"Wearing Christ's Name" (Revelation 14:1-13)
Revelation: The Time is Near
At the close of every wedding ceremony at which I have officiated (close to a hundred), I have said something like, “It is my honor to be the first to introduce to you, Mr. & Mrs., the groom and bride’s first names, and then the groom’s last name.” I am looking forward to September 3rd when, if the Lord wills, I will have the privilege of introducing to a congregation of witnesses at our daughter’s wedding, “Mr. & Mrs. Michael Poindexter.”
A distinctly Christian wedding ceremony is saturated with deeply meaningful symbols and actions. Watch what the bride does. The ceremony opens with her father giving her away. She takes her groom’s arm. He is leading her. At the close of the ceremony, she takes his name. She identifies with him. She belongs to him in the most precious sense of that word. She is his.
This wedding language flavors Revelation 14, which is strange because the chapter describes a war. Revelation 12-14 describes the great cosmic conflict between the Eternal God and his ancient enemy Satan. These chapters use symbolic visions to portray this conflict from a variety of angles. Over the past few weeks, we have seen the overview of the war and the history of it. Last week in Chapter 13, we witnessed how Satan uses human governments and false religions (depicted as two beasts) to attack those loyal to the Lamb, Jesus Christ.
We saw that those loyal to Satan wear the mark of his beast. It is a number, six hundred sixty-six. Symbolically, the number represents a life of never enough – a life of discontentment, greed, selfish ambition, restlessness, unbridled passion, power-hunger, fear, and pride. These mark a person who is loyal to the Dragon.
The first section of Chapter 14 reveals God’s current strategy in this great conflict. He has his forces, led not by a beast but by the Lamb. And those loyal to the Lamb do not wear a number but a name. His name. Instead of the beast’s blasphemous words the Lamb’s army is singing a song and sounds like harps playing.
Take a Bible and turn to Revelation 14. Listen to the first thirteen verses of this chapter to pick up the contrasts between those who serve the Lamb and those who serve the Dragon. Revelation 14, p. 1036, vv. 1-13.
1 Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. 2 And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, 3 and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4 It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, 5 and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless.
6 Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. 7 And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
8 Another angel, a second, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.”
9 And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”
12 Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. 13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” (Revelation 14:1–13)
The central scene for this vision is named in v. 1. It is Mt. Zion. Geographically, Mt. Zion was a way of referring to Jerusalem, the home of God’s temple. But by the time John writes Revelation, the Roman empire had attacked and destroyed Jerusalem. They demolished the temple. The literal Zion had been desecrated.
Symbolically, Mt. Zion is the place where God rules over his covenant people. That’s why we can refer to the local church as a manifestation of Zion. In this vision, Mt. Zion is the place where Jesus Christ, the reigning King, dwells with and directs his followers.
His followers are the 144,000 who wear his name. John reintroduces them in v. 1. We saw them in another vision in Chapter 7. The number symbolizes a vast multitude that is in an orderly formation, ready to do the will of its Commander. As vv. 2 & 3 unfold, it seems that some of this army is already in heaven singing a victory song. Yet, v. 12 reminds us that some of Christ’s saints remain on earth and must endure until death when they rest from their labors. These are learning the victory song, preparing to join the heavenly chorus.
We preach God’s word for this group – those who claim Christ, who assert that they wear his name, they bear his mark. They say that they are loyal to the Lamb. Do you count yourself among the ranks of Christ’s army? Then this passage tells you three things associated with the mark of Christ’s name.
If you truly wear Christ’s name, this passage declares: what that mark reveals about you; what the mark requires of you; and how the mark rewards you.
What that Mark Reveals About You
If you truly wear the mark of Christ’s name, it reveals that you belong to Christ. You are His. Notice the ways the passage reinforces this truth.
The Lamb shares his name with those whom he has redeemed. V. 3 describes Christ’s army as those who had been redeemed from the earth. V. 5 repeats that those who follow the Lamb “have been redeemed from mankind.” If you are a Christian, Jesus Christ as God’s Lamb purchased you from slavery to sin so that you might belong to him. He paid the price to rescue you from God’s wrath so that you could enjoy God’s blessing.
And He redeemed you by his own blood. 13:8 identifies Jesus as the slain Lamb, the sacrificial Lamb. He gave himself up to His Father to die as a sin offering so that you could wear the name that He and His Father share. This is why you can learn the song that others cannot learn. The holy angels are loyal to the Lamb, but they do not know what it’s like to be redeemed. Creation waits for restoration, but animals cannot repent and believe the gospel. Only repentant sinners know what it means to be redeemed. If Christ has redeemed you, you no longer belong to the Dragon and his beasts. You belong to the Lamb in a very special way.
The Lamb shares his name with those to whom he is betrothed, those committed to a faithful, covenant relationship forever. I’ll admit that v. 4 is strange. It describes the Lamb’s army as those “who have not defiled themselves with women for they are virgins.” This does not teach that only celibate men can be Christians.
John picks up an OT image of the betrothed virgin, one who is committed to another in marriage and is faithful to that one alone. The vision is anticipating the final scene of history when Christ’s people are his fully prepared Bride enjoying his Marriage Supper (Chapter 19). In the meantime, while on earth, they are soldiers who belong only to Christ and refuse to give themselves to the harlot called Babylon. He has chosen them to be his own.
The Lamb shares his name with those who have been devoted to His Father. The concept of devotion is wrapped up in the words “first fruits” in v. 5. Ancient Israelites devoted the early harvest to the Lord as a statement that everything belonged to Him. Christ offers you as an offering to His Father as a statement that everything finally belongs to Him.
If you bear Christ’s name, you wear his mark instead of the mark of the beast. You belong to him completely. You live as v. 4 says, you follow Jesus wherever He goes. You endure as v. 12 describes. You keep God’s commandments and you keep the faith of Jesus Christ. You have both the right practice and the right beliefs. Your lifestyle and your theology match. Your mind and body work together to honor Jesus Christ.
All your time belongs to him. You cannot just give him a couple of hours on a Sunday morning and call it good. All your money and treasure belong to Him. You cannot give a little in the offering plate and call it good. Your whole body belongs to Him. You cannot sing songs about him with your mouth and then dishonor Him by the way you live. You bear his name on your forehead, obvious to everyone, wherever you are and whatever you do.
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
What that Mark Requires of You
It is clear that there is a difference between claiming to wear Christ’s name and wearing Christ’s name. How does the person who truly belongs to Christ live? Revelation 14:1-13 also tells us what the mark requires of you. We can sum up the requirement in a sentence. Those who wear Christ’s name proclaim the gospel and refuse to promote lies.
Return to v. 5. It says of those who belong to Christ that no lie was found in their mouths. So what is in their mouths? V. 6 answers. God’s angel, or messenger flies overhead with an eternal gospel to proclaim. The army is getting its marching orders. Proclaim the gospel. The eternal gospel. The gospel is for the whole earth, every nation, tribe, language, and people.
Christ’s people don’t spread lies. They spread the gospel. This is why the charge to spread the gospel is followed by three warnings: V. 7 -- Revere God because he is the Creator and He is preparing to judge; V. 8 – Reject the world system because it is ready to crumble; V. 9 – Refuse to worship the god of your passions because they will only lead to eternal torment.
Satan conspires to spread lies. “God is not the creator. We are here by chance. There is no God to worship because there is no God to judge. The only kind of glory that matters is self-glory. Get as much as you can. Fear no one. Live for yourself.”
Christ’s people will not promote such lies. The Gospel begins with God as Creator. V. 7 points to the truth. He made you. He made you in his image. He made you to give him glory. But, as the Bible declares, we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. Instead of worshiping Him, we give our attention to created things and rarely think about God. We need the gospel to save us from our idolatry.
Satan conspires with the world system to promote immorality. V. 8 calls this world system Babylon, the ancient code name for all organized efforts of human beings to live without God. The world system promotes immorality like a strong liquor that intoxicates. “There is no right and wrong. Sensual pleasure is the highest good. Do whatever feels good with whomever you choose. Sexual boundaries are relics of an oppressive age.”
Christ’s people will not promote such lies. Two men cannot share a marriage. God defines marriage as His beautiful gift to be enjoyed by one man and one woman for life. A woman cannot become a man. Gender and sex are beautifully joined in God’s design for every human being. Sex is not a casual sport like pick-up basketball. Sex is a sacred pleasure reserved for the protected privacy of covenant marriage.
V. 9 reminds us of the lies we discussed last week. Satan’s beasts push the lie of never enough. “Get more. Don’t stop until you’re satisfied. Life is short. Live your passions.
Again, Christians refuse to promote such lies. We trust God’s word and know that our passions are disordered. Those who live under the control of their passions will find no rest in this life or the next. There will never be enough. If your mark is six hundred sixty-six, you will never be satisfied. You will always crave more.
This life is short. But it is not the end. It is only the doorway into eternity. Christ’s people proclaim the gospel and refuse to promote lies. Which means we don’t lie about our sin. We proclaim the gospel to everyone including ourselves. V. 5 says that we are blameless not because we are perfect but because we must own our sin and repent.
These warnings come with the gospel so we must heed them first. We must fear God and give him glory. We must reject the world. We must renounce ungodliness and worldly passions so that we might “live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” as Paul writes to Titus.
Remember the words of the Holy Spirit through Paul to Timothy:
But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” (2 Timothy 2:19)
Bearing his name requires living according to his truth.
How that Mark Rewards You
But how will we do that? What motivates one to endure to the end and die in the Lord as vv. 12-13 envision? If you truly bear Christ’s name, you will endure because you know how the mark rewards you.
V. 12 declares that death is a blessing for the one who bears Christ’s name. “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain,” Paul says in Philippians 1:21. Those who wear Christ’s name serve him until the end and find that death is a blessing. It leads to rest. Rest from labors. A Christian may retire from a job in this life, but he or she never retires from the Lord’s work until death.
The Holy Spirit affirms (v. 13) that a Christian’s deeds follow him into his eternal rest. He serves in the power of the Holy Spirit. She sacrifices drawing joy that comes from the Spirit. So, rewards will follow. God will honor his people for what they have accomplished through His Spirit. And all the glory will reflect back to Him.
This reward for the faithful contrasts with the miserable destiny of those who refuse to take Christ’s name. The Christian finds eternal rest (v. 13). But the one who takes the beast’s mark finds no rest day or night (v. 11). The believer finds blessing after death (v. 13). The one who refuses to take Christ’s name will endure torment after death. Those loyal to the Lamb die in the Lord (v. 13). Those who are not loyal to the Lamb will suffer wrath in the Lamb’s presence forever (v. 10). They will be tormented with perpetual dissatisfaction. Their unsatisfied desires will choke their hearts like smoke and burn like sulfur.
Hell is furious and hell is forever. But Jesus Christ endured eternal hell in the place of anyone who will turn away from sin and trust him alone for salvation from hell and judgment. He experienced the curse in death so that we could find a blessing in death. He set aside his glory so that we could share in it. He devoted himself to destruction so that we could devote ourselves to him in an eternal covenant. He rose again to lead us into eternal life
Do you have this one to be your only Lord? To have him and hold him from this day forward? For better or worse? For richer for poorer? In sickness and in health? Till death brings you home to him? May every heart here exclaim, “I do.”