October 14-15, 2017
So John is brought into the throne room of God in this amazing vision and He says, “There is a sea of glass like Crystal and in the center there is a throne and one sitting on the throne, there are four living creatures nearest to the throne --” We looked at that a few weeks ago, “And there are 24 other thrones with 24 elders sitting upon them and the one who was sitting on the throne has a scroll written on the inside and on the back but it is sealed with seven seals.” Then He says, “I heard a loud voice, a strong voice proclaiming who is worthy to look into this book and to break the seven seals. But no one was found worthy.”
So John has an emotional response to this. That no one was found worthy and He begins to we weep, and as He is weeping one of the elder is sitting on the throne says stop the weeping because He says, “The lion from the tribe of Judah has overcome so as to look into the book and break it seven seals.” So, He says, “I looked and I saw a Lamb as those slain. What a beautiful picture of Jesus Christ who is a lion and a Lamb.” And it says that, “He then took the book out of the right hand of him who was sitting on the throne," which is God the Almighty, "and when He took hold of the book, the four living creatures and the 24 elders they fell down and they sang a new song and they worshiped." As He begins then to break the seals, on this book it releases forth the events that happened during the tribulation period.
And the first four of those we looked at last week, the infamous four horsemen of the Apocalypse, the first one was the white horse and He who sat upon it is none other than the antichrist. He is on a white horse, He is the great counterfeit, the deceiver who deceives the nations--we spent a lot of time looking at that and we will later again, then the second the horse is the red horse and He who sits upon it has then the authority to take peace from the earth and that people would slay one another and that there would be war. The third horse is the black horse and He who sits upon it then brings forth economic collapse and devastation that follows behind, because a person could work for a whole day and only be able to buy one quart of wheat or three quarts of barley.
And then the last horse is the ashen horse. Which is the color of death and in fact the one who is riding upon it has the name Death and Hell followed closely behind. So those were the first four of the seals. The five and six seal we look at Wednesday and when He opens the seventh seal, it will bring forth seven trumpets. So there are like a manifold increase in the things that are going to happen during the tribulation. But here's what we want to look at today. Before the seventh seal is opened there is a pass in heaven. The reason that there is a pass is so that this angel can go forth and put a mark on the forehead of the servants of our God who will then be witnesses of God upon the earth 144,000 by number. Now you might say a mark on their forehead, that sounds familiar and you would be right.
But you're thinking perhaps of the mark of the beast which comes later which we're going to look at the mark of the beast He is of course the great counterfeit and that mark is the number of his name or the name of the anti-Christ. And that mark is a condemnation to those who receive it however no one can buy or sell without the mark. So it's powerful in its understanding, but that's not this one. This is the mark which is the name of the Lamb and of His Father and it is on this 144,000. Now you could do an interesting search through the Bible and this idea of having a mark on the forehead goes really far back in scripture.
You can go all the way to Deuteronomy and beyond that and see—we’ll look at this on Wednesday that part but you can go through Scripture and in the Ezekiel is another example. Where He has this spirit vision of Jerusalem and an the angel that was given the instruction, “Go through Jerusalem and put a mark on the forehead of all those who like cry and moan for the sins of Israel.” They have a heart after God and so He wants them to be sealed on their forehead with this mark which will protect them from that which is going to come upon Israel in Jerusalem. And so there is an example. Did you know also that there is a mark or a seal upon the believers in Jesus Christ. If you have received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior you are sealed with the Holy Spirit.
And it's important for us to recognize that all of this is leading us up to what is this mark them and who are these 144,000? All right lets read it. Revelation 7:1 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth holding back the four winds of the earth so that no wind should blow on the Earth or on the sea or on any tree.” Now what does that mean? We'll look at that on Wednesday. “And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun having the seal of the Living God. And He cried out with a loud voice to the four angels through whom it was granted to harm the Earth and the sea saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond servants of our God on their foreheads.”
And I heard the number of those who were sealed, 144,000 sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel.” And so He lists the tribe by tribe from the tribe of Judah, 12,000 were sealed. From the tribe of Reuben 12,000. And Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Simon, Levi, Isaac, Zebulun, Joseph--very interesting and Benjamin 12,000 were sealed. After these things I looked and behold a great multitude which no one could count from every nation in all tribes and peoples and tongues standing before the throne and before the lamb clothed in white robes and palm branches were in their hands. Like what an interesting thing. And these palm branches, what is the significance of these palm branches? That's on Wednesday.
And they cried out with a loud voice and said, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb." And all the angels who are standing around the throne and around the elders in the four living creatures they fell on their faces before the throne and they worshiped. And they said, “Amen, blessing and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might be unto our God for ever and ever Amen.” Now one of the elders answered and said to me, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they and from where have they come?” And I said to him, “My Lord you know.” And He said to me these are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation.
And they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason they are before the throne of God and they serve Him day and night in His temple and He was just on the throne shall spread His tabernacle over them.” What an amazing event that's happening that John is seeing this 144,000? Well it's important for us to recognize that these are given this seal and it is the name of the Lamb and the name of the Father. And they are sent forth into the earth to be witnesses of the Gospel of Jesus Christ during the Great Tribulation period which is absolutely amazing. Because one of the things we've got to understand God's heart and that God always has a witness. Always.
I. God Always Has a Witness
You can look to the Scriptures and see that it's always God heart. There's always an opportunity. God always Has a witness. Now let's build a little support for where we're going with this. First of all let's recognize that the tribulation period is a seven year period by which the wrath of God is poured out on the world that has rejected Him. Secondly we should remember that the church is not destined to be recipients of God's wrath. Let me give you the verses so we can just lock this in our minds. 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 God has not destined us for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we will live together with Him. So, in other words that means that the church is not on the earth at this point of Revelation. They've already been raptured, either before or right at the beginning of the tribulation period. Who then are these 144,000?
A. Who the 144,000 are not
Well let's start with who the 144,000 are not. First of all you might say 144,000 sounds like a significant number. Are numbers important in the Scriptures? Yes, absolutely so, numbers are important. Now I realize that there are those who take numerology to the extreme when they get lost in the woods.
I understand that but numbers are important, there's 12 disciples, there's 12 tribes of Israel, there were 12 stones on the breastplate of the high priests and I can go on and on. 12 is a very important number. 12 times 12 is, okay now I realize you guys have had more sleep than anybody else as 144 times 1,000. Now is 1,000 an important number? Yes also 1,000 is important so numbers are important.
For example I was reading in the news just this week that there is an airline in Europe from Finland called Thin Air and they have decided to cancel flight number 666 to HEL. This is an absolutely true story HEL, by the way, is the airport code for Helsinki but apparently nobody wanted to fly on flight number 666 to HEL on October 13th, Friday. I don't know. I know I don't want to fly on that airplane.
Numbers are important. Now there have been several groups who have claimed to be this 144,000 probably the most famous being Jehovah's witnesses. When Jehovah's witnesses-- That system first started they declared that there were only going to be 144,000 in heaven and of course there were just as witnesses. However when their number exceeded that then they had to make some adjustments. Then they said "Well okay 144,000 are those who serve God in heaven but the next 144,000 served God on earth".
Then they exceeded that so then they said, "Okay well then the next 144,000 serve those who serve God." And on and on they had to keep changing. Historic Mormonism had made a claim to being the 144,000 are Seventh Day Adventists are included in that. Then also the Worldwide Church of God made a claim to be the 144,000 although they later changed that. We know then these who claim to be are not so who are they? Well in my deep wisdom and deep research I have decided that these 144,000 are those who attend Calvary Chapel Worship Center. There are I mean you hear it here first.
No actually that's not so, that isn't so here's why, because the church is raptured before the tribulation period. Then we have to say, "Well okay, who are they?" Well Revelation 7, gives us a hint because it's says that these have been sealed from the 12 tribes of Israel. Now unless there's a reason to not believe what we're reading we should believe what we're reading. It tells us that they are Jews therefore I'm going to say they're Jews and they are Messianic Jews. They are those who believe that Jesus is in fact the promised Messiah of Israel.
They come to faith in the tribulation period because they see what's happening. Now the scripture tells us that today there's a veil over their hearts but they see what happens right that the tribulation period there's no mistaking they understand it's the wrath of God. They know of course the claims of Jesus but now they're stirred up and they become completely Messianic Jews. They received Jesus Christ and there's sealed with this seal of the name of the Lamb they would understand the significance of the Lamb and of the name of the Father.
B. All Israel will be saved
They are then given the gospel to go out into the world and I believe that this is the beginning of the fulfillment of a great promise made to Israel and that is this that all Israel will be saved. In fact I am convinced that this 144,000 is like the first fruits of that great promise. Let me give you that in Revelation 14 because this number 144,000 comes back in the story. It tells us, "He says I looked and behold the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion". Now where is Mount Zion? It's in Jerusalem.
I saw the Lamb standing on Mount Zion and with him there were 144,000 having his name and the name of his Father written on their foreheads. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes and these have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb. Now He is making a special point of showing us that they are Jews by showing us the number that comes from each of the 12 tribes.
Now a good student of the of the word would notice when looking at this list of 12 tribes that there's a couple of anomalies and you would be right it's interesting. You remember in your history after Israel came out of the desert those 40 years that they traveled under Moses. Then they came into the Promised Land under Joshua and what happened then is that the land was divided into 12 territories or 12 portions but there was one tribe that did not receive a portion and that was the Levites.
Their inheritance was God Himself so they did not get an apportionment but what an inheritance right God. They get to minister to the LORD they are given Levitical cities throughout the nation of Israel but no territory. You might say well there were 12 apportions and then that makes 13 you have been right. What happened was Joseph who was one of the sons of Israel had two sons and Jacob basically adopted them Ephraim and the Manasseh.
Whenever you see the 12 tribes listed, often times are listed according to the land division and Ephraim and Manasseh that are actually grandsons of Jacob but adopted become divided they get an apportionment. You say, well okay, but there's still one missing and, you will be right, that's the tribe of Dan, He's not listed. Why isn't Dan listed? Most Bible scholars in commentaries believe that it is because that idolatry first came to Israel through them and they're not listed here as one of the witnesses the tribes that witness for the gospel.
You know what's interesting is that when we get to the description of when Jesus reigns on the earth for a thousand years the tribe of Dan is included in the provision of God in that day like mercy comes back to Dan it's a great part of the story you've got to love it. You look at what's happening here and you understand that Israel is still important when it comes to the plan of God for the ages. I say that because there is an element in the church even today that does not believe that Israel is significant spiritually or scripturally anymore.
They believe that the promises that God gave to Israel have been nullified and have been replaced by the promises given to the church. The church in their mind being the new Israel but I don't believe that and here's the main reason. I don't believe that because God is the one who made those promises and God is faithful to his promises and the gifts and the calling of God are you irrevocable.
Let me give you a great scripture of Romans 11:28-29. From the standpoint of God's choice they Israel our beloved for the sake of the Father's for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. To me that's a very important thing to recognize because it is true for you and me as well. The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. If you've received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior then you have been adopted by God as His son or as His daughter and you are sealed with the Holy Spirit and this matter is settled in heaven and it ought to be settled with us.
It's important for us to recognize what's happening here so these 144,000 messianic completed Jews are as bond servants and they witness of the Gospel during the tribulation throughout the earth. What they bring about is nothing short of revival, because if you look at Revelation 7 the next scene that unfolds is this amazing multitude that no one can number for every nation tribe and tongue, and it says that this came out of the tribulation. In other words these 144,000 witnesses brought about a revival. Now they're also persecuted and they are martyrs but they come to faith in Christ and there is a revival. And I tell you what it is a glorious thing to see God's heart because God is not finished speaking the words of grace and the words of life to the world even during the tribulation. Now having said that, since I brought up Israel, I'll also want to say that Israel does not recognize their Messiah until the end of the tribulation. Now these 144,000 they do but as a nation they do not until Jesus Himself sets foot on the Mount of Olives enters Jerusalem through the eastern gate and presents Himself to His brethren and the nation of Israel.
When He does that at the end of the tribulation period and as He presents Himself and as the rescues Israel from their enemies it says that, “They will look on Him whom they have pierced and they will mourn. Bitterly weep when they see Him.” Let me give you the scriptures because I want us to really understand how this unfolds in the latter days. Zechariah 12: 9-10 “In that day, declares the LORD I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.” This of course is the famous Battle of Armageddon that takes place at the end. “I will pour out on the House of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and of supplication so that they will look on me whom they have pierced and they will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only son and they will weep bitterly over him like the bitter weeping over a first born.”
Now why would they be weeping when they see him? This is their Messiah after all. The answer is seen in the words, “They will see whom they have pierced. And they will recognize the tragedy of missing their Messiah all those years before.” We could have had the blessing that God was offering us through that son, that Messiah all those years before. But--you got to see this part of the verse, says, you got to see. “But He pours out on them the Spirit of grace--God's grace.” God's amazing grace is poured out on Israel whose sin is great. But who are we to judge or criticize when in fact it was God's grace that brought us to salvation? Because our sins were great too. It's important for us to recognize that we not look at Israel with the wrong eyes. As many have in history.
There have been many anti-Semitic people who were as such because they believed them blamed Israel for crucifying our Lord and Savior and thus holding it against the nation of Israel as an anti-Semitic opposition. I’ll tell you what, that’s absolutely incorrect. It was the plan of God from the beginning. You can go all the way back to Genesis and see that it was God's plan that His Son would pay the penalty on the cross for all of our sins. No need to blame Israel we can blame all of ourselves because it was for sin that He died. Amen?
So we have to recognize that this that's happening will be the fulfilling of a great prophecy, right? Romans 11. A partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in--that's what's happening today, and so all Israel will be saved just as it is written. All right back to these 144,000 they're sealed and their sent forth out to the world and they are given the Gospel.
C. The message of hope is on their lips
In other words the message of hope is on their lips. Now you've got to see how wonderful it is. That here is the tribulation period. The wrath of God is being poured out. And at the very same time God is offering mercy. I love the heart of God that He is revealing to us right here. There is mercy in the midst of the tribulation, in the midst of the wrath of God, there is mercy. He extends His hand.
See Habakkuk 3:2, Lord I have heard the report about you and I fear. Oh,Lord revive your work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make it known, but in wrath, remember mercy. In wrath Lord, remember mercy. And that's the very thing that we see God always Has mercy. Always provides an opportunity for grace. You can see it over Israel, you can see it in the tribulation, you can see it today, it is God's heart. God is a heart of mercy. I remember when we were raising our kids and if you know we raised five and now of course our granddaughter and as part of raising kids of course inevitably somebody will do something wrong that need some kind of a correction, right? And some kind of consequence that would go with it.
And I remember as they got older I wanted to get them to be part of choosing the consequence. So sometimes I would say, “Okay, now here's what you did, you knowledge did, that's wonderful, now you help me to decide what would be the consequence?” And we liked work as a consequence. Sometimes we would take things away but typically we wanted them to do work and so inevitably they would be pretty harsh on themselves. “Okay, I'll--” I'm making this up, “I’ll mow the lawn and I'll rake the leaves and I'll put the dishes away.” So what I believe was right, whatever they said I would back off. Like back it off. Here's why, whatever they said I'd back it off for mercy. I always wanted them to see, God is a God of mercy and so therefore we're going to have mercy as part of our parenting.
To me that represents the heart of the Lord. He reaches out His hands all day long. He gives mercy and you can see this throughout Israel's history. Mercy you can see it all the way through. Do you remember back in the history of Israel when they were divided North and South? And there are ten tribes in the north two in the south? And the northern tribes were particularly rebellious. Particularly worldly. Gone after the idols and Molech, Asherah and Baal and as a result the nation of Assyria was going to come with a vast army and destroy the North. It happened. Exile them never to be heard of again. True it happened. But before that happened, God sent prophets to the North with the word of mercy.
And He gave them a warning in advance. “The nation is going to be destroyed. Anyone with an ear to hear, anyone with a heart after God get up and move to the South. Come find protection into the hand of the Lord. That the hand of protection is offered to you. Get up now. You have ears to hear, make the move. Go to the south.” And thus God preserved for Himself a remnant from every tribe of Israel. He gave them mercy. He offered them mercy. Anyone with ears to hear could we receive it. We've got to understand that. And by the way it answers also an interesting thing. Because many people never heard this idea that there are last ten tribes of Israel. Maybe you've heard this. There's last ten tribes of Israel. And they believed because of what I just described.
And there have been many through the years that have kind of theorized where they went. Some have suggested that the British and the British Isles were actually the lost ten tribes of Israel. The Mormons thought that the native Indians were the lost tribe of Joseph. And many in Africa claimed to be this and that lost tribe of Israel. But God didn't lose anybody, Okay? God knows in fact--I love this scripture. Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, the things revealed belong to us forever that we may observe the words of this Law.” God knows those who are His and so He names the tribes and those who will be sealed from every one of those tribes.
II. Tribulation Can Bring Transformation
To me it’s a glorious declaration. Because here's what God is doing. Tribulation can actually bring transformation. It stirs people up. Difficulties, troubles, tribulation that can actually stir people up spiritually. It happened to the 144,000 Jews. It happened to the multitude that responded to the gospel and it needs to happen now because that is in fact God's heart to the world. The same message that those 144,000 took to the world is the same message that God sent through His Son Jesus Christ and it's the same gospel message that we teach today because here's what God wants us to know.
A. God takes no pleasure in destruction
God takes no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked. God takes no pleasure in the destruction of anyone. The wrath of God is poured out on the unbelieving world, that's true, but His mercy is still being offered. God takes no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked. God wants us to respond to that just like He wants them to respond even in the tribulation.
I remember I was in Russia, I was having these meetings and I give the gospel and afterward many would respond. They were so ready to respond to the gospel, and there's just one fellow who would come to every meeting but He never responded. I decided to just like me with him personally and he agreed. We had breakfast and I said, "I see you come to these meetings but you've never made a decision or come to faith." And he said something kind of bothers me, and I said, well, "what is it?" He said it's this," Why doesn't God just leave us alone?" I said, "Really, this is your thing." He said, "Yes." I said, "Let me ask you a question. Who's air, are you breathing? Whose earth, are you living on? Who gave you this life?
Is this not God's earth? Is that not God's air? Did not God give you the very life that you have? Do we not owe Him our very allegiance? Do we not owe Him our lives? Do we not owe Him our very heart?"
I said let me give you an illustration, imagine that in my amazing creative ability. Make a computer from scratch. I mean, I take the stand I make the glass and I have a monitor and I take the silicone and I make the chips. And I put it all together and then I am finally ready and I boot it up and on the screen it says," why don't you leave me alone."
I said, "What should happen to a computer like that." He said, "Throw it under the train" and he smiled. I said," Exactly." How much more are we than that? How much more did God give to us? Even the will to choose that we might freely choose to receive mercy and to receive grace. That offer of salvation that He's giving even to us because the heart of the Lord is that He takes no pleasure in the destruction of wicked, what He wants is for people to turn. Ezekiel 33:11, you say to them this, you say, as I live declares the Lord God. I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live, turn back. You can just hear the Lord calling out, "Turn back from your evil ways." Why then will you die O' house of Israel?
B. God wants us to turn to Him now
Here's the message, here's the point. God wants us to turn to Him even now, even now, that's the message, that's the message that God sent through His Son, is the same message that the 144,000 take to the world, is the same message that God is speaking through His word today. God wants us to turn to Him.
I was talking to a fellow recently who said, "You know I have believed in God for a long time, but I've never been close to God." I said," Why is that?" And he said," Honestly because I don't feel worthy. I've done so many wrong things. I don't feel worthy." I said," I understand that." That's a common thing for people to think, but you're missing out on God's heart because that's not the way God thinks. I said, “Do you remember when Jesus ministered, He reached out to like the most despicable sinners there were." That's why the Jewish leaders criticized them. Can you believe a man of God but actually speak to a prostitute, that’s just despicable, a man of God. They miss God's heart. I said, "Do you remember that back in the days of Jesus ministering that some of the most despicable people and not they were tax collectors. They were like betrayers of Israel made themselves wealthy on this betrayal." I said, “Did you know that Jesus invited one of those despicable spit upon tax gatherers into the group of disciples who wrote one of the Gospels. That's Matthew. I didn't know that's, the heart of the Lord."
The woman that He talked to, the woman at the well, she had had five husbands and the man that she was with wasn't even her husband, and yet Jesus made a point of bringing the good news to that woman and then she went to the village and she brought the village to hear the words. I want you to meet this man, who has the words of life. You get to know God is reaching out to the world with the same heart--