John Bradshaw - Great Chapters of the Bible: Revelation 14
This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me. Now, here's a big question: Is there life out there? There's a real fascination with life on other planets, extraterrestrial life in other parts of our universe. It used to be that we thought there might be life on Mars. Pop culture picked up on the subject long ago. There have been TV programs. There have been pop songs. There have been movies made about life out there. The United States government has said that it is committed to sending a mission to Mars. We've sent probes out into our solar system in the hope of learning more about what's going on out there, in the hope of making important scientific discoveries.
Telescopes search beyond our sky and find the most remarkable images of nebula and supernova and distant corners of the Milky Way. But so far, no life has been found out there, at least nothing in the form of flying saucers and little green men. There's no shortage of people who claim that they've seen UFOs, convinced that they have been visited by visitors from another planet. Strange sightings have been reported. Alien encounters have been claimed. But it might be, it might be people are looking in all the wrong places.
Now, let me show you what I mean as we continue our ongoing series, "Great Chapters of the Bible," and look at Revelation chapter 14. If it's messages from outer space you want, I've got something for you. We start in Revelation chapter 14 and verse 6: "And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people". The Bible is God's frontline communication with the human family. Peter wrote that "prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit". God inspired the writing of the Bible, and the Bible brings to us, quite literally, messages from outer space.
How far away is heaven anyway? In terms of its literal location, it's a long way from here, and God communicates with us from beyond the stars, from beyond our galaxy, the Milky Way. God speaks to us from heaven, and in Revelation 14 we see heavenly messengers bringing to us messages that originate with God, messages for the entire planet, messages that are specific in time and in content and are designed for the world in the last days of earth's history. Revelation chapter 14 begins with these words, verse 1: "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".
So, who are the 144,000? There's a lot of discussion about this, but think about it from this point of view. Revelation is a book written using a lot of signs and symbols. In Revelation 14:1, you've got a Lamb standing on a mountain with exactly 144,000 people who all have God's name written on their foreheads. Might be wisest to look at this from a symbolic point of view. Verse 2 talks about the voices that John heard. John wrote Revelation, and, by the way, this is the same John as who wrote the Gospel of John and the three little Johns just before Revelation. Verse 3 talks about the song that the 144,000 sing. And it tells us that the 144,000 "were redeemed from [among] the earth". Verse 4 says, "These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb". And verse 5 says, "And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God".
So, who are these people? Revelation 7 adds some more information. Revelation 7 says that the 144,000 are sealed with the seal of God. And in earth's last great crisis, people will be marked with one or the other of two things. The saved will be sealed with the seal of God, while the lost are marked with the mark of the beast. So the 144,000 are saved and sealed with the seal of God. They're obedient to God, God's servants, saved and not lost. Revelation 7 goes on and says that the 144,000 are chosen from the 12 tribes of Israel, exactly 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes. So, if you want to, you could believe that the 144,000 have to be 144,000 celibate Jews. Or you could choose to look at this as a picture of God's saved people of any and all races down here in the close of time.
What do we know about this group? We know that they're saved. We know they don't receive the mark of the beast. We know they do receive the seal of God, because Revelation 14 describes the saved as keeping "the commandments of God". They are saved; we know they're obedient to God. They follow the Lamb; they follow Jesus. They are completely given to Him. And that's the explanation for the Lamb. They're not following a woolly lamb around a mountain. The 144,000 appear to be the saved who survive earth's final crisis and are victorious over the beast and his image, saved when Jesus returns to the earth.
Keep in mind that Revelation 14 starts with the words, "And I looked," indicating it follows on from Revelation 13, which says, starting in verse 15, "And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred threescore and six".
Revelation 13 is a picture of earth's great final spiritual crisis, a time of persecution and trouble for the people of God as evil finally has its way in the world, as sin and rebellion against God come to a head. Revelation 14 opens with a picture of those who are faithful to God, who are victorious, who sing a song of victory, just as Moses and his people did after Pharaoh was defeated and they were delivered.
The beginning of Revelation chapter 14 is where God sees you, triumphant, victorious, saved, a conqueror, through faith in Jesus Christ. Imagine what it would take to be part of the group of people who are saved in earth's last days. Well, I'll tell you: It'll take the presence of Jesus in your life, a heart that is given over to God, a life that is lived for God's glory and not your own. Think of that with me for a moment: Living for your own glory, how futile is that? While there's nothing wrong with having the blessings of this world, if that's what you're living for, it'll be a curse to you and not a blessing to you.
Imagine having the best of this world, but not having Jesus, or living for yourself without reference to God. You can please yourself for a while, but when it really matters, you'll have nothing. But God offers you everything. And you can have the best that God has to offer, if you'll open up your heart to God and receive Jesus as your Savior, if you'll receive the new heart God wants you to have. Not because you deserve it, but because God wants you to have it, and you can accept it. Can you do that? I think you can. In a moment, the message that produces God's saved people in earth's last days. I'll be right back.
Thanks for joining me on It Is Written. We're looking at another great chapter of the Bible, this time Revelation 14. Revelation is considered a last-days book of the Bible because it speaks to many of the issues and the events of earth's final days. And keep this in mind about the book of Revelation: John wrote it using a lot of signs and symbols. He wanted his readers to understand what he was writing, so he chose his symbols carefully. If you have a, a code, let's call it, you need to have a key, a way for the people who are reading the code to decipher that code and get the message you actually want them to get.
In World War II, Germany used something called an Enigma machine to encrypt messages. It was effective. Cracking the Enigma code became essential to the Allies. In the 1930s, work was done by Polish intelligence to understand the mystery of Enigma. During World War II, a British group that included mathematician Alan Turing finally cracked Enigma, which many say shortened the war by as much as four years and saved potentially millions of lives. It's important to be able to figure out the code. John wrote Revelation using a sort of code, using signs and symbols. No, it's not that the entire book is written like that, but a lot of it is.
Now, how do we crack the code? Well, the code used by John is really pretty simple. John used the Old Testament to source his signs and symbols, and we see that in Revelation 14. We're going to see that very soon. But let's pick up in Revelation 14 in verse 6: "And I saw another angel [flying] in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people". An angel. Why is that? The Greek word is "angelos," a "messenger". This is a messenger sent by God. Again, it's symbolic. There won't be an actual angel flying up in the sky calling to people below on the earth. This represents a message going to the ends of the world, a message for everyone to hear. This is God's last-day message, the gospel message the world must hear, will hear before everything is done here on Planet Earth.
So, see how important this is? A messenger, up where you can't miss the messenger, taking the message to everyone everywhere. Verse 7: "Saying with a loud voice, 'Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come: and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.'" First thing you notice: The angel speaks with a loud voice. In the Greek, a "mega" "phoné," a megaphone, "a loud voice". So this indicates the message must be heard. It is important.
I grew up near a railroad track, a busy one. And as kids, we used to play on the tracks, you know, as kids do. Across from where we lived, the track was long and straight, and, of course, you could hear the train coming from about a mile away, because it would sound its warning device before it crossed the bridge over the river. You could hear it rumbling over that bridge. But one day my brother, knowing a train was coming, saw me on the track and noticed I wasn't moving to safety. The train was still a good way off, but my brother could see me here and the train down there. And he was concerned. So what did he do? He spoke to me in a loud voice. Okay, he shouted to me, "John, get off the track! John, there's a train coming"!
Of course, I couldn't hear him; there was a train coming. Well, I got off the tracks in plenty of time, although the train driver might disagree with that. Found out later from my mother that my brother had been concerned enough about me to raise his voice. The angel calls with a, with a raised voice, with a loud voice. No, no, not shouting, but calling to us, because this is important. God wants us to be saved. "Fear God, and give glory to Him". No, no, not terror. But we're to live in relation to God with respect, with, with awe, with reverence, maybe even a little old-fashioned fear when you consider the sinfulness of sin and the ultimate fate of the wicked. But this is a call to love God, to surrender to God, to give God glory.
There's a question we want to ask ourselves from time to time, maybe even often: Does my life glorify God? Is what I'm doing going to bring glory to God? How will this decision glorify the God of heaven? You don't want to live for yourself, but for the glory of the God whose Son Jesus died for you. And God ramps it up when He says we are to fear Him and give Him glory because "the hour of His judgment is come". Later in Revelation, you read this really interesting verse, chapter 22 and verse 11: "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still". And then Jesus says, "And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be".
Yes, God is going to judge the world. Knowing there's a judgment going on in heaven ought to sober us up a little. We shouldn't go on without reference to God. We really don't want to play fast and loose with sin, to be casual about faith in God. King Belshazzar in Babylon was told that he was "weighed in the balances, and found wanting". How would you be found? And then God says to us in Revelation 14, verse 7: "And worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters". That's a call to worship the Creator.
In Revelation 13, people are called, in fact, forced, to worship the creature. In an age of relativism and skepticism and atheism, the final call to the world is to worship God as the Creator. And the active agent at Creation was, of course, Jesus. John chapter 1, written by the same person as wrote Revelation, starts like this: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made". So the everlasting gospel in Revelation 14 includes a very direct call to recognize Jesus as Creator, and, therefore, to recognize creation as God's work in the world and in our lives. Well, then John writes about Babylon and the mark of the beast. So what's that all about? I'll have that and more in just a moment.
Thanks for joining me on It Is Written. We're continuing our series, "Great Chapters of the Bible," looking this time at Revelation 14. It includes what John refers to as "the everlasting gospel," the final gospel message to go to the world. And in verse 8, we see the message of the second angel: "And there followed another angel, saying, 'Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.'"
Geographically speaking, Babylon was located in Iraq, 60 or 70 miles in a straight line from Iraq's modern capital, Baghdad. The Babylonian Empire fell that night more than 2,000 years ago when the writing was on the wall for its king. who happened to be the grandson of the mighty King Nebuchadnezzar. God stated that the city would never be inhabited again. So why is John saying, after the fact, that Babylon is fallen? Now, remember how he wrote Revelation, using the Old Testament as the key to unlock the code he employed in Revelation.
What was Babylon in the Old Testament? Babylon was a center of false worship, of opposition to God and to the gospel. The prophet Isaiah describes Satan as being the invisible king of Babylon in Isaiah chapter 14. So Babylon was symbolic of the dark side and the great battle between light and dark, between good and evil, between Christ and Satan. In fact, Peter referred to Rome in 1 Peter 5 as Babylon, the great power that worked against the church. Late in earth's history, God again refers to the systems, especially the religious systems, working against the truth of the Bible, as Babylon, and He says that Babylon is fallen. She made all nations confused, drunk with her false teachings and her sinful influence.
Later in Revelation, in chapter 18, God says, "Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues". God evidently will have people in the last days of earth's history who love Him and desire to follow Him, but they're caught up in spiritual confusion. The Towel of Babel in the book of Genesis, that's where God confused the languages of the people of the world. That word "Babel" means "confusion," and Babylon represents spiritual confusion. We want to be sure we're following the truth of God's Word. It's important. Confusion, falsehood, false teaching, they're deadly, and they lead you away from faith in Christ.
Then the third angel comes with this message, starting in verse 9: "If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of His indignation". And so on. It's a serious message. Again, what is John getting at? Revelation builds especially on top of the book of Daniel. A lot of the prophetic symbols John uses he borrows right from Daniel. And if we follow that line of thinking, we can understand what a beast is. This is how Daniel described it. He had a vision in which he saw "four great beasts [come] up from the sea, diverse one from another".
That's Daniel 7, verse 3. He described them as being like a lion, then a bear, then a leopard, and then something he had difficulty explaining, and God explains to him what he saw. Daniel 7:17, "These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth". Verse 23: "The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth". So when John wrote about a beast, if we're being consistent with how we interpret prophecy, we'll see this beast as being a kingdom, clearly a kingdom with great power and influence throughout the world. Many people today would say that that beast is an individual. Several hundred years ago, the leaders of the Protestant Reformation saw it as the medieval church, the church of Rome, which was so powerful and influential and which persecuted God's people ruthlessly and mercilessly. John goes on to warn us against receiving the mark of the beast in our hand or forehead.
Now, think about this. Your forehead represents your mind. Right behind your forehead is the frontal lobe of your brain, where you make decisions. And there'll be people who have made up their mind; they have decided they're going to worship the beast. They will go against God's Word. There will be others who don't believe that they should do that, but they do it anyway. By their actions they support false worship and rebellion against God. They'll receive the mark of the beast in their hand. I'd like you to know more about this. There's a lot more detail about this in my book, "Revelation Today". I'd like you to get it. It's today's free offer. It will speak to you about the beast and the mark of the beast in the forehead and the hand, the identity of the beast.
Be sure that you get this free offer, "Revelation Today". I want you to see the solution to all of these problems in Revelation chapter 14, the great crisis of earth's last days. Revelation 14:12 says, "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus". When you purpose in your heart to surrender to God and obey Him, when you choose to yield your life to Him and to allow His Spirit to lead you in paths of faithfulness, you don't receive the mark of the beast. You'd instead be sealed with the seal of God. God is looking for people who will be more than cultural Christians, who'll do more than simply name the name of Jesus, who will actually surrender their lives to God and allow His will to be done, regardless of the cost or the consequences.
Are you facing that sort of decision right now? Should I be faithful? Or should I compromise? Should I surrender my whole life to Jesus? For some people, the stakes are high, because you're concerned about your spouse, your family, your employer, your friends, your family history. But you can know that God is faithful. A decision for God is always the right decision. Revelation 14 concludes with a picture of a harvest: The saved are reaped; the lost, they're lost. And you can decide right now where you want to be in that picture: saved with Jesus, or... come on, there's really no option, really, is there? Jesus died for you. Jesus is coming back for you. Heaven awaits you. You choose Jesus, remembering that God has chosen you, and eternity is yours.