Visions of Assurance

Revelation  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  39:52
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Visions of Assurance

Good afternoon. Chapter fourteen is a continuations of this lengthy interlude that we have been looking at for some time now. In chapter ten the seventh trumpet brought us right up to the time of the end. But before that time begins John is given visions of the lengthy struggle that has existed from the beginning between the Kingdom of God and the power of Satan. In chapter twelve we saw the spiritual reality of this battle that has rages unseen all around us. But, in the final days when the last and most powerful of the antichrists rises that spiritual battle will break forth into human history in ways that has never been seen before. And the Antichrist will use every possible means to subdue the saints and demand their worship. Chapter fourteen was given to John as a way to bring assurance to the saints that all that occurs during the end times is all within the hands of God. Part of the assurance that God wants us to see is that the godless civilization under the control of the beast will fall under divine judgment. And in contrast to that judgment we, the saints, will experience eternal salvation with Christ Jesus. This chapter actually isn’t a single vision, but rather it appears to be a series of disconnected short visions. So let’s look at each of these brief visions that John is given.
The first of these is found in verses one through five where we read.
Revelation 14:1 ESV
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.
Revelation 14:2 ESV
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,
Revelation 14:3 ESV
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.
Revelation 14:4 ESV
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,
Revelation 14:5 ESV
and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless.

The Lamb Upon Mount Zion

This first vision is actually about the final salvation of the saints, which doesn’t occur until chapters twenty through twenty-two. This vision is given in anticipation of what is yet to be for the people of God. Why? So as to help God’s people stand firm in the midst of whatever trials and tribulations may come, either today or in the time of the end. I feel like I keep saying this over and over throughout this series. But I believe it just shows how quickly we can lose focus on the eternal and only see what is right before us. And God realizes this so what he does is repeats this truth over and over just in different ways with the hope that we might start to see the truth that lies just out of sight behind the vale in the spiritual realm all around us at all times.
In the first verse John sees Jesus standing atop Mount Zion surrounded by 140,000 saints who bear the mark of God. And this is the first thing that God wants us to see. Because if we remember from last week we saw those that take part in the worship of the beast will take the mark of the beast. And so we are presented with this contrast by God and his assurance that those who are sealed by the Holy Spirit will most certainly experience victory even in the face of martyrdom at the hands of the beast. That is who these 140,000 are they are martyrs for Christ Jesus and His gospel.
Mount Zion in this passage is not a reference to an actual mountain. In the book of Hebrews chapter twelve verse twenty-two we are told that Mount Zion is the city of the living God, it is the New Jerusalem. So, this is a reference to the heavenly dwelling place of God. And when we get to the last few chapters of Revelation we will find that the heavenly Jerusalem will descend and the dwelling place of God will be among men. And so this is simply a spiritualized reference we might say to the dwelling place at the present time of Jesus.
The 140,000 were those whom we read about in chapter seven. And what we see is that those saints who are still yet to be martyred during the Great Tribulation will definitely stand redeemed with Christ Jesus.
And then in verse two John hears a voice from the heavens. This voice appears based on verse three to be an angelic host that is singing.
In verse three we are told that they sing a new song before the throne of God. Verse three mentions several groups who are present. We have the angels who are singing this new song, as well as the four living creatures, the twenty-four elders, and the 140,000. But that among all of those that are present only the 140,000 can learn this new song. Why? Because it is a song of redemption and so only the 140,000 can learn the song from the angels because they are the only ones present who have or could experience redemption.
Verse four presents us with some difficulties primarily in that these 140,000 are described as being chaste or virgins. This leads many to believe that this is a special group of believers who have sworn off marriage or sexual relations in order to serve only the Lord. What makes this difficult is that in 1 Corinthians 7 Paul does suggest that people remain chaste and unmarried if possible in order to serve the Lord because of the responsibilities that a family naturally brings. However, It is not because sex is meant to be viewed as some defiling act in some way. Which is where we can end up if we follow this line of thinking. I believe that this is speaking more about ones spiritual state more than ones sexual life. And as such what it is speaking about I believe spiritual purity more than sexual virginity. We see this idea in second Corinthians chapter eleven verse two where Paul says that his goal is to present the church to Jesus as a virgin bride. He’s obviously not stating that no one in the church should have sex. In fact in first corinthians chapter seven he says that married couples should not choose to abstain from sex for an extended period because it can give way to lustful acts outside of marriage. And so I think in reference here to the 140,000 I believe that this is saying that they have remained spiritually pure by refusing to worship the beast and as a result they were martyred.
They are said to follow Jesus wherever He goes and they are said to be the first fruits for God and the Lamb. This simply means that they are to be the first to experience the resurrection. First fruits is an agricultural term that simply means the first that is harvested.
Finally this first vision says that the 140,000 were spotless. Meaning that now that they have experienced the resurrection and stand with Christ and that they now know life as sinless humans. Just as the first fruits of the flock that were without blemish were to be offered as a sacrifice to the Lord in the Old Testament sacrificial system. These saints offered their lives as a sacrifice to the Lord and they were martyred at the hands of the beast all the while serving and worship the one true savior, Jesus Christ. And as a result of both their spiritual and physical sacrifice for Christ Jesus at the hands of the beast they will be rewarded. And that reward is that they will be the first among humanity to experience the resurrection and as a result the first to know the glorified Christ.
Then in verses six and seven we have the next vision. and we read.
Revelation 14:6–7 ESV
Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

The Good News

Remember this chapter contains several different visions that are all loosely connected. And so after John is given a vision of those to first be redeemed and resurrected to Jesus he now hears an angel calling all men to repent of their sin while there is still time to believe in Christ Jesus. The word that we translate here as gospel actually means good news. In the end times when everything seems beyond repair and nothing good could ever come of the havoc and mayhem. There is the good news of Jesus.
And this is an eternal truth, it has been true from the beginning of time and will continue to be true until the end of time. And so no matter what you or I are going through at any point in our lives. In fact no matter what anyone in this world is going through in their lives the one thing that they need to give them the hope to get through is the good news of Jesus Christ. This is why we need to continually remind ourselves of the great truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. First because we constantly need the grace that flows from the gospel in our lives. And second because then we will be intimately familiar with the Gospel and when the Holy Spirit needs us to speak. We will be capable to speak with certainty and boldness.
Then in verse eight we read about the fall of Babylon
Revelation 14:8 ESV
Another angel, a second, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.”

The Fall of Babylon

The first angel called for repentance and acceptance of the gospel. This angel now speaks of what happens to those who do not repent. Babylon in the Old Testament was always seen as like this arch-nemesis to Israel. And so we should see this reference to Babylon as all of human society that chooses to follow after the beast and war against the people of God. And so Babylon is presented here as offering wine in order to intoxicate and then seduce the nations. That wine can be anything that draws our hearts from God. Wealth, luxuries, popularity, friendship, you name it. Anything that Babylon might use to entice you from the Kingdom of God and to the power of Satan. But this cup of wine will be turned around upon the seductress and it will become the cup of the wrath of God.
And in verses nine through twelve we read about the downfall of those who worship the beast.
Revelation 14:9–10 ESV
And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.
Revelation 14:11–12 ESV
And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.” Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.
John has a vision of a third angel who cries out concerning the downfall of those who worship the beast

Doom and Destruction

This is not a pretty picture that is being painted concerning the end that is one day going to take place. But in the midst of the doom and the destruction we need to remember that the purpose of all of this is not doom and destruction. We need to remember that behind the seven trumpets and the seven bowls that are about to take place is the mercy and grace of God. The goal of the wrath is discipline to repentance - while there is still time to repent. But unfortunately there is the eternal truth that those who choose hostility towards God must become objects of divine wrath. But why must it be this way? Because it is simply inconceivable that a perfectly righteous God would allow any who hate his one and only son Jesus to enter into the Kingdom of God. And here’s the thing you have to choose and one will either choose to love God and thus Jesus with all of their heart, mind, and soul. Or they unwittingly choose hate. There is no middle ground. You can’t like Jesus enough to get into heaven. You can’t somehow be good enough or check off enough charitable boxes to get into heaven. It just doesn’t work that way. In fact the truth is much simpler. Simply believe in Jesus Christ. Period.
One of the difficulties that we and in fact the unbelieving world struggles with is the presence of so much wrath. We need to understand though that God’s wrath is not like some human emotion that we might experience. Right? He hasn’t simply bottled up a bunch of anger and all of a sudden he’s going to be unable to control it any longer and boom he lets loose. He’s not like us. Instead, we need to see Gods wrath as the predetermined reaction of a holy perfect righteous God to man’s sinful rebellion. And unfortunately for mankind it is impossible to separate the gospel of Jesus from the wrath of God. They are intertwined. But this is the beauty of the story of Revelation it is this intertwining of the two that makes the gospel such good news.
But for those who remain hostile to Jesus until the end will have the full weight of the wrath of God poured out upon them. And who is it that will cause such torment upon those who hate Jesus. It is the lamb.
I enjoy much of the writings of C.S. Lewis. However I do not agree with much of his theology. For instance he popularized the idea that what hell truly is is the complete absence of God. And where God is completely absent there can be no grace. And so mankind will see the face of Jesus and know that He is God, and then they will be removed from his presence and his grace eternally in hell. That is in fact what much of the evangelical church says that hell is. However, there is no scriptural evidence of this. In fact the problem for this position is that these verses actually say something very differently. This says that unbelievers will taste of the cup of the wrath of God in the presence of the angels and in the presence of the Lamb.
And the torment, the torture, the physical pain and suffering will be experienced eternally, there is no end to their time in hell. Jesus warned about the fires of hell in Mark chapter nine verse forty eight where he says that “their worm never dies and the fire is not quenched.
Now, this isn’t being written to the unbeliever right? The book of Revelation is written for the saints. And so this is a call for the endurance of the saints in the face of adversity. But how is it that the saints endure? It is only through the gift of faith through Christ Jesus. In our greatest moments of need the Holy Spirit can and will fill us with the faith of Jesus Christ so that we might stand firm in His faith.
Then in verse thirteen another voice is heard that speaks a blessing upon the martyrs and we read.
Revelation 14:13 ESV
And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”
Not only are we promised that we will endure until the very end even if that end means martyrdom. In fact we are now assured that if martyrdom is what comes from our standing firm in the faith then we will be blessed by God with rest from the turmoil, the tribulation, and the troubles of this world. The beast will not simply seek to martyr believers right away. He wants worshippers. He is going to seek to wear believers down through whatever means necessary and that is cause to cause believers to grow weary in their own strength. But they can have hope that they will find rest from the torment of the beast in the presence of their Lord. The book of Hebrews stresses this over and over again in fact for every believer. We are encourage to remain in the faith of Jesus so that we might one day walk into the rest that is to come in His presence.
Then in verses fourteen through sixteen we read about the harvest of the Lord.
And we read.
Revelation 14:14 ESV
Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand.
Revelation 14:15 ESV
And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.”
Revelation 14:16 ESV
So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.
Our chapter began with a vision of Jesus standing upon mount Zion. And now John has another vision of Jesus, one like a son of man, this phrase throughout the New Testament points to Jesus. This is a vision of Christ as he returns among the clouds.

Jesus Will Reap a Harvest

We are told that the harvest of the earth is fully ripe and so now is the time to complete the harvest. And Jesus is the one who will reap this harvest. The actual reaping is described later in chapters nineteen and twenty so we will wait until then to really delve into what that entails. I will say this now Jesus is reaping those grapes that are worthy of him to reap. There are others that are to be reaped afterwards as well.
And guess what our chapter ends with. That’s right that other group that is going to be reaped.
And so in verses seventeen through twenty we read.
Revelation 14:17–18 ESV
Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.”
Revelation 14:19–20 ESV
So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia.
So, Let’s actually start with the last bit there because what the heck is a stadia. Well, it is a unit of measurement that is no longer used. So how deep and how wide is this flow of blood that is to come from the winepress of the wrath of God?
1,600 stadia is roughly 184 miles. That is almost exactly the distance from us here today to New York City. So, it is about four feet deep for 184 miles. Not gonna lie that’s pretty disgusting isn’t it?
God doesn’t want us to misunderstand reality. One day there is coming a radical judgment that will crush every bit of evil and hostility to the reign of God. Nothing will stand against the full weight of the wrath of God.
Look every single one of us needs to look around us and look at the lives of those whom we love that do not believe in Jesus Christ. This is what awaits them.

So What?

So I want to touch on two topics to close for today.
I feel like a broken record almost at times. But the book of Revelation is a continual reminder of two competing ideas the first of these the I am going to look at is God’s judgment upon the wicked and the second is the opposing idea which is the victory of His people.
The first of these that I want to look at is this idea of Judgment.


In this passage we are introduced to this idea of Babylon. Babylon represents this oppressive world system that stands in opposition to the church. In our story Babylon is the oppressor and the church is the oppressed. Babylon has throughout history sought to oppress and destroy the people of God. And well, the cold hard truth is that what goes around comes around. The oppression that Babylon forces upon the people of God is one day going to come back around. God’s judgment will one day be seen and felt by Babylon.
And there is a perspective here that is presented that we need to see clearly. But it is so easy to loose sight of. And that is a perspective that is eternal. Last week we looked at the fact that there are going to be those who are lured into taking the mark of the beast. But, what does an eternal perspective see when looking at this mark of the Beast. If you take the mark of the beast you will be able to buy and sell, and you will not face martyrdom, in fact you will probably know peace between you and your neighbors and perhaps even your friends. But and it is a big but, you will also face eternal damnation. You will face an eternity of punishment for your sins.
The picture of terror and bloodshed at the end of this chapter are meant to push unbelievers towards repentance. Because this passage presents absolutely no hope fore those who take the mark of the beast. They will not survive the final battle that is still yet to come. Their fate is sealed.
We don’t think eternally very often. Because such a perspective is nearly impossible to truly understand. But it is the perspective that God is calling us to gain here in this passage. God here has presented us with the picture that those who take the mark of the beast will face eternal torment and judgment. Eternal. That means there is no end.
Unfortunately in the church today it is seen as bad taste to try to “scare” people into the Kingdom of God. This is because we live in a society that is in full revolt of any sort of authority and is extremely skeptical of threats. And so often times today it is perhaps best to emphasize God’s loving invitation to know Him. However, that is not what is being presented to us here in this text at all. And so I would say that there are going to definitely be times when this approach is appropriate. No one today knows if they will see tomorrow. We need to help people see that the stakes are far too high to delay ones decision to follow Christ until tomorrow or perhaps the next today, because there are no guarantees of the next day. This should not only be motivation to believe in Jesus but this truth should also cause each one of us to feel an urgent need to share Jesus with everyone possible.
Lastly I want to look at the idea presented here as our victory.

The Victorious Life

We are presented in our passage two very significant contrasts. Those who take the mark of the beast and the 144,000 who are marked by Jesus. On one hand we see the glorious fate of the martyrs and on the other the eternal damnation of those who take the mark of the beast. This presents to us a warning. A warning to avoid the world’s ideas of value and status. Our world seeks value and status through unknown nameless followers and as always through the constant accumulation of wealth and through a number of other means as well.
But what does the victorious life of the believer in Jesus look like. It looks like sacrificing ourselves and our resources in order to extend and grow the Kingdom of God. That is the picture we are given here in our passage.
If we persevere in Christ Jesus until the end we are promised a glorious future as the people of the New Jerusalem. And so we are called to invest our lives, so to speak, in the future city rather than in the present one.
The victorious life is also a life called to, I believe, both spiritual and physical purity. I say this because as one purifies oneself spiritually that purity will naturally overflow into ones physical life as well. We are called to present ourselves before Christ Jesus as a pure, virgin, bride. Each of us needs to be seeking to grow closer to Christ every day and in so doing to have our lives shaped into and reflect to this world, Jesus. We are image bearers of Jesus and that image because of sin has been marred. Our job now is to clean the image up. We do that by seeking after the righteousness of Christ Jesus. We accomplish that by reading the scripture, by spending time in prayer, by studying the scriptures as we did today, we accomplish this through what are called the spiritual disciplines.
It is through a disciplined life dedicated to Christ that we will find the one true and eternal victorious life.

Visions of Assurance

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
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