Revelation 14 – Part 1

“Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and His Father’s name written on their foreheads.” Revelation 14:1

A couple of days ago, my wife and I went to the movie theatre to watch a film after we saw its preview the week before. That’s what previews are meant to do. They show exciting scenes from an upcoming movie to entice viewers to come see the film in its entirety. Sometimes, however, the preview of an upcoming movie leads us to expect one thing, but the producer of the film delivers something entirely different. 1 Fortunately for my wife and me, the movie lived up to the excitement the preview generated in us the week before.  

One thing we can be sure of about God’s previews of the future in the book of Revelation is they will not disappoint us. “Not only does He know the future, but He also controls it. He’s not simply the leading actor in the coming end-times drama; He’s the writer, producer, and director! So when He gives us previews of things to come, we should pay close attention. These scenes aren’t meant to satisfy our curiosity but to warn the rebellious and to encourage the righteous.” 2

After receiving revelation about Satan’s two wild beasts (the World Ruler and the False Prophet) who will triumph during the last half of the Tribulation period (13:1-18), John now receives revelation that describes both what happens to those who refuse the mark of the beast (14:1-5) and what happens to those who receive the mark of the beast (14:6-20). You may recall in Revelation 7, we learned that God would save two groups of people during the first three and a half years of the Tribulation period: He will save and seal 144,000 Israelites (7:1-8) through the preaching of the Two Witnesses (11:1-12), and He will take to heaven a multitude of people from all nations who will die during that time (7:9-17).

Beginning in Revelation 14, John now fast forwards to the end of the Tribulation period where he sees the following: “Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and His Father’s name written on their foreheads.” (Revelation 14:1). 3 John saw “the Lamb,” the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. John 1:29), “standing” victoriously “on Mount Zion,” the earthly Jerusalem,at the end of the Tribulation period. Many prophetic Scripture predicted that at the end of the Tribulation period Jesus the Messiah will return to Jerusalem from which He will rule His kingdom on earth (Isaiah 2:3; 24:23; Micah 4:1, 7; Zechariah 14:1-21; cf. Acts 1:9-12; Revelation 19:11-20:6). 4

Standing with Christ at the end of the Tribulation are the “one hundred and forty-four thousand” Jewish evangelists who faithfully proclaimed Jesus’ gospel message to the ends of the earth during the last three and a half years of the Tribulation when the beast ruled without mercy over the earth (14:1a; cf. 7:1-8; Matthew 24:14). Some religious groups, like the Jehovah Witnesses, teach that these 144,000 people are the sum total of all people who will be saved.  This is not true! We already saw in Revelation 7 that there are an innumerable number of people saved during the Tribulation period (7:9-17) in addition to the 144,000 Jewish evangelists (7:1-8). These evangelistic Jews will prepare the way for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to earth. 5

Because they refused to worship the beast and take up his mark, these 144,000 Jews will be rewarded with the Lamb’s “name” and “His Father’s name written on their foreheads” (cf. 3:12) in contrast with the mark placed on nonbelievers’ foreheads by the False Prophet (cf. 13:16). Because of their faithfulness to Christ to the end of the Great Tribulation, they will rule with King Jesus from Mount Zion in His eternal Kingdom (14:1b; cf. Romans 8:17-18; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21). 6

Notice at the end of the Tribulation that John does not see 143,800 Jewish evangelists. He sees all the 144,000 are supernaturally preserved by the Lord. Not one of them was killed. They have endured all the horrors of the seven-year Tribulation and are still standing victoriously with the Lamb on the earth because God faithfully protected them. 7

So, in this preview, we see in place of the beast from the sea, the Lamb of God. And in place of the beast’s followers with the mark of the beast on their foreheads, we see the Lamb’s followers with His and the Father’s name on their foreheads. In addition, we also observe in place of the pagan-controlled earth we see the God-controlled Mount Zion or Jerusalem. 8  This contrast in scenes is meant to encourage believers in John’s day and ours. While our journey on earth will contain trials and tribulation (John 16:33), it will end with a glorious mountaintop experience. This is intended to motivate us to remain faithful to Christ to the end of our Christian lives.

Next John writes, “And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps.” (Revelation 14:2). Some Bible students think this verse means that “Mount Zion” (14:1) is the heavenly Jerusalem (cf. Hebrews 12:22) since John speaks of this scene in heaven. 9 But the text says John “heard a voice from heaven.” This does not necessitate that the Lamb and His 144,000 followers are in heaven. Since the 144,000 are the same group described in Revelation 7:1-8, they are specifically said there to be sealed and preserved safely through the Tribulation on earth. This preview of their future indicates that they will be kept safe on earth into the Millennial Kingdom without going to the third heaven (Paradise) since this is the meaning of the seal in Revelation 7:3-4. 10

The “voice” John heard “from heaven” was loud like “many waters” roaring at a waterfall or like “loud” claps of “thunder.” We are not told who this voice belongs to. It could be “the voice” of the Tribulation martyrs (7:10), an angel (cf. 6:1; Daniel 10:6), or many angels (cf. 5:8, 11: 7:11; 19:6). But it cannot refer to the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders (14:3). I believe this voice represents the inhabitants of heaven consisting of the Tribulation martyrs and God’s angels.

John also tells us he “heard the sound of harpists playing their harps” (14:2b). In the book of Revelation, we are told that the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders (5:8), and the victorious believers from the Tribulation period (15:2) will all have harps along with those mentioned in Revelation 14:2. The “voice” and “harps” most likely represent the singing and music of the inhabitants of heaven (cf. 19:6). 11

“They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth.” (Revelation 14:3). The “new song” this heavenly group sang “before the throne” in heaven could only be learned by “the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth” (14:3). Please understand that the biblical text does not say the 144,000 were standing before the throne in heaven. It simply says they “could learn that song” which was being sung in heaven by this heavenly choir.

It is quite possible that being able to learn this new song was in itself a reward for these 144,000 faithful evangelists. Vacendak writes, “Since the emphasis here is not on the contents of the song but on the fact that only the 144,000 could learn it, this could very well be a special reward for their dedication to God like the reward of the ‘new name’ in 2:17 that is known only to Christ and the victorious one receiving it. Because these faithful witnesses will have an utterly unique experience in their service to Christ on earth, it is fitting that they enjoy a unique experience with Christ in eternity.” 12

After all, they had earned such a reward. “These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed by Jesus from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 14:4). These 144,000 evangelists “were not defiled with women, for they are virgins” who avoided both sexual immorality and spiritual adultery with the Satanic world system led by the Man of Sin or the beast (14:4a; cf. James 4:4; I John 2:15-16). 13

It is likely these servants of the Lord were unmarried in view of the strenuous times the last half of the Tribulation would bring. This brings to remembrance the apostle Paul’s admonition to singles (“virgins”) who were engaged to remain single in view of the “present distress” or persecution under Nero’s rule (I Corinthians 7:25-26). 14  

The 144,000 followed Jesus “wherever He goes” being forever grateful for the incredible price He paid (“redeemed by Jesus”) for their sins (14:4b; cf. Matthew 16:24-27; Luke 9:23-26). These evangelists were willing “not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29). 15

They were “firstfruits to God and to the Lamb” in that they were the first converts of the Two Witnesses (Revelation 11) during the first half of the Tribulation period who were saved and sealed (cf. 7:3-4). Following their conversion, they were discipled by the teaching of the Two Witnesses before fleeing Judea to begin their worldwide gospel ministry during the second half of the Tribulation (14:4c; cf. Matthew 24:13-22). 16

“And in their mouth was found no falsehood, for they are without fault.” (Revelation 14:5). Even though deception will abound under the reign of the beast, there will be “no falsehood” found in the mouths of the 144,000 evangelists because they boldly shared the truth of the gospel and “are without fault” in that their lifestyle was one of faithful obedience to the Lord, not perfection. By God’s grace, they knew the will of the Lord and faithfully pursued it without stumbling into sin (Titus 2:11-13; Jude 1:24). 17

What do we learn from these 144,000 Jewish evangelists? First, if we are to be effective witnesses for Christ, we must be pure in our relationships with others. The 144,000 Jewish evangelists “were not defiled with women, for they are virgins” (14:4a). If we love the world more than the Lord Who created the world, people will not be as likely to listen to us if we claim to be followers of the one true God. If we are impure like the world around us, we will not have a credible message for those who are confused or lost in the world’s corruption. 18 Ask yourself, “Do I keep myself pure in my relationships with others – especially those who are of the opposite sex? Or do I blur the lines between appropriate and inappropriate behavior and questionable speech? Do I pursue worldly desires and lusts, or do I make it my priority to pursue the things of God (James 4:4; I John 2:15-17)?” 19

Secondly, like the 144,000 evangelists, we must faithfully “follow the Lamb wherever He goes” (14:4b). The Lord Jesus came to earth “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He promised,Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Our responsibility is to follow Jesus. Christ’s responsibility is to make us fishers of men. Do you feel inadequate to share the gospel with the lost? Do you ever think that you do not know enough to share the gospel with non-Christians? Ask the Lord Jesus to help you follow Him daily and He will teach you all you need to know about evangelism. The best way to learn to talk to unbelievers is to walk and talk with Jesus. He will lead you to the unsaved people His Holy Spirit has prepared to hear and believe the gospel (John 16:7-11). Believing this will give you boldness as you go to share Christ with a lost world. Ask yourself, “Do I practice immediate obedience to Jesus or delayed obedience? What keeps me from practicing immediate obedience?”

The more we appreciate what Christ has done for us (“redeemed by Jesus”), the more grateful we will be to represent Him as His ambassadors to a lost world (14:4c; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:15-21). We will be more willing “not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29).

Thirdly, like the Jewish evangelists who were discipled by the Two Witnesses after their conversion (Revelation 7:1-8; 11:1-12), we must also be trained by older believers to effectively live for Christ now (cf. Matthew 28:19-20; 2 Timothy 2:2). Ask yourself, “Have I been taught by an older believer how to live for Jesus? If not, am I willing to place myself under a more mature believer to learn how to follow Jesus? If I have been discipled, am I now discipling others? If not, what is keeping me from doing this?”

Fourth, like the 144,000 Jewish evangelists, we must live a life of integrity, speaking the truth with our lips (“in their mouth was found no falsehood”) and living the truth with our lives (for they are without fault”) (14:5). If our mouths and lives are full of lies, people will not believe us when we tell them the gospel is true. Ask yourself, “Do I compromise the truth to avoid rejection or disapproval? Do I speak half-truths, white lies, and deception to avoid conflict with others? Do I live with integrity in public and in private? Am I hiding any secret sins?” If you answer “Yes” to any of these questions in this paragraph, turn to the Lord, confessing these sins to Him. The Bible promises “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

When we remain faithful to Christ and preach the truth of the gospel amid an array of false gospels and deceptions in this world, we will be richly rewarded in eternity by the Lamb of God Who redeemed us (Revelation 14:1-5; cf. Matthew 16:24-27; I Corinthians 3:5-14; 4:1-5; 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 4:1-5; I John 2:18-3:3, 24-4:6; Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21; 22:12).

Prayer: Precious Lord God, thank You for these encouraging verses that describe the victory of the Lamb and His faithful followers at the end of the Tribulation period. After reading Chapter 13 which is filled with horrific deception and destruction under the Antichrist’s and False Prophet’s regime, our hearts are filled with hope to see Jesus and the 144,000 Jewish evangelists standing triumphantly on Mount Zion in Jerusalem at the end of the Great Tribulation. By Your grace Lord God, we ask You to enable us to be faithful witnesses to the truth of the gospel with our lives and our lips. May Jesus live in and through us so those who are confused and perishing without Christ in this corrupt world, can find the healing and hope that only Jesus can give them. We ask You to remove the Satanic blinders from the hearts and minds of the unsaved so multitudes will believe in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life which can never be lost. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.   

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 263.

2. Ibid.

3. The majority of Greek manuscripts read “the” (τὸ) Lamb in place of “a” Lamb, and “His name and” (τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ καὶ) before “His Father’s name.”

4. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1549.

5. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), 2402.

6. Vacendak, pg. 1549.

7. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 291.

8. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 154 cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pp. 188-189.

9. Constable, pg. 154 cites Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology (Wheaton: Scripture Press Foundation, Victory Book, 1986), pg. 88; J. B. Smith, A Revelation of Jesus Christ, Edited by J. Otis Yoder (Scottdale, Pa: Herald Press, 1971), pg. 208; Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. 2 (Wheaton: Victor Books, Scripture Press, 1989), pg. 607.

10. Constable, pp. 154-155 cites John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago: Moody Press, 1966), pg. 214.

11. Vacendak, pp. 1549-1550.

12. Ibid., pg. 1550.

13. Ibid.

14. Constable, pp. 156-157.

15. Vacendak, pg. 1550.

16. Ibid.

17. Ibid.

18. Swindoll, pg. 267.

19. Ibid., pg. 268.

Revelation 12 – Part 4

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” Revelation 12:11

After Satan and his fallen angels are “cast” down to earth at the midpoint of the Tribulation period (12:9), the apostle John writes: “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.’” (Revelation 12:10). John hears “a loud voice… in heaven” praise God because the casting down of Satan and his fallen angels to earth signals that Jesus’ coming “kingdom” on earth is near and so certain that it is communicated as if it has already happened. 1 As in Revelation 11:15, this praise anticipates Christ’s coming as if it has already taken place. 2

The coming of Jesus’ kingdom to earth will result in the “salvation” of Israel. In the first half of the Tribulation the 144,000 converts are the “firstfruits” (cf. 14:4) of Christ’s saving work among the Jews, but at Jesus’ return “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26). So in addition to the 144,000 Jews being saved during the first half of the Tribulation, many more Jews will be saved when Christ returns to earth at the end of the Tribulation. Nationally as well as individually, their sins will be forgiven through faith in Christ (cf. Isaiah 59:20-21; Acts 10:43; Romans 11:25-27). The kingdom will be ruled based on the “power of… Christ” and His commands (12:10a). 3

Before Satan is “cast down” to earth at the midpoint of the Tribulation, he is described as “the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night.” “This indicates, first, that God has allowed Satan access to His divine presence. Second, it indicates Satan uses that access to level accusations against God’s people. He does that because he knows the Lord’s righteous character and that human sin breaks their fellowship with God. If Satan cannot prevent a person from being saved, he at least wants to steal the joy that comes from walking in fellowship with God.” 4

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, what sins can Satan accuse you of today? The Devil cannot successfully accuse you of wrongdoing before God because Christ has already paid the penalty of your sin in full when He died in your place on the cross. The Bible says, 1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus… 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” (Romans 8:1, 33-34).  

All of our sins—past, present, and future—have been paid in full by the blood of Christ! No accusation from Satan can stick to us or soil our reputation, because God’s grace and mercy have washed us clean from our transgressions.” 5

When Satan and his fallen angels are cast down to earth, his relentless accusations of believers before God will have ceased, but those who are on the earth will be subject to Satan’s attacks even though he can no longer accuse them in heaven. 6

During the last half of the Tribulation, Satan, “the accuser” of believers, will attack God’s people on earth ferociously. But John informs us, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” (Revelation 12:11). Believers on the earth during the last half of the Tribulation will overcome Satan “by the blood of the Lamb” which cleanses them from all their sins and protects them from the accusations of Satan “and by the word of their testimony” which involves speaking the truth of God to defeat Satan’s lies, even if it means losing their own “lives” (12:11).

Satan lost access to God’s throne in heaven, but God’s people on earth had not (cf. Romans 5:1-2; Hebrews 4:16). These believers had victory over Satan because they would not bow to the image of the Beast (cf. Revelation 13:15) but openly shared “the word of their testimony” even if it meant persecution or death. These followers of Jesus “did not love their lives to the death.” Instead, they loved serving and magnifying Christ more than their own lives. 7

Every believer is saved from eternal condemnation by Christ’s blood no matter what age they live in (Revelation 12:11; cf. Acts 10:43; Ephesians 1:7; Genesis 3:15; 15:6; John 3:14-18; Romans 4:1-25; Revelation 1:5; 5:9; 7:14). Believers in Jesus who defeat Satan’s schemes in life and receive Christ’s eternal rewards do so by a godly public testimony. Secret agent believers, those who are saved but operate undercover, so to speak, will receive minimal (Matthew 6:19-21) or no eternal rewards from Christ (cf. Matthew 10:33; 25:18, 24-30; John 12:42-43; I Corinthians 3:15). Triumphant, conquering believers do not love their lives more than they love God, 8 and the Lord will reward them eternally for their sacrificial service (cf. Matthew 10:32-42; 19:28-30; 25:16-17, 20-23; I Corinthians 3:8-14; Revelation 2:10-11, 17, 25-28; 3:5, 11-12, 21; 22:12).

In view of Satan being cast down to earth and believers overcoming him, the voice that began speaking in verse 10 continues by saying, “Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.” (Revelation 12:12). The inhabitants of heaven are called to “rejoice” or celebrate, but the “inhabitants of the earth and the sea” must beware because “the devil has come down” to them with “great wrath,” knowing he has “a short time” (three and a half years) before Jesus returns to earth to defeat him and bind him in the bottomless pit for a thousand years (cf. Revelation 20:1-3).

As we conclude today’s message, let’s remember that there are two ways we can overcome the schemes of Satan:

LOOK TO JESUS AND HIS DEATH IN FAITH FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF ALL YOUR SINS. We can overcome Satan’s hateful accusations through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ – “they overcame him by the blood of the lamb” (12:11a). Have you placed your faith in Christ Jesus alone for His complete forgiveness? Christ was born into this world despite all the opposition of hell some two thousand years ago (Revelation 12:4-5). What Jesus did for you and me was not easy.He went to war for us and paid for all our sins when He died on the cross (John 19:30; Colossians 2:13-14). He now offers you the greatest gift ever given, and He invites you to take it by placing your trust in Him and His death on the cross

The Bible tells us, “All the prophets say it is true that all who believe in Jesus will be forgiven of their sins through Jesus’ name.” (Acts 10:43 NCV). Does the word “all” include you and me? Absolutely! It includes the best and the worst of people, and everyone in between. It is up to you whether you will receive His gift or not. Will you believe or trust in Jesus alone to forgive all your sins – including past, present, and future sins? If you do, you can be free of the accusations Satan brings against you.

Perhaps you have already believed in Christ for your salvation, but you may be struggling to feel that He has truly forgiven you. Maybe you have trusted Him as your Savior, but you are still living under condemnation, and it is time to let go of the guilt and shame. The devil is defeated every time you refuse to listen to his lying accusations. He may whisper, “What you did was too bad, too wicked for God to forgive!” Or“You can’t change! You’ll never be any different!“ Instead of paying attention to Satan’s lies, you reach out and believe that Jesus really did die to bring you and me a new life! When Christ died for your sins, how many of them were future?ALL OF THEM. Ignore Satan’s lies and receive the hope and transformation that only God’s forgiveness brings! 

The second way to overcome the devil’s schemes is: LET JESUS RULE YOUR LIFE NO MATTER WHAT THE COST – “they overcame him… by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” In other words, they overcame him by speaking the truth and living the truth even if it cost them their lives. We give the devil a black eye when we seek to live a life of integrity. When the person at church is the same person at work or in the home, Satan is defeated. Don’t let anything or anyone intimidate you from living for God, even the threat of death!

If we have believed in Jesus for His gift of forgiveness and eternal life, there is no need to be afraid of death. Christ has overcome death through His victorious death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven. His resurrection and ascension to heaven guarantees our own in the future.

The Bible tells us, 14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (Hebrews 2:14-15). Through His death, Jesus conquered death to free people from the fear of death.

Evans writes, If the Son has set you free, then, the only power the devil has over you is what you permit him.

“Satan is ‘the father of lies’ (John 8:44), so he’ll try to trick you into giving him permission to exercise authority over you. But the devil no longer has the power of death (2:14). The gun he’s been intimidating you with has no bullets. Jesus Christ emptied its chamber into Himself. Thus, all Satan can do is deceive you into thinking the gun still has ammunition. But the fear of death should no longer make you a slave (see 1 Cor 15:51-57).” 9

Prayer: Father God, thank You so much for the incredible victory Jesus has already won through His shed blood on the cross for the sins of the world! Thank You that the penalty of sin, Satan, death, and hell are overcome through believing in the forever cleansing blood of the Lamb, Who died and rose again on our behalf so we should never die eternally, but be raised from the dead to live forever with our King. Please enable us to live each day for Jesus without fear, knowing He has already conquered our greatest fear which is death. Use us, Lord, to testify with our lives and lips to what Jesus has already done so multitudes may receive His forgiveness by believing in Him and live a life that is free from fear. In the life-giving name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. The word translated “have come” (egeneto) is the aorist tense, signifying a past event.

2.  Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1543.

3. Ibid.

4. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2398.

5. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 241.

6. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 137.  

7. Vacendak, pg. 1543.

8. Adapted from Evans, pg. 2398. 9. Ibid., pp. 2243-2244.

Lasting Lessons from the Last Day in Jesus’ Life – Part 1

“Pilate then went out again, and said to them, ‘Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.’ ” John 19:4

The cross or crucifixion of Jesus Christ is one of the two most important events in human history. The other most important event, is the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which took place three days after His death on the cross. The cross of Christ is central to what it means to be a Christian, especially a committed Christian who follows Jesus. Although Jesus’ death took place nearly 2,000 years ago, it has implications for every day of our lives. Even though the cross was such a huge and powerful event in history, it also applies to the parts of our lives that are mundane and routine.

My prayer for us is that as we look at the last day of Jesus’ life leading up to His crucifixion and the crucifixion itself, we will discover that this is not only something that happened 2,000 years ago, but it is something that impacts our lives today. I pray we will not only see this as an historical event from the first century, but also as an historical event which applies to our lives today and tomorrow.

In John 19:4-42, the apostle John has recorded different pictures containing lasting lessons from the last day of Jesus’ life before the Roman soldiers sealed His tomb containing His dead body. John has several images he wants to make sure that we see in the life of Jesus Christ. He does not include everything that happened to Jesus on that day. When Luke wrote his gospel he wanted to make sure he included as much as he could (Luke 1:1-4). But since John already knew that Luke was written, he did not include everything. What John did include are some of the pictures we all need to know about when it comes to Who Jesus really is and who we truly are in light of this.  

Before we look at the details of what John wrote, we need to understand a couple of things: the person writing and his purpose for writing. When we understand the person who was writing and the purpose for which it was written, it magnifies the power of what we are going to read. The person writing says, “And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe.” (John 19:35).

First, we see that “he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true.” He knows that he tells the truth. John, the writer of this gospel, was close to the cross. The other disciples, except Peter, fled when Jesus was arrested (Matthew 26:56). Peter was close and then he denied Jesus and fled (Matthew 26:57-58, 75). But John the Apostle ends up being the one apostle that was there at the cross. 

The person writing is an eyewitness (“he who has seen has testified, and his testimony …”). This is an eyewitness account of the cross of Jesus Christ. It is different from any other gospel because of that. Matthew was an apostle of Jesus but he was not there at the cross. He talked to a lot of people who were there and wrote down what happened. But he was not there at the cross. He was an eyewitness of the resurrection. But he did not see with his own eyes what had happened at the cross. Mark and Luke compiled records from others, but they were not present at the cross. But John was there. 2  

So we have an eyewitness who was actually there sitting down to write down for us the images of what he saw that day Jesus died. When you think about it, that is amazing! Two thousand years later we can pick up what he wrote and look at this eyewitness account of what happened to Jesus on the last day of His life before the Roman soldiers sealed His tomb containing His dead body.

The second thing was the purpose for which it was written. This is not just historical details. John testified “so that you may believe.” John recorded these details to enable us to believe. When we look at the pictures that John is going to show us about the cross, the result that is intended to take place in our lives is not pity for Jesus. It is not a deeper interest in history. It is belief or trust. Belief in our lives towards the One Who loves us the most. Believing in Him alone for His gift of everlasting life (John 20:31). The cross is intended to enable us to believe in Christ more and more and more in our daily lives, no matter how difficult or mundane those days are.

We already looked at how Jesus was brutally flogged and then mocked by the Roman soldiers (John 19:1-3). Now we see Jesus standing before Pilate and a hostile crowd. The first lasting lesson we will learn from this, is, LIKE PILATE, WE CAN AVOID DOING THE RIGHT THING BECAUSE OF THE COST INVOLVED (John 19:4-7).

“Pilate then went out again, and said to them, ‘Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.’ ” (John 19:4). After severely injuring Jesus through scourging, Pilate came out of the Praetorium to speak to the Jews. He announced that he was presenting Jesus, beaten and mocked,as innocent when he said, “I find no fault in Him.” Pilate was saying that Christ deserved nothing more than ridicule. There was no criminal basis for further legal action.

“Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, ‘Behold the Man!’ ”(John 19:5). When we first read that as believers, we may think, “What an awesome thing Pilate just said. He brought Jesus before those who were taunting Him and said, ‘Behold the Man!’ We may read that to mean, “Here is the most amazing display of what a man could be, because He was God and man at the same time!”

But upon further study, I believe Pilate’s words were spoken in a manner intended to elicit pity. He was attempting to demonstrate to the Jews the absurdity of executing such a weak and unintimidating man. Christ probably looked pathetic – bruised, bloodied, and disfigured from the flogging and crown of thorns pushed down into His scalp with blood flowing down His face (cf. Isaiah 53:2b-3). When Pilate said, “Behold the Man!” he was saying, “What’s to be scared of in this man?” Of course Pilate was scared. They all were scared. He knew even his words were wrong. 3

I also believe it is possible that Pilate is also trying to honor Jesus. “Probably Pilate intended to appease the crowd, and John and the Holy Spirit intended the reader to see the deeper significance. Ironically, ‘Behold the Man!’ is the answer to Pilate’s own question, ‘What is truth?’ (John 18:38). Jesus is the truth (John 14:6). 4

“Therefore, when the chief priests and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, ‘Crucify Him, crucify Him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him.’ ” (John 19:6). Pilate hoped the spectacle would quench the crowd’s thirst for blood, but it only seemed to whet their appetite for more as they cried out, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” For the third time Pilate affirms Jesus’ innocence when he said, “You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him” (cf. John 18:38; 19:4, 6).

John is portraying Jesus as the innocent Passover Lamb of God without blemish (Exodus 12:5; cf. John 1:29; I Corinthians 5:7; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18). Jesus, the innocent Lamb of God, would die for you and me so we would not have to die forever in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15). But we must come to Jesus on His terms which means believing in Him alone for His gift of everlasting life to escape the eternal punishment of the lake of fire (John 3:36; Revelation 20:15).

What an amazing picture John presents to us. Can you imagine John sitting down to write those words of Pilate before a hostile crowd? Here is Jesus standing before them in His bloodied purple robe with a crown of thorns that the soldiers put on His head. The priest are ridiculing Him and Pilate is shouting, “Behold the Man!”

When you compare all the gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – you find that Pilate pronounced Jesus innocent seven different times (Matthew 27:24; Luke 23:4, 14, 22; John 18:38; 19:4, 6). Seven times he said, “I don’t find any guilt in Him. He has not done anything wrong. He is not the guilty one here. Why don’t we let Him go?” Some way or another Pilate said, “He has no guilt.” If he is the Roman governor and he has the power of life or death in Jerusalem and he said seven different times there is no guilt in this man, why didn’t Pilate release Jesus?

I believe the reason was more than politics in this case. The primary reason that Pilate did not release Jesus is it did not cost him anything. What do I mean by this? As we said in previous articles, Pilate created much antagonism between himself and the Jews on a number of occasions.

“He was a weak leader who made some serious blunders early in his rule. He had his soldiers march into the temple area with shields bearing the image of Caesar, which to the Jews was idolatrous desecration. Caiaphas called out 2,000 Jews who surrounded Pilate’s house in protest. He foolishly threatened to slaughter them, a threat that politically he couldn’t carry out. When he had to back off, he lost face and undermined his leadership.

“Later, he built an aqueduct to bring water into Jerusalem, but he used funds from the Jewish temple tax to pay for the project. The Jews rioted and this time Pilate did slaughter many of them. The Jewish leaders protested to the Emperor Tiberius, who issued a scathing rebuke to Pilate for his poor leadership. Since Tiberius was notoriously paranoid and had executed many for trivial reasons, Pilate couldn’t risk another complaint to Rome by his subjects. He hated the Jews, but he knew that they held the upper hand over him.” 5

So Pilate did not want to cause further tension with the Jews who might quickly notify the Emperor and put Pilate at risk of losing his position as governor. Pilate did not want to risk his political career by releasing Jesus.

After Pilate affirmed Jesus’ innocence again (John 19:6b), the Jews took a different approach to persuade him to grant their illegal wish. “The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.’ ” (John 19:7). Earlier the Jews had tried to kill Jesus by stoning Him when He claimed to be equal with God the Father (cf. John 10:27-33). They considered it blasphemy for a human being to claim equality with God. 6  Even though Jesus had not violated the Roman law, the Jews thought perhaps Pilate could be persuaded to enforce their Jewish law by appealing to the Mosaic law which called for the death penalty for blasphemy (Leviticus 24:16).

Now Pilate is afraid! “As a superstitious Roman, he believed that sometimes the gods came incognito to earth. If you treated them well, they would look out for you in the future. But if you treated them badly, they would make life miserable for you.” 7  To increase Pilate’s fear, his wife sent word to him as he examined Jesus and said, “Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him.” (Matthew 27:19).

It may be easy for us to criticize Pilate in this situation. Granted, he was morally weak and self-serving. He was not a strong or wise leader. But let’s put ourselves in his place for a moment. Would you risk losing your job, your comfortable way of life, and perhaps your life to defend an innocent man? Have you ever avoided doing what is right because of the cost involved?

For example, have you ever compromised your integrity at work to keep your job? The boss asks you to falsify some records and lie to cover his wrongful actions. When you hesitate, he suggests that if you don’t comply, he can find someone else to take your job who will comply. What do you do?

Pilate didn’t have anything against Jesus and he thought that Jesus was innocent of the charges; but to do the right thing and free Jesus would have cost Pilate dearly. So he rejected Christ, thinking that he was protecting his own interests. 8  But in reality, he lost his peace of mind by condemning an innocent man to death!

Whenwe avoid publicly identifying with Jesus Christ as our Lord at our school or at our work to avoid rejection or conflict, we are behaving like Pilate did. If we are saying to ourselves in any situation in life, that we cannot let other people know that Jesus is our Lord, then we are thinking about the cost. What is it going to cost me in my job or in my school or even in my family? We must be honest with ourselves. We can show the same weakness of Pilate in our lives. The key is, are we willing to admit this? If not, we are making ourselves more susceptible of repeating the same mistake that Pilate made.

Prayer: Lord God, there is such a contrast between the innocent Lamb of God and the selfish and self-serving governor named Pontius Pilate. But are any of us really any different than Pilate? If we are honest with ourselves, we will have to admit that we, too, have refused to do what is right to avoid the cost involved. We have denied any association with You in public to avoid conflict or persecution. We have compromised out integrity at work, at school, or even in our families to avoid loss of some kind. Lord Jesus, You already know these things about us and yet You still love us. In fact, You died for these wrongful things we have done. Thank You, our Lord and our God, for being so merciful and gracious with us. Please grant us the power to do what is right no matter what the cost. May our desire to please You override any tendency to compromise what is right in Your eyes. You did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. May that spirit manifest itself in everything we do. For Your name’s sake we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Adapted from Tom Holladay’s July 24, 1996 message entitled, “A Day in the Life of…  Jesus Christ.”

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 557.

5. Steve J. Cole’s message on June 7, 2015 entitled, “Lesson 95: What Will You Do With Jesus? (John 18:28-19:16)” at www.Bible.org.

6. Robert Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition, pg. 557.

7. Steve J. Cole’s message on June 7, 2015 entitled, “Lesson 95: What Will You Do With Jesus?

8. Ibid.