Mount Zion. I believe that verse 1 shows the future with the 144,000 on earthly Mount Zion before Christ millennial reign but then in verse 2 John hears a voice from Heaven and I believe the scene changes again to an even more future scene of the 144,000 in Heaven before the throne. No matter which Mount Zion is being portrayed here or if it is both as I believe John wants his readers to know that those who are committed to the Lamb will be with the Lamb at the end of the Great Tribulation. Either one of these pictures would have given John’s readers hope as they continued to patiently endure and be faithful to the Lamb during the Tribulation.
Here we are also told what the sealing is and why they are sealed. The 144,000 have the name of the Lamb and his Father written on their foreheads. The company is clearly identified with Jesus Christ and the Father. The intent of the text seems to be to contrast those sealed of God and those having the mark of the beast. God is able to protect His people, but the Beast is unable to. When God marks his name on these people, he is declaring them to be His exclusive property. Patterson says that the Father’s name written on their foreheads indicates that they are especially chosen by God for their task. We, who are believers in Jesus Christ, also carry the seal of God and have been chosen especially by God for a task which is to Pursue, Grow and Multiply Disciples and after we accomplish our task, like the 144,000, we will stand victorious with Jesus one day.
John begins with this picture of the 144,000 that have been sealed by God standing victoriously with the Lamb on Mount Zion. Now John’s attention is turned to a voice from heaven. This is what verse 2 says: And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps.
In verse 2, the apostle John tells us that he hears a voice (some versions say “sound” instead of “voice”) from heaven and then gives us a beautiful description of the voice he heard. The voice he heard was like the sound of many waters. This “voice of many waters” is usually associated with the multitude before the throne of God. There is no power like the crash of the mountainous waves upon the beaches and cliffs. The sound that John hears from heaven will be very powerful. Second, the sound was like the voice of great thunder. No one can fail to hear the thunder-clap in the middle of a storm. The sound that John hears will be unmistakable. This voice will not only be understandable because of the power behind it but it will have the powerful booming quality of thunder. Third, it was like the sound of harpists playing their harps. Most commentators say it will be multitudes upon multitudes of harpists playing their harps. Not only will the sound be startling, but the very music itself will be a masterpiece that would make Beethoven, Chopin and Wagner envious. The sound that John hears from heaven will be the most beautiful sound ever heard by the human ear.
Next, John tells us what the sound from heaven is. Verse 3 says: And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth.
There are two notable things in this verse. The first is that this song is exclusive to this particular group of people, the 144,000. The second is that these people have been redeemed “from the earth” meaning God has “purchased” them by the blood of his son, Jesus. The song is powerful and beautiful, it is sung before the throne of God, and the only people able to sing it are the 144,000 whom God purchased from the earth.
It is the song of redemption, being sung by all the redeemed saints in one gigantic choir. They are rejoicing over the accomplishment of God’s entire redemptive work. The 144,000 were the only created ones able to learn the song because they had been delivered from sin and redeemed from the earth. They had been through testing and tribulation, observed what God the Father had done on their behalf and maintained their integrity. Heaven itself will explode in joy and praise to the King of Kings and all the people of earth will hear it. The Greek word John uses for “new” is one that refers to something fresh and new in quality rather than something that is created new from scratch. It is a new song because it is based on a deeper understanding and experience of the person and work of God which results in a fresh, new response to God. The same is true for us. It is only as we serve God as His agents that we can fully experience Him and hear Him more deeply. It is through serving Him that we obtain a deeper, more personal understanding of who He is. It is only as we experience His provision, His equipping and His deliverance first hand that we are truly able to sing a new song and give Him the praise that He so richly deserves.
I like what Courson says about our song. He says that one thing that can stand in our way to singing a new song out of the times of trials we go through is “sympathy.” We can either go through those times with a song in our hearts because the Lord has promised not only to strengthen us in them but to walk with us through them or we can chose sympathy from people. If we chose sympathy it will always be at God’s expense because the underlying though unspoken implication is that what is happening in our lives is out of God’s control. God is totally absolutely completely faithful to meet us in every trial and difficulty. Don’t let his plan for you get short circuited by those who say, “I feel sorry for you” instead say “God is good” and God will see me through. We need to be careful about saying “woe is me” or having a “pity” party for ourselves every time we struggle with something. Sympathy puts God in a bad light. Don’t settle for sympathy, go for the song. Which brings us to our first next step this morning which may be for you. My next step is to chose to sing a new song about my trials and tribulations instead of looking for sympathy from people about them.
In verses 4 and 5 John tells us why the 144,000 were special and what they were committed to that showed their passion for the Lamb. This is what verse 4 and 5 say: These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb. And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless.
Verses 4 and 5 identify 5 characteristics of these super “committed” heroes: The first characteristic of these super “committed” heroes is that they are exemplary in their conduct. It describes the unsullied purity of those who are in the company of the Lamb. But what does that purity consist of? Again, this verse is not easy to interpret and commentators are split. Are we to assume that these are all men because they “were not defiled with women”? Or are we to assume that they are all women because they “are virgins”? It is probable that neither assumption is absolutely correct. They are probably made up of both men and women who are super humanly committed to the Lamb when it came to their physical and spiritual purity. When John says, “These are the ones who have not been defiled with women,” he is providing an illustration of God’s ability to keep believers remarkably pure in the midst of great difficulty and to be able to resist all temptations to immorality that will be rampant during the end times. These people will be marked by lofty standards of separation from the world and by spiritual sanctity. During the Great Tribulation there will be an exaggerated emphasis upon sex, and obviously immorality will prevail. These witnesses have separated themselves absolutely, in a practical, purposeful way from the worldly religious system of the beast. The religion of the beast, in common with so many pagan religions, will have at its base a vile immorality which will openly pander to every lust of the human heart. With the man of sin enthroned, lust will be applauded. It will be considered an act of worship as it was by the ancient Canaanites and in fertility cults ever since. This company sets itself apart from all that.
They will also have resisted the perverse system of Antichrist. In the Old Testament idolatry was classified as spiritual fornication. In Ezekiel 16 we find God’s severe indictment against Israel for fornication and adultery—which was idolatry. The 144,000 will have kept themselves from the worship of the beast and his image during the Great Tribulation. Therefore, the comment, “These are the ones who have not been defiled with women; for they are virgins,” can also be referring to purity in both the literal and the spiritual sense. The 144,000 will have kept themselves clean from all the sins of the Great Tribulation. The abnormal times will demand an abnormally committed state. The 144,000 will be super “committed” heroes who will be ordinary human beings like you and me that God will use to accomplish His extraordinary purposes on earth.
Here is what Mounce says about the 144,000. The 144,000 are pictured here as the promised bride of Christ who, as they await the day of marriage, have kept themselves pure from all defiling relationships with the pagan world system. They have resisted the seductions of the great harlot Rome with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication.
Spiritual purity is not popular today, but God requires it of His followers. To remain spiritually pure means resisting the seductions and idolatries of the present world—power, wealth and sexual immorality. To do so requires daily application of God’s Word, for it has a purifying effect on the mind and heart. It requires great resolution not to give in to these temptations. We must stand strong and not give in. Which brings us to our second next step this morning which may be for you. My next step is to remain spiritually pure by reading and applying God’s word to my life daily.
The second characteristic of these super “committed” heroes is that they were devoted to Jesus. Perhaps the best meaning of this first sentence is explained by the sentence which follows: “They follow the Lamb wherever he goes.” This indicates that they had exclusively followed Christ, his instructions and His example. Absolute, super human commitment to Christ is the driving force behind their godly lives on earth. Like Caleb, their testimony is that they wholly follow the Lord. They allow no rivals, no refusals, and no restraint to mar their dedication to Him. Mark 8:34-35 says this, “Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” That is the commitment we as Christians today need to have. God wants to use ordinary human beings like you and me to accomplish His extraordinary purposes on earth. The 144,000’s reward for such conduct while on earth and for all who believe in and follow Jesus Christ will be to accompany Him and be His constant companion in heaven.
The third characteristic of these super “committed” heroes is that they are exemplary in their calling. John says, they were “purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb.” “Purchased from among men” means that Christ had bought them with His blood. The price of our sin was paid on the cross—it is a free gift for believers. It also speaks of the 144,000 being a sacrificial offering to God.
The term “first fruits” means “the very finest.” The idea of first fruits comes from Israel who kept an annual feast of first fruits. Each year the farmer went into his fields of ripening grain and cut out one sheaf. This sheaf was then presented to God as an act of worship, indicating that the worshipper understood that all things belonged to God. The first fruits were to be “the very finest” and a representation of the whole harvest. On the Feast of First fruits, the priest waved the sheaf before the Lord as a sign that the entire harvest belonged to Him (Leviticus 23:9-11). This is the same idea behind tithing. In giving our tithe, as our first fruits of our income etc., it shows that we understand that everything we have comes from God and belongs to God. The 144,000 make up the first fruits of those who throughout the tribulation will make a super human commitment to the Lamb, and who will stand victorious on Mount Zion with the Lamb. Wiersbe says that the 144,000 as first fruits may make up the nucleus of the coming Kingdom.
In verse 5 we see the final two characteristics of these super “committed” heroes. The fourth characteristic is their righteousness. When the text states that no lie is found in their mouths, it means that because their hearts are righteous, their words and actions are righteous as well. To say a person speaks no lie is the same as saying that his or her heart is governed by truth. The tribulation period in which they live is one when deceit and falsehood reigns. The Antichrist will come in the power of Satan with “lying wonders”. The 144,000 will not be deceived by the Beasts lies and will not participate in the big lie of the Beast when he uses lying wonders. Unlike the pagan world that “exchanged the truth of God for a lie”, they make no compromise with the heretical claims of the Antichrist. They refuse to sing the praises of the beast. When preaching the gospel, they will not conceal from their hearers that faith in Christ will be followed by swift retribution from the beast. Others are mouthing the slogans of the beast, chanting the vile creeds of his new world cult, and hailing him as the revealer of secrets, the savior of mankind, but these victorious believers refuse to pay lip service to him. They tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth regardless of the cost.
The final characteristic of these super “committed” heroes is that they are blameless; which shows their character. They were blameless because of their faith in Christ. This means that lived their lives beyond reproach. To be righteous is to have a heart that is pure before God, and to be blameless means that your life is pure before the world. The word implies they are without blemish just as the Old Testament sacrifices were without blemish. Animals offered on Jewish altars were scrutinized to make sure that they were perfect. The idea here is that as others view their lives, there is no blemish that would distract from their purpose of pointing people to Jesus. In other words, their conduct is consistent with their allegiance to Jesus. Here, then, is a company of God’s people who are saved, sealed, separated, sanctified (not sinless), and spotless! They have been cleansed and changed by grace -- just as we also have been, if we know the Lord. If we really want to be used by God, then we must live our lives with purity so that they do not provide any kind of blemish that would distract others from Jesus.
That’s what God does for those He redeems! That’s what God does for those who trust Christ as their Savior. He takes ruined lives and turns them into trophies of His grace. When we trust Christ as our Savior, He makes us special in His sight; He gives us a new song to sing; and He causes us to stand with Jesus victorious in glory. If we want it, he will give us commitment that is super human so we can follow him through the tribulations of this life. God can and will use ordinary human beings like you and me to accomplish His extraordinary purposes on earth.