The Book of Revelation Chapter 14:1-5

Revelation 14:1‑5  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 9
In the two previous chapters we have the record of Satan's activity through his chosen instruments in his attempt to place his yoke upon all the inhabitants of the earth. All his malice and hatred are directed against God, against His Christ, and against His people. For the moment, as also when our Lord was crucified, he seems to be victorious; he has asserted his power, and his sway is almost undisputed. Evil, and evil in its own native blackness and corruption, is triumphant.
In contrast with this, chapter 14 opens like a magnificent sunrise after a stormy night. It is a burst of light which contains the promise that all the clouds that had obscured the scene will be swept away. "And I looked, and, lo, a " (rather, the) " Lamb stood on the mount Zion, and with Him an hundred forty and four thousand, having His Father's name  written in their foreheads." (v. 1) This, as is often the case in this book, is an anticipative vision, revealing the end for the comfort of the saints, before the judgments are detailed which lead up to this point. In chapter 13 the frightful oppression and persecution of the saints is seen; and in this vision they are displayed as having been tried and come forth as gold, and, as the result, enjoying a special place of association with the Lamb.
Several points in the vision must be observed. As above indicated, it is the Lamb, the Lamb already known as presented in this book. But here He is seen in a new place. In chapter 5 He is revealed as standing in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders. Here He stands on mount Zion. John saw Him first " as it had been slain; " and we have thus three successive stages marked: first, the cross; next, His exaltation to the throne of God; and, lastly, His being set as God's King upon His holy hill of Zion. (Psa. 2) For Zion is the seat of royal grace from David's time and onwards (see 1 Chron. 21; Psa. 48; compare Heb. 12:2222But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, (Hebrews 12:22)); and consequently Christ is here displayed in the glory of His kingdom. The vision overleaps all the intervening sorrows and judgments, and, as in the scene on the mount of Transfiguration, permits us to behold His majesty and glory in the seat of His earthly rule and dominion.
There are with Him a hundred and forty-four thousand. Who are these? They are not, though the same symbolical number: those sealed from the twelve tribes in chapter 7; for the elect remnant out of the ten tribes will not be restored to the land of Israel until after Messiah shall sit upon the throne of His glory; whereas these are the preserved of the two tribes already in the land, those who will have passed through the sorrows of the period before the appearing of Christ, and hence termed " the first-fruits unto God and to the Lamb." (v. 4) The ten tribes will not pass through the unparalleled troubles of which the Lord speaks in Matt. 24:15-2815When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) 16Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains: 17Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: 18Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. 19And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! 20But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: 21For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. 23Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. 24For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. 25Behold, I have told you before. 26Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. 27For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 28For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. (Matthew 24:15‑28), all of which will have their center in Jerusalem, and be, as to the Jews, confined to the land. In the restoration from Babylon, of which we read in Ezra, only two tribes were concerned, saving individuals of other tribes, Judah and Benjamin.
It was to these two tribes in the land that Christ was presented; but when He came to His own His own received Him not, and on them therefore lay the guilt of His rejection and crucifixion. By these same two tribes, that is, by the mass and their leaders, antichrist will be received; and thus it will be upon them that the chastisements of that day will descend, when the tribulation will be so great that no flesh would be saved, if for the elect's sake the days were not shortened. The 144,000 are these elect, the true remnant, who, in the midst of the apostasy of their brethren, as well as of the seduction and oppression of the antichrist, cleave to God and His truth, and are saved out of this time of Jacob's trouble. (Jer. 30:77Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it. (Jeremiah 30:7)) Their weeping had endured for the night, but joy had come in the morning with the interposition of their glorious and looked-for Messiah. (See Isa. 25:99And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation. (Isaiah 25:9)) In this scene we see the full issue of God's grace through their sufferings, in their being made the companions of the Lamb amid the glories of His kingdom.
They are distinguished, moreover, by having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. The name, or the mark, of the beast had been written on the foreheads (or on the hands) of his followers-sign of their apostasy, and of the degrading yoke which they had accepted; but these, the 144,000, have the name of the Lamb, the expression of their allegiance and of their moral likeness to the One they follow, and the name of His (not their, because they, whatever their place, have not the Spirit of adoption) Father written on their foreheads. They had openly confessed the name of God and the Lamb, and had suffered, short of death, as Christ had suffered through the confession of the name of His Father. (See John 5:17,1817But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. 18Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God. (John 5:17‑18)) They had therefore come into His former place on earth, in regard to His testimony, however feebly they had occupied it; and now in the abounding grace of God their foreheads are adorned with the names of the Lamb and of His Father, a proclamation to all of their past fidelity, and of the rich recompense which had been awarded to them by Him for whom they had suffered.
It is in connection with the appearance of this elect remnant with the Lamb on mount Zion that John "heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and" (he says) " heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: and they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand which were redeemed from the earth." (vv. 2, 3) Who these heavenly choristers are we are not told. The voice is "from heaven," and the song is sung before the throne, and before the four living creatures, and the elders. But whoever may be these celebrants of praise, the subject would seem, from the connection, to be that of the victorious issue of the sufferings of this chosen remnant, traced back, doubtless, to God's grace and the blood of the Lamb, (Compare chapter 5: 9, 10) This is the more evident from the fact, that no one could learn that song but the 144,000, for none but they had passed through the sorrows or had experienced the grace connected with their deliverance. The song suited to them in their circumstances was raised in heaven; and they, as in communion with the mind of God, caught up and repeated the strains. Happy are the saints of any period when they are enabled to apprehend in any measure the mind of God concerning His beloved Son, and when, with adoring hearts, they can utter, in the power of the Spirit, His worthiness and praise.
Their characteristics follow. First, they had not defiled themselves with women; "for they are virgins." (v. 4) In a scene where all had corrupted themselves they had been kept pure, pure from all the contamination by which they had been surrounded, guarding themselves from all the seductions of antichrist, and keeping themselves alone for Him for whom they waited. They were, it might be said, espoused to Christ, and they walked as chaste virgins amid surrounding defilements. (Compare 2 Cor. 11:2,32For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. 3But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:2‑3)) Then they "follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth." That is, they are His companions in His earthly kingdom. In the Epistle to the Hebrews we read of the companions of Christ (chap. 1: 9; chap. 3: 14); but these "companions" embrace all Christians; whereas in our scripture they are confined to this suffering but now victorious remnant. Surely they will also confess that the sufferings of the past are not-worthy to be compared with the glorious position on which they will have then entered. To have the privilege of being the constant and intimate attendants upon the King in His glory will be the sum and perfection of earthly bliss.
Moreover, they "were redeemed" (bought from) among men, being the first-fruits unto God and the Lamb. As with every class of the redeemed in all ages and dispensations, so with these, the blood of Christ alone constitutes their ransom price. Sold through their sins (Isa. 1: 1) into the hand of the enemy, nothing but the precious blood of Christ can redeem any from his power; and hence it is that the fact of the redemption of this elect remnant is here emphasized. As thus "bought," they are the first-fruits unto God and the Lamb, not first-fruits in the sense in which Christ is (1 Cor. 15), or His people (James 1:1818Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. (James 1:18)), but the first-fruits of the new scene into which they have been introduced by Messiah's appearing and kingdom. In this way they become, as it were, the nucleus of the chosen people when God sets His King upon His holy hill of Zion. Once more we are told, that "in their mouth was found no guile." (v. 5) The question is put in Psa. 15, "Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy bill?" The answer (among others) is, "He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart." It is with this last characteristic that the 144,000 correspond, and they are upon God's holy hill of Zion with the Lamb. Having truth in the inward parts, no lie was found in their mouth. Lastly, it is added, "They are without fault." The word rendered "without fault" is the same as is applied to our Lord in Heb. 9:1414How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:14), and 1 Peter 1:1919But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: (1 Peter 1:19), and given as "without spot." They are therefore meet for the presence of Him whose companions, through His grace, they are. But if spotless, and hence qualified to stand in His immediate presence, it could only be, let it be forever repeated, through the applied efficacy of His own most precious blood. That, and that alone, cleanses from all sin.
What encouragement, it may be added, does this blessed scene afford. In chapter 13, as has been remarked, Satan and Satan's power are to the outward eye triumphant; but here we behold the issue in the exaltation of the Lamb in the very place where antichrist had ruled; and in the safety, blessing, and triumph of His redeemed from among men. His sheep never perish, for none can pluck them out of His hand.
E. D.