I. The Opposing Army (the voice of singing and redemption)

The devil has organized and marked his armies and now we return to the marked army of the Lord. There are a total of seven voices that are heard in this chapter. The first voice is the voice of this coming army and the next six voices are the voices of particular angels to a rebellious world. The first voice is the voice of this elect company and it is the voice of singing and joy. “And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads.” Our joy always begins with the sight of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Lamb that takes away the sins of the world, our sins which is synonymous with the sins of the world (John 1:29). The sight of Jesus Christ can always bring us joy of we know the cleansing power of the blood of the Lamb. This is the Lamb that is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. He is the only one that is worthy to open the book of God’s secret decrees, being the very God of very God. He is the one that humbled Himself unto death, even the death of the cross. He it is that is bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. He is the one that we trust will conquer. We have trembled at the sight of Antichrist but we find our joy and courage in seeing the Lord, our Lamb, standing in the place of victory. That is just where John sees Him. We know that what John sees is not immediate to the chronological occurrences. He has not yet returned with His great armies to conquer this world. Sometimes it is necessary for us to look with the eyes of faith toward the end. John saw the blackness of Antichrist and cleansed his eyes with the balm of faith in Christ. Though all the world follows the beast we still see not only the Lamb standing on Zion in victory but we see the remnant with Him. We remember the 144,000 from the seventh chapter. It is a comfort for the lonely Elijah (such was John on Patmos, such are many martyrs in this present world, and such will be some who find themselves in those days) to know that there are yet 4,000 who have not bowed their knees to the image of Baal. These are the Jews who will inherit all the promises of Abraham on this earth as we learned in the 7th chapter (regardless of what some modern fools would like to teach). They have the name of the Father written on their foreheads. They are His, and His forever. They stand opposed to those who mark themselves with the number and the name of a man. The remnant of Israel will stand in victory with their Savior, Jesus Christ. And we will share in that glory one day. Having done all we will stand with Him. We will have His name forever written on us (Rev. 22:4). We will “come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel” (Heb. 12:22-24).

Thus we hear the first of the seven voices of this chapter. This is not the voice of angels but the voice of the redeemed. It is a voice that in the third verse leads to joyous singing. “And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps….” We know that this is the voice of the redeemed for it is a voice from heaven. The guaranteed vision of victory of Christ and His remnant would break forth in singing. This group in heaven (of which I hope to be a part) has sung before. They sang a song to the Lamb in the fifth chapter and began to celebrate with palms the Feast of Tabernacles in the seventh chapter. Things got dark in the drama but they are now ready to burst forth in singing again. There are four descriptions of this voice. First, as we already saw, it is from heaven. Secondly, it is as the voice of many waters, that is it is the voice of many nations and people. This makes it synonymous with the multitude that no man can number that was every nation, kindred, tongue, and people in the fifth and seventh chapter. Thirdly, it is it is as the voice of a great thunder. That tells us that the praise is mixed with the presence of God (I Sam. 7:10, II Sam. 22:14, Job 37:5, Ps. 18:13, John 12:29). It is the voice of God’s people who stand and speak in unison with the voice of God. Oh! What joy to those who shall ever be with the Lord! Fourthly, it was accompanied with the voice of harpers harping on their harps. It is sounds of worship coming from the temple (I Chr. 15:16, II Chr. 29:25, Ps. 33:2, 98:5). Therefore the voice is the voice of a glorified body of redeemed people who stand with their God and worship with the sound of harps in expectation of Christ standing victory with His own. We will have a vested interest in all that shall occur.

144,000

So we hear the song of this heavenly company: “And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.” The song was sung before the throne of God and before the residing angels (the four beasts) and before the representatives of the glorified church (the 24 elders). Who was it that sung in our text? It is the redeemed in heaven that are singing; the same ones that sung in fifth chapter about the Lamb and celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles in the 7th chapter. They are the ones that stood in awed silence before the sounding of the first trumpet (8:1) and now that all final warning trumpets have sounded over a wicked and unrepentant world they now sing again. This time it says that they sing a new song. It says that they sung “as it were” a new song which we take to mean that it was not new in its content but it was new or different in the circumstance. When they sung a new song in chapter five (5:2), they were singing it because of the new circumstance of being in the presence of Christ. We begin to sing a new song when we are redeemed by God in salvation (Ps. 40:2). A new song goes with all things becoming new (II Cor. 5:17). And we should always find new circumstances to sing a new song to the Lord regarding His grace and mercy towards men (Ps. 33:3, 40:3, 96:1, 98:1, 144:9, 149:1). It is in the direct context of the coming of the Messiah to this earth that a new song is commanded: “Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise from the end of the earth, ye that go down to the sea, and all that is therein; the isles, and the inhabitants thereof” (Isa. 42:10). So what was the circumstance that brought on the newness of this song? First, we know that it is directly related on the immanent return of Christ. They sang because He was moving toward earth to rule and reign in accordance with the prophecy of Isaiah. It was the sight of Christ and his anticipated standing in victory on Zion that caused them to sing. Secondly, it was the salvation of Israel that caused the song. And why not (Rom. 11)? Our text teaches us a truth about this song. The song was communicable. There were those on earth that had the ability to learn and to sing this victory song; this song of redemption. The wicked world could not learn the song of redemption. Those that know it have a joy that the world cannot know. The 144,000 Israelites that were sealed of God and would be brought in victory through the 70th week could learn this song. Why? Because they are now redeemed! Because they are now looking for the return of their Savior Jesus Christ! They are called in our text the redeemed of the earth. The church of heaven sings it and now Israel on earth sing it too; the one sings it in heaven and the other has learned in the darkest of hours to sing it on earth. God gives us songs in the night (Job 35:10). The singing is about the immanent end of the bondage of Israel which has been going on in the times of the Gentiles since the days of Babylon. Israel has been unable to sing. They have hung their harps on the willows and consigned themselves to sorrowful dirges for more than 2,500 years (Ps. 137). They could have sung with the saints at the first coming of Christ but they would not (Mark 14:26, Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16). But there will come a day of victorious singing for Israel one day when the day that they get to stand on Zion with Christ comes. Again Isaiah prophesied, “Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away” (Isa. 51:11). We in heaven will be joining this song because we have a part in its end when Israel is reconciled: “For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead” (Isa. 51:11)? We look forward with anticipation of the day of that song.

music

This redeemed company of Israel is known in four distinct ways (which I borrowed from Ellicott). First, this company of men is wholly bodily given to the Lord. “These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins.” They are known by their purity. While it does not say they were eunuchs, Christ spoke about those who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of God (Matt. 19:12). These are those who saw the Kingdom of God as their singular joy and focus. They were willing to devote themselves wholly to God in their bodies and give up the worldly distractions of having wives (I Cor. 7:32, 37). They were steadfast in their search for purity for they were virgins and had never been defiled. They are virgins in contrast to the great harlot, as we shall later study, and a world that is steeped in fornication for which they will not repent. They were temperate in all things and able to govern themselves. They fled from fornication. While it is not necessary for all to be such, the bishop for instance was to be the husband of one wife and to rule his house well (marriage is the will of God for most – the term defilement cannot be applied to scriptural marriage – Heb. 13:4), celibacy is the will of God for some and for these. What is necessary is this, if we want to be used of God keeping ourselves from fornication and from uncleanness is paramount (I Cor. 6:19, 20). These were presented to Christ as such (II Cor. 11:2).

Secondly, these are known by their spiritual obedience. “These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.” I think that it is interesting that they are not said to follow Christ as their Shepherd (which no doubt He is) but they were following Him as the Lamb. The Lamb was led to the slaughter and they were willing to follow Him there. They were willing to follow the Lamb even in His weakness. If Christ drank the cup they were willing to drink it too. They received not the seed of Christ on stony or throny ground. If following Christ led them to a cross, so, they would continue to follow Him there. Oh! If only we had such spiritual obedience among believers today. They were His disciples without shame or reproach. They are of His flock and will follow Him (John 10:27). They never wanted to be apart from Christ.

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Thirdly, they were known by the separation. “These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.” They were separated from the wicked world because God redeemed them. He purchased them and He bought them with His blood (Eph. 1:14). He brought them out from among men. And being brought out by God they are dedicated to God. That word firstfruits is a term that is synonymous with the tithe which is the Lord’s (Prov. 3:8, 9). They belong to Him (Notice that what belongs to God is also what belongs to the Lamb – thus the deity of Christ is taught again). They were holy and acceptable to God being offered up to Him (Rom. 12:1, 2). They made themselves the best they could and offered it up to God (Num. 18:12). We who are redeemed also need to be likewise consecrated. They are the firstfruits of the harvest which is holy to the Lord. The rest of the harvest is coming at the end of this great chapter and it is set aside for judgement (Matt. 13:39, 40).

Lastly, they were also know by their truthfulness. “And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.” This is prophetic of latter day Israel: “The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid” (Zeph. 3:13, see also, Mal. 2:4-7). In such they are made like unto their Savior, Jesus Christ (I Pet. 2:22). They did not open their mouths in hatred or deceit toward other men. They were able to say as Paul said before the Sanhedrin, “I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day” (Acts 23:1). We need those who are willing to live in all honesty for a godless world of deceit and fraud. And it is such that can sing the song of the redeemed along with the saints in heaven.