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(Revelation 14:1-5) An Original Song

(Revelation 14:1-5) An Original Song

Ref: Revelation 14:1–5

Charles Dickens began his novel A Tale of Two Cities with that famous line, 'It was the best of times; it was the worst of times,' and the Apostle John could have begun his book of Revelation with that same poignant statement.


An Original Song

Revelation 14:1-5

A.W. Tozer once wrote, “I say without qualification, after the sacred scriptures, the next best companion for the soul is sacred music.  Sometimes our hearts are strangely stubborn and will not soften or grow tender no matter how much praying we do.  It is often found that the reading or singing of a good hymn will melt the ice jam and start the inward affections flowing again.” / Robert J. Morgan, Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000), p. 465

Frankly, there isn’t any doubt as to the power and motivation and influence of music and the world acknowledges it.

An ancient poet once wrote, “I do not care who writes a nation’s laws, if you let me write its songs.” / Ibid

This is the power of music.

You remember your church history well enough to remember that German monk, by the name of Martin Luther, introduced congregational singing and harmony to replace the morose and monotone chanting of the priests.  The German Reformation of the 16th century would eventually produce a hymnal and it was said that one of the most powerful missionaries of these biblical doctrines was that hymnal. 

It is no surprise that a Jesuit priest in the 16th century complained about the lingering effects of that German monk who effectively began the Reformation.  This church leader said, “Luther has damned more people with his hymns than with all his sermons.”   / Adapted from Charles Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart (Word Publishing, 1998), p. 402

We would say, liberated, right?

500 years later we’re still thrilled and motivated as we sing,

“A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing.”

William Carey and his associates labored for years in the 1800’’s in India without one convert.  Over time began to realize the power of Hindu music over the hearts of these teeming millions they were trying to reach with the gospel.

But the missionaries had discovered the Hindu gurus were constantly writing short songs for their disciples to sing.  Songs to the moon and to the river.

As an aside, when I traveled to India on one occasion, I remember hearing hundreds of people singing the same phrase over and over again – I asked an Indian believer what they were singing and he said they were repeating over and over the name of their particular god.

After 7 long years of labor, where Carey wrote that preaching was like trying to plough through solid rock, a young carpenter began to work on their mission home.  They taught him some lyrics they had composed in the Bengali language and set to a simple tune.  In English, the lyrics aren’t necessarily poetic, but they go something like:

            Sin confessing, sin forsaking,

            Christ’s righteousness embracing,

            The soul is free.

He seemed to catch on.

William Carey and his associates began writing more and more of their own songs – they would go out in public and literally sing their sermons of original music, often times coming home with their faces bloodied because of the rocks thrown at them.

The work of missions had become a battle of musicians.   And the music of Carey and Marshman and Ward Music was making headway. 

Their 35 year old carpenter – named Krishna, in honor of his Hindu god – made the statement to these missionaries that after years of singing the music of his guru, his spirit still had no peace and his guilt was un-remedied.  After 7 years without any spiritual fruit, he gave his heart and life to Jesus Christ and in spite of death threats and people surrounding his house chanting to his former gods, he made his way to the river and was baptized publicly, becoming the first of now millions of believers in India who trace their heritage back to William Carey . . . and lyrics to songs like:

Christ’s righteousness embracing

The soul is free. / S. Pearce Carey, William Carey (The Wakeman Trust, 1923), p. 195

There isn’t any doubt as to the significance of music in the life of the church and in the life of the individual believer.  In the Old Testament, in the New Testament, in the coming Kingdom and in the new heaven and earth you discover the saints are singing.

Mankind knows how to sing and loves music because he was created by a musical Creator God.

God the Father happens to love to sing over His beloved.  The prophet Zephaniah wrote, “The Lord your God is in your midst, The Mighty One . . . will rejoice over you with gladness . . . He will rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

God the Son can sing as well.  Matthew 26 records for us those precious moments in the upper room where Christ met with His disciples and ate that Passover meal together; the same place and time where Christ provided instruction for our celebration of the Lord’s supper – or the communion table – to this day.  Matthew records that at the end of their meal, “they sang a hymn.” (Matthew 26:30)

Imagine that – God the Father and God the Son sing.

What about God the Spirit?  We’re told that His very presence produces a desire to sing.  Paul wrote to the Ephesians that being filled with the Spirit will lead to the congregation communicating to one another through psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. (Ephesians 5:18)

God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit create, compose and compel singing.

It should come as no surprise to discover singing throughout the Book of Revelation.

We have observed, in chapter 5, the church raptured, singing praise to God with lyrics we’ve sung even today – Worthy is the Lamb who was slain.

We also observed in Revelation the hosts of heaven, numbering in the hundreds of millions singing of God’s glory and power and might.

Having just finished revealing to us in chapters 12 and 13 the forces and faces of evil at work in the Tribulation; the terror of Satan, the dragon, and the antichrist and the false prophet, you might be inclined to wonder if anybody will ever sing again. 

Especially the believer!

At this point in his revelation, the Apostle John would know the question asked by his readers would probably be, is anybody gonna make it. 

For those who’ve come to faith in Christ after the Rapture of the church are living through the awful terror as God’s wrath is unleashed on planet earth.  Add to that the vengeful fury of Satan against all who will defy his false messiah . . . we’ve already seen the martyred tribulation believers asking God how long before You avenge the blood of Your children who’ve been slain (Revelation 6:10).

The question could be, will there ever be music on earth again?

So, God, in His grace, gives John a telescope and let’s him look further down the road at some amazing scenes.

In fact, chapters 14 and 15 are really nothing more than a preview of things to come over the course of the next few years.

And the first thing John sees is something that will happen at the end of the Tribulation.  And wouldn’t you know it – it just so happens to involve music, once again.

Notice Revelation 14 and verse 1.  Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads.

Now, before we listen to them sing, let’s get reacquainted with this remarkable group of men – it will have a lot to do with why they are singing.

They were first introduced to us back in chapter 7 where we saw God redeem 12,000 Jewish men from the tribes of Israel.  Every tribe was affected except the tribe of Dan – perhaps, many believe, because the tribe of Dan was uniquely instrumental in leading the Israelites into idolatry.  As a result, 12,000 were redeemed from the line of Joseph instead.  The tribe of Dan will appear later in the Book of Revelation with redeemed members praising God.

There is no such thing as the lost tribes of Israel.  They are all accounted for and God redeems thousands from these tribes during the opening months of the Tribulation as they respond to the Gospel.

These 144,000 are redeemed Jews

They are not 7th Day Adventists who believe that worshiping God on Sunday is the mark of the beast and only those  who worship God on Saturday are truly redeemed.

These 144,000 are not Jehovah’s Witnesses either – they are redeemed men who will preach and teach around the world.

They are not chosen ones by aliens in outer space.  There are religious groups today who actually believe the 144,000 are  chosen by extraterrestrials to continue the human race following the end of the world.

By the way, more and more will you hear about the influence of extraterrestrials having some part in our past or in our future.

The idea that the world could explain away the rapture of the church as some kind of alien abduction is not so strange an idea any more.  The theory that millions have people have disappeared because of alien involvement is now plausible to most people in our world today.

In a Roper Poll taken as far back as 2002, at that time, 67%  of Americans polled believe there are other forms of intelligent life in the universe; 45% believe intelligent life from other worlds

has monitored life on earth.   / Roper Poll on UFO’s and Extraterrestrial Life, 2002; citation,

I listened  not long ago to one well known evolutionist and atheist make the suggestion, which he later tried to explain away, that perhaps earth was seeded with life from aliens. 

Listen, you abandon God and deny the Creator and anything is plausible.  In fact, any explanation other than God is more desirable.

Paul wrote to the Romans who, by the way, were surrounded by their own theories of origins apart from a Creator Sovereign God – he said, “They became futile in their speculations and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of . . . God for an image of . . . man.” (Romans 1:21-23)

According to this plain revelation from God, these 144,000 are not chosen by aliens to repopulate the earth after some cataclysmic event; they are human beings of Jewish kin who will prepare the path for not only a global revival, but the re-gathering of the nation Israel. 

When these men were introduced back in chapter 7, and here in chapter 14, you may remember that several things marked these men. 

You remember Revelation chapter 7 informed us as well that these Jewish evangelists were sealed and marked.   You’ll notice in chapter 14 verse 1, we are told that this seal was the name of the Lamb and the Lamb’s Father.

This was a visible seal, mimicked of course by the Antichrist who marked all his followers with the number of his name which we learned totaled the sum of six hundred and sixty six – or 666. 

His seal won’t be able to protect them.  His seal is in reality, washable ink.  It won’t last.

But God’s seal on the 144,000 at the beginning of the Tribulation was a mark of divine possession and divine protection. 

When they are marked back in the beginning of the Tribulation, millions of new Christians will be martyred, Revelation 7 informs us, from every nation and tribe and people and language.  But these men will be literally unstoppable.

And their ministry will be global.

John Phillips wrote of these men,

No other age has produced a company like this, a veritable army of believers marching unscathed through every form of danger. It has been theirs to defy the dragon, to bait the Beast.  Their calling has been to preach the gospel from the housetops when even to name the name of Christ called for the most dreadful penalties.  They have been able to laugh to scorn all the grand inquisitors of hell.  They have walked the streets in broad daylight, careless of the teeth-gnashing rage of their would-be assassins, true witnesses in the most terrible era in the history of mankind.  The devil knows about this coming band of conquerors, and writhes already in an agony of anticipation. / John Phillips, Exploring Revelation (Loizeaux Brothers, 1991), p. 179

They were not only selected by God and sealed by God, but they were sexually pure for the glory of God.  These men were known for their purity.

You’ll notice in Chapter 14 and verse 4 informs us that, these are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste.

This verse gave a twisted foundation for the church in the 3rd and 4th century to develop the belief that the perpetual state of virginity exalted a Christian to higher levels than those who married.  With that, of course came the belief that Mary remained a virgin, although the Gospel account actually gives us the names of the sons born to Mary and Joseph after Jesus was born (Matthew 13.  But the church so glorified celibacy that they believed marriage and the marriage bed was a defiling thing.

The Gnostics – which have always reversed the truth – held that marriage was actually from Satan.

Marcion, a church leader as far back as the 2nd century, who was eventually kicked out for heresy, taught that marriage was corruption.  He even set up a church for those who were celibates and from which all others were barred.

This all gave rise of course to the development of monasteries and convents where people went who were truly devout, believing that marriage was less holy than celibacy.  In fact, they believed then and even to this day that priests, bishops and popes must remain undefiled by a woman. / William Barclay, The Revelation of John: Volume 2 (Westminster, 1976), p. 106

Study church history and you will find priests, bishops, cardinals and popes who sired many children and then absolved one another from the guilt of their sin.

Celibacy didn’t create greater purity it created the potential for greater immorality – of all kinds – as our own generation has discovered all over again.

It’s fascinating to discover in church history that one of the things that Martin Luther, that German monk, did when he left the church was find wives for his fellow priests, and Martin Luther himself married a nun.

Listen, the teaching of the New Testament reveals that marriage is honorable and the writer clearly states, the marriage bed is undefiled. (Hebrews 13:4)

In fact, the Apostle Paul – who certainly encouraged singleness due to the persecution and uncertainty facing the church – but he still likens the union of a husband and wife as an illustration of the mystery of Christ and His bride, the church. (Ephesians 5:32) 

So these 144,000 were kept, not from marriage, they were pure from the defiling immorality of their culture and their climate where, under the leadership of the Antichrist, and the departure of the church, sexual sin was rampant.

John writes further of them in verse 4 of chapter 14, These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes.  These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb 5.  And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless.

We’ve studied these expressions already when we studied chapter 7. 

The question remains; after showing us the depths of Satan’s hatred and murder in chapter 12; after showing us the rage and murderous agenda of the Antichrist and the False Prophet in chapter 13, will these specially marked evangelists survive? 

Will God be able to protect them over the course of 7 years of earthquakes and plagues and pestilence, poured out on the earth by God Himself as he judges the human race (chapter 6). 

Will they be protected from the rage of the Dragon who is making war against anyone who holds to the testimony of Jesus Christ (chapter 12:17)?

Will they survive the latter part of the Tribulation where the Antichrist forces the world to take his mark on their right hand or forehead or be killed? (chapter 14:15)

How could any believer survive? 

Especially those boldly testifying, unapologetically preaching, gospel delivering, Christ exalting evangelists who are in double trouble – you know.  First, they’re Jews – hated by Satan and the Antichrist – and secondly, they are Jews who’ve converted to Jesus Christ – talk about a target.

Will they survive?

Anticipating this question that believers will have as to the sovereign power and control of God, the question John is about to answer is, “How many of the 144,000 sealed, servants of God make it to the end of the Tribulation alive?”

Revelation chapter 14 and verse 1 – notice again; Then I looked, and behold the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand.

John writes, I looked and behold – would you look at that – the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion and with Him all 144,000!

How many survived?  The answer is . . . all of them.

The number is not 143,999 . . . not even 1 of them is missing.

While millions of Christians have been martyred; while millions of unbelievers and believers have died in the upheaval of God’s wrath unleashed on the planet, all 144,000 protected preachers of the gospel are alive and well as Jesus Christ returns to establish His kingdom.

Every parent . . .every spouse wonders if their loved one will return from Iraq or some war zone alive.  They cling to news of their well-being.

Every wife, every parent, every child related to these evangelists will wonder if daddy is going to survive. They will cling to this verse – look, it promises that they will be alive when Christ comes back!

I want you to notice three more statements about these men.

  1. First, they are standing with Christ.

We’re told the Lamb is standing on Mount Zion and these men are standing with Him.

John is given a vision of the end of the Tribulation period, as Jesus Christ returns to establish His kingdom.

In fact, chapter 14 and chapter 15 provide what John has already done in the past – He gives an overview or preview of things to come and then he provides the details.

In chapters 14 and 15 we have another preview of things to come in the latter part of the Tribulation and the establishment of the kingdom of Christ on earth.

Now, just where is Mount Zion?

It can be a reference to heaven, but here you have John looking at these men with Christ and they hear a voice from heaven.  So they’re obviously on earth.

Mount Zion can also refer to a very special piece of real estate on the planet.  In fact, it’s the most carefully watched piece of real estate in the world.  There are a billion people who would like to own this small piece of property.

Mount Zion was the name of an ancient fortified hill controlled by the Jebusites.  In 2 Samuel chapter 5, David conquers it and takes up residence in the fortress at the top.  He then built a city around the fortress and it was called either the City of David, or to this day, Jerusalem. / Daymond R. Duck & Larry Richards, The Book of Revelation (Thomas Nelson, 2006), p. 206

Listen, the appearance of the Lamb of God descending to Mount Zion is a monumental moment in the redemptive history.   / John MacArthur, Revelation: Volume 2 (Moody Press, 2000), p. 71

John the Apostle is given a brief vision of that moment when Christ returns and, in this particular vision, the Lamb is met by the still living, still serving, still preaching, still following 144,000 Jewish evangelists and they are all still alive.

The very purpose of this chapter’s opening is to inform the believer that the victory of Jesus Christ is not only His but every one of His beloved. / Duck & Richards, p. 206

No one is lost . . . not even one!

I mean, if you don’t get lost in the chaos and cruelty and confusion of the Tribulation, how could anyone ever believe God might lose sight of them?

Here they are, in victory . . . standing!

Hasn’t this stand of victory been the subject of singing through the years of the church?

Dudley Tyng was a well-known speaker in the late 1800’s.  He had just finished speaking to 5,000 young men at the Young Men’s Christian Association that we know today as the YMCA.  He preached to 5,000 young men and 1,000 of them stepped forward to accept the gift of salvation. 

That day after preaching he went back to the farm, he decided to go out to the barn and watch the men shelling corn.  He got a little too close to the machine, and his jacket was caught, and his arm was pulled into the grinding gears of that machine, and it was lacerated beyond repair.   With the loss of blood he’d experienced, in a few hours he would be dead.  

His father was there and he reminded Dudley that thousands of people would gather to hear him preach that evening.  What did he want said to them.  Through strained lips, Dudley’s last words were, “Tell the people to stand up for Jesus Christ.”

That night the assembly hall was packed with people expecting to hear him preach.  But instead of hearing him preach, they learned of his accident and death.  And then they were given the words of his final message.  George Duffield heard those last words and later sat down and composed a poem.  It was put to music and we know the hymn as:

Stand up, stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross
Lift high His royal banner, it must not suffer loss
From victory unto victory His army shall he lead,
Till every foe is vanquished and Christ is Lord indeed.

Revelation 14 introduces this amazing message of God’s protection over those He’s sealed.  Here they all are with the Lamb – standing in victory!

This is a point of encouragement for every Christian in every generation.  For we have been sealed by the Spirit of God and He will lose not one of us.

Not one will be lost.

John informs us that they are not only standing . . .

  1. They are learning a new song

Notice verse 2.  And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps.

This heavenly orchestra and singers who are about to teach these 144,000 men a new song, we’re told are playing harps.  I found it interesting that the word for harp is the word kitharodos – (kiqarwdoV). / Fritz Rienecker/Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament (Regency, 1976), p. 843

The word happens to be the source of our word “guitar”.   / Life Application Bible Commentary: Revelation (Tyndale, 2000), p. 164

It’s a Greek word created by the sound of a string being plucked.

kithardos . . . kithardos . . . kithardos

We have no idea what this exactly will sound like, but it could be several hundred guitarists – David will be leading them I’m sure – added to that could be hundreds of harpists and any number of string plucking instruments you can imagine – and this song will be a new song.  The four living creatures are singing in verse 3, the elders – the church is singing – yet we’re told that this song is uniquely given to these victorious ones.

It’s their special song. 

It’s a new song, more than likely because their experiences in the Tribulation are unique to them.  Let’s face it, not many of us have walked through the flood and the flame as one of God’s untouchables, right?

How many Shadrach, Meshach and Abednegos are there?  How many Daniel’s are there who spent the night in the lion’s den? / Sam Gordon, Revelation: Worthy Is The Lamb (Ambassador, 2000), p. 301

Just because we’re all equally saved and in the body of Christ doesn’t mean that some truth is not especially meaningful to us because of what we’ve experienced.

When explaining the actions of a forgiven woman who anointed his feet with ointment, the Lord explained her actions by saying that her love for Him was great because she had been forgiven much (Luke 7:47).

One author wrote of this new song; These were the only ones who could learn it in the sense that they were the only ones who could appreciate what it expressed.  God had purchased them from the earth, not just for salvation, but for their special ministry in the tribulation. / Adapted from Tom Constable’s Notes on Revelation, 2008 Edition, p. 128; citation: 

The 144,000 are uniquely thrilled and prepared to sing a new song especially composed for them because of God’s faithfulness to their protection and their faithfulness to His calling.

I wonder . . . what kind of song are you able to sing today – that many around you can’t identify with . . . the lyrics are unique to you.

Maybe you’re like that man who spoke with me a couple of days ago who, because of a fresh commitment made to Christ could identify with the hymn writer who wrote,

All to Jesus, I surrender, all to Him I freely give.
I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live.
I surrender all.

Or that woman who called our office on Friday, who prayed to receive Christ, now identifying with the truth of that old hymn,

Just as I am without one plea but that thy blood was shed for me
And that thou bidst me come to Thee, O Lamb of God I come.

Perhaps you can identify with these lyrics I was given recently that go like this;

The anchor holds, though the ship is battered;
The anchor holds, though the sails are torn;
I have fallen on my knees as I faced the raging seas,
The anchor holds, in spite of the storm.

I have been young, but I am older now
And there has been beauty these eyes have not seen
But it was in the night, through the storms of my life
Oh, that’s where God proved his love to me.

Or perhaps with fresh trust you can identify with the writer who wrote his relatives a song after their youngest son was killed and they had such difficulty getting through it.

And the song he wrote especially for them was,

God will make a way when there seems to be no way.
He works in ways we cannot see. He will make a way for me.
He will be my guide; hold me closely to his side.
With love and strength for each new day, He will make a way.

Citation: Don Moen, God Will Make a Way, (c) 1990 Integrity's Hosanna Music/ASCAP

What song can you sing today?

Let me encourage you to fold into your life music and singing – you’re heading for a future of music . . . whether you like it or not!

So now – not later – now, add music to your life . . . sacred music. 

Music that will inspire and encourage you:

  • to glorify Christ;
  • to stand for Christ;
  • to serve Christ;
  • to wait for Christ;
  • to love Christ;
  • to surrender to Christ.

Listen, there’s coming a day when Christ will come down and stand on Mount Zion.   And that moment will be marked by music.

According to everything you’re being taught in the Book of Revelation;

-there will come a day when you will stand with Christ.

-there will come a day when you will sing with Christ.

Stand for Him now.  

Let the singing begin now . . . in preparation for that coming day with all heaven sings.

Adopt the challenge of the hymn writer who took his lines from the text of Revelation and wrote:

Come thou fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing they grace,
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise. 
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above,
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Oh to grace how great a debtor,
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy grace, Lord, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee;
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love:
Here’s my heart, Oh take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

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