The Most Widely Published Song
TO RECEIVE the widest publication, a song must have appeal. Its words must bring some kind of gladness or comfort or stir strong emotions. Songs sometimes help people to forget, momentarily, their everyday troubles. But most songs do not enjoy long-lived popularity. Like clothing styles, they become outdated, both the words and the music.
However, a few songs have lasting appeal, among these being anthems. National anthems are high on the list and have usually lasted as long as the nations themselves. Generally they have both a religious and a political flavor. The music is vigorous and the words cause emotions to well up in the singer so that in mass singing a tremendous wave of fervor seizes and sways the singing crowd.
Of all the songs ever sung, romantic, national, religious or otherwise, there is one that eclipses them all. Its words have universal appeal and are fraught with the deepest meaning. It appeals to both the reason and the emotions and brings more than transitory relief from troubles, yes, it brings real, lasting comfort and gladness. The music is the music of the heavens—the stars and the spheres—and the song is appropriately sung now and will be appropriate and appealing in all the future, since its theme is as everlasting as the eternal heavenly bodies. The song is a sort of anthem, for it tells of the government of a heavenly source that will bring peace, righteousness, life and worldwide unity to this earth. Already it has received the widest publication of any song, being sung daily in more than 197 lands of the earth, moving more than a million persons to harmonious response and being heard by uncounted millions more.
This song was heard first in a visionary way by the apostle John, who had been exiled for his zealous preaching activity to the Roman penal island of Patmos, off the coast of Asia Minor. Toward the close of the first century C.E. he had one of the most striking visions ever opened to the view of man. He describes the awe-inspiring chorus:
“And I saw, and, look! the Lamb standing upon the Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand having his name and the name of his Father written on their foreheads. And I heard a sound out of heaven as the sound of many waters and as the sound of loud thunder; and the sound that I heard was as of singers who accompany themselves on the harp playing on their harps. And they are singing as if a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the older persons; and no one was able to master that song but the hundred and forty-four thousand, who have been bought from the earth. These are the ones that did not defile themselves with women; in fact, they are virgins. These are the ones that keep following the Lamb no matter where he goes. These were bought from among mankind as a first fruits to God and to the Lamb, and no falsehood was found in their mouths; they are without blemish.”—Rev. 14:1-5.
The angel who brought this vision to the apostle John explained that it was given by Jehovah God to his Son Jesus Christ, who sent it “to show [God’s] slaves the things that must shortly take place.” (Rev. 1:1) Now, 1,870 years later, with all the events as recorded in history as a backdrop, we can examine the vision to identify the singers and see just what makes the song appealing to so wide an audience.
WHEN AND WHERE THE LAMB “STANDS”
“And I saw, and, look! the Lamb standing upon the Mount Zion.” Immediately we are compelled to look back to the city of Jerusalem in Palestine. Who is the symbolic Lamb? He is none other than the resurrected, glorified Jesus Christ. He is identified at Revelation 5:5 as “the Lion that is of the tribe of Judah, the root of David.” When Jesus was on earth he was of the line of David and therefore had the legal right to the throne. Mount Zion was where the citadel of Jerusalem was situated when David was king of Israel. In the vision, however, Jesus does not come to be sacrificed as the Lamb. Nineteen centuries ago he was resurrected from death to life “in the spirit” and was laid in heavenly Zion as a ‘sure foundation,’ as the symbolic Tried, Precious Cornerstone. (1 Pet. 3:18; 2:6) He is seen standing upon the Mount Zion. This means that he has begun to rule, the term being used in the Bible to mean that a king has taken power to reign. (Dan. 12:1) David, in the second Psalm 2, speaks about the opposition of nations to the rule of God’s “anointed one” (Jesus Christ), and then portrays Jehovah in anger, saying: “I, even I, have installed my king upon Zion, my holy mountain.”—Ps. 2:2-6; Acts 4:19-30.
How would this help us to understand the time of fulfillment of John’s vision? Well, it was the kingdom of the line of David that was overturned in 607 B.C.E. God said there would be a period of seven times in which the nations would exercise rule, during which period Jerusalem would be trampled on by the Gentile nations. Jerusalem, being the location of “Jehovah’s throne,” upon which David sat, came to be a symbol of Jehovah’s kingdom rulership in “the kingdom of the heavens.” (Matt. 4:17) When the times of the Gentiles ended, which time came in 1914 C.E., literal Jerusalem on earth was not liberated, but what ancient Jerusalem symbolized was restored to the one “who has the legal right,” namely, Jesus the Son of David, in the heavens.—Ezek. 21:27.
Something in modern times paralleling events of 1,900 years ago gives us additional help in locating the fulfillment of John’s vision in the stream of time. On the Pentecost of 33 C.E., which was about three years eight months after being anointed with holy spirit, Jesus Christ began, in turn, to anoint with holy spirit men who were to be joint heirs with him, footstep followers of his who would, like him, maintain a course of integrity down to a sacrificial death, with prospects of reigning with him in the heavens.
According to the time parallel, then, three and a half years from the early autumn of 1914, at which time the Gentile Times ended, would bring us to the spring of 1918, shortly after the day of the Jewish Passover. At that time the faithful followers on earth celebrated, not the Passover, but the anniversary of the Lord’s Evening Meal, just as Jesus had instituted it back there at his last passover day. The same book that contains the vision of the singers helps us to see what was due to happen then, because this book says that after the installation of the king in power on heavenly Zion the time would arrive for the faithful footstep followers of Jesus to receive their reward. We read:
“The seventh angel blew his trumpet. And loud voices occurred in heaven, saying: ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will rule as king forever and ever.’ And the twenty-four older persons who were seated before God upon their thrones fell upon their faces and worshiped God, saying: ‘We thank you, Jehovah God, the Almighty, the one who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and begun ruling as king. But the nations became wrathful, and your own wrath came, and the appointed time for the dead to be judged, and to give their reward to your slaves the prophets and to the holy ones and to those fearing your name, the small and the great, and to bring to ruin those ruining the earth.’”—Rev. 11:15-18.
A CHORUS OF UNEQUALED SIZE
“And with him a hundred and forty-four thousand.” This is the number of the associates with Christ in his heavenly rulership, once stated as a number as unknown to man as the stars of heaven and the sands of the seashore, but here revealed. That it is a literal number is shown in Revelation chapter 7, where, after giving the definite number of 144,000, at Re 7 verse 9 it speaks of another group, a “great crowd” whom no man was able to number. The number 144,000 could not be symbolic, for, if so, it would mean nothing. It might as well have no number at all, for there would be no contrast between it and the later-mentioned “great crowd,” which is numberless.
How would the Christian “prophets” and “holy ones” who had died be rewarded and stand with him on the heavenly Mount Zion? By being resurrected just as he was, not in a fleshly body, for in flesh they could not stand with him in heaven in the presence of Jehovah God. The apostle Paul explains this fact to us in 1 Corinthians 15:35-50, where he tells us that “flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom,” but that these dead ones, having gone down in death in a corruptible, physical body of weakness, would be raised up with a spiritual body, incorrupt, bearing the image of the heavenly One. Their resurrection, therefore, would be in a spiritual body and be invisible to human eyes. While the great majority of the 144,000 have lived and died, yet at present there remains a “remnant,” who, while completing their faithful course on earth, are highly privileged to join in the song and to see that it is published to a great earthwide audience.
TO WHOM DO THE SINGERS BEAR WITNESS
“Having his name and the name of his Father written on their foreheads.” Having the name of the Lamb Jesus Christ and the name of his Father written on the forehead, where it can be plainly seen by all, symbolizes the fact that they are slaves of Jehovah God and Jesus Christ. They do not have the name of Babylon on their foreheads as if they were slaves of Babylon and belonged to her. What the apostle John saw in the foreheads of the 144,000 was no doubt the sacred Hebrew tetragrammaton (יהוה), for the name of the Father (YHWH), or in Anglicized pronunciation, Jehovah. The 144,000 therefore must be Jehovah’s witnesses during their earthly course and now continue to be his witnesses in heaven.
“And I heard a sound out of heaven as the sound of many waters and as the sound of loud thunder; and the sound that I heard was as of singers who accompany themselves on the harp playing on their harps.” What a chorus! A hundred and forty-four thousand singers, not with earthly voices, but with heavenly voices, singing in perfect harmony, accompanied by the pure music of the harp. The extent to which the song would be heard is indicated by the fact that to John it had the mighty sound of many waters and the sound of loud thunders. Never in the history of the universe has there been such a song nor such an audience, millions of angels in heaven listening and the entire earth to hear its joyful, encouraging strains. We shall see how the singers accomplish this, by Jehovah’s direction and power.
THE GRAND THEME OF THE SONG
“And they are singing as if a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the older persons.” So the song was not known and sung before 1914. It is new. The 144,000 integrity-keeping joint heirs with Christ are the first ones to vocalize it. Because of its singers and its content it is the greatest and most far-reaching anthem of the universe, for it is about the kingdom of God as the government that has been established since 1914. It has the loftiest theme, the greatest truth taught in the Bible: it is about Jesus Christ reigning in Kingdom power. Jesus Christ the King in Jehovah’s kingdom is the great Truth in fulfillment of all the prophetic utterances of the Bible, and he is the one who himself gave a fine testimony before Pontius Pilate that he came to earth to bear witness to this great truth. It concerns first the most important One of the Kingdom organization, for the song itself contains words addressed to the Lamb of God: “You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, because you were slaughtered and with your blood you bought persons for God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and you made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will rule as kings over the earth.” (Rev. 5:9, 10) The 144,000 singers will have the abounding joy of reigning with Christ and sharing in his rule over the earth, bringing the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant, which provided that all families of the earth were to bless themselves by means of the Seed, Jesus Christ. To these singers the commands of Psalms 96:1, 10; 98:1, 5; and Ps 149:1, 2 would apply:
“Sing to Jehovah a new song. Sing to Jehovah, all you people of the earth. Say among the nations: ‘Jehovah himself has become king. The productive land also becomes firmly established so that it cannot be made to totter. He will plead the cause of the peoples in uprightness.’” “Sing to Jehovah a new song, for wonderful are the things that he has done. His right hand, even his holy arm, has gained salvation for him. Make melody to Jehovah with the harp, with the harp and the voice of melody.” “Praise Jah, you people! Sing to Jehovah a new song, his praise in the congregation of loyal ones. Let Israel rejoice in its grand Maker, the sons of Zion—let them be joyful in their King.”
“And no one was able to master that song but the hundred and forty-four thousand, who have been bought from the earth.” No one else can master the song because these ones sing the song of their own personal experience, that no other creature but the Lamb and they themselves have had. Others can certainly hear the song and learn from these who have mastered the words of it. But to these is given the privilege of applying the song to themselves as those who will reign over the earth. Because they have been bought from the earth, they undergo, when resurrected to heaven, a change in nature, and are no longer a part of mankind. They are no longer human creatures of flesh and blood.
“These are the ones that did not defile themselves with women; in fact, they are virgins.” Since these are to reign with Christ, also to be priests with him, and be his bride, the rule must be followed that was laid upon the high priest in Israel, namely, that he was allowed to take only a virgin for a wife. Therefore, the high priest of Jehovah, Jesus Christ, must have only a virgin for a heavenly bride. (2 Cor. 11:2) That is why the 144,000 must not defile themselves with women, but must keep their virginity. They do not commit spiritual harlotry or adultery through a religious union or marriage with womenlike religious organizations of this world. This explains for us the fight that Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, has fought against these faithful footstep followers of Christ Jesus. For nineteen centuries, at the instigation of the Devil, she has used every means in an effort to cause them to become unclean prostitutes and therefore rejected by the heavenly Bridegroom. Ancient Babylon made a very accurate pattern of what her antitype, Babylon the Great, has done, namely, that virgins of ancient Babylon, before they could legally marry, had to go to the temple of Venus (Ishtar) and prostitute themselves to her by yielding themselves to a paid-for violation of their virginity by the highest bidder. These 144,000 footstep followers of Jesus have, like their Master, suffered the cruelest persecution, torture and death to maintain their virginity. Now they are rewarded. Certainly they have a reason to sing this song in fortissimo and with tones of greatest happiness.
“These are the ones that keep following the Lamb no matter where he goes.” On earth they dedicated themselves to Jehovah God and were baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the holy spirit, and they have followed the Son, turning down any opportunities for honor and acclaim and for political rulership. They have resisted all efforts of Babylon the Great to draw them into a compromise of interfaith or of meddling in the affairs of the nations of this world. Because of Jesus’ great love for the members of his bride class and according to his promise to those who would be faithful to him to the end, he has returned to take them to himself. Now they are able to follow him into the heavens as he administers his Kingdom rule, even when he goes up against Babylon the Great and finally removes the political organizations and Satan himself to make way for the blessing of all families of the earth.—John 14:3; Rev. 2:10.
THE SONG TO BE YET MORE WIDELY HEARD
“These were bought from among mankind as a first fruits to God and to the Lamb, and no falsehood was found in their mouths; they are without blemish.” They are like the firstfruits that the Jewish high priest took from the wheat harvest and offered to Jehovah God on the day of Pentecost at the temple in Jerusalem. Since they are like the firstfruits, all the rest of the wheat harvest must picture the rest of men of flesh and blood. The “first fruits” are taken from among men and women, but they are, as a body, spoken of as engaged to marry the heavenly bridegroom and be his bride.—Lev. 23:15-20; 2 Cor. 11:2.
They do not hold onto the false teachings of Babylon or propagate her lies and false religion. They have stuck to the truth of God’s Word when on earth and qualify to sing the heavenly song. They are presented to their Bridegroom chaste and without blemish. (Eph. 1:4; 5:27) Therefore, we can rely on them as the members of the heavenly government that will rule the universe and bring order and sanity into the affairs of men so as always to hold on to righteousness. The kingdom of God and its new order will never fade or deteriorate or relax its high principles in exercising its authority throughout the earth. The small and diminishing remnant of this 144,000 class are, for the present, gathered in a spiritual sense to the heavenly Mount Zion on which the Lamb stands, singing in harmony with the heavens and teaching and training the “great crowd” of earthly “other sheep” in every nation to call the attention of all people to the song and its meaning.—Heb. 12:22; Rev. 7:9; John 10:16.
Nevertheless, the song is not sung without opposition. Just as at Babylon’s very inception she was the enemy of God’s people and fought against earthly Zion, so Babylon the Great has not given up the fight. Though she has heretofore suffered complete defeat in trying to corrupt and cause blemishes in the 144,000 members of the bride, still she tries in every way to stop the song’s publication. Encouragingly, in the book of Revelation, or Apocalypse, the long-drawn-out enmity of Babylon the Great is pictured as coming to an end in her everlasting destruction and the glorious triumph of the much-persecuted Zion. In succeeding articles we shall consider how the climax of this hostility is reached. Meanwhile, we shall give close attention to the universal song being sung and will do all we can to aid honest-hearted persons to learn its tremendous import and to feel the intellectual and emotional impact of this song so that they will be moved to respond with the earthwide cry: “Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.”—Rev. 7:10.
[Graph on page 183]
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ANOINTED WITH SPIRIT RESURRECTED FROM
TO BE KING THE DEAD
29 30 31 32 33
EARLY FALL SPRING
1914 1915 1916 1917 1918
BEGINS TO RULE IN RAISES JOINT HEIRS TO
KINGDOM POWER HEAVENLY LIFE