Without Fault Before the Throne
Chapter 14, of Revelation is a repeat and enlargement of chapter 7. In chapter 7 it was established that the God seals His people just before the time of trouble and the second coming of Christ. At this time, His people are described as spiritual Israelites, the 144,000 and the great multitude. The repeat and enlargement in chapter 14, tells us how the 144, 000 are sealed. They are sealed by having the Father’s name written in their foreheads:
And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads. Rev. 14:1.
The chapter divisions, involving the beasts of Revelation 13, and the 144,000 standing on Mt Zion, could have been constructed better. The present construction, suggests that the 144,000 are an introduction to the three angel’s messages. However, contextually, the 144,000 standing on Mt Zion, should be considered as the conclusion to the previous chapter. And the conclusion to the historical narrative that began with chapter twelve. Chapter thirteen ends, with a description of the people, who receive the mark of the beast, in their foreheads or their hands. Those who receive the mark of the beast are then compared and contrasted with the 144,000, who receive the name of God in their foreheads.
In addition, the situation on Mount Zion, is a natural conclusion to events recorded as far back as chapter 12. In chapter 12, we were introduced to the war between Christ and Satan. We followed the progress of that war through the 1260 years of tribulation, terminating in the deadly wound. We were then shown how the beast was ‘resurrected’ with the assistance of a second beast – the United States of America, and consequently the intensity of the war resumes and continues. The struggle then reaches a climax over authority, allegiance and worship. The struggle concludes with the victory of the Lamb and the 144,000, standing on Mt. Zion with the Father’s name in their foreheads. Therefore, contextually the account of the 144,000 in chapter 14, naturally belongs to the conclusion of the war.
Why are the 144,000 standing on Mount Zion? Answer: because the name Zion has always been used as a synonym for the holy city of Jerusalem:
Nevertheless, David took the strong hold of Zion: the same is the city of David. 2 Sam. 5:7.
Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean. Isa. 52:1.
The 144,000 are the victors in the war against Satan. And the promise for the victors, has always been a new home in the holy city of Jerusalem. This promise was even made to Abraham:
By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Heb. 11:9, 10.
The city that Abraham looked foreword too and the city that the 144,000 would also inherit, is the New Jerusalem described at the end of the Book of Revelation. Mt. Zion is the Old Testament type and the New Jerusalem is the New Testament anti-type.
In addition to Mt. Zion being a type and antitype it is also a fulfilment of prophecy. According to prophecy deliverance takes place on Mt. Zion:
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call. Joel 2:32. cf. Obadiah 1:17.
The 144,000, standing on Mt. Zion, with the Lamb, is the fulfilment of the deliverance that was promised in the Old Testament.
The Song of Moses and the Lamb
After telling us, that the 144,000 are the victors, in the war against the beast, we are told that they sing a song to celebrate their victory, their deliverance and their salvation:
And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I 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. Rev. 14:2.
The beginning of chapter 15, is yet another repeat and enlargement of the 144,000. They are standing before the throne (just like the previous account in Rev. 14). And they sing a song (just like the previous account in Rev. 14). But because it is a repeat and enlargement, we have the addition information, that standing before the throne, they are standing on a sea of glass and the song they sing is called the ‘Song of Moses and the Lamb:’
And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Rev. 15:2, 3.
The song of Moses and the Lamb is sung, because the 144,000 have achieved what Moses and Jesus also achieved. The song of Moses was sung after the victory over the Egyptians (see Ex. 15:1-19). The people had just escaped the land of sin and captivity and had crossed over to the other side. The crossing of the Red Sea was a spiritual baptism and the whole experience of the escape from Egypt and journey to the Promised Land has entered Scripture as a type (see 1 Cor. 10:1-4, 11). Therefore, the song of Moses has also entered Scripture as a type. The song sung by the 144,000 is the antitype.
Jesus followed the same path as His people. His ‘journey’ to the land of captivity and death, his resurrection and ascension is all outlined in Psalms 22-24. Christ’s death on the cross, was also a baptism (see Matt. 20:20-23; Lu. 12:50). He crossed through the Red Sea – “the valley of the shadow of death” (Ps. 23:4). And He emerged triumphant on the other ‘side.’ As He ascended to heaven the angels sing a song of victory (see Psalm 24). This is the equivalent of the song of Moses, but in Revelation it is called the song of Moses and the Lamb, because the 144,000 have trodden the same path as both Moses and Jesus. No other saved individuals or people, can sing this song because it is a song about unique experience. The 144,000 have just experienced the most intense test that humanity could bear. They have just emerged from the great ‘time of trouble’ – the song is a commemoration of their sacrifice, endurance, deliverance and victory:
With the Lamb upon Mount Zion, “having the harps of God,” they stand, the hundred and forty and four thousand that were redeemed from among men; and there is heard, as the sound of many waters, and as the sound of a great thunder, “the voice of harpers harping with their harps.” And they sing “a new song” before the throne, a song which no man can learn save the hundred and forty and four thousand. It is the song of Moses and the Lamb – a song of deliverance. None but the hundred and forty-four thousand can learn that song; for it is the song of their experience – an experience such as no other company have ever had. GC 648, 649.
The company standing on Mt. Zion, with the Lamb and the company standing on the sea of glass, are the same company. They are both standing before the throne and they are both singing before the throne. They are simply two different but complementary accounts of the 144, 000 – repeat and enlarge.
Redeemed from among Men
It is evident, that the 144,000 must be drawn only from the living at the end of time, because it says they: “were redeemed from among men” (Rev. 14:4). It does not say they were redeemed from captivity, death or the grave. Therefore, the sleeping saints that are resurrected, to be part of the harvest at the end of time, are not included in this group. The “redeemed from among men” are the faithful who ‘stand’ at the end of time (see Rev. 6:17). They are the sealed of God, who go through the time of trouble and survive. Ellen White calls them (the 144,000), “the living saints” (EW 15).
Biblical principles of interpretation, are essential tools for understanding Scripture. Nowhere are these tools, more relevant, than when faced with the issue of the 144,000 being described as virgins.
These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. Rev. 14:4.
Much confusion is created when Bible interpreters literally understand the 144,000 to be literal virgins. We have already seen, that Jesus taught spiritually. We have already seen, that His followers are exhorted to discern spiritually (see 1 Cor. 2:1-16; cf. Dan. 12:10). Therefore, this reference to virginity is not about physical purity, but about spiritual purity.
God often uses the imagery of marriage, adultery and fornication as illustrations for His relationship to His people (see Isa. 54:5-8; 62:4, 5; Jer. 3:6-20; Eze. 16:8-63; Hosea 1:2, 2:2-7, 3:1-2, 9:1; Matt. 22:2; Rev. 19:7-9). The reference to the 144,000 being virgins, is simply an antitypical continuation of the many references that God has used in the past, to illustrate purity and impurity, faithfulness and unfaithfulness, holiness and unholiness etc.
In addition, Revelation is about the battle between two women (the woman standing on the moon, and the woman riding the beast). The woman riding the beast is depicted as being a ‘whore’ committing fornication with the kings of the earth (including her daughters). The reason why the 144,000 are depicted as ‘virgins’ is because they have not been seduced by the woman (and her daughters) riding the beast. They have not followed the example of the rest of the world and “gone a whoring after false gods” (Judges 2:17).
The 144,000 follow the Lamb
Because of their unique experience, and because they have the Father’s name written in their foreheads, the 144,000 “are without fault before the throne of God” and they are therefore given special privileges in heaven:
These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. Rev. 14:4.
We need to be reminded here, that this privilege (of following the Lamb), is a conclusive testament that the 144,000 and the great multitude are the same people, because it is said of the great multitude:
After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. Rev. 7:9-17.
John hears the number of those that are sealed. After the sealing is completed he sees a great multitude. It is said that the great multitude came “out of great tribulation” – passing through this great tribulation is the experience that the 144,000 go through in order to sing the song of Moses and the Lamb. It is said that the great multitude stand “before the throne” – this is the same as the 144,000 standing on the sea of glass, as described in chapters 14 & 15. Why are they standing before the throne? Because the account in chapter 7 says that the great multitude “serve him day and night in his temple” – this is the same as saying of the 144,000 in chapter 14, “These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth” – it is just said in a different way. The 144,000 and the great multitude are the same people, because all the Scripture about the 144, 000 and the great mulitude is telling the same story.
The First Fruits
The Bible tells the same stories in several different ways. One story is the use of agrarian symbols to illustrate the kingdom of God. The progressive nature of the kingdom is sometimes likened to a field of grain (see Mk. 4:27-29). This imagery has been used from the beginning of the Israelite kingdom. Before the harvest could take place, the first fruits of the harvest had to be presented to God, by the priests (see Lev. 23:10; Prov. 3:9; Eze. 44:30; Rom. 11:16). If the first fruits were offered to God, then the rest of the harvest could begin, and God would bless work of the harvest. This is the Old Testament type and the 144,000 are the antitypical fulfilment. The 144,000 are presented as standing before the throne of God – then the three angel’s messages are presented, because it is the three angel’s messages that produces the 144,000. At the conclusion of the three angel’s messages it is stated that, “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. (Rev. 14:12). Those who keep the commandments and have the testimony of Jesus are the Bible telling the same story in a different way. These people are the 144,000. Immediately after we see these commandment keepers, standing before the throne, the harvest takes place (Rev. 14:14-20). The 144,000 are the first fruits of the harvest.
These were redeemed from among men, being the first fruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God. Rev. 14:4, 5.
The 144,000 are spiritual Israelites (see Rev. 7:4-8). The father of the Israelites was Jacob. If there is one thing, emphasised above all others, in the biblical account of Jacob’s character, it is deception (or guile). Jacob took advantage of his brother to rob him of his birth right and he deceived his father. As a consequence, he reaped what he sowed by being deceived by his uncle Laban. However, he retaliated against Laban by restoring to more guile, and subsequently became a wealthy man. In addition, Jacob’s household followed his example, his wives also practised and profited from beguilement. There was a lot of guile in the history of Jacob. But Jacob had his born-again experience, when he wrestled with the Lord, and he became a changed man. And the guile in the man, was gone as well. Jacob is the type and the 144,000 are the antitype. When Jesus first met his disciple Nathaniel, He greeted him with the words, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” (Jn. 1:47). Jesus says the same thing about the 144,000 standing before the throne of God, “Behold the Israelites in whom there is no guile.” This is why it is said they, “are without fault before the throne of God.”
The beginning of Rev. chapter 14, is the termination of the war that Satan has been waging against God’s people. THE 144,000 have triumphed against the sea beast and the woman riding the beast and the land beast. They have triumphed because they have achieved what the Kingdom of God has always been striving for – God has re-created mankind in His image. Mankind was originally designed to reflect the image of God – the image of God was lost in the fall of man – now it has been restored – mankind has been born again. They are without fault before the throne of God.