A New Song
Key Verse 14:3
“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.”
In chapter 13 we saw the emergence of the unholy trinity— the Dragon who is Satan, his first beast who is the Antichrist and his second beast who is the false prophet. In the end times, the governments as well as the religious institutions, are going to worship the image of the beast who is the Antichrist who represents the devil in all his affairs. And his affairs are not unknown to True Christians— they are clearly to lead the whole world astray from God. In his effort to mislead the people of the world, he prepares to seal them with his mark on their foreheads or on their arms. This one act dooms anyone who receives the mark to destruction— to be thrown into the abyss. In chapter 14, the scene returns to the Lamb, surrounded by his redeemed, those who had been sealed by him, and would escape the final judgment. We also witness an act of great mercy from God, for he is still willing to rescue anyone who does not receive the mark of the Antichrist on him or her. After the warning had been given, we witness the Lamb become the Great Reaper of souls, where the final sheep of the Lord are separated from the rest of the world before the great judgment and wrath of God visit the earth.
Read verses 1-5. “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. And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. 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. These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as first-fruits to God and the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless.”
John looked and he saw before him the Lamb, Jesus, standing on Mount Zion, another name for Jerusalem, but he is not alone. With him are a multitude of 144 thousand who Jesus’ name and the name of God written on their foreheads. These have been the ones sealed by God and set apart for salvation. Like a procession of graduates who are ready to be rewarded for their many years of study— like the finalist who is ready to be crowned in victory, his people marked by his name stand by their Lamb who had once been slain for their sins. We cannot imagine their joy at the apex of victory. Whatever reward they are about to receive cannot outweigh the joy that overflows from their hearts at this moment of their lives. Perhaps there can be no greater joy for them, not even the gift of eternal life in the kingdom of God, can overshadow the joy they experience just to stand by the One they have loved more than life itself. And surely enough we see in verse 2 that their joy could not be contained at all, for they burst out in a song of praise in unison. But before we elaborate on this, let us take another look at verses 1-5. These verses not only point out the fact that these are the ones who stand secure in the shelter of the Lord, but at the same time these verses shed light on what distinguishes the redeemed of the Lord from all other people. And several things distinguish them from all other people.
First, according to verse 1, God’s redeemed people are distinguished by Jesus’ and God’s name written on their foreheads. This is a glorious mark of the redeemed of Christ. The name of Jesus and that of God is written on their foreheads. The names of the Lord are not hidden at all but in full view of all creation in heaven and on earth. In other words, they unmistakably belong to God. These are the ones who were unashamed to proclaim his word and his name in their lives. So the Lord was not ashamed to be associated with them either. Jesus once told his disciples: “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38) Paul the apostle later wrote to the Roman Christians saying: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes:” (Romans 1:16) To be marked by the God’s name in our hearts and in our lives is nothing to be ashamed of. Shame is mostly to do or to say something that is out of the norm. In Jesus’ day and later in Paul’s day it seems shameful to be associated with the cross, for the cross was reserved only for criminals. But on a deeper note, people felt ashamed perhaps not in associating their name with that of Jesus, but they were certainly ashamed of associating their name with the Christian lifestyle. While everyone is living a normal life pursuing the world and its ways, Christians may feel shame in following the lifestyle set for us in the Bible by the teaching of our Lord Jesus. But we must not be ashamed either to associate with Jesus nor with the gospel life to which he called us to live. The saints on the day of judgment had God’s name written on their foreheads. For them it was symbolic of a lifetime of devotion and commitment to the one who sacrificed it all in order to save them from the destiny of hell. We must not be ashamed of Jesus. it is an honor to have his name engraved on our hearts and on our minds, not in word but in deed as well. The day will come when only those who have not been ashamed of Jesus and his saving grace in their lives will stand together with the Lamb awaiting the final ascent to heaven.
Second, Jesus’ people are distinguished by song of praise that swells their hearts at all times. According to verse 2, we see that a sound like that of rushing waters filled the heavens before the throne of God. According to verse 3, it was the song of the saints who were ready to burst out with praise for the God who redeemed them. The people of the Lord are ever distinguished by the praise that ever fills their hearts. This is not so hard to imagine. When we think of David the great Psalmist who wrote countless Psalms under all kinds of circumstances, we can see that those who belong to the Lord always respond to all things with thanksgiving and praise to God. David was a man of endless circumstances ranging from when he was a poor and insignificant shepherd boy, to the king’s son in law, to a hunted fugitive running away form the king who wanted to take his life. David’s life was fraught with events that caused joy and sorrow, fear and struggle and pain and disappointment and the such. But in every occasion David responded with a song of praise to God. He was marked with greatness in every imaginable event and circumstance of life, but his true greatness was in his glorious relationship with God which manifested itself so brightly all the time. When he was sad, he sat down and praised God. When he was in danger for his life, he sat down and sang a song of praise to God. When he sinned and his sins crushed his bones in guilt and shame, he sat down to sing a song of praise to God. When he was rebuked by the prophet for the sin of adultery and murder, he responded with a song of praise to God. He know the God who created him and who loved him. He never lost sigh of the God who bore with him. And his heart was ever filled with a song of praise ready to come out. Not only David, but we remember the apostles who were taken prisoner at the preaching of the Lord Jesus in the temple, who were later flogged for the name, and who sang a song of praise to thank God for being counted worthy of suffering for the name. We too must learn how to swell with praise to God so that we too might respond with a song of praise in any and all circumstances of life. It is the distinguishing mark of those who are Jesus’ own people.
Third, not only a song of praise distinguishes God’s people as God’s people, but a new song of praise is a distinguishing mark of those who belong to Christ. In verse 3 our key verse, we see that the saints sang a new song. Old songs are usually great songs. They testify to God’s great works along the thread of history. When the Israelites left Egypt free men and women, they sang a song of praise to God, a song that all Israelites learned to sing from time to time to commemorate God’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt. But a new song distinguishes Jesus’ people in a very personal way. They distinguish the people of the Lord because they speak of God’s continuous grace in our lives. Thus the saints sang a new song unto the Lord, for even in heaven the grace of God was ever so marvelous to them. We too have a new song in our hearts every day as we reflect on God’s word, taste his mercy and bask in his grace. Those who reflect on God’s word every day understand the truth of the new song very clearly. They reflect on God’s word and let the word of God penetrate their hearts. As it convicts and blesses them, as it encourages and matures them, a new song is written on their hearts, a song of praise, a song of thankfulness, a song of prayer. Whatever song comes to their hearts as they meditate on the word of God, as they learn of his grace newly, as they submit to his word day by day, a new song is written on their hearts. On the other hand, there are those who thin that they know the word of God well, these stop listening to the word of God, and ultimately the word of God stops working enlightenment into their souls. There are many like this who are too proud to reflect on the word of God with eyes to see new things and to hear new things and therefore, there is no new song in their hearts. Ultimately even the old song in their hearts become tedious and boring. In their pride and boredom, they begin to search for other things to stimulate their heart and mind, and they get caught in the snares of the devil. We must always strive to have a new song in our hearts. We must always find the word of God as wide and deep as an ocean from which endless songs can be gathered and stored in our hearts.
Fourth, what also distinguishes God’s people is that the new song in their hearts— only they would know, they and the Lord, and no one else. Verse 3 tells us that no one could learn the song except those who were redeemed from the earth. Why then couldn’t anyone know their song? Because the grace of God is very personal so very personal to each one of us. Each person has his or her own testimony and each one’s testimony about the grace of God is different from the other person. And truly no one can learn another person’s testimony of God’s grace except that person because God showers us with his grace each according to God’s own grace and wisdom. We know the blind man of John chapter 9. his testimony was so personal and glorious, for he said: “I was blind and now I see.” Upon this song the hymn “amazing grace” was written, but the author of the hymn and the singers of the hymn each have different testimonies as to how God opened their spiritual eyes to see the love and mercy of God in their own individual lives. Paul’s new song of God’s grace which he alone could experience and feel and know was this: “By the grace of God I am what I am.” We may know that Paul was a murderer and a bigot, but only Paul himself knows the song of his own testimony to the grace of God in his life. Among us today each one has a new song that although we may identify with one another to the grace given to us, still no one can fully appreciate that song of grace like the person who has been redeemed by that grace. That is also why we must reflect often on the grace of God given to each of us. We cannot and should not forget for a moment where we were and what he has done to snatch us out of the fires of hell. Each of us must have a new song to sing before the Lord and before all others to whom we share that grace with. May God who gave each of us a new song that we alone know, may he also give us the blessing to share this grace until the day he returns. Amen.
Fifth, the distinguishing mark of the saints is also a purity of heart. According to verse 4, the people of Jesus are clearly distinguished by the purity of their hearts. This is a sexual purity as well as a spiritual purity of heart and mind. In other versions, the word “virgin” appears to reflect on the kind of purity the author is talking about. This is also the purity of living one’s life in Christ Jesus, not being given to any of the worldly ways, not following the world’s trends and lures and temptations. In other words the purity of keeping one’s heart in the Lord and for the Lord alone. Today, sexual purity is almost non-existent in a world that promotes the concept of freedom in all things, even in sharing of one’s body with others. But the Bibel is absolutely clear on the issue of sexual or physical purity. Look what Revelation 21:8 says of all the impurities of the world and of those who practice them. “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars— their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” Keeping oneself pure from the world and its ways is not a joke, it is a command for those who would see the Lord and spend eternity with him. People corrupt and pollute their hearts and minds with many impurities while they are living— impurities that are almost impossible for them to wash away no matter how hard they try. Only the blood of Jesus can purify the heart and mind from all the impurities of life and bring those who would be pure again in heart to God and to God’s shelter. The distinguishing mark of those who belong to Jesus must be a purity of heart. After we have received the Lord into our hearts, we cannot and must not allow other things coexist with him, for the two cannot and will not coexist. One will have to be abolished, and we know that God forces no one to follow him. Therefore we must not allow any impurity to come in and corrupt our hearts.
Look at verse 4 again. There is another reason why we must keep our hearts pure form the world and its corrupting influences. We are redeemed by the Lord, purchased by him on Calvary, where he shed his blood to redeem us, to purchase us back for God. How can we defile ourselves with the impurities of the world when we know this truth so powerfully! According to verse 4, we are purchased and we are purchased in order to follow Jesus in all things. Jesus purchased us on the cross not so that we might go and live out our lives in the freedom of sin, but he purchased us that we might follow him wherever he goes. So many people, new Christians, old Christians, others who do not know what to do when they have received the Lord Jesus in their hearts and lives. They begin to do as they please, according to their own understanding, according to their own whims and way of thinking, not realizing that their thinking is not from God but from the world still. We must be careful to allow the word of God to wash our hearts clean of all things worldly before we attempt to consider what we need to do in our lives as Christians. Clearly the Bible tells us to follow Jesus. But some are living their lives as if Jesus must follow them. Whatever seemingly good or goodly or godly idea that comes to their minds, they think it from God. They think it inspired. They think it God’s voice to lead them here and there, while all the time they are only following the design of the old sinful nature. Repent and be washed in the word of God, and let the word of God thoroughly cleanse you of any worldly way of thinking so that you might know where and how to follow Jesus. You must follow Jesus wherever he leads and not decide on your own and then have him tag along. Let’s repent of using the name of Jesus to promote our own plans for life, our own idea about living and out own ways of doing things. Let us humble ourselves and no matter how long it takes to be gospelized inside out, let us be patient until the word of God leads us to follow Jesus. Amen.
Sixth, what also distinguishes the redeemed of the lord is a spirit of truth. Look at verse 5. No lie was found in their mouths. Jesus is the Truth. His words are truth. They are the truth form the beginning of time till the world is no more. Those who belong to Jesus must cherish the truth, and defend the truth to the end, even at the cost of their own lives. A spirit of truth is what distinguishes God’s people from all other people. The world lives in lies. The world invents lies and then lives by those lies. But we the people of the Lord must surround ourselves by the living word of God, embrace its truth sometimes even when the truth hurts much. We must know that repentance is a pat of upholding a truth that the world has no use for. We must know that the word of God is a truth that the world would love to extinguish. But we are his people, and we must live by the truth that we find in the Bible. No lie must be found in our hearts or on our lips. We must live by the truth that a Christian life is a life of commitment and of devotion to Christ, that the Christian life is the only life worth living, that the Christian life hard as it may seem is the mark that Jesus our Lord left us with when he died and rose form the dead, and when he called us to follow him. Praise God that we know this truth and can challenge ourselves to embrace it day after day.
Read verses 6-7. Jesus had already prophesied about this— that the gospel must first be preached to the ends of the earth. (Mark 13:10) It has always been the will of God for the gospel to go out to all people before the end of time. Although it is a gospel of grace and of salvation, according to verse 7, it is also a gospel of judgment. These verses are a last call for all men to receive the gospel; a call to fear God; a call to give God the glory; the call to turn away from idol worship and to worship God instead. There are many reasons to fear God, but the angel reminds people to fear God because he is the judge who will surely judge men for their sins. (Matthew 10:28)
Read verses 8-11. Babylon is an infamous name in the Bible symbolizing the world, worldly powers and world systems. Outwardly these seem strong, but in the end they crumble and fall like everything else. Jesus said: Heaven and earth will pass away but my word will never pass away. (Mark 13:31) In the end nothing remains except the word of God which has been the source of creation and will be the source of destruction to all that is physical and material. The angel proclaims the fall of Babylon from the start even before he tells us who this Babylon is. According to verses 9-11, what marks Babylon in every generation is the worship of the beast and his image. Devil worship is not necessarily that people set up an altar for the devil and call on his name— that is nothing but Hollywood sensationalism. Devil worship is a lot more deceptive in character, so deceptive that it fools most people of the world into worshiping the devil without even knowing that they are actually worshiping the devil. The we must remember that devil worship is hidden in the lures and temptations of the this world which draw men to surrender their hearts to anything and everything except to God. God calls us to worship him alone, to love him alone. But throughout history, men have worshiped other things— things that have stolen their hearts away from God. Ultimately the Bible considers devil worship that which draws men’s hearts away form God and the worship of God. The angel warns that for those who worship
Look at verses12-13. “This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.” This is not the first time that these words are given in the context of the end times. The end times will not be pleasant for the godless and for those who worship the beast and his ways. It will not be pleasant for God’s people ether. The world will undergo a shaking like never before. It will be a terrible time for those who live on earth. God’s judgments will be devastating in an effort to bring whoever has a conscience back to the worship of God, to repentance of sin and to faith I Christ. And God’s call to those of his people who will witness such times is a call to patient endurance. God exhorts them to remain faithful to Jesus and to continue obeying the words of God. In other words they must not be shaken in their faith, nor should they give up their earnest prayers on their own behalf and on the behalf of those who would at the last minute turn their hearts to God. Patience and endurance are truly glorious virtues of Christian faith. Just as God patiently endured this wicked world for generations for the sake of his own flock, so also must God’s people patiently endure whatever hardship they may suffer in the world for Jesus’ sake and for the sake of those who would come back to God. The call to patient endurance is repeated in these chapters. In verse 13, we see that this patient endurance may even lead to martyrdom. But it wont be a tragedy to die as a result of patient endurance. God’s voice itself assures us of this: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” Patient endurance may seem as a weakness on the part of God’s people, but according to the Lord, it is a blessing worth striving for, because it will be the time of rest from all their labors in the Lord.
Look at verses 14-20. These verses talk about the final reaping of souls, to separate those who belong to Jesus form those who do not, from those who have Jesus’ mark on their foreheads from those who have the mark of the beast. This is the time where all history looks forward to, the final separation of the sheep from the goats, the good from the bad. There is more on the subject as we progress in the book of revelation. But for now, let us be marked by the distinguishing mark of the Christian, the saint, the child of God who will stand with the Lamb on mount zion some day and sing a new song to Jesus.