CHAPTER FOURTEEN contains three parentheses: (1) The Lamb and 144,000; (2) The Three Angels; and (3) The Harvest of the Earth. The previous chapters are all gloom and doom, but this one offers a ray of hope. This chapter is an interlude before a new outpouring of God’s wrath, like chapter seven, which revealed the sealed 144,000 Israelites and the countless multitudes of Gentiles saved in the Tribulation.
The words “I looked” or “I saw” signal important visions John was given in the Apocalypse. These are employed with all the seven visions of this chapter.
This chapter brings to conclusion the material found in chapters twelve through fourteen. The material in this chapter is arranged thematically instead of chronologically, preparing the way for the climax, which begins in chapter fifteen. This chapter is like looking into to the many facets of a diamond as it pictures the Triumphant Christ in diverse rays of light. It is a panoramic picture of the Tribulation Period, illustrating the Lamb’s victory.
The Lamb and the 144,000
STANDING ON MOUNT ZION (14:1-5). John saw the sealed evangelists from the twelve tribes of Israel standing on Mount Zion, a metaphor for the earthly as well as the heavenly Jerusalem.
Remember the people you purchased of old, the tribe of your inheritance, whom you redeemed—Mount Zion, where you dwelt (Psalm 74:2).
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly (Hebrews 12:22).
Here is the scene that takes place around the Throne in Heaven with harpists, the four living creatures and the elders. The 144,000 appear to be raptured; they “had been redeemed from the earth” (verse 3). Does this signify the rapture or partial rapture of the Church?
On the other hand, John appears to be back on the earth since he heard a sound from or out of heaven. Since the Lamb and 144,000 are standing before him, Mount Zion might be the earthly Jerusalem. If so, the 144,000 have gone through the entire Tribulation and have entered the Millennial Kingdom with Christ in their temporal bodies. If raptured, they have entered with a spiritual body. They would be the only redeemed Jews that will be suddenly delivered from the Great Tribulation. In either case, not one has been lost!
This scene is thrilling because it reminds the believer that Christ is coming and He will stand triumphant on Mount Zion with His people. God’s plans and purposes will be fulfilled!
The 144,000 sealed Israelites are most likely portrayed by the five wise virgins in Christ’s Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) and by the invited guests, dressed in wedding clothes, in the Parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22:1-14). These go into the marriage banquet of the Groom (Christ) and His bride (the Church) and then the door is closed to the unprepared. Others hold the five wise virgins represent all believers during the Tribulation Period.
THE NAMES ON THE FOREHEADS is a reminder the 144,000 belong to God; it stands in contrast to the mark of the Beast on the unsaved. There are two names written on their foreheads: The Lamb’s name and His Father’s name. The Lamb has many names in Scripture; but “Jesus” is His name! “Yahweh” is the most likely name for the Father’s name.
SOUND OF RUSHING WATER, THUNDER, HARPS AND A NEW SONG (14:2-3) adds excitement. It is a song of redemption as God accomplishes His heightened anticipation of the final redemptive acts of Christ’s return. It is one no man can learn but the 144,000, implying they have an experience that no other man of any other company has ever had. This new song is similar to the one sung in Revelation 5:9-10, indicating the reign of Christ and His saints has arrived (Psalm 96). This parenthesis is a flash-forward to Revelation 19 and 20.
CHARACTER OF THE 144,000 (14:4-5). The 144,000 did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. Obviously, the idea is to picture their purity of character. This does not refer to virginity. This passage cannot be advanced in favor of celibacy, whether among the clergy or laity, or in favor of monastic principles in any form; for the thing that is specified is that they were not “defiled with women,” and a lawful connection of the sexes, such as marriage, is not defilement. These are saved Israelites who have not polluted themselves with the idolatrous and immoral religious system of the great prostitute of Revelation 17.
FOLLOWERS OF THE LAMB who go wherever He goes denotes their faithful obedience to Christ. May God help us to do likewise!
PURCHASED AND OFFERED FIRSTFRUITS to God and the Lamb is like the firstfruits offerings of the OT (cf. Deuteronomy 26:1-11). The 144,000 represent not the whole of Israel, but only a portion of the great harvest to come (a first installment); they are marked for a unique service to God and the Lamb.
NO DECEIT AND BLAMELESS. No lie was found in their mouths signifies that they speak God’s Truth accurately, with no exaggeration or understatement. What a contrast to the Antichrist’s lies and deceitfulness! Blameless is not perfection or sinless but sanctification (Ephesians 1:4; 5:27; Colossians 1:22).
Historicists hold that Mount Zion is the heavenly place of the departed saints or a symbol of the true Christian Church. The new song is the doctrine of the Reformation and the undefiled are not necessarily virgins or unmarried (Matthew 24:19; 1 Corinthians 7:25-35) but those who are celibate in marriage. The 144,000 are representative of the redeemed.
Preterists find this vision as reminiscent of the second Psalm. Despite all the efforts of the Dragon and the Beast to eliminate the Church, the Judean believers stand secure with the Lamb in victory. Dating Revelation before the fall of Jerusalem, they believe the writer of Hebrews had this scene in mind when he wrote of the heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:22). The 144,000 are those who refuse to associate with the harlot (Jerusalem or Rome).
Idealists see the 144,000 standing with the Lamb in heaven, but are uncertain of their identification. The new song is a song of redemption like Moses’ song in Exodus 15. Some think the 144,000 comprise all the saints of the entire dispensation with none to follow.
Futurists identify the 144,000 with those sealed in chapter seven. They are the firstfruits of a larger number to be harvested from the earth. Mount Zion is either the literal mountain in Israel or the one in Heaven.