I really enjoyed Staff Devotions yesterday morning. I really loved these five verses. It took us a good forty five minutes to talk about them, there’s so much stuff in there.
1 Then I saw the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with him were 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. 2 And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of mighty ocean waves or the rolling of loud thunder. It was like the sound of many harpists playing together.
3 This great choir sang a wonderful new song in front of the throne of God and before the four living beings and the twenty-four elders. No one could learn this song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4 They have kept themselves as pure as virgins, following the Lamb wherever he goes. They have been purchased from among the people on the earth as a special offering to God and to the Lamb. 5 They have told no lies; they are without blame.
Isn’t it great?
It’s such a contrast to the previous chapter which is all about the Devil and his terrible influence over the human race. The results are horrific as he “wages war against God’s holy people and . . . conquers them”, as the people of the world bow down and worship him. But here the people of God get to stand on His Mountain with the Lamb Himself and worship Him.
Louis had us think a bit about that image of the Lamb. It comes from Passover, when the Israelite people sacrificed a lamb and painted its blood on their door posts to protect themselves from the angel of death. And just as the lamb’s blood protected the Isrealites, so Christ’s blood protects us. Poured out upon the cross, it means that we no longer have to face death but can share eternity with God in Heaven. Christ made the sacrifice, gave up his perfect life for our sakes. Every year the Jews celebrate the Passover festival to remember the deliverance God provided for them. Jesus was celebrating it on the night he was betrayed. That’s where we get the bread and the wine of the Lord’s Supper from. Jesus took those passover symbols and created from them something new.
The image of the Lamb is such a contrast to the Dragon and the seven headed, ten horned Beast. But that’s who Jesus was. He was all about challenging preconceptions and turning our ideas of how things should be done on their heads. He didn’t approach brokenness with judgement but with acceptance. He didn’t approach violence with retaliation but with gentleness. He didn’t even approach his betrayer with condemnation but with a kiss. And now, he doesn’t need some macho image, he doesn’t need to prove his power, he doesn’t need to outdo the size or strength of the Beast. No, Jesus can face him as a gentle Lamb and He’ll still have the victory.
I think we’re quite used to this image of the lamb and that it’s had a major affect upon our perception of Jesus. I don’t want to start on another rant about the cuddly fluffy image of Jesus too many of us have or get caught up in but I will say this. Lambs aren’t as gentle as you think. In my (very) limited experience with them, I’ve found them to be stubborn, a lot stronger than you’d think, very quick and they have quite a nasty bite. They aren’t as placid or innocent as we perceive. Vulnerable and innocent maybe but certainly not that harmless.
What about the 144000?? Does that mean only 144000 thousand people get to go to heaven? No. This is another example of John’s symbolism in Revelation. It represents the totality of God’s people. There was some complicated explanation in the commentary but I can’t remember it now, so you’ll just have to trust me. And what are these people doing? All the people, saved by their faith, are singing a new song, one only they know. That’s the bit of heaven I’m looking forward to most. Actually being able to worship God, surrounded by everyone else who has ever known and loved Him, and worshipping at His very feet. Every now and again I get a little glimpse of this at Frenzy or Souled Out but for it to become reality . . . wow. And, as Sue and I said, it’ll be nice to be able to sing in tune for once as well!
Described as having “kept themselves as pure as virgins” the worshippers are those who have remained faithful to Christ. The Church is described as Christ’s bride, and we are expected to be faithful to Him, we have to stand, in the face of the temptation the rest of the world succumbs to, when they worship the Beast. We have to follow Christ whereever he leads, we cannot lie about who we follow.
I love that idea of having been purchased by God. Of belonging to Him. Being His very own possession. Something He cares for and works to protect. To be able to stand before Him with His mark on our foreheads.
We don’t deserve it, but God gives His Son, the perfect living sacrificial Lamb, to pay the price we ought, in order that we might spend eternity with Him. All He asks is our lives – that we’ll repent and follow Him – but when He’s given so much for us, what small token of our appreciation is that?