The Song of the 144,000
“Then I looked, and here was the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with him were one hundred and forty-four thousand, who had his name and his Fatherʼs name written on their foreheads. I also heard a sound coming out of heaven like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. Now the sound I heard was like that made by harpists playing their harps, and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one was able to learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been redeemed from the earth. These are the ones who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These were redeemed from humanity as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb, and no lie was found on their lips; they are blameless.”
The “army” on Mount Zion opens chapter 14. Following, again, the pattern seen comparing the previous chapters 6 and 7, chapter 13 ended with those who serve the world, receiving this symbolic mark on their foreheads, signifying allegiance. But here in chapter 14 we have the “12 squared” image (12×12) of the righteous of God being sealed in the foreheads as the symbolic mark of allegiance to Christ. Remember the symbolism of the squared “holy of holies” room in the temple that housed the presence of God? That is the imagery of the people of God in this New Covenant where the Temple is not a building made with human hands, but a spiritual temple with Christ as the Cornerstone, the Apostles as the foundation stones, and the righteous as the “living” stones that are building up a most holy habitation unto the Lord.
Revelation is a simple message portrayed in Old Testament symbolism. It reveals the foreshadowed meaning of those former things that were culminated in the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
There are judgment announcements put on pause at this point in the apocalyptic narrative. The judgments depicted are paused between 11:15 and 14:6-12 to address some other issues. Between these trumpets and bowls of wrath, we see the “woman (Israel) and her offspring (the Church) persecuted by the Beast, and her offspring, the spiritual Israel of God, chose His name (the seal of God) over the world system (the mark of the Beast.)
The 144,000 depicts the “woman’s seed.” Historically, national Israel were God’s people. But there was a rejection of the Son by the masses. Jesus addressed this with the Jewish leaders. He said in response to their bidding of being Abraham’s seed, “Indeed you are Abraham’s offspring (sperma), but you are not of his Seed (teknon)!” Jesus drew a line between natural ethnicity and the spiritual children of God. He told them that God was taking away their covenant, city, temple, and priesthood, and taking the remnant of the Jews who did believe, and was establishing a new order. Notice that the Church was founded upon a remnant of Jews. Everyone in the establishment of the Church were ethnic Jews who became the first of the new Israel of God that Paul declares in Galatians 6:16. Abraham’s Seed is inclusive of all people who accept Jesus Christ. It has nothing to do with nationality in regards to this New Covenant. If it was simply those in the natural lineage of Abraham, would not Ishmael’s lineage count as well? What about his grandchildren’s lineages? Esau’s offspring? Obviously not.
To reject Christ’s work of the Holy Spirit is to blaspheme the Holy Spirit. Jesus cursed Jerusalem, the Judaic Temple, Judaism, and it’s priesthood. He DID NOT curse the Jewish people. BIG DIFFERENCE! God loves people. All people. But He hates Antichrist religions that oppose His Truth and Son.
This 144,000 denotes the fullness of all who truly follow and believe Christ. Remember, 12 is the number of established government, which is also the people of Christ. The most probable rendering was that they overcame by martyrdom, whether literally, or in heart by laying aside the life of this world to the fulfillment of the command, in dying to this world system. Like the Lord, the Lamb, they defeat the Serpent in crushing its head, by allowing it to strike their heel. Have you noticed that after we have suffered our worst, we always come through in victory, because His strength is made perfect in our weakness?
Why here are they pictured on Mount Zion? In the Old Testament, Zion denoted the “Temple Mount”, or Jerusalem. The 144,000 are the people of God, as we’ve established. They are heirs to the “New Jerusalem”, or city of God; Natural symbolism of a spiritual habitation with Christ. The number fits the dimensions of the suggested spiritual city, which is ‘CUBED’, 12,000 stadia cubed, with walls “144” cubits. Obviously the New Jerusalem and immortality is not speaking of a literal city in Israel, nor a literal Temple on the Temple Mount. All of these terms are Old Testament allusions reapplied to a spiritual world that is beyond human explanation.
We see more familiar imagery associated with a theophany of God, such as a ‘voice/sound of many waters’ which we have covered to redundancy in previous chapters.
The harp imagery alludes to the Old Covenant priesthood. This is the time of the New Covenant saints, a priesthood after the order of Melchizedek, to lead the worship before the throne of Christ. They have overcome the world, as He did, and have been exalted to minister to Him in worship in His Kingdom. They celebrate the victory of war, in that Christ has defeated the enemy of God, and they have overcome as well through the path He paved for them to follow Him. Remember how Israel praised God after coming through the Red Sea, singing victory songs to God in Exodus 15? Well this imagery comes from there. Just as Believers are said to have a new name no one else knows, so here they are given a new song never sung by any others in all of creation history. It all spells a new beginning for those who truly overcame the world in Christ Jesus; the Spotless Ones.
These innumerable saints that are signified by the number 12 squared (144), are those of the Old Covenant loyal to Yahweh and those of the New Covenant who actually walked the self-sacrificing path of Christ on earth, dying to the world, purging themselves of the sin nature, and its appetites, and who loved not their lives unto death. They kept their “garments” clean, meaning they lived in holy obedience in word and deed.
Like we discussed in chapter 7, the “virgin” imagery hails from the likes of the Qumran war scroll, where men abstained from sexual activity in times of war, before God. In the Old Testament, Israel was portrayed as a chaste virgin, or God’s bride. Also is the case with the church as Christ’s bride in the New Covenant. But when either are seen as unfaithful, the terminology of “harlot, whore, adulteress, or prostitute” is rendered. That is just more lingo depicting spiritual loyalty, like we see with the conflicting marks, Jerusalem vs Babylon, pure vs soiled garments, etc. All allude to the same point: who we show loyalty to determines how we are viewed, whether Christ, or the Beast.
I am reminded here in the abstinence of sexual relations with women, of the story of King David’s failure with Bathsheba. Remember that her husband Uriah refused to lie with her, in his loyalty to honoring his war time commitments, and his fellow soldiers, when David conspired to cover up her pregnancy with him by having her lie with her husband? Uriah refused, and out of desperation to hide his sin, David had him killed. This is the imagery being projected here in the “not defiling themselves with women” , or virgin wording.
The numerology and allusions here are a war time census being depicted in the number 12, (12,000×12,000), which embodies, not only God’s governmental perfection, but the people of God themselves. Twelve, alongside the cubic aspect of the holy of holies image, comes together to form Old Testament imagery used to allegorically typify the spiritual Temple of the New Covenant, the saints of God; the true Temple.
They had ‘no lie in their mouths.‘ Christians must be faithful, pure, and not double-minded to be engaged in God’s holy war. Divided interests denote wavering between trying to serve Christ and the world (Beast.) God has consecrated true Believers to Himself, to His interests, and purposes. “No lie in their mouths” denotes not saying they’re in Christ while exemplifying something else, and it echoes Zephaniah 3:13, where no lie was found in the mouth of the remnant of end times Israel, which is a contrast with the liars whose fate is destruction in Revelation 21:8.
“The Israelites who remain will not act deceitfully. They will not lie, and a deceitful tongue will not be found in their mouth. Indeed, they will graze peacefully like sheep and lie down; no one will terrify them.”
“But to the cowards, unbelievers, detestable persons, murderers, the sexually immoral, and those who practice magic spells, idol worshipers, and all those who lie, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. That is the second death.”
We saw examples of liars, those who slander Believers in chapter 3:9, and elsewhere where we see those who embrace lies from the spirit of Antichrist, (Look around you today!), and those who use false propaganda like we saw in chapter 13:5-6, and in chapter 11. So these things are the kinds of behaviors that were in view of the writer that would be common in the Great Tribulation that spans from Christ’s ascension to His return. All of this is commonplace of the world, and witnessed daily in all generations.
But “truth speakers” here in verse 5 are referred to as ‘blameless.” They renounce idols and proclaim Christ by their way of living out His law. These are the remnant who profess Christ and actually do His will, compared to the vacillating and wavering liars who dabble a bit in the religion of Christ, but love the world too.
‘Four Heavenly Announcements’
“Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, and he had an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth – to every nation, tribe, language, and people. He declared in a loud voice: “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has arrived, and worship the one who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water!” A second angel followed the first, declaring: “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great city! She made all the nations drink of the wine of her immoral passion.” A third angel followed the first two, declaring in a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and takes the mark on his forehead or his hand, that person will also drink of the wine of Godʼs anger that has been mixed undiluted in the cup of his wrath, and he will be tortured with fire and sulfur in front of the holy angels and in front of the Lamb. And the smoke from their torture will go up forever and ever, and those who worship the beast and his image will have no rest day or night, along with anyone who receives the mark of his name.” This requires the steadfast endurance of the saints – those who obey Godʼs commandments and hold to their faith in Jesus.”
Here we see an angel with the eternal gospel in verse 6, an angel declaring the demise of Babylon in verse 8, the announcement of judgment in verses 9-11, and the encouragement to the saints of Christ in verses 12 and 13.
The eternal gospel to every “nation, tribe, tongue, and people” is indicative of the message going forth into the earth starting with the Jew first in Acts 2, at Pentecost. The church was born of the Jewish remnant of believers. Every one of the first Christians were Jews, a remnant of national Israel who did not reject Messiah. And from them the command was to “Go into all nations making disciples of all men.” This eternal gospel was released upon the nations to redeem them back to God. Obviously not every person would come to Christ of His own people, so the same would apply to the nations of the earth. But “whosoever will” lay down their lives for Christ would be saved from every nation. The majority generation of Israel that witnessed Jesus in the flesh rejected Him, so it is erroneous to assume that that will change in the future. The New Covenant refers to the “whosoever will” that makes Christ Lord of every nation. The depicted angelic decree here is a call to give an account with our lives who we will serve, whether Christ, or the Beast world system.
“Fallen! Fallen!” is a reference here, and in Revelation 18:2, coming from Isaiah 21:9 where it referred to the literal Babylon of old. Remember, everything in Revelation is symbolism from the Old Testament, reapplied allegorically to create an allusive story to conceal a simple message. “Be faithful to death. I am coming back and My reward is with Me.”
But in antiquity, Jews used “Babylon” as a title to depict Rome, drawing from the 1st Beast’s attributes to signify aspects of the final beast. Note: The Beast of Revelation is a culmination of all of Daniel’s Beasts realized together into one final monstrous force opposing God’s people, and persecuting them to death. This entire holy war is fought without lifting a hand, but rather through following Christ’s example of martyrdom.
Christians also used the imagery of Babylon symbolically, as we see in 1 Peter 5:13…
“The church in Babylon, chosen together with you, greets you, and so does Mark, my son.”
Jerusalem was destroyed and Jews were exiled by both empires, Babylon and Rome, so it was a natural allusion to compare the two. Rome was merely the Babylon of John’s day. John was the one tasked to write this book to the Seven Churches, and signify it with symbolism, so he obviously used the Old Testament text to communicate the current situation he and other Believers had faced under Nero’s cruel opposition to God and His people, that would continue on through the ages in others like Domitian, who was their tormentor at the time of John’s writing. John’s generation fully well understood what John was presenting in his method of writing. They knew their scriptures (Old Testament) well. The imagery itself wasn’t the point. It was merely the package that the point was concealed in.
The cup of Babylon in 14:8 is described as maddening, as the Greek word [θυμός] thymos means. It can also refer to passions relating to adulteries. In Revelation, the term is used to represent God’s anger, even where joined to wine, as seen in 16:19…
The great city was split into three parts and the cities of the nations collapsed. So Babylon the great was remembered before God, and was given the cup filled with the wine made of Godʼs furious wrath.
It depicts the cup of God’s wine as anger against Babylon’s immorality. And as we saw in Revelation 2, all who sleep with her will share in her judgment. All the plagues that will be depicted in chapters 15 and 16, represented by “bowls of wrath” carry this same idea John was using allusions to communicate. Who is Babylon portraying in the apocalypse again? The system of the world we live in, referred to as The Beast. It is the human logic, passions, immorality, financial lusts and greed, false teachings, compromises, and every other thing that is not congruent with the commands of Christ in how we are to live when taking His name upon us. To be in contempt with God doesn’t mean we have completely leaned hard the other way. It can simply be that we have mingled our lives a bit with both. Either way, we are cut off as idolaters. Jesus calls for utter separation from the world’s ideologies and we must surrender to following His example of obedience unto death, laid out in His life in scripture.
Babylon is finally toasted and drinks the consequences of her sin in 16:19. In this narrative, John reveals this wine as ‘undiluted.’ In antiquity, wine was diluted for drinking, except when the sole intent of drinking was to get drunk. Here God’s wine is undiluted, speaking to giving them over to themselves and their desires. “God’s cup” symbolizes His anger throughout scripture, whether temporarily against Israel for their adultery against Him in serving idols and living contrary to His ways, or toward the evil nations for their lifestyles and wickedness. There are a plethora of scriptures on the cup of God’s wrath, but the distinct allusion John refers to here is Jeremiah 51:7, where Babylon was a ‘cup in God’s hands’ that made the nations mad with drunkenness.
Babylonia had been a gold cup in the Lordʼs hand. She had made the whole world drunk. The nations had drunk from the wine of her wrath. So they have all gone mad.
The context of Jeremiah 51:6-9 was that Babylon was due judgment, and there was a call to flee Babylon, or stop partaking in what it represented, and to come out from her and be separate. Hence, John’s use of that story to represent to the seven churches that Believers must resist the Beast, no matter the cost.
Remember, of the 404 verses in the Revelation of Jesus Christ, there are 590 Old Testament verses within them? The story images of Revelation are not to be taken literal. They are a culmination of Old Testament verses creating a symbolic narrative intended with each passage to point the hearer to see the reapplication of those verses to the tribulation they were facing in this day, that would continue until Jesus returned. Evangelical Literalism has brought blindness and guessing to today’s theologies. It is impossible to remove them without the language, culture, context, and worldview of the Biblical writers. But like Babylon, true to form, rather than repent of this, many will merely be defensive of their traditions, critical of their reprovers, and continue in their blind leading of the blind. But as Jesus says many times in this book alone, “Let he who has ears hear what the Spirit is saying to these churches.” In other words, those with real spiritual eyes will see the point of this book and stop the heretical overreach that has prevailed on the best seller shelves of Babel’s Bookstores, where men call things about God, while seeking a name for themselves.
Revelation 14:9-11 declared judgment. In this day of writing, idolatry was advantageous to people. It was sophisticated, powerful, and brought status and wealth. (Think politics and the antithesis it shows to God’s moral character. Then think of the goal of it as a “god”). To withdraw and stand apart from this powerful culture of idolatry had major economic implications upon all who did, as in Revelation 13:17. You were guaranteed ridicule, ostracization, and persecution, as we saw in chapters 2 and 3, and in our own day with the national attack on Christian bakers and clerks for refusing to comply with a Beast standard imposed upon men against God’s moral code. To comply denoted one has taken the Mark of the Beast. To stand with Christ denoted the Seal of God was upon them. The mark is symbolic. The people who have taken the mark, or in other words, have been serving the world have been invited to repent. They can still come over to God’s side and be sealed by God. If you are a child of Babylon, you are still invited to come over to the New Jerusalem through Christ. We saw in chapter 2 that even false prophets were invited to repent, such as those portrayed as likened to Jezebel. These metaphorical narratives show the distinction of two kingdoms in opposition to one another. One side Christ, and the other, the Beast, or world mindset that lives apart from Christ’s law. The mark terminology doesn’t mean someone is incapable of repenting, but rather in what state they stand before God in the present. As long as we repent, and follow Christ, we can be saved.
Sulfur, a.k.a. ‘Brimstone’, verse 10, spoken of here in a metaphorical context of those tormented in the sulfurous lake of fire, alluded to from the story of Sodom, is depicting the judgment of the denizens of spiritual Sodom, since literal Sodom was destroyed by brimstone and fire. This is another past allusion to try to cast understanding on the future judgment of a spiritual entity that is unaffected by natural elements. I mean, can natural fire actually harm a spirit? I say not. Did a natural stone or natural locked door keep Jesus in a tomb, or outside a room? Obviously not. This type of writing is also seen in 1 Enoch, speaking of Hell, in that the writers have God putting the Watchers in this place, and piling sharp rocks upon them. Obviously rocks can’t contain a spirit. LOL. It is merely a style of writing where men attempt to give a natural narrative image to depict a spiritual world they cannot possibly understand.
Also we see in vs 10 that the tormented can see the Lamb and His holy angels. They now are unable to escape the reality of Christ that they once ignored. The point is that the judgment of this moment is inescapable for all who are not found worthy of Christ, and that this separation is forever. In Revelation, the term ‘forever’ means forever, in all applications, whether regarding Christ’s eternality, the reign of the saints, or the eternal suffering of the Beast.
There is a depiction of the resurrection of the righteous and a resurrection of the damned in this book, and corroborated by many New Testament writers. There are two main schools of thought as to the eternity of the damned. As I stand now, I lean toward the eternal punishment of the damned in light of the eternity of the righteous. But I am not opposed to the annihilation narrative of the other dominant view. Scripture has many, many places where the “eternal” language is used for things, such as the Levitical Priesthood, which obviously wasn’t never-ending. So context is king in determining intent of terminologies in the texts. It appears, when looking at the Book of Revelation, in its use of this term, it is used the same way cohesively throughout. Whatever the view one holds, it is a very disconcerting thing to think of standing in judgment on the wrong side of Christ, knowing it was a personal choice to be there. Unlike a natural situation where one may be facing death at the hands of a king who has asked something of you that you cannot do to oppose Christ, this eternal decision was for a person’s free will in rejecting Christ.
“Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: ʻBlessed are the dead, those who die in the Lord from this moment on!ʼ” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so they can rest from their hard work, because their deeds will follow them.” Then I looked, and a white cloud appeared, and seated on the cloud was one like a son of man! He had a golden crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Then another angel came out of the temple, shouting in a loud voice to the one seated on the cloud, “Use your sickle and start to reap, because the time to reap has come, since the earthʼs harvest is ripe!” So the one seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped. Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. Another angel, who was in charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to the angel who had the sharp sickle, “Use your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes off the vine of the earth, because its grapes are now ripe.” So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and gathered the grapes from the vineyard of the earth and tossed them into the great winepress of the wrath of God.”
Following the messages of judgment, verse 13 speaks encouragement to the saints who are expected to remain steadfast in faithfulness to Christ’s Law and refuse to compromise, as seen in verse 12, in contrast to the judgment of verse 11. Either the judgment functions as their vindication, or to fulfill their roles as martyr witnesses to ensure that other people will see their faith and be converted.
Entering into ‘rest’ is a standard way of referring to hope for the righteous after death in ancient Jewish culture. The idea of ‘resting in peace’, a term I have often wondered of its origin, is found often in ancient Jewish funerary inscriptions, and it speaks of rest from ones toil and sufferings. But needless to say, its use is far removed from a spiritual phrase applied to a life of faithfulness to God today, but rather casually used for just about anyone who dies, no matter their testimony in how they served Christ, or not.
The chapter continues to speak of two harvests in verses 14-20. This imagery comes from Joel 3:13….
“Rush forth with the sickle, for the harvest is ripe! Come, stomp the grapes, for the winepress is full! The vats overflow. Indeed, their evil is great!”
The sickle in 14:15-16 is imagery of gathering the harvest, and then followed by the trampling of the nation’s wickedness in God’s winepress. In the Joel passages, these things denote judgement, as is the most likely case here in verses 14-16. There are those who debate this represents the ingathering of those who repent from the Beast way, and come to Christ, but in keeping with John’s process in writing, the prior view is most likely.
The next image of the grapes is clearly indicative of judgment. We have these ‘grapes’ cast into God’s great winepress, evoking the language of Isaiah 63:2-3…
“Why are your clothes red? Why do you look like someone who has stomped on grapes in a vat? “I have stomped grapes in the winepress all by myself; no one from the nations joined me. I stomped on them in my anger; I trampled them down in my rage. Their juice splashed on my garments, and stained all my clothes.”
This hideous image of God trampling the nation, the image of spiritual Babylon, the Beast system and its blasphemous people, is intended to evoke horror and discomfort in us to recognize the seriousness of this eternal judgment. We’ll see the picture of Jesus return in Revelation 19:13 with His ‘cloak dipped in blood.’ Then in 19:15, He treads the winepress of God’s anger. Sin is a very serious thing to God, so much so that He sent His own Son to die for our sins. This final verse of chapter 14 is a really familiar passage to most….
“Then the winepress was stomped outside the city, and blood poured out of the winepress up to the height of horsesʼ bridles for a distance of almost two hundred miles.”
The high rising blood alludes to Ezekiel 32:6, where the writer declares that God will cause their blood to rise as high as the mountains. Is it literal, or typical prophetic hyperbole? LOL! Yeah, probably not literal, (like with everything else in Revelation.) Hyperbolic language saturates the biblical text. It is a really dramatic way of expressing a point (see image below). In this case of blood flowing to the horse’s bridle, it is used to be indicative of a “lot of death.” No, there is not a literal valley with horses trudging through blood up to their eyeballs, but I’m sure the world’s best seller shelves have plenty of books saying otherwise, by the Prophets of Profit, as I like to call them.
The point of it all is that judgment is truly coming and we need to repent, lead others to repent, and be loyal to Christ no matter the cost, and that He is coming back to complete this thing, and His reward to the faithful is coming with Him.