Wednesday, October 13, 2021

51: The Revelation - The 144,000 (Revelation 14:1-5)


Revelation 14 introduces the most triumphant group of men the world will ever know. They will emerge from the worst holocaust in history, the tribulation, battle weary but triumphant. The 144,000 will survive both Satan’s wrath and God’s judgments on the sinful world. Nothing will be able to harm them, because God will seal them (7:3–4).

These 144,000 will not be the only ones redeemed during the tribulation. A great host of others, both Jews (Zechariah 12:10–14; 13:1, 9; Romans 11:26–27) and Gentiles (6:9–11; 7:9, 13–14; Matthew 25:31–46) will be saved. Many will die as martyrs during the savage persecution unleashed by Antichrist. Those who will live through the horrors of the tribulation will enter the millennial kingdom. But the 144,000 Jewish evangelists are unique because all of them will survive. When Christ returns and stands on Mount Zion, they will stand with Him in triumph.

THE 144,000

Their Power

"Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads." (Rev. 14:1)

The phrase “I looked, and behold” or its equivalent appears frequently in Revelation to introduce startling, dramatic events (verse 14; 4:1; 6:2, 5, 8; 7:9; 15:5; 19:11). What took John’s attention was the awe-inspiring sight of “the Lamb … standing on Mount Zion.” The appearance of the Lamb on Mount Zion is a monumental moment in redemptive history, foretold in Psalm 2:6–9.

The text also describes the 144,000 as having “His [the Lamb’s] name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads.” Unbelievers will receive the mark of the beast (13:16–17). The 144,000 will have the mark of God placed on their foreheads (7:3) for their protection. Satan will desperately seek to kill these fearless preachers, but God will not permit them to be harmed. They will enter the millennial kingdom as living men. Most likely, the 144,000 will continue their evangelistic work throughout that thousand-year period. While only redeemed people will enter the kingdom, the children born to them (Isaiah 65:23) will not all believe. In fact, there will be enough unregenerate people by the end of the millennium for Satan to lead a worldwide rebellion against Christ’s rule (20:7–10). Therefore, Scripture speaks of salvation during the millennium (Isaiah 60:3; Zechariah 8:23)—a salvation the 144,000 will no doubt proclaim.

Their Praise

"And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth." (Rev. 14:2–3)

Standing with the Lamb on Mount Zion, the 144,000 will join in the heavenly song of redemption. With all the the trouble they have faced, one might expect them to be too sorrowful to sing. However, they will joyously praise the Lord for their protection and triumph.

This is not the first time John heard a voice from heaven (Rev. 4:1; 10:4, 8; 11:12; 12:10), nor the last (verse 13; 18:4; 19:1). The voice he heard was very loud and continuous, “like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder” (cf. Ezekiel 43:2; Revelation 1:15; 19:6).

The mighty voice was not mere noise. It had a musical quality, “like the sound of harpists playing on their harps.” The reference to harpists and harps suggests that the voice expressed joy (2 Samuel 6:5; 1 Chronicles 13:8; 15:16, 28; 2 Chronicles 5:12–13; Nehemiah 12:27; Psalms 33:2; 71:22; 144:9; 150:3). Heaven will resound with loud praise when Jesus returns in triumph.

The new song sung in heaven is the song of redemption. The angels will join the Old Testament saints, the raptured church, and the redeemed tribulation martyrs in praising God for salvation. All heaven will overflow with praise because God’s redemptive work culminating in the return of Christ is accomplished.

John notes that “no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth.” Why the song is restricted to the one hundred and forty-four thousand is not stated. However, it is clear that the focus is upon the praise of Jesus for His redemptive work.

Their Purity

"These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste." (Rev. 14:4a)

The worship of Antichrist during the tribulation will be unspeakably vile and perverse. In the midst of that darkness the 144,000 will shine forth like beacons of purity. Despite the rampant sexual sin that surrounds them, they will not be defiled with women, but will keep themselves chaste. That the specific sin that they will avoid involves women indicates that sexual purity is in view here, not detachment from the corrupt world system. What it means is that they will stand apart from the sin of their culture.

Their Partisanship

"These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes." (Rev. 14:4b)

The 144,000 are further characterized as the ones who “follow the Lamb wherever He goes.” The Oxford English Dictionary defines a partisan as “one who takes part or sides with another … a devoted or zealous supporter.” The triumphant 144,000 will be completely loyal to the Lamb, no matter the cost.

It is such loyal, devoted followers that Jesus seeks. In Matthew 16:24 He said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”

Their Purpose

"These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb." (Rev. 14:4c)

John explains that the 144,000 “have been purchased from among men.” But while all believers have been purchased by God, the 144,000 were purchased for a special purpose. In the Old Testament the first fruits were offered to God to be used in His service (Deuteronomy 18:3–5). The 144,000, like the first fruits offering, will be set apart for divine service. The purpose of their lives will be to serve the Lord by proclaiming the gospel to the lost.

Their Precision

"And no lie was found in their mouth..." (Rev. 14:5a)

The 144,000 will not propagate Satan’s lies, but will speak God’s truth. In all generations, triumphant Christians are characterized by “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Knowing the vital importance of “accurately handling the word of truth,” they will “be diligent to present [themselves] approved to God as [workmen] who [do] not need to be ashamed” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Their Perfection

"...they are blameless." (Rev. 14:5b)

Because they will trust in God’s power and lead lives characterized by purity, the 144,000 will be blameless. That does not, of course, mean that they will be sinless, but they will be above reproach, leading godly lives before all who see them.