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04 September 2019

The 144,000 Standing on Zion - (Revelation 14:1-5)

The Good Shepherd leads the Sheep
The 144,000 reappear in Revelation 14:1-5, this time standing on “Mount Zion” together with the Lamb. They have the Father’s name written on their foreheads, in contrast to them who take the mark of the Beast. The Beast’s mark is placed on the right hand or forehead of its victims, “branded” not “written.”
The Father’s name written on the foreheads of the Lamb’s followers is the equivalent of the “seal of God” described previously in Revelation 7:3. To the church at Philadelphia, Jesus promised to write the name of God upon the one who overcomes (3:12).
This second vision of the 144,000 follows chapter 13 in literary sequence and contrasts this group to the “inhabitants of the earth” who take the mark of the Beast. By doing so, they rendered homage to the Dragon. The 144,000 instead, follow the Lamb wherever he goes.
The Dragon was last seen standing on the sand by the sea, now the Lamb is standing on “Zion.” To discuss whether this refers to “heavenly” Zion or the old city of Jerusalem is to miss the point.
Revelation continues to build its picture on key Old Testament passages, in this case, Psalm 2:6 (also Exodus 19:5 and Daniel 7:21) where Yahweh’s anointed begins to reign from Mount Zion (cp. Revelation 12:1-5). Revelation now details how the Messiah overcomes and reigns over the rebellious nations and does so as the Lamb. In the preceding two chapters the Dragon had his shot. God now responds by providing victory through His anointed one, the Lamb.
Why do the nations rage and the peoples meditate a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against Yahweh and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sits in the heavens will laugh: The Lord will have them in derision. Then will he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure: Yet I have set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.”
The 144,000 on Zion is identical to the group described in Revelation 7:1-17. The number is symbolical, a multiple of 12 which elsewhere signifies the people of God (e.g., Revelation 21:12-21). The symbolism is fluid. In Revelation 7:1-17 the 12,000 from each of the “twelve tribes of Israel” becomes the “innumerable multitude” of men and women redeemed by the Lamb from every nation. The emphasis now is on a company “purchased from the earth,” not the tribes of Israel.
The “voice of many waters” forms a verbal link to the opening vision of one “like a son of man” who walks among the churches (Revelation 1:12-18), a figure now confirmed to be identical with Lamb.
The image of them that “sing a new song” and harp their harps is a link to the vision of the throne room where the twenty-four elders and four living creatures played their harps and sang a new song in praise of the Lamb for redeeming men from every nation and constituting them a “kingdom of priests” (Revelation 5:8-10; cp. Exodus 19:5-6). Only those redeemed by the Lamb understand this “new song,” they are in a special relationship with him.
The 144,000 is comprised of men and women “redeemed from the earth,” more accurately, “purchased from the earth” (agorazō). This translates the same Greek verb rendered “purchased” in Revelation 5:9 (“You are worthy to take the book, and to open its seals because you purchased us for God by your blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation”). This confirms further that the same group of redeemed men and women is in view that we saw in chapter 5 celebrating before the throne.
Agorazō is from a Greek noun for the marketplace or the agōra. The use here is a deliberate contrast to the activities of the Beast that prevents all who refuse to give it their allegiance from participating in economic activity (“that no man might buy or sell [agorazō], save he that had the mark”). The Beast has no ability to limit the Lamb’s ability “to purchase” whoever or whatever he desires.
This group of redeemed humans is portrayed as a priestly company, just as the redeemed company celebrating before the throne was designated a “kingdom of priests.” Likewise, the innumerable multitude before the Lamb and the throne in chapter 7 were arrayed in white garments or priestly robes and engaged in rendering divine service.
The 144,000 “males” are ritually pure (“they were not defiled with women”). This contrasts them with the Nicolaitans that follow the teaching of Balaam who taught Israel “to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit fornication” (Revelation 2:14Numbers 25:1-4). They are designated “males” because they are “priests.”
They are also the “first-fruits,” just as the Levites comprised the “first fruits” that represented all the men of Israel. The 144,000 redeemed men are the “first-fruits” of the final harvest of men and women for the gospel to be “reaped” before the “final hour” (Revelation 14:15).
The 144.000 “follow the Lamb wherever he goes.” Above all else, this refers to their patient endurance of suffering, persecution and martyrdom, a central theme of the book (e.g., Revelation 12:11, “and they overcame the Dragon by the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, and because they loved not their lives even unto death”).
This priestly company follows the same path as the Lamb. It is an “army” sent into battle in response to the question raised in chapter 13, “who can make war with the beast?” The Lamb and all those who have the Father’s name, who sing his “new song,” and who do not “render homage” to the Beast, are well-able to war with the Beast and overcome it. They overcome in a paradoxical manner, not with physical violence or political power, but through faithful witness and martyrdom.

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