God’s Plan For The Ages – 31 – The 144,00 – Revelation 14:1-5

Rapture and Second Coming Of Christ

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Introduction. The first five verses of this chapter of Revelation have a significant relationship to the teaching of the first eight verses of Revelation Chapter 7. See the summary of this post to read about that correlation.

Revelation 14:1-5 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Lamb and the 144,000

1 Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads. 2 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. 3 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. 4 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 from among men, being first fruits to God and to the Lamb. 5 And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God.

Comments: BibleGateway.com/MacArthur Study Bible notes.

14:1 a Lamb. See note on 5:6. Mount Zion. The city of Jerusalem, where Messiah will return and plant His feet (cf. Pss. 2; 48:1, 2; Is. 24:23). one hundred and forty-four thousand.See note on 7:4. name. The counterpart to the mark of the beast. It is the stamp that will identify the 144,000 as belonging to God (see note on 13:6).
Note: 1:4 seven churches which are in Asia. Asia Minor, equivalent to modern Turkey, was composed of 7 postal districts. At the center of those districts were 7 key cities which served as central points for the dissemination of information. It is to the churches in those cities that John writes. who is and who was and who is to come. God’s eternal presence is not limited by time. He has always been present and will come in the future. the seven Spirits. There are two possible meanings: 1) a reference to Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the 7-fold ministry of the Holy Spirit (Is. 11:2); or 2) more likely, it is a reference to the lampstand with 7 lamps (a menorah) in Zechariah—also a description of the Holy Spirit (see notes on 4:5; 5:6; Zech. 4:1–10). In either case, 7 is the number of completeness, so John is identifying the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
Note: 5:6 Lamb. Hearing of a lion, John turns to see a lamb (lit. “a little, pet lamb”). God required the Jews to bring the Passover lamb into their houses for 4 days, essentially making it a pet, before it was to be violently slain (Ex. 12:3, 6). This is the true Passover Lamb, God’s Son (cf. Is. 53:7; Jer. 11:19; John 1:29). as though it had been slain. The scars from its slaughter are still clearly visible, but it is standing—it is alive. seven horns. In Scripture, horns always symbolize power, because in the animal kingdom they are used to exert power and inflict wounds in combat. Seven horns signify complete or perfect power. Unlike other defenseless lambs, this One has complete, sovereign power. seven eyes…seven Spirits. Cf. 4:5; see note on 1:4.
Note: 13:6 His name. This identifies God and summarizes all His attributes (cf. Ex. 3:13, 14). His tabernacle. This is symbolic of heaven (cf. Heb. 9:23, 24). those who dwell in heaven. The angels and glorified saints who are before the throne of God and serve Him day and night.

14:2 harps. See note on 5:8.
Note: 5:8 harp. These ancient stringed instruments not only accompanied the songs of God’s people (1 Chr. 25:6; Ps. 33:2), but also accompanied prophecy (cf. 1 Sam. 10:5). The 24 elders, representative of the redeemed church, played their harps in praise and in a symbolic indication that all the prophets had said was about to be fulfilled. bowls full of incense. These golden, wide-mouth saucers were common in the tabernacle and temple. Incense was a normal part of the OT ritual. Priests stood twice daily before the inner veil of the temple and burned incense so that the smoke would carry into the Holy of Holies and be swept into the nostrils of God. That symbolized the people’s prayers rising to Him. prayers of the saints. Specifically, these prayers represent all that the redeemed have ever prayed concerning ultimate and final redemption.

14:3 new song. The song of redemption, which is being sung by all the redeemed saints in one gigantic choir. They are rejoicing over the accomplishment of God’s entire redemptive work before Christ’s return (cf. Pss. 33:1–3; 40:3; 96:1; 144:9, 10; 149; Luke 15:10; see note on 5:9). the four living creatures, and the elders. See notes on 4:4, 6.
Note: 4:4 twenty-four elders. Their joint rule with Christ, their white garments (19:7, 8), and their golden crowns (2:10) all seem to indicate that these 24 represent the redeemed (vv. 9–11; 5:5–14;7:11–17; 11:16–18; 14:3; 19:4). The question is which redeemed? Not Israel, since the nation is not yet saved, glorified, and coronated. That is still to come at this point in the events of the end. Their resurrection and glory will come at the end of the 7 year tribulation time (cf. Dan. 12:1–3). Tribulation saints aren’t yet saved (7:9, 10). Only one group will be complete and glorified at that point—the church. Here elders represent the church, which sings the song of redemption (5:8–10). They are the overcomers who have their crowns and live in the place prepared for them, where they have gone with Jesus (cf. John 14:1–4).
Note: 4:6 sea of glass. There is no sea in heaven (21:1), but the crystal pavement that serves as the floor of God’s throne stretches out like a great, glistening sea (cf. Ex. 24:10; Ezek. 1:22). four living creatures. Lit. “four living ones or beings.” These are the cherubim (sing., cherub), those angels frequently referred to in the OT in connection with God’s presence, power, and holiness. Although John’s description is not identical to Ezekiel’s, they are obviously both referring to the same supernatural and indescribable beings (Pss. 80:1; 99:1; see notes on Ezek. 1:4–25; 10:15). full of eyes. Although not omniscient—an attribute reserved for God alone—these angels have a comprehensive knowledge and perception. Nothing escapes their scrutiny (cf. v. 8).
Note: 5:9 new song. Cf. 15:3. The OT is filled with references to a new song that flows from a heart that has experienced God’s redemption or deliverance (cf. 14:3; Pss. 33:3; 96:1; 144:9). This new song anticipates the final, glorious redemption that God is about to begin. redeemed us to God by Your blood. The sacrificial death of Christ on behalf of sinners made Him worthy to take the scroll (cf. 1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:3; 1 Pet. 1:18, 19; 2 Pet. 2:1).

14:4 not defiled with women. An illustration of God’s ability to keep believers remarkably pure in the midst of great difficulty. This phrase indicates that the 144,000 Jewish evangelists will have not only resisted the perverse system of Antichrist, but they will have also resisted all temptations to illicit sex. Cf. 2 Cor. 11:2.follow the Lamb. This indicates partisanship for Jesus Christ. The victorious 144,000 are unwaveringly loyal to Him, whatever the cost (cf. Matt. 16:24; Mark 10:21; Luke 9:23; John 10:27;12:26; 14:15). firstfruits. Like the OT firstfruits offerings, these men will be set apart for special service to God (cf. Deut. 26:1–11). Some see firstfruits as the first large group of redeemed Israel (see note on 11:13), saved much earlier, and representative of more converts to follow (cf. Rom. 16:5; 1 Cor. 16:15), the first fruits of a redeemed Israel (Rom. 11:1–5, 11–15,25–27).

14:5 no deceit. The 144,000 speak God’s truth accurately and precisely, with no exaggeration or understatement (cf. Zeph. 3:13). without fault. Not sinless, but sanctified (see Eph. 1:4;5:27; Col. 1:22).

14:2–5. The 144,000 sing a new song of worship and redemption. The four beasts and elders are the same as in chapter 4. That the 144,000 were virgins and not defiled with women may indicate either (literally) celibacy and sexual purity (cf. 1 Cor. 7:25–38) or (figuratively) moral and religious purity (refusal to submit to the false religious system of the False Prophet). They follow the Lamb and reign with Him. As the firstfruits of the redeemed, they are the first to be saved during the Tribulation period (following the Rapture of the church—cf.7:1–4). A characteristic of the redeemed is that they are without guile or falsehood (cf. 21:27; 22:15; Zeph. 3:13; John 1:47). This may refer to their rejection of the false claims of the Antichrist concerning himself (cf. Rom. 1:25; 2 Thess. 2:4, 11). That they are without fault or blemish means that they are ethically blameless (cf. Eph. 1:4; 5:27; Phil. 2:15; Col. 1:22; 1 Pet. 1:19;Jude 24).

The following narrative is from Bible.org, by Dr. John F. Walvoord, deceased.

The chapter begins with the unusual phrase used several previous times: “And I looked, and, lo.” This expression, which could also be translated “And I saw, and, behold,” introduces the vision of the Lamb standing on Mount Zion accompanied by 144,000. The expositors are faced with a number of important decisions in the understanding of this passage among which is the meaning of Mount Zion. J. B. Smith joins with Bengel and Hengstenberg in interpreting Mount Zion as the figurative expression referring to heaven, finding a similar usage in Hebrews 12:22.252 Smith holds that the expression “mount Sion” always refers to the heavenly Jerusalem whereas “Sion” without “mount” always refers to the earthly city, a rather arbitrary conclusion.

To interpret this as a heavenly city, however, involves numerous problems which Smith and others do not take into consideration. If this group is the same as the 144,000 of chapter 7, they are specifically said to be sealed and kept safely through the tribulation. In this case, they move on into the millennial earth without going to the third heaven, since this is the meaning of the seal (cf. 7:3).

Further, the argument that the 144,000 must be in heaven as they hear the song before the throne may be disputed. There is no statement to the effect that they hear the song, only the declaration that they alone can learn it. The reasons for making Mount Zion a heavenly city in this passage are therefore lacking a sure foundation. Preferable is the view that this is a prophetic vision of the ultimate triumph of the Lamb following His second coming, when He joins the 144,000 on Mount Zion at the beginning of His millennial reign.

The determination of the place of this action is also correlated with the question whether the 144,000 in chapter 14 are the same group as in chapter 7. Walter Scott expresses the opinion without giving any substantiation that the 144,000 of chapter 14 are of the tribe of Judah and therefore to be distinguished from the 144,000 in chapter 7.253 There is no evidence whatever in the passage that this group is limited to Judah, and it would be most strange to have two groups of exactly 144,000 in the end time, especially when 12,000 of those in chapter 7 are also of the tribe of Judah. The preferable view, therefore, seems to be that the 144,000 in this chapter are the same as in chapter 7. In their first mention they are seen at the beginning of the great tribulation. In their second mention in chapter 14, they are seen still intact, preserved by God through the fearful days of persecution and standing triumphantly with the Lamb on Mount Zion at the beginning of the millennial reign.

The best manuscripts indicate that the expression “having his Father’s name written in their foreheads” should be “having his name, and the name of his Father, written on their foreheads.” By this expression they are clearly identified as belonging to both the Father and the Son. In chapter 7, the seal is mentioned as simply being the seal of God, whereas here we have more detail. There is no good ground for imagining that the seal here is a later development and dissimilar to the earlier seal. J. B. Smith offers this view on the theory that in chapter 7 the 144,000 are not Christians and do not become Christians until chapter 14.254 There is little to support this conclusion. The difference in the two descriptions is that one is general and the other specific. As Seiss points out, their identification with the Father is their mark of being saved Jews; their identification with the Lamb reveals their salvation through faith in Christ; their position on Mount Zion a place of security, blessing, and glory in the earthly Jerusalem in the millennial kingdom.255

In verse 2, a new facet of the vision is given to John and he records hearing a voice from heaven. The voice is described in most majestic terms as being similar to the sound (Gr.,pho„ne„) of many waters and comparable to the sound of a great thunder. John also hears the voice of harpers harping with their harps (lyres). In verse 3 they are described as singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. This scene seems reminiscent of chapters 4 and 5 though the expression “from heaven” is not in some manuscripts. The preponderance of evidence seems to indicate that this is indeed a heavenly scene which John is seeing “in the Spirit” while his body is on earth. If the 144,000 are on earth in Zion, who then are the company in heaven? Though the natural questions concerning their identity are not clearly answered in the text, the heavenly group are probably the martyred saints of the tribulation, in contrast to the 144,000 who are on earth and do not suffer martyrdom. Both groups, however, experience the trials of the great tribulation and therefore are alone worthy to enter into the song of redemption recounting their victory over their enemies and praising God for His grace which has numbered them among the redeemed.

Chronologically, the song John hears is their hymn of praise in heaven during the time of the great tribulation, but the same song is echoed by the 144,000 who stand triumphantly on Mount Zion after the tribulation. As is true of the rest of the vision in this chapter, the chronological order is not maintained, but rather different subjects are brought into view pertaining to the general theme of the ultimate triumph of God. There seems to be a definite connection between the new song that is sung and the ascription of praise (7:10) in which the martyred dead cry out to God, “Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.” Different in character but also a new song is that of the twenty-four elders in 5:9-10. In chapter 14, the song is sung before the four living creatures and the elders; in chapter 5 the elders themselves sing the song. In the reference to the 144,000 as redeemed from the earth, the thought seems to be that both those in heaven and on earth have been redeemed, that is, purchased by the blood of Christ and delivered from their enemies, one group through martyrdom, the other group by divine preservation through the tribulation.

Returning to the subject of the 144,000 in verse 4, John describes them as “not defiled with women, for they are virgins.” This description is not explained in the context but has been taken variously as referring to necessary abstinence from marriage in the critical days of the tribulation when a normal marital life for a person true to God is impossible, or as referring to spiritual purity, that is, they are not defiled by love of the world or compromise with evil, but keep themselves pure in a world situation which is morally filthy. In like manner Israel is referred to frequently in the Bible as “the virgin the daughter of Zion” (2 Kings 19:21; Isa. 37:22), as the “virgin daughter of Zion” (Lam. 2:13), and as the “virgin of Israel” (Jer. 18:13; 31:4, 21; Amos 5:2). In the New Testament also, the term “virgin” is used of both men and women as in 2 Corinthians 11:2 in reference to the church as a bride.

The possibility that their virgin character signifies their spiritual purity primarily is indicated in the next statement describing them as those “which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.” Here again it is obviously in the earthly scene, as the 144,000 of Israel do not ever go to heaven during their natural lifetime. The third statement also introduced by “these,” as the two previous affirmations, repeats the thought that these are redeemed from among men as the firstfruits to God and to the Lamb. Again the word for redeemed is a form of agorazo„, as in verse 3, meaning “to purchase.” In what sense is this company “firstfruits” (Gr., aparche„)? The term “firstfruits” seems to refer to the beginning of a great harvest, here to the beginning of the millennial kingdom. The 144,000 are the godly nucleus of Israel which is the token of the redemption of the nation and the glory of Israel which is to unfold in the kingdom.

The description of the 144,000 closes with the statement that they are without guile and without fault. In saying that they have no guile (Gr., pseudos), the thought is that there is no falsehood or especially no false religion in them (cf. use of the word pseudos in Rom. 1:25; Rev. 21:27; 22:15). This large number has been kept utterly clean from the false religion of the great tribulation. They are also described as without fault, that is, blameless and without stain, in contrast to those who are apostates, described as “faults” or “blemishes” using the same root (Gr., amo„sos) as in 2 Peter 2:13. How important this makes the life and testimony of any believer who seeks to emulate these who in this most trying time are found in no compromise with error and no defilement of their purity. Christians in the present age are exhorted to be “without blame before him” (Eph. 1:4), “without blemish” (Eph. 5:27; 1 Peter 1:19), “unblameable” (Col. 1:22), “without spot” (Heb. 9:14), and “faultless” (Jude 24). All of this is in the sight of God, though the expression in verse 5 “before the throne of God” is not in the best manuscripts.

Important Notice

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In summary:

There is a great example of the sovereignty of God that is shown in opening verses of the 14th Chapter of Revelation, as they are related to the opening verses of Revelation Chapter 7. In Revelation 7:1-8, we see 144,000 Jews who were sealed by God to be His servants. In verses one and three of the 14th chapter we see the same 144,000 servants of God still alive on earth, which means that they were protected by God to survive the atrocities of the Anti-Christ, as well as any other sources of genocide, that will take place during the Tribulation. In the 14th chapter, verse 3, those Jews were said to be “redeemed” from the earth; the NASB says they were “purchased” from the earth. God was responsible for that redemption, or purchase, of those former unbelieving Jews. Those same Jews had been left behind when the rapture of the church took place. These Jews had not been believers in Christ, but, we see that God “chose” them to be His servants , also known as missionaries, and that He chose them for service and for salvation. It was “God’s choice,” with nothing else, or nobody else, being involved in the process. The born again believers in Christ had been saved “from” the tribulation (Revelation 3:10). The 144,000 Jewish missionaries were saved “through” the tribulation. It was God’s sovereign election that “caught up” (1 Thes 4:16-17) the saints who would miss the tribulation, and would go directly to the Presence of God. It was also God’s sovereign election that sealed and protected the 144,000 Jewish missionaries (from the twelve tribes of Israel, Rev 7:4), who will share the message of Christ “during the tribulation.” It is important to understand that once the rapture of the church takes place, there will be no one left on earth who has the Presence of the Holy Spirit dwelling within their spirit and influencing them with righteousness. As it has been said, “all Hell will breakout throughout the whole world.” The tribulation will not be confined to the Nation of Israel. The great apostasy that is mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 will the apostasy of all apostasies. Because of the removal of born again believers from the Earth, there will be a rebellion of mankind toward God and an abandonment to lawlessness. The Anti-Christ will not be the only enemy of God; there will also be other purveyors of lawlessness who will be wreaking havoc to promote their evil desires. Consider the condition that our world would be today if there were no one living on earth who had been born again, having the Presence of God’s Holy Spirit dwelling within their spirit and influencing their daily life. Consider the condition of a world where none of its citizenry, nor of its leaders, would be born again believers in Christ. It will be by the presence and witness of the 144,000 Jewish missionaries, who will be situated throughout the four corners of the earth during the Tribulation, that there will be dispersed Jews who will be born again and come to know Jesus as their Messiah, and then be uprooted from their lands by God, and be taken to Israel (Ezek 36:24-28/Matt 24:31/John 3:3).

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