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24 March 2020

144,000 Followers of the Lamb

SYNOPSIS:  The priestly company of 144,000 unblemished “males” constitutes a “first fruits” of the coming harvest – Revelation 14:1-5.

Photo by Marc Thunis on Unsplash
By Marc Thunis on Unsplash
The 144,000 “males” previously encamped around the Tabernacle in the Wilderness now appear on “Mount Zion” where they stand with the Lamb. Collectively, they constitute a company of priests, the “first fruits” offered before God of the far greater harvest yet to come.

They have the name of the Father “written on their foreheads.” In contrast, the “inhabitants of the earth” have their foreheads “branded” with the “mark of the Beast.” The “name of the Father” is the equivalent of the “seal of God” that was placed on the “servants of God” while angels prevented the “four winds of the earth from blowimg upon the land, the sea, or any tree.” To the church at Philadelphia, Jesus promised to write the “name of his God” on the forehead of every believer who “overcomes” (Revelation 3:10-127:1-8).

(Revelation 14:1-5) – “And I saw, and lo! the Lamb, standing upon the mount Zion—and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand, having his name and his Father’s name written upon their foreheads. And I heard a sound out of heaven, as the sound of many waters, and as the sound of loud thunders; and the sound which I heard was as of harp-singers harping with their harps, And they sing, as it were, a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. And no one was able to learn the song, save the hundred and forty-four thousand who had been redeemed from the earth. These are they who with women were not defiled, for they are virgin. These are they who follow the Lamb whithersoever he is going. These were redeemed from mankind, as a firstfruit unto God and the Lamb; and in their mouth was found no falsehood—faultless they are.” – (The Emphasized Bible).

This second vision of the company of 144,000 men follows Chapter 13 in literary sequence in order to contrast this group to the “inhabitants of the earth” that take the mark of the Beast. By doing so, they have rendered homage to the Dragon. However, the 144,000 “males” follow the Lamb “wherever he goes.”

The Dragon was last seen standing on the sand of the seashore to summon the Beast from the sea. Now, John sees the Lamb standing on “Mount Zion.” To discuss whether this refers to “heavenly” Zion or to the old city of Jerusalem is to miss the point of the contrasting groups (Revelation 12:17, 13:15-18, 14:1-5).
The book of Revelation continues to build its portrait of the Lamb on a messianic passage from the book of Psalms, (“Yet I have installed my king—on Zion, my holy mountain”). Thus, the Messiah appointed by Yahweh had begun to reign from “Mount Zion” (Psalm 2:6).
The present passage details how the Messiah overcomes and reigns over the rebellious nations; moreover, he does so as the Lamb. In the preceding two chapters, the Dragon had his shot at the Lamb and his people. God now responds by providing victory through His anointed one, the Lamb (see also - Exodus 19:5Daniel 7:21, Revelation 12:1-5).

(Psalm 2:1-6) - “Wherefore have nations assembled in tumult? Or should peoples mutter an empty thing? The kings of earth take their station, and grave men have met by appointment together — against Yahweh and against his Anointed One [saying]: Let us break asunder their bonds — and cast from us their cords! He that sitteth in the heavens will laugh — My Lord will mock at them: Then, will he speak unto them in his anger, and in his wrath confound them: Yet I have installed my king — on Zion my holy mountain” – (The Emphasized Bible).

The 144,000 followers of the Lamb on “Zion” is identical to the group described in the first half of Chapter 7, the servants “sealed with the seal of God.” The number 144,000 is symbolic, a multiple of 12, a number that elsewhere is linked to the people of God. But the symbolism is fluid. In Chapter 7, the 12,000 “males” from each of the “twelve tribes of Israel” became the “innumerable multitude” of men and women redeemed by the Lamb from “every tribe and nation.” In the present passage, the emphasis is on a company “purchased from the earth,” not the tribes of Israel (Revelation 7:1-1721:12-21).

The “voice of many waters” is a verbal link to the opening vision of one “like a son of man” that John saw walking among the seven churches of Asia, a figure now confirmed to be the Lamb.

The description of them that “sing a new song” and “harp their harps” is a link to the vision of the Throne where the twenty-four elders and the 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.” Only those redeemed by the Lamb understand this “new song,” they are in a special relationship with him (Revelation 5:8-10Exodus 19:5-6).

Photo by NASA on Unsplash
Photo by NASA on Unsplash
The 144,000 followers of the Lamb consist 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”). The same group of redeemed men and women is in view seen previously before the Throne.

Agorazō is from the Greek noun for the marketplace or the agōra. The use here is a deliberate contrast to the activities of the Beast from the Earth that prevented all who refused to take the Mark of the Beast from participating in the economic activity of society (“that no man might buy or sell [agorazō], save he that had the mark”). The “Beast” has no authority to prohibit the Lamb from “purchasing” whomever he desires.

This group of the redeemed is portrayed as a priestly company, just as the redeemed company celebrating previously before the Throne was designated a “kingdom of priests.” Likewise, the innumerable multitude before the Lamb in Chapter 7 was arrayed in white priestly robes and engaged in rendering divine service before the Throne.

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 and taught Israel “to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit fornication.” They are designated “males” because they are “priests of God” (Revelation 2:14Numbers 25:1-4).
They are also the “first-fruits,” just as the Levites were the “first-fruits” that represented all the men of Israel. Likewise, the 144,000 redeemed men are the “first-fruits” of the final harvest of men and women to be “reaped” before the “final hour” (Revelation 14:15-16).
The 144,000 men follow “the Lamb wherever he goes.” Above all else, this refers to their perseverance in suffering and testimony, 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 who have his Father’s name, sing his “new song,” and who do not “render homage” to the Beast are well-equipped to war with the Beast. However, they overcome in a paradoxical manner through faithful witness and even martyrdom, not with physical violence or political machinations.

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