Revelation 14 and the Song of the Saints

(For the message from Sunday, August 8, 2021: “Assurance & Invitation; Warning & Wrath (Part I).” You can view this sermon by clicking HERE.)

One of the evident truths of Revelation 13 and 14 is that humans are by nature singers. All of us. Now, you may be reading this and push back immediately with the realization that you can’t carry a tune in a bucket! But I don’t intend to say that we are all by nature good singers in a talent sense. What I mean is that we were all created to sing. And by nature we are all singers who are always singing.

Last week (8/1) I closed our walk through chapter 13 by highlighting the tragic nature of that particular passage, especially v. 4. In that verse we are told that a vast majority of humanity respond to the deceptive work of the dragon and his beast by worshipping the beast. And John provides for us the lyrics to the song that they are singing. “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it,” they declare, as they marvel at him. The tragedy of this picture is that they are doing exactly what they were created to do: worship and sing; yet, their worship is miss-aimed and their song is woefully out of tune. It is a picture of shattered creative purpose. Instead of joining in with the refrain of the Scriptures in declaring these lyrics about the only One who truly embodies them and is worthy of them, they instead proclaim them about the very one who has deceived them in order that they may by destroyed.

These worshipers in Revelation 13 offer a grievous picture of the cataclysmic effects of sin on God’s good creation. Fallen humanity–although still bearing the image of their creator and still designed for specific purpose–set their hearts on the creation rather than the Creator.

In chapter 14, though, we are presented with a different chorus emanating from a different choir. At the appearance of the true Lamb standing on his holy hill, verse 2 reads,

“And I heard a voice from heaven like a roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harp, 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.”

Revelation 14:2-3

What a contrast, but notice the basis of the contrast. It is not between one group who sings and another that doesn’t. Both groups are filled with singers who are singing. The contrast rather has to do with the intonation of their voices. The contrast has to do with attune-ment. And, understand this. Both sets of voices are attuned! The contrast has to do with exactly to what they are attuned.

The voices making up the choir in chapter 13 are attuned to two things. First, they are attuned to each other. They lift this song together. They proclaim their allegiance and their amazement together. They are unified in their song. The problem–again, the tragedy–though, is that they are also attuned to the deception that has captivated their hearts. They are attuned to the song of the way of this world. They are singing the song of Babylon. And what only adds to their deception is the fact that this song resonates beautifully with the deep desires of their own sin-sick, darkened hearts. Further, and notably, recall that as a result of the ministry of the second beast in chapter 13, many who are among this choir are religious, and they are deceived into believing that the song they sing is one that honors God.

But notice the intonation of the song of the choir in chapter 14. I see two aspects to this intonation here that are important. First, they are singing a new song. This new song is one that has been attuned through the process of regeneration. This new song flows from hearts that have been made new. What a beautiful way of expressing the true effects of regeneration, or new birth! In many ways redemption is a work of God to attune us to him and his will. In many ways this is a picture of the work of sanctification. The Spirit works in our new hearts to attune us to the Lord and empowers us to sing a new song. Intonation with the person, character, and ways of God through the Spirit’s work, then, only happens as a work of redemption. This is why, second, that no one can learn this song and become attuned in this way outside of that work of redemption. Only God’s people can learn to sing in tune with him.

From the time I was in the 3rd grade until I graduated high school I played the trumpet in the band. I remember a stupid little game I used to play with two of my trumpet-playing friends during the long waits on Friday afternoons for football games to begin. Standing in a circle with our eyes closed, at the count of 3 we would all loudly play a random note. Most of the time this would cause us to crumple and cover our ears in the painful response of the ensuing dissonance of the clashing tones before busting into laughter. It was awful! And surrounding folks would often get so angry at us because of the nuisance of the terrible sound. In a variation of the game, sometimes we would all pull our slides (that control the intonation of the instrument) out to a random distance before all playing the same note. This, too, resulted in dissonance as the waves of contrasting tonal levels collided with each other. Even though we played the same note–even with good quality as we were all fairly good trumpet players–the resulting dissonance resulted in cringing laughter.

The point? New life results in a new song. This is a song that the believer begins to not only learn, but to sing from the very point of new birth. I so appreciate the way Pastor Gerald reminded us yesterday that our learning this new song was not summarized with just learning new lyrics to sing. Learning this song is a result of learning Christ. And as we learn Christ, we more authentically begin to sing the song of Christ with our lives. This is a picture of us becoming people of The Way.

But here is the rub. This song will increasingly create dissonance with the song of this world. It will disrupt our lives. It will affect our relationships and our former way of living. It will create perhaps the most dissonance with the former songs of our lives before Christ.

The song of our life cannot be attuned to two sources, just like it is impossible to attune my trumpet to two different standards. It is impossible. The song of our lives cannot be attuned to both the world and to the Lamb. We cannot sing in both choirs. And here is the great danger: because the song of the world resounds so well with our flesh, it can become easy for us point to that resolution as justification that our song is rightly aimed. This. Is. So. Dangerous. How do we guard against this? We guard against this by pressing deeply into Christ through Word and prayer, both individually and within the context of the Body of Christ. That is what exposes the dissonance that occurs when our song begins to become attuned to the world. We miss the grace of this dissonance when we distance ourselves from the Word, prayer, and the Body.

The song of chapter 14 should compel us. In it we see a glimpse into our future. We see a glimpse of the hope to which God has called us. One day we will sing in perfect intonation with the Lamb. One day there will be no more dissonance. But that glimpse should have a profound effect on our lives right now. God’s intention in salvation is to bring us all the way to himself, all the way to the shalom of perfect attunement with him. As we lean into Christ, he intends to do a work within us through his Spirit toward that attunement. We are to be more attuned to him in our singing day-by-day as we learn Christ. We are to be intentional about helping others become more attuned by intentionally pressing them into Christ as well. This is a picture of discipleship. Is it a picture of your life today?

Praying Through This Passage

We should pray that God, though his grace, would allow us to hear any dissonance that exists in the song of our lives … as we press into him through his Word.

We should pray that we would lean into the work of the Spirit that brings our hearts and our lives into attunement.

We should pray the prayer of Paul for the Colossian church (Colossians 1:9-14) in which he desires to see believers filled with the knowledge of his will in order that we would walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him. Re-written, we could pray that God would impress his song on our hearts so much that we would more and more authentically sing in tune with it!

We need to pray that God would give us intentionality in not only seeking the attunement of our own lives, but that we would desire for the same as others. That our singing would become so confident that we would call others to sing Jesus by singing with us!

We need to pray that God would fix our eyes on the hope that one day we will sing in perfect intonation, and that the Spirit would keep our gaze there.

We should pray that day by day our great desire would be to sing the song of the Lamb with our lives wherever we go, so that the melody of Christ would cause many to see him, consider him, and be drawn to join into the chorus.

What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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