CHAPTER 14:1-5 CONTINUES THE NARRATIVE
It is clear that the chapter division is in the wrong place. The first five verses of Chapter 14 show those with the PROPER mark on their foreheads — the overcomers. It completes the story of Chapter 13. If this were not so, Chapter 14, about the harvest, would have the Church complete at the beginning of the harvest!
VERSE 1 “Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads.”
AND I LOOKED: Here, again, John uses his reliable focus changer. Since Rev 13:11 we have been concentrating on the history and effects of the 2-horned beast and its interaction with the fortunes of the 10-horned beast. Now we look at the class who refused to receive the mark.
AND BEHOLD: This “Behold” is all important as a lesson to the saints. The way of faithfulness — separate from beasts, image, and their markings — is clearly laid out along with the glorious results.
THE LAMB: the one to whom we were introduced in Chapter 4, and the one who (in Rev 13:8) is not interested (for now) in “those who dwell on the earth.”
STANDING ON MOUNT ZION: Standing is a position of action. Zion is the spiritual seat of the Kingdom (Psa. 50:2; Psa. 128:5; Isa. 2:3.) The kingdom is, in this picture, ready to begin in its fullest sense. (See Obad. 21.)
AND WITH HIM: in glory; the harvest is ended.
ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY-FOUR THOUSAND: The literal number of the body of Christ.
HAVING HIS NAME AND THE NAME OF HIS FATHER: The KJV, unfortunately, leaves out “his name (i.e. the Lord’s name).” Note that these saints don’t have a “mark;” they have NAMES. It is notable that it is NOT Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! (i.e. a Trinity as some would imagine). It is also possible that the saints have BOTH of these names because (as represented in Chapters 4 and 5, 12:1, etc.,) they have had their characters developed NOT just by the New Testament writings alone, but also by the Old Testament writings which center upon the Father more than the Son.
WRITTEN ON THEIR FOREHEADS: To summarize this as “intellectual appreciation” falls far short of the intent of this passage. First of all, these saints have the NAMES (characters) of Father and Son written on them. This is not intellectual (although it INCLUDES what their minds know.) The forehead symbolizes the total being — the soul. It is out front where all can see it. And what is seen imprinted on these saints is the character they have emulated. Note also that while the beasts were not particular whether marks were in hand or forehead, God IS particular. A mark on the hand is insignificant, insufficient, even inconsequential. (Recall once again what the mark upon the right hand represents; it represents one’s support or cooperation. Apparently one’s support or cooperation is not enough), The NEEDED mark is a NAME (a completed character.) And THAT mark can be only on one place: the total being, the soul, the “forehead” of the individual.
VERSE 2 “And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps.”
AND I HEARD: Once again John re-focuses our attention:
A VOICE FROM HEAVEN: Beginning here and progressing through Verse 3, there are many difficulties of interpretation. For instance:
(1) How many voices are there? The Greek seems to show only one in Verse 2 — the one which is LIKE three things: water, thunder, and harpists. Unfortunately, Verse 3 says, “they” sang. Is it the harpists? Are “they” (harpists) collectively the ONE VOICE of Verse 2? (Of course, voice can legitimately be translated SOUND; therefore, John may have heard a SOUND from heaven.)
(2) Harps were earlier (Rev 5:8) connected with the 24 Elders. This is NOT the case here since (Rev 14:3) THESE harpists play BEFORE the Elders.
(3) Only the 144,000 can LEARN this song. Who, then, is teaching them? Clearly, it cannot be anyone who has “learned” it. The two possibilities seem to be:
(a) Either the voice IS that of the 144,000 who have learned the song and who are singing it,
(b) The voice is God’s who is teaching it to the 144,000 who learn it. This second option does NOT seem possible since God would not sing it “before the throne.”
The conclusion, then, seems inescapable that the voice IS the collective voice of the 144,000. The following interpretation is based on this reasoning.
AND I HEARD A VOICE FROM HEAVEN: When John says, “And I heard,” he is re-focusing our attention to something. That something is apparently the 144,000 just mentioned in Verse 1 who are on Zion with the Lamb. The point here is to show WHO it is who has overcome the beast and image influences. FROM HEAVEN seems to refer literally to the spirit realm since this is here where the glorified saints are (Verse 1.)
The VOICE is now likened to three things which apparently represent three periods in the experience of the Church. This is difficult of interpretation. Waters, thunder, and harps are hardly symbols which belong together! It is for this reason that we feel the three symbols reflect THREE DIFFERENT TIMES in the Church’s experience.
When the church reaches MOUNT ZION, but before the peaceable kingdom comes, it can look back to its ORIGINS (the sea class, hence waters); it can look at its then- current RESPONSIBILITIES (the noisy – hence thunderous – destructive of the old order); and it can look forward to its KINGDOM WORK (the happy harmony of a new world — hence the harps.) thus:
WATERS: Where the Church came from — from many peoples (waters). Compare Rev 5:9.
THUNDER: What the Church does upon glorification at the harvest’s end — participating in the thunderous whirlwind with which the age ends. See Rev. 2:26, 27 with Jeremiah 25:30, 31 with a combination of Psalm 77:18 and Job 38:1.
HARPISTS: What the Church will do once the trouble is over — harmonize God for the people.
See Isaiah 14:7 and Psalm 30:5 (margin = singing.)
VERSE 3 “They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth.”
AND THEY SANG A NEW SONG: Just as the prophecies (5, 8, and 9) could sing a “new song” when, at the first advent, the Lamb had fulfilled an important portion of their predictions, so now; the saints can sing a new song when ALL of the Second Advent prophecies have reached their climax. But this song is different in one special way. It is PERSONAL. It is the result of having endured and overcome. It is something which no one else CAN know except those who went through the training.
BEFORE THE THRONE: This is NOT the position of the saints in most prophecy. But here it is the appropriate place to sing. It is to Him who is on the throne that they owe all thanks and reverence for having been taught this song which no one else can sing. The saints place themselves forever willingly at God’s service (before the throne) even as Jesus Himself wore the girdle of servitude willingly even after His glorification (Rev 1:13).
BEFORE THE FOUR LIVING ONES: — Oh! How we can sing forever about the essence of God’s universally perfect balanced character.
AND THE ELDERS: The saints can, without reservation, sing praise to the help they had from the prophecies — the very foundation of their standing (Rev 12:1). Is this not the purpose Paul had in mind when he wrote Hebrews 11 and 12:1 — perhaps the whole book of Hebrews? The tendency of far too many in modern Christianity to dismiss the Old Testament writings is a testimony that they could not fit into this picture.
AND NO ONE COULD LEARN THE SONG EXCEPT THE 144,000: This song is THEIR testimony. It is unlike anything any other human being has experienced. It cannot be sung until the other side because “How can we sing the Lord’s song, His heavenly anthem in a foreign land?” Psa. 137:1-4.
WHO HAD BEEN PURCHASED FROM THE EARTH: This phrase unites the first “new song” at the beginning of the age (Rev 5:9) with the second “new song” at the end of the age. The first song is sung as the prophecies acknowledge the beginning of the Church. The second song is sung as the completed Church acknowledges the end of the prophecies.
VERSE 4 “These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being first-fruits to God and to the Lamb.”
THESE ARE THE ONES: We now have a clear description of the history and character of the ones who are singing, the ones who have been purchased from the earth. They:
HAVE NOT BEEN DEFILED WITH WOMEN: They have not let association with the “churches” of Christendom soil their robes.
FOR THEY HAVE KEPT THEMSELVES CHASTE: The implication is clear: the “women” (the church nominal) has NOT kept itself chaste. They (it) have committed spiritual fornication by compromising themselves with the governments of this world and /or with the spirit of worldliness. (This may even suggest that the image — while not a church-state union — is a church-state cooperation, agreement, or compromise).
WHO FOLLOW THE LAMB WHEREVER HE GOES: They have never lost sight of whom their head is; nor have they ever been reticent to follow His leadings, however strange the place may be that they are led.
THESE HAVE BEEN PURCHASED FROM AMONG MEN: Here is another clear reference to the sin-offering participation of the saints. We know Jesus purchased the entire human race, yea! All creation. But this “purchased possession” (the entire creation) must wait until this group of saints — recipients of the ransom merit EARLY — might have something to sacrifice jointly with their head. Men WERE purchased; but the saints are PURCHASED FROM AMONG MEN. The implications to the doctrine of the sin offering are inescapable!
AS FIRST FRUITS TO GOD AND TO THE LAMB: Another demonstration of the saints as part of the sin-offering process. The first-fruits are an OFFERING, NOT a part of the general crop.
VERSE 5 “And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God.”
NO LIE WAS FOUND IN THEIR MOUTHS: — Their COLLECTIVE mouth which represents their collective message. They and they alone, were God’s mouthpiece during the Gospel age for the distribution of the TRUTH. No lie was in their message because they conscientiously sought God’s message and not to put forth their own ideas.
THEY ARE BLAMELESS: See Heb 9:14. God has justified them. Who then will then lay anything to their charge? Rom 8:33.
Excerpts taken from the New Albany Notes on Revelation