Volume VII, Number 20
In this issue:
The book of Revelation is full of symbolism intended at once to reveal “things which must shortly come to pass” to the recipients of John’s writing while shielding God’s people from increased persecution from their adversaries (Rev. 1:1). This style of writing is called “apocalyptic” and it gave encouragement and comfort to God’s people during troublesome times of trial and suffering.
To identify the 144,000 found in Revelation 7:3-4 and 14:1-5 as the literal number of those saved in heaven is to do inestimable damage to the word of God. Consistency in interpretation would demand that they are only “of the children of Israel” (7:4) who are male virgins (14:4). No one who defines the 144,000 as a literal number will consistently apply their literal interpretation to the remainder of the text. If they did, according to Revelation 7:1-4, these “servants of God” are on the earth, not in heaven!
The number “144,000” as used in the book of Revelation is undoubtedly symbolic. The number “12” represents God’s covenant people (as in the 12 tribes of Israel). This number is multiplied by itself then multiplied by 1,000 (a multiple of “10”, the number representing completeness). So, the number “144,000” represents the totality of God’s faithful people. In Revelation 7:1-4 it represents the servants of God on earth (7:3-4) who are known by God and protected by Him (“sealed”, see 2 Tim. 2:19). In context, God is assuring His people that He would guard them unto eternal life when He unleashed His judgments against those who were opposing the gospel and persecuting His saints. The lesson for us to learn is “be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).
By the time we get to Revelation 14:1-5, the scene has shifted to a triumphal scene of the redeemed in heaven. Secure in the stronghold of “Mt. Zion” with the Lamb standing before them, the redeemed now sing “a new song before the throne” of God. The 144,000 (the totality of God’s saints, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb) are victorious in Christ over the beast (who made war with the saints, Rev. 13:7-18).
In sweeping symbolism the book of Revelation assured God’s people then (as it continues to assure us today) that if they would be patient and keep the commands of God and their faith in Christ, they would have victory through the Lamb of God (see Rev. 6:9-11; 7:9-17; 12:11-12; 13:7-10; 14:12-13; 17:14).
If you will “follow the Lamb wherever He goes” you too can be among the 144,000 who are known and protected by God in this life, and one day jubilantly rejoice around the throne of God (Rev. 14:4).
“Then Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
As members of the church it is easy to place the emphasis in this chapter on baptism and miss the very important first command – to repent.
Do we understand what repentance is? Do we adequately communicate the need for repentance to those we teach the gospel?
Repentance is “to change one’s mind or purpose.” It is “a change of mind which reverses the effects of a previous state of mind.”
Without repentance we simply baptize a dry sinner and raise a wet one, as preachers used to be fond of saying.
The mental decision to turn from sin and toward a pattern of behavior enunciated by our Lord must be accompanied by action which shows that decision to be genuine. Mental assent to the truth of the gospel (an inactive belief) is far different from repentance (active belief), which is typified by changed behavior.
Drastic change is suggested in repentance. “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3). Being born again suggests starting all over, it suggests pain.
The “new birth” is defined as the old man dying, being buried in baptism and raised to a new life. That’s drastic. It’s absolutely necessary to be a Christian - and to remain in hope of eternal life.
It is ironic that so many people find baptism to be the tough action, when actually their hesitancy may be more closely connected with an unwillingness to repent (change) and make a complete break with the old way of living.
Repentance is produced only by a heart-wrenching process. Those on the day of Pentecost were “pricked in the heart” by the God who came to redeem them from sin. We don’t repent until we learn the truth, acknowledge we have been doing wrong, and change our direction. It is never easy to admit that we have been wrong. That is a greater stumbling block to conversion than all the doctrinal disputes combined.
This reticence to admit wrong not only keeps many from obeying the gospel, it keeps many of us who are Christians from making needed changes as we move into the mature years of our service to God.
Sorrow leads to repentance. “Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed unto repentance; for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of, but the sorrow of the world worketh death,” Paul told the Corinthians.
Godly sorrow provokes repentance (change). Worldly sorrow is “I got caught syndrome” which feigns sorrow but really only seeks to escape responsibility.
As the children of God we must look at the ways of children. When they fail because of mistakes, they change and try again. And as long as their father sees a willingness to admit fault and change for the better, he smiles and forgives, lovingly understanding that it is a part of growing up.
It is the same with our heavenly Father and we need to understand repentance and use it to mature as God’s children.
Guardian of Truth XXXI:
11, p. 338
You can find the complete outline of this sermon at BIBLE ANSWERS
The Blood of Christ
Scripture Reading: Hebrews 9:11-22
I. BLOOD IN GOD’S PLAN FOR HUMAN REDEMPTION.
Represents Life – Gen. 9:4; Deut. 12:23; Lev. 17:10-12.
II. WHAT CHRIST’S BLOOD ACHIEVES.
His New Covenant – Matt. 26:28; Heb. 9:15-17 (Acts 2).
III. HOW DO WE OBTAIN THE BLESSINGS OF CHRIST’S BLOOD?
Blood (His sacrificial death) Must be Applied to Our Sins for us to Receive
the Benefit of His Death, Ro. 3:26; 6:3; Acts 22:16
Conclusion. – Without the blood of Christ one is forever lost in his sins.
You can find the complete outline of this sermon at BIBLE ANSWERS
Bible Question Box Oct. 2003
Scripture Reading: Matthew 11:20-30
#1: What is the purpose of “sackcloth & ashes” in repentance in the OT? Is it binding today?
Sackcloth: a coarse material used for making large sacks in
which rough articles were carried on the backs of camels; garments of such
material usually worn in time of grief, mourning, or shame (indicating
intense sorrow), Gen. 37:34; Psa. 30:11.
#2: How do you convince a lost soul that being baptized and living faithfully after baptism saves you (not just confession of faith)?
When one refuses to humble the heart before God, nothing you do will
convince him/her of the truth – Mk. 16:15-16; Jno. 8:43
(Lk. 8:5, 11-12); Rom. 10:16-21; Jno.
#3: God says that baptism is essential for salvation, so what about the robber on the cross? (Lk. 23:39-43)
Regardless of how Christ saved the thief on the cross, the Bible still
commands baptism in order to be saved (Mk. 16:16). (Truth harmonizes.)
Kirk Jones is fortunate to be alive. Last Monday he plunged approximately 160 feet over the edge of Niagara Falls and survived. He was the first known survivor to do so without a boat, barrel or life jacket. He said that depression drove him to dive into the water and take his chances in the raging water. Now, he is warning others not to follow his example – no matter how depressed they are.
One thing is for sure; Mr. Jones is not the first person to say, “Do what I say, not as I do.” For sure, no one should follow his foolish example. Unfortunately, some parents say the same thing to their children. When Christian parents chose to forsake the assembling of the saints, then turn around and tell their children they must attend the worship services, they set a very poor example. Will such parents influence their children to faithfully worship God? Truly, such children should “do as their parents say and not as they do” and faithfully worship God – and such parents need to repent of their unfaithfulness! When children see their parents lie or cheat, and are then told by their parents to be honest in all things, their words become hallow. Indeed, such children should “do as their parents say and not as they do” and be honest in all things – and such parents need to repent of their dishonest hypocrisy! Jesus warned of similar hypocrisy in Matthew 23:3.
Mr. Jones said, “After Monday, I feel that I have reached out and touched the face of God.” While he may have touched several things during his descent, Mr. Jones did not touch the face of God. Mercifully, he survived. It is our hope that his brush with death will help him to “seek the Lord” and find Him by believing in His Son Jesus Christ, repenting of his sins and obeying the gospel (Acts 17:27-31). God has spared our lives to this moment that we all might “come to a knowledge of the truth,” repent of our sins and be saved in Christ (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9).
Created by Chuck Sibbing. 10/27/2003
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA