Rev. VanOverloop is pastor of Georgetown Protestant Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Michigan.
These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.
What is the security of the child of God in the last days? Revelation 13 describes the Antichrist: the beast and its false prophet. The descriptions of both the beast and the false prophet are frightening. The abilities and strengths given to Antichrist are formidable. The false prophet will be able to cause all, small or great, rich or poor, free or slave, to receive the mark of the beast. It is only with this mark that anyone may buy or sell. The power of the evil one to control buying and selling is a most frightening prospect. Will any believer give in to the demands of Antichrist? Will we be able to stand in that day?
The answer is found in Revelation 14. This chapter begins with a vision of heaven where we see the Lamb and all the elect enjoying the blessedness of heaven (Rev. 14:1-3). They are singing in victory. What is most interesting is that the elect people of God are described as the 144,000. This is a reference to those who were sealed, that is, secured in salvation (Rev. 7). Over against all the power of Antichrist, those who are sealed by God may be assured of their salvation. Not even the tremendous power of Antichrist will be able to take away their salvation or draw them away from the Hand which holds them. The powers against us are great. But greater is He whose seal we have on our foreheads.
John’s vision begins with his seeing the 144,000 singing in heaven (Rev. 14:1-3). What follows is a description of the 144,000 who dwell securely in heavenly glory (Rev. 14:4, 5). One of the four descriptions is that “these are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.”
This describes God’s people as to their essence, not as to their consistent practice. While they were on the earth they did not perfectly follow the Lamb. But God saw them as always essentially in the Lamb, as one with Him. And those one with the Lamb essentially follow Him. It was the goal after which they always strove when they lived on the earth. Those who are singing in heaven are those who on earth followed the Lamb.
What is very striking is that the One they follow is the Lamb. This is obviously a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ. The security of God’s people is that they follow their Savior and Lord, not in His capacity as Lord and King, but as Lamb. According to our flesh we would like to follow a king. We like to follow those who win, who are first. But the salvation of God’s people is that they follow the Lamb. Over against Antichrist stands the Lamb. It is in His capacity as Lamb that Jesus Christ obtained and maintains the salvation of His people. This means defeat—to the physical eye, from the viewpoint of this earth. And this means apparent defeat for those who follow Him. If the leader is the Lamb, then those that follow Him are sheep. How humbling! But also how comforting!
They follow the Lamb in their driving motive.
In all that He did, the Lamb had as His motive this: love! He loved the Father who had sent Him, and He loved those given Him of the Father. There was no limit to His love, either for the Father or for the sheep. His love of His Father drove Him to obey Him—even unto death. His love was obedience. That was the primary evidence of His love. Because He loved His Father, He did what the Father willed. And He loved His own; He loved them more than He loved Himself. His love of His own made Him love them to the end (John 13:1), even though it meant the horrible cross.
Love is the mark of the new birth. Love shows that the life of the Lamb is within. Love is the proof that their faith is genuine. “He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love” (I John 4:8).
For those who follow the Lamb, loving as He loved means obeying His and their Father. Whatever the Father commands, the Lamb and His followers want to obey. Not their will, but His will be done on earth as it is done in heaven. It is our love for God that makes us desire to obey Him. The Lamb’s love motivates us to obey God in all of our life (I John 5:2).
One of the commandments of the Father is that the followers of the Lamb love one another. “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (I John 4:11). Therefore, out of love for and obedience to the Father, the followers of the Lamb love one another. This obedient love governs all their actions toward each other. As the Lamb loved and loves their fellow-saints, so His followers love.
Following the Lamb wherever He goes means a life of service.
The Lamb’s life was to serve. First, He served God. His life was one of obedience. It was His food and drink to do His Father’s will. The high point of the Lamb’s life on earth was not any one of His miracles or His speeches, but His obedience. His was a life of active obedience. He came to do, not His own will, but the will of Him who sent Him.
Following the Lamb, we also must be obedient, doing whatever God commands of us. It is not enough that we know the way and talk about it. We must also walk it. There is no more effective sermon than a Lamb-follower obeying his heavenly Father, and doing it in grateful joy. The joy of God’s people is the privilege they have to do their Father’s will.
The Lamb’s obedience was evidenced chiefly in a life of service. The Lamb laid aside His garments, took a towel, and served by washing the feet of His disciples (John 13:4). He declares that He came into this world, “not to be ministered unto, but to minister” (Matt. 20:28). It is indeed fitting that the Lamb is frequently referred to as “the Servant of Jehovah.”
It is only in the school of the Lamb that God’s people learn to serve. That is because when we follow the Lamb, then we learn to be humble. The Lamb was “meek and lowly in heart.” He called His people to “learn of me” (Matt. 11:28). Jesus humbled Himself in the greatest possible way—from the lofty position of being equal to God to the position of a servant, who then died the worst possible death (Phil. 2). Jesus was not ashamed to call us His “brethren.”
The humility of those who follow the Lamb must be evident in the way they view themselves and others. Humility in Lamb-followers is that they look on others as being better than themselves. It means that they do not seek to find others with whom they can compare themselves favorably, but that they see themselves primarily in relationship to the Almighty and perfect God. They cower in the corners, conscious that they deserve only the worst from the God of heaven and earth. They humbly present only one plea, “Be merciful to me, the sinner.” This humility in relationship to God manifests itself in that they see themselves as the least of all saints. Their humility is the power to endure the shortcomings of others because the humble one regards himself as the least worthy.
The Lamb’s obedience meant that He endured all things. The Lamb of God denied Himself. He sought not to do His own will, but the will of His Father. In the depths of Gethsemane’s garden He spoke from the highest point in His life, “not my will, Father, but thine.” He declared plainly, “I seek not my own glory” (John 8:50). The Lamb “pleased not himself” (Rom. 15:3).
The Lamb died for a people who “should no longer live unto themselves” (II Cor. 5:15). It is when “none of us liveth to himself” (Rom. 14:7) that we show we have a right and true understanding of the meaning of the cross of Christ. Denying ourselves means that we consciously realize that we have nothing on which to rely but God alone. It is a committing of ourselves to Him. And it means that we submit our wills to Him. God justified and sanctified the wills of Hisown precisely so that they might do His will.
That the Lamb endured all things means that His whole life consisted in constantly laying down His life. In all of His daily struggles He offered Himself to God. And each struggle prepared Him for the greatest sacrifice. He endured when He was rejected by His own. The Lamb endured when He was misunderstood by His own disciples and when His family thought He was insane. He endured when the leaders of the nation of Israel declared Him a dangerous fanatic. And He was only doing His Father’s will.
Following the Lamb whithersoever He goes means that we too must endure griefs.
As an apostle in the early church Peter knew what it was to suffer wrongfully, to be misunderstood, to be the subject of gossip. He declares that we are worthy of praise if we, “for conscience toward God, endure grief, suffering wrongfully” (I Pet. 2:19). Peter shows every follower of the Lamb that “even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (I Pet. 2:21, 23). Following the Lamb means that we suffer. This suffering we must endure for God’s sake, knowing His purposes are many, great, and high (Is. 55:9).
Following the Lamb also leads to glory.
It was in the way of humble obedience that the Lamb was highly exalted and given a name above every name. That was the Lamb’s way to glory. It is also ours. Only the way of the Lamb’s footprints leads to glory for us.
First, let us realize in the midst of our sufferings and humble obedience that we never step where the Lamb did not also step. The way is not unknown to Him. All along it we see His footprints. He is “acquainted with all our ways” (Ps. 139:3). “In that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted” (Heb. 2:18).
Second, it is only in the way of the awareness of our own weakness that we see God’s great strength and all-sufficient grace. The cloud of witnesses may have lost their physical lives, but they were given the grace to bear much suffering, and by being defeated in an earthly sense they learned that they were more than conquerors. The assurance of victory in Christ never comes in the way of physical victory, by physically defeating our foe. It is ours only by faith, not by sight.
Has God led you in a difficult way? Or is He presently leading you through a valley? In doing so, has He taken from you all on which you depended? This is the way God leads to glory. He shows us Himself and the power of His grace. It was precisely at the moment that Judas departed in order to betray Jesus, that the Lamb said, “Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him” (John 13:31).
The preparation to face Antichrist in the last days is not by doing something special or different. Every believer is equipped to face Antichrist the same way he is equipped to face any temptation or danger in this life. By following the Lamb now, we learn how to follow Him in the last days. Follow the Lamb wherever He goes. Follow the Lamb to glory.