There are seven symbolic and historical characters John wrote about in his book of Revelation. We have learned weeks ago about the woman and the dragon. The woman is the whole church in redemptive history while the dragon is the old serpent, Satan. And recently we concluded our sermon series about the beasts of the dragon. They are the demonized state and its false prophets.
Now we continue our study of these symbolic characters. They are three who remains: 144,000, three angelic messengers, Son of Man. Later on we will learn that the 144,000 mentioned here are the same 144,00 we have encountered in Revelation 7. They are whole number of elect numbered by God himself. It is the perfect number of believers from generation to generation whom the Father elects, the Son redeems, and the Spirit sanctifies. Next, we will learn about the three angelic messengers. They proclaim a message of repentance, encouragement, and exhortation with warning to persevere. Lastly, we come with the second coming of the Son of Man. It signals for again the end of another cycle marking the end of the symbolic histories.
Our sermon points for this series are: 1) The 144,000; 2) The Three Angelic Messengers; 3) The Son of Man. Before we begin, let us pray…
“Almighty and Holy Spirit, the comforter, pure, living, true, illumine, govern, sanctify me, and confirm my heart and mind in the faith and in all genuine consolation. Preserve and rule over me so that, dwelling in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, I may behold the Lord and praise Him with a joyful spirit and in union with all the heavenly church. Amen.” – Philip Melanchthon
verses 1-5: “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. 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, 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. 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, and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless.”
For those were here with us months ago when we began this sermon series about the book of Revelation, they will recall the symbolism of the 144,000 from chapter 7. They are whole company of elect believers who has been justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. The number 12 multiplied 12 then by another 10x10x10 represents the people of God here on earth. So we will not anymore dwell on this on move on to the others in the text.
First, where is Mt. Zion and what are they are the 144,00 doing there? Second, what is the symbolism of the new song and why those who sing it are pure, and blameless?
Verse 1 visualize for us the church worshipping at Mt. Zion. The slain Lamb presides the worship and his congregation is the 144,000 who received the mark of the Triune God. The reference to Mt. Zion points to its obvious symbolism. Yes, Mt. Zion refers to heavenly Jerusalem (Psalm 2:6). The preacher of Hebrews mentions it in Hebrews 12:22-24. It reads, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” Mt. Zion is the city of God whom even those Old Testament saints long to see (Hebrews 11:16). And the preacher of Hebrews says Christ is the mediator of this new covenant and those who gathers together with the angels were made perfect by his atoning work. Again, Christ presides the worship in heaven and his congregation sings and responds to him in worship. And this means only God directs our worship. He rules us with Word and Spirit. As the preacher of Hebrews exhorts, “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:28).”
Verses 2-3 illustrates the worship of God’s people. Clearly, the cross-reference to book of Hebrews parallels the same activity. The congregation of Jesus Christ gathers to worship the Triune God. Yes, their worship is ordained by heaven but at the same time, it is directed to God in the heavens. They respond to him in praise and thanksgiving. They learned to sing the new victory song of faith and it is song only the elect knows, understands, and receives. This new song were repeatedly referred to in the book of Psalms.
- Psalm 33:3 – Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
- Psalm 40:3 – He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.
- Psalm 96:1 – Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth!
- Psalm 98:1 – Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.
The new song symbolizes the elect’s reply to God in praise and thanksgiving. It is their response to God’s saving grace. It is a worship of God in gratitude. Faith in Christ unites us to God and his Spirit dwells in us. This union binds us together as believers assembled together for worship. As a community of believers gathered under the banner of Christ, we respond to him in worship with the faith we received from the Holy Spirit. Paul reminds us, “…but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:18-20).”
Verse 5 address the assembly of God’s people as pure, blameless. Does it mean they are not sinners and perfected saints in heaven? No, they are sinner justified by the blood of slain lamb. Their righteousness is not their own. It is only imputed to them. They received Christ’s perfect righteousness when they placed their trust in him. It is an alien righteousness which is a righteousness earned by another and was credited only to them by receiving it in faith. Yes, as Christians, we continually progress in holiness and righteousness inherent in us but it has never and will never be the basis for meriting our right to eternal life. Only by the blood of Christ we enter heaven. Nothing more, nothing less.
So Christian take heart! Our worship comes to us by the privilege of faith wrought in us by the Spirit. Whenever we feel unworthy mainly due to sin that continually besets us let us encourage one another by the imagery portrayed to us from Scripture. God ordains, presides, directs, and empowers our worship of him. He commands us to worship him, accomplishes the means for do it, grants us the desire to do them. Our assembly before God comes to us with comfort and encouragement. Whenever God speaks to us his Word, it never returns to him void and always accomplishes it purpose (Isaiah 55:11). It convicts and converts. God’s word comes with the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit, regenerates the heart of God’s people, and enables them to sing the new victory of faith. God’s elect respond in gratitude and thanksgiving.
ZCRC(Imus), we are God’s people created by God’s Word and Spirit. We worship God in gratitude and thanksgiving and respond to him in unison with faith and repentance. In the midst of tribulation and suffering, let us sing to him a new song! Amen.
Rev. Lance Filio is a minister of the Word and Sacraments at Zion Cornerstone Reformed Church (Imus). He finished his Bachelor Degree in Electronics Engineering at Mapua Institute of Technology and He is currently taking his Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) at MINTS. He lives in Taguig City, Philippines with his wife and three children.