Thursday, March 26, 2015

“Numbers of Hope-144 000” (Revelation 7:4; 14:1)

S-1487 6MIL/3B 3/25/2015 Hymns: (O) #140 vv 4-6; (S) #370; (C) #144

Texts: Psalm 33:13-22; Galatians 3:23-29; Revelation 7:4, 9-17; 14:1

Theme: “Numbers of Hope-144 000 (Revelation 7:4; 14:1)

6th sermon in sermon series on “Numbers of Hope

Question: How can you be certain you are part of the 144,000

And I heard the number of the SEALED, 144,000, SEALED from every tribe of the sons of Israel. (Revelation 7:4)

Dear sons of Israel, sons of God, sons through the merits of Jesus by way of the cosmic miracle of holy baptism. If you are a son of God, you are part of the 144,000 that Saint John writes about! And, you ARE all sons of God says St. Paul through faith in Christ and Holy Baptism.

Precious, precious children of the heavenly Father, if you leave the cross out, you have nothing. Without the cross of Jesus Christ—we have no hope, no help and no heaven. Without Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, this book we hold sacred is nothing but the biggest lie and sham the world has ever known. Without the cross and empty tomb the church becomes nothing more than a country club without the golf course and swimming pool.

But the eternal Word of Jesus is our anchor, comfort and hope. The promises of Jesus confer on us the gift of Baptism, which makes us holy unto the Lord; clothed with the white garment of salvation, purchased by the blood of the Lamb—HIS sons forever. This is why with great joy, the Holy Spirit in haste leads us to come here, to hear Jesus give us hope, help and heaven. This is the place where your hearts are comforted, your souls are soothed and your minds are at peace.

Sadly, that is not always the case. Let me sight an example. A Lutheran gentleman went to the Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Hall for the funeral of his friend and neighbor—Fred. The anti-gospel pastor who was preaching the funeral began with these words: “We can be certain that Fred didn’t make it to the highest level of heaven, because he is not part of the 144,000 since they have been sealed.” How would you like to be sitting in that funeral and hear these words? Where is the comfort? Where is the hope? Where is the help in the hour of sorrow? Isn’t that sad? How cruel. I am sure the devil enjoyed that sermon but the holy angels likely wept.

If that is not bad enough, consider this. A Jehovah Witness couple (husband/wife) visited my colleague, Peter Kurowski. The conversation centered about the 144,000. The man was telling Pastor Pete, “You have no hope or help in making it to heaven, because you are not part of this multitude.” My friend Peter smiled, looked at his wife and said to her, I am so sorry that you too will not make it to heaven, since you are a woman. According to the teachings of Jehovah Witnesses only men are part of the 144,000. The woman with anger in her eyes and veins bulging in her neck looked at her husband and said, “You never told me that I can’t be part of 144, 000, and can’t be in heaven!” They walked out of the office arguing. PAUSE.

But thank God we have His promise that we are part of the 144,000—part of the unnumbered number of people from every nation, tribe, language and people. Thank God that Jesus gives us the certainty we will be with Him in heaven. As He spoke to the thief on the cross saying, “Today, you will be with Me in paradise!” My spiritual father, Dr. Louis Brighton speaking on these number states: “The Lord knows those who belong to him. That is, the Christian can be absolutely certain {emphasis mine} and sure of his salvation and faith because it rests on the truth of God’s Word and God’s seal within that Word: ‘The Lord knows who are his.’” (Revelation, Concordia Commentary, CPH p. 185).

Oh, the joy that fills our hearts of this certainty. We know we belong to Him and have been marked on our foreheads. We have been marked with the splash of water and the Word of promise: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” By that cosmic miracle we become sons of the living God. We are part of this number of throng. We can be certain of it. We have hope in the midst of hopelessness. We have help in the midst of helplessness and we have heaven because of Christ’s death and resurrection.

These are not pie in the sky words flying out of the wild visions of a small-town gospel preacher. These words are true and real because the Holy Spirit inspired John on the Island of Patmos to write them for all of the sons of Israel—believes in Yeshua of every age—including you and me. PAUSE.

Sons of God, here is the key question that the Holy Spirit will guide us in answering on this final midweek Divine Worship Service. How do we know whether to take the 144,000 as literal or figurative? How do we unlock this profound question?

We do it by going to an ancient principle of Biblical interpretation: Scripture interprets Scripture. Scripture is its own interpreter. As a rule we will attempt to take every passage literal except when Scripture elsewhere forces us to take a given passage figuratively.

John the apostle in this section gives a clear indication that the 144,000 is not to be taken literally. After speaking about the 144,000 sealed from every tribe of Israel he gives us more details. Five verses later he describes this number in this manner: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the lamb clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!’” (Rev. 7:9-10)

In typical Hebrew poetry style, John speaks of the 144,000 Israelites. Then in parallel fashion he describes them as a great multitude and number that no one could number—they are the unnumbered number. In the Old Testament alone you had 2 million Israelite slaves who went through the Red Sea and today in the world you have over 2 billion people who confess that Jesus is Lord. This does not even begin to take into account the millions upon millions of people in the days of the flood that believed in the coming Savior—before the great apostasy that took place just prior to the flood.

The point: John makes abundantly clear that the 144,000 is a number no one can count. We are talking billions of believers throughout the ages. And John later defines those who are part of this huge number as those who follow the Lamb, the Lamb who in chapter five IS worshipped by all believers in heaven. All over the place John defines these figurative phrases if we just read this book like it is meant to be—Hebrew parallel poetry.

Oh, the tender care and mercy this Sacred book offers us. Oh, the joy we have as we hear, read, mark and learn the Sacred Scripture that reveal to us the Lamb who would be crucified for us on Calvary’s cross and rise again to give us eternal hope. For only the gospel helps us to see clearly the love of God for all people be they male or female, slave or free, Jew or Gentile. No other religion lifts women up as much as the Bible and what Jesus did for them as well as children as well as outcasts bringing them into the 144,000 by grace through faith.

In short, the 144,000 is a number of the 12 tribes x 12 Disciples x 1,000. (12x12 is 144 to the 10th degree). That 1,000, is a number that symbolizes completeness. Twelve is the number of followers of Messiah Jesus completed! Clearly, powerfully, wonderfully, amazingly and eternally, the Bible teaches that being a member of Israel is by grace not race, by faith not force, through trust in the Lamb not sacrificing human lambs.

Fellow members of the 144,000, baptized Israelites, descendants of Abraham, citizens of a vast number that no man can number, rejoice! You have heard the voice “believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved!” You are part of a countless host worshipping Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! Rejoice galore as part of the 144...thousand, millions, billions! In the name of Jesus—the faithful Lamb, and God’s people said: Amen.

Now the peace of God…



Steven Perkins said...

How do we get more info about your October Holy Land Tour? We know Guy &Beth Drake.

Steven Perkins said...

Steven Perkins said...